Monday, June 30, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 06/30/03

What a really, REALLY odd show, especially coming from out of the blue like this. I was busy as hell during the day yesterday, run to the point of exhaustion back and forth across town as we hurried to finish a brochure by 5PM, so I didn't get a chance to check out's RAW Preview. As a result, it came as a big shock to me that, not only were they running a second straight week in the state of New York, but they were giving the Buffalo crowd a more packed card than even Madison Cube Garden got last week. With nothing to prepare me beforehand, I was dumbfounded as RAW sent out every one of their champions to defend the gold in front of an increasingly irritable and (dare I say) undeserving audience. In theory it's a nice idea; defend your belts prominently and frequently, simultaneously increasing interest in the weekly show and the champions themselves, as well as adding credibility to the World Champ and his reign on top. Unfortunately, Bischoff's "on the fly" changing of the rules went a long way towards confusing and disinteresting the live audience, while the endless run-ins and Dusty finishes pretty much dealt the killing blow on their own.

Chris Jericho kicked off the show, allowing his hair to find its way out of the ponytail for the first time in ages, and instantly reminding me of the Jericho of WCW. This segment started out interesting, with Chris trying his best to kick off a fresh feud, but quickly fell apart when he and Stacy started in with the blatant sexual references. In the end, Y2J came off as out of touch and lame, misusing one of Snoop Dogg's phrases and attempting to recover with a reference to how good he is "in the sack." Meanwhile, Stacey came off as brainless eye candy and Scott Steiner just stood around, flexed, and smiled. I'd love to see a feud between Steiner and Jericho, as it's one of the few matches we never got to see between their time in WCW and today, but this was as poor a launching point as I've ever seen.

The Goldberg / Storm segment isn't really worth mentioning here. I still haven't been given a reason to think Lance's new direction is any better than where he was before; jobbing whenever they needed a fresh face.

At the very least, Goldberg is out of his barracuda and nWo tights, and back in the ring with his original music. On that same hand, I had trouble differentiating from Goldberg and Mack as they fought briefly outside the ring. One's a bald guy who wears black trunks, black boots and black knee pads, and the other is a bald guy with slightly darker skin who wears black trunks, black boots and black knee pads. This wasn't as convincing a squash as we saw last week, and I'm wondering where they're going with Billy-Bo from here. They can't really feed him Mack and / or Storm every Monday, and the lineup of jobbers lining up to be slaughtered is growing slimmer by the day.

Kane is seen backstage, wearing what appears to be a small washcloth, or hand towel, and promptly refuses a rematch for the World Title. Seriously, why was the towel over his head so insanely small? Did they run out of leftover "Tazz 13" gift baskets? Is Kane's head just really, really big? I couldn't pay attention to this segment, I was just waaay too into checking out the big burned machine's head gear.

At first glance, I thought the women's battle royal was a great way to introduce audiences to Gail Kim's moveset, while at the same time protecting her from taking any awkward missteps in a straight-up singles match. I didn't expect her to walk away with the title, so that was a surprise, but not necessarily a good one. She's fresh blood in a division that's desperately needed it for ages, but she's also never been given a formal introduction and the fans don't know what to think of her. I wasn't impressed by her style, which I'd heard was spectacular, and I'm wondering if maybe they didn't make a mistake in placing the title around her waist after a single match. It's not too late for her to turn this around with a couple of great matches, but things aren't looking quite as bright for her now that we've seen her first match. Jazz looked to have been completely KO'd by that ugly kick to the face from Victoria, at which point the rest of the women in the match completely freaked the fuck out, and the rumble turned into a horrendous performance of miscommunication and poorly planned spots.

I thought the Christian / Booker T match was phenomenal, and the ending didn't get under my skin as much as it seems to have done with everybody else. Both guys came out of this looking like legitimate contenders, effectively raising their stock as singles athletes as well as pumping up an Intercontinental Title that desperately needs every bit of help it can get. I loved the brawl into the audience, though it left me wondering why somebody doesn't take the initiative and brawl all the way up to the nosebleed seats once in a while, and I thought it was a great way of immediately getting the crowd into the match. Sure enough, this was the hottest matchup of the night and neither guy let it go to waste. These two clicked from the outset in there, and gave us a nice, back and forth match that wasn't too heavy on signature maneuvers. Sure, we didn't get a definitive winner... but I wasn't expecting the title to change hands in the first place, and found this conclusion as a nice way to further the feud without giving either man the distinct advantage of going over cleanly. Best segment of the evening.

The show then went promptly down the toilet, with an uninspiring promo from RVD that showed he had no plans of seriously going in there and winning the World Title later in the night, and then a poor mixed tag match between Jericho / Test and Steiner / Stacy. Boring match, with Jericho managing to turn a couple nearfalls into something slightly entertaining, and a stupid finish. Yeah, I know, I had no problem with the finish of Booker / Christian, so I should've loved this one too, right? Nah, see, the ending of the previous match had nothing to do with altering the rules on the fly, a trick I've always disliked, and despite the lack of a distinct winner, that match felt like it was really going somewhere. This one should've ended five minutes earlier than it did, had no heat, and didn't result in anybody really moving forward OR backward. They all just kind of hovered there, on the border between ass and gold.

Rico's new schpeel was insanely funny to me last night, but in the manner that it's going to get really old, really fast. That was gay, in the same vein as the West Hollywood Blondes were gay. And when WWE is looking to late-late 90s WCW for ideas, you know things are in bad shape. What's the deal with these heel kisses on the cheek over the last couple of weeks? First La Resistance share an intimate moment, and now Rico's running around, pinching asses, kissin' opponents and dancing with refs. Bizarre.

They switched around Evolution's entrance package last week, and I'm not a fan. As I mentioned in last week's RRC, I thought the stable's pseudo-Reservoir Dogs video was nearly flawless, as it featured the three well dressed members slowly stalking down an empty street, completely in character. Apparently, that's been replaced by a "Girls Gone Wild"-style makeout session between the three guys and three select ladies. Not really what I'm tuning in to see. Every time I think WWE has finally done something great, they turn around and screw with it.

The bookers have created a monster; the "Boring" chant broke out loudly in the middle of the tag title match, as Spike Dudley was in control of a lagging series. You'd figure they would've learned their lesson from the "what," phenomenon, which plagued every promo for upwards of a year, and thought twice before introducing a phrase that could be used in a less than desireable fashion elsewhere in the show. That's like handing a loaded gun to a toddler and assuring them it was OK to use, so long as they felt appropriately threatened.

Do we have a reason to care about the Hurricane in the tag team title picture? Yeah, the live crowd didn't think so, either. Is it because he's an all-American hero? And he's... ah... angry, because the French wouldn't go to Iraq? Like we needed the help. But I'm rambling. Ding dong, the tag division is dead again.

I dozed off in the warm, soft embrace of my living room couch during a commercial, (hey, I said it was a long day) and woke up in time to see RVD escape from an Indian Deathlock, as the audience chanted for Triple H to "break his leg." Wha? Did I miss something? Closer examination reveals that they were just bored, as the ringside fans were much more interested in Flair's presence on the floor than they were the submissions demonstration in the ring. After escaping from Triple H's onslaught of leg-based submission holds, Van Dam then went completely out of his way to avoid selling the injury. Come ON, when's the last time you saw a guy's leg pounded into a pulp like that, only to watch as he calmly climbs to his feet and performs a couple back handsprings for good measure? Despite his past flaws, I've been a pretty strong supporter of RVD since his debut in WWE, but I've gotta call him on that.

Looked like we were through after a weak beltshot from Flair, but Eric Bischoff played God yet again, (this time a FACE God, as opposed to the heel god he was portraying earlier in the show) and ordered the match restarted. See my argument earlier on about how the reversal of the IC title change was OK, but the constant shifting of the rules was not. At least he was consistent, rather than turning a blind eye to the heel's actions. If you could somehow block off everything that went on before they hit the floor and the match became a no-DQ contest, this would've been a pretty hot match. The Van-Daminator on the floor, the ugly DDT on the entryway, the rolling thunder under the RAW sign, it all looked great when you overlooked the fact that RVD shouldn't have been able to walk, and that big poppa Eric shouldn't have been able to make such decisions on a whim.

Kane looked good batting cleanup, though that tiny towel had a death grip on his recently shaven head. The audience is interested, and I've gotta say the same, so that's a success on the most important part of his mission. That chokeslam Bisch took looked pretty nasty, though.

I've seen better episodes. I hated the endless bending of the rules, the nonsense matches and the nowhere gimmicks, but I liked the big-show feel, Kane's overdue character advancement and the Intercontinental Title match. Below average, though not by too much.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 4.1

Monday, June 23, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 06/23/03

I have nothing against the show we saw last night. There were a few segments I would've done differently, but on the whole I thought the show maintained its forward momentum, expanded characters and feuds, and grew a set of nuts by trying something different in the main event. Of course, sometimes growing cajones that big can be a bad thing, as they rub together and irritate the sack area hanging between them, but other times it can be a good thing. Many times, you can't even tell until a couple of weeks later. So that's what I'm going to do.

Christian's new entrance package is a nice step up from the rotting old combo he was using up until a couple weeks ago. It's got a real, faux-epic, Rock sort of feel to it that's perfect for what he's trying to do. And the music isn't that slow, monotonous, droning remix of his old "FINALLY ON HIS OWWWWN" theme from, like, 1962. Strong, short match, with a Stacey bump occurring during one of the rare moments I chose to blink my eyes. Give these guys a little longer, and MAYBE a little more in common with one another than face-face, heel-heel. They really need to blow off this Test / Steiner shin dig before Summerslam, cause them wheels ain't greased 'nuff to keep us interested much longer.

The Kane flashbacks were goofy, and a little out of place. I liked the premise they were flailing towards, building the main event throughout the show and refreshing fans' memories, but they could do to learn a lesson or two from Smackdown's use of the same tactic this past week. It works when portrayed as a sort of sports recap, a historical piece detailing the rivalry / legacy / underlying story, but it really doesn't work as a hokey, flashback-esque dilly like we saw last night. We're losing bits and pieces of "sports" and picking up more and more of "entertainment." Funny that they went out of their way to show Kane, maskless, with a full head of hair, as he ran to the back three weeks ago. Either somebody in the continuity department fucked up, or the red and black machine had a close encounter with a high-powered staple gun a few years back.

But, hey, it was great to hear that infamous Vince call "That's gotta... THAT'S GOTTA BE KANE." Mostly because my third floor dorm-mates and I adopted the phrase as our own, often spouting it at inappropriate moments in the months after Vinnie Mac first made the call.

Maven and Chris Nowinski are having another go at it, even after their last feud fall apart quickly once they actually got into the ring together. I guess the writers' solution to that problem was to send them in there with about forty five seconds to work with. Hey, so long as we don't start doing it every week, I don't have a problem with it. I like the idea of desensitizing audiences to finishing maneuvers as the only way to end a match, so we'll see where this leads. Teddy Long got a chuckle out of me, complaining that Maven held the tights at the end of the match, when the finishing maneuver was a bridged cradle. I think that's about as far from tights as your hands can get during a pinning predicament.

I'm still undecided about the whole turn of events with Lance Storm over the last couple weeks. On one hand, they're giving the guy more time of day than he had three weeks ago, which is always a good thing. On the other hand, they're teaching the fans to turn a blind eye toward the action in the ring, which is his strongest suit, and I've yet to see him treated as the superior athlete JR and Austin keep telling the viewing audience he is. The sad truth of the matter is that WCW sometimes did things better than WWE. Take Raven, Steiner, Malenko, Storm, Jericho and the entire cruiserweight division as proof of that. So, now that I've thought about it and gone on for about a paragraph, I guess I really do have an opinion on Storm's latest angle. Hm.

Put me in the same boat as Samir when it comes to the Dudley Boyz. These guys have been boring for a couple of months now, floating directionlessly and showing up whenever RAW needed a couple random faces to compete in a "spur of the moment" tag match. Time to spice things up, or ship 'em on over to Smackdown in my eyes. True to last week's form, this match did nothing to further Storm's storyline, as the guy got in maybe one or two kicks and punches from bell to bell, even taking the pinfall in the end. I'll maintain my position from a couple weeks back; get serious with the guy or send him to TNA, where he can do what he's best at.

I just finished up Freddie Blassie's book, where he details the history behind Nikolai Volkoff's singing of the Russian national anthem before each match, so it was coincidental and humorous to see the Frenchies busting out the same old angle this week for their own purposes. Maybe I just thought the segment was funny because I kept expecting the two of them to relive the "man with a tape recorder up his brother's nose" skit from an old episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. I mean, it was the same music.

I didn't even have that major a problem with Slaughter's annual WWE appearance. I don't think anybody was suspending their disbelief far enough to imagine he'd be going over, so it was good for what it was; a guaranteed New York pop, with the veteran coming in to lend a little more heat to the tag champs and taking a pinfall through underhanded means.

Why did Austin come out, introduce the WrestleMania XX logo we saw in April, set off the pyro / music package, then completely disregard the thing for the rest of his promo? That was... weird.

I loved the Foley tribute, and found myself just as surprised as big Samir that it didn't end with a run-in or heel beatdown. Nice to see a genuine showing of respect from the fed to one of its old workhorses, as it was almost magical to watch Mick interact with the New York audience. That momentary handshake with Vince was also classic, classic stuff.

Unfortunately, that Kliq / Evolution tag was just atrocious. There were a couple glimmers of hope when Michaels and Orton were in the ring, putting on a halfway decent show, but then Nash stepped in and everything went to shit. I didn't really care about who won this match, so long as it wasn't Michaels pinning Flair, and sure enough...

That "Reservoir Dogs" style Evolution intro video is just sweet, though, and captures everything I like about the stable in one clean package. Thumbs up to whoever's behind that one.

Hey, way to kill Rodney Mack's whole gimmick. Twenty bucks says the look on Teddy Long's face after the match meant his stable's about to lose one member. Not that the guy was really keeping me awake at night, but I'd hoped they would have chosen somebody else to play the role of "triumphant white guy."

I liked the main event. A few powerful early exchanges, a slow progression towards the end of the match, a hot series of near falls and finishers, a wild crowd and a guaranteed big finish, thanks to the stipulations. I'm much happier with Triple H as champ than I would've been with Kane, (which says something) and though I'm not sure where they can take the scorched assassin's character from here, it's worth tuning in to find out. This was a difficult moment to pull off, and I think they were moderately successful, thanks in large part to the confused awe that swept over the audience after he revealed himself. The whole thing felt eerie, which is what they should've been shooting for. I'm interested in tuning in next week, so job number one is taken care of.

I liked the air that surrounded this broadcast. As Jay pointed out in his writeup, this felt like an almost PPV-calibur card, despite the problems I had with it. They built toward this match in this arena, and in my opinion it paid of, both for the fans in attendance and the audience watching at home. This is what they're going to need to do more of in the future, as they have less big PPVs to keep fans interested in the future. They're taking risks, and I don't always like the result, but that's a good sign nonetheless.

I liked just as much as I disliked. That says average to me.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 5

Friday, June 13, 2003

The World's Greatest WWE Bad Blood 2003 Preview

Things have been strange on RAW over the last month. Or maybe that's just the way I've seen it. I mean, everybody knew the brand-exclusive PPV was just over the horizon, so no matter what the WWE did, it would've been met with intense scrutiny. You had to know there would be folks out there who liked what they saw, folks who absolutely did not, and folks who weren't interested in a PPV without Chris Benoit. I, for one, was interested in seeing how they pulled things together with only half the potential players available, and I'll give them credit where it's due; they've done a pretty nice job of it. This is a solid card, with a handful of matches that could turn the corner and become something special, an obligatory set of fluff segments and a main event that indirectly involves Mick Foley's return to Hell in a Cell. I was unsure of the wisdom of launching this brand-exclusive thing last month, especially after both shows combined couldn't give us anything worth a shit at Judgment Day, but I'm glad they proved me wrong. This is a formula that really can work, but it's going to take a concentrated effort each and every time.

Dudley Boyz vs. Chris Nowinski & Rodney Mack w/Theodore Long

This is not a happy thing. They took one of the show's more promising angles, Mack's "White Boy Challenge", and forgot about it before it could really produce the overnight star it was built to create. Isn't the point of an angle like that to give someone a BIG push, immediately upon coming in? To give the fans somebody new to care about, with an initial feud already built into the package? Hell.. I guess I've harped about the death of this angle enough in the RAW Review. It's just... stupidity boggles the mind sometimes, gang. It boggles the mind.

The Dudleys mean dick to me right now. They've fallen into the sickeningly bland role they always seem to fall back into, regardless of their position as faces or heels. They're fresh, violent and interesting for a couple months after their turn, they get bored, and they become stale. Then the WWE turns them again, and we start the cycle over. I hope this match lasts about three minutes, ends with Lance Storm reuniting Team Canada with Mike Awesome and Elix Skipper, and involves the Canadians dominating the tag division for the next year. I'm beyond indifferent to all four guys involved with this match.
Winners: Mack and Nowinski

Test vs. Scott Steiner
Winner Gets Stacy Keibler

My interest in this one is pretty minimal. They've tried to get us interested in Scott Steiner again; not by giving his character dimension or by putting him in long, competitive matches that establish him as more than just a falling star with mutated arms, but instead by feeding him younger, healthier, more versatile wrestlers in a short series of squashes. Oh yeah, and they've given him a front row seat to Stacey's weekly peep show. Test is giving this run as a heel the old college try, but with somebody like Scotty as a foil, it's not really going to get him anywhere.

The match is going to be ugly, both because Steiner doesn't seem to care about the quality of his work anymore, and because Test isn't confident enough to take control of things and MAKE this a good fight. With Stacey at ringside, the audience will at least have something to look at, but I'm willing to bet their cheers don't coordinate with anything going on in the ring. The WWE machine seems to be placing itself squarely behind the tall blonde guy, which means it's curtains for the elder Steiner Sunday night.
Winner: Test

Kane & Rob Van Dam (c) vs. La Resistance
Tag Team Championship

Oh, man. This one sure tripped on its way to the finish line, didn't it? I was anticipating this match before we even saw the Frenchmen in the ring, but they've been pretty uninspiring over the last month, and despite a great segment with Kane and Steve Austin, the champions have been really bland as well. This is going to be ugly, but if they're ever gonna pull the trigger on the Kane / RVD split and feud, this is the place to do it. Let's go with the Flying Frenchies, emerging as new tag champs, because there's nothing else we can do with RVD and the Retard as a team anyway.
Winners: La Resistance

Eric Bischoff vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
Redneck Triathlon

ALL RIIIIGHT! Wooo hooooo! The WWE's making MY job really easy with this one, filling us in on all the information beforehand. We've got a segment that's promising NO physicality, NO pushing and shoving, and NO stunning or back-leg-front-kicking. What we've been promised is a retired wrestler and a former promoter with grand aspirations, smilin', laughin' and participating in two contests TBA, along with a "poontang pie-eating contest." Boy, there's some visual imagery I could've done without. I had my reservations about Bad Blood coming into this past week's RAW, but BOY... the promise of a couple minutes of Steve Austin licking some girl's cooch has made me a believer. I don't care about this match, as it promises to reek of the bad comedy that's been a WWE staple since the mid 80s.
Winner: ah... shit, I have to pick a winner? Bischoff

Christian (c) vs. Booker T
Intercontinental Championship

I like this feud. I like that they've been setting it up consistently for over a month now, I like that they've limited physical conflicts between the two to a minimum, and I like that the Intercontinental title is back so they have something more to fight over than, say, a role in a Japanese hair commercial. Though it's an unpopular opinion, I really enjoyed their spinaroonie contest this past Monday night. It wasn't contrived, it played off the strengths of both characters, and it was kept shorter than most interview segments. Christian's making a serious run for the upper crust of the card, and though he's got a long way to go before he's ready for something like that, I think this is a very good start. Meanwhile, Booker had nowhere to go after his title reign was negated, so I suppose this is the next best place for him to be at the moment. He's lending some of his heat to a new face, and he's finally involved in a feud that could deliver some worthwhile matches once again.

Both guys look motivated, which is always a good sign for the match itself. I'm really interested in seeing what these two can do with one another in the ring, as they seem to work styles that compliment one another. I'm having a tough time calling a winner here... but what the hell. They're in Houston, and I doubt WWE will make the same mistake with the same hometown athlete twice.
Winner: Booker T

Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels

The clash of the titans! The greatest performer of the 80s meets the greatest performer of the 90s, right in the middle of the 2000s. This is a strange situation, almost on par with the ECW world title situation of 2000, when Tazz (then a WWF athlete) defeated Mike Awesome (then a WCW athlete) for the ECW title. The situation is strange, the competing athletes are strange, and the environment is strange. Flair's been giving it his absolute best lately, pouring his heart and soul into his promos, and it's really given this feud about all the lift it's still got. Shawn Michaels hasn't been himself in the build toward this one, appearing disinterested in the proceedings while playing the cheesy, boring face.

I can't say what I expect out of the physicality in this one. Neither guy is near their peak anymore, but neither is to the point where it's agonizing to watch them in the ring. Far from it, actually. If Shawn puts on his game face, Ric lets his emotion carry over from the mic into the ring, and luck is on their side, this could be really powerful. Or, if both guys mail it in, the crowd isn't interested and the emotion is totally drained from the performers, this could look like two old guys swinging blindly at one another. It's tough to call a winner for certain here, but I'm thinking Shawn HAS to job some time.
Winner: Ric Flair

Chris Jericho vs. Bill Goldberg

This could've been done a lot better, but it also could've been done a lot worse. I wish they'd have given us more of a reason to hate Jericho, something more motivating than the typical WWE "OMG, LOOK! JERICHO PUT YELLOW PAINT ON GOLDBERG'S CAR!" story. They could've really done their homework, pulled out the tapes and seen what Y2J did to enrage the fans in his original, aborted, WCW feud with Goldberg. They could've let Chris have free reign with the mic, improvising his way into a money feud on his own terms. I'd have bought both of those storylines, and I'd have loved the hell out of them. But, they also could've involved a raunchy sex angle, a teased relationship between Y2J and Goldberg's wife. They could've given Chris a parade of dwarven flunkies, or nonsensically paired him up with Rosey and Jamal. Yeah, things could've been done better, but they also could've been done worse.

I'm unhappy with the way the match is likely to go, as I think Jericho's got little or no chance of looking even remotely competent here, let alone pulling off an upset. These two could have a really tight match, showcasing Goldberg's ferocity and sheer physicality, along with Jericho's speed and quick thinking. It could also result in a ten minute display of no-selling from the big man, with his opponent trying to maintain kayfabe while boiling inside. I guess, just like the storyline preceding it, the physicality of this match could go either way. It could be stupendous, but it could also be atrocious. Or, just maybe, it'll only be mediocre. But despite all that, the outcome isn't really in question.
Winner: Bill Goldberg

Triple H (c) vs. Kevin Nash
World Heavyweight Championship with Special Referee Mick Foley

Yeah, anybody who thinks Kevin Nash has a snowball's chance in hell here is fooling themselves. As if there wasn't any question beforehand, the fact that they focused this week's RAW entirely on Mick Foley, and not on Nash as challenger, probably should've clued in even the dopiest of wrestling fans. And we are, on the whole, a very, very dopey group of people. Introducing Foley to maintain the crowd's interest was a smart decision, though, because there's no way this was gonna fly as a straight-up one on one singles match. Imagine it; two guys with thighs that were literally stripped of muscle tissue on live television, two guys who have been increasingly immobile since their individual recoveries, trying to convince the viewing public that they're going to live up to the legacy of a match that's been BUILT on risks, insane physical performances and brutal violence. While we're at it, why don't we wheel down a couple paraplegics and see how they fare in a ladder match?

I hope Mick isn't feeling too much pressure to do something dangerous in here, but at the same time I hope he's dreaming up something to help keep the match interesting. Nobody in their right mind would want to watch Triple H and Kevin Nash throw sissy kicks at one another for fifteen minutes, so they're either gonna give us something explosive and unexpected Sunday night or this match is going to roar right past the Undertaker's match with the Bossman at WrestleMania XV as "worst gimmick match ever."
Winner: Triple H

In Closing...
This card could really go either way. Sure, there are matches that aren't going to be pretty, but there are a couple that could really turn the corner and make this a very good PPV after all. I've got more confidence in this lineup than I did in last month's atrocity, so at the very least we're making positive progress once again. Man, the more I think about it, the more I'd LOVE to see that Team Canada storyline I mentioned in jest during my writeup of the Mack / Dudleys tag match. Something like that would make this PPV just fine by me.
until next time, i remain

Monday, June 9, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 06/09/03

I wasn't as peachy with last night's show as big Jay was, boys and girls. Though I raved about last week's program, the potential in the storylines being introduced and the improved, confident direction the show was taking, this week's episode only really served to bore me. I don't know, maybe I was in the wrong mindset, but aside from an ultra hot final five minutes this show was painfully bland.

Goldberg and Rosey brawled early, leaving the home viewing audience to wonder who would pull out the first unintentional, brutally stiff shot, injuring and / or mutilating the other guy. Goldberg's offense looked surprisingly weak here, concentrating almost entirely on kicks, knees and a dropkick that was nearly as ugly as those performed by Erik Watts in the late 80s. Even the holy spear didn't look as impressive as it has throughout the rest of Billy Bo's WWE career. There was no emotion in this match, and when you're a guy like Goldberg, who relies heavily on his charisma, that's a really bad thing. Finally, after hitting the spear and diving in for his finisher, he gave the crowd a glance, roared and hit a powerful-looking jackhammer for the win. This didn't do anything for me.

It took them long enough to pull the trigger on this RVD / Kane breakup feud. I liked where they took Kane last week, but I can't say I'm eager to see where it leads this Sunday on PPV. Kane was finally given a strong direction last week, but I have no idea where they can take it from here. Maybe the big payoff to his lack of direction and motivation wil be... a long, directionless, unmotivated stay in the midcard. Nice. Oh, and RVD / Dupree didn't get me up and out of my chair, either.

Wait, scratch that. I did get up and out of my chair during the match, but it was just to stir my boiling pot filled with Mac & Cheese. A man's gotta eat.

Good lord, they've pulled out the big, gimmicked circus wheel of death again. It's really convincing when they spin the wheel, zoom in on the clicker, and it mysteriously slows WAY down when it gets near the spot they want. How can a company concentrate so heavily on trying to make their show a more realistic, dramatic environment, and then air shit like this? Gah...

Man, JR was hitting all the bases last night. He covered nearly all of his catchphrases, from "scalded dog" to "spitfire" to "jezebel." I think we were just a "hoss" and a "slobberknocker" away from a royal flush. After he repeatedly referred to Victoria as a jezebel, Autumn and I adopted the phrase, using it to describe just about anyone and anything appearing throughout the rest of the program. The show was much more entertaining that way. Otherwise an overly forgettable women's tag match.

I'm so pissed off about the way they've been using Lance Storm lately, I honestly wish they'd just fucking release him and let him go somewhere that'll give him something entertaining to do. I can understand why he's not complaining about the situation, because hey... the bills are getting paid and then some, but it just sucks to watch a guy like Storm in a strict jobber role, week after week. I mean, who do you think has greater longevity in the business? A washed up, roided out former tag team star with a bad back and a rambling potty mouth, or a guy who's about a decade younger, who can wrestle a clinic if the situation calls for it, but lacks a really distinct personality? Sure, it might take a little effort to get Lance back over, but it's not like Steiner is that popular right now, either. Ugly match, helping to build toward a feud I don't give a damn about.

Despite blowing the surprise to both the home and live audiences earlier in the show, WWE delivered Mick Foley at RAW's halfway mark, in what should've been a tremendous moment for casual and hardcore fans alike. It was great to see Mick again, as his presence is sorely missed from the show, but this promo wasn't really up to the level of his classics. Can't say I blame him, since he's been away for quite a while, but it deflated the segment regardless.

Randy Orton and the Hurricane had the only halfway decent match of the night, though even that was overshadowed by another angle. I'd still like to see these two involved in a singles feud of their own, completely aside from anything Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, Diesel or Triple H are doing. They're both hungry, they've both got talent, and they both need a break... why not kill both birds with one stone? This was too short to really launch anybody into orbit.

Booker and Christian gave us a fun little segment, with their spinaroonie contest. I'm worried about Booker's future in the federation, but I still really like this feud. Booker wasn't too serious, yet he wasn't too cheesy either, the King was moderately funny, and Christian was just great. I've never really been as insanely into his promos as the rest of the Oratory seems to be, but I really enjoyed his bit last night. This was a fun, time-conservative way to build for Sunday's PPV.

Rodney Mack is officially dead in the water. Yeah, let's invest some time in getting some heat on this guy by throwing him out there opposite some white jobbers, set up an ideal predicament to introduce a fresh, young face, (which is something we're REALLY COMMITTED TO DEVELOPING, right?!?!) and then just kinda let the whole thing fade away in favor of a nonsense feud with the Dudley Boyz. And hey! We'll screw with things even further by teaming him up with one of the whitest guys on the roster! Great. Teddy Long almost single-handedly saved this segment by claiming Mack was teaming with Nowinski because Chris "took a class on African American history in college," but there's just too much crap going on to save this.

Then the REAL Mick Foley rolled his way down the entryway and helped us close this show off in style. He didn't have to take that nasty bump on the stairs to really get this segment over, the booking was strong enough to have done that on its own, but it sure helped grab my attention. I loved that Mick had no problem with admitting he's no longer a wrestler, that Triple H will assuredly kick his ass. I also loved that he showed us all the "never say die" attitude didn't fade away with his wrestling career. Great segment, that made me about twice as interested in Sunday's main event as I was before. Of course, my interest going in was null, and zero multiplied by two is still zero, but hey... I've gotta give the bookers some credit where it's due.

A horrible show with the exception of the Booker / Christian segment and the Foley / Trips closing. MLW, airing on the Sunshine Network directly after RAW, only had two matches this week, (and one of them involved a tag team of Samoans) and it was twice as interesting as WWE's show.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 2.5

Monday, June 2, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 06/02/03

I liked the majority of RAW this week. It wasn't flawless, but they seemed willing to try out new things and experiment with the old formulas, in the hopes of finding something fresh. I can live with a show that tests new waters and fails, much more than I can swallow a program that keeps recycling the old stuff and fails due to the apathy of its fanbase.

The Rock kicked the show off in dramatic fashion, to a mixed reaction that quickly became substantial face heat. It's funny to imagine how stale this guy was six months ago... he couldn't even get a word in edgewise during his promo at the RAW X special, the crowd hated him so. So the WWE does what seems to be the logical thing and turns him heel... and now the fans nearly cheer him out of the building. It's somewhat surprising, but sometimes there ARE other methods to refreshing a character than a straight-up heel turn. It's the same phenomenon we saw with Steve Austin during the invasion; the audience was supposed to loathe him, but he was just so entertaining and rejuvinated that they cheered him all the same. The Rock didn't need a heel turn, so much as he needed a new direction and a new character quirk.

Nice of the bookers to toss the entire women's division into that one match. Interestingly enough, this six-woman tag wasn't really that awful. It was spotty, sure, but the spots were at least somewhat cool and played out pretty nicely. I really enjoyed the double crab spot Molly and Victoria slapped onto Trish midway through the match, and Ms. Holly was back in action, (in a new outfit, to boot) so that's good news from where I'm sitting. This was random as hell, but there's always a place for one match like that on a card, and they shook things up by delivering a surprising finish. By surprising, I mean; somebody other than the three people vying for the title over the last six months picked up the pinfall. Although I wouldn't be surprised if they were just building up Ivory here so they can squash her to Gail Kim later in the month.

Jesus, the vein in Test's neck when he's angry is about the same size as the one in Scott Steiner's arm.

I missed Randy Orton. The guy doesn't even need to speak, his mere presence does enough to establish him as a cocky, arrogant jock. He's really put a lot of effort into his facial expressions and body language, to the point where he doesn't even resemble the bland, vanilla rookie they pushed our way about a year ago in his debut on RAW. I'm really looking forward to a short feud between he and the Hurricane, as both guys have been right on the cusp of breaking out as new stars. They're just about the right size to accommodate for one another's offense, they're both hungry and they can both put on a good show in the right environment. Could be a show stealer.

GREAT Flair promo, even if he did blatantly simulate a blade job on himself, telling Shawn Michaels about how "you bleed every night" on the road to becoming a legend. This really felt like the Flair of fifteen years ago, delivering a promo that wasn't scripted from start to finish. Itís like the writers just sat back and said "OK, get us interested in this feud, I don't care how you do it." It wasn't so much WHAT he said, as it was HOW he said it. Flair actually portrayed a woman reaching orgasm midway through this speech, but because he was so enthusiastic and dramatic about his delivery, it felt like a really killer promo. I wish they'd give him this kind of free reign more often, because when Ric Flair is excited about a match, the audience is excited about a match.

Even Shawn Michaels looked like half the man Flair was, stumbling over words and lacking the charisma and emotion that defined the Nature Boy's words, just moments earlier. The crowd knew it, too... they were vocally behind Flair in this segment. I can't really say I blame them... we haven't been given reason to get behind any of the three faces they've pulled out to combat the new Evolution, even if I have liked Helms since he was dancing the nights away as a member of Three Count.

I knew it was gonna be Richards jobbing to Scotty Steiner, before we even saw him in the ring. If they don't show his introduction, the match is obviously going to be a squash... and if the victim's hailing from Philly, it's either Stevie or Justin Credible. And I don't think we've got to worry about seeing Credible in a WWE ring again any time soon. Steiner looked TERRIBLE in this one, despite being given free reign to build himself up as a monster. Poor Steven Richards... he deserves better.

Goldberg was doing the Molly Shannon "fingers in the armpits because I'm nervous" thing during his brief interview with Terri. I always hated that skit, but it was roughly fifteen times funnier with Goldberg in the lead role. Thumbs up to the writers, for showing us theyíre not going to allow two straight failures scare them away from using cars in their backstage skits.

Christian continued his streak of raiding my sister's closet, and got himself over as perhaps the biggest heel of the night in the process. I love that theyíre letting him revive the old Corporate Rock gimmick, and that heís doing so almost to spite the Rock himself. This demented student / teacher thing they're doing with the two of them is working for me.

Unfortunately, the whole Rock / Booker T thing was just awkward and went on way too long. It felt more like something that you'd read about after the cameras stopped rolling than it did something we'd see live on RAW. Not to mention it sent Rocky several steps backward in the whole character progression thing I mentioned earlier on. They had on their hands a refreshing new direction with the Rock, an answer to the boos he'd been gathering beforehand, and a reason for audiences to cheer him once more, and they nearly spoiled it by pressing reset and sending him out there in pure babyface mode. And that's a big time problem with the federation right now. They're so lost, that when they finally do accidentally stumble onto something that works, they mess with it until it loses the thing that made it so special and different in the first place. Rocky went from an edgy tweener that was fresh and interesting to the crowd, back to the semi-traditional face character that the fans turned on all those months ago, all within the span of ten minutes.

Then again, the whole audience participation bit was a lot of fun.

I think I care more about Kane's character now, after an intense five minute verbal beating, than I ever have in the past. They successfully captured a chunk of what made him so instantly cool in the first place; the silence, the dark, brooding manner, and they gave it a notable edge, a hook. It's no secret Kane's been completely worthless lately, further evidenced by the boring match he put on with Dupree this week, and it's great to see the management not only acknowledging it, but doing something with it. That crowd got behind a guy they've been completely lukewarm to for years, thanks to a tremendous Austin promo and spot-on character acting by Kane himself. I still don't care about the tag title match, but I'm interested to see where they'll take the storyline from here.

I've got to admit, I had my doubts about Austin as GM when he came in. I was dreading repeats of the skits we saw during his short run as CEO all those years ago, dumping manure in McMahon's office, drinking beer in the conference room, that sort of thing. He's been absolutely tremendous in this role, though, really amping it up and delivering a solid show 95% of the time. He's once again blurring the lines between face and heel, he speaks with conviction and he acts like you'd expect a badass to act, cornered in a corporate role.

I like how they're using the spear to build interest in Jericho / Goldberg at Bad Blood. It's good to see that they still understand the concept of saving the big moments for big shows, and this is a prime example. The audience was begging to see Jericho take a spear last night, and by not delivering it, WWE left them hungry for more. Lord knows this PPV can use every little boost it can get, and I can actually imagine people paying money for the promise of seeing Jericho take a fearsome Goldberg spear. But poor Charles Robinson... first Randy Savage shatters his collarbone and now Goldberg just spears the life out of him, and could've easily shattered his sternum. I guess that's the price you pay for living the high life as "Little Naitch," back in WCW.

It's great that, no matter how many great advances in production WWE may have made over the last decade, they still haven't figured out that the roman candle-looking pyro ALWAYS fills the arena with smoke. It always happened with the Dudleys, it always happened with a couple guys in the hardcore division, and it always happened to just about everybody in WCW's last couple years. It just looks shoddy, really rinky dink and amateur. My HDTV means nothing if I'm looking at high definition clouds floating around the ring...

Decent main event despite the weird-ass finish, especially considering it's a six man tag, which is a format I'm really not that fond of. Orton looks motivated, and the heel team actually put some psychology to use, working on Shawn's leg for much of the match. I didn't care for Kevin Nash's complete domination of the heels near the end of the fight, but whatever. He'll be out of the main event scene before long anyway. I did find it to be pretty interesting, though, how the heels all wore traditional wrestling attire, while the faces all wore long trunks, tank tops and various other accessories.

RAW kicked off a bunch of new storylines and directions with this one show, which is something we've been clamoring for over the last few months, so I really can't fault them for trying. They're giving us something new and interesting with Kane, Christian, the Hurricane, Randy Orton, Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, Goldberg and Test. I don't mind that lineup one bit. An improved show over last week, without question.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 6.7