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

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