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.
Overall Score: 6.7