Monday, July 28, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 07/28/03

Hey hey, how's it hangin' and howareya? As far as you know, my name is still drqshadow, and I still really enjoy overusing common greetings that begin with the letter "h." RAW was on last night, and the show was coming off of what was arguably its best episode in years. Yet, seeing as how that program was buoyed by a great match between Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels, as well as a physical confrontation between Kane and the internet's favorite lady, Linda McMahon, they were gonna have a hard time following up no matter WHAT was around the corner. Unfortunately, from where I stand, the show was very much a lukewarm affair. Watching RAW last night was like witnessing an enormous woman test the water at the public pool. Slow, deliberate, not always beautiful to look at, but still strangely magnetic. You weren't thrilled, but you still couldn't take your eyes from it.

Vince looked really laid back last night, almost uncharacteristically so. I don't think we've ever seen him wearing anything but business casuals (save those few training segments with Shane, all those years ago) and it was something of a refreshing change. I didn't mind his opening promo, as it was both concise and well-photographed. I'm glad they addressed the issue of his failing marriage, since it would've been insulting to show him fondling Sable one night and avenging his wife's honor the next, but in the end I don't think his presence was ever really adequately explained. OK, Kane tombstoned Linda. Yes, he did. I suppose she IS technically your wife. And...? And nothing, I guess. Just looking for more air time.

It's funny, in the last eight days we've seen all four McMahons involved in main event timeslots, between last week's RAW with Linda, Smackdown! and Vengeance with Stephanie and Vince, and RAW last night with Vince and Shane. This is getting eerily reminiscent of In Living Color. Vince should hire the Wayans family, just so the McMahons can brutally squash them.

The opening tag match pretty much set the tone for the entire night, not exactly lighting the world ablaze, but not really condemning it to eternal damnation either. It was just... there. I could've SWORN Scott Steiner broke his wrist on that awkward fall into the ring steps, and if he did, big ups to him for completing the match regardless. Come to think of it, if his wrist was broken he's got an uncanny ability to block out pain, as he was casually helping Booker up with that same hand after the match. I was hoping for a Steiner heel turn here, since Booker really needs another foil in the IC division, but no such luck. Both the faces have been treading water since before WrestleMania, Christian seems to have settled back down after a few short signs of life, and Test continues to improve.

On one hand, the writers are finally using Goldberg somewhat effectively. Vince has swallowed his pride and admitted that WCW actually did manage to do one or two things right during their tenure at the top, and Billy G has been seeing larger and larger reactions as a result. On the other hand, in order for this kind of push to work, it's going to take sacrifices. And, surprisingly enough, it always seems to be guys I'm really fond of who play the sacrificial lamb. First Lance Storm, then Chris Jericho, now Steven Richards, they've all laid down to the spear and jackhammer, and there's more on the way. In WCW, Goldberg was lucky enough to have an enormous roster, half-full of nobodies, at his immediate disposal. He could go on for months, killing Jerry Flynn, Meng, Berlyn and Hugh Morrus; all guys who had pretty well established their lack of upward mobility and / or ability in the ring. The WWE Fans won't buy that, especially not today. So the only other option is to feed him guys that are somewhat recognizable, most of which could really get somewhere if the higher-ups would just give them the chance.

I always wondered why nobody went the whole "homophobia gross-out" route before, when locked in a waist-lock. It seems like a sound, last-resort method to me. Speaking of which, Rico is officially my fiancee's current favorite wrestler, because "He's fancy." I guess his rebranding was successful.

And speaking of rebranding (you know, while we're speaking of speaking), the return of Val Venis seems to have a lot of similarities to "The New TNN," the network which broadcasts RAW each week here in the good old US of A. Both had a lagging, boring, outdated former image, which only served to drive potential fans off before they'd even given it a chance. Both took a brief time out, before completely repackaging, redesigning and relaunching in what was widely considered a flat-out success. Both rode this success for a short while, enjoying the praise, and then decided that it just wasn't good enough. So TNN trashed their stellar new logo and identity, opting instead for the ill-conceived notion of "Spike TV," while Chief Morley tossed his successful new identity (which seemed to come packaged with a ready-made storyline, in his eventual split from Bischoff) in favor of the familiar old role of tired, boring, overplayed Val Venis.

Jericho / Orton / Michaels went over relatively well, and I've got to say that I'm honestly interested in seeing how the Orton vs. Michaels feud turns out. Obviously, it's cater-made to elevate Randy to a higher status, but I'm still eager to see how these guys match up, both in the ring and on the mic. And hey, HBK's already laid down for the other two guys in Evolution, why not go for the hat trick?

I had no problem with the actual booking of the match between Chris Jericho and Kevin Nash last night. The post-match slaughter I really could have done without, but the match itself was actually not that terrible. It played right into Jericho, Michaels and Nash's current characters, and Y2J actually held his own during most of the match. They blew their chance with the finish, though, as I'd have loved to have seen Nash attempt the big boot, only to have the leg Jericho had worked all match buckle under his weight. Even the frustrated low blow, which led to the DQ finish, fit with Jericho's mentality, though, so I've got nothing against him dropping it that way. I'm not really interested in a Summerslam blowoff between the two after that post-match snore-fest, though. Oh yeah, big points for the deliberate close-up of Jericho sneaking his blade into Nash's boot in the middle of the aforementioned beat-down.

I like that they're giving Rosey some personality, and that he seems like a relatively down to Earth guy. I don't like that they're continuing this retarded-ass Hurricane gimmick. Especially after last night, as he constantly rammed that "Super Hero In Training" joke into the ground, over and over again. He may as well have just said "LOOK! Super Hero in Training! That spells SHIT! Everybody say SHIT with me! SHIT SHIT SHIT! Super Hero In Training means SHIT! Write it on your signs next week!" Guys, when I went to RAW just before the Royal Rumble, the arena security guards were confiscating signs that said the word "testicle." And this was right in the midst of Test's push, primarily featuring the word. I have no idea why people cheer for this.

Yeah, I'm with Corey, the Tag division is D-E-A-D dead. And the Dudleys make me want to rescind my citizenship in the United States. Come to think of it, almost any storyline that focuses on patriotism and foreign policy in WWE makes me want to leave the country in a huff. The Dudleys were especially irritating last night, as they looked for any excuse to complain about a bit of La Resistance offense. The team cleanly defended their titles, and Bubba still managed to bitch and moan a little bit. Seriously, if this booking keeps up, Grenier and Dupree will be faces within the next month.

As an aside, Mark Jindrak landed WAY too many dropkicks last night. Is he substituting that for some sloppy punches or something?

Molly and Gail had a tremendous TV match this week, pretty much delivering the product I was hoping they'd give us during their hyped main event a couple of weeks back. They should either be commended for making a reference to the same botched spot that ruined their tag match last week, or... uh... commended for trying it again on TV, despite their previous problems with it. Either way, they're to be commended. Molly really looked like the experienced ring veteran she is here, and Gail looked much better than she has to date in her WWE run. And, holy goodness, the right woman went over. Thumbs up.

Good to see Shane back, now if only he can get right to work with removing the rest of his immediate family from the product. He's the only part of the McMahon clan that has the charisma, talent and all around know-how to deserve a regular spot on WWE television, and I'll admit that I missed seeing him. A nice, hot, closing segment that really overshadowed Steve Austin's announcement. I'm a little confused about the relationship between Shane and Vince, as they've gone from friends to enemies so many times it's caused my brain to cloud over, but perhaps we'll learn a little more about that next week.

I've seen much worse, but I've also seen much better. As recently as last week, to be precise. It's tough to come off a critically acclaimed show like we saw last week, and sometimes it's even tougher to watch as they attempt.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 4.3

Saturday, July 26, 2003

The World's Greatest WWE Vengeance 2003 Preview

Hey, hey! Wow, it's been thirty days since Bad Blood already, has it? Yessir, I'm your friendly neighborhood drqshadow, and I'm here with a few words about Smackdown!, marking only the second time I've ever helped out with a column dedicated to that Thursday night roster. Yeah. I'm building this up to be some sort of monumental event, when it's really not. Hmph.

Well, on one hand I'm really excited about this PPV. We've got Guerrero vs. Benoit with a legitimate prize going to the winner. We've got a rematch of the Lesnar vs. Angle match from WrestleMania, with the Big Show thrown in for good measure. We've got what looks to be an excellent tag team title match waiting in the wings. On that same hand, both Guerrero and Benoit should be main event players right now, and fans aren't buying Eddy's heel turn. The tag title match hasn't been built at all, aside from a series of wins on the part of the challengers. Even Lesnar / Angle has been overshadowed by the two horrid McMahon main events. Yeah, there's plenty to get excited about, but there's also plenty to spoil that excitement.

Bradshaw, Ron Simmons, Sean O'Haire, Chris Kanyon, Rhyno, Brian "Spanky" Kendrick, Doink The Clown, Steve Lombardi, The Basham Brothers and The FBI

You know what this match reminds me of? That Hardcore battle royal they had, back in wCw's later days. Remember, the one where they threw a bunch of luchadores into a gimmicked "junkyard" set, and shot off fireworks and pyrotechnics, while the workers tried not to get themselves killed? It's funny, because that match featured a bunch of guys who could've given us some really great fights in the fed's lagging Cruiserweight division, yet they were instead thrown nonsensically into an environment that didn't suit them in the least. And the company was bought out just a few short years later. Let's hope WWE figures out this is the wrong way to go sometime soon, and tries giving Spanky, Kanyon and Nunzio a chance as something more than jobbers in worthless filler matches. But yeah, um, I still think it's cool that they've done away with the name "Farooq," and have started calling Ron Simmons by his real name again. Just looking for something nice to say.
Winner: Ron Simmons

Billy Gunn vs. Jamie Noble

God, I am just so lukewarm to most of the matches on this card. I don't care, one way or another, if Jamie Noble gets to sleep with Torrie Wilson. What I do care about is how we're missing the great matches Noble was putting on when he had the Cruiserweight title. Remember that matchup he had with Rey Mysterio, a few weeks after the masked one's debut in the big leagues? How does he go from a nice run like that, all the way down to this stupid storyline involving overnight fortune and "indecent proposals"? I mean, I guess I'd rather see him doing SOMETHING, rather than another couple matches with The A-Train or Nathan Jones, but come ON. Billy freaking Gunn? A guy who couldn't get the audience interested in him, despite a victory in the King of the Ring tournament and a clean win over the Rock? Gah... I guess, in not caring in the slightest, that means I actually really DO care. Am I making any sense? I'm with John, if they were just going to put Gunn over again, they wouldn't have taken this to PPV. Would they..?
Winner: Jamie Noble

Sable vs. Stephanie McMahon

Just when you thought nothing would TOUCH Flair vs. Steamboat, the writers come up with a matchup like this. Honestly, the number of directions they could take this feud are almost too great to list. This is one of those rare moments when great athletes combine with a great storyline, and tremendous execution makes the whole package absolutely unforgettable. This is a match you will tell your grandchildren about. You'll still feel the excitement of the incredible series of counters and reversals they're sure to pull off halfway through the match. You'll shiver as both Steph and Sable dazzle you with their amateur techniques. And you'll jump out of your seat for the big finish, as Stephanie lands an unbelievable shooting star press / 450 splash combination. I don't even know how something like that would be humanly possible, considering the two moves spin in opposite directions. Anyway, this will be a beauty. No question.
Winner: Stephanie McMahon

Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin ? vs. Rey Mysterio & Billy Kidman

OK, in all honesty, this should be a lot of fun to watch. These are four guys who have never really had the chance to define themselves as distinct characters. Rey is a little guy who does lots of flips, TAFKA Team Angle are arrogant tag partners, and Kidman is just... vanilla. Generally these guys tell a much greater story in the ring, with their physicality and body language, than they could ever hope to with a microphone and five minutes of TV time. I'm hoping they get that chance this Sunday night.

I've always been a big fan of Kidman and Rey, ever since Billy was a greasy part of Raven's Flock and Rey was dressing in all purple, like some sort of tripped-out Phantom rip off. Team Angle, I see definite potential in. They're both still trying to define their footing in the state of things, but I've got the impression they're right on the verge of turning into something special. And if anybody can get these guys completely over the hump, it's Rey and Kidman. I do agree, though, that the match is only serving as a stepping stone for Kidman and Mysterio's upcoming feud over the Cruiser title in the months ahead. As such, I completely understand the lack of real build for this one. On the other hand, I don't think anyone's expecting anything surprising in this match, which may be WWE's cue to surprise their audience with a Kidman / Mysterio victory. But my money's on the former.
Winner: Haas and Benjamin

Eddy Guerrero vs. Chris Benoit

Awriiiight, now this is what I'm talking about. They used a tournament format, which is something I'm very fond of in the first place, involved largely the right guys, and let it come down to the two most qualified for the title. They didn't even try to meddle with things, by giving this an overly elaborate storyline prior to this past week's show. They just left it as two superb wrestlers, excelling at what they do best, and picking apart their opposition along the way. Personally, I would've put Eddy in the World Title picture back when he was one of the most over guys on RAW, following his aborted feud with Steve Austin. But what do I know?

But, ah... yeah. The match. Both these guys are in serious need of a popular direction right now, with Benoit the more needy of the two. Guerrero's recent heel turn hasn't gone over with the audience, who still wants to cheer him, but at least they're starting to try something with him. Benoit's been floating directionlessly, almost since returning from neck surgery a year ago. They've thrown him from one needless feud to another, with his only real direction coming in a the form of a series of matches against Kurt Angle. The quality of his matches has remained very high, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to get into his work, when you know it's not really getting him anywhere.

Basically, if they elongate this match into a strong series over the reintroduced belt, with clearly cut face / heel roles for both men, it could go a long way towards elevating their combined stock. Everybody knows the matches themselves will be absolutely incredible, so the only real variable is how well the bookers promote and invest interest into them. It's a tough call here, as I think Benoit is regarded as the more established of the two, but Guerrero's got more steam behind him at the moment.
Winner: Chris Benoit

The Undertaker vs. John Cena

I'm not so crazy about this one. Maybe if I had any faith in the Undertaker's ability and willingness to sell for smaller guys, I'd get excited about his upcoming match with Cena. As is, though, even if Jizzohn pulls out a victory, it won't be convincing. Even if he picks up the deadman, plants him with the DVD, and pins him clean in the center of the ring, he won't have looked as good as he could have. The Taker's been horrible, lately, with his unwillingness to make anybody look like a legitimate threat, and as such his character's just looked like an ass. Wow, look, you took out all three members of the FBI all by yourself. They were hitting you, but you mysteriously didn't feel their assault. I didn't buy that when Hulk Hogan was doing it, during the height of his popularity, and I was a little eight year old Hulkamaniac. I sure as hell don't buy it today, and it's embarrassing to watch. It makes him look like a relic, left over from an old guard, a guard three or four generations in the past. And, like I said, it kills my interest in this match, interesting young opponent or no.
Winner: The Undertaker

Vince McMahon vs. Zach Gowen

Poor Zach. In his only major league matchups, he's been in there opposite the Road Dogg, the Big Show and now Vince McMahon. I'd like to see what he could do with somebody like Eddy Guerrero, Rey Mysterio or Lance Storm, somebody who could turn his handicap into an important, interesting part of the match's story. But that's not what we're dealing with here. To his credit, every one of Vince McMahon's singles matches has been much, much better than it ever had a right to be. His cage match with Austin, his junk brawl with Shane, his WrestleMania collision with Hulk Hogan, they've all been much more entertaining matches than I could've ever imagined. But, as John stated in his preview, the vast majority of these fights have been on the other side of the ring from well established athletes, guys who knew their way around the squared circle with their eyes shut. Zach isn't in the same league as Triple H, Ric Flair, Steve Austin or even Hulk Hogan. His weaknesses are in tremendous danger of being exposed here, and I hope for his sake that things go just as well as the rest of ol' Vinnie's brawls. Regardless of the outcome, I can't understand how WWE has justified the amount of hype they've given this match. Honestly, I've seen five Gowen / McMahon promotional spots for every Angle / Lesnar / Show segment. Stupid.
Winner: Vince McMahon

Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Big Show vs. Kurt Angle

I like this one, which is something you don't usually hear from me when we're talking about a match involving the Big Show. In the past six months, though, the Smackdown! brand has really surprised me by handling the former Giant in an almost perfect manner. OK, he won the World Title. It was a necessary evil to shake the aura that was surrounding him after his arrival from RAW. Since dropping the belt less than a month later, he's been kept strong as a main event player, basically there to further boost the value of Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle. His weaknesses have been kept very well covered, and his strengths have been showcased. He hasn't been used this well since they put him up against Chris Benoit a couple years ago, and gave Benoit permission to slowly, deliberately chop him down to size and eventually put the match away with a brutal Crossface.

And, on the other side of the ring, you've got Angle and Lesnar. Two guys who have already shown us they can carry an entire show on their shoulders, under the right circumstances. From where I sit, Angle has the edge in terms of crowd support, which leads me to believe Lesnar will be turning sooner or later. I doubt that'll happen in this match, but I wouldn't completely rule it out, either. I'm not counting on a title change, but something needs to be done to drive a wedge between Angle and Lesnar without weakening one or the other. Like John, I don't think there's any question who's taking the fall here, but I disagree with his prediction of who the man making the cover will be. Should be a good one, worthy of a main event.
Winner: Brock Lesnar


Eh, this is a card that could really go one way or the other, depending on how a couple key matches turn out. If the tag team title match just doesn't click, Benoit / Guerrero is marred by an injury or a horribly overbooked finish, and McMahon / Gowen is as ugly as it has the potential to be, this card will be horrible. On the other hand, if the big boss, Mr. McMahon gives us yet another astonishingly good match, Sable / Stephanie is cut from the card and the US title match gets half an hour of solid action, this could be very, very good. I won't be watching this one, as Sunday is my twenty fourth birthday, and I'll likely be in the process of getting completely bombed when the first bell rings. So, while you're watching Stephanie / Sable and trying to find something else to occupy your mind, think of me. Sitting in a Sarasota, Florida bar, getting completely pissed and loving every minute of it.
until next time, i remain

Monday, July 21, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 07/21/03

I thought this was a great show, despite a few bumps in the path along the way. Either serious thought was given towards giving this show a distinct beginning, middle and ending, or somebody backstage hit one hell of an accidental goldmine. I mean, this would be like Brian Gewirtz shootin' his rifle backstage, and accidentally stumbling across some Texas Tea. Kane's character has sincerely surprised me, by not only being logically explained and expanded, but by overcoming two of the worst storylines in modern history. We saw a couple outstanding matches, a number of memorable promos and vignettes, and a great conclusion to the program that's left me hungry for next week. But, hey, once again I'm getting ahead of myself.

I thought the opening segment between Linda, Eric and Austin went on a little bit too long. Linda shocked the world by ditching the classic WrestleMania theme as her entrance music, and then proceeded to prove she's still got absolutely no idea how to read a live audience. When the crowd wanted to cheer her, as she announced she wasn't going to fire Stone Cold, she didn't allow them the opportunity, barrelling on through her lines without a pause for the reaction. Then, less than a minute later, she decided that a pause for dramatic effect might be useful after all, after announcing Kane was under house arrest. The audience responded with chilling silence, as they waited for her to explain what that meant for the scheduled main event. Nevertheless, this segment did its job by setting up the circumstances that would be surrounding the night's final minutes. Finally, the backstage interaction between Austin, Bischoff and Jericho was flawless, and went a lot further towards building interest in the tension between the two GMs than two months' worth of storylines have managed accumulatively. That's called "letting the talent portray their characters realistically," gang. Look upon it and smile.

The women's tag match had some great moments and some nasty, runny, shit-filled moments. Very little in-between. Something I thought was noteworthy; listen to the response Victoria got on her way to the ring. She was just as over as Trish, if not more so, and I'm willing to bet it's got a lot to do with the fantastic progress she's made in defining herself as an identifiable character, and then sticking with it. I was absolutely brutal in my critiques of Victoria when she first started showing up regularly on RAW, and I still stand by those words. At the time, she was just awful, but thanks to hard work and attention to detail she's become one of the brightest spots of the show.

Gail Kim, on the other hand, needs some of those positive vibes to rub off in her direction, in a hurry. I keep hearing tales about what a talented worker she was in the indie scene, but from what I've seen with my own two eyes, she's still got a long way to go. She's stale and boring outside of the ring, and limited and prone to accidents inside.

I'm indifferent to the new addition to the Evolution's theme song. It works just as well either way to me. But, for god's sake, change the video back to the way it was before. I'm tired of watching Randy Orton lick wine off of random girls' necks.

Speaking of which, Orton had a pretty big evening on last night's show. I like the different levels they're playing with in the Evolution stable, with Flair and Triple H simultaneously feeding the youngster's ego and pushing him into situations he's not altogether comfortable with. His facial expressions told a great story backstage last night, as he seriously contemplated whether his upcoming run-in was worth it or not, to which Flair coldly stated "DO IT." This stable's already got a great, lengthy feud written into the seams of its jacket, and things are just starting to lift off.

Enjoyed the Goldberg confrontation and subsequent pose-down, as there's really nobody else in the federation that can legitimately oppose Triple H right now. The audience is into Goldberg, now that they've started booking him correctly, and see him as their last chance... which, in all honesty, he probably is. Unless they plan to bring in Sting and hotshot the title around his waist immediately, there's nobody left to convince the crowd Triple H is defeatable. Me, I still wish they'd bring Benoit over from Smackdown and put him up against Evolution, taking personal offense to the stable's remarkable similarity to the Four Horsemen. But I'm getting off track.

I'd read on Meltzer's site that Goldberg had lost a lot of mass thanks to that staph infection, but damn... I didn't imagine that. It looked like he had one regularly sized arm, and one little chicken-bone arm that waved around with a mind of its own.

There isn't much more I can say about Jericho / Michaels that hasn't already been said. A great effort from the guys in the ring, slightly marred by several things which were completely out of their control. Namely, a piss-poor audience, terrible commercial placement, an emphasis on instant replays instead of the standing 10 count (which had reached nine as Flair was climbing up on the ring apron) and atrociously out-of-place commentary from the Coach and the King. Remember when Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura were announcing? Or Monsoon and Heenan? Gorilla would play the face, speaking the words that the bookers hoped fans were thinking around the nation, while Ventura or Heenan would play the heel, at the same time presenting a completely different, yet valid, argument. And they'd do all this while talking about, promoting and enhancing the MATCH. I miss the JR / Heyman announce team.

But oh yes, the match. I wouldn't put it on the same pedestal as their match at WrestleMania, not even close, but this was easily the best free TV match I've seen since Bret / Benoit in Kansas City. They gave it as much time as it needed, managed to further this storyline with Orton without killing Jericho's clean victory, and put the right man over. The ending of the match, especially, stood out in my mind as brilliant. Y2J was visibly deliberate in placing Michaels on the mat, with his knees almost but up against the turnbuckle, and used that positioning to its maximum potential. Lawler threw a fit when Jericho used the turnbuckle to help leverage the hold, but from where I sit, that's no foul. It's great submission wrestling, knowing where you are at every point in the match. Great match, with an even greater finish. Everything I hoped it would be.

And here comes my other cat, to join in the fun of making my life on the keyboard a living hell.

Booker's dead in the water. This is what happens when you give a guy a distinct direction, abandon it two weeks before the biggest match of his life, and then job him cleanly in the center of the ring. I like Booker, I really do, but he's got to start innovating again soon, because he's just floating there right now. Kick a little, cough and scream. Let us know you're still alive.

Finally, we got the Kane / RVD segment. They did everything right with RVD's role, right up to the point where Kane started to squash the life out of him. They showed him backstage, and instead of giving him a microphone to screw up the tension that was filling the air, they just showed him kicking the air furiously. He then rushed the ring with reckless abandon, furthering that emotion, only to end up thrown into the entryway and laying on his back. Again.

If you can overlook the problems with RVD, though, the closing segment was brilliant. I'm eager to see where they take Kane from here, and can't express how happy I am they actually followed through on their tease of the Big Red Machine's slaughtering of Linda McMahon. Sure, that got him over as the #1 face with the live audience, and I'm sure that's not exactly the reaction they were hoping for, but any reaction that strong is head and shoulders above the spot he was occupying six months ago. And to those complaining about the distance between Linda's head and the floor, just be quiet. Tombstones have looked like that since the Undertaker first debuted. I remember this, because I wondered to myself how a move like that could hurt a guy, and validated it as more of a squishing of the opponent's lower neck, using the downward force of the thighs and shins more than the mat itself. So yeah, if you want to get silly, he was protecting Linda... just as much as the Undertaker used to protect the jobbers on WWF Superstars.

Shit. I'm reading Scott Kieth's RAW Rant, and I see he covered a possible Benoit trade to RAW, too. I guess what they say about great minds is true...

Good show, with a positive direction almost across the board, and seeds finally planted for the future. Why do they always wait until it's almost time for Summerslam to start giving us shows like this?

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7.3

Monday, July 14, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 07/14/03

I wasn't overly crazy about this week's show. Nothing really stood out as such a completely, embarrassingly, audience mis-reading segment as last week, but... wait. Did Kane really set JR on fire last night, or did I just have a really weird dream? Yeah, I guess there was something that stood out as insulting to those of us who enjoy continuing a relationship with our own minds, but there were a couple segments I enjoyed this time around. No matter what you may have read elsewhere, I'm of the persuasion that this wasn't much better than we saw seven short days ago.

Time is short on my end, so I'm aiming to cut my recap short as well. Of course, every time a columnist says something like that, they wind up writing about twelve hundred words, delivering a longer writeup than they have in months. I've been guilty of that for years, myself. Saying "I'm going to keep this short" is like bringing a birthday cake out to the ring and claiming "nobody's going to fall into this cake tonight." See what I mean? I just managed to drag a sentence that should've been about six words long into a paragraph about thirty times that length. Let's just dive into this.

I liked Jericho's appearance last night. One aspect of his character that he's really toned down on since coming to WWE is his outrageous variety in hair stylings... and it's something I honestly miss. Sure, we all enjoyed the ongoing saga of his goatee / beard / mustache, and its flight from the angry slice of the razor, but it's just not the same. Regardless, he was in great form last night, his segment didn't feel rushed and it looked like he was given a lot of freedom to take his own path with the promo. A major problem with his character is that he still doesn't feel like he's a main eventer, let alone a former World Champion. Sure, he went over Austin and the Rock in the same night. He was the first undisputed champion in the history of North American wrestling. But he still feels like he's a step and a half back from Austin, Triple H and Kurt Angle. Jobbing him to a retired main eventer in a split second isn't helping that image.

I dislike six-man tags. I dislike intergender tags even more. Combine the two, and Q is an unhappy camper. Test is making some good progress as a heel, (it's about time... he's been in WWE for what, five years?) but the lady-beater gimmick has been eternally doomed. There's no conceivable payoff to the storyline(s), save one; complete and utter annihilation of the perceived heel, pretty much erasing any steps forward taken with the gimmick in the first place. Maybe they'll prove me wrong with this one. Keep your fingers crossed, because despite all the shit he gets on the net, Test is still a guy who works hard, looks the part of a Main Eventer, has the athleticism and isn't afraid to take advice.

Isn't it funny, how Triple H's former opponents always seem to gravitate toward one another? Kane and RVD went immediately from laying down on PPV for the champ to tagging together, in less than a month, and are only now starting to show signs of breaking up. Now, less than a month after Kevin Nash focused on the ceiling lights while opposing Triple H at Bad Blood, he's teaming with Scott Steiner in what looks to be another dead-end tag team from hell. I'm taking bets right now on who Goldberg will be teaming up with this winter.

Lance Storm and Maven slopped their way through six minutes of missed spots, ugly exchanges and all around nastiness. And hey! Lance jobbed again! But it's ok, because this gimmick has legs. It's not burying him or the rest of the talent who can still tell the difference between a rest hold and honest psychology. Not in the least.

Oh yeah, and Maven's about useless. He's only ever been over because of his theme song. There. I said it.

I wouldn't have booked the Evolution / Dudleys match any differently. Evolution has needed a decisive victory like this for a while, and though there was WAY too much Buh Buh Ray offense in the middle of that, in the end it all worked out correctly. I nearly pissed myself when Flair sent out the universal signal for "numbah wonnn," simultaneously lip synching an unmistakable "fuck you." Come to think of it, Flair in general was just golden last night. It's funny when you can say a fifty year old man, without a shirt, parading around the ring and flipping people off was one of the strongest parts of the broadcast.

For those who may have missed it with that last paragraph; I LIKE EVOLUTION. I've liked the idea since its inception, (Batista included) and so long as they don't go trying to call themselves the Four Horsemen again, I'll continue to like it. Triple H has been oversaturated, there's no mistaking that. Evolution is still a damn good stable, both in theory and in execution.

Booker and Christian should've left well enough alone with their outstanding match that started with a brawl into the crowd a couple weeks back. Even if it meant Booker would never have won the Intercontinental title, at least I could've looked back on the feud and recalled one or two very good matches. Since that one, though, they've been pounding the feud into the ground with endless rematches that have been steadily descending in quality. How long does the "mandatory rematch" clause continue to go into effect? I mean, if they cleanly defeat one another for the title, alternating every night, couldn't a feud conceivably go on forever, thanks to that little plot device?

Gail and Molly started out very strongly, absolutely clicking right off the bat and landing a great series of exchanges with one another. Once we passed the halfway point, however, it all seemed to fall apart. Both girls looked rushed, which is no surprise considering they went on at like 10:59, and we really needed to hurry on over to that Kane interview segment. The crowd was dead, with the exception of one complete reject, who refused to quit shouting "Oooooo," like so many tone-deaf howler monkeys. I wish I still lived in Indianapolis, so I could've been at that event live, found the guy and stared at him like some sort of false higher authority. Hey, I may have a large forum within which to spread my opinions, but that doesn't mean I've gotta lie about being a wuss about confrontation.

...I mean... "I would've found that guy and kicked his ass! Fuckin' A!!"

I hate when they fill the main event slot with an interview. Especially one with a poorly gimmicked storyline element, such as setting a guy on fire (just for example). Austin coming out to the ring was even dumber... this felt like a ride on "Pirates of the Caribbean" or something, the video feed felt completely pre-taped, and I kept waiting for Austin's live reactions to run long and run over the time permitted by the tape.

On the whole, I loved the way they explained Kane's lack of facial scars, as it goes a long way toward explaining the inaccuracies in his character's history (the voice box, the lack of scars, the sudden shaving of his head, the insinuations of others who have supposedly seen him without his mask / wardrobe). But the whole "violent monster" thing is overplayed and hard to believe. I mean, if he's looking to freak people out, why doesn't he just start shooting lightning bolts out of his fingers and setting cameramen on fire again?

In the end, this would've been a tough pill to swallow live. I don't blame the crowd one bit for being so harsh to the women's title match. I wouldn't have been a happy camper either, when I looked at the watch, saw who was in the ring and knew there wasn't enough time for another match AND that Kane interview. An ugly show that probably wasn't as bad as the taste that last segment left in my mouth. Hah, and so much for that 'short writeup' thing again.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 3.7

Monday, July 7, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 07/07/03

Man, I didn't know WHAT to make of RAW last night. Between the first half of the show, where the audience was absolutely insanely loud and helped to make the episode look like a million bucks, and the last half of the show, where the audience couldn't believe Vince had tried this shit again, and as a result made the product look weak, boring and misguided, it was certainly a gamut of emotions. Right from the very get-go, when they revealed we were coming live from Montreal, I wondered two things; first, would Shawn Michaels dare to show his face, since he was now an active member of the roster, and second; what kind of reaction was this hot, hot audience going to have waiting for him? Sure enough, I'd get the answer to both questions...

But Booker T, Austin and Christian were out there to say a thing or two first. It was actually kind of nice to see Austin granted the enormous reception I expected upon his big return to television six months ago. Whether you like him as an individual or not, you've gotta admit the guy did every bit as much for wrestling as Hulk Hogan did in the 80s, and deserved at least as much fanfare as the orange goblin himself. Then again, it'd been almost ten years since Hogan was last seen in a McMahon ring, so maybe the problem was that Austin didn't leave for long enough...

Booker and Christian were in the ring immediately thereafter, continuing their ongoing saga over the Intercontinental title in a match that saw Christian at a decided disadvantage from the opening bell. This wasn't up to the same level as last week's matchup, but it wasn't necessarily offensive to the viewers. A nice set of nearfalls took this one home, and left a better memory than the match itself probably deserved. I had a couple of problems with it, thanks mostly to Booker's decision to stop mid-comeback for an ill timed spinaroonie, along with WWE's poorly placed commercial break at the pinnacle of the match's drama. Good to see Book finally nabbing some singles gold, but I've gotta question their timing. Let's see, we'll job him in his hometown of Houston on PPV, then put him over the Canadian champion on RAW... in Canada. OK. Yeah, that makes sense to me, too.

What was up with the quick cut away from Teddy Long's promo, so we could see more of Tommy Dreamer's backstage agony? That was... bizarre. The Hurricane hit a beautiful shining wizard, catapulting off of Rosey's back, which Rodney Mack was quick to no-sell, and then I blinked and missed the finish of the match. Obviously, this couldn't have deserved more than a minute and a half.

OK, they've gotta get Kane over as a monster again, so their big mastermind plot is to put him over... Tommy Dreamer and Rico?! ...Backstage?! A guy with no credibility who pranced his way around the ring to no heat whatsoever on last week's show, and a guy who hasn't won a match in about two years? Whateva, ho!

Val Venis and Steven Richards clicked on the three or four lockups they got in the tag match last night, though the real stars of the show were most certainly supposed to be Victoria and Gail Kim. I remain unsold on the new women's champion, who's thus far come off as extremely bland and vanilla. She's like Zack Gowen without the whole one-legged thing. It's still too early to condemn her to failure, but time is quickly ticking down by my watch. Show us you're different from the rest of the roster, quick, or your chance is blown.

As Shawn Michaels made his big entrance to the ring, I thought to myself; you know, this is the last true heel heat in wrestling. It's true... even the dullest knife in the drawer knows that these outcomes are predetermined, that they're witnessing theatre mixed with sports, and none of the guys in the back are honestly the same person when the cameras are off. The best WWE can do in modern times is create an enjoyable, interesting storyline and hope the audiences become enamored with it. There's very little true emotional involvement in today's wrestling crowds, the fans may as well be watching a movie. With Shawn Michaels in Montreal, they had perhaps the last bastion of honest emotion. These people legitimately hate the Heart Break Kid, perhaps in the same way they hated Fred Blassie or Bobby Heenan, back in their individual primes. He seriously runs the risk of being assaulted outside the arena if he were to show up in the wrong place at the wrong time. That's the true sign of an honest to god wrestling heel, as opposed to a watered down, WWE "Sports Entertainment" heel. And they threw it all away, because they were afraid of what a hot object they held in their hands.

I'll echo the opinions of everybody else in the column. This was a tremendous, perfectly played segment... right up until the moment Michaels mentioned Florida. Then it fell flat on its face. The real killer here is, they aren't even building up to a match at Summerslam (yet). Worthless.

Test and Nash fought and Test, surprisingly, came out of it with a relatively clean pin in under two minutes. What does that say about your main event, when the guy who headlined your last PPV as challenger to the title jobs to a midcarder on RAW in about ninety seconds? What a strange night.

Mark Jindrak didn't exactly set my world on fire. Actually, when I first caught sight of him backstage, I thought Val Venis had grown his hair partially out again. A boring, overplayed look, matched up with a disappointing moveset and a poor match against one of RAW's greatest assets. At least Jericho got a clean submission out of this.

Molly and Trish, however, came in and cleaned house with a well thought-out match, solid exchanges and another clean heel victory. Nice work by the girls here, focusing entirely on Trish's neck and upper shoulders, which are precisely the areas Test worked over earlier in the night. This is a great example of how to cleanly put over a heel, without diminishing the audience's respect for the face. I've got my fingers crossed, hoping Molly can give us a good show with Gail Kim next week. But what would be REALLY great is if they could get Lawler's worthless ass out of the announce position for these matches. His one or two funny lines a week aren't worth the agony I've got to endure every time he calls a women's match.

Randy Orton looked pretty decent in the main event, though I kept wondering when Bubba was going to fall on his foot again. I honestly can't remember much more about this one, which isn't a good thing to say about the main event.

I'm still not sure with where they're going with Kane, which is odd considering I thought we were going to be getting some sort of difinitive direction this week. OK, he chokeslammed Steve Austin this week and no-sold the stunner. Well, he chokeslammed Eric Bischoff last week, so that pretty much negates any progress one way or another. He bloodied Tommy Dreamer backstage, you say? Well, for one, nobody outside of Philadelphia or New York has really cared much about Dreamer in the last year, but beside even that, he bloodied Rico as well. Who is a heel. Basically, we got a nice long, episode-wide build to more furious treading of water. Kane's gone from a guy with a seriously cool look, a surefire main event series of feuds and a great gimmick upon his debut to a goofy-looking, chubby bald guy with stupid ring attire, a complete lack of compelling direction and a gimmick that's drowning in the open sea. Oh, but he stood up from a stunner. Whatever.

The more I reminisce about this episode, the more I realize that I really didn't enjoy all that much of it. I'm definitely a big fan of the large number of clean finishes we got last night, and I liked the Molly Holly / Trish match, along with most of the Booker / Christian title match. Aside from that, really, there isn't much positive to say about the end result. They blew a big possibility because Shawn isn't comfortable working as a heel any more, they stumbled their way through a couple uninspiring matches, and the carcass of Kane's new direction is starting to smell. Thumbs down.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 3.5