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.
Overall Score: 4.3