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.
Overall Score: 3.5