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

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