Monday, August 4, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 08/04/03

This show actually flowed much better than anyone's giving it credit for. We had some very solid matches by TV standards, a trend is emerging that seems to embrace clean finishes(!), and the stortelling all made sense. Nothing seemed too outrageously over the top, (well, excepting the superhero segment) and on the whole the show felt much more real and interesting than it was a couple of months back. Progress HAS been made, but this machine isn't well oiled just yet. Give it some time.

The opening speech rotation was entertaining for a bit, but I've got to agree that they went on way too long. It also doesn't make sense to deflate the Shane / Kane feud by booking them into separate matches at Summerslam, especially since the crowd is just begging for them to pull the trigger on it right this very moment. Shane is still the only McMahon I want to see on television, but yesterday's promo was a little bit below his usual standards. I mean, they basically danced around the same issue for the duration. They could've just as easily gone out there, hit the same points, furthered the same feud(s) and booked the same match with five minutes of TV time, rather than twenty. As the promo drug on, I found myself daydreaming, wishing Shane would make a statement along the lines of "We both screwed up our chances with WCW, but I can still kick your ass."

Bischoff does get kudos for inadvertantly instigating an audience-wide recital of "suck it," though. Come on, how do you walk onto a wrestling program, shout "I've got two words for ya," and assume the fans won't react that way? It was just inadvertant hilarity, watching Bischoff's face go from worked anger to legitimate surprise, to embarrassed smirk.

Dupree vs. Buh Buh wasn't pretty, I'll admit. My boredom with the Dudleys isn't curing itself, and going through the same motions, week after week, isn't really doing anything but reinfocing La Resistance as the faces in this feud. Seriously, if Buh Buh and D-Von weren't coming into this fight as the faces in the first place, they'd be the heels without a doubt. Let's see; you introduce a table to almost every match you've been involved in, No-DQ stipulation or not, and then take personal issue to Grenier and Dupree doing the same thing with their flag? Hypocrite, anyone? Hello? I legitimately hope the Dudleys get squashed at SummerSlam.

They didn't accomplish what they could have with Steiner / Orton. In this match, you've got two guys; one is a washed up former main eventer, paired with a hot young valet. A guy who's proven he can't cut it in the main event scene and is slowly losing what aura he has left as time goes on. The other is a guy whose entire gimmick centers around two things: his quest to establish himself by destroying legendary former champions, and his supposed prowess with the ladies. There are two directions they could've gone with this, either turning Stacey on Scotty and reaffirming both of Orton's claims, or cleanly jobbing "Freakzilla" to the younger man, lending what credibility he has left to Orton's "Legend Killer" gimmick. Instead, Orton scored the pinfall after a lengthy interference from Test and a pillow-soft RKO. I guess it really IS hard to shoot fish in a barrel.

I've never been a fan of the Hurricane's gimmick, and I loathe the brick-to-the-head way they've been pounding away at this "S.H.I.T." gimmick, but last night's promos and interaction between the two was actually a lot of fun. Rosey carrying an enormous cardboard box with "SHIT" written on the front is comedy gold, and the goofy pose they struck in the middle of the ring was riotously funny. I suppose it's like watching an SNL sketch fall apart on live TV. The actors know what they're doing is stupid, so they eventually give up on the original sketch and try to make each other laugh instead. It's always funny when the comedians themselves give in to fits of laughter, and it brought a smile to my face to see Rosey and Helms having fun with it in the ring last night.

And I'll be damned if Hurricane and Christian didn't kick a little ass in the ring out there, as well. Though there isn't much one can do with two minutes of TV time, these guys really showed some potential with one another. All their exchanges were clicking, and their combinations really worked well together. I'd like to see an extended rematch here, without question.

There isn't much left to comment on when it comes to Flair / Goldberg. I think the sights and sounds of the live audience are all the convincing anyone should need that the writers have no idea what their fanbase wants to see. To his credit, Flair attempted to work his old, "Nikita Koloff circa 1986," hoss-carrying tricks. And, goldurn it, Goldberg appeared to be receptive, selling the leg for a few minutes before forgetting about it during the finish. What it all boiled down to was a mixture of relief and anxiety, as WWE once again failed to realize that Canada hates Bill Goldberg, (not to mention every arena's LOVE for Flair) yet knew well enough to protect Flair from a squash in this over-hyped little TV main event. I'm glad the Nature Boy didn't emerge as the first man ever to job on free TV to both Goldberg and Lesnar.

The post-match beatdown was extremely entertaining, despite the crowd's rejection of the workers' heel / face status. An enormous reaction for the wrong guy is better than no reaction at all, and this little hodge-podge served to show off all three of RAW's main event feuds in a clear, understandable chain of events. Of course, Austin screwed all that by smooshing all three into one ungodly match at Summerslam, but it was still nice to see a genuine reaction from the audience nonetheless.

As for the Elimination Chamber, I think it's about all they could do to save the main event, with Triple H's injury. Their choices were either to turn the World Title match into a tag match, force Triple H to forfeit the title (as it's been WELL over thirty days since he last defended... but I forgot, we only enforce that rule when it's to our advantage as lazy writers) or make it a large free-for-all. I don't mind seeing the chamber again, and with four of the original six participants returning for this round, the match should be improved over the original as the athletes better understand their surroundings.

I wish they'd canned the idea for that post-post-post-match powerbomb Nash hit on Jericho. What a worthless bit that was. Yeah, here's Nash; a guy that basically sunk the last two PPVs with his horrid World Title matches, a guy who's likely to be gone within another couple months. And then, here's Jericho; a guy who's made RAW watchable for the last year, who's constantly entertaining both on the mic and in the ring, and who has yet to reach the pinnacle of his career. Makes sense to me, yeah.

The ad for Summerslam, where Brock Lesnar F-5's a shark in the shallows of the ocean, is one of the funniest things I've seen in years.

Like the Hurricane / Christian face-off, Molly and Trish didn't really have the time to expand their match into more than a few nice spots and a couple tight exchanges. Watching this match, and Molly's multitude of outstanding pinning attempts, made me wish they'd adopt a scoring system, not unlike amateur wrestling, so that time-limit draws would actually result in a winner, and so that near-falls actually MEANT something. It's too bad that, now there's a competant wrestler holding the Women's Title, they're going to turn the Summerslam title match into a brawl that only serves to eliminate all technique from the match itself.

I really enjoyed the Jericho / RVD match we saw last night. I didn't think it was the **** instant classic that a lot of folks on the Forums seem to think it was, but I also don't think it was the plodding dredge-fest Scott Keith's calling it. This was a remarkably clean, competitive, back and forth fight between two guys familiar with one another's style. It was excellent for a TV match and featured, shockingly, no outside interference or foreign objects. I have no problem with Jericho dropping this match cleanly, and it raised the stock of both guys in the process. A nice opening, great selling on the part of both guys, (especially the way RVD took that dropkick) and a surprising, believable finish that didn't involve either guy's finisher. Thumbs up all the way here.

The main event was subpar, even I can admit that. It was nice to see somebody actually selling the offense of a guy who supposedly knows karate for a change, (by the way, way to connect with that backside kick on the pad, Eric. If you're a black belt, why are you making white belt mistakes?) and Shane brought the realism he's known for to the fight, potatoing the hell out of Eric along the way. The tombstone on the steps looked absolutely brutal, and made me interested in seeing Shane grab some revenge, despite the uneasy finish to the program itself.

When it's all said and done, we've got two to three strong matches, half of which could've benefitted tremendously from a little more time. We got a couple interesting storyline advancements, addressed the problem of the Summerslam main event, and continued to pursue clean finishes. The writers don't have a clue, but I'm still calling this average at best, and a point or two below at worst.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 4.85

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