Monday, August 25, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 08/25/03

A really off balance, bizarre program, coming off the second most important PPV of the year. At the time it first aired, I had a big problem with the way they used the main event of WrestleMania 2000 as a lead-in to Backlash 2000, and that's something I've still got a problem with today. There's little I hate more than when the bookers use one of the "big four" PPVs to try and gather buyrates for the lower rung show they'll be putting on thirty days later, which is pretty much exactly what we saw Sunday night in the Elimination Chamber. Then they carried that momentum over to RAW, which is where the majority of the booking for said PPV should happen, and... wasted time with worthless, non-payable storylines and angles?! What the hell?? So they're asking you to PAY for the shows that merely build to the next month's show, and they waste away every minute of TV time with stuff nobody in their right mind would want to see. I don't understand.

But I'm getting off on the wrong foot. I honestly did like a lot of what I saw last night. It's just that it's become really easy to let the pitch black nature of the bad stuff cloud over the spots of inspiration and good writing that were trying to peek through on last night's program. I hate that we're in a position that's so grim, because I can see with relative ease how simple it would be to turn the whole thing around.

I had no problem with anything about the opening promo last night. I think Triple H came off very much like the calm, collected, prepared champion that we've been led to believe he is, and he most certainly controlled every bit of that segment. Don't get me wrong, I'm pissed as hell that he went over last night, but I know good from bad. This segment made sense, it flowed correctly, and the crowd was sure as hell into it. Challenging Goldberg to a match with his wrestling career on the line makes perfect sense to Triple H, and accepting it fits flawlessly into the challenger's current character. Trips wants the guy who's damaging the reputation of the business he represents out of the picture. Goldie doesn't want to continue wrestling anyway, if he can't do so while holding the World Title. I didn't even have a problem with Hunter's offhand remark about Kurt Angle being a "paper champion." That's something that dates back to the early days of the Monday Night Wars, and never failed to make the guy throwing out those statements look like a conceded jackass. Remember when Tony Schiavone told us Mick Foley would be winning the World Title on RAW, and then laughed that mocking laugh? He was immediately the most hated man in my mind at that moment, and it's something Trips was shooting for (and, obviously, achieving) with his comments last night. Good for him, he's looking for legitimate heel heat rather than gimmicked, phony storyline mass hatred.

Gail Kim vs. Trish Stratus was an awkwardly paced endeavor, with some really head-scrachingly bad transitions thrown in for good measure. I like the emphasis on grounding Gail, and she seems to really have the hang of that sleeper hold, (it honestly did look brutal) but I'm not sure sixty seconds into the match is the right place to start implementing it. Likewise, why was she being allowed to use the ropes as leverage to reverse the move? Shouldn't she have been forced to break the hold the very moment she touched them? Poor refereeing is a trend I'm noticing more and more frequently in WWE. That's a bad thing. A very weird match, though I did like the intonations afterward. Molly was presented as a legitimate threat, and somebody worthy of carrying the title. This makes me smile.

I've hated Mark Henry for years, but even I have to admit; this is the BEST way they'll ever be able to use him. The tag division is really lagging, and they need new teams. Mark Henry will never go anywhere as a singles athlete... his conditioning is just too poor. By using him as the powerhouse of a tag team, the bookers have allowed Mark to concentrate his entire effort into a few quick, powerful, memorable spots. Catching that crossbody and turning it into a powerslam was brutal, and really put him on the map as a force to be reckoned with. Let Rodney Mack eat up most of the time for their team, and put Mark Henry in there when you need a couple loud maneuvers to wake the audience up. It's sound strategy, simultaneously utilizing two guys who would have otherwise been forgotten and giving the tag roster a much needed boost.

At least they stuck all the horrendous, painfully unfunny comedy into the same segment last night. The return of Mini-Dust made me wish Rosey and Jamal would reunite, if just for one night, and break him in half again. Likewise, the whole Hurricane / S.H.I.T. T-Shirt guy segment was boring, predictable and stupid. Now, if they chose instead to legitimately turn the T-Shirt guy heel... then my opinion would do a complete 180. Every show I've ever been to, that guy gets thunderous boos when he reveals that he's shot his last T-Shirt into the crowd. Might as well give the audience something to get excited about, by turning the guy full heel and feeding him to Rosey.

I still don't like the Resistance / Dudleys feud. Conway looks like he's got potential, and he can talk circles around Grenier and Dupree, but even the Rock couldn't make this feud work. Dudley Dogs for everybody! Pthhhh...

I was entertained for a little bit of the Highlight Reel, right up until Vince had been speaking for about a minute. Then I sighed, sat back, and observed as the guy threw every word he's ever said in a promo in the past, threw them into a blender, hit "puree," poured the remnants into a glass, sprinkled a couple new words on top and emerged, smiling, with his new promo in tow. Seriously, I have no idea how one man can go on for upwards of six years without changing more than a half dozen things about his speeches. This wasn't entertaining, it was just stupid. I did like that Jericho kissed ass at the first available opportunity, though, and that Vince didn't nonchalantly shrug him off like so much underutilized midcard talent. I guess it set up an interesting match in Y2J / Shane, but it took WAAAAY too long in doing so. The McMahons should have an exploding ring deathmatch with one another.

I loved the Randy Orton / Maven matchup, even if it wasn't the prettiest thing in the world. Why, you may ask the flickering, eye-destroying, pixelated screen which appears before your very eyes? Because they're turning Orton into EXACTLY the kind of character that's been missing from WWE television for the last decade. He's a heel who is secure in his own abilities, intelligent, cocky and fearless. I LOVED that he didn't back down from Shawn Michaels after the match, yet he didn't take the opportunity to attack the guy from behind either. He used the sweet chin music to put that match away, never broke eye contact with Michaels, and single-handedly boosted his own stock several points in the public's eyes. This guy looked like a more credible heel with just a few seconds of believable, self-absorbed facial expressions than any amount of silly, convoluted storylines or run-ins could ever hope to establish. And, to his credit, HBK didn't know what to do in the situation. I like the way this feud is starting off.

The segment with Bischoff, Coach, Austin, Christian, JR, Lawler and just about everybody else involved with the inner workings of the RAW program was nice to see at first, but quickly spilled over into areas it should have really left very much alone. I like Coach as a heel, and feel that he's been one of the only characters on RAW whose turn made perfect sense... but then they skirted the issue, focusing the brunt of his frustrations on JR and not Jerry Lawler, the much more deserving of the two parties. The real meat of this turn should've been in the weeks of undeserved abuse "the King" laid on in JR's absense, not that moment of uneasy silence he experienced with Ross, upon the Oklahoman's return. I'd love to see Coach just obliterate Lawler next week, taking him out of the announcer's chair and finally putting an end to the elderly pervert's useless second run behind the microphone, but it's not gonna happen. Not permanently, anyway. And besides, this entire angle (tremendous as it is) is completely wasted by putting it to use on the announce team. Yeah, I can understand why loyal, deserving wrestlers who have broken their backs for the company are sitting backstage with nothing to do, while Coach, JR and the King are involved in almost a month's worth of build, backstories and momentum. PUT YOUR PRIORITIES IN THE RIGHT PLACE, MOTHERFUCKERS!

Lawler vs. Christian was just an abomination, with the King dominating the match from bell to bell with his outdated, unrealistic, worthless offense. I hate Jerry Lawler roughly twelve times more than I do Triple H right now, and that's not because this is a well-written storyline. I can't grasp how anyone thought this would be a good step for the promotion to take.

Even Jericho vs. Shane, a match I had quite a bit of interest in, failed to deliver last night. The two were relatively well-balanced in their trading of offense, which isn't something I have much of a problem with. Of all the non full-time wrestlers employed by World Wrestling Entertainment, Shane is without a doubt the most credible. He acts the most like a professional wrestler. He fights the most like a professional wrestler. He's even hung in there with some former World Champions in the past. He's got a track record as a serious threat, which is why I have no problem with Jericho selling his offense and taking turns on offense with him. I'd rather see Shane McMahon kicking the hell out of Chris Jericho than Kevin Nash.

And then, in the pinnacle of everything that's wrong with the way things are headed, the show wrapped up. I don't know where they'll take this from here, nor do I know how they plan to do it. Honestly, I don't care. The closing to this show was just stupid. It wasn't funny, it wasn't entertaining. It was just stupid. It inspired dead silence in my living room... not snickers, giggling over how incredibly stupid the segment I just saw really was... not electricity as I sat entranced, already awaiting next Monday's program. Just pure, unthinking silence. No emotion at all was inspired... that was just too stupid for my brain cells to even register.

So, what this looks like to me in retrospect is two thirds of relatively decent television and one third or completely, unforgivably stupid, appallingly lame faux-entertainment. I liked several of the tidings this show had for the future, but I really disliked the directions that landed at the top of the card. Promoting JR vs. The Coach, Shane vs. Kane and Vince vs. Linda as the most important matches on the card will not sell a single ticket. Quote me on that.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 3.75

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