The Dudley Boys vs. La Resistance and Rob Conway
See my comments about the Test / Steiner match and accompanying feud. These two teams have proven time and time again that they're both mismatched and out of place at the top of the tag team division together, but yet continue to meet up on the big PPV with the Tag Titles at stake. This month features a slight change in that trend, as I don't believe the belts are on the line, but will more than likely still have the same result. They're nuts for throwing Spike into a tables match so soon after being nearly decapitated on RAW, and no matter how much praise I've heard about Rob Conway, I don't think anything he does will help dig this match out. The French should win this one, and promptly run the Duds off the show. But that ain't likely. Bubba, D-Von and Spike are the smart picks.
Winners: The Dudleys
Scott Steiner vs. Test w/Stacy Keibler
The feud that would not die. It's funny, for years I've been aching to see a return to lengthy title reigns, to careful, patient storyline development. And now that it's come to pass, I'm starting to realize that I wasn't careful what I wished for. Triple H has held the title for a cumulative period of nearly one and a half years, and the Test / Scott Steiner feud has been gone on for twice as long as most regular feuds. Yet, the basis around which they've been fighting hasn't changed one bit; they're beating the holy hell out of one another because they'd both like to pork Stacy Keibler. I guess, in retrospect, that's a story I'd rather watch than Katie Vick 2 or another installment in the legendary Bossman / Big Show war... but it still doesn't make this long-standing battle any less boring. These two have been unenthusiastically running in to one another's matches for months now. Nothing more, nothing less... they've just been running in, saying "hi" and running out. Sadly enough, it doesn't look like that's going to end any time soon. Test is my pick to win this one, because accompanying Steiner with Stacy isn't going to help either one of them.
Trish & Lita vs. Molly & Gail Kim
Without question, the women's division has been the real workhorse of RAW lately. Alongside Gail Kim and the perfect face-in-peril Trish Stratus, Molly Holly has really taken this division by the horns and helped create a vibrant, entertaining division with several established top names and an intriguing ongoing storyline. The women of WWE right now represent everything that the men do not. They're evolving, they're taking the division in directions it's never seen before, and they're tearing down those old walls. Even though Jerry Lawler's first response to Lita's return this past Monday was an asinine "puppies," the women are slowly, surely proving they're more than just T&A. Where the loss of Jazz and apparent failure of Gail Kim looked to have put a noticeable dent into the future plans of the title belt, instead they've been blessings in disguise as Molly has picked up the slack and Gail has improved steadily since turning heel. If Lita is kept out of the majority of this match, saved only for the finish, this could be one of the best matches of the night. The faces have the momentum, so they're my pick.
Winners: Lita and Trish Stratus
Christian (c) vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Chris Jericho
This, by all means, should rock. They've got a clear balance of allegiances here, with Christian a firm heel, Van Dam an obvious crowd favorite and Jericho starting to morph his way into the role of a tweener. All three of these guys have had outstanding singles matches with one another, and have performed very well in matches involving multiple opponents. I'm a little displeased about the lackadaisical, last second way the match was thrown together, but if the end result is as pretty as I'm hoping this will be, I won't complain. It's tough to pick a winner in this one, with each guy needing a break at this point in their careers, but my gut tells me Christian is retaining.
Coach & Al Snow vs. J.R. & Lawler
Raw Announcing Job on the Line
Oh boy, here we go. Thank god they're pushing this to the top of the card, because I don't think I could live with myself if it were curtain jerking on HeAt or even (god forbid) taken off the card at the last second. The amount of time, effort and thought that went into Coach's successful heel turn are a perfect example of what's wrong with today's RAW. Everything was perfectly planned, laid out, executed and performed. Coach had a legitimate reason to be mad, after Lawler's constant baiting and taunting, and he made his turn at a moment that really mattered. It was the perfect vehicle to help launch a struggling wrestler's career, and they wasted it on a backup announcer, a retired former wrestler desperately clutching to his youth, a legendary play by play man who's been on a steady decline and a forgotten also-ran from the height of the Attitude era. The only one of these four guys to really entertain me over the last month has been Al Snow, and his spot-on satire of Jerry Lawler during last week's show. If anything, the entire feud has just filled me with contempt for JR and even more hatred for Lawler. Nice job, guys.
Winners: JR & Lawler
Shawn Michaels vs. Randy Orton
I've honestly enjoyed this feud a lot more than the majority of the members of the forums. I think the way they've been building Randy Orton is tremendous, giving him opportunity after opportunity to back up his claims of being a bonafide "legend killer." As such, it only makes sense that he next go after the resident living legend, the Heart Break Kid himself, Shawn Michaels. I get the feeling this will be a dream match of sorts in just a couple short years, after Orton's had the chance to really expand as an athlete and evolve (no pun intended) into the serious main event role they're grooming him for. This will undoubtedly be a major proving ground for the rookie, and if Michaels lifts him up to the level I have a feeling he will, this push is far from over. Done correctly, Orton can job here and retain every bit of the momentum he had going in. Done poorly, he could lose everything. Either way, I think Shawn's going over Sunday.
Winner: Shawn Michaels
Kane vs. Shane McMahon
Last Man Standing
I still don't understand why they didn't do this match last month at Summerslam. I guess there's nowhere they could've gone with Kane after that show, where after this one they'll have Goldberg to feed him to in the main event. Oi... I'm getting shivers just thinking about what insanely stupid ideas they'll have in the process of booking that one. But anyway. The impact of Shane's return has just about run its course by this point, with every day revealing a little bit more about just how by the numbers he's doing everything this time around. Don't get me wrong, I'd still much rather see Shane's silly dancing at the top of the entryway than Vince's "corncub up the ass" stroll or Linda's heat-evaporating glare, but he's really been phoning his efforts in this time around. Gone is the enthusiasm from his step, in its place is a bored, vacant stare. That's the look of a guy who was brought in for the sole purpose of jobbing to a monster on its way to the top. They could do some really fun, original stuff with the Last Man Standing format this Sunday, but I just don't think it's happening. Come on, guys. Surprise me.
Triple H (c) vs. Goldberg
World Heavyweight Championship: Title vs. Career
I've never had a problem with Bill Goldberg, and I've never made a secret of that fact. I think they're finally doing things right with him, I think he's got the kind of charisma that you'd be insane not to promote and despite his shortcomings he's really not as bad in the ring as everyone makes him out to be. With that said, I'm secure in my analysis that this match is going to suck a big, fat, stinky one. Triple H is visibly in no shape to wrestle the kind of match that's going to put Goldberg over with enough momentum to stand up on his own, which is the whole reason this title change was delayed from Summerslam in the first place. As with the Shane vs. Kane match, there's still the possibility that these two will grit their teeth, work their asses off and produce something that's shockingly good, but that possibility's even more remote here than it is in the Last Man Standing match I referred to earlier. I'm much more interested in seeing how they handle Bill Goldberg as World Champion than I am in seeing how they get the belt on him, really. Here's hoping this turns out every bit as obvious as it appears to be today, because another Triple H title defense means death for RAW.
There's a real defeatist sense to this entire PPV. Even the matches that look very good on paper have a strange sort of mopey air floating around them. It's like the PPV is just there, and whatever's going to happen is going to happen. Shane isn't excited about what he's doing. Randy Orton still looks like he's staring through a fog whenever he's cutting a promo. Christian and Chris Jericho don't really know where they're going. It could be worse, but it could also be much better.
until next time, i remain