I was surprised to see Lawler vs. Coach as the opener, which is a good thing. I was almost sure they were going to murder Lawler, replacing him in the announce position with RAW's newest heel, but it was not to be. This was everything I imagined it would be, with an unexplained, unmotivated Al Snow heel turn thrown in just to shake the cobwebs a little bit. I actually prefer Snow as a heel, and have long mourned the death of his late '90s heel turn opposite Mick Foley and the Rock, but I can't say I see this new role taking him anywhere. I did like that he told Coachman that he was "embarrassing HeAt," which was such an obvious bit of self-mockery that it drove my fiancee to ask if he wasn't perhaps being a little redundant. Lawler was his usual, boring, horny old man and he wasn't relieved of his color commentating duties, so that's a bad thing. But Al Snow was actually given something to do that didn't consist of jobbing to Rodney Mack, so that's a good thing. In the end, though, it means a PPV matchup between two uninteresting, non-athletic wrestling announcers. So that's a BIG bad thing.
A funny note, Jerry Lawler ventured into the same territory as Rick Rude this week, appearing on both WWE's Monday Night RAW and MLW's Underground TV on the same night. And, surprisingly enough, Lawler was actually used very effectively in the latter role. Facing off against Terry Funk, (I know... a combined age of about a buck fifty) Jerry was basically just there to frown, walk around outside the ring and hit Funk with rolled up barbed wire. He didn't break out with a lewd comment, he didn't attempt to grope and / or marry another sixteen year old girl, he basically just did his job. Which makes me wonder... how much of the horrific, boring, embarrassing old pervert we hear on TV every week is the real Jerry Lawler, and how much is the guy he's scripted to portray?
Didn't mind the whole "Austin destroys the set" segment, because Austin was perfectly in character and halfway entertaining. Booking Christian and Jericho against one another was a classic face-in-power move, and the whole casual feel of the promo fit his character perfectly. No complaints, and I'll actually give it bonus points if this was the last time we ever have to look at that god-awful, homecoming float-decorated set for the Highlight Reel. I mean, honestly... all that spray paint, glitter, pink and light blue? It looks like the gay nWo stayed up all night decorating the ring.
I really enjoyed the Jericho / Christian match, because it was both fresh and interesting. I could care less about Steiner / Test CXIV, because we've seen it hundreds of times in the past and it's never been a very good match. Both guys are relatively aimless, and they need something new in a hurry. Jericho / Christian, on the other hand, is a workable solution for two guys in dire need of a good month-long feud. Nice match, with both guys looking completely betrayed whenever the other attempted something dirty to steal the title. This was fun.
It really says something about RAW when the women's division, all six regular participants of it, is the most well-developed, consistently entertaining portion of the show. Molly is a great choice as champion and they're actually allowing her to show off a little more personality than in her previous "durr hey, look at the girl with the big butt" run. Strong heels, sympathetic faces, decent matches. I'll watch this any day.
Words can't really describe the thoughts running through my head during the now-infamous Kane / Shane jumper cables incident. They just keep going from bad to worse with Kane. How can a sport go from "two guys get in the ring and fight" to "one guy beats up another guy's mother, then the second guy beats up the first guy and knocks him off a platform, then the second guy laughs and just gets up, then they fight a little more, then the first guy tries to push the second guy into a flaming dumpster, but the second guy reverses it, but the first guy somehow didn't get burned, so the first guy beats up the second guy and tries to light his nuts on fire through the power of electricity, but the second guy is saved at the last second... and then they fight a couple weeks later"? Honest to god, these are the kind of plots you'd see cut from an Ed Wood film. It hurts me to try to think about that segment.
On the plus side, Rob Van Dam looks like a legitimate character all of a sudden, complete with a new "anger" emotion to offset his usual repertoire of "stoned," "unconcerned" and "missed the frog splash." I care more about a match between RVD and Kane after their combined thirty seconds of interaction than I do about Kane vs. Shane, after half an hour of tedious foreshadowing, set-ups and execution. Which is sick, really, because Rob and Kane had THEIR match LAST month.
Ding dong, the tag division is dead. I was interested in seeing a little more of Rob Conway last night, but even that mild desire was apparently too much to ask this week. Oh, and you know what I realized the other day? Shane Helms has been The Hurricane for over two years now. On one hand that's a good thing, because without this retarded-ass gimmick he'd have most certainly gone the same way as Mike Awesome in WWE. On the other... fuck, he's been doing the EXACT SAME THING for TWO YEARS! The only progression his character has made is in the length and color of his hair.
The highlight of the Test / Stacey vs. Stevie / Victoria match was my mild amusement at Richards's trunks, which read "Stevie Night Heat." You've gotta love a guy who's not only secure enough in his masculinity to wear pink to the ring on a regular basis, but to also simultaneously demean and mock his own position on the card and in the higher scheme of things. He knows he'll never go anywhere in World Wrestling Entertainment, (even though he totally deserves to) he knows that if the match within which he's participating isn't being taped for HeAT he'll be jobbing, and he's perfectly OK with every bit of it. I love that. The guy lives life with no illusions.
Finally, I really thought the main event did everything it could ever need to. Maven had the seeds planted for his eventual heel turn, through his awkward interaction with Shawn Michaels, Randy Orton held his own for most of the match, Goldberg was kept out of the ring up until the last thirty seconds of the match and the right man went over in the right method. This added interest to the World Title match, to the Michaels / Orton match and to Maven, a guy who's needed interest for years. It wasn't TOO ugly and felt like a main event-calibur match, which is something I've been missing lately. I didn't mind this, with Flair's selling of Goldberg's spear standing out as one of the funniest things I'd seen in weeks. The instant Goldberg connected with him, Flair went limp and just went stiff on the mat. He looked like he was auditioning for the lead in Weekend at Bernie's VII. Perhaps unintentionally, this was still really funny to me.
With the dust now cleared, this really wasn't as awful a program from head to toe as everyone seems to be making it out to be. The beginning and end were in the right place, and even though there was that horrendous, abysmal segment in the middle with Shane n' Kane, I can live with it. The writing still doesn't make a whole lot of sense and the matches aren't setting any fires, but the show has definitely been worse.
Overall Score: 4.05