RAW Roulette. Like I said last week, I don't know why everyone remembered this lame little gimmick so fondly. Scratch that, I know the last time we had this underlying theme to an episode of RAW, seven guys busted their asses to give us a killer TLC match. That doesn't erase the campy, crappy, unnecessary matches and segments that filled the rest of the show, nor does it excuse the RAW 10th Anniversary Show's awarding it "Best Match in the History of RAW." Not while Michaels / Austin vs. Owen / Bulldog is around, anyway. But I'm getting off track.
Despite all the hype and expectations the audience seemed to have going into this show, the writers still didn't seem to understand what made it successful in the first place. Instead of highlighting one particular match with a workable, constantly entertaining gimmick and a great roster of participants at the end of the night, they wholeheartedly embraced the silly, forgotten-by-the-next-night gimmick matches that made the whole of last year's "RR" such a grey area for the majority of the viewing audience. I'm not a fan of gimmicks without a purpose, and that's just about all this show was composed of. It's rough to go from an episode as full of substance as last week's to something containing as much fluff as this week's.
The women's cage match turned out a lot better than I'd feared going in, which is a good thing. I love seeing realism in the middle of a match, and intentional or not, Lita's slip from the top rope while trying to scale the cage was overflowing with it. I really like that they're going forward with this Christian / Matt Hardy feud, as it's already rewarding both guys with more air time, a logical matching of styles and chances to broaden and develop their on-screen characters. I know more about Matt Hardy after two weeks of RAW than I did after a year of Smackdown, and Christian is really turning into one hell of an intriguing guy.
The "Capture the Midget" match was funny for a couple minutes, but quickly grew stupid and needless. This should've ended after the segment with Lance Storm and Val Venis backstage... you know, when it hit the punchline? RAW's writing staff seems to be comprised entirely of the kind of guys who don't know when to let go of a joke. They're the people who hang around with your little cluster of buddies, even though nobody seems to be friends with them personally.
I have no idea why the McMahons feel so obligated to keep trotting out old, balding, aging, poorly conditioned stars from yesteryear. It's like there's some kind of Lawler / Slaughter quota for a fiscal year, and if they don't fill (or exceed) that number, some sort of major catastrophe will befall the company. Watching this match, featuring two guys from polar opposite ends of the character spectrum, was like standing in Wonderland for a few minutes. Nothing made sense. You had a guy from the goofy, cartoony era of the WWF using the same outdated offense he employed during his youth against a guy from the realistic, athletic era of WWE. That's like putting Ed Norton's character from Fight Club in a room with Roger Rabbit and telling them "just interact!!" The Sarge got in way too much offense for a guy who looks as inept as he did, although I did get a kick out of his bewildered, exagerrated post-match altercations with Rob Van Dam.
Flair cut another tremendous promo backstage, single handedly boosting my interest in the World Title match and wandering out of the camera's eye as though he hadn't really done anything at all. That's the sign of a master; when you KNOW he's pulling this straight out of his ass, and he still sounds better and looks more confident than the rest of the active roster. They're lucky to have him on staff.
I couldn't pay attention to the World Title match for one reason or another. It just seemed like more of the same to me, with Flair running interference, Goldberg getting overwhelmed, making the comeback and then starting the whole process over again. The ending got convoluted and confusing, with Orton hitting the RKO, the bell ringing, HHH hitting the pedigree and the ref inexplicably counting the fall, but it all sorted itself out in the end. See the way they're treating Kane right now? That's how they should've been building him two months ago, when all this business with Shane started. I'm honestly entertained by and interested in this main event, as all three guys have a legitimate beef with one another and the pairings are very fresh. I might not like who comes out of it wearing the World Title, but that doesn't mean I've gotta dislike the path we take to get there.
I've been one of his stronger proponents since he came back to RAW, so I'll bite the bullet this week and admit the truth; Mark Henry looked like shit out there last night. On the whole, he hit those patented "clubbing forearms," bent a bunch of aluminum and roared. On the whole, this was a short, stupid, worthless match. C'mon, when you're trying to move a guy away from his "slow, plodding, talentlessly brawling" past, putting him into a Hardcore Street Fight isn't the smartest move you could make. Jeez, that's like putting a woman in a Bra & Panties match seven days after her nipple pops out on national TV.
Trish and Jackie tempted fate last night by not only revisiting the single worst match in the history of RAW, but by doing so under the stipulations of a Bra and Panties match. Add to that Jackie's extremely visible concentration on keeping her chest firmly within her top and you've got a recipe for disaster, right? Eh... not exactly. This was what it was... nothing fancy or memorable, but nothing you'll nightmare over for the sheer horror of the experience, either. The bit with Rico made me laugh, which was its purpose, and it was kept short. I can't complain, but I'll be damned if I'm going to praise it.
And then there was the main event, which was tough to form an opinion on. On one hand, I like every one of the guys involved with the match. I like that they're taking each of them in new and interesting directions, without forgetting the paths they've tread in the past (well... with a few exceptions.) I like that Trish is trying to use her charms to change Chris Jericho into a nicer guy, I like that Chris is running into a personal conflict with that, I like that they're going full steam with Batista and I like that Shawn Michaels is still around. On the other hand, this match was very awkward and strangely performed. Flair didn't look up to speed out there, illogically directing traffic and falling several steps behind during the physicalities. He really hammered that point home with the scary spot where he fell between the second and third ropes, busting himself open in the process. Though he looked a little out-of-sorts beforehand, he was a full blown deer in the headlights after that.
The finish made sense, and I'm eager to see how this affected Trish and Chris's relationship last night. Jericho did, of course, do precisely what Trish asked him not to do, but he was technically in the right for doing so, as Michaels threw the first punch and Jericho's superkick won them the match in the end. I've got to question the bookers' decision to end the show with a monster Demon Bomb on Shawn Michaels, when the guy is already making an effort to overcome significant back trouble just to work for the company again. I'm looking forward to the feud, there's no question, but I'm worried as hell about how it's going to turn out for the Heart Break Kid. Batista has taken some great strides since he first joined Evolution, but he's still very green and isn't the first guy I'd choose if the life and career of a hall of famer had to be in one man's hands.
I had to skip over a couple matches in this week's writeup, due to the previously mentioned time constraints... rest assured, if I had anything monumental to say about the "Strange Bedfellows" or "Singapore Cane Handicap" matches, I'd have said them by now. Better to leave the room for someone who can give them a little more attention than yours truly, like my brothers-in-arms; Corey, Brett, Sam, Adam or Jon.
At the end of last week's program, I was worried that this week's "blockbuster" of a show would ruin the build for the upcoming PPV, Armageddon. If I could've looked forward seven days and seen the amount of filler and padding they used to buoy this week's episode, I wouldn't have had a care in the world. This wasn't awful, but it wasn't groundbreaking. I'd say it's a couple notches below average, which means my score looks something like this:
Overall Score: 4.65