Monday, November 24, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 11/24/03

The time, she is short and the show, she was underachieving. I'm headed out of state within the next couple of hours, yet I still want to participate in this week's writeup... so I guess the best thing to do would be to skip the whole paragraph explaining why my portion of the RRC is so slim this week and get to the content, pronto. But we're already beyond that point now. In short, forgive me if I'm a little unspectacular this time and tune in on December first for a slightly longer writeup.

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:

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 4.65

Monday, November 17, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 11/17/03

About this time two months ago, the RRC was pleasantly surprised to see a show that not only took logical steps right out of the previous night's Unforgiven pay per view, but also managed to deliver a solid match or two, several brand new directions and storylines, and a couple of halfway decent surprises. Not sure why, but that thought just kept bouncing through my head as I sat down to take in this week's episode. As it turns out, they made it two in a row (in whatever bizarre, inappropriate ordering system my mind was using at the time.)

The introductory promo was pure Bischoff, and I like the direction they took with it. Rather than merely overlooking the contributions of his team's members, he publically thanked them and proved that not every self-centered prick forgets about his supporters when it's all said and done. Even though you're meant to hate him for playing the favoritism card, I'd bet my ass Stone Cold would've been cheered for the very same thing, had his team been victorious. Just another example of the grey area RAW has been leaning towards over the last few months, as the heels are revealed to have more on their minds than "let's concoct an elaborate plan to trick the faces into losing this next match." There are so many different directions they could go with this "favor" storyline, but I worry they blew that wad too quickly, as almost everyone cashed their favor in within a couple of hours.

The Booker / Mark Henry match was much better than it had any right to be. You've got a guy who's notorious for being a terrible, unusable worker in the ring and a guy who's been stagnating for the last six months after dropping like a rock from the main event scene, and last night they worked together to build something I didn't think was possible. I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but I'm still very happy with the way they've used Mark Henry since his arrival on RAW. I'll give both guys credit on this one; this was a strong match, and they each deserve credit. Shit, even the bookers get a nod and a smile from yours truly, for coming up with a surprising and interesting finish. Just like the heels have been revealed to have feelings, the faces have shown that they've got a couple dirty tricks up their sleeves when necessary. Booker didn't have the strength to keep a guy like Mark Henry down, (at least, not so early in the fight) so he took advantage of his surroundings and won the match the cheap way.

Jindrak and Cade managed to go most of the match without hitting their usual string of half a dozen dropkicks, so that's a positive note on their end. The match wasn't everything I'd hoped it would be, but it wasn't liquid turd leaking out in the center of the ring, either. I still want to see more of Conway, and they're still using him in a very reserved role.

I missed the majority of the RVD and Flair match due to tape problems, (Anybody want to buy me a TiVo for Christmas? I wouldn't complain) but like where they're going with RVD and Orton facing off at the next PPV. I wish Van Dam would get a little more attention outside of the ring, as he's been one of the most consistently over men on the roster for the last year and a half, yet he's still completely dependent upon his ring time to establish, update and maintain himself every week. Throw the man a bone!

I'm not crazy about the return of RAW Roulette next week. Everybody's been quick to point out that the last time we saw this weak gimmick, the show was super-badass-awesome, but they keep overlooking the fact that the entire program was buoyed by a tremendous TLC match. Aside from the superb main event, that show gave us Booker vs. The Big Show in a cage, William Regal in drag, Jerry Lawler in the ring, the introduction of the name "Katie Vick" and a terrible "blindfold match" between D'Lo Brown and Triple H. Don't have as good a memory as I do? Well, let me take you down memory lane. If they give us another main event with the drama, suspense, participants and length as last year's TLC epic, I'll applaud loudly. Otherwise, please keep the gimmicks off my set.

The Highlight Reel was great this week, and really caught me by surprise on a couple occasions. This was a great way to reintroduce Matt Hardy to the program, to test the waters for a possible face run somewhere down the line, and to reestablish his "Version 1.0" character. I'd love to see him interact more with Chris Jericho in the future, although I'd doubt the chances of that considering Y2J's dialog with Trish concerning him later in the night. Everyone involved in this segment came out smelling like roses, from Matt to Lita to Jericho to Molly... even Bischoff came out ahead due to his indirect involvement with this little gem. Thumbs up all the way.

The tag title match was probably the only portion of the show that I wasn't too happy with. The Dudleys are beyond boring right now, and the Test / Steiner coalition just wasn't clicking in there. All four guys looked sloppy at different points, and nobody really seemed to know what they were supposed to be doing with the possible vague exception of Test. The tag division is starting to warm up again, but they really need to get the belts off the Dudley Boyz and do something revolutionary if they hope to save the team at all.

The mixed tag was short and to the point. Lita and Molly surprised me by busting out some solid work in the eighty seconds or so they were facing off between bells. They're really shifting the focus of the women's division onto Lita right now, and with Molly as her current nemesis, I think this could turn out to be a good thing. Lita's got a lot to learn, but you couldn't ask for a better teacher. As for the match, you kinda knew something was up when Eric couldn't be bothered to change out of his leather outfit. He looked more like a manager who'd hopped up to run interference on the apron than a man who was actively involved in the match's outcome. Gotta love the "knees on the roots of the hair" pinning combination, though... I wonder why more people don't use that.

It's a shame the Jackie boob shot overshadowed most of what was going on in the ring at the time, because Val and Rico actually gave us a tight little match. Rico busted out the most innovative offense I've seen since Kanyon was turning heads back in WCW, and most of it looked extremely credible. It's good to see a little spark of potential thrown in like that, just when you least expect it. I mean, there's no question the match was sloppy, but on the whole I liked what I saw here.

My fiancée called the nipple shot, a fraction of a second before it hit... our conversation went something along the lines of "Oh, she's gonna pop outta th.. OHHHH!!!" Thing is, we had time for a couple rivaling "OHHHH"s, since the crack production team just sort of went into limbo throughout the whole thing and left tit right in the center of the screen for what felt like an eternity. Both of us agreed that Lawler should've immediately regressed into some sort of trance after that spectacle, softly chanting "boob boob boob nipple booby tit boob" for the remainder of the broadcast.

Both the Jericho / Trish and Christian / Lita storylines took intriguing turns this week, and I'd be lying if I didn't say the entire audience seems to be pulling for these guys. Sure, they'll boo them when they're in the ring opposite Goldberg or Rob Van Dam, but get them backstage in a situation that's a little more familiar to those at home and they're all of a sudden a lot more tangible and sympathetic. I love the issues they're tackling with these stories, whether they're doing so on purpose or not, and every week I'm left wondering where it can go from here. I like it.

The main event was everything it ever needed to be. Goldberg got his chance to look like an unstoppable monster, Batista got a few moments to make an impact (which he did, daring Goldberg to shoulderblock him again) and the right team came out on top. If anything, there was too much offense for the champion in this one, but I'm not gonna complain too loudly about it. Evolution was operating like a living, breathing behemoth here, and I was glad to see it. If anybody on the roster is going to wrestle an intelligent, well-planned match, it's got to be the top stable on the show. Orton was there when they needed quick shots to wear the champion down, Triple H came in to turn the tide of the match and Batista strolled between the ropes to really lay down the hurt once Goldy was in trouble. Judging from the audience's reactions, they made the right decision in keeping the belt on Goldberg Sunday night. He was, without a doubt, the most over guy on the roster this past Monday.

This was a great show, no doubt about it. I like the new directions they're creating, the unexpected turns the stories have begun to take and the increased focus on the in-ring product. I love how flawless a stable Evolution is becoming, and I'm ecstatic to see that they're finally confronting the old "good vs. evil with nothing in between" mentality that was stinking up the airwaves less than two months ago. The only thing that worries me is the stacked card they've got lined up for next week; with a lineup that huge on a free show, I worry they won't have enough time to gain momentum again before Armageddon, but that's neither here nor now. A very good, yet not quite flawless, showing from the Monday Night roster.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7.5

Monday, November 10, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 11/10/03

Six days to Survivor Series, and RAW really needed to hammer the point home with several of the feuds they've been toying with over the last couple of weeks. It honestly hasn't been a bad month by any stretch of the imagination, with the direction of the company seeming to slowly change course and several fresh combinations of talent clashing, both in and out of the ring. RRC Ratings have been up, at the very least, so that's as good a start as any... right?

Never one to lollygag around, I think I'll take this opportunity to break internet rule number one; Triple H has been doing a damn fine job since dropping the title two months ago. Sure, he's been out of the ring for nearly a month... but one thing he hasn't done is let us forget about him. He's kept his face on the screen nearly every week, and he's done so in a way that neither dominates the program nor diminishes any of the new ongoing storylines. The $100,000 subplot was a great premise, and featured a nice follow-through. His reunification of Evolution's founding members was well timed and moved the focus to Batista, not himself. And, finally, his interaction with both Lita and Steve Austin was perfectly in-character and entertaining. Don't get me wrong, I certainly don't want to see the belt back around his waist this Sunday night, but it's nice to see that the guy can still give us a very entertaining show if he's really motivated.

Now that I mention it, all of Evolution looked really good last night. Batista's really taking strides, both in character and in performance, Orton is becoming the embodiment of confidence and Flair is... well, Flair. His presence was missed last night, but it didn't hurt the stable as much as you'd think. If you've read any of my older stuff, you'll know I'm a big fan of strong heel stables, and that's precisely what Evolution is. They manage to stand up to face authority without picking up any of the "cool heel" vibes that permeated the late '90s.

I loved the build granted to Team Bischoff last night, as well. Jericho played the role of leader to perfection, hyping up each member individually before Orton attempted to undermine his self-proclaimed authority. Who could've predicted I'd be even remotely interested in a match featuring Mark Henry, Scott Steiner and the Dudley Boyz on PPV?

Christian vs. RVD wasn't up to snuff, especially when compared to their previous encounters, and really felt more like two old guys going through the motions than two young guys trying to build a name for themselves. It's really obvious that they don't want to put themselves at risk with a big match just around the corner at the Survivor Series. That, or they're receiving way too much backstage dictation about the performance of their matches.

The Resistance / Supermen match was actually pretty quick and decent. I'm really enjoying Rob Conway, and it's nice to see Shane Helms motivated again, even if it's something that always seems to wear off after he's been in the ring longer than a couple minutes. That crossbody to the floor was beautiful, and makes me wish they'd just ditch that damn gimmick already and let him live up to his capabilities. I had no problem with the finish of this one, (aside from the fact that it came far too soon) since Conway was alertly following up the damage Dupree had just done to Helms's neck, and I'm all about psychology and unexpected finishes, folks.

No comment on the Lance Storm segment. Morley and Storm are both tremendously talented guys, so if a dick joke or two is all it's going to take to get them in higher-profile spots on the card, I can live with it.

The women's match made sense, even if it continued the sad trend of the steadily decreasing quality in the ladies' matches. I've been commenting on Terri's uselessness for YEARS now, so it's good to see her in a position where she might be off television for a while. Great in-character strategy by Molly and Gail, right out of the gates, by attacking the weakest link and starting the match before Lita had a chance to state that she wanted to start out for her team. Molly Holly is, without a doubt, one of the most well-developed characters on the roster at the moment, regardless of gender. She's been playing that "veteran surprises her opponent and steals a win" card inventively for months on end, and it's yet to get old. Lita, on the other hand, really didn't look good in there once Terri did make the hot tag, which makes me even more worried about the outcome of her women's title match this Sunday. They've surprised me thus far with the excellent booking of the women's division, however, so they've earned enough respect from me to give them the benefit of the doubt with this follow-through.

I wasn't super excited by the Michaels / Orton match, which came as a surprise. Especially after bouncing his way through a wholly entertaining match against Mark Henry just one week ago, I'm surprised HBK couldn't do more with what Orton has to offer. The match made good tactical sense, with Randy focusing on the veteran's neverending back injury throughout the match, but for whatever reason I just couldn't get into it. Maybe it has something to do with that "sudden, inexplicable comeback into the superkick" thing Shawn's been doing a little too often lately. Seriously, if we're going to bitch about no-selling, we can't pick and choose our guilty parties. The only way the ending of this match makes sense is if Orton pins Michaels cleanly in the center of the ring this Sunday.

The Shane n' Kane dinner spectacular was a really joltingly inappropriate bit of television. How do you go from electrocuting a man's genitals one week to casually sitting down with him for dinner the next? I know the effect they were trying for with this, and it might have worked when the feud was just now gearing up... but after numerous attempted homicides, a serious burning and a vicious electrocution, it just made both guys look like morons. I had next to no interest in seeing this match as it was, but after a segment like that, even that tiny shred of hope has fallen out of the picture. Just kill this feud already. Please. It's already ruined the only consistantly entertaining McMahon and one of RAW's greatest potentials. Stop the madness now, before somebody else gets hurt.

The Dudleys vs. Mizark / Steiner match was just as bad as I expected going in. I'd like to see how it could be justified that this match could possibly deserve twice as much time as, say, Christian / RVD or even the La Resistance / Hurricane & Rosey tag. This was just sloppy, lengthy and boring, showcasing the wrong aspects of each man and doing nothing to improve anyone.

I hope to god Stevie Ray stays the fuck away from RAW. This whole mystery that's begun to swirl around Booker T has done nothing but deliver bad premonitions for me... which is a good thing, I guess. Unless they do something characteristically stupid, this will be a pleasant little surprise when it's all finally revealed. But then again, I know what these bookers are capable of. Hell, at least they're doing something with Booker. Good or bad, he's going to remain active.

I thought Jericho and Booker were wrestling in Denver or something, judging by the way both men appeared to be a little out of their heads and affected by something in the air. It's like somebody changed the alignment in Booker's tires by a sixteenth of an inch; it's not something he's going to notice until he's trying to do something that requires exact precision. In the end, they managed to fight their way through a botched spot into a finish that probably looked more convincing than the original spot would've, had it been performed correctly.

Misguided or no, I was looking forward to seeing what Batista and Goldberg could do with one another, and was surprised to see a relatively decent match for the first minute and a half. Batista legitimately held his own and further solidified his arrival near the top of the midcard by matching Goldberg blow for blow and working on his obviously injured ankle / shin. I especially liked the spot where he attempted to wrap the champ's lower leg around the ringpost... that's something that's guaranteed to make you limp, broken ankle or no. And then, just when things looked to be headed in a surprisingly positive direction, Goldberg came out of nowhere to hit the spear and prepare for the jackhammer before intereference ended the match itself. Wha...? That's your main event? I had a problem with Shawn Michaels doing the exact same thing not twenty minutes earlier, and you can bet your ass I have a problem with Goldberg doing it here.

A below average show, putting a damper on the upswing RAW had been on for the last couple of weeks. I liked a lot of the character direction taken here, which is something I'm pleased to see continuing with every passing week. I like the build for the Team Austin / Team Bischoff survivor match. I like the role Evolution has filled on this roster. I didn't like the majority of the booking, and the show didn't fill me with any motivation to order the Survivor Series, except maybe to see who's gonna turn on Stone Cold. There's still a lot of potential on this show, but this week was a lame duck.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 3.85