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.
Overall Score: 7.5