Monday, January 19, 2004

WWE RAW Review: 01/19/04

It's the last RAW before the Royal Rumble, and the RAW brand still hasn't really established a lot of momentum going into the event itself. Sure, we've got the Last Man Standing match and the Tag Title match, plus the rumble itself, (which, over the last month or so, hasn't seemed to be much of a priority) but past that... nothing. Sure, the shows themselves have been somewhat strong lately, but it all feels empty and directionless to me. Where do we go after this weekend? Hell, where do we go at the Rumble itself? I was looking for the answers last night.

I liked their strategy this week of kicking off the show with a program-wide angle. They established right off the bat that there wouldn't be any outside interference for the entire two hours, that we were in for more matches than usual, and that it was all with a specific purpose and reward in mind. I wish they'd do this kind of stuff more often, as it gave me more reason to pay attention to the result of matches I'd otherwise have likely overlooked, not to mention the obvious motivation it gave to each character in the ring. I could give a shit about Coach's week-long appointment to the GM position, though. Didn't we already do this story a couple of weeks ago?

I think they must've put some sort of subliminal message into last night's promotion for the "winner gets #30 in the Royal Rumble" match, since everybody else in the world seems to have drawn the same conclusion as I at about the exact same moment. That being: the guy who draws number thirty NEVER wins the Royal Rumble. And yet it's still a big deal.

RVD, Christian, Booker and Matt looked hurried, unmotivated and actually kind of bored during their show-opening tag match, which pretty much blew my whole "character motivation" idea right out of the water. The only really memorable moment of this one was the double axe kick Booker landed on both guys, which came off looking a lot better than you'd think by reading a text-only description.

I participated in an internal debate with myself during that first match last night, after listening to Jerry Lawler once again refer to Booker's shady past and time after time refuse to let it go while JR tried to call the match. On on hand, I thought, he's actually carrying on a storyline that's existed for almost a year now. He's developing Booker's character in a more believable and true-to-life nature, where otherwise he'd just be "that guy who shouts suckahhh." On the other hand, he's only doing it to one man. He never, EVER, shows this kind of interest in character development or ongoing storyline advancement. He's always been more concerned with the women at ringside, the women in the match, the woman sitting two rows in front of him, the woman in the upcoming segment or the backstage skit that just aired than he is in the match currently taking place in the ring, let alone said match's participants. Lawler's just being his usual, unnecessary, bigoted self by constantly bringing up Booker's past, and it never fails to piss me off. I'm sure he'd attempt to excuse it by claiming to play the heel announcer, but come on. The King hasn't been worried about playing a heel since he was feuding with Bret Hart in "kiss my foot" matches ten years ago.

The Jericho / Dupree match wasn't bad, but I would've much rather seen Rob Conway in there getting a chance to shine against one of RAW's brightest stars than his partner. They didn't get enough time to establish much here, but what they did was worthwhile. I liked the dropkick to the gut as a reaction to Jericho's jump from the top rope, especially.

Mark Henry vs. Rico was just about what you'd expect from a match involving Mark Henry and Rico. Constantino can work a good match if he gets a chance, assuming he isn't facing somebody three times his size and slower than... than something really slow. As is, he drew a couple of laughs out of me before doing the job without much of a fight. Then again, he had a lot of help from straight men Teddy Long and Henry himself. Long, especially, was priceless after Rico kissed him on the crown of his head, reacting with wild outrage and near-physical sickness. Watching Teddy's facial expression change in a split second, as his body went into convulsions and pulled his own shirt over his head made my day... truly hilarious.

I'm not sure if I'm crazy about Kane's apparent ongoing storyline, his struggle with the officials of WWE and the rules they're paid to enforce. But at least it's something, I suppose. Seems like a waste of the whole "I'm a scary, unstoppable monster and I will kill you" buildup they were building him up with a couple months back.

I could've done without the Goldberg / Test / Steiner match. I was looking forward to this when it was announced last week... Big Bill taking on the only other alpha male of WCW's dying days, Scotty Steiner... but Test's inclusion transformed it into a run of the mill handicap match with bickering partners. You could probably predict how this one was going to play out without even seeing the first punch thrown. Goldy advances to the pre-Rumble after cleaning up with a couple spears and a jackhammer. The Steiner recliner's really lost a step or two since the last time I saw it.

These pro-Orton campaign commercials are getting better every week. "Mick Foley is a little girl?" Quality stuff.

I adored the backstage attention they poured onto Trish last night. Between Molly throwing barbs at her, promising she'll never be champion again, and Christian destroying her self-worth and ruining her chance at reconciling with Y2J, the girl had a bad night. I honestly felt more sorry for her here than I did when I was supposed to a couple weeks ago, during the infamous "Trish is crying" promo with Chris Jericho. I could see all of these bottled-up frustrations coming to a head in the near future, with Trish eventually snapping and tearing into whoever's unlucky enough to be on the other end of the ring at the time. I know the women's division would really benefit from the fresh emotion.

I was getting all excited about watching a great match between Randy Orton and Shane Helms, when... the fucking thing ended, right out of the blue. These guys could put on one helluva match if given the chance, but it wasn't meant to be tonight, what with the inagural #30 battle royal right around the corner and all. Stupid, not to mention worthless and misleading.

I loved the strategy that opened the pre-Rumble, with everyone getting the startled shit kicked out of them by a sprinting, growling Goldberg, then collectively saying "...the fuck?!?!" and absolutely destroying him. This is what needs to happen to one of the big names at the actual Rumble Sunday night, with everybody realizing there's no way they can get this guy out of the ring on their own, teaming up to hit sixteen simultaneous finishers and then throwing him over the top rope like a lump of old garbage before picking up where they left off. I don't understand the logic of teasing Jericho's elimination, allowing him to skin the cat back in the ring, and then casually throwing him out a couple minutes later as though it were no big deal at all. Come to think of it, there isn't a lot about this match I did understand. Why send Booker and RVD out in the first match of the night, a TAG MATCH at that, so that they're totally rested in time for the battle royale, only to toss them out first and second, respectively, less then thirty seconds into the thing? Why put Goldberg over? Why didn't Batista and Flair just catch Orton and throw him back into the ring without allowing his feet to touch the floor? Bah.

All in all, I liked seeing more wrestling on the show, but this was overkill. It's just not possible to fit eight matches onto a two hour show with commercials... at least, not pleasantly. I'm still feeling a little underwhelmed heading into Sunday's big event, but tonight's episode helped out a little bit. At least I know the names of the guys from the RAW brand who'll be entering the Rumble match. A little bit of an irresponsibly booked show, but the basic ideas were solid. With Foley's imminent re-return and a possible set of title changes this Sunday, I've got a little more hope going into next week's show, but the week after that is a big question mark.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 5.7

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