Monday, February 23, 2004

WWE RAW Review: 02/23/04

Three weeks and counting. It's getting to be crunch time for World Wrestling Entertainment, but instead of ramping up for the big show, they seem to be descending. The show appears to have peaked about a month early, with last week's show a noticeable step down from the kind of quality we'd been applauding just seven days earlier. The whole 'Mania card's pretty much become a reality by now, so the hard part should be over and the shows should have nothing standing in their way... right? Eh, I wish I could respond with a positive nod.

I really am short on time this week, by the way. And I don't mean it in the usual "Well, I've got a couple things I need to do, but once I sit down I'll just go ahead and churn out three pages anyway" sense. So my apologies in advance if this week's contribution is a bit brief.

The women's match was an incredible disappointment, no doubt about it. Rather than leaving this successful formula as it's been for the past... well, honestly, the last year... they tinkered with it, sports entertainmented it and rushed it. These ladies have been whuppin' ass on a consistent basis all year on their own, working with just a little direction, a finish and the aid of an agent. Now that they're closing in on the big show, with a tremendous heel champion and a subtle "underdog chase" scenario brewing with Victoria, the bookers finally decided to quote-unquote "shake things up" and tinker with the formula. Instead of letting these four have at it, put on a show and wrestle a lengthy match, the first two competitors were eliminated within the first minute and the belt changed hands in a bizarre face vs. face scenario. Why is it so hard to understand... you don't fuck with a formula when it's working. I like Victoria as champ, but this wasn't the way to do it.

Orton and Venis was nothing special, though I can't help but agree with all the noise about Venis deserving better. If they'd pulled the friggin' trigger on the whole "Chief Morley" storyline, he'd be in a very good position as a mid-card face by now, still cruising on the sympathy heat for taking a bullet for Bischoff and getting discarded for his trouble. How do you build a guy like that for six months and then just dismiss his character in one week? This match didn't do anything for me, and the finish just came off as pale and uninteresting. They're not getting the RKO over as an explosive, "he can hit it from anywhere" instant threat, they're just exposing Orton's difficulty nailing the move when under pressure, and making his opponents look like drooling retards for laying down after it.

Triple H droned on about the same thing he was shouting last week, before Benoit interrupted, shot a lousy comeback with "talk talk talk" and then went all man-of-steel, climbing into the ring with just a chair and the knowledge that he had an ass-whuppin' in his near future. They could be doing a lot more to get me emotionally involved with this matchup... all I've got right now is a mild annoyance of Triple H's repetitive, needlessly lengthy promos, a slight loathing of Shawn Michaels for jamming his nose into a situation that he didn't deserve, and a weak interest in seeing Benoit overcome the old guard and hold the belt for the very first time. It's pretty freaking obvious which one of the three involved in this one would be the most deserving, entertaining and active champion, since Benoit's wrestled as many matches in his first four appearances on RAW as HBK and Triple H have in the last four months.

The Wolverine and the Leviathan put on a passable little matchup, despite losing the first half of it to commercial. Yeah, like we needed to take in all that chatter in the preceding moments, but the beginning of the actual WRESTLING match is OK to leave on the cutting room floor. Fuck that bullshit. I'd love to hear JR shout "folks, we've gotta take a commercial break... if this promo concludes during the break, we'll show you the highlights as soon as we're back on the air" during a Helmsley monologue. Anyway, I liked that Benoit spent the whole match working on the leg, apparently to set up for the sharpshooter, but don't understand why Batista then stood up, attempted a powerbomb with little hesitation, and fell victim to a crossface after... his ARM gave out? Wouldn't it have made a little more sense for the Crippler to work that right arm relentlessly, so that when the big man lost his grip it was due to the damage it had sustained and not a rookie mistake? Ahhh... what'm I thinking?

I loved seeing Booker T and RVD attempt a few original double-team maneuvers this week, since I half expected them to do the old "work like two singles wrestlers in a team, rather than a competent championship duo" deal. Good for them, maybe they'll pleasantly surprise me with this title run by recapturing their motivation and putting on the kind of performances that made me such a fan of them both a couple years ago. Weak match, all things considered. Do something with Rob Conway! He's MONEY!

I'm a HUGE fan of what we saw with Christian and Trish last night. That's exactly what they needed to do to make this thing between he and Chris Jericho take off, and both Stratus and the former IC champ played their roles to perfection. That clothesline was just brutal, coming from out of nowhere and all but decapitating poor Trish, and the old school liontamer just drove the point home. That audience didn't know what to make of him when he went out there for the match, but after Trish tapped out, they wanted blood. Beautiful!

The main event was a crock of shit, but you already knew that. I like how they all but turned Eric face backstage before the match, basically giving us a reason to admire him for motivating WCW to overcome all odds, for having the balls to challenge McMahon in a personal grudge match, and lending him sympathy heat for being supposedly undercut by Time Warner just as he was about to recapture his past glory.... then expected the audience to boo him again when he went out to challenge Vince in their main event. Neither guy knew what to do with the about-face of the live crowd, so McMahon just set about no-selling, taunting, brawling and looking like a tool. A worthless waste of time, that wasn't really buoyed by the unexpected appearance of Brock Lesnar as the show went off the air.

A second sub-par effort. The ingredients are there for this show, but they keep mixing it up by overthinking things, pushing the wrong segments at the wrong parts of the show and the wrong aspects of the wrong feuds. This could've been a high seven, low eight.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 4

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