The Eugeneolution story carries on this week, uneasily at first but picking up speed before the end of the opening monologue. Triple H and William Regal are about the only things keeping the wind in Eugene's sails right now, because the character has pretty much peaked on its own. I know, I know, I feel like I'm saying that every week... well, that's probably because it feels like it's the god's honest truth every week. There's only so long I can stand watching an airplane spin, a hulking up or any other contrived, gimmicky maneuver from the circus-era WWF before I start to yawn and look at my watch.
But yeah, Helmsley and Regal are just glorious together right now, with Trips playing the intelligent bastard and Regal occupying the role of the tough guy with the heart of gold. I wish the former commish could've had a chance to show a little fire in this promo, shooting back at Triple H about how he only accepted a match with Eugene "because Eric Bischoff promised you a title shot," but I guess that would've sabotaged their booking for the next couple of weeks. Still... it would've been unexpected and a lot more entertaining, since nobody's stood up to Trips like that since the McMahon-Helmsley era. I like the emotional game of tug-of-war they're portraying with Eugene right now, but the question is how long it can go on before it feels drug out.
Orton and Batista vs. the Floridian Canadians, in their quick rematch from last week's show, was a marked improvement over the previous week's clash. I was distracted by the fire alarms (and the crowd's absolutely hilarious reaction to them) for the first part of the match, and couldn't really pay full attention to the match at hand, but once that little issue was taken care of, this heated up in a hurry. Autumn wanted to see the whole place burn down, audience included, since we'd just watched a special on the History Channel about famed, fatal theatre fires throughout history and nobody seemed to be taking this loud alarm too seriously, but I guess we all know how that turned out. Like I was saying, though, this match picked up at an excellent pace and told an intelligent, entertaining story when all was said and done. Jericho kept teasing a loss of balance, selling the storyline KO that took him out of last week's match, and Orton kept introducing new ways of rejuvinating rest holds. Seriously, when anybody else sits down with a side headlock I take a second to check out the news or play with my cat, because they all perform the move in exactly the same way. It's a dead hold, nobody buys it as a finisher, because they've never seen it end a match. Ever. Orton brings the crowd back into it by cinching in with enthusiasm, taking a knee and brutally wrenching the guy's neck in six different directions. It doesn't look like two guys seated in the ring, huggin' away, so much as it looks like two guys wrestling. I like it.
Edge was still a little spotty (he actually sent Orton on an irish whip into the ropes, stopped him mid-stride and hit a reverse russian legsweep. Somebody explain to me how the momentum of the irish whip aided the legsweep, which gently drops him to the mat in the opposite direction) but showed noticeable improvement all the same. I'm a big fan of the Edge-o-matic, so it was cool to see that make a return appearance. Everybody and their brother praised it, but I can't help but mention how well done the finishing sequence was on this match. They managed to simultaneously put over Batista's clothesline of doom, Edge's spear, Batista's power (kicking out of the Liontamer, even though he'd just collided with Orton) and Jericho's Lionsault. I'm glad to see they're taking away Texas' legendary exclusivity of the lariat as a finisher. If I'm going to buy a guy getting knocked unconscious by a slightly-more-ferocious clothesline, I'd be much more inclined to do so if it were performed by somebody who looks like Batista, rather than somebody who looks like Bradshaw. Great match that made up for the lag generated by last week's match. Evolution is right back in stride.
Regal vs. Triple H wasn't all that bad, but it wasn't all that good either. I was glad to see them bringing Regal back up to speed as a sound competitor after his match with Kane last week. They did a great job of establishing that he'd been away from the ring for a while, and likely wasn't prepared for last week's match, and he proved that fact by keeping up with the former World's Champ here. Regal seriously looked like he'd lost a good fifty pounds, but he's killing me in those granny panties out there. The pale complexion I can excuse, because that's a part of his identity, but those shorts that ride up to his tits are just... blagh. He was moving around the ring much more nimbly than when last we saw him, and still had the fire in his eyes that I noted last week. This is a guy who's just itching for the opportunity to do something remarkable, just like he did opposite Chris Benoit at the Pillman show all those years ago. Somebody give him a chance.
I didn't go wild about the booking of this one, because it was horribly transparent, but I guess it got the job done. Eugene now hates William Regal and trusts Triple H that much more. I honestly hope that isn't the last we hear of Regal and Eugene, because there's a big story waiting to be told between the two of them.
Rhyno looked just as energetic and enthusiastic as Regal last night, in his first RAW match in over a month. That guy went out there with something to prove, an extra spring in his step and a fire under his ass. I guess he was determined to make the most out of a bad situation, because tagging up with Sarge isn't gonna get you anywhere. I'm seriously repulsed by how often they roll out Slaughter and / or Jerry Lawler to stomp all over with the younger guys. It's like any time we're near a patriotic holiday or the Tennessee border, one of these two needs to be wheeled down the entryway to start no-selling. It'd be one thing if they'd go out there with the intention of putting over somebody who could use the help, (Tsuruta / Misawa style) but throwing him out there to no-sell the punches of the TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS? Honestly, what the fuck?
The main event was kind of iffy for me. It was every bit the traditional Benoit vs. Big Man match, with the added interest of the "Kane must tap" stipulations. Full of solid work from both men, and it ended with a wicked series focusing on Kane's shoulder and Benoit's complete inability to give up on an opponent, but something felt like it was missing here. This didn't really feel like a World Title match, I didn't buy the fact that the most prestigious title in the world was in danger of changing hands as much as Brett did. I can't pinpoint why, though, so I don't really have a place complaining about it. I loved the way they wrapped this up, with Kane powering out of the crossface, falling from the top rope into a second crossface, powering out of that one but falling onto his back and eventually submitting. Kane still looks like a monster, and Benoit still looks tenacious. Beautiful.
The finisher hinted at a storyline twist that could single handedly save this horrid, horrid Lita / Kane / Matt pregnancy thing. If they would just elaborate on the ideas they touched upon last night with Lita and Kane's interactions, this story could become one of the most heated, interesting, downright realistic feuds I've ever seen. Well... maybe that's going a bit too far. But if Lita suddenly came to the conclusion that the best way to hurt Kane and rebuild her relationship with Matt is to taunt the big red machine until he gets so angry he does something horrible, causing her to lose the baby... well, I'd say that would go in intriguing new directions. It would turn Lita heel as a cold blooded psycho without nonsensically aligning her with Kane in the process, would give Matt a whole new ballpark within which to further establish himself as a sympathetic face, and would almost put Kane into the role of a tweener, which makes sense since the fans have already been alternately cheering and booing him depending upon his opposition. More importantly, it would fit right in with the direction the story's taken thus far and would do more for Lita's character than any of the silly skits she's been involved with in the past. Make no mistake, I'm not even implying that miscarriages are a joking matter, nor that this would be misconstrued as a cool thing to do, but I truthfully think it could work to the benefit of all involved.
Just an idea, anyway. This week's show was better than last week's, no question in my mind. Not as many missteps and the booking wasn't TOO bad. I'm gonna go above average, if just for the continuing story between Eugene, Regal and Trips, and for the two solid matches we got at the top of each hour. Thumbs up, but not way up.
Overall Score: 5.35