Monday, August 30, 2004

WWE RAW Review: 08/30/04

Seems like we're building to PPVs a lot more often than usual this year. I know, I know, that can't be the case since the roster split has cut the number of PPVs each show has to build towards by a little under 50%, but the fact remains... RAW didn't seem ready for Unforgiven coming into this show, and they had their work cut out for them with Edge's injury complicating one of the better developed rivalries on the show. They really needed to knock one out of the park here if RAW's streak of solid PPVs in 2004 was to continue. In short, it was time for evasive maneuvers.

Well, opening the show up with a lengthy Triple H promo and one of the least inspiring Randy Orton speeches in recent memory wasn't exactly what I'd call evasive, nor really all that entertaining. While I was pretty vocal in my support of his initial turn, I've gotta admit that Orton's follow-through and full face turn themselves have been pretty lackluster. This segment didn't do anything for me, as Randy's character is doing exactly what I'd hoped it wouldn't. Not only is he sliding into a spot as one of the most stereotypical faces in recent memory, but he's doing so in a way that wildly contradicts his actions of just a couple weeks back. Why is he aiding Eugene now, when he participated in Bischoff's nephew's savage beating about a month ago? Why the sudden burst of self confidence, chasing all of Evolution from the ring with a sledgehammer, when he was scared to death of jumping into the ring only a few months back, for fear of losing his prized Intercontinental Title? Does the World Title mean less to him than the IC belt? About the only contradiction in this story that makes sense so far is Eric Bischoff's about-face in his relations with the new champ. There's been no questioning Bischoff's loyalties since day one; if it makes Triple H unhappy, it makes Eric Bischoff unhappy. So, naturally, swinging a sledgehammer at Hunter's head would probably irritate ol' EB just a teensy bit, "legend killer" or not.

This whole opening segment felt exceptionally paint-by-the-numbers, almost transparently so, and it didn't sound to me like the crowd was buying it. I'm not liking Orton's face run thus far, but I'm willing to give him a couple of months to grow into it. I mean, God knows he wasn't a great heel when he first turned, but at least he had a unique angle to cruise on with the RNN Updates. This cookie cutter "confident face" thing doesn't measure up.

I was having trouble paying attention to the La Rez / ECW Alum tag match, as I was watching the line of security guards in the front row who seemed to be searching for one particular sign to confiscate. Seriously, there must've been three or four guys hassling these people, one at a time, throughout the match. I was waiting for one of them to march away triumphantly with a piece of cardboard slung under his arm, so I could be outraged, but they never seemed to find what they were looking for. Either that, or the enormous drink vendor who stumbled around that same aisle a minute later covered the sign's confiscation completely with his own girth. And, now that I mention it, you don't really see a lot of drink vendors making their way all the way up to the front row. I'm OUTRAGED!

Since I can't really comment on the work of the match, seeing as how I wasn't paying attention to it, I'll just comment on the booking; I kind of figured Tajiri wasn't going to be much of a factor, since I'd read somewhere that he was working through a knee injury, and they took that in stride here. I like that they're building both teams as competent units, capable of defeating their opponents at Unforgiven if a couple lucky spots fall their way. I'm really not sure who's going to be coming out on top of this little feud, since both teams have been put over strongly at different points in the last couple of months.

Batista and Regal didn't suck, to speak the truth, but they didn't tear the house down either. Regal came off as the determined underdog, coming back from an early failure to successfully hit an exploder suplex and only falling in the end after a bit of well-timed interference from Ric Flair. Like I said, this wasn't a bad match, but I can't think of much more these two could've done together before things slowly began to fall apart. I'm digging the Flair / Regal feud over the knucks, by the way.

Skipped the Diva Search, and the accompanying potty mouth that seems to have transpired therein. I remember reading about the comments in question during my late-night run through the RAW thread on the forums, and debating about whether or not I wanted to go back and watch the segment after all before deciding not to waste the time. The only times I've been tricked into watching a Diva Search segment thus far have involved the unexpected inclusions of Kamala and the Rock, and both times I was left feeling a little underwhelmed. I can't imagine how bad these segments have been on their own, if they've managed to kill my enthusiasm for those two guys just by association.

I wasn't really amused by the Kane / Lita / Hardy family segment, and I know you're just shocked to be reading those words. It's crazy, what a completely different page this storyline is on, when compared to the rest of the program. It's like a completely different world. On one hand we've got Randy Orton and Triple H coming to blows over attempted homicide, a lack of respect and the World Heavyweight Title, and on the other we've got Kane attempting to upset his wife by chokeslamming bouncing, comedic indie workers dressed up to look somewhat like Matt Hardy. I mean, just TRY to set this segment in the real world and maintain a straight face. What would the guy in Kane's shoes expect to see when he looks over, triumphantly, at his uncaring bride-by-law? Shock? Horror? Pleasure? Disdain? Seriously, I don't know what kind of reaction this was supposed to invoke.

I really enjoyed the Benoit / Flair match, or at least what we got of it, because Flair went into it with a game plan and Benoit let it develop into something really interesting. Rather than working the same singles match he's pushed out for the last six months, (take some offense, gouge the eye, take some offense, flair flop, scary back body drop on the hip, clip the leg, drape it over the bottom rope, flying butt-thrust, "now it's time to go to school," figure four, reversal, closing sequence) Flair and Benoit went balls-out, with the former champ looking for an early Crossface and Flair relentlessly working the leg, taking pleasure in Benoit's agonizing screams. This wasn't the best match they've ever had together, but it was still among Flair's best free-TV efforts of the year. I didn't like the finish, because it wasn't gonna kill anyone for Naitch to tap out, but it makes sense when taking a step back to look at the big picture. Evolution's scrambling to show they can still function as a cohesive unit without Randy Orton, while Benoit's looking to regain his momentum after a pair of high profile losses. They achieved both goals here, and it'll come to a natural head in the tag match a week from Sunday.

Probably the only completely successful segment of the night was the highlight reel between Jericho and Edge, which really showcased how shitty the timing of Edge's injury was this past weekend. Although they misstepped last week, (which was more the booking's fault than the talent's) Edge and Y2J have done some good work together recently, the angle behind their feud's probably the most interesting thing on RAW at the moment and it was just about to take an even more interesting turn with the return of Christian to the active roster. Regardless, they handled things as well as could be expected, maintaining the champ's status quo as a tweener while reinforcing Jericho as the face and introducing Christian as the full-blown heel. Edge still felt a bit stilted during his promo here, but he's taking giant steps in the right direction and I love the tension they're slowly accumulating between RAW's two prominent midcard blondes.

I don't have anything really remarkable to add about the women's title match. Like seemingly everyone else, I loved that sick submission Gail had locked in just before she was rolled up for the pinfall, and I like the majority of the faces they're pushing in this division at the moment. Nidia's in gimmick limbo, and really needs to get away from whatever the hell she was wearing last night.

Likewise, I couldn't focus on the main event. It's surprising to note how quickly Eugene's become just an afterthought on the RAW roster, as he was in completely over his head during this one, with or without the cheap pop SF Giants wardrobe. I kept waiting for this to go somewhere, for something special to happen as is usually the case in big, feud-decapitating, balls-to-the-wall No DQ matches. Instead, we got a relatively straightforward match save a prominent low blow and some outside interference at the very end. This felt like a meaningless filler match near the bottom of a PPV, not the conclusion to a story that dominated the main events of RAW for several months.

All in all, I was unimpressed. This wasn't a horrible show, really, but it wasn't an average one either, and they needed something big to get things back on track in time for Unforgiven. I'm losing faith in the strength of Orton vs. Hunter, I'm still enjoying Evolution vs. the Former Friends of Eugene, I'm LOVING Edge vs. Christian vs. Jericho, and the tag title match is decent at best. This was an entire episode of slow action, weird finishes and lame, forced commentary. Better than last week, but not quite something I'd call average.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 4.3

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