The show kicked off with what's becoming the regular for each week's episode of RAW; the long winded, meandering Evolution promo. I really have no idea what Flair was on about at the beginning of this one, somehow connecting Randy Orton's moniker of "Legend Killer" to his own practice of deflowering ladies all throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s. Really. As I mentioned last week, I'm a huge fan of Flair's promos, because he never fails to get completely into it and put the speech over the top on emotion alone... but I was scratching my head after this one. If you've heard any of Flair's speeches from the early years of the Horsemen, this was similar in theme but quite a bit more lewd. And, before I forget, it was simultaneously hilarious and sad to hear Flair pull out that old "...and I'll tell the same thing to your mother OR your girlfriend, back in my hotel later tonight" line, this time adding "your grandmother" to the list of potential triumphs. This guy doesn't know how to turn it off.
When Flair was through, Triple H pretty much proved the point I established last week, that by comparison his promos aren't even in the same league as the Nature Boy's. Despite the fact that this wasn't Ric's fanciest speech, (nor his most understandable) it was head and shoulders above the broken record, repeat-the-same-phrase-and-look-slightly-disgruntled speech Hunter wheeled out yet again. Flair sells me on his segments because he's too emotionally charged not to believe every word he's spewing. Hunter's on the other end of the spectrum. He makes sense more often than not, but can't hold my attention for longer than a couple of minutes because he's so detached, so obviously playing a character.
I liked seeing Chris Jericho out there to oppose these guys, though their relationship has never really made sense. Y2J broke into the main event scene and made an instant enemy out of Triple H. They went back and forth for years, until the Hunter went down with his quad injury and Jericho went to Smackdown at the brand extension. Eventually Trips returned and Jericho came to RAW, but they were both heels so... strangely enough... they were good buddies. Jericho had Evolution on the Highlight Reel once or twice, and even donned an Evo shirt on occasion. They were all but tag partners in Chris's quest to oust Steve Austin from his role as co-GM a few years back. So, now that Chris has turned face and won the Intercontinental Title, suddenly he's at odds with Hunter again. I'd love to see that backstory explained with some detail in the near future, and thought maybe we'd be getting our chance when he came out to cut off the opening promo, but it just doesn't seem like it's meant to be.
While we're on the subject, I don't understand why they didn't take the opportunity to immediately proceed with Edge's series of misunderstandings with Chris Jericho when he made the save for him alongside Chris Benoit at the end of this segment. All it would've taken is an inadvertent spear or a wild swing with a steel chair, but instead we got a strange show of unity from the Canadian faces here and an eventual near-turn from Edge backstage later in the night. Something doesn't seem right.
I've gotta question the placement on the card, but the Michaels / Christian match that followed this segment succeeded all the same. I was worried about the way they'd book this going in, but my fears were all for naught. Sure, Christian didn't win the match, but he did keep up with, land his finisher on, and basically all but pin one of the living legends of pro wrestling. They pulled this one off in a way that didn't hurt HBK in the slightest, but pulled Christian up several notches along the way. Shawn came across as the obvious veteran here, taking advantage of a few of the risks Christian took throughout the course of the match, but Christian came across as a level-headed tactician, always ready with "Plan B" in case his original plans didn't pan out as well as he'd hoped they would. There were a few rough spots here and there, (like the awkward double knockout spot, when Christian had held firm control of the match for several minutes midway through) but all things considered I'm very pleased with the way it panned out. Excellent match, especially for TV, and I didn't have a problem with the clean Michaels victory because I was left with the sense that it could've easily gone the other way. I love competitive matches, where neither guy comes across as higher up in the pecking order and they just let it all hang out and lay into each other.
Lita's interview segment really wasn't all that bad, but I just couldn't take my attention away from the noises emanating from her microphone the whole time. Seriously, they either strapped it directly to her larynx or had an alternate mic on her stomach and she hadn't eaten all day, because this was like a symphony of gurgles, rumbles and bubbles. There was one spot, in particular, that I must have rewound and rewatched half a dozen times, laughing hysterically all the way. If you've got a VHS or TiVo copy of the show, concentrate on the moment she looks up to the sky, thinks and swallows hard. You'd think she was about to choke to death on her own fluids or something, Hendrix-style.
We then followed this up with, naturally, Gene Snitsky's big appearance and Kane's subsequent pursuit into the ring, where the "Baby Killer"... beat the Big Red Machine into submission using a lead pipe? At this point, I've just gotta throw my hands up into the air on this angle. I have no idea what to believe anymore, and that's the big problem with characters like Kane and the Undertaker. We've sat there and watched this guy sit up after tombstones, after chairshots, after sledgehammer blasts, after falls onto mounds of thumbtacks, after van terminators THROUGH a trash can, after UNPROTECTED FALLS INTO BURNING DUMPSTERS, AND AFTER FREAKING THIRTY MPH HEAD-ON COLLISIONS WITH STATIONARY TRACTOR TRAILERS. How in god's name are we supposed to react when a thirty second-long assault with a lead pipe splits him open, scrambles his brains and leaves him limping his way toward the backstage area? What, is poontang like kryptonite to this guy? Now that he's developed genuine feelings for a member of the opposite sex, is he also developing genuine feeling in his long-dead nerve endings and experiencing pain for the first time in his life?
Now don't get me wrong, I'm a major proponent of realism in the storytelling of professional wrestling. I've loved the trend of moving away from cheesy gimmicks, silly ring wardrobe and a circus-like atmosphere in favor of real life-based feuds, personalities in favor of gimmicks and a more pro sports-based culture. I totally agree with and applaud a number of aspects of this feud; the importance of Kane blading, for instance. This is a man who's prominently bled probably four or five times in his entire career, and the fact that he did so last night could've spoken volumes for the ferocity of Snitsy's attack and his credibility as a serious threat to Kane in the ring. Since he's shrugged off such ridiculously powerful attacks in the past, however, it just looked silly. Unless Snitsky had an atomic splitter in that pipe or something, there's no way those strikes could've been more powerful than anything Shane McMahon did to him. By detaching themselves from reality so regularly in Kane's history, they've crippled what could've been a meaningful, memorable turning point for this feud. Intead of leaving me with a sense of fear and awe, it's left me with a question mark above my head and an apathy for where things can go from here.
Whoah, where was I...? That wonderful bit of work was followed by a brief, strangely-paced match between Chris Benoit and Batista. I've gotta hand it to the guy, Batista's really starting to step forward as more than just another prime time slouch in the ring. All those tag matches alongside the best in the business must've done wonders for him, because he was truthfully holding his own in there last night. He's getting his timing down better each week, he's learning how to lay out a solid story in the ring, and his cardio is constantly improving. This was one of Benoit's more forgettable RAW matches, but one of Batista's better showings. That ending just kind of jumped up from out of nowhere, and as a result the match didn't do anything for me.
I think I've depleted my entire pool of comments about the Eugene / Bischoff feud and the Diva Search by this point. I think it's safe to say that I don't like them and they don't like me. It's interesting, though, that Carmella and Christy are getting a match on PPV, when it's obvious that neither one has the first clue about wrestling. Just another match I can not watch when I don't order Taboo Tuesday, I guess.
Likewise, the tag title match didn't get enough time to do much of anything here. I guess it was just too important to wheel out the stupid, Bugs Bunny kissing Elmer Fudd comedy bit with Eugene and the Divas. The Hurricane's trying his damndest to make this thing work, but with less than five minutes to do something with, I don't like his chances. Do I sound bitter?
The shitstorm was relentless at this point in the show, as we followed that gem up with another Stacy Keibler victory over Molly Holly. I feel like I've been beating this dead horse to the point that it isn't even recognizable as an equine any longer, and they've only been running with the story for a month. Let's play speak and spell; It's not a good idea to push your eye candy as legitimate competition. Especially when they have absolutely no clue what to do with themselves in the ring. ESPECIALLY at the expense of a longtime former champion, who also happens to be one of the division's most impressive competitors. Jeez, is this really that hard? Stacy doesn't receive that wild applause for her efforts in the ring.
Mercifully, the show reached its conclusion with a lumberjack match pitting Intercontinental Champ Chris Jericho up against World Champion Triple H. I was curious to see how well these two would work together, as it's been about two and a half years since we've seen them together in singles action. Unfortunately, this was so cluttered, hurried and focused on the lumberjacks themselves that there wasn't any time really devoted to the match. Every time things seemed to be warming up, somebody would wind up on the floor or we'd take a commercial break or one of the lumberjacks would make a funny face and we'd cut to that. I really liked the underlying theme of "Jericho vs. The World" that they had in this one, especially the little bits between he and Rhyno that ultimately led to the match's conclusion, but they wanted to tell ten minutes' worth of story in five minutes' worth of time and that didn't work out too well. I think the dynamic here would've been better if Chris Benoit, Edge and Shawn Michaels had invited themselves to ringside as impromptu lumberjacks, since nobody at ringside had as much of a bone to pick with Hunter as they did with Y2J and the main eventers' involvement would've made for a nice tie between the upper card and the midcard. And besides, I thought the idea was to highlight the World Title, first and foremost.
I can't say this was a better episode than last week's show, despite the fact they made more storyline progress here. We got a great match between Christian and Shawn Michaels, which is something that was missing from the show seven days in the past, but we also got a head scratching segment between Kane and Gene Snitsky that asked more questions than it answered, an emphasis on the Eugene / Bischoff match, the announcement of the Diva Search faceoff, a meaningless squabble between Chris Benoit and Batista, and a main event bogged down with too much story and not enough air time. It's really too bad they won't put Chris Jericho in the running for the World Title this month, because he's been delivering to the best of his ability in the high pressure situations with scary regularity. Pity I can't say the same for the show as a whole.
Overall Score: 5