Anyhow, I got off on a tangent. We most certainly WERE out of country this week for RAW, as the dozens of varied Union Jacks in and around the ring quickly informed us. And, sure enough, right out of the gates this felt like a huge show. Everything from the initial frenzy of the fans to the dozens of individually-maneuvering spotlights on the entryway helped to give off that impression. Not even five minutes in, and already I was twice as excited about this RAW than I'd been in the entire week leading up to it.
We opened up with a match, for a change, pitting the inexplicably-pushed Stacy Keibler against reigning champion Trish Stratus. God's honest truth, I had no problem with this match. This kind of a beating is the only possible reasoning I could've imagined for Stacy's sudden series of wins (as I mentioned in my RAW Review for 09/20/04, when her push became more than just a single fluke victory) and Trish pulled it off beautifully. This wasn't the finest match on the card, nor was it the best women's match I've ever seen, but it was believable at the very least and accomplished its purpose. The women's champ emphasized the fact that it takes more than a pretty face to be competitive in this division, and quickly turned Keibler's light-hearted run for the title into a serious, one-sided squash. I wish Molly could've been the one to teach this lesson, but I've harped on that subject long enough.
I really enjoyed the first few info-mercials aired for "The Simon System" at the end of September, but now that they've been running for nearly a month and we've seen the exact same spot run three or four times in a row, it's pretty much passed the expiration date. I don't know how they plan to make the transition from cleverly-produced vignette to active competitor in the ring, but if they don't try something soon it won't make a difference.
The heat for the first half of that tag team championship match was unbelievable, even considering Regal's homecoming. That's about as involved in the match as I've ever seen a live audience, shouting with every punch, gearing up for every suplex and dictating who they wanted to see in the ring and when they wanted to see them. If they'd ended it the first time the bell sounded, the audience participation would've done a great job of covering up just how cheesy and unsubstantial the match itself really was. Not that I'm upset they didn't put the gold on Regal and Eugene, (actually, quite the opposite) but the booking and execution completely drained the noise from the building and derailed the live broadcast with a disjointed set of cuts from new champions to commercials to match-in-progress. After the break, things slowed down but the quality didn't really go up. And, though I realize the finish was supposed to reinforce Bischoff as a hypocritical slimeball with only the heels' interests in mind, that message was quickly muddled when he confronted La Resistance backstage and came down on them like the wrath of god, all but assuring them an extremely difficult defense at Taboo Tuesday. So he doesn't like La Rez all that much, but he agreed to restart the match so they could further work over Eugene? OK, so why didn't he restart the match again when given the opportunity to do so after the second fall? None of the excuses they used for this switch-and-bait, then bait-and-switch made sense. It was basically just Eric being evil for the sake of being evil, then contradicting himself by being evil to the evil guys, which basically made him good. You got all that?
These Snitsky promos are such a chore. I'm sure scholars could devote an entire volume of the wrestling encyclopedia on why this guy is so tremendously bad at what he's doing. He's poor at best in the ring, his speeches aren't without confidence but certainly without emotion, and he's been involved with the longest-running, most painfully-booked angle of the year, right out of the gates. I guess part of their strategy is working... I want to see Kane squash this guy, so they can send him back to OVW and pretend he never existed for a little while, like they did with John Heidenreich.
And now Kane's mad. Shit, those imitated baby screams Snitsky was incessantly spewing made ME mad, but for an altogether different set of reasons. JR said something along the lines of "My god, have you ever seen Kane this violent," which got a chuckle out of me. Seems like every six months he stomps out to crush a few lower-level singles stars who aren't doing anything important. So yeah, I guess, to answer his question. I have seen Kane this violent in the past. Several times. Too bad, too, because judging from the talent in the ring this could've been a really nice little tag team matchup.
Ric Flair and Randy Orton were next out of the gates, with microphones in tow. Nothing really got accomplished here, but it was refreshing to see two of the sport's better vocalists speaking their minds without a distinct point to get across or a special stipulation to introduce. This felt like a promo right out of early '80s NWA TV, with Flair boasting about his sexual prowess and personal fortune, giving Orton a little bit of credit but giving him no chance against the Nature Boy later in the month. Orton isn't exactly the stereotypical face from that era, but he fit into the formula very nicely all the same, despite some lingering flaws in his face character. I wish I could say it still meant something to beat Ric Flair, but after all the guys he's jobbed to since coming to the federation it just doesn't carry the same weight that it once did. Still, he can talk with the best of them and this was an entertaining little spot argument between the former allies.
After a nice bit of build during last week's lumberjack match, I was surprised to see them moving forward with Chris Jericho vs. Rhyno all of a sudden, especially considering Rhyno's on the ticket as a potential opponent for Y2J at the upcoming Pay Per View. This really wasn't a great showing from either guy, which is disappointing considering both had enjoyed a nice run of matches beforehand. I'm sure the strange finish didn't help matters, but it felt like they were treading water out there in the opening moments. They need to do something with Rhyno to connect him with the fans, because right now he's "one of the guys who uses the spear" and not much more. Give him some direction, show him focusing on Jericho and Jericho alone as the big event draws near, send him out to spear anything and everything that gets in his way, renew his friendship with Christian and / or Edge, anything.
After the singles match between Y2J and the Man-Beast shifted into a tag match opposite Christian and Tyson Tomko, the action picked up a bit. Tomko's steadily making progress in there, testing out the Batista method of "team with a solid worker and only wrestle against other solid workers," but he's still got trouble thinking on his feet and it looked like he aggravated his knee injury midway through the match.
I'm getting really sick of these long-winded, "slowly read through every match on the upcoming PPV" segments they keep shoveling out before big shows. Seriously, Taboo Tuesday isn't for another eight days, and already we're sitting through this? Save it for "WWE Experience," thanks.
Finally, we close out the show with a six-man main event featuring most of the show's usual suspects. I liked the tension they built between the faces with just a few moments of backstage dialogue before the bell, and the obvious lack of trust between them throughout the match was nice to see. Edge's character is roughly thirteen times more interesting to me right now than it was when he returned during the draft lottery and speared Eric Bischoff for no true reason, and they did it without betraying the last six months' worth of character development that they'd invested in him. This self-centered, egotistical prick Edge is the same guy that won the Tag Titles alongside Chris Benoit and then snidely gave the Crippler shit after losing them to La Resistance. It's all about the shades of grey. I loves me the shades of grey.
Something about this match didn't click. Maybe it was the audience, which never recovered from the double swerve during Regal's match and subsequently paid more attention to the rail-hopper who invaded the ring (and his eventual punishment) than the main event. Maybe it was an off night for everyone involved. I can't put my finger on it, but in comparison to the dozens and dozens of matches these participants have had together in various combinations through the year, this one ranks near the bottom. I did like the finish, though, no matter how obvious it was, and I like the potential of next week's triple threat if we can get through it without Trips poking his head into the mix. I can't say how desperately I wanted to see Benoit spin with Edge's spear and reel him into the Crossface, which is a good sign that the heel turn is working.
Despite a great setting, a genuine "something out of the ordinary" mood and an initially super-hot crowd, RAW's steady decline wasn't halted by this broadcast. There were a lot of moments where they could've chosen to do something unexpected, and they instead opted to go with the path of least resistance. I'm almost entirely "blah" to the idea of a pay per view in just eight days, and they aren't doing anything to change my mind. This show was a disappointment.
Overall Score: 4.7