Monday, February 21, 2005

WWE RAW Review: 02/21/05

Wow, right out of the gates we were off and running with a rare Women's Title defense on RAW. And, wouldn't you know, it's a triple threat match! I'll let you make the snide little comments about this one match featuring the entire women's division yourself, because I think I've gone over the point about a dozen times in the last few months. Wait, no I won't. Trish, Victoria and Molly are the ENTIRE FREAKING DIVISION. I'm still having trouble coming to terms with that particular reality. It gets even worse when I realize Lita will be back some day to boost the division's numbers up to four. Anyway, this was a strange little match that felt more like an athletic exhibition than an actual competition. Once again, Molly seemed to be involved only to absorb some offense and kill time while Victoria and Trish were out of the ring, although there was a bit of interesting conversation between the heels around the halfway mark. Put bluntly, Trish's heel character has lapsed into repetition and isn't doing anything for me, Molly's been a de-facto heel without a convincing win since this time last year, and Victoria's quietly dancing in an empty room somewhere right this moment. Remember when this division was consistently putting the men to shame, when the ladies' characters were original yet believable, when any single woman could conceivably win the title on any given night? Yeah, I've abandoned any hope about a resurrection of all that.

Good lord, are they SERIOUS about throwing Christy Hemme into this division? I really don't care if she calls Trish a slut, if Trish slaps her for it, or if the crazy wacky GoDaddy makeup lady thinks her overused comebacks are hilarious. Seriously. They'd better not be thinking about selling me a WrestleMania card that features a Christy Hemme Title match.

That Basic Instinct WrestleMania promo is pure gold, right up until Mae Young and Moolah trot on for the cheap pop, continuing their hunt for that elusive hundred thousandth "old lady sex joke." Christian and Chris Benoit are particularly great in it... Benoit's lack of personality is twice as funny in this situation, and Christian's one-liners are fantastic. Wish I could say I was nearly as impressed by the other two ads I've seen, but hey. One winner out of three attempts is better odds than I'm used to seeing as far as WWE comedy segments are concerned.

See? I told you last week's squash at the hands of Kane wasn't the end of Simon Dean's suffering. RAW will always have a need for designated jobbers, which is why I'm convinced Steven Richards and Val Venis will always have a job in WWE. Unfortunately, Chris Jericho seems to be moving dangerously close to that designation himself, a fact which was further emphasized by the difficulty he seemed to be having with Dean here. I'm still absolutely floored that they didn't have anything else planned for Simon Dean's RAW career, especially considering the amount of time and effort they devoted to hyping his arrival initially. Seriously, those months upon months of mock infomercials and vignettes were just there to introduce a personal fitness parody with a magic, weighted gym bag? Did I somehow wake up in 1986, or is Vince just angry that he never capitalized on that great "jazzercise satire" character he thought up back in the day?

Oh yeah, but Simon was wrestling this week. Not a particularly good showing from either guy, with Jericho seemingly content to paint by the numbers (which is something I'm beginning to notice a little more frequently from Y2J) and Dean flopping his way through a couple of mildly botched spots. It's sad to see two guys who don't care about their match on RAW, especially when there are thousands of guys on the indy scene right now who would kill for that four minutes of national exposure.

Wow, Tyson Tomko was given a mic and managed to form a coherent sentence or two. Watch now as I do a little dance here in my cubicle. Nah, actually, in all fairness the "problem solver" has been one of the more steadily-improving members on RAW over the last few months, learning from his tag team experience alongside Christian and slowly showing bits and pieces of an interesting "straight man" personality. Of course, considering how bad he was when he first came onto the scene, that's not quite as much of a compliment as you'd expect, but any progress is better than no progress at all. Or negative progress, if we're talking about Gene Snitsky. Regardless of his slow-but-steady progress, however, Tyson Tomko wasn't quite ready to carry his own weight in a singles match just yet, especially against another big man like Kane. Fortunately this was kept short, considering Double-T seemed to have already exhausted his moveset, allthough I'm not sure what the match did for either guy.

The audience's reactions to Muhammad Hassan have me constantly scratching my head, and the booking / writing teams may want to take a closer look at them for future reference. See how people want to boo this guy for being different and speaking his mind? See how confused and, ultimately, quiet they get when he calls them hypocrites for engaging in pro-USA chants, when it's been stated over and over again that he was born and raised in the United States? See how my head wants to spontaneously explode when a Canadian rushes to the ring to defend America's honor against one of its own citizens? Sure, the Hassan experiment has been incredibly interesting to watch, and it seems to be generating heat like crazy right now, but I don't think that constantly confusing the audience is really something the writers should be contemplating right now. It's not something I'd imagine would be all that likely to draw.

I really liked the way the Orton / HBK vs. Edge & Christian match turned out, although I think it's kind of strange that Christian doesn't have any reservations about tagging up with his older brother, considering what happened to him after the first time they reunited a few months ago. Aha, but I'm thinking logically... I always forget to flip my mind into the "off" position during an episode of RAW. Christian and Orton were working well together again this week, with Orton almost immediately sliding into the role of the cocky asshole after his victory in their singles match last week. Likewise, Christian was great alongside Edge again, as the two finally rediscovered the cohesiveness they had together as a team all those years ago. They were bending rules, cutting corners and making quick tags like second nature last night, and their experience together was obvious when contrasted by the team of Orton and Michaels. This wasn't an exceptionally hot match, nor was it out-of-this-world important, but it was really tight, nicely worked and very competitive, all around. I just can't fathom how Christian is still the fall guy in these kind of situations, considering how good he's been over the last year. I guess some things aren't meant to be understood.

Oh, hey! In the aftermath of this week's super-great TV match, (which is becoming like a tradition on RAW after a full year now... even on the shittiest of episodes, you can count on there being at least one outstanding match) Chris Masters made his big debut as "The Masterpiece," which must be urban slang for "another veiny monster with a face that's identical to every other young guy on the roster." I can't keep up with all the terminology you kids use these days. Not the best debut I've ever seen, and I'm simply amazed they're trying to get the full nelson over as a legitimate finisher again. Basically, this was a short, ugly, uninspiring debut for the most recent in the series of OVW trainees who aren't quite ready for the big time. It's OK Chris, a lot of Van Gogh's masterpieces didn't sell right away, either.

I liked the story they were trying to tell with the Benjamin / Snitsky match, and Shelton did a great job of carrying the plot with his body language and facial expressions, but I can't get past Snitsky's complete ineptitude in the ring. That's really all I've got for this one. Benjamin had a very good showing and did what he could with the lump of flesh and bones that was waiting for him in the ring, and Snitsky did a great job of, uh... letting Benjamin bust his chin open with that chair. It was a cool visual when that first trickle of blood slid its way down to his neck after the match. As with the Trish / Christy rivalry, I've got my fingers crossed they don't try to stretch this thing to WrestleMania.

Hunter then totally reinforced the idea that no wrestler in the world could possibly be watching their television set when he's speaking, revealing his big master plan to convince Batista to jump to Smackdown and basically turning Teddy Long heel just by association. I thought that maybe, given the slightly unconventional capacity for intelligence they've given Batista thus far, they'd use this opportunity to finally kill that debate by showing Batista elsewhere in the building, planted in front of a TV set and shaking his head. Or maybe, I hoped, they'd go the subtle route; Flair never hit the "end" button on his cel phone at the beginning of the segment, as Hunter cut him off in the middle of leaving a voice mail for big Dave. The whole conversation could've been saved out in cyberspace somewhere. But nah, why go nontraditional with this one? Batista was merely hanging around outside of the door. As a result of these backstage revelations, (not to mention the means by which they were revealed) the segment felt flat and the live audience was robbed of the chance to deliver a staggeringly huge pop. Weird decision.

And, finally, all of WWE's shit was seemingly flung into all of WWE's fans in time for the main event, which featured Eric Bischoff and Teddy Long's last-second recruitment speeches, Triple H and Ric Flair's attempts at subtlety and Batista's ultimate decision to stay on RAW and obliterate his former running buddies. I like that they seem to be making a tradition out of last year's "loophole leaping," giving the Rumble winner his choice of champions to face at WrestleMania, and I liked that both Eric and Teddy had a few strong points in their favor during their brief promos. I loved Bischoff's over-the-top reaction when Batista threw the RAW clipboard to the mat and seemed to have made the decision to jump ship, but was surprised to see no similar emotion from Teddy Long when the big man flip-flopped and stuck with Monday Nights. The guy's job was basically on the line, right? So why did he just calmly file out of the ring and stroll to the back after he'd failed?

Regardless of the GMs' reactions and Evolution's cheesy, James Bond-esque revelation of their entire evil plans in complete detail, this closing segment really delivered. Batista was no doubt riding on huge emotions, yet kept himself under control and made a serious impact with just a few quick actions. The slow transition from a thumbs up to a thumbs down served as a nice bookend to Evolution's story, considering it's past uses in association with the stable, and gave the audience a catalyst to begin their explosion. The quick elimination of Ric Flair from the ring kept any backlash from the thousands of die-hard Nature Boy fans who always seem to be in attendance to a minimum, and the final powerbomb through the table was almost disgustingly effective. That's the way you turn somebody face. That's... yeah, that's the way it's done.

Lots of quickie segments and matches this week made the first hour main event tag and the Batista contract signing even more critical to the program's overall success. Fortunately enough, both delivered, but I can't say the same for the rest of the episode. Nothing really seemed like it was flowing together this week, with what must've been half a dozen meaningless three minute matches and a wide array of uninspired, uninteresting promos and backstage segments. This isn't exactly how I'd hoped the road to WrestleMania would begin, although the RAW main event is still solid. Above average based off of the strength and length of those two big segments, but below a six due to the weakness of the rest of the program.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 5.8

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