Monday, January 5, 2004

WWE RAW Review: 01/05/04

Here I am, fresh off a hiatus of a couple weeks, and I had to miss writing up last week's show for THIS?! Nah, actually I found a lot of this to be entertaining, well written and quite possibly a good sign for the future if they're building toward some of the stuff I think they're building toward. C'mon, let's take a gander at my detailed analysis.

I'm not all that thrilled about Austin returning to RAW, doing everything I grew tired of four months ago and not really contributing to the show all that much in the end... however, I'm going to accept it because I can see a homerun hidden away within the silly bit of writing that left us with Austin as RAW's "sheriff." For most of the night, a small thought kept tugging at the back of my brain, something kept telling me that acting as sheriff was more of a step backwards than a step up from Austin's former position as co-GM, and then it dawned on me. Sure, in the old west (and, I guess you could say, in today's world as well) the sheriff is the embodiment of final justice. He's judge, jury and executioner all wrapped into one, but all that power doesn't come without a catch. The sheriff still has to work within the confines of one set of rules, commonly referred to as the law. So who, you might be asking, determines the laws on RAW? I might be mistaken, but that sounds an awful lot like the General Manager's role to me. So, if they play these cards right, Austin is little more than an unwilling enforcer to Bischoff's set of rules and reasons. Stone Cold is now Eric's employee, not his peer.

Then again, it's completely possible I'm just going way, way overboard with this thing and the sticky sweet "Sheriff Stone Cold Cleans Up RAW" storyline could just as easily drag on for another six months. If nothing else, though, it's given me something to chew on and look forward to even if that something never pans out in quite the way I'm hoping for.

I didn't mind the Teddy Long segments all night long, though I wish he'd have been given more of a chance to flex his 24-hours' worth of muscle before the closing credits rolled and he was nothing more than another victim of the Stone Cold Stunner. It was a refreshing change from the same old formula of "Bischoff makes an unfair match, face buries his head in his palms, bell rings, face overcomes the odds" but wasn't really given the chance to go quite as far as it probably should have.

It was nice of the bookers to refrain from more than a couple moments' worth of in-ring participation from Jerry Lawler this week, since he seems to have won a match on every single WWE card in Memphis since the late '80s. Sure, it pops the home crowd but it makes your current crop of talent look useless and shines a glaring spotlight on how meaningless the in-ring product really is to your upper management. I'm still fuming over the time they jobbed Raven to Lawler in Memphis about a year ago.

I'll be honest, I was hoping somebody would give JR some shit for Oklahoma's loss in the big game Sunday night, but I didn't want to see it stretched over about a half hour of television time. Even during the matches, Coach and JR were busy bickering over their choice in NCAA football squads. That doesn't really establish you as credible competition to Monday Night Football, guys.

Why wasn't Rob Conway wrestling that match against Spike? Ever since the tag team turmoil match, he seems to have been unofficially barred from the ring... did he participate in some sort of "plane ride from hell" or something and I just didn't hear about it? Regardless, the match didn't set my forest ablaze by any stretch of the imagination, and really only served to remind me how far Spike's fallen since he was riding high in the main event opposite Mike Awesome in the twilight days of ECW. I miss the thick black glasses, the tie dye, waving at the audience like a lunatic and wrestling as the miniscule underdog who doesn't know when to give up.

Could've given two shits about the tag match between Vitamin C and the Superheroes in Peril. Rosey and the Hurricane are so dead in the water at this point that their carcasses are really letting off some nasty odors and the birds have pretty much picked their backs clean. On the other side of the fence, I've no idea where they're going with Jericho / Christian, which seems to be the theme with this lengthy story they've woven around the two of them. I'm starting to wonder if they ever plan on getting to the point of it, though.

I was glad to see Steven Richards wrestling on RAW again, but damn if that whole match and angle wasn't hard to buy. Test's taken some major strides over the last twelve months, but it's still extremely easy to tell when he's really putting forward an effort and when he's mailing it in. Last night? Yeah, make some kind of a clever joke aout the postal service because he mailed that sucker in. Ditto for Richards. I like that they're trying something with him, as he's been in storyline purgatory since the glory days of the old RTC angle, but I found myself trying to get into his "angry, vengeful man defending his lover" storyline more than I was being sucked into it.

Remember when gimmick matches had some sort of rhyme or reason behind them? Yeah, I do too. Like when Mankind used to hang around in boiler rooms all the time, cutting promos next to the water heaters, and then the Undertaker challenged him to a Boiler Room match, to fight him in his own environment? Like when Hell in a Cell was invented, so D-X couldn't get into the ring and save HBK's title? Like when an Ultimate Submissions match was the only way to determine a winner between two of the greatest pure wrestlers in WWE history? Yeah, so what does a Last Man Standing Match mean in this situation? Exactly dick. If you're not going to make a stipulation that makes sense, (like... oh... say, Hell in a Cell to keep Evolution from invading the ring and protecting Triple H's title) why make a stipulation at all? My interest in the Rumble's RAW main event isn't any higher now that they've put that stupid gimmick into the mix than it was before the show even started.

But then Molly and Trish went out there, following up that needless, endless promo, and tore the friggin' house down. Honest to god, the Women's division is still light years ahead of the men's division on RAW. Molly Holly is building a tremendous legacy as a fighting champion, (she's had the belt since July) putting on outstanding matches at almost every occasion and establishing herself as THE woman to beat on RAW's most underrated and overlooked division. Seriously, the women's characters are so much more interesting and versatile than the men's, it's starting to look like somebody's doing this on purpose. Now that Jazz, probably my favorite female wrestler in WWE history, is back in the mix, things are on the verge of getting even MORE interesting. So long as they don't hotshot the belt back onto Trish next week, forget Molly exists and plow headfirst into yet another feud between Trish, Jazz and nobody else, this has the obvious potential to get even more exciting in a hurry. The women's division alone is reason to watch RAW, and had Jazz not interrupted after only a couple minutes, that would've been the best match of the night.

I was pleased as punch to see that "friends and supporters of Randy Orton" promo vignette. And here I thought they'd forgotten all about the promos they ran about him before his arrival on RAW last year. I love the vintage, "NFL History" style they're breaking out on these things, from the ugly typography to the gruff announcer to the film-reel quality of the video itself. I want to see more of these.

Henry vs. RVD could've been much worse. I still like Henry and the Big Show as the resident immovable objects of their respective shows, especially since they're allowing themselves to do more than throw clubbing forearms, stumble around the ring and scream. They aren't there to win any titles or attempt to create a legend for themselves, they're hanging around to make guys like RVD and John Cena look like versatile, legitimate upper card threats who can win against all odds. Some of the spots were a little goofy in this one, granted. Like the bizarre "full facial hump thrust" RVD pulled out halfway through, or the mistimed moonsault out to the floor, for instance. When the dust had settled, though, the match itself had delivered a couple interesting segments (like the front flip legdrop RVD hit while Henry was on all fours or the joltingly sudden delivery of the Van Daminator) and Van Dam came out of it smelling like roses. I wouldn't get in line to watch this match again, but I wouldn't have stormed out of the arena if I was already there, either.

Hoorj. Mae Young. Instant hilarity. The joke's older than she is, guys. Move on.

I liked Kane's promo, too. No real long winded explanation here, I just ejoyed it. I like it when these guys show emotion and it doesn't feel stilted or overly scripted. And Coach falling out of his chair at the Shaved Red Machine's opening pyro was slapstick comedy gold that fit the situation perfectly.

Finally, there was the main event, which didn't feel like a major, important, show-headlining tag team title match so much as just another two-on-two chore. I like Batista and I love Flair, but neither of them looked particularly good here, and the Dudleys brought nothing new to the table (no pun intended) yet again. Now, I'm probably a bigger Nature Boy fan than most, (I spent a month an a half of my life detailing the life and times of his career as one of the Four Horsemen) but even I have to admit that the time has come to hang 'em up for good. This makes three weeks running that Flair has inadvertantly injured and / or dizzied himself over the course of the match, causing things to grind to an uneasy halt for a couple minutes while he regains his bearings and the other guys in the ring try not to look stupid. If someone were twenty years younger and causing the same kinds of problems, they'd be off the show in a heartbeat. Due to his age, his legendary status and his undeniable contribution to the sport, however, Flair's allowed to slide time and time again. I have nothing but love for the man, but he's got to admit his skills would be much better suited as either a manager / mouthpiece for a struggling young prospect or the brains behind a completely overhauled booking department.

An uninspiring two hours this week, capped by a main event that didn't feel like something that should've ended the show. Honestly, the RVD / Henry match felt much more like a show closer than the tag match. I'm madly in love with the women's division and I can see the faintest bit of hope shining within Austin and Jericho's respective stories, but it'll take some time before I can tell if those will develop into something interesting or just something else that's fallen by the wayside.

A slim margin below average.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 4.85

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