Well, they made sure to show us Kane's pyro going off in the center of the ring before that opener, so... yeah, you know what kind of an omen that is for the big red machine. RVD looked particularly sloppy last night, the first time I can really recall him looking like he didn't give a shit how the match was gonna turn out. Christian more than made up for it with his selling, though. He was bouncing all over that ring, really doing his best to make the match better than it was. Everything he (and, to a lesser degree, Jericho) did just snapped particularly well under the big lights of this past RAW. Thumbs up to him for that, and to WWE for not only giving us a clean heel victory, but for doing so in a way that both makes sense and makes Jericho look like an honestly intelligent competitor. I don't buy the Lionsault as a finisher any more, and I think I'm in the majority on that one, but pairing it with RVD's consistent overselling of his own five star frog splash works for me. Now if they'd just hurry this RVD / Kane split along, so we can get the two of them out of the tag scene...
Nice vintage HBK spot to close the whole thing out, too, reliving the build to Wrestlemania XIV with Austin. Remember that match on RAW between Austin and Kane that DX spoiled, a week or two before 'Mania that year? This looked like a little homage to that, in my eyes. But my eyes are usually known for digging out entirely irrelevant and coincidental facts like that. Good segment, I'm anxious to see this feud grow heated again.
But why did JR mention Sarasota during the superkick segment? I live in Sarasota. Was it one of those moments where they superimpose a pre-recorded voice over the live commentary, thereby customizing the call for every viewing market? Did folks in Montreal hear JR shout "They heard that superkick all the way in... Montreal!" What did they do for the Cleveland viewing audience, where the show was being broadcast? "They heard that superkick all the way in... Cleveland!!" Am I running with this thing too far...?
I don't care what they say, I thought Booker did a great job on the mic last night. It's not what the audience was expecting to hear from him, but I think it's exactly the kind of thing they need to do with him right now. At the moment, he's the guy who does the kicks, and then breakdances when he wins. Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, the Rock... even Brock Lesnar all have well-defined characters, while Booker's still just a guy with short dreds who.... breakdances when he wins. And, if you know me, you know I love seeing believable storylines. Booker came across as a guy who learned restraint from his past, somebody who made a mistake, paid the price and grew as a person because of it. He's not squeaky clean, but he's not a lost cause either. I enjoyed his speech and his promo with Flair, but wondered where all that talk of restraint went when he ran into Triple H backstage. They're keeping it subtle, and they're doing it right... I'm pleased with the way this angle is turning out.
I missed the Jeff Hardy / Rico match, but from what I've read I didn't miss much.
Sue me, I really liked everything involving Triple H last night. Though we didn't hear most of it due to technical difficulties, the end of his little segment with Maven backstage did its job. It gave us a reason to get behind Maven, a notorious heat-suction machine, and put Trips over even further as a cocky backstage bastard. Even Maven's dialogue didn't come across as excessively wordy, out of place, or even really scripted. It looked like a genuine reaction, which should be the goal for both the writers and the performers.
Rock and Hurricane were amusing again last night, and it's good that they wrapped up this mini-feud when they did, because it was starting to lag a little. So now that the entire feud is complete, the end result is... I can't look at Hurricane anymore without noticing how desperately he's trying to hide his braces. Even his little pre-match faceoff video ends with a still shot of his giving a thumbs up that covers his entire mouth.
I enjoyed the end result of the women's match, though I can't say the same for the means. We waited through a twenty minute commercial break for that...??!
I thought Eric Bischoff was coming off well during the interview portion of his interaction with Austin. They looked to be really trying to steer this away from a re-enactment of the old Austin / McMahon variable, which is exactly what they need for it to work. Bischoff appeared headstrong, a guy who knows he can't compete physically with Stone Cold, but is more than willing to try mentally. And then they killed the whole dynamic by booking an Austin / Bischoff rematch next week on RAW. Gah, throw this whole segment away now. It's worthless, despite Rock's great involvement.
I had no problem with Triple H's work in the ring last night, either. He gave Maven several opportunities to get the crowd into it, but the Tough Enough alum didn't do well under the pressure and wound up looking completely useless. This would've been perfect if Booker had come to the ring and faced off with his opponent at the end, rather than Al Snow performing a quick job, but that wasn't meant to be. In the end, the segment did its job; it made Triple H look like a convincing champion, an undeniable force and a fucking prick for beating the life out of a rookie in his big spotlight. This wasn't on the same level as Triple H vs. TAKA from 2000, because it wasn't the same set of circumstances. TAKA had two guys outside the ring to watch his back, aid him when he was in trouble and mess with HHH's mentality. He was more experienced in the ring, and his style was much more convincing. And, at the same time, Trips wasn't as confident a main eventer either. Both matches played out more or less as they should have, though one was undeniably much more exciting to watch.
I was really confused about what they were trying to do with another Dudleyz / Morley match involving the brothers' suspension, but then I gave it a little thought. Chief Morley, as Eric Bischoff's second in command, should be interested primarily in two things; entertaining the audience (thus keeping the ratings up), and cutting costs wherever possible. So how does he accomplish this..? He suspends without pay the Dudley Boyz, a fan favorite tag team, but keeps teasing them with chances to regain their status as paid superstars. In effect, he's simultaneously giving the fans matches involving a popular team, motivating said team to perform at a higher level than usual (increasing the match quality), and cutting costs by wrestling the matches himself against a team that's working for free. Though I'm not sure if anybody really put that much thought into it on the WWE's end, that's what the end result looks like from my end. As such, it's keeping Morley over and active, as well as giving the Dudleys something to do while they wait for a tag title match at WrestleMania.
I'll reinforce everyone's opinion that the wet T-Shirt contest was pointless without white shirts. But how many of you honestly thought they'd get away with anything that risque anyway?
The main event was fun, if perhaps a slight letdown. Hurricane was showing some of his wear and tear from various injuries over the last few weeks, and as a result missed some of his spots and looked extremely winded at the end of the match. Rock did his best to transform this into a great match, and to his credit did a magnificent job of it. In the end, though, I wasn't getting the same sort of reaction JR was trying to invoke. It didn't feel like as major a moment as, say, Shawn Michaels struggling to the top of a ladder at Wrestlemania X, or even Jeff Hardy climbing the ladder against the Undertaker. I was hoping the constant prodding and teasing from Rocky would lead to a more serious Helms, dropping the silly Hurricane gimmick and really breaking out as a serious competitor. And, god bless 'em, I thought they were gonna do it when Helms looked up and saw Rocky running around in his cape. No dice, though, no dice.
All in all, I enjoyed the show. It felt a little light, like they were glossing over a lot of stuff, but there's still time to correct all that in time for WrestleMania. Not the best RAW I've ever seen, but better than last week's. Above average.
Overall Score: 6.75