Of course, I can't make any promises about the opening match, seeing as how it involved Molly directly and served to end her four and a half year run with WWE flat on her back, jobbing to Christy Hemme of all people. Boy, am I thrilled about the prospect of another one of her running wild on the women's division by the time we reach 2006. I guess the dream was already over for the women's division when Jazz and Gail Kim hit the bricks last year, but the nails are pretty well completely buried into the casket now. Rushed match, with Molly and Trish covering for Christy's limitations whenever she was in there and Victoria continuing her year-long cold streak.
I liked the ongoing segments with Kane chasing Trish throughout the building as the night went on, and although I could've gone without the "cackling villains in love" segment between he and Lita that spelled it all out for us, I really don't mind the direction they're going with the angle from here. Lita and Kane really do seem to make a good faux Natural Born Killers kind of on-screen couple, and while that might be kind of strange to see at the moment, it could be something noteworthy if and when they're turned heel. Both characters have been painfully stale over the last few years, and any kind of mutual development like this is good to see.
Hunter's promo almost put me to sleep this week, (no, really... I faded in and out a couple times while he spoke) and marked a return to the same old "cocky (former) champ holding the keys to the kingdom" style I was hoping to god he'd abandoned with last week's unusually-fiery speech. God damn was this a boring promo... he really didn't make a single point to differentiate this message from those he'd been delivering for the last three months. If there's nothing new to say, why are you wasting my time?
That, of course, led to the on-the-spot handicap match, pitting Triple H against Rosey and the Hurricane, which was precisely what you'd expect upon reading the names of the participants. Hurricane looked a bit more motivated than usual tonight, and was bouncing around the ring like mad for Trips' offense, but I was having trouble buying their chances from the very get-go and nothing really happened to sway me from that way of thinking as the match progressed. I can't believe Helms worked "It's clobberin' time" into a serious wrestling promo. It sounded as hokey and retarded on-air as it looks on the page.
Cool to see the brief coverage of Benoit congratulating Batista backstage while the announcers hyped the rest of the night's action. These are the kind of shots I'd like to see more of, little interactions and conversations that you could believe two guys would have backstage at a wrestling show, that you could imagine a cameraman might be interested in filming. Give me something like this to set up every random backstage beat-down or storyline advancement, or to fill the screen while Lawler and JR are rambling on about something, and I'll be a much happier camper. Keeps the talent from seeming totally isolated from one another backstage.
Chris Masters still hasn't impressed me. Actually, between he and the jobber he was obliterating last night, I was twice as impressed with the jobber and his willingness to kill himself to make Masters' work look good. The jabroni put in twice the effort of the WWE-backed "star of the future" with the million dollar body and the fourteen cent moveset. If I had any confidence in the writers' abilities to take advantage of the one positive possibility inherent with an angle like this proposed Masterlock Challenge, I might find myself getting a little bit excited. As is, I remember their mishandling of the white boy challenge a little bit too clearly. How long until Goldberg makes a guest spot and blows a couple months' worth of build for a quick pop? Or Batista, maybe.
Besides, Kurt Angle's doing something very similar over on Smackdown with his gold medal challenge. Let's try to limit the rehashed gimmicks from the past to one at a time, please.
Michaels vs. Daivari was a nice little swerve that caught me off-guard, not to mention most of the live crowd considering the complete stunned silence that filled the place after the ref counted three. This was pretty much exactly the kind of match they needed to work, with Daivari catching HBK off guard with his speed and some high flying, then allowing his mild success to go to his head. When he tried to take advantage of his momentum by throwing some punches, Michaels (the visibly bigger man) absorbed them and quickly recaptured the driver's seat. I don't think this could've gone much longer without getting monotonous, and it revived my interest in the issue between Michaels and Hassan, so mission accomplished.
The Highlight Reel was in trouble early, with both guys coming off as extremely lame and forced on the stick, but once the gears finally started turning and they began hurling insults, it caught fire. Jericho's misdirected anger over the direction of his career and Benjamin's overabundance of confidence and willingness to defend his title on a regular basis could prove to be an interesting dynamic, and I loved the pull-apart that ended this first little run-in. This is the kind of thing Jericho should be using the Highlight Reel for more regularly. When Bischoff won't book him in a match he wants, just call the guy out in the ring, throw a few barbs and wait for him to request the match personally.
I'm glad the premise of a Hogan / Michaels tag team is a one night only kind of affair, because I can see that schtick getting old REALLY fast. Personally, I thought Michaels was going to pick Sergeant Slaughter when he started in on all the hyperbole about being a super-patriotic patriot of patriotic patriotism, but quickly wised up when it got to be obvious. It'll be interesting, I guess, to say the least... part of me wishes this was 1997 pre-born-again Shawn Michaels and not the one that's out there every week in 2005, though, just so I could see the fireworks.
Christian and Benoit surpassed even my expectations out there in what was effectively the night's true main event, which is saying something because I'm really high on both of these guys right now. It truly says something about the quality of the guys in the midcard right now that Benoit was able to work two different matches with with two different guys that told roughly the same story, but in the end were almost completely different. It would've been super easy to recycle a few spots from last week's match between Benoit and Edge, slip in a couple of transitions and replace the finish, but neither Benoit nor Christian opted for that route. Another exceptional show-saving match from the workhorses of the roster.
Batista fell flat on the stick again to close the show, and although he regained most of the lost heat by foiling Hunter's attempted pedigree and removing him from the ring, the whole experience was subsequently tripped up by Hunter's oddball request for a match with Jim Ross. I was just waiting for Maven to pop up on the Titan Tron to announce "Yeah... JRKO!!!" or Benoit to translate it as "Just Rhyno," so the bizarro-world experience could be complete, but it never happened. Seriously, why wouldn't Ross just burst out laughing after a proclamation like that, considering his contract presumably doesn't read "professional wrestler" and Hunter isn't the man in charge of such decisions? This can only end in tears.
Not a good showing this week at all, despite a concentrated effort from Benoit and Christian, with Edge providing some rare entertaining celebrity commentary. I liked where the HBK / Hassan thing was going until they mentioned the name "Hogan," and Jericho / Benjamin looks like it could be interesting, but that's pretty much it for the positives this week. Two quick squash matches, a poor women's tag, a few bad promos and an uninspiring bookend mean this was several marks below average.
Overall Score: 3.6