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DENNY'S DUNGEON
Live at RAW in Miami!
June 22, 2004

by Denny Burkholder
Courtesy of WrestleLine.com

 

Continuing the WL/OO streak of consecutive LIVE Raw reports (which will end this week at 2, unless a thoughftul reader sends us something next Monday), I attended Raw last night in Miami. Here is your eyewitness report from within the confines of the American Airlines Arena.

Warning: I fully intend to list the Sunday Night Heat spoilers above the Live Raw report. So if you're one of the millions of loyal Heat viewers that prefers your television unspoiled, I guess you better stop here, and read the rest of this in about a week after you've seen the show.

DARK MATCHES

Hurricane & Rosey def. David Heath (formerly Gangrel/Vampire Warrior) & ?

-- Hurricane pinned Heath for the win. The former Gangrel was dressed in black, standard wrestling tights with shoulder straps and a red design on the legs. You know, it's a little odd after 15 years to see this guy introduced as plain-old "David Heath", while he still sports a very pronounced set of fangs. He was Gangrel for years during the WWF's highly-visible "Attitude" era. He was Vampire Warrior for years before that, and he's been Vampire Warrior all over the world since then. After all of that time, he's just evolved into some vanilla dude with a set of fangs? People in the crowd were aware of who he was, but weren't cheering him for it (unlike the familiar face in the next match). I got a couple good looks at his partner, but I didn't recognize him, nor could I make sense of Howard Finkel's introduction. (which sorta pissed me off, because I consider myself to be fairly up to speed on the Florida independent scene). I am positive someone reading this knows his name, so if you do, kindly email me and I will mention it in a future update.

Chuck Palumbo def. Norman Smiley

-- Look! We've regressed to an episode of WCW Thunder, circa 2000! Stormin' Norman comes out last, and gets a VERY nice ovation. I was actually a bit surprised, as Smiley seemed to not only be recognized by just as many people as David Heath, but they were actively CHEERING for him right out of the gate. Smiley did the trademark "Big Wiggle" all the way down the ramp, and countless times throughout the match (which was otherwise terrible). For those curious, the Wiggle has evolved. Whereas it used to involve tucking in the elbows and juking the shoulders a bit more, it's now more of a "tug of war" pantomime where Norman pretends to pull himself forward in tiny steps while gyrating his hips. Palumbo won the match with a bad-looking jungle kick.

I have to say that despite Norman Smiley having the crowd behind him, the actual match blew, and it looked to be as much Smiley's fault as it was Palumbo's. On Palumbo's end, the bulk of his offense was punching and shoulderblocking. On Smiley's end, he couldn't get a small advantage on Palumbo without stopping to mug for the crowd. On the whole, the match seemed very bland and uninteresting. (And yes, Austin Powers fans... Preparation H feels very good, "on the whole.")

-- Ladies and gentlemen, your Heat announcers, Todd Grisham and Jonathan Coachman. They were only at the announce position for the first match, then they left.

SUNDAY NIGHT HEAT TAPINGS

MATCH No. 1: Gail Kim def. Nidia

-- This wasn't too bad of a match, believe it or not. Nidia's got herself a nice-looking northern lights suplex. Gail Kim wins it with her modified Brock Lock submission hold, which looks badass and probably has a clever nickname I'm forgetting.

MATCH No. 2: Val Venis def. A-Train

-- Very standard fare from these two. If you saw this match in 1998, you've seen the match that will air on Heat. Venis wins clean with the Money Shot and pinfall. Not bad, but not at all memorable either.

MATCH No. 3: La Resistance def. Rhyno & Tajiri

The tag team champions retain by pinfall after their vertical-suplex-into-a-twisting-stunner type of finisher (as you read on, you'll understand more and more why I don't do recaps!). For the sake of giving everything move a Proper Pro Wrestling NicknameTM, I'll call it the "Get The Hell Out of Here." Conway is still introduced as "Row Bear" to make him sound French Canadian. They sang "Oh Canada" prematch. Suffice to say Miami is not an "Oh Canada" type of crowd, even less so than the majority of the U.S. Maybe "Oh Mexico" or "Hurray for Jamaica," or even "Three Cheers for Plastic Surgery," but not "Oh Canada." From what I recall, this match got a good chunk of time, but it could always be clipped for TV. Very entertaining, with Rhyno in particular looking good in the ring. Tajiri got a strong reaction from the crowd.

-- Here come Jim Ross & The King. Crowd reaction: Jerry Lawler gets a bigger response, but JR's was nothing to sneeze at.

MONDAY NIGHT RAW - 6.21.04
American Airlines Arena
Miami, Fla.

-- The Rock's music hits the start the show, and the entire arena goes INSANE. I actually didn't have time to check the Internet within a few hours of leaving for the show, so I had no idea he was going to be there (which made it all the more enjoyable). The Rock hits the ring and introduces us to his family (all the females) at ringside, and to Miami Dolphins Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor. The Rock takes a few pot shots at them, saying how they make $20 million a year but they show up to RAW wearing free Nike gear, and also that he didn't realize Miami PLAYED defense last season. Moving on, The Rock discusses the upcoming match pitting his friend Eugene against Triple H. As The Rock asks for Eugene to come to the ring, Evolution's music hits. Randy Orton comes to the ring in the three-piece suit with his Intercontinental Title belt on his shoulder. Orton tells The Rock there's a new young third-generation star in WWE, and he's lookin' at him. The crowd gets on Randy with the "asshole" chant. Rock retorts by saying he remembers young Randy Orton from the dressing rooms back when their dads wrestled. Rock states that a guy named Rocky Johnson whupped Cowboy Bob Orton's ass, the High Chief Peter Maivia laid the Samoan smack down on Bob Orton Sr., and his grandma slapped the lips off of the rest of Randy's ancestors. Rock remembers seeing Randy backstage at shows playing with a "My Pretty Pony" doll and a gerbil, whilst picking his nose and wiping the snot on his shirt. Randy responds that the My Pretty Pony doll belonged to his sister, and right now, Miami is EATING this up. Rock remembers watching Randy Orton running right past Andre the Giant, past The Junkyard Dog, and directly into King Kong Bundy's ballsack.

The Rock continues the trip down memory lane, describing how Cowboy Bob Orton took him over to introduce him to his son Randy, at which time The Rock saw Randy involved in the aforementioned dubious behavior. Rock said that when big daddy Orton told him his son would be a big star someday, he respectfully corrected him by saying that HE would someday whip his son's candy ass. Now we have a staredown between Orton and Rock. Rock wants to fight tonight, but Orton pusses out because he is in a suit, plus he has a match later that night. Not today, sayeth The Legend Killer. Not today, agrees La Roca, but TONIGHT. The Rock unloads on Randy Orton and sends him flying from the ring.

This prompts Eric Bischoff to emerge on the ramp with a bunch of yellow shirt arena security guards and a microphone with which to 'splain himself. Bischoff orders The Rock ejected from the arena by security, and if he resists even a little bit, he'll have him arrested by the REAL authorities. The Rock leaves on his own with the yellow shirt posse in tow, but carries the microphone out of the arena with him and continues riffing on people. He calls the security guards a bunch of oompa loompas. He tells Bischoff that if these guys are the best he can come up with, it's no wonder WCW died. This got an "oooh" from the crowd, which I didn't really get. I thought it was common knowledge at this point that Bischoff is particularly proud of his WCW work and doesn't feel responsible for its death. Whatever. As The Rock goes behind the curtain, he finds Trish Stratus and Tyson Tomko. Rock makes eyes at Trish and compliments Tomko on his TV show, "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."

Moving on, The Rock bumps into Hurricane and Rosey, also known as Grimace and The Hamburgular. He finds Molly Holly, greets her warmly, and then pulls her wig off. He bumps into Jonathan Coachman, and makes nice for attacking him a few weeks ago with Eugene. The Rock gets Coach to finally smile when he reminds him he's in Miami, and he can go out and get some of that Miami Pie later tonight. Coach smiles, and The Rock leaves him hanging on a high five. Randy Orton is still in the ring (you see, there's a RING in the arena because this is a WRESTLING program, sometimes). He's hollering for security to hurry up and get The Rock out of there already. The Rock tells Randy he's got something coming to him in three seconds, and counts him down until EDGE appears in the ring and spears him. Edge actually came through the crowd, and the whole thing probably played better on TV than it did live. When you can see the guy coming a mile away, it takes some of the pepper off the whole scene. Still, a FANTASTIC opening segment by one of the best sports entertainers ever (Rock), and the supporting cast of Orton, Bischoff, and those who made cameos.

-- Random useless note from the live show: Maven was watching this entire segment from beside the stage, in plain view of our section.

MATCH No. 1: TRISH STRATUS (Women's Champion) def. VICTORIA

I feel compelled to clarify something from Sean Swift's Raw Report, where he (rightfully) showed displeasure for any crowd that goes dead just because they refuse to show proper respect for female wrestlers. Having been in the arena, it was certainly dead silent. But the reason wasn't that fans weren't watching or weren't interested in reacting. Everyone around me was simply worn out from cheering their asses off for 25 minutes while The Rock segment was going on. The place was off the foundations for almost a full half hour, and I think people took the chance to catch their breath during the women's match. I could hear people around me commenting on Trish vs. Victoria, and it was not along the lines of "this match sucks." They were definitely interested... but it seemed like everyone was intentionally hushing themselves just to regain their composure after The Rock's appearance. He's a damn tough act to follow.

As for the match, it was a solid, entertaining pro wrestling outing. I got a kick out of Trish mocking Victoria's standing moonsault of rhymthmic convulsion. The match went swimmingly riiiight up until the end, where the referee completely blew the finish. Trish rolled Victoria up and grabbed the ropes, and in sliding to make the three count, the ref slid completely OUT of the ring - with his face about three inches in front of Trish's hand on the rope. He got a one-count off before finding himself standing outside the ring like an idiot, then tried to slide BACK INTO the ring to keep counting, except the ladies were blocking his re-entry. Rather than find a way to slap the mat two more times, he called for the bell, and left the fans in attendance even more silent than they were before. Trish Stratus retains on a friggin' ONE COUNT, and the ref CLEARLY saw her hand on the rope. Suspension of disbelief, we hardly knew ye. Notice on the instant replay of the rollup on TV, they don't show the count. That's because there basically WASN'T ONE. It's the Miami Screwjob!

Post-match, Trish and Tomko go all dickhead heel on Victoria and beat on her some more, until a freakish transvestite runs in to save her. Nobody on my side of the arena could get a good look at who it was (though one guy behind me loudly, and very wrongly, proclaimed it was "that big bitch from ECW," presumably referring to either Nicole Bass or Sal E. Graziano). Only upon reviewing the show later on (and reading Sean Swift's best guess) did I deduce that it was probably Steven Richards in drag, which makes it a little more plausible, given the history between Steven Richards and Victoria. But still, between exhaustion from The Rock's spontaneous marathon promo, a confusing blown finish, and a random drag queen saving Victoria from the heels, the live audience had an understandable "WHAT THE FUCK?" response to the whole segment.

-- Backstage segments include WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION CHRIS BENOIT pleading with Bischoff to let Eugene off the hook, even promising to give Triple H the title shot he so desperately craves. Bischoff says Benoit doesn't get it: it's not about Triple H, it's about Eugene. We also get William Regal in a spirited promo against Bischoff for what he's doing to Eugene. Bischoff responds by activating William Regal as a roster member and giving him his first match, NEXT, against Kane.

-- Regal doesn't even have time to get into some proper wrestling gear, and goes to the ring in a suit. The two British guys in front of us were apparently big fans of Regal (or else they were just happy to see someone else from the UK in South Florida). Kane's pyro BLASTS MY EFFIN' EYEBALLS OUT OF MY SKULL because even though I knew he was coming, I was still dumb enough to stare right at the place where the fire explodes from the stage. And it deserves repeating that if you've never been to a TV taping (or live WWE TV show) before, the broadcast doesn't even BEGIN to convey how loud the pyro is, especially when your seats are near the Tron like ours were. My fiancee and I yelled at each other the entire ride home, and we weren't even arguing.

MATCH No. 2: RANDY ORTON & BATISTA def. CHRIS JERICHO & EDGE

-- This was a fantastic match except for Batista damn near murdering Chris Jericho with a clothesline and the spot where Batista tried to fly over the tope rope and hung himself (causing Edge to try and SHAKE him over the top, before Batista finally JUMPED out of the ring in a spot that should have been abandoned after the first flub). After last week's Shawn Michaels/Kane angle, it's hard to say whether the Batista/Jericho spot was planned to remove Jericho from the match. If it wasn't planned, WWE did a good job of making us think it might have been, by conveniently going to commercial and having the match back in progress when they returned. The announcers didn't seem terribly concerned about Jericho, which could be taken two different ways, depending on your point of view: Either they glossed over it because it wasn't supposed to happen, or it was all scripted and they just slacked off on selling the seriousness of it.

From within the arena, everyone seemed to think it was real. It looked real to me, given the fact that Batista slapped Jericho's back to try and make him cooperate with being pulled to his feet, and got no response. The way the referees and the doctor rushed in didn't seem as grandiose as it usually does when it's staged, either. It was more of a "holy shit, we've got a man down, and we're on live TV" type of reaction where they got him to the back as quickly as possible and kept the show on schedule. Jericho was helped to the back without a stretcher, but he didn't really leave on his own power. Remember the footage of the referees walking Steve Austin to the dressing room after the botched Owen Hart piledriver, where Austin is just barely moving and the referees are supporting his weight? That's how Jericho left the ring, only worse. Jericho was conscious enough to try to take steps, but his legs were basically dragging behind him as the refs carried him to the back. If that means what it meant for Stone Cold, it's bad news for Jericho. Hopefully he's not hurt too seriously. I'm sure we'll all know in the next couple of days whether is was a work or not, and if not, how serious the damage is.

The rest of the match was superb, though, with all three guys carrying their load well. The crowd was into it, regaining some of the steam they lost after The Rock left the building.

-- Here's the deal on the Matt Hardy-Lita-Kane saga, guest starring Stacy Keibler as the wacky neighbor: NEVER ONCE did the live crowd take it seriously. It came across as such a dumb, predictable story that any reaction the crowd made was because it was unintentionally funny. First, it wasn't lost on anyone how ironic it is that Matt and Lita keep telling Stacy Keibler secrets ON LIVE NATIONAL TELEVISION. We know Matt and Lita are aware of the cameras; they're pro wrestlers. It's their job AND part of their characters. They know the fucking cameras are rolling, so why even bother with the "secrets" unless it's whispered, and not audible on TV? Second, any attempt to get sympathy for Lita flew out the window. If she can't think of a better way to protect Matt Hardy from Kane than to HAVE UNPROTECTED SEX WITH KANE, then she's either a slut, a moron, or a potent cocktail of both. The crowd gave her hell all the way back up the ramp with chants of "slut," "whore," and "you's a ho." That cannot be the reaction WWE was hoping for, but then again, how could they expect anything BUT that from such a ridiculous storyline? I know Kane's the bad guy here, but you can't just expect fans to blame him entirely because you told us he was bad. Most people are smarter than that. Speaking strictly in terms of their scripted characters, Kane's no angel. But Lita's an idiot, and people picked up on that without any trouble.

-- The backstage vignette where Eric Bischoff busts in on Eugene in the Evolution locker room and pretends to argue with Triple H: golden. Well played by all involved.

MATCH No. 3: TRIPLE H vs. EUGENE goes to a NO CONTEST

-- Random useless note from the live show: Dave "Fit" Finlay was watching this entire segment from beside the stage, in plain view of our section.

-- As Eugene enters the ring, some jackass throws a full bottle of beer into the ring, which nearly pegs Lillian Garcia in the head. Idiot. I didn't see whether that was picked up by the cameras, but there you have it. The match played out extremely well in front of the live crowd except for the fact that everyone was convinced The Rock would come out and save the day, and it didn't happen. Oh well... we can't blame WWE for our own assumptions, I guess.

Ric Flair looks much older in person. But he's Ric Flair and you're not, so he can look however he wants and he'll STILL be The Man, punk. What made this match cool was the interaction between Triple H, Flair and Eugene, which told the story much better than any wrestling sequence could have. The matwork was perfectly acceptable. I've seen tighter armdrags from Eugene, but I'll cut him slack since it was done in homage to Rick Steamboat. The ending, I thought, was perfect. Eugene needed to be brought down a peg. If he continued beating everyone, it would grow old on the fans, it would become predictable, and it would make fans cease to consider him an underdog. With Triple H clearly ready to pin Eugene cleanly, they showed that Eugene is capable of being beaten quite soundly by a wrestler like Triple H, while not actually making the leap to have him lose. Along the way, they let Eugene show that he is probably capable of upsetting Triple H... but he didn't pull it off this time. WWE ought to get more mileage out of this story arc now that they've avoided blowing it off in a one-shot upset (or squash).

AFTER RAW WENT OFF THE AIR

Evolution comes back to the ring and gets beaten on by Eugene and Chris Benoit. Benoit chops Triple H in the corner while Eugene lays in punches to the midsection. Triple H pushes them away and points at Flair, then does the Flair Flop in the middle of the ring. As Evolution heads back up the ramp, they do a comedy bit where all four of them stand side by side and walk backwards up the ramp while taunting Benoit and Eugene in the ring. When they reach the stage, they've veered to the right of the entrance. They all turn in unision and smack face-first into the stage. The crowd exits as Eugene and Benoit soak in cheers in the ring. The Rock never came back out.

OTHER STUFF

-- Diva Search segments: Nobody really gave a shit. Pretty girls, yay! This was Miami... many of the women in attendance at the AAA were hotter than those on the screen. The crowd was unimpressed. By the third time they stopped the live show to air pre-taped Diva Search b.s., people were getting quite annoyed.

-- In the arena at various times, they aired the Kid Rock "Lonely Road of Faith" video with all the historic WWF/WCW footage, which always goes over well. The also aired promos for the Hall of Fame and Bloodbath DVDs, as well as the latest Divas softcore swimsuit DVD while you folks at home were watching commercials. We got a few ads for The Great American Bash PPV. We only had to sit through one YJ Stinger promo.

-- Lillian Garcia sang the national anthem as per usual. A few fans take the liberty to raise Puerto Rican flags throughout the song. Freedom of speech.

-- They weren't letting people into the arena with cameras (especially digital cameras). There were a few in the crowd, probably with people resourceful enough to stash it somewhere security couldn't find (or lucky enough to wait in lines with the laziest security checkers).

-- As I mentioned in The Dungeon last week, I am a complete sucker for merchandise, even if I never wear it or use it. I just have a buyer's mentality, where if it looks cool on first sight, I'll usually plunk down for it, and fret about why the hell I did it later. My fiancee is the same way. So, after paying $15 to park the car in the garage at the AAA, and roughly $100 for the tickets, we combined to do the following damage at concessions:

- Randy Orton "Legend Killer Tour" T-shirt (for the woman): $25
- John Cena camouflage "You Can't See Me" T-shirt: $25
- Souvenir program: $15
- Disposable throwaway camera because THEY DON'T LET PEOPLE INTO THE ARENA WITH THEIR OWN CAMERAS THAT THEY PAID HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS FOR: $15. (According to Rick Scaia, this is a $5 markup from the price they charged in Dayton, Ohio. WWE knows how to milk the ol' cost-of-living ratio.)
- Medium Diet Coke: $3.50

So counting the $15 parking fee and estimating $100 for a pair of tix (because I can't be bothered to check for the exact amount), we burned a total of $198.50 to see Raw. Add the $2 in turnpike tolls, and we spent over $200 for an evening with the McMahon Family and their employees.

I have a feeling I might have more to say about being a paying WWE fan in this week's Dungeon, but now is neither the time nor place to begin that rant.

All in all, it was an enjoyable show highlighted by the always-welcome cameo by The Rock. There were only three matches, but two of them were great, and the other was acceptable notwithstanding the referee blowing the finish. We had a fantastic time.
 

E-MAIL DENNY
BROWSE THE CIRCA ARCHIVES


  
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