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Losing Steam
June 3, 2003

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


Man alive... if SmackDown! can be accused of Losing Focus, what with their long break between PPVs, then last night's RAW should probably get an award for Losing Steam.  The first hour-plus was one of the strongest portions of TV all year, but for whatever reason, the show limped home over the course of the last 30-40 minutes or so.

Nothing bad, mind you (in fact, every single creative decision made last night was one I agreed with), but just a bit... I don't know... off.  Stuff didn't click with the live crowd, and therefore didn't translate as well on screen, either.

Here's how it all went down....

Cold Open:  Rock Arrives in San Diego

In the parking lot, The Rock steps out of an SUV, and is still looking and acting every bit the same cocky heel he was for his three month run earlier this year.  Then he announces he IS the People's Champ, and he's here to talk to the people, not to talk to thin air.  So he looks directly at the camera, says he'll be out to talk to us later, and then, unfortunately, talks briefly about his own ass.

Opening Credits / Pyro / Et Cetera

Trish Stratus/Ivory/Jacqueline vs. Jazz/Victoria/Molly Holly

The entire women's division is in this match!  And how often have you ever seen a six-person tag match where all six participants are former World's Champions?  Never!  Alright, so you still don't care about this.  That is your prerogative.  But the girls are still gonna try, dammit.  Trish cleans house early in the match, and the heels are assembled out on the floor; and Ivory jumps off the top rope onto them.  Lucha Ivory!  Later in the match, after the heels have controlled a few minutes, a hot tag to Ivory, and she flies off the top rope again!  Why is Ivory getting all these highspots?  Because, after Jackie and Trish take out Victoria and Molly, Ivory is left alone in the ring with Jazz.  She hits the X-Factor, and wins!  So obviously, Ivory is the last sacrificial lamb to the altar of Jazz before Lita comes back?  That's my guess.  Solid 5 minute match, and I, of course am happy to see Ivory go over.  It was also good to see Molly on TV at all without having to remember to watch Heat.

Backstage:  Bill Goldberg shows up in his Barracuda, and declines to be interviewed by the Coach.


Backstage: Stacy Keibler has -- wonder of wonders -- actually REVIEWED THE VIDEOTAPE from last week, and is confronting Test about the way he pulled her into harm's way and then laughed about it.  She tells him "it's over," but Test opines that he has a binding contract with Stacy and that she must, at the very least, continue to be his marketing director.  Oooh, the tension!

Hurricane vs. [Lance Storm, supposedly]

Hurricane is making his entrance for a match, but halfway down the ramp, he is attacked by Randy Orton.  Orton beats down Hurricane, and then drags him backstage while Ric Flair and Triple H saunter down to the ring for an interview, instead.

In Ring Promo: The Surviving Members of Evolution

It's all Ric Flair on the mic to start.  He says, sure, he was honored when Shawn Michaels revealed last week that he grew up idolizing him.  But he also said that there have been hundreds of other Nature Boy wannabes who he has seen come and go, and Michaels is no different.  Flair never passed a torch on to Michaels, because Michaels never went out and wrestled 350 nights a year, bled every night (at this point, Flair made a BLATANT blading motion with his hand, which made me chuckle;  were I a Satirist, I'd have had HHH Pedigree him right there for EXPOSING THE BUSINESS), slept with 3000 women (Flair's a pussy... that's only 0.3 Chamberlain!), and so on and so forth.  Also, the only way to become the man is to beat The Man.  Which leads directly to Flair getting down on his knees and salaaming to Triple H, who did beat him, fair and square, two weeks ago.  Flair is in the middle of praising HHH as the new Man and Randy Orton as a possible future Future The Man when Shawn Michaels music hits.

Michaels stands on the ramp to address Flair.  He says he knew that he was taking a chance by revealing that he idolized Flair, but he warns Flair that he's no longer a little boy sitting in front of a TV with dreams of tomorrow.  He's the man who didn't wait to be handed a torch.  He TOOK the torch in the 90s and took wrestling to places it had never been before after Flair left to go "down south."  Michaels calls himself the Show Stopper, the Headliner, the Main Event, and then promises to take that torch and shove it where the sun don't shine at Bad Blood.  
HHH briefly grabs the mic, and says if Michaels wants to go sticking things up people's asses so bad, why not come down and do it now.  Michaels, oddly enough, agrees.  Hmmm, I wonder if he's got back-up?  Yep.  There's Kevin Nash coming out behind him.  And there's Hurricane in the ring with a steel chair!  [Hey, good call, The Me!]  The faces successfully send Evolution scurrying to the backstage area.  Sweet promo work by Flair and HBK throughout this bit, and so sue me if I got an extra special kick out of seeing Hurricane inserted as the side-evening sixth man.


Scott Steiner vs. Steven Richards

Steiner has Stacy, and uses her in a way he's never bothered to use the English language: namely, "effectively."  Upon entering the ring, Scott has Stacy bend over and, as The Cubs Fan noted, do the damn finest version of the hokey pokey I've ever seen.  One leg in, one leg out.  Repeat as necessary.  As a veteran of lord knows how many weddings with obnoxious DJs, trust me, I've seen some hokey pokeying, too.  The match: Steiner squashes Richards in about one minute.  Half-way through, Test comes out on the ramp and watches it all with a smile.  He keeps smiling even when Steiner blatantly repeats Stacy's Hokey Pokey Spot on the way out of the ring.  Why, oh why is he smiling through all this?

Post-Match Interlude:  Eric Bischoff comes out and announces that even though Stacy apparently WANTS to manage Steiner, he cannot dismiss her binding contract with Test.  Therefore, at Bad Blood, it's Test vs. Steiner, one on one, with Stacy on the line.  Sadly, I don't think the winner will get to strip Stacy naked, paint her gold, and then have her wrap her legs around his waist.  But if somebody from WWE is reading, hey, there's a billion dollar idea for you.  Or at least a really shitty Lawler joke that nobody will laugh at.


Bad News:  Jim Ross announces that just as RAW was going on the air, WWE received word that Freddie Blassie had passed away.  Blassie had just been on RAW 3 weeks ago, doing an angle with the Dudley Boyz in support of his new book, but was hospitalized shortly thereafter.  Obviously OO seconds every bit of JR and the King's best wishes to all of Blassie's family, friends, and fans.

Backstage:  Eric Bischoff and Steve Austin are in a high level meeting.  Austin likes Bischoff's Test/Steiner match, but says he's got an idea for tonight:  HBK/Nash/Hurricane vs. HHH/Flair/Orton.  Bischoff likes that, too.  But talk turns to their competition at the PPV.  Bischoff says he was hoping Austin was just joking about that last week, but Austin wasn't.  So they throw a couple of ideas out there, and eventually come to a compromise.  Courtesy of Bischoff, it will be a triathlon.  Courtesy of Stone Cold, it will be done in red neck fashion.  That's right:  at Bad Blood, it will be Austin vs. Bischoff in the first ever Red Neck Triathlon.  Or lord, this will either be really funny, or mind-numbingly stupid.  I don't see any middle ground.

Backstage:  Terri is interviewing Goldberg, who avoids an embarrassing mis-use of the word "ass" for about 15 seconds before he is distracted by a live feed of Chris Jericho on a video screen.  Jericho is checking out Goldberg's barracuda.  And then, he tosses yellow paint on it!  Ohhh, nasty!  Goldberg sprints to the parking lot, but Jericho has fled the scene in his rental car.  Goldberg hops in the 'cuda to give chase, and this time, he successfully peels out in true Bad Ass fashion.  If only his mic skills were progressing as quickly as his manual transmission skills...


WWE.com Update:  I forgot to mention earlier that an online poll was asking the pressing question "Will JR's Cookbook be a flop or a best-seller?"... turns out 65% say "Best Seller," and 35% say "Flop."  And all due respect to JR and his work, but I say that this is a retarded, pointless question, and 100% of anyone who got online to answer it should be punched one time in the eyeball.

The Highlight Reel

Tonight's special guest host is Christian, substituting for the on-the-lam Chris Jericho.

Christian wastes no time renaming the segment "The Peep Show," and introduces his guest, The Rock.  Rock comes out and congratulates Christian on doing exactly what the Rock told him to do: seizing opportunity when it presented itself.  But when Rock decides to say "howdy" to the live crowd in catchphrase fashion, Christian cuts him off, and things take a decidedly confrontational turn.  Christian reveals, for the first time, that he is the NEW People's Champion, that he's on a roll, that he's on fire... that he's "on crack" (supplies the Rock).  Rock tells Christian to just ask the people if he thinks he's really the new People's Champ.  Christian goes to all four sides of the ring and gets boos.  Of course, he hears cheers.  But that's not good enough for the Rock, who actually wants to go out to the People and poll them one at a time.  This results in a complete mod scene in which Rock is only able to get maybe 2 or 3 people to go on record as saying The Rock is the People's Champ before security gets (rightfully) scared and forms a protective bubble around the Rock.  Rock decides to end the segment with a little more catchphrase lovin', but it's at this point that Jericho returns to the building and interrupts.

Jericho tells Christian to yield the floor, and further more, insists that the Rock gets back in the ring.  Once Jericho and Rock are face to face, Jericho asks the rather loaded question, "Seeing as how I've never been Speared by Goldberg, and never will be Speared by Goldberg, I'd just like to ask you, Rocky, how does it feel to be Speared by Goldberg?"  Ohh, burn!  Rock's short answer, "It hurts."  Jericho tries to end the interview right there, but Rock wants to expand on his answer, "It hurts, but not half as bad as it'll hurt when I stick my boot up your candy ass, bitch."  Jericho takes issue with that, and signals to Christian to begin the two-on-one attack.  Rock is taking his lumps for about 30 seconds... and although the crowd is chanting for Goldberg, it's Booker T who comes out and makes the save.  Rock and Booker run the heels off, and then as a special bonus, Booker convinces the Rock to give the fans a "Rock-a-roonie."  Rock does the spinaroonie just about as well as Austin sings "America the Beautiful," if you catch my drift.

Very entertaining segment that, even if it reeked of "one-night ratings scam," accomplished what it had to.  The Rock is once again a babyface, which means it'll be OK for fans to be excited to go see his movie when it comes out later this summer.  Also, and to me this is the important thing, it means that when he comes back again early in 2004, he can have a killer program with Jericho if the higher-ups are so inclined.


Backstage:  Christian and Jericho are looking to get out of the building before Goldberg returns, but Austin catches up to them and stops them.  He has other plans...

Rene Dupree vs. Kane

The counter-point to last week's Grenier vs. RVD match, but with the same result.  Grenier and RVD actually get involved in this one, too, but ultimately, it's Grenier's interference that is the more effective.  He distracts Kane, allowing Dupree to sneak up from behind, hit a brutal low blow, and roll up Kane for a three count.  La Resistance is now two-for-two in singles matches against the tag champs.

Post-Match Interlude:  Steve Austin comes out, and immediately excuses La Resistance and RVD.  But he wants to talk to Kane.  Austin wants to know what happened to the monster Kane who took his title in a First Blood match.  How is he losing via roll-up to some rookie?  He wants to know if there really is still any "fire burning within" as his entrance video suggests.  He does everything he can to incite Kane, shoving him, slapping him, even taking Kane's hand and placing it around his own (Stone Cold's) throat BEGGING him to deliver a chokeslam, to show some sign of his old fury.  When Kane refuses and acts disinterested (or maybe mildly frustrated) in the whole speech, Austin gets fed up and delivers the kick, the wham, and the Stunner.  Austin's shaking his head in frustration as he walks up the ramp, but then Kane does the Zombie Sit-up, and almost seems to be showing some emotion.  And that makes Stone Cold happy.  The match was nothing, maybe 90 seconds, but the post-match between Austin and Kane could be the start of something really cool.  I'd love to see this develop kind of along the lines of a Frankenstein's monster thing, where Austin lights the fire under Kane, but rapidly loses control as Kane (d)evolves back into a viable heel main eventer.  But just as I did with Big Show last fall, I warn that this is a process that takes time:  last night was the START of something, and now there must be follow-up work done, not just a random pushing of an established mid-card tag teamer as a sudden main event threat.


Backstage: Triple H walks out of a room -- the door is helpfully labeled "Officials" -- and has a big smile on his face.

At the Commentary Desk:  Jerry Lawler (acting all spontaneous) suggests that a new WWE.com poll should ask if Stone Cold was justified in giving Kane the Stunner....  and then they move on to hype all the matches for the upcoming Bad Blood PPV.

Backstage 2:  HHH walks into the Evolution dressing room and reveals to Flair and Orton that if his plan works, he might not even have to worry about a Hell in the Cell match against Kevin Nash.

Backstage 3:  Christian and Chris Jericho have changed into wrestling gear, and it is revealed that Austin has booked them into a match against Booker T and Goldust.  Jericho and Christian vow to get this over as fast as they can in case Goldberg decides to come back.


Booker T/Goldust vs. Chris Jericho/Christian

We get the ring entrances and then all of about 45 seconds of action before we cut to...


You know, maybe it's things like that that made the last half hour or so of RAW seem a bit off-kilter, pacing-wise?  Anyway, the match progresses with Goldust and Jericho powdering out, allowing Booker to score the pinfall following the scissors kick on Christian.  Probably about a 7 minute match counting the commercial break, and what we saw was good enough.  If Christian retains the IC Title at Bad Blood, then I understand and agree with the last two weeks worth of jobs... if not, then... well, let's just wait and see.

After the match, Jericho got in the ring and was getting ready to paste Booker in the head with Christian's IC Title belt, but referee Charles Robinson grabbed the other end of the belt and started a tug of war.  Simultaneously, Goldberg decided to run out and get him some of Jericho.  Goldberg lined up the Spear, but at the last second, Jericho dodged and yanked Robinson into the Spear.  Jericho and Christian made their get-away as Goldberg, sensitive guy that he is, knelt down over Robinson and screamed for medics to come help him.  They sold it like Robinson was dead, or something.


Backstage:  Austin and Bischoff have been called to the "Officials" room, where Earl Hebner informs them that after what HHH did to him with a sledgehammer at the last PPV and after Tim White was forced out of his ref job following an injury at the last HitC match, none of the RAW brand officials would work that HHH/Nash Hell in the Cell match.  Bischoff got frantic, but Austin had an idea.  He knows a sick, crazy sumbitch who's just a phone call away who would hop into the Cell in a heartbeat.  Bischoff says, alright, make that call.  Crowd chants, "Foley, Foley, Foley."

Damn you smart fans, can't you let ANYthing be a surprise.  Um, wait... I mean, the fans were chanting "Terry, Terry, Terry," because the one and only Middle Aged and Crazy Terry Funk is the #1 Choice for the Special Guest referee!  Even though he doesn't have a new book coming out that he'd like free publicity for!

WWE.com Update: turns out that more people think Austin was justified Stunnering Kane than think JR's book will be a best seller.  I think it was 72% to 28% in favor of the Stunner, or something like that (I foget).  Unlike the other poll, this is the sort of thing that almost makes sense if they could pepper maybe a dozen of these throughout the show.  Sort of like how they do for the Super Bowl or World Series, when they let viewers be armchair coaches/managers... viewers will get to feel like they're "part of the show" while the Fed might gain some insight into how their core fans think and how they might use that to their advantage.  It's all a matter of picking the right questions and then using a bottom of the screen scroll to keep fans updated so that you don't have clunky segments with King pimping the online poll between matches.

Triple H, Ric Flair, and Randy Orton vs.

Three separate ring entrances for the members of Evolution segue directly into...


HHH/Flair/Orton vs. Shawn Michaels/Kevin Nash/The Hurricane

Smoke from the babyface pyro fills the arena as the match starts, always adding another layer to my mild annoyance.  Michaels starts for his team and gets off to a hot start against Orton.  He eventually tags out and gives Hurricane a chance to do some stuff, but once Hurricane is spent, it's back to HBK.  Notice how Nash was kept safely on the ring apron?  This time around, things get a little sloppy.  I caught Michaels vamping once or twice when Nash or Orton's timing was off on "distract the ref and let the heels attack from behind" spots, and it just never seemed like things got fully on track.  Eventually they settled in for a brief beatdown on Michaels so he could make the ostensibly "hot" tag to Nash.  But by now, the lack of chemistry had pretty well taken the fans out of the match.  Though Orton was legal, HHH took the brunt of Nash's attack.  Somehow, in the melee, Hurricane got tagged back in, while Nash and Michaels powdered out.  HHH hit Hurricane with a Pedigree, and then Orton made the cover.  Ref Hebner counted to two, looked briefly confused, and then just called for the bell.  What the fuck?  Add Earl to the list of guys who just weren't clicking in this main event, I guess... that was the planned finish, I'm sure, and you give the pinfall win to Evolution, despite how things looked.  After the match, the heels tried to continue the attack, but Nash was on a rampage: he eventually gave HHH the Jackknife, and the show ended with Michaels and Nash standing tall.   

Super idea for the main event... the precise thing I would have done, actually.  But whether because of pacing in the latter portion of the show or due to the fans being spent after the hot Rock/Jericho/Christian thing or just plain old no chemistry between the seven men in the match, it just did not come off very well.  Sort of a let down of an ending to a show that seemed to do a lot of things right.

More thoughts on RAW, plus some Freddie Blassie memories, will follow in tomorrow's regular OO column... 


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