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How Good Can It Get?
July 22, 2003

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


Once upon a time, the wisest of wise men wrote, "It's a RAW you'd have to turn over to the monkeys with the Random Booking Generator to screw up."  OK, so the time was yesterday, the man was me, and the subject was last night's edition of RAW.

I use that quote to showcase my analytic ability, because the tangent about how last night was like-a-PPV-only-for-free turned out to be off base.  The Fed certainly didn't screw anything up badly last night, but also didn't leave me thinking I'd seen anything genuinely special.  It was, in the end, an entertaining Monday night of wrestling... but not a pay-per-view like atmosphere in any way.

And no, before you start imagining things, this has nothing to do with the Rock going around on radio saying he'd be appearing on the July 21 RAW, only to not be there.  I'll grade this RAW based on what showed up on my screen, not on 2-week-old rumors, thank you very much.

So let's get down to business, shall we?

Video package: Kane's antics dating back 2 weeks, tied in with all the drama between Steve Austin and Eric Bischoff limited mostly to last week.

Opening music/video/pyro, and we're live at the Staples Center in LA, where the over-under on somebody making a lame Kobe Bryant comment (I'm looking at you, King) is about 18 minutes.  Ooops, wait, there's two signs in the audience right there.   Hope you bet the Under.

Opening Promo: Eric Bischoff and Friends

Bischoff starts off the show by himself in the ring, and he's in a nice suit.  You can tell right away he's expecting a VIP as a guest.  Bischoff gets about 2 minutes into recapping just why Steve Austin is a terrible person for unleashing the New Kane when unfamiliar music interrupts him.  Oh, it's Linda McMahon; she's updated her sound from Shitty Early 90's Pop to Shitty Mid-90's Pop, I guess.

Anyway, Linda makes it to the ring, and tells Eric to just cool it.  Eric put words in her mouth, and she doesn't like that; she's NOT here to fire Steve Austin.  She says Austin's not responsible for Kane's actions, Kane is responsible for Kane's actions.  Further, although Jim Ross has NOT pressed charges yet, authorities have placed Kane under house arrest.  This means (a) he is still allowed to come to work and make a living, (b) he'll be here tonight to face Rob Van Dam, and (c) he'll be accompanied by cops when he does so.  Bischoff takes the chance to tell Linda he thinks this is a GREAT idea, when his blatant ass kissing is interrupted by very familiar music.

Steve Austin is out to the ring.  He tells everybody that he's not sorry for anything he did, that he did it all thinking it was the best thing to do for the product at the time.  And he also says that if JR won't press charges against Kane, that's fine, because Austin will get Kane in this ring and whoop his ass himself.

At this point, Linda pipes up and says even if she's not going to fire Austin tonight, RAW still has a problem in the General Manager's office, and it's caused by Austin going around beating up the Superstars.  That's NOT in his job description.  Linda tells Austin he's on like a probation or something: he's not allowed to physically attack any other wrestlers, unless provoked (oh good lord, this arbitrary designation again).  Austin doesn't like it, and Linda gives him a week to think about it.  In fact, to make sure Austin doesn't do anything rash tonight, she gives him the rest of the night off.  When Bischoff acts like a total ass celebrating Austin's departure, Linda decides that's behavior not becoming a GM and gives HIM the night off, too.  Bischoff leaves steaming, and Austin shares a beer with Linda on his way out.  

OK, so plus 10 points for attempted realism with the "Kane under house arrest" thing.  But minus about 1000 for implementing it logically.  If the crime you committed was in the workplace, I don't think there's any legal body in the nation that would send you back to work "under house arrest or no."  And having cops escort Kane to work?  Well, let's just say that opens up a whole can of worms when they have to sit around and do nothing while Kane commits further monstrous acts... what?  It's just their job to get him to the arena, and then it's hands off?  I ain't buying it.

Good soap opera-ish episodic TV though, as far as the Austin/Bischoff thing goes.  They make Austin's questionable status a big drawing card for this week, and inside of 15 minutes, they turn it around and make the very same issue an interesting topic for next week.


The Stars of UPN are out tonight: "Dwayne and Denny Mullet" are shows sitting in the front row, and are announced as such.  God, I hate it when they try to get TV shows over by having actors appear as their fictional characters on wrestling shows.  Why not just slap me in the face and call me retarded for even TRYING to suspend disbelief?

Trish Stratus and Gail Kim vs. Molly Holly and Victoria

Gail Kim started the match, and tagged out within about 30 seconds so Trish could get the babyface beatdown.  During this time, Coach and King started the first of their kind of obnoxious bickering sessions in which King tried to get Coach to admit that he didn't really care about JR getting set on fire, on the grounds that it meant an opening for Coach to work on RAW.  Coach didn't bite at first, but Lawler kept going back to it throughout the night.  Note to King: this would be interesting if the Fed hadn't already had a couple opportunities to do something interesting or heelish with Coach, and passed on them all.  So just let it rest and pay attention to the actual, you know, match. Just like I havne't.  OK, about 3 minutes in, we get a hot tag to Gail Kim, who proceeds to get a "You fucked up" chant from the live crowd when she missed the walk-up-the-ropes armdrag.  Jesus, you people are rough.  Molly gets her through the missed spot, and finally we get aligned for the finish, which is Trish trying to make a save for Gail... but her Chick Kick (I can't believe I finally broke down and typed that stupid name) was dodged by Victoria, and landed on Gail by accident.  Molly yanked Trish out of the ring, Victoria made the cover, and the heel team won.  

Gail's one spot of trouble aside, not a bad little four minute match.  If nothing else, it told its story, which was Trish accidentally causing Gail's first ever loss in WWE.  Actually this makes them "even," now, as Gail accidentally eliminated Trish from the women's title battle royal a few weeks back, though I don't know if they intend for that to come into play or not.  We'll see in coming weeks if one or the other is gonna go heel or something....

WWE.com Poll of the Day: Coach and King tell us to get on the web and vote on "Should JR press charges against Kane?".  All I can think about is voting "Hell, no" on "Should Coach and King quit bickering like a married couple of 50 years?" as they get off on another tangent here.  Maybe this is where the bickering really kicked in, earnestly, instead of during the actual match above... I don't recall precisely.  But it somewhere around here.


Backstage: Terri is positioned at some entrance or another, and is promising to be there to cover Kane's arrival at the building when Chris Jericho walks up and interrupts.  He talks a good line of trash about Shawn Michaels, and basically promises to win his WrestleMania rematch later tonight.  [Good stuff, but really kind of inadequate to make the match feel like something major.]

The camera tracks with Jericho as he walks away, and he bumps into a departing Steve Austin, and the two have a staredown.  Then the camera decides to track with Austin, who almost immediately bumps into an also-departing Eric Bischoff.  They argue briefly over who is to blame for their joint dismissals tonight, and then they're both gone for the night.

Randy Orton vs. ?????

Coming out to the "Theme from Evolution" (now updated with lyrics, which I'm guessing are supplied by Lemmy/Motorhead) Orton is flanked by Ric Flair and Triple H, and apparently, we're out here not to wrestle just yet, but to cut a promo.  Orton recalls Mick Foley's comments from a month ago, when Foley accused him of being all potential, but having done nothing to prove himself, yet.  So Orton asks if throwing Foley down some stairs and then beating all three Dudleys "by himself" last week qualifies as doing something.  Flair and HHH think it does.  Orton then proclaims that although he wants to retain all rights and privileges due the holder of the title "Lady Killer," he now, additionally, wants to be known as "The Legend Killer" Randy Orton.   Well, alright, finally get this kid a gimmick... now let's see if it's even half as entertaining as RNN was...


Randy Orton vs. Val Venis

Triple H went over to do commentary for this match, which was basically an extended squash for Orton.  I mean, he and Val did some decent work, but nobody cared because the outcome seemed pretty obvious.  On commentary, HHH was gushing with praise for Orton for about 1 minute, and then King and Coach shifted discussion over to what was next for HHH (he said he'd "handpick" his next challenger since he's beaten everybody there is on the roster).  Finish came with Val missing a Money Shot, to which Randy followed up with the RKO (Diamond Cutter).  Not bad for a 3-minute, legit-drama-free match that was quite transparently only booked to try to get Orton's new gimmick over.

Evolution Promo

With the match over, HHH left the desk to go to the ring and join Flair and Orton.  He got on the stick and talked about how Evolution are the best in the business.  Then he had Orton put on the new Evolution t-shirt (sporting the kinda trying-too-hard-to-be-cool catchphrase of "Paid, Laid, and Made") and got off onto a tangent about how nobody in the company could stop them.  So finally, after three weeks of wondering what the hell was going on, they hit Goldberg's music.

Goldberg came out and said something that would have been much cooler if he'd condensed it down to, "You think you're the best in this business, HHH.  But when I look at you, I don't see you as anything but... NEXT."  Once Goldberg got done with his extended remix of those comments, Evolution briefly teased setting Goldberg up for a 3-on-1 triangulation of fire before HHH started smirking and calling off the troops.  "On our terms" seemed to be the lesson HHH wanted Goldberg to get as Evolution pussed out to boos.

Simple way of getting Goldberg and HHH together for the first time.  They could have made it feel bigger if Evolution had sacrificed someone (I guess it would had to have been Flair on this night) to get pounded by Goldberg, and then had HHH/Orton show genuine fear as they backed away (instead of the cocky "on our terms" attitude they had, which did nothing to make Goldberg feel like any more serious a challenger than the rest of the chumps HHH has spent a year dismissing).  Still OK, though...


Backstage: Orton is fuming about not being allowed to punk out Goldberg, but HHH and Flair talk him down.  They tell him to just stick to The Plan and to do things on their own terms.  And apparently, only half of The Plan has been implemented, and it's up to Orton to make sure the other half gets done later tonight.  Ooooh, the intrigue!

Chris Jericho vs.....


Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels

Match starts off slowly with some chain wrestling: arm locks and headlocks for a while, culminating in a cool series of traded near falls at about the 3-4 minute mark.  Unfortunately, due to the poor promotion of the match (since the Montreal Highlight Reel, the sum of hype done for this was one sentence last week from Jericho, and 30 seconds backstage earlier tonight from Jericho, which does nothing to convince the crowd that this is really important), this is dying a slow death with the LA audience.  I mean, Jericho and Michaels are obviously on a slow burn here for something a bit different than your usual 10 minute TV match, but they're still peppering in a few highspots even this early.  But the crowd's just not into it, yet.

Then, at about the five minute mark, Ric Flair makes an unexpected run-in, and things start to perk up a bit.  Michaels sees Flair coming, and takes him down immediately, so we don't even know what Flair's original agenda was. But the distraction alone was enough to tilt things back in favor of Jericho, who appears to be locking in the Walls of Jericho when, out of nowhere, we crash to....


When we come back, King tries to blame Coach for the sudden ad break, and then we proceed to get a status report:  Flair is still at ringside for an indeterminate purpose, Michaels managed to escape the Walls, but Jericho is still in control.  OK, thanks, guys.  Crowd is way more into this, now, a tribute to HBK and Y2J overcoming the lack of opportunity they had to build the hype verbally.  A few more minutes in after the ad break, and Flair manages to attack Michaels outside the ring while the ref is distracted with Jericho; this seems to make his agenda clear, though King muddies the waters by saying that might just be Flair responding to Michaels' earlier, unprovoked attack, and that now he'll just sit back and enjoy the match, again.  Some of King's better attempted rationalization of the night, actually.  We're building, building, building... more top rope attacks, more reversed superplexes into Macho Man elbow drops, more uses of a steel chair that the ref happens to miss; that kind of thing.  High impact stuff that leaves ref Earl Hebner counting both men down.  Finish finally came with Ric Flair distracting the ref outside the ring, allowing Randy Orton (executing Part Two of The Plan) to run in and hit the RKO on Michaels; the twist is that he planted Michaels face first into the aforementioned steel chair.  As Hebner got done ejecting Flair from ringside, Orton made his get-away, and Jericho crawled over to make a cover.  But he only got a dramatic 2 count.  Jericho proceeded to slap on the Walls of Jericho; though he did at one point use the ropes illegally to maintain leverage on the hold, Jericho kept HBK in the Walls for about 90 seconds, pulling him away from a rope break at the last second.  Michaels finally tapped out.  Jericho is your winner, though Michaels will be able to lay some blame on Orton and Jericho's use of the ropes, if he wants.  

I also can't use my quote from Monday about there being no way they'd give Michaels and Jericho 25 minutes like they had at WM19... because that's almost exactly what they got.  Second half of the match was pretty damned sweet; first half wasn't bad, but lacked electricity.  The finish?  Well, I say getting Orton's "Legend Killer" gimmick over is worth the run-in and screwy outcome.  I know others disagree, and think Jericho gets short-changed in this deal.  I don't know: to me, it almost would have been MORE climactic if they'd just had the match end after Orton's run-in than the way they did it with the Walls finish (which seemed to leave the crowd -- and me -- anticipating HBK's superman comeback, rather than his tapping out).  Because the way Jericho's character works, what's important is that next week, he gets to talk -- and talk, and talk -- about beating Michaels (and it's not so important how he actually did it).  So I liked this match and its finish just fine.  It wasn't their WM19 match over again, but it was very good.


Lance Storm's Prepared Statement

In an attempt to impress assembled Hollywood agents and producers (including Rob Reiner, seated at ringside), Lance Storm has prepared an essay about why he should be the next major motion picture star.  Unfortunately, about 30 seconds in, something happens backstage and we cut to:

Backstage:  Kane, escorted by police and in full shackles, arrives at the arena.  We get a few seconds of him making his way into the building before we forget all about poor Lance in favor of some...


Video Package: Terri, Ivory, and the APA were over in the Middle East last week, entertaining the troops.  Well, Ivory and the APA seemed to be "interacting with" more than "entertaining," but Terri busted out a red, white, and blue swimsuit that seemed to be suitably amusing for our Boyz.

Booker T vs. Test (IC Title Match)

Again, not a terrible idea for a match, as Test's been a strong heel lately, but NO PREVIOUS SEGMENT TO PROMOTE THE MATCH MEANS INSTANT DEATH.  Story here seems to be building to a four-way IC Title situation, as early in this match, they showed us Christian watching the match on a monitor.  Then at about the 3 minute mark (after your generic back-and-forth action), Scott Steiner and Stacy came out on the stage to distract Test.  This was done via Stacy removing her skirt and shaking that ass of hers.  While Test was oogling, Booker rolled him up; that only got a 2 count.  Then Booker hit the Book End, and that netted him the three count and the win.  About 4 minutes or so; OK action-wise, but not nearly as effective as it could have been if they'd done a little hype work or made it more clear if we're building to a 4-way deal or what.

WWE.com Poll Update: turns out 62 percent of you think JR should press charges, 38 percent say no.  Coach and King are both in the 62 percent.  Wow, that was illuminating.


Backstage: this week, we visit the BABYFACE b-team locker room, where people are arguing over whether RVD or Kane will win tonight.  Finally, we pan over to Hurricane, who is sitting next to Rosey.  Hurricane laments that his old friend and tag partner, Kane, has decided to go all nutso on us.  Then he tells Rosey that he sees superhero potential in him (Rosey).  Goldust swoops in, having overheard half the conversation, and likes the idea of Rosey becoming a Super Hero In Training.  That's right, kids, Rosey just might be The SHIT.  This could either turn out very funny or so dumb it'll knock a dozen points off your IQ every week.  We'll see.

Kane vs. ?????

Kane made his big ring entrance, still in chains, and escorted by cops, who slowly remove all the chains, and allow Kane's music to get to an Angry Bridge that I'd never heard before (but which I am assured has always been there).  It suited him well, better than the plaintiff wailing of the part of his song we usually hear, anyway.  Once Kane hits his pyro, we cut to....


Kane vs. Rob Van Dam

If this one every got officially underway, it didn't stay officially underway for long.  RVD tried to get off to a fast start but sprinting in and attacking, but this quickly went to the outside and remained there.  Kane and RVD followed to the top of the entrance ramp, where they were intent on doing some spots.  When ref Nick Patrick FINALLY decided to let them know he did not approve, Kane just punched him in the face.  So if you really want a result, it's probably RVD by DQ at about the 2 minute mark or something...  but that doesn't really matter.

What matter is the brawl continued, with RVD going headfirst into one of the monitor panels, causing some nice sparks and power outages.  Then, when Kane threatened to chokeslam RVD off the stage, like he did to Bischoff, officials (including Arn Anderson and Johnny Ace) rushed out to put a stop to that.  So Kane goes nuts on some officials for a while, and then he spots Linda McMahon standing behind them.  Uh oh.  He grabs Linda for a chokeslam, and RVD is still out from the shot he took into the monitor, and the officials are either out or cowards, so Jerry Lawler decides to leave his position and interrupt the chokeslam attempt.  But he's quickly dispatched by Kane.  Now, there's nobody left to rope in Kane, and he picks Linda up... but it's not for a chokeslam.  Nope.  This time, he decides to Tombstone her.  And he does (Pete Rose caliber, if you get my drift, but from a good camera angle, damned effective as a visual).  Kane sort of admires his handiwork, then saunters off as Coach rushes over to try to fill in the groggy Arn Anderson on what just happened.  Then we hit the credits and we're out.

OK, so look: I could sit here all day and point out the logical holes in this deal with Kane.  The "house arrest but he can still go to work" thing.  The fact that officials rushed out, en masse, to save RVD from taking a bump that Eric Bischoff had taken a few weeks earlier (and which RVD should, reasonably, be able to handle better than Bischoff).  The fact that a phalanx of cops just unchained Kane and then let him do whatever he wanted to whoever he wanted.  The fact that the same cops were nowhere to be seen when Kane just sort of wandered off after he was done.  Great job, guys.

But I'll let logic take a holiday for a moment, because within about 2 minutes of RAW finishing up, I was in the shitty new OO Chat Room (already re-replaced by the old one, I guess) saying this whole thing might be salvageable if they just go balls-out over-the-top with it.  Just go purely for the visual and the visceral.  This means ramping up Kane's pointless carnage to the point where "officials" have no choice but to have Kane making his ring entrances in full Hannibal Lecter gear, and where he has to be restrained and carted out again after matches.

Don't stop to think about why the institution would release Kane to go to work.  Just get into the gimmick, the same one that basically launched Sabu's career in ECW.  Pay royalties to Heyman if you have to, but this is the only suitable direction to take Kane to distract us from the pure nonsensicalness that seems to be surrounding him at this point.  Go all the way over the top: elaborate un-Lecterizings (and re-Lecterizings), backstage promos through (ironically enough) the mask while strapped to the upright stretcher, once every month or two a night when he gets lose and does something awful.  "Quid pro quo" interviews with Terri are optional.  Make a spectacle of it, and maybe you'll get the masses to get so into the newest version of New Kane that we'll finally give up trying to reconcile everything to what we knew of the Old Kane. 

In that way, I found myself sort of enjoying the climax of RAW.  It was the start of something over-the-top, even if the logic of how it was permitted to happen was faulty (or maybe even nonexistent).  I won't sign off on this being the ideal direction for Kane that I would have envisioned a month ago upon his unmasking, but I'm not ashamed to admit to you now that I see a very entertaining possibility here, one devoid of consistency and logic, but an entertaining out nonetheless.

RAW as a whole: not the PPV-type atmosphere I'd half-expected, but a very good Michaels/Jericho match alone made it worth watching.  Storyline-wise, the whole mess with Kane sorta won me over but only based on future potential; the Hour One deal they did with Evolution (getting Orton's new gimmick over and setting up HHH/Goldberg) was probably the best deliverable on the story front based just on tonight.  From a show that seemed to be top-to-bottom stacked, the feeling coming out is more that this was kind of a two, maybe two-and-a-half trick pony.  I can empathize with a bit of disappointment, but at the end of the night, I still think this was an above average effort for RAW.  There may have been weaknesses in build-up/planning, but there was little in the way of really boring, easy-out segments.  

More fall-out and stuff tomorrow in OO.


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