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Even Stephen
July 29, 2003

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


Maybe it's kind of like that one episode of "Seinfeld."  You know, the one where George starts doing The Opposite and becomes very successful, while Elaine manages to end the episode fired and homeless?

Cuz it kinda seems like, over the past 3 months or so, when RAW's been up, SD!'s been in a rut.  Now, on the heels of SD! surging the last few weeks (culminating in this weekend's awesome PPV), RAW is down.  And we, the fans -- much like Jerry -- are stuck in the middle, Even Stephen.  For us, it all evens out.

Can the reasons for these flip-flops be isolated and discussed?  Maybe... I tend to think, for instance, that this most recent swapping of top spots came when RAW started its streak of main event promos/angles back about 3-4 weeks ago (don't give me RVD vs. Kane from last week; that wasn't a match, that was a no decision brawl to set up a show-closing angle).  But I'll leave that high-minded theory stuff for my usual OO column tomorrow.

Here, it's all about telling you what actually happened on last night's RAW.  Here goes...

Video Package: Austin's job is on the line, he decides tonight... and Kane laid out RVD AND Linda McMahon last week on RAW.  You know, just in case you forgot.

Opening Music/Pyro/etc, and we're live from Colorado Springs with Coach and King, but don't have much time to talk about it because we've got a Very Special Guest tonight:

Vince McMahon Promo

Vince walked out onto the stage and announced that what Kane did last week was unacceptable.  Vince knows he may not be a good husband, but by god, he's still a man, and tonight, he'll face Kane In That Very Ring, and he promises -- no, he GUARAN-DAMN-TEES -- that All Hell Will Break Lose before the night is over.  Fans like that idea.  It sounds to me like another Main Event Promo, but I, too, am a mark for any time Vince pulls out a "guaran-damn-tee," so color me glued to the couch.

Booker T/Scott Steiner vs. Christian/Test

The logical out-growth of recent weeks' events, as this pair of singles feuds became slightly intermingled last week when Test challenged Booker for the IC Title.  Early story in this match is Scott Steiner wanted to go one-on-one with Test, but Test keeps pussing out, causing the hot crowd to chant "Pussy" at him.  Also, we learn that after the match, we'll get an announcement about the SummerSlam main event from the RAW brand (Coach has "no idea" what might be in store, as he and King toss around a few ideas).  But before we get to "after the match," we'll have to get to "after this break for"....


When we come back, the heels are in control, as Test and Christian had cheated to gain the edge over Steiner (meaning Test finally tagged in just prior to the ad break).  Steiner quickly makes a hot tag to Booker, and we kind of hit chaos mode for a bit.  Finish had Steiner clean house on Test after some heel double-teaming went awry, allowing Booker to pin Christian for about the five billionth time in the last month.  Good enough 10-12 minute match, for certain, but storyline-wise, nothing was advanced, and this had the distinct feel of marking time.  I've got no problem with marking time, but the trick is supposed to be making people THINK you're still doing something fresh every week.  There was no trickery here.

SummerSlam Press Conference Highlights: The Coach (that damned dirty liar!  he knew the main event all along!) hosts the event, which includes an introduction from Eric Bischoff, telling us RAW is co-promoting SummerSlam with SD!, and to put their best foot forward, he is giving fans...  Triple H vs. Goldberg.  Wow, what a shocker.  If there was a sentence-ending punctuation mark less impactful than the period, I'd have used it at the end of the previous sentence.  HHH comes out and talks for a bit.  Then Goldberg comes out and talks for a bit.  Then the two do the Rough and Tumble Handshake of Pulling Your Opponent In Closer and Making Mean Faces (while HHH wisely held his belt up behind their faces for a perfect photo op, that wily bastard). 


Goldberg vs. Stevie Richards

Goldberg's entrance: a 2 minute long epic, spanning the bowels of the building, up through the pyro display, and to the ring.  Goldberg's match: a one minute squash that featured three moves (the Gorilla Press Power Slam, the Spear, the Jackhammer) that I can remember.  Well, if nothing else, the old WCW Goldberg is back.  Fans ate this up with a spoon.  I never quite got on the Goldberg Express back in '98, but I think it is wisest for them to book him the way that will result in maximum fan reaction.  Which is like this.  No chance for Goldberg to celebrate and bask in the cheers, though because it's time for....

An Interruption from Evolution

Strangely, all of Evolution is here, but they enter to HHH's theme.  Remember this detail.  Evolution did the Mocking Gold Clap of Not Being Impressed All That Much.  HHH actually called Stevie Richards "a hell of a competitor, but he's not the World Champion," which I couldn't tell if he was supposed to be joking or trying to "give the rub" to Stevie.  Hint: fans aren't dumb, they probably could have just had HHH outright admit that beating Richards is a joke.  HHH keeps on with the bad-mouthing, until Goldberg finally says, "If you're so bad, why wait till SummerSlam, let's do this TONIGHT."  Fans like the idea, but HHH says, "No, because your reputation means when I beat your ass at SummerSlam, I'm gonna get rich off it, so I'm not giving it away here in front of these jerk-offs."  Then Ric Flair grabs the mic and starts chattering away like Jabba the Hutt's little whatever-you-call-that-thing from "Return of the Jedi" until Goldberg cuts him off and suggest that maybe he and Flair could fight tonight.  That seems about to happen until Eric Bischoff shows up and says, "I'm not giving that match away without the proper promotion and hype."  So it's Flair vs. Goldberg.  But not till next week.

Good enough little segment here.  Goldberg squash was exactly what the doctor ordered, and HHH/Evolution's interruption was about a million times more effective in terms of making HHH/Goldberg seem interesting than that pointless Press Conference footage was.  Only complaint: hey, all due respect to Bischoff for the "Slow down, let's not give it away without proper promotion" argument... but c'mon, if you've been watching this show lately, I have serious doubts that "proper promotion" is actually gonna happen even if you give them six months.  I mean, Jericho/Michaels.  I rest my case.


Val Venis vs. Rico

This is, apparently, the big pay-off to the Rico/Val feud that has been simmering for, oh, maybe a week or two over on Heat.  Of course, they don't show us anything, nor do they do any backstage skit or mic work from either guy to explain this.  They just toss them out there and let the announcers try to convince us this is a pressing matter.  Rico's antics and the still-hot Colorado crowd combine for a half-hearted "Faggot" chant during this one, but otherwise, they only really get excited for the Money Shot (oh, that sounds so WRONG... and yet, not un-RIGHT). Val wins clean after fending off Miss Jackie's attempted interference at the 5 minute mark.  Not a terrible match.  Just not anything that felt RAW-worthy.  Again, a case of blame-the-creative-plan-not-the-workers; Val and Rico put everything into it that they could.

Backstage: Bischoff is supervising the arrival of Kane.  He's got a swarm of cops standing by, and as Kane's paddy-wagon arrives, he tells them to keep Kane cooped up until later in the show, when Mr. McMahon will give the order to Release the Kraken.


Highlight Reel w/ Chris Jericho and Guests

First up, Jericho fires up the JeriTron 5000 to remind us that he made Shawn Michaels tap out last week.  Cleanly.  First time Michaels has ever tapped out, says Jericho.  But, Jericho notes, there is another man who hates Michaels as much as he does, so he brings out Randy Orton.  He comes out alone, but to the Evolution Group Entrance Theme/Video (after the entire group earlier had come out to HHH's solo entrance... huh?).

Orton starts talking, and kind of meanders around the point that he knew his career needed direction, so that's why he took out Mick Foley and screwed Shawn Michaels by interfering in the HBK/Jericho match last week.  Because he's now "the Legend Killer."  You kind of get the impression that even though Orton's making all these allegedly intense points, he doesn't quite believe them himself, which makes it hard to sell the crowd on 'em; the connection with the audience just isn't there yet. Jericho teases being upset at Orton for helping out, because he knows he would have beat Michaels anyway, but they smooth it over to present a united front when Shawn Michaels decided to make his entrance.

Michaels says, "Good for you, Jericho, you evened the score.  But you couldn't do it alone, and someday, it'll be me and you in the rubber match."  Jericho tells Michaels to let it go, and just accept that he got beat by the better man last week, and eventually, Michaels gets riled up to the point that he says, "Let's do this right here, right now."  But Jericho says, "No way, I already beat you last week, and I'd rather face anybody else in this building than squash you again, Potsie."  Eventually, it all breaks down, as Michaels attacks Jericho, but eventually falls prey to the two-on-one odds, and Orton piles on.  Who should make the save?  Kevin Nash, of course.

Once Orton and Jericho are scared off, Nash gets on the stick and shows us he was paying attention backstage, because he challenges Jericho to make good on that "anyone else in the building besides Michaels" promise, and to do it RIGHT NOW.  Or, perhaps, after a break for some....


Kevin Nash vs. Chris Jericho

When we come back, Jericho is actually quick to gain control with various nefarious tactics.  But the announcers tell us that all during the ad break, Jericho was running around like a pansy, afraid to face Nash, so this is a change of pace.  Story of the match was Jericho trying to chop Nash down by constantly attacking the knee.  Very logical and sensible, but it also made for a bit of a plodding feel, especially since -- instead of a blow-away final segment -- this match ended abruptly with Nash making a partial comeback, only to have Jericho get DQ'ed for blatantly low-blowing Nash in front of the ref.  Maybe all of 5 minutes of action upon coming back from the break.

But the story kicked in after the match, as Nash "snapped," and tried to take us back to the glory days of Diesel.  He came back from the low blow and started brawling with Jericho at ringside.  A chairshot busted Jericho open.  A Snake Eyes into an exposed turnbuckle worsened things.  A shot into the exposed ring barrier didn't help.  Nash was ready to land the kill shot with the steel ring steps when Jericho finally made a noble escape through the audience.  The post-match brawl was way more effective than the match itself, and MIGHT be the start of the road back to "Diesel" for Nash.  The key will be following up with a non-shitty match against Jericho (probably at SummerSlam)... given the similarities in style between Jericho and Michaels (with whom Nash has had great matches), I'll say the odds aren't totally against that happening.


Backstage: Hurricane and Rosey are chatting, with Rosey seeming hesitant to go forward with his gimmick as 'Cane's "Super Hero in Training."  You know how I said that this could either be really funny or really lame?  Well, this managed to be both in the same 90 second segment.  End came when Hurricane told Rosey to take it slow and that superpowers will come later.  Then Rosey tried to fly, but failed, opting to go sit in the corner, dejectedly.  Actually, thinking back, maybe it was mostly lame, though "Citizen Roosevelt" is a pretty cool sounding phrase.  Free idea for RAW: there was once a U. of Dayton basketball player named Roosevelt Chapman, and everybody called him "Velvet."  Could the Hurricane join forces with the Velvet Fog?  Is maintaining the meteorological theme funny, or is it really lame and I'm just stretching to make mention of an old UD basketball star?  You decide...

Also backstage: cops have opened the back door of the paddy wagon to "get Kane some air."  Bischoff shows up and gets angry at them for doing this.  Kane is to stay locked up tighter than... umm... something that's really tight, at least until Vince gives the orders to let him out.


Injury Update: Jerry Lawler takes a moment to tell us that JR is out of the hospital and back home recuperating.  Curiously, no mention is made of the "JR pressing charges" storyline that was deemed important enough last week to be the subject of a WWE.com poll.  C'mon guys, is it rocket science to plan even ONE WEEK ahead on these things?  Not even a token "JR decided not to press charges, so forget all about that"?  Also:  Rob Van Dam suffered a "serious" concussion due to Kane, but Coach thinks he'll be back next week. 

La Resistance vs. Garrison Cade/Mark Jindrak (Tag Title Match)

The Dudleys are out to do guest commentary, the entire gist of which is "We hate France, and we hate La Resistance because they are French."  If they hadn't also added in "We are a very awesome tag team, 16 time former champs, and want to face the winners of this match," their commentary would have been no different than those painful conversations you sometimes have to have at the bar with the ill-read drunken redneck who hates France, but does not have a single intelligent or witty reason why.  Which is too bad, because there are literally dozens of very good reasons to hate the French.  Why am I talking about this?  Because this match is ALSO apparently the result of a red-hot Heat feud (this time, at least we get 10 seconds of footage of Cade and Jindrak upsetting La Resistance in a non-title match to explain things).  But again, 10 seconds of b-show footage is not the same as -- you know? -- actually doing a little skit or angle to give us a reason ON THIS SHOW to care about the match.  Also, given Bubba's commentary, the eventual result is pretty obvious: La Resistance wins so that they can have their feud with the Dudleys go to the next level.  Is this what ends up happening?  You'll have to stay tuned through these...


Before the break, the Duds had threatened to interfere out of sheer hatred of the French, but now, order is restored.  So do we get the obvious ending or not?  You bet we do.  Overlong for what it was (over 8 minutes, and spanning an ad break), this was reasonably worked given the experience level of the four involved.  But it still ended with La Resistance getting the (mostly) clean pinfall win, and then the Dudleys storming the ring afterwards for a post-match brawl.  La Resistance won that one, too, blasting both Duds with their (loaded?  I hope so) French flag sticks.  You know, just aluminum wouldn't hurt that bad.  This was just not very much fun to watch.  Or to listen to.

Backstage: the order has come, it is time to extract Kane from the van.  Tazers locked on target, the cops start herding Kane through the backstage area.


Gail Kim vs. Molly Holly (Women's Title Match)

Alright, help me figure this out:  Prior to the ad break, we get the "release Kane" skit, and no mention of a women's title match.  In fact, there was no mention of this AT ALL at ANY POINT of the show.  I've been harping on this for about a month, now: the intra-show flow of RAW may be helped by the anti-intuitive ad breaks increasing the show's "stickiness," but they are COMPLETELY missing the boat in terms of properly setting up/promoting upcoming segments.  For this match, we get 10 seconds of footage from last week, when Molly pinned Gail in a tag match.  That's our motivation to care.  I mean, yes, week-to-week storytelling is CRUCIAL, and it's good to see things logically built upon past events.  But you can't just stick a match out there like this (especially after you just showed us the "it's time for Kane to come out" bit, making us think that's next, which only makes the uphill battle the women already face that much steeper) with no prior mention/hype.  Arghhh.  More on this tomorrow, maybe.  Now, you just need to know that my frustration is only enhanced because Gail and Molly actually did have a pretty nice little match.  Gail was back "on" after a rough week this week, and no doubt Molly's expertise contributed to that.  Fast-paced four minute match, and it ends when Molly hits the Molly-Go-Round finisher for a three count.  New Women's Champion!  But the way they set this up, it's almost like nobody cares any less about it than the creative team.  Not helping matters any: Lawler declaring that "High flying isn't Molly's thing, this could backfire" as she's going for the Molly-Go-Round, even though it's her regular finishing move.  Way to get the talent over, King.  Could the overall packaging have done any more to hamstring this segment/match?  Again, all due credit to Molly/Gail here; the fault for why this didn't come off so well lies somewhere else, entirely.

Backstage: now Vince is walking to the ring.  So, employed recent RAW logic, we've probably got -- what? -- a Rodney Mack vs. Maven match coming up next?  We'll see after these....


Main Event Promo

Vince is out first (strange, since Kane DID get that 10 minute head start), and immediately tells the cops to bring Kane out to the ring.  They do, and Vince starts making noise like he's going to kick Kane's ass.  But no, because that'd be "too easy" if Kane was still in all his shackles.  So Vince tells the cops to unchain Kane, and then he dismisses them.  [Don't get me started on the inconsistencies here... Kane's under house arrest, but apparently Vince has jurisdiction or something here?]  Vince tells Kane to get in the ring, and the two stare each other down.  Then Vince has an epiphany: Kane's not a man, he's a monster.  And a monster in the palm of Vince McMahon's hand might be a good thing...  but before Vince can finish the thought, he's interrupted.

Stone Cold Steve Austin is finally here, and he immediately gets into the ring, grabs a mic, and perfunctorily states, "Just so you know, I've decided to stay on as GM."  Wow, I'm glad we spent a week getting all twisted into knots over that issue, and made the the subject of the show-opening video package and all.  After glossing over that development, we go straight into playing up the Physical Provocation angle.  Austin's not allowed to attack Kane, but he still wants to kick Kane's ass.  So for a minute or two, Austin BEGS Kane to hit him.  Then Austin starts making fun of Kane to provoke Kane into an attack.  But Kane's not biting.  Kane and Austin are face to face when some OTHER music hits...

It's Shane McMahon, and after an intense stroll down the aisle, he goes into sprint mode, and attacks Kane at Warp 10.  Then the Boy Wonder grabs a steel chair, and tracks Kane down up on the steel stage.  A series of chairshots leaves Kane teetering on the edge of the stage.  Shane lays in with one more, and Kane falls off the stage, crashing through "some tables... and WIRES" (thanks Coach!).  Shane stands on the stage, thinking he's avenged his mother.  But the show ends with Kane doing a sort-of Zombie Sit-Up, and then laughing at Shane's pathetic attempts to put him down.  Uh oh.

Alright, so the Shane-O-Mac rumors were true.  That could be cool.  They did nothing to turn the corner on the Kane character this week for me, but just having a mind-blowing spot-a-thon against Shane on PPV could go a long way to making me forget a lot of the internal inconsistencies in the character.  Plus, Shane's the only McMahon with who got the Babyface Gene, so he's well-suited for trying to get the heel Kane over.  I'd rather not see much more of Vince in this story, but I feel we won't be able to avoid it.  Vince will be Kane's puppet master, ahead of the slew of other superior candidates we've talked about in recent weeks, which will only serve to be a distraction.  Why must everything be a McMahon vs. McMahon issue?  Two matches at Vengeance had either under- or over-tones of Steph vs. Vince, and now, instead of putting everything into re-inventing Kane as a super-bad-ass with what could easily be a stand-alone feud vs. Shane, I have fears that Vince will become an all-too-ubiquitous part of the angle.

I don't know... maybe I'll be wrong on this one.  We'll find out next week.  For this week, I'll say the stuff I liked was, umm.... well, my favorite stuff was probably the way the Highlight Reel morphed into a Jericho/Nash match, which morphed into their nice little brawl.  That was good, sticky TV featuring a set of performers (minus Orton, who remains more a blank slate than a convincing character) that I am interesting in.  I guess Goldberg/HHH/Flair was also handled OK, except that -- just as I'd suspected -- the Goldberg/Flair match that was put off until next week so that it could be Properly Promoted was practically ignored the rest of the show, except for one nice graphic towards the end (hint: a graphic does not equal "Proper Promotion," guys).  Shane's return was also cool to see, but again, what it adds is an element of potentiality to Kane's re-creation; the current reality of the character is still very much a hit-and-miss proposition.

Match of the night?  There really wasn't one (opening tag match was probably the best worked, but even it was pretty bland), and that's always annoying to me, and likely the result of the fourth straight week of eschewing a wrestling match in favor of a promo/angle in the main event slot... throw in the Heat-caliber segments that -- due to poor planning/promotion -- did more to lower the value of RAW than to elevate the importance of Heat, and you've got RAW limping into another wholly underwhelming 2 hour effort. 


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