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OO RAW RECAP
Orton at the Bat 
January 13, 2004

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com

 

After absorbing tonight's RAW, I get the strong sense that I was supposed to think that Randy Orton delivered a breakthrough performance, somehow metamorphosized from the slightly awkward and over-pushed prospect into the Go To Heel on the roster.

So did he actually do it, or not?  NEVER!  I'm gonna make you bastards read through this whole thing before I reveal just how successful RAW was on the Orton (and on all the other) front(s).

So get comfy, and let's ride....

Nothing fancy to start, just the opening theme/pryo/etc., and then a wide shot of the arena and a welcome from Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.  On the docket tonight: Kane vs. Booker T and the IC Title on the line between Randy Orton and Rob Van Dam.  But first...

TRISH STRATUS and LITA vs.....   THE COACH? (Not)

Trish and Lita make separate entrances for an apparent tag match, but in their wake, Jonathan Coachman sneaks in and joins the commentary team.  Just as I'd feared.  He says that Eric Bischoff loved his work last week (that makes one of him), and wants Coach out there again tonight.  And also: Coach has something very special for the fans later tonight, when he conducts a face-to-face interview between Shawn Michaels and Triple H.  Alrighty....

TRISH STRATUS and LITA vs. JAZZ and MOLLY HOLLY

From the get-go, Coach is in "What the fuck is he doing?" Mode, claiming to have nailed three of the four participants in this match (ever-virtuous Molly is excluded), though over the course of the night, he's about 38% less bafflingly retarded than last week, and is aided by the fact that Jim Ross only bit on about one-half as many of his stupid comments (King was still playing along for the most part, though).  And the match?  Glad you asked...  mostly good stuff, here, settling in after Lita got a tag and was isolated by the heels (who, despite last week's flare-up, worked well together).  About 4 minutes in, we get a hot tag to Trish, who hit a series of her trademark moves, albeit not as smoothly as usual (one neckbreaker-type thingie was bungled, and Trish had to settle for sort of grabbing Jazz's hair and yanked her backward).  Trish seemed to have Jazz pinned after that handstand-top-rope-rana move that I always forget if it has a real name or not.  But Teddy Long got involved.  His distraction allowed Jazz to recover, and with Molly and Lita still occupied outside the ring, Jazz rolled up Trish, grabbed a handful of pants, and got the cheap pinfall win.  About five or six minutes, fairly solid for the most part.

After the match: Jazz wasn't done, and along with Teddy Long, decided to continue the attack on Trish.  And less than 20 seconds later, it's Chris Jericho to the rescue!  He neutralizes Long, and sends Jazz scurrying... but then Mark Henry rears his head.  Jericho is left lying by Henry, and the heels all leave together.  Absolutely no time is given to reaction shots on Trish or Jericho to indicate what these post-match shenanigans might do to their (non-)relationship, so let's just forget about that and watch some....

[ads]

NO RING ENTRANCE THEATRE

Matt Hardy is already standing in the ring when we get back from the break.  In my head, there was an exchange of some kind with Lita as she hobbled her way to the back, but it's only in my head because, otherwise, it might somehow make Matt Hardy, you know, pertinent to the show.

Actually, Matt does start right off by playing the Lita Card, sort of in passing.  Also the Jeff Hardy card.  He accuses them (and others) of always conspiring to steal his spotlight.  And today, he says, the worst spotlight-stealer is Stone Cold Steve Austin, who has kept Mattitude off of RAW ever since he came back as Sheriff (which, Matt notes, "Is just a fancy way of saying Co-GM who's allowed to kick ass," almost exactly quoting of a certain ruggedly handsome Internet Wrestling Personality in the process).  Well, no more spotlight stealing, sayeth Matt!  He came here to RAW to make a name for himself and to kick some ass, and he's not leaving the ring till he gets to do just that.

Enter Steve Austin (driving his four-wheeler again this week).  He hops in the ring, grabs a mic, and almost immediately says he didn't come back to RAW to be a co-GM, he's here to be The Law (sticking it right back in the face of a certain ruggedly handsome Internet Wrestling Personality in the process).  And, Austin notes, kicking ass and wanting to kick ass, that's not breaking the law.  But (after running down a patented Austin "What?" List of Matt's heelish attributes, not a single one of which was "Stupid Steven-Segal-looking pajamas"), Stone Cold did reveal that running your mouth and questioning the Sheriff, well that IS breaking the law.  Matt was then convicted by a unanimous verdict of "Hell Yeah," and sentenced to kick some ass right here tonight.... against Sheriff Austin, himself!  But no, Matt wants none of that action!  Matt says he came here to RAW to wrestle new opponents and in new types of matches, and he's SURE that somewhere, at some point, he's wrestled Austin.  So somebody else.  Austin shrugs, and says, "OK, so anybody in the back there who hasn't wrestled Matt Hardy and wants to answer the challenge, come on out to the ring."  The live crowd arrives at the proper chant about 2 seconds before the music starts up....

MATT HARDY vs. GOLDBERG

Goldberg comes out to a big pop, and Austin departs on his four-wheeler as Coach tries mightily to convince us that Austin himself is breaking the law, because Goldberg is still supposed to be deactivated for another week.  No sale with JR and King, though, nor with the fans.  Matt gets off to a fast start with a blindside attack, which Goldberg quasi-no-sells.  But Matt's at least getting a few moves in over the opening minute, even if their effect is nominal.  But then it's game over.  Goldberg powered out of a Twist of Fate attempt, hit his press powerslam, then a spear, and finally a Jackhammer for the decisive pinfall win.  Total time, barely 2 minutes.  

After the match: Goldberg, who is now sporting a full scruffy beard, grabs a mic, and declares he's entering the Royal Rumble match, where he'll earn a WrestleMania XX title shot and get his title back.  Hmmm...  changes in facial hair, do they foreshadow heel/face turns?  You know my feelings on the matter...  an effective outing for Goldberg, who is at his best in short matches and even shorter promos.  And for as indignant as I could get, this was probably a good segment for Matt, too, who put himself right back on the map with an outstanding heelish exchange with Austin.

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Backstage: Eric Bischoff confronts Steve Austin, saying that he deactivated Goldberg, and deactivated Goldberg should remain.  Austin asked Bischoff if he filed the proper paperwork with the Board of Directors, and Bischoff admitted he didn't.  So Austin said Goldberg was never officially deactivated, but he is now officially back on Austin's say-so.  Whatever; more lazy-ish, let's-just-ignore-the-past-if-it's-inconvenient type booking, but at least they addressed the issue.  And Goldberg would have been back next week, anyway....

Paid Advertisement: Mick Foley is a coward, and Randy Orton is the new Hardcore Legend.  Brought to you by the Friends and Supporters of Randy Orton (FASRO?).  Same spot as last week.  

Backstage: Randy Orton is standing near a monitor with his IC belt.  Randy goes on to cut one of the most uncomfortably awkward promos in recent memory, butchering the English language and even simple logical causation in the process.  I'll just say it was poorly delivered, and leave the details (Orton promises to "Start what he finished") out in favor of just giving you the intended gist.  Which was that Orton doesn't sweat RVD, and that after he beats Van Dam, he wants Mick Foley (who lives just 15 minutes away from the arena) to show up and accept Orton's gift of a ringside seat (smack-dab between a father and son on one side, and a very suspicious looking character, whose build and overly-elaborate facial hair seem to indicate he may not be a fan).  And then, after Foley watches Orton take care of RVD, he can step over the barrier and get himself of a piece of the Legend Killer.  That is, if he's not a coward.  Seriously, you know my thing about how I dislike overly-scripted promos and would rather guys just have a vague outline of what they're going to say and then they deliver it spontaneously and with their own particularly spin on it?  Well, if this promo was any indication, forget that with Orton.  He apparently needs it spelled out for him, because if he's going to give it his own spin, it'll apparently ooze "Dumb Guy Who is Uncomfortable in Front of an Audience."

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BATISTA vs. D-VON DUDLEY

This was an outgrowth of last week's main event, in which Batista and Flair stole a win over D-Von and Bubba... and of course, the partners are here in the respective corners and don't waste much time getting involved.  More channel-flip inducing commentary here distracted me from remembering what actually happened, but I think it went about 3 minutes, at which point D-Von was in the middle of a big comeback, even hitting his half of the "Whassup" (the top rope headbutt) for a long two count.  Then Flair and Bubba got into it at ringside, distracting D-Von, I guess.  Batista just popped up after nearly being pinned, hit his powerbomb finisher, and got the win.  The closing sequence seemed kind of off-kilter to me, but what do I know?

After the match: Flair and Batista grabbed a table, and apparently wanted to put D-Von through it, but Bubba made the save.  For a moment, it looked like Flair might get 3-D'ed through the table, but by then it was Batista's turn to make the save.  He upended the table, which went unused, and pretty much sealed the deal for a Tables Match between the two at the PPV.

In the Parking Lot: Randy Orton is here to make us forget about that last promo he did.  He says Mick Still hasn't picked up his ticket from Will Call (well, duh, Einstein, it's only been maybe 10 minutes, tops), so Orton is dipping into his own expense account and is sending a limo out to Foley's house to pick him up.  And Foley'll get in and show up at RAW if he's not a coward.  Nowhere near setting the world on fire, this promo still wins major points even if only for being Barely Competent as compared to the earlier one.

[ads]

Backstage: Teddy Long, along with Mark Henry and Jazz, has some news.  He rewrites history to make it seem like Eric Bischoff forced him to be GM last week so he'd feel the brunt of Sheriff Austin's onslaught (kind of funny to hear Teddy so convinced he's telling the truth, actually), and says that Bischoff felt kind of bad about that.  So Eric made a match for later tonight: Mark Henry vs. Chris Jericho, where Jericho will find out that you don't stick your nose in Teddy Long's business.  Teddy says Mark will win "By Any Means Necessary."  So now Teddy's stealing his shit from Faarooq?  [Oh, save it, people, I know Faarooq stole it from Malcolm X... but "Malcolm X" isn't the punchline to a joke very many people would find funny.]

Elsewhere backstage:  Goldberg is WALKING, and suffering from severe facial ticks, as is his custom.  And after passing through a set of doors, he happens to cross paths with Scott Steiner.  Steiner takes exception to Goldberg's claim of winning the Rumble and going on to Mania...  because, you see, Goldberg has never been able to beat Steiner (oooohhh!  WCW history lesson!), and Steiner's entering the Rumble and HE will win to get the WM title shot.  More awkwardness in delivery here, but somehow the idea is introduced that maybe they shouldn't wait till the Rumble.  Goldberg says OK, let's do it tonight!  Steiner says, NO, I'm a pussy!  Well, actually, no, he said, NO, we don't have time to bang a huge rating if we do it tonight!  OK, OK, I lied again: he said something about how he wants Goldberg at 100% and with no excuses, and since Goldberg already worked a match tonight, they should do it next week.  Goldberg's surprisingly cool with this, and tells Scotty he's NEXT.  Wow:  Goldberg vs. Steiner!  That's PPV main event material, baby!  Provided you're WCW and you're in your last six months of being in business, anyway.

Coming Next: Coach stands on the commentary table, and announces to the audience that he's arranged for Shawn Michaels and Triple H to go face-to-face for a Very Special Interview in the ring... and it's next...

[ads]

COACH'S CORNER

Coach has got the ring turned out in nice red carpet, with two bar stools and a little coffee table, to boot.  He gives Triple H a nice big kiss-ass-y introduction, and HHH immediately enters casual mode (he's wearing a t-shirt instead of a nice suit... hmmm, do wardrobe changes connote the same thing as facial hair changes?) and lounges with his feet up on the coffee table.  Then comes a less enthusiastic intro for Shawn Michaels.  It was at this point that I got the very distinct impression that Coach's commentating for the night would be over by the end of this segment, if you catch my drift...

HHH's casual lounging is cut short, as Michaels immediately tossed all the furniture out of the ring and said if he and HHH were gonna do this, they were gonna do it like they always to, eye to eye and face to face.  The interview turned into a bit of a history lesson, with the two guys trading off telling different parts of the story, going back to 1996.  When Shawn claimed that HHH did a nice job of carrying the company after he went down with his injury in 1998, HHH cut in with a huge "BULLSHIT, Shawn.  Bullshit!" and claimed that he'd been pulling the load for a year before that, it's just that nobody noticed until Shawn was out of the way, and not telling everybody how great he was.  Shawn disputed that, but also admitted that when Hunter and DX succeeded without him in 1998 and '99, it ate him up inside and made him jealous, but that in time, he made his peace with that, became a different man, and that jealousy had nothing to do with his return to wrestling in 2002 (a point disputed by HHH).  Picking up their tale in 2002, Shawn noted that in his return match, he beat HHH in a match in This Very Building (cheap pop!).  HHH disputed this, too, saying sure Shawn stole the pinfall, but Hunter destroyed him in that match (and after it), that Hunter walked out of the ring that night, and that Shawn rode an ambulance to the hospital.  Which tied nicely into the Last Man Standing Match they'll have at the Rumble PPV, where it won't matter if you can steal a pinfall: it'll matter if you're the last man standing at the end of the night.  One second is all it will take, said, HHH, one second where he's on his feet and Shawn's on his back, to prove not only to himself, but to the world, that HHH is the Greatest in the Whole Wide World.  Shawn said, yeah, one second, but in the history of HHH and HBK, it might seem an eternity.  Or it might just go in the blink of an eye. Here one moment... dramatic pause....  SUPERKICK TO THE COACH... and gone the next.  Shawn gets up in HHH's face and says, "See you at the Rumble."  And the two go eye to eye as we fade out.  I'm a sucker for good, intense material like this that's rooted in history (both real and perceived by smarks), and loved this bit, even though it felt like the crowd started to get sick of it by the end due to HHH letting his Inner McMahon show (not as bad as Vince, but he still could have edited himself down by a minute or so and tightened this promo up a ton).  And Coach, what can I say?  I called it buddy... and you deserved every bit of it.

[ads]

BOOKER T vs. KANE

Booker entered to his new "WWE Originals" track, which didn't seem to inspire the crowd (but give it time, eh?)....  Match was a big ol' nothing.  It last maybe 90 seconds, tops.  Fast start by Booker, but then the brawl spills to ringside, where Kane goes loco, slamming Booker into the ringsteps a few times.  The ref just calls for the bell at that point, I thought for a double count-out, but the announcers say it was a DQ due to Kane's unmitigated brutality.  (I'd argue the brutality was EASILY mitigated!)  Attack continues after the bell, though, and Kane gives Booker a Tombstone piledriver to end the beatdown.  Four refs have assembled and finally get Kane to leave the ring.  Booker's teasing a stretcher job, but we apparently don't have time to linger here. 

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CHRIS JERICHO vs. MARK HENRY

Pretty typical big man/little man match here (though at one late juncture, JR went to great lengths to say "Chris Jericho is by no means a small man, it's just that Mark Henry is gigantic")...  Jericho has a hard time establishing any offense, and after about 2 minutes, Henry settles in with the Power Arsenal (read: boring Neck Vise thingie).  After a bit of that, Henry moved on to his Methodical Attack (read: even more boring backbreaker thingie).  But as an archetypical big man/little man match, it worked, as the rest holds gave the crowd a chance to get a big "Let's Go Jericho *clapclapclapclapclap*" chant going (Jericho was way over as a babyface, which you might have expected from the NYC crowd).  Thus began Jericho's comeback, which featured repeated attempts to turn Henry over into a Walls of Jericho, even though his trunk-like legs seemed to render any such attempts fruitless.  Finally, Jericho seemed ready to settle for a pinfall win after his running bulldog, but that's when the interference kicked in.  Teddy Long and Jazz got involved and stopped the fall.  Jazz's interference resulted in Trish Stratus coming out to the ring for the save...  she and Jazz brawled all around ringside as Jericho and Henry continued inside, eventually leading to Jericho FINALLY locking Henry in an improbably Walls.  But as Henry fought the hold, Jazz and Trish entered the ring, and distracted the ref.  As the ref dealt with the girls, Henry was tapping out.  Jericho heard the tap out, and assumed he won the match.  But then he turned and saw the ref getting Trish out of the ring.  Behind Jericho, Henry had recovered enough to blindside him, and then he hit the World's Lamest Slam for the cheap pinfall win.

A good 7 or 8 minutes in length, and for the second week in a row, Henry's involved in an utterly watchable contest.  Is the world tilting off its axis?  After the match, the heels depart, and this time, we get a shot of Jericho's crumpled torso and then a reaction shot from Trish, who gives us a vibe that might be, "Uh oh, he just got his ass kicked and it's my fault, and for all my recent bitchiness, I never meant for it to come to this."  Or something approximate to it.  Definitely a softening of some kind, though.

[ads]

Backstage: Trish is nursing her wounds when Stacy Keibler decides to pop in.  She tells Trish, "Look, it's pretty obvious to me that Chris really cares about you.  And whatever your feelings are towards him, you should probably talk to him and just be honest otherwise bad stuff like tonight will keep on happening."  And with that, Stacy becomes the wise, sagacious, and perceptive diva?  Whoa...  anything CAN happen in the WWF... err,  WWE.  Whatever.  Point is, Trish sees Stacy's point and gets up to go find Jericho...

PPV Shilling: Ross and Lawler run down the RAW side of the Rumble line-up, which features a few notable additions including a Tag Title Match between Evolution and the Dudleys that'll be a Tables Match (I win!).  Also a few new faces in the Rumble match (joining Kane and Booker from last week are Goldberg, Steiner, Jericho, Christian, and Mark Henry).

Elsewhere Backstage:  Jericho is nursing HIS wounds when Christian decides to pop in.  He tells Chris, "Look, it's pretty obvious to me your head is still on Trish, because otherwise you wouldn't be losing matches, man.  I know you care about her, but she obviously doesn't feel the same way.  She's just messing with you, she just cost you that match out there tonight!"  Jericho tries to dispute that, saying he lost the match himself.  But Christian's hearing none of it, "Look, I'm saying this as your friend.  Trish doesn't care about you.  So let's go back to the hotel, get spiffed up, paint the town red, and by the end of the night, Trish will be the last woman on your mind."  Jericho decides this doesn't sound so bad, so he throws a few final things in his bags, and leaves with Christian....

Kubrick Segue:  As the camera follows Jericho and Christian out of the locker room and into the parking lot, it decides to linger at a particular junction in the hallway... and who should emerge from behind an incongruously-placed curtain?  Trish Stratus...  she makes a bee-line for Jericho's locker room.  Knocks.  Let's herself in.  Finds it empty.  And then slumps in the doorway, a forelorn look on her face.  What ever was she going to say to Chris?  We'll never know....  until next week, I'm sure.

In the Parking Lot: Orton is flanked by HHH, Flair, and Batista, and apparently, they're waiting for their limo and Mick Foley to arrive...  Orton's IC match is coming up, but HHH promises that if Foley shows up, Evolution will give him a very special personal escort to his ringside seat.  We hear a squeal of tires... but that's no limo: that's Sheriff Austin's ATV.  Austin says that if Evolution has any thoughts about going to ringside for Orton's match, they'd best forget about it.  Because that'd be breaking the law.  And if the break the law, Austin might run them over on his little four-wheeler.  HHH tries to call Austin's bluff, but Austin revs up and actually chases Evolution from the parking lot before doing some celebratory donuts for his own amusement.

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ROB VAN DAM vs. RANDY ORTON (IC Title Match)

JR, echoing my own sentiments, spent a few minutes early on suggesting that Orton was looking past RVD, spending too much time worrying about Mick Foley.  I kind of felt the same way, that RVD got shafted with a lack of any promo time or anything of his own earlier in the show, but... that mattes not, here, as they both brought their best.  Back and forth to start, and then out to ringside, where Van Dam took the edge.  He through Orton head first into the steel ringpost; Orton sprawled on the ground, seemingly limp, and Van Dam went back in the ring to vamp.  But worry not: it was just a pause so that Orton would have time off-camera to do a quick blade job.  When RVD went back out to haul Orton to his feet, Orton was wearing a fairly respectable Crimson Mask.  They did another piece of brawling, culminating in RVD draping Orton over the ring barrier for his corkscrew guillotine legdrop...  and Orton fell backwards directly into the ringside chair he'd left open for Foley in a deliciously ironic twist.  Of note: the incongruously well-built, over-groomed gent in the chair next to the open one continued to show absolutely no signs of being a fan at all even with a wrestler plopped down right next to him (I don't think I saw him cheering or booing all night, all contributing to the idea that he had to be a plant, some kind of a set-up).  As RVD recovered and Orton sold the move, we cut to a backstage camera, where a limo pulled into the parking lot...  the drama reaches a fevered pitch just in time for some....

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Back from break, and Orton has somehow regained control.  Lawler theorizes that Orton is tasting his own blood for the first time, and it's changed him, made him more vicious.  Orton's domination continued for many minutes, and in that time, even Jim Ross came around, and said we were seeing a newer, better Randy Orton here tonight.  Not exactly trying to be subtle about it, are they?  If Orton hadn't embarrassingly fumbled his first promo of the night, though, I'd almost buy it.  His supposedly "vicious" moveset was actually kind of tepid (a body-scissors does not inspire fear in me; as the insightful Chris "Lucky" Lopez noted in the OO Forums, if Orton had actually gone for a serious submission and busted out something like the old Crossface Chickenwing, then maybe I'd have bit on the blatant hype), but he was doing little things he hadn't done before in terms of facial expressions and body language that almost made the announcers' virtual blowjob seem reasonable.  RVD finally hulked up out of a rest hold (I think it was still the body scissors), and started a comeback at around the 15 minute mark.  Good stuff, had the crowd rocking and rolling...  after chanting more for Foley in the opening part of the match, they were into Orton and Van Dam and were chanting for RVD.  Then they kind of had a funny spot as it seemed time for end game.  It was pretty obvious that the ref was supposed to get bumped, but they miscommunicated and whiffed on the first try (Orton didn't pull him into the way fast enough).  A second attempt was too hastily set-up and didn't connect, either.  Finally, on the third try, RVD just pretty much kicked the ref in the head with Orton somewhere vaguely in proximity.  There, ref bump.  With the ref down, Orton eventually regained control with a blatant uppercut to the nuts.  Then, as the ref revived, Orton decided (for reasons known only to him) to lay down and play possum.  Then he continued to lay still as the ref laid the double count on both men.  He even stayed down until RVD was the first one to his feet at the 8 count, and THEN launched his evil scheme, which was apparently to wait until RVD was recovered to get up and hit the RKO.  Yeah, that makes sense: wait till the ref wastes 30 seconds with a double count and wait till RVD's conscious, instead of hitting your finisher while he's in debilitating pain, or at least springing the "playing possum" surprise on him out of nowhere while the ref is still on 1 or 2!  Completely logical!  Seriously, somebody, please help me here: I consider myself a pretty sharp cookie after almost 20 years of wrestling fandom, and I don't get what they were going for....  anyway, Orton's scheme predictably backfires, and RVD gets a few near falls with a kick to the face and then an Oklahoma Roll.  RVD's seemingly in control when he goes up top for the Five Star Frog Splash.  But Orton manages to catch him in time, and crotches RVD on the top rope.  Then, he pulls RVD partially off so that he's in a front face lock, with his feet still draped over the top rope, and then drops it down into an elevated DDT (pausing to give us another of his wacky "I'm so ka-razy" facial expressions) for the pinfall win.  Orton retains in a very good 20 minute match, one I'd say was just about exactly the equal of the one they had at Armageddon.

After the match:  Well, nothing, really.  HHH and Evolution hit the ring, and celebrated with Randy, which brought the show to an end.  No Foley, no closure at all about that returning limo, actually...  so Mick really IS a coward, now?  Tune in next week, I guess....

Final Analysis

A big step up from the week before, no doubt...  but is that saying much, really?  If nothing else, the strength of the main event and the fact that Coach had been ejected by then would have put this week's RAW over the top.  But I also think they succeeded in a few other spots, too.

The HHH/HBK promo scratched me where I itched, and put those two right back on track to be the deserving focus of the Rumble PPV.  The "one second" thing is the sort of contrivance that maybe seemed a bit hokey when it was introduced in that promo, but I promise you that it'll fit into the puzzle PERFECTLY when they are producing the video packages for the Rumble, when they lay out the Last Man Standing Match, and when they come out of it with either HHH or Michaels being just one second away from the title.  It's a small thing, but one that I think will subtly add a lot to the final push for the feud and to the match itself.

The women's match, which led to the Jericho/Henry match, which led to the Jericho/Trish skits late in the show also glazed my donut.  Or at least, didn't suck as bad as the last two weeks.  At the end of the night, did nothing basically happen again?  Kinda.  But it was a productive sort of nothing, where the seeds are in place for something fresh and interesting to finally happen next week.  Stacy finally gets Trish to soften just as Jericho decides there are other fish in the sea.  Oh, the irony.  Or something.  Hey, so sue me, I'm not one of these assholes who thinks Jericho can only work as a heel, and I sorta want to see these two kids get together in the end.  If nothing else, you gotta grant me there was nothing as pointlessly stupid as Mae Young involved this week... 

I think Matt/Austin/Goldberg was fairly effective, too.  It reminded everybody that Matt Hardy can go out there, cut a promo, and be an upper-mid-card heel, no matter how criminally underused he has been lately.  The match with Goldberg didn't exactly remind us of his **** in-ring capabilities, but that was a segment designed to help Goldberg, not Matt.  And it did.  Short, sweet, and decisive.  It made Goldberg an instant contender again.  But was I imagining things, or was there maybe a smattering of boos when Goldberg went on his "I'm taking back my title" rant?  I'm telling you, the facial hair, kids... the facial hair...  it does not lie.

But though there was good, this was still not the home run it might have been.  Again, I go back to that vibe that everybody associated with the production thought this would be the night Randy Orton finally clicked into place as a top heel.  And we saw a few new nuances in the main event match (which was very good), sure....  but in the rest, man alive, it's the sort of thing could convince a man that Orton is destined for a future more like Lex Luger's than The Rock's.  You know: the guy who looks like a main eventer, gets pushed like a main eventer, and against all good sense amasses the resume of a main eventer.  But who fans never really connect with in the same way as your real main eventers.

I can listen to JR and King tout the "new" Orton all night long, but I guess I'm a tougher sell than most.  I say "Show me, don't tell me."  And tonight, what I saw was Randy Orton showing me just as many valid reasons why he's over-pushed at this point of his career as I saw valid reasons why he deserves to be WWE's golden boy.  It's a wash at the end of the night: not the breakthrough outing you could tell they wanted it to be.

And what of the non-ending with Foley?  I'm not gonna chalk that up as a minus in and of itself.  Then again, I was all "just wait and see" when they did the last non-ending with Foley walking out, so maybe I'm just a soft touch when it comes to Mick.  But I really think that keeping fans off-balance with Mick's current storyline is a bonus, and having him no show a RAW 15 minutes from his own house is certainly a swerve that'll keep us guessing.  Maybe you were let down, but the ambiguity is, to me, a plus that might pay dividends down the line.

But that's not to say I'm totally sanguine about how they played out the non-finish with Foley.  In the name of trapping fans into thinking Foley'd show up, they really misplayed the set-up of Orton vs. RVD.  The focused so intently on bits where Orton talked about Foley, that his contest against RVD was an afterthought; it showed when fans took a good 10-12 minutes before they stopped chanting for Foley and started chanting for RVD, although it was RVD in the ring and busting ass and (ostensibly) with a chance to take home the IC gold.  I think by putting too little into spotlighting Orton/RVD, they may have hamstrung themselves in two ways: first they so utterly convinced fans that Foley would show up (even with the now-in-retrospect-indefensible limo tease before the last break) that they felt back-stabbed by the non-finish (instead of being able to see the beauty of the ambiguity, of the "Foley might really be a coward" subtext), and second, it just took away from what was a very good main event (and by association, took away from the importance of the IC belt and of RVD as a contender).  So though I can see the value of Foley's absence, I'm still harboring some reservations about the way we got there.

End of the night: still a good show.  A big step up from the week before, and it has me feeling alright about RAW's contributions to the Rumble PPV in 12 days.  HHH/HBK is on track.  They put some more sizzle into the 15 men who'll be in the Rumble match itself.  They gave us a competent, if predictable, development in the tag division.  Yeah, I'll take it.

More tomorrow in OO....

E-MAIL RICK
BROWSE THE RAW RECAP ARCHIVES


  
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