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On to the Next Course 
April 6, 2004

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


You can't have a 12 course meal where every course consists of a Porterhouse Steak.  You'd OD, and after the first couple, your appreciation for them would wane, leaving it impossible for you to get truly excited over a Porterhouse ever again.

What's my point?  Well, let's just say I've been a huge fan of RAW the past two weeks.  If wrestling shows could be converted into meals, I'd go so far as to say I packed in two consecutive Porterhouses.  Would I like a third?  Well, sure, of course.... but just maybe not right now.

So last night's RAW, in my mind, came to the table with a slightly different mission.  I won't lie: it was NOT the same caliber of show as the previous two weeks.  But it was still pretty entertaining.  And more importantly, it really hit the spot and did its job.  After two week's of riveting drama and ultra-satisfying climaxes, Monday's RAW did something different: it set the stage for next week.

Maybe this was like a tasty soup or something: good on its own, but not necessarily totally satisfying or filling.  But that's OK, cuz you know good things are coming up soon.  RAW was alright tonight, but best of all, I think they did a great job getting us ready for another Porterhouse next week.

Here's what I mean....

Video Package: Shelton Benjamin scores the biggest upset off all times.  Perhaps you heard about it?

Opening theme/pyro/etc., and we're live in Houston, TX, where Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler welcome us, and set the stage for the night, including a Diva Battle Royale.  Luckily, before King can get his one-track mind wrapped around that concept, we are interrupted by....

Triple H's House of Odds Making

HHH sauntered out, at first to no music to give the impression he was an unscheduled interruption (nice touch, as it also prevented the fans from doing their usual thing, which is giving HHH's theme a babyface pop).  He hit the ring, and immediately set about the business of making sure that everybody knew that last week was a fluke.  That what-his-name, that punk kid from SmackDown!, did something that very few people ever do, and that it could never, in a million years happen again, so all the idiot fans better enjoy it while they can.

And then HHH quickly moved past that, because there's something else the punk kid from SD! won't be doing, and that's winning the World Title at Backlash.  He references Benoit also being a fluke champ, which gets the fans riled up enough to do a "You tapped out" chant.  HHH put himself over as the greatest of all times, and that now that Benoit is feeling what he, The Game, felt for so many years, Benoit will fold.  Benoit's got the target on his back; at Backlash, Benoit's in a match where he doesn't even have to be beaten to lose his title.  And most importantly, Benoit's in the ring against two legends, two icons.  The odds of Benoit walking out of a ring the winner over Shawn Michaels and HHH are nearly non-existent, according to HHH.

And with that second odds-laying declaration of the night, HHH was interrupted. By Shelton Benjamin.  And he's not here to defend the honor of SD! by accusing HHH of stealing Nunzio's numbers-running gimmick.  Shelton's here, flashing the mega-watt smile and grabbing a mic, because he'd like to introduce himself to HHH.  He's "the punk kid from SD! that beat you 1-2-3."  Delivery's kind of stilted here, but the crowd knows a punchline when they hear one and give Shelton the pop he needs to make it work.  Shelton goes on to say that he's been sitting back there hearing HHH talk about fluke wins, and he just can't live with the possibility that maybe HHH is right, that his win last week was a fluke.  So, the prove it to himself, he wants a rematch against HHH right here, tonight.

HHH chuckles dismissively.  He says he's gonna do the kid a favor, and passes on the challenge.  He tells Shelton to go try someone else, because he's got a win over The Game, which is something very few people have, so he can go build his career on that.  He doesn't want to try The Game again, because he'll only get demolished and lose whatever confidence he gained with his fluke win.  Because nobody beats Triple H.  Shelton got back on the stick and said, "Correction: I did."  And then he theorizes that the reason HHH won't grant the rematch is because HHH is scared of losing twice in a row to a punk kid.  Finally, that's enough goading for HHH, he says, "Fine, you want it, you got it.  Tonight, it's Triple H versus, well, whatever the hell your name is."  And Benjamin gets the punchline, "You know, go ahead and pretend you don't know my name.  I don't care.  Because after tonight, you can just call me Mister Benjamin."  Play his music, and let's close out the segment with a face-to-face staredown as King and JR hype this just-signed main event....


Over the weekend: the RAW crew did a big show in Mexico, and it was super-mondo-awesome.  

Rob Conway vs. Chris Benoit (Non-Title, Special Ref Match)

Conway, with Sylvain Grenier, comes out sporting the Quebec flag and as part of WWE's hometown-rebranding is announced from Quebec City.  I guess Dupree gets the rights to being French, and La Resistance has to be merely Canadian.  Benoit -- himself recently relocated to Atlanta, GA, for TV purposes after having lived there for about a decade -- actually was the recipient of "USA" chants, which marks the first time I saw any point at all to changing Benoit's announced home town. 

Anyway, before the match starts, Johnny Nitro comes out in a ref shirt and with his arm in a sling.  He also comes out to the old WCW Nitro theme song, which went unmentioned by anybody, but which struck me as a superb touch.  He announces Mr. Bischoff has made him the special ref again this week, and further, if Benoit lays so much as a finger on him, Bischoff will strip him of the World Title.  So let's start the match.

We start with Benoit on offense, but that changes quickly due to the crooked ref.  First, Johnny over-aggressively gets a rope break from Benoit, allowing Conway a sucker punch.  Then Johnny got easily distracted by something, allowing Grenier to interfere.  Conway controls for a minute or two, but then Benoit rallies and we quickly enter end game.  As part of the rally, Benoit hit a snap suplex, but Conway's legs wiped out Johnny Nitro, tossing him from the ring.  La Resistance did about 30 seconds of blatant cheating, and put Benoit down with what I'm assuming will be their new tag team finisher (half neck-breaker, half-spine-buster, kind of).  A new ref came out, Conway made the cover... and Benoit escapes at 2 and 9/10ths.  Then he quickly rallies: when Grenier tried to interfere again, Benoit knocked him off the apron, and when Conway tried to use the distract to attack from behind, Benoit was ready for him, and dodged directly into a Crippler Crossface.  Conway tapped out.  Total match time, maybe 4 minutes.  And very effective, too: Benoit overcame ludicrous odds, odds that were steep enough that the crowd was kind of expecting the worst, and would have believed it if Conway had scored the win.  Benoit's rally made for a really crisp and intense final minute or so to the match.  Good fun.

Backstage: William Regal is back!  And wastes no time reminding us why, even if he can wrestle, he should still have been on TV this past year: in an exchange with Eric Bischoff, Regal is spot on.  He's happy to be back on RAW, and without having to kiss the rear-end of the boss, as he once had to do (trailing off into a stream of barely audible British profanities, I'm sure).  But Bischoff says Regal's not back on RAW just yet.  He can only come back if he accepts a particular assignment: he has to manage a new wrestler, a certain 6'1", 240 lbs. "special talent."  Bischoff admits it's his nephew, Eugene Dinsmore, and he only got a job because his sister insisted... but Regal is not dissuaded.  He promises to make the boy a star.  Then, in an odd moment, he thanks Bischoff for the opportunity and gives him an uncomfortably-long handshake (which Bischoff also sells as vaguely-creepy).  Unless that's the start of, shall we say, a new phase of Regal's "Man's Man" gimmick, I don't know what the frick was going on...  interesting way to introduce Eugene, though....


Chris Jericho vs. Matt Hardy

Before Jericho and Hardy could even lock up, Christian appeared on the stage.  He hauled out a big comfy chair, and sat himself down.  And sure enough, Trish appeared and plunked her shapely self down on the arm of the chair.  The distraction was enough for Matt to get out of the gates fast while Jericho was giving his Smirk of You Two Don't Bother Me, You Can Have Each Other to Christian and Trish.  Jericho did the time-compressed superman comeback at all of 90 seconds into the match: after reversing a Hardy bulldog into a bulldog of his own, Jericho went on a roll.  Hardy briefly got the advantage back by getting his knees up on a Walls of Jericho attempt, but Jericho was not to be denied.  Hardy couldn't follow up and found himself locked in a Walls of Jericho.  Hardy tapped out.  Maybe 2-and-a-half, 3 minutes tops, and not even a tease of what you know they could do if they had the time.

After the match: obviously, having a really good match wasn't the point here, getting the Christian/Trish/Jericho story over was.  After the match, Christian and Trish gave Jericho a sarcastic golf clap, and then did some over-actor-y making out.  It was supposed to annoy Jericho, but he just kept looking on and smiling because he really doesn't care.  Except that King thinks maybe he still does and he's just repressing...


Mick Foley's Hardcore Rocking Chair of Doom

Jim Ross tells us that Mick Foley has some things he'd like to say, and kicks it backstage, where Mick is seated in a rocking chair, holding a rose, looking for all the world like he's gonna do a nostalgic old man routine.  Foley starts talking about his "first one," and how it was so special to him, about how later on, there were many more, about how he'd go out on the road and collect several in a week.  And just when you thought Mick was going to reveal the hidden reality behind the Dude Love gimmick, he announced that he was talking about his flannel shirt.  Last week, he went into a box of old stuff, and found his very first flannel, given to him for Christmas in 197x, and how he loved it so much, and was so happy to find it so he could bring it back out for his big match against Randy Orton at Backlash.

Mick switched gears, and admitted that maybe it was a bit odd for a man to have such love for an inanimate object.  Especially a man who made his name for brutal hardcore matches.  Except that Foley found something else in that box of old stuff: tapes from his days in Japan winning King of the Deathmatch tournaments.  He thought back to those matches, and realized that every time he used the thumbtacks or the chairs or the tables, he did it for love.  He did it for love of his family.  Back in 1994 when he was having those matches, he had two kids and a house to pay for, and everything he did, it was for love.  But that's not ENTIRELY true, either.  Because watching the tapes, Mick saw something in his own eyes.  He saw a part of himself that wasn't just doing these horrible acts as a means to an end.  He saw a part of himself that might have liked doing these acts.  Maybe even LOVED them.

Mick continued, noting that his opponents in those matches were honorable men, men who never did anything to him except step into a wrestling ring as his opponent.  Men who never spat on him.  Never conducted a public smear campaign against him.  And he still loved doing those horrible things to them.  And now, we are SIZZLING, as Mick gets that look in his eyes and says, "And if I loved doing those things to those men, Randy Orton, just imagine what I'm going to do to you."

Foley started to make an idle threat about kicking Randy's ass all over Edmonton, but he realized in midstream that was a tired cliché.  So he decided to be more descriptive.  And in fact, he had a visual aid, something ELSE he found in his box of old-timey stuff: a barbed wire baseball bat (nicknamed "Barbie").  "I'm not going to kick your ass Randy Orton.  No.  I'm going to sink this barbed wire into your skull and tear your virgin flesh.  I'm going to bring about bleeding usually reserved for special effects artists working on Mel Gibson biblical epics."  Foley started trashing the set, whacking equipment with the bat.  And then he turned to the camera and hit the punchline, "And I am going to LOVE it."

Best. Promo. Ever.  I said on Monday that this feud, sadly, reeks of inevitability because nobody really believes part-time Foley will actually go over "Legend Killer" Randy Orton, and that they'd need to figure out something special to address that concern.  Well, this was that "something special."  Just awesome.

Cut to: Evolution is watching Foley's promo on a monitor.  Randy Orton is mute and looking terrified.  But Flair is there to buck him up, saying Foley always talks big, and not to worry.  Then HHH walks in and says it's time to teach that punk kid a lesson.  Flair and Batista seem to be over Foley and onto the next matter, which is Shelton Benjamin.  Orton, however, is still looking like he might have unexplained dampness in his drawers.  See, that's perfect, too: I didn't think they'd have the balls to have Orton look like a pansy, even though it's so obviously the right play... but they did.  Nice.


Tonight's Special Guests

Before our marquee match, we have to meet a few special guests.  You see, Eric Bischoff declared that after last week, the Shelton Benjamin vs. Triple H rematch would have NOBODY at ringside to interfere.  The only personnel allowed at ringside are those on official business.

So first, Ric Flair is out, and takes Lillian Garcia's mic.  Flair, it seems, has been made the official guest ring announcers.  He then introduces us to the official guest time keeper, Batista.  And finally, the official trainer, Randy Orton (confidence is back, and he's lugging the requisite stool and water bottle).

And now, it's time to meet the contestant...

Triple H vs. Shelton Benjamin

Utilizing non-verbal communication, Benjamin made it clear he was rather concerned about all of Evolution being around ringside, but still got off to a pretty fast start, hitting maybe 2 or 3 near falls in the opening minute of the match.   That all changed about 2 minutes in when HHH was able to toss Benjamin from the ring.  He fell to Batista's side, and while the ref was distracted, Batista did a number on Shelton.  Back in the ring, HHH followed up with a few moves, then tossed Benjamin out to Orton's side of the ring.  The ref was again distracted, and Benjamin took a sick looking bump into the ringside barrier.  Back in the ring again, and HHH was oozing with confidence.  His cockiness, however, allowed Benjamin to get back in the match.  After being slow to follow up on a move, HHH ate that double-leg leg lariat thing (again, the same move Benjamin used to pin Haas a couple weeks ago that I wish I had a good name for), and stayed down long enough for Shelton to make a comeback.  The two were about even, and did some back and forth brawling for a minute or two, and then they spilled out to ringside.  Evolution swarmed, but kind of backed off as the ref was standing right there watching, and counting.  HHH gained the edge, and decided to Pedigree Shelton on the floor... but Benjamin dropped down and reversed it, sling-shotting HHH into the ringpost.  Benjamin slid back into the ring, but the ref's count was going this whole time....  Shelton's just barely in under the wire, the ref hits 10, and HHH is counted out.  Shelton Benjamin is your winner by count-out.  About 5 minutes long and nowhere as good as last week's match, but very effective: the story was the point here, and the story is that HHH can't beat the punk kid.  

After the match: this is something that probably only annoys the piss out of me, but I'm gonna bitch about it.  There was never a bell to end the match nor an announcement declaring Benjamin the winner.  I realize Evolution were the "time keeper" and "ring announcer" of record, but would it have killed Lillian or Mark Yeaton to have given Shelton the closure he needed so he'd seem like a real winner?  Anyway, the official personnel are too busy hopping in the ring to beat the holy living hell out of Shelton Benjamin to do any bell-ringing or announcing.  Evolution holds Benjamin up while HHH punches away.  And then HHH finished up with a Pedigree.  Benjamin came up from that one gushing blood.  Finally, that was enough, and Benoit, Shawn Michaels, and Foley ran out (Foley with "Barbie").... Evolution scattered, and medics converged to check on Shelton, who was now KO'ed in a puddle of his own blood.  And suddenly, I see the big picture: another one of my concerns was giving Benjamin something to do while still keeping HHH firmly focused on the World Title feud...  I see things coming together nicely, here.....


Women's Battle Royale 1: the Introductions

The winner of this battle royale will be the #1 Contender to Victoria's Women's Title...  Lita hits the ring first.  And then Eric Bischoff walks out to the commentary desk with an announcement: he says that Benoit, Michaels, and Foley disobeyed his "official personnel only" rule in the last match, so later tonight, he wants to see them in the ring to dole out some punishment.

In the meantime, the ring is filling up.  There's Jazz.  OK.  Nidia.  Got it.  Stacy Keibler?  Really, why?  Hey, Gail Kim!  Then Molly, chin-strapped wig and all.  And finally Trish Stratus.  I'm thinking this might be kind of interesting, to see why they bothered putting Stacy in here and to see what Gail's got for us after her lay-off and if this is finally the start of the rebuilding of Molly, but first....


Women's Battle Royale 2: Lita vs. Trish

What the frick?  We come back, and inside of 30 seconds, Jazz is eliminated, leaving us with only two women left... Lita and Trish.  A quick "double feature" fills us in on the rapid-fire eliminations, and leave me feeling like a jack-ass for being vaguely intrigued by the battle royale's possibilities...

What we get instead is Trish testing out her heel chops with a different sort of body language than was her usual as she did a cocky beatdown on Lita.  Lita fired back up, though, and they went back and forth for a few minutes until Chris Jericho decided to come on down to the ring.  When the ref was briefly distracted by Jazz (who was just "coming to" on the outside), Jericho used that opportunity to trip Trish.  When she turned to confront Jericho, Lita booted Trish in the back, and sent her flying out of the ring to the floor.  Lita is your winner and #1 Contender.  Jericho is more than happy to give Trish the sarcastic golf clap treatment as he smirks his way back up the ramp.

Heh.  Call me crazy, but it's sure starting to seem like they asked Molly to shave her head for no reason, isn't it?  That doesn't seem right.  Instead of following up on that, we get a randomly-generated Lita vs. Victoria match?  And they rushed Trish back into the wrestling mix a bit too soon, I think, as well... I mean, it was nice to see her trying out the heel persona in the ring, but there's still enough story-type stuff do with her and Christian that they could have saved Trish back until Molly's hair was back and she didn't have a unique hook anymore.  I'm not as upset with the fact that the battle royal essentially consisted of a 2 minute one-on-one match as I am frustrated that they did nothing constructive to get the most out of the women's division....

SmackDown! Rebound: Here's your SD! highlights from last week.  And here's your plug for this week's show, where the Kurt Angle Great American Award will be handed out.  

Backstage: William Regal is looking for Eugene.  After Some Guy and Garrison Cade are of no help, Regal stumbles across a disheveled looking fellow who responds to the shouts of "Eugene."  Regal asks, "Yes, I'm looking for Eugene, where can I find him?" a few times before he figures it out.  This guy IS Eugene.  And he is, indeed, quite special.  Regal realizes Bischoff has duped him into managing a Mentally Disabled Person, and immediately drags Eugene along as he decides to go pay a visit to Uncle Eric.


Backstage: Trish is pulling a routine that finally makes the "diva" label seem fitting.  She finds Christian and immediately goes all "me, me, did you see what just happened to me?".  Christian feigns interest for all of about 2 seconds before telling her to settle down, cuz it'll all be OK at Backlash.  You see, she didn't want that Women's Title shot anyway, because she's already got a match: Christian just arranged with Mr. Bischoff for it to be Jericho vs. Christian AND Trish at the PPV, and she can take her frustrations out on Jericho then.  Christian thinks he's done a good thing, but Trish is clearly not too pleased.  Shouldn't her man be willing to handle all of her dirty work for her?  But Christian doesn't register that, because he's got his mind on heading to the ring for his big match...  

Tajiri vs. Christian

Coach is out on color commentary, but only for about 30 seconds: long enough to make it clear he's still pissed about what Tajiri did to him last week.  Ross plays the "settle down, pussy, it was just a prank" card, but Lawler, despite everything that's gone down between them, plays the Good Heel and actually takes Coach's side.  Nutty.  Anyway, once the match starts, Coach almost immediately decides to head to the ring....  another ultra-time-condensed match that did absolutely no credit to the guys involved.  Tajiri out fast with some kicks.  Then Christian with some heelish offense.  Then Tajiri with the bogus-feeling, too-soon comeback routine at all of the 75 second mark.  If I'm exaggerating, it's not by much.  Then with Tajiri in control after a Tarantula, Coach distracted him... and that allowed Christian to hit an Unprettier out of nowhere for the pinfall win.  Just about exactly 2 minutes.  Nothing as a match, but the story here seems to be setting up Coach to get his ass kicked by Tajiri, which I don't know whether I like or not: on one hand, it's Tajiri getting to decimate somebody.  On the other, it's freaking COACH, and what does that really put you in position for next?  I think I'll go ahead and like it just because (a) Tajiri's awesome and (b) Coach is a fantastic patsy in situations like this.


Backstage: Regal tells Eugene to wait outside while he goes into Bischoff's office to talk to Uncle Eric.  Regal gets a few moments to make his displeasure known, but Bischoff is having none of it.  Eugene is his nephew, and special or not, he'll get his shot and Regal will be his manager.  Then Bischoff gets concerned: Where is Eugene, anyway?  Regal assures him that Eugene is waiting in the hallway... except that when they check, of course he's not there....

Announcer Interlude: Eugene is out talking to JR and the King.  In full Mentally Handicapped Mode, Eugene can't figure out how to put on a headset to talk.  Lawler accuses Eugene of being a bit "wacky."  Eugene hears this, and starts free-associating. Wacky.  Whacker.  Bushwhacker!  So he starts licking Lawler's head.  Finally, Regal comes out and reigns Eugene in, apologizing for the episode.  Ross and Lawler proceed to a bit of more traditional business, as they run the Backlash PPV card...


Kane vs. Rhyno

The highlight: the middle ring rope snapped early on!  Actually, Rhyno did get some offense in, hitting the Gore about a minute in.  But it only got a 2 count.  And it only served to piss off Kane, who immediately came back, hit a chokeslam, and got the win.  Thanks for playing, Rhyno.  By the Rick Scaia Transitive Theory of Professional Wrestling, I think this squash means that Kane would defeat Lance Storm in negative 17 seconds.

After the match: Edge ran out, with a cast on his left hand (due to a training injury, according to JR).  Edge got a few shots in, but then Kane turned the tables.  Just when things looked really bad for Edge (Kane was gonna Pillmanize his OTHER hand), he flailed and struck Kane in the face with the cast.  Kane was knocked down.  Edge took the chance to leave (to his old, non-Rob-Zombie theme), while Lawler decided to accuse him of not having a broken hand, at all...  that he just put the cast on to use as a weapon.  

Backstage:  Chris Benoit and Shawn Michaels are chatting, and Michaels is laying it on heavy with the "Ooooh, I hope we're not in trouble with the principal" act.  The two profess their mutual respect for each other, and say that tonight they'll have each others' backs no matter what Bischoff might be pulling.  But they also both make it clear that all bets are off at Backlash: Michaels even echoes HHH's statements from earlier, saying that Benoit's chances of repeating against two legends are slim...  but before the words can get too heated, Mick Foley (and Barbie) are here to say it's time to head to the ring.  Johnny Nitro intercepts the trio and tells Foley to leave the bat backstage, because Mr. Bischoff has ordered "no weapons."  Foley grudgingly puts the bat down, and the three head to the ring (Benoit giving Nitro a friendly whack on his injured shoulder, just to crack me up).


Movie Update: since "Walking Tall" opened a disappointing #2 at the box office, let's not harp on that, and instead take a look at a ton of cool footage of movie stars at the film's premiere last week!  Yee haw!

The Principal's Office: A Main Event Promo

Eric Bischoff is out first.  And since it's already 11pm, he gets right to the business of inviting three men to the ring.  Benoit, Michaels, and Foley are out, and Bischoff says that their insubordination cannot go unpunished.  So, because they interfered in the earlier match, he's got something in mind for next week...  Benoit, Michaels, and Foley will be joined -- even if they need to roll him to the ring on a stretcher -- by Shelton Benjamin.  And they will face all four members of Evolution.

Benoit, HBK, and Mick actually like the sounds of that, and it doesn't seem like that's much of a punishment at all.  Except then, the other shoe drops.  The music hits and HHH appears on the stage.  With a sledgehammer.  So much for "no weapons," eh?  The three babyfaces adopt a ready stance, as HHH makes broad "OK guys, come on out" gestures, which probably should have been a telltale give-away if there were more than 40 or 50 combined IQ points in the ring... but we'll let that slide.

Of course, while HHH was gesturing, the rest of Evolution was sneaking in from behind to attack.  Even with the Pearl Harbor advantage, Batista, Flair, and Orton can't hold the edge... but that's OK, because HHH is on his way to make it 4 (and a sledgehammer) on 3.  And now, it's all Evolution, baby.  Michaels is first to bite it, and takes a sledge shot to the spine.  He's out.  Next, Orton KO's Foley with an RKO on the outside of the ring.  And finally, Triple H lines up Benoit for a Pedigree onto a steel chair.

That's it.  Evolution celebrates.  The good guys are out.  And so are we.

Final Analysis

Well, let's be honest: the roll of blow-away shows is over for RAW.  But the streak of solidly entertaining efforts is still on, and most importantly, it feels like the chances of coming back with another blow away effort next week are good.

That is the nature of episodic TV.  RAW has been outstanding the past few weeks, but it's probably impossible to sustain that.  You need to temper that with shows like last night's, ones that set the stage for you to come on back with a third super-terrific show in four weeks.

Think about it: is Evolution beating the piss out of Benoit, Foley, and Michaels even remotely close to the same kind of finish as the 50 man Red vs. Blue schmozz or Benjamin's huge upset?  Nah.  Of course not.  But in its own way, it might even be a more FUNCTIONAL climax than either of those.  It builds directly to next week and what should be an outstanding 8 main main event.  Instantly gratifying?  Nope.  But still damned effective.

There were also a few other holes I could complain about, which didn't exist last week.  I'm pretty put out by the way the Women's Battle Royal was handled, partly just because the rapid-fire eliminations seemed to cheapen the entire match, but mostly because I think they're fumbling the division by doing a random Lita/Victoria thing instead of paying Molly back with a rematch after she shaved her freaking skull.

I also have bad feelings about "Eugene."  Look, I won't lie: I'm kind of a dick, and I think the character can be real funny.  But even if I know enough to NOT use "retarded" as one of my stand-by adjectives with regard to this particular gimmick, I know a lot of people will act all prissy and annoyed that WWE is mocking the mentally handicapped, and the end result will probably be something without any balls to it, and with even fewer laughs attached. Even if it IS an excuse to actually call Bischoff "Uncle Eric" once again...

If this works, I'll tell you exactly why: as noted on "The Simpsons," humiliation works best "when the sap's got dignity." Seeing William Regal put up with Eugene could be comic gold if they have an iota of cleverness.  Pie job for Lord Autumnbottom, Eugene!  That said, even if this clicks and is real funny, the truth is Nick "Eugene" Dinsmore has now limited his career ceiling at Curtain Jerker.  Think about it: everybody likes the Hurricane, people think he's funny.  But the gimmick means, flat out, that he's never gonna get anywhere near the mid-card.  "Eugene" is exactly the same kind of gimmick: potentially funny (a la working with the Rock), possibly a trainwreck (a la most "training" skits with Rosey), but mostly just limiting. 

Rhyno/Kane/Edge was also lazy throw-away material at best, though I guess that we probably couldn't expect too much, since they are going to want to maintain a certain amount of mystique before letting Edge turn it up in his return match on the PPV...

But there was a lot to like, too.  The way they integrated Benjamin into a HHH storyline without taking HHH out of the World Title storyline was excellently handled.  I feel stupid for not thinking of it myself.  The four-on-four match next week should be an outstanding affair, it will keep Benjamin in the mix long enough for them to get through the Backlash PPV, and then at that point, HHH can break off, leaving Benoit and Michaels, perhaps, to do a one-on-one feud.  And if there's time, HHH can dedicate himself to a feud with Shelton before leaving to do his movie.  Or, as a function of fall-out from the 4-on-4 match, maybe you can have Benjamin come out as a top rival to Randy Orton and the IC belt, depending on what the plans are for Foley/Orton....

Lots of cool possibilities, there.

And speaking of Foley, there is no doubt in my mind that we just witnessed the Best Promo of 2004 To Date on Monday.  The subtleties meant it got off to a slow-ish start, but also meant that the "And I'll love it" punchline had that much more impact when Foley hit it.  Some of the turned phrases were awesome, too: Randy's "virgin flesh" and the reference to "The Passion," especially.  That promo is EXACTLY what the doctor ordered...

I'm not sure I should, but I'm also finding my intrigue in the STORY side of Christian vs. Jericho on the rebound.  I figured we got the Trish swerve, and now, we settle in and enjoy the matches, right?  There's no major twists and turns left, I figured.... but now, I'm definitely starting to wonder just where they're going with this... you've got Lawler suggesting Jericho isn't actually over Trish.  You've got Trish getting upset with Christian, and Christian missing it.  This is starting to have the feel of a tenuous arrangement: that maybe the Christian/Trish torment Jericho thing isn't the end-all and be-all of the story.  Could this be the start of a thing where Trish dumps Christian and moves on to another guy who will (a) pay more attention to her and (b) do a better job of punishing Jericho for his bad behavior?  Slutty Trish sleeping her way through the locker room to find the right guy to get revenge on Jericho?  I don't know... or maybe at the end of the story, she realizes Jericho's all she ever wanted, anyway, and that it was Christian and these other guys who were just using her?  And just as I did back at the start of the Love Rhombus six months ago, I'm now officially making myself ill for considering all these options.  I'm almost certainly reading too much into things; more likely, the tenuousness is probably just part of the attempt to make Trish seem like an obnoxious, self-centered bitch, and nothing more. [Mission Accomplished, by the way.]

I'm also gonna go ahead and be a fan of whatever the hell they are doing with Tajiri and Coach.  I'm not necessarily enthusiastic about it launching Tajiri's career as an IC level babyface, but even if it doesn't lead anywhere, I'm still thinking it'll be good fun.  I dig Tajiri and Coach is awesome at being the long-suffering heel schmuck, so the chemistry oughta be good.

The lack of quality in-ring action was also a mild annoyance: what we got was almost all very tight and good, but in each case was also just too short to really stand out in that regard.  The two best matches of the night (HHH/Shelton and Benoit/Conway) existed to further stories and not to blow us away as self-contained stories unto themselves.  As such, neither got to exceed the 5 minute mark.  No other match on the show made it much past 2 minutes.

But like I said: I realize the import of having shows like this one, and my complaints are ones that basically boil down to "Well, it was actually still pretty good, just not as good as last week."  And considering how good the past two weeks have been, that's not much of a criticism at all.

On the strength of some great promos and effective storytelling (and ringwork that was competent, if pushed into the background), this was still a fun show.  And on the strength of the set-up for next week and what should be a tremendous main event and all-around killer episode, I'm even willing to go one step further and heartily pat the RAW team on the back for a well-constructed and necessary show that easily continues RAW's run of terribly entertaining episodic TV.

More thoughts and fall-out tomorrow in OO.


SMACKDOWN RECAP: Bonding Exercises
RAW RECAP: The New Guy Blows It
PPV RECAP: WWE Night of Champions 2012
RAW RECAP: The Show Must Go On
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Boot Gets the Boot
RAW RECAP: Heyman Lands an Expansion Franchise
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Losing is the new Winning
RAW RECAP: Say My Name
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Deja Vu All Over Again
RAW RECAP: Dignity Before Gold?
PPV RECAP: SummerSlam 2012
RAW RECAP: Bigger IS Better
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Hitting with Two Strikes
RAW RECAP: Heel, or Tweener?
RAW RECAP: CM Punk is Not a Fan of Dwayne
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Returnening
RAW RECAP: Countdown to 1000
PPV RECAP: WWE Money in the Bank 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Friday Night ZackDown
RAW RECAP: Closure's a Bitch
RAW RECAP: Crazy Gets What Crazy Wants
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Five Surprising MitB Deposits
RAW RECAP: Weeeellll, It's a Big MitB
RAW RECAP: Johnny B. Gone
PPV RECAP: WWE No Way Out 2012
RAW RECAP: Crazy Go Nuts
RAW RECAP: Be a Star, My Ass
RAW RECAP: You Can't See Him
RAW RECAP: Big Johnny Still in Charge
PPV RECAP: WWE Over the Limit 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: One Gullible Fella
RAW RECAP: Anvil, or Red Herring?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Everybody Hates Berto
RAW RECAP: Look Who's Back
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Care to go Best of Five?
RAW RECAP: An Ace Up His Sleeve
PPV RECAP: WWE Extreme Rules 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Sh-Sh-Sheamus and the nOObs
RAW RECAP: Edge, the Motivational Speaker?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: AJ is Angry, Jilted
RAW RECAP: Maybe Cena DOES Suck?
RAW RECAP: Brock's a Jerk
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28




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