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Ace Up the Sleeve 
May 18, 2004

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


All signs pointed to this being a RAW in the "comfortable old shoe" category.  Not fancy or flashy; just serviceable.  Two straight weeks of kicking ass meant maybe it was time to reload, and I'd be lying if I said SD's PPV hadn't sapped some of my enthusiasm and energy.

It just didn't seem like there were any tricks up RAW's sleeve heading into the show.  But appearances can be deceiving...

Opening theme/pyro/etc, and we're live in San Diego, CA, where Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler immediately set about hyping three big matches for tonight, including a tag team title match, a 20 man battle royale, and this, our opener...

Lita vs. Trish Stratus

During the entrances, they replay the Trish-teasing-Lita thing from last week, which only served to remind me that Trish Is Not A Heel, At Least Not For The Me.  It's a vibe that is only strengthened once the match starts and Trish laughing at Lita and, once she gains control of the match, shouting and gesturing rudely to ringside fans and stuff.  [I'm hopeless; and before you say anything, let me just say that it doesn't matter if it's Trish or just A Dude, but I'm a sucker for a certain type of heel shtick.  Once, Owen Hart took the time to not just give me the finger, but to give me the "slowly unwind and then retract the middle finger" finger when he didn't realize is was a guy behind me who had just said something rude during a house show, and I couldn't stop laughing or retelling that story.  There's also the tale of how I became a Tazz mark the moment I actually got this purported real-life miserable asshole to do me a favor and sign something for my friend Snake; Tazz chose to go with "Go Fuck Yourself, Snake. Love, Tazz."]  

Anyway, Trish really took control of the match a minute or two in with a nasty hanging rear-naked choke while sitting on the top rope; amazingly, Lawler resisted JR's set-up line and inevitable single-entendre involving "naked," "rear," and "Trish," although I now realize that I have NOT, so... before my head explodes upon contemplating the implications of that, I'll just report that after gaining control, Trish hit a few more moves before settling on a sleeper hold.  That held for about a minute before Lita fired up and went on a roll; Trish kept feeding her for about a half-dozen clotheslines and a few other moves peppered in at rapid-fire pace until Lita hit her version of the Twist of Fate (basically inverted, not that the announcers ever take the time to notice).  Trish kicked out after a long 2 count.  Lita decided to finish Trish off with (probably) a Scary Moonsault, but just as she gets ready to ascend the ropes, Kane appears on the TitanTron, and in a sing-songy voice just says "Leeeeeeeeeee-ta, LEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-ta" a couple of time.  Lita is all "what the fuck is that?" but Trish is all "Well, I'm just gonna role this easily-spooked girl up and get me a pinfall win.  And what the hell, I'll put my feet on the ropes, too, just to make it even cheaper."  Needless to say, Trish's plan works to perfection.  Pretty solid 5-6 minute match, really; as good an overall women's match as we've had the past couple weeks, anyway.

After the match: Kane started talking again, and though he's forsaken that lovely singing voice of his, he's still kind of grinning like an idiot and seeming more like a caricature of smarmy evil than an actual bad-ass son of a bitch, which I don't like.   He fake-apologizes for causing Lita to lose, saying he never wants to do anything to hurt her; then he insists on getting his answer to his Mystery Question later tonight, and it better be the right one, or else.


Randy Orton's Amateur Racist Theatre

IC Champ Randy Orton hits the ring, with his deadliest possible weapon in hand: a microphone.  Oh, the humanity!  The guy can take barbed wire shots to the balls and turn himself into a human pin cushion and I respect that, but doing more than one promo in five where it seems like there's a spark of spontaneity to it would sure go a long way to making ME believe Randy's the Next Big Thing.  Instead, it's more methodical as-if-off-the-written-page material: first about himself and how he's the longest reigning IC Champ in the last 7 years. [LIAR!  Randy's 6-month-and-counting reign is not unimpressive, but the Rock had an 8-plus month reign ended in late 1998, which is SIX years ago.  The man who ended it?  Triple H.  Cue Dramatic Implosion of Evolution theme music.  Or maybe not  And anyway, until Randy gets up to the 13-, 14-, or 15-month reigns of Pedro Morales, "The Original Rock" Don Muraco, or Honkytonk Man, I'm not THAT impressed anyway!  Because I'm a jerk!]

Once he's adequately stroked his own ego, Orton moves on to talking about Evolution business.  Because tonight, two things are gonna happen.  First, he and Batista are going to be Chris Benoit and Edge to take the World Tag Team Titles.  And then, with all of Evolution in the #1 Contenders Battle Royale, they will MAKE SURE that Triple H (the greatest wrestler in the world today, opines Young Randall) wins and goes on to regain what is rightfully his: the World Heavyweight Title.

That last comment brings out a dissenting viewpoint in the form of Shelton Benjamin.  Shelton wonders what it means if HHH is the best wrestler alive, but Shelton has beaten him.  Twice.  Orton smirks and says that Shelton got lucky.  And luck runs out, but Evolution is forever, baby.  [Hint: remember last week where I admitted to putting "improvements" in my recaps?  This is one: Orton bumbled through some line about luck running out, but it had no spark, and meantime, I'm on my couch spouting out Pure Gold in Real Time, baby!]  So, since Evolution is forever, and Shelton's just a fluke, why doesn't he just get lost and go back to minding his own business?

Shelton doesn't like being dismissed, so he decides he's gonna issue a challenge, right here, right now: he wants Orton in the ring, and he wants the IC Title on the line.  Orton immediately refuses and Plays the (Extremely Scripted) Race Card.  First he tells Shelton to settle down and quit being so "uppity" (with a pause and look to the crowd that screamed "And I could have added 'Negro' right there if I wanted to, you know!").  Then he said that behavior like this was just like "YOU PEOPLE" (again, Orton's emphasis, not mine, as it came off as more a carefully-scripted attempt to make Orton press the Race Button than anything actually coming from Randy's heart), who if you give them an inch, they take a mile, and blah blah blah.  Orton's diatribe peters out, and Shelton just says something about "Well, if you ain't gonna put up then..." (he dropped the mic as he finished the line, but if I may again Improve RAW For You, let's just assume he said "Then I'm gonna shut you up.").  Then Shelton punched Orton in the face, and pretty much beat on him for a good minute until Ric Flair came out and yanked Orton out of the ring to safety.  As Orton and Flair retreated, Randy was shouting something about Shelton having to prove he's worthy of an IC Title shot, I think...  we'll see if that becomes a plot point or not...


Backstage #1: Evolution are gathered together, and basically re-iterate Orton's game plan.  Win the tag titles, then help Hunter win the Battle Royale.  HHH likes the sound of this.

Backstage #2: Eugene and William Regal are hanging out, and a very excited Eugene asks about getting another match.  But Regal says that he should take it slow, and that he's not sure Eugene's Uncle Eric will give him a match this week, anyway.  And speak of the devil, here's Uncle Eric right now, and he wants a word with Regal.  In the background, Eugene finds some bowling pins and a fire extinguisher to play with, but in the foreground, that's where the action is: Regal apologizes for failing Eric last week, says he really did try to sabotage Eugene's match.  Bischoff says it's OK, though.  Because he's been thinking, and the way he'll get rid of Eugene is NOT through physical means: it's with psychological warfare.  Regal is confused.   Bischoff says Regal doesn't have to do anything this week except make sure that Eugene shows up for a Very Special Interview, and that he shows up ALONE.  Because in this interview, Eugene will be exposed as the laughingstock that he is, and he'll never want to show his face on RAW again.  Bischoff left, and Regal again gave us a very "conflicted" look.  To his credit, Jerry Lawler actually picked up on this, and played it up.  I think he even used the word "conflicted" once or twice, and threw it in JR's face, since it's usually JR who uses it...

Last week: JR and King talk about how Shawn Michaels is NOT a part of the Battle Royale tonight, and it's because he's suspended... that segue moves us right into a 3 minute video package of last week's show, where Michaels cost HHH a match, and then got tossed by Bischoff.


Kane vs. Val Venis

The Hot Blow-Off Match to this feud that started last week~!  The recap package of Kane assaulting Val last week probably takes longer than the match itself, as Kane squashed Venis in less than a minute.  

After the match: Matt ran out, and armed only with Extreme Righteousness and his Love for the Maiden Lita (and oh yeah, with a steel chair) got in a few shots on Kane.  But Kane played defense for all of 30 seconds before turning the tables.  And he used Matt's chair against him, placing Matt's head inside the chair and kind of quasi-Pillmanizing Matt's throat/neck.  This goes on for probably about a minute or two before Lita FINALLY runs out whining into a microphone the whole time.  But Kane does not release Matt until Lita says, "OK, you want an answer... the answer is yes."  Kane lets Matt free, and smiles as he gives Lita a Creepy Hug (and maybe whispers something to her) and just leaves.  Lita tends to Matt, and we STILL don't know what the Question was, so... whatever.  The misuse of Kane and the bad over-acting of Lita (which itself is a misuse of the chick who was supposedly the tough, Xtreme diva as much as it is bad acting) continues to overshadow the drama and mystery of whatever Lita has agreed to do for Kane, if you ask me....


Edge/Chris Benoit vs. Randy Orton/Batista (World Tag Team Title Match)

We start out in pure back-and-forth mode.  First Orton and Edge pick up where they left off in last week's singles match for a couple minutes.  Then Benoit and Batista tagged in and had a go for a few more.  Then Edge and Randy got back in, and finally SOMEBODY was able to gain an advantage, as Edge took over and clotheslined Orton over the top rope.  When Batista tried to attack from behind, Benoit cut him off at the pass and clotheslined HIM over the top rope.  Babyfaces standing tall, heels crumpled at ringside!  Perfect time for some...


We come back, and the tide has turned.  Has it ever.  Evolution has cut the ring in half and is working on Edge's shoulder/arm.  A double feature from action during the break shows us that Edge missed a spear attempt and went shoulder first into the steel ring post to set up this situation.  Edge powered out of an armbar-thingie after a couple minutes of this, and had an extended comeback that featured a really-nicely-done slingshot on Randy where Randy stumbled straight back into an inverted face-buster (skullbuster?) for a pinning combo spot.  Or maybe I just liked it cuz I was expecting the formulaic "escape the resthold and make the hot tag," and instead got a little Bonus Action.  The pinning combo, of course, didn't work, and Orton actually came back with a couple moves before Edge nailed him with a DDT and THIS time he went over and hot tagged Benoit.  Benoit's chaotic house afire segment, unfortunately, had the net effect of knocking the referee out at one point, which put us into End Game.  Edge and Batista paired up and mostly powdered out, leaving Benoit and Orton in the ring, where Benoit dominated.  But with the ref down (and really selling the knee so much that I thought he was really hurt), Flair got involved and fed Orton the IC belt.  So when Benoit came off the top with his Swandive Headbutt, Orton yanked the belt onto his chest, and Benoit's head smacked it.  Ouch.  Ref managed to crawl over and make a dramatic count... but Benoit kicked out at 2.  

Ref goes back to licking his wounds, and Flair again decides to interject himself.  But so do Edge and Batista, who emerge from their ringside brawl to get back in the ring.  They do a spot in which Edge manages to spear Batista, who goes tumbling into Flair, who himself falls from the ring apron and is effectively done for this match.  Edge and Batista go back to brawling outside the ring.  Orton is now in better shape than Benoit, or so it would seem, and the two do a bit of grappling, leading to Orton setting up for the RKO... but Benoit does a sweet-ass reversal, ducking under and grabbing Orton's arm and dragging him down into the Crippler Crossface.  Dead center of the ring, no Batista or Flair to help out... Orton taps out.  Very good 15-plus minute match.  I don't want to say "Better than anything on the PPV the night before," but I think I'd be right if I did; honestly, the only complaint I could muster is that Lawler was AGAIN so obnoxious with his man-crush on Pretty Randy Orton that he dragged the usually-sensical JR down into a discussion of magazine covers and worthiness of appearing on them.  But that mild annoyance was not enough to really take anything away from a really hot closing half of this match.

Backstage: Eugene is getting ready to come on out for his interview, and is getting a pep talk from Regal.  When Regal tells Young Master Eugene that he won't be accompanying him to the ring, Eugene gets kind of sad... but Regal props him up by telling him sometimes you've got to stand tall on your own and just be a man, no matter what anyone says to you, you have to stand up for yourself.  Regal's laying it on so thick that even Eugene senses there's more going on here, and he asks "Are you trying to tell me something, William?"... and Regal again goes all "conflicted" on us, like he wants to tell Eugene he's being ambushed, but knowing that his own interests and chances for rejoining the RAW Roster hinge on NOT telling.  Regal settles on just wishing Eugene good luck, and then looking vaguely guilty about it.


Ace Up the Sleeve Theatre

Todd Grisham is conducting the interview?  Jeez, I know that the guy Asks The Tough Questions, and putting up with Ivory at 10 in the morning would be enough to drive any man to a heel turn, but...  well, Todd brings Eugene out to the ring (big pop), and cannot even get a question in before Jonathan Coachman is out.  He tells Todd to take a hike, because the "A-Team" is here.

And you better believe Coach is extremely well-equipped to conduct an interview in asshole mode.  And by "interview," I mean monologue, because part of Coach's shtick tonight was asking a question, but then just yanking the mic away before Eugene could even answer.  Coach's main purpose here was to Make Eugene Sad.  He told Eugene that the fans didn't like him, they just liked LAUGHING at him.  Eugene tries to take solace in the fact that the fans are clearly chanting "Eugene, Eugene" and booing Coach, but Coach persists and gets inside Eugene's (simple) mind.  Coach tells Eugene he is a joke of a wrestler, that he only got a try-out match because his uncle is Eric Bischoff, that the people don't like him, the other wrestlers don't like him, that he has no friends: not Regal, not the fans, not anyone.  Also, in a complete non-sequitur: Eugene has never kissed a girl.  Anyway, Coach closes out by telling fan-less, friend-less Eugene to get his ass out of the ring and never come back because NOBODY ever wants to see him again.  Eugene is fighting back tears, and despite the fans' attempts to cheer him up, he retreats from the ring... he is standing on the stage, waving bye-bye to his Wrestling Dream when....


Holy shit, it's the Rock.  Failed movie star of late, he's still Rasslin' Gold.  Crowd goes berserk, and for that matter, so does Eugene, who cannot believe his eyes.  Hell, so does me, who (as mentioned above) was pretty much settled in for the "comfortable old shoe" type of RAW.  Rock corrals Eugene and brings him back to the ring, where the Coach has the look of a man who knows he's about to be made a bitch.  But he wears it so well.

Rock tells Eugene that he's not going anywhere.  Because the Rock heard Coach talking about the People, and that just ain't right.  Because only one man can talk for the People.  And that's the People's Champ, The Rock.  And the People like Eugene.  And the ROCK likes Eugene.  Eugene is bursting, and only gets more excited when the Rock maneuvers the fans into a "Eugene, Eugene" chant that is every bit as boisterous as the "Rocky, Rocky" chants that welcomed him were.  Rock notices that Eugene liked that, so in a pure Pavlovian Moment, promises Eugene that the fans will be chanting his name again in three seconds.  Rock puts up three fingers, counts it down, and the fans oblige.  So easy....  so utterly fun to watch, though.

Rock continues to pep talk Eugene, and tells him to ignore that "popcorn fart" over there.  "Screw the Coach," says Rock, and this thing is clicking so well that Rocky inadvertently started ANOTHER catchphrase, as during a pause for breath, the assembled crowd begins chanting "Screw the Coach" at the top of their lungs.  Rock and Eugene are loving it, and Rock even lets us behind the curtain for a moment by ad libbing "Screw the Coach, eh?  I like that... I'll have to remember that one."  For his next trick (one that he probably could have passed on, as it seemed a bit forced after the spontaneous "Screw the Coach" chant, but what the hell?), Rock also got the fans to chant "Popcorn Fart."

Coach finally attempts to defend himself, by reminding fans that the last time we saw the Rock he was getting his ass kicked at WrestleMania 20, and that he has no right to be making fun of the Undefeated PPV Superstar, the Coach (I'm The Rick, and I Improved This Line).  Rock ponders this, and asks Coach, "That was then, this is now, and you really think that just because I lost at WM means you're better than me?  Is that what you think?"... Coach gets about 7 nanoseconds into his reply when Eugene, ever the idiot savant of wrestling, cuts him off with "IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT YOU THINK."  HA!  Gold, baby, gold.

Rock then signs off on Eugene using his catchphrase ("You and Mick Foley, that's it," says the Rock), which only makes Eugene even happier.  So Rock decides to ask Eugene a few questions...  Who's the People's Champ?  "The Rock."  Who's your friend?  "The Rock."  And Who's Your Favorite Wrestler of All Time?  "Triple H" (with Spit Take Pose)!  HA AGAIN!  Rock's double take is hilarious, and he goes into a "stage whisper" as he pulls Eugene aside and asks him "Whassupwidat?"  Eugene admits he likes HHH because, like Eugene, HHH likes to play games.  Awwww....

Rock says the only game HHH likes to play is "Hide the Strudel" (big pop, and Rock milks it for a few more laughs by telling a confused-looking Eugene "I'll explain later" and then turning to Lillian for a Very Special Strudel Moment).  But if Eugene likes to play games, they'll play one here tonight, and Eugene can pick which one.  Maybe checkers?  Nah.  Or dodgeball?  Eh, maybe not.  How about "Eugene Kicks the Coach's Candy Ass All Over San Diego?"  Yeah, that one sounds good... but before the game can start, Garrison Cade runs out to help out his buddy, and we've got some 2-on-2 brawling.  But Rock eventually dispatches Cade, while Eugene has Coach pinned in the corner for some Turnbuckle Smashes.  Eugene then feeds Coach to the Rock, who hits the Rock Bottom, and appears to be setting up for the People's Elbow (minus an Elbow Pad, Rock makes a big show of removing his warm-up jacket and tossing IT to the crowd for a big pop) when he is struck by inspiration: he tells Eugene to hit the People's Elbow.  And Eugene does.  To a huge pop.  

Play the Rock's music as Rock and Eugene do the Classic Rock Turnbuckle Posing to close out a segment that AT LEAST an order of magnitude more entertaining, more climactic, more surprising, and more get-off-your-ass-and-cheer exciting than anything that happened the night before on PPV.  Awesome segment: funny as hell, totally shocking, and another great play with Eugene.


SmackDown! Rebound: I don't recap recaps.

20 Man Battle Royale (Winner Gets PPV Title Shot)

Actually, it's just the first few introduction here...  HHH is out first.  Then the Returning Maven.  Then Chris Jericho.  Then some....


20 Man Battle Royale (Winner Gets PPV Title Shot)

The Rock/Eugene/Coach thing probably ran a bit long, leading to an awkward opening segment here (I am NOT complaining, I am merely observing, because there was not better use of that time, if you ask me!)... they had barely enough time to finish up introductions (JR noted that Christian and Matt Hardy were both scratches due to injuries suffered last week and earlier tonight, respectively) and do a jump start in which Johnny Nitro, Stevie Richards, and Rosey were all eliminated by Kane in the opening 90 seconds before we had to cut to some more...


OK, now we're back, and will hopefully stick around for longer than 2 minutes this time....

We do about a five minute segment here, and the theme is just Thinning The Herd.  The non-factors are eliminated, and we start setting the "Evolution is working together" tone, as well, as they started saving each other and doing group eliminations and what-not here.  Also, Kane continued to be a dominating force.  We're pretty much down to the Elite Eight when it's time to take our final break for...


We come back again, and indeed, it is the Elite Eight.  Readers of my Monday column will not be surprised in the least to find out that they are: Evolution, Edge, Shelton Benjamin, Chris Jericho, and Kane.  I may suck at PPV predictions lately, but sometimes I knows whats I'm talking about.  These eight settle in for the long haul, with Kane playing a bit of a tweener, as he and HHH did some spots together.  First elimination of the final segment was Jericho, who did a sick looking bump over the turnbuckle/corner and landing on the steel steps.  That's a new one.  Score: Evolution 4, World 3.  But then Flair was next to go: Evolution 3, World 3.  This set up for a spot in which Kane went on a tear and basically chokeslammed everybody... except Batista.  With Kane standing tall, Batista stepped up and did a "Hey, try me, next big boy" thing.  Power on power, and Batista actually got the better of it...  but it took something out of him, and in the interim, Edge had recovered.  While Batista was celebrating his moral victory over Kane, Edge got an ACTUAL victory by tossing Batista over the top rope.  Evolution 2, World 3.  Edge tried to follow up by spearing Orton, but Orton ducked and Edge went flying over the top rope.  He caught himself, but Orton was right there to kick Edge all the way down to the floor.

The Final Four: Orton, HHH, Kane, and Shelton.  Kane is mostly staying down at first (still selling the Batista powerbomb... or spinebuster... or whatever it was), leaving HHH/Orton to double team Shelton.  Shelton, however, immediately pops the crowd by battling against the odds (including a cool "run-up-the-ropes" cross body thing, taking out both men).  Kane eventually got involved again, but Shelton even got the better of him (with the Dragon Whip).  Orton tried to charge Shelton after that, and instead got backdropped over the top rope, and he fell to the floor.  Orton's gone, and Shelton did it: you better believe that's your IC Title feud for the PPV.  Shelton's a house afire, Stinger Splashing Kane twice... except on the third attempt, Kane no-sells and just grabs Shelton for a chokeslam.  But before he can hit it, HHH strikes from behind, and low blows Kane.  Kane crumples to the mat, and HHH takes advantage of Shelton's disorientation to toss him over the top.  Shelton's gone, and it's down to HHH (smiling and confident) and Kane (nursing his testicles).  SURELY HHH WILL WIN!  

But no: just as HHH is preparing to toss Kane, Shawn Michaels emerges from the crowd, hits the flying burrito on HHH, and then tosses him out of the ring.  And apparently, that's an elimination here on Home Run Derby, because the refs ring the bell and award the Battle Royale (and PPV Title Shot) to Kane.  Shawn immediately evacuates and goes into the crowd to celebrate, while HHH looks confused/pissed.  Kane's music plays for about 30 seconds, but then they shift gears and play Shawn's music and focus on him in the crowd to close out the show.  

Final Analysis

When you're hot, you're hot.  I was already digging RAW (strong tag title match, and the Battle Royale wound up being pretty solid by focusing most of its energy and time on the Elite Eight), but you toss in a wholly unexpected appearance by The Rock, and have it be that much fun?  This wasn't a "maintenance show."  This was unadulterated fun and something that we'll remember weeks and months from now.  Rock/Eugene/Coach will be getting some votes when it comes time for the OO Year End Awards, I'm sure of it...

Actually that segment is your microcosm for the whole show.  And you know how I love distilling things down so I can use the word "microcosm"!  I did not really expect that Eugene would be chased off by Coach like that...  I thought he'd be bailed out.  And I thought it'd be William Regal, revealing his true colors.  

You know what?  It would have worked, too.  As I said last week, I think Regal would be kind of a surrogate for a lot of us who originally didn't want to like Eugene, but have warmed up to him over time.  To see Regal struggle with his conscience and then decide "Screw Bischoff, I'm gonna help this kid out" would go over big.  And I cannot overstate how much the crowd would have loved hearing the Perfect Patsy, Coach, verbally undressed by Regal.  Toe-rag this, crumpet muffin that, all that British stuff: it WOULD have gone over.  But it would have gone over in the "comfortable old shoe" kind of way.  Serviceable, the next step in an on-going storyline, but not ultimately memorable.

So enter The Rock, which nobody expected.  Enter material that was dead-on perfect, electrifying if you will, instead of just serviceable.  Out-freaking-standing.  Time will tell if Eugene can do more with "the Rock Rub" than Hurricane did, but that's a discussion for another time.  In the short term, I think Eugene will have no trouble staying over big time, because unless I'm missing my guess, he's locked into a feud with Coach, and as much as it pains me to admit this, having Coach spend the next month bragging on his "undefeated PPV record" (even the then-nonsensical win over Tajiri) will be a GORGEOUS set-up for a Bad Blood match between the two.  And you can, over that time, milk Regal's "conflictedness," too, and make it seem like Bischoff has gotten Regal to agree to help out his boy, Coach, and screw over Eugene in that match.  And whether the pay-off actually is Regal siding with Eugene (for a tag feud against Coach and Cade) or Regal siding with Coach/Bischoff (for a singles feud AGAINST Eugene), it's gonna be good stuff.

Goddammit: from thinking Eugene was a month-long disposable gimmick to plotting out his story arcs 2- and 3-months in advance.  Somebody should get a gold star, and it's not me.  I'll be over here eating my crow.

You put that Rock/Eugene/Coach stuff on top of a very good tag title match, a very effective Battle Royale (ramping up HBK/HHH, focusing on the right 8 guys, etc), and a quality women's opener, and you got yourself an absolutely stellar show.  I'm still not on board with Kane's smarmy thing with Lita (nor with Lita's roll in that whole mess, either), but having Kane go a little bit more Bad Ass in the Battle Royale helped assuage some of my concerns about his Title Shot being an abysmal failure.  And anyway, the close of the show told us all we need to know: Kane won the battle royale and gets the title shot, but the REAL story was Michaels screwing HHH.  Those two will work the main event at Bad Blood, and it will be good.

Maybe not quite on par with the Free Per View of two weeks ago, but close.  Definitely a step back up from last week. I remain in awe of how easy RAW makes it look at a time when SD! is having a hard time finding its ass with both its hands.  Super show, and more thoughts, ratings, fall-out, whatever in tomorrow's 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
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