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Future Less-Than-Perfect? 
May 25, 2004

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


Well, it was bound to happen eventually...

I couldn't tell you the precise date, but I'm pretty sure it's been since mid- or late-February: that's the last time RAW put on a show that was even CLOSE to "mediocre" or "OK."  It's the week I felt they mis-played Foley/Orton with an over-long and anticlimactic (and WAY over-sold) Evolution beat-down, and didn't have a whole lot else sizzling on the show.

Then the next week, they're in Atlanta and the Rock finally shows up, and RAW cruises through WrestleMania with strong shows, starts positively kicking ass en route to Backlash, and then keeps kicking out the jams for May Sweeps.  It's just about 3 months of the absolute strongest consecutive wrestling television that we fans have gotten to enjoy in the last two years (since the brand split).
And it may well continue into the future... but this week was a bit of a speed bump.  Not a bad show.  Just an "OK" one.  The kind of show that I'd have been happy to chalk up as "routine maintenance," if only it had given us a glimmer of hope for the future along with its own adequacy.  But it didn't quite deliver that.

Instead, it was a competent and relatively amusing show that's extra feature was something alien to RAW: genuine concern about next week's program.  Yes folks, I'm the Rick and I'm an Internet Jack-off, and my opinion is ALLOWED to change on a dime like that...

Except it really hasn't that changed that much.  One mediocre showing does not The Rick piss off.  But I always feel like I need an over-riding thesis for my columns and recaps, and the best I got today is "First merely decent RAW in 3 months."  Here, I'll just tell you what happened, and YOU decide if I'm right or wrong:

Video Package: There's a #1 Contender Battle Royale, and somebody wins.  Maybe Kane.  But that doesn't matter because what's really important is that the suspended Shawn Michaels came out of the crowd to cause Triple H to LOSE the Battle Royale and accompanying title shot.

Cold Open: In the Evolution dressing room, HHH is in bitching and whining mode as he says that the Bad Blood PPV Title Shot should be his, not Kane's.  Eric Bischoff has been summoned, and HHH says he wants to get his vengeance on Shawn Michaels, so Bischoff MUST re-instate HBK.  Bischoff says "I'm one step ahead of you, dude," and announces that not only is Michaels re-instated, but he'll be here tonight.  Oh, and Bischoff also says he's made a match for Bad Blood where HHH will face Michaels, and just so HHH knows....  but HHH cuts Bischoff off, and says he doesn't care about the details, he just wants the match. So Bischoff is excused, apparently with part of a bombshell left undropped...  HHH turns to Evolution and asks them where the hell they were last week, and berates them: they had only one job, and they failed him.  Orton tries to sneak in some line about having had a "late night" the night before, but before fans can realize who badly the attempted comedy flopped, HHH cut him off and said It didn't matter because tonight they'd settle all scores, and they'd show UNITY doing it.  Starting with Ric Flair vs. Edge, which is right now.  Both Batista and Orton leave with Flair, but when Orton ducks back and says something about "If Michaels shows up while we're gone, just save enough of him for us."  Which makes HHH think for a second.  And then he shouts out, "Hey, Batista!  Maybe you should stay with me."  Which actually was kinda funny as the segment's punchline...

In-Arena Open: no opening theme or pyro, just a welcome from Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, who then send it right down to the ring...

Edge vs. Ric Flair

It was mostly Edge on offense early, but then the Orton Factor kicked in, and Randy provide a little distraction, which allowed Flair to hit an eye poke, which allowed Flair to hit a few minutes worth of moves.  Very basic action here, and when Edge made his comeback, it stayed that way: Flair hit some of his patented bumps (the turnbuckle flop, the attempted top rope move that Edge foiled) leading to a Near Fall that was an Actual Fall (somebody got the lines crossed and Flair didn't kick out, nor did Orton interfere, and the ref just had to stop at 2 and pretend like Flair DID kick out, which got plenty of boos from the audience).  Kind of an annoying faux pas.  But that did signal the start of End Game, which meant Orton DID get involved at that point.  He hung Edge out on the top rope, giving Flair an opening for a few near falls of his own.  But Edge wouldn't stay down.  When Orton tried to interfere again, Shelton Benjamin came out from the back and started brawling with Randy at ringside.  In the ring, Edge again staged a comeback, and this time, he hit a spear on Flair and got the pinfall.  About 5 minutes, and OK as an opener despite the mid-match screwiness.

Outside the Arena: HHH and Batista have set up shop and are waiting for Shawn Michaels to arrive so they can kick his ass.


Earlier Today: Vince McMahon, flanked by a dozen or so of what I'm assuming were probably Rockford, IL's most not-working-today strippers, made a huge announcement: RAW would be conducting a Diva Search, looking for the hottest piece of ass in all the land.  It is clear they want a Stacy, not a Trish, from Vince's description, if you catch my drift.  Hotness, not ability, will win you a $250,000 prize and a one year contract.  And good lord: the way Vince described it, you might as well just call this "Diva Idol," cuz America gets to vote off a finalist every week once they whittle the field down to 10.

[PURE TANGENTIAL RANT: Look, I know I hate reality TV, you know I hate reality TV, and I hate the idea that a show that has been so good lately is looking for excuses to include 10 minutes of reality TV every week, which is what this contest seems to be doing.  Now, I do know people who I actually like and respect who ENJOY "American Idol," but among them, they admit the only parts they like are seeing the actual performances, and the packaging of it (the judging and up-close-and-personal crap) is retarded.  But what WWE is doing here is basically carting out some babes and letting America judge how hot they are.  There's no "performance" here, it's just HotOrNot.com turned into a TV show, which is kinda dumb, if you ask me; Hot or Not is fun for about 10 minutes once in everybody's life, but beyond that, it's lame and boring.  And didn't somebody actually try to turn that into a TV show, and didn't it fail miserably?  Also: I cannot tell a lie, I also dread this concept because it's like giving Jerry Lawler carte blanche to be a blithering ass.  The only way I see this even bordering on tolerable is if it's even more of a produced work/angle than most Reality TV already is, and they've got a carefully planned storyline to introduce the new diva character in place and have no designs on this being even a remotely legitimate contest.  Otherwise, my prediction is Train Wreck.  END RANT.]

Backstage: "Tough Questions" Todd Grisham is waiting outside Lita's locker room, where he intends to ask her.... the Tough Questions.  Sadly, Todd first kicks to to a video package to remind us of how badly the last month or so of the Lita/Kane angle has sucked.  But when we return live, we're interrupted by Matt Hardy, who wants to talk to Lita first, before Todd.  Matt starts pounding on the door, but Lita's not answering... because she's right here, outside the door, merely off camera slightly!  That sly vixen, always knowing where "just out of frame" is.  But now she's in frame, and Grisham is basically excused, because it's Matt who has the questions: he's been trying to reach Lita all week, been calling her so much that he kinda felt stalker-ish about it, but she's been incommunicado, and Matt's really worried.  Lita said it's OK, she just needed time to think and be by herself.  And in her thinking, she realized something... she loves Matt Hardy.  Awwww.  Then they kiss, a nice long one, too (convincing as it was, it still did not undo the UNconvincing "acting" that preceded it).  Lita says she just wants to get away for a bit with Matt, so if he'll wait outside, she's gonna go inside her locker room and get her bag.

Shitty Segue: in one of those god-awful, ham-handed, simply-does-not-look-or-feel-like-anything-that-belongs-on-a-wrestling-show moments, Camera A (in a well-lit and normal looking hallway) loses Lita as she walks into her dressing room.  Which is where the conveniently-stationed Camera B just happens to be waiting to seamlessly pick up where we left off, except Lita's dressing room is kind of dark and reddish-tinged.  So when Lita stops off to brush her hair and Kane lurks out of a closest (or something), it's about as unsurprising a moment as you can imagine.  He comes up behind Lita, who goes all simpering girly-girl on us again and says "I thought this was over."  And Kane just gently caresses Lita and says something about "Oh, it's over, Lita. It's ALL over," before he goes back into his shadows and lets Lita escape with her bag.  Lita pauses at the door, looks back at Kane, composes herself, and then walks back out into the hallway.

Two Shitty Segues Do Not a Good Segment Make: And sure enough, the god-awful, ham-handed camera cut is reprised, as Camera A again picks up Lita emerging into the well-lit hallway, only serving to underscore what a completely idiotic and overly-Hollywood bit of melodrama this was.  You want to not TRY to distract me with how contrived this all is, just have the one camera follow Lita into the dressing room and follow her out and pretend it's not there.  That much, at least I'm used and resigned to dealing with; this two camera nonsense is just lame, though.  Oh, and the end of the segment: Lita puts on her smiley face and leaves the building arm-in-arm with Matt without mentioning any of what just happened to him.  Huh, that raises a few questions, I guess.  To bad I really don't care about the answers.  

I'd rail pretty hard against this storyline, in general, as nothing has gone well to date in it; and in this specific case, the production of the thing absolutely BLUDGEONED you over the head with the badness of it all.  Man.


Outside the Arena: HHH and Batista spy a rental car pulling up across the street, and a pony-tailed guy at the wheel.  They assume it's Michaels and go into Attack Mode.  They pull the guy out of the car and wail on him for a bit before they realize it's Stevie Richards.  So, what?, Stevie's just getting here and DIDN'T work a Heat match?  Tough break, Steve-o!  A disgusted HHH realizes the mistake and sends Batista away to fetch Orton and Flair, and then gives Richards a final dismissive couple of kicks to the gut.

Hurricane and Rosey vs. La Resistance

Ummm, again for the first time in a while, I'm left thinking "This is Pure Heat Caliber, baby"...  not sure what really set this up or why we were supposed to care, but they stuck pretty close to a reliable formula: Hurricane quickly became the face in peril, Rosey got the time-condensed hot tag about 3 minutes in and delivered a bunch of Fat Man Offense to a good pop.  Then Hurricane tagged back in and was about to put Grenier away with a shining wizard, but Grenier blocked it and shoved Hurricane back into the ropes, where Conway was lurking at ringside and punched Hurricane in the face.  Hurricane stumbled backwards directly into a schoolboy roll-up.  La Resistance gets the cheap 4 minute win, and in the night's most unintentionally comic moment, the announcers speculate that this might really help La Resistance's standing in the tag division.  Whee.

Outside the Arena: a now-alone HHH is still pacing the streets when he is sudden attacked from just off-camera!  We finally get a clear shot of the attacker, and sure enough, it's Shawn Michaels.  The two brawl on the hood of a car until officials swarm and break them up.


Highlight Reel with Chris Jericho

Jericho was already in the ring when we came back from ads, and must have done a stellar job of pre-heating the audience during the break, because they are red hot to start...  and Jericho only further entices them with some self-promotional jibber-jabber about how awesome he is and how he sent Christian home with a back injury after their titanic struggle of a cage match, and how now CLB stands for "Crushed Lower Back."  But that's not why we're here tonight.  We're here to talk to a red hot superstar, the current IC Champ... Randy Orton.

Orton is out to the requisite boos (and the requisite man-lust from Jerry Lawler).  Jericho does the unexpected, and kind of puts Orton over to start, running down Randall's list of accomplishments.  I would also like to note that Jericho is stealing my shit by calling Orton "Randall" throughout the segment.  But when Jericho gets done with the list of Killed Legends and Lengthy IC Title Reigns and all, he turns on Randall by wondering why he's scared of Shelton Benjamin.  Orton says Benjamin's not in his league and has never done anything to deserve an IC Title shot, so that's why he turned him down.  Jericho, ever the Thinking Man's Interviewer, notes that Benjamin did beat HHH twice, so what's Randall saying, that he thinks he's better than HHH and that HHH isn't in his league, either?  [I'm the Rick, and I improved this line.]  Jericho actually didn't say it QUITE that clearly or confrontationally, so the idea of Evolution Dissension was (too-)quickly glossed over, but Orton still got pissy and accused Jericho of having a "Big Mouth."  Jericho was taken aback at the tastelessness of that retort, and wondered if Orton would continue down the Bad Taste Continuum by calling him a "poo poo head."  Eventually, they are nose to nose and sure enough....

Orton slaps Jericho in the face and we got ourselves a brawl.  Jericho gets the better of it... but only for a while, until Batista runs out to un-even the odds.  Then Shelton Benjamin is out, and we appear to have ourselves a nice even fight...  until Eric Bischoff comes out on stage and tells everybody to freeze, sucker.  He's already got his hands full with this HHH/HBK situation, and he will NOT lose control of his show tonight.  So if these four want to fight, they can clear the ring and do it in a tag match RIGHT NOW.  And by "right now," Eric of course means after these...


Chris Jericho/Shelton Benjamin vs. Randy Orton/Batista

When we come back, it's Jericho and Orton working in the ring, with Jericho nominally in control.  And when Jericho decides to tag in Shelton, that's when Orton gets a Case of the Limber Tail, and tags in Batista.  After a few minutes, Batista finally tames Benjamin, and is in control of the match.  So of course, Orton decides NOW is when he'd like to tag in and face Shelton.  Batista obliges.  But not too long after tagging in, Orton is surprised by a Shelton comeback.  Benjamin hits a move or two, and then hits the Decoy Hot Tag to Jericho, who comes in and cleans house.  Jericho hit a bunch of moves, leaving Evolution to duck outside the ring to regroup.  Bad decision: Jericho spots 'em, and then hits a big-ass springboard plancha onto both men.  Heels are down, faces are in control, so how about some....


We're back, and somehow, Evolution has taken over. Ah, I see: it happened During the Break!  Jericho was continuing to dominate, and was about to lock in the Walls of Jericho when Trish Stratus came out on the stage.  The distraction was enough for Evolution to take control, and now, Orton is working the left arm of Jericho with a series of moves that span the full range from tepid to actually-painful-looking.  Oh, hey: and Trish is still here, and has put on a headset to do commentary.  Except she's not really commenting a whole lot, except to tell us that she's got a surprise, she's not gonna tell us what it is, and she doesn't feel like talking any more.  You call it a sub-par guest commentary appearance, I justify it by saying that not wanting to engage Aging Letch Jerry Lawler in any conversation above the bare minimum is Yet Another Endearing Trish Trait.

Oh, the match?  Well, I kind of was trying to stay away from that, since it really did settle in to a lengthy display of rest holds targeting Jericho's left arm.  In and of itself, not a horrible thing.  Gotta slow things down and tell a story, right?  Except that when Orton tagged out, and Batista came in, he started applying HIS restholds to Jericho's RIGHT arm.  Oh, good lord: I try not to be a wank who pays TOO close attention and obsesses over idiot details, but Batista SHOULD have been watching the preceding 3 minutes of restholds AT LEAST as closely as I had, considering it's HIS JOB, right?  And instead, he comes in and goes after the OTHER arm.  Am I making too big a deal over wanting the slow middle portion of the match to actually make sense, or did you also feel my pain?

Anyway, we finally get to the Babyface Comeback, and Jericho fires up on Orton (I think).  We end up with the spot where both guys are down, and both drag themselves over to make tags.  Benjamin goes to work on Batista, and after a minute or so of House Afire action, both Orton and Jericho got back into the fray.  Jericho did so illicitly, but Orton actually tagged back in, legally.  Jericho's sneak attack managed to cause Batista to powder out, and while Orton was distracted by Jericho, he missed Shelton lurking behind him.  Jericho dodged an Orton attack, and Randall walked right into a... well, I'm not entirely sure what to call it.  It was kind of like a T-Bone Suplex, except Shelton morphed it into a powerslam by the end.  Ross called it just a "powerslam," but it was definitely Shelton-ized, and he might finally have himself a viable finisher.  Call it a T-Bone Slam till they figure out something better...  hard to say since it started during a commercial, but I'm guessing maybe 18 minutes here.  And OK for the most part, just not on par with other lengthy "anchor" matches that RAW's had the last couple months, due to a bit of a bog-down with the rest-hold miscommunication in the middle.

After the match: Trish finally leapt into action, trying to distract Jericho as he walked up the ramp.  Jericho ignored her at first, but finally decided to go over to the announce table and see what she wanted (dismissing Benjamin at the same time, which was not wise).  Before Jericho can even get within 10 feet of Trish, sure enough, trouble struck in the form of a back attack from Tyson Tomko.  Trish directed traffic, and the beatdown ended with Jericho getting powerbombed through the announce table.  Pretty wicked-looking spot.  Live crowd deemed it worthy of a "Holy Shit," and I'm gonna go ahead and assume this means it's Jericho vs. Tomko for the next phase of this storyline...


Moments Ago: a lengthy recap of Jericho getting his ass handed to him and then having to be stretchered out, complete with neck brace.  JR and King are now presiding over a pile of rubble, instead of a commentary desk.

Kane Speaks, Just Not Really Well or For Very Long

Interrupting JR and King's Jericho Misery is the Hellfire and Brimstone, as Kane saunters to the ring.  He grabs a mic, and launches into a spiel about how he envies Chris Benoit.  He envies Benoit for being the champion and living his dream.  But mostly he envies Benoit for having a Normal Life, while a freak like Kane must live in the shadows and on the fringe.  Kane announces that that will change at Bad Blood, because Kane wants the World Title, and what Kane wants, Kane gets.  Cue the ringpost pyro!  Well, that was certainly....  something.  

Too short and concise to actually suck, this little promo mostly just underscored how unprepared RAW is to run with a Kane/Benoit feud (and also, it should be noted, did it with with a slightly cheesy camera angle/lighting treatment that was the perfect counterpoint to my earlier production-related bitching).  Nothing has been done to set up Kane as a #1 Contender becasue he's been too busy doing stupid soap opera crap with Lita, and a 90 second mission statement doesn't fix that.  Especially not when it ends with a "What I want, I get" statement that was so nebulous that I was SURE that instead of lighting the ringpost pyro, Kane was gonna cue up some Secret Video Footage of what he and Lita had spent the last week doing, if you catch my drift.  Luckily, that's not the tack they took.  Thank god for small favors, eh?  So yee haw, this didn't suck; it also accomplished nothing substantially positive.

Backstage: Michaels is in GM Bischoff's office, and wants to know if he got his match.  Yes, Eric assures him, he got the match, and he got it "his way."  And that's when, from behind, HHH attacked, knocking Michaels into Bischoff, and then all three tumbled over a nearby couch and to the floor, where Bischoff extricated himself and asked for help breaking the two up.  Officials accomplished that.  For all of 4 seconds, and then Michaels leapt at HHH, and this time, the two crashed into Johnny Nitro and tumbled over an easy chair.  Officials were just barely restraining the two as we faded to...


Victoria vs. Molly Holly (Women's Title Match)

Some (obnoxious) music hits -- think the public-domain version of that "My milkshake brings all the boys blah blah blah" song (the same basic beat, but minus the actual hook, nothing to hang your hat on) -- and out comes... Victoria?  She proceeds to do a very chipper NBA Dance Team type routine (you know, enough that you can't help but notice the rump, but harmless enough that the whole family can enjoy it) to a confused fan reaction.  So she's Grand Mistress Sexay now?  Vickishi?  Help me out here, folks, because as far as I can tell, Victoria, ass-shaking and all, just got a whole lot less appealing and whole lot more annoying...  it was NOT the ring entrance that was broken (in fact, I *liked* the Russian lesbians and thought that song was both catchy AND a perfect encapsulation of Wacky Victoria's persona).  It was the fact that once she'd entered the arena, Victoria hasn't been given anything remotely interesting to do in the last 2 months.  Shitty new music and a G-rated booty dance are not the solution.  Then again, if WWE had decided that "actually being interesting and entertaining thanks to interaction with Stevie Richards" was also not the solution, why am I not surprised they'd cook this up, instead?

Anyway: Victoria's entrance is the story because the match wound up being a lot less interesting/competitive than I might have hoped.  Instead of an intriguing next chapter in the Victoria vs. Molly/Gail saga, it amounted to a re-set of the women's division, with Dancing Victoria suddenly dominant again.  Gail helped Molly gain a slight edge for a minute or two early on, but then Victoria made her comeback and easily and cleanly pinned Molly following a Widow's Peak at about the 3 minute mark.  Well worked, but it really seemed like they suddenly decided to just shift gears out of nowhere with the women's division (and of course, I'm indignant that it seems to be Molly who gets screwed in all of this).  Gail tried to attack after the match, but got nothing in.  Dancing Victoria just gave her a Widow's Peak, too.  Well, I thought I could tell where they're going in the women's division; now I have no clue.
SmackDown! Rebound: I don't recap recaps.

Backstage: Eric Bischoff is furious at the way HHH and HBK are running roughshod over his authority, and tells Johnny Nitro that the only thing they'll respect is "Sheer Force."  So Nitro must now assemble the entire RAW Locker Room for a Special Address from GM Bischoff.


Backstage: Bischoff is speaking, and all of RAW (including Benoit, Edge, and hey, even A-Train!) are listening.  Bischoff says that HHH and HBK aren't just disrespecting Eric by their crazed brawling, they are disrespecting all of RAW, and by extension, each and every RAW Superstar.  Bischoff asks for every RAW roster member to help him control Michaels and HHH... he tells them if they see those two brawling, they MUST intervene and put a stop to it, they must swarm and teach Michaels and HHH a lesson!  And if they don't, he'll fire each and every one of them.  Huh, well that's... over-reactive, I think.

Video Package: Coach tried to humiliate Eugene, and the Rock came out to make the save, and everything turned out peachy.

Interview Time: Todd Grisham attempts to interview Eugene and William Regal about their tag match against Coach and Garrison Cade.  Except Eugene is making it tough: he's giving Grisham a wet willie, running around impersonating the Rock, and so forth.  Finally, Todd decides to just talk to Regal, and asks him about getting back in the ring tonight.... but wait!  Johnny Nitro is here with a proclamation from Eric Bischoff: Regal has not been re-instated, and is not cleared to compete tonight.  So Eugene has about three minutes to find a partner, or else he faces Coach and Cade in a handicap match.  Regal is completely upset by this announcement and tells Nitro that he can't send Eugene out in a match like that.  But Johnny says that's the order from Bischoff.  Eugene looks sad, now, but Regal gives him another "Just go out there and be a man, stand up for yourself, and it'll be OK" speech.  Eugene walks off... and Regal again looks Conflicted.  In cahoots with Bischoff and Nitro?  Or genuinely concerned for Eugene?  I'm loving that it can still go either way...


Eugene vs. Jonathan Coachman and Garrison Cade

Coach and Cade hit the ring and seem quite confident.  It's a confidence that only swells and Eugene comes out all by himself...  although, if you've got half a brain in your head and have been keeping track on your TV Time Scorecard, you should already be waiting for the other shoe to drop...  which it does in the form of...

Chris Benoit/Eugene vs. Coach and Cade

Benoit comes out, and although it's exactly what I expected as soon as Johnny Nitro made his announcement before the break, I still think it's a pretty good play: in a lot of subliminal ways, they'll be able to put together "Eugene's Story of May 2004," and they can spin it like Benoit is an equal of the Rock, which is a nice little boost for him.  Sure it'd be better for him to have a viable World Title Feud, instead, but in lieu of that, I'll take general Happy, Shiny, Character-Building Matches like this for Benoit.  Benoit definitely gets a bit of "Rock Rub" by being the next guy who steps up to defend Eugene; I'll stop short of suggesting that appearing in this match actually gives Benoit any "Eugene Rub," though.  The character has taken off, but let's not go crazy, here...

Benoit started against Cade, and was entirely in control for the opening minute.  And despite the fact that it was the Heels in Peril, when Benoit even glanced Eugene's way, the crowd fired up and started chanting for Eugene, making this one of the most unique "Hot Tags" of all time.  Eugene came in and stayed in control with a basic headlock take-over.  Then he did a criss-cross thing that was cute in its pointlessness.  Then he stopped that, and did the "Hey, what's that over there?" trick with Cade, and when Cade looked, Eugene hit him with a giant tomahawk chop for big laughs.  Eugene knew when enough was enough, and tagged back Benoit.  He continued to control the match, and finally Coach tagged in.  Benoit dissected him with chops that actually tore the shirt off Coach's torso.  Eugene came in and intercepted Cade when Cade tried to interfere.  Benoit finished off Coach with a Hat Trick of Germans, and then the swandive headbutt...  but instead of going for the pin, Benoit again looked to Eugene, and gave the fans what they wanted: he tagged Eugene in, and helped him up to the top rope and had him to another swandive headbutt onto Coach.  And Eugene got the pinfall win.  Woozy from the unexpectedly-impactful headbutt, Eugene finally realized he won again and celebrated the win by dancing around the ring with Benoit's two title belts.  And although PART of me thought it would have been bad-ass if Benoit had taken umbrage and downed Eugene with a Crossface, MOST of me knows it was a good thing that Benoit just stood by and smiled at Eugene's antics.  A fun little four minute match.  Welcome to main events, Eugene.

Backstage: HHH is rallying Evolution, and says he wants them to go find Shawn Michaels and drag him to the ring... but why wait?  Here's Michaels, now, attacking from just off-camera again!  The brawl is short, as officials were obviously awaiting something like this and tear Michaels off HHH and out of the room.  HHH is left to stare at the camera and shout "Khan!  KHHAAAAAAANNN!  KHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAANN!"... oh, wait, I mean, "Michaels!  MIICHAELSSS!  MIIIIICCHHAEELLLLLLSS!".


Main Event Promo: The Wrath of Shawn

Triple H hits the ring, and you KNOW he means business because he doens't waste any time doing a spit take or posing (although, when the show came in about 5 minutes short, you think maybe he should have).  He just gets in the ring and grabs a mic.  HHH announces he's had enough of Shawn Michaels and he wants to settle this right here, right now, so get yer ass out here.

Michaels is more than happy to comply, and also does not dally with his ring entrance.  Just straight to the ring, where he and Hunter go into trading punches mode.  Then HBK gains a slight edge, which is Evolution's cue to come on out.  But they are countered by Benoit, Shelton, and Edge.  But the extra six guys don't accomplish a whole lot: they just cancel each other out, leaving HHH vs. HBK to brawl like mad in the ring.  
So enter another wave: Eric Bischoff waves guys like A-Train and Chuck Palumbo out to the ring (who?)... but they don't solve anything: Michaels and HHH are still brawling.  So ANOTHER wave: and Bischoff summons just about the rest of the locker room out (Rhyno, Val, Hurricane, Rosey, La Resistance), and finally there is enough Sheer Force to keep HHH and HBK trapped in opposite corners of the ring.  Bischoff comes on down and grabs a mic.  He starts to say something...  and HHH bolts free and attacks Shawn.  He is quickly subdued by the Entire RAW Roster.  Bischoff tries talking again, but is cut off when Michaels gets free and jumps on HHH's pile.  Again, they are torn apart.

Finally, Bischoff gets enough of an opening to make his announcement: at Bad Blood, it's gonna be Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H... and it's gonna be Hell in the Cell!  Reaction shot of HHH shows us Mild Concern.  Reaction shot of Michaels shows us Michaels again getting free and attacking HHH!  The RAW Roster tries (and fails) to break them up, and we end the show with a ring full of dudes trying to stop HHH and HBK from fighting while JR is apoplectic at the prospects of Hell in the Cell in just three weeks!

Final Analysis

Alright, so I *know* this was an OK show, and all.  But RAW's been so much better than "OK" for so long that it just felt kind of weird to me that it was only the third most-compelling thing on my TV last night.  In the battle of channel flipping, RAW was not doing as well keeping me away from the Reds (sweeping the Astros, how hot is that?!?) and the Pacers (the less said, the better).  

The magic of DVR meant I didn't miss a minute of RAW, but for the first time since February, I kind of felt like I could have, if I'd wanted to.  Although that's not totally fair, either: only Hurricane/Rosey vs. La Resistance really reeked of Heat.  Everything else, I really did want to see, even if I wound up not being totally satisfied with how it played out.
And that's kind of where this odd sense of dissatisfaction is coming from: not so much that this show was sub par on its own, but that for the first time in a long time, it did nothing to compel me to be excited for next week.  In my "maintenance week" schema, the idea is to make your mediocre weeks build to something that fans can't afford to miss the next week.
All WWE did in terms of future prospects was stuff like (a) fail to address Kane/Benoit in an interesting way, only muddying it with more Kane/Lita crap, (b) complete Victoria's turn into an almost completely uncheer-able personality, and (c) make me real nervous about weekly 10-minute "Diva Idol" crap-a-thons.  

The only real Future Prospect Win of the night was that they set up HHH/HBK's Hell in the Cell match, and even that one seemed more than a bit over-done (Bischoff was over-reactive, and the locker-room clearing at the end was clearly an attempt to create a "big" finish for the show, and it mostly seemed strained)...  but it's almost like they looked at the show they wanted to do, and realized nothing else was an adequate main event, so they forced the giant schmozz when, really, just doing a show-opening or mid-show bit with HHH and HBK to set up the HitC announcement would have felt MUCH more natural and satisfying.
But again, if you do that, then what's your main event?  Jericho/Shelton vs. Evolution was solid, but it also didn't have a whole lot of sizzle, and I'd ALMOST have to vote for Benoit/Eugene's victory celebration as the better "Happy Ending."  But still, it's a pointless happy ending, since it does nothing good to build to next week.  At least the forced schmozz gave you a cliff-hanger related to an on-going storyline, so...
I dunno.  My lingering concerns are, admittedly, kind of minute and mild ones.  This was a show that I'd dub Perfectly Acceptable.  It's just that my job as an Internet Smark means I have to try to isolate (and if need be, INVENT) problems before they exist.  And in this case, the first RAW in 3 months that doesn't leave me wishing for a time machine to make it be next week is my problem.  Hell in the Cell will sell itself, but what about the rest of the show?  They've got some issues there... and Diva Searches and continued Kane/Lita soap opera are not the solutions.
More thoughts/fall out tomorrow in OO.


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RAW RECAP: The New Guy Blows It
PPV RECAP: WWE Night of Champions 2012
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PPV RECAP: WWE Money in the Bank 2012
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PPV RECAP: WWE No Way Out 2012
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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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