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Sympathy for the RAW 
June 8, 2004

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


It's hard, but I'll try to stop myself from continually comparing the eventual WWE vision for the Bad Blood PPV with the one I had a couple weeks back.  Obviously, I am attached to my ideas, but the truth is that I think the Fed did a half-way decent job last night salvaging a solid PPV card.

Maybe it was a bit of a rush job, maybe they seemed to randomly switch gears on one or two stories which I always find annoying, but the end result was two hours of TV that had a bit more of the March-May sizzle and an increased interest (from this corner, at least) in Bad Blood.  I'll say this, too: building to the PPV aside, RAW brought back the Kick-Ass Main Event Wrestling Match after a nearly month-long vacation, and that's ALWAYS a good thing.

Here's how it all went down...

No preface, just the opening theme/pyro/etc., and a welcome from The King and Jim Ross, who tell us that we've got two, count 'em TWO big main events tonight (Shelton Benjamin vs. Batista, and Shawn Michaels vs. Randy Orton), and introduce the concept that JR thinks there's something fishy going on with Evolution...  but nobody cares what JR thinks because here come the Legz...

Cheap Hype Theatre

Stacy Keibler is out, and grabs a mic.  She is out here to remind us that there's only about 24 more hours before our submissions for the RAW Diva Search are due.  Thanks for the tip, Stace, but I seem to have misplaced my speedo...

Further, Stacy would like to help out the prospective divas with a bit of advice: they should be thinking ahead and come up with ideas for their ring entrances.  You know, kind of like how she has the best ring entrance in the business.  As if we needed to be reminded, Stacy straddled the middle rope two or three times while the monkeys in the truck made sure we stuck to TV-PG camera angles.

Not that I want to call my Guy-ness into question, or anything, but I didn't exactly shed a tear when Gail Kim interrupted Stacy's display.  Gail snatched the mic away from Stacy and announced, "You can stand there and tell people how to be the next WWE Diva, Stacy. But in this match against Lita, I'm gonna show everybody how I'm gonna be the next WWE Women's Champion."  [I'm the Rick, and I improved this line.]

Gail Kim vs. Lita

Gail tried to jumpstart the match, but Lita quickly took over for a minute or two.  That ended when Gail reversed a move, and managed to hit a drop toe-hold that landed Lita throat-first across the second rope.  From there, it was all Gail, all the time.  After gaining the edge, Gail started to focus on Lita's left knee, including a ringpost assisted spot that probably sounded like a good idea in theory, but which ended up being a candidate for one of my friends' patented PPV calls ("OH MY GOD! The knee, it's SUPPOSED to bend that way!") in reality.  Around this point, Jerry Lawler actually MADE A PERTINENT POINT DURING A WOMEN'S MATCH~!  OMG~!  ARMAGEDDON IS COMING~!  Lawler, who had (quite reasonably) been in Letch Mode for Stacy actually wound up being the one who reminded JR to bring up the part about how Gail Kim is on a roll and has two submission wins over Victoria.  And even when JR tries to feed Lawler a line about Gail being "On a roll.  She's hot, and I'm not talking YOUR kind of hot," King stays commendably On Task by transferring the talk of hotness back to Stacy and the talk of Gail to her ass-kicking ability!  Whoa, somebody keep supplying the King with more of whatever medication he was on, here.  

Back in the ring, Gail continued breaking the knee down with a few diabolical-looking moves, including something that looked like a modified Indian Deathlock.  However, Lita got a rope break, and then started her supergirl comeback (hey, good for her, she even remembered to sell the bad leg on her nip-up!), and nailed a DDT.  Gail took the DDT with a nasty looking (dare I say, almost Trish Caliber in its sympathy-from-me-inducing ability) bump that was neither the standard face-first one, nor the Val/RVD straight up-and-down SPIKE bump, but which looked like it was a recipe for a broken neck.  Lita made the cover and.... gets the clean pinfall win?  Well, that cinches it: whoever was in charge of the women's division storylines must have gotten bounced a month ago, because we've gone from Gail and Molly dominating Victoria to earn a title shot for Gail to Vickishi and a whole big mess of challengers in that time...  I'm not saying good or bad, but it is a total, out-of-left-field change of pace.  Anyway, I was actually into this match, a quality little 5 minute dealy.


Backstage: Eric Bischoff and Johnny Nitro are chatting when Jonathan Coachman (sporting a shiny, shaved skull, which I hear all the chicks dig) walks in.  Bischoff has summoned him here because he's got a favor to ask: Bischoff hasn't had much success convincing his nephew Eugene to leave RAW, so he's playing his trump card.  At Bad Blood, Undefeated PPV Superstar the Coach will go one-on-one with Eugene!  Coach starts laughing, says it's a joke, that he'll do it gladly, but it's a joke of a match.  Johnny Nitro starts chuckling along and companionably jokes, "Well, let's just hope the joke's not on you, Coach, like it was when Eugene beat Kane by DQ last week!".  But neither Coach nor Bischoff think THIS is particularly funny.  So Bischoff has another brainstorm: later tonight on RAW, Johnny Nitro will go one-on-one with Eugene. And if Nitro doesn't win, he'll hear the same thing that Apprentices the nation over have been hearing...  "You're Fired."  Joke's on Johnny, apparently...

Shelton Benjamin vs. Batista

Batista enters first, and immediately starts posing.  Way to point that toe, Sally!  Arch that back!  He may have caused the vast majority of dudes in the audience to start snickering, but nobody'll deny that Batista looks like a million bucks.  Or at least a Quarter Million Bucks... oh hey, wait, I think NOW I understand why Batista is practicing his nancy-boy poses!  Way to take Stacy's advice and work on adding stuff to your ring entrance, too, big guy!  You'll be a diva, yet!

Anyway, we start a little back-and-forthy, giving Jim Ross time to again introduce the concept that Evolution is Up To Something Fishy with these two big matches tonight...  but also to bludgeon us over the head with the fact that Shelton has Evolution's number, holding two wins each over HHH and Orton as well as one over Flair.  The back and forth ends with Batista taking moderate control of the match for a few minutes.  It all sets up a time-compressed rally by Shelton at MAYBE the 3 minute mark.  Even with Flair's attempted interference, Shelton is looking like he might get the win after a top rope side-sling clothesline... so out comes Randy Orton.  Hey, how about that: JR was right to suspect foul play!  Shelton stays on task for a moment, but eventually decides he needs to leave Batista alone long enough to deal with Randall.  Bad idea.  Shelton does manage to get a shot in on Orton that sends him plummeting to the floor, but Batista has recovered enough to strike from behind with a clothesline and then follow up with a powerbomb for the pinfall win.  Maybe 4-5 minutes, and certainly tolerable, but nothing more: this was more about telling the story of SOMEbody in Evolution finally getting the better of Shelton, but it taking a team effort to do so.

After the match: Evolution Lite (minus HHH) continued the assault on Shelton, 3-on-1 style.  The climax was Orton landing an IC belt shot across Benjamin's face.  Nice idea here, undoing the "Shelton is invincible against Evolution" vibe a bit before the PPV.


Backstage 1: Benoit is SITTING!  And in walks Edge: apparently, Edge's assignment from The Champ was to go to Bischoff's office and ask for a Tag Title rematch, but Edge reports back that Bischoff was "occupied."  Benoit snorts his disbelief and makes an odd comment: "That Bischoff... now there is a guy who DESERVES a spear."  Edge takes offense, thinking Benoit is ragging on him for when Edge accidentally speared Benoit during last week's tag title loss.  But Benoit pleads innocence, says he just meant that he thought Bischoff should get speared.  Edge is not convinced, and thus plays the I Can Be Just as Big a Dick As You card by saying, "Yeah, and I'd like to see you put him in the Crossface.  Maybe you could actually make Bischoff tap out."  Benoit is not pleased at Edge referencing the fact that Conway survived the Crossface last week long enough for Grenier to make a save, but before it gets too heated, the Coach walks in.  Coach is, well, I don't want to start shit, but he's kind of friendly with Edge.  But not so with Benoit: in fact, Coach is here to inform Benoit of his big match tonight.  Benoit and Edge won't get a tag title shot tonight, but Benoit can take out his frustrations on La Resistance.  IN a HANDICAP MATCH.  D'oh.  Coach is again friendly with Edge on his way out...

Rock is KEWL~!: The Rock was a part of the MTV Movie Awards (or, if you're JR, the MTV Video Music Awards) that were taped this past weekend and which I'm sure airs in the next few days here.  They say he was nominated for something, which I'm sure is the nice way of saying Rocky didn't actually win any awards.  But who cares because the Rock is hip and awesome and tons of movie stars said good stuff about him to the WWE cameras!

Backstage 2: Bischoff has once again summoned someone to his office, and this time, his taste in company is looking up, cuz here's Trish.  Oh, and Tyson Tomko, Too.  Bischoff just wanted to let them know that he's booked Jericho (sore ribs and all) into a match against Tomko for the Bad Blood PPV.  And as a special Courtesy Feature, he's also got Jericho working later tonight, and he hopes Tomko and Trish like picking apart whatever remains of a broken Chris Jericho at the PPV.  Trish likes that and all, but she also realizes she's the one carrying this little operation in Christian's absence, and decides to go into business for herself:  she can't help but note that Bischoff's #1 Contender to the women's title just lost to Lita, and she can't help but remember that she just so happened to beat Lita a couple weeks ago, so maybe that PPV title shot should be hers.  Before Bischoff can respond, Kane barges in and gives Trish the skunk eye before doing a staredown with Tomko... Kane announces that he needs to talk to Bischoff.  Alone.  So Trish, Tomko, AND the camera man are escorted out of the office.  As I ponder how Kane suddenly gained the power to keep cameramen from teleporting through closed doors to watch his shitty backstage vignettes, we fade to....


Chris Jericho vs. A-Train

Hey, look, it's A-Train!  And he's got New Boots!  Good for him.  He also gets about 90 seconds of offense (mostly focusing on Jericho's ribs) before Jericho fires up, does about a one minute rally, and gets Albert to tap out to the Walls of Jericho.  If this topped the three minute mark, I'll eat a bug.  Just a showcase for Tenacious C, working through those bad ribs of his to get the win.

SmackDown! Rebound: I don't recap recaps.

Triple H Has Also Taken Stacy Keibler's Advice

I grant it's a pretty fine ring entrance, but I'm not sure it's a stand alone segment.  HHH enters, hits the Spit Take, and apparently that's about enough entertainment for us, so we cut to some....


Oh, Triple H Also Has Something To Say

HHH tells us he's going to enjoy watching the rest of the show, especially the part where Randy Orton destroys Shawn Michaels, leaving only enough so that HBK can make it to Bad Blood, where HHH will finish the job.  In fact, HHH intends to watch all this from a Luxury Box (conveniently enough, the only one lit up in the entire arena, and the one located dead-center, directly above the ring).  [As always, I have to repress the Inner Beavis when I use the phrase "Luxury Box." You can thank me later.]

HHH also has a few other thoughts about Shawn Michaels that he'd like to share with us.  For only the second or third time since HBK's comeback, somebody dares to bring up the fact that Shawn has found the Jesus, as HHH mentions that Shawn likes to do all kinds of stuff like pray for his friends and for forgiveness when he does naughty things.  But HHH won't be praying for anyone, and will have the edge in Sunday's Hell in the Cell match because he won't feel any remorse and will beat Michaels without conscience.

Further, HHH says Shawn might have his faith, but two thousand years ago, even Jesus Christ had his moment of doubt and pain.  At least, according to a song.  And I tend to trust said song, since I'm pretty sure Keith Richards was around back then.  He'd have been, what, in his early 20's, right?  Anyway, HHH closes by saying that at Bad Blood, HE will be there for Shawn's moment of doubt and pain.  See you in Hell!

As HHH leaves the ring to head up to the Luxury Box, I'll tell you that yes, I'm a big enough Rock Jerk to think that it's awesome to have HHH busting out Stones lyrics.  And not just cuz it's the Stones, but because he NAILED the right line and right context.  How delectably evil is it to throw "Sympathy" in the face of Born-Again Shawn?  HHH is pleased to meet you, can you guess his name?

Also: during HHH's walk up to the box, they have two little mini-vignettes of the HBK/HHH feud.  One is HHH beating the piss out of Shawn.  The other is Shawn beating the piss out of HHH. Simple, to the point, like I've been saying: this thing almost sells itself.


Chris Benoit vs. La Resistance

Benoit, feeling cocky, actually invites BOTH members of La Resistance to face him at the same time.  Doesn't work out so well, and the heels (and yes, they ARE heels again, quite decisively) gain the edge, and hold on to it even after the ref gets us back to only one member of the team in the ring.  Somewhere in here, Lawler un-did his goodness from earlier by conversationally mentioning that after the beating he's taking tonight, Benoit might lose the World Title to Kane, and then Lita might take the Women's Title, and then they'd be quite the couple, wouldn't they?  Dammit, I guess somebody hired the King from 30 minutes into the future to come back and do commentary, here...  anyway, that little spoiler aside, the match is continuing: Benoit got a few little hope spots in, but this was mostly Conway and Grenier controlling things for about 4 minutes.  At that point, it was becoming increasingly obvious that no superman comeback was forthcoming, so Edge just ran out and attacked La Resistance, causing a blatant disqualification.  Then, as Edge tended to Benoit, Eric Bischoff appeared on the stage...

Generally Managing: Bischoff says that if Edge and Benoit want a tag title shot at La Resistance, they can have it.  At Bad Blood.  Cue requisite "But Benoit's already got a world title match to worry about on Sunday" indignation from JR.  But you know what?  Bischoff booked a HANDICAP MATCH here tonight, and he doesn't much like how it finished.  So if Edge wants to get involved, he can go ahead and join Benoit... and to keep things completely and utterly unfair, La Resistance will get a new partner:  KANE!  It (re-)starts NOW!  Or after these...


Chris Benoit/Edge vs. Kane/La Resistance

We come back, and it's Edge doing the work for the Good Guys, but he's not having much success.  That's OK, cuz it's all just a set up for a Hot Tag to Benoit about 2 or 3 minutes into this second phase of the match... and when Benoit comes in, the crowd really eats it up when he FINALLY gets extended offense in on La Resistance.  In the chaos, Kane becomes the legal man for the heels, and Edge and La Resistance all powder out.  Benoit nailed Kane with the Swandive Headbutt, but Kane no-sold it with a Zombie Sit-Up.  Undeterred, Benoit followed up with a few moves to set up the Crippler Crossface.  First, Kane tried to get to the ropes, but then he just decided to no-sell this move, too: Kane basically stood up with Benoit still latching the hold on, and then powered out.  And then immediately (no transition), Kane grabbed Benoit and chokeslammed him (using the arm that Benoit had just been Crossfacing for the last 30 seconds).  Kane pins Benoit about six minutes into this phase of the match.  Huh: well, the problem of Kane seeming like a legit challenger is solved.  But they waited so long to do something about it that this felt like a real rush job at Benoit's expense to have Kane no-selling the two big moves and then pinning the champ.  

I won't say I hated the finish, I almost think it was necessary: I just think that with some forethought and 3 weeks of focused storytelling they wouldn't have had to resort to such drastic measures to rehab Kane.  It also gives Benoit an excuse to bust out some kind of Super Duper Modified Crossface (or other Submission Goodness the likes of which would shame even Gail Kim) to get the job done against Kane at the PPV.  That's something I always mark out for from Benoit (see just about any Benoit/Angle match for examples of wacky new submission moves, or at least new twists on old moves).  Decent enough work here: the first 4-5 minute portion was a bit flat, but the second 5-6 minute segment was pretty hot and accomplished an important goal.


Eugene vs. Johnny Nitro

Coach is out to do guest commentary, here.  He puts himself over as an undefeated PPV superstar, and acts unconcerned about Eugene.  He continues unconcerned even after Eugene pretty much dominates the opening portion of the match.  Eugene's offense tonight included an Homage to the Junkyard Dog (which, bafflingly, King missed, but JR bailed him out; King is now plus-1, but minus-2 on the night).  The announcers actually spell it out for fans, clearly, for the first time: Eugene grew up watching wrestling, and he might not be "book smart," but he can imitate those things quite proficiently when inside the ring.  The wrestling savant finished Nitro off with a top rope double sledge, and got the pinfall win at about the 2 minute mark.  Jeez: Eugene is a two-time RAW main eventer, and now he's winning total squash matches.  Let's just say that if I were a betting man, Eugene would have cost me a shitload of money...  but hey, good for him: this was a smart play, having Eugene look sharp and competent in the ring while Coach was playing the "I'm Undefeated" card on commentary as a counterpoint.  I already think it'll be highly entertaining, but handling it this way also gives it a bit of "maybe it'll almost look like a wrestling match" vibe, too.

Side note: in my fantasy booking, this was a match/spot that I gave to Garrison Cade, not Johnny Nitro.  And I find Nitro's use here (and his loss, here) to be kind of curious.  The "Nitro" gimmick is pointless without him kissing Bischoff's ass, and I wonder what the next plan for him is... somehow continue being a thorn in Eric's ass on RAW?  Head to SD!, where he'd fit in as a cruiser?  Do something with Matt Toughenough, be it on RAW (where a fan favorite tag team to challenge La Resistance is VERY necessary) or on SD!?  I'm sure they've got something in mind for the guy, though...


Hype Central: Lawler and Ross run down the entire Bad Blood PPV card.  HHH/HBK, check.  Kane/Benoit, check.  Orton/Shelton, check.  Jericho/Tomko, check.  Eugene/Coach, check.  Benoit's double-duty tag title match, check.  And then a big surprise: they flash a newly altered match...  Victoria will defend the Women's Title in a fatal four-way against Lita, Trish Stratus, and Gail Kim.  King, making a fairly nice save to even his pluses/minuses at 2 apiece, actually takes the time to say "You know, JR, I'd heard Bischoff might be making this match, so that's what I was talking about earlier."  Probably only a Problem Fan like myself would even have noticed King's original fuck-up, but I also noticed the attempted fix-up, and so all credit to the guy....  and I mean "all credit," too: for Lawler, a night when he's even on the pluses/minuses, instead of a horrendous minus, is a moral victory.

Backstage: Lita is TALKING.  On a cell phone.  The implication is that it's Matt Hardy on the other end, and for all my negativity about Lita's acting, she actually manages to make her half of a fake phone conversation seem pretty genuine.  She introduces the concept of "I don't know, I guess Bischoff just decided to put me in the match after I beat Gail" and how excited she is for Sunday, now.  Then there's the usual "I really miss you, see you in a bit, buh bye" to close out... and THEN there's a Wall of Flesh behind Lita.  She immediately senses it, and d'oh, she flips the switch from Fairly Likeable Lita to Wimpy Actor-y Lita as she turns to confront Kane...  Kane says he's the one who went to Bischoff and got her into the Women's Title match.  Because now, after Bad Blood, they can BOTH be champions, and won't that be nice?  Lita says "I thought you said this was all over."  Kane does the Creepy Sniff and says, "I lied."  Kane smiles that Handsome Smile of his and leaves...  and I sit there wondering, "When did Kane ever lie about it being over?".  I mean, I remember the Shitty Two Camera Dressing Room confrontation where Kane said, "Oh, it's over.  It's over when I say it's over."  Which certainly didn't sound like it was over to anyone with half a brain...  but whatever.  It's STILL not over, to the surprise of none. I just hope we get simple, satisfying closure on this.  And sooner, rather than later...

Man Alive, Randy Orton is Taking Stacy's Advice, Too?

Apparently, tonight is the night of Evolution Working on Their Ring Entrances.  At some point here, I notice somebody about eight rows back is frequently flashing a "RICK" sign.  But before I can spin any fantasies about how maybe, just MAYBE, I'm on my way to being an International Sensation the caliber of "Orton Fears Jeb," the "RICK" sign drops and is replaced by one that reads, "Hey Randy, I'll Pay to Play."  The same person can't be holding up both signs: there is simply no conceivable way that a girl (or, because it's Young Randall we're talking about and it's ever so much fun to unnecessarily raise the possibility, maybe even a DUDE!) could have the cosmically poor taste necessary to be hopelessly infatuated with Orton and ALSO have the astonishingly good taste to recognize my copious wit, charm, and genius.  So that "RICK" is obviously someone else.  And I continue to toil in obscurity, here, while Jeb gets all the signs.  By the by, this whole stilly passage was just something to talk about to justify the bold header, since Orton's entrance is another awkwardly stand-alone segment, and once he makes it to the ring and shares a Knowing Look with Evolution (they're now all up in the Luxury Box), we cut to some....

[ads; and I should note that at some point while I was pining to join Lund in the As Seen on Television category, I decided on My Sign...  it's simple, it's to the point, and if you've ever got poster board and black marker to spare, I request this: "Rick is gOOd."  Yeah, that'll suffice.  I wonder if I'll owe Mick Foley any royalties?  Or maybe HE owes ME...  I mean, come on, who's been inappropriately putting a Double "O" into spots where there should only be one for the past five years?  That's right, bitches!]

Randy Orton vs. Shawn Michaels (Non-Title Match)

Orton tries to get the jumpstart edge, but Shawn foils him and we are back and forth for the opening 3 or 4 minutes.  Michaels gained a slight edge at that point, following a pretty sick no-hands, over-the-top bump by Orton.  [Sidebar: during this match, I kinda realized something.  In fairness to Orton, I'll recognize recent strides and stop comparing him to Lex Luger.  Orton's got some go to accompany the show, more than Luger, anyway.  But the new archetypical comparison I'll make?  Scott "Razor Ramon" Hall.  The competent second fiddle who can work good matches, and even great ones against the right opponent, and who is best used as an upper-mid-carder, but only sparingly in main events.  Seeing Orton take that no-hands bump, which was VERY Razor-esque, and seeing him have a really good match against Michaels was enough to make me realize this was the more fair comparison... they're even kinda comparable, size-wise.]  After the big bump, Orton eventually made a comeback and started working Michael's arm/shoulder.  Michaels got a mini-rally that included a Figure Four (with a requisite Death Stare up to Flair in the Luxury Box), but Orton put an end to that by kicking HBK off and sending him shoulder-first into the ringpost.  More arm-based offense from Orton took us up past the 10 minute mark...  and then Michaels made another little comeback that culminated in a plancha onto Orton.  Both guys are down at ringside... and up in the Luxury Box, Evolution is kind of concerned.  They have a powwow, and decide that Batista should head on down to help out Young Randall: so Batista leaves, and in one of those moments that probably only *I* think is funny, this alleged Super Bad Ass pauses outside the door and looks around blankly for about 10 seconds until he finds his Security Escort so he can walk down to the ring.  Anyway, as Batista and his six guards head down through the crowd, we watch our final....


We come back, and Orton is back in control, and within a few minutes of returning, the fight goes outside... and that's where Orton tosses Michaels head-first into the ringpost.  And Michaels, who really should probably be saving up his blood considering what's coming on Sunday, hits a little sympathy blade job and comes up wearing a polite little Monday Caliber Crimson Mask.  From here, Orton stays on top, and starts hitting bigger moves and getting near falls; I should also note that he was doing a nice job remembering to sell the knee from the earlier no-hands bump, and was slow to make covers at times, which set up Michaels' kick-outs and generally added to the drama of the affair.  Crowd's really getting into it at this point, and finally Michaels starts his big comeback.  Starts by matching Orton with a back-and-forth slugfest, but then he hits the Flying Burrito, and both guys are down.  But not for long.  Nip up, and Michaels is en feugo: double sledges, Macho Man Elbow, you name it.  HBK eventually decides to Tune Up The Band, but this is the exact scenario that Batista was sent down to deal with.  So he does.  And as soon as Batista hops in the ring to intercept the Superkick, the ref calls for the bell.  HBK wins by DQ in a really, really good 20-plus minute match (I might even call it the best of the HBK/Orton series to date).

After the match: while Michaels brawled with the interfering Batista, Orton decided to try to grab a steel chair and join in for a 2-on-1 attack.  But in the mess, Shawn got control of the chair, and used it to beat the piss out of both Batista and Orton. The ref tried to stop Shawn, but we all know in that situation that Jesus would have punched the ref and kept on pasting the bad guys with the chair.  So that's what Shawn did.  Once Orton and Batista were sufficiently incapacitated, Shawn turned his gaze to the Luxury Box.  And he decided he didn't feel like waiting till Sunday...  so through the crowd, and even though Ric Flair's comically-impotent attempt to intercept him, Michaels went up to the Luxury Box and started brawling with HHH to close out the show.  We get about a minute of pretty intense punching and eye gouging and what not, as JR makes the hard sell for the PPV on Sunday, and we're out...

Final Analysis

The main event alone would put this RAW back on my good side after the last two weeks.  Just a tremendous, PPV-caliber affair that admittedly had a Monday-caliber non-finish that was designed to hype an upcoming Actual PPV Match.  But guess what?  I don't care...  the match was really good, to me there's no doubt that Michaels/HHH are carrying Sunday's PPV, and I think this was a very good final sell-job for the match considering that they hadn't really done a whole lot on that front the previous week.  A great main event and a delicious tease of the intensity that Michaels and Hunter will be bringing on Sunday?  Hey, ding ding, we have a winner.

The criminally mishandled World Title picture was a winner on the night, too.  As I've already noted, I'm not happy that they neglected it for so long and were forced to cram like this (at the expense of Benoit), but I think Kane is suddenly a credible enough challenger.  Maybe not out entirely from under the specter of this Lita thing, but finally with a claim to the title shot that you can pin the PPV match on.  They needed this hook, badly.  Could have used it three weeks ago, but I'll take it now...

And I think involving Benoit in a tag title match earlier on the show is about as good an idea as there is, considering the sad state of the RAW tag teams.  I think we need to keep an eye on Edge, as the ideal scenario (in my mind) would be having Edge somehow cost Benoit the tag title match (either intentional or accidental, depending on how slow a burn you want), which would position him as a title challenger for down the line.  Of course, THAT hinges on Benoit being able to beat Kane in the main event, which he'd better do: again, I can stomach tonight's no-sells by Kane, but only if it sets up Benoit to get him to tap out (maybe to one of those super-duper modified submission holds) on Sunday.  Use Lita as a distracting element to let Benoit gain the edge, if you gotta, but no way should Benoit drop the strap in this situation...

Orton/Shelton played it pretty simple, which is fine, and if anything, I like that they finally let somebody in Evolution get one over on Benjamin.  The babyface getting one-upped before a PPV is an old-standard to put heat on a feud, but in this case, it's the first time in a while Shelton got one-upped, so it was kind of a fresh shake-up, actually...

Eugene/Coach was also handled pretty by-the-numbers (except for the extra added element of Johnny Nitro getting fired).  But other than the fact that they're not utilizing the "conflicted" William Regal subplot, I've got no problem with keeping it simple and throwing this together in this fashion.  The match will still be a load of fun, and I think it'll be over like gangbusters on Sunday.

Jericho/Tomko: well, if there was one PPV feud that was neglected, this is it.  Jericho vs. A-Train?  Boy oh boy, that's BIG TIME.  But I get what they're going for with Jericho fighting through bad ribs to beat a Big Man, so OK.  And keeping Tomko himself kind of a mysterious X Factor and letting Trish wear the pants in that pairing is probably not an awful idea, either, given that Tomko hasn't exactly wowed folks since showing up on TV.  It's a rare case of "The less we know, the better."  I just wonder if the Lovely Miss Tomko will be making his ring entrance on Sunday to pants-wearing Trish's theme song?

And the women's division?  Here's a case where they certainly didn't neglect things, but the DID sort of pull a random twist out of thin air to change the entire direction of the division.  From one month ago when Gail and Molly were tormenting Victoria to having a four-way match.  Where, I must note, Molly is nowhere to be seen, and is increasingly looking like she'll be denied any kind of logical follow-up or pay-off to her head-shaving at Victoria's hands.  But I'll let my fondness for Molly slide and say that for a one-week rush job, this was a decent job of throwing together the four-way match.  Gail's beating Victoria (twice), Lita beat Gail, and Trish has beaten Lita.  Pretty easy to follow along, actually.  Say what you will about the champ, Victoria, being absent from this week's shake-up, but hopefully you won't mind if I secretly hope that this was done to erase the memory of Vickishi and set up for the return of the Russian Lesbians at the PPV.  A man can dream, can't he?

On the whole: a strong RAW that, necessarily, did a good job building to Bad Blood.  It shouldn't have had to come to this, but somebody finally got their heads together after two weeks of muddied and anti-climactic shows and put together about as good of a rush-job, pre-PPV show as I could imagine.

More thoughts/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
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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
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RAW RECAP: Be a Star, My Ass
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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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