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OO RAW RECAP
OMG, Dayton RAWks~! 
June 15, 2004

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com

 

Yes, so it is true: I was at RAW live and in person, and that DOES tend to sway one's opinion (unless a show REALLY sucks, which this one didn't).  Yes, so it is also true: I got little personal Rick-flavored  mea culpas (surely unintentional) like the VICTORIOUS return of Ichiban OO Favorite Tajiri, very outstanding appearances by Only Slightly-Less-Than-Ichiban OO Favorites Trish Stratus and Molly Holly, a kick-ass 35-minute main event, and best of all, the return of RAW's FOCUS, the reason to get excited about next week.  Eugene versus his Favorite Wrestler: that's pretty cool, and I didn't think they'd shoot that wad for MONTHS.

But sadly...

Yes, it is also true that the fucking douchebags in creative waited until they were in My Hometown to unleash the Pregnant Lita angle.  It's an angle that, frankly, you should have heard about.  Granted, not from me.  But it's not like it was a secret.  There are just some things that I don't talk about here at OO: most of them are because I don't trust the source, some are because I don't think they are actually important/interesting... but there are a few that just frighten and annoy me so badly that I think if I ignore them they will go away.  Pregnant Lita is one of those last ones.  WAS one of those last things, cuz now, dammit, it's for real.

But I REFUSE to let something that took up less than 90 seconds of TV time ruin what was an utterly enjoyable 3 hours on Enemy Soil (yes, kids, Dayton IS big enough to support two Major Universities.. or at least one Major University and Wright State, HA!).  I had a good time, I actually think this was the best time I've had watching RAW in almost exactly one month, and I DON'T think it's just cuz I was there live. I would have very much enjoyed just watching this show on TV, too. 

This seemed to edge out last week's rush-job pre-PPV show, and unless I'm missing something, it CRUSHED the preceding two weeks of water-treading.  I don't apologize for liking it.  Granted, I had reached a happy enough point of Whiskeylibrium during Lita's Shocking Revelation To Stacy, so even though that was the one point of the show where I might have been tempted to throw our table down into the stands in frustration, I was able to quickly repress and get back to enjoying the hell out of myself. 

So join me, won't you, on a Happily Spun Version of RAW in Dayton?  A word of warning: I'm assuming nobody in their right mind cares about Heat, so I'm just gonna type this whole thing up as one document, and if you are annoyed by Heat Spoilers, well, yer screwed.  Sorry.

The rest of you, just enjoy the ride along with me....

The General Observations

A few things that have nothing to do with anything other than the fact that this is the first TV taping I've been to (and the first really packed full-house, complete with a seeming 2000-3000 reasons why I usually don't cop to being a wrestling fan when I'm out in public) in the last 2-plus years:

  • There is NOTHING, I repeat NOTHING like being at one of these shows live.  I can drop in on an HWA show, or even a WWE house show, and kind of get my "wrestling dork" swerve on, but I'm man enough to admit that being in the thick of an 7000 person crowd that KNEW it was seeing Important TV Action actually sent shivers down my spine on a couple of occasions. It started with the latest remix of the Kid Rock "Lonely Road of Faith" video, ran through Lillian Garcia's almost-hammy (the girl knows the highspots and really plays 'em up for all they're worth) rendition of the National Anthem, and hit me again almost every time I got to see one of those Big Fancy Entrances that I enjoy so much from the TV... 

  • That said, I'm kind of scared by some of what I saw.  I'm used to the almost zealous, t-shirt wearing crowd.  But that's something Jeb once wrote a column about, and I don't feel like discussing that issue, anyway... because for TV, the mutants apparently busted out The Finery, and I'm just... I dunno.  But I'm something, and it involves scraping my jaw off the floor.  Look, 250 lbs. moms outside Gate 5 in the Nicotine Ghetto with a cigarette in one hand and a loaded tray of nachos in the other, while their 7-year-old-looking daughters (who, in the classiest of parentally-approved attire, are sporting Steve Austin "Other Side, Jackass" t-shirts) cavort barely-attended are one thing...  I'm kind of used to that level of societal degradation at wrestling shows.  For better or for worse, wrestling's got a serious cross-over with the Springer/trailerpark audience, at least here in Dayton.  But I was not fully prepared for the onslaught of characters that made us want to laugh out loud instead of silently pity.  I'm talking about the possibly-inbred dudes of college age (but almost certainly lacking even a GED) with fuzzy little attempted moustaches and mullets, who actually think they have any business wearing one of those really loud and obnoxious shirts (think Rock's $500 shirts, or Jericho's usual attire, or some of what Eddie sometimes wears... not even MOST WRESTLERS can pull it off without looking retarded) but who exhibit horrible BO if you get within 15 feet.  I'm talking about girls who (god bless 'em for trying), shouldn't be displaying their midriffs to me, but apparently share body image AND a wardrobe with Lita; 2001 Lita, too, complete with mesh over-shirt and visible thong.  I'm talking about an audience that (and some deity may strike me down for saying this) I'm no longer shocked cheers for Eugene without irony; I was the jerk-face who mentioned it first, but once I did, we were ALL seeing roving bands of fans who kind of looked like they were cheering for Eugene because he reminded them of somebody they knew back in school.  If you catch my drift.  No offense intended, mind you: I hope they had a great time at the show, and got home safe courtesy of the short bus.  I just... I don't know...  We had our little group there, and mind you I'm not saying I'm Rico Suave or anything (although I DID remember to shower before putting on a clean t-shirt, so POINTS TO ME!), but MAN was this ever a big ol' glass of ice water in my face.  I mean, half the crowd may have been normal folks like you and I, but...  whew.

  • Although that does lead me to another group I met for the first time tonight: the Randy Orton Fans.  I've never been to a live event with Orton at it, I clearly don't run a website that has a ton of his constituency hounding me anymore, and to be honest, his appeal kind of baffles me.  I mean, I guess if chicks liked him, I'd get that, though I'm not even entirely sure that's the case.  I think DUDES like Orton, which is mind-numbing: I'm talking about Dayton busting out "Randy, Randy" chants on at least 3 occasions tonight.  Me being in a sociable mood, I chatted up some of these folks while in various lines for differing biological functions (whether refueling or emptying).  I have come to a very basic conclusion: the difference between me and Randy Orton Fans is that I in Absolutely No Way Aspire to be Randy Orton.  But his fans DO: guys who cheer for Orton are the ones who thinks he's the Ultimate Male (tm, Rocky III), and thus are more easily swayed by one or two almost-tolerable performances.  I wish I had one precise quote that I recalled to sum up the talks, but mostly I just remember an overriding mental image: that these were the guys I was going out of my way to not hang out with back in college.  Me, I'll keep aspiring to be me, if that's OK with you, and keep holding Orton up to the same standards as I'd hold anyone else.  I got other things I'd rather grow up to be, so Orton and his fans can keep aspiring to the stuttering jackassery, the GQ pretty boy looks, the comforting man-love of Jerry Lawler, the possibly sub-normal intelligence, and the embarrassingly-emasculating habits like wearing perfumed "Bod" brand body spray and drinking beer with fruit in it.  I'm dead-honest when I say these were the first conversations I had with Orton fans, EVER, and I think I learned a lot.  I'm not coming around to their side, mind you (I'm comfortable with me and my biases) but I at least have a point of reference now... 

  • As long as we're on my own tastes...  after closely examining the evidence, I have shored up my list of Three Most Embarrassing Grown-Man Diva Crushes.  THIS JUST IN: That Trish Stratus is one tasty dish, she doesn't just play one on TV (this was actually the first time I've ever seen her in person, and here's something stupid: somehow I had gotten this idea of Trish being all big and tall or something, which is retarded, since I've met Lita, and Trish is visibly shorter than Lita even on TV, and well, whatever: I pledge allegiance to the Trish, who turns it is about as regular a girl as could be; well, super-hot, maybe, but also reassuringly well-shorter-than-me)... along the same regular girl vein, Molly moves up to an easy #2; screw this fat-ass thing, I never really bought into that in the past and also assumed that there had been no major butt expansion in the past year or so since I'd last seen Molly; I was right. I am now utterly confident that Molly is as worthy of Lawler's obnoxious lecherousness as she is exceptionally-able in the ring, and will re-double my efforts to annoy the piss out of you by reminding you how WWE is screwing her over after the last year of solid in-ring work and head-shaving.... and Ivory's off the list (probably about 2 years too late, eh folks?), being replaced by Lillian Garcia, who never struck me as anything other than the line-fumbling flowerpot until she brought the Hot to Dayton.  Maybe I'll forget all about that when she's screwing up even the most basic of ring announcements next week, but for one night, I honestly don't know if any of the other woman (or guy, for that matter) showed any more spark of personality and actual DESIRE TO BE PERFORMING IN PODUNK DAYTON than Lillian did, which was definitely appreciated and good for a few points with me.  Somewhere, Lee Filas wants to punch me in the face.

  • People sometimes complain to me about Merchandise Availability at live shows, but it was not a problem, tonight.  I checked the stands, and not only did they have a nice mix of RAW and SD! flavored stuff, they had all the newest shirts and everything.  They even had a new Matt Hardy shirt that didn't debut till Matt wore it out later in the night.  The apparent hot sellers were a camo "You Can't See Me" John Cena shirt, the Evolution shirt, and the new Eugene shirt.  Something *I* saw and was almost tempted to buy: an over-sized inflatable Triple H Sledgehammer.  Only eight bucks, and I was chuckling just THINKING about some of the fricking hilarious drunken antics one might get up to with such a toy.  Then again, I'm a former proud owner of a Hacksaw Duggan Foam 2"x4", so what do I know? 

  • I don't know if it got on TV or not, but there were a pair of fricking BIRDS flying around the arena.  Goddamit, I spend years trying to advocate the essential goodness of Dayton, OH, and make you think a relatively hep cat might live here.  Then somebody has to go leave the barn door open and make it so very easy for you Big City Assholes to make fun of us.  Then again, I didn't see the birds after the first 30 minutes or so of RAW, so maybe Kane's pyro ate them... mheh heh heh, that'd be COOL!

  • Nutter Center is only about a 9000 seat venue when fully opened up for basketball... unlike the 13,500 seat Mega Fortress that is the Mighty University of Dayton Arena!  But that's not why you called...  at the Nutt House, WWE had one end semi-closed off for the stage, and also had a lot of upper-level seats tarped off on the non-camera sides.  If they had more than 7000 seats available to the public, I'll eat a bug.  That said: most of what was there was filled up.  Still, I'd expected a bigger crowd, as we are more than a little starved for entertainment here in our little shithole, bird-flying-around berg of ours.... let's call it maybe 6500 paid. Maybe.

  • Nutter Center also debuted a new, annoying feature: the end of alcohol sales at 9:45pm.  Or maybe that's not new, it's just that the show ran 90 minutes later than any previous show I've been to there... either way, I was not happy.  I had really settled in: we got to the building in time for all the dark-match/Heat stuff, and I found my Beam-on-the-rocks groove (hey, Beam ain't my favorite, but hard liquor at an arena? beggars can't be choosers), attained my Ideal Buzz just as RAW was kicking off, went to get a refill after the mixed tag, and then went I went back again, they were closed!  The bastards!  And it wasn't long after that that they did the Lita-is-pregnant announcement.  Hmmmm: I guess maybe I was close to furniture-tossing-violence, now that I remember the precise  time-line....  Seriously: 9:45 for a show that runs till 11:30 is like cutting fans off in the 3rd inning of a baseball game.  Criminal, says I! 

  • Help me out here: did it ever get so bad you thought you were watching the show through a wall of fog?  Ventilation was not the greatest, and it meant that pyro smoke sometimes collected in the arena (it was even bad, at times, out on the concourse), and I don't think WWE wanted to turn the fans on because they were very loud and obnoxious and probably would have ruined the sound mix.  Which led me to wonder if it was more important that RAW LOOK good or SOUND good...  but maybe it didn't look that bad to you folks...

  • Leads me to a final issue: RAW comes to town, and decides to go 15 minutes over time.  I just set my DVR and left the house: and DVR takes its time cues from Time Warner, who says RAW goes off the air at 11:05pm.  Now, on the grounds that I wouldn't be here to monitor personally, I gave RAW five extra minutes before I left.  But after I got home (after undoing the Teetotalling Nutter Center's work with a couple post-show cocktails), I was semi-surprised to check in and find out that RAW stayed on the air through the entire main event, and basically went off the air at 11:25pm (they turned on the ventilation and turned up the house lights after Jericho's elimination, so I didn't know if maybe we were getting a Heat Exclusive, or Future DVD Easter Egg Footage, or something)...  obviously, my report here is gonna be my memory of the live event, mostly: but for my own personal files, I like having copies of shows I've attended.  So if somebody could hook me up with a full copy of last night's RAW on tape, I'd be grateful.  Hit me with an e-mail, if you can help.  
     

What You Didn't See

And with that, let's move past the random observations and tell you what happened at the tapings, starting with all the Dark Match and Heat goodness....

  • Kid Rock's Lonely Road of Faith: Kid Rock is firmly on my list of "guilty pleasures."  It started with a couple really fist-pumping tracks on that first record of his, coupled with the fact that the guy had a Rapping Midget (RIP, Joe C., please, I know he wasn't a textbook midget, he had just had a Rare Disorder, please spare me the angry e-mails).  Then it continued with the second record, which produced one of WWF/WWE's best Four Minutes In A Nutshell EVER.  Lonely Road of Faith, baby.  They had a remix (got the F out, tossed in a few other clips from the last two years), they used it to warm up the crowd at 7:50 (eastern).  I got all warm and fuzzy inside.  To give you a barometer: Dayton cheered big for Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, the Harts, and the Rock.  No real love for WCW/NWO, the Ultimate Warrior, Sid, Taker, or Andre.

  • Rhyno d. Rodney Mack (Dark Match, as the crew put down the handheld cameras after the opening minute; I guess everything was working fine).  As is common at these tapings, the first recognizable ring entrances get disproportionately big pops.  So Mack hit the ring first, and the Dayton crowd was all "HEY! I know that guy!"... then they remembered "HEY! I shouldn't!".  But Mack still had some heel heat on him, as for reasons that I'm not entirely clear on (but am very proud of), Dayton fricking loved Rhyno.  And Rhyno seemed to love being loved, pausing to soak it all up.  He came out fast, but when he went up top, Mack slowed things down by knocking Rhyno off (nice bump, actually, by the big man, who fell stomach first on he turnbuckle, then bumped to the outside).  That set up Mack for a run, which I am sorry to say was about exactly what you'd expect: not very thrilling.  Jazz was with him, and helped him get some heat on him... in fact, she set up the finish: she distracted Rhyno and did a little slap or eyepoke or something.  Then she dropped off the apron and taunted some fans.  But Rhyno recovered, and grabbed her by the hair to pull her up... Mack had come around and tried to attack, but Rhyno felt it coming and dodged.  Rodney and Jazz collided, Rhyno hit the Gore, and got the pinfall.  I'm gonna say maybe 5-6 minutes.  Rhyno was a hit with fans, Mack just did his job without screwing anything up.

  • Announce Team Entrances: Coach and Al Snow hit the stage, both to Coach's music.  I'm sure the dynamic works like this everywhere, but in Dayton, it was especially pronounced, as Al is from about 30 minutes up I-75 in Lima: Coach posed and got booed.  Al posed and go cheered.  Coach tried to scoop the heat, and got booed even louder.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

  • Val Venis d. Steven Richards (Heat).  Richards had about the same heat on him as Mack did (not a whole lot).  Val had significantly less than Rhyno, which I don't know if it's just that Dayton Loves Rhyno, or that Dayton Loves the First Recognizable Babyface But Not So Much the Second.  We'll never know.  Back and forth for a long time, didn't really hit a stride (camera angles/edits will help on a few spots that just didn't seem to connect, too).  Richards nominally controlled the middle part of the match, Val staged a comeback, but whiffed on a Money Shot.  Richards re-rallied, but when he didn't get the win after a big move, he did a Major Temper Tantrum.  While Richards was paying homage to Christian, Venis was recovering.  Val hit a move or two, then finished off with a Money Shot for the pinfall.  About 5-6 minutes, again, and actually, part of me was disappointed that it didn't click a bit better.

  • Maven d. I Think Joey Matthews (Heat).  Sorry, this was one of those Refueling Moments, and when I got back, I was told only that the other guy was "Jimmy," even though I'm about 95% sure it was actually former ECW curtain jerker Joey Matthews.  My confidence level only grew as Probably-Joey was really smooth and effective as a heel in this match.  Maven, on the other hand, impressed me as having a natural babyface-ishness to his ring presence that (all apologies to Matt Hocking) reminds me more of Ricky Steamboat than of The Rock.  Finish was one of those Small Things that always gets me where I itch: Joey tossed Maven over the top, and then turned to gloat, ignoring his opponent.  But Maven skinned the cat, and immediately went to a turnbuckle and got up top: the crowd popped for this, and Matthews didn't just play stupid, he actually gestured broadly, as if to say, "Yeah, I know, I AM pretty awesome for tossing Maven out of the ring, and thank YOU for noticing."  Nice touch.  Of course, he turned around, and Maven hit him with the cross-body block (again, shades of Steamboat).  Less than a minute later, he followed up with The Stroke (whoops, shades of Jeff Jarrett!), and got the pinfall.  About 4 minutes, and not too shabby.  Crowd was into it, which you never expect with a guy who (sorry Indie Lovers, but this is true) is basically an unknown jobber.

  • T-Shirt Gun Guy Kills Some Time.  And is crucified when he keeps nancying it into the first 10 rows.  But I think he was doing it on purpose.  He even purposely sent one right to Coach, once.  T-Shirt Gun Guy was TRYING to get booed.  So of course, that was my cue to consider him a Heel Genius and CHEER whenever people didn't get t-shirts.

  • Shelton Benjamin d. Garrison Cade (Heat).  Cade gets his most heat for daring to share a Knowing Glance with Coach, and then proceeds to be The Other Guy In The Ring.  Shelton gets a nice freaking pop for his entrance, and a few "Shelton, Shelton" chants right out of the gate.  Thus began the Orton Retorting, as "Randy, Randy" chants came from a couple sections to our right.  This was quickly drowned out by an EQUALLY inappropriate "We Want Eugene" chant.  By this point, the match had settled in (I'm guessing maybe 7 minutes in, they had already done a double-head-cracking spot that I'm assuming will be used for an ad break, but then again, I've got this fricking big brain of mine, and was probably thinking too hard when I noticed that), and Cade was in control... finally, the fans decided on a "Let's Go Shelton" chant that SLAUGHTERED the other two, and Shelton powered out of Some Resthold That I'm Forgetting (either Cade or Richards used a Cobra Clutch, though).  Big rally, Stinger Splash, then a quick T-Bone Powerslam for the clean pinfall win.  Benjamin goes from IC Challenger to Master of Sunday Night Heat in seven simple days!  Nice little 9-10 minute match, though.

  • Chris Benoit Desire Video: nice package, I'm sure, but Kid Rock it's not, Shitty Rock it is, and the only tingling sensation I was feeling was quickly alleviated by a trip to the Little Boy's Room, where JESUS DAYTON LAY OFF THE SAUCE, there was already a 3 minute line and the actual show hasn't started yet.  But wait, who am I to cast stones?

  • Spike TV Promo Spot: Howard Finkel coached the gullible fans into cheering so they could tape the footage for the Spike TV commercial that runs during the final commercial break of "Walker Texas Ranger."  Er, I mean "Star Trek The Next Generation."  I think, right?  

  • Announce Team Entrances, Take 2.  Jim Ross is out first to the Generic College Fight Song; gets a nice pop.  Jerry Lawler is out next to his own theme; also gets a nice pop, though if somebody wanted to know where that smattering of boos was coming from, I MIGHT be able to tip you off.  For a price.

  • Enter Lillian Garcia.  She helps us through the time table, just in case we were unable to read the amply-visible clocks on the  wall and figure out when nine of the clock was coming up...  also, she does the National Anthem for us, reminding us (or in my case, informing me) that today was Flag Day just before hand.  It's important folks, so remember that little tidbit.  Of course, Lillian sings the hell out of the Anthem, to the point that she got at least 4 pauses for random hooting from the fans in the middle of the song, and she loved every second of it.  Now THAT is a Diva Move.  Last thing: Lillian also intro's a highlight package from Bad Blood, just to make sure the fans are fully up to speed and will react the right way to stimuli once the show starts.   

  • It's on.  At 8:56, we've done all we're gonna do, and the only thing to do is Wait For Showtime...

The RAW Recap (What You Saw, And What You're USED To Reading In This Spot Every Week)

Almost entirely from memory...  The Rick adamantly REFUSES to be one of those anal types who actually brings a notepad to a wrestling show, and the only things I had time to go check on the recording were what was going on during a late-show in-arena lull, and also the timing/commercial breaks during the main event.  The rest: well, it oughta be pretty close, but I hope you'll forgive me if I'm a BIT less play-by-play-ish than usual on the grounds that I was relaxing and having a bit more fun than usual by enjoying the show live...

Cold Open: Eric Bischoff is pacing in his office, and he hears a knock.  It's Kane, and he's not happy.  He wants another shot at Chris Benoit... but Eric Bischoff is sorry to inform him that he's had to name a new #1 Contender.  Now Kane's REALLY not happy.  Bischoff tries to soothe him by saying, "You'll get another shot down the line, I promise."  Then he says he's sure Kane understands, because "You're a professional."  Sure, Kane's a cool, laid back cat of a professional, and *I* was drinking apple juice on the rocks...  so of course, Kane starts destroying all the furniture in Bischoff's office, which gets him a big babyface pop, as we eventually cut to:

Opening Theme/Pyro/Etc...  definitely another of those "shiver down the spine" moments that I'm not too manly to admit I enjoyed.  They showed a few things up on the TitanTron, but the shape of the screen meant the bottom text was cut off, and it was only later that I'd realize that our two "Feature Attractions" were an Elimination Style Six-Man match and Chris Jericho hosting Eugene on the Highlight Reel.

Attempted Mutual Admiration Society Charter Meeting

Jim Ross is in the ring, and pretends to be excited to be in Dayton.  But mostly, he's here because he wants to pay tribute to one of the great matches in Wrestling History: last night's Hell in the Cell.  JR said that Shawn Michaels and Triple H are in no condition to wrestle tonight (boo!), but both men are here (yay!), so he'd like them to come on down to the ring.

Shawn is out first to a very respectable ovation and "HBK" chants; he is limping and moving in slow motion.  Triple H is out second to a mixed-but-mostly-negative reaction; he's moving in even slower-motion and has tons of facial bandages and stuff.  The two just stare at each other, as JR gets on the stick, and says he hopes both men realize how important their HitC match was, how historic it was, and how he hopes they decide that NOW is time for their feud to be over.  BOO, says Dayton.  JR also says, as the Stink Eyes continue from both men, that HBK and HHH restrain themselves and comport themselves in a manner befitting the reason they are out here. BOO, again, comport our asses, we wanna see a FIGHT~!

Finally JR asks the two men to just shake hands and be done with each other.  Tentatively, both men extend hands, then retract, then extend again; it almost seemed like they were still in PPV Mode, blatantly taking twice as long as they need to and stalling, but somehow having it still click perfectly, with fans waiting on their ever move.  Finally, Michaels had the hand out, but HHH pulled away at the last second...

Enter Eric Bischoff, who says he hates to interrupt the lovefest, but he's got big news about the #1 Contender spot....

BUT THROUGH HELLFIRE AND BRIMSTONE, It's Kane to interrupt the interruption!  Bischoff just evaporates, so who knew what he was gonna say.  JR finds a safe corner, too.  Kane stares bullets at both Shawn and HHH, who for their part ALMOST seem to think about teaming up against Kane.  But Kane puts an end to that before it can start: he boots Shawn in the face, sending HBK sprawling from the ring.  Kane and HHH have a little staredown, but before I can fully flashback to the suckiness of their 2002 feud, HHH just plays the Cowardly Lion card, and backs out of the ring making the "Hey, I don't want none of you" gestures.

Shawn Michaels' already-limp carcass wasn't exactly demanding More Kane, either, but that didn't stop him from getting some.  Kane tossed Michaels into the ringpost, and then back into the ring for the coup de grace: he put Michaels neck inside a steel chair, then Pillmanized him by leaping off the second rope onto the chair.  Ouch.  Just..... OUCH.  Officials and medics finally swarmed and Kane decided he had enough, so he left.

They took their time in the ring tending to Shawn.  Put him into the cervical collar and loaded him onto a stretcher, the whole nine.  I thought the Pillmanization would result in a Steamboat-esque crushed larnyx, but Michaels busted out the Fake Blood Capsule of Internal Bleeding, so I don't know what kind of injury they'll come up with for this.  I just know it was a pretty intense angle, and a hot/big-time way to open the show.  Dayton, OH: Final Resting Place of Shawn Michaels!  Well, not exactly, but you know what I mean: this was a big deal that'll be featured in vignettes for Weeks and Months To Come, and I Saw It Live.  Really cool open.

For the record, I'm assuming they did some...

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In the middle of this thing, then came back long enough to show a Moments Ago package that did air on the TitanTron, and also show Michaels being loaded into an ambulance before sending it back to some more...

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Trish Stratus/Tyson Tomko vs. Matt Hardy/Lita (Mixed REACTION Match)

Trish comes out, and let's just say it must be something in the water, because that twasn't no heel reaction we gave her.  Matt and Lita are out, also to respectable cheers.  When Trish and Lita start, fans are pretty split, it sounds like: a few back and forth spots, then Trish tags in Tomko, forcing Matt to also come in.  Here, I and the rest of my Daytonians flop sides, and in so far as anyone cheers, it's for Matt.  Matt's little flurry ended with an attempted top rope spot, which was SUPPOSED to be Tomko catching him and slamming him. Instead, it was a You Fucked Up moment, and Tomko dropped Matt awkwardly into the ropes.  D'oh.  Matt fired up, hit a big move to incapacitate Tomko, both guys tagged in the women.  Lita's on fire for a bit, then both guys get BACK involved for a moment after Tomko broke up a Lita near-fall; Matt and Tomko powdered out after a Hardy plancha.  That left Trish to finish things off: except that Lita reversed her way out of a Stratusfaction Bulldog, whipped Trish into the ropes, and nailed her with a DDT (note to Gail: THIS is how you take a convincing-but-not-life-threatening DDT bump!) for the pinfall win.  And so it continues: the only women who can't win matches in WWE is the one holding the belt!  Tomko-almost-killing-Matt aside, not a horrible little five minute match, and one that gives us an obvious next direction for the women's division...

[I'm assuming some ads here]

Backstage: Eric Bischoff is meeting with HHH.  HHH makes some snide comments about the redecorating done by Kane, and also gets a few chuckles from the audience by claiming to be "genuinely concerned" about Shawn Michaels' health.  Yeah right.  But mostly, he's just here because he assumes that Bischoff had come out earlier to announce that HHH is the new #1 Contender after winning HitC...  but, Not Exactly, says Bischoff.  There's also another guy who's on quite the undefeated streak lately, who HHH has never beaten...  HHH actually has the audacity to act confused, although Dayton proved its own status as the Idiot Savant of Wrestling Towns by audible shouting "EEEEEUUUUUUGEENNEEEEEE" as soon as Bischoff mentioned the undefeated aspect.  And sure enough, Bischoff says that HHH will have to face Eugene, and the winner will be the new #1 Contender (YAY).  Then, unfortunately, Bischoff notes that said match will take place Next Week (BOO!).  Bischoff says he hopes HHH beats the living hell out of Eugene, and HHH says he'd be more than happy to comply...

Ringside: Tough Questions Todd Grisham, in an interview not befitting him, has to interview Joe Schmo.  There are no Tough Questions, just some pussy-ass softballs since apparently "Joe Schmo 2: the Suckening" is coming to SpikeTV soon, and WWE has been strong-armed into hyping it.  I'm debating whether Joe Schmo is drunk off his ass, or just a giant blithering dork, when I decide the CORRECT answer is "I'm gonna go to the restroom."  But on my way up, I guess Grisham wrapped up the promo, and then some Strangely Familiar Music strikes up, so I go back to my seat to enjoy....

Tajiri vs. A-Train

Although I'm clearly the biggest Tajiri fan in the house, he still gets a nice reception.  And Dayton, as simple-minded as ever, helps in a back-handed fashion by STILL being amused by chanting "Shave Your Back" at Albert.  Fast opening minute or two, then things bog down horribly as A-Train takes over with rib/back-related "offense."  Not 24 hours after I declared that the Bearhug was rapidly gaining on the Abominable Stretch as my Least Favorite Boring Resthold, Train used BOTH moves over the 3 minute period.  Man alive, it's like a lesson in How Not To Be an OO Favorite.  But Tajiri rallied strong, briefly got a Tarantula, and finished A-Train off with a stiff Buzzsaw Kick to the head.  Probably about 5-6 minutes, and sure, boring as hell in the middle, but OK otherwise, with the right finish, to boot.  Welcome back to the smiling side of the win/loss column, Tajiri!  And welcome back to TV!

[more ads, I'd guess; Lillian Garcia took the chance to once again remind us of Flag Day, and to announce the Flag Match rules, which is basically that the winning team gets its anthem played, though I don't think that part was for TV]

La Resistance vs. Hurricane/Rosey (Flag Match/Non-Title)

Total disclosure, folks... no secrets between us, OK: I took my piss break here.  I also tried to get another cocktail, but failed due to the silly early cut-off.  DAMMIT.  Anyway, I went back and was told I missed absolutely nothing, got back just in time to see Hurricane rally back from his role as the Babyface in Peril.  I think I've seen enough tag wrestling to visualize how we got to that point.  Hot tag to Rosey, who had some crazy fat-man offense going for him.  Hurricane and Conway powder out, while Rosey seems to have Grenier sedated...  finish had Rosey trying to suplex Grenier into the ring from the apron, but Conway separated from Hurricane long enough to trip Rosey and hold his legs down, a la Rick Rude/Warrior at WM5.  La Resistance wins.

After the match: Lillian Garcia hops in the ring, apparently prepared to sing "O, Canada."  But Sylvain Grenier is having none of that: HE will sing for us.  And much as it pains me, La Resistance proceeded to get the loudest, most sustained heel heat of the night for Grenier's rectum-clenchingly-bad singing.  They've done nothing more evil than hail from Canada, but hey... cheap heat's better than no heat, right?  Viva La Quebecers 2004~!

[more ads is my guess]

Backstage: Lita is SITTING!  And looking PAINED, I think.  And she's HOLDING SOMETHING.  The camera eventually pans down, and see see an EPT Brand Pregnancy Test.  That's right folks: EPT Brand, for when you absolutely, positively have to know whether you should do some shitty acting before the next commercial break!  God I hope that wasn't a paid product placement... anyway, Lita quits fondling the EPT box and decides to go use the damn thing...  I don't know how they do the sound mix for TV on backstage vignettes, but if you didn't hear a whooshing sigh of dismay from the crowd, followed by light grumbling and booing as soon as the pregnancy test appeared, then I assure you, you were deceived the the Gods of TV Sound Mixing.

The Highlight Reel

Chris Jericho was more than happy to preface the Highlight Reel with a self-congratulatory moment, as he was victorious at Bad Blood.  And in fact, that's something he has in common with his guest tonight, so let's use that as the segue to introduce Eugene!

Eugene is out, and Eugene is way over, no doubt about it.  Jericho jokes with Eugene a bit more about what they have in common (they're also both Sexy Beasts), and also about Eugene's favorite Y2J moment (the night Jericho peed in Regal's tea and Regal drank it!  SHEER GENIUS to finally find some way to make the stupid-ass angle seem funny in retrospect~!).  Eugene then announces he did the same thing to Regal just last week, and Man Alive, you better believe the crowd ate that up with a spoon, and that Regal's response was absolutely gold.  But then Jericho quickly decides to move onto serious matters (as designated by the fact that he started using a stage whisper that actually was kind of hard to decipher, live).  I got the gist, though: Jericho was warning Eugene that even if Eugene likes HHH, HHH does not like Eugene, that HHH will be out to destroy Eugene next week.  Eugene looks very sad that his favorite wrestler might do this to him, even looks to William Regal for some comfort, but Regal just kind of knowingly nods his head ("It's true, Eugene, sorry, lad.")...  Eugene's still not buying it, so Jericho tries again to convince him, but that's when....

Enter Evolution.  HHH leads the way, and Randy Orton is bearing gifts.  Eugene is ecstatic, waving and cheering for His Favorite Wrestler, HHH.  Evolution gets in the ring, HHH gets on a mic.  He says "Hey, Eugene, we've never been formally introduced"...  Eugene just cuts him off and says "You're HHH!!!".  That's right, sayeth H, he's HHH, and more over, he's Eugene's friend.  A bigger, better friend than the Rock or Chris Benoit.  And he's brought gifts to prove it.  First, a HHH hat ("don't muss up the hair, there, kid").  Second, a HHH t-shirt ("eh, sure, just slide it right on over your coat, there").  Third, a glossy photo of HHH, which HHH personally autographs for Eugene.  Fourth, an Evolution shirt that HHH wants Eugene to sign for HIM, because he's such a fan of Eugene's ("yeah, just sign on the naked girl's butt!" HA!).  And finally: HHH would like to take a picture with Eugene.  Eugene is happy to oblige.  They find a photographer, and I am not ashamed to say that I was one of the 6000 who contributed to what I'm assuming was an audible GASP Of Horror when HHH told Eugene "Say Pedigree on three."  But nope, nothing doing:  they just snapped the photo.  

Finally, HHH had a few words of wisdom: he said that people would be jealous of Eugene for having such a good friend like HHH.  People would tell him lies, people like Chris Jericho.  So HHH wants Eugene to know that if anyone ever talks bad about HHH to Eugene, he wants to hear about it: Eugene can always come to him, because they are friends.  OK?  Definitely OK with Eugene.  Then HHH sent Eugene on his way, taking a moment to sneer derisively at William Regal, as it became clear that Regal wasn't believing any of HHH's faux kindness.

Once Eugene and Regal were gone, they did a little tagline, as Jericho Mockingly Golf Clapped, and said that HHH should be REALLY proud of pulling one over on Eugene.  But Jericho also opined that HE (Jericho) would be the one laughing loudest after Eugene pinned and embarrassed HHH next week on RAW.  HHH just chuckled and said Jericho should be more worried about later tonight, when him, Edge, and Chris Benoit will get what's coming to them.  And then after next week, HHH will get what's coming to him: the World Heavyweight Title.  Excellent little segment that was one part pointless fun, one part building a subtext for next week's main event, and one part remembering to put a little sizzle on tonight's main event match.

Backstage: Lita is walking around, when Stacy comes up to her.  Although Lita is doing just about the most obvious Really Transparently Trying To Hide Something Behind My Back thing, Stacy is oblivious, and just wants to know if she can borrow some elbow pads, or some such.  Lita's all "uh, yeah, sure"...  until she decides to Confide Very Secretly in Stacy:  she's pregnant!  Stacy, displaying a complete ignorance of the last 6 weeks of WWE TV, gets all excited and rambling about How Happy She Is for Lita and Matt and "Hey when's the wedding?" and "Wow, that's just so really awesome" and so forth.  And then, well after the live audience had already issued its groan of displeasure and had settled on Pissed Off Silence as the proper way to respond to this, Lita displayed a complete ignorance of EVEN THE CONCEPT OF TELEVISION, when she dropped this bombshell: "Stacy, I told you this in confidence, so please, don't tell anyone, OK?".  You better believe I was in my element enough that I actually did turn around and shouted something along the lines of "You heard her, folks, we CAN'T TELL ANYONE.  Lita TRUSTED us."  Which was good for a few chuckles.  But did nothing to undo the sheer and utter retardedness of not only a Pregnant Lita angle, but of how they also chose to introduce the angle in such an insultingly-dumb fashion.

[more ads, right?]

Molly Holly and Gail Kim vs. Stacy Keibler and Nidia

Well, at least Stacy really needed the elbow pads, I guess, though why you ask her to carry the load in a legit wrestling match is kind of baffling to me.  Nidia started, did about a minute, then Stacy came in, hit all of one move that I remember (the Big Flexible Turnbuckle Boot, you know what I'm talking about), and then things got kind of boring: Gail and Molly cut the ring in half, and as much as I know dudes think Stacy is hot, I don't think they take her seriously as a wrestler.  So this felt really flat to me.  Finish was Gail knocking Nidia off the ring apron, giving her time to lock in yet ANOTHER new sweet-ass submission move (one that kind of looked like maybe Stacy's the only one flexible enough to take it) that I'm sure Jerry Lawler found some way to ruin.  Stacy tapped out, and though I DO think it was a very effective, very appropriate outing for Molly and Gail to get back on track, I'm not so sure that it wasn't a bit too long at 6 minutes, considering Stacy did almost all the work for her side and wasn't over in a "real wrestler" kind of way.

[Then here, it go real confusing for us live in the arena, because after the women's match, we went over 15 minutes without anything really happening for us.... I checked the recording, and what happened was this: the SD! Rebound, some ads, a really-lengthy segment narrated by JR and King but NOT broadcast over the house speakers in which they first showed a big Bad Blood/HitC recap package and THEN also recapped the Michaels/Kane incident from earlier on, and then some more ads...  I think the only thing we in the arena saw during this 15 minute stretch was a Diva Search 30-second advertisement.  Kind of took the wind out of our sails a bit, if the truth be told.  But anyway, after two sets of ads and all that down time, RAW resumes with...]

Ric Flair, Randy Orton, Batista vs. Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Edge (Elimination Rules)

Just your standard trading-off between the six to start, until the faces hit a big flurry about 4 minutes in.  It capped off with Edge and Jericho sending all three Evolution members out over the top, where they were tended to by HHH.

[I guessed this would be an ad break, I checked the footage, and I was right; live, they didn't even pretend to keep a semblance of a match going until right before the broadcast returned, as the ref wasn't even counting Evolution out or anything... they all just kind of milled around for 2 minutes before easing back into it.]

When they got back to business, there was more trading off for a few minutes, although I started to notice that Flair was REALLY handling more of the ring time for his team than I'd have guessed.  Which is odd, because Flair could almost have been EXPECTED to get cheers (which he did), which you'd want to keep to a minimum.  The handful of "Randy" chants, on the other hand... those just baffled me.  But whatever, back to the match: Flair and Jericho and later Flair and Benoit get plenty of chopfests in.  Flair has also learned how to use his Flop to maximum comedic effect, and busted it out 3 times on this night.  Finally, Flair decided to let a couple of the kids do some work, and that's when Evolution started isolating on Benoit.  It's at this point that I'm noticing we've had ZERO eliminations, and the match is 15 minutes old and past the 11pm mark.  Hot tag to Jericho, and finally things look to speed up, as he goes all House Afire, leading to chaotic six-way brawling, leading to the babyfaces all hitting big moves on Batista (he took a Spear, then a Swandive Headbutt, then a Lionsault)... Jericho pinned Batista for the first elimination.  Then Flair came in and cherry-picked Jericho, putting Evolution back in charge, at least for a bit.  I think they actually traded in and out again a few times, but 3 minutes later, it was again Jericho and Flair who were legal...  Benoit, Edge, and Orton were occupying each other at ringside as Jericho locked in the Walls of Jericho on Flair.  However, the ref got distracted by HHH, allowing Orton to divest himself of the other two babyfaces.  He ran into the ring, yanked Jericho off Flair, and hit an RKO.  I think Orton wanted to make the cover, but Flair must have shouted something at him, because instead, he quickly made a timid retreat, and Flair draped an arm over Jericho.  Flair's the legal man, you see!  Ref turns around, and Jericho's eliminated at the 11:10pm mark (over 20 minutes into the match).

[this is where my recording ended abruptly, but like I said, I found out that RAW stayed on the air through the finish of the match...  so put some ADS in here somewhere, maybe... or maybe you just stuck all the way through to the finish, uncut...  whichever the case, I'll just pick up my narrative from Jericho's elimination...]

With the sides even at 2 apiece, Benoit got back in the ring for his team, and was getting beat down by Orton for a few minutes.  The tide turned when Flair tagged in, and AGAIN got caught in a corner and had to Flop his way out (Flop, beg off, eyepoke on Edge) so he could get get Randy back in the match.  Here's where I started to feel like the Fed burnt us out, or kept things going too long (or too long without booze, anyway!), or killed the crowd heat with the 15 minutes of dead time preceding the main event: cuz when Orton locked in a Chinlock of Boredom on Edge, the fans kind of went dead.  Maybe that was a part where RAW went to an ad break?  After a few minutes of chinlock, Edge rallied, and got the tag to Benoit at the same time Orton had to go tag Flair.  Quasi-en feugo routine, with Benoit chopping the shit out of Flair, and then going for the Germans.  I think he got 2 in before Orton interfered.  So again: now Benoit decided to tag out, and also Flair managed to get to his corner, too, so it's Edge vs. Orton... but Edge gets distracted by Flair lingering in the ring, and hits a Spear on the old man.  It's meaningless, though, as Orton sneaks up behind Edge, hits an RKO, and pins Edge.  

Now, it's Benoit vs. Two Men.  Benoit has some trouble with Orton, but then makes a comeback, hits a big move, Orton has to tag in Flair.  Flair keeps things rolling for a minute, but then goes for the Figure Four... Benoit is too clever for that, though, and reverses it instantly into a Crippler Crossface.  Orton is too slow to make the save: Flair taps out, and now it's one-on-one.

They ratcheted up the intensity, and the crowd is DEFINITELY back as they go all punchy-kicky for a final few brawling minutes.  Orton gets the better of it, but then Benoit stages a comeback... in that furious exchange, somehow the ref took a bump.  Benoit hits some Germans.  Tries to lock in the Sharpshooter, but there's no ref to see the tap out, so HHH decides to bring his broken carcass into the ring to interfere.  No dice: Benoit immediately separates and kills HHH with another German.  Back to Orton, Benoit re-applies the Sharpshooter.  The ref has awoken.  Orton tries to get to the ropes, but Benoit won't let him.  HHH is in no condition to make the save.  Orton taps.  Benoit is your winner and Sole Survivor at something like the 38 minute mark.  Really exciting main event, and an awesome showcase for Benoit, if you ask me: going through Kane at the PPV and then having this match on RAW can do nothing but raise Benoit's standing with fans.  Assuming that they ad breaked for some of Orton's inappropriately-timed chinlock (too late in the match for that, it seemed), I'm sure it came off as awesome at home as it did live.  Maybe even more so.

And I'm told that it was on this note that the broadcast FINALLY went off the air, about 20 minutes later than usual.... 

A Bit More of What You Didn't See

As I always do,  I get by with a little help from my friends: and in this case, the help I got was word that RAW pretty much went right off the air after Benoit got Orton to tap out.  Around 11:25 or so.

That being the case, there was a bit more for the live fans that I can fill you in on: HHH recovered and got up on the apron.  Teased like maybe he wanted some of Benoit.  Pussed out in the end.  Instead, he and Orton found the loving warmth of each other's arms, and walked up the entrance ramp.  HHH and Benoit kept tossing Death Stares at each other.  Finally, Orton and HHH left the arena, and Benoit celebrated with reckless abandon, safe in the knowledge he wouldn't be back-attacked.

Then he put the icing on the cake, doing a quick little promo in which he said to HHH that he might have dreams about regaining the World Title, but that's all he'll ever have, because that's as close to the belt as he'll ever come.  Hit Benoit's music again, do a bit more posing, and that's the end of the show.  

The Final Analysis

OK, let's get this out of the way: Pregnant Lita is completely stupid and theory, and it was even worse in execution.  But PLEASE, keep Lita's secret, won't you? She's TRUSTING us!

I don't care who's the daddy, I don't care about anything except that I really wanted to be done with Lita/Kane as quickly and painlessly as possible, and now it's clear that there will be nothing quick, and a LOT of pain involved in this storyline.  By pulling the trigger on "I'm pregnant," WWE has eliminated all of the easy-outs that might have existed if just ONE PERSON in a position of power had had the good sense to speak up and say, "Uh, this is completely retarded and I don't think it has any business on TV."

Now, they can still get out of this, maybe, but it'll take something a bit more involved.  The worst part is: I can't imagine any out that I'd like even the slightest.  There's no "miscarriage" angle that we haven't already seen and hasn't already sucked.  I, personally, am pro-choice, but think it'd be a BILLION kinds of wrong to go down that road on a wrestling show.  If Kane's the daddy, then we have a whole can of worms opened up by the fact that it turns out his Mystery Question to Lita was "May I force myself upon you, sexually, in defiance of all state and local laws?".  If Matt's the daddy, then it's just kind of silly and anticlimactic, although perhaps the Least Dumb.  If there Some Other Daddy to consider, well, then you're in the realm of the completely inane soap opera, and I don't want to go there.

Worst: Lita's pregnant, but It's A Secret.  How gay is that?  She also just pinned the Women's Champ.  But she's pregnant?  Is the angle that Lita is covering this up because she doesn't want a baby that interferes with her career, and NOT because it's Kane's Secret Love Child?  Is she in a rush to win the title so she can go on maternity leave and sue the shit out of Eric Bischoff if he dares to strip her of the title?  Or maybe THIS is the storyline they use to bring back the Now Flamboyantly Heterosexual Jeff Hardy in an "I accidentally impregnated my brother's girl" gimmick?  Can you believe I'm actually pondering such pathetic scenarios?  It's just my way of trying to illustrate to you that no matter how bad this has sucked so far, you might as well resign yourself to it getting worse.

You want to make Lita and almost completely unmarketable character? Fine, do a poorly-acted, even-more-pooly-reasoned Pregancy Angle.  If another part of this is gonna involve Kane going down a few more notches, well, I'll hate it, but I can cope.  But what's the point of tying the women's title in to this?  Pregnant Lita is a drag on things: why not have done the sensible thing, and let Victoria (who was NOT pinned by Trish) come out and be the one who stepped up as the #1 Contender?  You could even have had her bring back the Russian Lesbians and Steven Richards to do the exact same mixed tag match as Matt and Lita did against Trish and Tomko, effectively killing all the necessary birds with one stone.

So yeah, I fully understand if you got pissed off by this crap with Lita last night.  I was pissed off, too.  Also: as noted earlier, I was so enthralled by the prospects of the Flag Match, that it inspired me to go take care of some business.  There was just no way La Resistance WASN'T winning that one, and unfortunately, there's also no way it really did anything to raise the tag division to the point where it belongs somewhere other than on Heat.

But those two complaints aside, everything was a dead-on hit.  I got my Victorious Tajiri.  I got a big time show-opening angle with Shawn Michaels going down to set up a little vacation time.  I got the return of The Reason To Care About Next Week's RAW, as they did a cool job setting up HHH vs. Eugene with a tremendously amusing mid-show promo.  I got an absolutely awesome main event match.  And I got to see it live.

To me, that's nothing to sneeze at.  A good, strong effort from RAW, and 90 seconds of Suck aside, I honestly think it's as entertaining a show as they've done in 4 or 5 weeks.  I couldn't be happier with the return of Live TV Wrestling to my hometown...  I hope it played as well for you on TV.  And I hope if it didn't, I somehow managed to convey my naive enthusiasm in an effective enough way that now you're thinking maybe you DID like the show!  I'm so, so crafty!

Any more thoughts/memories/fall-out, and I'll include them in tomorrow's OO.

 
E-MAIL RICK
BROWSE THE RAW RECAP ARCHIVES


  
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