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Fun, Solid, Adequate...
But Not Effective 
July 6, 2004

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


Prepare for Mere Adequacy!  Partly because, as I watched RAW last night, I just wasn't at 100% after a weekend that ended up being five days of relatively heavy boozing that spanning the gamut from downing a half-bottle of Evan Williams in my basement, Solitary Man Style, while searching for inspiration for Friday's "Behind the Bash" column, to multiple nights out with friends and Fourth of July Festivizing, to a horrifically-trying Monday afternoon/evening at my mom's house surrounded by her neighbors/friends and all my little brother's friends but not realizing I should have brought friends of my own to keep me company...  I got home on Monday night, and ready as I was to take solace in some big glasses of ice water and rasslin', there was just gonna be no way I was REALLY into the show. 

But augmenting my own shortcomings as a Recapper, I think it's fair to say that RAW itself served up Adequacy, which is what makes me think to use it as our theme today.  Last night's RAW, under GM Eugene, was fun and breezy.  It was an enjoyable way to spend two hours on a couch. But whether as a victim of this mind-bendingly ill-advised attempt to bilk fans of their money by holding 3 PPVs within a 28 day period, or as a result of some deeper problem, RAW didn't feel BIG in the way a pre-PPV show should.

I know there's a pay-per-view this weekend.  I know I'm about a billion times more interested in it than I was in the Great American Bash. But "interested" isn't quite the same as "excited," and I don't think I'm wrong to think that WWE should be able to make fans EXCITED about PPVs.  Either that, or they shouldn't bother.  

At this point, nothing's got me more EXCITED then getting a five week PPV break before SummerSlam after these last four weeks. And I'm not so sure that's what WWE should want to be happening. I don't know if it would even have been possible, but RAW last night should maybe have made Sunday's Vengeance seem more Must-See than it did.

I think maybe you'll see what I mean if I just quit my yammering and tell you what happened on last night's RAW...

Nothing: Hey, that's the first time in a while we've started straight out with the opening theme/pyro/etc. (no video package, no cold open, nothing), and the in-area welcome from Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.  And while Ric Flair (looking confused) makes his way to the ring, where a number of other Superstars are assembled, they tell us Anything Can Happen tonight, because our very Special guest general manager is Eugene.  Then Chris Jericho makes an entrance (to a huge hometown pop), and it looks like that's everybody we need to begin Segment the First....

Foregone Conclusion Theater

We get our first good look at the ring:  we've got Stacy Keibler, Jerry Lawler, Tajiri, Coach, Ric Flair, Tyson Tomko, and Chris Jericho all milling about, and six chairs set up in a row in the middle of the ring. Even in my less-than-one-hundred-percent state, a few things became ABSOLUTELY CLEAR at this point: (1) Eugene would make them play musical chairs, (2) Stacy would end up on Lawler's lap at some point, (3) Tajiri would get screwed in the name of "comedy," and (4) either Jericho or Tomko would be getting one of the chairs cracked across his skull courtesy of the other one.

I mention it only because (1) even operating at about 65% sharpness, I pretty much nailed the entire segment, which should only further cement my position as A Revered Wrestling Guru.  And (2) because even though I nailed the entire segment before it even got started, it DIDN'T MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE, because it was still a lot of fun in execution.  I guess what I'm saying is, It's OK to overthink as long as you can still sit back and enjoy the show when it's hitting on all cylinders.

In any case, sure enough, GM Eugene makes his appearance (to a huge pop) on the stage, and announces that he'd like to make a title match for later tonight.  And the way we'll find out who gets the op-or-tu-ni-tee (I'm torn on whether to applaud that Eugene thought to stumble over the pronunciation, or question whether he should even have had that word in his vocabulary) to fight for a title, the seven people in the ring are going to play Musical Chairs!  

The six men all give us a look like "well, I kind of would like to win a title tonight, but I'm too cool to play musical chairs."  But then Eugene starts the music, and Stacy immediately starts marching her pretty little self around the chairs.  And that's good enough to get Lawler following behind her in close pursuit.  There's a Stacy's ass/best-seat-in-the-house joke in there somewhere, but again, I'm not feeling up to it just now...  the other five guys are just standing around, trying to be cool.  The music stops, and Lawler and Stacy easily find chairs.  The other five?  They eyeball each other for about two seconds, and then realize "Hell, I'm playing for a title shot whether I want to or not, so I'd better sit down" and they all scramble for chairs.  Tajiri is the odd man out when Coach shoves him out of the way.  Tajiri responds by massaging the Secret Mist Gland and spewing Coach with a faceful of the Blinding Green.

As the music starts back up, Tajiri leaves, and Coach stumbles around the ring, unable to see.  The music stops, and sure enough, Coach lunges as if to put his ass in a chair, but misses everything, and gets a rumpful of mat.  He's out.  Music starts back up, and Lawler and Flair are pretty much acting like this is a joke as Stacy playfully leads them on; Jericho and Tomko, on the other hand, are incongruously acting like this is Deadly Serious, which in its own way got me chuckling mildly.  Music stops again, and this time, it's Lawler who is slow to react; he tries sitting on Stacy's lap, but realizes that's kind of a retarded way to do it, and gets her to switch with him.  But referee Mike Chioda is a hard-ass: he can't un-see what he saw, and insists that Lawler de-lap Stacy and get out of the ring.

That leaves Flair by himself to ogle Stacy. And as the music lingers longer than usual this time, he goes past ogling to hoot, hollering, and mostly, strutting and stylin' and profilin'.  But just when you think that Smooth Son of a Bitch is going to charm Stacy's pants off, he pulls out the Dick Move: the music stops, and Flair flat-out shoves Stacy to the mat to get her chair.  Crowd boos, lustily, though Stacy acts like "Eh, who cares? It's not like I wanted to actually wrestle tonight."  Flair, full of himself, continues strutting around like a crazy old man... and this time, when the music stops much more abruptly than usual, he's caught off guard: Jericho and Tomko easily get chairs while Flair's bouncing off the ropes.  Flair is pissed, but leaves.  Jericho and Tomko turn to each other and people, as stupid as a game of Musical Chairs is (hint: Very Stupid), it's perfect for Eugene's character, and it was made All Worthwhile simply for seeing Jericho making that Serious Face of Intense Stare-age at Tomko.  A Musical Chairs Staredown, I shit you not.  Definitely put this in the "Good for a Laugh Even if It Does Nothing for Building to the PPV" Pile....

Anyway, the staredown ends as the music begins....  both Tomko and Jericho want to win this thing, and each hovers his ass over the remaining chair as he passes... and when the music finally stops, it's Tomko who is in position!  But it's Jericho who yanks the chair out from under Tomko, then uses it to blast Tyson, then rolls Tomko out of the ring, then resets the chair in the center of the ring, and then sits his ass down in said chair to win the game!  Eugene approves of Jericho's methods, and announces he's the winner... and as his prize, Jericho will each an IC Title Shot tonight against Randy Orton!  Jericho likes the sound of that (but was I imagining things, or did his hometown crowd almost boo a bit, like they thought Eugene was talking about a World Title shot all along?).  We've got ourselves a main event....  or do we?


La Resistance vs. Rhyno/Val Venis (Tag Title Match)

The match is set up with some clips of Rhyno and Sgt. Slaughter falling short against La Resistance last week, along with an ALMOST plot point about Rhyno "actively seeking" a partner to help him beat La Resistance (Jim Ross introduced the concept, but it wasn't followed up upon).  The idea here is that Val is an upgrade over Slaughter, I guess...  despite being Fellow Canadians, La Resistance are big heels here in Winnipeg (I'm guessing they did a special TitanTron promo saying that only Quebec is good, and Manitoba sucks, or something before coming back from the commercial; though Grenier's ear-drum piercing singing probably didn't help).  Rhyno comes out fast, then it's pure formula: he gets beat down and does the Time Compressed Ricky Morton.  About 3 minutes in, a Mild Tag to Val, who gets some moves in, then chaos breaks loose.  Rhyno powders out just as he's about to hit the Gore (Conway yanks him down from behind and then crotches him on the steel ring post), leaving Val to get pinning following the Au Revoir.  About 4 minutes of something that really doesn't feel RAW-ready, and maybe belongs on Heat unless they'd first invest some time in properly telling the STORY of Rhyno looking for a tag partner (with some vignettes/skits/promos).

Backstage: a HHH-less Evolution are walking, and Randy Orton is quite vocal in thinking that HHH is wrong to be letting Eugene be a member of Evolution.  Flair kind of agrees with Orton, and says he was embarrassed to be out there playing "Ring Around the Rosey" when he's a 16 time World Champ.  Batista (the Voice of Reason?) tries to settle them down by reminding them it's all just part of HHH's plan to use Eugene to win the World Title back... and that's when they happen to reach "Eugene's Office" (one of those big trampoline/moon-walk thingies we all enjoyed as kids).  Eugene is happy to see his Evolution Friends, and has a few bits of news for them.  First, since Eugene didn't like it when Kane pretended to be his friend a few weeks ago, he says that Batista will face Kane here tonight.  And second, does everybody remember the time when La Resistance beat Rhyno and Val Venis?  Of course, says Randy Orton, BECAUSE IT JUST HAPPENED YOU IDIOT!  Inside voice, Randall, inside voice...  anyway, Eugene says he's got an idea for a team that can beat La Resistance:  Ric Flair (suddenly Flair's liking what he's hearing)... and Eugene!  Flair/Eugene vs. La Resistance at the PPV on Sunday.  Eugene goes back inside his "office" to jump around, while Flair has to be physically restrained from attacking....


The Random Booking Machine Strikes

Triple H is out for a Big Promo!  And he starts off with a Very Special Homage to his Best Friend Eugene: HHH decides to define "miracle" for us, and announces that according to his research, Webster's says a miracle is something "inexplictable" by natural forces.  HHH and Eugene: they'll finish that sixth-grade Vocabulary Workshop book together eventually!

HHH also offers an alternate (but properly-pronounced) definition of "miracle": Chris Benoit's world title reign.  He says it's a miracle Benoit won to begin with, and a miracle he's made it this far with the belt.  So of course, with an accusation like that lobbed Benoit's way, the only logical next thing to happen would a dramatic interruption from....


Yep, Edge.  I don't get it, either.  But Edge grabs a mic and declares that he spent over a year at home watching Evolution dominate RAW, and he didn't like it.  And now he's back and he's still watching them dominate, and he doesn't like it.  He promises that that's gonna change, that he'll personally destroy Randy Orton at the PPV whether its for the IC Title or not (nice idea remembering that Orton vs. Jericho is Yet To Come Tonight, I guess), and that he'll keep on coming after Evolution and make them fall, one-by-one, because by gawd, he's seen enough.  A line must be drawn HERE, this far, no farther, and Edge will be the one who makes them pay!  Which is a nice sentiment and all, but certainly came out of left field...

HHH seems to feel about the same way, giving Edge the condescending "Hey, cute promo, kid, but you're about the billionth person to promise to take me down, and it ain't happened yet" speech.  Edge did not like being condescended to, however, and just decided to punch HHH: and the brawl is on.  Evolution runs out to make the save, but Edge still have the advantage on HHH, pulls himself off, makes a run for the crowd, gets a cheap-shot in on Randy Orton along the way, and affects a successful escape.  

I guess good mic work from both guys: HHH was at his asshole best accusing Benoit of being nothing but the beneficiary of a miracle, and that's about the most intensity we've ever seen out of Edge. But the important issues (HHH vs. Benoit and Edge vs. Orton) got NOTHING here, really, as Edge's left-field promo about ending Evolution was given primacy.  Struck me as clunky: well executed by the two, but awkwardly conceived with no back-story and no real prospects for particularly compelling future directions beyond putting the two in a match later tonight.  Again: time that would have been better spent if someone had thought "Building to the PPV is most important tonight" instead of eschewing logic and plausibility for an even SHORTER-term goal...


Kane vs. Batista

Okeydoke: fans are not really into this one, and JR and King are falling over each other to explain why (because neither is a fan favorite). Which leads one to wonder, if they ALREADY KNEW THE EXPLANATION FOR WHY NO ONE WOULD CARE, THEN WHY DID THEY BOTHER?  Instead, we get about 90 seconds of Power Wrestling where neither guy would fall down.  Then finally Kane got control and tossed Batista to the outside.  On the outside, Kane hit Batista with a clothesline, and then instantly, Matt Hardy ran out and attacked Kane.  Either a no decision or a DQ win for Batista at the 2 minute mark.  Matt continued beating on Kane for about 30 seconds until officials finally ran out to pull him off.  The match: a big fat nothing.  The post-match: another "win" of a week for Matt, who has now gotten the better of Kane in two straight run-in brawls.  Overall: let's call it a push.


Backstage: Tough Questions Todd Grisham tracks down Matt Hardy, and asks him about a big PPV match against Kane this weekend, now a No Disqualifications match.  Matt has an answer for that, and says that what we just saw him do to Kane is only a small taste of what he'll bring to the No DQ match on Sunday.  Then TQ Todd can't help himself (it's his gimmick, man!), he asks what Lita's role in the match will be.  Matt does NOT like this line of Tough Questioning, and says he won't answer anything about Lita.  But Todd persists, and unfortunately has to remind us of The Suck by mentioning that Lita's pregnant and Kane's claiming paternity, and won't that have some effect on this match on Sunday?  Now, Matt just stares blankly (or "intensely," I guess) and gives Todd the silent treatment to end the bit.  Probably not as big of a win for Matt as the previous run-in, if only because Matt Hardy TALKING about being a bad-ass is not as convincing as him going out there and BEING a bad-ass by whomping on Kane.  And also because as soon as anyone mentions Pregnant Lita, my interest level is instantly decimated.

Diva Search, Week 3, Segment 1: I don't watch crap, I don't recap crap.


Randy Orton vs. Chris Jericho (IC Title Match)

Guess this isn't our main event, afterall...  Jericho comes out pretty fast, which sits well with his hometown crowd. It also gives Lawler a chance to opine, heelishly, that this match is unfair since Orton had no time to prepare for a challenger that was randomly determined by a game of Musical Chairs.  JR, properly, notes, that Orton had the same amount of time to prepare as Jericho did, so shut up and let's call the match.  And that's about when Orton decided to quit letting Jericho get quick near falls and other offense in... Orton took over with an admittedly-cool spot where Jericho was whipped into the corner and tried to counter by jumping up on the second turnbuckle and come off with a cross-body.  Instead, Orton caught him with a well-delivered drop kick to the ribs.  Then some pretty basic punchy-kicky peppered with Jericho hope spots for a few minutes, until it was time for the Dictated By Format Comeback: Jericho finally got the edge and tossed Orton out of the ring.  And just as I reached for my remote because I knew what was coming, WWE FAKED ME OUT~!  Instead of going directly to ads, we instead get a Bonus Moment, as this is when Batista decides to come on out to the ring.  Orton: still down.  Jericho: up, but now confused as to what to do about Batista.  JR: indignant at this unauthorized run-in, but also more than happy to finally send us to....


We come back, and Jericho's still controlling Orton.  For about 3.1 seconds.  Seriously: we come back, and one of the first spots is Orton reversing an Irish Whip, and Batista low-bridging Jericho.  While Orton distracted the ref, Batista tossed Jericho around at ringside for a few moments, including tossing him shoulder first into the ringpost.  And (in lieu of remembering the "concussion" from last week), that shoulder became Orton's target du jour.  Young Randall went through his entire argot of arm-related offense (of varying levels of convincingness) for about 5 minutes, and Winnipeg was with him every step of the way (with pro-Jericho and anti-Randy chants).  Finally, Jericho caught a break, and knocked Orton down with a clothesline.  They did a double-count-out spot.  But Jericho's up first, and begins his superman-comeback in earnest.  Somewhere in here, they did a spot where Jericho hit the Ghetto Blaster (running enzuigiri, whatever you want to call it, Jericho's used it as an alternate finisher lately), and it resulted in EXTREME awkwardness.  Orton apparently didn't fall and position himself correctly, and Jericho apparently wanted to "protect" his new move by not calling an audible and letting Orton just kick out, so he BLATANTLY rolled Orton over twice (not once to get him onto his back, but actually from his back to his stomach and back onto his back) to get him CLOSER to the ropes so Orton could drape a leg over and escape the near fall with a rope break.  A small thing, but an annoying one to me: makes Jericho look like an idiot, actually.

The comeback is short-circuited a bit, and Orton blocks a superplex attempt by shoving Jericho down (and onto his injured shoulder).  From there, it's a really solid final few minutes of drama and near falls and good stuff.  Finally, it was time for the final Fire Up, and Jericho managed to take out Batista with a springboard dropkick, and then locked Orton in the Walls of Jericho.  Orton struggled for about 30 seconds, but couldn't reach the ropes.  But that's when Batista got his wits about him enough to get back up on the ring apron and stand there.  And that's when Jericho did NOT have any wit left in him apparently, because for the second time in the match, he behaved kind of stupidly: he released the Walls and went after Batista again.  And while we've got people behaving inappropriately, Young Randall wants in on the fun.  As soon as Jericho got distracted by Batista, he magically shook off the effects of the Walls, bounded to his feet, fresh as a daisy, and rolled Jericho up from behind.  Feet on the rope for illegal leverage, and that's enough to get Orton the cheap pinfall win over Jericho.  

Really close to a 20 minute match, and the vast majority of it as REALLY good with tons of heat and everything.  But a few of those little things really irked me and seemed to unfortunately drag down the "big picture" of the match by making Jericho seem either dumb (for rolling Orton closer to the ropes) or ineffectual (for his patented submission move being essentially no-sold by Randy at the finish).  Maybe I think too hard, though?  Overall, still a very good "anchor" match, and I guess you also gotta give credit for them trying to build heat for Batista vs. Jericho at the PPV by having Batista figure in the cheap finish here.

Backstage: Eugene and HHH are jumping around and having fun inside Eugene's Trampoline Office.  HHH is apparently here On Business, and as soon as he gets Eugene to agree to his deal, HHH escapes the trampoline/moonwalk to talk to Ric Flair.  And along the way, he trips and falls, and when he gets up, he's completely winded and out of breath from playing with Eugene. If the "little things" in the previous match annoyed me, let me say that the "little things" here were much appreciated.  Say what you will about HHH, Internet, but when he DOES show ass like this, it's usually really funny....  or maybe it's just my twisted sense of humor that thinks that HHH sucking wind while Eugene keeps bouncing around in the background is funny.  I dunno.  Anyway, between gasps, HHH says that his plan is going great: Flair thinks that means that HHH got Eugene to un-make the tag title match for the PPV.  But HHH says that didn't come up, he was there on more important business.  Business that will help him get his title back.  Because tonight, in our main event, Ric Flair will team up with Eugene (more indignation from Ric), and ALSO with Triple H (slight relief from Ric) in the textbook definition of a "handicap" match (knowing glance to Eugene, still bouncing around) against Chris Benoit and Edge.  


SmackDown! Rebound: I don't recap recaps.

Molly Holly vs. Victoria vs. Nidia (#1 Contender's Match/Contract On A Pole Match)

Molly, Victoria, and Nidia are in the ring already, and Lillian Garcia quickly explains that there is a contract for a title match against Trish Stratus up on a pole in one corner.  The first woman to grab the contract will receive a title match against Trish...  and that's when Trish herself (well, not herself, also accompanied by her loyal valet, the Lovely Miss Tomko, but really, who cares?) comes out to sit in on commentary.

In the ring, this is actually a pretty fast-paced and exciting little match.  Nidia busts out a couple wicked bumps (including a spot where both she and Victoria were on the turnbuckle trying to get up the pole, but Victoria kicked her off).  Molly pulled out a springboard plancha that I don't think I've ever seen her use, but which was pretty awesome.  On commentary, the reason we've brought Trish out here is so she can explain that she's got a broken wrist/hand (this is a legit injury, folks) and act all diva-y about how much it hurts and how she'll really have to curtail her autograph signings and stuff that's supposed to make her seem bitchy.

Sadly, it doesn't really work, and in fact, a new facet of my Trish Sympathy is exposed, even as she does guest commentary that was adequate at best. She takes no bump, but is forced to attempt to have Intelligent Discourse with Jerry Lawler: and when Lawler, aporpos of nothing, actually says, "I hate it when women wear pants, I think the divas should wrestle without pants, what do you think, Trish?", she just sat there in stunned silence, realizing that as a heel she's supposed to be in cahoots with the King but also realizing that the King is a freaking moron who has never done Thing One to help put the women's division over.  I'd like to think that racking her brain for a comeback to that idiotic statement hurt her just as much as any of those DDT or clothesline bumps.  My heart goes out to her.  On the upside, I kept waiting for Lawler to go off on tangents about Molly, Victoria, and Nidia's "pole work" in this match, but he never did. 

Back to the match, the favorites are Molly and Victoria, and they seem to know it.  Nidia is kind of ignored, and after Molly hit a bit move on Victoria, Nidia managed to climb the turnbuckle and grab the contract before Molly could get over there to stop her.  Maybe about 4 minutes, and not bad at all....

But Wait There's More: as soon as Nidia wins, Trish gets up from the commentary desk and makes her way to the ring.  She grabs a mic and congratulates Nidia on her big win and even bigger opportunity to wrestle for the Women's Title in the future.  But, Trish wants us to know that with her broken wrist, she put a clause in the contract that says the match will only happen once she's ready.  Mild boos and mild indignation from Nidia at the prospect of Trish milking the injury for weeks or months... but then the SWERVE~!  Out of nowhere, Trish declares that she's ready RIGHT NOW, and blasts Nidia in the head with her cast.

Trish Stratus vs. Nidia (Women's Title Match)

Trish orders the referee to ring the bell, because she wants this match to happen right now!  Ref doesn't want to do it, but Trish assures him that she worded the contract so that Nidia's shot would come when TRISH was ready, and she's ready now, so he'd better do his job.  The ref finally relents, rings the bell, and three seconds later, Trish has pinned Nidia to retain the women's title.  The reaction? Well, let's just say I'm not the only one who must find Trish's Competently-Evil ways endearing... but I've got a track record of this sort of thing people, going back to be Ivory's only fan 5 years ago.  What's your excuse for cheering here?  Worst of all: Lawler agrees with me, and goes to great lengths to put over the awesomeness of Trish's successful title defense.  But Jerry, SHE WAS WEARING PANTS!  

Overall: the real match and then the bogus title match combine for a fun segment... you'd rather Trish be healthy and able to follow up on the storyline with Victoria/Stevie in Drag, but this was entertaining enough and gives us an idea how the Fed will tread water and keep Trish and the title interesting until it's time to get back to that.


Diva Idol, Week 3, Segment 2: I don't recap crap.

Diva Idol, the Explanationing: King and Lawler started outlining the "rules" of the Diva Search.  I got about as far as "We're down to 25" before I decided this was also FF Worthy.  I'm sure it will involve voting girls off the island and pointless "Up Close and Personal" vignettes and other nonsense.  I know they've even got a UPN special set up.  I'm sure fabricated controversy will not be far behind.  And most of all: I can assure you I'll be recapping none of it!

Backstage: Trish is WALKING, and quite pleased with herself.  She spots Lita nearby, and decides to take a detour.  Probably on the grounds that she'd just traded lines with Tyson Tomko, and whatever he said, it was so thrilling that I'VE ALREADY COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN HE'S IN THE FRAME.  Mocking Lita will be more interesting for her...  Trish lays it on thick with the fake sympathy.  The "I hope you don't have morning sickness."  And then, when Lita (realizing she's being mocked) gives her the pissy silent treatment, the "Oh, I see, pregnancy screws up your hormones, sorry to have bothered you."  And then, as she's walking away, Trish (pretending to be talking to herself, but obviously meaning for Lita to overhear her) mutters, "And to think, they call ME a slut."  HA!  It's funny because it's true!

Elsewhere Backstage: HHH has corralled Eugene for a quick pep talk before tonight's main event.  This is more stuff in the vein of last week's "anger is good, anger is OK" speech, as HHH gets inside Eugene's simple mind and explains that when Edge promised to take out Evolution "one-by-one," he meant he'd take out Eugene, too.  Because Eugene is one of Evolution, now.  After a quick moment of doubt and confusion, Eugene came around and started making his Angry Face as HHH told him that tonight he'd have to do whatever it took to beat Chris Benoit and Edge, because they are not his friends and they want to hurt him.  HHH says that Evolution are his friends, though, and Eugene should do whatever it takes to help his friends.  Eugene drops the Angry Face and declares HHH is his BEST friend, and hugs HHH.  To close, we get a look of HHH smirking his best Evil Smirk as he pretend-hugs Eugene back and says, "Yeah, sure.  Best friends."  Deliciously diabolical.


Triple H/Eugene/Ric Flair vs. Chris Benoit/Edge

Out of the gate, the Mind Manipulation story is front and center, as HHH forces Eugene to start the match.  Benoit is hesitant, and tries to keep it clean and not do anything to hurt Eugene... but Eugene is not being so kind: following HHH's speech, Eugene is not breaking clean, using a closed fist, and other stuff.  Benoit WANTS to retaliate, but he knows it's wrong.  Eugene actually takes advantage of this and has the edge in the match, which is good enough reason for HHH to decide he wants to tag in.  But Benoit quickly rallies, gets the better of HHH, and even shoves Flair off the apron to the floor (leaving Eugene unscathed)... and inside of 3 minutes, he actually locks in the Crippler Crossface on Hunter.  HHH's cries of "Eugene, help" obviously cause Eugene great Personal Conflict.  But finally, he decides to help his friend.  To HUGE boos, Eugene comes in and breaks the hold by stomping on Benoit.  He looks confused and angry with himself as he immediately retreats back to his corner.  Benoit is also not pleased, and in the confusion, he's yanked to the outside by Flair.  On the outside, Flair goes after Benoit with abandon, tossing him into the ringsteps.  Benoit's down, Eugene's conflicted, so let's take our final....


We're back, and now, HHH is firmly in control of Benoit.  It's not long before he opts for the Sleeperhold... and since it's already after 11pm, it's also not long before Benoit powers out and FINALLY makes a tag to Edge, who has not seen a minute of ring time until now.  It was actually kind of a surprisingly mild reaction to the "hot" tag, leading me to wonder if that was because fans were more focused on the Eugene elements of the story here, or if they just didn't quite buy into Edge's "Evolution-killer" promo and placement in this match.  Anyway, once in, Edge briefly goes House Afire, but in the chaos, he tries to shoulder tackle HHH, but HHH ducks... and Edge flies into Eugene, who falls off the apron.  But Eugene also doesn't like the unprovoked attack, and immediately Eugenes Up, makes his Angry Face, and goes medieval on Edge.  Huge boos, which I think are kind of an interesting response: are those boos at Eugene, or boos at Evolution that fans HOPE will get through to Eugene and point him along the right path?  HHH pulls Eugene off, and we settle in for a more standard segment of Edge getting beaten down.  HHH works the arm, and when he tags Eugene in, Eugene is still angry, and enthusiastically goes after Edge.  Now the crowd has added "Eugene Sucks" chanting to their repertoire.  Again, very curious, and I hope that this is in the "Crowd trying to steer Eugene right with negative reinforcement" vein and nothing more... and it kind of seemed to work, if that was the goal, as Eugene finally relented a bit when it seemed like Edge's shoulder was really hurt.  In fact, he let Edge get all the way to his corner and make a tag to Benoit.  But the ref didn't see it, because he'd gotten distracted by Flair and HHH.

Realizing that maybe Eugene's killer instinct had waned, HHH tagged back in.  But he couldn't stop Edge from getting the tag to Benoit just a minute or so later, anyway...  Benoit came in, totally on fire.  Hit the Germans, hit the headbutt, made sure to take out Flair (but not go after Eugene unnecessarily).  In the brawling, Edge powdered out after missing a Spear on the outside and going flying into the front row.  And then: Ref Bump.  Benoit was going for a move on HHH, but HHH dodged, and Benoit hit the ref.  And the ref hit Eugene.  And Eugene thought Benoit must have hit him.  HHH immediately went to ringside and grabbed a chair, but when he brought it in, Benoit stole it away immediately.  However, just when Benoit stole the chair is when Eugene happened to look up after being knocked down.  He said Benoit wielding a chair, and assumed the worst: he got in the ring, and just before Benoit could attack HHH, Eugene took the chair away.  He was conflicted as to what to do with it... but he eventually decided to just take the chair and leave the ring so NOBODY could use it.  While this was going on, HHH tried to attack Benoit from behind, and they did a couple quick reversals before Benoit locked HHH into a Sharpshooter....  HHH tried for the ropes, but couldn't make it.  Then he started crying out for Eugene to come on in and save him.  Eugene clearly had no idea what to do: the "right" thing, or save his friend.

Finally, Eugene decides to help his friend, and to another massive negative crowd response, hits Benoit in the back of the head with the chair.  Then, Eugene began crying, threw the chair down, and started stomping on it, as if IT was the thing that did wrong here.  Meantime, HHH recovers, hits Benoit with a Pedigree, the ref finally wakes up, and HHH pins Benoit.  But unfortunately, the story here isn't so much that HHH has pinned the champ just six days before a big PPV match... it's more about Eugene as we close out the show.  Eugene is not happy with himself, but Flair and HHH do everything they can to comfort the guy and let him know he did good.  Final shot and final sell-job has nothing to do with Benoit getting pinned: it's HHH hugging Eugene and telling him it's OK.  Kinda weird, all things considered.

Final Analysis

So I get done watching RAW, and I start thinking back... and I can't really find too many gaping holes.  They REALLY toned down the Crap, and Pregnant Lita got all of 60 seconds of attention, which is wise.  Doesn't mean it won't (necessarily) get worse before it gets better, but at least it wasn't screwing up major matches and being integrated into the main event segment like last week....  also, I continue to be able to quickly and easily avoid the Diva Search nonsense, so that doesn't get me down.

And yet, when I thought back, I also didn't get really excited about much of anything I saw, especially not in a "wow, I sure can't wait till Vengeance" sort of way.  Again, I think a lot of that is just PPV overload and the fact that this Sunday will mark 3 PPVs in a 28 day span.  Well, 29, but you know what I mean.  But some of it has to be blamed on the storytelling that goes into those 3 PPVs, too...

I mean, think about it: Bad Blood was exciting and I was fired WAY up for it, but really only because of one thing... Hell in the Cell.  You take that away, and what was Bad Blood, really?  Nothing.  The Great American Bash?  The less said, the better.  Now this: Vengeance is in six days, and RAW's putting on a show that -- while entertaining -- is also seemingly unconcerned with focused storytelling and building up a top-to-bottom must-see PPV card.

On Sunday, the main event will be Chris Benoit defending the World Title against Triple H.  And we have every reason to suspect it'll be a very good match, and dating back months, they've got backstory to spare for why fans should care and be very concerned with the possible end to Benoit's reign.  But on the final TV show before the PPV, I think they do themselves a major disservice by taking the focus away from Benoit vs. HHH and putting it on Eugene [hearts] HHH.  I say this as a HUGE fan of the way they are playing the Eugene/HHH relationship, I just think there are other, more productive ways to tell that story and still do a Benoit/HHH singles match.

[As outlined going back a month or so: if they'd done this such that the "off month" Vengeance PPV was headlined by Eugene vs. HHH vs. Benoit, I think THEN last night's RAW would have been outstanding and appropriate, and then you kind of figure out some what to make this less about Eugene and let HHH/Benoit do a singles match at SummerSlam.  But this ain't Fantasy Booking corner, it's the recap, so...]

I also don't think a whole lot productive happened in terms of the ostensible #2 Match on the PPV card: Orton vs. Edge already came about kind of randomly, and the lack of focus was underscored by having Edge come out to cut a promo on HHH and get involved in business that seemed more like it was Benoit's (again, with the stealing focus from Benoit/HHH, too).  Almost the exact same argument holds for discussing Jericho vs. Batista, which didn't exactly have a ton of heat on it to begin with, but was given just the most basic of placeholder treatment last night.

Perhaps the most focused storytelling has been in the Kane vs. Matt Hardy feud.  Sadly, said feud is also imbued with the Suck that is Pregnant Lita, so my commendation of the focused storytelling that has had Matt get the better of Kane two weeks in a row leading into their match is tempered by my lingering dread that spirit-crushing badness can emerge in this match/story at any time.

The tag division? Like I said, the idea of "Rhyno's Partner Search" ain't a bad one, but if they wanted it to work, why not put some effort into the story side before carting out two random partners?  And now, the idea of Flair and Eugene as tag partners going up against La Resistance at the PPV?  Well, make no mistake, I think that should be a LOT of fun, but fun in kind of a show-opening, throw-away sort of fashion... it does nothing to address the root cause of making the tag titles something worth fighting over any place other than on Heat.  This is a big problem.

Just about the only thing that I REALLY liked and that gave me ideas about how things might play out in the future was the "contract on a pole" match and Trish's subsequent cheap title win.  I mean, it sucks that Trish is hurt, and it's come to this, but as a water treading means of keeping the title and Trish's evilness in the spotlight, I think they set the table for a lot of fun bits in the next month or so.  Then again, with the completely transient and random way they book the women's division, who's to say they won't forget this bit by next Monday and suddenly announce that Trish has been stripped of her title and the belt is up for grabs in a battle royal.  I have no faith, but I definitely thought that Injured Trish could make for an interesting character to write for here for the next little bit...

Anyway, no gaping holes.  Two good wrestling matches (awkwardness aside, the Jericho/Orton IC match was well-worked, and then the main event did a great job telling its story), a little fun with Trish.  I can't say anything bad about this RAW.  Except that it didn't seem to do a whole lot to build to a PPV that's just six days away.

I guess we call last night's show "solid."  We call it "fun."  We might even call it "good."  But one word I will NOT use to describe it: "effective."  I think WWE needs this upcoming five week break from PPV as much as we fans do.


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RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28




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