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Half and Half 
July 27, 2004

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


So: the night's big question... and nope, it's NOT "Who's the World Heavyweight Champion?", jerkos!
Rather, it's: Did the Rick have to go to his brother's birthday, or did he get to enjoy Iron Man 4 with a few cocktails and in Real Time?  And the answer is, that it was decided that my brother's family gathering for his Very Special Day will happen later this week, and thus, I was free to wallow in my own crapulance! At about 8pm, I headed out, picked

up a sixer of Miller High Life ($3.50 plus tax), and a General Tso's Chicken ($4.25) from Mark Pi's down the street.  Glamorous, I know!  But I defy anybody else out there to have better spent a mere 8 bucks last night on your buzz and your dinner!

Why the pointless personal anecdote? Well, partially to remind you that living in a podunk berg like Dayton has its privileges when it comes to Cost Of Living.  But mostly because it the fact that I *did* watch RAW in real time, without the benefit of DVR/time-shifting, DOES come into play a bit in terms of my final feelings about last night's show.

I know I had expressed some misgivings over the "non-Iron Man hour" in my column yesterday, but I don't think even I could have known how painfully bad RAW would be for about a half-hour there.  And if I'd known RAW was gonna flip the two hours around (crappy hour first, Iron Man second), I'd have implemented at least a HALF Time Shifting Policy so that I'd be caught up and in "real time" starting for the 10pm hour, and would have given myself ample time to fast forward some of the nonsense in the first hour.

And also, I might have upped my purchase to a 12-pack of High Life ($5.99) and started drinking two hours earlier so as to actually get more than my Kicking Back And Taking It Easy Buzz on, and somehow render that first hour Laughably Bad instead of just Periodically Spirit-Crushing.  Course, then I would have actually been drunk by the time Iron Man hit, and that wouldn't have been fair to those involved... or to you, the Fine Readers who will now be the beneficiaries of my keeping my wits about me, at great personal pain to myself. 

One 20 minute battle royal (which are impossible to recap by nature, at least till End Game), one 60 minute Iron Man match (which is not much easier to recap), and a whole bunch of garbage (and me with the catchphrase "I Don't Recap Crap")...  this one oughta be interesting....

Cold Open: Coach is backstage with the full slate of 10 divas. I'd say I Don't Recap Crap, but dammit, already, I'm feeling the pain of being in Real Time... and if I have to watch it, I might as well tell y'all what happens, right?  So he walks up and down the line of girls, pausing for what I'm sure he and WWE thinks is dramatic effect (live crowd: "Boo, just get on with it already", me: "What they said!") before finally stopping in front of One Of The Twins.  Sorry, I'll briefly recap it, but I'm not learning any new names.  She's gone.  DAMMIT!  I made the joke last week that the only way the voting could POSSIBLY be fun is if America got together and decided to vote one of the twins off, but not the other.  Who out there is stealing my shit?  Because to be honest: I was wrong.  This wasn't particularly funny or clever.  I can't be all gold, all the time, baby!  Coach tells Twin #1 to get to stepping, and then tells the other 9 girls that tonight, the competition gets Tougher Still, and they'll have the task of Verbally Seducing a Former WWE Superstar.  Oh gawd, this won't end well....

Excellent Video Package: Benoit wins Royal Rumble.  Benoit comes to RAW.  Benoit wins Title at WrestleMania.  Triple H says Benoit's a fluke and it ends tonight.  Benoit says he's for real.  I'll get more into this either at the end of this recap or in the column tomorrow, but part of me can't help but be frustrated that what Benoit/HHH SHOULD have been at Vengeance and what it COULD have been at SummerSlam is instead being tossed out as free RAW fodder, instead of being given the proper stage to shine.  Excellent package, almost TOO good, if that makes sense, for a RAW match.

Opening Theme/Pyro/Etc., and we are live in Pittsburgh, PA, home of the Cathedral of Learning, Primanti Brother's Instant Heart Attack Sandwich, and the Fightin' Dayton Flyers' Bitches of Duquesne!  And as Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler welcome us, they can't help but notice that instead of HHH vs. Chris Benoit, the ring is filling up with a seemingly-random, but star-studded, collection of grapplers.  There's about a dozen or 15 in the ring already (and I even recognize MOST of them; was that Chuck Palumbo, back from the dead? Or at least, from Heat?)...  and here's Edge.  And then Matt Hardy.  And then Kane.  And then Chris Jericho.  And then Evolution Lite (Orton, Batista, and Flair, entering together).  I'll take JR's word for it that we're now up to 20 men in the ring.

Eric Bischoff Has An Announcement:  Sleazy E hits the stage, and says that we should relax, cuz Iron Man 4 is still coming, but now, it'll be later tonight.  First, Bischoff would like to determine who will face the WINNER of Iron Man at SummerSlam.  So it's a 20 Man Battle Royale, and the winner gets the World Title Shot at SS.  This strikes everybody in the ring as a Dandy Idea, a Fantastic Opportunity even for the likes of Rodney Mack!  So let's ring the bell and get it on....

20 Man #1 Contender Battle Royale

OK, while they're all just punching and kicking away in the ring for the meaningless first few minutes here, let me register some disappointment. I tried, tried REAL hard, Ringo, to make it sound like Randy Orton going to SummerSlam was NOT a foregone conclusion in my RAW preview: as is my wont, I'm making an effort to help WWE when they refuse to help themselves.  "It's just a rumor," I said.  "There's a lot of ways how Orton can land in main events, even by year's end, that would be a LOT better than just randomly rushing him into one at SS," I further expounded.  So what do they do?  They bust out the Most Random Of All Matches, the Battle Royale.

This was lazy and inadequate back in May when they used it to randomly give us Kane as the #1 Contender for the "throw-away" Bad Blood PPV.  It strikes me as even LAZIER and LESS ADEQUATE when they bust it AGAIN out less than 2 months later to jump start Randy Orton's push to main events.  I do not say this because I loathe Randy Orton; I say this because if you're gonna push the guy, then you should at least do it in something other than a half-assed way and give him the best possible chance to succeed.  I'll get into this more (either later or tomorrow), I have a TON to thoughts on this topic.

Meantime, back at the ranch: the punching and kicking is continuing.  Evolution teams up to Group Eliminate the pesky William Regal.  Then (make a note of this) Edge and Jericho teamed up to get rid of Tyson Tomko.  We're probably all of about 2 or 3 minutes into the actual match, but the opening stages of battle royales aren't the most thrilling television in all the land, so let's break for our first....


Back, and it looks like maybe some more of the deadweight magically disappeared.  But only a few of them get to have their eliminations replayed via the magic of "Moments Ago" footage.  Like Matt Hardy (via Kane).  Then we get a spot where Hurricane is tossed by Stevie Richards and Rodney Mack, but then those two get tossed by Rosey, but then Rosey is tossed out by (I forget, either Jericho or Jericho and Edge again teaming up, which DID become a theme pretty early on).

First really cool spot that perked me up and got me to quit muttering to myself about the Orton Problem: within about 30 seconds of each other, both members of La Resistance were eliminated single-handedly by Tajiri.  YEAH!  One with a kind of slingshotty/reversal move, the other with a stiff boot to the head after he THOUGHT he'd caught himself on the apron, but Tajiri really had him scouted.  Cuz Tajiri's one part man, one part machine, and one part bad-ass!  At least, he was until Kane caught him a few moments later, and tossed him out of the ring.  Around this point, they make a note that Evolution are all working together, saving each other from eliminations, and stuff like that.  A few more people get tossed, maybe, but eventually, it's time for another set of...


Back, and it's down the final eight.  Evolution Lite and Kane for the heels; Jericho, Edge, Rhyno, and Maven for the faces.  They do a spot pretty shortly after the break where everybody powders out, except for Batista and Kane, who go nose-to-nose and SORT of get the crowd into their Big Hoss vs. Big Hoss Slobberknocker Of Extreme Non-Selling.  Batista actually gets the better of it with a spinebuster, but as soon as he got up, Rhyno NAILED him with the Gore out of nowhere, and NOW the crowd's into it, and Rhyno's "showing fire" as the wanktastic "wrestling journalist" type might say.  All eight guys eventually get back into it, and from here on out, things are actually quite good and exciting...

With the herd sufficiently thinned, they can start putting more effort into teased eliminations and stuff, which is what they do.  And also start running more spots, and telling more of a story.  One big story continues to be Evolution having each other's backs.  At least, until that no-good punk kid Maven briefly isolates on Flair and eliminates him!  Flair pitches a fit, but to no avail.  Rhyno's next to go, courtesy of Batista, which re-evens the sides.  Except they really aren't even, because Kane's the Big Man in the group and is out for himself, so everybody (face and heel) pretty much decides at this point that Kane Must Go Now.  So they team up and toss him.  Shortly thereafter, Maven gets his comeuppance from Evolution, when he's tossed by Orton.

Final Four: Orton and Batista, Edge and Jericho.  HEY!  That sounds suspiciously like the non-Iron Man Main Event I proposed yesterday!  Except I had no desire to be crowning Orton as a #1 Contender, and also am not a huge fan of lazy-ass battle royales when you could have run a more-exciting tag match!  But now I'm digressing!  Jericho managed to put Orton down for a moment (forget how), and went over to help Edge with Batista.  Together, they managed to get Batista out over the top rope.  But Edge ended up teetering precariously himself, and Jericho, Magnificent Bastard that he is, took the chance to ALSO eliminate Edge at the same time.  Edge looked pissed, crowd gave us a "Y2J" chant, and Jericho's face says, "Sorry, but I had to."  But THEN, Jericho's face turns to Orton's, and as Orton gets up to his feet, they lock eyes, and see people, THIS is what I was talking about when I said I wish they'd done the Right Thing with Orton's IC Title loss and let him and Jericho feud over the thing for months and build it up so Orton losing MEANT something instead of coming out of left field.  There's an intensity here that NEVER existed between Edge and Orton, and the fans are way into it, and they are NOT into it in a rebellious "Let's cheer for Orton" kind of way.

Although, as we enter the one-on-one End Game, Randy DOES have some fans. But Jericho's the easy fan favorite.  Slowly, they stalk each other first. But only a brief feeling out process before they go straight to the teased eliminations.  One cool spot: Orton tossed Jericho, but Jericho does the Standard Ricky Steamboat "skin the cat," which EVERYbody in the arena expected.  And which ORTON expected, as he momentarily shed his Dumb Guyness to turn around in time to catch Jericho with a clothesline BACK out over the top.  And THIS time, Jericho can only catch himself with one hand, and THIS time, Orton does think he won.  But Jericho does a sweet-ass one-hand skin-the-cat, and when Orton turns around and sees Jericho back in the ring, he lets loose with an almost-audible "MOTHER FUCKER" that seemed quite perfect and not at all fake or actor-y (another example of how Orton, now In The Moment and Believing What He's Doing, has started bringing another level of intensity to his ringwork since the Foley Feud).

Eventually we get to the Very Final Spot: it was kinda awkward and sloppy at one point (I thought Jericho looked too much like he was catching/saving Orton as they set it up), but the idea was that they BOTH ended up outside on the apron, and once they were there trading blows, it was really a neat new twist on the Battle Royale finish.  Kind of like a high wire act, or more aptly, like a movie fight on the roof of a building or the edge of a cliff.  Think Kirk vs. Doc Brown from Star Trek 3; just two guys slugging it out, teasing you with missteps but never quite falling all the way down...  cool stuff, and new to me in a battle royale setting.  A minute or so of that, and FINALLY Orton was able to get himself back into the ring.  From there, he did a modified RKO on Jericho (using the second rope), but Jericho STILL caught himself, and so Orton finally just rared back with a half-dropkick, and Jericho finally dropped to the floor.

Orton wins, and there are a few cheers, but mostly boos.  About 20 minutes, total, but only the last 8-10 after they came back from the second commercial break were all that good.  And I did love a couple things from the very end: for one, Jericho vs. Edge could EASILY be coming (and I again endorse getting the returning Christian into this mix so as to give us a true heel and to keep Edge's true status a mystery for as long as possible).  And for two, I found the final minute or two of Jericho vs. Orton to be very unique and creative.  I have misgivings about the Overall Big Picture and what went into this Battle Royale, but in execution, it was a pretty good one.  Obviously, it takes only a few seconds after Orton wins for JR and King to start wondering what it'd mean if HHH won the Iron Man match later tonight...

[As they promise that Iron Man 4 is "up next," I can't help but look at my clock and see that it's only 9:30... which means AT LEAST a half-hour before they start the match.  I was filled with extreme dread.  And I was right to be.  Because what's up next is NOT Iron Man.  What's after THAT isn't Iron Man, either... let's just start the half-hour of Suck with some....]


Diva Search, Round 2: The Seductioning

OK, I'm sorry: I watched it all, but I can't Recap This Crap in any competent fashion.  I'll just try to summarize, and then, of course, editorialize:

The "joke" here is that Coach has the nine girls outside a room, and one by one, they have to go in and take 30 seconds to "verbally seduce" a former WWE star.  I *think* we're supposed to believe that they don't know what's coming up, but it's just as lame either way.  The superstar in question?  Kamala, the Ugandan Giant.

So a girl would go in, a curtain would open, and Kamala would make grunting noises and slap his belly while the girls really came off like morons as they tried various iterations of skipping right past the Attempting to Display Wit and Personality and went straight to the really-awful "Hey baby, you're SOOO hot, and I'm SOOOO attracted to you".  Hint to the ladies: if this is your idea of flirting/seduction and this technique has ever worked for you, just take my word for it... you've found a Dumb Guy.  Smart Guys know it's not that easy, and would already be looking for The Catch and lumping YOU into the same kind of category that you lump any guy who'd actually walk up to you and say "Hey, you from Memphis?  Cuz yer the only Ten I See, baby...  Let's make out~!".  

Anyway, not a single one of the girls came off as anything besides Extremely Stupid and Vaguely Slutty and In No Way Interesting.  Not one of them.  To be fair: though the crowd was again booing the girls and booing the segment, two (2) of the girls did get some cheers.  One for wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey (clever girl that one; but not clever enough for me to remember which one she was).  And another for jumping around like a particularly stupid moron and almost falling out of her top one two occasions (this was the Other Twin, I'm pretty sure, and on the grounds of An Alleged Nipple Sighting, I doubt she'll be joining her sister anytime soon).

Just an awful waste of 10 minutes.  Not funny.  Not entertaining.  Not sexy or titillating, either.  It's like WWE WANTS the girls to be as unappealing as possible, like Vince McMahon's sitting in a room going, "What kind of situation can we put these girls in where they cannot possibly come off well, and where we can humiliate them?"... I'm serious.  What was the idea here, if not that?  I may thing the Diva Search thing is a horrible idea, but know this about me: I don't blame the girls, and I don't think trying to salvage some perverse pleasure out of making them embarrass themselves on TV is a fair or equitable solution.  The blame, and the people who SHOULD be ritually humiliated for my pleasure, lie elsewhere.

SmackDown! Rebound: I don't recap recaps. But I will mention that this sure felt like an extra-long recap.  Or maybe I'm just used to FF'ing it, and when it took longer than 12 seconds, I was surprised...  another pace-killing segment, either way.


Still Not Iron Man, Part 1: JR and King take about 2 minutes to hype Iron Man. Kind of: they actually spend the entire time talking about "If HHH wins, you know that means Evolution vs. Evolution at SummerSlam!"...  which is well and good and all, but AGAIN, there are better ways to have introduced/told this story.  And in this precise spot is where *I* would have rather seen them keep the focus on Benoit vs. HHH with something like "Tazz's Tale of the Tape" that they did before Lesnar/Angle's Iron Man Match (and still do before a lot of bigger SD! matches).

Still Not Iron Man, Part 2: Something about the Democratic National Convention, and Ivory's there live, flanked by Stacy Keibler and Linda McMahon.  I won't exactly transcribe their segment, but allow me to paraphrase and tell you what *I* heard as they spoke:

Ivory: "So Linda, why are we wasting time on RAW with this self-serving PR nonsense?"
Linda: "Because we want to get the 18-30 demographic excited about voting. And blah, blah, blah, words, blah, blah, I'm a thrilling public speaker, blah, words, blah, blah.  You know, Ivory, the 18 to 30 demographic.  I bet if we looked, we could find somebody in the 18 to 30 demographic... oh, hey, like Stacy over there.  As proof that our campaign is working, ask her something about politics!"
Ivory: "OK, thanks Linda, for reminding everybody that although I'm the hottest babe in the frame right now, I might possibly be over 30, you bitch! But I have a job to do here, so Stacy: say something about politics."
Stacy: "Ummmm. Jobs are good.  Right?"
Ivory: "Very insightful. Back to you, JR!"

I don't want to get into a whole big thing here, but... well, maybe the only way to do it would be for it to spiral out of control into a big thing, so I'll skip it and say this: I appreciate that WWE is trying to get people involved in the democratic process.  But I'm not so sure wasting 5 minutes in the middle of My Wrestling Show is when I want them doing it.  Or that the people who would see Stacy stumbling through Her Very Poignant Thoughts About The Economy And Stuff and realize "Hey, she's onto something, jobs ARE good" are necessarily the ones I *want* involved in the democratic process.  But perhaps I've said too much.  I don't know if I'm a cynic, or an elitist, or what: I just know that maybe I don't know yet who I'm voting for in November, but I *do* know that I don't need to be told to pay attention and get it figured it out by WWE. All I want to see is rasslin'; all WWE wants to do is pat itself on the back for being a Responsible Public Citizen.  Bzzzt.

STILL Not Iron Man, Part 3: Goddammit, the crap just keeps on coming.  Now it's Coach bringing out the nine Diva Search contests to dance around in Seizure Like Fashion again this week, while he tortuously introduces them and the phone number you can call to vote for each one. Don't care.  Just don't care.  Except for one detail:  this week, just about EVERY time the Diva Search girls appeared, the background music was "Walk, Idiot, Walk" off the Hives (excellent) new record!  Oh, man!  You know that thing I said before not thinking that humiliating the girls was good?  Well, I still stand by that, but this is just Too Rich.  I, much to my own personal shame, laughed my ass off the first time I noticed it, and couldn't stop any time they cued it up again: including when these girls were dancing around to "Walk, Idiot, Walk" for Coach's Plea To Vote.  [Late note: in correspondence with 97X BAM The Future of Rock 'n' Roll's Matt Sledge, I've just been told that they used the song last week, too, I just was too busy FF'ing or being annoyed to notice.  Also, I didn't yet have the new record, which might have made it harder for me to pick it up.  So it's like the Official Theme Song of the Diva Search.  Which is doubly funny.  It's also the first time in I Don't Even Know How Long that WWE has actually picked a REALLY sweet song to be the Official Theme Song for anything.]

STILL NOT IRON MAN, Part 4, But At Least, We're Getting Closer: Backstage, Evolution Lita is celebrating Orton's Battle Royale win, when in walks Triple H.  Orton, Flair, and Batista settle down, and there's an awkward silence.  Young Randall eventually decides he should say something.  He, very timidly, says he's really excited to be going to SummerSlam, and that he hopes HHH can go out there tonight and win so it's an All Evolution Main Event, so, "Good luck."  HHH smirks and says, "That's the difference between you and me, kid. I don't need luck."  And then as HHH walks out to FINALLY start his match, Orton sorta turns to Flair and is like "Oh, yeah, I meant that. He's SO totally got this one in the bag," or something.

[Not to get off on a tangent, but: another possible problem I've got in the way they're setting this up, and it was underscored in that segment, is that they OBVIOUSLY want to make Orton a babyface, to the point where they had him coming off timid and deferential while HHH was cocky and brash.  I hope alarms are going off for you people: THIS WILL BACKFIRE.  I will explain more tomorrow, I'm already all over the place here in an effort to keep this middle portion of the show entertaining for you to read about...  and I still got 60 minutes of Iron Man to recap.]


Chris Benoit vs. Triple H (Iron Man Match for the World Heavyweight Title)

Both men make grand entrances, they have a big staredown, they meet in the middle of the ring, and referee Mike Chioda did an homage to Earl Hebner and Iron Man 1 by explaining the rules in a Not Quite Eloquent But Somehow Very Fitting Fashion ("Now good luck to both of yous"?  "Yous"?).  Crowd's hot for this, and the whole spectacle lent to a Big Match Atmosphere, and it went a long way to making me forget how antsy I'd been for the last 30-40 minutes.

Out of the gate, it's back and forth and feeling out, and generally all of the tricks you'd expect to see in a match where the guys don't want to bust out the big guns too early.  They play up the vibe that Benoit is quicker and more technical than HHH, but HHH is stronger and can overpower Benoit.  [Note to Lawler: you were mostly Quite Good and On Task tonight, but please, refrain from attempting to talk about physics unless you have SOME clue what you're talking about.  Stephen Hawking you are not.  Mildly distracting you were.]  Benoit made the first major move of the match around the five minute mark, grappling his way into a Crippler Crossface, but HHH QUICKLY made the ropes and escaped.  But the tide had finally turned, and Benoit took control, attacking HHH's left leg with a Surgical Focus.  The implication was clear: he was softening up for the Sharpshooter.

A few minutes of this, and finally HHH staged a comeback, setting up a quick period of fast-paced back and forth moves.  HHH seemed to get the advantage for himself with a DDT, but Benoit managed to reverse his way into a Crippler Crossface at EXACTLY (I'm serious) 10 minute mark.  In kind of a neat idea for a finish, HHH seemed to put all his weight into trying to reach one way towards the ropes, and BAM, Benoit suddenly shifted his weight and rolled HHH the other way into a crucifix pinning combo.  The sudden shift was too much, too fast, and too surprising, and HHH was pinned!

TIMECHECK: 10:30 (Benoit 1, HHH 0)

Almost IMMEDIATELY after that first decision, we have to break for....


Back from the commercials, and Benoit's still mostly in control.  He's shifted his focus, though, and is busting out more suplexes and stuff, and is targeting HHH's back and ribs, it seems.

TIMECHECK: 15:00 (Benoit 1, HHH 0)

At this point, they settle in for a little bit with a Abdominal Stretch, with Benoit further ripping apart HHH's torso/ribs. But from here, HHH powered out, and tossed Benoit out of the ring, with Benoit taking the bump in such a way that his lower back hit the ring apron awkwardly.  Now, it's HHH's turn to target the back, and starts pounding away on Benoit.  Somewhere in here, Benoit starts bleeding from the mouth.  But he won't stay down for long.  He comes back, tosses HHH from the ring, and then follows up with a suicidal tope which just glances HHH, but which Benoit took as a WICKED face-first bump into the ringside barrier.  Crowd tries to start a "Holy Shit" chant, and it would have been VERY deserved, in my own damned opinion.

TIMECHECK: 20:00 (Benoit 1, HHH 0)

Both guys are down after that crazy-ass dive, so let's look at some...


We come back to a "Moments Ago" piece.  After the Tope Suicida, HHH gained the edge, first, but then Benoit reversed a whip into the steel ring steps, and was able to follow up by returning to his focus on HHH's left leg.  Which is where we stand now, about 25 minutes into the match.  Benoit tries to extend his lead by going for a Sharpshooter (HHH kicks him off), and then for a Figure Four (HHH is locked in for a few minutes, but then rolls over to "reverse the effect," which puts Benoit back on defense after he finally makes the ropes).  HHH tries to follow up, but Benoit's able to get behind HHH and hit him with the Hat Trick of Germans.  But he got greedy: Benoit went up top for the Swandive Headbutt... but HHH moved.  And Benoit IMMEDIATELY started selling the Injured Sternum (remember that? good for you!).  But HHH didn't care about that, yet.  He immediately followed up with a Pedigree.  And got a pinfall to even our score.

TIMECHECK: 28:00 (Benoit 1, HHH 1)

They get only a semi-respite for a Rest Period, and for his part, Benoit just rolled out of the ring to again make sure we got the message that His Sternum Hurts.  At some point in here, King annoyed the piss out of me again by saying "I've read about these sternum injuries in USA Today."  Really, Lawler?  You READ about them?  You didn't SEE ONE IN PERSON at, oh let's say, the Vengeance PPV?  Again, Lawler was mostly on-task tonight, so it's not a huge deal; not everybody can be as good as Tazz was for Iron Man 3... and anyway, Jim Ross was right there to bail Lawler out by IMMEDIATELY picking up on the sternum thing and how HHH severely bruised Benoit's sternum just 2 weeks ago on PPV.

HHH remembers the sternum, too, as almost instantly after Benoit rolls to the outside, he follows, and sets up for a spot where he whips Benoit chest-first into the steel ring steps.  Benoit crumples into a heap.  HHH senses he's done enough damage, and hops back into the ring.  Ref Chioda makes the count... and gets to 10.  Benoit has been counted out.

TIMECHECK: 31:00 (HHH 2, Benoit 1)

This is deemed a good spot for some....


Back, and HHH is still dominating, and is still doing mean stuff to Benoit's chest/sternum (including those cool front-face vertical suplexes from the PPV).  He also alternates that with returning to Benoit's back for stuff like suplexes on the steel entrance ramp.  This goes on for a good five minutes, and then, just as Benoit seemed like he was gonna start a comeback, HHH silenced him with a spinebuster, which rocked Benoit's torso, and was enough for HHH to score another pinfall.

TIMECHECK: 37:00 (HHH 3, Benoit 1)

As Jerry Lawler strongly opined that it was all over, and Benoit couldn't come back from this 2 fall deficit with 20 minutes to go, we had to take another break for...


Back, and it's still All HHH... but FINALLY it's time for Benoit's Big Comeback.  He back drops his way out of a Pedigree attempt, and then from there actually starts on the offense.  Within a few minutes, he works HHH into a Sharpshooter.  HHH struggles towards the ropes, but is pulled back to center ring.  He bites his own hand to try to keep his mind off the pain of the Sharpshooter (nice touch), but eventually, it's too much. HHH taps out.  [My Inner Tazz was doing commentary at this point, and would have illustrated the fact that HHH decided to tap out, maybe a bit sooner than he otherwise would have, because he STILL HAD THE LEAD, and rather than risk more damage to himself, he sacrificed the fall and wanted to just play defense with his lead.  Needless to say, the Real Lawler had nothing quite as insightful to explain this fall.]

TIMECHECK: 44:00 (HHH 3, Benoit 2)

HHH rolled to the outside, which again would have played into my "just tap out and then go play defense" theory.  But Benoit was tenacious.  He followed HHH, and kept the assault going.  Benoit eventually got HHH back in the ring.  And then immediately got the Crippler Crossface locked in.  But HHH got a rope break.  But Benoit AGAIN with the tenacity!  He immediately yanked the spent HHH to the middle of the ring, re-applied the Crossface, and this time, HHH fought the good fight, but could not escape.  He tapped out.

TIMECHECK: 48:00 (HHH 3, Benoit 3)

We're all tied up, HHH is in serious trouble, and Uh Oh: here comes Evolution.  Sort of.  Here come Batista and Flair.  Whither Randall?  HHH is down and hurting, but Benoit is distracted by the visitors, and JR indignantly sends us to our last set of...


Back, and Benoit is still in control.  But only for about 7.3 seconds.  HHH pulls out a desperation tactic and somehow tosses Benoit out of the ring.  And right into the waiting arms of Batista.  While HHH and Flair keep the ref distracted, Batista tosses Benoit into the ringpost, and Benoit comes up bleeding badly.  Batista then tossed Benoit back into the ring, where he'd be Easy Pickins, right?  Wrong.  Benoit kicks out of a couple near falls.

TIMECHECK: 55:00 (Still Tied 3 Apiece)

Benoit keeps fighting, and when HHH lines him up for a big clothesline, Benoit's able to duck.  But poor ref Mike Chioda EATS IT.  The ref tumbles to ringside, and Evolution sees this as a Good Chance to Cheat.

TIMECHECK: 56:00 (Still Tied)

HHH gets his hands on a steel chair, and plasters Benoit in the back of the head.  Benoit's down, and SURELY finished.  GM Eric Bischoff comes out, with referee Jack Doane in tow: HHH figures it's all over, and makes a cover on Benoit, as Doane gets in the ring.  But Benoit kicks out!  HHH can't believe it.  Punches Benoit.  Covers him again.  Again Benoit kicks out.  Again HHH can't believe it, punches Benoit, and covers again. AGAIN a kick out.  HHH is PISSED~! and just decides "to hell with this, I need to cheat some more" so he punches ref Doane in the face.  We're refless again.

TIMECHECK: 57:00 (Still Tied)

And wait, what's the commotion?  The crowd is standing up and somebody is making an entrance from stage left.  It's Eugene!  Big "Eugene" chant.  A much quieter and eventually aborted "Eugene Sucks" chant.  Eugene comes to us tonight pre-Angried, and as soon as he hops in the ring, he Eugenes Up all over Evolution.  Dropkicks Batista out of the ring.  Stunners Flair.  Rock Bottoms Triple H.  He has cleaned house!  Except...

TIMECHECK: 58:00 (Still Tied)

Eric Bischoff can't believe his impudent nephew has interfered, and gets up on the ring apron.  Eugene doesn't hesitate for even a second: he punches Bischoff in the face.  Big pop.  Then he turns his attention back to HHH.  Eugene grabs the chair HHH had used... and he blasts HHH!  HHH is down in the center of the ring... Benoit is slowly recovering....

TIMECHECK: 59:00 (Still Tied)

Eugene pulls his jacket off and celebrates by running around like he's an airplane...  Benoit inches towards HHH....

TIMECHECK: 59:30 (Still Tied)

Benoit drapes an arm over HHH's carcass.  Eugene dead lifts ref Mike Chioda and tosses him back into the ring.

TIMECHECK: 59:40 (Still Tied)

Eugene helpfully positions in the center of the ring and gently nudges him towards consciousness...

TIMECHECK: 59:50 (Still Tied)

Chioda begins his count.  HHH does not kick out!

TIMECHECK: 59:55 (Benoit 4, HHH 3)

The remaining five second tick away, and Chris Benoit is your winner and STILL the World Heavyweight Champion, thanks to a dramatic last second pinfall and assist from Eugene.  Eugene continues his celebration by standing on the commentary table and applauding Benoit.  Benoit gets his belt, sees Eugene, and smiles, appreciating that Eugene has finally decided who his Real Friends are.

Benoit eventually left the ring and continued his celebration on the stage with Eugene.  And that left HHH alone in the ring, and when he started coming to, well...  let's just say he was NOT a happy camper as the show came to an end.  A very entertaining match, maybe the "least" of the four WWE Iron Man matches to date, but that's seriously about the faintest criticism in the world.  Obviously the final 10 minutes or so were extremely exciting and well booked by more gimmicky than they were "final blow-off match-esque," but that's cool with me.  Orton's absence obviously ties into the over-riding scenario, too.  Only kinda of festering issue: they could have done more, I think, if they'd built part of the middle or middle-end section of the match around Benoit being concussed by Batista last week.  Bringing back the sternum was a nice touch, though...  absolutely no serious or substantive complaints about RAW's final hour from me.

Final Analysis

I really do have a lot more to say about this show and how it kind of left me frustrated over RAW's apparent Overall Direction.  It ties into how if you WANT to push Orton, there are better ways to do it.  Better ways to pace it.  But frankly, I'm exhausted after doing this recap.  

So, just as a start, I'd say these two things. Or rather, I'd point you to where others have said some things that I think hit the nail on the head:

(1) Going back three weeks, Erin had some pretty good ideas for how the implosion of Evolution might play out. Check the Vengeance PPV Preview.  And I again re-iterate: if you WANT to do this angle, and you MUST do it this soon, then you NEEDED to start introducing things back at Vengeance, kinda along the lines she laid out.  If not exactly along those lines, at least start laying the foundation for the direction you want to take it.  You do NOT have somebody make this decision in a board room last week and use the freaking cop-out of a Battle Royale to randomly generate something this important.  And,

(2) I'm not even so sure that the pace of Orton's push and implosion of Evolution needs to be this fast.  And this ties into Jeb's piece from last week, where he wasn't entirely sanguine about WWE giving Iron Man away for free, because it just made it all the more clear that this match was a stepping stone to something else, and not an end unto itself.  He was certainly quite right about that: Benoit and HHH have now fought twice, and neither time did they settle anything.  There's is a feud that DESERVES to be decisively ended, and the way to do that would have been to save the blow-off (be it Iron Man or whatever) for a big finish at SummerSlam, and THEN (again with more attention to detail) you can continue on with the Implosion of Evolution.  But no... instead, this is the least of the four Iron Man matches, and one that even if it (due to shoddy storytelling) is the "last" match of the HHH/Benoit feud, certainly can't count as a CLIMAX of said feud.  Even Angle/Lesnar last year, although given away for free, had the definite feel of Finality; it was the third match of their feud, and Lesnar went over decisively, and Angle never really challenged him in the same way again after that.  I wanted to mock Jeb's cynicism for finding a reason to not be 100% enthusiastic about Iron Man 4, but he wound up sorta being right on the money.  Nothing was settled.  But perhaps worse to my way of thinking: I'm not so sure it ever will be because of this idea that now Orton's push MUST begin and begin now.

So: look for more ranting along those lines from me in the near future.  I've got some other points I want to illuminate, at least.

But as for tonight's RAW, I guess you can't call any show with an hour long match that was that good anything other than a big Thumbs Up.  But please, don't let that take away from my Extreme Pissiness over the first hour of the show.  First, the Battle Royale (though VERY entertaining in the final 10 minutes) struck me as a lazy plot contrivance in the opening 30 minutes.  And then the second 30 minutes just flat out sucked, and were not fit for human consumption.

Still: Iron Man is Iron Man, and that match was a hell of a ride.  Not joining Iron Man 3 as a video keeper, but certainly made for a hell of a night of TV wrestling....   


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