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Glimmers of Hope! 
August 10, 2004

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


Hope you all took my Monday night suggestion and checked out The Daily Show after RAW....
They actually spent the first segment talking a lot about something from late last week that REALLY annoyed me: the "Veterans Against Kerry" campaign ad. Even a modicum of common sense and research would have led one to seriously question the claims in said ad, which is bad enough, but kind of par for the course in politics and dirty campaigning. But

what got sand in my vagina was how John McCain (loyal Republican foot soldier who occasionally dares to exercise independent thought) comes out almost immediately and denounces the ad, and requests that the Bush White House put the kibosh on whichever soft money group was financing that ad.  The White House's response: "John McWho? I think we'll let that ad run for now. And MAYBE make a big stink over soft money ads later if the democrats show even an inkling of getting their shit together."

It's enough to make one quite disillusioned with The System.  But I think we've covered that ground already.  And mostly, I just wanted to endorse your viewing of any repeats of last night's Daily Show, as it was a very pleasant and enjoyable capper to my evening after a solidly entertaining night of wrestling.  Which I shall recap presently!

Nothing: just the opening pyro/theme/etc., and Welcome to Cleveland, OH, from Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. Tonight's a huge show, what with a major-league SummerSlam Preview of a main event (Benoit/Eugene vs. HHH/Orton), and an only-slightly major-league SummerSlam Preview of a semi-main event (Jericho vs. Edge, non-title).  But first, the ring is full of hot tail, which can only mean we're kicking things off with some suck....

Diva Search, Round 3, Part 1... More Eliminationing: I don't watch crap, I don't recap crap.  Except.... GODFUCKINGDAMMIT, here comes Randy Orton in the middle of my FF'ing, which means I gotta stop and watch this shit on the off chance that he might NOT mangle the English language and have something pertinent to say...

"Footage? We Don't Need No Stinking Footage!" Theatre

So out comes Orton in a cute little suit, and interrupts Jonathan Coachman, I guess just as Coach was getting ready to open an envelope and eliminate one of the Diva Search girls.  For reasons unexplained (other than nobody can come up with any better way to make Orton seem like an asshole than resorting to pointless measures such as this), Young Randall would like to be the one who dismisses the third Loser.  So he opens up the envelope and announces that the loser is: the Other Twin What's Name I'm Not Gonna Bother Trying To Remember!  Huh, I guess accidental nipple slips are only good for one week of immunity....

So at this point, Twin #2 leaves the ring, and Orton's trying to ladle on the Prickishness talking about how she's crying and sad, except that she's all smiley and taking it in surprisingly good stride.  So credit to Orton for shifting gears and accusing her of bottling up her emotions.  But more "Orton Is Clearly Of Sub-Normal Intelligence" jokes because as soon as he must deviate from Prepared Material, he promptly does shit like declaring that "failure" and "denial" are the two emotions being repressed.  Christ, Randy, do you even know what words mean?  Must you make it so easy for me to be annoyed any time you attempt to speak?

Anyway, Randy's point is that Twin #2 is leaving the ring a loser, just like Chris Benoit will leave the ring a loser in six days at SummerSlam.  Back on the written page, Orton's actually doing a nice job of putting some intensity behind the flaccid concepts of "destiny" and "making history."  And in fact, he won't just be making history, but he'll be REPEATING history.  Monkeys In The Truck, Randy would like footage from last week!  So they show Orton sneaking up behind Benoit, hitting the RKO, and scoring a pinfall win over the World Champ.

Back from the Footage, and the diva search girls are gone (and none too soon, as I was enjoying keeping an eyeball on My Michelle McCool as she kept chuckling at Randy's verbal ineptitude and avoiding eye contact with him whenever he turned around to ostensibly impress the ladies more than I was enjoying Orton's actual promo)...  and Randy's talking about how when he does the same thing at SummerSlam, it'll make him the Youngest Champion In History. Again with this, WWE? Look, I appreciate that you're salty about how you pulled the trigger with The Rock, and then he left to go make movies, so you decided to give the Youngest Ever Honor to Brock, but then he left to go suck at football, and now you just want to have the guy you let win the title at a young age actually BE ON THE ROSTER...  but this is not really a compelling reason to have Orton in main events.  It's cheap, it's lazy, and thus, it fits in perfect with the rest of the way you've handled Randy's sudden push!

Anyway, Orton keeps riffing on the Youngest Ever thing, and asks the crowd what THEY were doing at age 24. Some cheap heat for suggestions of the "moving out of your parents basement" ilk, because at age 24, Orton believes he'll be holding the World Heavyweight Title. In the interest of Full Disclosure, Randall, I'll tell you that at 24, I was: finishing up my Masters, honing my ability to drink booze without fruit in it, failing to blaze the trail of Pretty Boy Metrosexuality, and not revealing to the world that my IQ was mired in the mid-70s. All things considered, I'm not so sure I don't have you beat there, Sparky.  Then again, as I've outlined before, unlike a lot of wrestling fans, I'm the Lone Nut who looks at Orton and does NOT aspire to imitate anything about the guy...

So Randy rambles on, and hits his punchline. And it wouldn't be an Orton promo if he didn't stumble all over himself trying to spit it out.  This is an exact quote: "At SummerSlam, nothing, nobody, and NOBODY is going to stop me from me having my date with destiny." Thankfully, Chris Benoit picks that moment to interrupt.  Although it would have been HILARIOUS after Orton's preceding slaughter-job, he opts not to open with "Ah, Randy Orton.  Please allow myself to introduce.... myself."

But he does mock Randy's selective choice of footage, and says that if he's gonna be showing footage, maybe he should show the time that Benoit made him tap out.  Which sends Orton into an orgy of Dumb Guy Confusion (which somehow seems MUCH more natural for him!), since he doesn't think he EVER tapped out to Benoit, and therefore, that footage doesn't exist.  Orton's prattling on about how he's never tapped out, so Benoit just decides to MAKE HIS OWN FOOTAGE~!  He snatches Orton's arm in mid-chest-poke, locks in the Crippler Crossface, and within seconds, Orton's tapping like...  ummmm, like Fred Astaire or something? Sorry, not the best night of sleep and in a rush to get this done before dusk: I'm running on fumes, here...

Benoit grabs a mic, and suggests that maybe NOW they could cue up the footage of Orton tapping out.  Which they do as Benoit smugly poses with the belt and Orton sells the shoulder and the crowd chants "You Tapped Out."  Orton gained nothing in this, but a really cool spot for Benoit.  This made me flash back to the night where he came out to the ring, got a mic, and told HHH "I've only got one thing to say to you."  And then he put the mic down and popped HHH in the face.  Benoit doesn't need promos and he doesn't need no stinking footage!  He'll just settle for kicking your ass and being awesome!  The final moments of the opening segment were so good that I've even decided to repress my Smark Asshole Observation that Randy Orton HAS tapped out to Benoit on TV, and I just so happened to be there to see it live.  Because that really has nothing to do with anything.  Great punchline to an overall middlin' opening segment....


Molly Holly, Gail Kim, Jazz vs. Victoria, Nidia, Stacy Keibler

They really needed to do that "Molly gets jealous of her henchwoman" scenario I was advocating a while back, because the babyface side needs Gail Kim.  You can always call Ivory up to be a Perfectly Serviceable Heel, and I just don't need to see Stacy Keibler attempting to wrestle...  match here was about a minute or so of Molly and Victoria doing decent stuff, then a big of Gail and Victoria.  Then they tagged in Stacy for the long haul, and things went south; after Stacy hit her one spot (the Big Flexible Boot of Hey Look At My Vagina!), she was the ostensible babyface in peril. Except everything looked really sloppy, and nothing clicked, no matter how hard Molly tried to quarterback things into not sucking.  It's bad enough that I don't even have time here to bitch about how Lawler was ignoring the match to talk about his Man Love of Randy Orton (honestly, instead of talking about Benoit making him tap, King was focused more on how Dead Sexy Orton looked in his suit and how he should be in GQ; moron).  Finally, Stacy made the lukewarm tag to Nidia, and we went all Pier Six Style.  In the big brawl, Molly was having no trouble with Nidia; then the camera cuts away to show us Gail powdering out with Victoria, and Jazz taking care of Stacy... and then we cut back to the ring, and out of left field, Nidia has Molly in a pinning combination, and scores the win.  Huh?  Even repressing my confusion over why you have Molly dropping falls to Nidia, that was just a really random-feeling finish to a disjointed match.  Maybe 4 or 5 minutes, and not the best showcase for the women.  But possibly nothing to bitch about because it was REALLY just an excuse for....

After the Match: Trish Stratus' music hits, and she comes out on the stage. She pauses, hands her women's title belt to her loyal valet, The Lovely Miss Tomko, and then heads to the ring.  She first approaches the trio of Molly/Gail/Jazz, and has them nodding in agreement very quickly.  Then she has to chat with Stacy (the emissary for the babyface trio, I guess) for a moment before also getting the same level of agreement from Victoria and Nidia. And all seven women leave together?  Jim Ross tries to act confused, but I'm assuming that you were like me: knowing EXACTLY where this was headed... and hopefully, looking forward to it. Except for the part where you suggested this weeks ago, and though it should be MOLLY and not Trish who was the ringleader...

Video Package: All things Regal and HHH from last week. It's almost as good the second time around.


At the Hotel: William Regal is a battered mess, and is resting in a chair.  Eugene is jumping around like a monkey, saying that he wants to go to the arena and get revenge on HHH. But Regal is trying to be the voice of reason, saying that Evolution would just ambush them, and he's in no condition to be fighting anyone this week.  He tells Eugene to just sit down and watch RAW on the telly, and then excuses himself to hit the bathroom.  Eugene sits down briefly, toys with the remote, but then is hit by inspirado!  As Regal does his bidness, Eugene sneaks out of the hotel room, apparently on his way to the arena....

SmackDown! Rebound: I don't recap recaps.

Backstage: Lita is sitting in catering (I think), and already, you can tell from the lighting, that this is gonna be some suck-ass melodrama! In walks Matt, vaguely cheery about getting to sign the contract for the match that'll get Kane out of their lives for good... but then Lita drops a bombshell: she's finally decided to get that paternity test done, and the doctor had Matt's DNA and the baby's... and it's not a match.  Matt is not Lita's baby daddy.  So Matt throws some tables and chairs around in anger as Lita looked on timidly.  I don't even know where to start making fun of this crap... is it (a) that it took 2 fucking months to get to the Paternity Test Revelation, or (b) the fact that they think they're being clever with Lita's "subtle" omissions (she never said "yes" to Matt's proposal last week, and this week, she only eliminated Matt as the daddy, but did NOT actually confirm Kane was the father, which means that they can ostensibly swerve us by Lita turning heel or by having Lita's sluttiness reach epic proportions when a THIRD man reveals he's really the one what planted his seed in her belly), or (c) that they actually think that anybody cares?  You pick one and run with it your own selves....


Simply Known as... The Crap

Jim Ross is your host for the Red Carpet Contract Signing of Somebody is Obligated to Use These Tables and Chairs as Weapons Before This Thing is Over.... Kane's out first, and to his credit, is actually doing a fairly entertaining and well-performed bit of constantly chuckling to himself over how funny it is that he's sired an offspring.  Matt's out second, just looking stone-faced, and Lita's behind, modeling something out of the Raven BattleSkirt 2001 Collection.

Lita and Kane sit down, Matt paces, and JR goes over the stipulations of the Till Death Do Us Part Match. Commendably, JR does not start snickering uncontrollably at the sheer dumbness of the name or the stips.  Matt wins, Kane goes away.  Kane wins, Lita must marry him.  Now: all three must sign.  Lita goes first, without much trepidation.  Kane goes second, chuckling in that almost-amusing way the whole time.  Then it's Matt's turn.  I think it's quite telling that when Matt walked away from the contract the first time, there were cheers, and when JR asking him "Are you gonna sign the contract?", the crowd sort of group-responded "NOOO!"...  clearly, this is a story and a match that ALL THE FANS want to see!

Anyway, after a bit of goading from Kane (about how he's now PROVEN he's more of a man than Matt), Matt finally does sign the contract (to at least a smattering of disappointed boos, I must point out). The Alleged Attorney quickly rams the papers into a conveniently-handy steel briefcase, and locks 'em up.  Kane kept on chuckling, and Matt just snapped, suddenly up-ending the table onto Kane, and then grabbing the briefcase (shocking~!) and whapping Kane upside the head with it. Matt briefly paused to stand over Kane and say "You will be mine" (huh? even if your girl is knocked up by some other dude, that's no reason to switch to your brother's team, Matt!), and then left with Lita.  Kane did a Zombie Sit Up and looked mildly annoyed as he eyeballed the retreating couple.   Whee!  There's nothing I can say about this crap that wouldn't be repeating myself, and frankly, I'm getting sick of expending my A-game on such garbage.  So let's just say there's nothing even vaguely interesting or appealing or clever about this storyline and tonight's nonsense continued the sucking, and move on....


Diva Search, Round 3, Part 2... the Talent Competitioning: I don't watch crap, I don't recap crap.  Except that after the assembling of Trish's Army earlier, I kind of thought for a moment that this wouldn't be crap, so I stuck with it for a bit.  The concept was that the girls all had 30 seconds to "sell us an ice cream cone."  Great.  The first girl was so stultifyingly dumb and unsexy (and more importantly, PRE-TAPED~!) that I felt safe in fast-forwarding the rest to await the Ambush in a later segment.  I can only assume every other girl was just as bad, and that I missed nothing.  Lick this, squirt that, we get it, it's JUST LIKE they're giving blowjobs! Except not like that at all!  Unless you're really stupid or 14 years old! Ninety seconds of my life that I'll never get back; and sadly for you all, probably more like 5 minutes of it.


Edge vs. Chris Jericho (Non-Title Match)

I guess I'll be nice and call the opening minutes here "methodical," instead of Slow and Boring.  It was actually not completely without value, though, as they went through the usual back-and-forth feeling out, giving JR and King a chance to introduce a few concepts, such as how one man might learn something or gain a mental edge in this match which could be beneficial come SummerSlam.  And also (and I was a big fan of this idea): talking about how these two are kicking each others' asses, which might give Batista an edge in their three-way match at the PPV.  Probably a good 6-7 minutes of tepid action before Jericho decided to ramp things up...  first he tried to hit his springboard inside-to-the-apron dropkick, but Edge dodged him, and Jericho landed hard.  Then, when Jericho tried to get back up into the ring, Edge lined up him and hit him with a Spear in the back, sending Jericho flying off the apron and all the way to the barrier and into the crowd (wicked bump!).  So just as things are finally picking up, lets do some....


Back, and apparently I'm not the only one who liked Jericho's bump because, instead of a "During the Break" highlight, we get the immediately before the break highlight again.  Edge is still in control, and working the neck/back for several minutes; to me, this pretty clearly means they laid out the match wanting fans to subconsciously consider Edge the heel, since this extended segment set Jericho up for the traditionally-babyface superman comeback.  And as soon as Jericho starts said comeback, we really pick up the pace for a very good final few minutes.  Back and forth with counters and near falls (Jericho tried a Spear, but missed; Edge tried the Walls, but could cinch it in; lots of good stuff) for a few minutes, then Edge regained the advantage.  He baseball slid and dropkicked Jericho into the same section of the ringside barrier (did someone in that section piss somebody off?), then followed up with a missile dropkick for a real close near fall.  There were a few more close calls, but the final spot had Edge lining Jericho up for the Spear, which would have been the Death Blow at that point.  But Jericho leap-frogged it, Edge hit the turnbuckle hard, and Jericho immediately rolled him up (and put his feet on the ropes, the asshole) to score the quick pinfall win.  Jericho immediately bailed, as Edge failed to grasp the irony of how he lost....  and then....

After the Match: Batista swoops in and starts beating the hell out of Edge.  And Jericho just watches on, and strolls up the ramp, hanging Edge out to dry.  Batista hits a spinebuster, maybe some other stuff, and then finishes Edge off with the K.O.-sline.  Interesting stuff.  Decent 20 minute match (with a very strong second half), which I thought was laid out in such a way to make Edge the subconscious (or if, like me, you think too hard, the CONSCIOUS) heel.  But then the finish with Jericho cheating and not making the save after Batista's run-in could easily paint him as the heel.  Both should be faces in Canada this Sunday, but the foundation has been laid for either of them to pull a serious dick move on the other and officially turn heel.  And you all know how I loves me the Ambiguity!

Backstage: Eugene has arrivened at the arena!  And he might be headed this way! 


Eugene Is Not Very Bright But He Means Well

Sure enough, Eugene is out to the ring, and has some things he'd like to say.  Except, for the first minute or so, he's saying them without a microphone.  In so far as the Eugene character is a success, it's little things like this and Nick Dinsmore's Total Immersion in the character that help make it seem almost real... finally, somebody hands Eugene a mic, and he starts in again.  Recalling HHH's "Wrath of Khan"-esque "Eugene!  EUUUGGEEEENNE!" from last week, Eugene says that HHH hurt his friend, and now HHH should come to this ring right now, and when HHH does not appear, he begins shouting "Triple H!  TRRIIPPPPPPLE AAAAIIIIITCHH!".

And still now HHH.  Except on the TitanTron, where Hunter's lovely visage appears. And recalling his own "Wrath of Khan"-esque bit of over-acting from last week, HHH opens with shouting "Eugene!  EUUUUGEEEENNNE!" for not readily-apparent reason.  Two things that do become apparent to me quite readily: HHH is at the hotel because nobody else would have THOSE drapes, and behind the drapes it appears to be daylight which means this is a pre-tape. But the former is gonna be a slow reveal for dramatic purposes, and the latter is the sort of douchebag observation that I can make to prove how smart I am but which really doesn't make any difference at all.

HHH eventually cans the shouting and gets on to explaining himself.  You see, last week, he tried to send Eugene a message, but Eugene is just Too Stupid to get it.  Eugene has no business in wrestling, and nobody likes him, and everything bad that happens to his friends is all his fault.  He thought beating Regal to a bloody pulp would get that through his skull last week, but no, Eugene just keeps coming back for more, goes into that ring and shouts for HHH, even when William Regal tells him to just cool his jets.  And again, HHH reiterates that what happened last week was Eugene's fault. And then, as the camera begins an omnious pan-out, HHH says that what's happened here THIS week is also Eugene's fault.

Sure enough, we quickly widen the frame enough to see that HHH is at the hotel, and that a RE-bloodied William Regal is in a crumpled mess on the floor.  Regal was ball-gagged, Pulp Fiction style, and there was blood everywhere (on Regal, on HHH's hands, on the air conditioning unit)...  to further get it through Eugene's skull that he has no business in wrestling and that he's got one hell of a beating coming his way at SummerSlam, HHH commenced to FURTHER kicking the ever-loving shit out of Regal.  Eugene watched a few seconds of this, and then scampered from the ring, apparently with the idea in his head that he needed to go back to the hotel... immediately, my mind began contemplating the many ways this would be a cool plot device for our main event, but let's not get ahead of ourselves....


Tajiri/Rhyno vs. Two Guys (Special 2 Minute Challenge)

After Tajiri/Rhyno upset the tag team champs in 90 seconds last week, La Resistance has set up this special match: if Tajiri and Rhyno can win in less than 2 minutes, they will get a tag team title match at SummerSlam!  So Tajiri begins, and kicks the crap out of One Guy.  Then Rhyno comes in, and I think the Other Guy tagged in, and ate it for a bit.  Then, with 25 seconds to go on the clock, Rhyno lined up for the Gore as Tajiri did the International Sign Langauge Symbol for "Hurry the fuck up!"  At 15 seconds to go, Rhyno nailed it.  But that's when La Resistance stepped up on the ring apron and distracted the ref.  Finally, Tajiri pulled the ref away from La Resistance, but he only got in a one count before time expired.  No tag title shot at the PPV!

Very fun and clever little bit. I think the announcement of the stip made MOST fans think "Oh, obviously they'll win and get the match at the PPV," because WWE's not in the practice of announcing stips like this and NOT delivering. Except that I kind of figured that they'd screw with our minds this time (mostly applying the "no room on the PPV for another match" heuristic, but also just thinking it would be best to build up the storyline).  I think playing it like this sends the clear message that Tajiri and Rhyno are pretty bad-ass (but maybe just 5 seconds not bad-ass enough), that La Resistance are evil and cowardly mansards, and will have the end effect of making the eventual acquisition of a tag title shot for Tajir/Rhyno that much bigger a deal.  Well played all around.


Diva Search, Round 3, Part 3... The Ambushening

OK, so first they do the involuntary flailing in bikinis while the Hives play in the background and Coach tells us what numbers to call to vote for the girls. Which is crap and shall not be recapped. Except for the part where I'll mention that once again the Playmate got the only cheers, even though I don't think any single one of the contestants has come off any dumber or less-interested-in-actually-winning than her.  But she's in her hometown and we've seen her naked, so YAY!  Whatever...

But then we get to the thing I've been waiting for for a few weeks: the 7 RAW divas, led by Trish, hit the ring.  And Trish gets on the mic and announces that she's sorry to interrupt this "cute little contest thingy," but she's just come from Eric Bischoff's office, and has an additional Special Feature for SummerSlam.  The 7 RAW Divas will take on the 7 Wannabe Divas in a spirited round of Diva Dodgeball.  Huh, really?  I guess maybe I was wrong to be getting my hopes up.  Anyway, Jazz punctuates things by whipping a dodgeball at one wannabe divas, and then Trish leads her crew out of the ring.

I'll say this: I think I'd envisioned something a little more, I dunno, grand, or something.  The Diva Search is tanking badly, and they need to do SOMEthing that will give fans a reason to latch onto a contestant or two, so I was thinking we might be to the part where there's physicality, and maybe a few of 'em take bumps, or better yet, might actually surprise us by fighting back with a highspot (at the very least, My Michelle McCool and the obnoxious red-headed spaz appear to have spent some time in the gym and might project out as More Than Eye Candy).  Dodgeball may or may not supply the excuse to go down this route.  And I also re-assert my notion that Molly Holly should have been given the job of heading up the Diva Army.  Because (a) it'd make a lot more sense to have Baldy McCueball railing against a beauty contest, instead of Trish whose bitchy new character is partially predicated on being PROUD of her 3 wins in a beauty contest; (b) Molly has no super-pressing rivalries because of her unpush, whereas Trish getting Victoria and Nidia and Stacy on her side flies in the face of all good sense and logic; and (c) I like Molly and would like her to have something cool to do.  Interesting idea here, or at least the START of a potentially interesting idea... we'll have to see what they do with it at the PPV.

SummerSlam Hype Part One: Michael Cole and Tazz run down the SD! half of the card.  Neee haw! 

SummerSlam Hype Part Two: JR and King run down the RAW half of the card.  Neee haw!  

Backstage: HHH arrives back at the arena, and is welcomed by Orton and Flair, who think his attack on Regal was soopa-kewl. And now, they head to the ring to finish sending the message to Eugene.  Oh, and Chris Benoit, too.


Triple H and Randy Orton vs. Chris Benoit and No One Else

Evolution comes out, and then Benoit makes his entrance.  But just as Lillian Garcia is about to introduce Benoit's partner, Benoit snatches the mic away and announces, "Congratulations HHH, your little plan worked.  Eugene has gone back to the hotel.  But it doesn't matter to the Wolverine.  Nope, it doesn't matter at all, because I'm ready to fight both you SOBs by myself, right here, right now. So ring that damn bell!"  Big pop, bell rings, and MAN ALIVE Benoit is awesome out of the chute.

For a good 3 minutes, Benoit's kicking all manner of ass, and Evolution can't get a single shot in on him.  Benoit's a machine, using chops to hold one guy at bay while he takes apart the other one.  He eventually isolates a bit on HHH, nailing him with the Hat Trick of Germans, and decides he might go up top to finish HHH off with the Swandive Headbutt.  But first, he has to pause to once again punk out Orton, and then he has to punch Ric Flair when Flair tries to get involved...  and unfortunately, those two distractions combined to give HHH just enough to to recover and shove Benoit off the top rope.

From here, we settled in, with Orton and HHH starting to make tags and only one of 'em being in at a time.  They settled in for a good 10 minutes of dominating Benoit with only periodic hope spots... Lawler's riffing on how beating one member of Evolution is hard enough and Benoit doesn't stand a chance against two was dead-on and added to the drama of the match.  It got even worse when, just to be dicks, HHH and Orton distracted to ref to allow Flair to get in a few shots, basically making it THREE against one and further deepening Benoit's deficit.  But you can't keep a good man down, and Benoit started his comeback a little after the 12 minute mark.  

He caught Orton on the top rope and crotched him there.  When HHH tried to get involved to make the save, they did a spot where Benoit countered something, and HHH accidentally went crashing into the turnbuckle where Randy was seated, effectively headbutting Young Randall right in the nutsac.  Hmmm.  Then Benoit followed up with ANOTHER German for HHH and a Superplex for Orton.  Might the impossible happen?  Benoit continued his hot streak by trying to isolate on Orton (the legal man), but HHH kept interfering.  Finally, HHH tried to hit a Pedigree, but Benoit reversed it by backdropping Hunter out of the ring.  Then he turned his attention back to Orton, and cinched him in a Sharpshooter.  Flair got up on the apron, and distracted Benoit, getting him to release the hold.  Then, after Benoit punched Flair back to the ground, he turned around, and ALMOST walked into an RKO.  Except Benoit's WAY to awesome for that: as Orton reached in, Benoit just grabbed that arm and locked in the Crippler Crossface.  Sweet.  Orton was on the verge of tapping out when Flair decided to just hop back in the ring and stomp on Benoit.  Benoit's your winner via DQ in a VERY entertaining 15 minute main event; I think everything was laid out so nicely, it was very well-worked, and story/psychology/drama-wise this would probably be my choice for Match Of The Night.  Workrate fetishists probably disagree and go with Jericho/Edge, but hey, it's my website, I pick the winners!

After the match: with Orton in pain, Flair kept on stomping Benoit just long enough for HHH to get back into the ring and pick up the attack.  In fact, HHH nailed Benoit with the Pedigree and then went to ringside to grab a steel chair...  but before he could use it, Eugene ran out to make the save!  He quickly tackled HHH, and stopped him from using the chair.  And then HHH made the Command Decision to slink away, leaving Eugene to beat the piss out of both Flair and Orton.  Hmmm, again.  HHH was watching on timidly from the stage as Angry Eugene loosed his own vile and venom on Orton and Flair.  A Stunner by Eugene on Flair and a reminder from JR that this was just a prelude to SummerSlam were our closing image and sound, respectively, before we faded out....

Final Analysis

Well, another case of an entertaining two hours that didn't really do a whole lot in terms of bolstering my confidence that RAW's half of the SummerSlam card is gonna be all that strong. BUT WAIT!

Seeing how some of the things fit together in the main event gives me hope that RAW's overall direction might take shape and improve coming out of the PPV.  I remain absolutely baffled at how Benoit vs. Orton is a PPV main event, and I don't think they did anything to convince me otherwise on this night (starting with another mediocre-at-best promo from Orton to open the show, and all the way through to HHH/Benoit almost overshadowing Orton/Benoit in the main event).  But the WAY they did nothing to help Benoit/Orton actually is what gave me the idea that there might be a master plan in the works, and it might be pretty cool.

To wit: HHH, in the main event, (a) hit Randy in the balls in the last real three-way spot of the match before End Game, (b) was the guy who got to hit his finisher on Benoit instead of Randy, and (c) walked away from the ring and left Orton and Flair alone with Angry Eugene.  Seeing Benoit, HHH, and Orton work that match last night planted the idea firmly in my head that the September PPV could VERY easily be headlined by Benoit/HHH/Orton in a three-way match.  The three worked great together and told a fun story last night, and they definitely planted the seeds for HHH and Orton to BOTH be desirous of the World Title (HHH hit the Pedigree on Benoit, and got more Title Shot rub than Randy last night) while also not necessarily being so chummy with each other.

For that to work out, I think you have Benoit retain the title (which is good), maintaining parity between HHH and Orton as long as possible, and letting them slowly simmer in a parallel storyline that eventually WILL raise Orton up to HHH's level in the fans' eyes.  Stretch it out, let Benoit retain in the 3-way, and eventually do the full-out implosion of Evolution with one of HHH and Orton going full heel and retaining control of the group while the other becomes the babyface (my vote, obviously, is Orton stays heel; Evolution is "cool" because of HHH, and if you pit those two against each other, fans will more likely side with HHH over Orton).  As part of the break-up, the heel punks out the face, and gets a one-on-one shot at Benoit for the title, and finally at Survivor Series, maybe, Benoit drops the title after Evolution interference. Commence the slow build to Orton vs. HHH at WM21, which everybody seems to agree is the plan.

So see, I may not be keen on Benoit/Orton on Sunday, but this was a RAW that planted some interesting seeds, and might really start to pay off AFTER SummerSlam.  I kinda liked the feeling of stepping away from RAW and having positive thoughts about the future going through my head... it's been a few weeks since I've been really excited about Next Week after watching RAW, so it was fun to have that back.

In addition to things being pretty intriguingly played with HHH/Benoit/Orton/Eugene/Regal, I also liked Edge/Jericho plenty.  Second half of the match was very strong, and again, the ambiguity and storyline side with Edge working the match as semi-heel, then Jericho being the semi-heel for the finish and post-match was cool. I'm beginning to think that maybe Jericho/Edge will be an interesting little story and that somehow while they're distracted with each other, Batista steals the IC belt (which could make for an interesting side-issue if Evolution is indeed headed towards implosion).

Loved the tag title thing, too. Tajiri and Rhyno will get their shot, and they will win the belts, but I'm digging that they're gonna slow play it and make it mean something when they do.... the diva search stuff was what it was: easily fast-forwarded for crap like the dumb-ass ice cream bit, and MAYBE setting the stage for something interesting with Trish's Army even though I won't hold my breath... really, the only stuff I actually endured that tried my patience was the Lita/Kane/Matt crap, which makes me die just a little bit inside every time I have to sit through another week of this asinine, retarded soap opera bullshit.

So a good strong outing, says I.  Perhaps some more thoughts and fall-out tomorrow in OO!  See you then....


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