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It's About Damned Time 
October 12, 2004

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


You know how yesterday, I made an off-hand comment about how awkward it felt to be taking my guesses and previewing a show that had probably already been about half-taped when I was typing?
Well, scratch that. Cuz not only can I stick my chest out and boast that I hit the nail on the head, I can tell you -- point blank -- that when WWE spent the night doing the stuff they did with regards to HHH, HBK, Edge, and Benoit, the results weren't so much vindicating as they were entertaining. For the first time, I get a sense that the main event at Taboo 

Tuesday might have at least SOME sizzle to it.

Of course, the counterpoint to that is the simple observation that what WWE did last night is what they should have done 3 weeks ago.  There is absolutely no forgiving past mistakes here, and I'm honestly not sure that this isn't Too Little Too Late.  But what I am sure about is that we'll try to save the ranting, raving, and analyzing for tomorrow's OO, and try to stay focused on RAW here in the recap.  And RAW, my friends, was a solid show that ended strong with a match and angle that directly impacted the upcoming PPV's main event in a positive way.

And it was about damned time.  Here's the show:

Opening Theme/Pyro/Etc., and we're live in Manchester, England, for the first international edition of RAW in history. To be honest, the arena and the overall set-up look largely the same as they would on any other Monday.  The only real difference: probably that for once, the house is absolutely packed to the rafters!  Way to be rabid, UK!  Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler briefly run us down a line-up for tonight, and we shoot it to the ring for the first of two title matches...

Trish Stratus vs. Stacy Keibler (Women's Title Match)

Silly Observation: Trish is wearing her "Babe of the Year" t-shirt, although a few weeks ago Stacy won the 2004 version of that contest, finally unseating Trish.  When it happened, I was CERTAIN it would be a plot point in this advancement of this feud.  But I don't think it's been mentioned once.  Has it?  Trish's shirt seemed to practically DEMAND it in this case....

To the match...  Out of the gate, Stacy is uncannily-effective. Even as JR and King try to tell a Word Story about how Stacy's gotten very lucky lately against Molly and is on a winning streak even though she's not a very experienced wrestler, the Picture Story is not agreeing.  Because Stacy is using her full arsenal of moves (hint, this involved three applications of the Big Flexible Boot To The Throat Of Extreme Suggestiveness and not a whole lot else).  Finally, Trish makes JR sound like he knows what he's talking about by tripping Stacy up and dropping her on her purty little kiester.  With Stacy immobilized, Trish goes to work on Stacy's left knee (including, in an always-classic spot, wrapping Stacy's leg around the ringpost; I'm still waiting for the day when an announcer will, in sheer horror, exclaim, "Oh my god, the knee.... the knee, it's SUPPOSED to bend that way!" after seeing the spot).  

This is really just a basic Work The Leg segment, but they try to make it sound more profound on the grounds that this is STACY's leg that's under attack. But hey, this is a wrestling match, not a photo shoot, and Stacy's legs are no different than anybody else's when you get down to it.  Trish is just working the leg, working the leg, and working the leg some more... there are some submission holds here that allow Lawler to fully display his penchant for jackassery (JR notes that Stacy would have trouble getting to her feet after Trish's attack, and King responds with "Well, looking at Stacy now, I'm not entirely sure she doesn't do her best work off her feet," or something like it; somebody get the muzzle, or explain to King how it's OK to THINK these things -- it's normal, we all do it -- but you don't SAY them, not when it's your job to maintain the illusion that this is a wrestling match that means something).  Finally, Stacy escapes one of those holds, and ALMOST gets a rally, but Trish ends that with a simple kick to the knee.  Kind of a nasty looking one, actually.  Next time Stacy stumbles to her feet, Trish takes her down with the The Rick Adamantly Refuses To Call It The "Chick Kick" Kick, makes the cover, and that's that.  Seemed like a full five minutes or so, and about as well-worked as you could hope for with Stacy involved. Actually, her inexperience was nicely masked with the way they laid the match out. Whatever criticisms I might have of Stacy The Wrestler, she's fragile looking enough that "selling a leg" is well within her range.  

After the Match: Trish might be able to dispatch Stacy, but Molly Holly has been unable to get that job done. So with Stacy debilitated, Molly ran in and decided to take a few pot shots.  Trish joined in for the hell of it.  Nidia ran out to even the odds.  Gail Kim ran out to uneven the odds.  Finally, Victoria ran out to re-even the odds.  Some 6 woman brawling, and Victoria is the difference maker. Trish, Molly, and Gail scurry away from the ring, beaten, but also almost-certainly the tastiest Axis Of Evil in the entire history of diabolical alliances.  [So Trish crushes Stacy decisively, ending her little streak. And now we get the 6-woman schmozz.  Can you say Division Reset?  I knew you could...]

Backstage: there's some of the Sun's "Page Three" Girls, and they think WWE is neato, or something.  Whatever.  You know, not to be too crass, but there's a reason the girls have to be on Page Three, and WWE can't put that on TV.  So wasting my time with Page Three Girls on RAW would be like.... oh, I dunno, hiring a Playboy Playmate and paying her to keep her clothes on, maybe.  Errrrrrr....  d'oh.


This is not an [ad], Honest: Simon Dean again. This seemed like the exact same thing as the past 2 weeks.  So the first vignette airs two weeks in a row, now this one airs 3 weeks in a row?  That's progress.  DVR, do your thing!

La Resistance vs. William Regal/Eugene (Tag Team Title Match)

La Resistance is out first, and cut a promo about how the filthy Brits don't even deserve to be regaled with their Canadian National Anthem. Boo?

And then William Regal (oh, and Eugene) hit the arena.  I don't know what in the blue hell that new Regal music was, but the closest thing I could sense was that it was KINDA supposed to sound like part of one of my absolutely favorite Who songs ("A Quick One While He's Away"), except if it were horrible.  And I was probably stretching for that just because that would have been the only explanation for how that track would be even remotely-appropriate for the UK's own William Regal (since it would have been inspired by the UK's own The Who).  Maybe they just decided they wanted a one-week Up-Tempo Song for Regal, since the dude was JACKED for his countrymen.  No sauntering to the ring, prissy-style: Regal was pure energy, and was WAY over with fans.

Match was a lot of fun, as it was very cool to see Regal getting some of the props he deserves every week.  He started, and the crowd is doing some football (read, "SOCCER") style cheering/booing stuff, really behind Regal.  When Eugene tagged in, the crowd kind of didn't like that.  They started chanting "We Want Regal," so I'm almost thinking they called an audible, cuz I swear, Eugene did all of 15 seconds of an ultra-mega-compressed "face in peril" bit, and then "hot tagged" Regal.  Together, they cleaned house, including a funny battering ram bit.  Grenier kind of got the better of Regal, finally, but Eugene powdered Conway out with a Stone Cold Stunner, and came to the rescue; so Grenier decided he'd grab a steel chair to finish things off or get DQ'ed or something.  While the ref was distracted by the chair and with getting Eugene out of the ring, Regal was up to no good, Sunshine: he'd plucked his Brass Knucks out of his boot, and put them on his left hand.  Grenier walked right into the Power of the Punch while the ref was still getting rid of the chair.  Regal made the cover.  Ref turned around. 1, 2, 3.  NEW TAG CHAMPS!  Crowd is going wild, and I think Regal showed more emotion in 20 seconds of celebrating with them than he did during calendar years 1995-2003 combined.  Maybe all of a five minute little fluff match, but damn if that wasn't fun....


Still La Resistance vs. William Regal/Eugene?

Except NO, it's not over!  We come back from the break, and the tag title match has resumed.  We are told that GM Eric Bischoff played the brass knucks footage for the ref, and the match was restarted. The titles did NOT change hands, and La Resistance retains the "Championship Advantage" (i.e. can get DQ'ed or COR'ed and retain the belts).  Selective use of replay in wrestling can chap my hide a bit, but used sparingly, this take on the Dusty Finish is fine by me. So match is back on, and during the break, we've reset to Eugene being the legal man, I guess, since he becomes our Face In Peril again.  And this time, for more like 3-4 minutes.  Crowd still wants Regal, and finally, they get him.  Hot tag, and Regal's busting out moves I don't think he normally bothers with, and is hitting them at a pace approximately thrice as fast as is common for him.  Eugene eventually gets back involved in the four-way brawling, and hits a Rock Bottom on Grenier, and then invites Regal to do the People's Elbow.  Regal (god bless him) didn't screw with any shenanigans and just dropped an elbow without running the ropes or flailing around.  Eugene was jumping around celebrating, and the ref decided NOW would be a good time to get him back outside to the apron.  Which is when Rob Conway hopped in the ring with the Quebec flag, whacked Regal in the nutsac with it, and when the ref turned around, scored the pinfall to RETAIN the belts, afterall.  Counting both segments and the ad break, probably really close to 15 minutes.  And damned entertaining; it was mostly just a mediocre formula tag match, but the intangibles (the drama of the Dusty Finish, and Regal being so monstrously over and so uniquely-motivated to perform in a style I'd never seen from him before) bring it up a few notches, easily.


Backstage: Eric Bischoff confronts La Resistance, and he's not happy.  Although La Resistance won thanks to Bischoff's do-over, they didn't do as they'd promised... they didn't take out Eugene to soften him up before Taboo Tuesday.  So now, Bischoff is making La Resistance work against tough foes at the PPV: La Resistance will face the tandem of the two World Title Contender Voting Losers (so two of HBK/Edge/Benoit), and their titles will be on the line.  Nice stuff here; first, they addressed an issue I'd broached in the RAW Preview (what to do with the two voting losers that would be interesting, and this is actually BETTER than my idea and has more options for cool storytelling).  And second, it's a little thing, but I love how they actually EXPLAINED the arbitrary use of instant replay (Bischoff had a specific mission/job for La Resistance, so he helped them out).

Elsewhere Backstage: Triple H is pacing, and he's really nervous. He says he can feel it, the three contenders are gonna come at him tonight and try to take him out before the PPV.  Ric Flair tries to calm him down with the standard "You're the Game, you're the best, don't worry" talk, but HHH is still antsy.  That's when Dave Batista chimes in:  he says he's got HHH's back, that EVOLUTION has got HHH's back.  When HHH tries to explain it might be more complicated than that, Batista keeps rolling with it, making it clear that it doesn't matter if they come from the front, the back, or the sides, anybody who wants to get to HHH has to go through Batista. And the fire in Batista's eyes, it apparently convinces HHH, because he FINALLY relaxes and confides to Ric, "See, that's why I told you from the start, from the very beginning, that THIS guy was the future of this business."  Another cool little skit... for one, you have HHH and Flair in the room, and you let Batista do most of the talking? I'd have guessed bad things would result, but Batista freaking NAILED it for his first convincing promo work in history.  And second, HHH's initial skepticism of whether Batista could get the job done and then his tag line (in which he outright lied, and attributed to Batista a label that we know he'd actually given to Orton in the past) just plant those seeds of potential intrigue that you know I love so much.  Storytelling, layers, depth...  of course, it might amount to nothing, but for one night, an eye-opening Batista promo, and at least the HINT that there might have been more beneath the surface here.

Video Package: Kane/Lita/Snitsky.  Wheee.  I don't recap recaps.

Live Via Satellite:  Gene Snitsky is at "WWE Headquarters" in Connecticut, if you believe the graphics (but I'm sure he was on the Europe tour, so why am I skeptical).  As is increasingly his custom, Snitsky doesn't really care WHAT you ask him...  he's just gonna cut you off and ramble about whatever he wants.  Snitsky said his life had been threatened by Kane, and he had 3 options last week: run away (not Snitsky's stile), put his hands up and let Kane have his revenge (nope), or strike pre-emptively to protect himself.  He chose #3.  And because of that, he's still breathing.  In fact, Snitsky continues, "The only thing dead around here is your baby, Kane. And that WASN'T MY FAULT!"  Whoa.  Remember last week how I said Snitsky didn't strike me as having the truly clever kind of evil, just kind of a bludgeoning assholitude? Well, kids, I take it back: that line REEKS of Ultimate Douchebaggery.  In fact, the whole promo was a totally different vibe from Snitsky; it was delivered in a very stilted/scripted way that is light years from "good," but the material was deeper, and this wasn't just one-dimensional shouting in that "scream four words, pause, repeat" kind of way that his previous work has been.  Snitsky, dare I say?, displayed signs of character.  He closed with a promise to continue his decimation of Kane at the PPV, no matter what weapon fans picked.  In fact, he'll beat Kane so bad, Kane will be crying like a baby.  And with that, Snitsky, douchebag that he is, started fake-crying.  And with that, we cut to a shot of Kane, watching Snitsky fake-crying on a monitor right here in Jolly Ol' England.  And even the densest of you got the message: Kane is not pleased as we break for....


Val Venis/Steven Richards vs. Hurricane/Rosey

Well, THIS sure seems like an Instant Classic, no?  Your Smark Sense oughta be tingling already; I know mine was....  cuz we no sooner get HurriRosey to the ring than...


Kane's out, and he doesn't care: if it moves, he's destroying it. Stevie seems to fashion his escape most rapidly, and leaves others to take the brunt of Kane's pissiness.  And for some reason, Kane decides he's Extra Pissed at Val Venis...  when Val tries to crawl up the ramp to safety, Kane won't leave well enough alone.  He grabs a steel chair, and follows.  And man alive, he just puts a beating on Venis.  Pounds him down with the chair, and then even when Val's flat on his face on the ground, Kane keeps going with rapid fire chairshots to his back to his legs to whatever wasn't covered up.  

I didn't think of it in real time, but I did some post-RAW Idea Poaching and I got the comparison I needed to paint this word picture for you... cuz this was about as convincing a job of crazy-man chair-swinging that we've seen since Austin went nuts on HHH in Fall #2 of their spectacularly-epic (if slightly anti-climactic) brawl during the winter of 2001.  Kane was just laying in with the chair.  Pretty freaking bad-ass, which is good for his Character Rehabilitation.  And it's even better because it gives us at least SOME reason to care about voting for a basically-pointless stipulation in the Kane/Snitsky match.  After this, I'm officially endorsing The Steel Chair in '04, folks! 


During the Break: Val Venis is a dead man.  Well, not quite, but he did the full stretcher job after the attack.  The attack was already-cool just as a Bad-Assery Showcase for Kane, but maybe if this leads to coming up with something for Val Venis, storyline-wise, it'll be a double victory?

One More Time, With Feeling 

Randy Orton is out, and judging from the spiffy suit, he's here to talk.  He grabs a mic, and launches into a spiel about "mixed feelings" heading into a match against Ric Flair at the PPV. One of the feelings is pity for Flair, who is still a lackey for HHH. Another of his feelings was anticipation to face Flair, to face the legend, at the PPV. But then there was disappointment when he realized that he might not be facing that Ric Flair at all, that he'd be facing a shell of "The Man," not the once-proud Nature Boy.  Before we get to Flair's interruption, two notes: (1) the second Orton said anything negative about Flair, the crowd turned to 75/25 AGAINST Orton, which is VERY interesting because it was almost like the promo was scripted carefully, and they HAD to know something like this might happen; and (2) for once I *will* criticize Orton specifically and not the creative team, because I noticed a new bad habit of his that I even hate when The Rock does it (that fake double-take/pause-and-smirk, like he's reacting to a crowd reaction, except that the crowd didn't really react enough to justify the pause at all; it comes off as very needy).

Anyways, we won't get any further without hearing from Ric Flair himself.  He's out to stand in the entrance aisle and say a few words.  But actually, Orton INTERRUPTS THE INTERRUPTION (before Flair can talk, Randall chimes in with a very chipper: "Ladies and Gentleman, let's all welcome RIC FLAIR!").  Huh, again a purely heelish dick move, and I again wonder if it's on purpose, and if it is, I MIGHT almost be intrigued here.  When Flair finally gets a word in edgewise, he tells Orton not to worry, because at Taboo Tuesday, he'll get to test his mettle against the Nature Boy, not a shell of The Man, and if he thinks he's gonna kill this legend, he'd best think again.  Of note: the only time Flair got booed was when he tried to talk about how Orton was "great, but not a legend killer." It's like these fans don't want to be told how great Orton is, or something!  Could this be a problem of fans responding more positively to Flair's long-time CHARACTER and not buying into Orton's lazy GIMMICK? Am I still making this stuff up, folks?  Didn't think so....

Flair's about to make some outrageous boast about giving Orton his limo and his ladies for a night if he can actually beat the Nature Boy, but Orton interrupts and says that he doesn't need Flair's charity on those fronts.  He has his own limo and plenty of his own ladies (cue the predictable "boos from guys, cheers from girls with poor taste" response there, as, again, that ALMOST felt like an intentionally-heel line).  Luckily, whoever wrote this bit remembered that this ISN'T a feud over who gets laid more, and Orton shifted gears to point out that Flair has brought this upon himself, because he's the one who mentored Orton along, he's the one who dubbed Orton the "Legend Killer," and at the PPV, Orton promises to beat some respect into Flair.  And then, in another Pure Dick Move, Orton shifts back out of Serious Mode and does another fake-chipper "Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you The Nature Boy Ric Flair!", and the sound guy hits FLAIR's music.  Crowd goes "boo," but not at Flair; more at Orton for obviously patronizing Flair.  Odd.  Realistically, this was just a total replay of two weeks ago; they didn't add anything new, content-wise... but they said the same things again in a REALLY interesting way.  If Orton wasn't trying to be a heel, then I don't know what was going on there... and if Orton WAS trying to be a heel, then that's interesting for any number of possible reasons.  Even at the bare minimum, somebody is remembering that "disrespectful asshole" is how Orton scraped together whatever passed for his fanbase, and this could be the start of rebuilding that character.  And it's entirely possible that in the US, fans might be more likely to back Orton over Flair, too... 

I dunno.  But the vibe made it so that this was about as entertaining an instant replay as you'll ever get.  We need more stuff like two weeks ago and this week for Randy, and less like last week.  It might just be as simple as Pure Selfishness -- because if they really are switching gears with Orton and stuff like this week's heelishness leads somewhere, I am SO gonna love shoving it in all your stupid faces -- but it's outings like this that can make even ME interested in what's next for Randall Orton.


Paid Product Placement: the Page Three Girls are surrounding Jerry Lawler, looking decidedly untopless.  The message you're SUPPOSED to get: Read The Sun for the Boobies!  And although this is pointless crap, I mention it because Lawler actually surprised a full-on belly laugh out of me when, as he was Reading The Sun, he turned to a Page Three Girl and asked if she had a Braille Edition he might get his hands on. Does this make me a bad person?

Chris Jericho vs. Rhyno

This is a result of last week's "misunderstanding," so do NOT pencil Rhyno in for a heel turn or anything.  These are two friends!  They're just hitting a rough patch.  After a quick start by Jericho, things slow down and Rhyno starts wearing Jericho down; honest, the only stuff I really remember is the announce team sneaking in announcements about Survivor Series (it returns to Cleveland, press conference/tickets on sale this weekend; also, the post-PPV SD! tapings are here in Dayton, YAY!) and Taboo Tuesday (voting starts at 10pm next week).  Finally about 4 minutes in, Jericho powered out of the chinlock, and started a rally... but when Jericho went for the Lionsault, Rhyno got his knees up, and got set up for the Gore.  Which is exactly when Christian and Tyson Tomko ran out.  Christian went after Jericho, and Tomko yanked Rhyno out of the ring.  Four way brawling, and I think we have a No Decision.

But wait: The Coach is out, and he says he's just come from Bischoff's office, and we're gonna have ourselves a finish in this match... which is now a tag team match!  The Misunderstood Friends vs. Christian/Tomko, and it starts RIGHT NOW.  By which Coach means, after these....


Chris Jericho/Rhyno vs. Christian/Tyson Tomko

We come back to the tag match in progress, and... well, Christian is your Heel In Peril?  Yeah, that's basically how it's going, as first Rhyno abuses Christian for a bit, then Jericho tags in and takes a few shots, then Rhyno tags back in and continues to dominate.  Jericho and Rhyno sure are working well together as a team for two guys that were opponents 5 minutes ago (which might be a missed opportunity for intra-match story/psychology).  We FINALLY get things aligned more traditionally after Rhyno tumbled from the top rope to the floor (he had been sitting up for a Death Blow on Christian, but Tomko came over and shoved him down).  Rhyno becomes a kind of time-compressed Ricky Morton after the big bump, and the heels cut the ring in half for a few minutes.  Finally, the hot tag to Jericho, and All Hell Breaks Loose!  In the four way brawling, Rhyno manages to hit The Gore on Tomko (the legal man), and Jericho capitalizes by hitting one of the best-looking Lionsaults he's done in a while (nice height/extension) to get the pin on Tomko.  Probably about 15 minutes for the entire two-match segment, and although kind of bland and predictable (again, the lack of closure between Jericho/Rhyno could have helped create some drama for the tag match, but it wasn't utilized) you're not gonna have much to complain about when you have these four in a match and when Tomko spends 13 out of 15 minutes standing on the apron where he belongs.

After the match: Christian tries to get revenge on Jericho, but Jericho turns the tables and locks Christian in the Walls of Jericho. But before too much damage can be done, here's Batista to remind us that HE would like to be voted into the IC Title match at Taboo Tuesday.  He attacks Jericho and lays him out with a powerbomb. And with that, there's really only two (not "15") choices: either Christian or Batista.  I guess maybe Tomko (by association with Christian) might be a secondary choice, and the LACK of follow-up with Rhyno puts him back down a notch, too.  Maybe next week, they'll hot shot a third possible option to cloud the issue; I'd say pass over Tomko and Rhyno, and do it with Shelton!

Backstage: Chris Benoit is getting ready, and Shawn Michaels approaches.  Shawn says that although they are partners tonight against Evolution, Shawn respects Benoit and what they've been through this year, and he wants to shoot straight: Michaels will do what's best for HIM in tonight's main event six-man.  Benoit's all "whoa, whoa, whoa," because if Shawn thinks Benoit will just let his spotlight be stolen (in my mind's ear, I heard him toss in "like it has been by Randy Orton the last few weeks"!), then Shawn is mistaken. The two are about to ramp up the hostility when Edge interrupts, and he's oozing... well, it's something.  Cockiness, maybe.  He wants to know why he, the third member of the team, wasn't invited to this little confab.  Shawn and Benoit suddenly close ranks and get buddy-buddy again, cuz they both seem to recall being disparaged by Edge last week.  Edge cops to it, and says he's not apologizing for anything.  He stands by his words, and thinks that Benoit and Michaels have had their shots at HHH... and now, the one man who truly DESERVES a title shot is Edge.  And tonight, Edge says, he's gonna go out there and prove it.  Edge hits a final fake-friendly, "See you out there, boys," and leaves...  and JR re-taglines the segment with "This should be interesting."  And I re-re-tagline it by pointing out "And it's about fucking time."  Nice bit, all around, except for the part where we needed it weeks ago...


SmackDown! Rebound: I don't recap recaps.  Except get this... after the prepared video package, Jim Ross has an Exclusive Scoop about SmackDown!.  He says that after Cena lost the US Title, he went out to a nightclub in Boston, and wound up getting into an "altercation," and has spent the weekend in the hospital.  Huh. I hear nightclubs are often populated by cOOl people.... Could be interesting.  Certainly interesting that they opted to have this update be done on RAW, but it's a clever way of telling fans "and if you want to know more than this vague nonsense about an altercation," you'd better tune into SD! this Thursday.

Video Package: The Red Headed Spaz vs. The Vapid Playmate.  Oh man, I don't recap recaps, and I don't recap crap.  OMG, DOUBLE WHAMMY~!

PPV Hype: JR and King rundown the "line-up" for Taboo Tuesday.  I actually didn't FF this, cuz I wanted to see how they presented all the options, since this isn't a traditional line-up at all.  But you know what I was struck by?  The simple fact that for as detailed/complicated as the presentation of all the options was, there's really only one of the votes that I honestly don't think is a foregone conclusion.  Seriously.  After Steel Chair's Breakthrough Night tonight, the only ambiguity in my mind is who'll face Jericho. I'm positive fans at large will go for Michaels, and that leaves the Good Canadians (with possible internal dissension) vs. the Bad Canadians (with certain bad singing) for the tag titles.  Even the stips that HAVEN'T gotten "forced" on us (like Steel Chair and Head Shaving) seem like pretty much no-brainers.  I mean, Orton/Flair will be a cage match simply because of the weakness of the two alternatives; and the two diva matches? C'mon, you're dense if you don't know that fans will vote for disrobing when they can (and finally, something Carmella excels at!), and you're also not a properly-adjusted heterosexual male if you honestly do get fired up for cheesy nurse or maid outfits.  So see, foregone conclusions!   Except for who'll face Jericho, where there's still only two real possibilities (and MAYBE 2 or 3 really outside shots) at this point.


Shawn Michaels/Chris Benoit/Edge vs. Evolution

To start, it's Benoit and Batista... but Manchester doesn't want to play along, so they ignore Benoit's work, and just start chanting for "HBK, HBK, HBK."  Poor, poor Benoit.  And then Edge is tagged in, and IMMEDIATELY gets booed, and when fans start doing the same soccer-cheering stuff that they did for Regal, they do it CHEERING for Batista and BOOING for Edge.  Huh.  By the June 2004 Rule of Thumb, this is now adequate justification to turn Batista babyface and give him the world title!  If you can get cheered over Edge, you're CLEARLY the next big thing!  

And I'm forced to rant because it is right here that my DVR went tits up.  I don't know what happened, but it just froze completely.  I wasn't fully caught-up to real time, either, which means I lost the last 4 minutes or so of time shifting, plus about 3 minutes or so for the time it took me to realize that this wasn't gonna get better and I'd have to unplug and re-boot.  I apologize for not being able to fully and completely tell the tale of this match, but I also don't think it's that big a deal because when DVR was re-initialized, it looked like we were fresh back from a break, and I can probably fill in the blanks for how we got there.  Lemme try it:

So after Edge took his turn battling Evolution, it was finally time to let Fan Favorite Shawn Michaels get his licks in.  A big heat sequence for HBK led up to the babyfaces doing some Synchronized Ass Kicking Spot, leaving Evolution in a wreck outside the ring, while they posed and preened inside the ring.  A prefect spot for some....


Yes? No?  Close enough?  In any case, we I rejoin the action, it does look/sound like we've just come back from a break, cuz JR is showing double feature footage (from the ad break, right?) explaining how Chris Benoit is your MAIN EVENT Babyface in Peril. HHH was getting first dibs.  Then Flair for a moment or two.  Then as Batista took over, there was a bit of drama: it looked like a fan tried to jump into the ring.  They tried to keep the focus off of it, but the cameras did catch Michaels tackling the guy and HHH breaking character to go over in case his help was needed (it wasn't, and fans busted out another "HBK" chant to go with El Grande Morono's "Na na na na Hey hey hey, goodbye" chant).  Michaels finally Got Separation from Batista after an enzuigiri, and made it to his corner to tag in Michaels.  

HBK was en feugo, and cleaned house.  The rest of Evolution attacked in Dumb Ninja fashion, one at a time, feeding Michaels.  Finally, the realized the error of their ways, and Flair caused a distraction to allow Batista to attack from behind.  So in come Edge and Benoit for the save, and they powder out with Flair and Batista, to leave HBK with HHH.  HHH sets up for the Pedigree on Michaels, but Michaels backdrops out of it just as Benoit had pulled himself away from Batista; Benoit saw a prone HHH, and immediately went to the top and nailed him with the Swandive Headbutt.  Michaels was all "thanks for the assist, good buddy," and started Tuning Up the Band.  But he made a crucial error: he tuned it up in his own corner.  Where Edge was standing after dispatching Flair.  And where Edge blind-tagged himself in just before Shawn could hit the superkick.  Michaels looked pissed as Edge helped himself to the groggy HHH...  but as HHH rallied and almost set Edge up for the Pedigree, Shawn decided he STILL doesn't really like HHH, so he pulled the superkick out of nowhere to nail HHH.  Edge fell on top, and pinned HHH.  Probably about a 15 minute main event, and I guess I probably got a little more than half of it, and definitely liked what a saw.  Good action for certain, but better drama.  I still think it might be too little too late, but I loved the dynamic between the challengers, I think putting one of them over HHH tonight was the right move, and I think Edge is the right guy to get the duke, too.  Perfect finish, really.  But wait is it the finish, really?

After the Match:  Edge grabbed a mic and declared that he just PROVED that he can beat the champ, and that he deserves to be voted into the Taboo Tuesday main event.  When Benoit gets a mic and starts to disagree, Michaels steps in to moderate things.  He says that since Taboo Tuesday voting is Worldwide on the internet, he'd like to conduct a Straw Poll RIGHT HERE in Manchester, England (cheap pop!)...  he asks if fans back Edge? BOOO!  OK, simple enough.  He asks if they back Benoit? MIXED REACTION!  Huh, and Michaels even seemed like he put a little extra oomph into doing Benoit a solid and putting him over before asking the fans... finally, Shawn finishes big, talking about himself in glowing terms, and OBVIOUSLY getting the loudest response from fans, and that's when Edge has heard enough.  He cuts Michaels down, in mid-sentence, with a Spear.  Benoit steps in and is all "What the hell are you doing, Junior?", and at least keeps him at bay, in case he'd had visions of continuing the attack.

And that's when Eric Bischoff enters.  He announces that if these three are so keen to prove to fans which one of them is the best, then he'll give them that chance.  Next week on RAW, before fan voting starts, it'll be HBK vs. Benoit vs. Edge in a triple threat match!  Nice play (again, I don't know if they really did anything to unmake Michaels as the obvious choice, and the final triple threat match would have meant more and the others would have stood a better chance of convincing us they're realistic choices if it had 4 weeks of storyline build-up instead of 1...  but as a one night "save," HUGE props for getting this on track and finishing the show on a really perfect note).  As Bischoff leaves the scene, Edge takes advantage of Benoit's attention being diverted up the aisle to hit HIM with a Spear, too.  Show ends as Edge gives us the International Signal For I Want The Belt, while Benoit and Michaels slowly regain their senses.


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SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28




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