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November 23, 2004

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


I fricking HATE myself.

Well, not really; I actually think quite highly of myself. For instance, there's the thing where I'm 99% certain that I'm probably smarter and more clever than anybody on the WWE writing team.  If nothing else, *I* never churned out some script to Dumbass Generic Sitcom #2931 or to Hack Network Drama #1848, and actually sat there and re-read it and convinced myself, "Wow, this doesn't even REMOTELY suck." 

But that's neither here nor there. I don't hate myself. But I hate how my Big Ol' Brain sometimes plays tricks on me. Because it was just yesterday afternoon when I regaled you all with the tale of my Awesome Fantasy Booking ideas for Randy Orton and the World Title. And then it was just hours later when I sat down to RAW, and for 2 hours and 6 minutes,

I was not only MASSIVELY entertained by a very strong show...  but I was given a show that, if I wanted to delude myself, seemed to fit in quite nicely with my Fantasy Plan.  You had all the pieces in place, thanks to an exceptional bit of bait-and-switch-and-re-bait with Evolution. No bludgeoning, just all the ambiguity and subtlety you can handle: at the end of the night, Evolution showed they can work together well enough to swerve just about everybody, showed depths to all three characters that could allow for any of them to turn on any of the others, but still got it all together in the end.  Except that then HHH made one last crack about Batista, and MAYBE things aren't so peachy, afterall.  Just perfect.

I was sitting here, not only totally entertained, but also with my brain going a million miles and hour at all the delicious possibilities, and as HHH and Batista were in the ring, I arrived at the show's Logical Conclusion: Chris Jericho would interrupt and announce that next week will be "RAW is JERICHO" and he'll have some clever bit of Evil Scheming to ensure that he actually DOES get his World Title Shot at HHH while also coming up with some ricockulous Trial By Fire for Batista.  Because it would just make sense (because of the Batista tie-in from earlier for one, and for two, just because I wanted My Awesome Fantasy Ideas to hold up for at least another week).

So of course, what happens instead?  Randy Goddamned Orton.  It's quite illustrative that he didn't cross my mind one single time the entire preceding 2-plus hours.  He was the last person on my mind at that point in the show.  RAW can put on an almost perfect show without their Alleged Top Babyface.  He is not needed here.  All the more reason for me to feel like I'm on the right track by wasting massive amounts of my time scheming up a heel turn for him, so that he can be an actual important, valuable, contributing member of the roster.  Right now, Orton is costume jewelry: a pretty bauble that, at the end of the day, nobody with a lick of sense or good taste REALLY gives much of a shit about.  I can fix that: I've told you how.

But WWE doesn't care about that: instead, they just cart Orton out as the punchline to the entire show, the answer to a question nobody asked, and two-plus hours of an amazingly good mood goes into the toilet.  There will be none of The Rick's Awesome Ideas playing out on 12/6.  And plus: I get to return to RAW Recap duty just in the nick of time for the fricking show to end with Orton's Embarrassingly Awful Theme Song playing for no good reason.

These, however, are two shitty reasons to turn against a good show.  I know it.  In my brain, I realize that getting married to Fantasy Booking ideas is the dumbest thing in all the land.  Well, second dumbest.  Behind Orton.  Not to mention very naive and more than a bit pompous.  So thus, the self-loathing seeps in.  But I'll try to buck up, and give WWE writers a chance to show me that their ideas can be every bit as clever and effective as mine, if only I give them time to play out.  Afterall: *they* are the ones who contributed to many of the classic episodes of "The Jenny McCarthy Show" and probably went to school to learn the Art of the Sitcom, since lord knows it's a really complicated and nuaced form and How To Write is TOTALLY something that anybody can learn how to do in a classroom. And what mastery of the English language have *I* ever displayed in my life? And I sure didn't learn how to write while going to school and taking classes such as MacroEconomics and Marketing Research 303.  Clearly, I am a Total Hack who must bow down before the Obvious Experience and Wisdom of the Paid Writers....

So I table my objections, put myself back into the good mood I was for MOST of RAW last night, and am ready to spin y'all a yarn about last night's show...

Desperate Trish and Satirical Vince: The Comedy Skittening!

Actually, now that I think back, my mood was NOT good out of the gates last night.  Because I see Shelton Benjamin in a locker room and Trish in a Towel, and any fricking idiot could see where this is going...  but Wonder of Wonders, this did NOT turn into a really bad Last Half Hour of SNL Skit!  Instead, this thing was really funny.  They started with the totally expected, as Shelton's all "What are you doing here?" and Trish (who, in an hilarious visual, is wearing her facemask; and thus, she displays mastery of yet ANOTHER Classic Heel Tactic and further enhances my belief that she is Extremely Awesome; the incongruous facemask reminded me a bunch of Bobby Heenan and his ubiquitous neckbrace worn at totally unnecessary times) made it pretty clear she was here to jump Shelton's bones.  Poor guy.  

But Shelton?  He's got work to do tonight: a six-man tag match, and his partners need him.  And at this point, I'm pretty much mouthing the dialogue along with them, since this is a total re-do of the MNF skit from last week, and sure enough, Trish is all "But what about MY needs?"...  Shelton hits a line about how he's sure she'll find someone else, since she's the biggest slut on RAW.  Trish is not put out by the Heinous Insult, and instead tells Shelton he needs to loosen up, and is preparing to remove her towel when....

"What the hell is going on here?!?!" demands Vince McMahon as he barges in!  He takes in an eyeful of Trish, and then declares, in a hushed, awed tone, "It's.... it's a woman in a towel.  Oh my.  Oh no.  I can't believe I'm seeing this."  He proceeds to declare this sight scandalous, that he can see the fabric of society deteriorating before his very eyes.  He cannot believe the sexual overtones... nor the racial overtones.  At that, Shelton is all "Uh, what the fuck?", and Vince cracks my ass up with, "Well, Shelton, I don't know if you realize this or not, but you are African-American."  HA!  

Vince shifts gears at this point, saying that this is behavior cannot be tolerated on RAW.  Because the FCC will not stand for it, and this is not the NFL, and further it's not even the NBA, where such titillation may drive a man to go up into the stands and attack fans. And if something like that happened, "It would be the downfall of civilization as we know it."  

Shelton shrugs and says, "Man, you really need to lighten up," and walks away.  Vince sputters some self-important tripe for about 10 seconds about virtues and stuff, and then glances over his shoulder, and turns back to Trish.  "Is he gone?" asks Vince.  "Yup," says Trish.  Hit the Monday Night Football March in the background, cut to a back-shot of Trish, off comes the towel, and into Vince's arms she leaps.  And then, because for ONCE, these idiot sitcom writers actually REMEMBERED TO PUT IN A FUNNY PUNCHLINE: Vince and Trish try to make-out, but they can't because of Trish's facemask!  HA! So Vince just turns to the camera, and flashes a Winning Smile as he asks, "So are you ready for some wrestling?"

Yes!  Yes, I am!  And thank you for uttering the dirty word "wrestling," Vince!  Why am I CERTAIN there were top level meetings in which the dialogue was debated in heated fashion, and many wanted the punchline to be "Are you ready for some Sports Entertainment?"....  but it matters not!  Because this was actually really damned amusing.

Why?  Three reasons: (1) Shower-Fresh Trish in a towel. Hey, The Rick is a man with simple tastes and a minimalism fetish, and that means I found this about one million times tastier than Trish's last Silly Half-Naked Comedy Appearance on RAW (which involved elaborate lingerie and hair-poofing at the Kane/Lita wedding).  (2) It was not "part of the show." It was presented very clearly as a prelude, a piece of Bonus Entertainment to SET UP our wrestling show, and when you do that, the rules change.  And (3) I just flat-out agree with the sentiment/tone too much to NOT love this jab at the Retarded Sports Media and the Morality-Obsessed Right.  The only thing offensive about the TO/MNF skit last week was that it was unfunny and stupid, and I *love* that Vince reached to include a mini-riff on the NBA, too, since I cannot tell you how much I want to punch morons like Bob Ley and Jim Grey for trying to turn "Idiots in Detroit" into a Major Societal Issue.  Wallace and Pistons fans were the instigatory jerks, Artest is obviously a fucking dumbass to let that goad him, but there is NO Sensitive And Important Topic That Must Be Addressed in Somberly-Voiced-Over Montages Also Featuring Melancholy Background Music.  Way to stick it to the morons and make me laugh my ass off for once, WWE!

Opening Theme/Pyro/Etc.: and we are live from Buffalo, NY, and we also have no time to waste because it's time for us to find out who our Guest General Manager will be tonight....

Representing the OMG WORKRATE~! Party: It's Chris Benoit

Chris Benoit, meet Microphone.  Microphone, meet Chris Benoit.  Try to get along, OK?

And sure enough, Benoit is simply awesome in a talking role for the second week in a row. He is emoting a vibe of "Intense, But Having Fun At the Same Time," as he runs down his agenda for tonight.

First, he announces that on Chris Benoit's watch, it's not about politicking and ass-kissing: it's about The Wrestling. And the Internet Jack-Offs suddenly sprout wood! And so do I! Or wait, that's probably just left over from Trish in a towel.... nevertheless, Benoit's solution was to just put a piece of paper up on his door, and anybody who wanted a match could write it down, and Benoit would grant it. No talking, no open challenges, none of that nonsense: ask for a match, and ye shall receive.

So the matches that have been set up tonight: (1) Maven wants a match against the man who cost him the World Title last week, and will face Snitsky.  (2) Chris Jericho wants revenge from Survivor Series, and shall face the man who eliminationed him: Batista.  (3) Coach has asked for a "real match" against Good Ol' JR, and will get it (Coach must be as dumb as Orton, since he SHOULD have asked for a match against the "real JR," instead, and I think everybody pretty much knew it, since not even JR acted too concerned this week).  (4) Lita, Xtreme as she is now, wants revenge on BOTH Trish and Molly Holly, so tonight, it's a three-way dance for the Women's Title.  And finally, (5) fans may have noticed a steel cage hanging over the ring, and it's there because Chris Benoit is a smart man, and he doesn't want all the interference like we had last week, he just wants to go one-on-one with Triple H for the World Title, inferring that it shall be inside the Demonic Structure of the Steel Cage.

Big pop for that.  And I REALLY like the sounds of it, too; Benoit/HHH Steel Cage, that's got Free Per View written all over it! I even decided to mix up a few cocktails to really enjoy the show (which turned out to be pretty stupid, since I hadn't eaten dinner yet, but whatever; one of these years I'll learn to follow the sage advice of Paul F. Tompkins and Eat Before I Drink).  Anyway, Chris wisely pauses long enough to soak in a "Benoit, Benoit" chant.  But then, to further plumpen the wangs of his core constituency of workrate fans, Benoit's all, "Enough talk.  It's time to shut up and wrestle!"  Which segues us directly to....

Gene Snitsky vs. Maven

As footage from last week's main event reminds us that, Yes Virginia, Maven DID Wrestle For The World Title (and might even have won it if not for Snitsky), the guys make their entrances. Close-ups on Snitsky's left eye (remember that Survivor Series gash) are best described as "grody to the max."  And the match? It's best described as "simple and formula."  Flashy babyface offense for Maven. Snitsky uses his power to pound Maven down.  Flashy babyface comeback for Maven (including a neat little sequence of stacked, back-to-back top rope moves where Maven hit the Steamboat crossbody, basically rolled through it, and got immediately up on the opposite turnbuckle for a top rope bulldog). But Snitsky cares not about flashy offense.  He squashed Maven's comeback with nothing more complicated than a few punches, and then just hoisted Maven up for the pumphandle slam.  One, two, three.  Snitsky wins in about 3-4 minutes.  Welcome back to Heat, Maven.


Backstage: Triple H is throwing a fit. He says he knew he'd have to face Benoit tonight, but "Not inside a stupid steel cage."  Flair tries to talk HHH down.  No dice.  Batista steps in and says, "Don't worry, champ, we got your back."  And then HHH goes into Dick Mode: "Oh, you got my back?  You got my back just like at Survivor Series? You were really Johnny On-the-spot there, weren't you? We were supposed to hang together and win that match, but no, you had to go and lose and left me out there by myself"... and Batista doesn't like being talked-down to, and wants to just walk away.  But HHH doesn't like being walked out on, and he yanks Batista back, asking, "Where do you think you're going?".  Batista says he needs to go get ready for his match against Jericho.  And HHH opines, "A match against Jericho, eh?  A hundred bucks says you lose that one, too." Batista gets VERY angry at that, but HHH turns his back and leaves Flair to clam the big man down.  Good stuff.

Stacy Keibler is Clearly Much Too Fat?

Stacy is already in the ring, where she's trying to make herself useful by giving out Free Merchandise (while wearing legwarmers; I swear, I made a 1983 joke when Molly ill-advisedly used these for her Taboo Tuesday outfit, but now, I'm forced to consider that I've missed something and these things are Actually Back in Style; are they? and if so, why?).  After firing off the T-Shirt Canon once or twice, she grabs a mic, and pulls an ECW DVD out of her skirt (cue the blithering idiocy from Lawler which I, sadly, suspect was NOT him joking around) and asks who in the audience wants a free copy.  But before she can find a winner, she is interrupted...

By Simon Dean? Huh. But at least Stacy's delicate frame means Simon has to limit his shtick to unfunny jokes about how in HIS mind, the only thing "ECW" stands for is "Eating Causes Weight-gain," which is why he's here to give away HIS DVD to some lucky fan. Because looking around, he sees plenty of fatties, none of whom would ever have a chance with a Piece Of Ass like Stacy here.  Because Stacy clearly likes chisled hunks of manmeat like Simon.  Right, Stacy?  But when Stacy declares, "Actually, I tend to like guys who don't look in the mirror more than I do," Simon is rather put out.  He believes Stacy misspoke, and should correct herself.  Right, Stacy?  Stacy tries defiance, but then Simon actually starts stalking her in a threatening fashion.  Because if we're just gonna ladle pointless heel traits onto Simon in hopes that something sticks, why not add Steve Austin's Respect For Women to the list along with Doesn't Like Fat People?  And although Stacy has about 4 inches on Simon, she starts cowering in a corner, as Simon moves in, sputtering about how she'd better Take That Back.

And to the rescue? Your local neighborhood Hurricane. Huh, I would have thought for sure the punchline to this skit was Rosey coming out, making the save, and getting a big ol' smooch from Stacy just to piss off Mr. Fitness.  Guess not.  Hurricane actually grabs a mic, and says that he doesn't understand all the threatening women and people who are fat (and since he's a poet and didn't even know it, he follows up with "What's up wid dat?").  Simon acts like he's begging off, but does mention his "amateur background," and just when Hurricane's defense are down, Simon moves in with a kick to the gut, and then some Mat Wrestling.  When Hurricane matched him hold-for-hold, Simon decided "enough amateur wrestling" and just sac-punched Hurricane.  Then pulls a weightlifting belt out of his bag and starts laying into Hurricane with it.  Out comes Rosey to the rescue.  And Simon decides to just powder out, confident that he's scored a moral victory.  They play Simon's music as he leaves, and Jim Ross says, "I really don't see how anybody could like Simon Dean."  And because I'm a dick, I respond with, "I love shoot comments that aren't supposed to be shoot comments."  Tee hee.

Backstage: two over-dressed and over-made-up and under-qualified-to-talk-on-TV women are just hanging out backstage in a hallway. Because when I think, "Girls All Dressed Up Like It's The Prom," I think "Backstage at a Wrestling Show."  And yet Gail Kim sits at home, sobbing lightly in her jammies.  Baffling, really.  Anyway, these women are tittering away like idiots.  First one: "Ohmigod, I just saw Batista and Triple H." Second one: "Ohmigod, really?"  First one: "Ohmigod, yes. I thought Batista was gonna punch Triple H."  Second one: "Ohmigod, but they're friends."  And so forth.  Stimulating company, those two.  Finally into the frame storms Batista, trailed by Ric Flair, and thankfully, the camera decides to follow them down the hall instead of sticking with Team Vapid.  Flair's trying to slow Batista down, but Batista is FOCUSED.  Finally Flair gets him to stop, and tries to explain that HHH doesn't mean anything by it, he's just really stressed out because of this Guest GM thing.  Batista says he doesn't care, he doesn't like being talked to like that.  And then Batista's off to the ring, cuz his match is next.  After these....


Chris Jericho vs. Batista

There seem to be -- as you might expect -- some cheers for Batista and his power offense.  But also plenty of support for Y2J, who actually got out of the gate fast, kinda like Maven did earlier, with Flashy Offense.  This includes his Doublejump Dropkick, as well as a big ol' Plancha.  But once we get back in the ring following that 90 second flurry, Batista almost immediately takes over with his power. He countered something into a sidewalk slam, followed up with a spinebuster, and then tied Jericho to the Tree of Woe.  From there, Batista went outside the ring and just wrenched back on Jericho's neck. But that move ain't legal!  When Batista won't break by a five-count, the ref calls for a disqualification.  Batista STILL won't release the hold, and JR and King try to act like this is some horrifying move that will break Jericho's neck (didn't really look that nasty, though).  Finally, Flair manages to get Batista to release the hold.  But when Jericho gets to his feet in the ring, Batista hops back in and hits him with the K.O.-thesline.  VILE~!

Match was nothing: maybe 2-and-a-half minutes, and it never really got on track.  Storywise, though?  I kinda dig this: despite the weakness of the DQ (it's never good when fans boo a finish like that, and it's cuz it didn't really seem anywhere NEAR as evil a hold as the announcers over-sold it), you accomplish a lot here.  For one, I'm ALREADY anxiously awaiting HHH being a prick and coming after his $100; and for two, you've got plenty of hints that Batista could turn face tonight, but then him doing something like this to Jericho gives him a dose of bad-assery (which is good) but also makes him kind of a jerk (which means we don't know AT ALL where he might end up, and I loves me that ambiguity).


Backstage: Batista is WALKING~!...  right past HHH, who sure enough fires up the Sarcastic Golf Clap, and asks, "You want to pay up now, big man, or do you need to go get your wallet?".  Jerk.  But a funny jerk.  My kind of jerk, really.  Batista says he's in no mood for this crap: Batista walked out of the ring, and Jericho got carried out, and that's all that matters.  But HHH disputes this: what matters is that he told Batista to go out and win a match for once, and he BLEW IT AGAIN.  He accuses Batista of having a million dollar body and a ten-cent brain.  He says he included Batista in Evolution because he thought he could count on Batista to follow-through on orders, that he was somebody HHH could trust to have his back.  Now, he doesn't think Batista can be trusted, so maybe he'll have to go out and find somebody else.  Batista snarls and says, "You do that, cuz I'm sick of this.  Screw you."  And Batista walks away.  Flair is in the middle, not sure what to do (again, ambiguity!), but HHH pulls him back and says, "You better go talk to him."  But Flair talks back, "With all due respect, you need to lay off Batista," and then leaves himself.

Elsewhere Backstage: Tough Questions Todd Grisham has an interview with Edge. His Tough Question tonight is essentially: "Here's footage of you beating up your partner, Christian, last week.  Discuss."  Which isn't, technically, a question, but Edge is happy to respond.  He says he did what he did last week because he was sending a message.  That message is that he's not a tag team wrestler, that he deserves a shot at the World Title. Edge imagines a look of doubt in Todd's eyes, and says that if he doesn't believe Edge deserves a title shot, he'll take a little informal poll right now.  Edge grabs a mic and starts roaming around backstage.  First he finds the Red Headed Spaz and Maria The Mic Stand (god bless you, Diva Search!), and asks them if he deserves a title shot.  They say no.  Edge is mad, moves on.  Harasses some anonymous backstage dude, who announces that he ALSO doesn't think Edge deserves a shot and that he voted for Shawn Michaels at Taboo Tuesday.  Edge is now furious and physically attacks the backstage guy.  But GM Benoit steps in and says if Edge has a problem, he should bring it to the boss.  Edge says he DOES have a problem: that he came here tonight wanting his title shot, but he can't because Benoit gave that match to himself.  And now, Edge is here in his gear, and has nothing to do.  Edge storms out.  Interesting; although it's here where I pretty much put all the pieces together in my head for how the main event and Evolution Drama would play out (and I turned out to be almost exactly right, empty-stomach-accelebuzz and all, I'm just that damned good).


Coach vs. J.R.

Coach hits the ring, and although almost exactly nobody actually thinks he's wrestling Jim Ross after last week's Convoluted Maven Logic, Jim DOES finally start to sell the possibility by starting to remove his tie... which is when GM Benoit's Grizzle Visage appears in close-up on the TitanTron.  Turns out, we've had ourselves another misunderstanding.  When Coach wrote "JR" on Benoit's door, Chris didn't know he meant Jim Ross.  He thought Coach meant:

Just Rhyno.  [Wheee!  At least that ALMOST makes some sense.  Hey, WWE, my middle name is "James," which means I could, if I wanted to, call myself "RJ."  Want me to report to RAW for Randy Orton's week as GM?  I mean, maybe he's not really dumb; maybe he's just dyslexic!] 

So out sprints Rhyno... and he is immediately hit with a microphone, giving Coach the early advantage.  Coach pummels away with the punchy-kicky for a few seconds, then makes the mistake of stepping back, giving Rhyno a chance to get a running start for the Gore. Not more than 20 seconds, all told, and as awesome a Poor Sap as he is, Coach's ritual humiliation is maybe starting to get a bit old.


Earlier Tonight: Chris Benoit drove me to drink by announcing a Free Per View Caliber main event... him versus HHH inside a steel cage, in a match I'm now 90% sure won't actually happen.....

Trish Stratus vs. Molly Holly vs. Lita (Women's Title Match)

Jerry Lawler makes me want to punch him even more than usual by spending this match talking about how Lita is jealous of Trish's hotness and how he's personally angry that Trish has to wear a facemask, covering her pretty face, and that's not fair, and blah blah blah... let's leave the catfighting over stupid shit to the Girls of SmackDown!, and let's try to find something commendable about the Women's Wrestling Champion of the World other than she is easy on the eyes. Lita's not exactly chopped liver, and probably knows it, and it might be nice if the heel announcer put over the heel champ for being -- I dunno -- a capable wrestler or something.  Got it, Jerry?  No?  Well, don't worry, I'm sure I'll rant against you again soon enough. 

Making things worse: in the ring, these three are actually having a really good little match.  Early on, it's the Double Teaming Of Heel Cooperation, and Lita takes the brunt of it for a minute or three.  Lita tries to fire up with a big Double Clothesline, but frankly, there's just too much combined awesomeness between Trish and Molly.  So the double teaming continues.  Lita does try another comeback, and manages to send Trish down, but Molly's not deterred: she hits a big move on Lita (neckbreaker, maybe?) and is so proud that she stops to gloat.  And that's when Trish gets her wits back and sneaks up behind Molly with a Schoolgirl Roll-up.  Deliciously evil!  But Molly kicks out, and does not seem pleased.  She gets right up in Trish's face, and Trish, smart as a whip, goes to Plan B, claiming that her facemask had blinded her, and she thought that Molly was Lita.  But Molly, god bless her, is too smart for that, and wants to continue this spirited debate....

Unfortunately, all this accomplishes is giving Lita enough time to recover and go on an offensive tear, which again includes plenty of stomping and head-butting to the... well, the ovaries, maybe?   Lita's offense on Trish involves a lot of pie-facing and stuff.  Finally, we build up to Lita hitting a bulldog on Trish (again, the poor face), but before she can follow up for a pinfall, Molly is back in the picture, and sends Lita crashing out to the floor.  Molly first appears like she's going to follow Lita out to deliver more punishment, but then she gets a look at Trish struggling back to her feet, and is struck by Inspirado!  Molly gets a "paybacks are a bitch" look on her face, and heads to the top rope.  Nails Trish with the Molly-Go-Round.  New champ?  Nope, cuz Lita's here in the nick of time to break up the near fall.  Trish rolls out of harms way as Molly and Lita brawl...  and Lita gets the better of it, nailing Molly with a DDT.  But when she goes for the cover, Trish yanks Lita out of the ring, throws her into the ring barrier, and then hops in the ring, gets on top of Molly, hooks a leg, and steals the win.  A very good 5-6 minute match with plenty of action and some nicely-performed little intra-match story elements, too.

After the match: Lita got her revenge by interrupting Trish's celebration and putting her into some kind of nose-crushing crossface.  Molly got her revenge by quietly disappearing and never being mentioned again.  Play Lita's music as she leaves the ring!  Because she lost!

Backstage: Batista is getting his arm taped up in a training room (what, is Jericho's head extra-hard, or something?), and Flair is trying to talk sense to him.  He tells Batista to stick with Evolution, because HHH doesn't really mean any harm; in fact, HHH has big plans for Batista, and wants Batista to be The Man when HHH steps down.  Batista says that sounds good and all, but at what price does it come?  He has to sit around and be treated like Dumb Muscle?  He's sick of it.  Flair responds by saying, "You're sick of it?  Hell, *I* am sick of it" (LOVE the subtlety here! Whose side is Flair on?), but Flair also says, "But I stick with HHH, because this is the best thing going, and so should you.  We owe him.  And *you* owe him an apology."  Batista responds with an "Are you kidding?"  Flair is not kidding.  He wants Batista to take a deep breath, and go to HHH and apologize; he doesn't want Batista to "make the same mistake Randy Orton did" because he'd end up regretting it.  Batista gets up to leave and says he'll go to HHH, and the only thing he knows for sure is that whatever happens, he WON'T regret it.  You know what's really funny?  The guy WWE wants to cast as the "Dumb Muscle" of Evolution quite frankly has turned into quite a solid promo/skit guy lately, and sure seems quicker on the uptake than Randy Orton.


Prepared Vignette: Shelton Benjamin grew up on the Mean Streets of Orangeville, South Carolina.  He fell in with a bad crowd.  He carried a gun to school.  He was suspended.  But then he got it all turned around, and made something of himself.  It's the Feel Good Hit of the Summer, folks!

Shelton Benjamin, Eugene, and William Regal vs. Christian and La Resistance

I think I like Christian's new song (it's appropriately pretentious-sounding), and I know I like his new jacket (behind Chavo Classic's Comfy Bedazzlered Bathrobe, it might be 2004's finest new Ring Wear).  The ring entrances are accompanied by an explanation that Christian and La Resistance had requested title rematches against Shelton and Eugene/Regal, respectively, but that GM Benoit decided to merge those requests into one six-man match.

No real story or formula here: Regal controls, tags in Eugene, who controls.  I think the heels got a total of about 30 seconds of offense in on Eugene, which I don't *think* can count as a "Face In Peril Act."  That 30 seconds, however, was some bizarre chinlock that I haven't seen before (and for as annoying as he was earlier, Lawler makes a VERY insightful observation that Eugene won't be able to escape it, because he's never seen it on TV before, and therefore has no idea what to do; could be an interesting little hook for Opponents of Eugene in the future)... but Eugene DOES escape it and tags in Shelton, who comes in a House Afire.  It's actually Pier Six Chaos, and in the brawl, La Resistance seem to gain the edge by Hart Attack Clotheslining Shelton, but Eugene sneaks up and hits a Stunner on one, while Regal takes care of the other.  I honestly have no idea what happened to Christian, but he was powdered out by this point.  Shelton recovers, grabs the La Resistance Member who got Stunnered, hits a T-Bone, and scores the pinfall.  Maybe all of 3-4 minutes, and although the women's match retains Match Of The Night So Far honors, this was good fun.  After the match, the sound guy switches from Shelton's song to Eugene's, and he again calls kids up into the ring for a bit of Homage to JYD.

Prepared Vignette #2: Mohammed Hassan and Khosrow Daivari are in an airport, and there's not even a pretense of Calm Civilized Discourse this week. Hassan just launches into the ranting and raving about how he's sick of being singled out at airports and it's not fair and if you people keep picking on me because of I'm of Arab descent, I'll beat you up.  Then Khosrow did his Translation Shtick, and again fails to close with "Cam-a-ra-man, ZOOM DA ABS."  Unless he said it in Farsi, and I just didn't understand it.  Whatever.  Just let's bring him in and get this over with: he's not really saying anything bad, but WWE fans will boo him because he's Ay-rab (trust me, if the average wrestling fan thinks any Japanese guy is Tye-jeeri, we can pretty well count on the cheap heat working), they'll cheer when you send Sgt. Slaughter out there to feud with him.  And I'll just sit back and not give a shit.


Chris Benoit vs. All Signs Pointing To A Swerve

OK, so in my head, I already have this figure out, I think, and then Benoit makes his ring entrance at 10:25.  So either I'm right, or we're in for a kick-ass 40 minute main event...  part of me is REALLY hoping to be dead wrong, but....

Nope.  Sure enough, we hit HHH's entrance music, but there's no HHH.  We cut to backstage, where a camera is scrambling to the locker room... as the camera is rushing in, Batista is walking out, while Flair is screaming at him.  We get into the locker room, and HHH is face-down and unconscious on the floor.  Trainers begin swarming around as Flair announces to anyone who'll listen that Batista Did It.  A gaggle of gawkers also starts assembling to watch as they tend to HHH.  One of them (sho 'nuff) is Edge.

In the ring, Benoit is apparently watching this drama on the TitanTron, and decides to head back to see what's up.  He gets to the locker room, and makes it clear that he's not entirely sure that HHH is really hurt.  But the doctors stop him from getting near HHH, telling him that HHH is unconscious and there won't be a title match tonight.  Benoit is furious, and as he leaves the room, he notices Edge smirking off to one side.  What's so funny?  Edge says, "Now you know how it feels to have a World Title shot snatched out from under you." Benoit fails to see the humor.  But Edge won't let it go, as he says that it's also funny because it's not like Benoit would have won if he got his match, but if Edge ever gets HIS shot, he's sure he would convert on it.  Benoit's finally heard enough, and says that if Edge has got a problem, there's still a steel cage out in the arena, and it needs two guys to fight in it.  So Benoit will see Edge out there.  Next.  Then he shoves Edge down and leaves the room...


Chris Benoit vs. Edge

Rules are pinfall, submission, or escape to win, says JR.  Benoit brings the intensity from the get-go, taking charge and laying in with stiff shoulderblocks and wicked chops and all that usual stuff. Edge comes back with his Early Offense after reversing an Irish Whip and sending Benoit crashing in for the front-wise Bret Bump into the turnbuckles.  Edge followed up with a suplex, but when he foolishly tried to escape the cage, it didn't work out so well: Benoit caught him, and yanked him down, crotching him on the top rope.  Benoit's next phase of offense was more extended, and included: a suplex (of the Hey Edge, Here's How You Do It variety), the first use of the steel cage (throwing Edge into it, and then, in a cool spot, baseball sliding to send Edge face-first under the bottom rope and into the cage), some near falls and chainwrestling (including Edge having to escape a Crippler Crossface attempt), and in general a lot of goodness.  But then, Benoit made the same mistake as Edge, and tried to escape the cage a little too early.  Edge managed to catch him, and when he pulled Benoit down, he pulled him into the Tree of Woe.  As Edge basically pounded away with a series of stomps and shoulderblocks, leaving Benoit slumped in the corner, we cut backstage, where we reveal that Batista is watching this match on a monitor, and has NOT left the building as previously expected.  A good spot for some....


Back, and Benoit is still getting his ass kicked (and is, in fact, bleeding).  A During the Break highlight package shows us why: because Edge sling-shotted Benoit into the cage.  Edge settles on a chinlock for a bit, and Benoit fires up, but it's just a Decoy Comeback.  Edge pounds Benoit down some more, sending him into the cage, and pounding away on Benoit's bloodied head.  But again, as tends to be the case in these matches, Edge tried to escape, and paid the price.  Benoit yanked him down to the mat, and IMMEDIATELY went for the German Suplexes.  A Hat Trick Plus Two for Edge!  Benoit thinks this might be a chance to escape, but he's met on the top rope by Edge.  The two battle, and Benoit gets the better of it, sending Edge crashing to the mat; and instead of continuing the climb over the cage, Benoit decides NOW is time for Extra Punishment, and hits the Swandive Headbutt.  When he only gets the two count, he does that cool IMMEDIATE Float-Over into the Crippler Crossface.  If the pinfall don't get you, the submission will.  Edge struggles for the ropes, but there's no DQ in a cage, and thus, no rope breaks. But when Edge gets to the ropes, he's able to grab them for leverage and then roll out of the Crossface.  Benoit is not happy, and steps back to regroup; and when he moves back in on Edge, Edge grabs him by the tights and pulls him face-first into the cage.  D'oh.  Edge is back on offense, and in a nice callback of Benoit's earlier spot, he even hits the baseball slide thingie.  But Benoit's a tough son of a gun, and battles back.  The two are actually throwing fists and brawling, and inching backwards towards the door... so the ref opens it up.  Edge seems to gain the advantage, and is actually starting to lean out the door... which is when Benoit reaches out and grabs the door, and pulls it back, crashing it into Edge's skull.  But a little more back-and-forthy in the corner near the door, and Edge is on offense AGAIN.  He steps back, and lines it up...  and comes sprinting at Benoit with The Spear...

Except that the impact sends Benoit crashing backwards through the ropes.  And right out the door to the floor.  Benoit wins.  And Edge gets this look on his face that says, "Goddammit, the world is out to get me."  And I almost feel for the guy.  Except that I like Benoit plenty, too, and frankly, a win is a win!  Very excellent 16 minute match.  VERY excellent; not to name names, but easily about twice as good as the last PPV cage match.

Backstage: Batista is watching the finish on the monitor, and up walks Flair.  "What are you still doing here?" asks Flair.  And Batista said that he isn't done tonight.  He tells Flair that he's going out to the ring, and says that Ric needs to go find HHH and drag him out to the ring.  And then, closes Batista, "And Ric, you better decide whose side you're on."  Again, the Internet Douchebags are probably upset that HHH managed to put himself into a Main Event Promo That Overshadows Chris Benoit, and maybe they even had this whole thing figured out like I did, but they overlook one very important thing: this entire story arc was EXPERTLY handled, right down to putting us in a position before the Main Event Promo where ALL of HHH, Batista, and Flair could turn babyface tonight.  Or none of them.  So many nice little touches all night long, and I'm looking forward to seeing the Big Finish.  Right after our final....


By Law, RAW Cannot End Until Randy Orton Fumbles A Line Theatre

We come back to RAW with Batista already in the ring and already in the midst of some ranting and raving. Noticing that the red light has come back on, he quickly gets to the point: he doesn't care about HHH's title, at least, not tonight. But he still wants HHH in the ring right now, because Batista wants to "finish what he started" (successfully displaying a mastery of language and temporal causality that once baffled Randall Orton!).

HHH's music fires up.  And HHH limps out onto the stage, accompanied by Flair and the doctor from earlier who managed to convince Benoit that HHH was unconscious.  He's a battered mess, and his t-shirt is all ripped up and stuff.  It's a total babyface spot, and the crowd is -- as well they should be -- kinda mixed.  There's cheers for HHH, but there were also "Batista" chants.  HHH gets in the ring, looking like a beaten man.  He goes nose-to-nose with Batista, and Batista holds up the mic, sensing that HHH might want to speak.  And sure enough, he does.  HHH growls, "Batista, I've got just one thing to say to you....."

"Well done, man! Good show!" he finishes in a happy, jovial voice. HHH chuckles, and Batista starts smiling, and the crowd seems not happy at having just been had. And even though I was pretty much expecting this as the logical punchline to the show, I still tip my cap, cuz the ride was still an exceptionally fun one.  HHH calls himself a genius, saying he knew you people would fall for it.  He pays off the "doctor," and says that their acting tonight was sheer genius.  He says he was awesome, the doc was awesome, Flair was awesome... but the MVP?  It's gotta be Batista.  Batista beams proudly as HHH talks about how Batista put on the performance of a lifetime.  One that is "worthy of an Oscar.... or at least a Slammy."  Ha ha, and it's chuckles all around at the good-natured ribbing.  But then, the chuckles are silenced when HHH off-handedly mentions that the only way it could have been better is if Batista had beaten Jericho.  HHH seems to not even register that he just got under Batista's skin, but luckily, Flair's there to soothe The Monster of Evolution so that HHH can continue to his punchline: that whether these people like it or not, he's still YOUR World Heavyweight Champion.  HHH says that he'd like the Girls and the Champagne to report to the ring immediately for a little party.

And right here is where Next Week's GM Chris Jericho should have arrived to announce how he'd be facing HHH and punishing Batista. But instead, it's the lyrical retardation of "Theme From Dumb Guy" playing its titular character out onto the stage.  Randy Orton, meet microphone. Microphone, meet Randy Orton.  If you two can get along even half as well as Microphone did with Benoit earlier tonight, we'll call it a win!

Orton congratulates HHH on pulling a good swerve, but that there's trouble a-brewin'. Because his turn in the GM Rotation is coming up next.  HHH, quite humorously, busts out the old DX Slack-Jawed Gawk of Mock Horror, and does a funny voice as he turns to Ric and says, "Oh no, oh Ric, I'm scared, next week Randy Orton's gonna be GM."  But then he immediately shifts gears and goes back to his Serious Voice to tell Randy, "You just don't get it, do you? You might be GM, but you don't get a title shot.  Ever."

But Randall says he's got a proposition.  And apparently he's noticed that the 2003 Christopher Walken vehicle "The Rundown" is in super-heavy rotation on Cinemax lately, because he decides to steal The Rock's shtick from that movie by announcing that "Option A" is that next week on RAW, Orton will face HHH, one-on-one, and if Orton wins, they will lift that stipulation.  HHH ponders, and says he doesn't think anybody wants to see that match.  He even decides to conduct a little poll, and asks the fans (who sound like they are about 70/30 in favor of wanting to see the match, with a LARGE percentage of the 70 consisting of high-pitched girlish squeals).  Opting to ignore the 30 percent of dissenters, HHH says, "Wow, it sounds like you people really DO want to see this match.  So I'll tell you what..."  A pause for drama.  And then "Nope, not gonna happen. Gotcha again, suckers!"

So Orton puts the mic back up to his wordhole, and manages to give us his interpretation of "Beck from The Rundown, if he was mildly retarded."  Orton announces -- and I'm not making this up -- "Triple H, you should have taken Option A.  Because Option B means tomorrow night on R...." [confused pause, even Randall seems to realize that's not quite right, and a vocal minority of the crowd lets Orton hear it] "I mean, next week on RAW, you will have to face everybody behind Door #2."  He gestures behind him, and the entire RAW locker room materializes on the stage.

Orton announces that next week, it'll be a "Company Wide" Battle Royale with the entire RAW locker room getting in the ring with Triple H.  He ALSO announces that Batista and Flair will be involved; and they act upset by this, which is dumb (hey, Orton suddenly arrives, and EVERYBODY gets stupider!) since they should WANT to be in it to help the Boss now that Evolution's all on the same page again.  And for his punchline: HHH's title is on the line, and the winner of the Battle Royale will be the World Heavyweight Champion.

Play Orton's music to close the show, just because somebody, somewhere, knows it will annoy me. We get us plenty of reaction shots of HHH, who appears even MORE annoyed than me at the prospect of having to face like 25 guys with his title on the line next week, before we fade to black.


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