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Nitro is Ortin~! 
August 26, 2003

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


Think I'm stretching for that "Nitro is Ortin" headline? Well, guess again, Chachi. For one, you give Randall a pen and a piece of paper and axe him to Make His Mark, and I'm not entirely sure he'd get it right, anyway. And for two, this actually *is* one of those times when somebody drawing comparisons between the crap-a-thon that was post-1996 Nitro and current day WWE are ACCURATE.

Because *I* am making them, instead of some knee-jerk jack-off who understands nothing about how wrestling works (REALLY works, in the REAL world) other than "The Cruiserweights are being shafted and OMG BENOIT~!"...  this was just a very disappointing night of wrestling, and it didn't have to be.

And before I go much further, maybe a bit of story/explanation: because I've actually devised a scheme in the last 5 or 6 months, one that helps me to identify when I'm going to overreact, and helps keep me from being a mega-jerk when writing a recap. Because it was about 5 or 6 months ago that WWE went south. Well, probably before that, even, 

but RAW held on till about June, and only started to simultaneously suck and blow after "Bad Blood." The Rick's circle of wrestling buddies? It practically disappears, cuz nobody likes stuff that sucks. Which leaves me, most weeks, watching RAW, and having all manner of asshole observations occur to me, which, without an audience and without release, would tend to ping-pong back and forth inside my head, creating a feedback loop in which a recap of even an average show might read "Fuckity fuck fuck shit piss fuck Orton likes men and has no talent shit shit shitty fuck shit fuck."  And I know nobody wants to read that.

So after the show, I try to reflect a bit, take the edge off a bit, so I can sleep peacefully and wake up the next day able to discuss the show rationally when its recappening time. I think of it kinda like a cartoon: during RAW, my little devil shows up and sits on my shoulder and feeds me all kinds of new and exciting made-up swear-words I can use to describe the poorness of Randy Orton and helps me concoct ways to make Brian Gewirtz contract the Ebola Virus. But then afterwards, I look forward to my little angel showing up for a little discussion on how I need to settle the fuck down. I tend to see the wisdom of my angel, since that's kind of like talking to myself, only better, since my angel isn't a total asshole, whereas talking to my little devil is like talking to myself after I've had a half bottle of whiskey and have accomplished nothing but removing the filter between brain and mouth.

But last night, my angel shows up for the Monday debriefing, and proclaims, "Fuck RAW. Give 'em hell, The Rick, they deserve it." And if you think I've attained levels of insufferable prickishness before, what the hell do you think I'm gonna be capable of when my own conscience can't muster a single argument for self-censorship? You don't have to answer that, you can just read on and find out. 

I look at it this way: last night's RAW was NOT a case of me having unfair expectations, or me being married to ANY specific "fantasy booking" idea or anything like that. It was a case of me being excited for a show based on little else other than EXACTLY WHAT THE FED SPENT A WEEK TELLING ME THEY'D GIVE ME.  

Seriously: last week in this very pre-ramble, I let my conscience have its way, and I begged your forgiveness and said I knew I was being stupid for hating the last 90 seconds of RAW for all the wrong reasons, but that if you read the recap, you'd realize I loved the first 2 hours and 5 minutes. Today, I stand before you unwilling to qualify my disappointment in any fashion; my conscience is right to not even put up a fight. Go back and read my column from yesterday, read the part where I talked about RAW and what might happen.  Read the parts where I SPECIFICALLY DISMISS all kinds of wild, crazy scenarios and try to stay focused on what's real and what's plausible.  I didn't raise YOUR expectations to any unrealistic level; I sure as hell didn't raise mine... I just thought that WWE laid a VERY interesting foundation for the show, and that it'd take a crew of idiots to screw it up too badly.  I wasn't asking for the moon, I was just asking for the logical follow-through on the previous week's episode.

Then again, here's something for you:  my exact line yesterday was, "Score one for WWE: they got me hooked.  Plus 10 out of 10 for Laying An Interesting Foundation...  we'll see how many points they score on Executing A Good Plan in about 8 hours here."  And I figure last night's show is good for maybe a 1.5 out of 10.  Possibly a 2.

Maybe at some subconscious level, I felt it coming. That perhaps the Guest GM shows were taking on a bit TOO much of the personalities of their Boss (like Maven's: high energy, easy to like, but ultimately without any real substance, so kinda hard to care about or remember once it's gone... or Benoit's: loaded with plenty of crisp action, and just the right touch of quality drama, but ultimately doomed to end in disappointment since Chris Benoit is not allowed to win more matches than he loses in a given year), and that Randy Orton's show would feature an abundance of HIS trademarks qualities.  That this RAW would end up being:

  • So Very Very Dumb
  • Chock Full of WWE Taking Away Something We Liked Just Fine and Forcing Us to Accept Something We Didn't Ask For In Its Place
  • Laden With Eye Candy That's Actually Probably Not As Pretty As It Thinks It Is And Which Is Also Almost Totally Useless 
  • Entirely Unlikable In Every Way

Seriously: the only good thing about last night's RAW is that it stopped for about 90 seconds for a Jericho/Trish skit that reminded me, "Hey, at least next week should be better."

Oh wait, another good thing: this was INDISPUTABLY Simon Dean's best showing since he debuted!  ZING~!

But enough general zingerry. It's time to wrap up the prefatory matters and get to the details of what went so very, very wrong last night on RAW. And you've been warned: I'll still try to keep the "Fuckity fuck fuck" talk to a minimum, but my angel assures me that WWE deserves no discretion or consideration beyond that this week... Snark Ahoy~!

Opening Theme/Pyro/Etc. (complete with the opening GM Picture of Randy Orton, which is the first time they've done that these three weeks that I can recall; and which, I would be remiss if I didn't point out, got a decidedly mixed reaction)... and we're live from Baltimore, MD, where the ring is already mostly filled up? So tonight's main event is happening now?  Huh... cursory hype from JR and King about HHH's title being on the line RIGHT NOW, and then it's time to send it down to the ring for....

Anything CAN'T Happen Here in WWE Theatre

An interesting tidbit; as we're hyping tonight's battle royale, we catch two final challengers making their entrances. First is Batista, and second is Chris Jericho. Now, WWE is exhibiting some of the most-virulent Missing the Pointery of all times; they can't be bothered to hire people who can write shows that won't suck. But trust me, kids, I know how they think, I know the maneuvering that goes on backstage, and it MEANS SOMETHING when they order the ring entrances this way. Everybody that was in the ring when RAW hit the air is a notch lower on the depth chart than Batista. And for some reason, this week, Jericho is suddenly The Man, getting the last entrance...  odd.

Well, NOT the last entrance. Because right when the announcers are hyping that NOW is when Triple H will make his entrance and face the music, it's different music entirely that fires up: No Chance In Hell.  Dammit.  OK, so as soon as I saw the Battle Royale in the ring to open the show, I got a sinking feeling, but I also told myself, "Hey, maybe they'll do something cool like change the title to open the show, then have Orton grant himself a title shot against the new champ to close the show, and it'll be exciting, and maybe even be a part of that much-needed Orton heel turn."  But when Vince shows up instead of the champ, I knew I was wrong to be so naively optimistic.  In fact, remember last week, when GM Benoit arrives and announces the main event, and it drove me to enjoy a few cocktails along with the show? Well, I was so fired up for last night's RAW, that I'd actually hit "play" at about 9:40pm, debated for a few moments, and decided this show should be MORE than enough fun to justify some light recreational boozing. I was in the process of putting ice in the glass when Vince hit the stage.  I put the ice back in the freezer.  This show, in less than five minutes, had me CONVINCED it was going to suck balls.  I was right.

Because Vince is out here to un-make our promised main event. A classic WCW Nitro Tactic!  Promise one thing, realize you have no idea how to book out of that corner, so you just change it! Magnificently idiotic.  Seriously.  If you need proof that WWE needs to radically change how they script TV (starting with the top, the overseers, since they're the ones not creating a stable environment in which to write sustainably interesting episodic TV), here it is. Seven days ago, somebody thinks that "Hey, 25-man Battle Royale for the World Title will be cool."  So they write it into the show. And I have no idea what happened in the interim, but last night on RAW, they obviously had a change of heart. If you are not even booking your fucking MAIN EVENTS a week ahead, WWE, you are even more pathetic than I thought.

How'd Vince pull off the switch? That's even DUMBER.  He comes out and says that he knows HHH was supposed to defend his title in this Battle Royale, but he can't allow that. Because ANYbody can win a Battle Royale, and that means somebody like Steven Richards could win and be the World Champion. And Vince can't have that. GOD-FUCKING-DAMMIT, isn't this the same man who once said "Anything Can Happen in the WWF"?  And now, he's out here practically telling fans, "Only a very small subset of things can happen here in WWE, and any type of excitement, drama, or the unexpected are NONE of them. Suckers."  Seriously: that's the message. "I, Vince McMahon, will not allow anything surprising or interesting to happen on this show. I will ascend to my lofty perch, give myself a massive bonus out of a revenue stream that has dried to a trickle as I do everything I can to alienate my fanbase, and hoist anvils at you, and you will like it."  If you heard something different, please do tell.

And worse: Vince says that although he won't allow HHH to defend his title in this Battle Royale, he WILL make this Battle Royale a #1 Contender's Battle Royale, and the winner will face Triple H later on tonight.  The moral of the story: Vince McMahon can't have Steven Richards as a World Champ, but he's got NO FUCKING PROBLEM with Richards headlining RAW later tonight. Somebody, if you can tell me that this isn't retarded, I need to hear it.  I need to hear it now. 

In fact, look at it this way: the Battle Royale, as presented by Randall last week, was NEVER MEANT TO BE FAIR.  It was "Option B," it was part of his plot to revenge on HHH, it was his way of creating a match in which the deck would be stacked against HHH and he'd lose his belt. If that mission is accomplished, Orton can challenge somebody new for the title.  The "unfairness" of the Battle Royale is part of the story, it's SUPPOSED to be that way, it's part of the excitement of it, since it ties into a SUBTLE SUBPLOT (not that WWE understands those) in which Orton just wants to maneuver his way back into a title shot for himself. It's not Vince's place to un-do that plot, and Vince's explanation for why he did is WHOLLY INADEQUATE.  Because you know what Vince just did?

He took a Purposely Unfair Battle Royale That Might Have Actual Excitement And Surprises, and replaced it with pure retardation. Because now, we have a Battle Royale that has Corporate Sanction (i.e. It's supposed to be fair and just), but which is JUST AS silly and random as before.  This is now little different from the lazy-ass pair of Battle Royales this past summer in which Kane and Orton both won PPV title shots, launching two of the least inspired title chases of the year.  Now, instead of having a surprise champion (or, if need be, HHH retaining against the odds) born of a purposely unfair and random gimmick match and all the stories that could go along with that, all we've got is more laziness. The Establishment now sanctions this battle royale, and due to Vince's pre-ramble, we know that it will only crown one of two or three "preferred" participants the new #1 Contender.

Vince accomplishes his bait and switch, and then tells the men in the ring to get to fightin' over the title shot. There might have been dumber, more spirit-crushing ways to kick off RAW. But I'm having a hard time thinking of them. Then again, I was never the head writer for the I'm-sure-not-even-REMOTELY-awful 2002 TV show "Galidor: Defenders of the Outer Dimension," so clearly my brain is not trained to think in the manner of a Profeshunal Riter. I'm sure sucking is hard work, so I'll leave that to those trained to do so. And back on task: as Vince leaves, we smooth segue into....

The Somebody-Completely-Expected-Must-Win-This-Battle-Royale Battle Royale (For a World Title Shot)

Punchy-kicky, punchy-kicky, since there's no room in there for anybody to really do anything else.

Then, we pause long enough for a mini-spot, in which everybody decides that since Simon Dean *has* finally been banished to Heat and will not appear for even one second on tonight's show, we will recall his memory by picking on the fat guy.  The entire crew gangs up on Viscera and eliminates him.

Then more punchy-kicky, punchy-kicky. Some people get eliminated, but nobody of consequence. Well, there is one spot in which Tajiri eliminates Rhyno, but I'm quite sure that's gonna end up being EXACTLY as important as the time when Rhyno eliminated Tajiri from the IC Contenders' match about 6 weeks ago.  What do you MEAN you don't remember when Rhyno eliminated Tajiri in that match?  Well see, that's exactly what I'm talking about....

More punchy-kicky, more pointless eliminations, and then we build to a final big spot.  Maven's walking across the ring, and bumps into Eugene, and Eugene tries to say a friendly "hello," but Maven shoves him aside.  That gets Eugene's dander up, so he just grabs Maven and tosses him out over the top rope.  Eugene celebrates his first-ever Battle Royale elimination, while Maven acts pissy outside the ring.  Let's break for....


Back, and it's more punchy-kicky, and more general Battle Royale gimmickry that required no creativity to devise, but which generally goes over well.  In this case, that meant the tried-and-true Two Monsters Wind Up Going Nose To Nose... the crowd perked up for Batista and Snitsky staring down, and was pissed when everybody else still in the match decided to converge just as the Big Hosses started throwing fists.

But the whole segment was just the Story of Snitsky and Batista. Snitsky hit a few eliminations, and then Batista went on a HUGE fucking tear (and it went over well, we're talking Diesel '94 Royal Rumble caliber), just powering EVERYBODY out over the top rope. He wasn't even paying attention, he was just clotheslining anything that moved. And then he made a mistake: without looking, he just turned around and clotheslined.... Ric Flair.  Flair tumbled out of the ring, and pitched a Grade A Hissy Fit, while Batista looked on with a look of mildest disappointment on his face.  Enough to say, "Ah, shit, I probably didn't mean to do that," but understated enough to say, "But still, what the fuck do I care?"...  nice work Big Man; sheer bludgeoning force for all them bad-ass eliminations, and then the most delicate of Character Work.  While Flair's pitching his fit, we check some more.....


Back again, and within 4.8 seconds, Jericho eliminates Snitsky with a doublejump dropkick, leaving us down to our Final Six. Jericho, Benoit, Shelton Benjamin, Batista, Edge, and.... Steven Richards (the very man Vince said should not win).  Foolishly, the Distinguished Ambassador from Sunday Night started gloating over his amazing performance. So quickly the three faces converged and Richards was tossed.  

Final Five: but pretty quickly Edge eliminated Shelton, leaving us down to our Final Four.  The Canadian Chrisses close ranks, Edge and Batista are an alliance by necessity.  The men pair up predictably (Jericho with Batista, Benoit with Edge), and Batista pretty quickly gets the better of Y2J (so much for that pecking order thing, I guess), and just press slams him out of the ring.  Down to three.

Benoit had been getting the better of Edge, so Batista comes over and peels Benoit off.  Those two go at it while Edge recovers.  Finally, Batista looks about ready to eliminate Benoit, hoisting him up and carrying him over to one side of the ring.... but just as he gets to the ropes, Edge recovers, and tries to take advantage of the situation by dropkicking Batista in the back, hoping to eliminate BOTH men at once.  Batista goes flying out over the top, but Benoit's able to catch himself in the ropes, and stay on the apron.

They try to do a few tease spots in the ropes, which ends up with both men outside on the apron together (this didn't seem as well done as the Jericho/Orton ring apron teases back in July's Battle Royale, and was a far cry from the final moments of Angle/Rey in the recent SD! battle royale). And then, all of a sudden, they keep cutting to this obnoxious camera angle: from the OPPOSITE side of the ring, so you can't see the floor below Benoit and Edge. Dammit, I really DON'T try to think TOO hard while watching wrestling, but I swear, if you've got half a brain, you should have been INSTANTLY annoyed by this, because it telegraphed the finish.  The ONLY time WWE EVER goes to the "protect-the-floor view" camera angle during battle royales is when it's gonna be the ever-popular Simultaneous Elimination. You know, WWE director/guru Kevin Dunn gets a LOT of credit (and even deserves most of it) for how he's crafted the WWE Style of Production, but christ, the bag of tricks being this predictable is kind of annoying.

So sure enough: Benoit and Edge try to do some spot or another in which they are jockeying for position, but for all the world, it looks like they both decide to simultaneously jump off the ring together, and sure enough, from our Shitty Fucking Camera Angle, we can see NOTHING, and are left with only one logical conclusion: that if RAW's director thought THAT was the camera that should have been on, then he's as dumb as Orton.  Of course, there were two referees watching who thankfully had better views than us, and one of them picks Benoit as the winner, the other picks Edge, they do the dueling hand-raising, and we don't have any idea who won, or who'll be going on to wrestle for the World Title later on tonight as we cut to some.....


Moments Ago: Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross narrate us through a few Alternate Angles for the Battle Royale finish, and I guess it pretty much looks like a Legit Tie (or close enough to it), even though Idiot Production Crew keeps showing the replays with the "Moments Ago" icon sitting in the corner of the screen where the feet are hitting the floor.  Christ.  King and JR don't know what to say... who ever will challenge HHH for the title tonight?!?  It's the Greatest Mystery In All The Land!  I'm sure NOBODY has this one figured out!

We Don't Pay You To Think, Randy

Backstage, Orton is watching these same replays on a monitor, completely baffled as to what to do about it. And so, in walks Vince McMahon to further convince me that whoever writing this show is a retard.  Why?  Because... Orton says he's not sure, it's a tough call, but he has an opinion about the Battle Royale finish, but he'd like Vince's opinion, too.  And Vince's response?

"It doesn't matter what my opinion is. YOU are running the show, so YOU make the decision."  WHAT THE FUCKING FUCKITY FUCK FUCK FUCK IS THIS HAPPY CRAPPY?  If Orton's running the show, Vince, then do tell what in the blue hell you did at the open!  It's like the people who wrote the open are NOT the people who wrote this bit, and furthermore, that the two parties didn't even speak with each other to compare notes.  Orton, displaying his unique form of understated intellectual curiosity, just sits there and nods sagely at Vince's line, as if he sees the deep, hidden wisdom of it. Whereas me, if somehow my head could have been temporary transferred onto Orton's body, and was required to say something compelling and in-character, I'd have slapped Vince right then and there and said, "OK, Vince, if I'm running the show, then I'm re-doing the battle royale that I WANTED TO DO TO BEGIN WITH, and HHH will be in it, and the title's on the line, and further more, the entire first half-hour of this shitfest doesn't count, and I want you to talk to Spike TV to get me clearance till 11:30pm eastern so that I get my full two hours. And if you don't like that, then fuck you, Vince, and YOU decide what to do about this dumb-ass battle royale problem, since you seem to be so willing to decide shit that has nothing to do with you." Because you see, I'm capable of thinking on my feet and locating Massive Logic Holes.

But Orton -- god bless his dense little self -- isn't, so he just nods along with Vince's bafflingly inconsistent internal reasoning. Because pointing out how retarded the creative plan is here would probably only get him fired for daring to speak out against the Wise and Sagacious Establishment.  Luckily, just as my head's about to explode, in walks Edge to try to reduce the Suck Factor.

He confronts Vince, PLEADING for a title shot tonight, saying that the footage CLEARLY shows that he won the Battle Royale, and that all he wants is his one shot.  Vince's response? "Sorry Edge, it's not my problem. Talk to your GM. Because lord knows I'd never show up on RAW and make some completely random decision that's not mine to make to drastically reduce the excitement of the show. It's not my place."  So frustrating. So dumb. So obviously proof that I need to be granted immunity to deliver as many eyeball punches at Titan Tower as I deem necessary.

So Edge and Randy lock eyes as Vince leaves.  Edge gives him the "I know we've had our problems" spiel, but also says, "I got screwed out of my shot at Taboo Tuesday, don't do that to me again. Look at it this way, I can go out there and win, and then you can get your title shot against me. Just give me the chance, that's all I ask."  And while Edge is doing this intense Pleading For Opportunity, Orton is standing there doing this really weird Blank Stare thing, where he's twitching his eyebrows and smirking at random intervals while basically looking like he's ignoring everything being said, and then straightening out his suit coat, obsessively, like a narcissistic little douche. Which one of these two is the babyface again?

Edge gets done with Spiel #1. Orton does the eyebrow twitch/smirk/jacket thing, and says "I'll think about it." Edge, because he's my boy, is quite incredulous as he says, "You'll THINK about it?!!!??!?!" Apparently, Edge is none-too-confident of Young Randall's cognitive capacity either!  HA!  Edge further says there's nothing to think about, he won the battle royal, he deserves the shot, you're the GM, just make the call.  Orton does the twitch/smirk/jacket shit, and says "I'll think about it."

Edge tries AGAIN, with Spiel #3, demanding less thinking and more action.  Finally, Orton stops staring off into space making faces for his own amusement, and turns to Edge and cuts him off. "OK, Edge, fine....." dramatic pause for Edge to get a hopeful smile on his face and for Orton to start striding confidently toward the door of his office, but then, at the last second, he turns back around and says, "I'LL THINK ABOUT IT."

AHH HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  Feel the Alleged Comedy!  But then Feel the Actual Really Fakey Bad Acting!  I swear: (a) if you didn't see the "I'll think about it" coming down Main Street, you are a fricking idiot, and (b) I'm increasingly convinced that Orton's biggest problem is that he has rarely if ever exuded anything that resembles personality.  He is capable of creating the Seamless Illusion of being a Guy Desperately ACTING LIKE He Has A Personality Even Though It Is A Very Off-Putting Personality (as witnessed by his smirking and eyebrow twitching and jacket-adjusting), but Orton himself has not a single likable thing about him in his on-screen form. Nothing.  You see him in a skit, and the only thing you really notice is that Orton's NOT in the moment, NOT comprehending the things being said to him and then formulating a response back based on his own internal dialogue born of his personal experiences; Orton is acting.  Usually quite badly.  And I didn't even MENTION how he fumbled 4 lines in this skit with Edge.  Because that's getting less and less fun every week.

Elsewhere Backstage: Maven and Shelton Benjamin are chilling in the locker room.  Maven is channeling Bob Holly as he enters bitter self-loathing mode with a rant about, "Two times on RAW, I have a chance to win the World Title, and I got nothing to show for it, NOTHING, I've been here for almost 4 whole years, and..." that's when Eugene walks up, innocently asking for help putting his Tag Team Title belt on. Maven is indignant. "I've been busting my ass for years to win a title, and I got nothing, and this freak, he probably can't even SPELL title, but he's got one."  Eugene gets a smile out of me by proudly displaying his spelling skills, and then insisting, "I can spell, gimme another."  And just as Maven's getting up to "give him another" (right in the mush, said Maven's body language), William Regal steps in and breaks it up.  "It was a battle royale, Sunshine, every man for himself, and Eugene eliminated you, just like you would have done to him if you'd had the chance."  Regal, he's making sense, so Maven backs down. But his demeanor? It says that he's not entirely sold, and might still have some issues here.  Guess what? This is pretty much the first 2 minutes of this entire show that didn't suck or blow in some fashion. Nice subtle bits of storytelling, nice building on Maven's frustration of the past few weeks, and VERY well executed and performed by all four men involved.

Elsewhere Elsewhere Backstage: just because we haven't had enough of Orton's Suck this segment, we pick him up walking down a hallway. Where he is immediately stopped by one of last week's Useless Overdressed Prom Divas; she introduces herself as RAW's new make-up artist (oh, god), and then promptly commences the Extremely Dumb Girl Flirting Tactics (it amounts to "Hi Randy, please look at my boobs," but takes much longer). Randall likes boobies, and does a responsorial spiel that makes me ashamed that THIS is what is accepted as the Paragon Of My Gender, and makes me wonder why halfway intelligent members of the Other Gender put up with us. Seriously, it's like Orton thinks he's Leon Phelps, except that instead of it being played for laughs, we're supposed to ACTUALLY TAKE HIM SERIOUSLY as a Ladies' Man. Thank god, though, here's Chris Benoit to interrupt the GM Booty Call; cuz we ARE trying to have a wrestling event here tonight! Orton, trying to show he IS capable of thinking at least one-half step ahead, cuts Chris off, saying, "I know what you want to talk about."  But Benoit makes it clear that he doesn't care about talking, he just wants to know "What are we gonna do about it, Randy? We won at Survivor Series, and we were supposed to be running this show, and now it keeps getting all screwed up. So just gimme the match, and let's stick it to the man." But Randy hems and haws, and -- this is VERY important -- says, "Well, Chris, if I gave you the one-on-one match against Triple H, I know you'd win the title."  That's an exact quote, or close enough.  Orton KNOWS Benoit could beat HHH for the title.  Benoit continues, "I agree, Randy, but less talk, more rock: what are you gonna DO about this."  And Orton says, "Well, I'm gonna head on out to the arena and TELL you what I'm gonna do about it."  Great, two out of three skits this segment and we've got even MORE Orton talking after these....


Earlier Tonight: RAW had MANY better camera angles on the Benoit/Edge finish, but they're only NOW discovering them and sharing them with us!  What the hell?  Is this Dealey Fucking Plaza?  Was Abraham Zapruder seated in the Grassy Mezzanine with a camera?  When will we finally see HIS footage?  Christ... for such an Allegedly Slickly Produced Show, we sure seem to have monkeys operating the controls tonight.  This Brand New Exciting Angle We Just Discovered In the Dusty Archives From All Of 40 Minutes Ago? We're showing it now to encourage you to log on to WWE.com to join RAW Interactive so you can vote on "Who won the Battle Royale?" in a poll that means absolutely nothing.  WHHHEEEE!

Guest General (language) Mangler, Randy Orton

Orton hits the stage to talk. Always a dodgy proposition. He announces that he'll get to Triple H's title defense in a moment, but first, he's announcing ANOTHER title on the line.  La Resistance have invoked their rematch clause, and will challenge Eugene and William Regal... for the WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE.  Randy's (exact) words, not mine.  I'll refrain from saying more words about it.

And then, another match: tonight, one of RAW's announcers will leave the desk and wrestle a match. JR doesn't even bother selling it, probably because he noticed an hour ago that Lawler came out wearing his wrestling tights for the first time in a year.  Duh.  Orton says he's been associated with Legends his entire career, and tonight, there's a legend celebrating a birthday, and it's Jerry Lawler, so we're gonna have us a Legends Match: Lawler versus Ric Flair. Huh? Who was asking for THIS match? How does it make ANY sense? Was it, perhaps, devised at random in the last six days, like every other idea presented on WWE TV?  Methinks so.

Finally, Orton gets to his Major Announcement. First, he attempts to dazzle us with a Surprising Grasp on Mathematics!  He says that if he gives either Benoit or Edge a one-on-one match against Triple H, then there's still a 50% chance that HHH will retain the title. FUCKING IDIOT~! Not five minutes ago, Orton said that if he made a HHH/Benoit match, there was a 100% chance that Benoit would win! Unless this is ANOTHER case of writers of two separate bits not even bothering to compare notes to make sure they agree, then I wanna know what the fuck dum-dum logic is Orton using here! Benoit WOULD have beaten HHH said Orton From Five Minutes Ago; Benoit has only a 50/50 chance of beating HHH says the Orton Of Right Now. Just awful continuity.  

But Randy, he's got them numbers on the brain, so he further declares that if he makes a three-way, then the chances of HHH retaining go down to 33.3%, which is one of those Dumb Guy Formulas that isn't really true in a competitive setting, but bravo to Orton for knowing that "If you have three possible outcomes, and each one is equally likely, then the probability of each one happening is 33.3%."  Sure, those of us who completed high school can reason out how if you made a Triple Threat Match between Big Show, Dawn Marie, and Lord Littlebrook (who, come to think of it, might have to contest this match in corpse form, god bless his little midget soul), it'd take a real dumbass to theorize that all three had equal 33.3% chances to win. But baby steps for Randy. He's trying.

So anyway, this is all the build up to the punchline that 98% of viewers should have known was coming since the very second Kevin Dunn switched to the Retardo Camera Angle during the Battle Royale. In tonight's main event, Triple H defends the World Title against both Edge AND Chris Benoit. Jim Ross: "Oh my god, a triple threat match for the World Title tonight, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?".  Sadly, yes Jim, I CAN believe it. And that's kinda the problem. I can't just believe it, it was kinda the obvious choice for a main event, and your show just spent a half-hour trying to play it up like there was any real drama.  Bad, writers, BAD!

Orton, his job here done, announces that it's time to "Keep this show running" (funny, I'd have said "rolling")....

Lita/Victoria vs. Trish Stratus/Molly Holly

Huh. No video package about Lita/Trish; certainly nothing as subtle as coverage of the possible rift between Trish and Molly; you're DREAMING if you think you give the women a chance to do a promo or an angle earlier in the show to set this up; and expecting Orton to at least fricking MENTION this match so fans get fired up for it? Far too much to ask for...

[Side note: Lawler left the announce table to "get ready" -- and that's where it was obvious to all he was ALREADY ready, since he had his boots and tights on -- and Coach came out to replace him, saying he'd stay for the entire show; though that telegraphs the "legends" match, we'll call it a push. Since Coach can't possibly out-suck Lawler in a women's match. Can he?]

So the first two minutes are kind of rough here. Not just in execution (there's some sloppiness, including one spot in which they were trying to set up a "Victoria pins Molly, the but the ref is distracted" spot, except that Earl Hebner actually had to stand there for 10 seconds directing traffic so that Trish and Lita could distract him.  Ouch.  This is off-track to start, and given the complete lack of hype by WWE, the crowd -- as is their right -- start in with an attempted BORING chant.  But finally, a few minutes in, this one hits a bit of a stride: Victoria's the face in peril, and Molly's doing a nice job of keeping her isolated.  Lita brings the crowd back down off the ledge with a bit of cheerleading/rhythmic clapping, and finally we build up to the Hot Tag to Lita.

Molly tagged in Trish simultaneously, and so of course, you know the formula: Trish begs off, but Lita still strikes, a house afire, Trish gets up really fast to feed her the follow-up, lather, rinse, repeat. Molly tries to interfere, but Lita shoves her out of the ring, and gets her new rear-naked chokehold on Trish.... but Molly almost immediately hops back in the ring to break that up.  Victoria has no recovered enough to get back in the fray, and picks off Molly, and those two go to brawl at ringside, leaving Trish and Lita alone in the ring. Brief advantage for Trish, but Lita comes back again, nails a DDT out of nowhere, and gets the pinfall win over the Women's Champ.  Probably right around 6 minutes, and although the first two could have been tightened up a LOT and this match would have been better served with at least SOME set-up earlier in the show, I thought this heated up nicely and was decent fun for the entire last half. Except for the part where Lita pinned Trish. BOO on that. But you folks know me and my tastes....


For The Benefit Of Those Without Attention Spans: a compilation of Mohammed Hassan and Khosrow Daivari's Greatest Hits. Nothing new, folks.  And I don't recap remixes.  My instinct is that this means that he finally does an in-arena next week...

Jerry Lawler vs. Ric Flair

Old school all the way. Out of the gate, they manage to make sure that while Flair is the ostensible heel and Lawler's the ostensible face, this is really just two legends doing their shtick together in a gimmick match. Lawler almost gets heel heat for mimicking Flair's strut, for instance. Commentary is all about how great these two legends are, but how for being virtual contemporaries, they were locked into divergent territories, and before tonight had only ever met THREE times in history (huh, how 'bout that?). And for the most part, that's more interesting than the action, which had Flair taking an early lead with some knee-related stuff, then Lawler pulled the strap down for the Big Babyface Comeback.  This culminated in his Patented Fistdrop Off The Second Rope, which is his finisher. But instead of using it to finish Flair, he went back up middle to do it again. Christ, when Orton GMs does the Dumb somehow mutate into an airborne pathogen?

Of course, when Lawler lands his second Flying Fistdrop, he "lands wrong" and grabs his RIGHT knee. How this would stop him from at least draping an arm over Flair (a la RVD constantly injuring himself with the Five Star, but always making the cover), I don't know. Even more baffling: Lawler sells the RIGHT knee, but Flair just gets up, failing to sell that he just took TWO of Lawler's finishers, and chopblocks Lawler's LEFT knee.  D'oh.  Lawler commences to sell the left knee, and after about a minute of that, Flair manages to lock in the Figure Four.  Lawler fights it. Fights it. But then Flair grabs the ropes for Illegal Extra Leverage, and the ref doesn't see it. The extra pain means Lawler has to tap out.  Flair wins, in about 6-7 minutes.  Are there not more exciting diversions that would have been possible?  Nothing against these two guys, but there was NO build-up, no reason for this match to take place, and it's not like they really brought it in a style that got the fans way into it. IF (a big *if*) this was designed to be kind of a goose-job to get fans interested in historical wrestling so they'd bug their cable companies about 24/7, they should probably have been a bit more direct about it, since I *could* see that as a reasonable defense for this match being here....

You know what I would have done if you just wanted to celebrate Lawler's birthday? Given the Suck that was to come later, I'd combine Lawler's birthday and Stacy's homecoming into one SINGLE 10 minute segment of Crap, instead of breaking it down into two separate segments totaling more like 25 minutes. You know I'm right.

Backstage: Randy Orton is in his office with the OTHER Useless Overdress Prom Diva from last week. She is fawning all over Randy, one bimbo expressing appreciation for another!  From the dialogue we quickly gather that (a) her name is Melina, and (b) Randy Orton believes that there's no purpose having The Power if he doesn't use it, so he's signed her as RAW's newest Diva. Melina squeals in girlish glee, and lets Randy know that if there's anything (ANYthing) she can do to repay him, she'll do it gladly. I'm sure Randy was about to ask her to go fetch him some fresh citrus from the store to put in his beer, but sadly, that's when a knock on the door interrupts the Extremely Engaging Couple.  It's Maria The Mic Stand!  And she understands Randy wanted to talk to her?  Randy says, yes, indeed, because as GM of RAW, it's his job to give back to the fans who have given so much to him (give you so much WHAT Randy? APATHY? Trust me, I got plenty more where it came from, so don't do me any favors, pal).  He wants Maria and Melina to both head to the ring.  Melina says, "Neat-o, are we gonna rassle?" in exactly the tone of voice that makes me think Randall may not be the dimmest bulb on this particular tree. But then Orton puts that fear to rest by saying, "Nope, you're not gonna wrestle, it's gonna be a whole lot better than that!".  Randy, unless you fire 'em and bring back Gail and Jazz, you're wrong already.


The Sequel to the Feel Good Hit of the Summer: Shelton Benjamin fell in with a bad crowd. He saw people smoking crack. He's been in the crossfire of gun fights. But then his high school coach took him under his wing, and look how Shelton turned out!  Yay!

Oh, Please God, Won't Somebody Make It Stop?

MORE of Orton talking as he is in the ring with not just Melina and Maria, but also the make-up girl with the boobs. Randy talks about how it's his job as GM to bring us a Hot Show, and his best idea for how to accomplish that? Hot babes.  Like these three.  The crowd responds to this with silence.  Because the answer is NOT "hot babes," WWE, it's "babes people care about."  Make a note of it.

But obviously, Randy's not done (and the girls are even blatantly standing in a "missing man" formation), and if you haven't already pre-booked this as "Lame excuse to cart Stacy out in front of her hometown crowd," you are ever so stupid. So first Randy brings out Red Headed Spaz... and THEN he brings out Stacy to a pop. Wow, this is curious: it JUST SO HAPPENS to look like three of the five are wearing stockings, when on an average night, that number would be ZERO, so if you also haven't pegged this as "some lame excuse to remove the evening gowns to reveal improbably-elaborate lingerie," you are ALSO stupid.  But of course, Randy must talk more to explain all this, and I die a little bit inside.  He finally gets to his punchline which is, "I declare an Impromptu Lingerie Fashion Show." Except Randy doesn't know what "impromptu" means, so plug in smaller words if you want to imagine the Genuine Article.  He continues, "You didn't have time to prepare, and you might be stark naked under there, but you girls have to take your dresses off for me right now, got it?"  And of course, all five girls are the kind who will play along, with dim grins on their faces, instead of slapping Randy upside his glossy little head.

I ain't gonna recap this shit.  It went on WAY too long, and for fuck's sake: it wasn't even "hot." I think Victoria was wearing less in her wrestling match than 2 or 3 of these girls were once "undressed" (and Molly Holly was once taunted for wearing "granny panties" that were cut less generously than some of these underthings).  Because lord knows, we have to book strip teases like a WWE-style wrestling show: NOBODY ON THE UNDERCARD IS ALLOWED TO UPSTAGE THE MAIN EVENT. Which, in this case, meant that nobody wear less than Stacy.

Two commentary notes: Coach actually had the gall to utter the line, "Everybody out there wishes they were Randy Orton." Umm, no? Not ever. Seriously. In the Best Of Three Manliness Triathlon, sure I'll just cede the Shirtlessness Challenge to Randall, but he be so humiliated in the Wit, Taste, and Intelligence Exhibition and then again in the Drinking Contest that I have no choice to to keep on being me and loving it. I'm being TOTALLY serious folks: almost EVERYthing said BY Orton and ABOUT Orton tonight casts him as a heel to anybody with any whit of taste or brains. There will continue to be the vocal minority of intellectually-stunted toolboxes that might see something "cool" or emulatable in Orton's behavior, and sure, if the ladies want to get all alather over Orton, I can deal with that. He's a damned fine handsome man; but if lusting for Randall is why you watch wrestling, then I reserve the right to think you're as lame and misguided as any guy who watches wrestling for the Lingerie Fashion Shows! That's NOT what this genre is supposed to be about; there ARE actual skills and qualities that one should probably possess to be on a wrestling show.  And that's why my crippling mancrush on Trish is entirely defensible!  Anyway, to a more General Audience judging on those wrestling-centric criteria, everything about Orton screams "Boo me, I am a douche." It was SO pronounced tonight, too, if only because there was so much of Orton in every damned segment. Everything EXCEPT WWE's creative direction casts Orton as a heel. And if they actually ever do catch on to this? Well, they'll be about 5 months behind me on figuring it out.

Sorry for that tangent... my second commentary note: JR also said, "I bet people are TIVO'ing this to death." Which might be true, if by "TIVO'ing," you mean "utilizing DVR technology to implement a time shift at the start of every RAW so that one has the freedom to fast forward such unmitigated horse manure in the future."

Simply put: horrible in execution (you want to titillate, you have to TITILLATE, dammit; there is no such thing as TV-PG titillation, and every time you try it, it's bound to fail miserably, which is why it pays to employ women who have skills sets which intersect with those of their male counterparts; they should be charismatic, capable in the ring, interesting in some way, good on the mic, and sure, easy-on-the-eyes is nice; that way, they can contribute to the show), even worse in theory. Because in this segment, I realized something... we saw all four of our ring-capable women earlier in the show, and they got 6 minutes. And in those six minutes, they had NO build up and NO support from the creative team, and started out to apathy and "boring" chants, and by the end, the fans were fairly well rocking for Lita's pinfall win.  And in this segment, the useless window dressing divas now outnumber the ring-capable ones, 5-to-4; and these five DID get a big build up (including the pre-commercial segment with Orton) and instead of 6 minutes, got 15 minutes. And although they started out to loud cheers (do you really expect an audience to say anything other than "YAAAAAY!" when asked "Do you want a lingerie show?" Keep in mind, this is an audience of NOT The Ricks), by the end, the crowd had turned on this. Because it was boring, it was not hot, and Orton as the MC was utterly unlikable and patronizing.

One set of divas: has NO support from the creative/production team, and turns the crowd on to their effort. Other set of divas: seems to have the TOTAL support of management, and succeeded only in pissing off the live crowd. Do I need to say any more?

No, but I will. But another time. Cuz once I start that rant, it's gonna be a long one, kids.  There are actually people who I gather see more value in Stacy or Spaz than in Trish or Lita, and agree with WWE's recent roster moves on the women's side; these people are wrong. I will tell you why sometime.

The thrilling conclusion of the lingerie show? Orton declares that everybody's a winner and insists on a group hug.  Play his music as the live crowd doesn't give a shit.  How many times through Orton's theme is this tonight, anyway?  Maybe I *should* have hit the bottle afterall...


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

Um. Because of the Sheer Necessity of giving that Orton/Lingerie crap 15-plus minutes, we go ultra time compressed here. To the point that it really fell flat.  Eugene fast start. Tag in Regal, who becomes Face in Peril for about 60 seconds. Hot tag to Eugene, who has to find some flimsy excuse to "Eugene Up" that the crowd doesn't really click with since it was so rushed and out of nowhere. Attempted double team by La Resistance is broken up at the last second by Regal. Stunner by Eugene on one of La Resistance, one, two, three. Eugene and Regal retain the titles in less than 3 minutes.

Two things: (1) Please, in the future, WWE, less time attempting to supply 12 year olds with boners, more time on important stuff. And (2) you have a fucking cornucopia of amazing opportunities for Eugene and Regal, and you're doing NONE of them, WWE. And in NOT doing them, you run the risk of reducing Eugene's appeal. Seriously: how many hulk-ups, stunners, and rock bottoms can he do before it gets old? But how fricking funny would it be to see him branch out, and to torment William Regal by insisting on doing Tag Team Shtick Of The Past. I already gave you one EXCELLENT free idea about Regal having to endure "Road Dogg" style ring introductions by Eugene (costuming optional). And here's another one: when Hassan and Daivari get here and you want to do something fun and interesting (NOT a feud with Sgt. Slaughter) with them? Use 'em as a tag team; put 'em against Eugene and Regal. And have Eugene bust out some of the old Sheik and Volkoff act!  Eugene insists on singing the Russian National Anthem! And forces Regal to play along, who will look like he just ate an entire bag of lemons, but to humor the Good Lad, WILL play along. Imagine, in a resigned-but-distinguished British Voice, "Russia, Number One!  Iran, Number One!  USA, HOCK-PHOOEY!  Cam-a-ra-man, ZOOM DA ABS!"  I might injure myself.  But back to reality, where such creativity is frowned upon:

After the match: Eugene calls the kids into the ring for some airplaning and then making a dogpile on Regal.  Nee haw!  Good clean family fun!  Which is exactly what you expect on a show that attempts to stiffen the schlongs of the adolescent crowd with relatively unsexy lingerie shows!  Seriously: there's like a half-dozen kids here, including 3 middle school girls.  What was the lesson they took home from the preceding segment?  That it is your womanly obligation to remove your dress for any guy who asks, and then grind suggestively up against his Naughty Region (the source of all Boy Cooties, as you've been led to believe by your worldly fifth-grade girlfriends), but only provided he has difficulty with polysyllabic words and cannot construct a complete sentence?  Trust me, I'm not going all Red State on you!  It's not the partial nudity I'm against so much as it is the WAY IT WAS ACCOMPLISHED.  But what the hell am I doing?  Damn you, My Conscience, for taking this week off! Let's try again...

After the match, Take 2: Eugene calls the kids into the ring, but in the middle of the celebration, Maven runs out and yanks Eugene out of the ring, beats on him for a second, and then tosses him into the ringsteps.  Refs rush out, and Maven decides to split the scene. Ladies and gentleman: a heel turn.  I like it. Regal finally escapes from underneath the pile of kid to come to Eugene's side, where he asks what happened. And referee Jack Doan, actually capable of putting himself in the moment and acting like this is all really happening, responds seamlessly with an explanation of "It was Maven." It wasn't the first good "in character" work Doan did on the night either (he was one of the Benoit/Edge refs), and I have to force myself from reprising a joke that wasn't even mine to begin with about how he seems like he might be a sharper tack than certain Third Generation Superstars.  Worthless match, post-match angle MIGHT lead to some goodness, since Maven seems to be quite charismatic, but just hasn't been able to channel it towards anything useful; I'd ALMOST say "I wish Chris Nowinski was healthy" so he and Maven could form a team and go against Eugene and Regal....


The Glimmer of Hope

We pick up a shot backstage, and Trish is in mid-sentence, talking to an off-screen person about how, "I'm sure you think this is SOOOO funny, don't you, me having to wear this, this THING on my face, don't you?"  We pan back to see she's talking to none-other-than Chris Jericho, and let's just tell it like it is... for about the first time tonight, I'm excited for a segment!  Two of my five or six favorite performers in the company right now, coming together to remind us that no matter how painful tonight is, next week should be better!

Anyway, Jericho uses his words to assure Trish that she looks great, facemask or no (and then uses his facial expressions to assure Trish that he was just lying). And then Jericho has a new riff for us: about how it's quite ironic that Trish lost to Lita tonight. Because she's been calling Lita the "Walking Kiss of Death" (Trish hits a little shrug and a "Well, it's true," even though she doesn't have to, and the degree of difficulty on that move would leave certain beer-fruiting superstars with a third degree brain sprain)... and now, Jericho can make the joke that "the Walking KOD beat the Walking STD." HA!  It's funny because it rhymes! And also because Trish does the "Oh, real clever, jerkface," and because Jericho re-responds with a "Oh, c'mon, honey, that *was* a pretty good one."  Because that's how a real conversation happens.

But Trish is not one to be out-zinged, and she remarks that she didn't mind losing so much tonight because (taking her belt off her shoulder and showing it off), she's still the champ. And Jericho should remember that feeling, right?  Oh, or sorry, Chris, maybe not, cuz that was a REALLY long time ago!  HA!  It's funny because it's true! And because Jericho responds with an admission of, "Well, you got a point." And Trish responds with a, "Yeah, choke on that smart guy" face.  Dammit, you crazy kids, just get back together already! You can't have snappy, witty banter like this if you weren't clearly still hung up on each other!  Or at least go back to being sworn enemies so that we can have more exchanges like this on a weekly basis.  

Thoroughly zinged, Jericho decides it's time to get to the point: that next week, it's RAW is JERICHO, and it's gonna be the biggest party of all times! And just when I begin to fear that Chris has been studying from the Orton Playbook -- he says "And every party needs lots of hot chicks!" -- he turns it into a zing on Trish (who has spent Jericho's riff responding appropriately with a "whoop-de-doo" to Jericho talking about his night as GM, to smiling a flattered little smile when Jericho talked about hot babes) by asking, "So Trish, if you know any good looking babes, could you tell 'em about my party?".  Tee hee.  Before Trish can register any indignation, Jericho says, "Don't worry, I'm just kidding, Trish; you're invited, too."  In fact, Jericho has a spot of honor for her (oh, Trish, just when I thought you were smart, you go and get a hopeful look on your face there?  Poor, poor girl)...  because Trish will be defending her Women's Title next week against Lita.  Trish is totally flustered; Jericho feels he's done his job.  So he says, "Party on, Trish" (in "Bill and Ted" fashion; or was that more "Wayne's World" style?), and gives her a playful tap on the facemask, which of course, Trish is obligated to oversell!  FIN~!

Stuff I liked about this: well executed dialogue between two characters I like....  well executed reaction-takes even when they weren't speaking, like it's a real conversation!...  also, it reminded me that next week should be much, much better than this week... and I'll be honest, Trish's little "that was a LONG, long time ago" line got me wondering if maybe we're foreshadowing something larger on the horizon.

What I didn't like about this: none of it (especially not the "Long time ago" foreshadowing) really means much. Understanding how things work (or worked last year at this time when Trish and Chris were doing so many skits together), I'm sure they just got a general set of notes ("remind everybody about RAW is JERICHO, make Trish vs. Lita match"), and came up with the dialogue themselves, and there's no master plan. So even introducing the concept of foreshadowing, I've just set us all up for future disappointment... but nice work, Chris and Trish, for giving us a little something to chew on for one night, at least.

In a Dimly Lit Changing Room, Or Something: All of the undergarments from the previous segment of suck are hanging on a clothesline, having been freshly autographed by the women whose respective genitalia recently were in direct contact with them! OMG~! THAT'S SO HOTT~!~!  Two tilde-bangs! Stacy is wearing a robe and signing her lingerie, as we speak and breathe! And guess what? If you truly have no life, no self-esteem, are immensely socially awkward, and/or have some non-zero level of sick and twisted perversions, but somehow have amassed a lot of money, THESE AUTOGRAPHED PANTIES CAN BE YOURS. If the Price is Right. I cannot tell you how dumb the Lingerie Show was. I can only tell you that auctioning off the lingerie and putting a 90 second auction bumper in the middle of your TV show is dumber. And the eventual owners of the lingerie? Dumbest of all.

Elsewhere Backstage: Batista and Ric Flair are having a vigorous debate of current events. In this case, Flair is livid and wants to know why Batista eliminated him from the Battle Royale. Batista says, calmly, "Ric, I told you, it was an accident, I didn't know it was you." Ric is still upset, and rants about how, "We should have had a plan, a plan to go into that match and win, and then one of us would have laid down for Triple H tonight in the main event"... but Batista's just kind of blank staring (in a focused, non-fidgety, non-Orton way), which catches Flair's attention.  Flair demands, "You WOULD have laid down for him, right?  RIGHT?!?!?!"  But Batista only squints a bit, as if formulating a response, and 3 seconds later, he's bailed out, as HHH appears.  HHH is ALSO livid that he's gotta defend against two men tonight. But Flair quickly puts him at ease, "I got your back, champ. Tonight, and every night."  HHH is soothed by this, but then he looks over and notices that Batista's just gone back to adjusting his elbow pads and isn't really a part of this discussion.  This is NOT so encouraging to HHH, and he gives Batista a stare until Batista looks up. HHH gives him a Shatner-esque two-handed, eyes-wide, "Um, so you wanna say something?"... and Batista shows he's NOT necessarily dumb muscle, he's been following along, and in a easy-going voice, he says, "Oh, sure I got your back, too, champ."  And he slaps HHH on the shoulder, the universal sign of loyal camaraderie. Nice. Where's Batista at? It's a fair question with any number of possible answers. Because we aren't bludgeoning you over the head with ham-handed dialogue and bad acting!

Slight Tangent: We are approaching a point where Batista will be right there with Edge and Shelton for "Breakthrough Wrestler of the Year" voting... I'm thinking it's those three, and the question is the order. I wish Batista'd tighten up the ring work a bit, add a dimension or two so that he has as much value as a singles as he does as the power member in a tag or six-man match (which have, to date, been Batista's only above-average showings), but seriously, on this night, he was as strong a "personality" as anyone. I first isolated this trend, what?, back in August maybe? I forget, it was a backstage bit in which Flair was RIGHT THERE, but they gave some pep talk dialogue to Batista and he fucking nailed it. But on a night like tonight (a night of Orton Overload and Orton Blowing It in terms of being likable), it really drives home how fans are taking a shine to Batista lately. In a lot of ways, what we're seeing with Batista this last month is the blueprint for what SHOULD have been done with Orton back this summer if it had been deemed absolutely necessary to turn him face (which is still a dubious proposition to me, but whatever).  And I cannot TELL you how much I appreciate Batista being able to take something like that [dramatic pause] leading into his "Oh, yeah, I got your back, too, champ" and make it seem conversational and real.  Contrast Batista in this bit with Orton in the exchange he had with Edge (where the [dramatic pause] leading into the not-funny punchline of "I'll think about it" was so lame and actory that the only response a person of average-or-better intelligence could have would be to roll the eyeballs).  You'll see INSTANTLY how tonight was a night that made me feel like I've been right for five months now, and FINALLY it should be so obvious to everyone that my hate mail will dry up!  Right?  No?  OK, Orton Fellators, bring it!

Did You Know?: This segment (with Trish/Jericho and Batista/Evolution stacked on top of each other) was just about the best part of RAW tonight. Seriously. That's why I just spent however fucking long recapping what amounted to 4 minutes of screen time.  Cuz these are the ONLY memories of the show that feel good to relive. I wanted to savor them.


Triple H vs. Chris Benoit vs. Edge (World Heavyweight Title Match)

You know what, kids? This was actually a pretty fun match, at least till the finish. But I was so out of it after the stupid way it was set up, because it was NOT the main event I'd been promised, and all the other shit that preceded it, that I was in no real mood to appreciate it, even if it was some kind of transcendent ***** epiphany (which it wasn't; it was just good).  From the sounds of the fans, they were as drained as I was; the first ten minutes of the main event had less heat than the last 3 minutes of the women's match.  So with the understanding that my focus was less than perfect, forgive the fact that I'm gonna totally puss out on play by play.

Like for instance, I'll start by telling you that HHH opened the match lounging in a corner, letting Benoit and Edge tear each other up for about 2 minutes.  And once Edge had the advantage and tossed Benoit's carcass back in the ring, HHH pounced on Benoit, and then back-attacked Edge to send him out of the ring and focus on the Wolverine. But Benoit came back, and started beating on HHH. Luckily, Edge had time to recover, and he intercepted Benoit, and put him down. But with Benoit down, HHH and Edge started some Heel In-Fighting.  As soon as Benoit recovered, he took advantage, and got a major heat sequence on both guys.  The climax: he sent both guys out over the top rope, and then did a suicide tope onto both of them.  All three men down outside the ring, a perfect spot for....


We come back, and Benoit's in control of Edge in the ring, while HHH is on the floor outside. Benoit quickly (I mean QUICKLY) cinches the Sharpshooter on Edge inside the ring, and HHH quickly recovers enough to get into the ring, with plans to make the save... but Benoit, in one of those moments of bad-assery that makes him a Perennial Favorite, smoothly releases the Sharpshooter and cinches the charging HHH into a Crippler Crossface in one easy motion. Awesome.  Edge debilitated by the Sharpshooter, HHH locked in the Crossface, this could be it: but no!  Enter Evolution.  Flair distracts the ref, while Batista breaks the Crossface and beats the shit out of Benoit. 

So here comes GM Orton, a day late and a dollar short as ever, who enforces his mighty general managery power by ejecting Evolution from ringside.  Then Orton takes a seat at ringside.  Then HHH and Edge slowly recover from being Submission Holded by Benoit and lock up for some back-and-forth. Again, there's near falls, but the crowd just isn't into it, and even as one part of my brain is all "Hey, Rick, this is a decent match," my Little Devil is there reminding me, "But WWE did everything possible to make sure you could not bring yourself to really care."  HHH and Edge beat the shit out of each other for a few minutes, but just as they appear ready to ramp things up to Genuine False Finishes, Benoit gets back into the right, and goes on a tear. He hits a scary-cool spot where he snap suplexed Edge onto HHH (onto HHH's FACE, which seemed kind of bad, but HHH was OK, so thus, first it was scary, but then it was cool!); HHH powdered out, Benoit did the Sharpshooter on Edge again, but HHH unpowdered to break the submission hold. Edge is in trouble, so Benoit and HHH brawl a bit.  Just as Edge gets back into it, Benoit sends HHH flying out over the top rope.  So it's down to Edge and Benoit... Benoit is DOMINATING (I think here is where we got the Hat Trick of Germans on Edge), but when he goes up top for the Swandive Headbutt, Edge manages to catch him; Benoit shoves Edge back down OFF the ropes, but he crashes into ref Earl Hebner.  No Ref!  Enter End Game!

Edge is down after the collision with Earl.  HHH gets back to his feet in time to shove Benoit off the top.  HHH is the only man standing, and see there's no ref.  So he goes and grabs a steel chair. Gets in the ring with it.  Is salivating like a dumbass consumer standing in line for the mall to open on the day after Thanksgiving.  So many unworthy Canadians to pick from, so few chairs to whack them with! But unfortunately, HHH's indecisiveness hurt him!  Because GM Orton got in the ring, and relieved HHH of the chair.  And then he used the chair to hit HHH, and in general beat the shit out of HHH. Outside the ring, Orton pummeled HHH until HHH fell into the crowd, and then Orton used one more chairshot to KO the champ.  Yay?  So HHH is unconscious in the third row.

Back in the ring, Earl Hebner is stirring, Edge is stirring, and Benoit is stirring.  Edge is first up, and starts lining Benoit up for a Spear. Benoit is second up, and as soon as Edge sprints at him, Benoit again displays his Don't Fuck With Me-ery by side-stepping and placing Edge in the Crippler Crossface.  Nice.  But now, even though Earl's over there in a corner stirring, out comes a second ref? GODDAMMIT, DAMMIT SON OF A BITCH!  A perfectly good little 12 minute main event, perhaps the antiseptic mouthwash with which I could kill off the gingivitis that was the rest of this 2 hour crapfest, is now going down the shitter.  Because one back-up ref while another ref is clearly getting ready to resume his duties? There is only ONE possible outcome to this match, now.  The ONE outcome nobody wants, to boot.

Here it comes: Benoit's got the Crossface on Edge, and Back-up Ref Mike Chioda slides into the ring to check for the submission. But Edge is fighting it.  Fighting it hard.  He won't tap.  Chioda keeps asking.  Edge won't give.  Edge tries to roll out of it, somehow, Benoit keeps it locked in, but then Edge suddenly tries to roll it back the other way (or something, again, details are hazy), and he's STILL in the Crossface, but now, Benoit's flat on his back.  Chioda sees this, and gets down to count Benoit's shoulders to the mat; in the distance, we see Earl Hebner is watching this whole thing from an Alternate Angle.  Chioda counts one.  Counts two.  Counts Three.  Huh, simple enough: EDGE WINS! And in a nice little counterpoint to last week's cage match (in which Edge was dominating, and actually speared Benoit out of the cage to give him the win; this time, the roles are almost precisely reversed), to boot!  I was wrong to suspect the worst...

[dangeresque]Or Am I?[/dangeresque]

Because dammit, the camera angle we had showed nothing amiss, but all of a sudden, Coach is blathering, "I think Edge tapped out." The fuck?  And sure enough, Original Ref Earl Hebner IS signaling that Edge tapped out and that Benoit should be the winner. Through it all, guess what?  NOT ONE SINGLE FUCKING REPLAY!  You thought I was pointlessly riffing on the production/camera angle stuff earlier? Well kids, the Rick does nothing by accident. Right here, right now, one simple replay from a properly positioned camera could have shown us, "Yes, indeed, Edge did tap out at exact the same instant as Chioda counted three." And it's still be the lamest of cop-out finishes, but at least it'd be a WELL DOCUMENTED lame cop-out finish!  As it stands, I don't think any WWE viewer has seen Edge tap out to anything, at least not unless they rewound and rewatched the tape in super slo mo and tried to find something that SUGGESTS that Edge's hand hit the mat in submission. I just know on my one pass-through, Edge's was a PHANTOM tap, which made the finish even cheaper, and which COULD have been rectified with even TNA-caliber camera work.  ZING~!

So anyway, as the crowd's underwhelment and confusion blossoms, the refs AGAIN do the Dueling Arm Raise bit (Yay for Benoit, Boo for Edge). And then the sound guy decides, "Hey, this looks like fun," and gets in on the act.  First he hits Edge's music when Edge briefly is handed the belt. Then he switches to Benoit's when Hebner snatches the belt away and gives it to Chris.  Jesus.  But you know: if you just want to decide this match based on Theme Music, it's a no brainer... Benoit's kicks mucho ass, especially against Edge's new Crap Metal Theme.  But that's not how we decide things here in WWE, so the sound guy zips it, and there's no more music.

In the ring, Benoit, Edge, GM Orton, and two refs are bickering. On the headsets, JR and Coach are falling all over themselves wondering, "Who's the World Champ, Benoit or Edge?"... but outside the ring? Oh my brothers, outside the ring lurks the proverbial Octopus At the Kitchen Table that if we just don't talk about him, then he doesn't exist... cuz outside the ring, we get one reaction shot of HHH coming around and getting to his feet.  Allow me to read his lips, "What the fuck?" wonders The Game.

I'll tell you what the fuck.  Edge and Benoit are in there with the Worst GM Ever and two zebras, arguing over which of them is the world champ. The announcers are arguing over which one of them is the champ. But HHH, fret not: because if neither Edge nor Benoit can be determined to be the undisputed champion, because this match is a tie? Then the match is a draw, and you're still the champ, buddy!  Way to be, Hunter, you sly dog!

And even if that midget Canuck, Jericho, tries to stick the knife in next week and screw you out of your title somehow, I'm sure your daddy-in-law can show up and put things right. Christ, and you people wonder why last night's show so thoroughly sanded my vagina?  Bait and switch, dumb replacement main event, awful ending, dumb execution at ALMOST (with maybe 3 exceptions) every turn...  in essence: terrible decisions frequently executed even more terribly (I can't get over the surprisingly-deficient production side of things, either)...  this show didn't have to disappoint. There were so many possibilities. And yet... we got this instead.  Nitro is Ortin, folks, I stand by that.

Show ends with no music, just the in-ring bickering and JR's blustering commentary over "who's the champ?" not even ONCE mentioning the name of HHH. Because in WWE Think: You only mention it if it's not happening, and if you avoid mentioning it, you can surprise the shit out of every body next week. DAMMIT~!

I'm out.


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




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