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OO RAW RECAP
An Hour and Forty Minutes of Bliss 
March 15, 2005

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com

 

It's a lesson that you'd think WWE would have learned ages ago. It's a lesson that I actually think they HAVE learned, given the recent tendency to blatantly present one-match PPV cards... 
 
That lesson is that as long as you hit a home run in the main event, a lot of crimes on the undercard can be forgiven. 

The flip side of that coin is that fizzling out on your main event runs the risk of erasing even the strongest of undercard happenings.

I have long had the

quirk of radically over-emphasizing the main event in the calculus of rating a show as a whole. The importance of the main event is a real thing, and every single fan reacts to that, even if subconsciously. And me? I do it consciously and probably about three times more aggressively than most fans.

Which is why I was really frustrated by last night's RAW. Batista vs. Snitsky was your main event. It was both the night's worst match, and the post-match angle was also the night's laziest and most underwhelming. It was a contrived "pull it out of your ass" stunt to set up next week's "Pick Your Poison" match. On a night that had not one, not two, but THREE really fun matches, as well as one very well executed major angle, and any number of other cool little bits, bringing the show limping home is inexcusible.

I try to stop myself from doing this, but there is a parallel to WCW and Nitro here: at one point, WCW miscalculated so badly with Goldberg that they'd put him in main events, no matter how crappy or arbitrary his opponent. It'd sure be nice if WWE took it upon themselves to not duplicate mistakes, and instead adopted a methodology designed to give Batista what he needs to look as good as possible in the ring at times. In this case, that does NOT mean a Snitsky-caliber opponent at ANY time that's not a 3 minute mid-card squash. This was the wrong match on the wrong part of the card, and it's yet another case of WWE getting lucky that Batista seems popular enough that his trip to WM21 probably won't be sidetracked by anything short of a Tactical Nuclear Strike of Stupidty.

So here it is: my take on a night that was about an hour and forty minutes of the strongest RAW we've seen in a long time... followed by 25 minutes or so that really couldn't have been much more forgettable. And unlike the lucky folks in Atlanta, we didn't get bailed out by a kick-ass dark match in which Batista and HBK beat HHH and Edge; we had to take the ending we were given. But before we get to the ending, here's the starting. Followed by everything else in chronological order:

Straight to the Opening Theme/Pyro/Etc., and we are live as live can be in Atlanta, GA, where Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler assure us that much awesomeness is afoot, including our big Triple H vs. Chris Benoit main event. Except that they are LIARS, because that WASN'T our main event! But let's not start picking nits here before they even quit doing the crazy zoomy camera shots of the arena! There'll be time for that later! And right now, it's time to kick things off with...

The Highlight Reel: WWE Finally Admits The Rick's Been Right And They've Been Wrong These Past Nine Months Edition

Coming off the opening hype, we just cold-cut to Jericho already in the ring... and not just in the ring, but perched atop a ladder. To remind us of his own participation in WM21's "Money in the Bank" six-man Ladder Match, Jericho hits a few puns about "climbing the ladder of success" and "ascending to new heights" (punctuated by pauses to indicate he knew they were lame puns). Those are all ladder-related activities Jericho sees himself performing literally at WM, en route to earning a World Title shot.

But the clichés, they also apply figuratively to his guest tonight: because his guest tonight will try to do something that nobody's ever done before at WM... his guest tonight will try to reach new heights by defeating The Undertaker. His guest tonight: is Randy Orton. So cue "The Theme From Dumb Guy," and let's listen for the crowd reaction... the girls in the crowd? Seem to adore their tasty little Randykins. The guys? Not so much. At best, a 50/50 split as Randall makes his way to the ring. But wait, what's this amidst the sea of glue-and-glitter "I [heart] Randy" signs?  Just as Orton gets to the ring, a sign of an entirely different kind in the front row proclaims "Orton Fears Smart Broads." I don't think you need to be told who was holding it. Heh heh, I love it when a a plan comes together. I didn't see it all night long, but I also heard tell that there was also a "tOOlbox" sign, also conceived of special just for Randall. 

Tough Questions Chris Jericho is pulling no punches once Orton gets into the ring: he starts off right away with "You're gonna face the Undertaker at WM? Really? What makes you think you got what it takes, Junior?"...  Orton fails to answer truthfully (with "Well, since I completely fumbled my babyface run and got kicked out of the WM21 main event, this was the best thing they could come up with for me"), and instead attempts to give the Standard Babyface Response, which is, "I know it'll be tough, and I respect everything the Undertaker's done, but I want to make a name for myself in this business, and there's no better way to start filling out my own Hall of Fame application than ending the Undertaker's winning streak at WM."  Jericho has some follow-up, and Orton, in what might be the closest he's come to conveying realistic emotion, starts acting a bit frustrated that nobody thinks he can beat Taker.  So he launches into a slightly more whiny heel rant about how "I surprised everybody last year when I beat Mick Foley at WM. I surprised everybody when I won the World Heavyweight Title. And at WM21, the Undertaker's gonna find out that Randy Orton is FULL of surprises." If the goal was to get people booing Orton for being a cocky little bitch, then Mission Accomplished!

But actually, Chris Jericho likes all this talk of Surprises. Because Jericho's got a surprise of his own... a very special guest who wants to talk to Young Randall. A man who has faced the Undertaker at WrestleMania in the past. A man from just 30 miles east of Atlanta: from fabled Stone Mountain, GA (although, I thought 3000 miles east of Atlanta in England was his current residence?)...

Jake "the Snake" Roberts. Holy crap!
 
Jake hits the stage (with a menacing canvas bad over his shoulder) to a HUGE pop; that's not all that's huge, though, as Jake has packed on a few pounds. So rather than keep the camera on him, we cut to a conveniently prepared video package of Jake's WM Moments (minor gripe: JR and King sold it like nobody knew Jake was in the arena, but still they have prepared video packages? D'oh...)

Jake gets in the ring, and has to pause before speaking, because that's a big ol' "Jake the Snake" chant! And Jake loves it, soaks it in! Finally, Jake speaks... and even though I'd wager he had more than a few cocktails before the show and had about half his brain tied behind his back here, Jake still managed to remind us why he was perhaps one of the 3 greatest promo guys of the Hogan Era by talking a few circles around Orton. He starts with talking about the respect he had for Orton's grandfather and the friendship that he had with Orton's dad, and then how me doesn't really know much about Randy at all, but out of respect to his family, he wants to give Randy some advice.

Because 12 wins and no losses means something to Jake. The Undertaker's a man to be taken seriously. If you play baseball, you hit the baseball. If you play basketball, you shoot the three-point shot. And if you're a pro wrestler, you win at WrestleMania, because it's all about timing. And this? Is not Randy's time. Jake makes me smile by pointing out that he's heard Randy had the World Title. But that Jake doesn't see the title here tonight. So maybe Randy won it, but then he also lost it....

So here, tonight, Jake is doing Randy a favor. He's doing it as a favor to Randy's dad, actually. He's trying to stop Randy from doing something dumb. He's here, in his own words, "To reconnect your brain to your mouth, because you're talking out your ass." Big pop for that. Jake concludes by saying he's sorry for being so blunt, but "that's how a man does things," and he just wants Randy to "be careful."

But because displaying similar character traits from week to week is NOT something that Continuity Killer Randy Orton cares about, he decides this week to NOT take the advice of a legend, and instead disrespect said legend. Oy vey. Orton talks about things he's heard about the Undertaker, and how facing Undertaker isn't so much about leaving the ring with a win, but leaving it with your soul. Along the way, he talks about guys he's talked to who have "been beaten from the Undertaker" (this "Randy Orton Mangles the English Language" moment is brought to you by TAG Brand Body Spray!), and how they all say they are left feeling cold and empty. Which is something that Jake Roberts should know about, since he was one of Undertaker's WM victims, wasn't he?

This begins getting Jake's dander up, but Randy continues, saying that no matter what Jake says, no matter what he's heard about Undertaker, he refuses to be afraid. He's not afraid of Taker, and he's not afraid of making an impact at WM21. And when he beats Taker and ends his winning streak, he'll have made more of an impact in one night than Jake Roberts made his entire career. What an ass. But at least this time, he's being an ass on purpose!

Jake doesn't like Orton's tone, so he retorts, "You want Impact? I'll show you 12 feet of impact!" A huge pop as Jake moves towards his menacing canvas bag, but Orton cuts him off and yanks him back... and Jake, instinctively, defends himself. He nails the patented Short Arm Clothesline, and the fans, they know what's next, and start chanting "DDT, DDT." But just as Jake sets up the move, Randy weasels out and hits the RKO out of nowhere. As the crowd boos, Randy does his first proper and in-context Annoying Smirk/Twitch/Adjust the Collar Move in nine months. Because ladies and gentlemen, for as much as I thought last week's RKO to Bischoff was a desperate attempt to keep Orton a babyface through to WM, I do believe we just saw ourselves an Official Heel Turn.

Not to beat a dead horse, but: I told you so. I told ALL of you so. In so far as Orton has value at this stage of his career, it's as a heel, and I can't believe that WWE took nine months to realize what Stupid Little Internet Jackoff Me thought was self-evident and what I've been ranting about since before the face turn ever actually took place.  And to every person who wrote in to me about how I was wrong and Randy Orton is soooooo good and was gonna Make It as a babyface, I expect to get an apologetic, ass-kissing e-mail from each of you. So as not to crash my server, last names A-D will have till Friday to submit your messages... I'll assign the rest of the alphabet after that. But for now: let's all just relish the fact that all the things that make Randy Orton seem like such an obnoxious little toolbox are finally being channeled correctly. There are just some things you shouldn't do, and shouldn't have to be told not to do: you don't use Worcestershire Sauce as an ice cream topping, and you don't try to make a babyface out of a guy who (even when he's not trying) just seems like he needs to be slapped around a bit. We've finally fixed this mistake.  A very effective and very gratifying opening segment, all around.

A Little History Lesson: exactly one year ago tonight, Chris Benoit made Triple H tap out to win the World Title at WM20. Later tonight, the two men lace 'em up one more time. Nice touch.

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Another History Lesson: 21 years ago this past January, Hulkamania was born when Hulk Hogan pinned the Iron Sheik to win the WWF Title for the first time. A nice 90-second video package that might have been working on at least 2 levels: (1) reminding us that Hulk Hogan is being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, and (2) reminding us that Hulk Hogan built his career on a staunch track record of smiting naughty Ay-rabs. Hmmm...

Kane vs. Christian/Tyson Tomko (Handicap Match)

Attacking from behind to gain an early advantage, Christian actually started the match for his team, and held it for maybe a minute. But as soon as Kane took over with generic Power Offense, the Lovely Miss Tomko came to the aid of his man. After a quick double team, Tomko left the ring, and Christian was free to go to the corner and officially tag Tomko into the match.

From there on out, Christian made himself a non-factor: he stuck around while Tomko briefly retained the advantage, but as soon as Kane started his comeback, he opted to leave ringside rather than get himself tagged in (acting like he had an "injury").  So of course, this is easy pickin's for Kane, who finishes Tomko off with a chokeslam. A grand total of MAYBE 3 minutes, and in every significant way, this actually turned into the waste-of-time Kane vs. Tomko match that I ranted about in yesterday's column.

After the Match: Christian makes it obvious that he was just protecting himself, not nursing a real injury, as he tries to get a ladder out from underneath the ring to attack Kane... but Kane catches him in the act, and Christian retreats like the proverbial scalded dog. But Kane figures, "Well, he got the ladder out, I might as well use it." So he clocks Tomko with it (drawing blood). Play Kane's music and hit that corner pyro!

Backstage: Ric Flair is pep-talking somebody who (god I hate this silly and unnecessary trickery when there's no real surprise) is hidden off-screen. The off-screen person is quickly revealed as Snitsky, though, and apparently, Flair is talking him up because he's got a match later tonight against Batista. Flair's all "this isn't your fault, that wasn't your fault, nothing's your fault, you're just misunderstood." Snitsky, really chomping scenery the whole time, corrects Ric by saying, "No, what I do tonight to Batista... that will definitely be All. My. Fault." Man alive, has Snitsky ever left the realm of "guilty pleasure" when it comes to his promos; now he's just really bad and cartoony, instead of vaguely off-kilter in a funny way.

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Corporately Sponsored Replay of the Night: last week, Christy Hemme challenged Trish to a Women's Title Match, and revealed that her new trainer is Lita.

Backstage: Lita is telling Spaz to buck up, cuz there's still 3 weeks before WM, and she'll get the kinks worked out, don't you worry. Tonight, that means a little Guest Trainer Action... because Lita notes that Trish throws a lot of stiff kicks, and when it comes to stiff kicks, there's nobody better than Tajiri. [Hey! I made the "Trish is kinda becoming Girl Tajiri" offhand comment one time in a recap about 2 months ago, and didn't follow up because it didn't seem to go over so well, and thus didn't get a call back... but maybe I *was* onto something?] So Tajiri is here with William Regal (and a giant cushiony pad like what they use for block-out and post-defense drills in basketball practice), and starts showing Christy how he throws various kicks. Oh: but only after the obligatory "Tajiri is a perverted freak" spot in which he whips out a copy of Spaz's Playboy and makes creepy faces and noises (the only good thing about this was Regal's Reaction Take, in which he rolled his eyes and hilariously muttered "You little filthmonger"; because any excuse to use the suffix "-monger" is a good one!), since, at this point, your Tag Team Champs are best known for their prodigious Pornography Collection, apparently. Moreso than for actually defending the tag titles, at least. Ouch: I think I hurt my sarcasm by making that observation. It's a little TOO accurate to be funny.... 

Anyway, we finally get to Spaz's turn to throw some kicks at Regal's pad, and she really girlies it up. On purpose, I'm sure. After about 5 of the weakest kicks you can imagine, Regal start trying to fire Christy up with stuff like "You bloody think you'll beat a woman as talented as Trish Stratus like that? Now come on, as hard as you can, love!"... and while Regal's in the middle of one of his inspirational riffs, Spaz loads up and kicks before the pad is in place... and winds up hitting Regal in the sac. Ouch. Christy makes some apologetic noises, but once she realizes Tajiri will take care of his partner, she and Lita leave. The second they turn around, their faces go from concern to big shit-eating grins. They're either both Very Dumb, or both Very Big Bitches: because I'm quite sure Trish doesn't have testicles, so Spaz learned nothing useful in this training session, and because undeserved, unprovoked sac kicks to nice guys who are DOING YOU A BLOODY FAVOR are not funny, dammit. The only thing funny here is William Regal playing the role he was born to play: the Sap With Dignity.

Elsewhere Backstage: Shawn Michaels is getting ready for a match... but against whom? That's what we'll find out here in about 2.8 seconds, as OMG, it's MARTY JANNETTY~! And for the first time I can ever recall: he doesn't have a mullet! Marty says even though it was last second, he appreciates getting the invitation from Shawn to come to RAW. Shawn says it's no problem, and actually, he had an ulterior motive for asking Marty to show up: because Marty's got a huge match against Kurt Angle coming up on Thursday night, but Shawn thinks that if Marty's gonna be trying to make his mark on WWE, maybe he needs a little tune-up match, right here, on RAW. Marty likes the sound of this, as Shawn explains his vision: for one night only, it'll be a Rockers Reunion! Shawn and Marty, together again, against former tag champs, La Resistance!  Marty is absolutely OVERFLOWING with joy at the prospect, and leaves to go change into his gear.

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Good Lord, ANOTHER History Lesson: Stone Cold Steve Austin's Inappropriate Vehicle Usage #387... the night he decided to drive a Miller Lite Zamboni to the ring. Mheh heh heh: "Zamboni." This is followed by a little Announce Desk Hype by JR and King about Austin and Piper's Pit coming up at WM21.

Shelton Benjamin vs. Edge (Non-Title Match)

Actually, I'm just ASSUMING it was non-title, because before they even had a chance to do the swooshy "IC Title" graphic or before Lillian could finish ring intros, Edge attacked Shelton from behind, during his entrance. And from there, Edge just kicked the holy living shit out of Shelton for about 4 minutes: he started on the ramp, and continued all around ringside, including into the ringsteps and all that, and finally into the ring, where he continued pounding away.

Throughout all of this, we have not actually started the match, and ref Mike Chioda is apparently now considering just throwing this match out entirely, because Shelton has been beaten so badly that he might not be able to continue.  But finally, Edge decides to lay off, and ring mics pick up Chioda asking Shelton if he wants to do this match or not. When Shelton says, "Yes," Chioda can't hardly believe it. He asks again, "Are you sure? I'm gonna ring the bell and start this thing, Shelton?" Benjamin assures him he wants to wrestle... so Chioda rings the bell, and this match is FINALLY officially underway. JR is so sure that Shelton is going to lose in short order that he decides that, after a grand total of 7 seconds of official action, he should kick it to some....

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Back, and predictably, it's still all Edge. And stays that way for a couple minutes, until Edge gets greedy and tries setting Shelton up for a Superplex... Benjamin is able to muster some defense, and punches his way out, and sends Edge crashing to the mat. Benjamin follows up with his hooking clothesline off the top rope, but he's also had WAY too much taken out of him to sustain the offense. So he and Edge kinda go back and forth for a bit, but finally, Shelton hits a huge shoulder tackle that puts Edge down. The ref actually has to start the double count, though, since Benjamin is down, too....

Which of course means that coming out of the double-count, Shelton Benjamin starts his first really extended rally of the match to bring us rushing towards climax. He pounds away on Edge (kind of Orton clubbering-style), hits a few other high energy moves, and actually sets up for the Stinger Splash. And kids, I cannot overstate how fucking SWEET this was: because Shelton got his normal running start, and when he planted to jump, I swear it looked EXACTLY like he was doing his normal leap for the Splash, but instead: as Edge ducked out of the way, Shelton jumped all the way up to the top rope in one smooth move. He landed clean on the top, turned around, and dove off at Edge (who was more than a little disoriented), wrapping him up with an awesome "atomic sunset flip" pinning combo. Wow. Just: wow. Spot of the night, easily. It still only got a two count.

Shelton tried to pile on with the high flying offense, gut when he went for a springboard crossbody, Edge picked him out of the air and turned it into a flying powerslam. Edge only got a 2 count for that, but sensed that the end might be near, so he set up for the Spear. But Shelton dodged that, and Edge had to put on the breaks to stop from taking out the ref...  but Chioda's days were numbered, as they did a quick little double-psyche-out thing, but he still wound up taking a bump after Edge dodged Shelton's leg-whip thingie. With the ref down, Edge continued to control the match, finally hitting Shelton with the Spear... but with no ref to count the pinfall, Edge decided he might get a little practice for WM21: Edge went out and fetched a ladder.

But as he was in the process of maneuvering it into the ring, Shelton was recovering... and worse: somebody was watching backstage. Edge got back into the ring and started pulling the ladder in after him, but that's when Chris Jericho sprinted in, and in one fluid motion used the ring steps to vault himself into position to torque down on the end of the ladder that was still sticking out of the ring. With the ladder teeter-tottering on the middle rope, the other end of the ladder shot up and whacked Edge in the face. Nice. Jericho made himself and the ladder scarce, Shelton followed up with the T-Bone Powerslam, the ref woke up, and three seconds later, Shelton Benjamin overcame the odds to defeat Edge.

Counting the pre-match brawl as "part of the match," this was probably close to 15 minutes, and very entertaining. I'm convinced there were probably a few extra things that should have been done to make Jericho's run-in a bit less of a "What the fuck?" moment, but that was still a nicely executed cool spot in a match that was FULL of absolutely amazingly cool spots. And the story of the match, with Shelton getting his ass handed to him and making the amazing comeback? Dead on. Some formulas will never die, and with Shelton growing more and more into the role of a latter day Steamboat/Sting type, I think there are few guys on RAW better equipped to execute that formula.

Just In Case You're Not Sick Of Flashbacks Yet: we get a nicely prepared video package of the Rockers' Great WrestleMania Moments. Except that, if we're honest, the Rockers -- as good as they may have been -- never had any Great WrestleMania Moments. So they're left trying to make the Rockers lone WM victory (over the not-quite-accomplished duo of Haku and the Barbarian) seem like it was a big deal. No sale. We probably didn't need this video package... but I guess it was mostly here to remind us that the Rockers Reunion is NEXT....

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The Rockers vs. La Resistance

Shawn and Marty enter first to the Old Rockers Entrance, and appear to have spent the afternoon reviewing videotape... because they've got all the old Rocker mannerisms down to a T. All of 'em. Shawn completely sublimated every single one of his Solo Mannerisms to create the illusion that this was 1989 all over again. The only tip-off that it wasn't: Shawn did NOT bust out the old Rocker Ring Gear (which is probably just as well). Well, two tip-offs: the haircuts, also.

The match starts with Marty -- who might not be getting Jake the Snake caliber cheers, but who does get himself a nice healthy "Marty" chant -- going to work on La Resistance. The second Marty starts sensing trouble, he actually gets a tag in to Shawn, who comes in, and together, the Rockers hit an extended sequence of silky smooth Tandem Offense (something that Jim Ross, quite accurately, noted is distressingly absent from a lot of today's tag teams, and which was a joy to watch executed by Shawn and Marty). This climaxes in a Stereo Planchas (which I'm not even sure existed in 1989, but which were flawlessly done by the Rockers here in 2005).

But with that flurry out of our system, the match settles down with Michaels as the legal man, and wouldn't you know it? Within 2 minutes, La Resistance manage some chicanery (low bridging HBK on an Irish Whip) to take over. Nobody ripped off the Rock 'n' Roll Express any more than the Rockers did, so let's all sing along (lustily and with great irony) with the Rick as I declare that: Shawn Michaels set about Playing Ricky Morton. La Resistance show that they've actually got the old school heel tag team stuff down to a science by Cutting The Ring In Half, and working Michaels over for a good 4 minutes straight. Proving that the guy playing Robert Gibson is every bit as vital to the "Face In Peril Formula," Jannetty did a nice job of hyper-active cheer-leading to keep the crowd into it... [An aside: did anybody else sense that Jannetty might turn heel on Shawn in this match, all as part of an Evil Kurt Angle Scheme? Because I didn't even think about it till after the show was done, but once that thought was planted into my head, all of Jannetty's over-enthusiasm -- starting with the backstage bit -- did seem a bit false. I retroactively started to think that maybe a Jannetty heel turn WOULD have been a neat idea. But maybe that's just playing the old 80s archetypes to a T? Or possibly just Jannetty's honest joy at having paying work?]

With the formula thusly executed, Shawn put the cherry on the sundae by doing the Patented Over-Complicated 80s Cop Show Style Hot Tag. You know what I mean: a lot of unnecessary rolls and lunging. Like when Frank Drebbin thought there was somebody in his apartment in "The Naked Gun." But hell: if we're creating the illusion, let's go all the way, right? So Jannetty gets the Hot Tag, and immediately goes to town, remembering, like all good 1980s babyface tag team wrestlers, to do every move twice (once for each opponent). Two bodyslams, two dropkicks, and so forth. Finally, he eliminates Conway with a face plant of some kind, and goes one-on-one with Grenier... Grenier only briefly takes an advantage, but immediately Jannetty counters that by turning it into the Most Litigated Wrestling Move of the 1980s!  The Rocker Dropper! Screw you, Billy Gunn!  To make himself useful, Michaels hops in the ring briefly to hit Conway with a Superkick, leaving Jannetty to score the pinfall win over Grenier.

That was just flat out fun. Not meaningful in the grand scheme of things, but 10 minutes of proof that tag team wrestling ain't dead, not if you know what you're doing. Jannetty had a few moments where maybe he was a half-step behind (he kinda came up short on a double-nip-up, at least), but even with that, he was really smooth and sound, and showed us that we might be in for a really good time when he goes up against Kurt on Thursday. And to people who wrote in within 2 hours of RAW going off the air to bitch about Michaels and Jannetty being friendly again after the way they broke up and continued to feud throughout the 90s? Just chill the fuck out: this was incredibly fun. And I say that as a guy who HATED the damned Rockers when I was a kid. Swear to god: even back in like eighth grade, when I'd go to WWF shows, I'd bring my "Anti-Rockers Foundation" sign (heh heh, "ARF"). Because even then, I hated Cheeseball Pretty Boys (see, I come by my latter day loathing of "Queer Eye" and America's love affair with glossed up metrosexuals honestly!). If *I* can put all that old baggage aside and just have fun watching the Rockers do their thing and do it well, so can you, people. Barber Shop or no, is it so wrong that these two guys have finally patched up their differences to entertain you?

Backstage: Triple H is getting ready for his big match tonight, and Flair shows up for one of his patented Pep Talks. Except he's kind of off his game tonight. Because instead of firing up HHH, Flair keeps misspeaking, and saying things like "I know it was one year ago tonight when you tapped out." HHH: "I know." Flair: "Tapped out. Yeah, tapped out to Chris Benoit." HHH: "I know." Flair: "Tapped out, squealed like a pig, cried like a little girl." HHH: "I KNOW." Flair finally gets the message, and stops bringing up bad memories. Instead, HHH and Flair move on to talking about how their plan to use Snitsky to soften up Batista is moving ahead nicely, and that they still get to pick an opponent for Batista next week, too. Those dastards....

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That CanNOT Have Been a Coincidence Theatre

Backstage, Maria the Mic Stand has Our Women's Champion, Trish Stratus, cornered for an interview. An aside: somebody must have told Maria that it's really distracting the way she always had this blank, uncomprehending stare on her face during her interviews, so she's now overcompensating by doing eyebrow twitches and nodding at completely random intervals (how very Orton of her) to make it look like she is in the moment. This, if anything, is MORE distracting.

Anyway, the Question on Maria's Mind is, "Are you concerned about Lita training Christy?"... Trish, predictably, is not concerned. She starts out by noting that there's a huge difference between posing in Playboy after winning a Diva Contest and actually stepping into a wrestling ring with a Six Time Women's Champion. Trish: she is speaking the truth.  And on top of that, a simple glance at the facts reveals that Trish is the one who ended Lita's career, so really, is there much chance that Lita's Topless-Posing Protégé will fare any better?

Continuing on, Trish says that if we're gonna get all excited to talk about trainers, maybe she'll get a trainer of her own: Hannibal Lecter. [Holy shit; I actually did a spit-take when I heard this. If I hadn't, my cause of death would have been listed as "Choked on Beer" when you heard about it today.] Why Hannibal? Because, Trish says, menacingly, "I am going to Eat. Christy. Alive." 

Maria has a follow-up: "But wasn't that Twist of Fate last week a pretty powerful message?" Trish really doesn't want to tax Maria's limited acting capacity by making her deliver any more stilted and obvious set-up/straight lines, and politely decides to bring this baby home. Trish says what all of us were thinking and declares, "You want a message? Here's a message." And then Trish DOES what all of us where thinking, as she beats the crap out of Maria. Well, kinda: she punched Maria in the ovaries, and then shoved her down... but then she mostly started kicking and stomping at the props around Maria more than she was actually kicking or stomping Maria. I decided that this was because the sound made by kicking a garbage can is a lot more realistic and convincing than those sounds emanating from Maria's mouth as she attempted to convey "pain."  Finally, WWE Officials, led by Head Diva Wrangler Fit Finlay, hit the scene: Trish decides she's had enough as they tend to poor Maria.  

And I can't conclude this section without making a little note: because Trish's Lecter reference? After Hannibal had spent the whole weekend as OO's front page picture and Headline Story? And dropping Lecter's name in Atlanta of all places? Perhaps Erin Anderson is just the universal nexus of all SpOOkily Jinxtastic Coincidences or maybe shares a brain cell with Trish Stratus. We can't completely ignore those possibilities... but Occam's Razor tends to dismiss wacky theories based on telepathy. Which leads me to wonder if Trish isn't getting Inspirado from the Greatest and Best Website in the World. Erin's made no bones about being a card-carrying member of Trish's fan club, but maybe the feeling is mutual? I mean, even though this would be the first time that vestiges of proof would have shown up on TV, I know of more than a few wrestlers who do read and enjoy OO, so it's not COMPLETELY out of the question. Come to think of it, though, it's not even the first time I've been forced to delude and flatter myself with regards to Trish's possible readership...

So just on the off-chance: 

Dear Trish,

Huge fan, here. Loved the promo and the beatdown last night. Just one request, though....

Next time you get to kick the crap out of Maria, think "debilitating trachea blows," instead. You'd really be doing me a favor. Thanks. 

Respectfully Yours,
Rick

I suppose this also means that, just to be safe, I now need to restrain myself from discussing my deep-rooted (but also massively-illogical and unexplainable-by-reason) attraction to Ass Cleavage, huh? Well, *certain* Ass Cleavage, at least. Dammit, wait: I mean, "Trish is very smart, funny, and talented, and unlike weaker, single-minded pervs such as Jerry Lawler, I'm totally NEVER looking at her butt, because I'm ever so much more evolved and sophisticated than that." Yeah, that's the ticket. Just to be safe.

Or maybe it was just a coincidence, afterall, and I've just wasted 3 paragraphs of your time with delusions of grandeur... but c'mon: it's fun to pretend!

Backstage: Flair is back for for another go 'round. Just call it "Snitksy 2: The Re-Peppening." And this time, it's Flair's turn to be the one with the dial turned up to about 13. Flair started out by telling Snitsky, "I had the wrong idea about you, but know that I've met you, look at you! You're bigger, you're faster, you're stronger, you're better built, you're smarter, you're more handsome, and you smell great!" Flair was, I fear, about to comment on the large nature of Snitsky's wang, or something... but then I'm betting he remembered that Snitsky's heart belongs to Heidenreich, and it wasn't his place to break up their Perfect Union. Awww, Naitch, what a softie. Actually: what stopped Flair was when Snitsky seemed to suddenly zone out and stop paying attention. Flair even played the "Earth to Snitsky" card, but Snitsky was staring off into space... except NOT INTO SPACE.  The camera pulls back (in this case, the trickery is appropriate!), and reveals that Batista is standing behind Flair. 

In one of those moments that's awesomely entertaining, but hardly  worth putting into print because it won't translate, Batista's greeting is an hilarious, "Hey, Ric. Gene." Complete with perfect facial expressions of non-concern and good humor. Batista's casualness sends Flair into another apoplectic rant. "You don't 'Hey, Ric' me! You say 'Hello, Mr. Nature Boy, Sir' to me!" And then Flair remembers his main job these days is sucking up to Triple H, so he veers off into talking about how awesome HHH is, and how absolutely over-matched Batista will be at WM21 (interestingly, Flair gets in on the previous segment's fun by saying that "Triple H will eat you alive"). He starts talking about how HHH is "the Franchise" and all of the greatness and accolades that HHH has compiled (movie stardom, worldwide notoriety, 10 world championships, etc.) and that Batista will NEVER be able to take away. But finally Batista cuts Flair off, and hits his punchline: "The only think I'm gonna take from Triple H is the World Heavyweight Title." A quick Death Stare for Snitsky, and Batista is out. Fun bit, carried by Flair's gratuitously hyper-active delivery, and punctuated by Batista's calm, collected, self-assured level-headedness.

Triple H vs. Time Management

The fuck? So this isn't the main event? Which can only mean that Batista vs. Snitksy is? There are a billion things wrong with that. So I won't bother starting to list them.

Instead, I will note the one right thing I noticed here: somebody actually remembered to keep Flair from entering with HHH, since his pre-tape with Snitsky and Batista had just aired, and that would have looked bad. Post-Shark-Jumping Era Nitro bad.

On the other hand, JESUS CHRIST, HHH's entrance is going on FOR-FUCKING-EVER. If this was a second less than 5 minutes of him posing and taunting the crowd, I'll eat a bug. When you're That Damned Good, I guess you don't need an opponent to craft Compelling Television? And of course, after 5 minutes this thrilling, we fans should consider ourselves lucky and over-entertained. Which makes this a spot for some...

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Triple H vs. Chris Benoit (Pick Your Poison Match)

We come back from break, and HOLY HELL, HHH's theme is STILL playing. Even on top of the mere fact that this wasn't given the main event slot, this time management was VERY odd and awkward for me as a home viewer. I can only imagine what it was like live, where this must have come close to 10 straight minutes of Triple H Ring Entrance. Although, actually, now that I think about it... I just remembered that the fans were mighty fired up to chant "You Tapped Out" at HHH during the opening minutes of the match, so right here and now, I'll wager a body part that during the ad break, HHH did some promo work for the live fans, using the old Reverse Psychology to motivate them into the "You Tapped Out" chant. Just a hunch.

Something I know for a FACT did happen during the break: Ric Flair came out to the ring to join HHH. And then Chris Benoit made his ring entrance, predictably receiving a big ovation from his adopted home town fans. The match starts about as I'd have guessed: big staredown, and then straight into some chain wrestling. Benoit wins that. So HHH tries to get Benoit off his game with some jerkish shoving and unclean breaks. Benoit doesn't care: he's machine-like and continues with the mat wrestling, working a side headlock for a bit (not just one contiguous 2 minute headlock, but instead variations on it, takeovers, breaking the hold but then snatching it back, etc.). HHH finally gets some separation, and tries to go from grappling to striking, with some knees and shoulderblocks and stuff, but all the separation does is give Benoit the room he needs to find a cool way to pluck a Crippler Crossface out of left field. HHH IMMEDIATELY goes for the ropes. So Benoit waits 10 seconds, and gets the Crossface AGAIN. Nice. HHH gets the ropes again, and this time, goes all the way to the outside, where he and Ric Flair regroup.

After a little break, Benoit finally decides HHH has rested enough, and goes over to the ring ropes to pull HHH back in... but it was all part of a ploy: as soon as Benoit pops his head out, HHH punches him in the face. Back in the ring, HHH goes all punchy. But Benoit counters that with the choppy. And Punchy vs. Choppy? Choppy wins. More Benoit on the offensive, until such time as HHH decides he needs to powder out AGAIN. Not wanting to be trapped again this time, Benoit just follows HHH outside the ring, and goes to town on him, throwing him into the ring barrier, throwing more chops, and in general kicking HHH's ass from the proverbial pillar to the proverbial post. Except then he ends up making the exact mistake he was trying to avoid by following HHH outside the ring: Benoit tosses HHH back into the ring, takes a moment for himself to catch his breath, and as soon as he starts climbing back onto the ring apron, HHH has just barely enough wherewithal to get a running start and crash into Benoit, sending Benoit tumbling hard to the floor. Benoit's down, HHH ain't exactly fresh as a daisy, so how's about some....

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Back, and these two guys are throwing more chops at each other... but before Benoit can gain a significant advantage, HHH hits a big Spinebuster, which is JR's cue to show us some "During the Break" Footage in which Benoit went crashing back-first into the steel ring steps. JR tells us that since then, HHH has been going to town on Benoit's back, and I'm willing to take him at his word. And even if I wasn't: HHH proceeds to go to town on Benoit's back in Real Time. This culminates in a complex little "If At First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again" Superplex spot... HHH set Benoit up, but on his first attempt, Benoit head-butted his way out of it. So it looked like Benoit had the edge, and was getting to his feet on the top rope to deliver an offensive move. But HHH countered that by crashing into the turnbuckle, causing Benoit to come crashing down hard back into a sitting position on the top turnbuckle. Then, and ONLY then, was HHH able to finally hit the Superplex. It took a good 90 seconds, but it was a neat little ride getting there...

Of course, the superplex only gets a two, and even though Benoit's back is toast, HHH makes the Rookie Mistake of taking valuable time to pester the referee about a slow count. Will wrestlers never learn? So by the time HHH finally turns his attention back to Benoit, and sets him up for a Pedigree, Benoit is able to counter out of it with a double-leg takedown, and immediately turns it into a slingshot. Hunter eats turnbuckle, to which JR adds "But those turnbuckles, they aren't made out of chocolate." Huh? It'd have been an odd enough non sequitur, but actually, I mostly noticed it because it was the second one just like that on the night. In some previous match (I forget exactly when, but I KNOW I heard it), JR said that "The canvas, it's not covered in barbeque sauce, so it can't taste good." Christ, WWE, won't somebody please feed poor JR before he goes out to work so he can think straight? This should probably be the same person that makes sure that Jerry Lawler has had 15 minutes alone with Tajiri's porn collection immediately before every telecast so that he's too spent to make his Dirty Old Man comments....

But I digress... after the slingshot, it's time for Benoit to start a rally. After the obligatory Double Count Spot, both men get up, and go kicky-choppy. But of course, that's an exchange that Benoit wins, and at the first available opportunity, you KNOW he busted out the Germans. A full Hat Trick of them to start, and then Benoit does the Throat Slit to indicate a Headbutt is coming, except then (I know none of you care, but I like noticing little things, and this counts as a BIG TIME "little thing" I love that adds a ton of realism to Benoit's matches) he actually glances back to HHH first, notices he's stirring on the mat, and maybe not hurt badly enough, gives us an expression and a little head shake that says, "No way, I ain't falling for THAT, bitch," and immediately storms back over to Triple H... for THREE MORE German Suplexes. And this time, when he gets up and does the Throat Slit again, it's also accompanied by another expression and an affirmative nod that kind of says, "Oh yeah, NOW I got you, and I know it." Certainly a minor thing, probably something that all of about 10% of you give a shit about, but again: very cool attention to detail that I appreciate enough to draw attention to. 
 
After the six Germans, Benoit does, in fact, nail the Swandive Headbutt, but only gets a two count out of it. Not to be discouraged, Benoit continues on the attack. Lots of chops, even 2 more Germans at one point (!), a mount-in-the-corner-and-punch spot, just lots and lots of punishment for a few minutes. But that all ends when HHH reverses and Irish Whip, and Benoit has no choice but to take the Patented Bret Hart Turnbuckle Bump. Ouch: Chris Benoit, the Only Man In Wrestling Who Can Sell a Sternum Injury Convincingly. HHH is still hurting, too, though, so from here, we pretty much enter End Game.

In this case, that means all of a sudden, the guys start going for big moves... but the other guy blocks/counters it. HHH evaded a Sharpshooter, Benoit escaped a Pedigree. This goes on for a bit until FINALLY: Benoit locks in the Crippler Crossface. Ref Earl Hebner has to briefly stop Ric Flair from interfering, only getting him to leave the ring once threatened with Ejection, and once he finally turns back to the match, HHH is on the brink of submission. But at the last second, he somehow rolls his way out of the hold, and Benoit actually gives him the break (compared to some cool spots where Benoit retains the Crossface no matter what a guy does, this did seem kind weak and sloppy, actually). Benoit was relentless, though: he kept pounding away on HHH, even including ANOTHER German (the completion of the aborted Hat Trick from a bit earlier, and making for a total of NINE this match). 

When HHH briefly got an opening, he tried for a Pedigree again, but Benoit again used a double-leg takedown to escape, and this time, turned it into a Sharpshooter... Flair was not gonna let that stand, though, and tried to get into the ring with the World Title Belt. Benoit released the Sharpshooter, and cut Flair off, instead. Even though Flair's interference was short-circuited by Benoit, the intent was there, and Ref Hebner decided he'd had enough: this time, he DID eject Flair from ringside. Flair, as only he can, pitched a quite a fit for the amusement of lucky ringside fans on his way out. 

Unfortunately, Hebner was more concerned with watching Flair's departure antics than in the match, which is why he didn't see Triple H hit Benoit in the testicles. In fact: the cameras were too concerned with watching Flair leave that we home viewers didn't exactly see the whole thing develop either (we just kinda cut back to the ring in the nick of time to see it happen). But apparently, the deal was that HHH did the sac punch behind the ref's back. And from there, we picked up the action again, and HHH just hit a Pedgiree and that was it: pinfall win over Benoit. 

Huh. Just like that? I gotta say, I was loving the match, but that's a really crappy, weak, and anticlimactic ending to 16 minutes of borderline-awesomeness. Making it worse: it wasn't just the end of a great 16 minutes of action, it was also the end of a year-plus of Benoit's dominance over HHH. And you end it all with a sac punch and then a Pedigree out of nowhere? That's an awful lame and flaccid finish where you should have had something really big and exciting. I'll restrain myself from bitching that this also had the effect of further underscoring Benoit's permanent residence on the mid-card, but can't stop myself from noting that for as cool and opportunity-laden the "Pick Your Poison" concept seemed to be, WWE did absolutely nothing to capitalize on those opportunities here. A great match with a limp, anticlimactic finish.  

And given what's left here, tonight, that makes this the perfect microcosm of the entire night of RAW...

SmackDown! Rebound: I don't recap recaps.

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#7 in an On-Going Series: a new WM21 movie spoof. This time, it's Kurt Angle and Christy Hemme recreating the only reason why anybody actually remembers "When Harry Met Sally." After two semi-misses with these spoofs, this was back on track... it might even have been the funniest one yet. I know for a fact that it's the first one that actually undeniably more entertaining than the movie it spoofs (not saying much considering what a braindead crapfest "When Harry Met Sally" was, in the vein of so very many entries in the Romantic Comedy Genre that mistake sap for genuine sentiment)...  I won't bother trying to explain/recap it. All I can say is that Kurt Angle's idea of the Dirty Talking is fricking high-larious, and in the end, his description of a night in the ring has Spaz tapping out orgasmically. Both of 'em are really funny here. And then, the punchline: the camera finds Linda McMahon sitting alone in another corner of the diner, and she deadpans, "I'll have what she's having." Tee hee; actually, forget "might have been." DEFINITELY my favorite one yet.

Hype Central: JR and King run the WrestleMania line-up. Because they are paid to. I, however, am not. So we move on...

Another Country Heard From. Sort of.

Well, unless Michigan has been annexed by Canada, they're still from our country, but nevertheless, here are Muhammad Hassan and Khosrow Daivari to interrupt the show. Since goddammit are we ever running late, they just settle for standing on the stage as they quickly address the crowd.

Hassan is protesting his absence from the WM21 card, claiming that his unbeaten record on RAW makes him a veritable no-brainer for a spot at WrestleMania. And yet: he's been excluded. His reason why? Racism, of course. And since we don't have a whole lot of time here tonight, he concludes quite abruptly by saying, "But this is not over." I'm assuming this all still leads to Hassan vs. Hogan at WM21...

Daivari punctuates with some Farsi ranting, and then WWE's sound guy punctuates with.... Charlie Haas' entrance music? The hell? Viva La Missing By One Track on the Carefully Alphabetized Entrance Music List, I guess? The mistake is eventually corrected... I'd make a "Charlie Haasan" joke of some kind, but if I knows me Matt Hocking like I think I knows me Matt Hocking, he'll come up with a better one than the crappy ones rifling through my brain right now...

Backstage: Christy has just gotten out of the trainer's room, where she's been providing moral support for Maria... awww, those Diva Search Contestants: even after they spent last summer calling each other Cum Guzzling Gutter Sluts on prime time basic cable, when the chips are down, they all stick together. How touching. Christy gives Lita the update on Maria (she's fine; no word on if that garbage can that was near her legs will ever be the same, though), and then decides to Act Serious For A Moment. Lance Storm would be proud. Christy makes Lita promise that "You'll show me how to beat that bitch." Lita apparently thinks Spaz's intensity is cute, because she smiles and promises she will. The two make arrangements to speak tomorrow about another training session, and then go their separate ways... the camera opts to follow along with Lita, who walks down the hallway, and bumps into.... AHHHHHH SHIT! It's Snitsky. It's bad enough that he's dragging down this whole telecast by being handed a nonsensical main event slot, but now, he here to resurrect a storyline that was best left alone: he tells Lita, "Once I get done with Batista, I'm gonna finish what I started with you." I don't get it. You put the Snitsky/Kane baby to bed in January, and there's no earthly reason to start it back up, especially not in such a random, left-field fashion...

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Batista vs. Snitsky

It's after 11pm eastern when this match finally starts. Wow, that's some main event. Further delaying the start: we have to wait for Triple H and Ric Flair to come down to ringside. But then we begin... power vs. power, and although Batista wins those battles, from the sounds of the live crowd, they were about as thrilled as I was to see this get the main event slot.

Finally, Batista decides to be nice and let himself get distracted by HHH and Flair (even after JR had been all nice and mentioned how deceptively intelligent Batista is), so that Snitsky can have some offense. His offense, in this case, is knee-related. And that's probably not accidental, opines Jim Ross, that's on orders of Evolution. But unlike when Benoit or Kurt Angle works a knee, Snitsky has a grand total of two offensive moves he can use, so this gets tired pretty quick. After about 2 minutes of working the knee, Snitsky thinks he's had enough and hits his Pump Handle Slam (his finisher, right?)... but Batista kicks out.

So back to the knee. And Snitsky decides to take it out of the ring. Mistake. At ringside, Batista manages to brawl his way back onto offense, and even sends Snitsky crashing into the ringpost. He tosses Snitsky back into the ring, and continues to dominate with power wrestling, and again, I can't help but notice how the crowd's not really into it. That's the difference between me and WWE: when my mind is bored, it effortlessly devises plots for Batista that will actually help him out by giving him the best chance to look good inside the ring, whereas WWE's team of monkeys is getting paid to invent RAW Main Events in which the live crowd is half-asleep and praying that they get their promised Dark Match after the telecast ends. Please note that we both seemed concerned with the same thing, though: into both of our scenarios, we weaved in a subplot in which Batista will be semi-injured going into WM as the result of a non-Evolution wrestler tacitly assisting Evolution. Creepy, isn't it? That I clearly have the same motives as WWE, but found such polarly opposite means of accomplishing my goal?

Anyway, enough self-aggrandizing tangentializing... The match is still on-going: Batista's streak of power moves FINALLY gets him to the Grade AA Spinebuster, and NOW the crowd sees something it likes enough to respond to. Unfortunately, HHH and Flair DON'T like it. So Flair goes into the ring, chopblocks Batista (again with the knee), and that's an instant DQ. That's it: less than five minutes, and also easily RAW's lamest main event in a while. And even though we've got ourselves a little post-match angle coming, it's not gonna get a whole lot better. That's because...

After the Match: the beatdown on Batista continues, and just as HHH is getting ready to join in, Batista makes a comeback. So the troops regroup, and HHH decides to arm them all with steel chairs. And then they try again: they surround Batista. They stalk him. It sure would be nice if Benoit made the save, considering how he actually got dicked over by Evolution earlier and would at least have an excuse to stick his nose in here...  but no: instead, for absolutely no discernable reason, Kane makes the run in. Oh wait: I guess that stupid ass Lita/Snitsky skit from moments ago is supposed to be the explanation? In any case, Batista and Snitsky clean house, and Evolution eventually decides that Pussing Out Is the Better Part of Valor, and leaves Snitsky for dead. He takes a chokeslam, and then (after the ONLY "Thumbs Down" of the night! HEY, nice! WWE got the message!) a BatistaBomb.

But the celebration is short-lived, as HHH has a microphone. He says, "You picked my poison tonight, Batista, and you chose poorly. But next week, Big Man, I get to pick YOUR poison. And I pick the man right there in the ring with you now." Fucking hell! Part of me thought I'd heard that promo before, not quite word-for-word, but damned close. But then I remembered that I WROTE it. Except that when I did, it didn't require that Snitsky/Batista bring RAW to a limping finish with a lame main event and angle that nonsensically resurrected the Kane/Snitsky/Lita crap and it created a reason to be REALLY excited about the coming week and it ALSO (in the end) was designed to remind fans that Kane is a major force to be reckoned with in the six-man ladder match. But still, it's kind of odd to see me simultaneously thinking so similarly to WWE's creative team, and yet, not like them at all. And hell, I'm not even against Kane being the "poison" next week, either: I'm just against the way WWE set it up and put both the worst match AND the laziest story of the night on in the main event. A little effort, and a thousand better ways to get to Batista vs. Kane next week would have presented themselves.  Ways that would have not only told THIS story better, but which would have allowed you place this match where it belonged (hidden on the midcard, if it, indeed, had to exist at all in our new scheme) instead of turning the night into an Atrocity of Time Management. And hell, as an added bonus, if that forces you to come up with a better, non-anti-climactic ending for HHH/Benoit since it'd have been relocated to the main event slot, all the better!  But instead: we get things booked this way, the fizzle-out to end all fizzle-outs. A flat main event segment to what was largely an absolutely EXCELLENT and entertaining edition of RAW. 

Your final image: Kane and Batista uncomfortably eye-balling each other in the ring, sizing each other up a mere 167.5 hours before they will go to war against each other.  

E-MAIL RICK
BROWSE THE RAW RECAP ARCHIVES


  
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