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A Night of Upset 
April 12, 2005

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


It's almost like RAW was BEGGING to get labeled with a theme for last night's show.... 
You had untrained, undertalented Spaz pinning Molly Holly... you had no-name manager Khosrow Daivari pinning Shawn Michaels... and you even had Christian winning his first TV match in ages by beating the tenacious Chris Benoit. It'd be the easiest thing in the world to dub this the Night of Upsets.

But more than the in-ring upsets, this

was a night that was just plain UPSETTING at times. Perhaps more just a Night of Upset than anything.

WWE continued to do just about everything wrong as it regards Batista, including painting Randy Orton as a sympathetic babyface after last week's injury at the hands of the new champ and giving HHH egregious amounts of mic and ring time to essentially cover the most predictable and boring territory imaginable. WWE made an odd choice with Lita and Kane, and even if it wasn't intentional, caused the couple to essentially come off as creepy heels, instead of as the strong babyfaces they were just a week ago. And don't even get me started on Chris Masters role on the night (and his promised role next week)...

For your sake, I'm not even gonna touch on how deeply annoyed I am by the fact that WWE released Molly Holly and sent her packing with a loss. Talk about my confidence soaring! My confidence that WWE officially has its head so far up its own ass that they no longer have any grasp on what fans tune in to see or how to satisfy them. Which is the wrong kind of confidence to be having, I think.

Anyway, here's the full rundown of a show that certainly had some pleasantly surprising highlights, but which also made more than its fair share of confoundingly-dumb mistakes en route to a massive THUD of a climax. Enjoy! Or at least, try to....

Opening Theme/Pyro/Etc., and we are live in.... Moline, IL? It's nice of WWE to, every now and again, visit some place that makes me mighty proud of the Sprawling Urban Metropolis that is Dayton. Undeterred by the fact that they aren't exactly in the biggest city in the world (hell, not even in the biggest four-crappy-towns-masquerading-as-one-Quad-Cities in the world!), Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler promise us a bona fide wing ding or a hootenanny tonight, including Batista's first promo as World Champ! But first...

Trish Stratus and Molly Holly vs. Victoria and Christy Hemme (Very Special "Last Chance to See" Showcase Match)

No point in my making crass remarks about my personal dream team of Trish and Molly, huh? Might as well just recap that match, and save the Virtual Eyeball Punching for tomorrow's column...

Victoria and Molly worked most of the early part of the match, probably since they've been getting mighty comfortable working matches around the horn. So we get a bunch of their usual back-and-forth goodness; and then, with Victoria nominally in control, she decided to tag in Spaz. This resulted in two things: (1) an audible undercurrent of boos (in deference to what I've been told is a sometimes Miscalibrated Boo-Meter, I went back and double-checked; the boos for Spaz were real; another sign that sentiments offered at OO are *not* just random jackoffery, but instead helpful observations and harbingers of things to come, WWE! Will you never learn?), and (2) the goodness pretty much evaporated.

Out of the gate, Spaz attacked with her Attempted Tajiri Kicks (which look really bad and fake), but then she did follow up with her one promising move of the match: a modified, cheerleader-y split-type leg drop (an actual pretty convincing looking modification that I'm sure doesn't lose any points for its simple visual appeal). Note to Spaz: don't float over into the cover, just lean over and pin your own leg down over the shoulders for the pinning combo. After that, Molly pretty quickly staged a comeback, and that put Spaz on about 2 minutes worth of defense. Which was executed to varying levels of perfection. Spaz was clearly being shepherded around the ring by Trish and Molly, and didn't know where to be (or when to be there), and took bumps that still aren't quite convincing. Again: I'm not saying Spaz won't get better (for the time being I'll go ahead and believe that she really wants to get good, and that it's still just too early in the training process for us to see it), but why is it incumbent on us to have to watch her get incrementally better when there are plenty of already-capable women out there in the universe who COULD be working matches and also a fully-operational training program in Louisville, KY? Baffling.

After Trish and Molly cut the ring in half for a few minutes, Spaz finally manages to make a hot tag to Victoria, who comes in and does another solid minute or so with Molly, mostly kicking Molly's ass. This leads up to a Widow's Peak attempt, but Trish comes in and breaks that up. Stung by the interruption, Victoria decides to stumble over and re-tag-in Spaz, who comes in and pretty much looks to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by getting caught in the wrong corner. But wait! When Molly goes for the handspring elbow, Spaz magically worms out of the way, and Molly crashes into Trish... Molly, confused, stumbles back... and right into a roll-up by Spaz. One, two, three, and that's the last you'll be seeing of Molly Holly, folks! Spaz wins again! An actually pretty decent little 5 minute match, especially the Victoria/Molly sequences, but it's hard to be too enthusiastically positive when half the reason why this match DID work is no longer employed by the company.

Trish tries to get back in the ring for a little vengeancing, but Spaz is so clearly ultra-talented and savvy that she quickly dispatches Trish, too! Can you feel the totally compelling realism? Cuz I can't! And it's things like this that completely FAIL to make Spaz a sympathetic/believable character, and could continue to result in boos of discontent from fans who don't buy it...

After the Match: Trish is contemplating another assault on Spaz, but decides discretion is the better part of valor, and starts hoofing it up the ramp. But THROUGH HELLFIRE AND BRIMSTONE, IT'S A LONG-DORMANT STORYLINE BROUGHT MYSTERIOUSLY BACK TO LIFE OUT OF NOWHERE BECAUSE THAT'S JUST HOW WWE'S CREATIVE TEAM ROLLS! That's right, Kane stalks out, and in one of those moments that pretty much underscores how slipshod WWE storytelling is, you had to have King and JR go through a 30 second song and dance to remind us that Trish severely wounded Lita last week, that Kane is apparently still married to Lita despite it not being mentioned in about a month, and that Kane despite not mentioning or interacting with his wife in blue moon is actually still quite the loving husband who will go after Trish for what he did to Lita. When your announcers are having to bend over backwards THAT much to explain things for the home viewer, you are not exactly delivering the crispest, smoothest episodic television. You are, however, more than likely making it up on the fly. And that's not my idea for the best way of telling stories... anyway, Trish eventually realizes that whatever Kane's out here to do, it probably involves her (smart broad! she didn't even have the benefit of King and JR's nattering!), so she hightails it out through the crowd. Kane stalks her, and the cameras finally lose them as they enter a tunnel that I'm assuming leads to backstage...

Video Package, Part 1: Last week, poor Randy Orton wrestled a match that HE ASKED FOR and wound up getting his ass beat. And his shoulder hurt. And somehow, we are led to believe that this makes HIM the victim, as JR and King narrate a quick package of the Batista/Orton match... and we are promised even MORE details on Orton coming up after these....


Video Package, Part 2: amidst a disclaimer that the footage we were about to see being Unsuitable For Some Viewers, we get a prepared package in which Randy Orton talks from a hospital bed in Birmingham, AL, where he's undergoing shoulder surgery at the hands of Dr. Jim Andrews. Here's the problem: the whole thing is presented like Orton is a babyface, and Orton's telling of his story is "I was injured after WrestleMania, and Batista knew that and he took advantage of that in our match, which is the only reason why he could beat me." The fuck? The story, as it REALLY happened, and as it BEST SUITS ORTON'S HEEL CHARACTER is "Orton may or may not have been injured at WM, but even if he was, *he* was the one dumb enough to make the injury public knowledge in a promo, and then HE was still the one who mocked Batista and demanded a chance to wrestle him. And then IN THE MATCH AGAINST BATISTA, he did the finest kind of gestures in all the land (the Broad kind) to indicate that his shoulder was just dandy, and if Batista just so happened to hit two consecutive shoulder-related offensive moves at the end of the match to finish off Orton for good, that's just how it goes." The presentation here is that Orton really is the good guy in all this, and NOT the kind of obnoxious over-the-top babyfacishness that fans would know to boo. WWE really wants us to feel for Orton, and that's not only bad for Orton's character, but it's bad for Batista. Batista is now NOT a guy who just DID HIS JOB against a punk bitch who called him out; he's a guy who injured a noble young superstar. It's fucking idiotic. Idiotic. Not even BABYFACES who have gotten legit hurt have had this kind of video package done for them when they underwent surgery. Yet Orton, who practically oozes heelishness at all times, has this ultra sympathetic bit prepared for him, which will only cloud the issue and make some fans wonder "Wait, I thought it was OK to start booing this douchebag again? Now it's NOT?"... making matters worst of all: Orton's punchline is some cheesy crap about how Batista is taking food out of his mouth because now Orton can't work for four months, but when he IS back in four months, he's gonna be coming after Batista. That's great: so now, not only is WWE got its head too far up its ass to just let Orton be a heel, now you can pretty much pencil in Orton vs. Batista as a major feud this summer, instead of penciling Orton in for the jump to SD! and the career Do-Over that he needs, far, far away from the stink of his failure. If anybody can find any silver lining to this package, in theory, in execution, or in potential for the future, let me know: cuz I got nothing but a lot of anger and confusion that Orton's story was presented this way... it's not right for Orton, it's not right for Batista, and that means it's just not right for the brand.

Backstage: Stacy Keibler (borrowing Ivory's patented Inexplicable Toweldom Despite Not Doing Anything Physical That Would Have Required a Shower, and also borrowing Young Randall's unique grasp on logic and causation), finishes watching the Orton package, and notes, "Batista's probably the only guy who could take out Randy." Umm, sweetie? One, The Undertaker. Two, your character should think that Orton's the biggest assface in the universe, and you're still back-handedly kissing up to him?  Awful. There's two other Useless Divas in the room, and one of them notes, "Well, I just wish Batista would take ME out." Giggle giggle giggle. The other one says, "Yeah, I wish he would powerbomb ME." And Stacy puts the cherry on the top of this crap sundae by noting, "Yeah, and then he could PIN me." Giggle giggle giggle giggle. God, so it's true: anytime two or more girls get together in the absence of males, they become absolute tittering retards! The 3 minutes of "Sex in the City" I once saw 2 years ago didn't lie! "Powerbomb me?" Actually, that *has* to be a line scribed by some sexless comic-book-reading Head RAW Writer, who actually believes that if he mustered up all his suave and went up to a girl and said, "Hey, baby, I wanna power bomb you. I wanna power bomb you ALL night long. Yeeaaaahhhhhh, Ooooooohhh, c'mon honey," that it would work. If the goal here was to remind us that the Useless Diva Brigade are both (a) Morons, and (b) Horrible Actresses, then mission accomplished. Otherwise.... I don't know. Finally Trish storms in so that there's at least one appealing female on the screen... but then she storms out through a door on the other side of the room. About 3 seconds behind her is Kane, who stops, sort of chortles dickishly as the Useless Divas use their acting prowess to convey "Possibly Scared," and then leaves.

Elsewhere Backstage: Coach is standing by for an interview, and does his heelish duty in making Muhammad Hassan sound like the second coming of Lou Thesz before kicking things off. For his part, Hassan brings the Prick, saying that tonight, Shawn Michaels will taste more of Hassan's Righteous Fury than he did the week before, and that he will be embarassed inside the ring, guaranteed. Daivari punctuates it with a little Farsi ditty that ends with "Shawn Michaels." So you KNOW he means business.


Triple H's Turn Back the Clock Night

Triple H hits the ring in full wrestling gear, making me think that we might accomplish something constructive here... but christ, there Trips goes, grabbing a mic. So Something Constructive will have to wait.

Because HHH wants to tell us all how he's got a rematch coming up against Batista. Really? Wow, thanks for the 4-1-1, Hunter. Because HHH wants to tell us all how he doesn't expect Batista to be able to beat him twice. Really? Wow, thanks for that completely unexpected sentiment, Hunter. Because HHH thinks this will be the greatest rematch in the history of time and space, and when it's all over, he'll be an 11-time champion. Really? Wow, that's not even CLOSE to the same sentiment you just said 30 seconds ago!  Honestly: I'm not saying that a Batista/HHH rematch isn't a dandy idea, but somebody's got a REAL misconception over WHY it might appeal to fans. Hunter's story is not the one any of us care about hearing; mostly because it's all stuff we've already heard. And yet, week in and week out, HHH goes out there and says the things that the vast majority of fans could probably have guessed for themselves. So annoying.

Finally, HHH gets to a little something fresh: he has been rewatching the tape from WM21, and he's found the weakness that he'll exploit at Backlash... he's seen the Fear in Batista's eyes anytime HHH went for the Pedigree. And then he spent 2 minutes talking in circles until he got to the point that the Pedigree is the greatest move in all the world, that Batista fears it, and that Batista can't beat it. Because "The Pedigree is the Truth, and the Truth is You Can't Beat Me." Or something.

So you're asking the fans to not just sit through 5 minutes of HHH saying the most predictably obvious things, now you are asking fans to regress to a point where they believed in the legitimacy of wrestling moves above and beyond all else? Look, it's smart to put finishing moves over as devastating... but to go to the extent that HHH did here? Look, fans today know that the TRIP getting to the finisher is the real deal... that's what we pay for/tune-in for, and that's what we care about.  Not a single person believes that Batista fears the Pedigree, not a SINGLE one. It's kind of a silly thing to make the tentpole of an entire promo. It'd work better as a little aside somewhere, since you know that this is just a ham-handed over-attention to minor detail: this now means that Batista will get Pedigreed at Backlash, and he'll kick out, and that'll somehow turn into a massive over-sell by HHH that allows Batista to come back and win the match. Nee haw, how thrilling. How's about paying attention to the Big Picture first, and THEN we can start doing cutesy things like this to create a fun little 5 second spot in a match that doesn't even happen for 3 more weeks, OK?

Much to my relief, Hurricane suddenly appears to bring an end to the gum-flapping! He gets in a great line about how when last we saw HHH in action, he was wearing a mask... but not a cool super-hero mask... a Crimson Mask. Whassupwidat? Nice. HHH tries to counter by calling him "Green Tomato," but Young Gregory Helms takes his job into his own hands by daring to no-sell Trips' attempted humor! Instead, Hurricane gets serious and says that he's got unfinished business with HHH, dating back to when HHH used a sledge hammer to beat the crap out of him and Rosey a few weeks back. And tonight it's payback time. HHH thinks this sounds OK, and invites Hurricane to the ring... 

But when Hurricane starts marching, he is immediately joined by Rosey, and it now looks like it'll be a bit of 2-on-1 clubbering. Hurricane and Rosey got the better of HHH, who rolled out of the ring, and was looking Mega-Pissed. He grabbed a mic and said that he picked the wrong night to stop sniffing glue. Or wait: *they* picked the wrong night to piss him off. Because the mood he's in, HHH wants to fight both of them right now, so get a ref out here and let's turn this mother out! Right after these....


Triple H vs. Hurricane/Rosey (Handicap Match)

We join this match in progress, as somehow, HHH has taken control, and is beating the dog out of Hurricane. We get a few HurriHopeSpots, but HHH stays in control and won't let Hurricane tag in Rosey... this goes on for 2-3 minutes until Hurricane reverses a side-slam or backbreaker attempt into a head-scissors takedown. That creates enough of a break to get the hot tag in to Rosey.

And that Rosey, he's not just a House Afire, he's at the very least a Duplex Afire. Perhaps even an entire Towering Inferno. Using all manner of his devastating Fat Man Offense (including Butt Attacks and the Crazy Ass Spinning Leg Drop) to decimate HHH. But Rosey pretty much uses up his entire arsenal in about 90 seconds, and ends up deciding to tag in the Not Fresh Man, for some reason. D'oh. Rosey: surprisingly agile for a big man, but apparently surprisingly dim for somebody who probably at least graduated high school.

Sho 'nuff: Hurricane gets in a grand total of one (1) offensive move before trying to go up top, and getting crotched on the top rope for his troubles. From there, HHH was relentless. He was all over Hurricane. He was like Stink on a Hippie. When Rosey had finally seen enough of the assault, he tried to come in and interrupt... but HHH cut him off at the pass, and sent him tumbling outside the ring... in so doing, Rosey got his feet tangled up in the ropes, and was trapped. Sensing an easy opportunity, HHH hoisted up Hurricane's limp carcass, hit his Mighty Pedigree Of Extreme Awesomeness That Nobody, Not Even Batista At Backlash, Will Ever Kick Out Of Because That's Just How Extremely Awesome It Is And If You Don't Believe It, HHH Will Gladly Tell You Again Next Week, and that was that. Probably about 3-4 minutes after the ad break, and not too hateful; Rosey's sequence was a ton of fun, at least, and the finish was nicely conceived.

After the Match: HHH took the opportunity to kick the crap out of Rosey some more while he was still tied up in the ropes, and then he grabbed a mic and AGAIN bludgeoned us over the head with the out-dated notion that there's a wrestling move in the universe that is unbeatable (despite countless people having kicked-out of the Pedigree in the past, and despite the fact that it will happen again, and despite the fact that 80% of your fan base is savvy enough to understand this and appreciate how you GET to the Pedigree and how it works into the story of a match, more than they care about the move itself). And to prove it, tonight he vows to deliver the move to Batista. Tonight? OK, boss, whatever you say. And then in an odd non sequitur, HHH notes, "Because it doesn't matter how big you are." Obviously, this was the segue line to justify HHH going outside the ring and Pedigreeing Big Fat Rosey on the floor... and that's your segment. Not a bad idea to introduce some of these elements, but there's gotta be better ways to feature HHH and get those points across that DON'T include a full 20 minutes of TV time spanning two segments, and the continued emasculation of Hurricane and Rosey.


WWE Worldwide: Last week, WWE toured Australia, and apparently played to big and enthusiastic crowds and had a blast. Wheee.

Backstage: Batista is hanging out, and Chris Benoit is with him? Huh. They are chatting, but if I recall, we didn't hear anything, since JR and King were just basically voicing it over. As has been noted many times before here at OO: the notion of Batista and Benoit being married together as opponents is one we endorse.  Ric Flair, Batista is not. But with the right opponent(s), he can have very good matches, and Benoit is perhaps the BEST opponent for making Batista into a truly accepted Main Event Superstar. If marrying them together as friends is the first step of getting to that point? I'd dig that... otherwise, this little piece seemed out of place and superfluous. Benoit and Batista together.... huh.

Chris Masters vs. Some Guy

You're shitting me, right? The guy who gets "boring" chants on fricking HEAT, who has shown not a single lick of personality or in-ring skill, and he's not only getting called up to RAW, but he's getting squash matches against nobodies? And I'm supposed to care, why?

The pre-match video package of Masters' "highlights" lasts longer than the match. Longest of all: Jerry Lawler's wang, if his fawning commentary and obvious attraction to this tasty hunk of man-meat is to be believed. Just awful in every way. The live crowd chants "boring," and I take back everything nasty I said about Moline! They didn't just chant it at him during the boring parts of the squash, they actually chanted it at him DURING HIS FINISHER. The allegedly thrilling Full Nelson. Hey, WWE, you claim that you listen to fans: listen now. We're telling you to stick this guy back in the oven and not waste our time with him till he's done cooking.

After the Match: Masters grabs a mic, and sounds for all the world like the dumb football players we all knew in high school. Sort of mumbly and marble mouthed. He has a challenge: next week, he's putting up $1000 of his own money, and challenging ANYbody to break out of his Full Nelson (sorry, WWE, no sale on the "MasterLock" name; it's a fucking crap-ass Full Nelson, and we all know it). I'd say that the fact that both RAW and SD! will be at MSG next week opens the door for some interesting possibilities on this front, but mostly, I expect this is just another license for Chris Masters to bore the shit out of a national TV audience when he SHOULD still be down in OVW working more on his verbal and ring skills than on his ass-injecting. Hey, WWE, you want ratings death and "boring" chants? I hereby challenge Chris Masters *and* Randy Orton to a Handicap Match of Scrabble! I'll put up $1000 of my own money! And then for an encore, I'll challenge Stacy Keibler, Maria the Mic Stand, and Boobsy McSuperBowl to a Handicap Match of Trivial Pursuit! Actually: that last one might not be bad, if we make it Strip Trivial Pursuit! My shirt will remain on, as dictated by basic standards of Broadcast Decency, but they'd be nekkid inside of 10 minutes! And then the drinking contest! Oh, the drinking contest... I'd open that up to anybody! Except Roddy Piper: that HoF induction speech by Flair scares even me.... see, WWE: this is how easy it is to make dumb-ass challenges that have no business being broadcast on television! Truth be told, I think more people would rather see each and every one of these than the Full Nelson Challenge. I am not joking.

[Complete Tangent: you want silly gaming challenges that might make for good TV? I hope to hell somebody at WWE HQ has already thought of this, but with their heads so far up their own asses, you never know.... but Celebrity Poker airs on Bravo, which is part of the NBC/Universal family along with USA. And Celebrity Poker *does* do theme shows (including a "West Wing" show and an "Arrested Development" show). How much fun would it be to see a few WWE stars sit down and play some Hold 'Em? Beats the hell out of "Celebrity Fear Factor" or "Celebrity Family Feud" or whatever other bullshit they did back in the day! WWE and Universal are now in bed together and if they DON'T do this, they are dumb. BOTH sides are dumb. It's a win-win, baby.]

Video Package: Muhammad Hassan and Shawn Michaels did some stuff last week. I don't recap recaps.

The Rick is Now Filled with Murderous Rage: They announce that there will be a 2005 Diva Search. Why? So that you can tank entire 15-minute segments of RAW with soul-crushing stupidity that results in live crowds booing the hell out of the crap happening? Or so you can hire another dozen worthless, vapid wannabe model/actresses who might get naked in Playboy for you and contribute to such thrilling TV as the "I wish Batista would powerbomb me" skit from earlier? And most: so that now that fans know that IT DOESN'T FUCKING MATTER WHO WINS BECAUSE EVERYBODY GETS HIRED ANYWAY, you can craft some of the least interesting, pertinent, and compelling television of the year?  Run this bullshit on the internet, that's fine... but don't soil my wrestling show with it. I'm begging you. Point blank: anybody who liked ANY of this the first time really needs his head checked, but I'll stop short of demanding your immediate ejection into the sun, since maybe you just wanted to know who won. But this time around, anybody who gives this Diva Search anything other than the most vigorous vile and loathing can fucking just pop off and kill themselves, and none of us will miss you. I'm serious. You know that everybody gets hired, and you're STILL gonna get interested in seeing who wins? That makes you a worthless sack of crap in my book, and we do not need your genetic material contaminating Planet Earth's gene pool. The only people I despise more than you? The ones who decided to run another Diva Search in the first place....


Shawn Michaels vs. Muhammad Hassan (Very Special Will Not Happen Tonight Match)

Michaels enters first, and then when Hassan enters? He stops on the stage and has a mic.... he declares that he has no desire to face Shawn Michaels tonight. And in fact, if Michaels ever wants to fight Hassan, he'll have to EARN that right. So tonight, Hassan went to GM Bischoff and made arrangements... if Michaels can beat his Special Opponent tonight, THEN Michaels can fight Hassan in the future.

That special opponent: Khosrow Daivari. Nice: the prospects of this being an action-packed match just increased exponentially! Prepare to dig Shawn Daivari, folks!

Shawn Michaels vs. Khosrow Daivari

Out of the gate, Daivari insists on doing some Farsi ranting, while JR and King joke about how "this won't take long at all," making Michaels out to be a strong favorite. Which kind of telegraphs the finish, but I don't care: I like the idea very much, and this is a neat way to intro Daivari as a wrestler. Michaels has finally heard enough gibberish, and goes out to ringside to attack Daivari. Michaels does indeed contol the opening minute or so, but when Hassan hits ringside to distract Michaels, Daivari hits this sweet-ass running/flying hangman move, and then takes control.

Daivari then follows up with more surprisingly-nice offense, including an awesome Atomic Legdrop. But as they do want to keep us convinced that Shawn Michaels is a Hall of Famer and Daivari is just some chump manager, Michaels thusly begins the Ultra-Time-Compressed Babyface Fire-Up. First he starts throwing hands with Daivari, then the Flying Burrito, then the nip up, and then he was ready to hit the Macho Man Elbow... but that's when Hassan decided to step in again. Michaels cut Hassan off before he could interfere, tossing him into the ring. While the ref got distracted by Hassan's presence (Michaels was in full control, so no DQ, but Hebner was keeping an eye on things), Daivari stepped outside and grabbed the ring bell. Michaels and Hebner BOTH had their heads on swivels, though, and before Daivari could strike, they intercepted him. But while Hebner was making sure the ring bell got out of the ring, that was all the opening Hassan needed. He nailed Michaels with a mighty Sac Kick, and then got out of the ring. Daivari took advantage of the writhing Michaels, quickly rolling him up and scoring the pinfall win. OMG Daivari pins Shawn Michaels~! That Michaels with all his backstage clout, always insisting on jobbing to no-name managers in their wrestling debuts~! 

A pretty nice little 4 minute affair that should (a) keep things rolling as far as storylines go, but also (b) open folks eyes to the fact that Daivari is a legitimate in-ring performer. Also, it is here that RAW basically ensured that tonight would be the Night of Upsets. Starting with Spaz pinning Molly for no discernable reason, to HHH overcoming handicap match odds, and now this? And with one big upset to come? That's a theme night, no matter HOW you slice it.


Backstage: Shawn Michaels finds GM Eric Bischoff, and DEMANDS a shot at both Hassan and Daivari... he doesn't care when or how, he wants them both. But Bischoff, he's not feeling it. He can't risk an attraction like HBK in a handicap match (ummmm, HHH match earlier? Or wait: that's definitely in the realm of "thinking too hard"; I'm a smart guy, but I ain't a jack-off)... so what Bischoff will do is grant Michaels a tag match against Hassan and Daivari at Backlash. And Michaels can choose his own partner. I know what *I* was thinking here... and I know I liked it...

The Highlight Reel: Just What the Rick Ordered Edition

For the first time in recent memory, the Highlight Reel does NOT kick off the show, which necessitates Jericho getting a full ring entrance... there are worse things in the world. Jericho finally gets a mic in hand, and immediately proceeds to speak as though he cribbed notes from a certain highly intelligent and perceptive wrestling columnist. Not that I don't love it every time that seem to happen.
Anyway, the gist is that Jericho's happy with how the Money in the Bank Match went (it *was* his idea), except for the outcome. And that got him thinking to how he's been in a bit of a funk, how he hasn't quite been himself for a while, and he's realized it all traces back to one night. Taboo Tuesday. That, of course, was the night that Shelton Benjamin took the IC Title away from Jericho, and although Jericho gives all due respect to the job Shelton's done with the title, he notes that he never did get his one-on-one rematch and never made it his business to regain that title. Until now. Hey, quit stealing my shit, Jericho~!  So he calls Shelton out to the ring to discuss matters....

Shelton comes out, and Jericho wastes no time: he says that all his problems trace back to the loss of his IC Title, and that he wants "redemption." And that means putting his energy into getting back the title he lost six months ago. Shelton retorts by pretending to play the World's Tiniest Violin, and saying that he doesn't care about Jericho's "redemption," because he's held the title for six months, he beat Jericho just last week, and simply put, he can do things inside the ring that nobody else can, and that's why he's still the champ.

Jericho re-retorts: he's a seven-time IC Champ, he's MADE that title, and it's probably a little too early for "Shelty" to start writing his own Hall of Fame plaque, not when he's got a history maker standing right in front of him issuing a challenge. Jericho decides to start brining things home when he gets snippy and asks, "So Shelton, if you can do things in this ring nobody else can, do you think you can maybe take that IC Title and shove it up your own ass?". Shelton, keeping the tone of this confrontation "tense, but playful" (if that makes sense; both guys were kind of bringing some dickishness, but were both doing it so naturally and casually that it didn't seem heelish), chuckled and said, "No, but I can take this fist and make more hits than the last Fozzy album!"....

HA~! Line of the night.

Jericho, now maybe inching towards heelishness for the first time in the segment, does NOT see the playful humor in this, and says, "Oh, yeah, then maybe you missed Fozzy's last single... it's called 'Shelton Benjamin is a Little Bitch'." Shelton doesn't want to over-react, and keeps his cool for a bit. But then Jericho keeps bringing the assholitude, tossing furniture at Shelton and taunting him with "Whatchya gonna do about it? Ain't now stopping you now!" (HA~! again)...  so Shelton shoved Jericho back... and so Jericho charged Shelton. The two crashed through some of the Highlight Reel scenery, and then tumbled to ringside, where they kept throwing punches at each other until a phalanx of referees hit the scene to pull them apart.

Seriously: almost EXACTLY what I wanted to see out of the IC Title picture. From the backstory as told by Jericho about Taboo Tuesday and never really taking his stab at a rematch to just the TONE of this thing (with both guys managing to hit zingers, but not making either one of them an obvious heel until pretty close to the end; and even then, Jericho *will* have plenty of fans, too, which is cool... when done out of laziness and missteps, "mixed reacton" feuds are annoying as hell; but when done this way, they seem special, like you're seeing two guys who wouldn't normally fight really want to kill each other; perfect).


The SmackDown! Rebound: I don't recap recaps.

Backstage: Kane is on the prowl, ostensibly for Trish, when he hits a dressing room. For the non-brain-dead among us, the anvilicious Spooky Lighting is a dead enough give-away, and when Kane sing-songy says, "Thhhhheeeeeere you arrrreeee," we all know it ain't Trish he's found. Instead, it's Lita. Lita asks if the job is done. Kane says it is, and Trish is scared to death. So Lita moves in, gives Kane her best Sexy Face, and then KISSES THE HELL OUT OF HIS CHIN. For a really long time. That was just.... creepy. Weird. Awkward. The physical chemistry (or lack thereof) was odd enough... but just the overall vibe here was downright spooky and heelish. Which I don't get. Again: I get the feeling that they just kind of made this up on the fly this week. Because last week, it seemed natural that Kane would be a face, and Orton (be it now, or in a few months) would be a heel for a logical feud against Kane, and that on top of that Lita would come back from her injury an even more sympathetic fan favorite against Trish than ever before... and now we got this.... Lita and Kane just coming off as unlikable villains. I wish I knew if it was intentional or not, because that'd sure as hell help me know how I should analyze the thing. If it's on purpose, I'm not so sure it's the best idea in the world (you want a heel couple, I still say Stacy/Randy would have been perfect for it!): and if it's unintentional, it's just more proof that the creative team just doesn't quite have a handle on fan psychology.

Shawn Michaels Has an Ace Up His Sleeve

"Sexy Boy" hits, and Shawn Michaels comes out onto the stage to talk. He says that Eric Bischoff has made him a deal where he can face Hassan/Daivari at Backlash, but only if he comes up with a tag team partner. And Michaels says that maybe this is just him shooting off at the mouth without thinking it through, but he's got an idea for who he'd like in his corner....

At this point, I'm assuming this is the invitation for Marty Jannetty to come back to RAW.... but Michaels almost instantly kills that notion when he starts talking about his love for his country and how he wants somebody in his corner who is as Real an American as he is. The crowd picks up on this, and by the time Shawn hits the punchline that he's "only asking for what the fans already asked for at the Hall of Fame induction," the "Hogan, Hogan" chants are deafening. And sure enough, Michaels reveals that the man he wants as his partner is Hulk Hogan. For just "One More Match." Which seemed unnecessarily stilted, as it was clearly just a ham-handed cue to get the fans chanting "One More Match," instead of "Hogan, Hogan." Which is also exactly the kind of pointless BS that the creative team probably pats itself on the back for thinking of. The moment was already special; Michaels tacking on a lame-ass punchline to goose a chant out of fans only took away from it.

Anyway, I've got mixed feelings here. If Michaels is so confident that he could take Hassan and Daivari BY HIMSELF (as witnessed by his desire for a handicap match), then what the hell is the logical motivation for him calling in a gun as big as Hulk Hogan? If Hogan was gonna get more of Hassan/Daivari, it would actually have made a lot more sense (and been a lot more harmless fun) if it was Hogan/Eugene who teamed up. Whereas I think Marty Jannetty would be the perfect guy for Shawn to call up here: he's somebody Shawn trusts, which should be more important to Shawn than somebody who is a proven Hall of Famer. But nope: Hogan gets the call... the only good reason for doing this? Is if Hogan and Michaels somehow DON'T get along... I can totally see Shawn's massive, out-of-control ego and backstage political games resulting in him wanting to drag one last **** match out of Hogan's carcass at some point in the next year. *That* would be an OK reason to make this match... otherwise, why isn't it Marty? [Possible answer to my own question: what if Marty shows up and is pissed off at Shawn for not picking him? That could jumpstart a heel turn, maybe....]


Chris Benoit vs. Christian

Benoit is accompanied to the ring by footage of last week, when Edge beat the holy living hell out of his arm and shoulder with a steel chair. Christian is accompanied to the ring by the Lovely Miss Tomko.  As is OO's standard running joke, I think we all know who gets the better of that exchange!

And before the match gets started, Edge comes on out, with his own chair and with his Money in the Bank briefcase. And plops himself down at the commentary desk for a night's easy work. And wastes no time causing me to become conflicted. Because on one hand, he spends a LOT of the match doing a great job re-focusing his energies on playing the Conspiracy Victim (which is EXACTLY what his character needs after losing to Benoit last week), but then also spends a non-zero amount of time on trying to get over the nickname "Mr. Money in the Bank," which is just lame. It liked it better when they got onto a tangent about how Edge is also undefeated at WM (4-0, it's true, it's true), but nobody talks about that like they do the Undertaker's streak, and how it clearly shows that he is the "King of Crunchtime." Now *that* is a more suitable nickname, not necessarily super-cool, but convincingly-dorky, if that makes sense. Just like "Captain Charisma." I know it doesn't sound like it, but I mean this as a compliment. "Convincingly Dorky" is something that is GOOD for heels to do, sometimes. "Mr. Money in the Bank" is just plain dorky, and a rather unpleasant mouthful, too boot. On the whole, though, my confliction settles in favor of "Edge had a really good night on commentary." The "Mr. Money in the Bank" thing was my only real complaint amidst much other convincing heelishness and prickliness with JR. Seeing how they continue to fuck up with Orton, it's actually refreshing to see a guy who obviously relishes going out there and acting like as big a dick as he possibly can.

So with the players all situated, the match beginulates.... lots of support for Christian (in the form of giant "PEEPS" signs), but he is deadset on being the heel here, as he goes to work on Benoit's injured arm with abandon. Lots of arm bars and hammerlocks in the first few minutes, but then Benoit turns the tide with an enzuigiri (just a little thing, but a rare move from Benoit, and an offensive move that DOESN'T require any arm usage, just subtly conveying the severity of the injury). Lots of Good Arm Chops and a few other moves from Benoit for a minute or two, but then Christian regains the advantage by grabbing Benoit's tights and leveraging him out of the ring. Benoit lands right on that tender shoulder/bicep.

Christian follows out, and piles on with some more arm-related offense, but in the transition of them getting back into the ring, Benoit is able to craftily regain control for a moment or two. In fact, he was about to crotch Christian on the ringpost, but Tomko stalked over and caused a distraction. From there, Christian was able to regain control pretty quickly, and this time, not so much with the mat wrestling holds: lots of stomping and stuff like that. Very boo-able. He finally decides to slow things down a bit and DOES return to an armbar at about the 8 minute mark.... but it's a GOOD armbar: it's part of an established intra-match story, and plus, he's REALLY wrenching it hard and contorting Benoit's surgically-repaired neck, to boot. But who's got the fi-yah? Benoit's got the fi-yah, and he eventually escapes this hold and goes to town on Christian with some chops, and even starts making moves towards locking in the Crossface. This scares Christian a bit, and he retreats to the apron for a moment. But Benoit? He gives no quarter... he shoulder tackles the unsuspecting Christian, sending him flying off the apron and into the ringside barrier. And then Benoit gets into the center of the ring, and shoots the Skunk Eye at Edge. Edge stands up at the commentary desk. We have ourselves a Stare Down. And we also have ourselves a nice spot in which to insert some....


Back, and Christian is in control again. No explanation given, but the state of Benoit's arm, we can probably be trusted to fill in some blanks, right? So Christian's working ANOTHER of the family of "Justifiably Good Armbars," and again, Benoit is obligated to fire up and escape it. But after the escape, his flurry doesn't last long: Christian regains control AGAIN with a vicious hangman move, draping Benoit's arm over the top rope. And then Christian pounced with more arm-related punching and gouging (even ripping and tearing at the bandage on Benoit's arm)... when Benoit dared to show a spark of life with a quick inside cradle, a distraction from Tomko prevented the ref from making a timely count, and once both were back on their feet, Christian re-asserted his superiority with a Fujiwara Armbar Takedown (JR: "Well, at least Christian is doing it with wrestling holds tonight, not with a steel char." Edge: "Excuse me? I seem to recall using that exact hold last week to escape the Crossface, JR!" Nice stuff.).

Christian eventually settled in with another armhold (a hammerlock, maybe?), and when Benoit fired up out of that one, he did it with a German Suplex out of nowhere, which resulted in both guys being down and a double count starting up. End Game, anyone? But nope: they faked me out... after a flurry of back-and-forth-y, Christian settled in with ANOTHER armhold (I forget; at this point, I was beginning to feel a LITTLE bit anxious, since this was increasingly seemingly like a lather-rinse-repeat affair in the ring, instead of a "building up with each successive exchange" thing; like the point was for Christian and Benoit to have a nice little match in the background while Edge was the real star on commentary, almost). So Benoit fires up out of THIS one, too, and this time, when they start going back-and-forthy, they end up both running the ropes, and when they end up hitting Simultaneous Clotheslines, and when both men go down and when the ref starts another double count, NOW we are heading for End Game! I swear it!

Pace picks up, as both men get up at 8, and when the back-and-forthy recommences, it's Benoit who ends up getting the better of it, and he goes on his first real offensive tear of the match. Lots of suplexes (a German, a Dynamite-Kid-esque Snap, and even a Norther Lights), and it all builds up to a Sharpshooter. But Christian is able to make the ropes on that, and gets the break. But Benoit's not to be denied: he immediately follows up with the Hat Trick of Germans (this week, he hit them consecutively, which seemed odd, since last week, when he was "less injured" one of my favorite parts of the match was how they had him hit the three Germans, but not-quite-consecutively, so as to sell the arm injury and his inability to keep a tight clasp). But Benoit: he pissed the advantage away by going up top for the Swandive Headbutt. No water in the pool when he landed, Christian had dodged.

Christian tried to follow that up with an Unprettier, but he wasn't exactly in great shape himself, so by the time he set that up, Benoit had recovered a bit... and recovered enough to reverse the Unprettier directly into the Crippler Crossface! At this point, Edge doesn't make any bones about it: he just up and leaves the commentary desk, steel chair in hand, promising to beat Benoit with a chair again this week... but Benoit sees  him coming, immediately releases Christian, and hits a baseball slide on Edge, taking him out of commission before Edge can even get in the ring. But the distraction? Enough for Christian to get back on his feet, and stalk up behind Benoit... as soon as Benoit stood up after the baseball slide, Christian immediately cinched him up and hit the Unprettier. Three seconds later, and OMG CHRISTIAN WINS A MATCH~! Talk about the Night of Upsets continuing....

This was definitely over 20 minutes, total, and truth be told, it's one of those deals where it might actually have benefited from LESS time. The Benoit/Edge match last week was the same basic psychology/story, but at about 12-15 minutes, it seems to build up along the way, with no flaccid points... whereas this week, when Christian went back for armholds #4 and #5 in the last 5 minutes or so, it DID get a bit tedious. No matter how crisp the execution (and the execution was excellent, no doubt about it), that's just not a story you can harp on that much without it getting a bit stale. Edge helped out be being a mega-douche on commentary, but still... this amounted to last week's match being stretched out 8 minutes longer, and you could pretty easily feel it. On the upside: the finish with Christian beating Benoit? That could be interesting, if it means that WWE intends to honestly try having these three guys all help each other to move up the card a bit... Edge is the #1 Contender, but Benoit beats Edge, but Christian beats Benoit.... if they are doing this on purpose to push all three, great; if they're just making it up as they go along with no vision beyond this week, then who the hell knows? A good, but not stellar, match, with some intriguing implications for the future, though...


Welcome to the Jungle: Exactly What the Rick DIDN'T Order Theatre

OK, so we're all paisans here... you know me, I know you. And we all know that I've been bitching and moaning for 2 months that Batista just needs that one, simple, logical interview in which he creates a fully-formed character for himself, and then from there, things will start looking up.

Pardon me for seeing "Batista's First Interview" at the top of the show and thinking tonight might be the night that The Rick's Influence travels through the ether to have a direct and positive impact 1000 miles away. Specifically, at Titan Tower, where  I thought MAYBE they were about to make Dave Batista a star.  I couldn't have been more wrong.

Jim Ross conducts this interview, which unpromisingly, isn't even getting started until about 2 minutes till 11pm, which means not a lot of substance will be done. He warms up the crowd, and brings out Big Dave, who is in full ring gear. Although we all know the real reason is "Because he has to wrestle a dark match after RAW goes off the air," Dave actually thinks ahead and declares that he put on his ring gear because he heard HHH's threat of a Pedigree earlier tonight and he figured he'd make it real easy if HHH really wants to come get some. See, a simple touch, but just one of those things that makes Batista seem a little bit smarter than the average bear. One problem: when he said it, he was huffing and puffing and out of breath. From his RING ENTRANCE. Christ, Big Man, take it easy, and you'll seem a lot more cool and collected if you're delivering promos smoothly and without having to gasp for air between every third word.

And then, just because WWE has no idea what to do with Dave, Jim Ross feeds him a question. The ONLY question he'd be asked, and it would only result in a total of MAYBE 90 seconds of Batista talking. And it wasn't a particularly interesting question that would allow Batista to establish anything about his character. Instead, it's "So, you got a rematch with HHH coming up. You concerned?"

And predictably, Batista is not concerned... and then he launches into this mish-mash of really stilted phrases and concepts all centered around how he's an "Animal." He talks about being at the top of the food chain. He talks about chewing competition up and spitting them out. He talks about being the hunter, not the hunted. and he talks a LOT about "The Jungle." It's the kind of stuff that clearly comes from a marketing department and NOT from Dave Batista. And it's really lame. If this was anything BESIDES the set-up for Batista to get a kick-ass new ring entrance to G'n'R's "Welcome to the Jungle" (which would be pretty cool, as Batista really COULD use some kind of neat signature entrance if he's gonna get pushed as a signature star), then it was a loss from every imaginable perspective. It adds nothing interesting to Batista, it adds nothing to the Batista/HHH feud/re-match, and even from a marketing perspective, the little theme of the promo was very lame and won't result in a single t-shirt ever getting sold.

So that was that: about 2 minutes of total mic time for Batista. The first part explaining why he's in wrestling gear, and the second part spouting off lame, writer-y crap that makes him seem less like the Logical Monster that got over as a huge star and more like a one-dimensional caricature. Which, as we've established, is bad. Very bad. Mind-numbingly bad, too. Again: it's not like I'm asking the creative team to do brain surgery here... I'm just asking them to review WHAT HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE with Batista (in skits and promos going back to September), and follow-through in the logical direction. It SHOULD be so easy, and yet, they're making it look difficult. I don't know if I should keep on making snide remarks about their incompetence, or if maybe they are just (for reasons unfathomable) actually doing this on purpose... I almost hope it's the latter, because people as dumb as would be required in the former shouldn't be allowed to hold such jobs. Hell, they shouldn't be allowed past the fifth grade.

Anyway, with Batista's not-at-all-illuminating First Interview concluded, it's a perfect time to cart Triple H out for some more camera time. Cuz it's not a main event segment without the guy what's boning the boss' daughter! HHH's music starts up, but Batista, once again showing that he CAN be the Wise and Sagacious Logical Monster, isn't falling for it: so when HHH tries to attack from behind and out of the crowd, Batista's actually waiting for him. See, smart guy. And *that* is the kind of on-top-of-things promo we need: not huffing and puffing and spouting off attempted catchphrases, just an intelligent guy talking. What's so hard about that.

Batista and HHH go back and forth for a minute, and HHH actually gets set up for the Pedigree. But he sets it up right next to the ropes, so you can pretty well tell what's coming: Batista back-drops HHH to escape the Pedigree, sending HHH flying to ringside. Wheee! Somebody call me when the bludgeoning uncreativity ceases!

So HHH decides to scamper up the ramp, while Batista poses in the ring. And when JR hands Batista the world title belt and kinda joins in, my spidey sense started tingling... how's about yours?

On top of the ramp, HHH somehow magically found a microphone. Huh. I'm guessing at this point, he's probably found a way to regenerate microphones at will, much like some lizards can regenerate a tale if you lop it off. Good luck EVER trying to get HHH to shut his word hole, folks!

So this is how HHH, in what SHOULD have just been a quick punchline to the show, ended up getting more Main Event Promo Time than Batista did... insane. Blah blah blah, he's sure that Batista's very proud of himself, but blah blah blah, the Pedigree, and blah blah blah My World Title. And he finally gets around to a fresh idea: next week, Madison Square Garden, why doesn't Batista live up to all the promises that his mouth is making but his ass can't cash. Ummm, Trips, Batista has been practically mute for six weeks, and you're accusing HIM of spouting off at the mouth? The ironing, it was clearly unintentional, but it was delicious.

Batista nods approval at the notion, and HHH keeps taking his sweet time laying it out, so you KNOW what the serve is that's coming. He'll "shut your mouth," they'll "make history," and so on and so forth... but he's stopped directly referencing Batista. So when HHH reveals that next week on RAW at MSG, it'll be Triple H vs. Jim Ross, the only ones who should have been shocked are pets and some of your dumber house plants. Batista laughs dismissively at HHH's notion for a "history making" match, but JR sells it like he knows death is on the horizon.

Umm, JR? Batista nodding vaguely at HHH's vague proposal of a match doesn't obligate you in any way. And creative team: you didn't come up with an even REMOTELY decent set-up for this match, so really, this is all your fault. What the hell is this happy crappy? HHH gets a bug in his blouse, and suddenly he can go making matches against announcers who have nothing to do with anything? Way to end RAW with a thud, idiots. And better yet, way to convince the fans who stuck around for it that NEXT week's RAW will be quite craptacular, too! HHH vs. JR, in the match nobody was asking for! Plus the Chris Masters Full Nelson Challenge! It doesn't get any lamer than this! Are you folks SURE you don't want to all fly in to Dayton and watch me play Scrabble or Drink A Lot next Monday, instead?

Final image of RAW is JR looking like he's been tapped on the shoulder by the grim reaper, while HHH poses and taunts on the stage while his music plays. That's right: Batista's Main Event Promo ends with HHH getting his ass kicked, but still getting more mic time than him, and then celebrating the dumbest idea for a match EVAR~! while HIS music plays. Because truly, the Batista Era has Begun on RAW. Right? Right?

Some very good stuff in here (Shelton/Jericho, Benoit/Christian/Edge, and the promise of Daivari stepping into the ring and where we go next with Michaels vs. Hassan/Daivari), but just way too much mind-blowingly awful nonsense that I have a hard time envisioning how it ever got out of the boardroom and onto TV. It was that weak and counter-productive in spots last night.


SMACKDOWN RECAP: Bonding Exercises
RAW RECAP: The New Guy Blows It
PPV RECAP: WWE Night of Champions 2012
RAW RECAP: The Show Must Go On
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Boot Gets the Boot
RAW RECAP: Heyman Lands an Expansion Franchise
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Losing is the new Winning
RAW RECAP: Say My Name
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Deja Vu All Over Again
RAW RECAP: Dignity Before Gold?
PPV RECAP: SummerSlam 2012
RAW RECAP: Bigger IS Better
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Hitting with Two Strikes
RAW RECAP: Heel, or Tweener?
RAW RECAP: CM Punk is Not a Fan of Dwayne
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Returnening
RAW RECAP: Countdown to 1000
PPV RECAP: WWE Money in the Bank 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Friday Night ZackDown
RAW RECAP: Closure's a Bitch
RAW RECAP: Crazy Gets What Crazy Wants
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Five Surprising MitB Deposits
RAW RECAP: Weeeellll, It's a Big MitB
RAW RECAP: Johnny B. Gone
PPV RECAP: WWE No Way Out 2012
RAW RECAP: Crazy Go Nuts
RAW RECAP: Be a Star, My Ass
RAW RECAP: You Can't See Him
RAW RECAP: Big Johnny Still in Charge
PPV RECAP: WWE Over the Limit 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: One Gullible Fella
RAW RECAP: Anvil, or Red Herring?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Everybody Hates Berto
RAW RECAP: Look Who's Back
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Care to go Best of Five?
RAW RECAP: An Ace Up His Sleeve
PPV RECAP: WWE Extreme Rules 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Sh-Sh-Sheamus and the nOObs
RAW RECAP: Edge, the Motivational Speaker?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: AJ is Angry, Jilted
RAW RECAP: Maybe Cena DOES Suck?
RAW RECAP: Brock's a Jerk
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28




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