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OO RAW RECAP
Serving up the Sizzle 
June 7, 2005

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com

 

I don't think I ask for too much, kids. I really don't. Just good, compelling episodic television that leaves you anxious to see what happens next... that's all I want. 
 
And if I occasionally get pissy when I don't get it? That's only because I don't understand how this could be such a hard thing to deliver. It's wrestling, not chess, and it is NOT (contrary to what the hiring of  entire phalanxes of Hollywood writers might suggest) a complicated form.

So yeah, when it seems so easy to 

have good ideas, and when they go willfully-unhad by WWE, I get annoyed and frustrated.

But the flip side of that coin? When they get it right, I am more than happy to give credit where credit is due. Because at my core, I'm not some jack-off writer/columnist: I'm just a wrestling fan who happens to have a gift for wordsmithery. My only problem is that I don't consider myself obligated to be a lemming drawn blithely to a poor product. I'm a wrestling fan; I'm just refuse to be so blind that I'm a fan of Bad Wrestling.

That's why it gives me such pleasure to report that RAW got it right last night. Got it really right. With maybe one exception, I was on the edge of my seat all night. Sure there were a couple other little holes, but they were generally brief (or featured exceptionally saucy blouses)... the important thing is that RAW had SIZZLE for the first time in a long time. And better yet: the way RAW sizzled led you to believe that next week's show could be more of the same.

I cannot overstate how much I appreciate that. A Big Show Atmosphere used to exist nearly every Monday... it was good to have it back this week, and to have a sneaking suspicion it could be back again in seven days. Again: sustainable episodic TV, that's all I ask for, and for as hard as WWE sometimes makes it seem, I don't think that's asking for too much at all.

Here's my take on a night that made it lots of fun to just sit back and be a rasslin' fan again.....

Cold Open: Eric Bischoff is standing backstage, and does a dandy job of conveying "Smug," as he announces that he has already selected the first draftee in the Lottery, and that person will be revealed in just a few moments. According to Bischoff, this is the biggest acquisition in RAW history, and we should prepare to have our collective socks rocked off. And then, just to be Johnny Weblanket, Coach pops onscreen and tells Bischoff that he just heard that Paul Heyman might be coming to RAW, and supposedly, he's not coming alone. Bischoff is undeterred, however, and says he'll deal with Heyman if and when he has to, but for now, it's time to revel in the First Draft Lottery Pick.... [Nice opening teaser: short, to the point, but it still hit you with both the Draft Lottery and Heyman/ECW hype. Plus, I'm just a sucker for the Cold Opens.]

Opening Theme/Pyro/Etc., and we're live in St. Louis, MO. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler welcome us, but pretty much the only thing they have by way of specifics is a Batista/HHH Contract Signing. Which ain't exactly a great reason to stick around. Lucky for them, Bischoff already gave us two other reasons to get excited for this show. And lucky for them, they don't have to kill much time at all, because we're sending it down to the ring for....

The Highlight Reel: Lord of the Bling Special Collectors' Edition

Chris Jericho gets a full ring entrance this week, instead of already standing in the ring. Not sure of the significance of that, but it is a deviation from standard operating procedure. Also of note: Jericho did keep the women's jeans from last week, but other than that, decided to dress like a straight male. Either he heeded the Broad Fashion Makeover Advice, or last week's cute little ensemble really was just a part of Jericho trying to purposely look like a putz as part of a now-aborted heel turn. Let us find out....

The first thing out of Jericho's mouth, however, had some heelish overtones: he declared that this was the biggest night St. Louis has seen in years... and just when everybody thought that Jericho was talking about the Draft Lottery, he pulled an old switcheroo, and said it was because Fozzy was playing a show later tonight. But ha ha, Jericho is only half joking, because there's some other business to tend to first which is also pretty important: finding out who will be the first superstar jumping from SmackDown! to RAW.

So Jericho calls that person out to the ring. In fact, proving that he steals his material from OO's front page headline, Jericho insisted that this person should "C'mon Down." But then Jericho waits.

And waits.

And waits.

And finally when Jericho seems to be frustrated, some music hits, and out comes....

JOHN CENA. And he's got his blinged out WWE Title belt with him. Does this make Orlando Jordan SmackDown!'s best wrestler, now? If so, I tremble in horror.

I immediately place the over/under on how fast both Cena AND hack "writers" on other websites will lean on the "Champ is Here" crutch at "7.3 nanoseconds." And there'll be none of that from me. Cena hits the ring and soaks in the surprised cheers of fans. Sounds like the fans like this particular luck of the draw.

Jericho is between shock and giddiness that RAW has scored SD!'s top champion as he asks, "How did this happen?"... and Cena decides to waste no time making a genius out of me, because after one quick sentence about getting a phone call last night and hopping a ride to RAW, he can't stop himself from blurting out "The Champ is Here." Except that he says he wants to do it "St. Louis Style," so he makes it into "The Champ is Herre." Which I guess answers a question that I'd never, in my entire life, given half-a-shit about asking.... so St. Louis, in addition to all the other hateful things it has given us, is also responsible for spawning Nelly? Thanks for nothing, you jerks.

Jericho quickly takes a stab at keeping Cena away from The Suck by pointing out that now Cena and Batista are both here and are both champions... and that the last time there were two champions on the same show, Chris Jericho beat the Rock and Steve Austin in the same night to become the first-ever Undisputed Champion. Jericho cannot repress the shit-eating grin when he delivers that little gem. And neither can I. Smell the continuity! It is quite sweet!

Then Jericho moves on to things he and Cena have in common, because both men are becoming media darlings. It's just that Jericho might be a little bit ahead of Cena in terms of albums released and live music performances, so Jericho assures Cena that he's on the right track, but he ain't quite there yet. Jericho even offers a little bit of advice: Cena's career might only REALLY take off if he's willing to make decisions that might upset his "wrestling fans" in order to appeal to a broader audience.

But that's not the kind of advice for John Cena. No sirree. He tells "superstar" that if that's how he's gotta roll to do his thing, that's fine, but John Cena is a pandering clown who "fights for all these people, and always will. Because real recognizes real." Oy. If not for this little passage, this really was Cena's greatest mic performance in ages, but it just annoys the piss out of me that I don't know who Cena is trying to convince (himself or the fans) when he keeps talking about his "realness" (in a clearly affected, unreal voice) and how he's clearly got the strongest mandate of the fans since Hulk Hogan. It's not becoming.

Anyway, that was just a minor speedbump, and Cena hit the gas to move us forward when he decided to declare that SD! or RAW, it doesn't matter: John Cena will do it the same way. So he's got just one thing to say to the RAW locker room: "If you" [me on my couch: "Christian. Now. Or else."] "Want some, come get some."

There's hardly even a pause. Christian's music fires up promptly, and I'm really digging the way things are going so far tonight. Christian gets in the ring and grabs a mic, and can hardly believe his eyes... Christian won't even have to go to SD!, because John Cena has been hand-delivered to him here on RAW. And hand-delivered him here to St. Louis, no less. Which, Christian posits, is why Cena received such an ovation from the fans. Because John Cena is nothing but an overrated poseur and a fraud, and St. Louis LOVES overrated posers and frauds. Just look at how they embraced Mark McGwire. The only difference between Cena and Big Mac is that Christian won't be requiring an Act of Congress to expose John Cena's shortcomings. Awesome riff, but not one that is appreciated by most of the live crowd, who fire up an "asshole" chant (although a determined smattering of cheers/applause for Christian could be heard throughout, just as there were limited jeers/boos for Cena).

Cena, who apparently does possess manners even if he doesn't possess likeability, asks his host if he may retort, or if Jericho wants to preside over the discourse, or what. Jericho decides to just bow out to watch the fireworks from afar, and tells Cena it's OK to do his thing. Which was Cena's cue to go into Freestyle Mode. Although Cena's obsession with men orally pleasuring other men is a bit juvenile as far as insults go, this actually wound up being about as excellent a few verses as Cena's strung together in probably 2 years. For the sake of posterity, here are the key rhymes:

That's how you roll?
Like you got your routine mastered?
I'm gonna put you in your place,
You Creepy Little Bastard.

Christian used to come to the ring
Up through the fire.
Wearing the "Seinfeld" shirt,
Thinking you was a vampire.

You couldn't even hang with the Brood,
They put you on the shelf.
Gangrel was sucking blood,
But you was sucking something else.

There ain't no way
You could walk a mile in my shoes.
You went from swallowing blood,
To blowing other dude's kazoos.
[Note from Rick: ah, thank you John Cena, for making sure to include at least one totally crap-ass line that SHOULD have been edited out in the writing process if you or your handlers had even a lick of good sense. It's thoughtful of you to make sure I have something about you to mock viciously. Only Randy Orton has ever been more diligent about providing me this service.]

And now you got these peeps
Who you say follow your vision?
Well, if you're a fan of Christian,
Listen up, I'm gonna change your religion.

Listen!
I gotta level with you, homey.
It's not that your not on my level.
You ain't even on the level below me.
[Wow. Some "oohs" and "ahhs," but also some "boos" for that admittedly-tasty little zinger.]

If you don't watch it,
I'm gonna have to lay your ass down.
Afterall, this is the Highlight Reel,
So you must be the Ass Clowns.
[OK, junior, you're really stretching again. That's about as ingenious as Fred Durst remarkable ability to rhyme words with themselves. Repeatedly, if necessary. And it's a proven scientific fact that Fred Durst is without talent, and in fact, without a reason to continue living and breathing on planet earth, so you don't want to go there, Johnny.]

Actually, you know what: I'm sick of trying to remember/reconstruct the actual rhymes from my quick-and-dirty lazy-man notes typed up last night before bed. I'll just report to you that at this point, there were two more and they both sucked. Last night, I labeled them as "one where Tomko is gay for Christian" and "one where Cena says he can beat up both Tomko and Christian." Not exactly original material. Actually: tending more towards Cena's usual crap... but there was enough intense riffing in there that this really did stand as Cena's best mic work in a while.

And he closes his talking with a little something special: for Christian, he offers up a Five Second Pose. Except that it's his "You can't see me" pose, with his fingers counting down to one. I'm sure you can all guess which one. Perhaps not particularly clever, but it was satisfying by way of punctuating Cena's freestyle.

Christian? Is not amused, and gets right up in Cena's face. You know, the rip on Christian is that he's undersized, but whether it was lifts in his shoes or what, when he went nose-to-nose with Cena, he really was almost nose-to-nose. Cena and Christian quickly go from staredown to off-mic trashtalk... and then Christian decides to start throwing fists. Jericho is in no rush to help when Tomko joins in to make it 2-on-1, but that's OK: Cena's got it under control. Mostly. Christian goes flying out over the top rope, but Tomko stumbles into Jericho at one point... so Jericho is obligated to punch him once, sending him directly into the waiting arms of John Cena, who hits Tomko with an F-U. Not the cool F-U he did on Carlito last Thursday, just the normal kind.

Play Cena's music, and let him celebrate while Jericho hangs out in the background. You know: I can't complain one bit. I didn't think they'd pull the trigger on Cena so early, but this is EXACTLY what I was talking about in the column yesterday: you needed to get the Draft Lottery started off with a bang. This definitely qualifies. Throw in absolutely tremendous mic work by Jericho and Christian, and the fact that Cena was the most tolerable and edgy as he's been in forever, and this was a fun 20 minute way to kick off the show.

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RAW Diva Search 2005: It begins next week, folks. On the downside, it doesn't have as cool a theme song this year. On the upside, it will suck 33% less than last year! Because they announced that there will only be eight (8) finalists starting next Monday, which means we only have seven weeks of this horseshit to deal with. Last year, wasn't it an even dozen finalists, stretched out over 3 months of hellishness? At this rate, maybe the Diva Search will just contract to nothingness no later than 2008.

Shelton Benjamin vs. Muhammad Hassan and Khosrow Daivari (Handicap Match for the IC Title)

JR is indignantly trying to explain how this Totally Unfair Match must be the result of Hassan threatening Eric Bischoff with a discrimination lawsuit, because otherwise, making Shelton defend his title against 2 men is completely indefensible. Meantime, I'm indignantly noticing that that Justin Rogers (or whatever his name is) guy is doing ring announcing, which to me seemed like a clear-cut guarantee that there would be a heaping pile of Suck later on tonight in the form of Viscera and Lillian Garcia doing a skit together. After a hot start to the show, that kind of cast a pall over the proceedings...

Speaking of a hot start, that's what Shelton got off to in this match. He managed to execute a gameplan of staying out of the enemy corner, and isolated on Hassan for about 90 seconds, while periodically pausing to take a potshot at Daivari to keep him at bay. This worked so well that Shelton was about to nail Hassan with a Stinger Splash, except that Daivari tugged Hassan out of harm's way, causing Shelton to eat turnbuckle. Benjamin stumbled out of the corner and walked right into Hassan's Flatliner/Facebuster finisher. Hassan made the cover, and the ref counted to three.... new IC Champ?

Not quite: Shelton had gotten his foot on the ropes at the last second, and the ref spotted this. He decides to reverse the decision and call for the match to continue. Hassan and Daivari, predictably, are not pleased by this development and are arguing with the ref. While we sort out this mess, JR decides it's a good time for us to look at some....

[ads]

Back, and as you might expect, we have predictably settled into the Standard Heel Beatdown Formula. This week, Hassan and Daivari opt to pound on Shelton's arm/shoulder. After some illegal double-teaming gets the Arm Attack off to a rousing start, Hassan settles in as the legal man for about 3 minutes of red-hot Arm Bar Action. He punctuates this with a single-arm DDT (or a Fujiwara takedown, or something of that ilk).

With Shelton disabled, Hassan makes a tactical error: he tags in Daivari. And almost immediately, Jerry Lawler starts doing something that good color commentators should do. In other words, he did something he's rarely, if ever, done before. He started talking strategy, and noted that it would behoove Shelton to try to muster up one final burst of energy while it's Daivari (instead of Hassan) in the ring, and that then, if he can isolate on Daivari long enough, that would be his best chance to win this match against the 2-on-1 odds. Wow. Did they have Tazz talking at Lawler in the headsets this week, or something? Because that was good stuff.

And quite prescient, as it turned out. Because Shelton kept getting little hope spots in on Daivari, making it clear that the story of the match was that Shelton needed to get one last bust of offense in, and he needed it soon.... and sho 'nuff, Shelton eventually got what he needed when Daivari went for the obligatory rest hold. Shelton obligatorially fired up out of the arm bar, and went on a tear. Hassan tried to come in and interfere, but Shelton was able to toss him out over the top rope. And then he hit Daivari with a Stinger Splash and a quick T-Bone Powerslam, and just before Hassan could get back into the ring to break it up, Benjamin got the pinfall win. Shelton got his belt and got out of dodge; and Hassan got a look on his face that suggested he might not be too pleased with Daivari right now. 

Probably 7-8 minutes, all told, and other than Hassan's lengthy arm bars in the middle, a pretty effective little segment. Nice half-assed Dusty Finish as a fresh way of inserting a little break for commercials, and the strategy and realism of the final 3 minutes or so (including the brevity, but effectiveness, of Shelton's comeback) made for a strong finish.

Video Package: Triple H and Batista.... I don't recap recaps.

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Backstage: Tajiri is getting a talking-to from William Regal... Regal doesn't think Tajiri should be a part of the ECW PPV. And then Regal spies Benoit in the background and says, "This is all your doing, isn't it?"... but Benoit denies being the "face of ECW." But ECW did give him a chance, just like it gave Tajiri a chance, and that's why they're going to go an have fun on Sunday night. Regal says that he doesn't understand what's fun about ECW, and that he's so against the extreme style that he's joined Eric Bischoff's anti-ECW army. And he wants to know if Tajiri is with him, or against him. Tajiri doesn't have to think very long: he's with ECW. Accepting that Bischoff's Army is going to be a continuity nightmare (which was pretty well established last week), I REALLY like this particular continuity nightmare... anything that might put Benoit and Regal on opposite sides of a ring coming out of the ECW PPV, anything that might set up a new Tajiri/Regal dynamic just in time for Eugene to return, anything that might lead to a different Regal/Eugene dynamic (such as the one we all THOUGHT we'd get last year when Regal would finally get sick of being the punchline of all Eugene's skits): I see potential goodness here. This doesn't necessarily count as a heel turn for Regal, since the ECW comes and goes this weekend, and Regal will go back to "normal"... but this could be the laying of a tweener foundation for Regal that could lead to any or all of the things I listed above. Intriguing.

Elsewhere Backstage: Coach and Bischoff are lamenting the ECW PPV and Paul Heyman's possible appearance on RAW later tonight. But Bischoff thinks maybe Heyman won't even show up, and that it's all just an overblown ECW rumor... but nevertheless, Bischoff and Coach both jump a bit when there's a knock on the door. But it's not an ECW Delegation: it's the Ay-rabs. Daivari apparently believes Bischoff is fluent in Farsi, but luckily Hassan's here to bottom-line it... he can't believe the discrimination, and he wants Bischoff to overturn the referee's decision and award the IC Title to Hassan. Bischoff, however, does not feel it's in his job description to be overturning the decisions of assigned referees. But Bischoff offers an alternative: because next week, a very special and powerful man will be making a guest appearance on RAW, and Bischoff can promise the Ay-rabs that they will get to plead their case with him, as long as Hassan promises not to pursue any lawsuits. Daivari (smart dude that he is) acts suspicious, but Hassan (dumb guy that he is) tells Daivari to settle down, because a chance to directly address Vince McMahon will solve all their problems. Hassan accepts. But I have a feeling not a one of us was exactly surprised when Bischoff revealed, "Umm, sorry, but it's not Vince McMahon." Then who? Stone Cold Steve Austin. Heh. The Ay-rabs, as you might expect, don't think this is gonna work out well for them.

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Chris Masters vs. Val Venis

They try to do a thing here where Val jumpstarts the match by attacking Masters from behind during his ring entrance... except that it seems really lame that Val waited until AFTER all the fey posing and choreography. If you're pissed, Val, and if you think it's an abomination that more thought and effort when into Master's ring entrance than into training him to perform in the ring or on the mic, then just jumpstart things BEFORE he does all that crap, OK?

The match? Thanks to the jumpstart, Val actually did a prodigious amount of offense in, and seemed to be leading Masters through the match. This, apparently, is Val's new job description: getting in the ring with green performers and trying to guide them to a watchable match. Mission not quite accomplished, as Masters didn't look so sharp here. He even looked awkward running the ropes at a couple points.

This was mostly just Val pounding away (for a nice change of pace, Masters, and not his opponent, left the ring bleeding the hard way), even getting a few near falls. Maybe even one more near fall than he was supposed to, since it looked like Masters was either unwilling or incapable of fully cooperating on a PerfectPlex, so Val didn't get the near fall there. So he immediately followed up with his modified Powerbomb finisher, instead, in what looked like an audible. Val's streak finally ended when he missed a charge into the corner, and Masters simply cinched in the full nelson out of nowhere. WWE sure is intent on getting that lame-ass hold over as a finisher, aren't they?

Probably about 4 minutes, and certainly as close to approximating "professional wrestler" as Masters has come. But that's faint praise, since this was his most competent performance to date, and he STILL looked like little more than a gassed-up musclehead with no more natural or instinctive a knack for the dance that is pro wrestling than half of us watching on TV probably have. It's just too bad that we don't all look like Masters, otherwise it could be US half-convincingly fumbling around a wrestling ring...

Backstage: Ric Flair is pep-talking Triple H. Reminding him that he's the best in the business today. Telling him that all he's gotta do is go out there and get Batista to sign the contract because then it's a stone cold lock: the title will come back home. Apparently this mini-skit is our little teaser that the contract signing is next....

[ads]

Triple H and Batista's B-Movie Action-Hero-Punchline-Spewing Theatre

The ring is full of extra security to ensure there is no physicality. One of the rent-a-cops is a dead ringer for Captain Kirk's son, really unfortunate perm and all. And actually, before we get to HHH and Batista, Eric Bischoff has a few things he wants to say to Paul Heyman.... he said that he doesn't fear Paul Heyman showing up on RAW tonight. He CHALLENGES Heyman to show up, because RAW will be ready for him. To twist the knife, Bischoff ECW failed because of Paul Heyman. Because Paul Heyman didn't have the vision to sign matches like Hell in the Cell. And because Paul Heyman never had as talented a performer as the man Bischoff is going to introduce to us right now....

Enter Triple H.

Before Trips can speak, Bischoff makes it clear that the Hell in the Cell contract signing will mean that the match will take place regardless of the Draft Lottery. OK, gotcha: nice touch closing out that logic loophole.

But HHH doesn't care about any Draft Lottery. Because blah blah blah, HHH is the greatest and we all know it even if we don't admit it. Christ: wasn't getting passed over by the live audience in favor of a fight in the stands last week all the proof we needed that this particular shtick is played out, Hunter? And yet, it seems to be the only track on your CD these days... freshen it up, Potsie. Because hatred ain't the opposite of love: apathy is. And like it or not, the last six months have seen a decline in HHHating from the live fans, and an increase in not particularly giving a shit.

The whole thing about how he's the bestest of all times is set-up for a video package chronicling HHH's Undefeated History inside Hell in the Cell matches. Coming out of the package, HHH says that he's got goosebumps just watching the video evidence of what he's done to others inside the Cell and what he will do to Batista.  What I noticed is that HHH's windbaggery seemed to fall kinda flat: because he might have wrestled in the most HitC matches, he might be undefeated in them, but if you say "Hell in the Cell" to any fan, HHH would be lucky to have his name be the fourth one that pops into their minds (behind Michaels, Undertaker, and Foley). Another one of those things where I think HHH believes him saying something makes it true, but really, these are decisions you have to let the fans make... and near as I can tell, we haven't given you permission to adopt HitC like it's your personal signature match.

Batista has finally heard enough, and his music interrupts HHH, mid-sentence. And when Batista gets on the mic, his first comment is, "You're done talking, now." And from here, I swear to you, every ounce of dialogue is stuff that sounds like it came from the pen of a Hollywood Hack whose career peaked at coming up with witty rejoinders at the end of fight scenes in early Steven Segal movies. Really ham-handed and writer-y.

For instance: Batista says, "I know I've never been in the Cell, but I don't care. Because I know we're both gonna bleed and we're both gonna get hurt. Hunter, we're going to Hell. I'm ready to pay for my sins. How about you?". Oy; since when does "paying for sins" have anything to do with wrestling matches. Whatever they paid the writer who came up with this shit should be instantly refunded to WWE and then disbursed back out to us fans for having to sit through such cliched, unrealistic drivel.

And then after they sat down and signed the contract, Triple H said, "You just signed your death warrant." Batista's crappy retort, "That's OK, because you'll have to kill me to take this title." Ugh. HHH's re-retort, "Oh really? Cuz you'll have to kill me to stop me." Double ugh. Because not only was this entire exchange really cheesy and fake, but even by Bad Writer Standards, HHH's line SHOULD have been "You'll have to kill me to keep it." Flows much better that way. I mean, it's still retarded, but at least it'd have been ELOQUENTLY retarded...

HHH and Batista then stand up for the Big Punchline. For unclear reasons, HHH suddenly goes into Pensive Mode and says that he and Dave have been through a lot together... and that no matter what happens at Hell in the Cell, this thing between them will be over for good after Vengeance. I don't know what the fuck to read into that... if HHH loses, then it would be over (3 strikes and you're out), but I can't see HHH implying that. But if HHH wins, Batista would be within his rights to get rematches, so that way it can't be over. Or was this the foundation laying for more Draft Lottery Chicanery? If I thought HHH had the testicular fortitude to let himself go over to the "lesser" brand, I could envision nutty scenarios in which HHH would get drafted to SD! before HitC, and somehow SD!'s desire to have a World Champion on their roster would play into Batista getting screwed out of the title, allowing to HHH to take the belt and go hide on SD!, away from Batista. I don't know, kids, I just don't know.... but it was odd.

Even odder was that HHH offered a handshake at this point, and Batista accepted it, and somehow, out of this previous exchange, Batista took the "Bad Action Movie Cliche-Spewing" to all new, incongruous levels when he blurted out the non sequitur, "We're going to hell Hunter, I may be going face-to-face with the devil. But at Vengeance, I'm prepared to kick the devil's ass." Holy christ, that was awful. Does NOBODY backstage have ANY clue what made Batista so popular last winter? Because it wasn't talking like some mentally-challenged third-grader's idea of a kick-ass action hero. But that's what they had Dave doing here tonight. 

This was really the only segment of the night that really got me down. Even Masters was in and out in under 5 minutes, but this was overlong and overwrought and added almost nothing positive to the HHH/Batista storyline. If anything, the stilted ham-handery of the writers once again created a situation in which something negative might have been added. HHH was his usual boring self, and Batista was once again portrayed as a mouth-breathing goon, instead of as the calm, cool, collected, and self-aware Logical Monster. Boo.

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Video Package: John Cena and Chris Jericho. I don't recap recaps. Especially not when it's a recap of the very same recap that I'm still in the middle of writing.

The Heartthrobs and Victoria vs. Hurricane, Rosey, and Christy Hemme

Heartthrobs and Victoria enter first, and god bless 'em, they IMMEDIATELY do the Roxbury thing where they obnoxiously try to dance with Victoria and she immediately gas faces them and starts marching to the ring. Again: in my opinion, that's exactly what this gimmick needs to click.

JR tries mightily to explain the rules, which are that men will only fight men and women will only fight women, but within 90 seconds, that noble effort is for naught. Because after the fellas do all of a minute and a half of work (it's all Heartthrobs isolating on Hurricane for an ultra-time-compressed Face in Peril bit), Victoria asks to be tagged in, and she starts stomping away on Hurricane for a bit. The referee sees nothing wrong with this, despite the purported "rules." Thanks for trying, JR.

Anyway, Hurricane eventually manages to get away from Victoria just long enough to make a tag to Spaz. And Spaz has never been Spazzier than she was last night. She took Victoria down and just started raining down right hands. The Heartthrobs tried to break it up, but HurriRosey hopped in the ring for a little Pier Six craziness. Spaz just kept pounding away on Victoria in the background, and once the guys all powdered out, the ref turned around to see Spaz using Victoria's hair to pound her head into the mat. Hair pulling is verboten, so the ref starts a five count. Spaz doesn't relent, so she gets disqualified. Two and a half minutes, tops, which is far too short to offend. But I still don't particularly like the idea of presenting Spaz like she's a legitimate threat as a wrestler. 

After the Match: The ref finally pulls Spaz off, but she instantly feigns calming down, only to duck around the ref and shoulder tackle Victoria out of the ring.  Victoria tries to crawl away, acting like she's genuinely scared of this new side of Spaz. Hurricane and Rosey, meantime, manage to get Spaz settled down.

Backstage: Eric Bischoff returns to his office to find John Cena waiting for him. Bischoff, smarm turned up to 11, pretends to be Cena's buddy, talking about how they could develop a great relationship. Cena, because he's a sixth grader trapped in a man's body, uses that line as an excuse to imply Bischoff had just propositioned him for acts of extreme homosexuality. Oy. Bischoff, still not wanting to make an enemy out of Cena, tries to roll with the punches, and says that he has an idea for next week... Cena's first match on RAW, and Bischoff proposes that it be Cena and Chris Jericho against Christian and Tomko. Makes sense to me, and Cena digs it. [What's the Vegas Line on Jericho no-showing on Cena next week, given their exchange earlier? I'd vote against it, and hope that they don't go the heel turn route with Jericho... but it's out there as a possibility.] Bischoff is glad that Cena likes his idea for a match, so he decides to Press His Luck, by asking Cena to join his anti-ECW crusade. But Bischoff hits a Whammy: Cena wants no part of Bischoff's political nonsense, he just wants to do his own thang. Bischoff tries to impress Cena with how powerful an ally he could be, but Cena turns that around on Bischoff by reminiscing about how, yeah, he used to tune into Nitro every week at 8pm... Bischoff thinks his ego is being stroked, but Cena's punchline is that he and his friends always turned the dial to RAW at 9pm. Har har. I'm not sure I gather why that little nugget was thrown in there, but it gives Cena a punchline on which to leave the office....

SmackDown! Rebound: this week, with 100% RAW content! I'm not joking! I don't understand it, either.

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Video Package: Lillian and Viscera's Whirlwind Romance. Gack. Hey, on the upside, at least this was the only appearance by the two tonight. Talk about a pleasant surprise.

Video Package 2, The Running Themening: Edge and Lita's Whirlwind Romance and Emotional Crushing of Kane. Blargh. At least they're packaging all the shit together in one segment.

Kane vs. Extreme Wussification

Kane enters, and we are told that he requested a match against any opponent of Bischoff's choosing so that he could get his mind back on work and off his lying harlot of an ex-wife. Whatever.

So of course, as Kane awaits his Mystery Opponent, it's Edge who comes out on stage. But Edge is not Kane's opponent tonight... but he just wanted to pop on by and tell Kane that he WILL be Kane's opponent at Vengeance. Although, now that Edge thinks about it, maybe they COULD take care of business here tonight if Kane wants... Kane wants. But Edge was just joking. After taking a few steps towards the ring, he stops and chuckles and says he has a better idea.

Lita's music fires up, and she bounces on out. The positive reviews must have gotten back to her, because she's brought back that one top from about a month ago that even did a number on Lita-loathing me. What can I say: I'm a fan of blousal precariousness. Even on skanky whores. I'm a weak man. And I think that, despite Edge's insinuation, that top means that Lita is not here to be Kane's mystery opponent, either. I don't think there exists enough double-sided tape in the explored universe to make that a plausibility on basic cable.

Sure enough, Lita's just here to chat. Pausing long enough to endure a "slut" chant, Lita quickly gets to her point: that Vengeance is in Las Vegas. Which gives her an idea: after she watches her manly man, Edge, kick the crap out of Kane, maybe she and Edge will head out to one of Vegas' infamous chapels for a quickie wedding. I'd probably still demand to know exactly how Lita's even quickie-er divorce works, but again: this storyline ain't exactly one that's about logic or making sense. It's all about camp. Just remember, folks, you can't spell "camp" without "crap." And also the letter "m." 

Lita's punchline is that she hears that whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas... but what happens to Kane at Vengeance, he'll have to live with for the rest of his life. Ooooooh, burn. At least Kane doesn't look like he's about to gently sob this week....

And that's the end of the segment. Kane never did get a match. But that's kind of the theme for the night: wrestling? Who cares about wrestling? This was definitely a Story Show. And that's not a complaint...

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Video Package: ECW is taking over New York City in anticipation of Sunday's PPV.

Chris Benoit vs. Gene Snitsky (ECW Rules Match)

Coach came out and joined the commentary team. His job was basically to be anti-ECW, but he also served a few useful purposes... for one, there was no nonsensical talk of "out-ECW'ing ECW" this week, and instead, Coach said that this match was booked as "ECW Rules" for a reason: because this is a chance to soften up Benoit before he even gets to the ECW PPV, which will make the Anti-ECW Crusaders' jobs even easier. For two, he said that he was being forced to host a special edition of Heat on Sunday; per my request yesterday, they confrimed that it'll be a special ECW Primer for an hour before the PPV this weekend. Good news. 

Benoit gets things started fast by attacking with a trashcan... after about a minute of brawling, Benoit seemed to pretty well have things wrapped up, and was trying to lock in the Crippler Crossface in the center of the ring. But Snitsky was able to grab a trashcan lid, and whapped Benoit with it. Thus did begin a brief flurry of offense for Snitsky. Very basic punchy-stompy from Snitsky, which reminded me why I hadn't exactly been missing him these last 2 months. He'd ocassionally pepper in a trash can blow, in deference to this supposedly being an ECW Style Match.

Snitsky's offense came crashing to a halt about 4 minutes in, when he charged Benoit with a Big Boot, but Benoit dodged it, and Snitsky crotched himself on the top rope. From there, Benoit was able to rattle off a few chops and trashcan blows, leaving Snitsky in a heap in the middle of the ring. Benoit decided to take the chance to go grab a table and set it up in the ring. After softening Snitsky up with a few Germans, Benoit put Snitsky on the table and seemed intent on hitting the Swan Dive Headbutt through the table... but Snitsky wasn't quite that debilitated (or, if you're JR: "dehabilitated," which to the best of my knowledge is not a word). So Snitsky caught Benoit up on the top rope and crotched him. Benoit tumbled all the way to the floor, obviously in a lot of manpain.

But Snitsky? Is not in the clear. Because he turns around to find THE DUDLEY BOYZ waiting for him. They snuck in through the crowd, and repositioned the table while Snitsky was dealing with Benoit... the crowd barely has time to register what is to come, because Bubba instantly hoists Snitsky up, and D-Von bring him crashing back down with a 3-D through the table. Rather than wait for security, Bubba and D-Von immediately leave again through the crowd. Jerry Lawler and Coach are incensed by this, and say that this is tantamount to a declaration of war by ECW. And we'll get it all sorted out after these....

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During the Break: we return to King and JR, who first show us the Dudleys' return... but who then show us that after the Duds fled the scene, Benoit got back to his feet, hit the swandive headbutt, and actually won the match during the commercials. Because that's how ECW matches go: interference, violence, whatever, but it doesn't end till there's a pinfall or submission. I can think of better guys to be using other than Benoit to showcase that side of ECW, and again, I don't think this match did much more than the flaccid Benoit/Tajiri brawls of recent weeks, just because Snitksy is such an uncompelling opponent. But in terms of kind of creating that sense of "anything can happen in ECW," I do think it was a neat little touch to have the match end via pinfall during a commercial break. A tip of the hat to the controlled chaos that was ECW. 

Backstage: Coach is looking for the Dudleys, and finds them cahooting with Paul Heyman. Coach instantly summons cops and has the ECW trio cuffed. They are gonna be taken downtown due to their trespassing. Bubba, D-Von, and Paul are distressingly docile, like this is exactly what they want. And that's because it is: after they are cuffed, Heyman plays his trump card.... he says that Eric Bischoff actually CHALLENGED him to show up, and show up ECW did. And now, rather than step up, RAW and Bischoff are running scared and having Big Bad ECW led out of the arena in handcuffs. Heyman, quite clearly, is questioning the manhood of Eric Bischoff (and indirectly, that of Coach). Coach doesn't want his boss to look like a little bitch, so he suddenly grows a spine and says, "OK, you came for a fight, you'll get one." He has them uncuffed and tells them that he knows his boss possess a mammoth set of male genitalia, so they'd be prepare to be called out to the ring. And Heyman can bring the Dudleys because Coach knows that Bischoff won't come out alone.

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Hype for Next Week: Cena/Jericho vs. Christian/Tomko, the Ay-Rabs in Stone Cold Court, and another Draft Lottery Selection. I'm digging how they made sure tonight's show had a great Big Time Atmosphere and how they also did a good job building up some big draws for next week. That's how you do episodic TV, monkeys: it's not that hard!

Sweet, Sweet Justice: The Misfit Toys Get to Headline RAW

Bischoff is already in the ring, and is flanked by Christian, Tomko, and Edge. [But not Lita, since somebody apparently realized that having ECW Alumni Lita be anti-ECW, and to be anti-ECW along with her hated nemesis Snitsky, was probably not so wise an idea.]

Bischoff invites Heyman and the Dudleys to the ring, because if they want a fight, they'll get one. And in fact, Bischoff will wipe the mat with Heyman and the Dudleys, and then he won't even have to go to ECW's crap-ass PPV on Sunday: he'll just leave "the crumbs of ECW" to Kurt Angle, JBL, and SD!'s anti-ECW crusaders. Makes sense.
 
Heyman and the Dudleys finally enter (but not through the "sanctioned" entrance; they came from backstage through the crowd), and Heyman wants to talk. He instantly accuses Bischoff of making the same mistake he's been making for over a decade: underestimating ECW. Because ECW may never have had Ted Turner's checkbook or a Monday Night Franchise like Nitro, but they had heart, soul, and guts... and a genuine connection with the fans. Things Bischoff knows nothing about from his years running wrestling shows. And, Heyman says, it's because of that bond with the fans that ECW survived as long as it did, and why they were never backed down to anybody.

At this, the Dudleys hop in the ring to face off with Edge/Christian/Tomko... but Bischoff steps back and gestures the finest of all gestures (the Broad kind).... and instantly, another dozen or so Anti-ECW Crusaders suddenly come out of the dressing room. It's all the usual suspects, and a few new faces (like La Resistance; ugh, aren't they EXACTLY THE ONES who I said, weeks ago, should NOT be shoehorned into this gig?). Heyman and the Dudleys regroup on the outside of the ring opposite the entrance stage.... but Heyman grabs a microphone, and says Bischoff must not have heard him before: because ECW NEVER BACKS DOWN FROM ANYBODY!

And with that, suddenly the Theme From ECW fires up, and out from the crowd comes a small army of Old School ECW Stars. The Sandman (cigarette and all) and Tommy Dreamer are in the lead. Rhyno's not far behind. Axl Rotten and Balls Mahoney (trusty steel chair in tow) round out the group. They join up with the Dudleys and Heyman at ringside, pause long enough for Heyman to again remind Bischoff that ECW never backs down from a fight, and then it's time for the clubbering!

The ECW guys quickly decimate the larger RAW army. And they are loving it. So are the fans. So am I. And hell: is it just me, or did Balls Mahoney misplace about 30-40 pounds? He looked in great shape, like maybe he'll be doing more than just swinging stiff-ass chairshots at the PPV on Sunday. All the RAW guys eventually get a little taste of ECW, and decide that discretion is the better part of valor. So after only a little sampling, they get out of dodge as fast as they can.

Everybody, that is, except for Maven. Maven is singled out for special treatment. Surrounded by some of ECW's most loyal foot soldiers, Maven gets destroyed by the five biggest stars' Signature Beatdowns. From Rhyno, Maven gets a Gore to a huge pop (seriously: Chris Masters gets five minutes a week to bore the shit out of America, and Rhyno doens't have a job? so wrong). From Sandman, Maven eats kendo stick. From Dreamer, Maven enjoys a faceful of steel courtesy of a Dropkick of Woe. And from the Dudleys, you better believe it was a nicely gift-wrapped 3-D to put the cherry on the sundae. 

As Bischoff and his non-destroyed crusaders look on in horror from ringside, Heyman and the ECW guys whip out a lo-fi, handmade ECW banner to pose and taunt the RAW crew. They fire up "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor" and our final image on the night is all the ECW guys grinning from ear to ear, like they're happy that ECW is finally getting its due. Can't blame them.

Really fun, strong finish to a mostly fun show. Seriously: with the exception of the craptacular over-writing of the HHH/Batista bit, I had no complaints that are truly substantial (they are more the kind of gripes that I can make and turn into snarky jokes, but which don't really anger me). This was a VERY welcome return of RAW's Sizzle. I didn't mind the dearth of wrestling, because this was a show where it seemed like cool stuff was happening for almost 2 straight hours. That doesn't happen very often, and I appreciate it when we get it. And as an added bonus, they seemed to do a nice job setting us up so that next week can have some sizzle, too. That's more than enough to make me one very happy The Rick.

E-MAIL RICK
BROWSE THE RAW RECAP ARCHIVES


  
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