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OO RAW RECAP
RAW's Recipe for a Crap Sandwich:
Tasty Bread Containing Rancid Poo 
June 14, 2005

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com

 

Did I really use the phrase "too much show" yesterday in my neat little RAW Preview?
 
I sure as hell did. And don't I feel stupid for doing so.

Because even after I outlined how RAW had all these options to explore, so much material that it'd be understandable if they maybe didn't get to all of it in a mere 2 hour telecast, what'd they present?

A show that seemed to have about 30 minutes worth of

actual content and about 90 minutes worth of easily-fast-forwarded fluff. A really strong start to the show; an intriguing ending. But in the middle: garbage. A Crap Sandwich, if you wheee-elll.  Which not only made me feel stupid for being so naively optimistic in my preview, but which is also just flat-out frustrating when you consider that the monkeys at WWE have 7 days to work up a 2 hour show, and my little PPV previews are usually the product of about 7 minutes worth of off-the-cuff typing.

Plus, there's like a dozen of them, and there's only one of me. When it seems like there's so many promising avenues to explore, shouldn't it be a slam dunk for WWE to get it right, given the resources at their disposal?

I'm quite sure the fashionable thing to do today is going to be comparing RAW to the ECW PPV. In fact, one loyal reader who has caught on to one of my recent Running Gags sent me a few quotes from a "wrestling journalist" who shall, for his own protection, go unnamed (said "journalist" seemed to suck even harder this week than the last time I checked in on him 2-3 months ago, if this collection of gems is any indication). One of them was: "They really upped the intensity and pace of the action from what you'd normally expect, the first sign of the influence the ECW energy level has had on the WWE product. They seemed to working 10 or 15 percent harder and faster than usual."

Oh boy. I don't even know where to start mocking that analysis. First, I'd love to be in the lab where the "10-15%" figure was derived scientifically. Unless (GASP) it was just pulled out of his ass in an attempt to look smart and draw a pointless parallel? Which leads to #2, which is that I'd really question the expertise of someone who thinks there's any defensible reason to be drawing comparisons between ECW and the standard WWE product. Simply put: last week RAW was about the best RAW it could be and it did it without going beyond the boundaries of what RAW normally does, and over the weekend ECW was about the best ECW it could be and it did it by playing by an entirely different set of rules.

No-fricking-body was asking RAW to deliver the same things ECW delivered. What we could (quite reasonably) expect -- or ever DEMAND -- from the RAW product is that they follow through with the same caliber of show that they gave us the week before. By this simple metric, RAW was a failure last night. The middle three-quarters of the show was largely crap. Instead of "too much show," RAW seemed a lot more like WWE was trying to spread the proverbial single pat of butter over and entire loaf of toasted bread. It was baffling to me how "too much show" could turn into me running out of my 40-minute time shift before 10:30 (eastern) last night. I'm serious.... there was THAT much of the show that was Fast Forward-able in the middle hour-and-a-half.

It's like WWE was daring you to stay tuned, instead of doing everything in their power to keep you riveted to the edge of your seat, afraid to flip away for even one second. If anybody can defend the pacing/structure of a show that featured not one, but TWO segments that were nothing but lame-ass Video Packages about which nobody cares, I'm listening. Because right there was over 10 minutes of alleged "content" that I didn't watch one single second of... but more on that later.

On the upside: I gotta admit, RAW ended the night with me VERY excited and curious about the top level storylines. The crap in the middle of the show? Meh. But we ended the night with a situation where any one of four different men could realistically be the world champion in 2 weeks, where any one of three different men could realistically be the WWE champ in 2 weeks, and where any combination of those 7 men could stay on RAW or jump back to SD!.

For the time being, the Draft Lottery seems to be a tool for WWE to stack the deck for RAW to present a loaded Vengeance PPV, and that they will sort things out and even out the rosters AFTER that. It's an intriguing situation to have the top two belts on one single show and being swarmed by 7 compelling performers. Makes it impossible to tell for sure where it'll all end; and ambiguity and uncertainty are good things in this case.

But still: this might be a week where no matter HOW strong the finish of the show was, it's really hard to defend a program that featured such copious amount of utterly lazy and unwatchable nonsense for the majority of the program. Let's see how I feel after I rewind my brain and run through the whole show again for you....

Opening Theme/Pyro/Etc... just for shits and giggles, I actually watch the montage this week, and sho' nuff, Benoit is out and Cena is in. Then again, 90% of the clips in there seem to be from the past 3 months, so maybe they just re-did the whole thing? Anyway, we are live in Binghamton, NY, site of many a "Wrestling Challenge" TV Taping, back in the day, if memory serves.... and we have no time to visit with JR and King, because as soon as we cut to the arena, we get a *KEE-RASH* and...

Stone Cold Court: The "10 Minutes to Wapner? NAY, 10 Minutes to Shelton!" Edition

Steve Austin comes out, does the full four-turnbuckle posing thing, and the crowd's hot as hell tonight. Apparently literally as well as figuratively. Austin's working up quite the froth, at least. No A/C in Binghamton, I guess.

Two other observations: (1) that Dustin Roberts guy is doing ring announcing again, and I'm NOT feeling lucky... we escaped the suck last week, but surely this is proof positive that Lillian and Viscera will be annoying the hell out of us later? And (2) what's up with the big screen in the "northeast" corner of the arena (assuming that, from the Hard Camera position, the entrance stage is Due West)? Is that just a feature of the arena in Binghamton, or is WWE busting out a new AlternaTron as part of its regular presentation? 

Austin pauses long enough to register appreciation for the response. He says it's been a while since he's been on RAW, so he was a little nervous, but that's not a problem any more since Binghamton made him feel right at home. But then he moved on to business, saying that a week ago, he got a phone call asking him if he wanted to settle a dispute. A dispute over a person on RAW who thought he'd been wronged by the system. And Austin decided "What the hell?" and agreed to be here tonight to give his Unbiased Opinion and serve up Stone Cold Justice. So with "no further ado" (a line delivered as only Stone Cold could deliver it), it's time for Muhammad Hassan (intentionally mispronouncing it it "huh-SAN" instead of "ha-SAHN," again as only Stone Cold can get away with) to come to the ring.

And so here come the Ay-rabs (which I'm ALSO sure is what Stone Cold would call them, if only he'd had a chance to). With smiles on their faces? Huh, that seems odd. And as soon as Hassan and Khosrow Daivari get in the ring face to face with Austin, Austin refuses their offer of handshakes, and instead deadpans, "I see Sand People." Funny: Stone Cold didn't strike me as a "Star Wars" fan (but rumor has it that RAW's head writer is the kind of guy who probably owns a Darth Vader mask and Spock Ears, if you catch my drift). Point is: don't get offended because it's a racist comment, folks... get offended because it's kind of a dumb-ass dork-o-vision line that makes no sense coming out of Stone Cold's mouth.

But Hassan and Daivari aren't gonna be that charitable and DO accuse Austin of racism... but Austin defuses that with the much more in-character comment that it's got nothing to do with race, he just doesn't like them very much. But this isn't personal, it's business, so Austin invites Hassan to make his case, as it would please the court to keep this segment moving.

So Hassan does the usual song and dance: he's undefeated on RAW, he's the target of gang attacks in battle royales, he's passed over by the general manager for title shots, and it's all because of his race. And you know what? Hassan doing that riff would have been plenty adequate... but just because WWE wanted to get the "Total Waste of Time" Ball rolling early, they had Hassan kick it up to a Completely Unnecessary and Pointless Video Package. As soon as it appeared to be a Visual Retelling of everything Hassan had just laid out, I FF'ed. Because I don't recap recaps. Seriously: is it so hard to fill up 2 hours on Mondays that you must drastically underestimate your audience's intelligence or attention span WWE? Why a 2 minute video package to take the steam out of a perfectly serviceable promo?

Coming out of the promo, the crowd is flatter than it was going in, but Austin, sensing something had to be done to win them back, reached out and grabbed Hassan's Head Towel, and used to to wipe a Pretend Tear from his eye. Tee hee. Austin proceeds to say that he still thinks Hassan is a piece of trash... but he's a piece of trash who may have a point. So in the interest of fairness, Austin has an idea: how would Hassan like a one-on-one title shot at Shelton Benjamin?

Hassan would like it very much. And that's good, because Austin talked to Shelton earlier and Shelton was OK with this, too. And in fact, Shelton's waiting backstage right now. Hassan still likes this. And finally: just to make sure that Stone Cold Justice is served... Austin will be sticking around as the Special Enforcer at ringside.

So with that, Shelton makes his ring entrance, and it looks like we'll have us an IC Title match after these....

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Shelton Benjamin vs. Muhammad Hassan (IC Title; Steve Austin is Ringside Enforcer)

Coming back from the break, Hassan is in control and is working Shelton's arm. But Shelton quickly does a neat-o Eddie-esque springboard-off-the-ropes to escape an arm-wringer, and takes nominal control for a minute or so. That ends when Shelton does the mount-in-the-turnbuckle-and-punch spot... and Hassan ends that at a mere 3 punches by pulling Shelton off and turning it into a modified Snake Eyes.

Hassan then goes into the standard punchy-stompy for several minutes (peppering in a few other moves, though, including what's seemingly becoming a staple for him: the snap suplex)... and Shelton, to his credit, must be studying at the feet of Rick Steamboat backstage or something, because every week, he's getting a little better at picking openings for "Hope Spots," which is a concept that Steamboat emphasized strongly in a half-psychology/half-training seminar I saw him conduct. Shelton was, by all appearances, getting his ass kicked; but he expertly wove in a few weak punches or a desperation Small Package in various spots to let you know he wasn't done fighting, not by a long shot. And again, it's one thing to know to throw a weak punch here or there, but to get it just right? That's tough, and it's the timing of those spots is the key to keeping the match exciting, and THAT is where Shelton has started to establish himself as WWE's premier Babyface In Peril, if you ask me.

But eventually, Hassan must also do what all good heels do: he goes for the rest hold. A chinlock in this case. Shelton elbows out of that, and manages to toss Hassan out over the top rope. Babyface comeback complete? Nope: Shelton fooled you (and me), cuz it was just a tricky little Amplified Hope Spot. Shelton's still hurting, so it takes him a moment or two to get out to ringside to follow-up... giving Hassan more than enough time to recover. Hassan tosses Shelton into the steel ringpost, and it's time for more clubbering. It's back into the ring for these two, and Hassan eventually opts to go for (ugh) my second least-favorite of all wrestling moves: The Abominable Stretch. Only the Bear Hug looks like it hurts less.
 
Anyway, after a valiant struggle, Shelton finally hiptosses his way out of the hold... and then, when Hassan tries to stifle the rally with a suplex, Shelton counters it, mega-smoothly, into a neckbreaker. Cool. Both me are down, and the ref applies the double count, signaling the start of End Game. Both guys get up at 7, and start throwing fists. And throwing them well: for once, it actually didn't look like "I throw one, you throw one." It looked like two guys throwing punches at their own pace, and if the other guy so happened to land one in retaliation? Well, that's just what happens when you're tired after a 6 minute fight. Finally, Shelton DOES get the advantage, though, and fires away with about a dozen consecutive rights and lefts. He's now firmly in control.

Shelton does all his standard high energy strikes, and even gets a near fall or two. But in End Game, the heel must get a few licks in, too. In this case, they came as a result of a neat spot where Shelton appeared to be setting up for the Stinger Splash, but Hassan seemed to know it was coming, but Shelton KNEW that Hassan knew it was coming, so instead of going for the Splash when Hassan moved, Shelton leapt up to the second rope and was gonna reverse back out into a cross-body. But what Shelton didn't count on is that Hassan KNEW that Shelton knew that Hassan knew what was coming. Because as soon as Shelton got up on the second rope, Hassan moved back in and turned it into a modified powerbomb for a close near fall. I likes me spots like that where the logic of the spot and the body language and the execution make it look like there is triple-reversing going on here, not just some randomly-choreographed move. It ain't hard, it ain't dangerous or extreme: it just looks good and believable. Cool stuff.

Hassan continued the mini-rally for a minute or two, getting more near falls and maintaining control. Until he tried to toss Shelton out over the top rope, and Shelton managed to grab the rope and land on the apron and IMMEDIATELY turned and hit a killer springboard bulldog on the unaware Hassan. This resulted in Daivari deciding to get involved for the first time in the match... but Shelton had no trouble dispatching him. But what Shelton DID have a problem with was Hassan having time to recover. While the ref was getting Daivari's limp carcass out of the ring, Hassan kicked Shelton square in the nuts. And then, as the ref turned back around, Shelton was in extreme manpain, making it easy for Hassan to just lock in the Camel Clutch. Surely, we are going to have a New IC Champ?

Nope: because Special Enforcer Steve Austin didn't miss the sac-kick, and he gets in the ring to immediately boot Hassan in the noggin. Then he grabs a mic and declares that your winner via Disqualification is Muhammad Hassan. And not only does the IC Title not change hands on a DQ, apparently, the only thing Hassan has won is a major league ass-whipping. First: a Stunner for Daivari. And then, when Hassan dares to defend himself, he manages to counter the first Stunner, but then eats a superkick from Shelton, and stumbles right back into Austin to get Stunnered.

Play Austin's music, and get him and Shelton many beers. They celebrate for a few minutes, and although I think you could have tweaked the opening promo just a bit (to eliminate Hassan's energy draining Video Package and also to tighten up Austin's "I think you're garbage, but here, have an IC Title Match" logic so that it'd have been more along the lines of "I don't like you, but I talked to Shelton earlier today and he wanted a chance to shut you up himself, so I'm making the match"), the combination of the High Energy Promo and Austin's Guest Appearance with a VERY nicely worked 10 minute wrestling match certainly got RAW off to a promising start.

[ads]

Backstage, A Play In Three Acts: First, Coach and GM Eric Bischoff are pow-wowing, with Bischoff selling nebulous injuries and Coach apologizing for not being of more help last night at the ECW PPV. But Bischoff? His response is "What ECW PPV?"... Coach tries to apologize again. Bischoff says, "It never happened"... Coach insists that it did and he's sorry. But Bischoff says, "Listen, the one night stand is over, and I don't ever have to hear the letters ECW again, so as far as I'm concerned, we just forget last night ever happened, OK?". Finally, Coach understands. And that's the only mention of ECW all night long.

Second, Jericho enters the office. It looks like he's reading his OO and wants to make sure he ditches as many of his metrosexual affectations as possible. This week: he decided to leave the Johnny Blowdry look behind. Because men use shampoo and go to barbers, and girls go to stylists and have a weekly Hair Budget, and ne'er the twain shall meet, no matter how much the Bravo Network wants to try to brainwash the male populace into acting like chicks. Jericho is here to bitch up a storm, by the way: because he heard that Bischoff has made Christian the #1 Contender ot Cena's WWE Title. Bischoff confirms that. And Jericho no-likey. He says he was the first Undisputed Champion and yadda yadda yadda, and HE deserves that title shot. The hell, Jericho? A week ago, you're advocating ignoring wrestling accomplishments to focus on music, and now you want to win titles again? I'm not saying I mind a return of Jericho's "fire," but I am saying that if the writers were working this stuff out ahead of time instead of cramming shit together on Monday afternoons (apparently), there would have been WAY better ways to accomplish it. But anyway, now Jericho cares about wrestling again. And he wants to prove it, and tells Bischoff that he should watch the tag match later tonight, and after what Jericho does to Christian, Bischoff will see who the REAL #1 Contender should be. Bischoff tells him that's fine, and he'll be watching. So Jericho leaves...

And on his way out, he catches Triple H on his way in. The two share a tender moment in which Jericho sneers "Hunter" with what we can presume is relatively genuine disdain. And Trips chuckles "Jericho" with a smirk with what we can presume is relatively genuine dismissiveness. I wonder if we should read anything into this little exchange?

But anyway, HHH is here for Act Three of our little Vignette of Extreme Expository Convenience. Because he wants to talk about the Draft Lottery and who is coming over from SD!... but Bischoff won't reveal the name to HHH or to anyone. But HHH, because this entire segment is about just introducing non-sensical storyline elements out of left field, regardless of continuity or logic, says that he's had just about enough of this Draft Lottery and that whoever is coming to RAW from SD! shouldn't be allowed to talk in the ring because he might somehow screw up HHH's title shot at Batista. Absolutely an eye-ball rolling piece of logic-defying dialogue here. HHH says that if bush-league jack-offs from SD! think they are gonna come to his show and start interfering in his Hell in the Cell match, they had best think again. Because HHH will go out there tonight and prove that this is his show if he has to. Can anybody explain to me how this made any sense? Other than from the perspective that HHH clearly just wanted to introduce some completely bullshit reason to put himself in the ring for a main event angle? Again: I ended up kind of enjoying the final result, but that does not excuse the fact that writers should be fired for coming up with total horseshit like this that only serves to confuse or annoy any half-way intelligent viewer who possesses the capacity for rational thought. It's not hard to come up with reasonable/compelling ways to accomplish what you want to accomplish, WWE; so why must you do them in the most retarded way possible, instead? Anyway, after HHH makes his threat to confront the new draftee, he leaves, and Bischoff smirks like he thinks this could be very interesting. Fin.

[ads]

Chris Masters Loves the 80s

Everybody's favorite waste of promotional energy, Chris Masters, makes his way to the ring. Blah blah blah, nobody can break his fearsome Full Nelson, blah blah blah, so another open challenge.

And out comes Sgt. Slaughter. OK, that's it. I give up.

Masters is an under-talented, ass-injecting, crappy-gimmicked, marble-mouthed nightmare of style over substance. With a shitty, unconvincing finishing hold. If he'd been born 20 years sooner, his career would have peaked at working in the second match of the night at WrestleMania 3 against Hercules Hernandez and then disappearing off the face of the earth forever. Because even in the 80s, he would have been borderline-unwatchable. So who better to underscore Masters' unique ability to Suck in a way that hasn't been sucked in over 15 years than to put him in the ring with an opponent who I'm sure was carted out for NO REASON OTHER THAN because he's a poster boy for the "Superstars of 80s" DVD that comes out this week?

Nice work, WWE, on the perfect convergence of craptacularity. Seriously: whoever is making certain personnel decisions really needs to get his (likely-shriveled-by-steroids) dick out of the protein shake mix, and only put guys on TV if they possess (1) in-ring ability greater than that of Brakus, (2) personality/charisma, and (3) something resembling a compelling character/gimmick.

And what happened in the thrilling Masters/Slaughter showdown? If I have to tell you, you are an idiot. Hell, I felt like an idiot for even watching it when I could have fast-forwarded. But like I said: even without FF'ing this, I *still* ran out of time shift way too earlier tonight.

[ads]

Video Package: introduced by JR and King, we got a long-ass Batista/HHH highlights package. And given the way they've fumbled almost every element of the Batista/HHH feud, I use "Highlights" loosely. According to my DVR (as I FF'ed, since I don't recap recaps, much less recaps of crap), this segment clocked in at 7 minutes long. And this was the ONLY THING THAT HAPPENED in this segment. Throw in four minutes of ads preceding it and four minutes following it, and that's 15 straight minutes of NOTHING HAPPENING. How can a creative team sit around for 7 days and think that's a good idea? Hell, throw in the preceding Masters segment and the ad break that preceded THAT, and you're up to over TWENTY-FIVE MINUTES of nothing happening. Like I said: unless they are daring us to change channels or FF, this is a mind-numbingly retarded way of putting your show together. Give fans some credit: video packages are fine for PPVs to create a sense of epic scope, I guess (although I really think they're only purpose is to "rest" the fans and give them chances to get drinks or go to the bathroom or whatever; the number of video packages that have been Value-Adds in the last 2 years are EXTREMELY limited, and at least 3 of them were in the Foley/Orton feud last year)... but before you get to the PPVs, trust us to pay attention and trust your hired performers to tell the stories (instead of trusting your production monkeys to do it for them). It's a lot more interesting that way, if stuff happens in the ring and on the mic to add to feuds, instead of being asked to sit through re-hashes of your already-half-assed storylines. Christ, I fast-forwarded this shit, and it STILL annoyed the hell out of me... sorry for ranting, but I'm pretty sure I'm right about this one.

[ads]

John Cena/Chris Jericho vs. Christian/The Lovely Miss Tomko

Finally: something happens! And hopefully, it won't suck! And hey, look: you want to sneak in little video highlight packages, just in case your fans are idiots, HERE is how you do it... you sneak them in during the ring entrances, which are usually overlong fluffery that are more fun for the live audience than for the TV audience. 

Jericho insisted on starting off for his team, and True To His Word, was positively dominant in the opening minutes. First, he went to town on Christian, and then he did the same to Tomko. With Tomko down after a Flying Burrito, Jericho decided it was time to give his punk-ass partner a chance... so (sort of grudgingly), Jericho tagged in Cena.

And Cena immediately came in and looked like he was going about 140mph while still in third gear. Like he was revving hard, maybe TOO hard, and was kinda skidding all over the place on the verge of Catastrophic Systems Failure. Seriously: I thought Ivory was being a BIT hyper-critical of Cena's in-ring work (since we HAVE seen him have good matches, just not so much lately) in that one interview, but last night? Cena did not look sharp. He honestly seemed to be trying to make up for sloppiness and awkwardness with "intensity." It got to the point where Jim Ross -- speaking in Code to those of us who possess the Secret Decoder Bowling Shoe -- had no choice but to point out that Cena's offense was looking quite "unorthodox" tonight. So it's not just me noticing this: JR did it, too. And even if you think The Rick doesn't know jack about wrestling, you're not gonna dispute Jim Ross, are you? I didn't think so....

Anyway, Cena finally gets on the same page with Tomko long enough to orchestrate Tomko getting clotheslined out over the top rope. And then Christian tries to put his two cents worth in, and Jericho intercepts him, and tosses Christian out onto his Loyal Valet. Faces up, Heels down, so let's check us some....

[ads]

Back, and somehow Christian is now the legal man in the ring against Cena. And they are in the middle of a back-and-forthy exchange... Christian hits a move, but then Cena comes back (still looking semi-sloppy) with something that maybe it was a clothesline, maybe it was a shoulderblock, maybe it was a Thesz Press... who can tell? You know that thing I said in the Hassan/Shelton match about moves not having to look dangerous or extreme, they just have to look good and crisp? That's exactly what Cena's NOT doing tonight... it's like "as long as some part of my body collides with some part of my opponents, that counts as a wrestling move." It looks cheap and shoddy. Maybe he's just uncomfortable working with new guys? But if so, maybe that's not the guy who has the well-rounded skill set you want in a brand-carrying champion...

And it got worse: after the back-and-forthy, I think Cena was supposed to take control for his team. But the way he did it: looked terrible. He controlled Christian with a headlock or something, but got shot off into the ropes. When he came back, he chin collided directly with a back elbow from Christian... but Cena acted like he hit another one of his "maybe-a-shoulderblock" attacks, and shoved Christian down for a near fall. I shit you not: check the tape, cuz I made a mental note in a giant 80-pt. font to put this into the recap as I was watching last night. I'm guessing the spot was supposed to be Cena ducking the elbow and then bouncing into the ropes on the other side where Jericho would "blind tag" himself into the match... except Cena didn't quite have it together. So instead: he eats an elbow, pretends that was an offensive move for himself, goes for a cover, and then drags Christian back up into a headlock and pulls him over towards the corner (backing into the corner) so Jericho can do the "blind tag" that way. Just a guess, but I'm betting I'm not too far off base.

But who cares: at least with Jericho into the match, and with Christian as his dance partner, things'll start looking a lot better. Jericho goes to work on Christian, forcing Christian to get a tag to Tomko at his earliest possible convenience... but Tomko has no better luck against Jericho. At least, not until Christian causes a distraction. Jericho gets lured away from Tomko, and when he turns back: he eats a Big Boot. Making matters worse, John Cena has learned the lesson of How To Be A Dumbass Babyface Tag Partner well, because he tries to get in the ring to counter Christian's interference, but succeeds only in getting the attention of the ref, allowing Christian and Tomko to double-team Jericho.

So from here, I'd be tempted to say Jericho was playing Ricky Morton. Except the way Cena looked tonight, I wouldn't want to befoul Robert Gibson's memory that way... but you get the idea. Heel beatdown commences, nominally targeting Jericho's back and neck, but not really anything TOO organized. I think there's probably 2 or 3 tags by Christian and Tomko, with each hitting his preferred offensive flurries (note: Christian's were better), before we settled in for The Formula. Christian decided on a chinlock (c'mon, Xtian, Hassan already used that one, hows about a little diversity?), and Jericho dutifully elbowed out of that and started a mini-rally.

Except, much like Shelton before, this was actually a bit of a decoy hope spot... and for a storyline purpose here. Because Jericho got enough of an opening to go to his corner to make the tag, but he chose not to. Because, remember, his mission in this match tonight is to pin Christian and prove to Bischoff that he deserves a WWE Title shot. [And also: if Jericho was thinking of the home viewers, Cena was having an off night, so the less time he spends in the ring, the better.] So Jericho tries to go it alone... and he immediately gets captured back by the heels for more of Being Their Bitch. This goes on for about 2 more minutes, including a tag to Tomko, who becomes legal... and it's finally against Tomko that Jericho reverses out of something (maybe a powerbomb?) and hits a big offensive move. Both men down, and Jericho's just taken a Bonus Beating of 2-3 minutes, so he's gonna swallow his pride and inch towards his corner.

And he makes the tag to Cena. Tomko is not so lucky, and doesn't get to Christian in time, so he's dead meat. Cena goes to town on Tomko, has a few bonus flails that he throws Christian's way, and is in total control of the match inside of about 45 seconds. The decimation of Tomko continues until Christian regains his wits enough to try to interfere. But Jericho has also recovered, and immediately cuts Christian off, and clotheslines him out of the ring. So now, it's finally just Cena and Tomko. And for the first time all match, Cena appears to find a comfort zone. Because he no longer has to do anything outside of his usual routine. Body Slam, posing for the crowd, lame-ass "five knuckle shuffle," pump up the 'Boks, and an F-U (again, the normal kind, not the cool Carlito Kind). Cena pins Tomko. Probably right around 10 minutes, like the Shelton/Hassan match, but Cena's sloppiness/awkwardness kept it from coming even close to matching the quality of the opener. More than likely it won't matter with most fans, since he was back playing to his strengths for the final minute of the match, but I really do think Cena had an off-night, and the match suffered for it.

After the Match: Ladies and Gentlemen, We Have a Heel Turn! Out of nowhere, while Cena is celebrating, Chris Jericho attacks from behind. Huh. Well: you know where I stand... I think there were better things for Jericho than a heel turn, and I also think that, if you suddenly wanted Jericho to start caring enough about wrestling (and wrestling titles) then you needed to tell a better story leading up to this turn... but whatever. I don't get paid to fix WWE, I get piddling pennies off of banner ads to pretend like I SHOULD be getting paid to do so. So what do I REALLY know? After attacking from behind, Jericho takes Cena out to ringside and throws him into the ringside barrier and the ringsteps and stuff for an attack that probably scores about a B-minus in terms of brutality. Once Cena is KO'ed. Jericho starts walking away from ringside, pausing briefly to fondle Cena's Bling Belt like it was.... well, on the grounds that I'll keep this recap PG-13 (and am also running short on ideas), let's just say he fondled it like it was "something that Chris Jericho would be likely to fondle in an affectionate manner." Again: strange for Jericho's character that he's suddenly so wrapped up in being a successful wrestler given the now-proven-to-be-sucky storytelling leading up to this turn. Maybe Jericho will be given a chance next week to cut a promo and make sense of all this? Or maybe not: as was agreed upon in an actual conversation last night, any belief that WWE cares about logic, continuity, or giving Jericho any more TV time than is strictly necessary is quite naive. I believe the notion that Jericho will be fixing all this with a promo next week was met with a "BWHAAAHAHAHAHAHA." Because WWE, in its infinite head-up-its-own-assery, probably doesn't even realize there's anything wrong that needs to be fixed. Prove us wrong, WWE, prove us wrong.

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Video Package: introduced by JR and King, we get a lengthy set of clips from the Diva Search Casting Call held over the weekend. Again, DVR was called upon for FF'ing, and again DVR's handy timer noted that I just shaved a full FIVE MINUTES of alleged content from the show. WWE really thinks fans give a shit about five minutes of anonymous tits and ass is a good way to utilize valuable prime RAW real estate? Just baffling. And again, THIS WAS THE WHOLE SEGMENT. Tack on the commercial breaks that bracketed this shit, and that's another 12-plus minutes of WWE essentially saying, "We're out of ideas, please go watch something else." Which strikes me as the antithesis of the "Compelling Episodic Television" that I was raving about in this very spot one week ago. Seriously, WWE, how do you make something that strikes me as being ever-so-easy look so fricking hard?

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Backstage: Chris Jericho, all alather after his decimation of his less-talented tag team partner, tracks down Eric Bischoff walking in a hallway... and he immediately demands a WWE Title Shot after the whupping he just put on John Cena. And it turns out: Bischoff is actually pretty impressed with Jericho, and says he thinks Y2J should, in fact, get a title shot. Enter Christian from Stage Right: do his ears deceive him? Is Bischoff reneging on his word to let Christian have a crack at Cena? A shouting match ensues between Jericho and Christian, but Bischoff finally gets them to settle down by declaring that he's not taking anything away from Christian, he's just adding in something for Jericho.... because at Vengeance, it'll now be a Triple Threat Match for the WWE Title: Cena vs. Christian vs. Jericho. Christian and Jericho are placated, but there's one more country to be heard from.... because Cena suddenly swoops in from Stage Left to attack Jericho. Christian and Tomko appear to briefly entertain doing something, but then decide not to. So Cena's assault continues. Oh, and I lied: ECW made one more appearance, in the form of big crates labeled "ECW" in the background of Jericho's beating. Finally, officials show up and pry Cena off. Jericho takes that chance to cheap-shot Cena, but then the refs and suits manage to break them up for good. Cena, taking notes from last week's crap-ass "b-grade action hero" dialogue in the Batista/HHH skit, starts shouting "You wanna go to wo'? You got a wo'!" non-stop until he's confident that a camera picked him up doing it. One can only assume he meant "war." But lord knows, in moments of extreme emotion, that is when Cena's Entirely Genuine And Not At All Affected TRUE Accent comes out strongest!

Viscera vs. Maven

Ugh. I say "too much show," and WWE says, "not only do we have time for two absolutely indefensible over-long video packages, but we have time for Chris Masters AND Viscera." 

Plot point: Lillian Garcia is now a willing companion to Viscera, as witnessed by her dead-eyed, ear-to-ear grin. OK, so at least Viscera has committed no crimes in his seduction of Lillian. Except for the heinous crime of being Completely Unentertaining. Except in WWE, that's not a crime, at all, now is it?

The match: a crappy 60 second squash. But even with that limited time, Viscera made sure to mount Maven in the style of the dog, snatch a chinlock, and then thrust suggestively.  Christ, it wasn't funny once, it wasn't funny the second time, and it shall never be funny. End this gimmick now. Again: it's not just me. Anytime Vis hit one of his allegedly humorous spots, the crowd gave him the most tepid of "Oh, hey, fat guy acting sexy" pops and went right back to not caring. Vis wins with A-Train's old finisher. Whee.

Backstage: HHH and Flair are talking more about the Draft Lottery and how it's a Personal Attack on HHH that somebody is being permitted to come from SD! to RAW tonight, and it will completely screw up HHH's title shot against Batista. I still don't understand the logic. Probably because it doesn't exist. So this devolves into the standard Flair Pep Talk, and HHH gets the bright idea that nobody from SD! will steal his thunder, so later tonight, before the draft pick is introduced, HHH will go to the ring and be there to greet him. See, what'd I tell you: there's no rhyme nor reason to HHH's logic, except for the part where he used it as justification to put himself int he ring for a main event angle for no clear reason. That's the best kind of logic, as far as HHH is concerned!

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Kane vs. Sylvain Grenier

Hey, it's the last half-hour of RAW, and after Viscera's match, WWE must be confident that we all like SQUASH. Seriously: who wrote this show? Somebody who had no desire to keep an audience enthralled as they continue to stack utterly pointless and flip-away-from-able (or FF-able) segments on top of each other. Just vast tracts of the least compelling, least interesting television possible...

Maybe 2 minutes for this one, and Kane wins. Yippee. This was such a deserving Main Event (hey, on the upside, I had Kane on my Fantasy WWE Team this week, so I get Main Event Points for this shitfest!). Clearly, the Bad-Ass is back. As witnessed by kicking the shit out of some tag team wrestler. At least fucking feed him Conway and Grenier TOGETHER. You can even have that lead to yet another bit of dissension between La Resistance, since that seems to be the direction they are going... but no: let's do this the least compelling way possible.

After the Match: Kane's about to hit his ringpost pyro, when Lita interrupts at the last second (armed with an attempted innuendo relating shooting off pyro to, well, you know... and the worst part is that whatever you come up with in your head will probably be funnier and more cogent than what Lita spewed forth). Lita says she's here to fill Kane in on a few things, just to set the record straight. The first thing, she'll require the presence of Gene Snitsky. So out comes Snitsky. Lita says she's come to realize that "It wasn't your fault," and that it was Kane's fault for putting her in harm's way the night she lost her baby. And not only was that not Snitsky's fault, but he did Lita a favor, since Lita realizes now that having Kane's demon baby would have sucked. So she just wants to apologize and thank Snitsky. This, of course, involves an big ol' smooch, complete with Porno Tongue from Lita. I gotta grant: she's probably playing the biggest whore ever in the history of wrestling, but she's doing it with relish. 

Then Snitsky is dismissed, because the other thing Lita has for Kane involves Edge. You see, Lita's grateful that Kane just agreed to make everything easy by doing an annulment... which means that they won't have to wait for Vegas to do some quickie wedding. Instead, Edge and Lita now plan on getting married next week, right here on RAW. Ugh. And Kane's invited. Because magical moments like this only happen once a lifetime. JR missed a golden opportunity to use the line I immediately generated while sitting on my couch, which was: "Um, slut, this makes twice for you and counting, already." Kane is once again back to face-twitchy, might-want-to-break-something or might-want-to-cry over-acting as Edge grabs the mic. His punchline involves the Kane T-shirt he's wearing, which refers to Kane as "The Monster." Any seventh grader should have seen Edge's comment coming down Fifth Avenue. But he made it anyway. Because after the wedding, Edge will be introducing his new wife to the Real One-Eyed Monster. The crap: it never ends in this storyline. Plus 10 for trying to close certain logic holes by having Lita "make up" with Snitsky and introducing the "annulment" concept. But minus several million for this just continuing to be the kind of cheesy crap that nobody outside of trailer parks or Springer audiences cares about, and which makes it hard to defend my wrestling fandom to friends of average-or-better intelligence.

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Something Around Here Stinks, But That Might Just Be the Lack of Antiperspirant Theatre

Triple H and Flair make their pre-emptive ring entrance. Because they are just what the audience was clammoring for. HHH gets his biggest pop of the night by noting "It's hot in here." Thank god we weren't in St. Louis again this week...

Blah blah blah, HHH repeated most of his previous illogical crap about how this is his show and nobody's gonna ruin his Hell in the Cell title shot, and I'm still having a hard time putting together how this makes sense. My guess is that even HHH knows it doesn't, which is why he's now repeating it for the third time, thinking that if he says it enough times, we'll just give up and take it as gospel. But his Jedi Mind Tricks won't work on me. [See, Gewirtz, THAT is how you sneak a gay-ass Star Wars joke into your writing!]

Finally, HHH is done re-repeating himself, and just tells the latest RAW draftee to get his ass out here. There is a pregnant pause. A VERY pregnant pause. And then...

KURT ANGLE. Jesus christ, who's gonna be left on Thursdays if they keep this up?

The crowd enthusiastically informs Kurt that he sucks as he makes his way to the ring. Meantime, the only thing I can think of is that if they want to wring at least one TINY bit of value out of the embarrassingly-awful Angle/Booker/Sharmell thing, then there had better, by christ, be some joke about Angle's past with Stephanie. And it had better be good. Let's see if they go there...

Angle says that he's been listening to HHH, and he mostly agrees: RAW is HHH's show, and most anybody who shows up would have to deal with that. But Kurt Angle isn't just anybody, and he's not gonna be dictated to by HHH or anybody. He punctuates this with an intentionally-bad "Whooo." Which of course sends Flair into a apoplectic fit, and results in a "Whooo"-off. Funny. HHH finally breaks that up, though, and says that Kurt's accomplishments are all well and good, but that it's been a long time since Kurt played in the big leauges. Because he's been slumming it on Thursdays getting beat up by Booker T's wife. And sure enough, here comes Angle with EXACTLY what I wished for: because he says that he didn't really mind that, he kind of enjoyed rolling around with Sharmell. Pause. Just like he enjoyed making out with HHH's wife behind his back. Whoo.

But fucking hell: even though that gets about the biggest pop of this entire promo, HHH can't let a touch of realism in, and immediately smirks and defuses it by saying, "Well, she's my ex-wife now for a reason, and it's because she would make out with just about anybody." Blech. Nice try, Kurt, but HHH cut you off at the knees, and thus, your feud with Booker still has absolutely redeeming qualities.

That little interlude aside, Angle says that he's here on RAW and intends to prove himself the #1 guy again. And that means winning the World Title. So Angle has a proposition: he challenges Batista to a match the Monday after Vengeance. As a total non-sequitur, Angle notes that if Batista accepts this challenge, he will "choke." Oddly, after HHH has spent the night spouting off confoundingly-illogical tripe, he does NOT make the sensible retort to Angle. At no point during Angle's challenge to Batista for the Monday after Vengeance does HHH point out, "Ummm, dum dum, I've spent the last 2 months saying how I'm gonna get that title back, so you can challenge Batista all you want, but it won't matter, because after Vengeance, *I* will be the champ." How fucking hard is it to take the Dumb Words out of HHH's mouth and replace them with Smart Ones?

Finally, Batista has heard enough of people talking about him behind his back, so he interrupts the spirited debate. HHH's suit coat comes off to reveal an absolute sweaty mess. Angle, just by standing in the ring, is also sporting more than just pit-stains. You guys ever hear of undershirts? I'm as staunchly-anti-glossy-metrosexual as it gets, but when dressing up during summer months, you add an extra layer to avoid unsightly stainage on your nice shirts. Man alive. And Batista's already making his own gravy and dripping by the time he just steps into the ring. 

Angle re-makes his challenge to Batista, to his face this time. And AGAIN, HHH fails to register that Angle is just assuming Batista will defeat HHH at Vengeance. HHH does try at least a semi-logical tack, though, as he goes into "Oh, you think Batista is scared of you? Guess again, he's so totally NOT scared of you that he would even fight you right here next week!"... but Batista is on to HHH's ploy, and tells him to zip it. Except that if he knows what HHH is up to, that doesn't explain why he immediately does exactly what HHH wanted him to: He agrees to fight Kurt next week on RAW, presumably for the World Title (although it was never explicitly stated, the tone of Angle's promo would make it a complete brain fart if it was non-title). And as he addresses Kurt, Batista decides to pay-off on Kurt's non-sequitur from earlier, telling him, "If I was you, I wouldn't talk about choking after what happened to you at the ECW PPV last night." Zing? Thanks, Writer Monkeys! I LOVE it when I can see your fingerprints on all this Totally Natural And Realistic Dialogue!

Batista says he'll take care of Angle next week, then he'll take care of HHH in the Cell, and Trips gets on the mic and says, "Hey, how about that: everybody's happy and everybody gets what they want." Except.....

Here's SHAWN MICHAELS, who thinks he's cute, knows he's sexy, and is 100% confident that HE doesn't have what HE wants. And what he wants? To make good on the promise he made the fans the night after WrestleMania and take another crack at Kurt Angle: he proposes Angle vs. Michaels II at Vengeance. Kurt accepts. And then, he tries to suckerpunch Michaels. But Shawn saw it coming, and immediately fires back. Angle goes crashing backwards into HHH, who takes umbrage and joins in the fray, attacking his old nemesis, Michaels. Batista decides to get him some, and jumps in. 

Things start as Batista/HHH and Angle/Michaels, but after a distraction from Flair (who gets toasted for his troubles), they switch partners, and it's HHH vs. Michaels and Batista vs. Angle as JR does the hard sell for next week, and we fade (rather suddenly and out-of-nowhere) to black.

Huh. Like I said: there was little to no convincing reason given for why the main event segment went off the way it did... you could have (without even trying very hard) have come up with a better way to set it up. But that said, if I unsand my vagina just long enough to pretend like the ends justify the means, I like the prospects here. Angle/Batista next week, presumably for the title, and then Batista/HHH and Michaels/Angle at the PPV... any four of those men could end up as the World Champ at the end of this. As long as it's not HHH, I think it'll be a fun ride, too.

Over in the WWE Title picture, it's something similar, with any one of three guys who could reasonably hold that title in 2 weeks time. And if you then consider HHH/Jericho's little interaction? Could we tie all this together somehow and turn this into a giant 7-man, 2-title storyline? That could be VERY fun to watch, if only I had confidence in the writing staff to handle a storyline of complexity greater than that of an average episode of "Dharma and Greg."

In any case, the point is: despite an exceptionally shitty overall effort, RAW managed, with its dying gasp, to do something to make me interested in what happens next. I have no idea where they go with the Draft Lottery or how this all ends up. Although, one VERY quick Bonus Idea, since this one is too good not to share: what if Christian shows up on SD! on Thursday? He gets Lotteried OUT of his WWE Title match! He gets lotteried away from his archnemesis John Cena! He gets lotteried to a show where the top champion is Orlando Jordan. I'm having fun just contemplating the hilarity that could ensue with Christian on the Cabana as he realizes all his dreams have been quashed by the Luck of the Draw (remember, unlike HitC, no specific "draft protection" was placed on the WWE Title match). What happens, then? Jericho and Cena can do their little thing without it being a distraction to what sure seems like a Money Match (in Christian/Cena), and then by the end of the draft, Cena and the WWE Title end up back on SD!, and you can go full speed ahead to Christian vs. Cena at SummerSlam. You know you want to see it.

Sorry for rambling, but the one thing that was weird about last week was throwing Draft Speculation out there despite the fact that tapings had already happened. Although, in my defense, how fucking smart did I look when Benoit wound up being drafted? I feel better putting this little morsel in here on Tuesday afternoon, though, when I know I'm not prognosticating about something that's already a done deal.

Bottom line: RAW was pretty shitty for the most part. Really solid opening 20-25 minutes, and an intriguing (if logic-defying) final 10. But in the middle: about the only thing worth stopping and watching was for Jericho's heel turn, and even THAT was not exactly handled as well as it should have been. More thoughts/fall-out tomorrow in OO. 

E-MAIL RICK
BROWSE THE RAW RECAP ARCHIVES


  
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