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OO RAW RECAP
Attack of the Not-So-Grumpy Old Men 
June 28, 2005

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com

 

Looks like I picked the wrong RAW Preview to spend a few paragraphs rambling about "sizzle" and "moments," huh?
 
Because WWE might be short on those things lately, and might even have served up a PPV on Sunday that -- while very good -- didn't have a single truly memorable signature moment...

But out of thin air, they presented a RAW last night that was loaded with all the excitement, unpredictability, and Major Event

Atmosphere you could handle. The crap was present, but it was kept to a minimum, and for the most part, WWE focused on the right talents.

And then, they busted out a few tricks nobody was expected. Both those tricks involved men pushing 60 years-old, as Ric Flair might have had his career reborn in a convincing 20-minute wrestling match against Kurt Angle, while Hulk Hogan made a surprise appearance in support of John Cena and Shawn Michaels to close out the show on a cool note. That might not be a recipe for sustainable future success, but the old men brought it last night, and the fans had a lot of fun as a result.

Something that *might* be indicative of WWE making a decision that will impact future shows was how all the other skits and promos on the night seemed just a little bit different in tone. No over-scripting, no over-staging (not even in a Kane/Lita skit, where stilted dialogue and cheesy "spooky lighting" would have been more the WWE standard).... just letting guys with grasps on their own character speak in their own words for once. It was so pronounced all night long that I almost think it was done on purpose. Lengthy in-ring promos by RVD/Carlito and Flair/Angle benefited from less "writery-ness," but the real stars of the unscripted portions of the show were Chris Jericho and (to an only slightly less extent) Christian, who had a pair of spectacular backstage bits just playing off each other.

And even the pacing issues (the HORRIBLE, almost unconscionably bad pacing issues) from the past two weeks were completely gone. No out of place video packages, no segments that felt like they were in there for filler, just content, content, content. And almost all of it kick-ass.

Sure there was Chris Masters and the Diva Search segment... but guess what? Nothing's gonna bring me down. A power outage in the middle of the show didn't bring me down (nor stop me from getting the necessary footage by alternate means). And even if I know there's two segments of crap ahead of me, I'm not gonna let it bother me. Because last night was about the most fun I've had watching RAW in a while, so I figure I'll go ahead and have me some fun recapping it, too.

For those who saw it and just want some extra analysis, and for those poor souls who might have missed the show, here's how it all went down....

Opening Theme/Pyro/Etc., and we are live in Anaheim, CA... and just like last night, we're going with a three-man booth. And if there was an explanation at Backlash for why, they don't bother repeating it here. So Coach is along for the third-wheel-ride with Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler... and at the end of the night, I couldn't tell you why: he added nothing at any point, although the nature of the three-man booth kept him more "on-task" than he's been in recent extended announcing gigs, so he also didn't detract much. But seriously: Coach is great as a heel putz interviewer, the guy who acts like he's cool but then gets "outed" by all babyfaces in his brief TV appearances... as yet, he's not shown the ability to be interesting and on-topic for a full 2-hour telecast. Then again, neither has Jerry Lawler, so what's the harm, eh? Until JR and Tazz are united, Ross is gonna have to be working with an annoying clown... so why not TWO annoying clowns? Coach actually seems to be quarterbacking the announcing as they hype some of tonight's highlights, but since those highlights include "Diva Search Crap," I guess Coach is the right man for the job. Once we get that out of the way, it's time to get this party started....

Whooo vs. Whooo 2

Hmmmm... it's Kurt Angle out to start the show. Sending a PPV loser out there to kick things off is not what I'd have expected. But I'm also not complaining, because it beats the holy living hell out of what I DID expect. 

And best of all, Kurt is here to multi-task. No bludgeoning one-note promos from Our Olympic Hero! First, Angle takes a moment to acknowledge Vengeance where he was pinned by Shawn Michaels. Which, Kurt notes, makes them even at one match apiece. Crowd is starting to sense a little something, but Kurt quickly switches gears to make it so that the fans are suspicious.... because Kurt outright teases them with, "So I bet you fans right here tonight would LOVE to see the Rubber Match live on RAW?". Of course the fans WOULD love to see that. But also of course: the fans kinda realize that there's another shoe that's gonna drop.

Which Kurt drops with aplomb when he notes that, "Well, tough, because you're not gonna see it." In Angle logic, he made Michaels tap out on the biggest PPV of the year, and Michaels only pinned him at Vengeances. And tap-outs should so TOTALLY count double. So Kurt says he still wins the Career Series against Michaels, and it's on to bigger and better things.

Namely: Batista. Angle says he's beaten them all, but he's never had a shot at Batista or the World Heavyweight Title. And now that he's back at 100% and now that he's here on RAW, he wants both. He wants, Kurt says, to prove that he is "The Man."

Whoops. Seems as though there's somebody already here on RAW who has an attachment to that little nickname.... "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair comes on down to the ring, with the fans wanting to cheer him, but not quite sure that they should, yet. Kurt, in fact, fans those flames of uncertainty by cutting Ric off and going on an extended riff about how Flair is just here to be Triple H's mouthpiece and lapdog, and if that's the case, he can zip it. Because we've all heard enough of that. Nice touch: because that's exactly why fans are slow to get behind Flair these days (because he does seem to end up as HHH's mascot at the end of the day), and Kurt toyed with us by babyfacishly mentioning it. In fact, Kurt says that if Flair's appearance is just prelude to Triple H coming out and flapping his gums for 20 minutes, he'll just leave now, because he doesn't want to hear it.

Like I said, Our Olympic Hero. Or at least, MY hero.

But Flair says Angle's got it all wrong. Because HHH isn't even here tonight. He's sitting at home nursing stitches and a broken rib after last night's Hell in the Cell match, and even if he was here, Flair wouldn't talk for him, because he knows that HHH's greatness speaks for itself (meh; *HHH* tends to speak for himself, and lately, that's part of the problem). And furthermore, Flair's not here to talk about HHH: he's here to talk to Kurt Angle. Hmmmm....

Flair immediately goes into a VERY flattering spiel about Kurt. About how Kurt really is one of the greatest in the game today. About how Flair actually hopes his son (Reid, the one who once scored a 2-point take down on Eric Bischoff when he was nothing but a tubby middle-schooler, but who is now an accomplished high school wrestler) wants to emulate Kurt more than he wants to emulate his own dad. Whoa. I don't know if that's a "shoot" or not, but it's almost SO honest that the crowd can't believe it's honest at all, and boos Flair for being so disingenuous. Nutty.

But Flair says there's one thing that he's gotta dispute Angle on: being "The Man." Because, Ric says, he was once the man, and today, he's gotta side with Triple H as the new "Man." Because HHH, win or lose, proved he was "great" the night before inside Hell in the Cell. "Great?" asks Kurt, "You're LOOKING at great!". Kurt again says that if all this is is Flair coming out to stump for HHH, to try to campaign for HHH to get another World Title Shot, he can just shut up, because it's one, two, three strikes yer out, and it's time for a new challenger to Batista's title.

But Flair again says this ain't about HHH, he's out here to talk to Kurt Angle... and this time as he explanationizes himself, Flair puts a little stank on it. And Kurt? No likey that tone of voice. So he decides to settle the fans uncertainty once and for all by being the heel of the two: he tells Ric Flair that he appreciates the thought, but Flair had best just get out of the ring and go to the back to drink his Brand Name Geriatric Beverage of Choice (I think he said "Insure," but I'm not familiar with that one) before he does something stupid and gets hurt.

Get hurt? Flair SCOFFS at that. SCOFFS I tells ya. Because crashing in an airplane, THAT is how you get hurt. Inside the wrestling ring, though, Flair thinks he can defend himself. Because if Kurt shoots a leg, Flair's gonna be ride there with a thumb to the eye. And if that doesn't work, he'll bite. And if that doesn't work, "I'll grab your testicles. And pull." All delivered with EXTREME vigor to the point that Flair seems (and the live crowd agrees) just as big an in-ring threat as Kurt.

Kurt tries to act nonchalant about the fact that Flair's the Dirtiest Player in the Game, but Flair won't let him: he underscores his dirtiness, and seems intent on showcasing it for Angle. Angle says if Flair doesn't watch it, he'll get his wish because Kurt will go backstage and talk to Eric Bischoff and.... but Flair cuts him off. Eric Bischoff? Who cares about that because Vince McMahon is sitting home salivating at the thought of this match.... so Angle says, "Fine," if that's what Flair wants, it's on. Tonight, in this very ring, it's Angle vs. Flair.

Kurt supplies a (purposely-bad) "Whooo." Ric supplies a good one. Kurt supplies several more. Flair supplies a half-dozen. And they back and forth until Flair has one of his fits and delivers a final one. Play "Theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey," and it looks like we got us a main event tonight!

Really fun opening... you couldn't see the hands of the writers, you more just saw two guys who knew where they needed to end up, and they got there by sheer force of personality. I like that. A little bit loosey-goosey on the verbiage, with Flair talking about being a "mark" for Angle and then talking about "shooting" on him (before turning that into a nice little swerve where he was just talking about shooting a leg in a chain wrestling exchange), like they were in there firing at will, rather than sticking to a script. And given how good the two are, it was totally the right thing to do. This was, in every way, the antithesis of the shitty Batista/HHH showdown of a few weeks ago, and had me itching to see the eventual match. You can't ask for more than that out of your first segment of the night...

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Last Night: courtesy of a "Vengeance DVD Extra," we get post-show footage from the PPV, where Christian, Chris Jericho, and The Lovely Miss Tomko are bickering backstage about who's fault it is that Cena is still the WWE champ. Again, no writer touched this one, and even if it's only 60 seconds long, this whole bit is hilarious and way more compelling/convincing than most things we've seen from WWE lately. Jericho, in particular, steals the show with several outstanding "in the moment" asides that would be stupid and unfunny on the written page, but just take me word for it: when he did things like suddenly glance to the side to tell Tomko to "Shut up, Goatboy," or that "You weren't even in the match last night, jackass," it scratched me directly where I itch. That Jericho: when you don't put dumbness in his mouth, he's really quite tremendous, I gotta say. Anyway, Bischoff interrupts the delicious Bitch Session to say that he heard them arguing, and if all three are still so sure they're better than John Cena, he's got an idea for "tomorrow night" (i.e. for RAW).... Jericho, Christian, and Tomko will team up to take on John Cena and two partners of Cena's choosing. Jericho immediately scores big points again by noting that Cena has no friends on RAW, so who's he gonna get? The popcorn vendor? The sound guy? The wardrobe lady? Christian can't repress a smirk, and has his own aside "Hey, you know, that was actually funny." But Jericho, in an attempt to win the same share of my manlove that Tajiri gets, remembers he's a heel, and hits a hilarious aside of his own, "Yeah, it's funny because *I* am funny, ass clown." No Hollywood Jackoff wrote this stuff, that's for sure. Bischoff again has to interrupt the spat to point out that it doesn't matter if Cena has friends or not, because the match is on for "tomorrow night." And if Cena can't find any partners, well, then these three can enjoy a 3-on-1 handicap match. At *this* the trio of heels seem to perk up a bit. The idea of going 3-on-1 on Cena entices them... but it also gives Jericho and Christian a chance to do more hilarious back-and-forth as Jericho teases Christian about being the one who was pinned in the 3-way match at the PPV, and asks if he'll be able to hold up his end of the fight, to which Christian has some witty retort to which Jericho responds "Yeah?". To which Christian responds "Yeah." "Yeah?". "Yeah." "Yeah?". Yeah." Which, like I said, looks dumb on the written page, but it was going so nicely that I was actually pissed when the monkeys in the truck decided to dump out of the night-old video for fresh stuff... 

Edge/Snitsky vs. Kane/????

Special ring announcer Dustin Roberts (here because Lillian Garcia is out mending her broken heart after the PPV, dammit; and the announcers were so annoying patronizing about it that I redouble my opinion that if this doesn't end with Lillian and Trish teaming up to decimate Big Vis and send him back to whatever he was doing 8 months ago, then WWE's writers are a bunch of clueless, possibly sexless -- or possibly over-sexed and borderline-misogynistic would be the alternative -- hacks who can't write women for shit) tells us that this next match will feature one of RAW's 2 new Draft Lottery picks. First he introduces the all-RAW duo of Edge and Snitsky (accompanied by Lita, who is wearing about her least-skanky outfit in recent memory, making me wonder if that's again a harbinger of physical involvement).

Then he introduces Kane, who apparently has no need of a Special Guest Mystery Draft Lottery Partner. Because he just goes straight to the ring and starts cleaning house, just like he did on these two at the PPV. When he gets a chance to isolate on Edge, he whacks him with a steel chair (no DQ, since the match still hasn't started, since the fourth man isn't even in the ring yet). Snitsky provides a brief (but ultimately ineffective) distraction, while Edge and Lita decide to hightail it out through the crowd. And Kane decides to follow them. Leaving Snitsky alone in the ring...

So out comes GM Eric Bischoff, who says that his vision for a tag match may have been spoiled, but he's still gonna debut RAW's newest draft pick. In a singles match against Snitsky. And it's RAW's biggest draft pick yet (gee, telegraph much, Sleazy E?), so whatever happens in the match, Gene should know that it's Not Eric's Fault. Tee hee? Bischoff flees, and we await our now-suddenly-not-so-mysterious "Mystery Opponent." And sure enough, when the music fires up, it turns out our next match will be....

Big Show vs. Snitsky

OK. Show was one of four guys I had pegged as possible Draftees, so that much I approve of. I'm just not sure this was the best showcase for his first night. Me: I just go balls-out and have Show end the shitty Full Nelson Challenge and send Masters back to OVW to finish cooking. I mean: this guy is essentially Mordecai 2005 (a shitty gimmick and no crowd interest), except demonstrably LESS talented inside the ring. Why not let Show come out and end him, instead of lumbering through a 2 minute squash match against Gene Snitsky?

That's probably a rhetorical question. Either that, or the answer involves Vince McMahon's on-going loyalty to Pat Patterson in the form of giving the old guy as much masturbation material as possible on RAW's weekly telecasts in the form of over-roided, under-talented glossed-up hunks of man-meat.

And I'm tangentializing why? Because this match really wasn't all that thrilling. I mean, I'm a bit of a mark for Show's Giant Offense, but he wasn't really bringing that here, since Snitsky is a "fellow giant." The moves Show did hit weren't sold with the usual enthusiasm by Snitsky, we didn't get the "Shhhhhhh!" Chops, and it got to the point where even JR busted out the old Secret Decoder Bowling Shoe to refer to the pace of the match as "methodical." I love ya, JR; don't ever stop the Hidden Messages!

After the first 30 seconds of the match, it really was little-to-no offense for Snitsky, and it all led up to Show winning with a Chokeslam out of nowhere. Like I said: 2 minutes tops. Nice to have Show on RAW, where he'll have some fresh mountains to climb, and as a way to introduce him, I guess this *was* pretty creative to do the tag match (which kept Edge/Kane/Lita alive) and then segue into this... but again: maybe not totally effective. Still a fun way to meet our new draft pick, though.

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Backstage: Maria the Mic Stand is ready to interview John Cena. Except... gosh darnit... she can't remember her first question. Again: it was funny when Maria was being stupid by accident, but now that she's doing it on purpose, it's.... I dunno. I guess it's still funny, in a way, but it's not as funny for *ME* to make fun of, which means I don't like it. How big a dick would I have to be to make fun of a girl who so good at pretending to be borderline retarded? {I *still* think that WWE should put the kibosh on Eugene-to-SD! so he can form a team with Heidenreich, and have Eugene come back to RAW as Maria's Wrestling Tudor Who Is Demonstrably Smarter Than Her, though. *That*, my friends, is comedic gold waiting to happen.] Anyway, Cena notes Maria's troubles and helpfully offers to take the mic and say a few words so Maria can go stand over there and concentrate for a bit and when she remembers her question Cena will still be right here to answer her. Awwwww.... you know, in a way, this is the most I've liked Cena in a while. Or maybe "related to" would be the more accurate description for what I felt. Because he managed to do a bunch of things in his little repartee with Maria: he managed to compliment her on her purely-physical attractiveness without coming off like an annoying perv (Randy Orton, take note), managed to be familiar with her without seeming like he was taking advantage (again, Orton: file this away for future onscreen attempts to act like you're not a total douchebag), and managed to gently mock her and send her away in such a way that her feelings were not hurt and she didn't realize she was being mocked and sent away. I, myself, *try* to be good at the first two things (your mileage may vary, but I give myself an A for effort), and am sad to report that over time I think I've been forced to become a World Leading Expert in the third (since even my assholitude has limits). Such is life. I really appreciated seeing Cena pull off his first Normal Guy Act in months, here, even if he insisted on doing it in his Wigger Voice...

With Maria dispatched, Cena proceeds to talk about how Bischoff might be trying to lay a trap for him here tonight, by putting him in the ring with 3 men when Bischoff knows that Cena has no friends on RAW. But Cena has a surprise... cuz there's one guy who stepped up and had his back: Shawn Michaels. HBK enters from Stage Left, and says he's sorry he didn't do it sooner, but he wants to welcome Cena to the "snakepit that is RAW." First act of neighborly kindness: stepping in as Cena's partner tonight. But Cena, as obnoxious as he may sometimes be, he knows the maths, and figures they're still short a man. Unless.... did Michaels "make the call"? Ohhhhhhh, yes: Michaels says the Call Was Made. And "he" is currently on the 405 with a one-way ticket to the Anaheim Pond. Cena likey. And says that if this all goes down like he thinks it will, Eric Bischoff had better brace himself for a big ol' surprise. Suddenly, Maria reappears and says she remembered her question. Cena and Michaels part to let her in and ask. She wonders, "So, John, did you find a tag team partner?"... Cena just rolls his eyes and leaves. Michaels (who you should remember is the first guy to chivalrously decide to INTERVIEW HIMSELF when put on camera with Maria a few times last winter back when she wasn't pretending to be dumb) just shakes his head and sarcastically compliments her on doing spectacular work. Maria, doing the one thing she really does do well, smiles dimly at the barely-veiled mockery.

Nice bit here. If you need any evidence that I'm right to rail on "Wigger Cena," I think here it was: because Real John Cena (or close enough to it) was actually a pretty likeable guy... he was decent with a chick, he was ultimately focused on business, and he was respectful of a legend without seeming patronizing or pandering. Why can't we do this ALL THE TIME with him? And the tease for the third partner? Delicious. When this bit was done, I figured it either had to be Marty Jannetty, The Rock, or Hulk Hogan, and I had no clue which it would be, nor which I'd prefer it to be. Any of the three would satisfy, and I was just gonna enjoy the ride.....

Elsewhere Backstage: the assembled crew of Useless Divas 2005 Edition are getting prettified, when up walks Boobies McTitsalot (who I STILL want to call "Boobsie," even though we've settled this Red Hot OO Columnist Drama on the forums, and I know that's not right; I also think that "Titties McSuperbowl" is quite descriptive).... I'm sure she was there to remind them, "Hey, fuck this contest. It doesn't matter if you win. Chances are all of you are getting hired, anyway. Afterall, I'm presently on my 18th minute of fame and am not contributing anything to this company, so at least one of you can have my spot." Because that Boobies, she's a helpful lass.

Elsewhere Elsewhere Backstage: Edge and Lita are leaving the building. But Lita wants to collect her bag before they go. Edge helpfully promises to wait outside the dressing room to guard against Kane while Lita goes in.... but what Edge can't guard against is if Kane's already in the dressing room. Which, SHOCKER~!, he is! While Lita's trying to cram a bunch of stuff in her bag (no puppy this time, but I sure hope that's a really good book you were reading, Lita, given the time you wasted on it, allowing your Guest to sneak up on you), Kane pops up behind her. And promptly stifles Lita's attempts screaming by grabbing her throat. Kane goes on a lengthy diatribe about making Lita's life a living hell... and wanting to do it slowly, so he can enjoy it. Nothing too silly, I guess. Or maybe I'm just desensitized to the Silly by this point? Although, in all honesty, this didn't have ANY of the usual Silly Accoutrements endemic of this storyline: no "spooky lighting," no over-wrought stilted dialogue, just a typical backstage confrontation in which Kane lobbed some fairly convincing threats at somebody he doesn't care for. Almost like a normal wrestling angle. Heh. Anyway, Kane gets his point across that Lita can expect to be seeing plenty more of him, and then finally releases his chokehold on her, leaving Lita to gasp mightily for air. You know that thing I said about Lita's outfit being unskanky? Well, I gotta admit that from the right camera angle and with a whole lotta heaving goin' on, that was one fine eyeful of rack that we got, afterall. Just remember: I don't *normally* resort to such base instincts, but if it's a storyline I don't give a shit about, let me at least distract myself by looking at some bOObs, OK? Try not to think less of me.

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"You're Damned Lucky It's Tajiri, Otherwise I Wouldn't Give This Crap Even HALF Of My Ass" Theatre

I want so badly to Kellerize this segment with a shitty, borderline-illiterate, internet-jackoff brush-off of a recap.... but Tajiri's awesomeness cancels out Chris Master's worthlessness, and so I must at least try to do an Average Rick Job here.

So out comes Masters to no reaction. Masters speaks to no reaction. And this is his hometown (or at least, where he trained), and he's still getting no love. Nor any hatred. Listen to the apathy when he hits scripted "money" lines and pauses to silence (instead of to boos), and tell me I'm making this up... you idiots can have your "improvement" and whatever else it is that you think makes Masters worthwhile, but I still point to his fundamental uninterestingness, and I've got 15000 people every Monday night backing me up.

Masters' dog and pony show this week revolves around "respect," which Masters says he's not getting here on RAW. I'd say that was a set-up for him to go to SD!, but really, that'd be like accidentally stepping on a dog turd and spreading it around instead of just picking it up and throwing it away. That only makes the mess worse. So to get respect, Masters is upping the Full Nelson Challenge Prize Pool to $14,000. Which seems kind of an arbitrary figure, but maybe I've just been not paying attention, and he's been raising it by one grand every week? Yeah, maybe I'll just assume that's what he's doing when I Fast Forward his horseshit every time....

Finally, Masters hits his punchline. And part of the reason why I'm willing to NOT Kellerize this segment? Because, as I was watching last night, I took Deep Personal Glee in listening as Masters flubbed his punchline. No doubt in homage to his idol, Randy Orton. As Masters was ranting about how nobody on RAW wanted to take the Full Nelson Challenge, he finally said, "Come on. Fourteen thousand dollars. Somebody come on down, because there's nothing standing between us but space and opportunity." Except, dum dum, if you're going to spout off flaccid, trite clichés and pretend like that makes you something other than a marble-mouthed excuse to flip channels, you should know that the saying is "air and opportunity." At least, that's how I learned it from however many dozens of wrestlers used it before you. God, I LOVE pointing out when my least favorite wrestlers say dumb things. And say them so effortlessly and with such conviction that you just KNOW that they don't even realize they said something dumb. It's like a double whammy.

After what I'm sure only SEEMED like 15 minutes of Masters speaking, we finally get our opponent for tonight: my man, Tajiri. And I don't know what to feel. Because I know Masters has been married to Tajiri for months on the house show circuit (mostly because Tajiri's the one guy who's shown the ability to NOT get injured for real against Noted Hack Chris Masters; if you're wondering where Stevie Richards is, he's recovering from knee surgery required after a match with Masters making him TWICE injured at the hands of the Masterstiff), and thus, the two are probably gonna do an angle that leads to a Real Wrestling Match for next week, which means that Tajiri might get one-up on Masters here... but then, even as I let myself perk up at that thought, I realize that it still leads to heartbreak and despair next week when Tajiri gets squashed by Masters in said match.

But let's try to enjoy this for what it is. Which is Tajiri coming out and putting the Death Stare on Masters, while Masters exudes his standard emotion, which I guess is supposed to be arrogance, but is really more just the PRETEND arrogance (the "hey look at me, me wrestler, me acting" type of personality that Our Favorite Whipping Boy Randy Orton excelled at). Masters is not taking Tajiri seriously, and says a few mocking things to him (which again meet with zero crowd reaction). Finally he asks Tajiri "Do you even understand a word I'm saying?".... and Tajiri responds, "Yes. I understand. I understand that you Master Jackass." And hey, at least that gets a BIT of a pop.

Then Masters shoves Tajiri to start a brawl and Tajiri comes back with a rapid-fire sequence of stiff kicks. And *those* get a BIG pop out of the crowd. Again, my Tajiri Theory is simple: he doesn't need to do a lot of promos because when he gets in the ring, people believe his moves a lot more than they believe those of 99% of other wrestlers. Including Masters, who seems to have 4 moves in his arsenal, and all of them boring as hell to watch. But after Tajiri kicks the shit out of Masters for a bit, he makes the mistake of going for the Handspring Reverse Elbow, and Masters just clubs him in the back to end Tajiri's offense, and then picks him up to lock in the Full Nelson. Twenty seconds later, and Tajiri has lost the Full Nelson Challenge.

Masters poses for a bit, and then gets on the mic again to talk about how he's going to start DEMANDING respect from his fallen victims, starting tonight. So he straddles Tajiri's carcass and asks for respect... and predictably, Tajiri only gives him a facefull of Blinding Green Mist. Masters writhes on the mat, while Tajiri beats a hasty retreat.

Fuck. You. WWE. On what's an otherwise almost flawless show, you just had to go and do this, just to piss me off, didn't you? You want to make fans think Tajiri will actually beat Masters next week, then you do NOT have him scurry away like a pussy after he does the mist. You have him stick around, and have the balls to go to town on Masters with some kicks. The guy is blind, and if we're to think Tajiri's got what it takes to top Masters, you're not doing anything wrong by having Tajiri kick the crap out of the guy while he's blind. I know you probalby want to protect the reputation of your precious little undertalented roid boy, but you're not doing him irreparable damage if you let Tajiri kick the crap out of him while he's blind. Now, instead, all you have is Tajiri looking like a pussy this week (for not following up on the misting), and looking like a pussy next week when Masters squashes him in what may end up being his best match yet (lord knows, they've practiced it enough on house shows) but which will end up doing nothing positive for either guy. Consider this paragraph pretty much the extent of my RAW Remix this week, cuz that's really the only thing that I felt needed fixing.... but CHRIST did it ever need fixing. Somebody with Zero Wrestling IQ (or a Pat Patterson-sized hard-on for Masters) must have booked this. [Also, how hard would it be to do a more interesting spot for Masters getting his shitty full nelson locked in? Tajiri's handspring elbow practically BEGS for a bit of creativity, and all we got was "forearm to the back." Because Masters is a three-move-charlie, and that's the best he can do, I guess. How about something as simple as grabbing Tajiri in a waistlock, hitting a wicked Atomic Drop, and before Tajiri can hit the mat, Masters SNATCHES the full nelson and almost makes it look like he understands how to put together more than one move in a row? Or am I asking for too much?]

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Carlito's Cabana: The RAW Debut Edition

Out comes Carlito (all references to "Caribbean" AND "Cool" are excised this week, which is just as dumb as last week when he was "Caribbean Cool Carlito".... jesus, WWE, just call him "Carlito Cool" and be done with it; it's simple, it suits him, and it is pleasant to both say and to type), and whatever they put in the water in Las Vegas is NOT in evidence here. No big cheers for Carlito, but also not a whole lot of heel heat, either. Odd, since the one thing Carlito generally gets is SOME kind of response.... maybe I'll blame that on Master sucking the energy out of the crowd, too? Nah, not even *I* am that big a dick....

Whatever it is, though, there's not a whole lot of sizzle as Carlito tries to sell how big it is that this is the First Carlito's Cabana on RAW, and that he intends to replace The Highlight Reel. He does get a cheap pop by mocking Fozzy, actually, but other than that, his prepared material about the first Cabana and beating Shelton for the IC Title seems to fall a bit flat. Screw you, LA. It's poor taste like this that makes me never want to visit my Hollywood Brother, since I don't think I'd fit in at all.

Finally, Carlito gets On Task... tonight, that means that he's out here to introduce RAW's Final Draft Lottery Pick. And sadly, Carlito reports that GM Bischoff has finally crapped out, and RAW has drafted a "lemon." Interesting slant here... lowering our expectations, but why? That's a cute little twist that (unlike the previous pick's bludgeoning obviousness after Bischoff's comments) actually opens the gates WIDE for the pick to be anybody from a nobody like Michelle McCool or Charlie Haas to a top line babyface who Bischoff just dislikes. I loves me the teasing, and even though it was just a quick one here, this segment's already got me back on the edge o' my couch after Masters briefly killed my interest.

So, Carlito says, he's not gonna make a big fancy selljob here, he's just gonna have the Lemon come on out so we can get this over with.... [pregnant pause]... and it's....

Rob Van Dam~!

Huge pop for RVD, who hobbled out to the ring in a knee brace (and an ECW t-shirt, which caused Coach and Lawler to go into Annoying Bitch Mode), and soaked in the "R-V-D" chant for a goodly bit before allowing the promo to proceed. RVD's a lot like Jericho, I think: if you book him like a main eventer, fans'll buy it. But if you don't, they'll still be happy to treat him like you are, anyway. Just another way that WWE has been wearing their asses as hats the last few years that they STILL haven't managed to take full advantage of RVD's appeal....

Finally, Carlito has heard enough huge cheers and chanting for his guest, so he steps in to opine that not only has RAW drafted a Lemon, but it's an Injured Lemon at that, gesturing (in the finest of all fashions, Broadly) to the knee brace. Then he notes, "Hey, RVD, last time I saw you was on the ECW One Night Stand PPV." Which then results in "E-C-Dub" chants only slightly less enthusiastic than the "R-V-D" ones. Carlito is not to be knocked off topic, though, and says that at that PPV, RVD was bitching about how the only things he got to say in WWE were "whatever" and ("ironically enough," Carlito noted, to WAY less pop than he got in my living room, where I loved the self-referentialness of it all!) "cool." But Carlito things RVD's selling himself short. Because he also says "dude" alot. So that's, like, three words. A 50% increase!

Finally, RVD speaks, saying "Ha ha, that's very funny. Three words. Yeah." But RVD remembers that the last time he saw Carlito was ALSO at One Night Stand, when Carlito and the rest of the RAW and SD! crusaders were getting their asses "smoked" by ECW. Big pop, whether it's for the veiled pot reference or to the more overt ECW reference. I'm gonna pretend it's for the latter. Because I like RVD a lot and all, but he strikes me as the kind of guy who might actually read "High Times" magazine without irony; and nothing against how you might choose to medicate yourself (hey, I've tried it all, I just happen to prefer whiskey most of the time), but if you've convinced yourself that "High Times" is anything other High Comedy, I might have to worry about you. Just know: I'd probably say the same thing if somebody decided to put out "Whiskey Times." There's a difference between (1) liking something and incorporating it into your life and (2) joining an idiot subculture, folks.

And wherever that rant came from, it's over now so that I can continue reporting on RVD's promo, which quickly shifted gears from smoke talk to mentioning that he spoke his mind at One Night Stand, and now, people are lining up to ask him about what else he might have to say. So he's gonna keep on speaking, starting right now.

Van Dam hits a few riffs about how he's always done everything for the fans, and how his high-risk moves make him "One of a Kind," and about how he might have had to take a "minute" off for knee surgery but his rehab's going great and Carlito need not be worried about how injured this Lemon is.... he finally gears up for his big finish, which is promising that now that he's back on RAW, the fans can get ready for one thing: the return of "Mr. Monday Night," the return of the REAL Rob Van Dam. Awesome, if true.

Carlito says that sounds nice and all, but the truth is that RVD is still injured... and after a dramatic pause, Carlito says that's just how he likes it, as he immediately stomps on RVD's injured knee. Dick. Carlito then goes to town with stomps and kicks, and even uses his Cabana Table to take a shot at RVD's knee. JR can only theorize about how far Carlito has set back RVD's return from injury... and the fans? They might have come into this bit not caring one way or the other about Carlito, but as he leaves the ring, it's too pretty voluminous boos.

Another home-run segment. And another where you couldn't spot the writers' fingerprints AT ALL. Just two guys going out and knowing what their characters would say, and saying it well. If anything, there did seem to be one spot in the middle where Carlito wanted to say something, but RVD cut him off, which was half-awkward (since a little give and take would be the polite thing to do) but also half-perfect (since it played into that sense of unscriptedness that the newly verbose RVD wouldn't give a shit about give-and-take). And Carlito vs. RVD at SummerSlam for the IC Title? I'm there... way to kick off a feud that I can't wait to see play out. And if WWE is serious about letting the "real" RVD shine, then I'd love to have them duplicate with RVD what ECW did with him, allowing him to hold the secondary "ECW TV Title" for so long and defend it in main events and everything to the point that it was almost the equal of ECW World Title. The key to that: a credible and compelling slate of heel challengers for Van Dam. But now: I'm getting ahead of myself. Great segment, great prospects coming out of it, too.

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Ric Flair vs. Kurt Angle

OK, I lied: this is not the main event. Guess that means Marty Jannetty won't be the Mystery Partner, eh?

At the start, they do some locking-up and feeling-out (which is also a license for Flair to do some strutting and crowd work). And I like that, since it means we're probably settling in for a longer match, and not one of Flair's standard 7 minute going-through-the-motions outings. Not that those can't be fun, too, but you know....

So it's some feeling out, and then into the chain wrestling. The two trade armbars and escapes, with the story here being that Flair might not be known for his technical ability, but that doesn't mean he hasn't learned a thing or two in his 30 years of ring time. But finally: Angle's expertise comes to the fore, and he controls Flair on the mat. In fact, controls him so completely that he's able to mockingly paintbrush Flair's face with little bitchslaps. FEEL THE DISRESPECT~! But then watch as Flair calmly decides to match Angle asshole-for-asshole.... except that Ric's idea of "asshole" is a bit more effective: he starts clawing at Angle's face, ripping at the mouth and nose quite illegally ("let's hope he stops at two orifices," said one of the announcers, and I must admit that I laughed heartily at that). Tee hee: it's just like he said he would do. And it works just as well as he said it would. Flair gets the break, and Angle is half-angry and half-afeared of what Flair might do next as he pauses to regroup.

Except Angle doesn't really regroup, he just blindly charges back in on Flair, trying to take him down, amateur style. But that doesn't work, because Flair counters him, Naitch Style, with two thumbs dug deep into the eye sockets. Magnificent. The tone is set, and we're only 3-4 minutes in: Angle is good, but Flair is crafty.

They go a bit more back-and-forthy at this point, with Flair relying on his chops, and Angle usually firing back with uppercut forearms. Nary a closed fist to be seen; at least, not yet. They go outside, briefly, where Flair gets the better of it by tossing Angle into the steel ringsteps. But when Flair tosses him back into the ring, Angle just keeps on rolling, out to the other side of the ring to catch his breath.... Flair, making a rookie mistake (quite odd for one as elderly as he), follows out, and when he catches up to Angle, Kurt's got a little something planned: a RUDE belly-to-belly suplex on the thin black mats. Seriously: I've joked about it before, but when Flair takes back bumps, it somehow seems like he's got Extra Gravity (borrowing it from Lita, maybe?) and hits harder than most guys. On top of that, he's like almost 60, so I really do feel that suplex bump a bit more than I would if it had been taken by a normal guy. Flair, of course, sells it like a champ. Angle rolls back into the ring. And that makes this a nice spot for some....

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Back from the break, and Angle is (not shockingly) in firm command. "During the break" footage showed Kurt continuing to work on Flair's back after the wicked suplex, but our live shot shows Kurt has opted to go for the less-compelling arm bar on Flair. Oh well, nobody's perfect. Flair manages to bust out of the arm bar with some chops, and tries to take a breather on the outside. Angle follows, and eats more chops. [Intended "pork chop" joke deleted, since it was just a few weeks ago that I was reminded about how Jeb Lund made the same basic quip in one of his RAW Recaps, and I will not CONSCIOUSLY steal no matter how close I came to subconsciously doing it.] Back in the ring, Angle retakes command by reversing an Irish Whip and sending Flair up for a backdrop (again with the Extra Gravity!)...

Angle pounds away for a bit, and then decides on an STF to punish the old man... it looks like he's really torquing it in, too. Until Flair once again shows his true colors by BITING Angle's hand. Kurt has to break, and now, he's almost more scared than angry, it seems. The announcers pick up on it, and Lawler (since he's the Student of TOTALLY Current Pop Culture of the three) makes the requisite Evander Holyfield jokes. One hundred of my dollars say that line was actually fed to him by Vince McMahon. Anyway, Flair continues to control with the biting and the chopping, and again decides to take it outside... and again it doesn't work out so well for him, since he ends up pausing to showboat for fans and ends up walking into ANOTHER Extra Gravity Backdrop on the floor. Ouch.

Angle takes it back in the ring, where he advantage is short-lived and it's more give-and-take, instead of one guy with a sustained advantage. But out of the give-and-take, they found a neat little way for Flair to take control: it looked like he was coming in for an elbow drop on Angle, but Angle rolled out of the way.... but Flair SAW him roll out of the way, took two more steps to follow Angle's carcass, and dropped the elbow anyway. Not flashy, not complicated, but that got a huge pop, just because it's a move that showed that these were two guys who MIGHT be thinking on their feet, instead of just performing some scripted wrestling moves. Twas a nice touch, I thought.

But empowered by that hit, Flair made a mistake. The same mistake he's been making regularly for damned near as long as I can remember watching him: he tried to go up to the top rope. And here, it got a bit ugly, because Angle wasn't just intent on doing the standard "rocket launcher" spot with Flair.... he actually did his sweet run-up-the-turnbuckle thing on Flair, apparently looking for a superplex. But Flair wasn't in position yet (he hadn't gotten his right foot up over the turnbuckle yet, and Angle might have leapt at him too soon), and awkwardness resulted. The two tried to manuever (without looking like they were manuevering) into a safe way to do the superplex, but it just wasn't happening, and Flair wound up falling off the ropes and to the apron. Truth be told: given that their positioning on the top rope was fucked up, I LIKED seeing this happen... Flair dropping down was the safer way to get out of that, and while I'm sure my Internet Jackoff Membership will be revoked for ANOTHER year as a result, I absolutely don't hold that spot against them.

It helps that Angle audibled them straight into what they had planned, and it still seemed very plausible. He went outside and collected Flair, pausing to ram him into the ring apron once, and then tossed him into the ring, where he hit the Angle Slam. And I'm figuring one Angle Slam = one Run-up-the-Ropes Superplex, so just like that, we're even. But Flair kicks out of it, nonetheless, leaving Kurt with just one option.... he goes to cinch in the Ankle Lock. And he almost gets it... but that's when Flair makes good on another of his prophecies: he grabs Kurt's ballsac and squeezes hard. It's vaguely off-putting and kinky, but males around the world will vouch for the fact that it'd also be pretty effective. "Groin stuff": never get into a real fight without it!

Just like that, Angle's near-win is derailed, and Flair's in command. And Flair in command means only one thing: going after the knee. Which he does, thusly. A chopblock starts it, and then there's some standard stomping...  Naitch has Angle all loosened up for the Figure Four. So why not cinch it in? Flair does. Angle tries to turn it over. Flair instantly turns it BACK over to maintain the hold. So Angle has to claw and scrap and FINALLY make it to the ropes. Flair gives him the break, but doesn't let up, coming in with more chops and punches. But one of the punches? Angle ducks, and turns it into a German Suplex... and he's going for the Benoit Hattrick of Germans, when Flair is able to grab the ref's shirt and keep him in front of him while he mulekicks back and catches Angle in his poor, already-tortured scrotum. Ouch. But Angle's balls aside, I'm LOVING this match: great back and forth, and even though I've been feeling like we've been in End Game since the Angle Slam, we're still going 3 minutes later...

Flair is now back in control, and goes back to the knee. But when Flair goes for a shinbreaker on Angle, Angle manages to roll-through it and smoothly grab Flair's ankle. And this time, he keeps his sac out of reach as he rolls Flair over and cinches in the ankle lock. Flair tries to reverse, and tries to make the ropes.... but Angle yanks him back to the center of the ring, and locks in the super-duper-mega-anklelock (with bonus grapevining action). Flair, after 30 more seconds of fighting it, has no choice: he taps out. I'm guessing 18-20 minutes, and pretty kick-ass (above the three "second-tier" matches at the PPV the night before, but below the HBK/Angle and Batista/HHH matches). Angle leaves the ring, but he's not celebrating: he looks like a man who went through a war, and he's (tee hee) holding his poor nuts to prove it.

You know what? Not only was this match "very good" and "kick-ass" and whatever other descriptors I could pile one... it was also a match that might have re-made Ric Flair. Think about it: I'm not saying Flair hasn't had some fun matches the last 3 years since he came to WWE. But this is the first one I can think of where he broke form and actually WRESTLED A MATCH, instead of just going through his usual motions. It's almost like he'd just re-read Bret Hart's rantings and wanted to show he had more in him than that. Except I'm not sure how much of this was really Flair. For reasons that involved bad weather, a power-outage, and me having to find an alternate source of video for about 25 minutes of the middle of RAW, I actually ended up watching this show (or at least, the good parts of it) twice, and watching Angle/Flair the second time with a more analytical eye, it becomes very apparent that Angle took over "calling the match" in the second half (I didn't notice if he'd done the same for the first half, but he was the Ring General for the second half, no doubt; just check the tape if you still got it). Not only did he guide Flair through a non-standard display of wrestling holds, but the two also worked together to give Flair's character a REAL claim to "Dirtiest Player In The Game," which is shtick that Flair can now use against plenty of other opponents. I'm not saying Flair should be back on TV wrestling every week, but thanks to this match, the next time he wrestles, I do think fans will take him a bit more seriously. Flair can now exist as a compelling character OUTSIDE of a 7-minute "storyline" match against HHH... he exists on his own terms: as a cheater, a scoundrel, and a damned good one who almost stole a win over Kurt Angle. Great stuff.

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It Begins...

Coach is in the ring, the Suck is about to start. For tonight, we get us an in-person look at our Diva Search 2005 Girls. Whee?

Because we want to make it look like we're getting our money's worth out of her, let's cart out last year's Diva Search winner, Spaz, to co-MC things with Coach? And not to be repetitive, but really: why not also cart out the other half-dozen Diva Search LOSERS you ended up hiring, too? Just to remind us that not only are these bits unentertaining, they are also POINTLESS AS HELL~!

After Spaz bounces out to the Very Cool Diva Search 2004 Theme, this year's eight finalists come on down to the less-cool Diva Search 2005 Theme. They line-up in the ring, and most of them opt to do kind of a hyper-active "dancing in place" bit to indicate just how Interesting And Energetic they are. Points against already. The Diva Search Contestant who would instantly catch MY eye and plumpen my wang would be the one who realizes how stupid this whole thing is and looks actively annoyed and bored by the whole spectacle. Instead of cheerfully playing along with the crap.

Coach announces that each girl will have 30 seconds to introduce herself, so let's....

GODDAMMIT, here's Viscera to up the Crap Quotient. Didn't we wait till at least the second or third week last year before we had "alleged comedy involving a fat black man" as a category on the Diva Search? I do believe the North American Wild Spotted Velour is now an endangered species based on Viscera's smoking jacket/pajama combo....

Viscera says he's here to sexy things up, because the next WWE diva needs to know how to be sexy. Sexy. Sexy! SEXY! SEXY~! SSSSSEEEEXXXXXXYYYY~! He probably really only said "sexy" 2 or 3 times, but it sure seemed like a lot more than that. And again, most of the poor girls seem to thing "gyrating in place" equals interesting and appealing, since that's how they all respond to Vis. Spaz, making me fear that WWE does NOT intend to do the right thing with Viscera (in terms of the Lillian/Trish thing I mentioned) but rather keep him as an alleged babyface, gleefully agrees with Viscera, saying that spontaneity and whatever is important to being a WWE diva. So SHE suggests that to "sexy it up," we conduct these introductions in Bra And Panties. Hey, if I hadn't already gotten my fill of Lita's rack earlier, maybe I'd be excited, but.... ugh, alright, whatever. I've already seen that all these girls look great in zero clothes, and I already know that not a one of them will have the guts to say or do anything interesting, so I'm having a hard time here.

For the record: my two personal choices from last week came off pretty well, in my eyes. The cute black chick kept it short and simple, and didn't say much before just taking her clothes off (since preceding girls had gotten booed for being annoying patronizing, this was likely wise); also, she rectified the one thing that almost counted as a physical flaw by getting some hair extensions (cuz I got nothing against short hair, really; I thought Molly looked great with it; but "Kristal" just had Too Much Forehead for that look to work for her).... and my other pick was the blonde girl who seems like this year's Michelle McCool in terms of being not-quite-shy, but still somehow-vaguely-ashamed of how stupid the things around her are, if that makes sense. Elisabeth was that one, and she actually got BOOED because her underthings were from the Brandy Chastain Collection and were not nearly revealing enough for the idiot fans who apparently honestly believe that all girls go around in public wearing $120 Victoria's Secret ensembles on the off chances that they'll be asked to strip in front of random strangers.

Also: if she'd just cut about half that hair and tone down what's left when she's done (less poofiness, and she really just needs to be brunette), I did appreciate "Leyla's" little "save" since she was clearly NOT wearing any underwear (or at least, not on top).... and it probably makes me evil, but the Cameron chick who kept on yapping instead of stripping and had to waddle cutely back to her spot in line with her jeans around her knees because she ran out of time? High-fricking-larious, and ALMOST enough to get me feeling some sympathy or pity. Almost.

Other than that? Really, there was nothing to see here, and the biggest crime is that this segment actually took 16 minutes. So it sucked both hard AND long. Which in this case is a bad thing. But I can't do anything about this. The whole philosophy of the "RAW Remix" is that I stay true to what WWE wants/needs to present, and without a time machine to put the kibosh on Diva Search 2005 back in February or March, I'd be powerless to axe this horseshit from the show. Still: it should have been shorter. LOTS shorter. Ten minutes shorter, easily.

The punchline (or what passes for it) to the bit? Sgt. Slaughter came out and announced that now that we know the girls, it's time for the competition to begin. So next week, on the Forth of July, all eight will report to Sgt. Slaughter's Bikini Boot Camp (apparently, some form of an obstacle course). You know? I don't necessarily give a shit about the "bikini boot camp," but part of me is now giddy in anticipation of getting to see Erin Anderson RECAP the Bikini Boot Camp. Assuming she doesn't hear this news and renege on me, anyway....

With that announcement thusly made, cuz Viscera's music and commence the TV-PG "sexy dancing." Christy TOTALLY cock blocks Coach, too, forcing him to watch from a distance while Vis gets all the bumping and grinding to himself. I'm sure this is allegedly funny. But in reality, it's just a waste of 30 seconds of my time. Jerks.

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Backstage: Tough Questions Todd Grisham has World Champ Batista for an interview. But tonight, it's not tough questions, it's Pretty Obvious Questions... starting with "How you feeling after last night"? Batista says, "I got holes in my back, I got holes in my head. How do you THINK I'm feeling?". He continues, "Triple H took something out of me last night. That cell... [dramatic pause for reflection, complete with Twitchy Jowels of Sublte Emotion]... that cell took something away from me that I'll never get back, too." Grisham asks the obvious follow-up, "Was it worth it?"... and Batista goes from calm and reflective to showing some fire when he begins fondling his title belt and responds, "You bet your ass it was worth it! And I'd do it all over again if I had to." And then Batista closes with how the World Title is still his, and that means everything because everybody knows it's the most important title in the company. Solid promo by Batista, and about as good and "himself" as he's been since turning face: nice mix of collectedness and intensity, just like what we enjoyed about the guy when he was in the process of breaking off from Evolution. And again: nice to not see the writers' hands so much, as this had a pretty natural flow to ti. 

[Hmmmm, OK, for one, I forget who it was, but in an e-mail flurry last night, one (or maybe two) of you got an embryonic version of this observation: that Batista's comments strike me as VERY odd. I can't decide if they are telegraphing that he'll go to SD! on Thursday to declare the "SD! Title" meaningless, of if this is somehow gonna be a heel turn in which he and Cena have to battle over which of their titles really means more. I'd tend towards the former, since a Batista heel turn makes no fricking sense, and his "my belt is the only belt that matters" line REALLY seems to set the stage for him being the one two unify two of these titles. I'm spoiler free and proud of it, baby, but if I were a betting man, I think Batista just told us "I'm going to SmackDown!" in that promo. By the way: the 15 or so of you who got e-mails from me last night? Don't expect that again: I didn't do my usual routine of testing out my "first-draft" RAW thoughts (damn you, bad calamari!), so I briefly unloaded on those of you who piled in with enthusiastically positive messages right after RAW went off the air, instead. I ran out of energy after about 15 or so, and it probably won't happen again. But that said: if I'm right and Batista lands on SD!, I want to be worshipped as a deity by those who asked me what was up with Batista and got my answer with an 11:30pm timestamp. And if I'm wrong? Hey, that's why it's "first-draft" RAW Thoughts, bozos!]

Elsewhere Backstage: Jericho, Christian, and Tomko are getting ready for their match... and just like their previous bit, this is pure gold. Just great back and forth as they discuss who they think might be Cena and HBK's Mystery Partner. Jericho posits Marty Jannetty, but Christian has a funny riff about Jannetty being in jail. Christian has an idea: Kevin Nash. But Jericho dismisses that with the Line Of The Night: "Gimme a break. Nash would pop a hamstring just picking up the phone." HA~! Tomko's just sitting off to one side, tying his boots and stroking his Ming Goatee, when he pokes his head up, like he's got an idea... Jericho and XTian want to know what he's thinking, but Tomko doesn't want to share, so he just says, "Well, we ARE pretty close to Hollywood".... which causes Jericho and Christian to briefly share a panicked look. But then they laugh, dismissing whatever evil thought just passed through their heads. The trio head to the ring. Another excellent bit that goes to show the LESS work the writers do and the MORE talented your performers are to write their own lines, the better then end product. And this skit officially eliminates Jannetty from contention. Nice shout-out to Nash, who I hadn't even thought of as a possibility. So that leaves us down to Hogan or Rock as the Mystery Partner, I'm thinking.... and I'm STILL loving the tease and ambiguity. Great way to build anticipation. We'll find out who's gonna show up. After these....

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Mystery Partner: The Introductioning

Christian and Tomko enter. Jericho enters. They, apparently, have done all their speaking for tonight. Too bad.

John Cena enters, and has NOT finished speaking. He grabs a mic and reprises the basic gist of his previous promo: that Bischoff might think Cena's got no friends on RAW, but tonight, he's got sweet back-up. Starting with HBK, Shawn Michaels.

Shawn Michaels enters, and wants some of that sweet, sweet microphone action. So he takes it and promptly says he'd like to introduce us to "my favorite tag team partner." Well, I guess that eliminates The Rock, huh? But it's also a nice tease to make me rethink Jannetty and Nash.... but I shouldn't have. Because before I can really start double-guessing myself, Michaels has gotten to the punchline... the Mystery Partner is....

HULK HOGAN~!

Alright. Forget he's nearly immobile, forget he's probably doing this mostly to plug a new show on VH-1, forget all that... because this is still fun. And it's "A Moment," too. WWE may not be able to match *this* level of "moment" every week, but I sure wish they'd try a bit harder.

Hogan makes a huge entrance to a huge pop, but once he rips off the t-shirts, we've gotta take our final break for....

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Hulk Hogan/Shawn Michaels/John Cena vs. Chris Jericho/Christian/Tyson Tomko

Back, and this match is Joined In Progress. Chris Jericho is dominating John Cena to start, but that only lasts about 30 seconds. Then Cena makes a comeback, hits maybe one offensive move, and then gestures to his corner, because he knows he is not the one people want to see working, here, so he'll keep his presence to a minimum (more good thinking John!). There's a brief flub where Cena apparently hasn't watched enough tag team wrestling of the 80s videotapes to know that Michaels wants to feed him for a Double Team Spot, so when he drags Jericho over to the corner, Michaels is left hanging out to dry when Cena just wants to make the tag. D'oh.

With Michaels in, I think we ALL know what's coming. Your standard Babyface In Peril Spot commences almost immediately. In this case, it makes sense not ONLY because Michaels is the man on his team most capable of doing it well, but ALSO because Michaels is the one man on his team who had a hellish 30 minute match on PPV the night before and might not be at 100%. So it doesn't make him look bad at all to be instantly dominated by the heels. Which is pretty much what happens.

Tomko's actually the guy who takes over on Michaels using his size and power, but after a minute or so of that, it's Christian and Jericho who share the rest of the dirty work. Both guys manage to not only control Michaels, but also to entice Cena and Hogan (who know their roles as Dumb Babyface Tag Team Partners) to come into the ring to distract the referee, allowing for heel double- (and triple-)teaming. Jericho's especially funny at this, teasing Hogan into the ring with double-bicep-posing, but knowing that the much-easier way to Cena's saltiness is a simple middle finger. HA! There are a couple near falls in here, too, the most convincing of which was Jericho hitting the running enzuigiri for a long two. [Sidebar: seriously, why not just call it The Ghetto Blaster like I do, JR? Not only is it perfect for Jericho's stuck-in-the-80s metal mentality, but it's a classy homage to Bad News Brown, who used the move as a finisher! What's the matter, worried that WWE's already stolen enough stuff from Online Onslaught dot com this year and don't want to contribute to the thievery? It's OK, you have my permission...]

Michaels eventually decides he's had about enough of this happy crappy, though, and jumps directly ahead to the Time Compressed Fire Up. Hogan, who may not be a ring technician but knows some of the other things that go into a good match, has worked up a sweat on the outside doing cheerleading for HBK. That's nice of him. The crowd, it should be noted, is also chanting "We Want Hogan." So Michaels decides to give him to them. After Jericho whiffs on a Lionsault, both men are down, and both men start moving towards their corners... Jericho gets to his first and tags in Tomko. And at the last possible second before Tomko could have cut him off, Michaels lunges (and 80s it up with lots of over-the-top grimacing and Cop Show giving) and gets the tag to Hogan.

The place goes ballistic.

Tomko just freezes, which makes him an easy target for an onslaught of right hands from Hogan. Christian tries to get him some, and is easily dispatched by Hogan. Hogan's cleaning house on both men for about a minute when Jericho has gotten enough energy back to interfere... but Cena's fresh, and is able to pick Jericho off easily, and the two powder out to ringside. The distraction briefly gives Christian and Tomko a chance to regroup and double team on Hogan. But one Double Noggin Knocker later, and both men are wobbly. Christian wobbles directly into a superkick from Michaels, leaving it as Hogan vs. Tomko in the middle of the ring. And anybody who watched any wrestling in the 80s or early 90s knows what's coming next.

Punch. Punch. Punch. Big Boot. Appeal to the crowd. And folks, there it is: The Legdrop o' Doom! Hogan's been involved in almost a half-dozen physical confrontations this year for WWE, but that's the FIRST TIME he's busted out the legdrop.

It serves him well, as he gets the three count on Tomko about 6 minutes into something that wasn't a good "wrestling match," but which was highly satisfying nonetheless.

Or DID the legdrop serve Hogan well? Because when Hogan gets up, he's limping something fierce. Remember, a few months ago, we talked about a possible reason why Hogan wasn't doing the legdrop, and it's because he's got a fake hip in there, which might make that unhealthy to do. The difference in the way Hogan was moving early in the match and after the match makes me wonder if he was wise to bust it out here... then again, to be fair: like I said, I watched the good parts of this show twice (except for the good parts that I missed due to cable outage, which I only saw the one time), and that included this match... and Hogan could also have tweaked a hamstring or something hitting his Big Boot on Tomko. Cuz kudos to the Big Man: that's the best extension he's gotten on one of those boots in a long time. He actually got all the way up to catch Tomko in the face. That can't be pleasant level of flexibility for a near-60 year old man.

But Hogan, limping or not, is goaded into a post-match celebration by John Cena. The two pose, kind of tersely, to all sides of the ring, and then both signal that they think Shawn should get in on this action. HBK has, in a nice touch put Hogan's bandana (lost in his Hulk Up) on his own head, and joins in.... Cena actually powders out to let Hogan and Michaels pose together, which Jim Ross puts over as a great sign of respect. And you know what? I don't know if it's respect or what, but it's a nice move. It's another case of Cena doing something "real" instead of him being jammed down our throats by the WWE marketing machine. And I got no beef with "Real Cena"; I mean, he's one of the guys I've never met or talked to, but everybody says he's a nice guy with a good head on his shoulders who is more a victim of the creative team than anything else; and last night, there was none of that. There was just John Cena acting normal with Maria and Michaels, not overstaying his welcome in the match, and when it came time for the celebration, he knew to get out of dodge, too. "Real" John Cena had a nice night of work tonight: coming off likeable, and getting some rub from his more famous partners WITHOUT it seeming like it was a forced marketing effort. The simple act of leaving the ring, to ME, does more to get "Real Cena" over than the act of him staying in the ring to pretend like those cheers were his would have done for "Wigger Cena."

Show closes with Hogan and Michaels going to all four sides of the ring and doing the whole routine. And everybody (even Michaels himself) seems to be loving it. JR puts it over as one of the most special moments in RAW history, as we may never see three superstars representing three generations quite like this in the same ring ever again. You know? I can't really disagree.

Hogan and Michaels embracing is our final image to a very strong, very entertaining, flat-out-fun night of RAW. They had the sizzle, they had the moments, they had the one amazing Anchor Wrestling Match, they NAILED all the pacing issues I've been railing them on the past few weeks. Not even Chris Masters or those Useless Divas could ruin this one. Good stuff. Sorry if you missed it.... 

E-MAIL RICK
BROWSE THE RAW RECAP ARCHIVES


  
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