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Marching Towards Mediocrity 
July 19, 2005

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


Two weeks ago, the vibe on RAW was, "Well, it was pretty boring and forgettable for two hours, but at least at the end, they had a nice exciting finish. 
This week, I get stuck making my return to Recappening with a show that was pretty boring and forgettable for two hours (not actively bad mind you, but not even remotely good), and which brought things home with a raging anticlimax.

Seriously: Snitsky and Viscera are playing key roles in your main event? That's almost

like WWE is ASKING us to shit all over them for dubious creative decisions.

It's the shows like these -- the mostly bland, mediocre ones -- that are hard to recap in a compelling fashion. But I'll try, I'll try REAL hard, Ringo, to do it. And maybe if I let my Vaginal Sandification over the shitty anticlimax work its way into my system, I'll at least be able to muster some Grade A Snark to fling at the bits of the show that were so flamboyantly average that they really shouldn't deserve that effort.

Let's see what I got in the tank here today, kids.....

Cold Open: Eric Bischoff is standing on the stage as we kick off the show. He is here to address last week's heinous crimes committed by John Cena. Huh, I didn't know Extreme Posertude and Wiggery had been criminalized; I mean, they SHOULD be, but.... oh, wait, here's Sleazy E with a Video Reminder: there was an F-U to the General Manager last week. And *that* is what he's talking about. Because this isn't "the new RAW," this is Eric Bischoff's RAW. Bischoff says that he could suspend Cena, he could fire Cena, but then he had a better idea... so tonight, it's gonna be John Cena, in This Very Ring, taking on.... Snitsky. Whoa, listen to the crowd go mild (note to WWE: I loves me the Cold Opens, but an announcement of this ilk would probably not have been exposed as the lead balloon that it is if you'd just done a regular open and had a graphic ready during the intro; then Bischoff could have had his say in a mid-show skit; trying to act like Snitsky belongs in "OMG~! Main Events" is only making yourself look worse, you know). But Bischoff does have a slight add-on: it'll be a Lumberjack Match, with the Lumberjacks being "hand picked" (by whom? we know not, yet). This, he believes, will be the beginning of the end of John Cena's title reign. Like I said: I'm a mark for the cold opens, but this one? Left me convinced I should prepare myself for, at best, another 2 hours of Flamboyant Mediocrity.

Opening Theme/Pyro/Etc., and we're live in Philadelphia, PA, to whom's rack WWE learned long ago (King Mabel, anyone?) to not bring any of their weak shit. So hopefully, they'll be taking it strong to the hole for the metaphorical (and over-extended, not to mention literarily self-gratifying) Slam Dunk of a show. With Snitsky in the main event, it seems like an uphill struggle... but hey, that's an Ominous Steel Cage hanging above the ring, and we're told that we'll also be seeing Kane vs. Edge inside that structure so as to prevent (unnamed) outside interference. Plus, there's also the Diva Search. D'oh. Let's try to put that out of our minds with...

Carlito Cool vs. Shelton Benjamin (IC Title Match, Title WILL Change Hands on a Count-Out)

OK, so as soon as they announced the stip, who else IMMEDIATELY knew the outcome of the match? I mean, it's nice that somebody (presumably Bischoff) noticed that Carlito got himself counted-out intentionally last week and put the rule in place, but c'mon: you don't have to be particularly bright to see that they left one additional gaping loophole open. Kinda took a little bit of the sizzle off of this one for me, knowing I was just waiting for the inevitable other shoe to drop....

Start is fast and furious, with the back-and-forthy punchy-kicky... but Shelton quickly gains control and at about the 2 minute mark, manages to have Carlito lined up for a Stinger Splash. But that Carlito isn't quite that easy of pickin's: he dodges, and heads out of the ring. Shelton, apparently not giving a crap at this point about the "he'd win the title by count-out" rule, immediately stops his Stinger Splash attempt, and instead leaps up to the top rope, where he bumbles and stumbles his way into a sloppy top-rope-to-the-floor clothesline on Carlito. Wild; what is it in Carlito that brings out the clumsiness in Shelton? That's 3 RAW matches they've had, and twice that Shelton almost fricking killed himself.

At this point, two things happen: Coach and JR start bickering about whether Shelton is commendably brave or immensely stupid for continuing with the high risk offense. Coach, in what probably counts as an attempted back-handed "save" for Shelton, says that Shelton's head still isn't right after his LAST near-suicide on RAW, which is why he's having trouble hitting these spots, now. JR's stance is you go with what brung you to the dance, and right now, it seems to be working for Shelton, because the SECOND thing that's happening is Carlito has no desire to get back in the ring. They draw it out over the course of a minute or two, with Carlito realizing that the rules don't allow him to get counted out to save his title (ummm, WWE: really, don't book your guys, not even the heels, to look like clueless morons, OK? Unless that's part of their gimmick. Everybody in the audience already knew about and understood the "count out rule" for this match, why shouldn't Carlito have already done the same?)... and then once he realized it, he'd go outside, milk the count, duck inside to break the count, and then go outside again. They probably drew this out just a little too much...
Shelton finally had enough, and while Carlito was amusing himself by jawing with some ringside fan, Shelton just jumped off the ring apron and clubbered him from behind to take control. This didn't last long, however, as Shelton once again tried for a Stinger Splash, and probably a bit too soon: Carlito ducked it, and when Shelton changed gears and did that amazing Single Jump up to the top rope, Carlito had him scouted. He shoved one of Shelton's legs out from under him, and ended up tying Shelton to the Tree of Woe for a bit. Carlito's offense eventually settled down into a Chestlock, or something weird (like a Reverse Bearhug, but higher up). It didn't necessarily look like a position  that two men who are mortal enemies should be in, so they didn't overstay the welcome in the resthold and inside of 30 seconds, went to Shelton's fire up.

Which, sadly, was about one of the flattest Babyface Comebacks I can recall. Not sure if they lost the fans, or if they never had them to begin with at all, or what, but Shelton's rattling off the rapid fire clotheslines and stuff, and there's absolutely NOTHING coming from the crowd. But we're in End Game regardless, and that means that Shelton hits all his offense, but can't put Carlito away, but then Carlito cheats and gets a few near falls of his own (to no avail). During Carlito's run of near falls, Shelton goes into Counter Wrestling Mode, which is the very real fun part of this match so far, as there are a couple of nice teases, and then Shelton escaping and getting a schoolboy roll-up or something of his own. But this all builds up to Shelton counter-wrestling his way into position to hit the T-Bone Powerslam... but Carlito senses that unpleasantness might be afoot if he doesn't act, so he drops to his knees and punches Shelton in the balls. Right in front of the ref. And there, kids, is your Exceptionally Predictable Disqualification Ending. Carlito, of course, leaves the ring with his precious title belt and the grin of the proverbial cat who ate the canary.

Your Winner: Shelton Benjamin via DQ, so Carlito retains the title. About 5-6 minutes. Also: my pick for the worst of their series of matches to date. There was sloppiness and boredom in the opening half of the match, and then things really only picked up for the last minute or so. But my hope is that this is building to a Final Kiss-Off in which Carlito and Shelton do a No-DQ, No-Count-out (or titles change hands on DQ or CO) Match, and get 12-15 minutes to do it right here in the next few weeks.

Video Package: Hogan. Michaels. Piper. Stuff happened, but it's already been as expertly recapped here at OO as it is in any WWE Video Package. Which is why I don't recap recaps.


Last Week: Rob Zombie really enjoyed the segment, so he personally paid to replay the part of RAW where national c-caliber news semi-sensation Matt Striker took Kurt Angle to within one second of winning Angle's Gold Medals.

The Kurt Angle Invitational: The Pre-Rambling

See, Kurt takes his notes from the finest Wrestling Website in All The Land and knows that the way to best entertain an audience is to just kick back and chat with them for a bit before getting to business. For shits and giggles this week, that means conversationally mentioning that somebody taking his gold medals is about as likely as the Philadelphia Eagles winning the Super Bowl: it just ain't gonna happen. And conveniently enough, there was some Eagle or another in the front row to get indignant! But insofar as I periodically care about football, I'm an NY Giants fan, so I say, "Go, Kurt, and Speak The Truth about those consummate choke-artists, the Philadelphia Eagles!"...

But you see, as unlikely as it may be that somebody would take his gold medals, Kurt also knows that we might be thinking back to last week, when Matt Striker took him to within one second of doing just that. Well, Kurt says not to worry. Because the simple truth is that Kurt Likes Drama, and he likes to Make Us Believe. Ah, nothing hits the spot quite like a shoot comment dressed up as a harmless aside. I can't remember, but did I tell y'all to check out the interview where Kurt talked about the "Perverted Kurt: Dry Humper of Other Men's Wives" angle, and said he thought it was stupid and he didn't like doing it, but he didn't want to rock the boat so he did it anyway? Well, methinks wrestling would be in better shape if guys like Kurt exercised a bit more Civil Disobedience so as to give us Drama and to Make Us Believe. Which is, of course, a major digression, so...

Wait: another digression, since I just remembered how comically bad the "cops" guarding Kurt's medal were. It was just like Muhammad Hassan's "attorney" on SD! last week. WWE isn't even bothering to try to cast these roles realistically. They're just throwing out whatever generic indie wrestler or or backstage worker/writer/assistant or hanger-on/jock-sniffer/wannabe they've got loitering around to do this stuff. And it looks bad: it looks like an indie wrestling show. Sad to say, but it's usually not too hard to spot the Wrestler out of crowd (especially a wannabe indie wrestler): you just look for the guy with the fashion sense that is both Trying Too Hard and also Just a Couple Years Out Of Date. This is not a rip, really, just an observation: 10 years ago, it was the zubaz pants and fanny packs that overstayed their welcome way longer among wrestlers than among the general populace; today, it's more that Generic Douche Rocker look that hit its peak with Creed and hasn't really been cool for a good couple of years. And yet: WWE carts out Attorneys and Cops (actual real, responsible jobs where the professionals tend to look a certain way) with the apparent fashion sense of a Douchebag and who also look to be roughly 30-ish? No sale, guys. No sale. At some level, they might just be window dressing, but if you gotta pay somebody $200 to be window dressing, why not at least pay somebody who looks the part, OK? It was actually worse on SD! with the "attorney," because not only did he have the Wrestling Industry Douchebag Look down perfect, but he also got an extended speaking role, which only served to underscore how totally NOT an attorney he was, and how he was only there to take a bump. Which is exactly what he did. Way to rob the segment of any drama or excitement....

But this isn't a SD! Recap, it's a RAW Recap, and Kurt has concluded his comments about Liking Drama and all that, and is ready to face his next opponent in the Angle Invitational....

And it's Matt Striker. Again. Except this time, when he gets in the ring, he ain't playing passive. He waits a beat or two, and then takes Kurt's mic, asking, "What? You don't want to know my name? You don't want to know where I'm from? Well, I'm Matt Martel, and I'm from Philadelphia." Huh. Well, points for continuity, at least. In Philly, he's Martel; in NYC, he's Striker. But unless he has a twin brother, I'm not so sure that the continuity points really count for anything.

Angle's not impressed, noting that FIRST, nobody takes his mic. Ever. Hee. But second, he basically redoes the entire speech he gave last week, including verbatim repeating several lines about what a big liar Matt StriTel is. And gotta say: that stuff was better the first time. But Kurt quickly gets to his point, which is that he doesn't offer liars a second shot at his gold medal (ummm, Kurt, THIRD shot). So no: Matt can get the hell out of his ring, because there will be no Angle Invitational for him tonight.

So Matt turns to leave, and Kurt immediately attacks him from behind, noting that he's "changed his mind," so we segue into....

The Kurt Angle Invitational: Angle vs. Matt StriTel

With the ill-gotten early advantage, Angle pounds away for a few minutes. And then in one of those silly things that I always get a kick out of, but don't know why, Angle remembered to put his singlet straps back up. And then administered a few stomps. And then immediately took the straps back down to indicate that Bidness Was About To Pick Up.

Except that when Kurt moved in for the Angle Slam, Matt surprised him by clamping on a rear naked choke. And then kept it clamped in for, I shit you not, about 90 seconds. Which may not seem like a lot, but in a 3 minute match, it seemed like it. Angle's attempts to escape seemed futile, but this week, I didn't really get any sense that Angle might actually lose, which wasn't good. I guess the extended choke was a way of having StriTel be "in control" for a while, but without Kurt having to show ass by letting Matt have any more than one (1) move. Or something. I dunno. Not the same zip as last week, though.

Kurt finally gets out of the choke by lunging for the ropes, himself going in between the top two ropes, but causing StriTel to go throat-first across the top rope. Meh, again: not exactly convincing that that single move would suddenly turn the tide of the whole match. But as Erin noted last week, perhaps StriTel's distinguishing characteristic is that he's the jobbiest of all Jobby Jobbers. So it was more than enough for Kurt to seize the advantage. One Angle Slam later, Kurt cinched in the ankle lock, and hey: at least StriTel is consistent... he tapped out again in about 7 nanoseconds. Pussy.

Your Winner: Kurt Angle via submission in 2:36. Listening to Coach, you'd think Angle dominated, as he had 23 extra seconds to spare as compared to last week. But we know it's not true. And I guess this is probably StriTel's kiss off, now? He got the one week where he looked good, but then he basically just gave it all back to Kurt this week, likely never to be heard from again...  if so: hey, nice little two week mini-program for Angle while he treads water until his turn comes up to challenge Cena.


Diva Search: Now 100% Man-Juice-Reference-Free for 2005!

The women make their way to the ring, where Coach and Spaz are waiting. Looks like Ashley has gone with a toned-down variation on the Punk Grrrrll look (which I kinda liked, since it seemed less-gimmicky, but which I'm not sure is a bright idea given that a lot of wrestling fans cannot be trusted to have the same discerning eye as The Me, and she'll only confuse them by looking totally different from how she looked before, which can't be good in a Popularity Contest). And it looks like 3 other chicks (including 2 of my Rick-Approved Ones) have opted for Capri Pants with annoyingly-elaborate high-heeled shoes with pointiness and straps up the calf and everything (which I no likey: jeans, shorts, or skirts are all fine, but I think capri pants look awful, dammit!). But this is a Diva Search Contest, not the part of the Recap where I express my belief that the world would be a better place were I allowed to simplify all fashion and dress up hot babes as *I* see fit.

Coach and Spaz line the girls up, and Coach explains that this week's event is the Trash Talk The Other Girls Competition. Spaz notes that "if this is anything like last year's, it'll be good." If you recall, last year is when RAW, right in the middle of the Republican National Convention when WWE was pretending to be a Responsible Corporate Citizen and Broadcaster, turned into the "Cum Guzzling Gutter Slut Show" for about 10 minutes when they gave the Diva Search girls live mics to make fun of each other. I think Spaz might even have been the filthiest mouthed of them all, but I wouldn't bet on that hazy memory. But even if she was, she had competition. Sperm humor this, gaping vaginas that... it wasn't necessarily as shocking or offensive as it was just DUMB. Because there's a reason I couldn't give a shit about Jerry Springer, and it's that dirty-talking eloquence such as this stopped amusing me back in about 10th grade.

Of course, this year, it's even DUMBER that Spaz would say, "this'll be good," because it turns out that all the Rip Sessions are pre-taped, and will air on the TitanTron, having been sanitized for our protection. Not that any of them needed sanitization. Seven more boring, flaccid, unengaging bits of mockery you would never see. A few of the girls didn't even try being clever or fetchingly bitchy, they just said, "EuroBitch should go." Although really: it was pretty obvious that she didn't fit in, so I guess maybe they didn't feel the need to back it up with any rhetoric. Which I agree with, except that when the crowd starts up with the "boring" chants, you really need to think about NOT putting this shit on TV. Seriously. It should have been obvious enough after last year, but WWE insisted on pushing ahead... but we're to the point where if anybody is even CONSIDERING "Diva Search 2006," they are doing it only to annoy and insult the fans.

The only minor highlights: Kristal and Elisabeth seemed to go into business for themselves by ripping on each other, but doing so in a way that made it seem like they didn't really want you to vote the other one off. If that makes sense. Kristal's speech was basically "I'd get rid of Elisabeth because she's so talented at so many different things that she could do anything she wants. So I don't want her here getting in my way of being a diva." Elisabeth's back at her was actually the only funny one of the whole thing, acting sarcastically impressed at Kristal's incredible artistic talent and saying that she's robbing the world of future masterpieces if she doesn't get out of the Diva Search to pursue her art. Funny. I'd tolerate those two making it to the end. And the jury's still out on Ashley.

So as long as it's not one of those three voted off, it looks like this Diva Search Segment will have been both the shortest and least-stupid to date this year.... and thankfully: it's the EuroBitch who goes. That's the right call, America. To be honest, I don't know how you didn't ditch her first. Let's get her ass out of there, and let the remaining six dance vapidly in place, as we wrap this up in 7 minutes flat. The shortest of these bits to date, and one in which I may not have been entertained for even one second, but in which I also never really got the urge to put a heavy object through my TV screen. WWE probably considers this a victory. They are wrong.


Vignette: The Boogeyman is coming to get you. This is the bit that I whiffed on TWICE last week (FF'ing over it during both RAW and SD! cuz I would have SWORN it was a stupid ad for the "Boogeyman" DVD), and which Erin also managed to miss, so I didn't even realize the problem until over the weekend when e-mails started piling up (as discussed in yesterday's column). Well: now I've seen it, and I STILL don't know what the deal is. I mean, yes, it's bad. VERY bad. But it also looks like WWE put a lot of money and effort into it. So my gut feel would be that it's bad without them meaning for it to be... the way the thing LOOKS makes me think they're being serious, here. But the way the thing SOUNDED? Well, sadly, WWE's creative team and shot-callers really do seem to have their heads firmly planted up their asses to the point where they rarely, if ever, seem to realize that this is the Year of Our Lord 2005... and the voiceover was just mega-gay. I honestly couldn't see anybody other than 9-year-olds taking it seriously. And yet, until I see evidence to the contrary, it kinda seems like we're supposed to be. And even if it's intentionally bad? Fuck that. Seriously. For the same reason that making the Kane/Lita wedding "campy" and intentionally bad completely failed to amuse me, I will grant NO lenience to some lazy attempt to create an intentionally bad character. It's stupid and it's indefensible to put your creative energy into sucking on purpose. It's one thing to give a worthwhile show/movie/character a Veneer of Stupid for any number of justifiable creative reasons. It's another to just go out and ladle the Stupid out by the bowlful, telling yourself it's OK because you MEANT for it to suck. We'll see, but my guess is that you're seeing the birth of Future WrestleCrap.

Backstage: Kerwin White is practicing his Golf Stroke, awaiting the return of Eric Bischoff to his office. And return Eric does, to share a chummy moment of Country Club Douchebaggery in which he suggests Kerwin move down to Scottsdale, AZ, where Sleazy E has his home, and where there are TONS of Douche-Laden Country Clubs to choose from. Kerwin considers, but declines politely, saying that Arizona's just a little too close to the border for him. Oy. In walks Chris Jericho to try to save things, but he can't stop Chavo from hitting a punchline on the way out: "Remember, it ain't right if it's not white." Double oy. Luckily, Jericho -- despite being a fellow heel -- knows not to get sucked into the.... ummmm.... dammit.... sucked into the Suck? Can I say that and not have my Profeshunal Riter Card revoked? So Jericho just gives Chavo a condescending "toodles" and acts as happy as the rest of us to see him go. Jericho and Bischoff immediately go into Buddy Mode, with Bischoff thanking Jericho for the excellent Lumberjack Match idea, and Jericho thanking Bischoff for letting Jericho hand-select the 'jacks (aha). But now, Jericho has ANOTHER idea for next week: Battle of the Bands. Fozzy vs. Cena. In Cleveland, OH, home of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. Bischoff is amenable to this, but *I* am left feeling pissed off they they didn't wait and steal my idea for Fozzy vs. Tenacious D doing this gimmick. Since that would have, you know, NOT SUCKED. But it looks like it's on for next week: the Battle of One Band and One Guy Rapping While a CD Plays In the Background. Yippee? At least Jericho has the good sense to throw in a closing line about how "Well, it'll only happen if Cena makes it out of the building tonight." Way to remember that the Lumberjack Match *is* supposed to be the End of Cena, there....

Elsewhere Backstage: Tough Questions Todd Grisham does not respect the privacy of others. So while Shawn Michaels is attempting to talk on the phone, Todd attempts to start an interview. Ass. Todd just wants Shawn to know that Hulk Hogan is here in the building tonight to answer Shawn's challenge. But Shawn doesn't do the expected: he only feigns fright and then says GOOD because that's what he wanted. He wants the one more match for Hogan, and he wants to be the opponent, and he is glad Hogan is here to answer. He just hopes Hogan has the right answer, and gives the fans what they want by agreeing to step up to face the Show Stopper.


Chris Masters vs. Palpable Apathy: Very Special "At Least The End Might Finally Be In Sight" Edition

Ugh. Finally, hard evidence of why this guy and this gimmick haven't gone away: because it's Vince McMahon's favorite pet. Just listen to Coach and JR attempting to have a "spirited debate" during Masters' ring entrance despite neither one of them being quite sure what they're debating. Because all they are doing is repeating lines that the voices in their headsets are feeding them. And only Noted Fan Of The Male Physique, Vince McMahon, would have come up with that pointless anatomical crap.

Masters gets to the ring, and tries to give us "confident indignity" that nobody has yet to break his Shitty Full Nelson after however many weeks. Sadly, the combination of body glitter (seriously, dude, it's annoying enough when CHICKS use body glitter unless they are purposely trying to convey the vibe of "higher-class stripper" for a night, but it's downright fey for a dude, OK?) and marble-mouthed mumbling only results in Week 27 of Masters jobbing out ignominiously to Apathy. If there was even an ounce of heat or interest for his segments, I'd scale back my criticism, but this is one time when I have my opinion, and 15,000 fans every Monday night prove me right. Whatever your opinions about Masters and how he may or may not suck, this is just a case where the more important fact of the matter is that there's NOTHING INTERESTING ABOUT HIM, and thus, myself and 90% of wrestling fans would greatly benefit if he was just off our TVs. Immediately.

Apparently, to generate stiffer competition, we're upping the Full Nelson Challenge pot to $20,000. So somebody, please, come take his money, he's begging you. And out comes.... Rosey. Masters' initial reaction is Attempted Chickenshitude, but then he decides to nut up and declares that this is good: finally a big guy, some real competition. So he sits Rosey down for the Full Nelson Challenge... locks in the hold.... and about 10 seconds later, after absolutely no fight, Rosey goes down to the Full Nelson. Hey, Erin, wherever you may be vacationing: I think I just found you an even Jobbier Jobber than Matt StriTel. The only problem is: this one's half of the fucking tag team champions. DAMMIT~! 

Your "Winner": Chris Masters in less than 20 seconds. Your loser: wrestling fans the world over.

Of course, as annoyed as I am by the evisceration of Rosey, this also gets my SpideySense tingling, since no WAY is that the whole segment. Not even WWE could be that clueless. Something else is coming, and I have a gut-feel what it might be (but that's only because I've been asking for it in columns for the past few weeks, including just yesterday)... and Masters' only reassures me when he gets on the mic and starts talking about how his decimation of Rosey proves that the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and blah blah blah. At this point, the mere mention of the word "big" has me perked up a bit, and I think Philly was there with me, since this was the first sign of life they had this whole segment.

Sho 'nuff, with some more "big"-themed, grammar-defying, Orton-caliber riffing, the sound guy finally decides to put Masters out of his misery.... cuz It's the Big Show. This time, Masters just goes straight for the chickenshit vibe and doesn't change gears. Show gets a chair, sits his large self down in the middle of the ring, and gets a mic to address Masters, who is retreating from the ring about as rapidly as his roid-assaulted hairline is retreating from his forehead. With it clear that Masters would not be granting Show at shot at the Full Nelson Challenge, Show hit a punchline about how Masters is just like a squirrel in winter. Yeah: no nuts. Har, I guess.

But hey, at least they finally introduced Show as Masters' next opponent, and the end of this crap-ass gimmick is finally in sight. Once the Full Nelson Challenge dies, I'd vote for Masters going back to OVW to finish cooking (less time in the gym, Beefcake, and more time in the ring so that you don't look as comically uncoordinated as Diva Search Cameron when you try to run the ropes, OK?). But I'd settle for him finding some non-soul-crushingly-dull shtick to work on. This current dog and pony show, though? Gots to go. Unless you want me to go back to Kellerizing my recaps of this shit, the end had better be coming soon...

Backstage: Tough Questions Todd Grisham has yet another guest to whom he can be rude. Edge and Lita are here, and Todd goes straight to asking Edge about a cage match against Kane. Edge notes that's rather ill-mannered of Todd to ignore Edge's arm-jewelry. So Edge takes it upon himself to slather all manner of praise upon his exceptionally lovely, talented, and horny girlfriend, Lita. Who, it should be noted, has done a complete 180 in terms of skankosity: this week's outfit is even less slutty than typical Pre-Heel-Turn LitaWear, and that's after about 2 weeks of similarly reasonable wardrobing. I only mention it because in "WWE Think" these little details are more important to obsess over than actually having, you know, quality creative ideas. So it might be a harbinger of things to come. With Lita thus properly introduced, Edge moves back to Todd, suggesting that the real Tough Question is the one Todd isn't asking. The question about why there's a steel cage tonight. Not to keep anybody in, but to keep somebody out. The somebody who Edge isn't supposed to mention on the air. The somebody who had problems separating his personal and professional lives and who lost his job because of it. Ohhhh, ZING~! Edge says that this somebody has made the last six months of Edge's life a living hell, and doubly so for Lita. And just in the middle of all this semi-genuine-seeming rage, Edge had to pause and put in a line about how it's all because of "internet losers who've probably never had a girl telling me how to run my love life." Mistake. I mean, it might even be true on some level (I've met some of the jackoffs in question at various wrestling functions, and trust me, the one thing they're best at is making me feel like I'm James Fucking Bond genetically merged with Tinges of Colin Farrell, Ron Jeremy, Bo Bice, and A Guy Who Remembered To Shower Before Attending The Wrestling Show, making me a Bonographic Mesomorph when it comes to the ladies; which I'm not, really). But it's also the equivalent of putting a "Yo mama" joke in the middle of a real debate. In other words: lame and Springertastic and an attempt to get a cheap rise out of someone, but not "real" in the way WWE wants this to feel "real." Edge's point, though, remains a pretty intense and believable one: that this "unnamed somebody" has angried up Edge's blood, and apparently, tonight, it gets taken out on Kane. Which I guess is OK as far as the Edge/Hardy story goes, but JESUS, will Kane ever catch a break? Or at least a storyline in which he ends up looking halfway-decent? Or is even still relevant to said storyline by the end of it?


Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels present... "Hey, Trips, THIS is How You Do 20 Minute Promos, You Windbag" Theatre

Hulk Hogan enters the arena, and when you're even welcomed as a conquering hero in PHILLY, I guess you can't really make too many jokes about Hogan having over-stayed his welcome. Yet.

Also of note: members of Hogan's family are seated at ringside (wearing "Hogan Knows Best" t-shirts, natch). You know, I caught 10 minutes of the show on Sunday night (BY ACCIDENT! But once I flipped past it, I could not look away, it was that bad), and Hogan's son? What a little tool. I think he's the daughter Hogan never had. What a little snot nosed drama queen. From my 10 whole minutes of exposure, I think Hogan's real daughter would be cooler and less-tortuous company, and trust me, that's got nothing to do with the jailbait aspect of it. Cuz frankly, she's too tall for me to work up a usable Statutory Boner for, anyway. I mention it only because Hogan's son is at ringside with a camera, and also about $80 worth of "product" in his hair, looking for all the world like he needs to be slapped around a bit. I have this confidence that I'd be a great dad for boys, and have an illogical fear that I would suck with daughters, but it sure as hell looks like Hogan managed to go exactly the opposite way if my 10 minutes of "Hogan Knows Best" and Little Nicky's hairstyle and attitude on RAW are any indication. 

Hogan gets a huge 3 minute ovation during which time he cannot get a word in edgewise, so he just soaks it up. And even when the Hulkster, ill-advisedly, opens his promo by thanking all the Hulkamaniacs for making "Hogan Knows Best" the #1 rated VH-1 regular series of all times (or whatever), the crowd can't bring itself to fully turn against Hogan for his self-promotional pluggery. Even though *I* kind of did. But after that misstep, Hogan quickly gets to the point... that if Shawn Michaels wanted his attention, he's got it. And if Michaels wants an answer to his challenge? Well, then, HBK had better come on out here right now, brother, to have a little face-to-face.

After the requisite Dramatic Pause, Michaels music hits, and out prances Shawn Michaels. I would just like to add that a mistimed camera cut back to the ring showed Hogan bopping his head and getting DOWN to Shawn's entrance theme. I consider this a "Fuck You" to members of my band (three bands ago), who LOVED a funky bassline I wrote until I told them that I adapted it (loosely) from the main melody of HBK's theme and wanted nothing to do with anything wrestling-related. Even though the lead guitar riff I came up with almost completely obscured the thievery. And thus, said song never left the basement, and only exists on some shit-ass demo on which I think I played all the instruments. [And save your breath: I'd put a link to an mp3 here, but I just checked, and the only version I have right now is on a CD, and I'm not ripping it just for a cheap one-off joke that maybe 2 percent of you would bother to download.] But dammit, if HOGAN can get down to it, I KNOW I was onto something. Right?

Michaels opts to remain up on the stage to do his talking, which commences after significantly LESS than the 3 minute ovation that Hogan got. But HBK's got fans in Philly, you can tell that much. Michaels opens by apologizing (smarmily) for "stealing Hogan's thunder." And for all the world, I was sure some asshatted Hollywood Writer Monkey had fed Shawn a "Thunder in Paradise" joke... but WHEW....it never materialized. Instead, Shawn proceeded with about as strong a promo as he's done in a while. And that's saying something.

Shawn starts off with an hilarious riff about how he'd LOVE to come down to the ring and do this a bit more face-to-face, but if he did, he'd be scared that he'd have to wait another two weeks to hear Hogan's response to the challenge. Shawn helpfully reminded us of 2 weeks ago when Hogan was superkicked into oblivion, and says that we can't have that happening again: tonight, no excuses, no nothing, Shawn just wants an answer. So to get that answer, Shawn seriouses it up...

He moves onto another riff in which he says he realizes that many men have come before him promising to end Hulkamania. And it's never happened. So what makes HBK different? What's he got that Hogan's never seen before? At this point, Hogan's gesturing (in the finest of all styles, he did it Broadly) indicated HE was as interested in hearing Shawn's thoughts on this matter as *I* was sitting at home. Shawn teases by kind of talking around it and using nebulous language so as not to exclude the average fan, but it boils down to "Hogan, you've never been in the ring with somebody so driven to steal the show as me." He couldn't come right out and say, "Hogan, you've never had the best match of the night in your whole career" (which, actually, might even be an outright lie, and WM6 proves it), but he could talk about his own passion for performing and how it trumps the passion of every opponent Hogan has ever had, and I think we get the point loud and clear: Michaels is doing this to take Hogan to places he hasn't been to in a LONG time, and maybe has NEVER been to. I think that resonates with the average fans, and it makes guys like me really curious to see how far up the Match Quality Ladder Michaels can carry Hogan... so it's working on a few levels.

Michaels hits hit punchline about finding out whether or not Hogan's got the guts to step up and "pay the price of immortality" by putting it all on the line against HBK... but Hogan cuts him off by noting, "Holy crap, brother, you sure talk alot, dude, about paying the price, brotherdude, when I was out there paying the price and selling out the Philly Spectrum, brotherbrotherdudebro, when you were still in high school, dude. Brother! DUDE~! LEMME TELL YOU SOMETHING MEAN GENE~!~!~! BRRRROOOOOTTTTHHHEEERRR~!" Um, OK, so it's not nearly as bad as Cena and his Wiggerspeak and Erin's "Homey" Count from last week (simply because, unlike Cena, Hogan has 20-plus years of goodwill built up and fans buy into him, which they still haven't done with Cena), but would I be wrong if I suggested that Hogan pick ONE (1) of "brother" or "dude" and used it with discretion, instead of using both, and using them all willy-nilly? It did get kinda distracting...

Hogan reiterates what he said earlier: that Michaels has his attention. And then he promises that the next time Michaels superkicks him, it'll be done eye-to-eye, not from behind. Because if Shawn wants a match, then at SummerSlam, "Your ass is ON." Christ, not just the brotherdude talk, but now he's channeling Goldberg's spastic, inappropriate, vaguely-homoerotic use of the word "ass." Hogan completes the thought by spelling it out: SummerSlam. Michaels. Hogan. All the Hulkamaniacs. [It should be noted at this point that the Michaels contingent was at its most vocal. Possibly because they did not like being counted among Hogan's vague gesturing towards all the "Maniacs"?] And Hogan just has one last question for Shawn...

Philly: "Who Screwed Bret?" [Whhaaaaaa? Really?]

Hogan: "Whatcha gonna do.... etc."

Michaels, commendably, no sells Hogan's decades old mantra. And in fact, I wish I was better at reading lips, because Michaels just sat there with this killer stone cold glare on his face, muttering back at Hogan. Intense. Once Hogan finishes up his rhetorical question, they hit his music, Shawn shuffles away, and Hogan gets the spotlight.

Great segment, I though. Making me really WANT to see a Hogan match is tough to do, and this one did the trick. I think Michaels is toeing the line perfectly so that he may well NOT be a heel at the end of this feud. But then again: he might be. There was the late-promo riff on "paying the price of immortality," which almost made me think they could do an angle where Hogan could be injured in this match (giving him the real life time he needs to rest that wounded hip of his), and be gone for another 4 months until it's time for him to show up again in time to be a part of WM22. But if you do that angle, Shawn almost HAS to come out of this a heel. So I don't really know which way they might go.... and I likes me the ambiguity.

Backstage: General Jericho has assembled his troops (trOOps?) for a pep talk. Because they are his hand-picked lumberjacks, and tonight is their chance to give that good-for-nothing Cena a receipt for all the trashtalking he's done about them. Huh? Oh, wait, yeah, it's all part of the shtick... Jericho's blatantly lying to them to further his own agenda. Dammit, sometimes I forget Jericho's a heel and I'm not supposed to like him. Nothing really important here, just a B-plus caliber Jericho ramble. If I had to focus on anything, it might be one of two things: (1) on the Broad's Jericho MetroAlert Live Doppler 5000 Watch, it was good to see that Y2J left most of the faggoty accoutrements at home this week. But he's still got that thing for women's jeans. What gives with those, really? And (2) it was curious how WWE framed the scene, since Carlito and Angle were CLEARLY positioned as Jericho's two lead 'jacks, but after them, it was Kerwin White and Gay Porn Star Rob Conway who got the best placement. Poor, long-suffering The Lovely Miss Tomko was even relegated to a Second Row Spot during Jericho's peptalk. So is this our Heel Pecking Order at this point? Kerwin freaking White and Rob fricking Conway are in the top half-dozen with their crappy new gimmicks? Oh wait: Edge and Michaels aren't part of this, so.... OK, maybe that helps a bit.


Kane vs. Edge vs. An Uninvited Fan (Not Yet A Steel Cage Match)

Kane enters. Whee. 

Edge enters with unslutty Lita. Whee.

Edge curiously saunters around to the side of the ring away from the cage door. Whee.

And some dude hops out of the crowd to attack Edge. OK, now we're cooking with gas.

JR quickly identifies it as "a fan," and in a nice touch, security seemed "ready" for the intrusion as they quickly swarmed and I don't think "the fan" even got two clean shots in on Edge before he was tackled. A tight camera shot reveals that "the fan" is Matt Hardy, though no announcer says the name. Instead, as JR keeps on saying "fan," Lawler actually mutters, "Oh c'mon JR, that's no fan" in a resigned voice.

Edge and Hardy exchange words, some of them bleeped. Hilariously, a couple of "you piece of shit" taunts make it through unscathed. Also making it through? More taunts of Johnny Ace by Hardy, and Edge's invitation that Hardy should just "go back to the indies, you asshole." 

Edge gets a cheapshot in while the authorities smother Hardy, but as soon as they decide to get Matt to his feet to escort him out, Matt is able to duck out of their grasp, hop over the ringside barrier, and beat a retreat through the fans. He'll live to interrupt RAW another day, I guess. And hey, Nick Hogan was right there getting it all on tape! So if there was any police brutality, or anything, Matt, just remember to taped "Hogan Knows Best" in a few weeks, and you might have all the evidence you need for a lawsuit right there! Well, either that, or I bet Nick Hogan is EXACTLY the kind of tittering adolescent fangirl who is BONKERS for your cute brother Jeff. I bet you guys could, you know?, work something out.

Meantime, we have ourselves a cage match to deal with here... which we'll get to after these....


Kane vs. Edge (Steel Cage Match)

We join the match in progress, with Kane delivering a Restaurant Quality Slobberknockering to Edge... but within 60 seconds, that's finished, as Edge hits a DDT out of nowhere to gain the advantage. Shortly after that, he manages to send Kane into the steel cage (Kane comes up from that bleeding pretty badly), and then shortly after that, manages to find time to pause to smooch with Lita through the cage (OK, that's funny; again, it's not necessarily "real," but it's a hilarious visual, at least).

A couple minutes of heel beatdown ends with Kane making a tepid comeback... but it's only "tepid" in terms of crowd response (Matt Hardy remains the move popular babyface in this match, even after his departure). Kane's trying to bring the heat, though: using the cage as a weapon, moves off the top rope, mount-and-punch moves in the corner, the whole nine. But the fans ain't really getting into it. You know, I don't like being a total know-it-all-dick, but I saw one spot during the match where I instinctively KNEW that Kane could have done something a little differently and changed the whole vibe of his comeback but he didn't do it. You know the spot where he had Edge in the ropes and started banging Edge's head into the cage? He did it once (no response), twice (VERY quiet "two" from the crowd"), three times (suddenly, half the crowd was there with a "three").... but then he stopped. WHY? He just stepped back, lost the crowd, and did a Big Boot into Edge's head instead to no pop. Why not register the slowly-building crowd response, and follow up with a four, a five, a six, a seven, an eight, and then a nine. And with the crowd worked up into a lather, you MILK IT (Test Meat! Doll Steak!) and have Kane play to the crowd and make them feel a Biological Need to see Edge eat the Big Boot for #10. That'd have had the crowd rocking, I think. Just the little things like that: they are the things I notice and think about when I'm watching RAW and wish it could be better.

Immediately after Kane's missed opportunity, he went for the chokeslam, but instead, Edge had the wherewithal to kick him in the sac. Tis all legal inside the steel cage. And thus we entered End Game, with teases of varying quality in terms of escaping the cage go. Edge would make one towards the door, get dragged back. Kane would try to hit a big move, Edge would weasel out. But finally, Edge decided no more of the door, and after a Spear out of nowhere, Edge thought he'd try to escape over the top. He made it all the way up, but at the last second Kane grabbed his leg, and decided to come up to join him. Luckily, Lita was there at ringside, and managed to climb up to hand Edge the Money in the Bank Briefcase, which Edge promptly used to thwack Kane in his big, bald, bloody noggin. Kane went tumbling back to the mat. Edge finished climbing over the top of the cage and got down to the floor. Edge seems pleased to have won, but as he gathers up Lita, he seems in a hurry to get out of dodge. Fearing Kane? Not so much, I bet. Fearing Hardy? I think that's what they were going for, even if they can't say his name.

Your Winner: Edge via escape, at about the 7-8 minute mark (maybe longer, but 7-8 minutes after we came back from break). And again, nothing really special here, though it built to a decent enough finish. But nothing that would rate anything more than "average" on any reasonable scale. The main thing I remember thinking after the match was that it was the third one of the show, and the third "stipulation/gimmick" match, and with a lumberjack match coming up, that was gonna make RAW 4-for-4 on stip matches. Which I just BET they did to fuck with my and my Fantasy WWE Line-Up, since I picked 10 SD! stars for me team this week, wanting the PPV bonus points. And not even thinking about possible Gimmick Match Bonus Points. Jerks. And I guess that boils down to: if a match leaves me caring more about Fantasy WWE Line-Ups than about the match I just saw, it couldn't have been too memorable. Bleh. Hardy was the only reason this existed, and he was gone before the match even started.... Poor Kane.


SD! Rebound: I don't recap recaps. You know that about me, so don't act surprised.

Backstage: Maria the Mic Stand has a very special interview with.... John Cena. And in another one of those moments that proves I was right that it was more fun when she was REALLY being stupid and making honest screw-ups, she is really reaching to act retarded when she completely miscomprehends the concept of a "lumberjack match." I won't even bother relaying the exchange, it was not funny. Cena, failing for the second week in a row to recapture his "decent regular guy vibe," sends Maria packing so he can cut his own promo, but opts not to do it before making a Maria-giving-him-a-blowjob joke that goes right over her dim little head. Oh, Cena: when the Diva Search girls tastefully decide leave the fellatio-related humor at home for the week, why am I not shocked that YOU would be the one who breaks into their house and steals it to bring to RAW? If a tool you must be, just go back to patting girls on the ass, OK? With Maria gone, Cena launches into a very brief promo where he tries to give us Serious and Intense, but which just ain't working as long as he's (1) talking about freaking SNITSKY, (2) using his wigger voice, and (3) using "The Champ is Here" as a punchline rather than as an introduction. Dude, you've BEEN here for, like 90 seconds, already. I'm, frankly, tired of you. Don't bother introducing yourself at that point, OK, homey?


Next Week: It's just been signed... Kane vs. Edge in a Stretcher Match. Who's got "Matt Hardy dressed as an EMT" in the office pool? Lucky you. Also next week: Battle of the One Band and the One Guy Who'll Rap Over a CD Playing In The Background. Christ, I'm only back on the job one week, and I already want to take a break from recapping this stuff.... 

John Cena vs. Snitksy (Lumberjack Match)

We start out with the enticing image of Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle cahooting at ringside. Surely, nothing but good can come of those two working together, thinks I. And then I remember: they're only two of the lumberjacks. It's freaking SNITSKY who has to wrestle this, the RAW main event. And it's times like this that I wonder if the creative team is trying to alienate its fans, or if they just don't know any better.

So Snitsky's out. Cena's out. Let's get it on.

Very early on, they do a spot where Cena gets tossed out and is attacked by the 'jacks. But is able to fend them off, on the grounds that he luckily got tossed out to the side of the ring with the Heat Caliber Heels ("Which one of the three, Rick?" you asked, innocently; you clever bastards!). And then Snitsky got tossed out of the ring, and all of a sudden Jericho and Angle are there to be all kind and loving and gentle, which of course sends ME scrambling to try to remember which one of Romulus or Remus was raised by wolves so I can make a Smart Guy Joke here but which only sends JR into a fit of apoplexy that the heels are, for some ungodly reason, HELPING a fellow heel mere seconds after attacking a babyface. Oy. If you'd like to beat me about the head with a hammer, you can do that, too. Between this and the opening match, this was NOT WWE's smoothest and most-clever job of making effective use of match stipulations....

After we establish that little bit of spirit-sapping obviousness, in case any of our home viewers are some new breed of borderline-self-conscious house plants, it's more boring motion-going-through by Cena and Snitsky back in the ring. I'm still not entirely clear on Snitsky's skill set, but Cena's a guy who needs a talented dance partner for his ringwork to click... so this is just sending me zoning off and wondering "Who's on the Daily Show tonight?"... when next Cena gets tossed out to ringside, he's met with stiffer resistance than before, as Carlito (joined by the Lovely Miss Tomko, who I think might be LOOKING for a new man to valet for, so maybe we made a Love Connection?) got the better of Cena before tossing him into the ring. Except Cena got all whiny and gassy after that, and there was nobody here to burp him... so he, ever-so-maturely, decided the smart thing to do would be to hop back out of the ring and try to fight with 15 other dudes. Genius. Tell me again why fans are supposed to look up to this intellectual colossus again? Cena, of course, gets his ass handed to him, and it's Jericho himself who presides over the finishing touches. The 'jacks toss Cena's carcass back into the ring, where Snitsky gets about 30 seconds to stalk heinously, while JR gets pissy on commentary, and where it's decided we need to take one final break for....


Back, and predictably, Snitsky is still in command. He uses mostly his (let's be charitable and call it) "methodical" offense, but also makes use of the lumberjacks when he can. Then he makes the typical heel mistake of going for a resthold RIGHT when the babyface might be thinking of starting a rally. So it is thusly that Cena manages to fire up out of a half-assed chinlock and start a comeback. But NO~! Chris Jericho is a student of the OO, and recognizes The Formula when he sees it! So he creates a distraction; not much, be enough that Snitsky can nail Cena with a clothesline and regain the edge. But then, Jericho goes into a fit of rage at ringside when he sees Snitsky AGAIN going for a chinlock variation. Why must Y2J be surrounded by such clueless idiots? Jericho, like the rest of us, know that Snitsky's just asking for it....

So this time when Cena fires up out of the resthold, Jericho figures it might be for real, and after one quickly rally by Cena, the 'jacks swarm. They've got a massive 10-on-1 going on Cena, with mostly the b-level guys doing all the work. At this point, let me tell you a secret: I had a KILLER idea for a big finish that would have made this all worthwhile. That would have made me excited about next week (or possibly about the week after that). But of course, WWE's not in the business of giving fans reasons to be excited, so they just carted out the b-level babyfaces to attack the b-level heels. Holy christ, I waited two hours, and first I got Snitsky in a main event, and now I got THIS?!? Are you shitting me?

[FYI: my idea involved Hogan coming to the aid of his "friend" Cena, then Michaels coming out to even the score, then having all the Heat guys just get lost, and ending the show with a Hogan/Cena vs. Jericho/Angle/Carlito/Michaels brawl, which the heels would win -- since there were four of them. Whether or not you bother giving Snitsky the cheap pinfall win or not? That's an audible, and I'd be fine with just having it be a schmozzy no-contest. But the whole idea here is that it's JERICHO who needs to be taken seriously, and he's not had a match or any compelling physicality in a month, now. So a "moral victory" over Cena, and throwing in Michaels putting one over on Hogan, would have been a hugely satisfying payoff. And it would also lead to a tag match in later weeks, maybe more than one of them. Piper could get in the mix with Hogan/Cena. Or Big Show could. Or Eugene could return to be on their team. Or you could just keep it simple and do the one Hogan/Cena vs. Jericho/Michaels match. But at least if you'd gone for the big finish, you'd have had this sizzle to end THIS week's show, and the promise of more of it in coming weeks. Instead we got....]

The punchline of the whole Heat Brawl was Viscera stacking the Heartthrobs on top of each other and performing the very rare DOUBLE Greco-Roman Butt Rape. Seriously, this is not a rhetorical question: I waited 2 hours for THIS? Back in the ring, Snitsky is down because the Heat Babyfaces (augmented by Big Show) beat him up, and Cena is down because (frankly) he spent the last 4 minutes getting his ass kicked too. So with chaos on the outside and both men down on the inside, Eric Bischoff show sup on the stage to watch, with a disappointed look on his face, how things finish up. He perks up when Chris Jericho decides to get a chair to attack Cena.... but that immediately backfires.

Cena magically regroups and catches Jericho before he can use the chair. The two throw fists for 10 seconds, with Cena getting the better of it. Snitsky tries to take advantage by coming up being Cena, but Cena just hits him with an F-U out of nowhere. One, two three, and we have a wiener. As Cena's music plays (and as he, like any good 2-year-old, is instantly satiated by a shiny object and calms down when he gets to play with his spinner belt), it's a tough call as to who is more upset by this: Jericho or Bischoff. You know, I can think of worse ways to end the show, but I have to try pretty hard. Instead of doing anything to help out Jericho or to build up a storyline for next week, you do a finish which basically brings the show thudding to a halt (what do you expect when Snitsky and Viscera are two of your key Main Event Players?), and which also serves to basically tell fans, "It's OK, don't take Jericho seriously, he won't beat Cena.... it's the NEXT guy that asshole Bischoff comes up with that you'll need to be worried about." Dumb. So dumb. So anticlimactic. Not a particularly good show leading up to this, and then a flaccid ending that practically left me feeling like when Masters beat Rosey (because it was almost so lame that I was sure something else cool would have to happen to bail it out). But nope: this was the finish. Maybe I'm just not a big enough John Cena fan, or something....

Your Winner: Cena via pinfall, in about 10-12 minutes. I think you have to give Edge/Kane Match of the Night. But on this night, that's not saying much. Not a good match, and not at all productive from a storyline perspective. Which makes it a doubly sucky way to end the show.


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PPV RECAP: WWE Money in the Bank 2012
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PPV RECAP: WWE No Way Out 2012
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SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28




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