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OO RAW RECAP
A Second-Half Collapse 
July 26, 2005

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com

 

It's too fucking hot to pre-ramble properly. All I can say is that with a forecast high in the 70s tomorrow, I promise to be in a better mood then. As an added bonus, any weather system that's separating highs around 100 and highs in the 70s is probably gonna be bringing me some REALLY kick-ass storms tonight. That should provide at least a little bit 'o entertainment for me. A big fan of bad weather am I... 
 
But I can pre-ramble half-assedly, and kind of fake my way through a Main Thesis about RAW. Which would basically be that it was a half-and-half show.

The first hour was bracketed by two VERY strong segments (Eugene/Angle and then Michaels sweet promo), and had enough amusing fluff in between that I was

truly enjoying myself as I got done with the first half.

But then the second half blew goats. Randomly-made matches booked with exactly the wrong finish, another soul-crushing Diva Search bit, a very awful new storyline done between Kane and Lita, time wasted on fluff in the second-to-last segment that SHOULD have gone to the main event, because as it was, the main event could only manage to be "tolerable" since it only had about 7-8 minutes to work with.

Taken as a whole? Not a totally worthless night of rasslin'... but I'm starting to think that if not for Michaels/Hogan, RAW would be in real trouble right now. 

But enough rambling: let's just do this recap.

Video Package: Some stuff has happened between John Cena and Chris Jericho. Sadly, even in Video Package Form, the story's been so mishandled that it's hard to create a compelling hook for the feud. Seems more like a mid-card IC Title Feud, really.... and the fault? Lies entirely with the way they've presented Jericho the last month. But I'll have time to bitch about that later...

Opening Theme/Pyro/Etc., and we are live in Cleveland, OH, or as those of us in the significantly awesomer region of the state like to call it, "The Mistake on the Large Body of Water." Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, and Jonathan Coachman welcome us, and let us know that we've got a loaded show tonight, what with the Stretcher Matches and the Diva Search and a Battle of the Bands. OK, so three hype-worthy segments, and only one of them is a wrestling match? There's something very wrong with that. But there's NOTHING wrong with starting out the show with a little....
 
Kurt Angle Invitational, Part 1: The Pre-Rambling

Angle and his gold medal (hey, points to WWE for heeding my advice regarding "casting" roles like police officers, because these week, the guys looked like they might actually be cops, instead of douchetastic wrestling industry cut-outs) hit the ring... and he says the Angle Invitational is going so well that he doesn't want to waste any time. He just wants somebody to step up and face him tonight.

So out comes.... Spaz? Huh. I'm confused, but Angle's bemused, because somebody reminded him that he's One Horny Pervert, so he says he'll be happy to face Christy. And he'll even offer to start the match in the referee's position... all he wants to know is if Christy is an on-top girl or an on-the-bottom girl, and then they can get started. Punctuate with a lecherous grin. You know, let's just set aside Angle's last feud on SD!, and the indignation over it. Because that was actually a funny exchange, with the RIGHT level of Angle's perviness: a funny level, a cute level, and a harmless non-sexual-harassment level that leaves Spaz rolling her eyes instead of fearing for her well-being.

Of course, Spaz isn't out here to wrestle Kurt. At least, not in THAT dress, which kept threatening to fall off even when she'd just stand in place. So Christy deftly shoots down Kurt's little fantasy, and says she's actually here to introduce Angle's real opponent. An old friend of hers, and Cleveland's own....

Eugene!

Big pop for the returning Idiot Savant Of Wrestling. But I couldn't help myself from mentally calling "bullshit" on Eugene being from Cleveland. For some reason, my memory is that Nick Dinsmore is an Indiana Boy, like myself. And unlike myself, still lives there. I'm digging the prospects for Eugene and Angle working together, but I'm kind of annoyed that WWE long ago gave up on really sticking to the "home town" part of the "home town hero" gimmick. They could probably have had some more fun with that by using local celebrities and stuff to feed to Angle, since the "beating an anonymous jobber" phase was obviously done. Every town's gotta have ample Idiot Radio Personalities or Retired Sports Stars that one of them would be able to get in the ring and competently get his ass kicked by Angle, while also getting the live crowd into the segment. But I digress...

Once Eugene gets to the ring, soaks in the cheers, and gets himself a couple armfuls of Spaz, Angle immediately latches onto the same thing I did.... he says he thought he got done dealing with liars, but now here's Eugene pretending to be from Cleveland. Eugene takes off his ring jacket to reveal a Browns' Jersey, which is more than enough to send the crowd into a frenzy of "woofing," Dawg Pound Style. Despite the fans' willingness to adopt Eugene, Angle says he's not from Cleveland. Eugene says he is. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so.
 
Angle's head eventually comes dangerously close to exploding, and he gives up the spirited debate to sputter wordlessly. And then he says, "Man alive, I've only known you 30 seconds, and you're already making ME mentally-challenged. I can't even talk." [Would this be the wrong time to point out how much I loathe made-up Politically Correct Euphemisms like "mentally-challenged"? People need to quit being so freaking afraid of words. When a heel on a wrestling show has to be politically correct, there's something very wrong. Angle'll fuck another man's wife, but he won't say the word "retarded." This is a very-screwed-up version of morality that WWE seems to have...]

Anyway, after hitting that stilted, unnatural-sounding almost-zinger, Angle says he'll gladly face Eugene. Because Eugene may be fresh off an injured knee, but Kurt's gonna send him back home for another six months with a broken ankle. Let's do this thing....

Kurt Angle Invitational, Part 2: Kurt Angle vs. Eugene

I don't think an Angle Invitational Match has EVER gotten off to a fair start, and this one is no exception. While Eugene is doing his gentlemanly duty and helping Spaz exit the ring (he's an Idiot Savant of Good Manners, too, people!), Kurt cheapshots him from behind to start the match.

Angle immediately goes for Eugene's Browns jersey, tearing it off him to big heat. And then blowing his nose in it and faux wiping his ass with it to even bigger heat.  They say the best things in life are free; I don't know if that heat was free, but it's about the cheapest I've ever seen. Magnificent. Angle then starts using the jersey to choke out Eugene a few times, always breaking at the 4-count so as not to be DQ'ed. 

As the match entered Minute 2, Angle went for more of his standard offense. Suplexes, forearms, and even a piece of mini-psychology as Angle worked over Eugene's injured knee. But then, exactly as the clock got down to third and final minute, Angle tried to slam Eugene's head into the turnbuckle. Not a good idea, as that is the key that unlocks Eugene's inner Hulkster.

He Eugened Up for 30 seconds, but when he tried to hit Angle with a Stone Cold Stunner, Angle countered it immediately into an Angle Slam. Straps come down, and it's time for the anklelock at the 20 second mark... Angle actually gets it applied, but at the 10 second mark, Eugene rolls through, and in so doing, sends Angle flying out through the ring ropes. Nice spot. Angle's sprawled out on the floor as Eugene gingerly gets to his feet and notices the clock getting set to expire in time to lead the crowd in a countdown of the final five seconds. Huge pop! Spaz hops in the ring to give Eugene the medal, and the two jump up and down in a celebratory fashion. No real Spaz fan am I, but credit to her to putting 100% into it despite that precariousness of her dress. 

Your Winner: None, really. There was no pinfall or submission; technically, it's a 3:00 No Contest. But Eugene lasted the full time limit with Angle, and per the stipulation of the "Angle Challenge," that's enough to take his Olympic Gold Medal.  This could lead to some good stuff: Angle and Eugene should work off each other very well. And it might be cheap, but I'm already hoping that Kurt has the balls to do some "Special" Olympics riffing in his promos with Eugene.

Backstage: Viscera is cruising towards the ring with... a midget? Apparently, Vis' tag team partner? Hohhhhhh-kay. Was it just me, or did that midget look familiar, too? The best guess I could come up with, when trying to think of Recent Midgets I've Seen, is that he might be "Diet Cola" in that one retarded Bacardi ad. [Seriously: the liquor industry finally gets back on TV, and in over a year, have yet to produce a single non-awful TV spot? And some of them are heroically-bad and basically say "Our product is only for douchebags who everybody wants to punch in the face"; like that Disaranno one.] Anybody know for sure about this guy?

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Moments Ago: Paragraphs ago. Dammit, you've got plenty of time during other matches where you can talk about previous happenings. You really don't need to kill 2 valuable minutes of Prime Time showing us something that we already saw, OK? You can't possibly be THAT out of ideas for content, can you?

Backstage: Bischoff is watching the Moments Ago package on a monitor, and behind him, John Cena pops in. Bischoff turns around, and is mildly startled to see his champ there. Bischoff asks, "Who do you think you are?"... and Cena says it's funny that he'd ask, because he goes through these phases: for a while he thought he was a Jedi, then he thought he was Michael J. Fox, and he even had a Scott Baio phase. [What the hell's going on, here? That's a strange choice of riffing by Cena given that it was just Monday morning when I wrote: "So by Cena's own admission: he didn't even really get all the way into hip-hop until about 3 years ago, and only did so for "a character"? Homey, next time you say anything about "real recognizing real," I'm gonna laugh double hard. [...] It's called going through a phase, homey. It's just you're getting paid to go through yours." SpOOky.] But after all those phases, Cena knows for sure that right now, he *is* the WWE Champ. And he's here because Bischoff asked to see him. Which it turns out is true. Because Bischoff has something to say to Cena: Cena's not the kind of guy that Bischoff wants as his champion. He throws out phrases like "white trash" and "wannabe," which ALMOST brushes up against the Horrifying Truth... but then he completely undermines his own rant by using other words like "thug" and misrepresenting Cena as some kind of Stone Cold-esque bad-ass, which simply does NOT fit in with his actual on-screen persona. Then Bischoff turns around to continue his rant with his back to Cena, and the camera conveniently moves so as to take Cena out of the frame. Bischoff goes on for another solid minute, making lots of noise, but not actually saying something, because he's just milking for time. Finally, Bischoff appears to get back on track with a riff about Cena's title reign coming to an end, and he turns to deliver it to Cena's face... but surprise, surprise: Cena's long gone. OK, so kinda cheesy in that overly-staged "Hollywood" kind of way. But also not-unfunny. Also: CENA'S BEST PUNCHLINE EVER~! EVER~! And the part where he was actually present and talking wasn't too hateful, either. I think I spotted zero (0) "Homeys."

A Heartthrob and Pocket Rocket vs. Viscera and Cloacus ("Mixed Tag" Match?)

It's the blond Heartthrob who officially wrestles here (I'd guess Antonio, but I'm not positive), teaming with his midget, Pocket Rocket. Meantime, it takes Lillian Garcia and the announce team a few tries to get the name of Viscera's midget down; they fail until the monkeys in the truck supply some helpful chyron.

[Tangent: last night, an important order of business was finding out the derivation of "Cloacus." The best I came up with Yahoo'ing the word was that a "Cloacus" was apparently a specific kind of Ancient Roman sewer system, which was gross enough. But then, I was informed that the name almost assuredly comes from the root "cloaca," which is defined as.... dammit, I cut and pasted it out of the AIM window so I could save it and use it here today, but now I can't find where I put it. But depending on which phrase-turning you prefer, I remember that we boiled it down to either "reptile rectum" or "iguana butt." Which is even more gross. But I guess that fits: if Viscera roughly translates to the mass of digestive organs in a human, then having his diminutive midget's name equate to "the place out of which some smaller creatures poop," is appropriate. And I'm ever so glad that THIS is what the creative team is spending their energy on, instead of fixing the REAL problems on the show...]

Match starts with the midgets, and I don't care if it's un-PC of me to say, but: midgets just make almost ANYthing funnier. My 30-miles-away neighbor, Al Snow, was right about that. I don't know where they came from, and WWE pretty much just introduced them out of nowhere, but this beats the hell out of a NON-midget Viscera match! Midgets go back and forth, but then Pocket Rocket tags in The Heartthrob. And apparently the rules of the match allow for Man-on-Midget Violence, because this resulted in a lengthy heel beatdown on poor, poor Reptile Rectum.

Finally a hot tag comes to Viscera, and he makes short work of the Heartthrob. Pocket Rocket powders out when the Heartthrob accidently bumps him from the apron to the floor. The OTHER Heartthrob tries to interfere, but that doesn't work. Viscera puts the legal Heartthrob down with a powerslam, and then Cloacus gets on Viscera's ample back to deliver a low-altitude flying splash. Viscera makes the cover. And this harmless little piece of fluff is over. And HOLY CHRIST! No Greco Roman Butt Rapes! Between that and the midgets, truly, this is the greatest Viscera match in recent memory!

Your Winner: Viscera and Cloacus, via pinfall, in roughly 4 minutes. Pretty harmless fun, if you ask me. Not good, but for filler, I'll take a (for once, non-obnoxious and non-offensive) comedic Viscera outing over something like a Heat-caliber Val Venis/Rene Dupree match. So should you.

Rest In Peace: A 2 minute vignette remembering Lord Alfred Hayes airs. Considering some of the hijinx Alfred got himself up to in his day, it's somehow not entirely un-fitting that his tribute would come immediately following Midget Chicanery...

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Backstage: Shelton Benjamin is in Eric Bischoff's office, and we apparently join the conversation Already In Progress, because Bischoff is ranting about how Shelton's deluding himself if he thinks he can come in here and try to dictate terms to the GM. But Benjamin says he's not looking for a hand-out, he's just looking for what he's proven he deserves. He was the IC Champ for 8 months, and in the last 2 weeks, he's beaten the new IC Champ, Carlito Cool, because Carlito preferred to intentionally get himself counted-out and DQ'ed to save his title. He thinks that's good enough to ask for a no-DQ, no-CO match against Carlito. And he wants it tonight. But Bischoff will not be dictated to. He says there will be no IC Match. Instead, Bischoff things he's gonna be teaching punks like Cena and Shelton lessons in respect tonight... in fact, if Shelton wants a match, he can have one. But it'll be a handicap match. Against Chris Masters and Snitsky. Whhhaaaaaa? That's about as random and uncompelling as it gets... Bischoff wants to know what Shelton thinks about that. Shelton says, "I think it smells like your breath... it stinks." Oh, you idiot writers. Must you go back to channeling Batista's April skits where he stuck around for one too many really shitty one-liners? Just stop. Really. 

Elsewhere Backstage: Maria the Mic Stand has secured an interview with Chris Jericho, and thinks this'll be fun. Think again, sweetie. Because as soon as Maria does the entirely predictable thing, and says something SOOO stupid that it can only be scripted -- about how she loves Fozzy Bear, and wants to know if there will be any other muppets here with Jericho tonight -- Jericho launches into rant mode. He calls her "Mary," he mocks her intelligence, and then he says he's so used to people having fun with his unusual band name that it's like water off a duck's back. He works in a rip on Limp Bizkit, which endears him to The Me. And then he moves on to ripping on Cleveland, saying that they are ill-equipped to determine a winner in the Battle of the Bands. Because they don't understand that Fozzy MAKES music. But Cena MANUFACTURES music. Ahhh, I know it's just my ignorance of hip-hop/rap/etc., but Jericho is speaking to me with that one. If you can't go out on stage with real drums, real guitars, maybe a few keyboards or a horn section, and perform your music live, then it tends to not interest me. He's gonna expose Cena. Because the Battle of the Bands, it's next....

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Battle of the Bands: a/k/a "The John Cena Karaoke Invitational"

Lillian introduces the Battle of the Bands, and then the lights go down... who's performing first? There's actually an audible "Fozzy" chant, but NO.... when the lights come back up, it's Cena (and I guess we call the other guys his "Chain Gang"?).

He and his crew do the first single (the shitty song with the admittedly amusing "A-Team" video), "Bad Bad Man." At first, I assumed they must be just rapping over the album track (i.e. just doubling themselves), because at the end of the performance, you could even still hear the A-Team van peeling out in the background. But a few spots along the way made it clear that they had prepared an instrumental version of that track and were at least doing their "vocals" solo. Small consolation, since this is still glorified karaoke, complete with all the intensity and energy of said drunken pasttime. Cena only raps about 4 lines, and then spends the rest of the performance bouncing around (and taking off his shirt to girlish squeals, which is something that any guy who ever wants to be taken seriously in wrestling, at least as a babyface, should know enough to not encourage) while the other guys handled the rapping. Bumpy Knuckles was tolerable. But Cena's cousin? The Uber-Wigger? Should not be permitted on TV ever again. He made Cena look like Kerwin White, and had ALL the lame-ass wigger affectations down pat, including wearing Eminem's wardrobe and spending his entire stage time doing that silly "Holding My Own Crotch Region" pose. And as per most performances I've seen in this genre, they also had two guys just standing around doing nothing. Great. At least grab some cowbells or something, guys. Otherwise, get the fuck off the stage. What are they? The "thug" version of the gay "Interpretive Dancers" some pretentiously arteestic rock bands like having on stage with them?

Finally they finish up, and I'm left with the notion that even if I liked this track (which I don't, really), this performance of it wouldn't do anything to improve my opinion of Cena. He made himself scarce for most of the thing, and it was Bumpy Knuckles who seemed to be the MVP. It's more like that six-man tag match a few weeks ago, where Cena got maybe 2 minutes of ring time, let the more talented people handle things, and didn't even stick around for the post-match posedown, cuz he knew he didn't fit in. In other words: maybe a good move if you're masking weakness, but also not something that really does a lot to raise Cena's stature or shove him towards actually being the Universally Beloved MegaStar that WWE wants him to be. The undercurrent of boos (and overcurrent of girlish squeals) at the end of the performance kind of make my point for me, I think: that this wasn't necessarily the most effective showcase for Cena.

At this point, Cena and his boyz get no time to celebrate actually making it all the way through a single song, and in so doing, besting Macho Man Savage's previous record for "Wrestler Attempting a Rap Performance" by about half-a-song. Because out comes Chris Jericho... hey, he's wearing men's jeans this week! About time. And he's got a mic. And he's got no backing band. Hmmmm.

"Johnny, Johnny, John Boy. I gotta be honest with you: that just plain sucked." Some cheers in there, but mostly boos. "I mean: STINKAROONIE. It's like somebody stepped in a big steaming pile of Cena." Preach on. But Jericho goes on to say that the truly sad part about it is that the people out there in the audience lapped it up like sheep. Which just goes to show that they are not equipped to judge this contest. Which just goes to show that they are biased against Jericho.

Throughout all this, Cena would try to speak up, and always seemed to be leaving the Wigger Dial down at about 2, and was playing the Reasonable Man Card, instead... but Jericho would intensely and dickishly cut him off before he'd complete a sentence. Nice touch of spontaneity and non-writeriness that really helped add some sizzle to this segment.

Jericho says that in any other venue, fans would be chanting Fozzy's name (like 50,000 fans did at a festival in England just last month), but here in Cleveland, he knows they are just waiting to boo him, because they are biased and ignorant. And he's not gonna give them the satisfaction of displaying their bias to the world by booing one of the greatest rock bands of all times off the stage. He's pulling Fozzy out of this contest. Cena can claim the victory, but it's only by default.

More boos are flowing now, since this was an ingenious move that even upsets the Jericho Fans who might have gotten a kick out of seeing Fozzy playing live. Very clever. But Jericho says that nobody has to worry about the no-show tonight... because EVERYbody will get to see him perform at SummeSlam, where he WILL become the WWE Champion, and show Cena just who the REAL "Bad Bad Man" is. Jericho leaves, and that would have been a perfect spot to hit his music and do a cut to get a Reaction Take from Cena (a resigned headshake/eyeball-roll would have been sufficient). But WWE doesn't want Jericho to actually be taken seriously as a top level star, so he doesn't get exit music. Great. 
 
Instead, they cue up Cena's entrance theme. And this time, it really is just the CD replay over the sound system, and Cena and his crew start rapping over the live mic even though the vocals are still on the playback track. Lame. Cena just went from doing karaoke to being a guy who locks himself in his room and sings along with his favorite records. What a Multimedia Superstar!

Are You Shitting Me?: A "Hogan Knows Best" video package. Maybe now I wish the ratings HAD stayed up for the second week, if it would have meant not having to waste 2 valuable minutes on Monday nights with this crap. Thank god for DVR. And hail Satan for the FF button.

Backstage: Shawn Michaels is WALKING~! And in his on-going mission to turn his "WALKING~!" segments into something at least half-way worthwhile, instead of having them be pointless filler like they are for everybody else, he stops walking after a bit, and appears to spot a blemish as he walks past a mirror. In a purposely over-diva-y fashion, he demands "MAKE-UP!".... not quite as funny as the one two weeks ago where he was toying with the camera man, but still: giving fans a reason to NOT fast-forward as soon as they see a "WALKING~!" bumper is a good thing.

[ads]

Backstage: Carlito Cool has reported to Eric Bischoff's office. It seems that Bischoff has a little assignment for Carlito. He'd like to have Carlito face John Cena tonight to teach Cena a lesson. In a nice touch that for once does NOT emasculate a heel, Carlito seems OK with this. Bischoff says he'll sweeten the pot, too: cuz if Carlito wins, then next week, he can face Cena again, this time with the WWE Title on the line. Carlito likes that even more. And finally, Bischoff says he thinks a match like tonight's needs a special referee who can be trusted to do his job well. And Bischoff has selected Chris Jericho. And Carlito likes this whole thing even more, still. In fact, "thas cool." And Mr. Bischoff is cool, too. Cool enough that Carlito gives him an apple to enjoy as he leaves. Bischoff mutters, "Just get the job done," and then takes a big ol' bite.

The Truth Hurts Theatre

Shawn Michaels, rather dapperly attired, hits the ring, and announces "Hulk Hogan won't be here tonight, because he's off promoting his reality TV show." The crowd boos. Michaels says, "Oh, so you've seen it." Slick.

But Shawn's not here to deliver thigh-slapping zingers. He's here to deliver the Best Promo of 2005 To Date. So he follows up by saying that he's never had any aspirations about having his own TV show, or making a rap album, or being a movie star... all he's ever wanted is to be known as the Best In-Ring Performer in the history of this industry. He broke his back to go out there and put on the five-star matches night after night. And he's STILL doing it, still taking his game to new heights every single night he steps into a ring, still earning his stripes by giving 100%. Definitely some cheers for that little touch of truth. And Hulk Hogan, Shawn says, is just skating by on a reputation he built 20 years ago.

Hogan's living in a house that these fans paid for. A million dollar mansion that he can afford only because of wrestling fans. And what's he ever given back to the fans? [Shawn mimics the hand-to-the-ear pose.] And maybe if Hogan's feeling generous, he'll give them the same old tired posedown. The crowd doesn't know whether to cheer or boo at this point. And Shawn notes the silence, saying that he's breaking a few rules here, and the fans might be shocked to hear this, but there's people backstage who are even MORE flustered. They're running around, wondering what to do, because there's rules backstage, and one of them is that you can't say anything to hurts the Hulkster's legacy. Everybody has to put over the Hulkster. But Shawn's not gonna do that. Why? Because he knows he's the main event at SummerSlam... what are they gonna do? Fire him? Shawn says (directly into a camera), "go ahead, I dare you." Cuz he knows the company won't ditch the biggest drawing card on the PPV. Then he turns back to the crowd and said, "Hey, you wanted the Old Shawn Michaels back. Well, now you got him." And definitely cheers for that. Which is cool, because this really was a throwback to some of Shawn's best heel work, where he would petulantly put little "shoot" comments in the middle of a standard promo. Not enough to distract from the storyline, but enough to be a rib poke that some smarter fans would pick up one and register as "real" in some way.

Michaels then decided to bring it home by saying all he cares about is going out there and showing everybody that he truly is what he says he is: the showstopper, the main event, and the greatest all-around performer this company has ever seen. And at SummerSlam, he'll do it by taking Hulk Hogan to places he's never been. And then, Shawn just has one last question: "Whatchya gonna do, Hulkster, Whatchya gonna do when the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels refuses to lie down for you?" 

PERFECT punchline to this style of promo. Anybody only cognizant of the TV Storyline stuff WWE has presented won't notice anything amiss after this intense, "shoot"-laced promo... but there's all kinds of internet jack-offs like us who will moisten our panties because of Michaels' presentation here. And that punchline drove it all home: it fits in with the story, but those of us with a bit more knowledge of Michaels' past reputation get to enjoy it on an entirely different level. Just an awesome segment.

A Very Special Announcement About A Very Special Person: next week, Eugene will put the gold medal on the line in the "Eugene Invitational." You don't want to miss it! Do you? DO YOU!?!???

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Shelton Benjamin vs. Gene Snitsky/Chris Masters

Snitsky's already in the ring. Then Shelton makes his entrance. The hell? Is this all so that Masters can get the "main event position" of the three entrances? Why? It's the most-fast-forwardable ring entrance in the company. Although I do owe Masters at least half-an-apology: he DOESN'T wear body glitter. Per a suggestion from OO Reader Gina Morgan, I actually didn't FF Masters' entrance this week (well, not ALL of it, at least), and discovered she was right: the "glitter" is actually just some of the sparkles from his little robe sticking to him after he takes it off. OK, good for him. For at least this week, I have no jokes to make about Masters' possible homosexuality. So I'll just have to resort to pointing out that his greatest appeal is almost certainly in the homosexual male community. Not that there's anything wrong with that. At least SOMEbody thinks you're good for something, Chris!

Shelton tries to jumpstart the match, and even against 2 men, he succeeds! In fact, he hits a ton of high energy, high-risk stuff, culminating in a top-rope-to-the-floor senton that took out both men. And since Carlito is not in the vicinity, he did it without almost killing himself. But once things got back in the ring, the heels quickly got their act together and used a few tags and double teams to gain the edge. Masters settled in for his team. And because we're not a full 2 minutes into the match, and he's only worked half of it, he opts for a front facelock. Because that's just the kind of thrilling, compelling arsenal that Masters is known for.

This, of course, is just Shelton's invitation to make a comeback. Which he eventually does. He goes on offense for about 30 seconds, hitting the Stinger Splash and poised on the brink of victory. But after the splash, Masters stumbles out of the corner, and ends up on his knees in front of the referee, hugging him tight. What was that I said before about not having any gay joke ammo this week? Tee hee. With the referee distracted by Masters face in his crotch, Snitsky was able to sneak up from behind and give Shelton a Big Boot. Masters releases the referee from his loving embrace, and instead decides to lock in the full nelson on Shelton. And although Shelton lasts a good 20 seconds or so, he falls unconscious and the ref must call for the bell. Holy fuck: first you put Shelton into a completely random match that means nothing, and then you job him out to these two yutzes? You know everything I said about the Great American Bash's asshatted booking yesterday in the column? Well, this was clearly RAW's homage to that: way to give fans a match they couldn't possibly care about and then do entirely the wrong finish on top of that.

Your Winner: Chris Masters/Snitsky, via submission, in about 4 minutes. Shelton's opening flurry was cool. Everything else pretty much blew.

After the Match: Masters won't release the full nelson (at one point during the standard flurry of post-match bell-ringing, JR just blurts out, "We have a reverse decision," but the ref never gestured in ANY fashion -- much less the finest of all fashions, Broadly -- to indicate this actually happened; in fact, I caused myself to become just a little bit stupider by quickly scanning the WWE.com RAW Recap, and they officially say Masters/Snitsky won)... so out for the save comes Big Show, who manages to give Snitsky a Big Boot while Masters scurries off like the frightened little girl that he is. Great. In the name of granting at least a one-week stay of execution to Masters, we get this match in which he gets to beat Shelton Benjamin. Ingenious. He said sarcastically.

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Diva Search 2005: Just When You Thought It Couldn't Get Any Worse...

First order of business: eliminating one of the remaining six. And it turns out it's Cameron who's gone. Another good choice, America. That's twice in a row you got the right one. It's too bad, though, because Cameron gangling her tall self out of the ring only served to remind me that she's probably the one of these girls who could have most used a few hot dogs. And donuts. And cheeseburgers. Shins skinnier than my forearms are not sexy.

And the hot dog reference? Well, that's because our competition this week is a Hot Dog Eating Contest. As Coach explains the rules (most hot dogs eaten in one minute is the winner, and this week's winner again gets immunity), we scan the remaining five girls. A few of them were like Cameron and decided bikinis were appropriate wardrobe for a Hot Dog Contest. Which I GUESS I can't complain about too much. Especially in the case of Kristal. But also: kudos to Ashley, who found the right balance... like last week, she kept the Punk Grrrrl gimmick toned down and "real" with an outfit that is almost my exact idea of hot, but then she put the baseball cap back on so that the idiot WWE fans will recognize her and remember which one she is.

Coach starts the contest, and a longer 60 seconds have never taken place in the history of broadcasting. Your watch may have said 60 seconds, but your perception says you must have endured at least a half hour of hell. Because the five girls just start nibbling casually on the wieners. Four of them finished one. Ashley didn't even do that. What an intense and action-packed battle. Somehow, what I thought was a four-way tie is distilled down to a TWO-WAY tie. And between the two girls who should be the next voted off, in my opinion. And one of them's getting immunity this week. Oh, the pain. Summer and Leyla do a "no-bun eat-off," and I guess Leyla won. She can't be voted off. And she kinda seems like she should be. Ugh. Coach MC's the voting information while they do the Dance-In-Place thing. 

This was terrible for two reasons I can think of. One is a purely pragmatic one, which is what I mentioned above: that this contest had the effect of granting immunity to one of the girls who should be next gone. And the other girl who I'd get rid off finished second, so might not be voted off, either. And the second is kind of a pervy-but-true observation: that this "contest" was so boring and uneventful that they should have done it as a SEXY Hot Dog Eating Contest. Last year, they did the pie and ice cream events to test the divas' faux-box-eating techniques; and substituting a surrogate for the MALE goodies, instead, is EVEN SEXIER. YEAH! And I'm only half-kidding... because I'm sad to report that not a one of you ladies out there has ever eaten a corndog or popsicle or banana or similar items in the presence of a male (no matter HOW refined he may seem) and not have had it spark an entire biologically-encoded series of naughty thoughts in his disgusting skull. We can't help it, sorry. So my vote: the contest was so boring that they should have just given up and tried to give it at least SOME zip. And then I could have stood here today, trying to act like the whole thing was Entirely Unhot so I can keep up my Gentlemanly Front. And actually: a very serious reason why doing that might have been fun is that any chance for the girls to show some personality or skill (instead of just standing around like props) is a good thing. And get your heads out of the gutter, because in this case, I *am* talking about getting to show some personality (and not any particular skill). Because I'd have paid one million dollars to see Ashley take her hot dog, look at it seductively for about 5 seconds, and then throw it away to cut a promo about how retarded this contest is and offer to show Coach some more wrestling moves. Which he wouldn't play along with. Because he's a pussy.

Terrible segment. But that seems to be the tone of this second hour so far....

Backstage: Edge and Lita are WALKING~! And unlike Shawn Michaels can't be bothered to do anything interesting, so I don't even know why I bothered putting this paragraph in. Other than to mock them for not doing anything interesting...

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Kane vs. Edge (Stretcher Match)

Lillian explains the rules, which require one wrestler to put his opponent on a stretcher and then roll it up the ramp and over a finish line to win. Simple enough.

Edge and Lita make their entrance (Lita is again decidedly unskankily attired, either indicating her physical involvement in the match, or a conscious decision to tone down her character's bludgeoning sluttiness)... but only HALF their entrance! Because Kane attacks from behind before they can even get to the ring.

Kane then conducts a thorough 2 minute beatdown on Edge, first taking it into the ring, and then taking it to ringside. At ringside, Edge eats some of the barrier and also the ringsteps, and Kane decides he's softened up enough to try stretchering him. Edge goes onto the stretcher peacefully enough, but as Kane gets him about halfway up the ramp, Edge starts stirring and fighting back. So instead of continuing to struggle, Kane has a brainstrom: he just shoves the stretcher so it goes racing down the ramp. 

Except: I'm sure the spot was SUPPOSED to be a collision with the ring, but the stretcher didn't make it that far. It ran out of steam, and Edge sort of gently tumbled to the black mats, while JR had to try to sell it as a horrible bump. Why? Because that's the spot they came up with as our excuse to have a break in the action for....

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Back, and Edge has magically taken command. A few "During the Break" flashbacks show us that he didn't exactly do it on the up-and-up. He made copious use the ring steps, it seems. And back in real time, he's making use of a camera cable to choke Kane out. And though unsporting of him, it's NOT against the rules in this match. Anything goes. Of course, the much-less-exciting choke-out (the "extreme" version of a chinlock, really) is basically Kane's chance to stage a comeback, which he does.

He goes to town on Edge, to the point where Lita feel like she needs to do something. She tries introducing a chair. That doesn't work, as Kane just rips it from her hands. But a minute or so later, as Kane seems to be thinking about chokeslamming Edge directly onto the stretcher, she whacks him with a kendo stick and THAT, my friends, did the trick. Edge then grabs the stick and does some whacking of his own. Which isn't nearly as dirty as it sounds. But it does appear to lacerate the top of Kane's skull.

A bit more of Edge's offense, until he takes too long showboating when he decides to go up top and Pillmanize Kane's neck (a la Snitsky). Kane catches him, and immediately maneuvers his way into the move he wanted to do earlier: he chokeslams Edge onto the stretcher. That was pretty nice. Then he starts trying to roll Edge up the ramp, but Lita keeps interfering. After about two of these, Kane decides he needs to solve the Lita Problem before proceeding with the match. So what's he do?  He gently dumps Edge off the stretcher to chase her. Oy: so dumb. Six minutes ago, he had the good sense to try sending Edge careening down the ramp for a wicked bump. But now, when he's about to let himself go be distracted, he opts to cause the least possible damage to Edge by courteously removing him from the stretcher so roll into harm's way? I'm probably thinking too hard, but moments like this, that take away from the believability of a match, really grate on me.

Predictably, Kane stalks Lita, ALMOST gets her in position for a chokeslam, but at the last instant, Edge comes to the rescue, walloping Kane with the Money in the Bank briefcase. And then a second time. From here, they take Kane back to the stretcher (which is halfway up the ramp), and place him there. Repaying the courtesy Kane showed him before, Edge politely takes an extra few moments to even re-assemble the FULL stretcher device INCLUDING the helpful and comfy cushiony mat. Edge and Lita both start shoving the stretcher towards the finish line. Kane got one brief Hope Spot where he did a Zombie Sit-Up, but a final briefcase shot took care of that. And thus was Kane rolled over the finish line and made a loser yet again.

Your Winner: Edge, via stretchering, in about 15 minutes. Probably the de facto Match of the Night, but given the competition, that's not saying much. This was much like their cage match: decent-but-forgettable, since it's pretty obvious to everybody that Edge/Kane stopped being a feud about 8 TV matches ago, and now the real story is Edge/Hardy. Speaking of which....

After the Match: Kane did another Zombie Sit-Up, and this time, followed up by attacking Edge while he celebrated. Edge got tossed into part of the entrance set, while Lita got special treatment: a Tombstone on the steel stage. We are led to believe that Lita may be dead, as a referee furiously gestures for EMTs to get out here. Edge finally recovers and starts tending to his fiance, too... which is when the other shoe finally drops: Matt Hardy (not as an EMT, but just doing his third straight generic run-in from out of nowhere) shows up and gets about 3 shots in on Edge before security and officials swarm. As 8 men escort Matt out, Edge takes a few potshots of his own. Also, there is much swearing as Matt and Edge go back and forth regarding which one of them is a fucker or a piece of shit or whatever. This week, SpikeTV successfully bleeps all of it. Since it's not "real" if we get more than 30 seconds worth of clear camera shots of Matt, we don't even wait for Matt to be escorted all the way out before cutting to....

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Backstage: we're live in the parking lot area as Lita is being loaded into an ambulance. And as soon as she is, guess who shows up? Yep, Kane. How shocking. He hauls the two (2) attending EMTs out of the ambulance and then hits one of those crappy lines that only a Hollywood Writer could think of as he says, "Hey Lita, you ever taken a ride on the Highway to Hell?". Ugh. Two cops try to stop him from absconding with the ambulance, but Kane's determined, so he shoves them aside. Then he hops in the front of the ambulance, and drives off, in Mad Man Fashion (squealing the tires, and throwing in bit of extra careless swerving). Whatever will become of Lita? Even Babyface Announcer Jim Ross thinks Kane has gone too far....

[Don't tell me you didn't expect a rant from me on this. Because this was awful. I'm not particularly sensitive to the man-on-woman violence issue, although I think it should only be done sparingly and preferably when the woman in the equation has willingly put herself in harm's way. Lita's physical involvement in the stretch match made it so that it's probably OK in "wrestling think" that she'd be fair game... but I do have a SERIOUS problem with how this all played out. Lita didn't get taken out as a direct result of one of her physical interruptions: she got taken down because Kane's idea of dealing with a cheating ex-wife is beating the shit out of her. And then stealing her limo for a badly-scripted "Highway to Hell." Whatever that means. It's all Hollywood and writer-y, and in a Dumb Way: a Springer Way. Because this storyline keeps finding new ways to lose me week after week by having the participants involved act in a way that is completely alien to how normal, rational people deal with situations. You show me a man who deals with an ex-wife by tombstoning her, and I'll show you a guy doing jail time, who isn't in any way a compelling character, and is just one of the many poorly-wired members of society that we can only hope stays in his hole away from the rest of us instead of procreating and passing his malfunctions onto another generation. Wrestling characters should be interesting, compelling, and relateable... they should be BELIEVABLE. Whether they are heels or faces. Kane acting like this violates this simple principle at a very base level.

If I really was into this story, and vested into it, I'd have no choice but to then believe Kane is one of these rare misfits who society tends to sweep under the rug. He becomes dismissible, instead of interesting. Of course, I'm so NOT into this story that I have no problem mostly just continuing to appreciate Glen Jacobs, the performer, and hoping against hope that he gets something non-tarded to do here soon. Also: in addition to the shitty dialogue and general mishandling of Kane's character, the Hollywood Writer Monkeys need to be eyeball-punched for a few simple gaping continuity holes. You have a half-dozen medics tending to Lita on the stage, and even more WWE officials/trainers hanging around lending moral support, and you even have EDGE there with Lita. But once we get backstage, it's only two pussbag medics with her? At the very least, explain to me where Edge was? Too bad I know the answer: off screen, because the lame-ass script called for Kane to make off with the ambulance without a real battle, and Edge would have been an inconvenient plot point to deal with. So they just hoped we wouldn't notice he was gone. Great work, boys.]

Fluff: the same Hulk Hogan Video Tribute that aired back at the Hall of Fame is replayed in its entirety. Ugh. How many weeks ago was it that I did my big thesis about pacing and Content vs. Fluff and Fast-Forward Ratios? This is exactly the kind of stuff WWE needs to stay away from. (1) We've already seen it. (2) Michaels did a great job hyping this match earlier. (3) Hogan got his face time in that video package for his TV show. Enough. I will ask this question again, and NOT rhetorically: WWE's creative team can't be THIS out of ideas, can they? It's not that difficult to fill up a two hour show with stuff people will actually be riveted to... the return of all this fluff is the WWE equivalent of vast stretches of the show turning into background muzak. You're hearing it, you know it's there, but you just have no compelling reason to pay attention to it.

SmackDown! Rebound: a bunch of stuff happened at the Great American Bash. I'm sure they tried to make it sound like it didn't suck. But I don't know if they succeeded or not. Because, sing along with The Rick, now: I don't recap recaps.

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John Cena vs. Carlito Cool (Chris Jericho is the Special Referee)

Jericho enters first, and HOLY CRAP, he's the first wrestler-posing-as-a-referee who actually seems to be taking the job seriously. He found some black dress slacks (no gay biker shorts or sweat pants or muscle shirts or anything) and looks exactly like a real WWE Ref. He even makes a big show of checking the ring and the turnbuckle pads and stuff. Gotta make sure it's all regulation and in accordance with the WWE Rule Book. Looks like they even gave Jericho the standard-issue Referee Ear Piece, which they never do for guest refs (if you pay attention, in those cases, the time cues seem to get fed in from the time keeper's table).

Carlito enters second. Then Cena. Then Bischoff? Yep, I guess he wants to witness the beginning of the end of Cena in person, so he sets up shop on top of the stage. And I think that's everybody, so let's ring the bell and turn this mother out.

Basic back-and-forthy to start, but since we kicked this match off just barely shy of 11pm (eastern), there really isn't any time to dilly-dally. So we go to a segment where Carlito gains control outside the ring during a brawl. And wanting to keep it, he figures he might use a steel chair. Cuz, you know?, he's got a friendly anti-Cena ref, and all.... but no: instead, Jericho does the Right Thing and takes the chair away from Carlito. As Carlito is opining that Thas Not Cool, Cena recovers and gets a mini-rally. And when he covers Carlito, Jericho dutifully gives him a fairly-paced count. Cena almost seems surprised by this. Also: Carlito kicks out with no trouble, and also seems a bit miffed that Jericho's not cheating more. But that's the story here: about 2 minutes in, and we're looking like we got an impartial referee.

At this point, Carlito decides that he should probably just take matters into his own hands and win the match, help or no help. So he takes over on Cena, and starts hitting everything he can. Some slams and suplexes, a nice variation. Nice spaced out, too, making each feel a little bigger than the last and perhaps that much more possible that it'd finish off Cena. And also giving Carlito time to pepper in plenty of his trademark facial expressions, which do a great job of adding that impression that (unlike a good 50% of wrestlers) he's actually "in the moment" and reacting to what's happening around him. Not many of those facials are reserved for Jericho; seems Carlito's over that, but now Uncle Eric is getting a bit pissy at Jericho. This isn't the ambush Sleazy E had envisioned! Cena gets a hope spot or two (including one nice High Elevation Backdrop that I remember), but basically, we're in Carlito Offensive Mode for this whole four minute stretch. Eventually, Jericho whips out that WWE Rule Book and points something out to Carlito, and Carlito instantly shifts into a chinlock. Whee. Looks like it's time for our Babyface Fire Up.

Sho 'nuff, homeys. Cena escapes that and ends up trying to throw fists with Carlito. But Carlito fires back. So basically, we get a middle of the ring slugfest for a few moments as they just go back and forth. Finally: Cena gets the better of it. Eh: as a transition, I guess it's better than just elbowing out of a chinlock and suddenly being on the offensive. But it didn't exactly seem to crackle with energy. Cena goes on to do all his usual stuff. Most of it looked good, some of it looked mildly spastic, causing JR to once again bust out the Secret Decoder Bowling Shoe to send all the little JR-ites a message by once again calling Cena's style "unorthodox." But we all know what he really meant. Pay-off to Cena's rally is a Five Knuckle Shuffle, modified to including faux Apple Eating before dropping the fist. The People's Elbow it is not, but I guess it'll have to do.

From here, Cena hoists Carlito up for the F-U.... but FINALLY Ref Jericho shows his true colors, and just kicks Cena in the sac. Running bulldog. And probably just about the cleanest and prettiest Lionsault Jericho's hit since WCW. Maybe it's the slacks? Jericho then assists Carlito in getting on top of Cena's carcass. One, two, three. Carlito wins yet again. And he STILL doesn't have a finishing move of his own. That makes me smile. Carlito heads out to celebrate with a suddenly very happy Eric Bischoff, while Jericho pauses to fondle the WWE Title belt for a moment before joining them. The final image: Bischoff celebrating the execution of his Master Plan, Carlito celebrating his Big Win, and Jericho celebrating.... umm, celebrating Another Week Of Not Really Doing Anything But Sort Of Indirectly Getting On Cena's Nerves? Yeah, that's it.

Your Winner: Carlito Cool via pinfall in about 7-8 minutes. Too short to be really good, but Carlito's offense was sharp, and it was plenty serviceable as an excuse to get to this choice of finish. Maybe a bit bland and predictable, but it was the necessary move. And with a second hour of RAW that sucked this bad, ending on a "bland" note actually seemed like an upgrade to what we'd been served up since Michaels left the ring. Sets up a marquee match for next week, too... there are tons of cool things you could do with the Cena/Carlito/Jericho triangle (assuming WWE cares about remembering that Carlito and Jericho are NOT exactly bosom buddies). There are also a number of kinda bland and predictable things they could do next week. But that's all stuff we can talk about tomorrow in the column, or next Monday in the RAW Preview...

E-MAIL RICK
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