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Doing Less with More 
August 9, 2005

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


If you're wondering what's up with OO's update schedule, well... it's pretty simple: OO has entered a Vacation Phase. Well, not really "vacation." More like "required time with the family spent away from my house." As I have been preparing for departure the last few days, it's effected my schedule, and it'll continue to effect things at OO for about the next week.

There's still one update to come before I bolt town (and it oughta be good, with the sure-to-be-controversial Part Two to Jeb's Salesfan Theory), and then I'll do what updating I can from The Road (some news from me, SD! recap, maybe a few surprises, probably published on a "non-traditional" schedule), and you can expect a full "catch-up" update published as soon as I return home early next week (complete with TNA PPV coverage, other TV recaps, and all the other gOOdness that the trOOps have promised to supply me with in my absence).

As my parting gift from WWE, my last act on my normal schedule is getting stuck recapping yet another ragingly mediocre edition of RAW.

It's a problem that seems to escalate with every passing week: WWE seems so completely out of ideas that they cart out segments that it's almost impossible to care about, and 

try to pass them off as Ready-For-Primetime. Which they aren't. 

It's not as though Chris Masters vs. Shelton Benjamin outright sucked in the kind of blown-spot kind-of-way that denotes a truly horrible match. But that doesn't make it any less horrible a waste of time. Same goes for two other matches on this night.

And a slightly different variation on that vibe continues to plague RAW's WWE Title feud, where things aren't necessarily unentertaining in the micro... but where things kinda fall apart in the macro. Because Chris Jericho doing subservient heel shtick is good for some cheap heat, but it's also not the route to take when trying to build a guy up as a compelling #1 Contender. Bad? Not quite. But vaguely annoying and counter-productive to crafting a quality storyline? You bet.

As always, RAW made sure to include a few really good bits, too. And for the fifth or sixth week in a row, those good bits had nothing to do with in-ring action, and instead were promo-based. Edge, Hulk Hogan, and Shawn Michaels all stood out in strong verbal segments.

But was it enough to save the show? Not really. RAW is rapidly devolving to the same level as SmackDown!.... it's a show I find myself ENDURING more than ENJOYING these days. A phenomenon that only serves to frustrate me all the more, considering that I don't understand how it could be so hard to come up with 2 hours worth of good ideas a week and then execute them in entertaining fashion.

Here's my simple test: imagine a friend of yours asks you "So hey, what'd I miss on RAW this week?"... to my way of thinking, there should be no problem rattling off a few fondly remembered highlights ("so-and-so had a great match," and "this guy said blank about the other guy, and the other guy responded by doing such-and-such"), and leaving your friend feeling like they missed something. Making your friend feel like they need to tune in next week. Shows like RAW's delivering lately, if somebody asks me what happened, I'd pretty much go "Ummm, huh. Hmmm. Not much really. Hogan and/or Michaels did something cool, but other than that, you missed nothing interesting." Which is a HUGE problem for WWE when it comes to building the kind of word-of-mouth interest that drives marginal/casual fans to watch the show week-in and week-out, and is the ONLY way that wrestling would end up back as a mainstream pop culture phenomenon.

And this little litmus test of mine? Not just a theoretical construct. Last night, I was chatting with a friend after RAW and one of the first things she mentioned was "Eh, I got sick of RAW halfway through and didn't even watch the second hour. What'd I miss?". It's very telling that within 30 seconds, the topic of wrestling was exhausted and was never reprised at any point during the rest of the discussion. Hey, WWE: these are two pretty avid and intelligent wrestling fans who can't be bothered to discuss your product in their spare time, because it's more important for me to hear about how (if I'm not a motherfucking, cocksucking son of a bitch) I need to get caught all-the-way up on "Deadwood" DVDs so I can hold up my half of a conversation about *that* show, instead. You guys might want to consider this as a pretty telling indicator of the caliber of show you're putting out. 

So for whatever it's worth, here's my best attempt at polishing a turd. I mean: my best attempt at making RAW more fun to read about than it was to watch....

Video Package: Eric Bischoff's Master Plan resulted in John Cena being left a bloody mess. Chris Jericho, the ostensible #1 Contender, was in the vicinity while this happened.

Opening Theme/Pyro/Etc., and we're live in Pittsburgh, PA, where Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, and Jonathan Coachman assure us we're in for a a jim dandy of a show, including a special face-to-face interview with Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels. You know, I'm not one of these typical internet jack-offs who considers WORKRATE~! above all else... but it's been more than a freaking month since there's been an above average wrestling match on RAW, and we already seem to be settling in for a week headlined by a Main Event Interview? Color me unimpressed. But regardless of my trepidation, it's time to get this show started on what should be a pretty good note....

The Eugene Invitational, Part One: The Pre-Rambling

Eugene, accompanied by Christy Hemme, hit the ring to a decidedly mixed reaction. Seems that Pittsburgh is gonna throw at least SOME support behind their hometown hero, and it's Eugene who'll have to pay the price. He also doesn't seem to help his own cause very much when he reveals a Hulk Hogan t-shirt under his jacket and does an extended riff about how Hulk Hogan is his friend. 

Since everybody loves bOObies, Spaz bails Eugene out by getting on the mic to say a few words about being RIGHT HERE, in Pittsburgh, PA. OK, so everybody loves bOObies and hearing the name of their hometown. Way to drop the Double Whammy, Spaz! Then, to get people fired up for the Eugene Invitational, she starts a cheerleader routine: Give her an "E". Give her a "U". Give her a "G"....

And then give her some musical interruption in the form of "The Theme To Kurt Angle." Ahh, Kurt: his days as a perv must be over, and he's back to his gentlemanly self. Right up to saving Spaz from the embarrassment of misspelling "Eugene." Because lord knows Spaz may have found herself a perfect on-screen niche (she really pulls off the cheerleader look, and it also provides a reasonable outlet for her boundless energy), but we cannot forget that three months after the 2004 election, she was unable to name the Democratic Presidential Ticket (or answer a single other simple Current Events Question during a trivia contest against a 12-year-old).

Although serenaded with the requisite "You Suck" chant, Kurt is actually met with huge cheers once he grabs a mic to address Eugene. Kurt tries to turn the crowd against him by speaking ill of Hulk Hogan, but that backfires, and instead results in even louder "Angle, Angle" chants. D'oh.

Angle rips into Eugene for being a joke, which is met with mostly cheers, too (although SOME in Pittsburgh must have hearts, since there was finally an undercurrent of boos once Kurt started mocking the Mentally Challenged Guy). Eugene tries to lighten the mood by taunting Kurt with the Gold Medal, but instead, that ALSO has the reverse effect, and the crowd boos Eugene for disrespecting Kurt's Olympic Achievement. There are even "Eugene Sucks" chants at this point, which Kurt and Eugene try to cover up by getting into a "I'm an Olympic Gold Medallist," "No you're not," Yes I am," "No you're not" exchange. Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. No. And finally Kurt gets a big pop when he tells Eugene to just shut the hell up. Guess I wasn't the only one who found that gag funnier the first two times they did it.

Kurt ramps up the intensity, talking about how Eugene thinks the medal is just a toy, but how it means something to him, because he wrestled for 20 years and won the thing with a broken freaking neck. More cheers. Somewhere in here, Kurt's intensity got the better of him, and he peppered in a "damn," which Eugene picked up on and started bitching about. "You said a swear, you said the D-Word." Oy vey; Eugene's been in the area when others have sworn before, and didn't react this way. But this is WWE, where consistent characterizations take a backseat to convenient new personality traits invented for the sole purpose of advancing a skit in the laziest way possible. In this case, when Eugene started getting up in Kurt's face over using the D-Word, it turned into Angle's excuse to shove Eugene down and jumpstart the match.

As Angle pounced on the fallen Eugene, Spaz ditched out of the ring, and the ref rang the bell, signaling the start of....

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

Angle stays in control, tearing the Hulk-a-Mania t-shirt off Eugene and using it as a weapon until finally referee Mike Chioda steps in. Angle shoves him away, ALMOST drawing a Disqualification, but Chioda's gonna let Angle have a bit of leeway, and at this point, Kurt seems to realize he can't win back his medal if he loses his cool and gets DQ'ed.

So he lets the t-shirt go and resumes battling Eugene in more standard, chain-wrestling-y fashion. This eventually results in the two locking up, and ending up in a corner, where the ref calls for a break. When he doesn't get it, he starts trying to shoehorn himself in between Eugene and Kurt. And while he's doing that, Eugene tomahawk chops the ref's back? Whhaaaaaaa? And then he blames it on Kurt? And the ref falls for it, and tells Kurt he's one eyelash away from getting DQ'ed. Not a good play, as it only further solidifies Angle as the babyface in the match, and makes Eugene look bad. In any other city, it'd only have been a mild misstep, but doing this in Pittsburgh? This whole thing is being booked in practically the most counter-productive fashion I can imagine...

Eugene's chicanery doesn't stop Angle from staying in command, though. Until there was just one minute to go, anyway, and Kurt foolishly tried ramming Eugene's head into a turnbuckle, which only angried-up Eugene's blood. He hulked-up (to boos), but Kurt short-circuited that with a German Suplex (to cheers). The straps come down, and things look bad for Eugene.... so of course, Spaz decides to make herself useful by getting up on the ring apron. This draws the attention of the ref, who momentarily turns his back to the match. So when Eugene reverses out of an Angle Slam and shoves Angle into the ref, the ref decides that Angle must have attacked him intentionally, and calls for the DQ.
After the Match: Kurt goes into a rage, and decides to take it out on Eugene. But he only gets a few shots in before Eugene's Friend comes out for the save. That's right: Hulk Hogan to the rescue. Angle decides to get out of dodge. Hogan has Eugene join in him pantomiming the Universal Symbol For "Kiss My Ass," which Eugene does, gleefully. So "the D-Word" is bad, but inviting somebody to kiss your ass is in perfectly good taste? Meh. From there, it's the expected posedown, which Eugene also joins in on. 

Your Winner: Eugene via DQ, in about 2:30. And a dumber booking for this match I cannot imagine. Maybe it was inevitable that Pittsburgh would cheer Kurt, but WWE should have known that was coming, and booked this in a way to NOT make Eugene look so bad. A little creativity, and they could have let the fans cheer Kurt while also protecting Eugene. An idea: how about another bit of Stunt Casting? Have ERIC Angle come out to accept the Eugene Invitational Challenge before Kurt can hit the ring: afterall, first come, first served, right? Have Kurt follow and give his brother the "Fredo" Speech ("You're my older brother, and I love you, but get the hell out of my ring and let me win back MY gold medal"), but Eric won't have any of it. Pittsburgh would boo the hell out of Eric for being (a) the less talented Angle, and (b) the kind of insecure older brother who would try to steal his kid brothers gold medal to make himself feel better. They could still cheer for Kurt, and now, the fans would also be free to cheer for Eugene. Eugene, who should be able to beat Eric pretty easily while his disgusted younger brother watches on in almost-shame. From there, Kurt can still do the post-match attack, and the Hogan save if you want (although I'm not sure what purpose that served given how the rest of the show played out). And also: it would make more sense for Angle to go to Bischoff and be granted the SummerSlam match if he got screwed out of his match here in Pittsburgh. And also also: just for shits and giggles, a segment for NEXT week writes itself, as Kurt could call his brother out to the ring in the guise of apologizing, only to challenge him to a match, in which he'd "prove he's better than Eugene" by beating Eric even faster than Eugene did. See: simple episodic TV. You just gotta use your noodle. Dusting off Eric Angle would have been a more productive use of booking energy than tracking down fricking Tatanka was last week. Instead, we had a counter-productive week in which Eugene came off like a weenierific cheater and Kurt came off like a genuine Hometown Hero. That's not what WWE wanted to accomplish. Or at least, it shouldn't have been.


Shelton Benjamin vs. Chris Masters

As Han Solo once said: I have a bad feeling about this.

And holy christ, if anybody can remember a crowd deader than this on a Monday night, let me know... cuz I think Pittsburgh made it abundantly clear that they had no interest in seeing this match. And I don't think they can be blamed. No matter how warm and tingly Chris Masters' big, beefy manliness might make Vince McMahon and Johnny Ace feel, he's a singular Vortex of Apathy for the rest of us normal fans. There's certainly nothing compellingly likeable about that ass-injecting sack of duh, but even worse: there's also not a damned thing about him competent enough to bother booing. That'd be like booing the hapless Tampa Bay Devil Rays: it's simply not worth your time or energy. And I don't know how many more weeks of crystal-clear evidence WWE needs before they realize that neither is Chris Masters.

The dead silence from the crowd is actually deafening: it really was an audible distraction, as it made it even harder to ignore the noises emanating from the word holes of Lawler and Coach, who were being pretty annoying when it came to attempting to convey their barely-masked manlove for Chris Masters, and wondering why JR doesn't respect the Rugged Handsomeness of The Masterpiece. JR to his credit, zinged the hell out of them, telling them to get back on task and just follow his lead if this was too complicated for him.  Poor JR.

And poor Shelton, who didn't really get anything out of this match at all. From the get-go, Masters pretty much dominated with his power moves. Thrilling stuff like side headlocks and stomps. There's a problem when you most visually-exciting move is a freaking bodyslam. I think all Shelton got by way of offense were a few chain-wrestling-y bits where he briefly had an armbar, or something. Wheee. Masters' channel-flip-inducing offensive built up to....

Wait for it....

Wait for it....

A BEARHUG! I'll say this about Masters: he's consistent. Consistently perfecting only the blandest and least-convincing of moves, that is. But I guess at least he won't injury anybody with a bearhug....

Shelton eventually elbowed out of the mighty bearhug, and started what I guess would have been a fiery babyface comeback. Except that not a single audience member seemed to give a shit. Because, like me, they're probably all trying to figure out why Masters is still on TV, instead of having been squashed by the Big Show weeks ago. Mild pop, finally, for the Stinger Splash. Shelton then followed up with a Steamboat-esque flying bodyblock and got a near fall (Masters had to put a foot on the rope to break the count). Shelton then tried to set Masters up for the T-Bone Powerslam, but Masters powered out, and tried to get the Full Nelson. But Shelton re-countered that into a sleeper. Masters, at this point, grabs onto the ref (hey, that's two weeks in a row Masters just couldn't keep his hands off one of the sexy zebras!) and holds him in place while he mule-kicks Shelton right in the balls. He releases the ref, locks on the Shitty Full Nelson, and before you can say "I wonder if the Reds are still winning down on channel 29?", the match is over. Goddammit: like I said, I had a bad feeling about this.

Your Wiener: Chris Masters via submission, in about 6 minutes. Just terrible. Not necessarily in terms of sloppiness or anything (Masters has simplified his repertoire to the point where he'd have to be borderline paraplegic to fuck things up too badly), but just in terms of being a worthwhile use of a valuable segment of Prime Time TV. There are a couple brewing storylines: Shelton still wanting one clean shot at Carlito for the IC Title, and Masters wusstastically trying to evade the Big Show. This match address neither, and in fact, made Shelton out to look like a total jobber. And at the expense of a guy who fans have LONG since voted off the island with our rabid apathy. The end result: counting entrances and post-match, this was a full 10 minutes of stuff that simple doesn't have any defensible reason for existing. The (lack of) crowd response means that, at best, it induced channel flipping or FF'ing, while I would tend to go a level deeper and point out just how bafflingly disconnected from Actual Current Storylines this inexplicable match was. Inexplicable to the point of being yet ANOTHER counter-productive segment.

Backstage: Kurt Angle comes out of Eric Bischoff's office, wearing a huge smile. Todd Grisham is a bright lad, though, and thinks that's a bit incongruous given that Angle just got beat in the Eugene Invitational. So he asks Kurt what gives... and Kurt says he's just gotten a SummerSlam match against Eugene. And there will be no three-minute time limit. So Kurt's going to enjoy taking his time and destroying Eugene. He'll teach him a lesson. He'll take back his gold medal. And he'll break Eugene's ankle and end his career. And judging from Kurt's demeanor, he'll do it with a smile on his face. Jerk.


Backstage: Maria the Mic Stand is going to do her level best to interview Rob Conway. Well, I'll say this much: at least they paired Conway up with the only person on the talent roster so dim that she might actually think he "catchphrases" are not totally retarded. The issue at hand: how is Conway going to fare in a match later tonight against Viscera? Conway doesn't really address the question, instead pointing out that the thought of a 500-pound "love machine" is personally offensive to him, since HE, as a Pretty Pretty Hunk of Grade-A Beef, should be the one people want to see performing acts of purest carnality. Christ: first Masters, now this? Note to WWE: being pretty does not make one a heel, at least, not in the Year of our Lord 2005. At this point, I think your audience is sharp enough to know that they don't let genuinely ugly people on TV, so physical attractiveness is NOT a gimmick, OK? It's kind of a minimum requirement. And once you meet that requirement, you need to possess other qualities in order to impress the audience. Conway? Might possess these (which is more than I suspect about Masters). But this gimmick isn't doing him any favors. New for this week: another crap-ass catchphrase... "I'm 98% fat-free. But it's OK, because I'm surprisingly filling." The hell? Again: he's practically BEGGING for the joke about the only thing he likes to fill being hairy manholes, but his flaming gayness renders such observations way less fun to make. Conway's attempt to be a heel by making us jealous of his prettiness come limping to a conclusion, and Viscera himself shows up. He, unlike me, DOES take some joy in pointing out many of Conway's gayer attributes. But because it's TV-PG, none of them are funny. Also, he accuses Conway's flamboyantly metro facial hair of being a "wu fanchu," making me wonder if maybe some of Maria's Dumb rubbed off on him. Conway's finally heard enough and tries to take a swing at Vis, but Vis intercepts it, and pins Conway's arm down long enough to promise him that in their match tonight, Viscera can't wait to get on top of Conway and deliver what he calls the "Vis-agra," but which we'll always refer to as the Greco Roman Butt Rape here at OO. Great: the wang-craving male stripper versus the 500 pound guy who likes to anally violate other men. Who to root for?

Last Week: Vince McMahon rehired Matt Hardy and granted him a SummerSlam Match against Edge.

Backstage: Edge (w/ Lita, who is wearing a neckbrace, but otherwise seems to in dandy shape for a girl who was Tombstoned and then had her ambulance abducted; or perhaps WWE realized just what a retarded angle that was, and we're never to speak of it again? I dunno...) is standing by to respond to Jim Ross' question. That question is "What do you think about Matt Hardy being back on RAW?"... Edge thinks it's great, and says it was actually HIS idea to go to Vince and ask to have Matt back. Because for all Matt's attempts to paint himself as the victim, his actions have actually made Edge and Lita into the REAL victims, as he dragged their names through the mud on the internet. By having Matt back on RAW, that means Edge is finally free to speak his mind about Matt, since the gag order is lifted. And he'll be free to extract his vengeance on Matt, because if he did to Matt what he'll do at SummerSlam, but did it on the streets, then he'd be in jail for a long, long time. But at SummerSlam, hey, it's all just part of the job. Edge says that he saw Matt's promo last week, and he thought it was pathetic if that's all he had stored up after months on the sidelines. Edge invites us to look into HIS eyes for something REAL, some PASSION. And the thing that's the reason why Lita left Matt for a real man. [Of note: throughout all this, Lita seems kind of distracted and not really into Edge's side of the story. She's just dutifully snuggled in under Edge's arm. Who's got money on Matt and Lita having long since patched up their differences, with the shocking twist to the story being those two kids getting back together on TV?] And further more, Edge says Lita leaving him is the best thing that every happened to Matt. Because it's the only way he'd ever get into the main event mix. When he was with Lita, he was defending the Cruiserweight Title and hanging out with "MFers," while Edge was holding the IC Title and facing Kane, Shawn Michaels, Chris Benoit, and others to EARN his main event stripes. And now, because his women left him for a main eventer, Matt waltzes back into WWE and right into a main event match he doesn't deserve. Edge further theorizes that Matt lost Lita because he constantly put his career ahead of her, that in six years together, he never proposed to the "girl of his dreams." Now, Matt's lost the girl, and at SummerSlam, Edge promises to end Matt's dreams of main event superstardom. Punchline: "I know that cuts close to the bone. I know that hurts. The truth usually does." OUCH. Excellent promo. Just perfect. Unlike Matt's ill-conceived bit last week, this wove together the work and the shoot into a logically cohesive and compelling way. For punctuation at the end of the bit, Lita shows her first signs of life, and decides she wants herself some sugar. Edge is more than happy to comply. I get a chuckle when Lita sort of awkwardly goes out of her way to use one hand to hold Edge's hair back, for the sole purpose of making sure the camera doesn't miss a single bit of all the enthusiastically sloppy, wet tongue work. Hmmm.... where have I seen that exact technique before....  oh yeah, I got it! Who knew Lita was such an expert student of the hardcore porno? Or wait: maybe WWE has decided to end the Hollywood Writer Monkey experiment, and Lita was just taking direction from a new segment producer fresh from his job as a cinematographer at Vivid Video's Blowjob Division?


Viscera vs. Rob Conway

More dead silence here. And again, I wonder out loud if WWE is really THIS out of ideas that they think this is worthwhile use of their precious Monday Night Time. Also, the dead silence makes it all the tougher to ignore MORE raging idiocy from Coach and Lawler, who somehow turn this showdown of Man Humping Fat Guy vs. Gay Male Stripper into a discussion of who gets the most pussy. Coach's manrection for Conway knows no bounds, as he does his usual bit of trying to convince us of Conway's attractiveness. But failing to realize that, in his current packaging, Conway's only real significant appeal would be among (a) tequila'ed up packs of girls who actually know better 95% of the time but are entitled to be just as shallow and horny as their men are every now and again, and (b) lonely gay men. And if you're not sick of this line of patter from Coach already, just wait: he's got one more opportunity to bust it out yet to come!

The match: Viscera uses the powers of fatness to dominate early on. But then Conway hits a dropkick to Viscera's left knee. And a fat man with only one leg is barely a fat man at all. Conway works the knee over for what was probably only 2 minutes, but felt like 11 days. Viscera makes a comeback, and predictably goes for the Greco Roman Butt Rape... but Conway, he's got it scouted and counters! I'd thank the gods, but frankly, there's something even more off-putting about Viscera mounting another man and struggling valiantly to begin humping him than if he'd just commenced with the butt-thrusting without the struggle. I can't explain why, I just knows how I felt watching the display. 

So the match continues, and Viscera is having trouble on his bad wheel. He attempts a back suplex, and his leg buckles. Conway lands nominally on top and sorta uses a handful of pajamas to get the pinfall. So let's cue up some of that Not-Quite-Randy-Newman entrance music, and hail Satan: for this atrocity is finally over.

Your Winner: Rob Conway via pinfall, in about 4-5 minutes. Again, not necessarily awful from an execution perspective, but downright indefensible as a use of Monday Night Airtime. Find me one fan (just one) who actually cared about this match and said, "AWESOME, I can't wait to see this" when the guys were making their ring entrances, and I'll show you either (1) an easily-entertained pustule who probably also watches "So You Think You Can Dance?" or (2) a liar. And where the hell was Viscera's midget? We're almost an hour into the show, and so far the only truly entertaining and constructive segment was a 3 minute promo by Edge. How fucking hard is it to have two hours worth of ideas every week for compelling TV that makes the viewers feel like they are watching An Event, instead of sitting through 90 minutes worth of ejaculate from the Random Booking Machine so they can finally get to the good 30 minutes? Not as hard as WWE's making it look.


Hurricane, Rosey, and Stacy Keibler vs. The Heartthrobs and Victoria (Mixed Tag Match)

Well, there actually *is* a storyline explanation for this match. Problem is, it happened on Heat, so I'm not sure that technically counts. Should I make a joke about how this is also a match that is DEMONSTRABLY "Heat-Caliber" (as witnessed by where the build-up happened?), or should I just get indignant with how WWE is booking their own tag champs?

Nevermind, I'll just recap the damn match. Which starts out with Hurricane doing a nice job controlling things for a minute or two. But then Victoria distracts the ref, and the Heartthrobs use an illegal double-team to take over. They cut the ring in half and use a nice array of effective heel tactics to Ricky Morton-ize the Hurricane. Also, if you were wondering, this was Coach's third and final chance to bludgeon us about the head with nonstop gibberish about the sexual exploits of his favorite prettyboy wrestlers. OK, I get it: the Heartthrobs have had more ass in the last week than I've had so far this calendar year. If I pretend I'm insanely, ragingly jealous, will you just shut up about it already and find something more interesting to talk about?

Hot tag finally comes to Rosey, who goes to town on the Heartthrobs for a nice sequence of showcasing his surprising agility. But eventually, the numbers catch up to him, and the Heartthrobs seem on the bring of regaining control. That's when Stacy decides to shake her ass in the general direction of the Heartthrobs. This, of course, hyp-mo-tizes the two long enough for Rosey to attack from behind. But then Victoria goes over and yanks Stacy off the ring apron and throws her into the ringside barricade. Hurricane goes to check on Stacy, while Rosey (ever the gentleman) shouldertackles Victoria to the floor. Meantime, somebody forgot to keep tabs on the Heartthrobs, who have fully recovered and grab Rosey from behind to hit their double-team Flatliner finisher.

Your Winners: the Heartthrobs and Victoria via pinfall, in about 6 minutes. A decent enough match. And other than the opener (where the crowd was reacting all wrong because of WWE's asshatted booking), the first signs of life the crowd has shown during a match all night. Still: the Stink of Heat was all over this... if you tell these stories on RAW and get the characters over, this becomes a fun little 6 minute diversion, instead of yet another reason why most fans would flip the channel. Also: the girls never tagged in... so what was the point of them being there? That'd have been the simplest thing to do to pop the crowd a little bit, just have Stacy in there, be sure to hit the Big Flexible Boot of "Lookit My Vagina," and then Victoria can whomp ass briefly, and then you turn it back over to the men. It'd have seemed a bit more special or important that way, methinks.


The Highlight Reel: Now With 25% Less Reason to Give a Shit About Jericho vs. Cena!

Chris Jericho's already in the ring as we rejoin RAW, and is in full-on subservient kiss-ass mode. Because his guest tonight is the greatest, smartest, bestest General Manager of all times: Eric Bischoff. Plenty of hugs and handshakes and whatnot once Bischoff hits the ring, accompanied by still more oral pleasuring of the boss by Jericho. As cheap heel shtick, it works, but again: this is a storyline that requires fans to believe in Jericho, not that should be utilizing lazy tactics to elicit knee-jerk boos from fans... and right now, the only thing most fans would believe about Jericho is that he's a pawn in some greater scheme of Eric Bischoff's. Bleh.

Bischoff gets on the mic and makes the usual proclamations about the impending demise of John Cena's wrestling career, telling fans they can still look forward to Cena pursuing what passes for his music career... but Jericho jumps in and trumps Bischoff, saying that he even wants to expose Cena as a musical fraud, so tonight, Jericho has a new Fozzy video of his own to show before Cena's new video debuts. The monkeys in the truck are duly ordered to throw the footage up on the obscenely (and obtusely) expensive JeriTron 5000... and we get some generic metal riff in the background while highlights of Jericho beating the crap out of Cena are played. Standard fare, but a slightly more creative way of working that footage into the show than a standard video package, I guess.

Coming out of the video, Bischoff is duly impressed, but says he's got another item of business here tonight on the Highlight Reel. And it's because his Master Plan didn't work last week, and Cena *is* still the WWE Champ. For now. And it's all because of one man who didn't do his job. Here, you COULD have hoped for something interesting, like Bischoff shifting gears to turn on Jericho, or singling out Carlito for some criticism, or something. But instead, you get WWE finally deciding, for once, to pay attention to continuity and address a gaping Logic Hole identified here at OO. Great. If what followed is in any way my fault, I apologize to all of you.

Anyway, Bischoff says it's referee Chad Patton (in my face; I swore it was Chioda last week) who screwed the pooch, because he ran in and counted three for Cena while the assigned official, Jericho, was down. He calls Patton out to the ring to face the music, while JR tries mightily to act like Patton's actions last week weren't at all out of the ordinary. That's a tough sale. Because yes, replacement referees have come out to make counts before; but my whole point was that the instantaneous nature of Patton's materialization last week was really lame and unrealistic.

Predictably, Patton comes out and is instantly intimidated by Bischoff and Jericho. They accuse him of disrespecting their authoritah, and Bischoff says that as punishment, Patton will have to wrestle a match against Jericho right now. They punctuate with some ear flicking and other caricatures of bully tactics, which was admittedly pretty funny. But at the end of the day: WWE's idea of legitimizing Jericho is having him beat up referees. Ingenious. The only (ONLY) way this works is if you're setting up for Jericho to win the title, and then have him "Honkeytonk Man" it as the champ who doesn't deserve to hold the gold. But if you're trying to present him as a legit challenger to Cena in an effort to help get Cena over, you want to present Jericho was a strong and believable challenger, which would make it mean more once Cena beats him. The way WWE is telling this story? It sure as hell does nothing for Jericho's character, but with each passing week, they are diluting whatever benefits Cena will gain by beating Jericho.

Apparently, this Showdown For The Ages will be coming up next. Right after these....


Chris Jericho vs. Chad Patton

I'm sure the tease of THIS match ensured that NOBODY went flipping around during that last ad break.... Bischoff is standing in as the referee for this match, and rings the bell as soon as we get back from commercials.

And what the fuck? They don't even let Jericho squash Patton cleanly. Instead, Patton gets a few flurries of Fighting Spirit, and Carlito Cool decides to come out to lend another hand. As if the deck wasn't already amply stacked against Patton. Ugh. So after Carlito administered a beatdown on Patton (ref Bischoff decided to let it slide), Jericho briefly toyed with Patton before finally locking in the Walls of Jericho. Patton tapped out frantically for about 30 seconds before ref Bischoff finally decided to put an end to his misery.

Your Winner: Chris Jericho via submission, in about 2 minutes. I guess this works as just the cheapest heel shtick, but it's also not at all how I'd be playing things at this point. Jericho's supposed to be your #1 Contender and top heel. Instead, he's being handed the kind of material you'd use to prop up an up-and-coming heel IC Titleholder (and frankly, why NOT use the Referee Continuity Issue to give CARLITO a cheap -- and clean -- win while coming up with something actually compelling or creative for your Main Event Heel to do?). It's really not the way to go, and made for another segment that had a few glimmers of entertainment, but mostly struck me as counterproductive.

After the Match: John Cena decides to arrive. Funny, but I bet Patton would have preferred Cena get off his lazy ass about 2 minutes sooner. Bischoff and Jericho manage to escape, and they sacrifice Carlito, who gets F-U'd. Great. So the IC Champ joins the presumed Top IC Title Contender in being ignominiously squashed for now readily-comprehensible reason tonight....


Backstage: Jericho and Bischoff are raging. Todd Grisham is there to feed them a straight line. Bischoff uses it as an excuse to go into a rant about how if Cena insists on sticking his nose in other people's business, then next week, he'll stick his nose in Cena's business. Or something. The upshot: Bischoff announces that next week, it'll be Cena vs. Jericho and Carlito in a handicap match. Hoh boy. Take every single thing I've said about the Jericho/Cena feud being mishandled in such a way that Jericho seems like an afterthought rather than a centerpiece, and now multiply by 20. I'd be all for doing a "free-per-view" tag match marrying the Cena/Jericho feud with another SummerSlam match (or even two of them to make a six-man), but throwing Carlito in like this and the entire way things have played out with him have been really, really lame.

Diva Search 2005: "You Didn't Really Think We'd Make It Through This Whole Contest Without Using 'Pie' For Something, Did You?" Theatre

The Final Four Divas and the Coach are in the ring. And first, we need to pare this down to three, so we must have an Eliminationing... and it's Kristal who goes. Well damn. I honestly thought she'd be safe, and this would come down to the three Would Be Divas that I actually semi-endorse. But score one for Erin, who mentioned to me a week or so back that Kristal was on borrowed time because she didn't think WWE fans would ever get behind a black girl when they can have another bleached-blonde bimbo to ogle. Fie on you, WWE fans, for proving her right. Cuz if you discount her unfortunate hair situation, Kristal might even have been the flat-out hottest of the bunch. In the wise words of Krazee Eyez Killah, it takes all different flavors, people. And also: she was a Barker's Beauty. And maybe I haven't seen "The Price is Right" in 15 years, but I used to love that show in grade school; during the summers, I was an addict and the best part about getting a snow day was getting some sweet, sweet "Price is Right" during the school year. And it goes without saying that "Diane" was probably right up there with The Lovely Miss Elizabeth and Elle Macpherson in terms of making sure The Rick's less-sophisticated urges were awakened at the appropriate age. I definitely still have a spot in my heart for a Barker's Beauty. Maybe Diva Search Alexis could play poker... but Kristal can play PLINKO! Nee haw!

I digress. 

Once down to three, Coach says the competition for tonight has been pre-taped, and basically it's a test to see how the girls react to unexpected, unscripted twists. So we get each of the three girls cutting a pre-taped, 1-minute promo in which she tries to convince America that she's worth voting for, except that 30 seconds in, somebody appears from off-camera to hit them in the face with a pie. How high brow. And what a totally realistic and compelling "unscripted twist" that these girls might have to deal with in a WWE ring. Lord knows random pie-facing is a huge problem facing the wrestling industry today.

Ashley: actually did something semi-cool and gave out her phone number (anybody out there have the sac to call? I might have to give it a try if I get bored while "vacationing" out in the ass crack of Oregon; but I suspect it's just a pre-recorded "thank you" message to her fans) to prove that she realizes the fans are the reason she's here. Then she gets pie-faced. And she seemed pretty angry, and her first reaction: Take it out on Coach! That's my girl! But apparently, there's some kind of "no touching" rule with Coach, because she sort of triple-pumps like she really wants to do it, but knows she's not allowed. Coach gets a little of the pie on him, but that's it. What the hell good is Coach if he's not playing the hapless putz?

Leyla: pretended to be naked behind a posterboard with her name on it. Because suggested nudity is RAW, and she knows that being as skanky as possible and having as many accidental nipple slips as permitted by the FCC is how she'll win this contest. So dumb. Then the pie lands in her face, and she drops the posterboard, revealing that she's wearing a swimsuit. So she's not even a skank. She's a lying wannabe skank! No thanks. Adding to the patonizing suckiness: her "response" to the pie-facing is to lick some of it up and declare that it's pretty tasty. Because Leyla believes that a girl savoring a vaguely-dairy-like substance is OMG HOTTTT~!~!~! Which it probably would be, actually, if only she hadn't completely failed to provide us with any real reasons to like or care about her in the past 2 months.

Elisabeth: made her case by pointing out that she's pretty much kicked ass in the serious athletic competitions so far, and those the criteria America should use. Then the pie-face, and she just sort of dimly tried to keep doing her promo, while also half-assedly making moves towards Coach (who just shot her a look that said "I'm a giant pussy and you can't touch me, so don't even think about it, Missy").

Ashley seemed to be the winner with the live fans, and then Coach announced something odd: that next week we'll crown our winner. How's that work? An elimination, and then the final two have a competition of some kind, maybe? I won't complain about the competition being one week shorter than originally projected, I guess.... 


Matt Hardy vs. Gene Snitsky

Huh. I would have thought that they'd save Matt's first match back until the PPV... and also that after last week's miscalculation, that they'd bend over backwards to keep Matt away from "fake" elements of Lita's backstory (like Snitsky), so as not to underscore the internal illogic of Matt's claims of what is real and what is fake. But whatever.

Matt comes out hot, ostensibly unleashing over a year of pent-up aggression. But only for a minute or so. Then Snitsky overpowers him and takes over for several minutes of his patented Methodical And Not Even Remotely Boring Offense. Snitsky's run? Ends with a simple missed elbow drop. Whatever. But it's Matt's opening to get back in the match. Which he does.

So we go back-and-forthy for the final minute, when Snitsky makes the mistake of thinking he knows how to do any moves off the top rope. Instead, he gets crotched on the top turnbuckle. And from that sitting position, Matt hits him with an Atomic Twist of Fate off the top rope. OK, I admit it: *that* was neat.

Your Winner: Matt Hardy via pinfall, in about 4-5 minutes. Liked the creative (and visually impressive) finisher... but pretty much everything else getting there? Well, it had Snitsky in it, so how good do you think it was?

After the Match: Edge swooped in from out of nowhere and attacked Matt. Officials swooped in moments later and pulled them apart. JR sagely notes that whatever happens between these two at SummerSlam, it ain't gonna be a wrestling match.


Backstage: Security was leading Matt Hardy out of the building, but Matt spied Edge in his lockerroom, and evaded his security detail long enough to run in and get a few licks in on Edge. Another pull apart. I think that's #6 these two have had, and they're kinda starting to lose effect. Things like Edge's excellent promo are what this feud needs to stay fresh and kick into another gear.

John Cena's New Music Video: Oh. My. God. What a steaming pile of turds. A sub-par "rap ballad," and on top of that, this time, they forgot to do anything remotely funny, entertaining, or interesting with the video. Note to WWE: this is the kind of shitty, reflective, self-referential ballad that a hip hop act should release as the second single off their 3rd or 4th record. You know: after they've pretty much lost all mainstream relevance and only have to appeal to the core loyal fan base still clinging to them. Released as Cena's second single ever makes him seem somewhere between a giant wussbag and a self-important douche. And again: the song really, REALLY blows even by the standards of a genre that already has strong tendencies towards sucking. As the video concludes, WWE brings up the house mics, and the video gets booed out of the building. No joke: "Right Now" by John Cena got the most heel heat of the entire night. So it ain't just me...


The Main Event Promo: Hogan and Michaels to the Rescue Once Again...

Jerry Lawler is our moderator for a "face-to-face" debate, complete with Branded Podiums (bearing the SummerSlam Logo). He brings out Shawn first and Hogan second. And then goes into a very cheesy oversell of a match that has done a great job selling itself. Mercifully, Michaels cuts him off to do a dickish riff, sarcastically thanking Hogan for "gracing us with his presence" this week on RAW. Nice zinger.

Then Lawler reigns things in, and asks his first prepared question, which is couched in such a way that it comes off like he's asking Michaels if he's jealous of Hogan. Which Michaels of course says he is NOT. He says there is nothing about Hogan that he desires to emulate or possess. He says that Hogan made a career out of "personality and show," but that as a wrestler, Hogan is not even in the same league as Michaels. In fact, Michaels gets off a good line about how people might think this whole thing is because Michaels is upset that one of his peers didn't respect him... but Michaels says that's not the case, because Hulk Hogan is NOT Shawn Michaels' peer. He's a showman, not a wrestler. And at SummerSlam, Michaels will prove it to the world. Decidedly mixed reactions to Michaels throughout this segment, and I can't say I'm shocked: he's speaking enough of the truth that there's a certain class of fan (of which I'm probably one) who consider Shawn the babyface of these two.

Lawler's next question is for Hogan, and he wants to know how Hogan felt about Michaels impersonation last week. But Michaels jumps in and takes the question for himself, saying that Hogan's finding out that it's not fun to deal with somebody who doesn't sweat him (not "out here," and not "back there," says Michaels in a nice nod towards both men's purported backstage politicking). So Michaels will speak the truth, he will say what he wants and how he wants it, because Hogan might have a reality show, but Michaels is "the most real thing on TV." And Michaels isn't afraid of any repercussions. Cuz he doesn't think there's anything Hogan can do about it in the ring, and there's nothing WWE will do about it, because they don't have the guts to fire him. And even if they did, he's been fired so many times and then had the company plead with him to come back that he doesn't care. Because Shawn Michaels is the engine that runs this entire promotion, and Hogan had better just get used to it.

Michaels then starts ramping up to a big finish, and finally Hogan has heard enough, and cuts him off with a "Lemme tell you something, brother"... and Hogan says he didn't want it to come to this, he didn't want to sink to Shawn's level of backstabbing and cheapshot tactics. But if Shawn wants to talk about "the truth," all Hogan needs to do to one-up Michaels is remind the fans what Shawn did to Bret Hart.

Oh, great: fans already had their panties bunched, what with RAW next week in Montreal, and now they send Hogan out there to utter the magic name? Unless Bret really does show up, this is a huge miscalculation by WWE that'll only serve to raise expectations to a point that WWE can't meet them. Of course, the crowd picks up an instant "You Screwed Bret" chant, which Michaels expertly plays off of by saying, "That's right, don't you ever forget it. And Hogan, you're next." Nice.

Hogan gets back on track with his promo by saying that everything Hogan does in this ring is for the fans, and if they want Hogan to kick Michaels ass  at SummerSlam, that's what he'll do. Because Michaels does what he does in the ring for himself, no matter what he says to the contrary. He's a man who once walked out on the WWF because he "lost his smile." But Hogan doesn't care about his smile, he just cares about the smiles on the faces of the Hulkamaniacs. That gets the expected cheap pop, and then Hogan heads for home with the standard "Whatcha Gonna Do" spiel.

Michaels no-sells it, stone-faced. But then Lawler makes himself useful by asking, "Well, Shawn, what ARE you gonna do?" So Michaels steps away from his podium, and heads Hogan's way. But he pauses halfway there. And superkicks Lawler. Probably about 2 hours and 5 minutes late, but thanks for the effort anyway, Shawn. Shawn then turns his attentions to Hogan, and gets about 10 seconds of offense in before Hogan Hulks Up. Big Boot, Michaels gets tossed from the ring and decides discretion is the better part of valor, and decides to leave Hogan to celebrate. For his part, Hogan throws the podiums around and acts like he wants Michaels to come back to the ring to finish things. But Shawn just stands in the aisle and mocks Hogan's poses as the show fades to black.

Great promo work from both guys, I thought, and again, this is the only SummerSlam storyline approximating PPV-Caliber Sizzle. But I thought there were tons more effective ways to play the final 2 minutes. Having Hogan just get the better of Michaels didn't really seem to fit in with the story so far and also strikes me as a missed opportunity. Given how Hogan interrupted the opening segment, how freaking hard would it have been to turn the Excitement Dial up to 11 here, and have Angle show up to lend a grudging hand to Michaels against Hogan. And out could come Eugene for the save. It's a sweet set-up for a big tag match next week, Michaels/Angle vs. Hogan/Eugene (and getting Jericho/Cena into the mix is optional, although I think it'd be a better move than having them do the sure-to-disappoint handicap match). Not only do you have a bona fide main event match as a drawing card, but Hogan/Eugene skits would be fun little throw-away moments, and you can build an entire series of Michaels/Angle vignettes around the fact that they still don't like each other and still want a rubber match but that they can agree to work together if it means dealing with that jerkface Hogan. You do that, and not only does it pay off on the seemingly out-of-context Hogan appearance in the opening segment, but it also gives the show a bigger, more climactic finish. It's a win/win. Which (sing along with The Rick, now) is why WWE didn't do it.

C'est la vie....


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PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28




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