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OO RAW RECAP
Chris F. Masters Earns His Middle Initial 
August 30, 2005

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com

 

Well CRAP!

I've had a few screencaps of the Chris F. Masters/"tOOl box"-sign-in-the-front-row incident from the March 20 edition of Sunday Night Heat saved up. It's just that Chris F. Masters doesn't give a wrestling website any damned reason to make him a Headline Story. So they've sat collecting dust, unable to to shared with the world.
 

And then, it looked like Masters was on the cusp of finally being relegated to the back seat he so richly deserves. Last night was supposed to be the End of the Shitty Full Nelson Challenge. So yesterday's OO? I figured I'd celebrate by using the Masters/"tOOl box" front page graphic.

Looks like I should have saved the 

damned thing for today to accompany to RAW Recap. Because the Shitty Full Nelson Challenge didn't happen. Masters, instead of seeing his boring-ass, channel-flip inducing gimmick get back-burnered, single-handedly won last night's RAW main event. That's right: if you that a RAW ending with "The Theme From Dumb Guy" blaring and Randall Orton preening like the weenis that he is, you hadn't seen NOTHIN' yet. Cuz for as ill-conceived, ham-handed, and confounding as Project Orton might have been a year ago at this time, it's a mere fraction of the level of retardation it's taking to push ahead to stubbornly with Project Masters.

I mean: at least people cared enough to actually boo Orton when he was ostensibly a babyface... they can't muster up the motivation to do ANYthing when Masters is around though. What a singularly nonpelling individual. The proof? Well, it'll come later in the recap, so read on and enjoy.

And before we get started, I'll just say that issues with Masters aside, this was another RAW in the "solid episodic TV" mold. Nothing that blew you away or that you'll really remember a few weeks from now, but with very few exceptions, they served up the fun. I'd rather shows like this be the once or twice a month filler, taking a little rest in between 3 or 4 monthly shows of Big Time Awesomeness. But hell, considering where RAW's been over the last month, I'll take "solid" over "frustratingly bad" any day.

Here's how things went down last night....

Video Package: John Cena, Chris Jericho, and Kurt Angle did stuff last week. FF.

Opening Theme/Pyro/Etc., and we're live in Tampa, FL, home of a certain internationally famous wrestling personality. As far as I know, I don't think he was even in the building last night, though. I'm sure I'd have heard if he was. Oh, and same goes for Hulk Hogan, too... probably too busy parading his daughter around in a skimpy outfit and then threatening anybody who dares to even glance sideways at her. Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, and Coach are here to assure us that it's a Really Big Shoe tonight, which we'll quickly learn for ourselves if we just stay tuned. But now? Let's kick it to the ring....

Carlito's Cabana: Very Special "You Want Razor Ramon Jr.? We'll GIVE You Razor Ramon Jr." Edition

The first words out of Carlito's mouth as he hits the ring to a mixed-but-more-negative-than-positive reaction: "Now that Carlito's good friend Chris Jericho is fired, Carlito's Cabana is the only talk show on RAW. And that? Thas cool." Ladies and gentlemen, you have probably just witnessed a face turn. Not that returning stars aren't always cheered to begin with, but this certain sets up a long-term arc in which Jericho -- upon finally returning -- has a ready-made feud for him. Thas pretty cool, too.

Then Carlito wastes no time bringing out his guest tonight, a legend almost as big as last week when he had Ric Flair on.... Shawn Michaels. Michaels comes out, and kids: the outfit this week goes from "my wife dresses me" pastels to "junior Republican douche" in no time flat. I don't know which is worse. But this week's ensemble of khaki pants and a blue blazer? That's what my entire high school class wore around Washington DC during our Senior Trip when we were mandated to wear jackets while sight seeing by the Administration. Such is life when you attend Catholic School. Anyway, that's what Shawn's outfit tonight reminded me of: an 18-year-old punk trying to dress up nice, but so clearly doing it only because he has to, not because he really knows what looks good. He's just lucky he's Shawn Michaels, otherwise Wardrobe Mockery could be expanded into making fun of his manhood or value as a person. As it has been known to do in other cases here at OO...

Anyway, Carlito opens by saying how much he admires Shawn, for being such a great performer and opening so many doors for OTHER performers such as Carlito (the unspoken, but understood, implication, "thanks for proving that smaller guys with actual talent can still make money in this business, no matter how brain-clouding Vince McMahon's Big Man Fetish is sometimes"). Shawn, of course, can't just take that compliment in stride, and instead does a funny little "Well, I'm not surprised. There is alot about me to admire. So knock yourself out." 

But seriously folks: at that point, Carltio decides to let the other shoe drop, and goes into a thing about how ironic it is that for all the things Shawn Michaels has accomplished, now he's here on Carlito's Cabana with the IC Champ. And just like Carlito once admired Shawn Michaels, now Shawn must be standing there admiring him. Michaels accuses Carlito of letting his ego start to get out of hand at this point, noting, "And these last few weeks, I've just about had my fill of ego. If you know what I mean." This reminds the live fans to chant for their fellow Tampa Citizen, Hulk Hogan. Shawn tries to talk over them, moving onto the next topic, which is, "And really, you're the IC Champ, but when was the last time you even defended that title?". The "Hogan" chant continues, forcing Shawn and Carlito to pause; Shawn then cuts them off at the knees by saying, "Chant all you want, but he ain't coming back till he needs the payday, folks." Zing.

Back to the matter at hand: if Carlito's so admirable, why hasn't he been defending the IC belt? Carlito hems and haws, and finally settles on, "I know, it's because nobody has the cajones to step up and challenge me." He says not even Ric Flair wanted anything to do with him last week. Shawn's not buying it, saying that there's a reason why people aren't talking about Carlito's and his IC Title. And it's because they're talking about the matches Shawn Michaels is having. And even worse: they're still talking about matches Shawn Michaels had 10 years ago. And they're not talking about Carlito because he hasn't even had ONE match like that, one match worth speaking of. Nice; this little riff definitely paddled my canoe (then again, what would you expect, since it's been years since I started professing my own theory that until you have that one breakthrough match -- a true Video Keeper with massive historical and replay value -- you will not be a real superstar in WWE? This is, by the way, the match that John Cena STILL hasn't had yet). And another unspoken implication: Shawn wouldn't bring it up unless he wasn't fixing to GIVE Carlito that first match. Which is just dandy by me.

But Carlito's not much liking the disrespect. Because, you see, he IS still the IC Champ no matter what Shawn says. And there's, oh let's just say, a Pecking Order here in WWE. A LADDER, if you will. Sound familiar? It should, he's throwing Michaels' own lines from last week back in his face. Except this time, it's Carlito who is at the top (and it's Carlito who, despite actually possessing some of WWE's coolest and most voluminous hair unlike certain ass-injecting mongoloids, realizes that crappy lines about Shawn being a bit Thin On Top aren't worth the trouble)... and it's Shawn who's at the bottom. Shawn gestures, in the finest of all manners (Broadly), to indicate that he is truly wounded by the taunt. Except: he's not really. You can tell. Me? I already read into this that Shawn wants to give Carlito that first Really Good Match. Now, can I start reading into it that it'll be a Ladder Match for the IC Title? I think I can... but I'll save my Fantasy Booking about the Return of Razor Ramon, who will first foil Shawn Michaels in a Ladder Match once again and then reveal that early on during the drunken stupor that was his entire adult life (I mean, christ, at one point, he foolishly thought his name was SCOTT HALL and that he was 100% Caucasian, which he so obviously ISN'T) that he had an affair with Mrs. Carlos Colon and HE is Carlito's real father. Cuz I loves me the Retarded Paternity Storylines! Or in this case: I *do* know that I'd at least mark out like a small girl if somebody could figure out the excuse for Razor and Carlito to do dueling apple-spits and toothpick-tosses on a locker room full of obnoxious, uncool losers. 

But I digress. After the Ladder Riff, Shawn seems like he might want to rebuttal, but Carlito has something else in mind: because he has a second guest tonight (in a nice touch, Michaels doesn't even wait for the Anvil to drop: he's actually as smart as us watching at home, so he starts removing the jacket and tie immediately). Which is how Shawn's already got his sleeves rolled up and is ready to go by the time the announcement is made and Chris F. Masters loiters towards the ring doing the OVW Strut (seriously, I've started to notice this, but is this the only thing that OVW imparted on these guys in the "How To Be A Generic Heel" Seminars? They all do the exact same Cocky Strut to the point that it has absolutely no value or impact; also, Rene Dupree is better at it than Masters, who appears to have a rhythm deficiency and TRIES to strut in time with his music, but is never quite on the beat; Masters, he couldn't even cut it in a high school marching band, and that? Thas about as Not Cool as it gets).

Once Masters gets there, he is (mercifully) limited to about one sentence of mumbling. Something about making HBK submit to the Shitty Full Nelson later on tonight. Then Michaels realizes he's surrounded, grabs a mic, looks back and forth from Carlito to Masters once or twice, and then deadpans, "You'd think that after 21 years in this business, I'd learn not to get myself into stuff like this. But here goes...." and he attacks Masters first. Then Carlito. Then Masters. Then Carlito. This works for about 30 seconds, but then the numbers catch up to him. Luckily, just as Carlito and Masters are about to to some real damage, Ric Flair (wronged by Carlito just last week) storms in to make the save. You know Flair's intentions are good, because *he* is wearing Shawn's salmon-colored shirt from last week. Together, Flair and Shawn clean house, and the heels retreat like the good little chickenshits they are. And then, we play Shawn's music, which gives Michaels and Flair all the backbeat THEY need to keep in step, as they do some over-the-top apoplectic strutting of their own. Flair, beware: the last legend whose signature mannerisms Shawn started imitating didn't exactly end up in a good place...

Good opening segment. Carlito held his own, verbally, with Michaels, and Michaels had some strong material, so that's saying something. Also, anything that gives me the impression that the Michaels/Masters thing is just gonna be a little sidebar to Michaels and Carlito having a big match at some point soon? Thas coolest of all.

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Backstage: Masters and Carlito are shouting indignantly in the general direction of RAW General Manager Eric Bischoff. Something about Michaels and Flair being big fat jerks, I gather. Bischoff seems sympathetic to their plight, and has an idea. First, he's postponing the Shitty Full Nelson Challenge against Michaels tonight. This? Doesn't go over well... but instead, he's putting Flair and Michaels into a tag match together. This? Does go over well. Except Hollywood Writer Monkeys insist on trying to wring Shocking Drama out of this thing, and in so doing, only make Carlito seem as dumb as Masters. Because the two fail to arrive at the conclusion every single non-house-plant TV viewer did and start suggesting Flair and Michaels should face some huge, monstrous tag team. Masters acting dumb? No big deal, it's been his shtick to date. But making Carlito look less-than-sharp? Inexcusable. So when Bischoff finally tells us what we all already know -- that it's Michaels/Flair vs. Carlito/Masters -- the duo is then obligated to act displeased with the announcement. Despite the fact that it seemed like EXACTLY the outcome both wanted merely 60 seconds ago at the start of the bitchfest. It's not a big deal, cuz like I said: it's the logical development and that trumps a Lack Of Attention To Detail. But seriously: how hard would it have been to ADD the "attention to detail" on TOP of the Logical Development and Continuity by having this be a less-lazily-conceived skit?

Big Show vs. Two Guys (Handicap Match)

Here's one where the writers don't have to do anything. It's just a tried and true staple of pro wrestling: once every couple weeks, you can throw a giant in there to beat the shit out of little guys, and if the giant is personable enough, it'll just be a really fun little distraction in the middle of an otherwise eventful show. It worked for Andre for years. It can and will work for Show when he's not got anything better cooking.

This was like two weeks ago against the Heartthrobs: light-hearted and entertaining as we watching one 500 lbs. man beat the crap out of two 200 lbs. men, and do it with a smile on his face. Good times, good times. But about two minutes in: the good times end, as the two local jobbers get their shit together for a Single Offensive Move (a hangman over the top rope as Show tried to drag them back in from the apron).

Bzzzt. This only made Big Show angry. So no more smile, and instead, it's to the Impressive Power Display. Included in this minute long beatdown of less-good-humor-and-more-intensity is the very popular Double Suplex. I likes me that spot. It all builds up to a Double Chokeslam, and Show pins both guys at the same time.

Your Winner: Big Show, via pinfall, in about 3-4 minutes. Good? Not really. But fun. And proof that sometimes, you need LESS writing, and more just letting guys who know how to do their jobs in the ring go out there and do them without your failed-sitcom-writer mentality fucking things up. 

After the Match: oh, crap. Here come the Hollywood Writer Monkeys, afterall. In the form of Gene Snitsky, who attacks Big Show. Because it's the feud nobody has been asking for to continue, they will serve up yet another chapter. This week: it looks like you can bank on Show vs. Snitsky on PPV, because Snitsky busted out the Ring Bell, and used it to whack Show not once, but twice. And remember: it only took ONE Ring Bell Shot to incapacitate Ricky Steamboat lo those many years ago, to launch a six month feud, and to provide the basis for WM3's signature match. So two Ring Bell Shots? That's gotta be a recipe for a titanic struggle between Show and Snitsky at Unforgiven. Oy. I mean: it was SOOOOO awesome to watch last week, right? So yeah, let's do it again. Freaking morons. Put me in charge, and Unforgiven is Shawn vs. Carlito in a sweet-ass ladder match and Show picking up where the Hollywood Writer Monkeys left off by finally squashing Masters once and for all. But I'm not in charge, so we'll probably get Michaels vs. Masters (or Michaels vs. Masters vs. Carlito vs. Flair, if we're LUCKY) and Show vs. Snitsky, instead. Thank you, Easter Bunny.

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Live From Talos IV: "If You Can Imagine It, We'll Make It a Reality... Eventually" Theatre

Looks like it's time for some TV-G T&A! Nee haw. First, here are Torrie Wilson and Candice Michelle, making their overly-elaborate, quasi-lesbian, not-even-remotely-wangifying-unless-you-are-12 (or are the Coach and Lawler and merely have to ACT like you're 12) ring entrance. Also: they are decked out in their finest Talos IV garb. 

Torrie: "Blah blah blah."
Boobies McTitsalot: "Screech Screech Screech."

Something about being sorry about last week, and they want to apologize directly to Diva Search Ashley for being such bitches, cuz now she's been initiated and she's officially a RAW Diva, so they can all be buddies. 

So Ashley comes on down to the ring (still to "Be Yourself," and I'm not gonna shut up about what a shitty entrance theme it is -- double shitty since it almost perfectly FAILS to suit Ashley's persona, in addition to just being a lazy and weeniriffic track from an otherwise good band -- until WWE does something about it), and though we've not really identified where she stands in terms of being the sharpest cookie on the Christmas Tree, she ain't totally stupid: she doesn't exactly think she can trust Torrie and Boobies. But she also doesn't just want to get into a whole big thing: she'll just accept the apology, and they'll part ways, and whatever... it's over between them.

But NOOOO, cuz Torrie and Candice are so totally being sincere here... in fact, they wanted to make it up to Ashley. They know Ashley's so intent on being a [begin bitchy tone of voice]wrestler[/bitchy], so they figured they'd get her a match for tonight. Ashley, trying mightily to come off as one of the brighter tools in the jar, says, "Alright guys, I get it: so which one of you do I have to face? Or wait, do I have to face both of you? Let's just do this thing...." But no silly, Torrie and Boobies don't wrestle. They just want to teach Ashley a lesson about knowing her role. Which, as they put it, is "looking pretty and shutting up." Which would probably be a lot less ironic if Boobies would take her own advice and not speak a word. Also: it appears as though this whole thing is being scripted so that Us Internet Jackoffs will suddenly hate Boobies and Torrie for endorsing the Useless Diva Principle, and thus trick us into adopting Ashley as our new favorite. What they fail to realize? We were already leaning strongly that way.... they didn't have to put words into Boobies' mouth for us to get it. The only real question is: will this work on WWE's loyal fanbase of adolescent hornballs who are getting mixed messages from Coach and Lawler about who to cheer for here? Idiots: get it together, present a cogent product. It's not that hard.

Anyway, Torrie and Candice don't wrestle. They stand around and look pretty, and do nothing else. They said so themselves. But they have somebody who DOES wrestle: Victoria. Victoria's also got a similar-style silvery outfit, so obviously, we have a new Diva Faction? I dunno, but it seems like one of those little minor details that WWE remembers to address while they aren't remembering to write quality TV or respect their talents' opinions or foster anything resembling high morale, so I'd guess these three are gonna remain in cahoots for a while. JR barely has time to act indignant over how Ashley's still only in training and now she's being fed to a vicious former Women's Champion before we get a ref in the ring for....

Diva Search Ashley vs. Victoria

Ashley lets herself get distracted by Torrie and Candice as the match starts, and she shoves them out of the ring before taking the fight to Victoria. But the "taking the fight to Victoria" part? Didn't work out so well. Within 10 seconds, Ashley had nearly popped out of her lacy pink brassiere (not very punk of you, Ashley), and was getting her ass kicked by Victoria. The monkeys in the truck proceeded to screen the rest of the match with shots exclusive from behind Ashley, after the precariousness of her top became an issue. Which would have gotten really distracting, except that this was Squash City, baby. Victoria hit the Widow's Peak, and this one was over before it started. JR: "They say you can't win 'em all till you win your first one. Well, folks, Ashley's lost her first match, but I know she'll be back for more."

Your Winner: Victoria, via pinfall, in about 30 seconds flat. You know what's funny: this is EXACTLY the storyline they should have done with Spaz this past winter and spring when they tried to make her into a Real Wrestler. Go back and check the archives, I only talked about it for about 3 months straight; and now, my vision is finally becoming a reality. I don't know whether to once again lament that past asshattedness and how it sacrificed Molly Holly for the sake of a storyline that had NO CHANCE of working to begin with, or to compliment the monkeys for learning their lesson after a mere 3-month crash course at the Feet of the Rick and how it looks like they're going to do a more realistic job of building Ashley up, making her a likeable and believable babyface along the way. I guess maybe I just need to finally let my Molly thing go, eh? So I'll tend towards the latter, and dub this an Effective Segment. Although the best thing about it was still me busting out a Talos IV reference for the recap. Seriously, what percentage of you even have a fricking clue? Have I finally bested Dennis Miller in the quest for Ultimate Esoteric Pointlessness?

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Vignette: Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch are coming to WWE, and they got just one thing on their minds... the World Tag Team Titles. Cade is playing the straight-laced, glossed up Texas Cowboy to perfection, and again, I'm wondering where the sudden charisma came from, cuz he's nailing it with a Total Bullshitter's Smile and everything. Also dead-on is Murdoch, who interrupts to note that somebody's gonna be feeling his size 12 right up their big fat.... "Whoa, whoa, whoa, settle down there, Trevor," says Lance as Trevor flies off into a fit of rage for a moment. "And folks: this is him having a GOOD day." Trevor returns to the bar and downs a shot of whiskey as Lance surveys his partner's mood in bemusement, and then asks us all, "Know what I mean?". Hey, neato: maybe the popular comparison is Cade to Barry Windham, but here he gives a little shout out to Windham's one-time WWF Replacement, Danny Spivey, whose "Waylon Mercy" character is one of the most underrated of all times. Between the nuanced "Know what I mean?" and the fact that it just feels damned nice to have WWE introduce an eyesore of a man who makes me feel like a dead-sexy pretty boy (in Murdoch), I shall OOfficially give Cade and Murdoch an early Stamp of Approval.

Backstage: somebody's playing an acoustic guitar. Somebody else is emoting some high and whiny lyrics. We pan out to discover.... it's Alter Bridge (a/k/a The Band Smart Enough to Ditch Scott Stapp, but Not Smart Enough To Stop Sucking Once He Was Gone And They Started A New Band), totally RAWKING OUT with Edge. Wussies; forming a circle for an acoustic jam session is only done to impress girls. Or are filthy, sacless hippies. I see no girls here, so... well, enough mockery of a band I've heard maybe a half-dozen songs by. But I will also note that if Trevor Murdoch makes me feel pretty, Alter Bridge makes me feel like a Very Talented Guitar Player Who At Least Knows How To Keep His Instrument In Tune. Thankfully, Todd Grisham is here to interrupt and get me back on track. Edge is displeased at the interruption; I guess he was enjoying his gay little Drum Circle. After a requisite 30 seconds of Edge trying desperately to make Alter Bridge's resume ("great rock band called Alter Bridge, they have a killer album out, they did my theme song, blah blah blah") sound like normal, organic conversation (instead of like the requisite payback for the band deigning to appear onscreen), he finally got to business. Talking about his match tonight with Matt Hardy. I think you can pretty well flowchart this one for yourself at home: Matt Hardy may say he will not die, but that's only because Edge let him keep one tiny breath in his lungs, and tonight, Edge will snuff that out. Pretty expected/obvious stuff, but delivered with excellent intensity by Edge. Todd has another question: where's Lita? Lita, Edge says, is off on a mission... but never you worry, she'll be back at his side by bell time. And she'll be right there to watch as Edge ends Matt Hardy's wrestling career and sends him back to whining on his website and working indie shows nobody's heard of. He even manages to work a Foley-esque mention of ending it all "right here in Tampa," which only amplifies a growing problem: that Hardy's not exactly coming off as a strong babyface. Edge going for cheap pops is either a momentary lapse of reason, or a super-duper-mega Dick Move by Edgeward.

Elsewhere Backstage: Did somebody say Lita was on a Secret Mission. Not so secret, apparently, since Cameras Are Standing By as she approaches Matt Hardy in a hallway. [Insert Generic Rick Rant About Changing Points Of View And "Camera Logic" And How I Wish They Could Pick One Approach To The Issue And Stick With It For Longer Than 30 Seconds At A Time Here.] At first, Lita seems demurely flirtatious. Or at least, she doesn't come right at Matt with how he's a loser and she hates him; instead, she kind of approaches slowly and makes googly eyes for a second. But does so in a non-slutty hooded sweatshirt. See: flirtatious, but demure. I spoke accurately. But even if Edge is covertly stealing Matt's pops, Lita wastes little time trying her damnedest to Play The Heel here. After about 15 seconds of tension, she opens her mouth, and is Pure Bitch. And the Sluttiness? Oh, it's back with a vengeance, baby. First, Lita makes sure we all know that she and Edge had just gotten done with a session of How Sweaty Monkey Sex; this, apparently, is a tried and true pre-match ritual. Then, she removes the sweatshirt to taunt Matt with the bOObs that he shall never play with again. For purposes of this exhibition, Lita thoughtfully chose another top from the "Double Sided Sticky Tape" Collection. No doubt because the first one she wore a few times reviewed so well. When Matt wouldn't respond to her taunting or her cleavage, she called him "pathetic," and said that she knows Edge will take care of him tonight. Then, as a tag, it was an exchange only a Hollywood Writer Monkey Could Create. Lita, "You can go to hell." Matt, after a very bad-actory-esque Attempted Dramatic Pause, "Oh, I'm going to hell. But I'm taking Edge with me." Then he storms off. Now, see, if it's me, and I want to relieve the Awful Taste in the Mouth left by the writers' ham-handery? Matt can still deliver that last line in seriousness. But then, he should have shifted his attention towards ogling Lita's tits, and in a more light-hearted, conversational tone said, "And I'm betting I'll see you there, too. [pause] You slut." And then he can smirk and leave, while Lita has to endure having just been zingered.

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At Ringside: some Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Because when some rock band nobody cares about making a cameo just isn't enough star power, you can always count on the Bucs to bring the sizzle! Or not...

Backstage: Shawn Michaels is geared up and ready for a rasslin' match, it looks like... but then in storms some WWE Officials who say Shawn has to come quickly, something has happened. Michaels sprints out into a hallway, and quickly comes across Ric Flair slumped in a corner, badly bloodied. Bloodied enough that this puts tonight's tag match main event in doubt, it looks like. Carlito and/or Masters? Could it be that obvious? Or is there something else going on here? We'll have to table that speculation till later, cuz now it's time for....

Edge vs. Matt Hardy (Street Fight)

Immediately, Edge seems like the early favorite to win. He has brought his Street Fighting Jeans, instead of the Women's Jeans he wore the last time he had a Street Fight on RAW. Carpe Denim, Edge, Carpe Denim: we've learned that *is*, afterall, the secret to winning Street Fights. Sadly, Edge accessorized his Street Fighting Jeans by selecting a boot that had a nice heel to it. Edge is also accessorizing with Lita's boobs (followed almost-immediately thereafter by the rest of Lita), which ain't too hateful. But again hurting Edge' case: up in the Luxury Box is Alter Bridge, who make it clear that they just LOVE Edge's doucherock entrance theme.

Matt Hardy, for his part, stuck with his usual wrestling wardrobe. In this case: Bedazzlered Camo Pants. I'd say Edge's girly boots MIGHT make him vulnerable here, but on the "Match Outcomes Determined By Wardrobe" Continuum, Hardy doesn't exactly score well, tonight.

Edge and Hardy waste little time trading fashion tips, and commence to the brawling. This should have looked very familiar to anyone who saw SummerSlam. Not even punchy-kicky. More like just punchy-punchy. They do go out into the crowd for a bit, which was a change of pace. Then as they headed back to the ring, Matt finally took control with the first big move of the match, hitting a double sledge off the ringside barricade.

Then it was time to ramp up the violence, as Hardy went under the ring for some plunder. First, Edge was introduced to a trashcan lid. And then: Hardy got a huge pop when he pulled out a ladder. Well alright, alright, alright: I keep on getting older, but Edge and Hardy having ladder-based matches stays the same! Let's party like it's WM17! Unfortunately, that'll have to wait... because before Matt can get the ladder into the ring, Edge baseball slides into it, taking Matt down, too. Edge ain't exactly fresh as a daisy at this point, either, so let's break for some...

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Back, and not only has Matt regained control of the match, he apparently did it by doing some Cool Shit during the commercials. Jerk. Wait till we're watching to do that: let the live crowd eat chinlocks! Luckily, a quick Cliff's Notes video package gets us the highlights (which were Edge whiffing on a ladder spot to allow Matt to regain control, and then Matt hitting a superplex). In the live action, Matt's returned to a more basic approach: pounding the crap out of Edge with fists. And the occasional trashcan lid, if one is handy.

And then finally, the ladder comes into play again, and it's exactly the good stuff I was hoping for once they get rolling. In the sign of a good spotfest brawl, this rapidly left the realm of being easily-recapped. To do so would just take too much time and verbiage to do do justice. So just know: the ladder was used, and used well. Then Matt brought in a steel chair, and used that to good effect, too. It was mostly Hardy on offense for this segment. Which only finally changed once Edge somehow got his hands on a kendo stick, and whapped Matt in the face with it.

Remember that poor delicate head of Matt's? The one that caused him to be Referee Decisioned at SummerSlam, and then pinned by Rob Conway? Well, it now becomes the focal point of the match, because even though Matt was going for pinfalls, Edge never goes for a SINGLE ONE. He wants another Knock Out. I guess. I don't know, it didn't make any fricking sense, really, but the match they were having was too good and too action-packed for me to let it bother me that much.

Edge does plenty of cool Ladder Stuff on his own, too, now that he's finally gotten control. Matt got a brief rally after barely avoiding a One Man Con-chair-to attempt by Edge, but that was snuffed out the first time Hardy went head-first into the ladder. Lotta trashcan lid for Matt, too. And they REALLY played up the "ref might have to stop this one, too," card, as Edge kept meandering away from Hardy everytime he knocked him down, instead of just going for a cover. Like I said: it doesn't make a lick of sense, but I guess as a way to give Matt the cheap chance to keep on getting back up and telling the ref he wants more, it was effective in its way, too. Because again: it takes a singular dickweed like me to even notices these things on first pass, and even if I noticed it, it didn't really get too far under my skin, since they were bringing the gOOdness otherwise.

When it became apparent that Matt Hardy would not be Ref Decisioned, Edge decided to take the match outside. He tried to do that "ring steps stomp" thing from last week, but it kinda whiffed (to the point where the announcers even said Matt didn't take the full blow). Edge was intent on using the steps SOMEhow, though, so he pulled off the top set, and was gonna DDT Matt on the bottom set. But Matt reversed that: Edge ate the DDT, instead. You'd think that'd pretty much be the end, right? Nope, because while Matt was trying to follow up (he'd gotten himself a steel chair), Lita struck from behind, hitting Matt with the Returning Money In The Bank Briefcase (which had gone missing lately). More a distraction than a painful blow, the shot caused Matt to start stalking Lita. But Lita in that top? She's not taking any bumps and risking a booby flop on national TV; there's not double-sided tape anywhere in the world that could be trusted in that case. So, gentleman that he is, Edge rode to Lita's rescue before Matt could lay a hand on her. Edge took Matt down from behind, and the match returned to the ring.

At this point, we clearly had entered End Game. Every spot ended with BOTH guys being down, frequently getting double counted. More ladder stuff here, too. Back and forth, and then the match spills BACK outside as we get back to punchy-punchy... why? Because the two have decided it's time to head up to the stage for the very end of End Game. They tease one big spot off to Stage Left. Then Lita shows up, and they tease her taking a big bump up there (hey, let her: she magically recovered from that Tombstone pretty quickly, didn't she? Oops, I'm probably not supposed to be bringing up that little continuity nightmare, am I?). But Edge again stops that from happening, and it's over to Stage Right....

There, Matt tries to back drop Edge off the stage. Then Edge tries to spear Matt off. Then Matt tries to punch Edge off. Then Edge ducks and tries punching Matt off his own self. But then: Matt grabs Edge across the neck and shoulders and pretty much Rock Bottoms Edge off the stage and into "Some Electrical Equipment" (read: Not Electrical Equipment, but some really cheesy pyro and a massive oversell by the announcers will try to convince you otherwise). As both men fly into the stuff (Edge on Bottom, so logically taking the worse of it), some sparks fly, and the referee starts freaking out. He wants to see if they are OK, but first, he wants them to "turn the power off." Pussy. I guess finally, somebody decided that the Special Effects Budget didn't have enough in it to build some fake equipment where you could actually see lights or something to tell if it was on or off, so at a random point, the ref and medics just hopped on into the mess of cabling and started tending to Matt and Edge. We get some replays while this is going on, and it becomes clear that this is the end of the match; in the battle between women's boots and bedazzlered camo pants, apparently no decision can be rendered.

Your Winner: Nobody, it's a no decision after at least 15 minutes or so of action. I'll be honest: the ending was only nominally less satisfying than SummerSlam's lame-ass finish... moreso for the cheesy fake electrical crap than for the non-decision itself. I got no problem doing a big spot and having it take both men out (having Matt hit the big move underscores his "If I'm going to hell, I'm taking Edge with me" act); I just got a problem with doing it in a way that looks kinda bogus and staged, instead of in a convincing fashion. But up till then? Pretty outstanding. It was nice to see these two getting back to having the kind of match we know they can have. My easy call for Match of the Night, actually, and unless SD! pulls something unexpected out, it'll be right there for Match of the Week, too. Good stuff.

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No Content Segment: I'm not making this up. This entire segment was replays of the Electrical Equipment Spot, and then footage of Edge and Hardy being tended to by medics. My two natures are at war here: is this bad because of how cheesy the electrical crap came off? Or good because it advances the idea of Matt being willing to do anything to take Edge out? I'll compromise and just say if they'd cut the fakiness and over-sell of the electrical equipment gimmick and done a more convincingly destructive final spot (it doesn't have to be more dangerous, mind you, just less staged-looking), then doing an overly-long segment of nothing but rehashing everything and looking at guys on stretchers would have seemed more compelling. As it was, I actually FF'ed about half of this long-ass segment. I thought I'd eventually get to something else, some other backstage bit... but nope, it kept on going and going until we just finally hit some...

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John Cena Should Heed the Advice of Boobies McTitsalot and Keep His Damned Yapper Shut

The Doctor of Wiggernomics is here, and before he even says word one, the very slight undercurrent of boos is there. Cena wastes no time insuring that it will only get louder, as he goes into a very needy "Me so happy to be here in Tampa, me so fired up, me so REAL, please cheer me" riff. And then follows it up by doing a quick "good news/bad news." On Cena's "bad news" side of things is mentioning how he go beat up by Kurt Angle (and doing it in a very annoying way so that I can't tell if they are booing Angle, or booing Cena's telling of the story). But Cena says the good news is he just saved a ton of money on his car insurance. This is met with half-laughs and half-grumbles. Because the REAL Bad News is that 15 months ago called, Homey, and it wants its not-even-funny-back-when-it-was-fresh pop culture reference back.

But seriously, folks: the real good news is that regardless of what Kurt did, Cena still sent Chris Jericho packing last week, so: The Champ Is Still Here! His catchphrase, it seemed to me, was met with at least one-third boos. Then again, my Boo Meter is known for miscalibration sometimes, and I've not had a chance to double check those figures. Also of note: I noticed this last week, but didn't mention it (cuz I wanted more empirical evidence before I turned it into Yet Another Running Joke At Cena's Expense). Then a READER actually mailed me with the same observation, saying he was suprirsed I wasn't right on top of it. I'd worry about being That Predictable, but it was only one of you, so.... it's with great annoyance that I report that in the on-going Mixed Reaction To Cena Study, his cheers are all high-pitched and girly, while his boos are quite manly. Listen to it, you'll instantly here the difference. The lesson we learn here: John Cena has credibility with chicks of all ages, and possibly with pre-pubescent boys. And that is all. Which is not how you make a wrestling superstar.

After proclaiming his here-ness, Cena then decides he'd like company. Because Homey The Clown gets ever-so-lonely, I guess. He doesn't want to wait for Unforgiven, he figures he'd just like to take care of Kurt Angle right now. So he's calling Angle out.

Cue up Angle's music, and let's see if Kurt can get this thing turned back around. Cuz sure, they'll chant "You Suck" at him to his theme, but after that? The lovable lug is sometimes just too good to boo.

But Kurt's up to the challenge, cracking only one joke ("You're calling ME out? I must have killed more of your braincells last week than I thought.") before going into Intense Asshole Mode. First, Kurt runs down all his accomplishments: Olympic Gold Medal (with the broken freaking neck), induction into the US Wrestling Hall of Fame, former WWE Champion, beat Shawn Michaels at WM21 via tap out, and so on. And then, the last time Angle was in the ring with Cena? Well, Angle thinks maybe we should just look at the footage. Sadly, it's the same recap stuff I FF'ed in the opening video package, which strikes me as a tad bit superfluous. I mean, WWE, you want to think you're Hollywood? That you're making "movies"? Well, then actually go check a few movies out, and you'll rapidly find that unless you're crafting something as superbly clever as "The Usual Suspects," then you don't need constant flashbacks to bludgeon us over the head with stuff we already saw. And you're not making "The Usual Suspects." Most weeks, you're lucky to be making "Deuce Bigalow 2." And good as he is, Kurt Angle is not Keyser Soze, and nothing he said or did last week was so subtle and ingenious that we need to relive past scenes and quotes to fully grasp his genius before moving on with the story. He beat Cena's ass. We get it. Now lets keep the show rolling.

At some point shortly thereafter, Cena tries to interrupt, but Kurt does him a favor by telling him "Shut up." Because Cena opening his mouth was only getting Cena booed. But Kurt opening HIS mouth has got the fans right back where they need to be: thinking Cena might be the more-alright of these two guys, considering how big a jerk Angle's being. Angle continues with more of the same intense, focused, too-bloody-minded-to-be-likeable material, talking about how he's on a bit of a roll lately, if Cena hasn't noticed. And he's hungrier to be WWE Champion than he's ever been. And plus: he just plain doesn't care what he has to do to win it. Which is complicated by the fact that he doesn't much like John Cena (sadly, Kurt ends his rant by again shoe-horning in mention of how Cena is a "no good street thug," when for the BILLIONTH TIME, that rings ludicrously hollow as an attempt to give credibility to Cena's caricature, and NOBODY should be using that as a label for the guy).

So let's see if Kurt did his job, cuz now Cena is obligated to open his mouth. And at first: he fakes being intimidated, like he realizes he *is* in over his head. But then, just as he seems like he's on the cusp of just handing over his title to Kurt to avoid the ass-whupping, Cena suddenly goes from morose to chipper as he says, "Wow, I really can't believe I got in this far over my head, but.... [dramatic pause to allow every non-retarded viewer to know what was coming next] I'M STILL CALLING YER ASS OUT~!" Wow, feel the continued mixed reaction. It only gets funnier when, in a show of Fired Uppedness, Cena removes his shirt; the "fire" gets boos from the dudes, the shirtlessness gets squeals from the girls. And again: a wrestling company is never going to succeed with a top babyface who's demographical appeal is like that.

Angle talks big as he starts storming to the ring. No squeals for him as he removes that sexy gold medal and sheds his microphone. But trying to make sure he's the biggest jackass out there right now, as soon as he gets to the ring, he makes it clear that he was just joking. Cena can wait till Unforgiven. But Cena? You know him, you despise him, and it's because at the drop of a hat, he can go into illogical, petulant "Me Wanty" Mode. And tonight, Cena Wanty Kurt Angle.

Cena's play: to get back on the mic again. Christ, it doesn't take a rocket scientist, and yet he keeps on going back to his own personal kryptonite... Cena, "Oh, I got it Kurt. Last week, you proved that you like to hit guys from behind." Said in a suggestive voice that the crowd slowly begins to pick up on. So, Cena decides, he knows how to lure Kurt to the ring. He turns his back, then sticks his ass out and shakes it a bit. Oy. And if you thought the squeal-to-boo ratio was noticeable before... well, let's just say that I guess Cena's lucky that guys who are comfortable enough in their own sexuality to act openly gay in public appeal to (dumb) girls.

But Angle can't pass up a chance to throttle Cena for the offer of Manhole Lovin'... because, we recall, Kurt likes girls. Provided, of course, that they are married to one of his co-workers. So for casting aspersions, Cena gets clubbed in the back of the head, and then taken down for an ankle lock. After a brief struggle, Cena manages to kick Angle off. Funny: in that exchange, Cena lasted longer in the anklelock than Matt Striker and Eugene combined, and yet, he suffered no ill effects as he popped up to his feet. Which was enough to send Kurt scurrying away, content to settle for his 15 seconds of kicking Cena's ass.

I don't know what to say, folks: Kurt was so good that he seemed able to take the crowd and forcefully turn them against himself, despite the fact that a goodly number of them seemed intent on turning against Cena.  What did the incredibly wise Rick Scaia say in a column just yesterday? Oh yeah, it was: "[to avoid Cena getting booed] maybe the creative team will finally fricking DO SOMETHING about it to fix their presentation of Cena. The alternative, of course, is that they don't, but Kurt just decides, 'Screw this, I'm awesome. So awesome I can figure out a way to STILL get these people to boo me.' And then somehow pulls it off." Kurt Angle? Up to that challenge, and kudos to him. Meantime, everytime Cena opened his mouth to fire off some salvo that I have to assume was mandated by a team of writer monkeys, he shot himself in the foot, and got booed for it. The lesson: for this feud to work the way WWE wants it to, Cena needs to be mute. Sadly: this pretty much goes counter to the gimmick of being the Wrestling Rapper, so I don't expect it to happen. Which will only make Kurt's work that much harder in coming weeks.

[ads; I think it was this break -- or maybe the one before -- where Spike snuck in their first TNA commercial... let's just say that it's the right spot to start pimping the show, but this is NOT the slick, interest-inducing sort of ad I'd have hoped for. Don West blustering empty pleasantries about action over rapid fire clips of spots too choppy to really be impactful is not the recipe for success, here.]

At Ringside: some boxer named "Winky" who I guess can call himself "Winky" and still be taken seriously, since he knocked Felix Trinidad's ass out at some point without me knowing about it. And the star power? Oh my gawd, it's just off the charts tonight, isn't it? Seriously, at this point, Jeb Tennyson Lund SHOULD have been sitting at ringside getting boozed up on WWE's dime. More people in the viewing audience would know who he is than knew "Winky."

Rosey vs. The Lovely Miss Tomko

I know Tomko's no longer the loyal valet for Christian (the video clip package of him DOMINATING Heat-caliber competition proves he's his own man, dammit), but he's still using Christian's old recycled entrance music, so until I can think of something better to call him, I'm using this as justification for him being Christian's Bitch (even if remotely) to this day.

And if Tomko's so great in Heat Caliber Matches, he should be right at home here. Christ, booking a pissbreak during a show that has 30 minutes worth of commercials? At least it was the only one all night, tonight, which is an improvement. It was a commentary pissbreak, too, as Coach tried to workin some Hurricane Related Shtick. Which, mind you, was NOT OFFENSIVE; but it was unfunny. Why do I dread that by mentioning this, I have accidentally brought this issue to the attention of Self-Righteous Douches everywhere, who will bring it to the attention of SpikeTV, who will now have no choice but to torpedo Shane Helms' career? "After the tragic events in New Orleans on Monday, how could WWE so brazenly and callously feature a character named The Hurricane on their broadcast that very same night?" I can hear them crying. Dillholes. And I say that due respect and concern for anyone who was actually affected by a real Hurricane. But Shane Helms is not a real hurricane. Anymore than Muhammad Hassan was a terrorist. Zing.

And I try to create extremely clever over-riding theses relating to the now-months-old Hassan debate why? Because it's more interesting than this match was. Seriously. Punch, kick, punch, kick, then all of a sudden Rosey went to the top rope and tried to hit a cross body block. But instead, Tomko got a boot up, and Rosey flew right into it. Tomko went to follow up, but the ref was there before him and declared that Rosey had been knocked out cold. The hell?

Your Winner: Tyson Tomko, via "knock out," in about one minute. And before you idiots embarrass yourself by asking: no, if Lillian Garcia had already been tried to make the announcement "And your winner via knockout," then this was NOT real.

After the Match: Hurricane came in to check on his buddy, and Tomko decided to boot him in the head, too. I officially don't get it. For one, you wait till AFTER the most logical storyline for supplying Tomko with a push is gone (i.e. the Hired Goon Breaking Off From His Master storyline), and now I'm supposed to by this crap-ass "knock-out" shtick out of nowhere? Remember, they tried this with Batista at one point. It didn't work for him. I even had to retire my attempting-to-be-clever "K.O.-thsline" nickname for his move, simply because it no longer applies. It won't work for Tomko, either. Also: having Tomko single-handedly beat both tag champs sends a REAL smart message, doesn't it? I don't know why they're bothering with pushing Tomko this way, but if they are, why not just send Big Show's jobbers out there again? Do like Duane Gill and Barry Hardy back in the day, and put 'em under masks as the Dreaded Executioners, and have THEM job to Tomko. It makes even LESS sense to have Tomko pull this off single-handedly when there was a brief commentary riff during his ring entrance about how Tomko was considering this an audition for Rene Dupree's "casting call" to find a new tag team partner. Huh? Now Tomko doesn't NEED a partner, so what the hell? I can think of guys I'd push ahead of Tomko, but if Tomko it must be, I can also think of zillions of better ways to accomplish it. 

Visit With Our Commentators: we check in with JR, King, and Coach, and they have some more Video Package Crappiness for us. But in this case, replaying a ton of Carlito's Cabana and the backstage Flair stuff has a purpose.... because it's been confirmed from the GM's office that Flair is at the hospital, and Shawn Michaels will be competing against Carlito and Masters all by himself, in a handicap match. And it's next.

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Shawn Michaels vs. Carlito Cool and Chris F. Masters (Handicap Match, At Least To Start)

Early on, SOMEbody must have been paying attention to detail, because King paused to explain that this is different from Big Show's handicap match, as the rules for this one will only allow ONE member of the team in the ring at a time, so Carlito and Masters must work as a tag team. Aha, I think we would have caught on, but thanks for trying to help out, King. JR then chimes in that it's also different in that Shawn Michaels doesn't outweigh and outmatch both his opponents combined and that this handicap match is mighty unfair.

First several minutes of the match were Shawn and Carlito going through the standard back-and-forthy chain-wrestling that tends to signify the opening stages of a longer bout. With about 25 minutes to go in the telecast as they started this one up, I'd say that makes perfect sense. And they go through those motions quite well, with a slight modification: everything Carlito did, he did it with the intent of trying to nudge Michaels towards the Enemy Corner, where he and Masters could get a double team and turn the tide of the match. It didn't matter if Carlito was working a hammerlock, or if he himself was in a side headlock, he kept trying to get Shawn into the Wrong Part Of Town.

It didn't work. Carlito grew increasingly frustrated, and that actually opened the door for Michaels to hit a few bigger moves (and to lay in with some Chops to remind us of his Scheduled Tag Partner)... and it also meant that Carlito had finally had enough, and would let Masters give it a whirl. Thanks a lot, Carlito...  almost immediately, Lawler begins once again babbling about his raging manrection for Chris Masters, with Coach again seconding everything. And this week, god bless JR, he had some half-muttered aside comment once they got done; something about how he didn't know which one was Sigfried and which one was Roy, but he's sure glad to have 'em on board. Hee.

And luckily, Masters was really only in very briefly. To serve one single, specific purpose. You see, he may be relatively unskilled, and not quite personable, but he, you know, goes to the gym, and works out, and stuff. So he's, like, all big and strong. So, without taxing his thrilling moveset too much, he's quickly able to use a Greco-Roman Shove Shawn to trap Shawn in the Enemy Corner. Then, he and Carlito do about as much illegal double-teaming as they can get away with (I think there are about 3 rapid tags, with them taking advantage of the 5 count) to take an ill-gotten advantage over the Heartbreak Kid. I know it had to have been an odd number of tags with the illegal double teaming, because when it was all finally sorted out, Carlito was once again the legal man in the ring against Shawn. For sayeth the Lord: blessed is he who carries his team, for he shall inherit the feud with HBK instead of his stiff of a partner.

Carlito's just bringing basic brawling at this point, still trying to soften Shawn up for bigger stuff. In an hilarious (to me) moment, Carlito's in one corner doing his thing, but Masters enigmatically raises his boot and puts it on the turnbuckle, as if he's expecting to be part of some more double teaming here. Ten seconds later, he puts it down. Then thirty seconds later, Carlito and Shawn have gone through whatever they intended to do, and NOW it's time for the double team in the corner. So Master's frantically re-raises his boot, and Shawn eats it. Quick tag into Masters so that the announcers can marvel at how SMOOTHLY he and Carlito are working as a unit (despite the comical gaffe we just saw in which Masters was on a completely different page from Carlito in the "story of the match").

Masters' elapsed ring time this time? Probably about 20 seconds. Then Carlito's back in to do the work. This time, it's a bit more involved, as Shawn is actually in trouble after some slams and whatnot. This continues for a few minutes, and then: Carlito goes for the sleeperhold. That's not gonna work, is it? Nope... Shawn, veteran of the sport that he is, takes that as an engraved invitation to start a Babyface Comeback. He starts by back-suplexing his way out of the sleeper. Then Carlito tries to regain control, but off an Irish Whip, Michaels finds a swinging neckbreaker. There's more high-energy stuff here, but none of it from Michaels' REAL Comeback Collection, which doesn't bode well for THIS comeback sticking. But in this case, it doesn't have to stick for long. Because after Michaels clotheslines Carlito out of the ring, he skins the cat, then backdrops Masters out of the ring when Masters finally decides himself useful after lounging on the apron (and even managing to blow a spot while doing THAT) for 95% of the match. Which means both heels are down and Michaels is looking strong. A perfect opening for our final....

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We return to find Shawn trapped in the middle of a Heel Double Team, but with no explanation given as to how we got there. That's because immediately Shawn manages to fight out of the double team. And maybe I'm just looking for things to rip on, now, but I'd SWEAR there was a spot in here where Shawn was going back and forth, punching Masters first, then Carlito, then lather, rinse, repeat. And Carlito wound back falling backwards into the ropes, so Shawn gave him a Flair Chop, which got a massive "Whooo" out of the fired up crowd. That time, when he turned back to Masters, instead of punching him, he shoved him backwards; if my on-the-fly Wrestling Psychology is right, I think Shawn wanted Masters to stick in the ropes so Shawn could do some back-and-forth CHOPPING as a counterpoint to the punching he'd just done. But Masters, intellectual colossus that he is, took Shawn's little backwards shove, and decided to sell it by sailing over the top rope at Warp 7. Shawn even did a little double-take at that point (or did I imagine that?), and just went back to chop the shit out of Carlito for a while, instead.

Carlito turned it around for a quit bit of back-and-forth punches, and when he thought he had the edge, he whipped Shawn into the ropes. But Shawn came back with the Flying Burrito (Jim Ross' call: "Michaels with that Flying Burrito... I mean, Flying Forearm." Careful JR; either you just got done with an afternoon of watching Bobby-Heenan-Commentated Chico Santana Tapes, or your OO is showing)... then the nip up. Then the Macho Man Elbow. Wow, it sure seems like Michaels is on a role here, considering it's 1-on-2! Except: oh yeah, this whole time, Chris F. Masters is nowhere to be seen, because he's still selling the effects of Michaels' Gentle Backwards Nudge Of Doom that mysteriously resulted in his over-the-top-rope ejection. This only enhances my certainty that the dude's head just isn't in it, and he screwed up in that earlier spot.

Usually the burrito/elbow combo means one thing; it means that same thing tonight. Shawn starts tuning up the band. And NOW Masters has finally regained some semblance of consciousness, because at the last instant, he drags himself up from the floor on that side of the ring, grabs Shawn's ankle, and yanks Michaels out of the ring. Then he delivers a clothesline, and Shawn sells it like he's dead. Did I pick the wrong recap to talk about retiring the concept of the "KO-thesline"? Nah, it's just what Michaels does: trying his damnedest to make even the most pedestrian move seem devastating. Cuz really, it wasn't even particularly well-applied.

Thus, Michaels is back (for the third time) to being a Babyface In Peril. And he still has no tag partner to bail him out. Despite having just been on the brink of defeat, Carlito STILL doesn't tag out at this point, earning my gratitude and respect. Instead, he sucks it up, goes and fetches Michaels from ringside, and lets Masters go back to the ring apron, where he can do the least damage. Carlito continues the assault, too, and in a nice touch, any time he went for a cover, he REALLY went for the cover. He kept on hooking BOTH legs, getting as much leverage as he could, stuff like that. Call them "High Gravity" Covers, if you happen to like the sound of me stealing from Brewmaster Vocabulary. I just liked that Carlito seemed intensely focused on winning, and thus, rendered his frustration when Michaels kept on kicking out all the more reasonable.

Eventually, I guess Carlito's frustration became debilitating, because it resulted in a lapse of judgment: he tagged Masters in. And this time, Masters was in to stay. In this case, at least he had some simple instructions to follow. He had clearly been told "work the lower back," so that's what he did. But his exciting offense consisted of Forearm Blows and Devastating Armpit Drops. I guess when you're all big and musclely, just like Vince likes 'em, you can do opening-minute-throwaway-moves as Climactic Closing Minute Assaults? No sale, CFM.

This all builds up to perhaps the shittiest rest hold of all times. It is ostensible a back-breaker variant, with Shawn laid across Masters' knee. Except that: Shawn is clearly bracing all his weight on his own feet, and doing most of the work in terms of trying maintain the position, which is remarkably like he's in a reclining chair, all while Masters is little more than a prop. For reasons that are at least two-fold, I shall dub this move the La-Z Boy. Because I fear we'll be seeing it again. Adding to the head-shaking comedy of it all: the crowd, which had been SORT OF into the match (granted, they never really got too fired up, cuz I think they were just waiting for the Other Shoe to drop in terms of somebody coming out to be Shawn's partner, but they were at least attentive to what was going on in the ring), is now almost dead silent. I am not joking when I say that Carlito, by merely standing on the ring apron and being himself, got a "You suck" chant started at HIM, while Masters in the ring was getting nothing.

Michaels finally had about enough of that happy crappy, so he started the Convulsions of Imminent Firing Up. The crowd took that as a sign to quit watching Carlito and pay attention to the match again. An "HBK" chant actually started. Michaels punches his way out of the La-Z Boy, but is still in trouble. You see: Chris F. Masters is behind him, stalking him, signaling that the Shitty Full Nelson is coming just as soon as Michaels gets to his feet. The reaction to Masters signaling for his finisher? Pretty much more dead silence. Luckily, when he moves to cinch it in, Michaels manages to worm his way into a big ol' DDT. Both guys are down, and a 10 count is being applied when...

IT'S RIC FLAIR TO THE RESCUE! He's bloodied and bandaged and still wearing that damned pink shirt, but he's here to do his part! He gets up on the apron, extends his hand, and Shawn is able to get over to make the hot tag. Flair's in, and introduces Masters to a few chops across his ample manbosom. Carlito tries to come in: he gets more of the same. Turning back to Masters, Flair manages to hit a chop block. He sets up for the Figure Four, but Carlito's still lurking around: he sneaks up behind Flair and uppercuts him in the nuts. Ouch. Michaels, however, has finally recovered enough to take umbrage at this, and tosses Carlito out of the ring, and then follows up with a plancha out to the floor. Michaels appears to be getting to his feet, when the camera cuts back to the ring.

And in the ring? Masters is getting back to his feet, while Flair is curled up in a ball, suffering the most unspeakable of pains. Masters, stalks Flair, and immediately cinches in the Shitty Full Nelson. Again, to a response that could be labeled "Not Very Much of One." Flair fights it, and the crowd (like me) has a notion: it's now been about 30-40 seconds since Michaels hit that plancha, so where the hell is he? They chant "HBK" briefly, but then I guess they noticed something that we at home couldn't see, and gave up on that. Still: they had the right idea... there is no plausible explanation for Michaels not having made the save by this point, already. But instead, Flair lingers in the full nelson for another 15-20 seconds or so, before the ref decides he's got to call for the bell. Flair: down. Michaels: mysteriously absent. Carlito: he was on the receiving end of whatever was enough to explain Michaels' absence, so you better believe you don't see hide nor hair of him. It's all Chris F. Masters as we play his music and get a good look at him as he celebrates his victory to end the show.

Your Winner: Chris F. Masters and Carlito Cool, via submission, in about 20-22 minutes. But really, Carlito did all the work, and then had nothing to do with the finish... Masters is your winner, and is the story here. And boo on that. Because I hope you didn't even have to be paying close attention to see that he contributed next to nothing to the match, yet got all the spoils. WWE didn't start doing that for Batista until he stopped sucking and could remember basic things like which arm he was supposed to be working on. And yet: gift-wrapped for Masters. Also a huge complaint: the finish. There HAD to have been a better way to handle that. Either that, or a cue was missed, and Masters wasn't supposed to take a full minute after Michaels hit the plancha to finish Flair off with the full nelson. Because that REALLY made Michaels look bad, and stretched the bounds of my patience. Isn't Pat Patteron retired down there in Florida somewhere? They should have called in the Finish Doctor to punch that one up and make it smoother. Because frankly, if there's one person on the planet who would really enjoy checking out Chris Masters' work, it's Pat Patterson. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Hell, you know what? You don't even need Pat. *I* can do it. It would have been as simple as having Michaels hit the plancha, and then instead of the full nelson, Masters can just come up behind the already-wounded Flair, roll him up, use a handful of trousers for extra-prickishness, and score a pinfall win that way. Michaels would NEVER have had time to get back in the ring for something that quick. And as an added bonus: it's a much more compellingly cheap and chickenshit way for Masters to get the win. There was no reason to bust out the Shitty Full Nelson on Flair (who had already been bloodied backstage and sac-punched by Carlito); it's already a shitty finishing hold, and now, it's a shitty finishing hold that STILL took 30 seconds to beat a 55-year-old man who'd already had the crap kicked out of him. Nobody gains anything! My way is better! Nee haw!

But seriously: this was a decent match. Not nearly as good as Edge/Hardy, but imminently watchable. Until the end, Masters wasn't ever in the match long enough to really screw things up, and I'll try not to let the finish cloud my judgment of the 20-plus minutes that preceded it. If there was anything from the main portion of the match that causes it to lose points, it would just be the flatness of it. Cuz like I said, I think people were not exactly impressed with Chris Masters and Carlito Cool as main eventers, so they were anticipating the excitement coming from some surprise tag partner for Michaels. Instead: no real huge surprise, and Carlito held up his end of the bargain whenever he was in the ring with Michaels. Hats off to the construction of the match, too, which featured THREE distinct Babyface Comebacks (all of them believable and all of them getting the crowd going), and which also kept Masters' participation limited. If I could have suggested a way to improve it past "decent," I might actually say you could have shaved about 5-6 minutes off, and tightened it up a bit. Put the comebacks and crowd-pleasing spots closer together, and don't give me enough time (sitting at home) to register how bored fans seem to be with the action.  Then again, "decent" is the perfectly fitting way to cap off this week's show. A match that had its moments but is ultimately scraping by at just above average? A microcosm for this whole episode.

E-MAIL RICK
BROWSE THE RAW RECAP ARCHIVES


  
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