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OO RAW RECAP
The Chicken and the Egg 
September 13, 2005

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com

 

Does the Unforgiven PPV look like it's going to suck because the last pre-PPV edition of RAW was boring? Or was the last pre-PPV edition of RAW boring because the Unforgiven PPV looks like it's gonna suck?
 
Truly, these are the questions the should pre-occupy the greatest philosophers and scholars of the day. Or, barring their involvement, I guess I can stick my Big Brain on it.

My idea: given the card they have to build to on Sunday, I don't think last night's RAW could have been much better. I mean, short of completely shaking things up and sending storylines

careening into all new directions and altering the PPV card. Which isn't a realistic expectation.

So with Unforgiven looking like largely a SD!-caliber event (with two matches that should be pretty decent, and then a bunch of other stuff that should range between tolerable and forgettable), I blame the card conceived of weeks ago for last night's bland RAW. This RAW had a job to do. It wasn't a pretty job. But it had to be done. RAW could have been really exciting and good by ignoring established Unforgiven storythreads (in fact, the night's best segment included exactly this, as a returning superstar came out of nowhere to spice things up).... but by sticking to the job at hand, we got a show a lot like last week's: most flaccid, with one or two memorable moments/performers. All they really did was flip-flop Chris Masters and Kurt Angle's positions on the card... this week, Angle's beatdown on Cena went on in the main event (instead of mid-show) and Masters' beatdown on Michaels shifted to mid-show (from the main event).

That's a step in the right direction, I guess. But it doesn't solve the fundamental problems. Nor does it solve an Additional Problem, which is that this week's "highlights" were almost exactly the same identical segments as last week. So even if they worked last week, their impact was guaranteed to be less THIS week.

But enough of the Theory Behind RAW's Underwhelmingness, and my attempt to solve my own little version of "Chicken or the Egg?". Let me just take you by the hand and lead you through the two hours. You decide for yourself....

Opening Theme/Pyro/Etc., and we are live in Little Rock, Arkansas, for the final stretch run towards Unforgiven. What are we in for tonight? Good? Bad? Ugly? Well, only time will tell... but if you want to believe Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, and Jonathan Coachman, you'd probably be suspecting really good at this point. Then again, those guys may not be impartial. And you can't possibly be that stupid, can you? But there's not a whole lot of time to waste here at the top, because we're kicking it right down to the ring...

Big Show vs. Edge

Strange pairing for a throw-away RAW match, don't you think... except, well, Edge IS kinda hanging out with Snitsky, which... but ah well, that's just me and the Big Brain already thinking about 5 steps ahead. I can only assume a few of you were on the same page with me, though...

First minute or so of the match is Edge completely failing to get a single shot in on Show, who overpowers him at every turn. Edge finally counters that by weaseling outside the ring, and then hitting Show with a hangman on his way back in. Edge gets a few licks in after that, but when he makes the mistake of trying to hit a Tornado DDT on Show, Show just shoves him to the mat, hard, and takes command. In fact, Show is signaling for a choke slam... and then: Anvils Attack!

Or at least: Snitsky did. Show fends him off at first, but he finally falls prey to the 2-on-1. Ref calls for the bell.

Your Winner: Big Show, via Disqualification, in about 2 minutes flat. Nothing to this one; it was so short and pointless that I am incapable of coming up with adequately-nondesciptive adjectives to do it justice. However, it did serve its purpose as a plot device for what happen....

After The Match: Matt Hardy came to Big Show's aid, and helped run Edge, Snitsky, and Lita out of the ring. But before the heels could even start heading up the entrance aisle, GM Eric Bischoff appeared at the top of the aisle and insisted that "This Match Must Continue." Except as a tag match. Everybody else who arrived at this conclusion five minutes previous, give yourself 10 "I Want To Be Like Rick" Points. The only thing that DID suprise me here? That we don't cut to ads... for once, when a General Manager says "right now," he actually means RIGHT NOW, and not after a break. So let's not tarry, it's time for....

Big Show/Matt Hardy vs. Edge/Snitsky

Edge and Snitsky are pouting outside the ring as Bischoff makes the announcement, so Show and Hardy jump-start things by going after them. Four way brawling for about a minute, and the crowd's into it. Show and Snitsky finally find their ways to their respective corners, leaving Edge and Matt to carry the load for a few minutes.

And for those few minutes? It's 95% Matt; I think Edge got a few reversals or something, but it really was all Hardy, including a near fall or two. Odd that for as "real" as they've tried to make this, this week, Hardy is not even REMOTELY selling the ring bell shots from Snitsky, and they really don't play up the "in no condition to compete" angle at all. I know I'm not a big fan of the "shootiness" this story has presented at times, but a little continuity wouldn't have hurt.

Matt has finally had himself enough of Edge, I guess, cuz he decides to tag in his partner about 4 minutes in. Show is in just long enough to do the "SHHHHHH!" Chops, which is always a crowd pleaser. Or at least, a Rick Pleaser. Then Matt's back in, and dominates Edge some more with the punchy-kicky. And especially the kicky, because Matt manages to get Edge laid out across a turnbuckle (belly-down), and starts getting a running start and punting him in the mid-section. Edge TEASES like this might send him off the ropes and down to the floor, but it seems Matt just doesn't have quite enough power. But maybe..... yeah, what about the 7-foot, 500-pound guy that's your partner? Show tags in, actually does a little version of the "three steps back, two to the side" thing that placekickers do, gets a running start, and kicks Edge in the stomach. The kick is up, and Big Show signals that it is good. Hee. I'm sure Edge, who tumbled hard to the floor, would dispute the "goodness" of it, but it also got a big pop, and it's as good a time as any to finally break for....

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Back, and Edge has magically regained control of the match over Matt. [A replay indicates this was due to some illegal doubleteaming that resulted in Matt's heavily taped left arm becoming a target for the heels.] And once back and in our Generic Heel Beatdown portion of the match, things have slowed down enough to allow the announcers to do the first of 2 or 3 Annoying Vince McMahon Mission Statements for the night. Remember "Halftime Heat" back about 6 years ago, when Vince called a Mankind/Rock "Empty Arena Match" all by himself, and spent the 15 minutes mostly ignoring the action in favor of telling everybody that "this isn't wrestling, this is sports entertainment; it's action, excitement, drama, romance, mystery, and comedy all rolled into one, and only the WWF can deliver that package"? Well, I guess some combination of the jump back to USA and the SpikeTV debut of TNA has Vince decided it's time to once again go on the offensive and COMPLETELY FUCKING MISS THE POINT OF HOW TO BRAND HIMSELF. 
 
Tangent continues, since I'm suddenly getting more annoyed by this than I was last night: For one, if your answer to TNA delivering a Match of the Year Candidate on PPV and wanting to bring that to free TV is "We're not wrestling, we're every other genre of shitty TV rolled into one," then you could not possibly shoot yourself any more directly in the foot. In fact, if WWE's official decision to "counter" TNA is to do LESS wrestling and more Hollywood Horseshit, that's about the ONLY way they could end up with TNA creeping up in the ratings by actually alienating some more of the core group of fans WWE has whittled its audience down to with its asshattery. The proper play, and the one that would KEEP TNA as the borderline-relevant pretender that 90% of wrestling fans consider it to be, would be to tell people "Hey, we can do the wrestling thing, too, but then we have so much more." And secondly, if you're so confident that you have so much more (a debatable thesis, given the current creative direction of the product), you shouldn't have to tell us. You SHOW US. Sorry, but that's long been one of my pet peeves... don't make your announcers go on a stilted 90 second diatribe in the middle of the match to try to convince us you're the Bee's Knees, Vince; put your energy into actually BEING the Bee's Knees, and trust me, we'll come around. Comprende, amigo? Tangent ends now, but you can imagine it being reprised a few times later in the recap during slow moments of matches, because Vince started talking in the headsets again, causing JR, King, and Coach to go off on their own Mission Statement Tangents. But for me: once is enough to get my fricking point across.

Back to the match, where Edge is continuing to work on Matt's arm and shoulder. Snitsky gets in on the act, and the pair make a few rapid tags to illustrate the concept of "OMG TEAMWORK~!"... so, what? Is there some Quality Time with Lita's feet on the line here in this match? Or am I a dick for even bringing up that ultratarded previous Motivational Tactic used on Snitsky by Edge? Matt's poor arm has been stressed to nearly the breaking point when he's finally able to counter a shoulder-breaker attempt by Snitsky into an inverted DDT. Both men need tags, but only Snitksy is able to make it to his corner in time; Hardy's just a few inches short, so Edge dashes over and drops Show off the apron with a forearm shiver.

But Show no-likey the cheap shot. After Edge went back to focusing on the legal man (Matt), Show stormed into the ring to unleash his wrath on Edge. And at this point, the ref apparent surrendered any chance, in perpetuity, that he'd ever be asked to be a spokesman for Cialis... because he was as impotent as a Nevada State Boxing Commissioner for the final few minutes of the match. In addition, he MIGHT have cemented his shot at being the spokesperson for the new 250mg tablet form of Dumb.

Legal man Edge goes brawling outside with Illegal Man, Big Show. Inside the ring, Legal Man Matt Hardy starts going to work on Illegal Man Snitsky. The ref is too preoccupied with acting like the Hardy/Snitsky action is legal to notice that Edge wallops Big Show with the Money In The Bank Briefcase outside the ring. Which is how Big Show is written out (also: maybe this sets up Show vs. Edge in a post-Unforgiven feud that might get Show back to the top-of-the-card status he should be enjoying?). In the ring, Matt is dominating Snitsky, and seems poised to win when Lita distracts him. So Matt drags Lita into the ring, where he's about to do something naughty to her.... which is when BAM, Edge strikes with a Spear out of nowhere. The ref sudden remembers that, yes, Edge IS the legal man. And so is Matt. And so he makes his count.

Your Winners: Edge and Snitsky, via pinfall, in about 10-12 minutes. Nice hot opening segment, I thought, with Hardy getting his licks in and Show being used as his Exclamation Point for a few nice spots. Then it settled into being very formulaic, and with an ending that I'm thinking could easily have been tightened up a bit with a little more thought/effort. This is like three or four weeks in a row where I've noticed finishes that just seemed really lazy (in theory) or badly-executed (in practice)... I hadn't really noticed it before (at least, not in consecutive weeks like this), but now I'm really starting to wonder who is the "Finish Doctor" backstage lately... 

After the Match: Edge continued pounding on Hardy, as both Show and Snitsky remained invisible. Finally, when Edge was sure Matt had been softened up enough, he handed him to Lita... who hit the Twist of Fate on Matt. Bitch. Cue up even more of the Righteous Indignation from JR, who notes that Lita threw away 6 years of relationship with Matt to be with Edge, so hasn't she done enough to the poor guy already? Umm, I suppose I'm only being difficult if I happen to chime in, "Ummmm, Kane?"... yeah, I probably am.

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What An Odd Place For An Interview...

It's not "Backstage:", although it certainly could have been handled that way. And it's not a full-fledged in-ring segment that would justify one of my cute Bold Headers Incorporating The Word "Theatre." Instead, Todd Grisham is just standing at the top of the entrance aisle, ready to conduct an interview.... hmmm, you know, this might not be a bad idea. Get rid of those often-tepid backstage pre-tapes, and return to the old "Superstars" tactic of having Mean Gene conduct interviews on a little platform near the entrance aisle. Except in this case: it's Todd Grisham. I mean, don't get rid of ALL backstage interviews, but the ones that are just standing in front of a RAW Logo? Those should go... chasing guys down in a parking lot after a match, or visits to the GM's Office can stay, but if you actually have Scheduled Interview Time with Todd Grisham, I say: let's keep on doing them in front of the live crowd. 
 
As a bonus: this weeds out shitty promo guys, who'll either have to sink or swim in front of the audience, instead of getting multiple takes to do a pre-tape. Because when you're in the big leagues, it's no time to still be learning the basics. And unlike a certain unnamed large-breasted mic stand, I think Todd can also be trusted with a live mic in front of a crowd to get to the pertinent points. 

In this case, Grisham first introduces his guest.... Shawn Michaels.

And then gets to the point. Last week, Shawn fell short in the Full Nelson Challenge (complete with utterly unnecessary video footage, since Todd just told us what happened). But this Sunday, he gets another shot at Masters. So what's Shawn got to say about that? Well, first, regarding last week, Shawn runs down a laundry list of things that were maybe working against him last week; with a straight face, he talks about Chris F. Masters' physical stature, and then with a bit more sarcasm, he talks about actually being dumb enough to sit down in a chair and let Masters put the hold on him. "Why'd I do that?" Shawn asks, rhetorically.

The answer, of course, is because he's the Heartbreak Kid, the Showstopper, etc., etc., etc., and that's just what he does. Shawn says he was willing to give Master the "opportunity" to step in the ring with him at Unforgiven, to prove what he's really all about (OMG~! more perfectly-executed subtle shootiness by HBK!), and that would have been fine. But last week, Masters took things too far by busting Michaels open with a chairshot. Big mistake, because Shawn's the master of taking things one step too far, and Master will find that out in just six days when he comes up short against the Heartbreak Kid.

And before Unforgiven, Michaels says that Masters better not look past his opponent tonight... a certain 16-time World Champion, who just decided to make his way out to the Interview Region: Ric Flair. A lot of Mutual Admirational "Whooo'ing" by Michaels and Flair, and then Flair says a few quick words about Masters being all big and strong, but he won't know how to hang with the Dirtiest Player in the Game. And then after Master, Flair will go to Unforgiven to become the InterContinental Champion by beating Carlito Cool. Whoo. Michaels, trying to bring it all back full circle, also hypes his PPV match with Masters one more time, promising that CFM will eat the Sweet Chin Music. Play Shawn's music, and watch those two magnificent fairies prance around like epilepsy patients doing some new-fangled twist on a conga line! High-fricking-larious, actually.

A fair-to-middlin' bit of promo work (Shawn's subtle shootiness really is the highlight), but that's more because of the weakness of Masters and the fact Michaels has so little to work without than his own force of personality. Putting Michaels out in front of the live audience and bringing Flair in for the punchline, however, was an inspired bit of presentation, which ended up making for a significantly better than "middlin'" segment once you added up all the intangibles. A fun bit of fluff.

Video Package: John Cena, Kurt Angle, and Tyson Tomko had a few run-ins last week. I don't recap recaps.

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Shelton Benjamin vs. Chavo "Kerwin White" Guerrero

Again this week, Jim Ross mercifully calls Chavo "Chavo" the whole time, while the other twits try to sell him as "Kerwin." And this week's award for Extremely Annoying Incongruity goes to Jonathan Coachman blatantly praising and endorsing Chavo's Caucasian Make-Over. A black guy praising the racist... just when you thought Coach couldn't possibly contradict himself any more dramatically, he ups his game.

Before the match, Chavo hangs his Country Club Douchebag Sweater Vest on a hanger in one corner, and stashes a golf club in another. After a bit of back-and-forthy to start, Chavo gains control, and is looking to keep it, so he goes to the hanger... but he does it right in front of ref, who puts a stop to that. So while the ref (trying to top his opening match predecessor in the Dumb Department) goes to re-hang Chavo's Douchebag Sweater Vest in the corner, Chavo has about 30 seconds to take off his Douchebag Golf Shirt (a lovely shade of lilac, it was), and choke Shelton with it. Because we all know that NOTHING restricts your windpipe like a nice stretchy cotton-poly blend. While the referee is off hanging a sweater back up. Oy.

Finally the ref gets his head out of his ass, and turns back to the match, forcing Chavo to adopt more standard heel beatdown tactics. But that doesn't last long... Shelton begins his comeback with a Samoan Drop, and then continues with all manner of fisticuffsmanship and clotheslines. He hits his fancy backbreaker thingie. Chavo tries to rally (with a neckbreaker), but as soon as he tries to follow up on that, Shelton nails him with a chinbreaker. Christ, that's a lot of "breakers," in there.

Chavo eventually takes a bump to the outside. Shelton chases. But once both men get back in the ring, Chavo has grabbed his golf club. And bends it over Shelton's back right in front of the ref. You know, that's a BIT more devastating than the golf shirt choke-out, I guess, but I don't even play golf and I've still hit enough balls to know that you don't exactly have to be Hercules to bend the shaft of a club. Shelton, of course, still sells it like he's just had his spine broken in half, while Coach (proving that he might be a country club douchebag in his own right) actually knows which club Chavo had selected and laments the yardage that Chavo will not be able to shoot at his early tee-time tomorrow. 

Your Winner: Shelton Benjamin, via DQ, in about 3-4 minutes. I said WWE had found the only way to render a Shelton/Chavo match unentertaining, and I was proven right here. I honestly suspect that "Kerwin" will be dead before WM22... I just hope that when WWE kills him off, they do it the right way, and bring in Chavo Classic for the storyline in which Chavo has some sense beaten into him. Instead of just having the character fade away for ever. This thing is so dumb that it needs to be publicly killed off. Like Doink the Clown.

Pre-Taped Promo: It's Kurt Angle and a camera. Because Kurt's got something to say. Staring right into the camera, Kurt reiterates his basic thesis from last week: that Cena's a phony, and Kurt is "Real." He's the best professional wrestler alive, and the most vicious son of a bitch in WWE. Angle says that Cena may be WWE champion, but he's also got a music career and movie aspirations... Angle wonders if Cena really knows what he's putting on the line on Sunday. Because it's not just the WWE Title. It's all his hopes and dreams in those other endeavors, too. Because Kurt isn't just capable of ending Cena's title reign... he's capable of ending his career. ALL his careers. Angle's punchline: "Think of all the things I can take away from you Cena. Think... and then fear it." Do. Not. Mess. With. Kurt. Angle. Another awesome promo from Kurt... but one that doesn't necessarily make him a heel in my book. But I'm difficult like that.

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What a Sight for Sore Eyes Theatre

Victoria, Torrie Wilson, and Candace Michelle come on out to the ring. And for the life of me, I'm trying to understand what the dynamic is here. Because Victoria should pretty much be the "leader" of the faction, for reasons that I had by christ better not have to explain to you. But then they come out to Torrie's music/entrance. But then, once they get to the ring (and Victoria minds her own business while Torrie and Candace do their comically unsexy bit of trying-too-hard as they get into the ring), it's Boobies McTitsalot who gets to speak. C'mon, just let Victoria take over, since everybody knows she's the only useful one of the three, and let Torrie and Boobies be the side show...

Anything to prevent Boobies from handling a live mic ever again. Because as she started speaking, my ears heard "Screech screech screech," but my closed captioning assured me it was something more along the lines of "Hey, I bet Diva Search Ashley is even dumber than we are, so I'm going to invite her out here to get her ass whupped again, and she'll fall for it." 

So sure enough, out comes Ashley, who might not be the world's most sparkling conversationalist after last week's display... but who knows that silence beats the hell out of offending both the eardrums and the intelligence of your listeners. But in this case, Ashley's actually got something to say. Because you see, she's not stupid, she knows what's waiting for her in the ring. But guess what? She's still coming down there. [pop] It's just that she won't be coming alone. [big pop] Because she has a very special surprise. [huge pop]

Trish Stratus.  NEEE HAW! It's about freaking time.

Not even Jerry Lawler's asinine commentary (for some reason he was spending this whole segment talking about Bod Brand Bodyspray for Fruitcakes, despite the fact that it has been scientifically proven that dudes who wear bodyspray are doorknobs and the chicks who will find scented doorknobs attractive aren't worth attracting in the first place; and plus, Trish Stratus is the Paid Product Endorser for TAG Brand Bodyspray -- hey, I'm quite sure she just did it for the easy money -- which is in direct competition with Bod for Metrosexual Doorknob Market Share, which makes Lawler's riffing not only extraordinarily toolish but also rude to our Returning Women's Champion) will bring me down!

Trish comes out to a huge pop, holds her title up to remind us that now women's wrestling is once again about to become a Going Concern on RAW, pauses briefly to make eye contact with Ashley, and then the two sprint to the ring to whip some narrow ass.

Ashley goes after Boobies, and tackles her out of the ring, leaving Trish to deal with both Victoria and Torrie. Which goes alright for a bit, but then Torrie stomps Trish from behind while Trish was pummeling Victoria. A quick bit of double teaming, and it looks like Trish is in trouble... except when Victoria comes running at Trish, intending to hit a clothesline, Trish busts out The Matrix... Victoria whiffs on Trish, but takes out Torrie, instead. [burns] Excellent. [/burns] I may not have missed the deep-rooted physical pain that can be triggered by the Trish Sympathy Gene, but I have missed some of Trish's old babyface riffs. Like that one.

Throw in a I Refuse To Call It A "Chick Kick" Kick on Victoria, and give Ashley another free shot on Boobies, and that'll just about do it for the heel divas. Trish and Ashley celebrate, and it probably says something none-too-flattering about The Rick, but when Trish gave Ashley a casual and companionable little swat on the fanny as part of the festivities, it did about a thousand times more to stir my Inner Hornball than Torrie and Boobie's overly-elaborate ring entrance. What's wrong with me?

I liked this segment. You are not obligated to agree with me. For my reasons and criteria here may not be yours. But c'mon: it *is* good that Trish is back, no matter what your opinion on women's wrestling. And this was also too short and too taut to really offend. I think it should probably have gone over alright with everybody; just maybe not quite as well as it did with me. And anybody know who "JV" is?

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Ric Flair vs. Chris F. Masters

To start: old school psychology, baby. But if Chris F. Masters can screw up standing on the apron during a tag match, I bet he can find a way to mess this up, too. And sho 'nuff: he seems unsure how to respond to/play along with some of Flair's early match Psyche Out Tactics. So he just stands there dumbly, and lets Flair just do whatever he wants to taunt him. You know, maybe I'm just reading too much into this, but if guys like Flair and Michaels are saying/doing these little things to undermine/expose Masters short-comings (either selfishly, or just to motivate him to get his head in the game), then put me down in favor of the ploy.

Pyschology, Step Two, was Flair allowing Masters to start doing Big Musclehead Moves, like shoulder tackles. These? Not even Masters can screw up. So after getting out-powered for a minute or so, Flair entered Step Three, which was the out-chain-wrestling Masters, backing him into corners for big Chops, and then breaking to mock Masters' silly poses. Whoo!

But that's about enough of the Psychology. So at about the 3 minute mark, it's to the action. Masters, predictably, takes control with some body slams and whatnot. The story is that Flair's back is taking a beating. Oh, shit: do I sense the return of the most devastating hold in professional wrestling history, The La-Z Boy? Nope. At least, not yet. Masters is content to stick to slams and even (OMG MOVESET~!) a vertical suplex as one point. He signals (vaguely) for the full nelson, and just like most of the rest of his offense, gets no response from the crowd. The fans seem into the match insofar as Flair's involved, but not so much for anything Masters is doing. Why must WWE insist on ignoring this evidence, and ignoring the fact that, for the second time in two years, I was right about their silly little summertime Pet Project, and right about it MONTHS before they'll do anything to fix it?

At the first signaling of the full nelson, Flair ducks outside, and uses that to jumpstart a comeback (predicated on a lot of eyepokes and chops). But Flair tanks his first comeback by foolishly thinking he could hit a move off the top rope. Dum-dum. Masters slams him down (again on the back), and continues a very basic, very uncompelling assault. Again, we get to a point where Chris F. Masters is thinking full nelson, and this time, he gets it partially locked in, but Flair makes it to the ropes. CFM gives him the break, but then clotheslines Flair out over the top. He follows Flair out, and delivers a slam or a backdrop or something, and Flair again lands on his poor back, and is writing in agony. Masters ducks back into the ring, and we pause for....

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Back and.... christ, Master's isn't working the La-Z Boy, but he is working the Bearhug. Throw an Abominable Stretch into your repertoire, Juice Boy, and you'll have perfected the Holy Trinity of Boring. Flair escapes the bearhug once, but gets backdropped for his trouble, and Masters goes back to the bearhug. Flair escapes again (this time by biting), but Masters just slams him, and reapplies the bearhug. "Ugh" rhymes with bearhug, and pretty well sums up my feelings at this point. The third bearhug is a very special Extended Director's Cut, as they do the whole "Flair might be passing out, so let's check the arm three times" thing. In so far as there is any crowd left paying attention, they do start responding again a bit here.

Sure enough, after a total elapsed time of 4 minutes of Valuable Television Time wasted on a fricking bearhug, Flair finds his inner reserves of strength and punches his way out... and this time, he's going to stay out, because he manages to follow up soon there after with some drop kicks to CFM's knee, and maybe even a chop block or two.

You might think this is all prelude to the Figure Four Leglock, and you'd be right... after about a minute straight of working the leg, Flair gets it cinched in. And about 10 seconds after that, Carlito Cool hits the ring and whacks Flair in the skull with the IC Title belt. And that's the end of the match.

Your Winner: Ric Flair, via DQ, in about 15 minutes. On the upside: this is probably about as good a Chris F. Masters match as you'll ever see, fairly competently worked and with an actual psychological focus. On the downside: this is probably about as good a Chris F. Masters match as you'll ever see, still boring as hell and a few notches short of getting labeled "average."

After the Match: Shawn Michaels hits the ring to make the save. He manages to take out Carlito with a superkick, but falls right into the waiting clutches of Chris F. Masters. So Masters locks in the full nelson. And keeps it on for like 2 minutes. So now, it's not just sucking (like it has all along), but it's sucking for 10 times longer than it used to. No wonder whatever heat Masters had built up was fully dissipated and had given way to silence about halfway through the hold. Masters finally releases it, and stands over Michaels carcass and poses. And again, they seem to stick with it for an extra-long amount of time, which only underscores the lack of response he's getting. I swear: cut about a third off the match (I vote for the bearhugs o' doom) and about two thirds off the post-match crap, and you could have brought this in as a relatively tight single segment. Instead of as two segments that limped to an anti-climax after over-staying its welcome. Just a thought... then again, one segment of Chris F. Masters would be an improvement. But ZERO would be the ideal situation... and for whatever reason, WWE doesn't seem to see it my way.

SmackDown! Rebound: I still don't recap recaps. 

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Tajiri and Eugene vs. Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch

Really? Tajiri and Eugene? You know, I think I might have endorsed this team in a few columns. Months ago. When you still had the chance to use William Regal as the storyline device that made it click. Instead, now? It's just random and retarded. Is it that hard to do at least a week or two of SOMEthing to establish the reason for the team? Or have I missed something on Heat? [I don't think I have, actually...]

Murdoch stars with Tajiri, and handles him for a minute. As soon as Tajiri makes a comeback, Murdoch pitches one of his fits, and Cade tags in so as to placate the ugly bastard and let him cool down. At the same time, Eugene tags in, and takes control with some Old Tymey Antics, which works for a bit... but then when he gets too carried away impersonating the Junkyard Dog, Murdoch is able to strike from behind to give his team the advantage.

Eugene is your standard Face In Peril for a few minutes. This segment has no real physical focus on a single body part or anything, but instead is a showcase for Cade and Murdoch to display their teamwork (getting double team moves in, keeping the ref distracted while the other guy does evil things, etc.). They, admitted, do this well, but I still stand by my notion that these two would be better served with promo time or backstage skits to get over; they got their big win last week, now it's time to keep ladling on the personalities. Cuz this match? As well-executed as it was, is still just adhering to a formula, and Cade and Murdoch aren't over enough yet to make that formula exciting to fans (nor does the Random Tandem of Eugene and Tajiri really do much to inspire them on the babyface side).

Finally Eugene hits a Stone Cold Stunner out of nowhere on Murdoch; both men need tags, and this time, both men get them. Tajiri's a house afire against Cade. Then things break into a bit of four-way brawling... and continuing the trend of Referee Incompetence, the ref decides to focus all his attention just on Tajiri, getting Tajiri back to the corner, while ignoring Cade and Murdoch's antics just 18 inches off to his right. Whatever. So while the ref is distracted, it's a double-team on Tajiri. Powerbomb from Murdoch, and then the Macho Man Elbow from Cade. Cade makes the cover for the three-count.

Your Winners: Cade and Murdoch, via pinfall, in about 5-6 minutes. An effective execution of Tag Team Formula, like I said. But you need more than that; I think Cade and Murdoch have good things in store for them, but only if they amp up the personality side of things, which I think will come more in promos and stuff (and which also will necessarily have to come from Murdoch, as Cade's whole shtick should be flashing that total BS'ers Smile and acting like he wants to keep Murdoch's temper under control, when in fact, he likes taking advantage of Trevor's fits to help them win matches). Decent, but I don't think it accomplishes anything in terms of moving Cade/Murdoch up the ladder at all in the eyes of average fans. So bleh. You knows how I don't like sacrificing Tajiri even if it accomplishes something; here, he was sacrificed and NOTHING was accomplished.

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What an Odd Place for an Interview... Take 2

No Todd Grisham this time, but Edge and Lita hit the top of the entrance aisle to interview themselves. Again: if this was a one week fluke for some production-related reason, I hope they decide to continue it. And if this is a purposeful thing, I'm a big fan. More stuff in front of the live fans; less stuff pre-packaged. That's a good start on "unHollywood-izing" things, if you ask me.

The riff here? Matt Hardy won't die, Matt Hardy won't let the Man keep him down... well good for Matt Hardy. Because tonight, a WOMAN kept him down. "What a cruel... Twist of Fate," intones Lita. ZING~! Then she hands it over to Edge who ponders, "Matt Hardy may not die, but what kind of life does he have left?"... Edge rattles off all the things Matt's lost -- like his woman, numerous wrestling matches, including to Edge -- and says that no matter what Matt might think, this story doesn't end with him riding off into the sunset. It ends with him in a bloody heap in the middle of a steel cage at Unforgiven. More excellent intensity and promo work from Edge here. To put the capper on it, Edge and Lita start making eyes, and then start making out. They keep it significantly less ricockolous than some previous Porno Make-Outs, but that's because Edge has one final knife to twist in Matt's gut: while he's half-making-out with Lita, he's also half giving this hilarious Evil Smirk to the camera. Now THAT, my friends, is top shelf prickishness.

PPV Hype: Well, it looks like they've mysterious added Trish/Ashley vs. Victoria/Torrie to the line-up. And why was there not a skit or something backstage to set that up? Same with the Cade/Murdoch vs. Hurricane/Rosey tag title match... you're letting Chris Masters waste our time with bearhugs, but you can't come up with little 90 second throw-away bits backstage to bolster characters, give a little more context to PPV matches, and MAYBE lure a few more people into buying what is sure as hell looking like a sub-par line-up at Unforgiven? This really hasn't been a strong pre-PPV show, and it's just as much in the execution on this night as it is because the PPV it's building to is also not strong....

Backstage: John Cena walks into Eric Bischoff's office. Bischoff is expecting a confrontation, but instead, Cena goes off on a really long ramble about how this is all just too much for him. The title matches, the handicap matches, everything. He wants out, so he's gonna hand the WWE Title over to Bischoff and try to start fresh. And I don't know what element of this shite to pity more: the writers for thinking anybody would buy this patter, or the writers for writing Eric Bischoff as so stupid that he DID buy it. Because sure enough, even though Cena's supposedly heartfelt mea culpa is met with the Dead Silence Of "Just Hit the Punchline Already," Bischoff falls for it. And as soon as he does, Cena mocks him for being ig'nant, dawg. And just like that, a whole week of Cena seeming tolerable because he hadn't spoken a word? Down the tubes. He throws a bunch of really cartoony wiggerspeak at Bischoff about how he's so tough and he'll never back down. Well bra-fucking-vo, Homey the Clown, you're exactly the same as pretty much every other babyface champion in history. But you're still not Steve Austin. On his way out.... oh sweet merciful christ... on his way out, Cena actually resurrects that obnoxious sound. "Ah-haaaaaaah" (except really high pitched) might be how you could spell it, but in reality, it is the Mating Call of the Speckle-Plumed North American Tosser. Maybe it was cool for about 5 minutes in 1999, but since that time, not a single person has made that sound without being well deserving of a punch in the face. And yet: here's Cena busting it out, because it's so "street." And as his punchline, no less. Do I need to write a handbook, here? Or will somebody at WWE just come to their fricking senses and quit letting Cena go on TV to say and do things that are so petulantly bratty and unlikeable? "But he sells t-shirts"! Yeah, great... so roughly one-third of your audience is rabidly pro-Cena, and I don't deny that his cartoonish appeal will play with kids (and deranged teenage fan girls); but if you've got another third of the audience merely tolerating him, and a final third who can, in some weeks, get audible boos on TV, then you Need. To. Tweak. The. Act. Now amount of t-shirt sales will make up for putting the other two-thirds of your bread and butter (the actual event-attending, TV-watching crowd) at risk. It's not chess, monkeys.

Kurt Angle vs. Total Non-Stop Action

They send Angle out to make his entrance, and then immediately cut to....

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Kurt Angle/Tyson Tomko vs. John Cena

We return to find Tomko already in the ring (nice use of time management, for once). Then Cena makes his entrance. As he pauses to collect the "shirt-off squeal," I am forced to wonder what is so damned unsexy about Angle and Tomko. Or perhaps it's just that I share a hairstyle with those ruggedly-handsome bastards. Also: I have no suplus of gay tattoos and facial hair, and have been assured on enough occasions that I have once-in-a-million amazingly blue eyes that I bet I've got Kurt easily bested on that front, too (and for some reason, didn't it sure as hell seem like JR couldn't stop talking about Angle's blue eyes tonight? A bit unsettling, it was).

Bischoff shows up to watch the match from the aisle, and from the get-go, it seems like Team Cueball's strategy is kind of what I outlined in my column yesterday: Tomko does all the dirty work, Angle only chimes in when he can get an easy cheap shot. And as soon as Cena shows any fire against Angle, he immediately tags Tomko back in. Nice touch there. Then again, I thought of it hours before RAW went on the air, so what do you want me to say?

Cena eventually gets sick of this, and starts a mini-rally, firing up on Tomko, and then luring Angle into the ring for some three-way brawling (which Cena magically dominates). The crowd is pretty dead for this, but at this point, you could blame Chris F. Masters for that, you could blame the SD! Tapings that preceded RAW and might have left this crowd tired, or blame a lot of different things. Still: me being a Playa Hata, I gotta bring it up just in case Cena's at fault. In the three way brawling, Cena gets focused in on Angle at one point, but then turns around and eats the Lovely Miss Tomko's patented Big Boot o' Suck. Just like that, Team Cueball is back in command. With Cena down and Angle looking like he's ready to take over duties for his team, we break for our final....

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Back, and sure enough, it is Angle working over Cena. We got footage from the break, and it looks like we missed some good stuff, including Angle sending Kurt into the SD! announce table that was still at ringside. The stuff we're getting live is a bit less thrilling, though, just standard heel stuff, including (hey, Kurt's a big boy, he can take it if I point out the underwhelmingness of) a chinlock. Tomko also got in for a couple brief Power Interludes. Kurt also peppered in some gOOdness, including a wicked DDT that got a convincing near fall.

Cena eventually countered Kurt's chinlock with a back suplex. For some reason, Angle sold this like it was a lot more devastating than it really was, and the ref actually applied a double count. I guess this is how we give Cena enough time to plausibly "recover" a bit? Anyway, Kurt's finally up at 8 and tags in Tomko. And that's pretty much the signal for End Game.

As soon as Tomko tagged in, he went into back-and-forth fists with Cena, and Cena soon took over with all his usual stuff. Shoulder tackles, his big wacky hiptoss, et al. When Angle tried poking his nose in, Cena sent him over the top rope, and seemed about ready to finish Tomko off. In fact, he even got him hoisted up for the F-U. And that, my friends, is when Kurt Angle hit The Move Of The Night.

He came in from outside, got behind Cena (while Tomko was still on Cena's shoulders) and hit a German Suplex. Holy shit.

Then Angle launched into some Normal Germans on Cena... but when he tried to roll him over for the third one, Cena resisted and escaped. Tomko saw this and lined Cena up for another Big Boot. But Cena ducked it, and Angle ate the boot, instead. Angle flies outside, Cena quickly snatches up the discombobulated Tomko, hits the F-U, and just like that Superman John Cena has won a handicap match. Don't say I didn't warn you. But I guess they did it just about exactly the one way I said it'd be a tolerable finish, too, didn't they? Ah well... it might have been my idea for "tolerable" but it still wasn't my #1 option.

Your Winner: John Cena, via pinfall, in about 12 minutes. A fourth match tonight that did little to deviate from standard formula, and which seemed fairly flat as a result. Probably still gets Match of the Night Honors, though, even if only for Angle's Double Stack German Suplex getting me jumping off my couch. But in terms of adjectives, this one wins that honor without much exceeding "average." 

After the Match: Kurt Angle swooped in from out of nowhere and attacked Cena. Tomko eventually joined in. Together, the two made Cena's left leg/ankle their target, using everything in their arsenal (including the ring post). At one point, Cena even made the Dreaded Referee's "X" with his arms, and for a moment, I thought something interesting might have happened. But nope: guess not. Instead, this is pretty much a replay of what we got last week, as Angle administers a wicked-ass beating to Cena. Which was great for last week, but.... well, you know. This is this week. And last week, you had a decisive ending: the Angle Slam on the steel, and then maybe 10 seconds of Kurt posing with the WWE Title. No such luck this week. There really is no "out" no moment of finality. It just goes on.... and on... and on.... with Kurt lingering. With replays of stuff. More Kurt lingering. Really adding to my annoyance, we get another Bischoff Interlude, where he talks trash to Cena, which is part of what took away from Jericho's legitimacy as a challenger last month, and now they're doing it again. Just let the feud be Angle vs. Cena, monkeys... anyway, after what seemed like maybe a bit more time wasted or poor time management or something, they finally decide to wrap the show up... with the image of Kurt still lingering (this time, up at the top of the entrance aisle).

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