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OO RAW RECAP
Coming Home To Pretty Much The 
Same Old Same Old... 
October 4, 2005

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com

 

[Prefatory Note: apologies for this being published about 3 hours later than it needed to be. A miscommunication between myself and Matt Hocking had me holding off on today's OO Update till I had the Satire, without realizing just how late Matt was being detained. So after sitting on the shelf -- completed and ready to be devoured by you ravenous readers -- for the past 3 hours, this monstrous 50%-longer-than-usual Recap is being unleashed on the world around 7pm. Because lord knows I can hold off no longer! Yankees Playoff Baseball Beckons, and takes precedence over OO Bidness! Matt says the Satire will be done soon, though, and I'll either get it up tonight before bed or on Wednesday; fret not, Hockamaniacs!]

Well, looks like my optimism was misplaced... I thought for sure Homecoming would the RAW that broke the streak of my recaps being more entertaining than the show itself. It's a streak that I'd guess dates back till at least the Draft Lottery, when there were 1 or 2 shows that I remember fondly as being pretty solidly entertaining for the full two hours.

And come on, it's like I've joked before: I shouldn't have to do this 82 weeks in a row before WWE gets its head out of its ass and delivers an un-improve-on-able edition of RAW again. I was ready to throw in the towel before Homecoming even started, that's how sure I was that I would be recapping a show so strong that I wouldn't be able to best it....
 

I mean, how could Homecoming miss? Well, the answer is they didn't exactly whiff completely; there was even more good than bad last night. It's just that WWE showed a remarkable lack of comprehension regarding the value of time, and that's just baffling on a three hour show, when there SHOULD be time for everything. The result of that was

some underwhelming brevity and brusqueness in the final 45 minutes. And it didn't have to be that way, if only WWE had been wiser with the opening 2:15.

And then, the simple fact is that when RAW was lame last night, it was REALLY lame. A 26 minute-long McMahons Skit ran out of steam at the 12 minute mark, but just kept on plugging along to a gigantic thud. Not even Steve Austin's presence was enough to keep the fans into it. And don't get me started about the "main event." In my wildest dreams I did not envision Cena/Bischoff getting the main event slot, and remember: I say that as a man with a very low opinion of WWE's creative team. So it was amidst "Cena Sucks" chants (for real, I'm not making that up!) and a 2 minute "wrestling match" that RAW came to it thrilling climax.

Remember: I'm the guy who believes that when it comes to wrestling shows, it's the LAST impression that's the important one. And Cena/Bischoff didn't exactly set the world on fire.

That said, there was ample good, too. Two very good wrestling matches anchored the show, although IronMan came up perhaps a bit disappointing (not so much for the quality of the match, but because of a confounding and frustrating non-finish). There were some other segments that were fun, but don't really lead anywhere (including Mick Foley's appearance, and the tease of possible RAW vs. SmackDown! hostilities). But even with Homecoming being two-thirds very entertaining and about one-third indefensible crap, the main thing stuck in my craw at the end of the three hours is that nothing really happened to convince me that anything would be different or better next week or at points beyond.... Homecoming really was a one-night aberration, and WWE is content to return to business as usual next week.

Of course, all bets are off if the RAW vs. SD! stuff wasn't just a one-night tease and is instead the start of the Best Kept Secret in Wrestling, or something.... but I'm not holding my breath.

So with the caveat that High Expectations no doubt play a part in my disillusionment, I now invite you to check out my detailed rundown of a Special Three-Hour RAW that was more hit than miss. But when it missed, hoh boy did it miss big...

Countdown: the "7:55 Start Time" only existed to accommodate a 5 minute, ultra-condensed version of the preceding night's "RAW's 10 Most Memorable Moments" special. The predictably self-congratulatory video package is probably a decent enough way to get most fans salivating, though.... it's just that I'd already seen the clips less than 24 hours before, so already, I'm laying on the Fast Forward Button.

Opening Theme/Pyro/Etc., and we are live in Dallas, TX, on the USA Network. Near as I could tell, everything looked/sounded exactly identical to the last RAW on SpikeTV, except for the fact that they've swapped out the old introductory World Wrestling Entertainment Bumper with a new one (instead of a 10 second montage of TV show titles, now it's a 10 second montage of historic WWE moments, with the tagline "WWE: The Power is Back"; huh, I guess that's an admission that the "power" went SOMEwhere over the past few years, which is a surprising admission from such a cocksure company, but I'll only believe it's back when I see it). Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, and Jonathan Coachman say their "howdys," assure us of the super terrificness of tonight's line-up, and then waste no time sending it down to the ring....

Piper's Pit: Reminisces of Douchebags Past Edition

With the ring fully made-up for Piper's Pit, it is instead Mick Foley who comes down to the ring. By the way, I hope you bet the Under, too: the official time from promo start to "Dallas, TX," was 42 seconds.

Mick admits that it's a bit strange for a guest to come out first and introduce his host, but when that host is a genuine legend, it's only polite to switch things up. So with a quick laundry list of his host's accomplishments (including an Inverted Foley Plug for somebody else's upcoming non-wrestling project; in this case, a likely-direct-to-video movie), Mick brings out Rowdy Roddy Piper.

Piper then repays the favor by taking about 2 minutes to put Mick over as the craziest son of a motherless goat to ever step into the wrestling ring. And Roddy? Figures he knows a little something about being crazy. But he never jumped off a roof or dived off a cage or landed in thumbtacks and LOVED it like Mick did. Behind Mick's patient smile, I'm guessing he probably would have loved to have cut Piper off and ask "Hey, drunky, did you actually READ my books? Because I don't LOVE the pain, I just endure it because it comes with the job of giving the fans their money's worth." But Mick keeps quiet and lets Piper keep rambling... and eventually Piper gets to the Reciprocal Inverted Plug for Foley's current non-wrestling project (a book titled "Scooter"), which Piper says keeps him awake at night and is further proof of just how sick and twisted Mick Foley is.

But then Piper remembers that his little TV Talk Show is a place where Big Things Happen, and he's got a little question for Mick Foley: "When are you coming back to WWE?". Crowd popped big at the prospect, and gave Mick a "Foley" chant. But Mick? He's a realist. He says that he came back last summer, and was in the best shape of his life, and he STILL got his ass kicked. So to come back again would require a really damned good reason. Piper suggests that there are at least 12,000 good reasons surrounding the ring, which gooses another "Foley" chant out of the crowd. Mick looks around and soaks this in, but before he can respond....

Some Vaguely Familiar Music interrupts. Dammit, I should know that music, but it's just not coming to me at this instant.... ahhhh CRAP, it's Young Randall Orton (accompanied by Elderly Bob Orton). See, this is what happens when you get sent over to SD! and I don't have to recap the show and I can fast forward over the particularly obnoxious ring entrances when I watch the show in FFVision. I've probably only heard Randall's doucherock entrance music once or twice in the last 6 months. And thus: it had been filed away in a rarely-entered back storage room of my brain. Alongside things such as late 80s SNL catchphrases I haven't used since junior high and a list of US State Capitals.

So here, about two hours north of Austin, TX, it appears that now is the time on Sprockets when we dance. Or actually: as the Ortons make their way to the ring, Mick tries to talk some sense, noting that while "it's never a good time to see you, Randy" (which I'll pretend was a "shoot," because it's funnier that way), that goes double here on RAW as they have no business being here. And furthermore, Foley's Inverted Plugs know no bounds, as he suggests that Young Randall would be better served worrying about the ass-kicking he's going to take on Sunday's No Mercy PPV, courtesy of the Undertaker. Nice try, Mick, but it'll take a lot more than that to make No Mercy into something other than a pitiably underperforming SD! PPV...

Finally Randy decides to grapple with his most feared arch-nemesis, the microphone. He announces that he's got nothing to say to Mick, because they've settled their issues in the past. But Orton does have something to say to Roddy Piper. And it's only because Orton's dad is "classy" that Randy has to say it. You see, in Orton Think, there would be no Piper's Pit without Cowboy Bob Orton. It was Cowboy Bob who did all Piper's dirty work back in the day, who fought his fights, who took the lumps. And then, when the time came, it was Piper who got WrestleMania Main Events and a movie career. While Cowboy Bob just kept on keeping on. But one of the things Cowboy Bob did while Piper was off enjoying his ill-gotten spoils was to raise Young Randall the right way. I can only assume Randy was NOT referring to how he was raised to barely finish high school and to turn into a deserter when he found out basic training is, like, HARD and to pour drinks on girls or to poop in their bags if they won't have sex with you.

No, Randy's not talking about any of that... he's talking about how he was trained to be a Legend Killer. And he punctuates that little notion by shoving Piper backwards. Piper? Has no choice but to retaliate with fisticuffsmanship. The two roll around on the mat for a bit, trading blows, and eventually Cowboy Bob corrals his son, while Foley restrains Piper. But Cowboy Bob was only faking it: as soon as it looks like we've entered a Cooling Off Period, Bob suckerpunches Foley, and Randy capitalizes by RKO'ing Piper. And then, as soon as Foley gets back to his feet, Mick gets an RKO, too.

Foley and Piper are both down, so play Randy's music as the Ortons leave... you know: Orton as a babyface was horrible and flip-away-from-able, but for some reason even upon returning from injury as a heel on SD!, he's retained that quality of just not making anybody care. This, at least, struck me as a return of the face-punchable Orton, which is a step in the right direction. One gripe, though: if the "power" was really "back" and we were gonna be blowing fans away with fast-paced, anything-can-happen action, this opening segment would have been the basis for a Foley/Piper vs. Ortons tag match later in the show. This, of course, did not happen, which means that as amusing as it was for 15 minutes, it's 15 minutes that doesn't really lead anywhere except to the Ortons going back to SD! and this never being spoken of agayn...

Video Package: Kurt Angle beat Shawn Michaels at WM. Shawn Michaels beat Kurt Angle at some subsequent PPV I can't be bothered to remember the name of. Their IronMan Rubber Match is.... Next? Huh...

[ads; an eagle eyed reader who shares my sense of the absurd, and who is also apparently a manwhore for other wrestling websites, sent me this hilarious quote from an Unnamed Wrestling "Journalist"; in his RAW Recap, he said, "On a personal note, it will be nice for the first time in a month to not have to pay attention to commercials during Raw, with the TNA and UFC commercials in recent weeks."; ummm, dum dum, nobody has yet identified the reason why you "had to" pay attention in the first place other than the fact that apparently you're Missing The Point as badly as WWE is; same said Eagle Eyed Reader also noted with glee that the Wrestling "Journalist" in question then spent every single ad break typing up full paragraphs about what was happening on SpikeTV, which makes it impossible for me to decide whether to laugh uproariously at the unintentional irony of the quote above, or to weep with pity at what passes for topical wrestling analysis in some circles; if wrestling fans actually do care that much about UFC -- and I suspect the percentage who do is fairly low -- they'll go read about it from somebody who has knowledge about it; they won't read about it on a wrestling site; Unnamed Wrestling "Journalist" should work on honing his Wrestling Expertise before pretending to have Other Areas of Expertise like other Multi-Faceted Wrestling Personalities Such As The Rick, who can speak as expertly about whiskey, rock 'n' roll, and baseball as he can about rasslin'; have I digressed long enough? methinks so...]

Backstage: Eric Bischoff finds Teddy Long, and threatens him with various humiliations because of Orton's unscheduled appearance. Bischoff wants to know who else Teddy has sequestered away, and demands that Teddy keep his boys under control, because he will NOT have his show ruined by SmackDown! invaders. Teddy says that he's here at the behest of Mr. McMahon, so Bischoff had been chill out a bit... but Bischoff says he's got bigger things to worry about (he's in his Karate Fighter Costume, already prepped for his WWE Title Match), so Long can kindly zip it, and wait for Sleazy E to get his revenge later on in the show. Bischoff punctuates with a sarcastic "Playa," and leaves Teddy to ponder that threat....

Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle (30 Minute Iron Man Match)

HBK tries to jumpstart things by bum-rushing Kurt... this leads to a quick piece of mat wrestling before Shawn takes over with a crisp swinging neckbreaker (going after Kurt's surgically repaired body part). Then there's a lot of choppy-choppy (and not of the pee-pee, no matter how fondly that dastard Edge seemed to remember that bit of awfulness during the RAW Memories TV special), and a lot of Angle trying to powder out and collect himself. In a nice touch, Michaels did a lot of annoyed glancing-at-the-clock during these early stages, as if he had a Game Plan, and Kurt's limber-tailed-ness was screwing it up.

And while I'm thinking of Nice Touches, I'll also largely compliment the announce team tonight, who were about as on-task and non-silly as I can recall them being. I had some gripes with the Wrestling Logic at times, but the point is that both Coach and King were TRYING to apply wrestling logic and channel their Inner Tazz, for once. The one piece of analysis I would have LOVED to have heard during this match: that both these men are veterans of SIXTY Minute IronMan Matches, and in those cases, the first falls sometimes didn't happen until 20-25 minutes in (or in Shawn's case, didn't happen until Over Time)... which means that both men know they have to accelerate their pace to try to be the one who scores that first decision, in case it is the only decision rendered in the 30 minute time limit. Or would that have been too subtle?

Anyway, about 3 minutes in, Michaels goes for a sleeperhold, but it's WAAAYYY too early for that to work. So Angle worms out his way into a side headlock and then immediately turns that into a back suplex. This began an Angle offensive mostly targeting the lower back (which, in violation of the teachings of The Jesus, is a true eye-for-an-eye attack, as that's Shawn's surgically reconstructed body part). Things got really bad for Shawn about one minute later, when he THOUGHT he had Angle reeling outside the ring, but Kurt was playing possum. When Shawn tried a baseball slide, Angle dodged it, and in one smooth movement yanked Shawn into position for an Angle Slam. Pretty black mats or no, that's gotta sting.

Opting not to give Shawn time to recover outside the ring, Kurt tossed him back in and tried for a few pinfalls. No dice. So Kurt laid in with a bunch of stompy-punchy, peppering in some higher impact moves targeting Shawn's back (including the always-cool Powerbomb Onto The Top Turnbuckle). Kurt thought he was firmly in control, and so he hoisted Shawn up onto the top turnbuckle at one point, intended to hit a belly-to-belly superplex... but Shawn punched his way out of that, and was looking to get up onto the top to hit a double-sledge (or something). Instead, Kurt sprang to his feet and did his patented run-up-the-ropes thing.... but instead of snaring Michaels for the belly-to-belly superplex, he nailed him with a top rope Angle Slam. Fricking sweet. And of COURSE Michaels stayed down for the three-count after that....

Decision 1: Angle via pinfall roughly 8 minutes in. Angle leads 1-0. With Michaels decimated after that awesome move, and with Angle moving slowly his own self, we take a break for....

[ads]

Back, and we pick up with Angle still in control. And though he's still peppering in the sporadic vertical suplex here and there, it's more a methodical approach, now. There's a lengthy reverse chinlock in here, and then a lot of trading punches and stuff during Michaels' hope spots. Nothing too thrilling, actually, and they do seem to be losing the crowd a bit...

That changes when Angle snuffs out an HBK rally with a hard Irish Whip; Michaels actually flops to the canvas, holding his lower back, and Angle goes into Stalk Mode, clearly poised to deliver another Angle Slam... but when Michaels gets to his feet, he counters, and gets behind Angle. But Angle re-counters, and picks an ankle. Angle and Michaels struggle, and Angle's not able to get Michaels turned over to fully cinch in the hold... instead, Michaels finally leverages his way into rolling Kurt up for a schoolboy out of nowhere. One, two, three.

Decision 2: Michaels via pinfall at the 15 minute mark. Match is tied 1-1.

But that was a desperation move by Michaels, and now his ankle is as tender as his lower back. Angle has no trouble immediately regaining control. And again, the pace seems to tend back towards the "methodical." Which is to say, a bit slower than you might have expected. It's not just the types of moves, it's also the velocity of them, as the "Maneuvers Per Minute" ratio seemed to take a bit of a plunge here. A lot of Michaels writhing, a lot of Angle loitering around instead of pouncing; which might have made more sense if Angle was already "leading" the match, but it was tied, and thus, I honestly felt that the lack of a Sense Of Urgency rang false.

The crowd almost seemed on the brink of a "boring" chant, too, when Angle locked in a 90 second body scissors. Which, to MY way of thinking, was the only excuse all night long to make a UFC reference in a RAW Recap. Because the hold and Michaels subsequent attempt to "break through Angle's guard" struck me as just about as thrilling as three-quarters of UFC fights tend to be. ZING~! Actually, once Michaels broke through Angle's guard, he used a Greco Roman Forehead Bite to escape the hold once and for all, which I don't think Big John McCarthy would tolerate...

This set up a Michaels rally, but when Shawn decided to try for a suplex, we got the counter-point to the previous spot. This time, it was Angle who countered to get behind Michaels, and Michaels who re-countered and seemed ready to hit his suplex afterall... instead, that's when Kurt got the last laugh by picking the ankle and THIS time, he wouldn't let go after all the triple-reverse-y action. Michaels tries the same escape as before, but Kurt's like Terminator 2, and can adapt as he learns his prey's style. This time, Kurt sticks with the hold, and eventually turns it into the Super Duper Ankle Lock, with Bonus Grapevining Action. The announcers make a gratuitous reference to that guy from the Alabama/Florida game who broke his ankle (hey, how about a little love for Sid Vicious, who had a significantly MORE gruesome televised injury and was actually A WRESTLER; of if a football player you must reference, please don't insult me with talking about that guy from this weekend's barely-cringe-worthy little boo-boo; go all out and talk about stomach-churning moments like Joe Theisman's broken leg; or the one with that offensive lineman from the Bengals whose name I forget), and rightly suggest that if Michaels wants to avoid a snapped ankle, he should probably tap out quickly and try to stage his comeback from there. Michaels is not one to argue with taut logic such as that. So he taps out.

Decision 3: Angle via submission at the 19 minute mark. Angle now leads 2-1. And we have to take another break for....

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We come back, and we're below 8 minutes left in the match. Kurt is wrestling "defensively," meaning that he'll short-circuit any Michaels rallies with a quick stomp to the injured leg, but he's not really concerned with cinching in another anklelock or scoring another fall. He's leading, afterall, and NOW his approach seems to be making sense. But the flip side to this is that Michaels *is* wrestling with the appropriate Sense Of Urgency. Even hobbled and on one leg, he's getting tons of little flurries in here and there in between Angle's Leg Attacks, and the crowd is fully back into the match as we pass the 24 minute mark.

A big part of the reason for that is because this is when Shawn decides to mount his big-ass comeback. After ducking a clothesline, Michaels came back off the ropes and hit Angle with the Flying Burrito (JR: [pauses 5 seconds to allow Coach and King to finish making a point, but then is intent on calling the move a] "Flying Burrito!"). The requisite nip-up that followed hurt Michaels' ankle, so he has to deviate from his own Five Moves of Doom to beat Angle back down with some right hands and a body slam before proceeding to #3 on the list: the Macho Man Elbow. Which connects. In deference to his bad wheel, Michaels only does a partial rendition of Move #4 (the "tuning up the band"), and instead moves to a spirited performance of #5: the Sweet Chin Music. Angle eats one of the stiffer superkicks I can recall seeing recently, and is three seconds away from seeing his lead evaporate.

Decision 4: Michaels via pinfall at the 25 minute mark. The match is tied again at 2-2.

There is no enforced rest break between decisions, so Angle tries to invent one for himself by rolling out of the ring. Michaels eventually musters up the strength to follow him, and that seems like a good idea for a few moments, until they get back into the ring, and Angle quickly positions himself to nail Shawn with an Angle Slam... but Shawn kicks out at the last possible instant to a big pop. Angle is frustrated, and even throws a mini tantrum that probably rates about 0.3 Christians.

With 3 minutes left in the match, Angle again positions himself for the Angle Slam, but this time, Michaels must have known instinctively that he couldn't take another one, so he reached deep down inside and thanked the Rick for putting together such an eloquent "True Believer" version of the narrative of the match, despite The Rick's standard cynicism. And also: Michaels reversed out of the Angle Slam into a Tornado DDT. Nice. Now it was Angle's turn to kick out at the last possible instant, as the crowd continued to be on pins and needles for this closing segment.

Michaels retains control for the next minute, and decides to try for one last home run shot. Partying like it's 1995, Shawn busted out his old Moonsault Press... except that Angle must have studied those tapes, and side stepped just enough so that he was in the path of only Shawn's injured left leg. And as Shawn rotated around, Angle grabbed that left leg, rolled through the moonsault with Shawn, and cinched in the anklelock. Neato. With 90 seconds left in the match, Shawn looked to be in danger of losing the decisive fall.

But he fought, and refused to tap out. He tried to reverse out. No dice. He tried for a rope break. No dice. He tried reversing out again, and FINALLY, with 15 seconds left in the match, he was able to kick Angle off.... and uh oh, Angle was sent careening DIRECTLY into the referee! Except, no: Angle stops himself as the last moment and saves the ref.... but when he turns around, he finds that Shawn has gotten back up on his one good leg, and loaded up the Sweet Chin Music. Angle eats the superkick with 5 seconds left in the match. Shawn frantically makes the cover with 2 seconds left. The ref drops down and begins his count with 1 second left. And then? The bell rings. The ref had only made a one count before the time limit expired, with the score tied at 2-2.

"Well, alright, alright, alright," says I on my couch, fully expecting the standard overtime period and paying tribute to the only time in Matthew McConaughey's pitiable hippified man-bimbo existence when I could not help but like a movie in which he acted.

But then Lillian Garcia kills my buzz, and it's not by informing me that I'm now officially too old and creepy to be hanging out with high school kids and deflowering 16-year-old girls. Instead, my Inner Wooderson takes a hike as soon as she declares that "This Match is a Draw." What the fuck? Is it not Standard IronMan Policy to have overtime? Somebody get the Ghost of Gorilla Monsoon out here, PRONTO, to tell these people how IronMan works, dammit! At this point, I'm less Wooderson, and more Ben Affleck's character, wanting to just go on a mindless paddling spree for no readily apparent reason.

The crowd is chanting "Bullshit" as Shawn gets the mic from Lillian. And while Shawn's love of The Jesus may have kept him from swearing, apparently, it's OK with the big guys upstairs if you encourage other heathens to use their potty mouths, since they were all going to hell, anyway. So Shawn gooses them again by asking, "What was that, Dallas?". "Bullshit," says Dallas. "That's right," says Shawn. Michaels says there's no way this match ends in a draw, so he wants Sudden Death, and he wants it now. 

Angle, at this point, is halfway up the entrance ramp. He stops, he ponders, he even starts back towards the ring. But then he stops, gestures (Broadly, as is the finest manner of gesturing) as if to say "Screw this noise," and then turns around to leave. Michaels and the announcers act confused, since they thought Kurt had more balls than that... meantime I and the live crowd are just pissed off that nobody in a position of authority showed up to enforce the standard overtime period. What's the point of setting precedents if you don't follow them?

Your Winner: Nobody, as this goes down as a 30 minute draw. And while I'm actually a big fan of the final closing segments smoothness -- after weeks and weeks of shittily-constructed finishes, why do I suspect that one of the Legends in the house tonight was Pat Patterson, a/k/a The Finish Doctor -- I can't help but feel a massive sense of frustration that WWE could muster up a winner for us. How hard is it to pay off on a big match like this, and then sweep that under the rug to keep on telling whatever stories you want to tell? Not hard at all; I mean, while the internet jack-offs got their panties bunched with asinine disinformation about Shawn Michaels' pitching hissy fits about jobbing to Hulk Hogan, the simple fact is that Shawn didn't mind that much because the night after the match, fans were talking about HIM, not Hogan, and he was the one who could take a live mic and steer fan reactions the way he wanted. Or look at how Chris Jericho has not won an important match since 2002, and yet, he's one of the most bankable guys in the company. I just don't see how you HAD to do a draw here, when you could have satisfied the fans with a winner, and STILL done whatever you want, storyline-wise, heading into Taboo Tuesday.  

Still, frustration aside, a good match. A very good match. But not an excellent one. In fact, it's not even the best free TV match of the year for WWE, and maybe only barely sneaks in at #3 on that list (for now), which is disappointing in a way. Part of that might have been high expectations.... but two other parts were the semi-boring middle third of the match and the non-finish. Pick up the pacing in the middle and give us a winner, and I'm probably singing a different tune.... and even with all that said: my "disappointment" is only relative to what I know was possible here. Fact is: foibles aside, this was still a solidly entertaining 30 minutes of TV, and about as good as we've seen out of RAW in months. 

Coming Up Later: a whole bunch of stuff that we already knew about.... but also, they announce that Flair/Triple H vs. Carltio/Masters is on the card, which was news to me. Looks like that HHH heel turn is coming one week sooner than I expected... and I'd apologize for "spoiling" that, but I've only been writing about it as an inevitability for 2 freaking weeks, now.

The Problem With John Cena: this is a 2 minute video package that, if distilled down, said "If you don't like hip-hop, then you aren't cool." Just a bunch of celebrities (well, Ice-T and a bunch of D-list jack-offs) saying how hip-hop is everywhere and that's why John Cena is such a star and why everybody loves him. Guess Ice-T watches wrestling with the volume turned down then, huh? One of these days, WWE will have to realize that no matter how hard they try, if they don't turn Homey the Clown into a wrestler first and a rapper second, all they are doing is appealing to a niche audience. A nice big niche, to be sure, but still a niche. They can create video packages that try to sway weak-minded fans into thinking hip-hop subculture is the only way to be cool. But it won't work. Cena will only ever really be a "hero" to about a third of the audience; then there's a third (like me) who respect and tolerate some of the dumber aspects of rap and hip-hop subculture cuz there will still be some periodic cool stuff to come out of it, but who are capable of distinguishing between the cool stuff and the crap (and so far, Cena's way more towards crap than cool); and there's even a third who'll be entirely alienated by Cena over-powering stench of clownish wiggerdom. The way to fix this, WWE, is to tweak Cena's character, NOT to try to intimidate fans into believing that you know what's cool and that if we don't agree, there's something wrong with us. Your ratings pretty much prove everything we need to know about your grasp on "cool." So just stop it, OK? Don't make me re-explain my whole theory on the gigantic chasm between what's "hip" and what's "cool," OK... cuz one means never having to look back five years later and cringe at what an assclown you looked and acted like. And that's NOT the one that you've got John Cena aspiring to be...

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Special Shout-Out: Lillian Garcia calls our attention to one of the many legends (christ, I did not know "pity" could cause tangible physical pain until I saw Ko Ko B. Ware sitting there with a stuffed parrot nailed to a stick; which thankfully called the attention away from Nikolai Volkoff going shirtless-with-his-Soviet-windbreaker and Hacksaw Duggan clinging desperately to a 2"x4") sitting at ringside... it's Dallas' own Kevin von Erich. The last surviving member of that once-great wrestling dynasty gets a nice response from his hometown crowd. Word is: he was here selling the McMahons his family's voluminous video catalog of World Class TV shows...

Backstage: Eric Bischoff finds Vince McMahon, and wants a few quick words.... but Vince isn't in a talking mood, as he's got an arena full of fans awaiting his presence. Bischoff has one simple request: he wants his match tonight to be No Disqualifications. Vince thinks, for about 7.3 nanoseconds, and says "no." Bischoff doesn't even get the chance to be indignant, as Vince explains that Bischoff is not the GM tonight, he's a competitor, so Vince is in charge, and his word is final. At this point, Bischoff switches gears from sycophantic to confrontational, as he says some VERY true-ringing things about Vince only hiring Bischoff in order to humiliate Eric on TV, to build up a video library so that one day Vince could release a DVD titled "The Self-Destruction of Eric Bischoff." Sadly: I think this *is* true on some level. Except for the DVD part. Because Vince is still enough of a businessman to know that nobody would buy an Eric Bischoff DVD. But I do think that the sophomoric, stunted McMahon Sense of Justice and Humor means that Vince DOES enjoy making Bischoff into a putz on a roughly quarterly basis. Bischoff finished his (vaguely shoot-tastic) rant by calling Vince "sick." At which point Vince goes from shit-eating grin to a death stare. He says that nobody has any idea just how sick and twisted and (ugh) PERVERTED he can be. Great. And you know what, Vince? We also don't care to find out. The right play here would have been for Vince to just smirk and admit, "Yeah, Eric, I won, you lost, and now you work for me. Chump." Instead, it's talk of perversion, and that can't POSSIBLY lead to anything good....

McMahons A-Plenty Theatre: A Very Special IronMan Promo

Vince wasn't lying when he said he had business in the ring. So with an intentionally-cheesy introduction by Lillian Garcia (who was reading off of note cards as she complimented Vince's giant wang, among other things), Vince power struts to the ring. He declares that it's great to be back on USA, where anything can happen, where nothing will be censored, and where that still somehow adds up to pretty much the exact product that WWE would have presented on SpikeTV. Well, he said two out of three of those things, anyway.

Vince also said that the "homecoming" of WWE to USA got him thinking about his favorite RAW moments. So he cues one up... after misstating the date (and getting me REALLY worried that it was MY memory that was somehow faulty) of a 1999 clip, Vince throws it to a RAW match in which Vince pinned Austin and then tied him up in a corner and put the bad mouth on him. The parts where Vince's plethora of outside assistance would have been documented were surgically excised.

This clip and Vince's pride in it had the effect of turning him heel with an audience that had given him a mostly-positive reaction on his ring entrance. Vince underscores his heel-for-a-night status by threatening to show ANOTHER clip of him embarrassing Texas' own Steve Austin... but at that point *KEE-RASH* and Texas' Own Steve Austin decides to make an appearance in his own defense.

Vince tries to beg off, using the excuse he was "just having fun," but Austin's not buying it, and does his level best to keep Vince intimidated. (What?) Scared. (What?) Skittish. (What?) And so on and so forth so the idiot fans can play along with 2001's hottest wrestling fad. Austin also figures that if Vince was out here "just having fun" with some video clips, maybe Stone Cold could do the same. He orders the monkeys in the truck to roll his footage.

And thus begins about a five minute sequence of Austin narrating a trio of clips: (1) the Hospital Attack, (2) the Pants-Peeing, and (3) the Beer Bash. Ugh. Isn't this EXACTLY what I talked about in the column yesterday as "moments that were fun when they happened, but which have very limited historical value"? And yet, here they are, being held up as the Greatest RAW Moments Ever in an already-over-long skit. Why do I say "over-long"? Because, they didn't just rifle through the clips.... they paused after each on for Vince and Austin to do some witty repartee. Except: after every clip, the (lack of) a response from the live crowd was the real story... seems Dallas was with The Rick on this one, and thinks that what happened in 1998 should (in some cases) stay in 1998, and we'd like something interesting here in the Year of Our Lord 2005. And yet, Vince and Austin slog on, hopefully entertaining themselves, because they had long since left 95% of the live and TV audience just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Which it finally does at the 12 minute mark of this IronMan Promo, as Vince declares, "OK, enough, truce. Stop humiliating me." He says he has to get backstage to tend to his duties producing the show, so if Austin will let him, he'll just leave peaceably, and there will be no more clips. Austin says that'll be OK with him.... but only after he shows Vince one last thing: a middle finger. Nee haw? Kick, wham, Stunner. Vince is down, so play Austin's music and get him some beers to finish off this segment!

Except, NO! "Theme from Ted DiBiase, 1999 Remix" fires up, and out comes Shane McMahon, a/k/a the One Reasonably Likeable McMahon. Fans give him a big ol' cheer, but as Shane prances and rope-a-dopes his way to the ring, it's clear he's here to avenge his asshole father. So as soon as he gets in the ring, Austin just stops him mid-dance with a kick to the gut and a Stunner. Hey, at least Shane understands how to keep things short and sweet! They play Austin's music again and he has a few more beers, but at this point, I think we all sensed that there was one more chapter to be told in this continually-expanding segment...

Sho 'nuff, some unfamiliar music kicks in, indicated that even in her off-screen role, Stephanie McMahon has ensured that the production monkeys have invested their time working on a brand new ring entrance for her. Huh. Of note: Steph is now blonde, and still has that redonkulous rack. Look, honey, you're a pretty girl and always were, so just take a page out of the Nidia Playbook, and admit that a mistake may have been made and that the percentage of the audience that really cares that much about implausible bOObs is not large enough to justify constantly teetering on the brink of falling over forwards. Unless HHH is one of the small percentage of idiot dudes who is easily impressed by gigantic fake melons, in which case, that's between the two of you.... 

Anyway, Steph gets to the ring and starts shouting at Austin, but since she doesn't have a mic, he gives her a "What?". Ha? Actually, OK: Ha. But not a really enthusiastic one. So Steph grabs Austin's hand, and holds the mic up to her mouth as she repeats a "This is our show, who do you think you are?" rant. Austin decides to interpret Steph's hand on his wrist as a sign of flirtation (huh?), and immediately breaks all known Stone Cold Character Traits to morph into Sexy Austin. Ugh. Again: I get the feeling this is something that was written to amuse the participants, without stopping to think how the fans at home would respond to it. Trust me: we no likey when long-established characters start acting in incongruously stupid ways!

So Austin does a whole spiel about how nice Stephanie smells and eventually gets to the part where he thinks he might like a kiss from Steph. He closes his eyes, and got hit in the face by an anvil.... or at least: by Steph's right hand. And by now, the crowd knows what it wants, but Austin's gonna make 'em wait for it. He pretends not to care, at first, that Steph's just playing hard to get.... but I think even he realized at this point that the segment was dying, so he just went to his punchline out of nowhere and said, "I wish you hadn'ta done that. But then again, I'm kinda glad you did." Kick, wham, Stunner. Play Austin's music, get him some beers, and maybe NOW this thing can finally be over at the 17 minute mark.

Except: no. For somebody has made a massive miscalculation and decided to send Linda McMahon to the ring to bat clean-up. She starts by giving Stone Cold a stern talking-to, and Austin takes it like a scolded schoolchild at first. But as Linda keeps on castigating Austin, he nuts up a bit and says he was just doing his job, raising hell, and so forth, and got interrupted, so he delivered a few Stunners.

Linda says she sees where she's coming from, but thinks Austin went too far. Because she's spent 2 years bringing her family back together, and in one fell swoop, Austin kicked all their asses. Why ever would he do that? Well, Austin says, because Vince is a piece of trash. This, Linda grants, is true. But what about Shane? A chip off the old block, and also a piece of trash. Linda doesn't see it that way, and further more, what about her precious daughter? [Crowd: "SLUT", but apparently we're still TV-PG here on the USA Network no matter WHAT Vince says, so Austin ignores it.] Stephanie is a "precious piece of trash." Linda again disagrees, and says that Austin owes the McMahon Family an apology.

I think this is the point where the people backstage thought the crowd would turn on Linda. But the simple fact is: we don't want to see her get Stunnered. We never have, we probably never will. It's a huge misjudgment by the creative genesis behind this segment to think that we would. So instead of this being the part of the segment where things heated up, it's officially the point where things finally flat-lined.... and we still had a good 5 minutes to go. Ugh.

Because first Austin hems and haws about apologizing, teasing that he might be about to get angry at Linda. But the crowd clearly doesn't care if he Stunners her or not.... so eventually he offers up the half-hearted apology, but on the condition that he and Linda give the fans a RAW Memory. And again: enter Sexy Austin. Ugh. Steve wants a kiss on the cheek from Linda. But as soon as she seems to relent and is moving in to deliver it, Austin pulls back and says "Eh eh." Because he wants something REALLY memorable. At first, this seems to have the vibe of "Here comes a Stunner." Which is met with little to no reaction. Then Austin gets Sexy again, and moves in uncomfortably close to Linda, suggesting that "Vince isn't looking," so they should just cut the preliminaries and get down to it. This is met with actual grumbling from the audience, underneath the handful of cheers from the lemmings who find Sexual Harassment to be a commendable thing.

But finally Austin hits the punchline: that he's just talking about drinking some beers! Which is met with the return of companionable silence, since it might be anticlimactic, but at least it's a return of Austin acting in character. Austin gets some beers, and shares them with Linda. He manages to pour a whole beer down the front of her blazer along the way, and Linda tries to convey the idea that she's possibly-horrified but also already-buzzed-and-thus-willing-to-play-along. Meantime, any self-respecting girl -- even after half a bottle of tequila -- would have been more than happy to slap Austin in the face for behaving this way. But whatever: He's Sexy Stone Cold tonight! As the crowd looks on in dead silence, somebody decides to hit Austin's music one more time to cover up the giant thudding sound of this dead horse of a segment going on Minute 20 of being beaten.

Of course, as Austin and Linda parade around the ring drinking beer, he pulls her in and delivers a kick, wham, Stunner for no readily apparent reason. Yay?

Actually sure: YAY! Because unless Triple H comes down to the ring to get more of the same that his family did, this segment is FINALLY OVER. My DVR timer says it clocked in at 26 minutes total from the start of Vince's music. Which is almost the same length as the IronMan Match. And while the IronMan match got boring in the middle, it still picked up by the end (and was also interrupted by 6 minutes worth of commercial). Whereas this was 26 uninterrupted mintues that stopped being entertaining about halfway through. It probably should have just ended after Vince got stunnered, since nobody really was expecting or was interested in what followed.... but even if it had ended after Steph, that still would have been a MASSIVE improvement. Instead, the utter miscalculation of Austin and Linda's uncomfortable-to-watch and unentertaining 8 minute interlude really killed this thing off. What could have been a harmless, short callback of a few Austin/McMahon memories turned into an abomination of the purest Suck that lasted nearly a full half-hour.

Like I said: I hope the participants were amused by it, cuz my patience with it sure wore thin, and it sure sounded like Dallas, TX, felt the exact same way.

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Backstage: Vince was getting into his limo when Tough Questions Todd Grisham intercepted him and asked what repercussions there might be for Austin's attack on his entire family.... Vince ominously noted, "Somebody's getting fired over this." Well, the only person who SHOULD get fired, logically, would be Austin, so why wouldn't Vince just say that? Probably because this will somehow mark the return of Unnecessary McMahon Family Drama in which Vince tries to oust Linda, who CLEARLY is the one to blame for Austin's rampage. I'll "ugh" preemptively at the mere thought.

Matt Hardy vs. Edge (Loser Leaves RAW/Money In The Bank Ladder Match)

Edge enters first, and after a quick make-out session with Lita on the top of the stage, disappears in a puff of smoke (literally). Meantime, Lita continues down the ramp and hits a Sexy Pose. For some reason, she's celebrating the beginning of Autumn by busting out the first pair of summery shorts I can recall her wearing since... well, ever. I don't know why, but I don't think it suits her. Maybe it's just out of character for the punk grrrrl to be wearing short-shorts, or maybe it's that the sense of athleticism you might get from Lita and her moveset is banished the second you see that she's basically as skinny as Stacy Keibler.

Anyway, the ploy works, as Matt makes HIS entrance, and is immediately distracted by Lita's gratuitous display of unexpectedly-scrawny thigh. He makes for the base of the ramp to discuss wardrobe with Lita, but is immediately attacked from behind by Edge, who apparently slinked off during his smokey entrance to hang out on the side of the entrance ramp. Then, with Hardy down, Edge sprinted to the ring, where a ladder had, conveniently, already been set up in the middle of the ring.... luckily, Matt was able to come to his senses at the last second and broke that up. So with the battle thus joined, we start the match, proper.

As tends to be the case in these sorts of matches, I'm gonna suck balls at play-by-play. I have a standard set of heuristics I use to mentally catalog a standard match (remembering pivotal moves/fire-up sequences, remembering where they put ad breaks, remembering any psychological elements, etc) that just don't work in a match that is purely spot, spot, spot, with no connections and no traditional flow. Which is not a knock on the match: a few of these a month can be fun.... but it's my explanation for why I can't tell the story of the match. Cuz there WAS no Story Of The Match: it was just a collection of highspots that is probalby better seen than read-about.

First memorable spot was Hardy locking Edge in a "ladder scissors" for a few moves. That's a new one. Then Edge took control after a drop toe hold into the ladder, and had a few other ladder spots, too (including a gut buster). Throughout, both Hardy and Edge had a few Ladder Teases, too, but neither got much above the third rung at this early stage of the match.

After propping one ladder up on a turnbuckle and whipping Matt into it, Edge decided, for some reason, to introduce a second ladder to the match. This eventually provided the impetus for the first really big super HighSpot of the match... Edge was climbing the ladder in the center of the ring, but Hardy broke that up by shoving the ladder over. Edge crashed into the turnbuckle ladder, but in so doing, teeter-tottered it directly into Matt's face, causing Matt to crash back into the climbing ladder. Hella sweet trainwreck spot, and with both men down, it's also a nice sport for us to look at some....

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Back, and magically, there are now two ladders set up side-by-side in the ring (no explanation given), but our attention is outside the ring, where Matt and Edge are brawling and where a table has ALSO been set up. Eeeeeentersting. Matt's in control of the brawling, and even takes it out into the crowd (using a third ladder to dive onto Edge from the ringside area into the second row)... after that attack, Lita tries to buy her man some time by climbing onto Matt's back. But Matt's a guy and Lita's a girl, so you know that's not gonna work. Matt quickly tosses Lita to the ground and sees that table that has been set up. He has a notion.... but just as he's setting up to powerbomb Lita through the furniture, Edge strikes from behind with a kendo stick. Then, for good measure, Edge put Matt through the table.

Back into the ring for some more spot-spot-spot that I can't really do justice. The one big spot they finally built up to, as I recall it, was Edge feeling confident enough that he made a Ladder Ascent, but Hardy followed him and climbed the adjacent ladder (well, we don't know how it got there, but at least we can be happy that it did), and nailed Edge with a Twist of Fate from the Fourth Rung. Wicked. Matt dispatched of the extraneous ladder, and made an ascent of his own. Luckily (?) Lita had gotten her hands on the kendo stick, and after whiffing on one shot, started going to work on Matt's back, forcing him to disengage.

Matt comes down a few rungs and kicks at Lita, causing her to fall and drop the kendo stick. Matt starts going back up the ladder, and this time, Lita just tries shoving the ladder over.... but she's too late: Matt has grabbed the Money in the Bank Briefcase, so when Lita shoves the ladder over, Matt stays suspended above the ring, hanging precariously from the briefcase. At this point, Edge gets back in the fight, and grabs Matt's feet and starts swinging him violently across the ring. Finally, Hardy can hang on no longer, and he crashes to the mat.

Edge quickly ties him up in the ropes, and then calls Lita over. Lita insures Matt's going nowhere by latching herself onto Matt in a crucifix-type move. Then, oozing prickishness, Edge calmly and slowly sets up a ladder in front of Matt's eye. Calmly and slowly climbs it. Calmly and slowly secures the briefcase. And calmly and slowly climbs back down to win the match. Security arrives to escort a stunned Matt Hardy from the building, as he's just lost his job on RAW. Edge and Lita seem mighty proud of themselves.

Your Winner: Edge, via Ladder Ascension, in about 15 minutes. Unlike the IronMan Match, this pretty much delivered exactly what I expected it would... it also hits the Very Good plateau. I can muster no conceivable complaints about this one...

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Backstage: Matt Hardy was tossed from the building during the break. Funny, I'd have at least thrown Teddy Long in there for a cameo... it's not like your fans are so retarded to think that Hardy won't just show up on SD!, WWE, so give 'em the next logical development instead, says I.

Elsewhere Backstage: Trish Stratus is getting cinched into an unnecessarily elaborate leather outfit by her tag team partner, Diva Search Ashley. They're just chatting, with Ashley thanking Trish for all the help she's provided lately. Trish says, it ain't no thang, because she was as annoyed as anyone when Torrie and all them started acting like they were the Bestest Divas on RAW. Trish sees it as just taking care of bidness. And once tied into her own outfit, Trish also wants to see to the bidness of Ashley's wardrobe, because you never know what might happen in a bra and panties match, so you gotta be, y'know, covered. Ashley assures Trish all is well on that front, and pulls her shirt down so Trish can inspect. "Looks good to me.... umm, I mean, the bra; the BRA looks good, cuz obviously.... well, you know," Trish sputtered in a flustered manner. Ashley innocently asks if Trish needs to inspect the panties, too, but Trish giggles and assures us that, no, that really won't be necessary. And somewhere, a Hollywood Writer Monkey with an Eleventh Grader's Understanding of Girls wept openly that his vision for a skit rife with Hot Lesbian Overtones had absolutely none, and instead took the light-hearted comedic route and ended up -- contrary to his tastes -- being a thousand times more appealing as a result.

Kubrick Segue: Prepared for their match, Trishley get ready to leave their dressing room, only to have the cameras follow them and only to find Mae Young ALREADY stripped down to her bra. Oy. They try to get Mae to button up her blouse, to no avail. Then they try to corral Mae down a hallway to some semblance of privacy.... instead, they run into Hacksaw Duggan, Jimmy Snuka, and Ted DiBiase having a conversation. DiBiase brandishes a big wad of hundreds and IMMEDIATELY offers Mae a thousand bucks to put her shirt back on. Two thousand? THREE thousand? But he's finally found somebody who doesn't have a price for the Million Dollar Man.... the Fabulous Moolah finally arrives and just grabs Mae and hauls her off. Leaving Superfly to kife DiBiase's bankroll, promising to pay him back later... but apparently now, he intends to go pay for Mae Young's sexual favors. I sure hope you're not eating dinner as you read this.... anyway, Snuka wanders off with a smitten look on his face, while Duggan and DiBiase exchange bewildered (and vaguely grossed-out) glances. That was actually pretty funny. Amusing little throw-away segments would have been a better use of time, in my book, than 26 minute McMahon Crap-a-thons, at least....

Elsewhere Elsewhere Backstage: Maria the Mic Stand is all dolled up in her Homecoming Gown and Sash. Cuz, see, she's DUMB, so she thought it was a homecoming dance! Ahahahahaha! But in addition to looking chesty and overly-made-up, she's also here to interview Ric Flair, who has a match coming up next. Flair hits all the exact notes I expected him to hit: that he's had his troubles with Carlito and Masters, but tonight all scores get settled as Flair's joined by his Best Friend Triple H, the man who is responsible for Ric Flair being here today, and for resurrecting the REAL Nature Boy 4 years ago when Flair came to WWE a broken man with a broken career. Thanks to HHH, Flair found himself and today is back in the game as the IC Champ... and tonight, Flair and his best friend finish some business. Whoo. Oh, Flair.... you've been on the other side of this equation so many times that it almost makes me sad to see you acting as dumb as Sting....

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Ric Flair/Triple H vs. Carlito Cool/Chris F. Masters

And here we are, two hours and 8 minutes into the show, and we are only now starting our third wrestling match of the night. You know: I'm not one of these internet jack-offs who only likes OMG~! WORKRATE, or anything. If I was, I wouldn't be as underwhelmed as I am with TNA. I'm more than happy to have some Entertainment in my Sports Entertainment.... in fact, I insist upon it. But I also insist that the entertainment be Entertaining. And we've had some issues (well, one 26 minute issue) on that front tonight, so I'll go ahead and impersonate a jack-off by noting that it's taken till into RAW's third hour to get our third wrestling match. I begin to suspect there would have been WAY better ways to pace this show...

Anyway, Flair and Trips get off to a super-fast start, and they clean house on the heels. There's even a big "Trip Ull Aitch" chant, and one must assume that Hunter was enjoying getting to bust out a few babyface riffs here and there, since he knew just as well as we all did that it wasn't gonna last.

This included, as part of the Housecleaning, some tandem offense with Flair that saw the two do Stereo Chops and Stereo Strutting to more big cheers. I have to assume Carlito and Masters were more humiliated by the tandem offense than actually wounded, but they powdered out, leaving us with some dead time all of 90 seconds into the match. That thing about pacing issues pops back into my head as we suddenly cut to some....

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We return to find Carlito in control of Ric Flair... and in fact, we return to find Carlito being a rather clever son of a gun. After stomping away on Flair for a few moments, he goes, grabs and apple, and spits it on Flair. Jerk. And then Carlito decided to up the Jerk Factor by locking in the Figure Four. JR received my telepathic transmission, and actually uttered the line, "And now, Carlito's adding injury to insult" about 2 seconds after I thought it. Flair eventually managed to turn the hold over to escape it, but the damage was done, and he was unable to sustain a rally.

So Carlito, despite just having weathered a mini-assault by Flair, put the old man down with a spinebuster, and then kindly opted to stay in the ring to entertain us, instead of tagging in Chris F. Masters. For this section of the match, Carlito busted out some Flair-esque chops, and then even built up to some Whoo-ing and strutting. Oh, you HUGE jerk! Crowd is not appreciative of the homage, but I'm laughing my ass off.... and my laughter doubles when I see Carlito strutting over to a corner, with designs on climbing to the top rope. Surely they haven't been THIS clever, have they? But yep: they were.... Carlito goes up top, and in 2005 Greatest Moment of Wrestling Irony (trumping the one where dumbass Keller professes glee at not having to pay attention to UFC commercials this week, only to spend 10 paragraphs talking about UFC during RAW's commercial breaks), Flair recovers in time to slam Carlito off the top. Now that's funny shit. Also funny: Flair stumbles towards his corner to make a tag, but flops at the last second.

This allows Carlito to tag in Masters, who immediately goes for the full nelson on Flair. [For those scoring at home, JR didn't call him "Chris F. Masters," but did on two occasions refer to him as "Young Christopher Masters," so on the grounds that Orton and Master contain interchangeable levels of Suck, I vote that still counts as a shout out to his Favorite Internet Jackoff!] But HHH creates a distraction, allowing Flair to paste Masters in his roid-shriveled testicles. This time, Flair does make it to the corner to tag in HHH. Standard House Afire sequence, with High Knees and Spinebusters for everyone... and then, for absolutely no reason that I could discern, HHH goes out side and gets his sledgehammer from under the ring. Though it makes absolutely no logical sense, I guess I was cheering for him to use it on Chris F. Masters, afterall, and that maybe Sweet Lady Sledge would slip momentarily and pay Masters back for Stevie Richards broken face. But no dice... Carlito broke that up.

So HHH turned his attention to Carlito, and rapidly cinched him in for the Pedigree. Masters tried attacking from behind (with the sledge), but Flair put an end to that. HHH hit the Pedigree on Carlito (who, it should be noted, was NOT the legal man, which means one of two things: one, WWE is nonsensically trying to "protect" Masters by not having him by the one to take the fall, or two, former WCW referee Mickey Jay -- was was working this match for some reason -- is terribly incompetent), and that's that.

Your Winners: Ric Flair and Triple H, via pinfall. It was probably really close to 10 minutes total, but because of the early ad break and the fact that only the part of the match AFTER that seemed like the "real" match it really didn't feel like much more than 5 or 6. Harmless, fast paced fun. With big credit to Carlito for his Flair Homage during the middle portion of the match; that kept what is usually a bland element of the Standard Tag Formula from getting boring.

After the Match: HHH and Flair celebrated, and for some reason, HHH insisted on holding Sweet Lady Sledge in one hand while he raised Ric's arm with the other. Again, the "Dumb As Sting" line occurs to me, and Flair should be sharper than this.... but I guess he [hearts] his bestest friend. But HHH has no love for BFF Status, and sure enough, on about the third arm raise, Trips goes all Paul Orndorff on Flair, and yanks him in for a cheap sledgehammer shot. Flair comes up bleeding (bleeding a LOT, and for once, when JR busts out the "Crimson Mask" call, he's not exagerrating even one iota). HHH continues the assault, including one or two more sledge blows, and taking the fight outside, where he uses the ringsteps and other items to add to Flair's misery. The announcers are shocked by this, and the fans react appropriate (with loud boos), making me wonder why I was the only one who knew, with stone cold certainty, that this was the only possible outcome here.... wasn't it patently obvious to anybody paying attention? Or is it just that much fun to boo HHH? I dunno.... but the assault continues outside the ring. In fact, it's right in front of the Legends (some of whom are shown sort of chuckling at this moment of tragic treason; somebody should have gotten them memos about how to react to key angles, in case they were seen on TV). In mid-beat-down, and with JR in mid-indignation, we have to cut to....

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Backstage: in a "WWE.com Exclusive" (which is a lie, since if it's exclusive, we wouldn't be seeing it on USA Network), we get continuing footage of HHH beating the crap out of Flair backstage. For a really long time. While screaming nonsensical things about how Flair should have known better. Huh? I guess we have to tune in next week to find out?  HHH also screamed at all the backstage people to leave him alone because nobody was going to stop him from giving Flair the beating he deserved. And that's all well and good, but really: counting 3-4 minutes of post-match beating, and now adding on 3-4 more minutes of this footage, HHH is really taking 8 minutes of our precious TV time to convey a message that was effectively conveyed after one sledgehammer shot to Flair. The rest of this? Is just wasting our time. Good to see Trips hasn't lost his touch in that regard. Finally HHH tosses Flair into a limo, smashes a window, and then the limo speeds off. Because Triple H hates Ric Flair, but he wants him to travel in luxury? I dunno.... but that was the whole segment, and honestly: it struck me as utterly superfluous given that everything we needed to know about this story had already played out in the ring. One whole segment, and it was nothing but 5 minutes of empty calories. It's already time for more....

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Who Needs TNA When You've Got Dusty Blathering Senselessly Right Here?

All the legends from the front row have now moved into the ring, and for some reason, Dusty fricking Rhodes has been nominated as their spokesperson. This despite the fact that Dusty gives me the gripes and the fact that Dusty has never been in a RAW ring in his entire career and in fact was on the opposing side for the ENTIRETY of the RAW/Nitro battle. So of course, Master of Logic Dusty Rhodes opening line is "It feels great to be back in this very ring." Moron.

Dusty puts over a few of the other legends in the ring, and is about to do an extended homage to Harley Race when Rob Conway interrupts. And the crowd goes mild. Conway makes nursing home jokes and adult diaper jokes, which are met with dead silence.... because what WWE forgets is that for these skits in which the punchline is Ritual Humiliation, it works best if the sap is at least KIND OF over with the audience. Which Conway is not.

Dusty finally (mercifully) cuts Conway off before he can flounder any longer, and says that he should show respect to these legends because he is now eating off of the table that they all built for him. Conway uses this as an excuse to go back to Harley Race (Dusty's next topic), noting that it doesn't look like Harley's been passing up too many buffet tables. Zing? So Harley just pops in him the jaw. Then Hacksaw Duggan and Pat Patterson (see, I TOLD YOU he had to be there) got free shots. Then Dusty hit the Bionic Elbow... and THEN, Kevin von Erich sunk in the vice-like Claw to a huge pop. Good times.

With Conway debilitated, the legends applied peer pressure on Superfly Snuka, sending him to the top rope, where he successfully managed to hit a Superfly Splash without breaking a hip. Cue up Snuka's music, as the legends celebrate. A fun piece of pointless fluffery... again, I am reminded that if the McMahon thing hadn't gone 26 minutes and if HHH didn't take thrice as long as he needed for his "heel turn," then there would have been more time to invest in the good stuff. Cuz this was really only 4 minutes, and I could even have stood for it going longer, with Conway's Humiliation expanding to include signature moves from Arn Anderson, Hacksaw, Ricky Steamboat, or a bunch of the other guys who were there in the ring.

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Trish Stratus/Diva Search Ashley vs. Victoria/Torrie Wilson/Candice Michelle (Handicap Bra-and-Panties Match)

Throwing my Prediction Heuristic a curveball, the heel trio are all decked out in essentially their standard ringwear. While Trish and Ashley are "out of character." Ashley's opted for an outfit straight out of the Lita Collection (non-slutty version), while Trish has the aforementioned leather get-up (which only served to prove that even if you've gone to great lengths to have a Mathematically-Proven-to-be-Flawless Body, it's still impossible to find well-fitting leather pants, so really, you shouldn't bother; or maybe that's just my Simplicity Fetish rearing its head again). On the grounds that I thought the team with the more elaborate lingerie would be the losers, I almost changed my pick here... I mean, if nothing else, Victoria was attired as usual, and there's nothing particularly "Maxim Sexy" about accessorizing your bra and panties with a big ol' knee brace, right?

Anyway, out of the gate, the heels use their numbers advantage to toss Trish from the ring and focus on Ashley. They remove her top to reveal a lacy pink bra, which again strikes me as rather un-punk of Ashley.... Ashley then goes all Spaz on us, and manages to put Torrie and Boobies on their backs (in an unintentionally hilarious moment, Boobies just flopped sloppily to the mat before Ashley even threw a punch) and got Victoria's top off. When Victoria tried to chase Ashley to get revenge, she ran -- full speed and quite bouncily -- into a clothesline from Trish.

This gave Trishley time to work over Torrie and Boobies, which had some Bowling Shoe Tendencies. Luckily, we were quickly distracted by that when the heels' tops came off. Trish and Ashley were about to remove the bottoms, as well, when Victoria got back in the match and evened things out a bit. Ashley powdered out, and Victoria and Trish tried to do a few almost-wrestling moves. This was made a bit tougher to pay attention to by Trish's pants' insistence on wanting to fall off. A simple pair of jeans, and the ass-cleavage is controlled by YOU instead of by gravity, Trish! 

This leads up to a spot where Trish wanted to hit the handstand head scissors move, but Victoria countered it by aiding Trish's pants downward proclivities for a momentary peak before Trish re-countered into the head scissors, afterall, and promptly pulled her pants up as best she could. After that big move, it was fairly easy to get an assist from Ashley and remove Victoria's bottoms. Then, when Torrie and Boobies attacked, they split up and finished the match. Ashley took Candice's skirt off (and nearly ripped her underpants off in the process in what would have been one for the 15 year olds in the audience to go blind over), while Trish relieved Torrie of her spandex pants.

Your Winners: Trish and Ashley, via Opposing Team Partially Nudity, in about 3 minutes. Certainly awful and sloppy at times from a wrestling perspective. But short and harmless as a whole, with enough to distract the eye so that the brain couldn't get too annoyed.

Backstage: Kurt Angle approaches Eric Bischoff, concerned because he just saw Ken Kennedy (kennedy) skulking about backstage, and there might be other SmackDown! interlopers around trying to ruin the show. But Bischoff tells Kurt to calm down, because Bischoff has a plan to deal with SD!.... just like he has a plan for John Cena. You see, Mr. McMahon left the building, which means Bischoff is in charge again. Which means his match against Cena tonight WILL be a No Disqualification Match, afterall. And furthermore, it'd be an honor if Kurt Angle would accompany him down to the ring for the match to see the crowning of a new champion, up close and in person. Because then, Bischoff only really wants to be champion for one night... and he'd be more than amenable to handing the title over to somebody with Olympic Gold Medal Credentials, if you catch his drift. Kurt does catch it, and says he'll be there for Bischoff in the main event. Ugh: the "main event"? In all the different ways I imagined this show playing out, the one way I NEVER mentally envisioned it was with Bischoff/Cena going on last...

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SmackDown! versus Time Management

So we come back from break, and are welcomed by Michael Cole and Tazz, who assure us this is Monday, and it is RAW, but they are here to bring us a Very Special SD! Match. GM Teddy Long slinks in to do some guest commentary as the six men make their way to the ring: Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit (huge pop, biggest of the six by far, and one of the biggest of the night), Batista, JBL, Christian, and Eddie Guerrero.

It appears we're just gonna get a standard six-man match, which really makes me wonder why they bothered playing it so mysteriso last week when Teddy would reveal only the participants but NOT the match he had in mind to Vince. At least Eddie and Batista had the good sense to share a couple of coy waves and smiles as they got settled in, reminding us that they are "friends."

Then, as soon as the bell ring to start the match, Bischoff comes out on the stage and says that with Vince McMahon gone, it's "lights out" for SD!... with that, the ring lights go out, and Bischoff starts cackling about how funny it would be to watch the six bumble around in the dark, but really: just get out of his ring.

At first, I was gonna guess this was an on-the-fly move done because of time management screw-ups... but upon further review (and how the show ended), I think this was the plan all along. Which is kind of shitty of WWE. SD! got six ring entrances and time for Tazz and Cole to talk about each one's PPV Match coming up on Sunday, but that's it.... they might think that's clever of them, but again: it'll take more than that to get anybody interested in ordering "No Mercy."

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Hulk Hogan's Shortest Promo Ever (EVER!)

Back from break, and we ARE feeling a time pinch, since it's already almost 11, and we have a main event to get to, but first, Gene Okerlund is standing in the ring to welcome his guest tonight: Hulk Hogan.

Gene asks Hogan what's next for him in WWE. And after a "Lemme tell you something, Mean Gene," Hogan quickly says he'd welcome a rematch with Shawn Michaels, but moves on to say in terms of a fresh opponent, he had an idea earlier tonight.... he was in the back watching as one man blew the roof of the joint (and then proceeded to bore the fans for an additional 15 minutes after that), and was struck by a notion. The fans are one step ahead of Hogan, chanting "Austin, Austin." So Hogan nods knowingly and says, "I wonder what all these Hulkamaniacs would do if the largest arms in the world stepped into the ring with Stone Cold Steve Austin." 

The crowd roared approval at the thought, while JR assured us that would be a match worth paying for. And then, Hogan tore off the t-shirt, and all of 2 minutes into his appearance, we gotta break for....

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John Cena vs. Eric Bischoff (No Disqualification Match for the WWE Title)

Angle accompanies Bischoff, and immediately grabs a steel chair and sits himself down at ringside. Meantime, Cena makes his entrance, and after his music cuts out, and the staredown process begins, there is a rather noticeable "Cena Sucks" chant. HA! I'm telling you people: I KNOW what I'm talking about in terms of Cena's appeal, and this week, it's more proof. From disorganized grumbling and booing to organized anti-Cena chanting... we're inching ever-closer to my prediction of Cena completely polarizing the audience to the point where his only fans are fangirls and hip-hop-obsessed teenagers who'll lap up whatever MTV serves them till they get to college and realize MTV mostly sucks.

Cena initially foils Bischoff's Karate Fighter attacks, but a distraction allows Bischoff to get in three (3) kicks before Superman Cena resume No Selling Mode. Bischoff takes a quick beatdown and eats the Five Knuckle Shuffle. Cena's ready to hit the F-U when Angle interferes with a low-blow... then Angle tries to hit Cena with his steel chair, but Cena dodges it, and Angle does the patented "hit the ropes and the chair bounces back and hits himself in the head" spot. So Angle powders out, Cena F-U's Bischoff, and that's it. Seriously.

Your Winner: John Cena, via pinfall, in about 2 minutes. Just.... I dunno, but "awful" isn't too strong a word, is it? I mean, putting this as the main event should have seemed like a bad idea to any sane man to begin with... but putting it as the main event when this is all you had to offer up? That's just retarded. Trust me: nothing was done to fix the Cena Problem here, and if anything, this just served to show any fans who showed up to give Homecoming a try that WWE *still* doesn't know how to craft a show so that it has a satisfying conclusion. And other gOOdness aside, remember: the final impression a show leaves is always the strongest one. And the impression left by Cena squashing Bischoff in an exceptionally pointless and unentertaining match? Is a bad impression.

After the Match: Angle gets back in the ring to brawl with Cena, but before they can even get warmed up Teddy Long interrupts. Teddy Long? Yep. He says Eric Bischoff embarrassed him earlier, so now it's payback time, playas. Cena and Angle share an uneasy gaze, like they are about to be forced to be allies, and sure enough: all of a sudden about a half dozen SD! guys run out to attack Cena and Angle. The six from the "match," anyway, plus Kennedy. After a 7-on-2 beatdown, some RAW troops arrived to make the save. Michaels and Big Show were the biggest stars, but Shelton made a token appearance, and I think I saw Viscera in there, too. It's a big RAW vs. SD! Brawl, and the fans perk up for the first time this whole segment, which means it's time to Fade to Black before things get at all interesting or entertaining. You know what? If this really does lead to some RAW vs. SD! angles, then great, I applaud this finish as the logical way to jumpstart those stories.... but if, as I fear, it was just a one-off tag ending (like at the end of the first Draft Lottery) that goes nowhere, then no free pass from me. In that case, it's just a half-assed attempt to distract fans from the fact that the actual main event was crappy. I guess we'll have to wait for the final verdict on that, eh? Till then, Homecoming certainly had a bit more good than bad... but the bad was REALLY bad, and it also included the "main event" of the show, which is a giant no-no to me. Definite mixed feelings about last night, as a whole....

E-MAIL RICK
BROWSE THE RAW RECAP ARCHIVES


  
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SMACKDOWN RECAP: Destiny Do-Over
 
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RAW RECAP: Countdown to 1000
 
PPV RECAP: WWE Money in the Bank 2012
 
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PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28

 

 

 


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