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Taking the Bad with the Good
December 13, 2005

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


I was looking forward to a night of TV crapulence tonight, and for the most part, I got it....

RAW was a big bowl of predictably acceptability (albeit with a heaping ladle of Very Lame John Cena Stubborn Pushness poured on top). "Arrested Development" was a pretty good time. And then there was Letterman. On this night, it was a perfect blueprint for what the late night genre needs to be...  

Obviously, Jack Black was outstanding as a guest. In fact, his best story was about his upcoming wrestling movie (where he plays a Mexican priest by day, and a luchador by night) and involved a crippling injury. As much as I can't wait to see that movie next fall, so I can (almost assuredly) put it in the pantheon along with "School 

of Rock" as Jack-Black-with-kids-movies that I probably should hate, but for some reason love, I think Jack's own tales of his wussiness mean that we are under no threat of my Fantasy Booking of 7 months ago coming to pass.... Jables probably has no desire to really try his hand in a wrestling ring after the way he told his tale on Letterman.

An added "Late Night" bonus: Reggie Bush reading a rare actually-funny Top 10 List. Top Ten Cool Things About Winning the Heisman Trophy.... just off the top of my head, I know #1 had me cackling: "It's pretty sweet to be the only Bush with an approval rating over 40 percent." HA~! And plus: I'm not a huge fan of west coast football, and only saw a few of USC's games this year (Notre Dame, and then parts of their last 3 in a row), but I thought it comical that the Heisman people even invited two other also-rans to the ceremony, cuz Bush was so clearly the best player in college football this year. As added bonus: I think I can *like* Reggie Bush. He always seems so normal, sane, and likeable in interviews; not your normal self-important dickweed. Given what I read of his Heisman acceptance speech, I almost (ALMOST) believe him when he says he hasn't decided to go to the NFL yet. As much as he bent over to thank Leinart for coming back to school this year to make this season what it was for Reggie, you ALMOST believe he's the kind of guy who might come back to provide that same service for another batch of underclassmen. 

If the alternative is taking your hand-offs from Vinnie Testaverde at the Meadowlands come next September, that ain't exactly sweetening the NFL pot, now is it? ZING on you, silly Jets fans~!

Oh well... but you're not here to hear me ramble my way around so that I could have an outlet for my Bush/Testaverde joke that I've been saving since Sunday. You want to hear about the big, 2-hour meat that was right there in the middle of my Crapulence Sandwich. RAW was not without its foibles, and I don't think it came close to recreating the sizzle of the week before. But I think it largely got to where it needed to go, even if (as you'll see) I had periodic issues with the routes they decided to take.

We ride....

Video Package: a recap of last week's "Trial of Eric Bischoff." Normally I don't recap recaps, but in this case, I'd like to point out that the total "People's Court" make-over to the highlights was pretty funny. Also: I think they mercifully deleted Moolah and Mae Young, which was about the only really unfunny part of the skits last week. Win/win, baby!

Cold Open Theatre: Meet the New Boss, Same as the Real Life Boss

Vince McMahon opens the show, sans everybody's favorite theme/pyro/etc., and tries to begin speaking promptly. But his mic isn't hooked into the house sound system, apparently (even though we can hear him, I guess Boston couldn't). So Vince pitches a little hissy fit, eventually gets a functional microphone, and we can begin...

Vince says last week he made good on a promise, and actually accomplished one of his goals: he "took out the trash." Further, he'd like to promise that not only is Eric Bischoff fired, but Eric Bischoff will STAY fired. Do my ears deceive me, or were those boos for Bischoff staying fired? Vince didn't really help matters any when he really turned up the insincere prick dial to wish Bischoff and his family a Very Merry Christmas.

But on to matters at hand: RAW needs a new General Manager. And tonight, Vince promises to begin the interviewing process to find some candidates. As sort of a heat check, Vince starts tossing out a few ideas. How about one of You Fans, even? Nah, Vince is just ribbing. ["BOO!" And I vote that Vince should have, if anybody was paying attention to continuity, joked that he fired all our asses 2 months ago.] How about Stephanie McMahon? "BOO!" Shane McMahon? "YAY!"... And there's always Theo Epstein. "YAY! BOO!" because Boston can't figure out exactly HOW they feel yet about the Red Sox comical General Manager Situation.... then finally: how about Ted Turner himself, who Vince hears wants to get back into the rasslin' business, and could become Vince's employee? "Confused Silence." I choose to interpret that non-reaction from the fans as, "Christ, Vince, you already got to throw Eric Bischoff in a garbage truck last week, now just quit bludgeoning us over the head with the fact that you have the most perverse masturbation fantasies in recorded history."

But enough of that. RAW still needs somebody in charge for TONIGHT... so as Interim GM, Vince is going to assign a man who blah blah blah blah blah blah and also has gigantic still-functioning genitalia. If you needed any more than two of Vince's long rambling list of self-aggrandizing adjectives to figure out where this was headed, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to leave OO. Obviously, Vince named himself as GM For The Night.

And as his first act, he's going to follow-through on last week's decision by then-GM Bischoff that New Year's Revolution feature an Elimination Chamber Match for the WWE Title... so tonight, there will be five qualifying matches to determine Cena's five challengers. Vince's mention of Cena? Even in Cena's hometown, it's met with a healthy smattering of boos. Tough break, kid.

Simple and brief enough opening segment. Vince as "interim GM" is pretty underwhelming, but at this point, I perked up at the idea that the "interviews" could be entertaining little throw-away skits scribed by the Hollywood Writer Monkeys (like last week's Trial skits) that would exist in their own little universe and leave us to have our wrestling show uninterrupted over here. Didn't quite turn out that way at all, but 'twas a notion I had.

Anyway, Vince says the Qualifying Matches begin right now. And he invites us to note that during this first man's entrance, fans will NOT be censored. The live fans could not possibly care either way, but I know my ears thank you, Vince....

Kurt Angle vs. Ric Flair (Elimination Chamber Qualifying Match)

A couple pre-match notes... as they kicked it down to the ring and did entrances and stuff, Coach revealed himself, and welcomed himself back to the announce table. Goddammit. Why? I thought last week was the start of something fresh, where Joey and Lawler could begin finding their rhythm and chemistry. But here's Coach, back to screw it all up by (whether by personal choice or at the behest of his handlers in the headset) insisting on trying to be a character more than a storyteller. I could not count the times last night where Coach created a real distraction by either undermining the storytelling by counter-productively sticking to his character or where he'd back-peddle from that long enough to try to blend in with Joey and King only to catch himself in an internal inconsistency later on. Coach, the character, is excellent and should be an interviewer or a lackey or whatever other role you want to have him play so he can appear in skits every week. But there is just no need for Coach to be on TV talking at us for 2 hours on Monday nights.

And also: Kurt again had the sneakers on. I guess that *was* a conscious choice last week. And now my guess is that those are some kind of new-fangled wrestling shoes. Last I know, in high school, wrestling shoes looked more like little booties; Kurt's things definitely look more like basketball shoes, though. First the mouthpiece, now the wrestling shoes... how far is Kurt away from busting out the amateur wrestling head gear? It could even have the magical power to mute out "You Suck" chants....

But onto the match... mat wrestling to start and then on to the exchanges of punches and chops. Neither man sustains an advantage much longer than 15 seconds as they go back-and-forthy for the opening 2 minutes. That changes, however, when Kurt finally figures out how to duck Flair's 83rd attempted chop... that resulted in Kurt countering smoothly into an Angle Slam. Could it be over just that quickly?

Nope, because Angle wants the tap-out. He cinches in an anklelock, and Flair has to struggle for a minute or so, but finally does get a rope break. Angle takes full advantage of the (non-Daivari) ref's five-count, and finally releases Flair. Naitch rolls to the outside, Angle's rather pleased with himself, and even though we're only 3 minutes into this match we DID get a Vince McMahon promo before hand, so it's probably about time we broke for....


Back, and Angle's working the always-thrilling body scissors. That works for about a minute, and then Flair decides it's time for him to fire up. Flair gets to his feet, and the body scissors becomes a headlock, and then it quickly becomes nothing when Flair finally hits a back suplex to get separation.

From there, it's standard Flair offense, as he goes right after Angle's knee... the softening up takes a couple of minutes, but then it's finally time: Flair locks on the Figure Four. Now, it's Angle's turn to struggle valiantly and finally get to the ropes. 

Flair tried to sustain the advantage, but shortly afterwards, Angle reversed an Irish Whip and hit Flair with a big overhead suplex. When that wasn't enough to keep Flair down, Angle went to an alternate plan: he ducked outside and grabbed a steel chair. He brought it into the ring, and started bickering with the referee. And then, he let the ref win.... while the zebra was busy putting the chair back down, Angle went over to the corner where he'd stashed his Gold Medal, wrapped it up in his fist, and KO'ed Flair with a right hand. Comically, the announcers COMPLETELY whiffed on this relatively obvious development and were theorizing about brass knuckles; I don't know how, but somehow, I want to blame Coach for this.

Your Winner: Kurt Angle, via pinfall following foreign object shot, in about 8 minutes. Seemingly half the match took place during an ad break, but what we got was definitely solid enough. The perceived brevity was also because this match was book-ended by extended promos, as witness by the fact that after the match, Kurt picked up a mic for...

The Needs of the Cena Outweigh The Needs of the Kurt... or the Fans

Kurt listens to the sing-along to his theme song, and asks the rhetorical question, "You suck?". And then goes on to answer it himself, by opining that he does not, in fact, suck. Kurt says he'll just take the chants for granted, just like fans take HIM for granted when he comes out there every week for their entertainment and still chant naughty things at him.

Oh, but wait: that thing about "every week." Strike that. Because Kurt's not going to be on RAW next week. Next week is RAW from Afghanistan, which is/was a voluntary tour. [Kurt alternated tenses, apparently as confused as I was about how to make this into an even vaguely compelling storyline element.] And Kurt did not volunteer. Because the troops over there are no better than the people here in Boston. They don't respect Kurt, they don't recognize his excellence. You want a real American hero, you got one in Kurt Angle, who represented his country in the Olympics and won a gold medal with a broken freaking neck. This is the ultimate thing one can do for one's country, says Kurt. 

Or at least: he's won more for his country than those troops ever have. Kurt mocks the lack of success in the War On Terror, and says the men and women of the armed forces have accomplished absolutely nothing. They don't deserve to be graced with the presence of a True American Hero. Until they do something constructive, like find Osama, Kurt says he ain't going anywhere. Needless to say, this is met with a combination of tentative boos and confused silence; the transient "Let's go Angle" chants that were heard in the background earlier have been silenced, since it'd be pretty hard for any sane individual to let loose cheers after what Angle just said.

Then, Kurt decides he's gone just about far enough on that retarded and out-of-character tangent, and shifts gears back to the sorts of things that are actually appropriate fodder for pro wrestling heels.... he says Boston may not appreciate a True American Hero, but he knows they have some Hometown Heroes around here. At that, Daivari pops up on the TitanTron. He's on a concourse somewhere in the arena, near a display of Boston Bruin Bobby Orr and Boston Celtic Larry Bird mannequins.

Kurt instructs Daivari that, since the people of Boston are disrespecting him, he wants to disrespect their heroes. So first, Daivari spits on and slaps around the Larry Bird mannequin; make a note that *this* got more cheap heat than Angle's ill-conceived anti-troop rant. Even though Larry Bird is so totally repatriated back to Indiana, where he belongs, Boston still clings to their memories of having once housed a professional basketball team. How cute. And then, Daivari whips out the spray paint to desecrate Bobby Orr... Kurt just tried to offend the Americans, so the only thing I can figure they hope to accomplish by disrespecting a hockey player is to really piss off any Canadians in the audience.

But when Daivari turns back around to begin, he discovers that ANOTHER "hometown hero" has materialized, and he's here, in the flesh, baby. John Cena is making his Angry Face, which is more than enough to intimidate Daivari into leaving; Daivari, it needs to be noted since it becomes important later, drops his spray paint and Cena picks it up. Then Homey the Clown turns to the camera to address Kurt, calling him "bush league."

At this point, if there are boos for Cena, they are inconsequential. I guess if you're in your home town, if your opponent bends over backwards to say the most inanely out-of-character unAmerican things imaginable, AND you get to scare off an evil Ay-rab, you FINALLY get a free pass. Christ... only in WWE is the solution to an underperforming babyface to make everything else around him stupider and less-believable so that he'll look good by comparison, instead of (oh, I dunno) actually fixing the babyface so that he rises above the still-compelling characters and situations around him. More of the Fed's patented Addition by Subtraction. [Hell, between this ridiculous, implausible bullshit and the other-men's-wives fetish Kurt was asked to sell us earlier this year, he's been handed a pile of turds in 2005 so ginormous that only Glen Jacobs could sympathize.]

Back to Cena's little speech. More temporal confusion, as Cena decides to acknowledge that the Afghanistan tour DID already happen, cuz he went over there and considered it an honor and a privilege to meet the men and women who are doing a difficult job so that Cena can go out and do his job safely all throughout America and throughout the world. He says he disagrees with everything Kurt just said, but he has to listen to it, because this is America, and we have the Freedom of Speech. Cena thinks if Kurt wants to use that Freedom to say things like he just did, then he'd better get used to listening to the fans using THEIR Freedom to say things like "You suck." And then, in an attempted Easter Egg for all us playa hatas out here in TV land, Cena even tells Kurt to just relax and deal, because hell, sometimes it sounds like half the people out there think Cena sucks. But it ain't no thang to Homey. Acknowledging the boos? Audible by Cena, or scripted line because WWE thinks if they acknowledge them, they'll somehow go away? You make the call....

So the speech continues with flaccid platitudes and bland pleasantries about the troops and America and patriotism. Again, addition by subtraction here; instead of fixing Cena and getting fans to cheer for him, the ploy here is to somehow create the impression that Cena = America. And thus, if you like America, you MUST like Cena. So lame, so transparent, so short-term-of-a-fix-that-doesn't-address-the-real-problem. Cena finishes up his stilted monologue -- in the pantheon of stupid, eyeball-roll-inducing jingoistic monologues, I will, however, rank Cena's as "still slightly better than the one the president gave in Independence Day," which isn't really saying much -- and hits his punchline.

"Without these troops, there is no America. And without America, there can be no True American Heroes, Kurt. So if you don't get that, then you can't see me." And remember the spray paint? Cena uses it to paint the camera lens black. Word, yo! Way to stick it to that jive turkey!

So, OK: for one week, WWE pressed enough of the lazy cheap heat buttons to get fans to quit cheering Angle and to quit booing Cena. But will it last? Can you do this again in two weeks and have it work again for one night? How many times can you repeat the same basic unrealistic morality play before people catch on and stop caring? Kurt should never have been asked to go down this route, just because it takes him from being a believable, relatable character worthy of our attention (be they boos or cheers) to being some cheesy one-dimensional TV villain who inspires nothing other than deep-seated befuddlement over how those writers ever got hired.

And Cena? Oy. To say Cena lacks the gravitas to be the spokesperson for America in a debate like this is an understatement. It's actually quite jarring. Petulant, bratty wigger one week. Staunch American patriot the next? Nuh uh. No sale. It's like I said though: instead of creating a single, cohesive, believable, appealing John Cena, WWE seems to have settled on just cobbling him together from parts of other proven commodities. Cena's Stone Cold one week. He's Eminem the next. This week: let's throw in a dash of Hulk Hogan flag-waving. Like I said: the right buttons were pressed for it to work for one night.... but we need fewer band-aids, WWE, and more one big ass surgical procedure to just fix this gaping wound once and for all. 

Stabbing Kurt Angle's character in the gut in an attempt to make Cena seem healthier by comparison is also quite retarded of you. 

Crap: this segment wrapped up three paragraphs ago. So: End Rant. Break for...


Backstage: Ric Flair is licking his wounds. And who should walk up? Edge and Lita. Edge mocks Flair for losing yet another big match. Lita chimes in that maybe Flair oughta hit the turnpike and pull somebody over and beat them up, since that's the only kind of fight Flair seems to be winning these days. ZING~! That gets Flair's dander up, but even as Lita sticks her chin out, Edge comments about how he's sure Ric's lawyers would really like it if Flair got into yet another case of assault. And with a woman no less. Flair backs down, and Edge punctuates this effectively prickish segment with a "Whoooo!" on his way out...

Elsewhere Backstage: Shawn Michaels is gearing up for his match tonight, and in walks Shelton Benjamin, carrying a copy of what I can only assume is HBK's new book. Michaels brusquely asks what Shelton wants. And Shelton just wants to know what the deal was last week. Shawn asked him for an attitude, and Shelton gave it to him, but then when the chips were down, Michaels stood by and watched his partner get pinned. Shawn tries to turn the tables, pointing out that the match was well in hand, and Shelton stuck his nose in where it wasn't needed. Shelton didn't buy that, though; he said Shawn was just being selfish and if he couldn't get the win himself, then he didn't care about anybody else. Shawn appears ready to retort again, but Shelton says, "But I guess I shouldn't be surprised."  Shelton holds the book up and slams it into Michaels' chest, and says, "I guess old habits die hard." With Michaels unsure of how to react to that accusation about his admittedly spotty past behavior, Shelton closed with a final request: Shelton knows he's going to win his way into the Elimination Chamber, and he just wants Michaels to make sure he wins tonight too, because Shelton would love to see Michaels inside the steel. Very nicely done...


STILL with the Self-Congratulatory Europe Crap?: a lengthy video package of the tour of Europe, which is now a full month in the past. We didn't care then, we sure as shit don't care now. So you know what that spells: fast-forward, baby!

Shelton Benjamin vs. Carlito Cool (Elimination Chamber Qualifying Match)

Early on, announcers hammer home the story that Carlito has really had Shelton's number lately. Beat him for the IC Title, beat him to earn a spot on the Survivor Series team, and now they're again wrestling with something huge on the line. Underscoring the many ways Shelton has sucked against Carlito definitely added a nice touch of history and ambiguity to the match, since usually you only introduce the concept of a losing streak if you're about to end said streak. Unless you're Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio, and you have a six-month plan...

Shelton actually jumpstarts the match, and pounds away on Carlito. Everything in Shelton's body language actually says "heel"; it's also affected his moveset, which is less high-energy and more high impact. Instead of acrobatic stuff using the ropes, Shelton uses suplexes and clotheslines to control the early part of the match. At least, until it goes outside... Carlito gets frustrated with how things are going, so he ducks outside; Shelton eschews the opening for a Standard Babyface Plancha, but follows. After a brawling exchange, Carlito gets the better of things, though, by ramming Shelton's back into the ring apron and ring post.

From there, it was a pretty basic lower back attack by Carlito, including his double-knee backbreaker along with a bunch of other stuff. This was actually pretty nicely-paced and well-executed, but the crowd seemed to be a bit out-of-it (perhaps because Shelton was broadcasting heelishness at the outset, thus not really giving the fans a chance to latch on?)... the back attack builds up to a Boston Crab. Shelton can't get a rope break, so he eventually leverages his way into being able to pick one of Carlito's ankle, and pull him down into a pinning combination. That gets a 2 count, and it also gets Carlito flustered. He comes charging back at Shelton, wanting to maintain his advantage, and instead, he's caught by a Samoan Drop.

Both men down, ref counting to ten, and fans finally starting to stir... pace picks up even further as Shelton gets to his feet first and starts a rally. Lots of high impact, including his own Funky Backbreaker Variation. But when Shelton tries to go high flying for the first time in the match, Carlito catches him coming off the ropes and turns it into a Flatliner (apparently Carlito has a finisher, now?)... but it only gets a 2 on Shelton. So Carlito tries to continue the assault, but when he eventually opts for a vertical suplex, Shelton makes his now-standard flip-through escape, and then shortly thereafter caught Carlito coming off the ropes with a T-Bone Powerslam. And we *know* that is Shelton's finisher...

So why isn't he going for the cover, dammit? Because Shelton wants to display some more "attitude," it seems.... he spies Carlito's apple in a corner. Goes over. Grabs it. Tosses it around a bit. Decides he's gonna do this. Takes a bite. Bends down over Carlito's face... and promptly gets rolled up for the three count. D'oh.

Your Winner: Carlito, via pinfall, in about 6-8 minutes. Good stuff here, though like I said, it didn't seem like the fans got into as much as I would have thought given the quality of the action. Roughly the same length as the Angle/Flair opener, but with no commercial break in the middle and a more-consistent level of fast-paced action, this was definitely deserving of more than the live fans gave it. My theory is that it's got to be because Shelton's current story (and body language) makes it hard to cheer for him... hell, Carlito even got a little babyface pop when he won.

Backstage: Vince McMahon is walking, and Trevor Murdoch approaches. Purposely mangling the English language, Dusty Rhodes-style, Murdoch presents a case for why he should be RAW's new General Manager. It involves him having "a lot of really good ideals" for the show. Vince grudgingly says he'll take it under consideration, and then informs Trevor that his tobacco chewing (Murdoch's been spitting into a coffee cup all segment long) is a disgusting habit. OK, so Ashlee Simpson sucks and tobacco chewing is gross: that's TWO things Vince and I agree on in this world, I guess.

Kubrick-is-rolling-over-in-his-grave Segue: So as the camera follows along, Vince continues walking and turns down another hallway to arrive at his office. For some reason (read: "because the Hollywood Writer Monkeys are fuckwits who think wrestling shows should have soundtracks"), allegedly sexy saxophone music starts playing in the background before Vince even opens the door. And when he does open the door? You guessed it: Candice Michelle is lounging on the couch, and wants to make HER case for being GM of RAW. This, in her mind, involves a lame single entendre about wanting to be given a chance for "this position," a lot of making eyes with Vince, slowly removing her jacket to reveal the reason(s) why we call her Boobies McTitsalot, and then spontaneously orgasming (I think that's what that was supposed to be). Due to the mere proximity of Vince McMahon gigantic (and still-functional) genitalia, no doubt. Oy. Let's not even get into the Job Description of General Manager and the many ways Boobies is unqualified. Let's just jump ahead to the qualifications for Sperm Dumpster For A Night, which appears to be more up Candice's alley.... ummmm. Nope. Even there, Boobies falls short. Qualifications require the ability to flirt at above the level of Functionally Retarded, and the ability to fake-orgasm at above the level of Stupid Shampoo Commercial. Because frankly, I'm not gonna be bringing my A-game, Boobies, but I still want to be convinced I'm king of your stupid little world. Male ego, and all that. 

This whole thing is so dumb, but at least it represents a Vince McMahon Masturbation Fantasy that doesn't involve the ritual humiliation of anybody who ever had any involvement with WCW.  Luckily, before things can get any dumber, Kurt Angle and Daivari storm into the office (magically causing the saxophone soundtrack needle to slide off the record; ugh) and demand to talk to Vince. Hold that awkward tableau of Boobies on Vince's lap, Vince looking annoyed, and Kurt/Daivari looking intense but remaining oddly-mute despite having just declared an intention to speak to Mr. McMahon for a beat.... and then finally, we'll break for....

[ads; boy that wasn't just a pointless, unsexy Vince-is-so-studly skit, it was also produced so badly that it makes TNA's production values look like the Super Bowl by comparison; so much for the GM Interview Skits being a potentially amusing diversion, eh?]

Shawn Michaels vs. Big Show

For as much as he's dusting off the heel chops on SD!, Show is sure in smiley happy giant mode here tonight. Once again, the only mention made of Show and Kane's little trip over to SD! is a quick Armageddon graphic during Show's ring entrance. And so the vibe continues to be that SD!'s obsessed with besting those damnable RAW invaders, but RAW can't be bothered with hardly even addressing the issue, cuz it's so insignificant to them. Very odd, and not the most productive way of going about things, I don't think.

Match starts out a bit Mutual Respecty, with Show kinda being all "I don't hate you, but I can't cut you any slack" and Michaels body language being "I have no idea what to do with this guy, none of my normal stuff will work." So it was sort of cat-and-mouse, with Michaels out-quicking Show to get a few jabs in, but not really doing any damage.

That came to an end when things spilled outside, and Show finally managed to use his power. He dropped Michaels across the ringside barricade before taking things back up into the ring. Once in there, Show was still sticking mainly to his babyface stuff, like the "SHHHH! Chops." He also had a goofy little muscle-man-pose elbow drop that was funny. But Michaels is still the de facto babyface, just be virtue of being smaller, so after a few minutes of that, Show locks in a bearhug, out of which Michaels can start his babyface comeback.

So that's just what Shawn does. But again, stuff just doesn't work the same way against Show. Like the first time Shawn goes for the Flying Burrito, Show just swats him away. Then, a few moments later, when Shawn tries again, he hits the Burrito, but when he Kips Up, he discovers that Show is still on his feet. Shawn's gesturing (in the Broad fashion) was pretty hilarious this whole time, too. It all led up to a spot in which Shawn was going for clothesline #11 in an attempt to finally take Show off his feet, but Show caught him by the throat, instead. It looked like a chokeslam, but at the peak of elevation, Shawn somehow turned it into a DDT on Show. Whoa. That was cool. I haven't seen a spot out of the reverse-into-a-DDT genre be so surprising or visually impressive since the one Eddie did on Lesnar in their title match.

With the advantage regained, Shawn also picks up his Five Moves of Doom. Macho Man Elbow? Check. Band tuned up? Check. And the Sweet Chin Music? Check. Except: it only staggers Big Show. Shawn again gestures Broadly to convey his frustration and confusion over what to do next... but he eventually settles on "another superkick." But his hesitation gave Show time to recover: in one smooth and surprisingly swift motion, Show swatted away the kick, grabbed Michaels by the throat, got all the way back up to his feet, and chokeslammed HBK. Both men are down, now....

So here comes Triple H? Huh. And he's got a steel chair. And his first order of business, he drags Michaels out of the ring. Then he gets on the apron, and appears as though he's gonna attack Big Show. But then Show starts stirring and getting to his feet. But Trips isn't intimidated: he just sort of smirks at Show. Then he hops off the apron, walks over to Michaels, and whaps HBK in the head with the chair. Right in front of the ref. You know what that means...

Your Winner: Shawn Michaels, via disqualification, in about 5-6 minutes. Good fun match as Michaels is the kind of opponent who can do some neat stuff with Big Show. And I dig the clever ending; it's the sort of thing I would have come up with if I was getting paid and was thinking about wrestling more than a few hours a week. Having it be babyface vs. babyface (and having it be two noted rivals of HHH's) meant that HHH could reasonably attack either guy, and a ref wouldn't necessarily attach any diabolical significance to it, which makes the DQ call totally reasonable in this unique case... but in reality, the Cerebral Assassin was at work, and just fixed it so that Big Show won't be in the Chamber, where HHH wants as few obstacles as possible to winning the WWE Title. It also got my mind racing to a possiblity in which a new RAW GM would hit the scene and (understanding HHH's plan) declare that Show had been screwed and deserved another chance to get into the Chamber with HHH (ideally: taking the spot away from Chris F. Masters)... but as the rest of the show played out, that wasn't the direction they were going. Still: good match, clever finish.

Backstage: for all their urgency from 10 minutes ago, Angle and Daivari are only NOW starting to say their piece to Vince McMahon. Angle won't stand for being lectured by a punk like Cena, so he's demanding a match tonight. Against Cena. For the WWE Title. Vince says "no," because he's not Eric Bischoff, he won't be pushed around, and he won't be told what to do by his employees. But what Vince is willing to offer as a trade-off is an idea of his own: Daivari will wrestle Cena. This doesn't go over well. In a blindfold match. This still isn't going over well. But only Cena will be blindfolded. NOW Angle and Daivari see the wisdom of this booking choice. And as if every single viewer over the age of 7 didn't see this turd coming down main street, Vince dubs it the very first "You Can't See Me" Match. Oy. That would have been a silly punchline, but Vince decides to up the ante by going for a totally selfish non sequitur punchline, instead: "And Kurt, one more thing.... you can spit on Larry Bird and you can make fun of our troops. But the one thing you NEVER do is interrupt me again. Understand?". Whhhaaaaaaa? And Vince is the babyface in this? It's OK to make fun of wounded and dying soldiers, but you do NOT interfere with Vince McMahon's Ridiculously Juvenile Masturbation Fantasy Skits? Brilliant.


Viscera vs. Chris F. Masters (Elimination Chamber Qualifying Match)

Rule of Thumb: the guy who doesn't get an entrance and is already standing in the ring coming out of a break is a jobber and will not win. Viscera, welcome to Nocredibilityville, population: You.

You think I'm recapping this with any enthusiasm? Guess again, Potsie... fat man offense to start, as CFM's moveset is rather limited, and even more so because the announcers speculate that the shitty full nelson might not work on a guy Vis' size. Better Masters' just lie around and let Vis do all the work. 

Crowd reaction here made the fans during Carlito/Shelton sound like a fricking fleet of 747s taking off simultaneously. And this time, it's because there's nothing happening. About 2 minutes in, there's an attempted "boring" chant, but I don't think Boston had the energy to bother justifying Chris F. Masters' with an audible response of any kind to his presence.

Finish came when Viscera tried to avalanche-splash CFM in a corner, but Masters dodged it and instead hit a drop-toe-hold, sending Vis into the second turnbuckle. With Vis on his knees and chopped down to size, Masters decided to give the full nelson a try. Lo and behold! He manages to apply it, and it works! There is a mild sarcastic cheer from the crowd; I think they were just happy it was over.

Your Winner: Chris F. Masters, via submission, in about 3-4 minutes. I'd say it needed to be shorter, but the truth is, it just needed to not happen. It only had one possible outcome, it was an outcome that absolutely  nobody cares about, and the road getting there was going to be plodding and sloppy. What was the point?

SmackDown! Rebound: I don't recap recaps. But I hope any of you out there who aren't following SD! gave this a look, even if only to see with your own two eyes how pathetically silly SD! has gotten with regards to Taker/Orton.


Backstage: Trish Stratus is approaching the women's locker room, muttering to herself. Gets to the door. Deep breath. Says, "Just gotta let her down easy." But before she can go in, the door opens, and out pops Mickie James. Smiles and hugs all around; except Trish's are notably reserved and hesitant. Trish says there's something she's gotta tell Mickie. Mickie says that's cool, cuz there's something she wanted to tell Trish, too. Methinks Trish believes she's about to be let off the hook, so she says "OK, you first." And thus, Mickie launches into a speech about how it's been so great hanging out with Trish because she's a lifelong wrestling fan, and she always used to watch with her grandfather, and in fact, her grandpappy took her to WrestleMania 17, Trish's first WrestleMania. The one where she stood up to Mr. McMahon. And then, in one of those schizo/bi-polar moments we've been missing since Mickie's first week or two, she just blurts out, "And you were so TOTALLY sleeping with him, too." I'll restrain myself from another comment about how there seems to be a running theme here tonight, and it involves Vince's studliness, and just report that Trish is not pleased to have this particular skeleton unearthed from the closet. Mickie just glosses over it, though, getting back to how WM17 was so awesome, and it was such a good time, and it's so special to her because shortly thereafter, her grandpappy died. Trish goes from annoyed to sympathetic in about 3 nanoseconds there, but Mickie assures her it's OK, because she knows grandpappy is up there, looking down on her, and loving that his granddaughter is getting to hang out with her idol, Trish Stratus. 

With that, Mickie wants to know what Trish had to say... but Trish apparently doesn't want to unload whatever she was gonna unload after Mickie's emotional revelation about her grandpappy, so she just fakes her way through a "Oh, nothing really, just, you know?, good luck in your match tonight and stuff." That sends Mickie off on another tangent, because she's about to face Victoria in a #1 Contender's Match and if she wins, then she'd actually get to step in the ring with her hero and wrestle for the Women's Title and wouldn't that make Grandpappy so proud. It'd be so awesome! Trish seems less convinced, but gives a half-hearted "sure, now let's get out there and take care of bidness." Mickie veritably bounces away, while Trish just sighs a knowing sigh and shuffles off behind. Skits! Storytelling! Actual real, likeable personalities on display! It's exactly what the Rick ordered for the women's division! Bravo.

My Name is Mr. Striker, and I'll Be Your Substitute Douchebag For Today

As threatened on Heat, Matt Striker is here. It's a good thing he threatened on Heat... if he'd done it somewhere where people were actually watching and paying attention, I'm better the RAW viewers would have stayed away in droves. HA~!

Striker's got a blackboard, a teacher's desk, and few other accoutrements set up on the stage. And sure enough, the one-time elementary school teacher is going to plumb the depths of his life experiences to create an over-the-top, obnoxious heel caricature of a school teacher for WWE. Because it worked so fricking well for Shane Douglas that he went crawling back to ECW inside of 3 months...

Mr. Striker's lesson today is on Family Values. He gets all preachy towards the audience, but he at least hits a few pretty funny zingers... when discussing the growing trend towards adultery and divorce, Striker took the time to get geographically-specific for the live audience as he amended a statement about husbands going out to sleep with other women. I hope we're all current events savvy enough to have seen it coming, but when in Massachusetts, why not make a few harmless gay marriage jokes? Or maybe I just love anything that'll piss off Bostonians.

The caliber of Striker's zingery was sufficient that he got fairly thunderous "asshole" chants directed his way. Hey, I have no fricking clue if this gimmick has any legs, but at least for one night, they let the guy go edgy enough that he pressed some buttons and got the fans riled up.

He wrapped up with a spiel about how all the things he just mentioned, he guesses he's not supposed to blame people for falling so short. It's not their fault. They're just uneducated. Which is why Matt Striker is now here on RAW. To educate the ignorant masses. To be "Matt Striker, Your Teacher."  BOOOOOO!

Funny, but I'm pretty sure I could best Striker in Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit or whatever.... though I openly admit that in the area of alienating the vast majority of your peers and coworkers but still kissing the right ass to get a big push ahead of them, Matt Striker could learn me a thing or three. Kudos to you, good sir.

Backstage: Vince is being hounded by another applicant.... hey, it's Christopher Nowinski. Nowinski gets a cheap Harvard reference in for the locals, but is then rudely dismissed. Serves him right for scheming to deflower Molly Holly. Jerk. But no sooner does Nowinski exit than Dusty Rhodes enters, apparently as an invited guest of Vince McMahon's. The two share some forced friendliness, and try to convey the idea that they'd love to work together as the segment again seems to last just long enough that the pretending-to-be-carrying-on but really-just-waiting-for-the-camera-to-cut-away got awkward. So Vince likes Dusty? I guess with Dusty's track record as a figurehead boss in 2005, Vince must want RAW to be relegated to a weekly webcast by next summer, then, eh?


Victoria vs. Mickie James (#1 Contender's Match).

Mickie enters with Trish, to Trish's music. But then she continues to the ring alone, as Trish is going to give us some Guest Commentary. Victoria also enters alone, and no explanation is given. Maybe Boobies is needed backstage to pre-tape yet another clueless, Skinemax-addicted Writer Monkey's idea of a Sexy Vignette? And let's hope that Torrie Wilson is out shopping for a monkey to replace her yap dog! It's 2006, and according to Obnoxious Bitch Quarterly, yap dogs are out, and monkeys are in! MONKEY~!

Match starts off with Victoria pretty much kicking Mickie's ass, and so the focus is on the commentary, where Trish is getting grilled about exactly how she feels about Mickie. But Trish is a smart girl, and just because Mickie's not there listening right now doesn't mean that something broadcast all over the world won't get back to her ears... so she's having to choose her words carefully so as not to offend her annoying little mascot. Trish's mouth is saying stuff about "respect her abilities" and "sure we're friends, maybe not best friends, but friends" and "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" and stuff like that which'll sooth Mickie's feelings. But her tone of voice says "what an annoying load, with whom I can work and co-exist, but who is also really starting to try my patience in terms of social interactions." I think everybody can sympathize with Trish's position, and she did a fine job conveying the internal conflict for anybody who hasn't dealt with the same thing, or seen countless workplace sitcoms where there has to be the one loser that nobody likes but who still gets treated with kid gloves so as not to wound any feelings. Like Andy Dick on "NewsRadio." 

But I'm digressing, random free-association-style, aren't I? Stupid being able to type relatively close to the speed of thought... match is still on-going, too, and everything is progressing nicely and smoothly, if in very standard fashion. Victoria's beatdown on Mickie finally comes to an end after a bit too much showboating, allowing Mickie time to get her knees up when Victoria attempts her standing moonsault (or "backflip splash," I guess).

Thus begins a flurry of offense for Mickie, some of which appears to be borrowed from Trish's arsenal, a point not lost on King, who says, "She doing this just like you, Trish." To which Coach could not keep his dumb yapper shut, as he chimed in, "More like better than you, Trish." Prompting Trish to first giggle a disbelieving giggle, and then shoot a mighty deathstare at Coach and say, "You want to come over here and say that again?" Resulting in Coach sputtering something about how he just meant that tonight Mickie's doing well and ummm and Trish should be more concerned with that than with the Coach and stuff... Coach got punked. By a girl. I [heart] Trish.

Finish was another sort of nice touch from the "Mickie emulating Trish" playbook. Because if Mickie uses some Trish-like moves, then it stands to reason that Victoria would already know counters to them... so when Mickie busted out her (non-handstand) headscissors takedown, Victoria used the same counter to that that she uses on Trish: she turned it into a Boston Crab. But Mickie quickly got a rope break... both women back up, and Victoria figured she was poised to win, but as she set up for the Widow's Peak, Mickie countered into a wicked-stiff DDT. Realizing that her grandpappy's dream was going to come true at the next PPV, Mickie really spazzed it up in the ring. Meantime, Trish was much more subdued on commentary; when needled by the announcers about what she'd do when wrestling a friend, Trish just said, "My best, just like I always do." 

Your Winner: Mickie James, via pinfall, in about 3-4 minutes. Match was shortish, but very tight. And the story told in the preceding skit and on commentary all seem to have things headed very much in the right direction. Good stuff.


Kane vs. Triple H (Elimination Chamber Qualifying Match)

Who'll be the last man to qualify for the PPV Title Match? Out of the gate, it doesn't look good for Hunter, as he tries to go punch-for-punch with Kane, and is quickly overwhelmed by some restaurant quality slobberknockery. A particularly sound thrashing in one corner results in HHH paying homage to the Man with a Flair Flop.

And then, not too long after that, he pays homage again. Upon being whipped into a buckle, he does a full Flair Flip, and falls to the floor. It's been maybe 90 seconds, but apparently now we must break for....


Back, and HHH is magically in control, working the dreaded Main Event Sleeper of Doom. A "during the break" recap shows us that when Kane followed HHH outside the ring, the tide turned and Kane was sent head-first into the steel steps, the steel post, and pretty much anything else out there that doesn't justify a DQ. So cool stuff happened during the break, but now, in terms of live action, we're getting a sleeper?

Actually, Kane doesn't let that happy crappy slide for too long, and he back suplexes his way out of it. Both men down? Ref applying a double count? Both men back up at 8? Trading punches, but in that slow-motion, knuckle-dragging sort of way? Christ, I am not exaggerating when I say that we fans have seen maybe 2 whole elapsed minutes of "action" in this match, and yet Kane and Trips are acting like we're 25 minutes into an epic struggle. That dog won't hunt, monsignor.

FINALLY Kane starts moving at full speed and starts doing something interesting. He takes command, and HHH takes a bunch of high impact moves. Power slam, lots of corner-clotheslines, Snake Eyes, and even a minute or so spent brawling out at ringside, this time with HHH meeting the furniture with his face. 

HHH manages to sneak out of a chokeslam attempt, and even briefly has designs on a Pedigree, but Kane's still too strong for that. Kane's onslaught continues until he lines Trips up for another clothesline, but this time, HHH ducks, and the ref gets KO'ed. Hmmm... Kane foolishly gets distracted by the ref, but HHH decides to go track down Sweet Lady Sledge. Advantage: Triple H.

But before HHH can do any damage, here's the Big Show, out to help his partner, and also to get revenge on HHH for the previous Cerebral Assassinationizing. Together, Show and Kane do a number on HHH, culminating in a double chokeslam. Show gets out of the ring, and wakes the ref, who makes the slow, dramatic three count.

Your Winner: Kane, via pinfall, in about 10 minutes, I'd guess. This took for-fucking-ever to find its groove, but the last 3 minutes or so were more than serviceable. I guess this choice of finish means that WWE is sacrificing the caliber of the Elimination Chamber line-up to allow for one other marquee match, but instead of Shelton vs. Michaels being the #2 drawing card for the show, it'll be HHH vs. Show, instead? Probably not what I would chosen, but whatever... it's not like Shelton isn't used to not having anything worthwhile to do on PPVs by now. 


Daivari vs. John Cena (Non-Title, "You Can't See Me" Blindfold Match)

Uh oh. We come back from break, and Daivari's already in the ring. Poor guy, having to be housemates with Viscera.

Cena enters, and the combination of all the aforementioned factors PLUS the Sympathy Factor because of the hood he's gonna have to wear here means that it's almost all cheers. It worked WWE. But unless you're prepared to have Kurt Angle strangle a kitten to death and then eat it on live TV, this tactic is not a sustainable way of addressing the Cena Problem.

The hood is placed on Cena's head, and at this point, there's really no point in doing play-by-play. Though both are capable, the gimmick of hte match means there's no real wrestling moves or spots. Just a lot of Angle and Daivari making noises to trick Cena into lunging at empty space. Then the lengthy Crowd Participation Bit, which is required in all blindfold matches: Cena decided to start pointing at random parts of the ring, and the crowd would boo when he pointed to nothing and cheer when he honed in on where Daivari was standing. Whheeeeeee! It's fun for all ages! Up to 12, anyway!

For like 4 minutes there was no physical contact, until finally Daivari and Angle orchestrated a spot where Daivari stood by the ropes and lured Cena in. But when Cena lunged, Daivari moved at the last second and blocked off the ref, leaving Cena to get clocked by Angle, instead. So then Daivari pounced and started stomping away on Cena. Then he get down and started raining down punches. Then Daivari tried to get up, but Cena held onto his pants. Daivari tried to get away, but Cena would not let go of the pants.

Daivari started running around in circles, but still Cena would not let go of the pants. Suddenly, Daivari stumbled. Cena still had the handful of pants, so he knew exactly where Daivari fell. Cena immediately fell on top and applied the STF, and Daivari must have been exposed to the JobbyJobberitis virus recently, because he tapped out in less than one second. Oh, good lord: and now that Cena's used the move twice, they're calling it the "STFU." I'm not kidding. I guess nothing says Street Cred like comes up with names for moves that only socially awkward losers who spend all their time in internet chatrooms LOL'ing, A/S/L'ing, emoticonning, and acronymming their way into the heart of their sweetheart, 22/F/Nashville (actually: 47/M/Just-Paroled) will "get." Well: will "appreciate." Cuz I "get" it, I just think it's retarded.   

Your Winner: John Cena, via submission, in about 4-5 minutes. Probably a fun little piece of fluff for folks out there who (a) haven't seen a blindfold match before and (b) like/care about John Cena's character. I, sadly, am neither of those things, and was left wondering why you wouldn't book the show so that the silly little throwaway gimmick match isn't on the undercard, and you do something a bit more engrossing as your main event.

After the Match: Angle swooped in and went to work on the still blindfolded Cena. Daivari's lightning-quick tap-out meant that he recovered quickly enough to join in for a little 2-on-1 action. But then, because he's superman and can win matches while blindfolded and beat two men at the same time, Cena made an heroic comeback (and *there* is the return of a few of the boos). As soon as things started looking bleak, Angle just powdered out and sacrificed Daivari. Cena F-U'd Daivari, and then had a staredown with Kurt to end the show. You know, it's kind of too bad: you take away (or even just slightly tweak) the Cena/Angle stuff, everything else on this show was good or better. OK, so Masters/Vis sucked too, and all the Vince stuff other than the opening promo should go, but you get the idea: lots of good stuff on RAW, but you almost lose sight of it when the final taste in your mouth is not a good one. 


SMACKDOWN RECAP: Bonding Exercises
RAW RECAP: The New Guy Blows It
PPV RECAP: WWE Night of Champions 2012
RAW RECAP: The Show Must Go On
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Boot Gets the Boot
RAW RECAP: Heyman Lands an Expansion Franchise
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Losing is the new Winning
RAW RECAP: Say My Name
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Deja Vu All Over Again
RAW RECAP: Dignity Before Gold?
PPV RECAP: SummerSlam 2012
RAW RECAP: Bigger IS Better
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Hitting with Two Strikes
RAW RECAP: Heel, or Tweener?
RAW RECAP: CM Punk is Not a Fan of Dwayne
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Returnening
RAW RECAP: Countdown to 1000
PPV RECAP: WWE Money in the Bank 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Friday Night ZackDown
RAW RECAP: Closure's a Bitch
RAW RECAP: Crazy Gets What Crazy Wants
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Five Surprising MitB Deposits
RAW RECAP: Weeeellll, It's a Big MitB
RAW RECAP: Johnny B. Gone
PPV RECAP: WWE No Way Out 2012
RAW RECAP: Crazy Go Nuts
RAW RECAP: Be a Star, My Ass
RAW RECAP: You Can't See Him
RAW RECAP: Big Johnny Still in Charge
PPV RECAP: WWE Over the Limit 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: One Gullible Fella
RAW RECAP: Anvil, or Red Herring?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Everybody Hates Berto
RAW RECAP: Look Who's Back
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Care to go Best of Five?
RAW RECAP: An Ace Up His Sleeve
PPV RECAP: WWE Extreme Rules 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Sh-Sh-Sheamus and the nOObs
RAW RECAP: Edge, the Motivational Speaker?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: AJ is Angry, Jilted
RAW RECAP: Maybe Cena DOES Suck?
RAW RECAP: Brock's a Jerk
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28




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