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OO RAW RECAP
F-Who? 
January 3, 2006

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com

 

What's New Year's Revolution need?  
 
Well, if you're WWE, you think it needs (1) Jerry Lawler wrestling a match, (2) lesbian overtones, (3) Vince McMahon outright telling the fans to go fuck themselves, and (4) all six guys in the Elimination Chamber match brawling at random and for no pre-established or character-driven reason. Among other things. 

 
Probably not the strongest way to head into a PPV that was already largely a one-trick-pony, but who are we to argue?

For the final pre-PPV RAW, there were a few things done right, as well -- Big Show/HHH continues to rise above its mid-card-filler beginnings and almost feels like a big deal, for instance -- and you cannot deny the sheer electricity of the main event, where it seemed like the entire state of New Jersey showed up to boo John Cena out of the building.

It seems as though this mix of good and bad -- with an ample amount of stuff that just doesn't seem to do a whole lot to make you care one way or the other about what's coming next -- is RAW's newest thing. Don't know if I necessary want to get used to it. But I know it's my job to explain it all to you, and try to make it more fun to read about than it was to watch. 

So: we ride....

Opening Theme/Pyro/Etc., and we're live from what used to be called the Meadowlands, but which is something else now that I'm too lazy to remember. From the looks and sounds of things, it's a pretty packed house (later said to be over 17,000 fans), which can only mean one thing: that until Vince McMahon quits being such a stubborn little bitch over MSG Issues, New York City fans will apparently have to brave traveling to Evil New Jersey to get their wrestling fix. Or possibly out to Long Island. But I digress... because after a quick rundown of tonight's two apparent highlights (a first blood match and "amateur home video" of Ric Flair's Road Rage Incident), the Mahon himself is here to kick things off...

"What About Me? What about Vince?"

Vince, continuing the trend of not really grasping the concept of picking an affiliation and sticking with it, comes out and makes his way to the ring acting like a babyface. Despite the fact that he ended last week's show as a heel. Some fans give him cheers, others boos, but for *my* part, the Vince McMahon Character has just become a chore to watch, because he never stays true to himself long enough for you to care one way or the other about him. One minute, he's a brash, take-charge boss who's putting Eric Bischoff in his place; the next, he's a head-up-his-ass, living-in-the-past moron who still thinks Montreal counts as Current Events; one minute, his defining characteristic is that he's a hit with the ladies; the next, it's that he loathes higher education, and is the kind of obnoxious brute who glorifies violence and probably does so because of his own raging sexual insecurities.

I understand that pro wrestling's not supposed to be Shakespeare, but the simple fact is that you if you don't have characters who make internal sense from week to week (or at least, minute to minute), you'll have a hard time getting anybody to care. For a long time, this has been the problem with John Cena (who's less John Cena than he is a combination of other vague personality traits once exhibited by others)... but for the past month, it's been Vince McMahon's problem, too. It seems Vince's idea for fixing things is "Just put me on TV more." Instead of, "Put me on TV with something logical and compelling to do so I can enhance the Core Product." I fricking hate that... 

Although, I guess tonight's the night where Vince SORT OF decided to pick one note and just keep playing it over and over again. Plus 10 for consistency. Minus several million for it failing to lead us anywhere all that interesting. That one note: 2006 is the year Vince McMahon stops taking crap from people. Not from his employees, and not from his fans. And after last week, I just assume this gag of telling the fans he's not going to listen to them is SOMEbody's idea of a clever meta-joke, where Vince gets to have his vengeance on legions of mutinous fans, and just have it be part of the "story," since he couldn't very well say "Fuck the fans" in a shareholder's meeting. Silly me, I'd think the best "fuck you" he could give us would be to make us shut our stupid mouths by -- oh, I dunno -- PUTTING ON A PRODUCT SO ENTERTAINING THAT WE DON'T HAVE ANYTHING TO BITCH ABOUT. But that's just me.

In addition to not taking any crap, and not caring what the fans think, Vince says that he's no longer going to pay attention to the desires of anybody but himself. "It's all about me. It's all about Mr. McMahon and what I want." Things like the First Blood Match aren't booked for the fans, they are booked because Vince wants to see them. Huh. You know, in a way, if I thought that was the truth, it'd be oddly noble for Vince to say, "Well, if I'm gonna go down, I'm gonna go down in a blaze of My Very Own Shitty Ideas, instead of leaning on somebody else's." It's not too far different from how I always say I'm only interested in doing columns/recaps/a website that *I* would really want to read. Instead of, let's say, one like Wade Keller does. ZING~!

But of course, we know Vince's words are damned dirty lies, probably largely generated by the army of Writer Monkeys who take an easy job and make it look complicated, instead of coming straight from Vince's brain. Because this isn't going anywhere interesting. It's just going to the eventually (hopefully sooner, rather than later) naming of a New GM, who can use Vince's empty rhetoric as a means of ingratiating himself to the audience by saying he (or she) WILL care about the fans, and not his (or her) own desires. Yippee? Leave it to WWE to try to create a major plot point out of something so basic and obvious that should be taken-for-granted. Making a storyline out of listening to the fans' wishes? That's like certain idiots out there who want to congratulate Chris F. Masters for all his improvements to the point where he can now perform a Vertical Suplex without injuring anybody. Fucking mediocrity huggers, the all of you!

Good lord do I ever have the Ramble Dial turned up high here in our opening segment... back to the point: which is that the First Blood Match isn't the only one Vince booked for his own personal edification. He's also booked this next one. Just for himself.

Kane vs. Shawn Michaels (No Superkicks Allowed Match)

Vince handed the mic off to Lillian Garcia, who introduced both men, but then handed the mic back to Vince, who quickly muttered, "Oh, and Shawn, if you use the superkick, you'll be disqualified immediately." Oh, the indignity! Christ; a few people wrote in to mock me for using the hackneyed "Big Show can't do the chokeslam" storythread in my Fantasy RAW yesterday, when he clearly has another hand he could use.... I hereby suggest that acting like Michaels losing the superkick is the end of the world is AT LEAST as stupid, and probably moreso. And I told you I was going for authenticity, dammit!

The lack of a superkick means the match starts off with a unique kind of dynamic... Shawn is not only having to out-quick Kane, but a lot of his offense is based on trying to get quick roll-ups and stuff, because without his finisher, he'll need the element of surprise to pin Kane. It's all pretty crisp and all, as Michaels fluidly worked his way into all the pinning combos, and Kane convincingly Slobberknockered out of all of them... but there's no real interest from the fans, as both guys are fan favorites, and I think they're roughly as inspired by the Rapidly Changing Whimsy Of Vince McMahon as I am.

But at least Vince is having a good time. He sat himself down at ringside, and just spent the entire match grinning like a loon. His first real moment of panic: Shawn his a big ass plancha onto Kane, and seemed poised to have his first real sustained advantage of the match. So Vince got up out of his chair and walked over to that side of the ring. The subsequent yakking with Michaels is enough of a distraction to allow Kane to recover and hit Shawn from behind with a clothesline. Vince is happy with his handiwork, Shawn's down, Kane's figuring out what to do next, so let's us break for...

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Back, and Michaels is working a sleeper on Kane. Huh. The spot before the ad break seemed like the sort of thing that would set up Kane as a strong de facto heel, but here they are working a spot that sort of undoes that.... but I guess the point -- within the ebb and flow of the match -- is that Michaels is NOT using the sleeper to facilitate Kane's babyface fire-up. It's that Michaels is using the sleeper because he's not allowed to use the superkick; as always, this is the sort of Touch Of Psychology that (if the announcers had picked up on it) would have helped tell the story a bit better for home viewers. Of course, it wouldn't have worked on the live crowd, who were pretty much back to not knowing exactly who to cheer for or why, and that still would have come through to the home viewer, too.

It actually takes Kane four tries to escape the sleeper; he gets separation following a back suplex. Michaels stays in control for a minute or so longer, though, until he goes for a top rope move and whiffs on it. From there, it's to a more Kane-as-heel thing, as he's just flat-out over-powering the smaller underdog with brawling-style offense. This culminates in Kane going a variation on the ever-popular chinlock. Michaels manages to escape that, but it's not the For Real Comeback, yet. Just a decoy. Because next, Kane wants to go to work on the neck and (SURGICALLY RECONSTRUCTED~!) back.

One commendably humorous aside from the commentary team during this part of the match: amidst all the yammering on about how unfair it was for Michaels to not be allowed to use his finisher, Joey asked, "King, that'd be like somebody telling you that you couldn't use the piledriver. What would you do?" And even though Joey's comment is funny on at least two levels, King decides not to open that particular can of worms, and just moved on without addressing the Forbidden Piledriver.

Shawn's For Real Comeback got a bit sloppy. He actually escaped from a SECOND chinlock variant, using a lot of Flair Chops, but then there was a spot where it looked like he was supposed to counter a chokeslam attempt, but instead, Kane just sort of dropped him in a heap, and Michaels went back to chopping for 30 seconds until they could find some other way to hit the Flying Burrito. Which they did.

Then the Kip Up. But then, things took a pleasantly surprising twist, as Michaels started unleashing all manner of unexpected moves. Inverted Atomic Drop, neckbreaker, DDT... all things designed to get pinfalls that you don't usually see out of HBK when he's in the middle of his Five Moves of Doom. And the near falls were getting the first signs of life out of the crowd, too, as I think they sort of started to side with Underdog Michaels over McMahon Stooge Kane. [Which isn't REALLY the story, and telling it this way is very counter-productive by WWE, but hey: whatever works in terms of popping the crowd in the short term, and to hell with having a grasp on the Big Picture, right, Monkeys?]

Michaels even busted out some very convincing-looking clotheslines, the kind of which you'd expect to look effective against Rey Mysterio, but not so much against Kane. Well: they worked. In fact, they were finally the set-up move for Michaels to feel confident enough going upstairs for the Macho Man Elbow. Which hits. But even though Randy Savage scored countless wins with the move, Michaels did NOT even try for a cover there. D'oh. Instead, he gets to his feet, gets a conflicted look on his face, and finally decides "What the hell?" and starts tuning up the band. He'll lose the match, but who cares, right? That was kind of another problem with the way this was booked/scripted: nothing on the line whatsoever.

Of course, the Lord of Deus ex Machina is still seated at ringside, so he grabs a mic and tells Michaels that if he uses the superkick, he won't just be disqualified tonight. He'll also lose his slot in the Elimination Chamber. This makes Michaels sad, and keeps him distracted long enough that Kane comes up from behind, hits him with the Big Boot, follows up with the Chokeslam, and that's that.

Your Winner: Kane, via pinfall, in maybe 15 minutes or so. Not bad, but the way it was conceived-of/written meant it was far from impactful in terms of tying together some of the Elimination Chamber participants into new dynamics... until Vince's little last-second announcement at the end of the match, there was absolutely nothing on the line here, and no reason to care who won or lost, and compounding matters, the fans weren't very into it until the end, either, because there's no compelling friction between Michaels and Kane. [It's sort of a bastard cousin of the problem that made it impossible for anybody to care about Cena/Jericho matches this summer, because WWE always kept the focus of the feud on Cena/Bischoff.]

After the Match: Kane left first. Then McMahon started out, making sure to stare, tauntingly, at Michaels. Michaels seemed (to me, anyway) to look more frustrated and resigned than pissed... all of which makes me kind of worried that they have designs on Michaels giving in to the Dark Side and somehow becoming a McMahon Puppet. When all any of us really want is for Vince to take another 9 months off from being a regular, weekly TV character.

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During the Break: Vince McMahon sent Todd Grisham out to intercept Shawn Michaels on his way back from the ring. The message from Vince to Shawn: Shawn will now be the first entrant into the Elimination Chamber match. More resignation (but not anger) from Shawn. But to be honest: if I had to pick somebody who'd start the match, I'd want it to be Shawn. Better than asking Chris F. Masters to try to entertain us for the full 30-minute duration...

If It Smells, It's Because It's Freshly Pulled Out of Someone's Rump: we cut to the announce table, where for absolutely no discernable reason -- other than the Writer Monkeys require it to happen now -- Coach starts talking about how Jerry Lawler is making enemies with his smart-ass comments. Such as Gregory Helms, who had some unkind words for Lawler on "WWE Unlimited." Christ, I don't know what's more annoying: the sheer randomness and laziness of the introduction of this storyline, or the fact that WWE continues to try shoving "WWE Unlimited" down our throats when then still can't make the 90-minutes of Actually Broadcast Content they do on Monday's worth our while.... so we cut to a clip of Helms from WWE.com, where he says Lawler's trying to hold him down. Then we cut back to the announce table, where Coach thinks that this is the funniest, greatest thing he's ever seen in the history of television. But King just dismisses things by saying that if Gregory Helms isn't happy with his career, the only man he needs to blame is the one who looks back at him from the mirror.

Rebuttal, Mr. Dukakis?

So at this point, Gregory Helms summons all his newfound superpowers of metrosexuality to come to the ring. Because unlike Lawler, he'll voice his issues face-to-face, like a man. You mean, just like you did a week before on the internet, behind Lawler's back, requiring Coach to bring the comments to Lawler's attention? Or am I thinking too hard?

Anyway, Helms invites King into the ring, where Helms calls Lawler old and washed up, and says that no matter how many Hurricane jokes Lawler makes, HE is the only joke around here. Lawler's retort: "At least when you were the Hurricane, you were half-way entertaining. Now, you're just..... some guy. Who sucks." Funny, I can't disagree with that. In fact, other than the "sucks" part, isn't that pretty much my exact gripe upon the demise of the Hurricane gimmick? "The Hurricane" will always be a crowd-pleasing niche wrestler; without some serious spark, though, "Gregory Helms" has a one-way ticket to being another TNA-also-ran by the end of 2006.

Of course, Helms disagrees with this assessment, so he bitchslaps Lawler. And Lawler disagrees with being bitchslapped, so he punches Helms. And rather than stay and fight his fights, face-to-face, like a man, Helms gets a case of the proverbial Limber Tail, and bails out. But Lawler still wants him some: so he challenges Helms to a match at New Year's Revolution. 

Whaaaaa? The OTHER main thing people wrote in to tease me about with regards to my Fantasy RAW is that I brought Nick Nemeth back to TV for the sole purpose of putting him into seemingly random PPV match against Chavo Guerrero. Well, I think I can safely say that Nemeth vs. Chavo has more backstory and reason to exist than Helms vs. Lawler. And plus: my whole goal with that thing was to get Chavo a solid PPV win, because I'll need a temporary IC Title challenger in my FOOniverse, and Chavo's my man. Also: Striker and his "teacher's assistant" Nemeth can be a reasonable underneath heel tag team, where they belong (instead of WWE's current vision, which apparently over-values Striker as a mid-card solo heel). Just trust me: give me time, and I *do* have a plan.... whereas Helms vs. Lawler? I don't know where the hell that's going, other than I'm sure Helms cheats to win and continues on his fast-track to nowhere.

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Elimination Chamber History Package: blah blah blah 2 miles of chain blah blah blah 10 tons of steel blah blah blah. Seen it. Am fast-forwarding it.

Backstage: Noted Pervert Vince McMahon has called Mickie James into his office. Why? Because, as a concerned boss, he really wants to know how Mickie enjoyed kissing Trish Stratus. Oh well, given Vince's own on-screen past with Trish, I guess there wasn't much chance Mickie was called in for a lecture on the more subtle points of Actual Sexual Harassment (as opposed to Melina's concept of it on SD!) and how she'd have to be careful if she didn't want to cost the company any money. 

Before the chat can get too creepy, Kurt Angle and Daivari storm in. Angle is at Full Bluster, and Vince sort of guesses at the reason why: sure enough, it's all about the referee for tonight's match. Angle got screwed last week by Mike Chioda, and doesn't want the same thing to happen again. Vince's stance is that (and I don't know WHERE the fuck this comes from) Chioda was just "defending the troops" by standing up to Angle. What? Even what I was told about "WWE Unlimited" last week never said anything about Chioda bringing up his support of the Troops as part of his justification for screwing Angle. You have GOT to stop pulling shit out of your ass, WWE. It's doubly bad in this case, cuz suddenly, we're back to Troop-Loving Babyface Vince McMahon, which again represents Permission To Stop Caring.

Vince also says that he doesn't think Angle has anything to worry about in his match tonight, because whatever his personal issues with the referee are, he can't be screwed. It's the nature of the match. The only way to win is to make somebody bleed. Angle sees the wisdom of this (and I admit that I applaud the restraint of just letting something as stupid as a Chioda/Angle feud fade quietly into the night; hopefully, Angle's nonsensical hatred of the troops also sublimates all the way down to zero by next week, too)... Angle says he loves violence just as much as Vince McMahon, and he also won't be taking any crap from anybody. He'll make John Cena bleed profusely tonight. And then on Sunday, as an added bonus for Vince, he'll make Shawn Michaels tap out. Well now: that last line was a total non sequitur, as if a Writer Monkey suddenly remembered that Angle and Michaels have a history, too. But whatever. At least it kept us distracted from Vince's debriefing (HA!) of Mickie James.

Except: we're not going to let the Mickie/Trish thing die, afterall. Instead, we cut to the announce table, where first there is a major production gaffe, and Coach is ready to send us backstage, but apparently Joey's being told we have to kick it to a clip first. The clip wins. And so the Three Amigos have a spirited discussion about whether Mickie kissing Trish was hot or awkward. Joey, on the side of basic common sense and decency, notes that Mickie forced herself upon an unwilling Trish, and thus the kiss was uncomfortable and awkward. Coach and King, endorsed by socially-stunted 15 year-olds everywhere and likely in line to get a R&D grant to explore the exciting new genre of Lesbian Snuff Films, don't care if Trish was into it or not and think it was OMG HOTTTTTTT~! So first we review the clip. And then, as follow-up, we finally shoot it backstage for...

Backstage: Trish Stratus is be-sports-bra'ed, baseball-capped, lightly-perspiring (but almost assuredly still starching-my-cuff with about 80% greater efficiency than whatever Boobies McTitsalot will bust out tonight); she is also sprinting up and down a flight of stairs. The camera is strategically placed much closer to the top of said stairs, if you catch my drift. After 3-4 reps, Todd Grisham decides we've had enough eye candy, and finally announces his presence. Trish stops and comes down to chat. Todd basically wants Trish's side of the story on the kiss. Trish keeps it simple: it was uncomfortable, inappropriate, and she has no idea what motivated Mickie. It might just have been bad judgment, or it might be Mickie's idea of a head game, but no matter what, it won't affect Trish's performance on Sunday. Because she's been women's champ for over a year now (ummm, won't it be precisely 364 days by the time Sunday rolls around, actually? or is Trish going all Metric System on us? that crafty Canuck), and has no plans on losing her title any time soon. And now, if you'll pardon Trish, she wants us all to know that she is going to hit the shower. Good lord. And if you need ANY assistance here as to my gripe with the bogus/writer-y things appear to be playing out here tonight, well, you are even dumber and less-perceptive than the Monkeys who just put those words in Trish's mouth. 

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Minor League Wrestling

So we come back, and Maria the Mic Stand is in the ring, apparently presiding over something that WWE is calling the "Kiss Cam." But by any other name, it's a stupid stunt that I've only ever seen used between innings at the ballpark for Dayton's Single-A baseball team. Basically, they put a couple on the big screen, and they have to kiss. If they don't, or if the camera people have picked a couple that isn't really a couple or whatever, the host/announcer person will try to get the crowd to boo, but in reality: NOBODY EVER GIVES A SHIT. Leave it to WWE to steal an idea from Single-A baseball. I can only hope WWE has mastered this Complex Genre by also including the final swerve where the last two people on the big screen are always both guys. Because then and only then does any hilarity ensue: nothing says "comedy" like two drunken frat boys 3 beers past the point of being able to fully repress their homosexual urges!

If Maria ever starts "hosting" the 'YMCA" or the "Chicken Dance," at least we'll know WWE has moved up to Double-A.

Anyway, this silliness goes on for what seems like too long until Victoria finally interrupts (accompanied by both Candice Michelle and Torrie Wilson). Victoria is in a neck-brace, stemming from the week before when she had to face Carlito in a Beat the Clock Match. And as pointlessly vapid as Maria's nattering had been, Victoria doesn't really help matters any. I was listening with my whole brain, and I STILL have no idea what the hell her point was, other than it somehow had something to do with last week being Maria's fault. Hey, you figure it out, let me know, OK?

And then, it got a bit more logical, as Victoria said that Maria's so stupid, she probably didn't even know she had a match tonight against Victoria. Judging by Maria's attire, this is not a fact that can be disputed. So.... what to do about it? Well, it's never fully explored whether there really was a legitimate match scheduled for some legitimate reason (which Victoria just failed to effectively convey), or if maybe this was just a match that Vince McMahon booked to satisfy himself.... but it also doesn't matter, because Victoria jump-starts things with a kick to the ovaries.

Victoria vs. Maria the Mic Stand

Punch, stomp, kick, look up Maria's skirt. Punch, stomp, kick, let's not look up Maria's skirt this time, because apparently USA Network has some standards. Legs spread wider than 37.8 degrees? No upskirt cam for you!

Punch, stomp, kick, and this time, let's try outside interference: Torrie Wilson brings her yappy-type dog over and rubs it's (no doubt perfumed) ass in Maria's face. What the hell is that supposed to be?

Punch stomp, kick, and now Victoria's getting cocky and underestimates Maria. Victoria walks back, and walks right into a school-girl roll-up, which is enough for the pin.

Your Winner: Maria the Mic Stand, via pinfall, in about 2 minutes. There are tons of ways to make use of Maria's perversely cute-and-vapid appeal; this segment represented none of them. Her past couple of times catching fans eyes included her doing something to endear her stupid little self to fans before stumbling through a wrestling match; this here was more just her being thrown out there for the wrestling match alone, which was -- predictably -- not very good. AND she won said wrestling match. Christ, how many times does it have to be explained that booking the women's division like this only creates a self-fulfilling prophesy that "fans don't care about women's wrestling." Because if you can't be bothered to book your female characters with something resembling care and attention, fans won't buy into them either. Stripping Maria of that which made her vaguely appealing and then having her inexplicably win a match (to no pop) is relatively stupid. How many cases of Spaz being over-pushed (to her own detriment) or Stacy Keibler being presented as a wrestler (to zero crowd heat) do you need before you accept and embrace the separation of Female Wrestler and Useless Diva, and populate the roster (and tell your stories) accordingly. WWE's insistence on continually equating the two (instead of making cross-overs and upset wins rare and surprising and satisfying) hamstrings the whole division.

After the Match: Victoria, Boobies McTitsalot,and Torrie stripped Maria down to her bra and panties. Then Diva Search Ashley (huh?) ran out for some reason to make the save, and also got out-numbered. YAY for bOObies! BOO for these characters not having a single damned thing to do with each other until 6 minutes ago, when the Random Booking Machine was apparently fired up for another go-round.

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During the Break: "WWE Unlimited" was at it again, as Vince McMahon himself intercepted Diva Search Ashley and Maria the Mic Stand as they made their way up the entrance ramp. Since it's Vince's "Me Year," he's had another idea for a match he'd like to see at New Year's Revolution: all five of the girls who were just fighting in the ring, involved in a Gauntlet-Style Bra and Panties Elimination Match. You expect Maria to just vapidly think that's a great idea, but for the love of pancakes, shouldn't a Punk Grrrrrrrl like Ashley do something other than smile and go "Neato, I can't wait" when confronted with an idea like that? Because that's what she did. I guess when the Writer Monkeys randomly assign you to be Maria's friend for a week, instead of Trish's, the timid dumbness comes along with it, as a package deal?

Backstage: a camera is conveniently located outside of a shower, which we can only assume contains a freshly-scrubbed Trish Stratus. Next to the shower: a towel. At least, until Mickie James slinks into frame and takes the towel. The water stops. Trish reaches out. No towel. Trish looks around. Sees Mickie (with the towel). Gets upset ("just gimme the damn towel"). But Mickie's thing is that she's sorry, but it's the only way she could get Trish's attention, since Trish has been ignoring her all week, and Mickie really wanted to apologize and stuff. Trish is all "OK, OK, just gimme the towel." Instead of handing the towel in, Mickie holds it up for Trish to walk into... which -- with a roll of the eyeballs -- she does and starts cinching it tight. Then Trish notices Mickie's eyeballs are still locked on the chestal region. Mickie, in a tone of voice that is no longer creepy or anything, cheerfully points out, "Wow, Trish, great boobs." Then Mickie leaves, while Trish is confused, Lawler is moistening his drawers, and Joey Styles is left to quarterback us through this latest twist, which is officially that "Mickie James is playing Lesbian Mind Games" with Trish. So dumb. How much scarier and more compelling is Mickie James when she's so crazy even SHE doesn't know why she does what she does, doesn't have a clue of just what she's capable of doing, and is frequently on the verge of a flip-out of Annie-Wilkes proportions? How much lamer and dismissable is Mickie James when she's rewritten to be one of these annoying early-20s pretend-lesbians who are so ubiquitous these days because a fashionable level of bi-sexuality is a Dumb Girl's best weapon against easily-manipulated members of both genders? Those are rhetorical questions, but you get the point.... from a potential break-out feud and a major WM22 match that ignites massive fan interest across the board, to me genuinely not giving a shit about Mickie James' title shot and starting to look forward to Trish's next storyline (which could either be Lita or Melina). Way to be, Writer Monkeys.

The Cutting Edge: Very Special "Why Rip Off Conan O'Brien, When I Can Rip Off My Own TV Brother?" Edition

Looks like both brands have decided to bring back the old "Gene Okerlund Platform," where promos/interviews can be conducted with the talents' backs to the audience. It's interesting, as I always thought one of the cooler things of the Monday Night War Era was that promos were forced to the ring, where they were done "in the round," and required the performer to connect with the audience. Where as the "Gene Okerlund Platform" means the talents are performing to no one but a TV camera. On one hand, just the return of that "look" gives me a pleasant tingle of nostalgia; but on the other, much bigger hand, I'm not sure I understand how this is anything other than a cosmetic difference with a possible NEGATIVE tangible effect if it means fans are less vested in promos, since they're watching somebody's back. If WWE wanted to shake things up on a purely cosmetic level, what the hell was wrong with the stretch of a few weeks where guys would come out and cut their promos at the top of the ramp, still actually addressing the live audience?  Could it be (*GASP*) that this is merely a re-affirmation of the importance of the army of writers putting stilted words in performers mouths, rather than the importance of a performer actually being able to go out and -- you know? -- PERFORM? This change might mean a few marginal talents feel more comfortable is they only have to address a single camera; but the simple fact is that until you truly have the personality to Own A Room, you're never gonna own that camera, either.

Anyhoo, Edge and Lita hit the Gene Okerlund Platform (or maybe, just as we have the "Gorilla Position," we could dub this the "Okerlund Position"?), and basically re-hash all the things that have already been said the past month. Flair's old, his personal life is a wreck, and Edge is just flat-out the better man and better wrestler. Love Edge's instincts here: as much as the jury is out on the Okerlund Position, he couldn't stop himself from turning around and trying to personally engage a few of the fans seated directly behind him. But other than that: same old same old from Edge. 'Tis the risk you run when your opponent (for very sensible legal reasons) can't really say a word back to you...

As final proof of the truth of his claims and accusations against Flair, Edge has Amateur Video Tape... thankfully, not from the X-Pac Collection. No, this tape is of Ric Flair's Road Rage Incident. So let's fire it up!

And it looks like Christian must have re-gifted at least one of Bentley Claus and Traci's thoughtful gifts, because Edge is diving along and sporting a bleached blond mop-top wig, while a passenger shoots video. Flair is muttering to himself and whooo'ing, and then somebody cuts him off, so he goes berserk and chases the guy down. Finally, after an underwhleming slow-speed chase in which everybody performed their own stunts, both cars are parked at the side of the road, and Edge/Flair gets out.

The camera follows him to the other car, and we immediately see that Edge's homagery to Christian's send-up of Jarrett extends beyond an identical wig, all the way to the rest of the borderline ridiculous fashion accessories. In Edge/Flair's case, this means he's got a pink, partially-be-dazzlered bathrobe one, black boxers, argyle socks, and loafers. Aha. So it's a send-up of Plane Trip From Hell Flair. I get it!

Edge/Flair gets to the other car, verbally abuses the driver (who is wearing an Edge T-shirt, which only further enrages Edge/Flair), and yanks him out. There's a lot of chopping. A lot of whooo'ing. A lot of incoherent rambling of Four-Horsemen-Era phrases. Finally, Edge/Flair puts the driver in a Figure Four, and the driver sells it like his leg is being broken. Edge/Flair releases the hold, mutters some more dated lines, and heads back to his car to leave the scene. 

Hey, no WONDER Flair got caught: he left his camera man behind! Dumbass.

Back in the arena, Edge and Lita are quite proud of their character assassination. They ladle on some more of the same, including taunts over how Flair's legal issues are proceeding. Not just the assault charge, but also his divorce (Lita hits a "Slut" line when she chimes in that, "Honey, we hope you take him for eveyr penny"). And just when Flair thinks things can't get any worse, Edge promises that on Sunday, he'll take the one last thing Flair still clings to. Because Edge will "rescue" the IC Title away from Flair's possession, and restore it to glory. 

And that's about enough of that, as Flair himself once again makes a (mute) appearance. Edge is no shrinking violet, though, and decides to meet Flair halfway. They tussle at the top of the stage, and are going at it so intensely that when they try to start brawling towards the ring, both men are too busy throwing hands to remember to actually -- you know -- stand up. So they tumble and roll their way down the ramp to the ring, where Flair gets the better of the brawl.

He has Edge set up for the Figure Four, but that's when Lita strikes. Her attack gives Edge enough time to fashion an escape, but as Edge is thoughtlessly leaving, Flair has zeroed in on Lita and placed her in the Figure Four. Edge doesn't even seem to be paying attention (to the point where it was almost like Flair missed a time cue and put the beating on Lita sooner than he was supposed to, or something), and when he finally turned around and saw what was going on and sprinted back to the ring, Flair had already released Lita. 

Kinda odd there at the end. But as a whole segment, not without its amusing bits. I know it's not what was supposed to be funniest, but I did get a kick out of the similarities between this and Christian's bit on TNA a week ago; Christian's was better, but Edge's had its moments, too.

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I Said "No Fucking Way" Last Week, Idiots: bottom line, any RAW viewer who watches "Dancing with the Stars" just to see Stacy Keibler needs to go play in traffic. Anybody else who watches "Dancing with the Stars" for some other reason needs, at the very least, to report for some kind of reprogramming, because you are clearly a malfunctioning human being.

Shelton Benjamin vs. Chris F. Masters

The story here is that Shelton's on a losing streak. And CFM is going to be a tough guy against whom to snap it. Unless the game is "Can you go 48 hours without sticking something in your butt?", in which case you'll totally own that choade. 

Of course, that isn't our game, so Shelton doesn't fare well here. And as a result, we've got yet another match with seemingly negative crowd heat; the WWE audience is sort of waiting for the next phase of Shelton's character to develop, and was into things when he was interacting with Michaels. And to say few, if any, fans give a shit one way or the other about Masters would be an understatement. The combination? Deadly.

Shelton got an early flurry of moves, kind of reminiscent of Michaels/Kane in that he was being quick and going for pinfalls off of combo moves. Then after one of those combo moves backfired (attempted backslide -- DUH -- didn't work, and Shelton ate one of Masters' few moves, a clothesline), it was basic power offense for a minute or two. Until Shelton dodged a charge in the turnbuckle, and immediately followed it up with a Stinger Splash to Masters' back (Joey: "big splash"). 

Thus began a bit of a rally. One in which at least 2 moves whiffed and had to be done over, for reasons that I'll leave it to you, The Intelligent And Perceptive Home Viewers, to figure out. And even if the fans were into the match (which they weren't really), having to chop your own babyface rally off at the knees because your opponents can't feed smoothly for more than 2 moves in a row will take the starch out of things, pronto.

This all built up to Shelton hitting his Spinning Leg Lariat Thingie (occasionally used as a finisher). The move was performed pretty close to the center of the ring. For the second week in a row, Masters -- showcasing his ability to not think on his feet -- decided to sell this by awkwardly standing in place for a few nanoseconds after the hit, because he was confused what to do, and then suddenly leaping -- at Warp 9 -- towards the ropes, because the bump was supposed to leave him within arm's reach of the ropes. The enthusiasm with which Masters throws his body into these bumps is almost Shawn Michaels-like. [Hey, I said ALMOST. Don't revoke my Internet Jack-off Card just yet.] The timing and smoothness of them? He might as well be Giant Gonzales.

This was supposed to be Shelton's big Hope Spot, as the ref actually counted to three before realizing Masters had put his foot on the rope and reversing the call. But some combination of Master's blatantly inept bump and the existing malaise towards the two personalities meant that the false finish got almost zero from the fans.

Shelton tried to follow up with a few more moves, but all only for two counts, which increased his frustration each time, causing him to argue with the ref, allowing Chris F. Masters to come up with countermoves. Appropriately enough, the final spot of the match was also blown (or so it appeared): Shelton was supposed to go for a clothesline, Masters was supposed to duck, Shelton was supposed to whiff and bounce back off the ropes and into a full nelson. Instead, Masters kinda forgot to duck, and Shelton grazed his head, and they both sort of stumbled around for a second trying to decide whether to sell it as a hit or a miss. It was apparently Shelton who decided he'd had enough because he tried to re-start his spring, bounced into the ropes, and came back off directly into the planned full nelson. Shelton fought the good fight (as good a fight as we've seen anybody put up against the full nelson, really), but had to submit in the end.

Your Winner: Chris F. Masters, via submission, in 4-5 minutes. I continue to be appalled by Masters' Apologists, who assault me with claims that CFM is a "matter of subjective taste." Bullshit. A half-dozen clearly-blown moves in a match that has bowling shoe tendencies against a guy who is USUALLY as silky smooth as they come in the ring? That's not subjective. Nor is the deafening silence he generates even after 11 months of a gigantic push. "I think the full nelson is a boring and unconvincing finisher that'll never get over"? Now THAT is subjective. "Chris Masters best-case-scenario is a return to OVW and one day peaking at the level of Batista" is subjective. But all these other, specific things that are on display week in and week out that CONTRIBUTE to my subjective opinions? They're pretty damned real, tangible, observable, and objective.

Elimination Chamber Hype, Part 2: Still blah blah blah, still don't care, still fast-forwarding. Plus there was an increasingly-competitive football game on that I wanted to see the finish of. So that I would have the necessary first-hand information to intelligently commiserate with any theoretical Georgia Bulldog fan(s) I might know or intelligently tease them about the many ways my state's football team is better than theirs. Depending on my mood when and if the topic arose.

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More of the Exact Kind of Fluff I Hate: members of the Pittsburgh Steelers were at a recent RAW show. And somehow, this justifies 3 minutes of precious prime time TV time. I watch wrestling. I also watch football. But if you can explain to me why I'm supposed to give a shit about football players watching wrestling, I'm all ears. "Because WWE likes patting itself on the back by pretending like they are equals with the NFL" does not count. I mean a real, non-self-delusional reason. You want people to like wrestling more, you don't equate it with something more popular than wrestling, you FRICKING MAKE YOUR WRESTLING SHOW BETTER. When you have a PPV in six days, how you think wasting this precious time on a video package that is nothing more than Hand Written Permission to Fast Forward is beyond my ability to comprehend. Most frustrating of all: even as WWE's issues with "Content Density" continue, they are under the illusion that fans are going to clammor to find out what was so pointless that it was relegated to being on the internet during commercials. Christ....

Trust Me, I Know What I'm Doing

Triple H hits the ring, looked like cat that ate the canary. Whatever that means.

Tonight's main topic: "Cerebral Assassin" isn't just a nickname or a marketing scheme. It's the truth about how Triple H approaches this business. He studies, he plots, he connives, and then he plans out how to best take advantage of any given situation. And then, when all is said and done, he "nails it," which is what's made him the success he is today. Funny, Trips gives us a "no pun intended" with the "nails it" line, because apparently we were supposed to be thinking of Sledge Hammers... but all *my* Inner Commentator had thought was was "Umm, we all know who you're nailing and why you're so successful as a result. But you don't have to go broadcasting it, dum dum."

Then it seems Hunter got uncharacteristically flustered. You can tell when his talking in circles is scripted, usually, and this wasn't it. He sort of got it in his head, though, that he wanted to tell the story of how he'd broken Big Show's hand a week before, and decided, "I think we have some footage of that to remind you folks." Except: that footage already ran during HHH's ring entrance. And for some reason, footage of Big Show taunting HHH is what popped up on the TitanTron... HHH: "Well, that's not exactly the footage I was expecting, but what the hell, this is live TV, so I guess I'll wing it." And that, my friends, got the biggest pop of the entire promo, because methinks I'm not the only one who prefers his promos more interactive, and less-heavily-scripted.

It takes Hunter about 30 seconds of trying things out and huffing and puffing about taking out Big Show, but he finally finds a rhythm again, and gets back on task. Or at least, back on script. Because he builds up to his punchline, about New Year's Revolution, and about how his entire plan with the sledge and the hand and everything will come to fruition when he beats Big Show... because the Bigger They Are, the Harder They Fall. If that's not a scripted line, I don't know what is.

That suspicion is only re-affirmed when, immediately following its utterance, Big Show's music fires up, and Big Show himself walks out. OMG, he was supposed to be at home recovering, but he's here, says and incredulous Joey Styles. And what's that on his hand? A ginormous, vaguely-block-like cast. Show is slowly stalking HHH, who doesn't seem too concerned; he just goes outside, grabs a steel chair, and waits for Show to get too close. But when HHH swings the chair? Show swats it away with his bionic hand. Then HHH tries a TV monitor from the announce table. Swatted away (with requisite cheesy pyro effects).

Show then commences to just swatting at anything with his big, blocky hand. I think the commentary table fucked up a spot, when it collapsed spontaneously, rather than waiting for Show to punch it. HHH eventually got the message and bolted, while Show continued to punch at various heavy steel objects and show no signs of pain. The official version of the story: HHH plotted and planned to take away Big Show's biggest weapon (the chokeslam), but has instead handed him a veritable Sledge Hammer of his own to use in their match on Sunday.

So much for the best laid plans of mice and men, eh? Hunter's brief awkwardness aside, this is pretty much exactly what needed to happen: they took away a weapon from Big Show last week, and this week needed to be about giving an even bigger one back. That's how you play the game of one-ups-manship and keep momentum building in PPV feuds.

SmackDown! Rebound: I don't recap recaps.

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Backstage: Shelton is collecting his things after his match. And up walks..... ugh.... Mama. Maybe a little younger than I would have guessed, but in every other aspect: a dead ringer for the stereotype we've all been a-feared of. Heavyset, wacky colorful outfit, wacky over-done hair, wacky over-done nails, and loud as hell. But instead of her being the kind of supportive, over-zealous "my baby is the bestest ever," this Mama is apparently an aficionado of child abuse. At least of the mental abuse, for starters,  as she lets Shelton know that he's pathetic and a disgrace to the Benjamin name. And then, the threat of physical abuse, because if Shelton doesn't get tough, Mama's got the leather strap right there in her bag. Ooohhhhhhkay. And for some reason, grown adult, 30-year-old, world-class-wrestler Shelton must act intimidated by these physical threats. He promises he'll do better, finishes packing his bag, and leaves. Leaves Mama to sit there and give an awkwardly over-long "reaction take" for the camera... by the end of the uncomfortably lingering camera shot, the only emotion Mama was conveying was "are we clear, yet?". Oy. This will not be good, people. There is no role to be played by Shelton's Mama that couldn't be played EVEN MORE EFFECTIVELY and to MUCH GREATER FAN INTEREST by Shawn Michaels. Or Kurt Angle. Or even Charlie Haas. But WWE is intent on doing things the most-cheesy and lame way possible, it seems.

PPV Hype: I'm conserving all my energy for Friday, when our Team Coverage PPV Preview will attempt to make lemonade out of this cast of mostly-lemons.

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John Cena vs. The Entire State of New Jersey

It's main event time.... except: not really. John Cena enters, and I'm not sure what the intended goal was at WWE's end, but I can tell you that the net effect of Cena bringing back a relatively "edgy" pre-match free-style was only to turn even more fans against him.

As soon as he took the mic and his music cut out, the boos were already louder than the cheers. To his credit, Cena didn't seem to mind, or at least, kind of acknowledged them with a "hey, do what you gotta do" look. But once his rapping started, almost every line resulted in an increase in the booing.

And folks, *this* is exactly why I'm deadset against all the e-mail I receive that says that for Cena to be a heel will require a "repackaging," that they want to see Corporate Cena, because that's the only way to get something other than a "small percentage" of the audience to boo Cena. Sorry, folks, but two things on that: (1) the percentage started off small, and there are still geographic anomalies where the more back-water a place the more they still think Cena's cool, but it's growing every week just like I said it would a year ago. And (2) have *you* gone back and watched any old Cena video from 2-3 years ago in the last month, just because you wanted to know what was on all those old, unlabled tapes? Probably not, but I have, and the fact is: there was a phase where people were MORE than happy to boo that guy just for being a lame-ass wigger. And they will again.

What this comes down to is: I think it's getting to the point of indisputability.... and America is finding out what I've felt at a gut-level for at least 18 months is true: that on-screen John Cena is an annoying, needy, petulant little douchebag who is fun as hell to watch get his ass kicked. That's what they're cheering for; they aren't cheering for Kurt Angle. They're just cheering for the end of this lazy "superman" Cena act that is ever so boring, especially when combined with a character that has all the appeal of a 6th grader discovering NWA (NOT the wrestling one) for the first time in his life.

You can most definitely make a go out of Heel John Cena withOUT a make-over. You just strip away anything phony that you've added in over the past 2 years (anything designed to make him the "family friendly thug"," anything that's a direct rip off of Austin or Hogan or other archetypes that WWE has slathered onto Cena's character in the absence of his own unique personality), and you let Cena be -- without distraction or other add-on traits -- the best wigger he can be, and I think you'll see him be just about the best heel the wrestling world has seen in 3 years.

I figure it's like this: everybody knows that Cena's shtick is the sort of thing we'll all look back on and make fun of in 10 years on "I [heart] the Oh'sies" on VH-1.... he epitomizes the chasm between cool (which doesn't spoil, ever) and hip (which has a limited shelf life). I think WWE fans are getting a kick out of rooting against a guy that they know has maybe already passed his pop culture peak, and is on his way to that spoilage, even if he hasn't started to grow mold yet. Fans get a kick out of being ahead of the curve, that way.

Well, some do. And some are even further ahead than others. And some? Are lagging far behind. My favorite image of all of last night's RAW was a shot of a tubby teenage kid holding up a sign that said "Chain Gang," and as a fresh round of boos and "Cena Sucks" chants started up, his arms wavered, and he looked confused, perhaps on the brink of tears.... but then he bucked up, and held his sign back up high again. Fight the good fight, kid! Just promise me you'll outgrow this phase by 10th grade, and I'm sure you'll still turn out just fine!

If you think I'm spending time on a Largely Theoretical Rant here, it's only because there's no way in hell I'm transcribing or going into much detail about Cena's "free-style." There's a reason it got booed. And that's because "edgy" or no, Cena didn't really come up with any material that half his audience couldn't have thought of.

Let's just say that Cena was going through the list of his Elimination Chamber opponents, and personally roasting each one. The Cliff's Notes version:

1) Cena's done the research, and Chris Masters has a very small penis.
2) Carlito's hair reminds Cena of the crotches on 70s porn stars. [Huh, that's an interesting one. Definitely leaving his Target Demo with it, anyway. This is one that only the over-45 male audience will get -- well, I think those of us who've noticed the trends, even just since coming of age in the 90s, can backwards-extrapolate and "get" the joke, but I don't think we can truly feel or sympathize with our forefathers' pain. And suffice to say "men over 45" are not Cena's biggest fans.]
3) Cena intends to sodomize Kurt Angle with Daivari's head. Or something.

Whatever. On that last line, Angle had had enough, and his music fired up. And now that the other wrestler is finally headed to the ring, isn't this a perfect time to duck out for some....

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John Cena vs. Kurt Angle (Non-Title First Blood Match)

Back, and the match is already on, and the crowd heat is INCREDIBLE. I'm honestly not sure the last time I heard an audience this fired up... at least since SummerSlam and the Hogan/Michaels match. And make no mistake: Angle is the more popular. I mean, Cena has his fans out there, too, but they are really being drowned out. This continued all match long, and I won't harp on it more, but it was hilarious to listen to the cavalcade of boos anytime Cena did anything, and then the announcers just sort of cover it up by saying, "Wow, this audience is totally electric," without touching on what's got them so electric. Fun stuff, and it -- for the second week in a row -- really added a lot to the atmosphere of a Cena match. It's like I said: America's discovering I've been right all along, and it's FUN to watch the on-screen John Cena character get his bitchy little ass whupped!

Angle's in control out of the ad break, with a ton of suplexes and the occasional interference from Daivari helping out. One of Daivari's transgressions was removing a turnbuckle pad to expose the steel, but on first try, Cena managed to block that potentially blood-loosening prop.

Eventually the tide changed about 3 minutes in, when Angle and Daivari miscommunicated and the end result was Cena getting to back drop Angle out of the ring. Angle -- god bless him -- took it as a crazy-ass bump that I can't decide if it left me in awe of his ability or made me angry that it's shit like this that'll leave us without his abilities if he's intent on a Forced Early Retirement.

Cena then controlled some ringside brawling, but lingering at ringside when Daivari's still around? Not a good idea, and Daivari's interference helped Angle regain control after a minute or so. Back in the ring, Angle hit more suplexes and stuff, and then decided to use the Exposed Turnbuckle. He scored a hit, and Cena kept his head covered for about 30 seconds after the shot, trying to tease that me might be cut... but he wasn't. Match continues. Frustrated that the turnbuckle didn't work out, Angle hits an Olympic Slam, and then goes to grab a chair from ringside.

But Cena had enough time to recover and ducks the chairshot. The two jockey for position (and for the chair), with Cena eventually winning out. Until Daivari got in the ring again. Cena dropped the chair and took care of Daivari, but now Angle had had enough recovery time, and was quickly able to pounce with a takedown and an anklelock. Joey was about to make the point about why you'd use an anklelock in a First Blood match, but decided to be polite when Coach opened his big yapper and wanted to explain it himself: in essence, you break Cena's ankle tonight, and you can make him bleed tonight, and then you can take him out easy as pie in the Elimination Chamber, too. Nicely done, Coach.

Cena knew full well what was at stake, too, so he struggled heroically to escape as quickly as possible. In so doing, he used the ropes to leverage himself over. But he also sent Angle crashing into the ref. Probably unnecessary, since there's no rules and no DQ, anyway, but whatever.... with the ref down, Cena decided HE would use the chair. But with Angle playing the Faux Chickenshit, Daivari once again struck from behind. 

Chair drops, Angle picks it up, and when Cena turns around from tossing Daivari out of the ring, Angle whacks him with the chair. As soon as he gets up, Cena is bleeding profusely, but there's no ref to "make it official" yet. So Cena decides to keep on fighting... with Angle more concerned with rousing the ref, Cena is able to quickly lock on his STF. When the ref finally gets up, Angle is tapping out, but Cena is the one wearing the disgusting crimson mask.

Your Winner: Kurt Angle, via blood-letting, in about 6 minutes. Maybe longer if you count the ad break, but we only really got 6 minutes. Very short, almost too much so, but also very "dense," as the intensity was high, there were zero lulls in the drama and excitement, and the crowd was on fire the entire time.

After the Match: laziness and randomness strike again... for no discernable reason, Chris F. Masters and Carlito Cool attack John Cena together after he releases the STF on Angle. Angle and Daivari eventually recover and join in, making it a four-on-one. So even though he ALSO has no real reason to stick his nose in, Kane shows up and makes the save. Cena's already pre-destroyed by the 4-on-1, so he just powders out to one corner. But the other four guys attack in patented One-At-A-Time Dumb Ninja Fashion, allowing Kane to flatten them all with chokeslams. So of course, once that bit of ass-kicking is done, there's only one country left to be heard from. With an uncomfortably tight close-up on Kane, we are "shocked" when he turns around and walks directly into a Superkick from just-off-frame Shawn Michaels. As lazy as the foundation building for the six-man schmozz may have been here, at least the moment of Kane eating a Superkick *did* have some backstory and poetic justice to it. Michaels, standing tall to end RAW? Guess again.... a bloody John Cena has dragged himself to his feet using the ring ropes, and with his last burst of energy, he stumbles to Shawn Michaels and gives him an F-U. Boo.

And then, with everybody down, there's a really awkward few minutes of vamping by the announcers, punctuated by replays of what led to the carnage. That's not really a Big Finish, guys, limping ahead for 3 minutes AFTER the Big Finish... but like an idiot, I don't stop the recording or Fast Forward: I keep it playing, expecting that SOMEthing has to happen, otherwise the show would be off the air, now.

Not the case. Just replays, some hype for the PPV, and then, because somebody decided this really was quite anticlimactic, they just randomly decided to start playing John Cena's music. This had the magical power of causing Cena to come to life. Well, not "to life," but he could suddenly raise his head and start crawling out of the ring as the announcers finally got done with their patter. Some combination of his Crimson Mask, his blank stare, and outstretched arm gave me a total flashback to Khan reaching out to engage the Genesis Device in Star Trek 2, as the show faded to black. But I'm sure I'm the only one.

E-MAIL RICK
BROWSE THE RAW RECAP ARCHIVES


  
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