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Formula For Success
April 25, 2006

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


You know that thing I said yesterday about preferring to avoid spoilers when I can? Well, last night's RAW is the object lesson in why. 
The show was taped on Friday in London, and if I'd wanted, it'd have been easy as pie to know everything that happened.... and if I'd done that, I can tell you EXACTLY what my reaction would have been: "Two cheap-ass non-finishes? Looks like your standard last-show-before-a-PPV formulaic crap-a-thon."

On paper, RAW would have looked almost exactly like last week's Impact (which I thought was a rather weak and predictable "by the numbers" effort to fill time to Lockdown)... and thus, my notorious vagina would have been pre-sanded. No clean slate heading into RAW, just a bad mood that would have just been made even worse by the fact that I can't fucking believe that at the rate "24" is killing people this year, the trainwreck of a First Lady still hasn't been offed even though last night would have been the perfect time to do it.

But I digress... point is: no spoilers for me, no preconceptions. Well, other than the standard latent annoyance that I'm getting ready to hunker down, focus, and think harder and more creatively about the product than the people writing the product... but that's something I've gotten so used to that it doesn't affect my mood, anymore. So with no REAL preconceptions, something unexpected happened.

RAW was, by and large, fun. There were still moments and segments of unmitigated crap, but the majority of the show was a surprisingly inspired final push to the Backlash PPV. Was it "formulaic" to go with schmozz finishes to create uncertainty heading into the PPV? Sure... but like I always say: there are fucking REASONS why formulas exist, and that's because they've been proven to work. It's just a question of how you APPLY the formula.

And last night, RAW took what could have been a flat and bland final pre-PPV entry and jazzed it up just enough that everything clicked way better than you would have expected reading a cut-and-dry spoiler report. As an added irony, RAW went back to a pretty formulaic approach just one week after what I thought was an odd show with some really strange choices made (and not to particularly effective ends)... there might be a lesson in here about how it might be best to think Inside The Box if the fuckwits you've stolen away from "As The World Turns" churn out such utter garbage when allowed to think Outside The Box.

It's weird: but even with a lot of silliness and poor storytelling and missed opportunities (outside of the well-done main-event WWE Title picture), the net effect is that when I think ahead to the Backlash PPV, I'm kind of excited for it. I figure the big reason why is that I know the main event will be a good match and as a bonus: I honestly believe that any of the three men can win, and when was the last time WWE presented a main event that was that wide open? But the supporting card ain't bad: the story behind it is retarded but the McMahons and Michaels will deliver the Sports Entertainmenty Goodness, and RVD/Shelton has no excuse to not be excellent, too. That's as strong a Top Three as we've had on any brand-specific PPV in a LONG time.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Friday and the big-ass Team Coverage PPV Preview will get here soon enough. For now, it's my job to tell you what happened on RAW....

Video Package: McMahons. Michaels. Looked like a lot of WM22 footage. But I possess an attention span. And a 65 minute time shift. And a fast-forward button. So I utilized all three.

Opening Theme/Pyro/Etc., and we're nowhere near live from Bloody London, England. Poour Mautt Houcking. We know we've got a Shane McMahon vs. Shawn Michaels match coming up later, and thus it is the job of Joey Styles, Jerry Lawler, and Coach to shill it aggressively as we pan the packed arena and enthusiastic crowd. And hey, since they're being so much more energetic than their domestic counterparts, why waste time? Let's commence to entertaining them, with....

"Nobody Loves John" Theatre

Speaking of formulas, it looks like we're back to the one that worked so well the couple of weeks right after WM22: three way promo goodness. And it's Edge who'll be starting us off tonight. And speaking of formulas, the one I mentioned last week about how I'd finally calculated the crafty way Lita's been clouding my wang's usually-discriminating mind? Well, that formula holds up, too. This week, Lita's wardrobe choice probably shows the same square-inchage of bOOb, and yet: this week'll be the first Monday in a while where Lita is not responsible for any of the Rick's inappropriate, involuntary bouts with half-wood. Thank goodness.

Finally into the ring with those two, as (while I was wasting your time with the above ramble) they were wasting my time by hamming it up even more than usually with the smoochy-smoochy... Edge gets on the mic and declares this Sunday's PPV three-way match to be a forgone conclusion. First, he re-hashes the "pattern" of the handicap matches, which he so clearly stole from The Me, in which he won the final iteration. Then, he uses videotape evidence to show him pinning both HHH and Cena at various points in the last 4 months. The "pattern" talk continues, as he says it should be crystal clear to anybody -- be the filthy American, vile British, or Superior Canadian -- that Edge will emerge as the new WWE Champion on Sunday.

And that's as good a note as any to bring out Triple H for a Dissenting Viewpoint. I guess, now, "King of Kings" is Trips' Official Promo Entrance Music? Works for me. I'll also be honest: Hunter is also busting out his new t-shirt, which is ALMOST in the category of "Something I Might Wear In Public." Just his new skull motif, no verbiage or anything else gay. Then again: I fricking forgot to look at the back of it. The gay shit is probably there. That's always where WWE's t-shirt monkeys put it.

Right out of the gate, let us make no mistake: Triple H is a babyface in London. A big one. Our promo duel is delayed briefly to allow for a "Trip Uhl Aitch, Trip Uhl Aitch" chant. And Trips responds in kind, by being kind of the free-wheeling, casual jerkface we all remember from DX. His first words are congratulatory towards Edge: how Edge has really grown up in the last few months, and HHH is only now seeing it. Edge looks like a champ, talks like a champ, walks like a champ.... because he was the champ.

Just not for very long.

Which HHH hears is a a problem a lot of guys have. No doubt about it, Edge can go, but he just can't go for very long. Failing to satisfy your woman is every bit as hilarious in the UK as it is in America, so this extended bit goes over very well, with huge laughs and cheers for each zinger about Edge's lack of endurance. The punchline is that HHH has heard (you know, from other guys, but he's never really looked into it) about this little blue pill, and maybe they need a new TV spokesman. Edge could really parlay that into something big if he just changed his name to the "Premature Superstar" (of course, HHH pronounced it with relish as "PremaCHAR Superstar").

OK, so that actually is pretty funny. Leave it to HHH, who has studied at the feet of Ric "60 Minute Man and All Night Long" Flair, to understand the delicate balance one must strike when comparing championship reigns with sexual prowess, and to not have it come off like 7th Grade Cena Humor. And wait: he's not done.

Because while Edge (and Lita) are gesturing -- in that finest of all manners of gesturing: Broadly -- that HHH has got it all wrong and Edge is a tiger in the sack, HHH is continuing on to say: "And the way I look at it, you've only done it once, and not very well. I say that until you've done it 10 times, all in a row, you're not even in my league." Again: that really is a pretty funny zinger, and this riff is coming off GREAT with the crowd.

Edge finally speaks, and assures us (while Lita nods a little TOO enthusiastically) that 10 times in a row is no problem for him. I call bullshit; either that or, mentally extrapolating up to 10, Edge is spending entire DAYS with his nutsac iced down and in a sling. But perhaps Edge was just bullshitting a bit to create an OO-Caliber Segue, because he then says, "And come Sunday, I don't care about 10 times. I only need to beat you once. And I've already shown I can do that, and it only takes three seconds to do it right." Wow, they really are running with this extended metaphor, aren't they? Well: they're making it work, so OK by me...

HHH finally decides to leave the erectile humor behind, and gets all serious and analytical for the first time. [Mheh heh heh heh, I said "anal." And apparently am still in "appreciating junior high humor" mode.] Triple H says that he should already be the WWE Champion, but he's made a few mistakes lately. And the Cerebral Assassin doesn't repeat mistakes: he learns from them. He took Cena too lightly at WM22, and last week, he went to the ring with one mission -- to send Cena a message, which he accomplished thanks to Sweet Lady Sledge -- and that allowed Edge to take advantage from behind to get the win. But on Sunday: there will be a different mission and a different focus.... to regain the WWE Title at any cost. And it doesn't matter if it's Cena or Edge, HHH will show no mercy.

Edge gets zinger-y again, mocking HHH's bluster and "King of Kings" nickname, and then wondering aloud how HHH even got into the match, since he already lost to Cena, one-on-one, at WM. Edge, taking us back to junior high humor, posits that HHH must have gotten "down on his knees" and prayed to his new buddy, "the Old Man," Vince McMahon. HHH's response, "Oh come on, now, everybody knows that only one person in this ring is renowned worldwide for getting down on her knees." Big pop, and he should have let it stand there. But no, we need an anvil: "And Lita's not even in the match come Sunday." Less of a pop, because we already got the joke. Oh well: 1-for-2, Trips. 

HHH says, however, that yeah, as the Cerebral Assassin, he knows that it's a good thing to have Vince McMahon on his side, and so he does what he can to make that happen. But rest assured: being friends with Vince is a secondary goal. The primary goal is regaining that WWE Title, and HHH would bash Vince himself in the head with a sledgehammer if he had to in order to win the gold.... so imagine what he's willing to do to Edge. Or to John Cena.

Cena finally glanced up from his Vibe Magazine and decided this was his cue to enter. And to get booed to high heaven, and never gets even the hint of a "SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEALLL" all night. What, are there no dimwitted teenage girls in England? This was, apparently, expected, and so Cena doesn't even try to open his wiggery little mouth: he just sprints to the ring. Edge is at his best as a chickenshit heel on any continent, and shows us why by evaporating. But HHH is the Noble Heel is a lot of ways so he tries to take the fight to Cena; that doesn't go so well, and Cena ends up clotheslining HHH out of the ring.

Which is when the Spirit Squad shows up? Yep.

After they've adequately gayed it up for a bit, they assemble for a cheer. I don't know if it was the sound, or if it was just them doing it intentionally-badly (for comedic reasons), or what, but it didn't really come over well. But that's OK, cuz then the one of them at the top of the pyramid said, "In other words, tonight, it's the five of us against the three of you." Huh, that's odd. But interesting. The announcers do some 'splainin', and apparently some of what I didn't quite get was that this edict comes directly from Vince McMahon. Must not have liked that talk about HHH being willing to bash him with the sledge, eh? Or something. Perhaps it's best not to think too hard about these things...

Anyway, Cena's in the ring while Edge and HHH are spaced out around ringside, and not a one of them looks particularly pleased as the segment ends with the Squad mincing around to their music.

They gave us 15 minutes of fun, they set up what should be an amusing main event match, what's not to love? I'm not saying that they didn't pre-ponder the content of the promo (especially given the running theme), but again what I've been loving about Edge and HHH's (and Cena's) interactions is that they do seem less stilted and writer-y, and more spontaneous. Stuff like that, even if it's the third time in four weeks we've seen it, just crackles and jumps off the screen a bit more. More than Vince's 15 minutes of ham-handed, writer-y crap did in the opening segment last week, anyway. Very good start to the show.


Rob Van Dam/Carlito/Charlie Haas vs. Shelton Benjamin/Matt Striker/Chris F. Masters

OK: if I mention that my immediate first thought was "RVD and Carlito as partners? The fuck?" would that make me an insightful analyst? Or would it make me 12 hours behind Wade F. Keller in making the same relatively-obvious observation that I'm sure Internet Jackoffs the world over latched on to?

I dunno, so I'll just move on to mentioning that Shelton has competition in the Douchebag Wardrobe Department tonight: his own partner, Matt Striker, is accessorizing his trunks with an argyle sweater vest. Difference is: Shelton's effectively pulling off "rich douchebag who's probably getting paid because he's actually good at what he does even if he is an assface," while Striker's look is "douchebag you laugh at, and probably right to his face, cuz he looks like a wussbag."

And this is as good a spot as any to mention that I hereby declare the start of a fun new game, sanctioned by OO: during all RAW matches, count the number of times that Joey Styles' lips move, but you hear Jim Ross' voice. At the end of the night, tally up your score, and if the total is more than 10, then immediately report to your nearest message board or e-mail program to report that "I figured it out, the only reason WWE is bringing back ECW is so that they can demote Joey Styles and bring back JR." You'll look ever so smart to the other jack-offs.

The first instance (of maybe 6 or 7 that I caught) of Joey's newfound JRitis came within about 30 seconds of this match. And after all them ring entrances, and then one big Nitro-opening-match-style trainwreck spot to start the match, you know what happened less than 60 seconds into this match? Some awkwardly-placed....


Back, and as is dictated by our friend "Formula," the heels have gained control, thanks to some naughty things they did to RVD outside the ring during the ad break. So RVD's your babyface in peril, and for reasons unfathomable, they're letting Chris F. Masters handle all of the heel beatdown.

Master executed precisely two moves during the next 3 minutes of the match: (1) a bearhug, which means he's the Abominable Stretch away from having all three of the 80s most annoying and least visually impressive moves in his arsenal. And (2) The Shittiest Power Slam I've Seen In A While. And he's befouling the powerslam on the home turf of the British Bulldogs? For shame. On the upside, the announcers really were pretty fun all match in terms of mocking CFM's intellectual capacity. Isn't it amazing that when it's not Vince's voice in Joey's headset, it's suddenly OK to turn Masters into the kind of putz-y heel who you might actually be able to buy into, instead of having him be pushed as the kind of beefy, manly, mesomorphic heel who you must respect and be in-awe-of even if you don't like him? I guess the new voice in the headset doesn't subscribe to "Muscle and Fitness" Magazine, and browse it while lustily muttering "Oh, oh yes, yes, I must have him..... for a spot as the next big star of my wrestling promotion, I mean. What did you think I meant?"....

Finally: a sweet, merciful tag to Shelton changes the pace of the match a bit. Crowd perks up, for one, choosing to taunt Shelton with a "Where's yo mama?" chant. Hey, London, points for the creativity, but do you really give a shit about the answer to that question? Good, so let it drop. Pace is picking up, as is the story, as RVD finally gets some separation and heads to his corner for a tag.... where Carlito expertly avoids tagging in, and feeds Charlie Haas to the lions. It's just a nice little subtle touch: Carlito is smart enough to NOT change his act as a babyface (he's not being heelish, here, he's just staying Cool, which is what fans responded to in the first place; the announcers could tone down the bludgeoning explanation of this fact just a tinch, though).

So Haas is a mild house afire for a few minutes before things REALLY start to break down (and speed up). Following an Inverted DDT on Striker, Masters came in to break up the fall, and we went to full-on Pier Six brawling. All the guys were in the ring (or just outside of it), and in the chaos, we started hitting finishers. I know Carlito hit the double-knee back-cracker, but he wasn't legal, and also: CFM was behind him waiting to apply the full nelson until RVD showed up with a wacky spin-kick. 

With various guys powdering out due to the finishers, they settled it down a bit for a solid exchange between the legal men, Haas and Benjamin. But about a minute of that, and RVD decided to blind tag himself into the match. Ref saw it, but Haas didn't know what was going on. So when RVD introduced himself to Benjamin with a springboard sidekick, Haas didn't know he should leave the ring.... so the heels had no choice but to get back in the ring, too, for some more Pier Six action. More finishers to re-powder everybody out: too fast-paced to really keep track, but really smoothly executed.

Carlito thought he had the ring cleared after a Roll of the Dice to Masters, but Shelton popped back in to hit him with a T-Bone Power Slam. Now Shelton thought HE had the ring cleared. Guess again: RVD is legal, and he's perched on to the top rope, waiting to introduce you to his foot again. Shelton eats it, back up top one more time for RVD, a Frog Splash, and just like that, Van Dam has pinned the IC Champ.

Your Winners: Rob Van Dam, Carlito, and Charlie Hass, via RVD's pinfall on Shelton, in about 8 minutes. I gotta say: this one, I liked. The minute before the ad break was fast paced and awesome, then things slowed down on the grounds that Masters really does suck, then the final 3-4 minutes were sweet with all the chaotic brawling that was actually done in a smooth and plausible way. Not just spot-spot-spot-spot. I'm also intrigued as to what RVD's pinfall over Shelton means: I saw these two teams, and I must admit to a smarky sort of confidence that "RVD will pin Striker, or Shelton will pin Haas," since those were the two most sacrifice-able guys in the match. But it didn't work out that way. Nice little unexpected easter egg.


Backstage: Tough Questions Todd Grisham is back this week, and he's got Vince McMahon for an interview. "So what about those acts of God last week?" is the basic gist of the question. But Vince says God had nothing to do with it. The pyro guy explained it all to Vince, Vince accepted his apology, and then Vince fired him. And just like God had nothing to do with last week, God will have nothing to do with this week, because Vince suspects God is -- as the Brits say -- "on holiday." So Shawn Michaels will be all by his lonesome when he faces Shane McMahon. Enter Shane, who says it'll be just like Saturday Night's Main Event, because Shane-O wants to give Michaels some payback for WrestleMania. To close out this segment (which was WAAAAYYY longer and more over-wrought than the brevity of this paragraph would suggest, but that's just one of the many turd-polishing services I provide), Shane says "I swear to God [awkward pause as he realizes what he's said and turns to Vince as if to say he didn't really mean it].... I swear Shawn Michaels will not leave this arena tonight under his own power." Big words and a strong finish to a mostly weak and pointless (and bloated) bit.

Needs More Hanks

So we go to another area backstage for a nice Hollywood-style set piece. Kane is... lets call it "skulking." And also muttering. And after a bit of mood-setting, Big Show walks into frame. Show says, "Look, bro, we're friends and partners, and even though there's some things you and I need to work out at Backlash, I want to know what's going on with you, are you OK?"

Then Kane accuses Show of "saying that date." And Show's all "May 19? It's just a date, settle down." And Kane's all "You don't know what I'm dealing with here, man, you have to respect my Drama." And Show's all "Christ, dude, it's just a date." And Kane's all "Don't say that date." And so Big Show finally just gets right up in Kane's face and says, "May. Nine. Teenth. [Bitch]".

Kane immediately lashes out with the fisticuffsmanship, and fueled by the power of Box Office Receipts, gets the better of it. He bashes Show's head into a nearby steel garage door multiple times. Officials (and the Brokeback Duo of Murdoch and Cade) show up to pull Kane off, but they fail. Kane gets his mits back on Show, and this time, he goes for the left eye, gouging it good. 

The assembled crew finally pull Kane off again, and this time, Kane's content to stand down and just chuckle in an evil manner as the camera pans back to Show. Who is on the ground, holding his eye, shouting things like "Kane, you asshole, I can't see. God this hurts. My fucking EYE~!". Show's a funny and personable dude, it seems, but DeNiro, he ain't. Hell, Vin Diesel, he ain't.

End scene.

I refrained from mentioning this 2 weeks ago when Kane went for Show's eye in their first confrontation (lest I be jumping at shadows or worse: lest I give WWE any more bad ideas), but you folks DO know that the original title for Kane's movie was "Eye Scream Man," right? Because Kane's character has an eye fetish that results in others screaming. If you didn't know that, you know it now. And it should increase the Suck Factor of this segment for you by at least an order of magnitude.

You know what I didn't realize until this weekend? "The DaVinci Code" opens on May 19, too. And thus, nobody is going to go see Kane's shitty movie. That's probably what Kane's getting all spazzy and drama-queen-y about. Or at least: it'd beat whatever other explanation the writer monkeys come up with. Plus, I'd be for any beating delivered by Kane that would make Tom Hanks realize that however funny and talented he is, he looks like a dillhole with that haircut.

You know what else only occurred to me this weekend? Unless Kane shifts over to SmackDown!, what the hell is the point of playing up May 19 (which is a Friday)? Oh, wait.... you stupid Canucks would get that SD! on May 18, which would effectively kibosh doing an angle on that show. So a crap-ass, Hollywood-style pre-tape on the May 22 RAW it is! Lucky us!


Pointlessness, Thy Name is RAW

So we've got a bikini contest. Nee haw. Coach is our Master of Ceremonies. And our contestants are Torrie Wilson, Victoria, Maria the Mic Stand, and Candice Michelle. All four of whom are attired in the kind of satin-y robes and ricockulous footwear that would place them more proximate to a Frederick's of Hollywood changing room than to a pool or the beach, but it's only a SWIMSUIT contest, so who cares about that, right? 

Coach goes "blah blah blah I'm the Coach and all hot girls want to fuck me." Then the four girls disrobe and shimmy around a bit. If you think I'm recapping this in detail, forget it. Though I will take a bit of personal glee in noting that when you put these four inside a wrestling ring, Victoria STILL executes the best moves even in a stupid bikini contest.

Then the big finish: Coach invites the audience to cheer for the girl they want to win, and then he'll determine the winner. The crowd wants Maria (apparently, the Brits have a fetish for women with no calves; honestly, when did Maria get so long and gangly-looking? I only really started noticing it a few weeks ago in her match against Mickie, so maybe it's just the result of some recent, and unnecessary, weight loss?), and it's pretty obvious to anybody with an auditory system. So, of course, Coach picked Candice (who was the least popular of the four).

The other three girls register looks that amount to "What a choade, but I also couldn't care less" as they leave the ring. Coach pulls Titties McSuperbowl in for an up-close-and-personal interview, and says he might have helped her out a bit in the contest, and now it's her turn to yadda yadda yadda. You all know what borderline sexual harassment looks like, so just imagine Coach doing it, cuz I don't have the time.

Titties is not playing along, though, so to her rescue: Viscera. Vis says he's been watching, and maybe to learn Coach a lesson, Vis will do to Coach what Coach wants to do to Candice. Ewwwww. Just: ewwwww. That of course is our set-up for the body slam, the hip swivel, and then the Greco Roman Butt Rape..... WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA! No Greco Roman Butt Rape? Instead, just an awkward spliced sound track, and a sudden cut to Vis unmounting Coach? If USA Network was going to deem the Greco Roman Butt Rape as unsuitable for TV, I wish they'd fucking do RAW over in the UK every week so we could excise it now and forever more.

And the big finish is Vis then turning to Candice and doing to her exactly what Coach was doing. Except now, Candice likes it. Because she is a whore. Oy. Seriously: what did this 12 minutes of Suck accomplish? Nothing. No stories were advanced with the women nor any characters built. The only thing I can figure is that this is the start of a mini-program with Coach and Visera.

And that makes me die a little bit inside. And also makes me glad that, a few days ago, I finally got OOur Favorite Broad Erin Anderson to promise to make a return to RAW Recappening sooner rather than later. Granted, the promise came under duress (or as much duress as a gentleman can apply)... but a verbal contract is a verbal contract, and anything that gets me out of recapping Coach vs. Viscera (or Viscera's three-way with Candice and Victoria, or whatever silliness might come out of this) is going to be enforced with extreme prejudice! Maybe nothing good can come out of this segment, but maybe the week that it doesn't, I'll be able to fast-forward through it without guilt!


Video Package: McMahons. Michaels. I FF'ed it once, and I did it again.

Shawn Michaels vs. Shane McMahon

Before the match, Vince comes out to do Shane-O's introduction himself. "Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you to one and only Son begotten of the Father." Hey, Vince, for a guy who claims not to ever have gone to church, your Apostles' Creed is showing. "I give to you the product of my Omnipotent Semen. [pause, cuz you gotta let that one soak in] I give you Shane McMahon."

Hmmmm, where to go with this material? I guess I'll fight off the urge to joke about how my own semen may be of only normal potency, but it is both omniscient and omnipresent (it's been known to end up everywhere all at the same time, anyways, which sometimes doesn't go over so well), which clearly makes me Vince's equal.... and instead, I'll point out that I think "Omnipotent Seamen" would make great name for a band. Or possibly for Paul Burchill's new stable over on SD! once he's joined by an eye-patch-wearing Big Show.

ANYhoo, Shane enters. Then Shawn enters. And for the opening feeling out process of the match, there appears to be a contest running to see how many times Joey is forced to utter the phrase "Omnipotent Semen" and then act offended, like he doesn't think it's one of the funnier things to come out of Vince's mouth in a long time. Whoopsie. Did I just say that semen coming out of Vince's mouth was the funniest thing I'd seen in a while? I'm so dirrrrrrty. ["Hey, Rick, the Howard Stern movie called and it wants its punchline back, you hack." OK, you got me....]

Like I said, after Shane sneak-attacked to start, they throttled it back down to a feeling-out process pretty quickly. Who said Shane was nothing but a spot machine? He can throw a headlock every bit as good as Randy Orton!

Things speed up a bit when Shawn ducks Shane's charge, and Shane goes tumbling out to the floor. Michaels decides to follow, and that ends up being a bad idea. Vince provides ample distraction for Shane to recover, and the upshot is that Michaels goes into the steel ring steps. Back in the ring, Shane keeps the assault on the back (including a Triple Backbreaker that makes me wonder how anybody out there can seriously defend Chris F. Masters' and his moveset while a desk jockey can, in his sparetime, be this credible in the ring)... all the moves to the back? Extra painful because, as Joey Styles is obligated to remind us, that back has been SURGICALLY RECONSTRUCTED~!

Shane's assault finishes up with a Torture Rack. Or, if you're Joey, "a torture-rack-like maneuver." In either case, since we live in a sane and rational world, I can say that beyond any shadow of a doubt, that move is the closest that Lex Luger will come to relevance this week. Yep. 100% confidence on this one, kiddies. The sky would turn green or the moon would hurtle into the earth before anybody would ever make a decision that would render me wrong about this one. Guaranteed. Ahem.

After the Torture Rack, Shane got greedy, and tried for a moonsault. No water in the pool, and Shane eats it in a way that looked a bit more painful-to-the-knees than most missed moonsaults. Still, both men down, and this is HBK's prescribed Fire Up Spot, so no dilly-dallying. Once both men are up, they trade fists, Michaels gets the better of it, and then hits the Flying Burrito. Kip up. Inverted atomic.

Goes for the Macho Man Elbow, but Vince briefly breaks it up. Then HITS the Macho Man Elbow. "Shawn Michaels just drove his elbow directly into the Genetically Poisoned Heart of Shane McMahon" (that's a freebie for any of you who were playing our new little game last night). But when MIchaels goes to tune up the band, Vince yanks him out of the ring behind the ref's back.

Michaels has no patience for Vince's happy crappy, so he starts slugging away on Vince, and even puts him on top of the announce table, like he's got an idea.... like an idea to jump off the top rope and put Vince through the table. At the last second, though, Shane stops Michaels from doing this by punching him in the sac. Shane and Vince then do some re-arranging at ringside (Shane takes the monitors out of the announce table so we can REALLY use it as a prop, now; and Vince goes and gets the ring bell).

As soon as Michaels recovers enough to join the fun, Vince whaps him in the head with the bell. Some more father-and-son beatdown, and finally Michaels is positioned on the table. Shane goes up to the top rope. And flies through the air to drop an elbow on Shawn and drive him through the table. "Holy Shit," indeed.

Vince peppers on a few more kicks on HBK's carcass, and Shane slowly recovers from the big move. Vince gets a mic, and declares that clearly God wasn't here tonight. Just like God won't be at Backlash. So Shawn Michaels can expect more of the same. Then, just as Shane gets up to stand at the right hand of the Father, the lights go out and a single spotlight shines on the McMahons. Vince hits the finish: "Praise be the name of Shane Brendan McMahon." [Brendan? That's unfortunate.] "Praise be the name of Vincent Kennedy McMahon." [You all know the story of how Paul Heyman advised the former "Ken Anderson" to pick his new name based on the fact that he knew Vince would be a mark for his own middle name, right?] And finally "Hallelujah!". 

Then just to leave a slightly bad taste in my mouth, they cut to a crane camera which pulled up and out to create a sort of heavenly POV on the spotlit McMahons. Yes, it was lame and distractingly-fakey, but mostly, I hate the notion that more time and effort was probably put into figuring out how to stage this one-time, all-new camera angle (which adds nothing to the show except to remind you that what you're watching is fake and carefully choreographed) than was put into trying to figure out some way for Kane to not be sucking now. Priorities, dum dums.

Oh, and Your Winner: In Rick Think, I say Michaels wins via DQ in about 8 minutes, and we just didn't get an official decision because Vince had just made off with the ring bell, which thus couldn't be rung to signal the end of the match. But I'll bet you a shiny nickel that in WWE Think, they just list it as a No Contest for all the wonks who play Fantasy WWE and live and die by such Important Rulings. Minor presentational gripes about the final 10 seconds aside, this was a VERY entertaining segment, with Shane and Shawn going pretty much at full speed and even busting out a PPV-caliber high spot. Vince chiming in to cause the non-finish even worked for me because (after the superman act at WM22) it reminds us that Shawn can reasonable deal with one McMahon, but two McMahons ARE a formidable opponent. A good thing to have heading into the PPV match, since it's another one where you just don't really know for sure who'll win.


How's About Some Ketchup With Your Hype?: Joey and Lawler preside over a busted table -- oh, did I mention that Coach hasn't been seen or heard from since the censored Greco Roman Butt Rape? So I guess I lied about nothing good coming out of that segment -- to do a mix of PPV hype, then a bunch of catch-up on stuff that's happened tonight which just so happened to include Kane's nonsense with Big Show, which was a segue into Kane's Movie Hype. Each of the three prongs of this wasted segment must have lasted at least 2 minutes, if they were long enough to register that clearly to me even at Top FF'ing Speed.

Backstage: Edge and Lita approached John Cena backstage. Again, Cena's mere visage drew massive boos and no significant SQUEEEEs. Edge is here for a companionable pep talk about staying on the same page and watching each others back so all three of the team members make it to Backlash to have their fight. If they don't, the five Spirit Squadders could really fuck things up. Cena says he gets it and he'll take care of business, but that he's also suspicious of Edge. And if Edge does anything questionable? "You'll be going down. Faster than your girlfriend." Christ. On a show (and in a recap) laden with juvenile sex humor, leave it to Cena to show you how it's not done.


Backstage: Edge and Lita are talking in a hallway, and for some strange reason, the camera does NOT possess the magical power to just go right up to them so we can hear what they're talking about. The body language and (broad) gesturing, however, seems to suggest some form of Plan Hatching is taking place.

Umaga vs. Some Guy

You're shitting me, right? Umaga already has a Credibility Problem, and here in the Year of Our Lord 2006, WWE thinks the solution is as easy as turning back the clock to 1986?

Hope you like SQUASH, Steve Lewington (whose name I only mention because I think I remember him being "Some Guy" on SD! a while back, and I wanted to show off my Big Brain by remembering his name!).

Your Winner: Umaga, via pinfall following the Asiatic Spike, in less than 2 minutes. Although I will admit that I liked the Headbutt of Woe, this whole presentation is awful, and Umaga is going nowhere fast, not even with Armando Alejandro Estrrrrrrrrrrrrrrada to do his talking for him.

After the Match: Umaga and Estrrrrrrrrrada dared to linger in the ring, so Ric Flair showed up and attacked. As tends to be the case lately, Flair focused his assault on Umaga's mansac. Cuz he's the Dirtiest Player in the Game, and cuz it always works. Estrada eventually corrals Umaga out of the ring, leaving Flair to do the usual routine of peeling off his suit coat and flinging it around and in general working himself into quite the epileptic lather. We'd later find out that Flair vs. Umaga is ON for Backlash... well, they can't all be keepers...

Backstage: Triple H is stretching out for his match when he's approached by Lita. Lita's here to give a variation on the speech Edge gave to Cena: "let's be on the same page tonight, let's work together, let's the three of us take care of business tonight so we all make it to the PPV." HHH registers all of this, and says it's very nice of Lita to offer him this advice tonight. But he wonders if she'll still be so nice after HHH gets done whupping her boyfriends ass at Backlash. Lita tries to play along amiably until Trips mentions his sledgehammer, and then changes gears so that suddenly his sledgehammer isn't crushing Edge's skull in, the sledgehammer is actually HIS PENIS, and maybe Lita might get a lick (ha! *I* made that one up, not HHH!) or two, too. Lita walks away in disgust, and as she leaves, Hunter actually calls after her in mock desperation: "Lita, Lita, c'mon Lita, I was just kidding, and I appreciate all the advice. And I really wanted to hear your expert advice about taking on five guys at the same time!" Hee. Good mic night for Trips.


Mirror Mirror

Mickie James hit the ring, and she's back to being dressed as herself and acting like her self. Upskirt rump-shots for all!

Mickie gets on the mic and is faux-apologetic (but for-real-obnoxious, and I mean that in a good way) as she psycho-babbles her way through an explanation/apology. She says she got a little carried away after WrestleMania, what with the Trish Make-Over and everything. But she attributes it to her excitement after beating her former idol for the Women's Championship.

And that's a result that Mickie says will repeat at Backlash, where Mickie will prove that she doesn't have to try to be Trish Stratus, because the world will see that she's BETTER than Trish Stratus. BOO~! And then the punchline is that Mickie's little bout with confusion is over, and she knows exactly who she is: "I'm Mickie James, YEAH~!"

[I'd officially like to pause and say that if you visited a website or read a recap which turned that into a Dave Chappelle reference, you had, for fuck's sake, better think even less of the website or recapper in question for doing such a hackneyed/played joke than you do of me for making that lift from a significantly-less-shark-jumped bit from the Stern movie. I will recant this only if Trish goes and does a promo in which she says, "No, *I'm* Mickie James, BITCH~!". Not because she's right to do so, but because it probably WILL get a cheap pop with the retards in the audience, and I'll just tell myself that Trish knows it's a stupid and unfunny thing to say but a cheap pop is a cheap pop so she did it anyway. I can be selectively delusional that way.]

Wait. YOU'RE Mickie James? Then who is this bopping to ringside with yet another be-thonged ass for me to enjoy? Ahhh, it must be Trishie James. Trish-in-disguise grabs a mic, and for the next 30 seconds, Mickie tries desperately to blurt out the notion that Trish is crazy, but every single time Mickie opens her mouth, Trish starts talking, too. Once she finds the Mickie Rhythm, she even nails exactly the same word/start-of-a-sentence and pitch of Mickie's voice. Simple, but funny. "Hey, nutjob, what's it like looking into the mirror, huh?" is the general vibe that Trish's playful mockery is giving off. 

Mickie eventually gets pissed and tries to attack. This ain't yer day, whacko... after a brief tussle, Trish hits the Kick Which Shall Not Be Named By Any Discerning Columnist. Trish bops her way back up the ramp, while Mickie slowly recovers to register something very close to simmering rage. So maybe now THIS is what sends Mickie over the edge and gets me the "Misery"/Annie Wilkes twist that I think this story could really use? We'll see....


Triple H/Edge/John Cena vs. The Spirit Squad (Handicap Match)

Full intros for everybody, so no matter what the clock reads, you can know that this one won't actually start till maybe five-till-the-hour, giving us maybe 10 minutes of match time... and then, to kick things off, the Squad line up like they want to do an Introductory Cheer for the three main eventers.

Instead, HHH/Edge/Cena just shake their heads in pity and go medieval on the Squad. I would just like to say that I think Mikey might be becoming my favorite member of the Squad: he's just so fricking dedicated to being a prancing, screeching little nancy boy that it's hilarious. Every bump he took in this opening segment, you would have sworn he was a mid-60's sitcom housewife who'd just seen a mouse from the sounds he made. Way to sell out to a character!

And then, with the ring cleared, HHH/Edge/Cena need to decide what to do next. Including who'll start the match as the legal man. Kenny solves that for them by attacking Cena from behind. So HHH and Edge, unconcernedly, are more than happy to leave him in the ring, and as they saunter off YOU HAVE GOT TO BE SHITTING ME... we still have another break? I assumed we were here for the duration, but guess not. One last set of....


Back at the crack of 11pm, and HHH is now the legal man. For about 2 seconds. Then he hard tags Edge into the match (with a Flair-style chop)... Edge is momentarily peeved, but then gets a grin on his face as he realizes he gets to show off against a bunch of male cheerleaders.

So show off he does. Nothing fancy. Very basic. But the Squad are sufficiently annoying that it plays really well. The second Edge gets caught in a numbers game, he fights out of it, and returns the Hard Tag to HHH. HHH comes back in with a smirk, and goes to town with some more very basic-but-effective stuff. Highlighting this was yet another Crotchchop Kneedrop. And cue the "DX, DX, DX" chant... I repeat: WWE, at this point, if you're not actually going somewhere with this, you're in trouble.

Hunter seems content to keep on clubbering away, but he wanders too near his own corner and so Cena Blind Hard Tags his way into the match. BOO~! I'm serious, it wasn't just that people were booing, it's that this is the most unanimous it's ever been; you didn't have that dissenting squealing that almost adds to the fun of booing. You know what I bet it is? It's all that Ali G's fault... he was doing Cena's act (and doing it better) in the UK well before Cena ever started doing it. Cena's not just a wigger, he's the Worst Kind of Wigger: he's the Wigger Who's Blatantly Ripping Off England's Premier Wigger! And not even teenage fangirls can support that kind of theivery!

And with that, I've officially gotten myself worked up into wondering if it would be even remotely possible for WWE to get in touch with Sasha Baron Cohen to conduct special interviews. Because "Ali G" and Cena together with live mics is suddenly the thing I want to see even more than Jericho/Fozzy vs. Tenacious D in a Rock Off. If you don't know what I'm talking about, just rent the damned DVDs and prepare to bust your gut. That goes just as much for Tenacious D as Ali G, by the way, just in case you haven't gotten around to following that diRicktive, yet.

The match.... the match.... oh yeah, the match. Cena's in and hitting his Unorthodox (tm, Voice in the Headset) Offense and getting booed to high heaven for it. The Squad put an end to that by orchestrating a dealy where two of them go over and distract HHH and Edge (which in turn distracts the ref), while the other three pummel Cena (to cheers). Yes, the Spirit Squad were over as babyfaces, at least for a bit. 

Then they turned the dial up to 11 during the beatdown sequence on Cena, and really, you can't cheer for flamboyant male cheerleaders, can you? To their credit, they really were going to great ends to sally it up: lifting each other up on any flippy moves, like cheerleaders do, and Mikey (especially) not being capable of going two moves in a row without doing something supremely bitch-slap-worthy. 

So the cheerleaders are expertly annoying, and Cena is Cena..... it did kinda lose steam with the live crowd there for a bit, and it was funny to watch Cena's Superman Comeback play to absolute dead silence (it wasn't even boo-worthy because of how good the opposition was at being annoying). As Cena stumbled around after his comeback, HHH blind-tagged himself into the match.

HHH was excellent in his house afire sequence, and the Squad are as good at being punching bags as they are at being obnoxious, so this got the crowd heated back up. Yet: Cena's not entirely sanguine about HHH blind tagging himself in at a crucial juncture and stealing the spotlight. The second the squad show an inkling of organization or making a comeback of their own, Cena pounces and starts brawling with the Squad his own self.

Meantime, Edge is lounging on the apron, quite bemused by the whole spectacle and not looking at all interested in moving from that spot. Cena and HHH manage to fight the good fight, and eventually get it down to a 2-on-2 affair. They lock eyes. Cena goes for the F-U on his guy; HHH sets up for the Pedigree on his guy. They lock eyes again. They hit the moves at the exact same time. 

And then, instead of one of them (HHH, the legal man) making a cover, they got all chest-puffed-out and macho, and started jawing with each other. Uh oh. Edge now has the motivation to move from his spot, because he can guess what's coming next, and he'll gladly watch it with a tasty armful of slut from the top of the stage. As Edge and Lita retreat with smiles on their faces, HHH and Cena's words grow more heated, and finally, Cena throws the first punch.

And HHH fires back. And before you know it, the two are rolling around on the mat trading fists. Hey, this has been a night of Dirty Jokes, so here at the end, I'll let YOU make up your own, using that last sentence as a starting point. 

Point is, HHH and Cena are beating the crap out of each other, while Edge is the smartest one of the bunch, watching on from afar while his two PPV opponents soften each other up.

Oh, and for the Second Time Tonight, I guess I still need to tell you Your Winners: Nobody. And this time, if WWE wanted to officially declare a No Contest, I can see why. The Squad just powdered out so we could finish by telling a story related to the PPV main event. Match was probably only about 5 minutes (after the break, but like I said, closer to 10 if you count the almost non-existent part before the break), but did its job, just like the handicap matches the last 3 weeks on RAW did. Good action, good interaction between HHH/Edge/Cena leading up to the dead-on perfect finish with Edge out-chickenshitting the other two guys and looking wiser for it, and absolutely nothing to complain about. This finish honestly left me convinced that WWE could put the belt on any one of these three men on Sunday, and that -- even to a jaded "smart" fan such as myself -- is like PPV-flavored catnip. I'll take as much Ambiguity as WWE's got, and never stop jonsing for more.


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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