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Getting it Right. Except for the Highlanders. 
September 5, 2006

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


So: your favorite baseball team is sliding badly, and they've got a huge series starting up against another NL Wild Card contender.... what do you do?  

Well, if you're The Rick, you go out and pick up Barry Bonds in your Fantasy League and hope that, if the Giants embarrass the Reds like the Reds have taken to being embarrassed the past two weeks, Bonds is the one to stick it to them.

Then you plop down on the couch on Monday, watch almost that precise

scenario play out as the Giants score a huge comeback win, and placate yourself with the knowledge that even if the Reds are tanking it, Bonds just helped you to protect a wafer-thin lead in your Fantasy League. In my case, there's also a bit of poetic justice, as Bonds started the year on my Fantasy Team but was jettisoned almost immediately (I swear, the OF problems I've had this year are insane). But now that he's back to hitting again, he's back on the squad to end the season. Good for him, that magnificent asshole.

Additionally, I also watched RAW while plopped down on my couch Monday, and I figure that's what you're actually here to read about, right?

I'll say this: if WWE wants to put on this basic show every Monday, I'll be one happy camper. Still with enough "entertainment" to trump the living daylights out of SD! or TNA in terms of the Sizzle Factor, but for once, they added in not one, but TWO 10-plus minute wrestling matches (both of which were tremendously entertaining), and with the exception of one boring-but-defensible tag match, they either focused exclusively on the brand's strongest and most bankable personalities or tried featuring lesser stars in surprising new ways.

That's a recipe for sustainable, repeatable success, if you ask me. Of course, nobody's asking me, and it's entirely possible that the Monkeys in charge at WWE have no concept of just how solid a show they built this week. Such is life in a company where coaching announcers not to say certain words is a priority over actually writing top shelf shows.

Anyway: that's enough of a pre-ramble. Here's what happened on RAW....

Video Package: Stuff happened last week, and I don't have nearly the time nor patience to watch it again, cuz it wasn't *that* entertaining.

For the Fifth Week in a Row: A Cold Open!

Coming out of the video package, we cut live to the ring, where things are darkened, save for a lone spotlight on WWE Champ Edge. He's doing a quick bit of furniture re-arranging (a table here, a chair there, and of course, a ladder dead-center in the ring), which gives Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler just enough time to welcome us live to Atlanta, GA (where I seriously doubt either local OO staff member was in attendance to supply any prOOpaganda in sign form, seeing as how I have a hearty dialogue with one and trade an e-mail or two a week with the other, and the first I heard about it was 20 seconds into the show from JR), and also make the first of what I have to assume were Contractually Obligated Mentions of US Open Tennis coverage continuing over on CNBC.

But no time to dilly-dally, as Edge has now ascended to the top of the ladder with a microphone, and (still in the single spotlight) intends to address us... and it turns out, tonight's address is about how the "John Cena is Finally Out of My Life Once and For All" Countdown now stands at 13 days and counting. Edge says that's how much time Cena has left on RAW before Edge beats him and sends him packing to the new CW Network (nice plug, Edgeward!).

The "CW" has a bonus connotation here, as well, as Edge says it stands for Cena's chances at Armaunforjudgmalash: he Can't Win. Not when the match is taking place in Edge's home town of Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Edge notes it's now "94% SARS-free," which seems like an awfully 2003 reference). And especially not when it's Edge's signature match, a match Edge has never lost, and Cena has never competed in: a (pausing to gesture at the arranged furniture) Tables, Ladders, and Chairs Match. 

Edge casts aspersions on Cena's in-ring ability (likening his style to that of a Retarded Gorilla, which I'm sure will get people up in arms as it is a heinous insult to both retards and gorillas), and says that TLC matches require speed, agility, technique, and creativity. All things Cena lacks, and all things that Edge has in abundance. To drive home this point, Edge throws it up to the TitanTron for a movie-trailer-style montage of his greatest TLC hits. How in the hell did they make one of those up without hardly ever showing the Dudleys?

Coming out of the montage, Edge says that it's inevitable: Cena's headed to SD! to "fight men in dresses and have Michael Cole resume his massive mancrush on you." Heh heh, watch it there, Edge, stuff like that, and you toe the line of "too funny and spot-on to boo." Then to close, Edge underscores his long standing point about this story having a happy ending, and that in this case, it means Edge standing in the ring in his hometown, his hand held high, as he re-affirms his status as the Greatest WWE Champion of All Times.

As Edge is soaking in the boos, something must be happening underneath him, but we fans at home don't know it, because Kevin Dunn is an obnoxious jackass. Hey, fucko, if Edge is going to be sitting on a ladder, looking down, and muttering "What the hell are you doing here?", then YOU'RE NOT ACCOMPLISHING ANYTHING by doing your standard "shoot close-ups to preserve the surprise" job of directing. Unless you count annoying the living daylights out of me as something worth accomplishing. There are times when a well-framed camera shot will add a realistic level of drama to a surprise appearance. And then there are times like these when the choice of camera angles leads on to believe the director is mentally enfeebled if you have the on-screen talent reacting to things that we fans aren't allowed to see until 5 seconds later.

Anyway, I digress. What was happening below Edge was John Cena running out and jumping in the ring. By the time we cut to a wide shot and see this, Edge has decided to leap from the top of the ladder onto Cena.... but Cena, mighty Gorilla that he is, manages to catch Edge and maneuvers him into position to F-U him through the table that Edge himself had set up. Ouch. Then Cena undoes the rest of the interior decorating, and tosses both the ladder and the chairs on top of Edge's carcass. Play Cena's music!

A fairly effective opening segment. Hell, a really effective one, probably. It's just that I (biased sumbitch that I am) can't get past the way Cena's character always seems so petulant and bratty: he never seems to be reacting to stimuli in a rational fashion, or when he does, he seems to be reacting way out of proportion to the thing that happened to him. I just don't quite gather how that makes him the babyface, and the guy who made funnies about Cena and Cole's relationship is a heel. But maybe I'm just an asshole like that: I relate more to the guy who seems funny and interesting, and less to the guy who has hardly (if ever) verbalized a compelling reason for anything he's done. Cena, the character, seems motivated not by logic or reason, but by the power of Anything That'll Look Good on a T-Shirt. He's not the only one, but in the past few years since WWE went all ass-backwards and started trying to have new t-shirts and catchphrases defining characters (instead of having performers establish characters and catchphrases and then reaping the profits of the resulting t-shirts), Cena's increasingly seeming like the most annoyingly prolific in this category. So I guess file this run-in under "Fear Nothing, Regret Less," eh? 


Moments Ago: Edge. Cena. Fast-forward.

Backstage: Jeff Hardy is.... painting a wall? And with a big wide roller? I would have thought for sure that delicate fruitcakey arteest would be into pastel chalks or something for all his decorating needs, but nope.... a 12" roller and a gallon can of Sherwin-Williams will do him. Anyway, Jeff stops painting, and just starts staring at the wall. Which is when Maria the Mic Stand shows up and asks [ultradumbvoice]"Whatchya doin'?"[/ultradumbvoice]. Jeff says "I'm watching Nitro and Melina's press conference from last week." Maria says, "Oh? It looks like you're watching paint dry." Jeff smirks and says, "Exactly." Ha ha, very funny. Jeff then hands the roller over to Maria and leaves, since he's up next.... and Maria is left staring at the wall, seemingly transfixed by it. Which is also sort-of-but-not-quite funny given her on-screen gimmick, but which becomes significantly less funny when they cut back to her staring at the wall at random intervals all night long. OK: so cutting to her twice during Chris F. Masters dumbing it up was ironic and funny, but other than that, the joke was old after the second time, but they kept ramming it in there. Hey: nobody's saying Nitro and Melina tore it up on the mic last week... but it's probably not even in the Bottom Five Worst Promos of The Year, and yet, nobody's going out of their way to script humiliating in-jokes about some of Vince's more pointless windbaggery or Randall Orton's thrashing of the grammar and temporal causality. 

Johnny Nitro vs. Jeff Hardy (IC Title Match)

Hardy enters first, Nitro enters seconds, and something unthinkable happens: the announcers are so focused on continuing to mock Nitro and Melina's promo from last week that Jerry Lawler almost forgets to ogle Melina's rump. Almost. But then it's right back to the mockery, which struck me as unnecessary. I like the "winkwink nudgenudge" when JR speaks in code to us about a match getting Bowling Shoe Ugly, but there's no need to linger on a concept like that, especially at length and a week after the fact. This, in fact, had the stink of The Voice In The Headset taking out his frustrations on the easiest targets, even if they weren't even the most soul-crushingly stupid part about last week's RAW. The Voice in the Headset coming up with a reason to spend a skit with his zipper down was.

Anyway: the match. Story here is that Hardy is expected to be all high-flying and high-risk, and Nitro's gameplan is to capitalize on mistakes... except that for the opening 2 minutes, Jeff plays it pretty safe, and mostly mat- and chain-wrestles Nitro (albeit at a very quick pace). And does it well enough that Nitro gets frustrated. Jeff isn't doing what he's supposed to be doing. He's doing what Nitro wanted to do. And he's doing it better than Nitro. 

This eventually leads to Nitro just making a blind charge at Hardy, who ducks, sending Nitro crashing out over the top rope. As we linger, both JR and I are expecting Jeff to hit some sort of crazy high flying move over the top rope and to the floor to send us to an ad break. But instead, Nitro writhes on the ground, Melina tends to him, and the new Smart And Conservative Jeff Hardy surveys the scene from the safety of the center of the ring.....


Back, and Nitro has -- perhaps not unexpectedly -- taken command of the match. He's working everybody's favorite (the Chinlock), but just long enough for us to get a few clips of what happened during the break to change the momentum of the match (which I already forget, so it couldn't have been that spectacular). Jeff fires up out of the chinlock, but his brief hope spot is quashed by what I will call a "Snap Mare Backbreaker."

From here, Nitro begins a concerted assault on Jeff's lower back. Lots good stuff, too, including a combo uranage-backbreaker-into-a-side-Russian-legsweep. Jeff got a few more hope spots peppered in there, too, but Nitro was in solid control for about 2-3 minutes. He finally settled it down (as required by The Formula) at the very end, opting for (ugh) a bearhug. Luckily, just as he locked in this Visually Thrilling Maneuver, JR and King hit a really amusing 30 second riff, mostly at Melina's expense. First JR noted that he wouldn't like to be on Melina's bad side. Then he waited. Then he prodded Lawler with a "What, King? You got nothing to say back to that?".... so Lawler grudgingly said, "You know me, any side will do," like he was almost embarrassed to do it. Then, with the King seemingly cowed, JR proceeded to hit a pair of Restaurant Quality Double Entendres. First about how, all things considered, Melina *is* quite an ideal Mouthpiece. And then, he somehow compared her to Atlanta Braves' manager, Bobby Cox. Because "Cox" is easily in the top 3 of Inherently Funny Surnames. Mheh heh heh: Cox. Then again, I'm the juvenile dorkface who was once in a band that had a popular song titled "My Cox Arboretum" (which might only be funny if you're familiar with south Dayton, but it cracked us up).

Anyhow, Jeff finally does break out of the bearhug, and begins his comeback in earnest. Basic high-energy stuff to start, but then we hit End Game, with both guys trading convincing moves and near falls. Jeff's best one comes after a Whisper in the Wind, Nitro's after a standing moonsault. All very tight and all very much getting the crowd fired up. Jeff finally hits a Twist of Fate, and Melina decides that her man isn't gonna be able to kick out of that, so she tackles the referee to stop him from counting to three.

Your Winner: Jeff Hardy, via disqualification, in about 12-15 minutes. Wow. We go a month straight with RAW not presenting a single match over 4 minutes long, and suddenly this? Me likey. And the crowd likeyed, too. Really nice start (with the fast paced mat wrestling telling the story of "Jeff isn't as dumb and reckless as before) and a really nice finish (with the fast-paced high-flying telling the story of "But Jeff will still whip out some wacky stuff if it'll help him win a match"). And in between? Even with the bearhug, it didn't bog down *that* much.... the finish obligates us to watch a rematch, but the preceding 12 minutes makes me feel like I'd be glad to do so.

After the Match: an angry Jeff Hardy scared off Melina, then hit Nitro with a facebuster and a Swanton. So he gets a moral victory to go with his actual one. Even though he still doesn't get the IC Title.


This Week in Wrestling History: 11 years ago to the day, WCW launched Monday Nitro, thus beginning the Monday Night Wars. Revel in the clips of Big Bossman and Brian Pillman, both of whom have since passed away. And revel in the clips of Lex Luger, who should be glad that his 1995 hairstyle and fashion sense have long since passed away. What an ass. I don't care if he has found The Jesus, he's still wrestling's poster boy for flamboyant mediocrity and Miss Elizabeth is still (in my 11-year-old, schoolboy-crush-having heart) all his fault.

Backstage: Trish is WALKING~! (to the ring, where we're told she's going to give us her Farewell Address). But she's stopped by Lita, who immediately jokes that it's really cute that Trish is going to tell all the fans about her impending retirement, seeing as how Lita took care of that for her last week. Trish counters by saying that it's OK, cuz her "Address" was going to be less a farewell, and more her calling Lita out, anyway. Because Trish wants to do this one last time: her and Lita, and with the women's title on the line. Lita ponders for about a second, and says that nothing would be finer than sending Trish into retirement a loser in her own hometown. So at Armaunforjudgmalash, IT'S ON. Trish immediately fires back that, you know?, they really don't have to wait, and as a good friend of hers used to say, "Just bring it, bitch." So Lita charges Trish, and the brawl is on. Officials eventually swarm to try to break it up, and they're eventually joined by Carlito, who tries to pull Trish off and calm her down. But Carlito's presence brings Randall Orton out of whatever rock he was hiding under, and now we have double-pull-apart-brawls. The officials separate the women first, and if you're looking for Reason #3898 why I [heart] Trish, you get it here, as she takes the opportunity to smack Randall upside his dim little head. Not that any girl of mine should ever need an excuse to abuse the likes of Orton, but it's just damned fine TV, in my book.

Crap: John Cena has a movie coming out, and if I gave a shit, I'd be checking out clips and previews on the Movie-Trailers-on-Demand channel and Entertainment Tonight. Not on my Wrestling Show.

Elsewhere Backstage: Coach is half-assedly "standing guard" in front of a door marked "The McMahons" when Lita comes storming into frame. She can't believe what just happened and wants Mr. McMahon to do something about it. Coach asks her to keep her voice down, because the McMahons have asked not to be disturbed.... but Lita keeps shouting and pounding on the door until Shane McMahon pokes his head out. He asks Lita what she wants. She wants justice, because what Trish just did was uncalled for. So Shane shrugs and goes, "OK, then later on tonight, it's an intergender match with you and Randy Orton versus Trish and Carlito." Lita's all "What, you think I'll hook up with any boy in the locker room? My boyfriend Edge got attacked tonight, too, and he needs me." So Shane -- displaying an almost-Rick-like amount of understated genius -- says "No problem. Then if you can't tear yourself away from Edge, it'll be Edge, Lita, and Orton versus Carlito, Trish, and John Cena." Lita doesn't seem quite pleased, but she can't argue with the logic (well, except for the part where I'm not entirely sure we've ever explained how Carlito and Cena could possibly co-exist together).... so she leaves. Coach immediately starts kissing up to Shane, claiming that it's so obvious that Vince has passed along all his knowledge and expertise to Shane, and it's a joy just to watch him work. While I am smelling a storyline being started (Shane and Vince splitting, and Stephanie/HHH somehow being involved), Shane is at least smelling an ass-kisser, and just shrugs off the compliment and reminds Coach he's supposed to be watching the door.


Chris F. Masters vs. the Microphone

Back from the break, and we have mercifully been spared CFM's ring entrance! He's already in the ring, with a mic. With a couple of cuts back to Maria staring at paint drying, Masters marble-mouths his way through what vaguely resembled an open challenge, since he's of the opinion that nobody in the locker room can beat him....

And before he can poop into our ear-holes any longer, his challenge is answered..... by Super Crazy? Yep, Super Crazy.

Super Crazy vs. Chris F. Masters

I dig Super Crazy. He's like my Replacement Tajiri these days (capable of high-flying, but also stiff and crisp on the mat, and with some genuine creativity). But I'm not sure I grasp what he's doing on RAW, when he'd fit in so much better in ECW (or by staying on SD! to contend for the Cruiserweight title).... so this'll be damned interesting to see what they've got in mind, here....

Not an impressive start for Crazy, as he's immediately over-powered by the now-standard-sized Masters. Nothing fancy to it, just Crazy bumping around convincingly enough that Masters looked like he was halfway-competent. This eventually does, however, settle into Masters focusing on Crazy's shoulder... and once that happens, things slow down a bit, until finally CFM decides its time to relax with an armbar.

Crazy fires up out of this, and hits a few big moves (including a sweet-ass slingshot hilo) that finally start perking the crowd up. I think for the first 2-3 minutes, the combination of the crowd not giving a shit about Masters and not believing Crazy could possibly win kept a damper on things.... but right at the end: they got into it a bit more. There was an audible "awwwwww" when Crazy countered the full nelson by dropping down and rolling Masters up, but only got a 2-count.

About 30 seconds later, Masters charged Crazy in the corner, but Crazy went low with a dropkick to Masters knee, causing Masters to KO himself by bouncing his head off the middle turnbuckle (dum dum, however, writhed on the mat selling the knee, instead). Crazy went up top, hit a moonsault, and got the pinfall!

Your Winner: Super Crazy, via pinfall, in about 4 minutes. Not excruciatingly bad, and probably about as competent a performance as you'll see out of Masters. Then again: when you have a developmental program and an independent circuit stocked with talented performers, I believe I'm still within my rights to get annoyed when WWE puts the merely-competent (instead of the truly outstanding) on my TV screen. But hey: I can't complain when WWE puts them out there to be glorified jobbers for guys I like, can I? JR took the words out of my mouth when he declared this outcome to be "a pleasant surprise." Now: here's to hoping that WWE has something in mind for Crazy on RAW. And here's to hoping that Masters will be booked commensurate with his actual ability, and ends up back on Heat, where he can certainly have the slot that I'd hope Shelton Benjamin would be vacating here soon so he can come on back up to Monday nights.


There's a First Time For Everything Theatre

Vince and Shane McMahon hit the ring, and are flanked by guys in "Security" t-shirts, but each one of whom has the appearance of being a wannabe indie wrestlers. You know: roided to the gills, or with bad hair, or having an abundance of really gay tattoos; the typical accoutrements of the guy who realizes there's nothing inherently interesting about him, so he overcompensates with all this other fluffery in a desperate and insecure attempt to fool people into noticing him. Don't pretend like you don't totally agree with me, even if it's kind of an asshole thing to say out loud in public!

Once Vince and Shane are safely in the ring, ensconced in the warm, loving bosom of their security phalanx, Shane says they have another guest tonight: the Big Show.

The trio go on to reminisce fondly about last week, when they left DX battered and bloodied. Shane speaks first, and gets the majority of Storytelling/Rehash Duty, so there's nothing fancy or notable there.... then Big Show takes the mic, and I'm telling you, the guy is really finding a voice for himself lately; I always thought it was night-and-day between his face and heel personalities (and that his babyface self had all the good traits, while his heel persona just morphed into a generic shouting buffoon), but he's suddenly found a way to play the heel while also coming across as natural and with his charisma intact. Other than underscoring the fact that DX is coming to ECW on Tuesday night, Show's got nothing too compelling to say, either, but I wanted to point out that he's continuing to say it in a convincing way.

And then the mic goes to Vince, and I begin to dread a fatal slowdown in the momentum of the show after both Shane and Show exhibited the kind of "short and to the point" discretion that is rare in promos involving Big Poppa Grapefruits. But Vince surprises me, and stays pretty on-task.... first, there's a snerk-worthy moment as Vince jokes that the crowd seems out of it, like something's missing tonight, like they aren't having a good time. [Me, on the couch: "Um, actually, for the first time in a while, I'm *really* having a good time, Vince, so don't go trying change things back on my account."] But Vince's isn't an honest assessment of the caliber of the show, it's just an excuse to shove it in all our faces that we're not laughing at the McMahons this week, because DX got their asses handed to them last week. And yes, Vince grants, DX got a few yucks in over the past few months, but as the saying goes: He who laughs last, laughs best. And after last week, the McMahons and Big Show are laughing, and laughing pretty damned well, if Vince does say so himself.

Vince is about to theorize about DX's chances in a handicap Hell in the Cell match against this ominous trio, but just before he can hit his punchline about DX having No Chance in Anvil, he is cut off....

And here are both Shawn Michaels and Triple H coming out onto the stage, the former brandishing a chair, the latter bringing back Sweet Lady Sledge. They stand at the top of the stage, while Shane makes the "Eric Young Eyes" at all the security guards to insure they are on the same page and Vince looks smug behind his phalanx of hired indie goons.

Triple H has a mic, and says it's been a long time since anybody made DX bleed their own blood and that won't stand. Or something like that; I'm sorry, but I did just see "Dodgeball" yet again over the weekend. And after last week's heinous attack, DX just has two words for the McMahons. Crowd: "Suck It." HHH, shaking his head in the negatory: "Thank You." And why is he thanking the McMahons? Because it took last week's attack to remind DX, as a group, to remember just who in the hell they really are, as individuals. Throw the mic down, and weapons in hand, HBK and HHH head to the ring.

Vince is still looking smugly confident as one of his homeliest security guards confronts DX.... and DX feigns being intimidated. But then the guard eats HBK's chair, and DX storms into the ring. The McMahons and Big Show beat a hasty retreat, while 15 or so of Atlanta's least promising indie wrestlers take a wicked beating at the hands of Michaels, Trips, the chair, and the sledge. As Michaels and HHH finish things off by hitting a simultaneous superkick/Pedigree combo on a pair of the indie guards, the McMahons and Big Show look on in varying degrees of fear (Vince over-acting the most, Big Show still looking pretty confident).

Not a bad little bit. Teases the ECW/DX thing. Reminds us of HitC. And to my immense shock, Vince didn't take 10 minutes to deliver his 2 minutes worth of material. First time for everything, eh?


Highlanders vs. Cade/Murdoch vs. Haas/Viscera (#1 Contender's Triple Threat Match)

The camera lingers on Lilian Garcia as she explains the purpose/stipulations of this match. And one thing is perfectly clear judging by her tasty outfit: she's pissed as hell at going 2 whole recaps without getting mentioned here at OO, and will do whatever it takes to rectify the situation. Mission accomplished, Lilian. 

The Spirit Squad (the tag champs) also join in, but just spend the entire match watching from ringside. Other than that, it's one member from each team in the ring at all times, and first pinfall wins. Considering that two of these teams haven't been seen on Monday nights in anything other than cameo roles the past 3 months, I think everybody knew who that pinfall would go to, so this really was RAW's weakest segment as we just went through the motions to get to the inevitable finish....

The 3-men-in-the-ring-at-all-times things also hamstrung the match a bit, I think. I can't speak to Haas and Vis' chemistry, but I know Cade and Murdoch have got tag team wrestling down pat, and can do that thing where you cut the ring in half and beat a babyface down.... but here, they had to come up with ways to pass the Babyface in Peril (the bald Highlander) back and forth, and when you add in the need to tag and basic tag team psychology it seems WAY clunky to me versus a standard 3-way match. I dunno, I guess your mileage could vary, though...

Finish came when Haas/Vis and Cade/Murdoch FINALLY started having problems with each other, and Vis pancaked Cade and Murdoch (while also powdering out himself). Haas tried to pounce by rolling up Murdoch, but Murdoch grabbed onto the ropes.... meantime, the legal Highlander slingshotted himself over both men and hit a sunset flip of Haas (which had the effect of pulling Murdoch off the ropes as he got German Suplexed). OK, so that was pretty cool. The Highlander pinned Haas, and that's that.

Your Winners: the Highlanders, via pinfall, in about 4 minutes. To short to deserve a thrashing, and as boring/predictable as it was, it's defensible from a storyline perspective in the same way that your choice of mind-numbingly boring TNA #1 Contender matches are... I just think that with the Highlanders (whose goofy appeal is in the personas and not in their ring skills), you could have done a better job making there be a compelling, character-based reason for them being in the tag title chase rather than just doing the logical-but-bland #1 Contender match thingie.

Backstage: Carlito is stewing as Trish Stratus approaches.... and while I think I'd be able to forget about pretty much any of life's troubles if Trish wanted to come hang on my arm for a bit, Carlito's got a bona fide bee in his bonnet. Because when Trish asks if he's ready to go, Carlito launches into a tirade about how he's ready, but he's pissed as hell, because that Randy Orton sure is a jerkface. Best bits of the rant: (1) Carlito saying that he's sick of Orton disrespecting people, because disrespecting people is CARLITO's gimmick. And (2) Carlito saying that Orton doesn't do anything well except for "this" (while mimicking the Pose of Ultimate Douchebaggery). Other than that, though, kind of a superfluous little skit that ended with generic ranting about Carlito wanting to beat Orton up later tonight in the main event. 


Find the Hidden Message, Win $1000 

As we come back from break, Maria the Mic Stand has decided to put the paint-watching on hold long enough to do the Kiss Cam in the ring for the City of Atlanta. On the grounds that he has already sexually assaulted Erin Anderson once and gotten away with it, and is looking for some more sugar, this brings out Ric Flair, who is jonsing for the Broad combined with some TitanTron Time.

But stupid Naitch, she's not there. So you'll have to settle for sleazing onto Maria and cutting a promo, instead. Flair accepts his meager consolation prize, taking his kiss from Maria and overselling it with gusto (complete with Flair Flop) before putting as much effort into kissing up to the Atlanta audience, in front of whom he's performed thousands of times dating back to the days of the Centre Stage Theatre.

Then Flair says he does have a point here tonight, and it relates to how when we last saw him, he was making Mick Foley say "I Quit" at SummerSlam.... but how Flair saw what happened to Mick 2 weeks ago, and thinks what Melina and Vince McMahon did to Mick is unjustifiable. Of course, this surprising little tidbit is COMPLETELY lost, as Flair is interrupted by a guest, who talks over his last sentence....

It's Armando Alejandro Estrrrrrrrrrrrrada, and compared to last week, he's bringing back the charisma and the personality, ha ha, that he left out of the prior pure-heel promo, ha ha. And just as I'm thinking this is yet ANOTHER great spot for Maria to, ha ha, bust out her Armando Impersonation from OVW and move herself out of the "useless eye candy" column and into the "genuinely likeable" one, she just gets out of dodge and leaves Naitch to fend for himself. Dammit.

The announcers briefly run down the less-than-storied past between Umaga and Flair, and Estrada gets a mic and reminds us further that Umaga has crushed Flair in the past. And, going a step further, Estrada saw Flair out here, and was reminded of the cliche "To be the man, you gotta beat the man." Well, if Flair was the Man, then Umaga beat him, and now Estrada wants Flair to state, in public, that Umaga is The Man.

Flair responds with a simple "No, that ain't happening." Estrada says Flair must have a death wish, because there's only one possible response that Estrada can have.... to bring out the SAAAAAAmoan Bulldozer UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUmaga. Out comes Umaga. Off comes Naitch's sport coat. And up business is about to pick.

But just as Flair and Umaga go nose-to-nose, Kane's music and pyro hit, and he practically sprints to the ring, while Flair quietly powders out. The Angry Kane is able to put a slobberknockering on both Umaga and Estrada, and when Umaga (manly mannish monster that he is) thinks he's going to get back in the ring to try again, Kane blows his corner pyro, and Umaga thinks better of it. Because he's afeared of fireworks, I guess.

Obviously, this was designed mostly as a way to re-introduce the Kane/Umaga feud in time for Armaunforjudgmalash, and at that, it succeeded just fine. But what was lost was the way Flair was in the middle of siding with Mick Foley when he was interrupted.... I'm not sure if that's something that'll ever be important down the line, or if it's just a token nod to the fact that Foley was re-babyfaced 2 weeks ago (not that he needed Flair's seal of approval for it to take), or what, but I latched onto that as the biggest Hidden Message of the Night.


Vignette: an incoming tag team, known as "Cryme Tyme" (because spelling wrong is KEWL, as Vince Russo taught us all), have a camera crew with them as they test their "speed burglary" skills. They knock over a smoothie store in 32 seconds flat; good for them, as the only people who deserve to be violated more than Smoothie Store Operators are the douchewads who keep smoothie stores in business. For whatever it's worth, the main guy (Shad Gaspard) is somebody I was sure would end up in ECW. Because (1) he was a pet project of Paul Heyman's in OVW during the first half of 2006, and really grew into having an "it" factor in terms of his look/presentation. And (2) he, objectively speaking, sucks donkey balls in the ring, and Heyman's way better at masking weakness and focusing on strengths than either of the other two WWE brands (remember: he made us like 911). But who knows: maybe in a fulltime tag setting (instead of as a singles wrestler), Shad will get comfortable kind of being the "Diesel" to the Neighborhoodie's Shawn Michaels, and mature from there?

Guest Appearance: SmackDown! General Manager Teddy Long is shown making his way into a luxury box.... the story of Cena possibly being headed to SD! is rehashed, and the theory is that Long is here to do some scouting. But, my conspiracy addled mind wonders, why must Teddy do any scouting if the deal to bring Cena to SD! if he loses to Edge is done? I'm starting to think (as I mentioned last week) that even if Cena wins the title -- which I now believe would be the wrong move for all involved -- SOMEbody's jumping over to SD! to help bolster that roster. [FYI: in case I get lazy and don't do a news column the rest of the week.... Chris Benoit returns to the road with SD! this weekend, and what I heard indicates they will do his TV return in 3 weeks to coincide with the launch of The CW, though that could obviously come sooner, depending on how and when they write Rey out.]

Hype: the Armaunforjudgmalash PPV line-up gets a full run-down. After tonight's events, it's a full seven matches strong. And since I don't get paid to be a shill like JR and Lawler do, I'll just say that if you can't figure out what the seven are from the preceding 5000 words, you might be mildly retarded.

Backstage: Vince and Shane are huddled with the Big Show, and all are kind of upset about DX's insubordination earlier tonight. Show promises that it's OK, because he'll learn them a lesson tomorrow on ECW.... Vince likes that spirit, and decides to follow in Show's footsteps, saying that he's stepping up next week (at Madison Square Garden, the building he, his dad, and his grand-dad all helped to build) to challenge Triple H to a one-on-one match. Huh. Maybe I'm just too zoned-in on this idea that there's another shoe to drop in the whole Stephanie's Baby Daddy issue, but I think Vince and Trips might have a pretty major angle in mind for WWE's return to MSG after almost 2 years.... and I just hope that, even if they don't, somebody has the good sense (and good taste) to not let the convergence of being live in NYC on 9/11 (the fifth anniversary) result in any tackiness. I'm beggin' ya....


Trish Stratus/Carlito/John Cena vs. Edge/Lita/Randy Orton

Nice. A main event kicking off with about 20 minutes of TV time left. What is this? SmackDown!? Then again, adjust for all the ring entrances, and maybe it's more like 16-18 minutes, but still...

You could call the basic moves performed here "standard back-and-forthy" to start.... but they gave it a nice little Bonus Context by having Cena insist on starting for his team, and petulant brat that he is, he's CLEARLY wanting to face Edge. But Edge is just fine to let Orton start things off.

So Orton and Cena do their little mostly-competent song-and-dance for a couple of minutes, with Cena mostly getting the better of it. [Sidebar: Cena dusts off a move from 2003 that even *I* remember was called "The Throwback," and JR gives an utterly indefensible shout-out to Buff F. Bagwell by calling it a "Blockbuster," instead? Boo!] Before things get too out of hand, Carlito insists that he'd like him a little bit of that Orton bastard, and Cena tags him in. 
More back and forth, and this time the story takes a mild turn, as Carlito eventually gets taken over by Orton, who then makes a tag to Edge. Edge continues pummeling on Carlito all while gesturing (in the finest of all manners of gesturing: Broadly) that "Hey look, Cena, I'm beating up your partner and you cain't do nothing about it." This is going over like gangbusters with the crowd, who are anything but 100% pro-Cena, but they are definitely latched onto the Cena/Edge dynamic (from the get-go, there were wanker-style "Let's Go Cena"/"Let's Go Edge" dueling chants, even though only one of the two would be in the ring at the time).

And that's a nice bit of bidness for another minute or so.... until Carlito hits a quick flurry of moves and gets to his corner to tag in Cena. Will we finally see Edge and Cena hook it up? Nope, because Master Chickenshit that he is, Edge goes to his corner and tags in Lita. What a gentleman. Cena (though he's not obligated to), tags in Trish at this point, and even if it's not the confrontation they were REALLY hoping for, the crowd is way into Trish and Lita, too. Even as the two long-time dance partners are flawlessly going through a nice heat segment for Trish, the knowledge that my favorite WWE babe is going away soon means I am biologically required to stop and appreciate her more-generous-than-usual serving of Ass Cleavage while I can. Thanks, honey. Lita was even in on the act a bit, too, taking lo-rise to almost-equal heights, resulting in a return of the Visible Thong, circa 2001.

Anyway: Trish is en feugo, and in the middle of stomping Lita into oblivion she makes all my Man Parts tingle by randomly pausing to just slap the holy living fuck out of a clueless Randy Orton. I swear: either he didn't know it was coming, or he's just the master of acting oblivious. After it happens, though, Orton gets all INTENSE and ANGRY (as is supposedly his new gimmick), and he must hop in the ring to discipline this vile 120 pound minx! But before I can leap through my TV screen to say, "OK, but you gotta go through me Lord Douchewich, the First Earl of Roofieshire!", Trish's partners have her back, and the whole thing is fixing to break down into a Pier Six Brawl.... the ref is trying mightily to keep every separated as we break for our last.....


Back, and it appears that Lita and Trish are still legal, it's just that now, Lita's on top. In fact, within moments of returning from the break, she apparently falls under the spell of Young Randall, and applies a..... CHINLOCK~! Whoo hoo! [Also: before the chinlock, I again would like to note that although Trish and Lita were giving us gOOdness, it seems the WWE audience is REALLY into the Cena/Edge dynamic given that there were no chants for either woman, but instead there were dueling "Let's go Cena"/"Cena Sucks" chants.]

Trish hulks up out of the chinlock and hits a Rude Awakening. Both girls down. Ref hitting a double count. Is this the face-in-peril making the hot tag and us entering End Game? Nah, because both make it to their corners, and tag in Carlito and Orton, respectively, and after a brief flurry by Carlito (clothesline/kneelift combo, followed by the jawjacker elbow), he falls prey to The Numbers Game, as Edge covertly interferes and helps Orton regain command.

Then Edge and Orton trade tags and Carlito becomes the Second Level Babyface in Peril (you know: this match ended up close to 20 minutes long, and it clicked really well, and the decoy hot tag and the double-layered babyface-in-peril stuff just added to the drama; WWE really needs to think about taking the format sheet out of the Writer Monkeys' hands and giving it to the agents -- or "associate producers" or whatever they're called now -- because it seems like there are sharp veterans backstage who can craft a match and make a better use of 20 minutes of TV time than the Hollywood Reject Writers).

Nothing super-fancy here, but Edge and Orton are very effective at making quick tags, and since the crowd is so into the idea of seeing Edge vs. Cena, they're not just behind Carlito as a sympathetic babyface, they're behind him getting to make a tag.... kind of a double bonus. And yet, as this beatdown extends past the 5 minute mark, there is undeniable support for Carlito, too (he's the only person in the match other than Cena or Edge to get a chant in his favor). Edge is the easy star of the match, too, making sure that this extended sequence never gets dull by CONSTANTLY gesturing over to the babyface corner to taunt Cena and remind the teenage girls in the audience who to cheer for.

Orton? Not so keen on avoiding dullness, as the focus of the beatdown has been on Carlito's ribs and lower back, so he eventually decides to lock in..... the Abominable Stretch (perhaps the only move more stultifyingly dull-looking than the chinlock, but I guess it "fit into the psychology of the match"). Carlito tries to fire up out of that, but Orton -- being reliably dimwitted -- uses the ropes for "extra leverage" (in a way that would make Sir Isaac Newton weep with pity for him, because that's not how gravity and leverage work, Randall). Ref catches it, and Carlito is able to catch a bit of a breather. 

In fact, it's looking like he might be able to get a tag in to Cena.... 

And might Orton take the chance to tag in the slightly-fresher Edge?

Nope. Because Edge no-wanty being tagged in, especially not if Cena's involved. So Edge jumps off the apron at this point, sneaks his way over to the opposing corner, and yanks Cena off the apron. As Carlito dives for the corner, only Trish is there to take the hot tag.... and as Orton flounders, looking for the fresher man, he's got no choice but to tag in the fresher woman. Trish/Lita 2, baby!

And this time, after the tag, things waste no time breaking down into the Pier Sixer that the ref broke up 10 minutes ago.... in the melee, Trish is pretty much taking it too Lita (Thesz Press, handstand headscissors, etc.), but her compatriots aren't quite so lucky. In fact, just as Trish finally gets Lita set up for the Stratusfaction Bulldog, Edge is stalking her, poised to hit a Spear..... Carlito just barely musters up a chivalrous lunge to intercept Edge, and those two roll out of the ring. Meantime, Trish STILL has her heart set on the Stratusfaction, and turns back to Lita. Which is when Randy Orton swoops in from left field to nail her with an RKO. Jerk. Orton then makes sure that Cena can't drag himself into the ring to break up the three count once Lita makes the covers. Play Orton's music even though Lita made the cover? Whatever, you tards....

Your Winners: Lita, Edge, and Orton, via pinfall, in about 16-18 minutes. A flawlessly designed match, and executed to perfection by some of WWE's most bankable personalities. Even if the main story of the match was the Cena/Edge dynamic (with Edge being the hands-down star for the way he COMPLETELY avoided ever standing across the ring from Cena), fans also got behind Carlito, and I dig the fact that Trish and Lita are two broads that WWE management trusts to handle almost half of a main event TV match (including the finish). Flat out a match that made the most out of everybody's talents/appeal. Even Orton. Look, the dude's a black hole of every positive trait imaginable on his own. But if he's gonna be getting slapped by Trish and playing to his strengths as a mega-twat who beats up any girl who isn't dumb enough to be in LUUUUUUUVVVV with him, he's alright. And plus: he definitely rose to the precise level of his own incompetence here, as a role player in a six-person tag match where he could work in his comfort zone instead of trying to own the room all by himself.  

Kudos to all involved for a super-strong finish to the show. Except for that nagging notion I now have that things in this match were designed to set the stage for Cena winning the WWE Title and Orton being his first feud. Because christ would that ever suck. Please, I'm beggin, send Cena to SD! to help them out with the network shift. Anything to keep Cena and Orton apart and prevent them from forming the Ultimate Voltron of Suck.


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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