The Oratory RAW Review Crew: 01/20/03
I almost completely enjoyed RAW this week, which makes that two weeks in a row of incredible steps for a show that was sorely lacking over the last six months. There still remain plenty of big issues which need to be tackled, but the biggest step of all appears to have been finally made. They're concentrating more and more on competitive wrestling matches and physically-involved storylines, and less on ill-conceived, contrived, nonsensical backstage stories which do nothing to further those involved as athletes or serious competitors. Hot DAWG, I like the sound of that. It's making me happy, just saying it.
I was actually relieved they kept Steiner around in the main event scene this month. While I'll be a little testy if they try to stretch this feud to Wrestlemania, it's good filler as Scotty's still over enough to merit the shots and looks the part of a potential heavyweight champion. I haven't ordered a WWE pay per view since Wrestlemania, so I didn't see the Steiner / Trips match everybody's tearing to hell, but I'm not surprised to hear about the way it turned out. Shit, a guy takes a year and a half away from the ring and is immediately thrust into a World Title match upon his return to big time wrestling. Hell yeah, he's gonna have some ring rust. The WWE's just as much to blame as Steiner for that, they should've put him on the road for a little while before booking him in a thirty minute co-headlining slot on one of the four biggest PPVs of the year. If they'd kicked him out on his ass after one pissy match (a'la Kronik), they'd have a lot of explaining to do considering the amount of talent they've retained over the last few years after something similar. Hell, Bradshaw's been putting on godawful matches for YEARS and he's still hanging around.
I was seriously expecting a Jeff Hardy heel turn from the moment he came out to the ring, as he was wearing a black t-shirt instead of a white one. Really. I was even going to comment on it, and how ineffective it was in single handedly turning him heel... but then the little putz actually DID turn. And he put on a really strong match with RVD beforehand, even. Who the hell is this guy, and where has he put the Jeff Hardy we saw throughout 2002? And why hasn't he thrown away the key yet? Credit where it's due, despite a couple blown spots these guys gave us a nice little acrobatic TV match. I loved Jeff's impromptu counter to RVD's midair springboard dropkick, as well as the hot series of nearfalls that led to the finish of this one. It wasn't a five star classic, but it was kickin' for free tv.
They followed that up with a nice, old-school "cheat the faces out of their belts" angle between the Dudleys and Storm / Regal. These guys are giving us some entertaining stuff, with the Dudleys especially surprising me by remaining fresh longer than the date stamped on the outside of their package. I do have one major gripe about this division, however. Remember Armageddon? That little PPV they ran on December 15th, roughly a month ago? There were four teams competing in an elimination-style match for the tag team titles on that card; Jericho & Christian, Storm & Regal, Booker & amp;Goldust, and the Dudleys. I mentioned in my preview of the event that the four teams were sharing in the revitilization of the RAW Tag Title scene, and remarked how nice it was to see. Well, now there's one other thing these four teams have shared; the Titles, over a thirty day period. All four of these teams have held the gold at one point between Armageddon and the Royal Rumble. Four teams, one title, thirty days. That's absolutely INSANE. There's no possible reason for the belts to be switching hands as often as they have been lately, and I'm afraid all the hotshotting may endanger that something special they were reaching for at the December pay per view. Otherwise, game on. I love seeing Regal and Storm kick ass, and I love this mid-80s style booking.
I don't really care about the women's division any more. They've done good by finally ripping that microphone out of Victoria's hands, but now there's just nothing really going on. Aaaand she's nuts for wrestling in a backless shirt. At least Trish wasn't in pajamas, like she was last week.
I'm still waiting for Eric Bischoff's big announcement. Why couldn't they have made a trade or something, and announced the Austin arrival as a big surprise even later in the month. Lord knows Bischoff's going to need every little surprise he can get his hands on. A trade would've made sense, as you could've had a new main event-level face in the mix, and the suspense would be that much stronger for Smackdown, since we'd want to know who Steph would be getting in return. Can't win 'em all, though, and I'll enjoy seeing the Rattlesnake again, whether he's on the red show or the blue one.
Booker T and Goldust put on a show with the Three Minute Warning last night, with Booker especially coming off like Superman. He looks like he's starting to give a damn again, which is nothing but good news for his fans. I've cooled down to him a lot since the summer, when he should've been given his shot at stardom, but if he's motivated again I'm sure I won't have any problem warming up to him in a hurry. For those keeping score at home, I finally learned which one was Rosey and which was Jamal. The guy with the rosey red hair is Jamal.
Test and Jericho were doing their best to give us something worthwhile, when all this overbooked silliness went down with Stacy. They tried their best to send along the message of "oh my god, this is legit," but showing a replay of Stacy getting her arms up and Jericho hitting the ringpost dead-on didn't really help that claim's validity. Even my girlfriend Autumn, glancing at the screen to see why nobody was talking, noted how bad an idea those constant replays were. I don't like the hints of a Jericho face turn, as I think he's finally starting to really come into his own as RAW's omnipotent heel and such a turn would spoil the year's worth of momentum this run's got going for it. I also fear they're toying with the idea of discontinuing the Jericho / HBK feud in favor of Y2J / Test. Which is a piss poor idea, especially now that Jericho and Michaels are at the boiling point. Please, please, don't kill this one now. Not after we've seen just how perfect a fit it is for both guys...
I was overjoyed to see Teddy Long back behind the stick again. Even after a couple years underneath the black and white uniform, I kept expecting Ron Simmons and Butch Reed to come down the entryway, reunite with their pinstriped comrade, and bring Doom to WWE. So, naturally, when I saw him on the entryway with D'Lo Brown, it didn't take more than a moment for all those thoughts to come rushing back into my mind. I seriously love this angle, as it's the kind of 'risky storyline' that can not only gain the media attention Vince was hoping for with Katie Vick, but can also inspire honest debate about racism in sports. I love angles that give you something to think about after the show's gone off the air, and that's exactly what we're seeing here. In addition, somebody upstairs noticed D'Lo was stumbling with the mic, and they gave him the best mouthpiece available to fill the void. Bravo.
I'd imagine several people are wondering what I thought of the union of Batista, Orton, Flair and Helmsley, considering my devotion to the Four Horsemen. Let's get it out in the open, once and for all. I love, love, LOVE this angle. A dominating heel stable is precisely what RAW, HHH and Flair needed. It's what Randy Orton and Batista needed to put themselves on the map. It's perfect for the situation, and I'm very happy they didn't rush into it. It's virtually flawless, just so long as they don't hold up those four fingers. These are not the Four Horsemen, although they might pass as a worthwhile impersonation. The stable effectively has two leaders; Ric Flair and Triple H. That ain't the Horsemen. Flair IS the Horsemen, he's the undisputed leader, sheriff, only name in town. Triple H is too big on his own to take part in the group. And that's that.
I'm really looking forward to seeing these guys tear through RAW. I'm eager to see where they take it next week. I'm very happy with what I'm seeing. Thumbs up.
Score: 8.2 / 10