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The Rock, Rocky Maivia

'Stone Cold' Steve Austin

Yikes. This guy is still wrestling.

Slobberknockers abound
The Oratory RAW Review Crew: 02/18/02

I'm not really what you'd call a promo man. Over the last couple years, I've sat back and complained as RAW went through its endless cycle of 40-minute opening monologues. I've whined as Nitro shoveled out another tiresome Hogan / nWo tirade. I've often wondered aloud why it's so difficult to fill an entire program with captivating action between the ropes. But even I had to step back and give last night its props. With one glaring exception, last night's build was phenomenal. In just two short hours, the WWF has erased lingering memories of the disappointment from No Way Out... instead replacing them with excitement and anticipation for the next few weeks' worth of build toward Wrestlemania 18. I'll even admit to paying full, undivided attention to a Hulk Hogan speech for the first time in over a decade.

Simply put, from the moment The Rock stepped into the ring until the moment the nWo left triumphantly a few minutes later... well, that's the kind of stuff that makes you realize why you're a wrestling fan in the first place. For ten electric minutes, you could forget that Hogan's about 85 years old and that the Rock is still way too reliant on his catchphrases. You could sit back and enjoy the moment effortlessly, and when Rocky hit a sudden Rock Bottom, you could find yourself sailing through the air, on your way to your feet. And then, just when the bookers appeared incapable of doing wrong, they pulled out the book of cliches. How is the nWo's destruction of the Rock's ambulance any more underhanded than Steve Austin's treatment of HHH, as he dropped "The Game" in an automobile from high in the air? In my eyes, it was a flagrantly unnecessary segment... but not nearly enough to erase what we'd seen before.

And in the meantime, we saw action in the ring that put the previous evening's PPV to shame. Kurt Angle is once again untouchable, putting on a nonstop show from start to finish. Steve Austin's acknowledgement of the crowd's need to say "What" was kept brief. The Hardy Boyz, Lance Storm and Christian gave us all we could've asked for on a free-TV tag team match. Ric Flair and the Undertaker previewed events to come. And a dream shattered, as Mr. Perfect missed his patented "gum slap" prior to a match with Kane.

Surely, this was not a flawless performance... but it's about as close as the WWF will ever get. I'm almost salivating at the thought of WrestleMania now, which is quite a leap from the mindset I was occupying prior to nine o'clock. Thumbs WAY up.

Score: 9.5 / 10


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