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WrestleMania XX

'Stone Cold' Steve Austin

Sylvan Grenier of La Resistance

Slobberknockers abound
The Oratory RAW Review Crew: 03/01/04

Let's keep our introductions short and sweet, and dive right into the match-by-match, shall we? Yes, I think we shall. Yes.

I like little things like the La Resistance protest that opened the show, but I generally like them better when they progress naturally and pay off with something more than a stupid Austin run-in and ATV-drivin' segment. It was good storytelling, since I believe both announcers mentioned the pinfall on the illegal man during last week's match, but I don't think JR or Lawler ever really mentioned anything about the protest paying off for the Frenchmen. Later in the show I saw their goofy little animated picture on the promo for the fatal four way tag match, so I can only assume they were awarded with that spot due to their vocal protest at the beginning of RAW... but you'd never know if you weren't paying attention. It's just sloppy to go through the trouble of starting the show with these two and then dropping it entirely fifteen minutes later... almost WCW-level sloppy.

Watching Steve Austin drive his four wheeler on top of Vince McMahon's limo didn't do anything for me. Why was Vince so freaked out when Stone Cold parked over the sun roof? Did he think the Rattlesnake was about to leak some oil or something? The whole reason the infamous "vehicular assault" bits worked in the late '90s was because they were unexpected and a lot of fun for the live crowd. Nowadays they've become more of a cliche than an unexpected surprise, and the audience participation was sapped out of last night's exhibition, as all the real action went on behind the scenes. This didn't make me want to buy WrestleMania, and with just one show left before the year's biggest event, that should be their number one priority.

The quick execution of the women's division continued this week. Maybe the writers are bored with the men's storylines, since everything's already in place for WrestleMania, and have set about working their "magic" with the women now that they've got a spare moment or two. It's a real shame that, in two weeks, they've undone all the good that these athletes spent the last year crafting. It's sad to see what was once the sole consistent part of the show turned into just another watered down men's division, complete with needless post-match garbage and a large serving of overbooked finishes. The only good thing about this match was that it reinforced the only obvious conclusion to this angle: a Molly Holly victory at WrestleMania. If she doesn't recapture that title, her career's just about shot. Thanks, booking geniuses!

You know who I miss? Shane Helms. This Hurricane gimmick has been going on for just two and a half years, but it feels like it's been around for closer to fifteen. Speaking of which, the guy had absolutely no passion for what he was doing last night, not that I can blame him. What a horribly boring tag team match.

I've been meaning to mention it for a while now, but Kane's been seriously kicking ass with his promos over the last couple of months. He's constantly taking the corniest material in the entire federation and turning it into emotional, convincing masterpieces. He's speaking with conviction, his facial expressions are telling volumes and he's really coming into his own as a character. It's too bad, then, that the booking is taking such a long, runny shit on him. He's been absolutely incredible on the stick lately, but all that gets forgotten right away when it's followed immediately by a spontaneous indoor thunderstorm or a set of burning crosses. God, is this stupid. The Undertaker's going to stick out like a sore thumb in this day and age.

I didn't think the tag match was all that awful, really, although Michaels and Benoit make less convincing "dueling tag partners" than HBK and Austin did in the mid '90s. I'll agree that it was a little stupid to see Benoit fall flat onto his back after a single punch, which seemed to contradict everything wrestling has taught us in the past. I mean, these guys go out there and punch each other every night and don't have a bruise or black eye to show for their trials and tribulations, (unless it's a particularly bad, televised, beating or a big blade job on PPV) so why should Benoit be completely lights-out after a single swat? They really do need to pull the trigger on Michaels, though, because this tweener shit isn't doing him any favors. You can't be an egotistical, self-centered prick one week and a pandering, over-the-top face the next. Make up your mind, bro. This was lengthy enough to tell a very nice story, but it just never really happened. Batista seems to be getting worse as time goes on, rather than the other way around.

The Jericho / Christian thing was, in a word, anticlimactic. I think I was just expecting a little more than that for the six months of teasing, misdirection, lingering threads and development that went into it. I kept waiting for something really awesome to go down and send chills up and down my spine, but, like the last segment, it just never happened.

I watched my Monday Night War DVD the other night, and honestly didn't recognize Booker T during his match with Chris Benoit on that disc. He's become such a complete flip-flop of the guy he was when they were first letting him emerge as a singles star in the TV Title scene, it's almost comical. He went from a great, quick, innovative wrestler with a unique offensive repertoire and little idea how to involve the crowd with his matches (aside from staring into the bleachers and shouting or "raising the roof") to a slow, boring, repetitive worker with an unrealistic style who can just glance at the audience and get a "Spinaroonie" chant off the ground. I honestly cared a lot more for the younger version, still trying to gain his footing. This current incarnation reminds me more of a tired, defeated old also-ran than a promising young face one short year outside of headlining his first WrestleMania. His match with RVD opposite Matt Hardy and Test was surprisingly bad, considering the talent in the ring together.

And, of course, then you've got the big Rock return. I was extremely underwhelmed, to tell you the truth. Every soul in that building knew what was coming, yet the preceding promo tip toed around the issue for more than a couple minutes before finally conceding and delivering the big return. I have a lot more interest in a Foley / Orton singles match than a Rock n' Sock vs. Evolution handicap tag, and I know I'm not alone in thinking that way. For all the legends, past, present and future, in the ring together during this segment, it really fell flat. Think about it; Flair, Foley, Rocky and Orton in the same ring... and this was all they could produce.

Be it a string of very good shows or a string of very bad shows, consistency has just not been one of RAW's strong suits over the last three months. The show's gone from a blistering, white-hot pace (just before and after the Royal Rumble) to a lackadasical, uninspired trot (umm... last week, the week before... and this week..) in a very short period of time. Basically, the shows were very strong as the build to WrestleMania was beginning to get off the ground, but established what they had set out to do in a shorter amount of time than had been anticipated. Now RAW is just killing time until the big event, trying to feature the big names around which WrestleMania will be built without putting any of them in a situation where they could be in danger of a major injury. They're protecting their roster with tag matches, pussy footing around the anticipation and one-on-one faceoffs that made January's shows so exciting and producing boring stuff as a result. I can understand the need to keep the roster healthy, but they're killing 'Mania's build as a result.

Honestly, one of the lamest shows I've seen in quite a while. Very little, if anything, was accomplished and the matches were performed at half speed, with notably less motivation than usual. Not even the return of the Rock to WWE television or the first signs of a payoff to the ongoing Jericho / Christian / Trish storyline could save this from monotony. Well below average.

Score: 2.6 / 10


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