The Oratory RAW Review Crew: 03/03/03
I was really excited to see RAW last night. We had Booker's main event run ready to come together, we had the continued presence of the Rock, perhaps the freshest guy in the WWE at the moment, we had a Y2J / HBK Wrestlemania date to set, and the return of this bald headed redneck you might have heard of. The table was set, the silverware was spotless, and the turkey was in the oven. All the writers really had to do was sit their visitors down, pull the meal out, and manage to get it from the kitchen to the dining room table without tripping over their own two feet. If that metaphor went a little lofty for ya, fear not; what I meant to say was "they had this thing in the bag before the night even started." So why do I feel so tremendously let down?
Booker had the rug pulled out from under him last night, but it didn't happen until later in the broadcast. For the most part, I really enjoyed the Triple H promo. He didn't discover some lurid detail from Booker's not-so-distant past. He didn't show this finely tuned "let's make fun of our opponent" video package, or swing a rubber sledgehammer at the challenger. He didn't do anything entirely unbelievable and stupid, he merely came to the ring and waged a dynamic example of psychological warfare. Booker gets cheers from the crowd for his spinaroonie, but you can't argue that it's pretty damn silly. Book deserved a reign as WCW champion, but there's no question it was marred by the names Triple H mentioned in his little promo. If there was a racist slant to the speech, (which I certainly detected, whether intentional or not) more power to him. It's not like they're promoting the idea of "whitey over blackie," Triple H is the HEEL. He's supposed to be despicable, to do things that make you hate him and scream for his blood. I, for one, applaud the realistic direction they're taking with it if that is indeed where they're headed. No matter how ugly racism is, there really are guys out there who think it's the right thing to believe in. And, unlike most of wrestling's storylines these days, it's an issue you can BELIEVE guys would come to blows over. The whole point here is to make you root strongly for Booker T, and I think this little segment went a long way toward doing that. We got the idea that Trips thinks Booker is below him as an athlete, an entertainer, a thinker, and most of all a person. I, for one, know a great number of people who treat others that way... and I'd love to see them get what they deserve for it. Thumbs up from me for this one.
Eric Bischoff lined up his welcoming committee with "Tools of the trade" to help them in their effort; a 2x4 and some pipes. What "trade" are these the tools of...? Carpentry and plumbing?
I was all set to tear apart Jerry Lawler, for completely forgetting his role as an announcer to look stronger as an individual when Sean Morley was on his way to ringside. Lawler started taunting him, minimalizing the wrestler's ability as a young athlete, but then promptly did an about-face and told us about what a tough grappler Morley really was. So kudos to him, he's not the complete ass I thought he was.
Great segment between the Rock and Hurricane, picking up right where they left off last week. The Rock's subtle nuances are just awesome. Closing the curtain to the cubby again after discovering the Hurricane inside, glaring angrily at the imaginary audience in the upper right corner of the screen, carrying on a conversation with his unit. He's seriously on fire right now, he's having a good time and it's obvious. He may have made a mistake by mentioning the Hurricane's braces on-air, as I didn't notice them beforehand and afterwards couldn't take my eyes off them. Whatcha gonna do now, though? Just once, I'd like to see a Hurricane promo from a wider angle. You know, so we can watch him run away in uneasy silence after he's said his piece, done that little "flip the cape" bit and dashed away from his opponent.
Damn you, Bower! I came out all ready to make my Chris Jericho / Jim Neidhart comparison this week, and you go and spoil it in the spot before mine. Seriously, any guy who can use a brush on his beard is OK by me. That's just wicked cool.
The Y2J / Test blowoff was everything it needed to be; somewhat quick, and entirely decisive. There's no question who the better mind was after all that's been said and done. Jericho came out with the somewhat clean pinfall, had Stacey completely at his mercy, in the process taking Test directly out of the picture. It's not gonna be an easy loss for Test himself to recover from, but it had to be done. Great series of chairshots at the end there, split between HBK and Test himself, though I've seen Shawn get up and wrestle after more than that in the past. Regardless, I won't nitpick about what was a really nice segment that totally revitalized the lagging Jericho / Michaels tension. Going into the match I was getting a little worried about that feud, but I'm completely at ease with the way it's headed now.
Here's the part of the show where the writers decided to undo all the good they'd done for Booker T at the opening of the show, by effectively jobbing him out to Scott Steiner. It sucks, because the first part of this match was much better than it ever should have been. Scotty and Booker were working to make this something worth our time, landing a cool set of reversals midway through the opening flurry and matching up relatively well against one another. And then, from out of nowhere, Scotty sat down on the Steiner Recliner, Triple H came to ringside, and "Big Poppa Pump" all but no-sold Booker's finishing combo. Take away any one of those screw-ups, and the segment may have been salvageable. As is, it really, really hurt one of Wrestlemania's marquee matches.
RVD & Kane vs. Al Snow & Tommy Dreamer was about worthless. I do NOT miss the Hardcore division, and this is a prime reason why. The prevalent attitude for these junk brawls seems to be "Let's swing some aluminum around, roll out to the floor more often than necessary and act like we're in pain." The kicker for this match came before the opening bell had even rung; Al Snow rode a shopping cart to the ring, wearing a motorcycle helmet. When Kane met him on the floor, what was the first thing the "big red machine" did? Hit him with a forearm to the head... while he was STILL WEARING THE HELMET. And fucking Snow sold it. Good lord, take the pain away. My eyes hurt from rolling so many times in such a sort span of time.
I didn't find Austin to be as ill-received as Justin did, though I'll admit his return to RAW didn't invoke the kind of explosion that Chris Benoit or Triple H's comebacks did. He and the Rock played extremely well off of one another, despite the fact Austin didn't say a word to him, and I'll admit I got those shivers down my spine again when the two of them faced off in the middle of the ring. I just didn't remember Rocky being so much taller than the Rattlesnake. All in all, that little moment when the two of them went nose to nose was almost worth waiting through the entire program to see. I'm not crazy about the way they worked Booker T's title shot into the mix, but I'll hold off on commenting on that until next week, when the match itself plays out.
I haven't really said anything in a public forum to state my opinion on Austin's return, so I'll take this opportunity to do so. I think Steve's a tremendous talent, a legendary entertainer and one hell of a package. He possesses the ability to make or break any feud single handedly, something that only a few men have ever been able to do throughout history. Unfortunately, his character's been in steady decline since he turned heel two years ago. His best years are behind him, but I think he's still got a couple good years left in the ring. His job right now should be to re-establish himself as a major power, and then slowly work to spread that establishment around the next generation of main eventers. He owes Benoit an extended series. He's got unfinished business with Eddy Guerrero. He's never had the big money match against Chris Jericho. He needs to lie down cleanly for one, if not two, of those three guys.
Austin's private life is just that; private. I won't say anything like "I won't watch Stone Cold because he beats his wife," because it doesn't affect the fact he's a solid player on my TV. Lord knows I've watched assholes in various forms of media and entertainment in the past, and enjoyed their contributions. Chevy Chase is, from all indications, a royal fucker... but National Lampoon's Vacation is still a hysterical movie, and Chevy's gold in it. What Austin did to his wife is inexcusable, and something that I didn't like to hear. It was also something that was none of my business, as a wrestling fan. I'll enjoy his work if it entertains me. If it doesn't, I won't. But I won't refuse to watch somebody who's a bonafide legend, because of something he did on his own time.
That does it for me. There were still some moments of greatness peeking through this show, but there was also a lot of crap weighting those moments down. This was a big step down from what we saw last week, but still better than what we were watching three or four months ago. I'd like to see some improvements, but I'd like a lot of things...
Score: 6.0 / 10