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Eric Bischoff

Paul Heyman

Eddie 'Latino Heat' Guerrero

Slobberknockers abound
The Oratory RAW Review Crew: 03/22/04

I was hesitant to really think about the Draft going into last night's show. Following up on a very hot and cold episode of RAW just seven days ago, which started off on the right foot, lost a LOT of steam after Vince's big announcement and then picked up again in time for the main event, I had absolutely no idea where they could go with a storyline gimmick such as this one. On one hand, I was worried. I thought both shows had really distinguished themselves over the last two years, proving me wrong and making the brand extension work as planned, and that a mix-up like this was both uncalled for and very ill advised. I was afraid that the storylines that had been brewing over the last few months would vanish without a second thought, even the stories that still had a lot of fight in them like Orton / Foley, Jericho / Christian and Triple H / Benoit. More than that, I was worried that the federation's two fresh champions would suffer a blow to their credibility by winning their respective title matches at WrestleMania, but not making it official by defending their belts the very next month. Turns out most of the fuss was about nothing at all...

I was absolutely adoring the interactions between Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff last night. Paul was priceless in his little neck brace, grinning from ear to ear and acting like a completely arrogant little prick. The schoolyard fight-inspiring grin he fixed Bischoff with as the RAW GM was attempting to make some sort of retort said more than either of them could've managed to put into words. These guys are cut from the same cloth, and that's why they had such utter contempt for one another... each realizes the threat the other embodies, and attempts to conteract that threat in exactly the same way. I've gotta say, it's too bad Paul quit before his first day as a member of RAW, because I found that he brought out the best in Bischoff, who had been letting himself slide in recent weeks. I would gladly tune into a program that consisted largely of these two throwing barbs at one another, because they're both so unbelievably smooth at doing just that.

I can't say yay or nay on Renee Dupree's selection as draft selection number one, as he hasn't had a lot of time on his own to establish his value to either show. He's got decent ring presence, but I'd rather have seen Rob Conway go to Smackdown than Grenier or Dupree. It would've been a more natural conclusion to Conway's story, (the traitor who turned on his own country would no longer have the Frenchmen in his ear, and could establish a name for himself on his own) and the two foreigners who entered the fed together could wrap up their own tale a little later. Guess it's too late now.

Not a particularly bad match between the new Smackdown superstar and Y2J. Jericho needs something to grab hold of very shortly, because his face act is starting to slide already. I had trouble paying attention to the matches last night, no doubt due in part to my preoccupation with the draft. I like the premise of matches ending on more unsuspecting maneuvers, like the enzuigiri last night, but that's not going to make the first couple times it's done any less awkward. However, I don't understand the reason to crush Dupree beneath RAW's boot just as he's getting his big chance to make something of himself elsewhere.

I'm more excited about the promise of Shelton Benjamin as a singles star than Dupree right now. He hasn't had much chance to break out on his own, but I guess that was sort of the theme for last night. Benjamin has a natural charisma in the ring, and there's no doubting his abilities, so I'm more than mildly interested in seeing how he does next week on RAW. It's looking more and more like the dawning of a new era in WWE, and the timing could be right for Shelton to make it big. Let's just all pray he doesn't start using the old Titan Tron video they had him using when I saw him in a dark match a couple of years back. "It's all about the Benjamin"? Pheck...

Hoo boy, Kane is spiraling. There's only so many people they can feed to him before the whole roster starts to look weak as a result. Sad thing is, I don't know what else they can do with him right now. Talk about a guy who could've benefitted from a change of scenery and a new stack of opponents.

Nothing much to say in regards to Jindrak and Nidia. Jindrak's tag team never cleared the first floor, and I've never seen Nidia work a match so it's too soon to say whether she'll be an asset or a detriment to the ever-strong women's division. Speaking of which... I'd have loved to have seen them show Molly wearing a baseball cap backstage, after the cameras had already caught Shawn Michaels, Tajiri and the Ultimo Dragon wearing them.

I can't do much but echo the opinions of every wrestling fan in the world, as they all immediately realized "hey, John Cena would be perfect on RAW!" Cena's a guy who needs a nemesis, a live microphone and the benefit of improvisation right now to really blossom as a ready-made main eventer. He's got more going for him than Orton at the moment, despite all that the bookers have placed at young Randy's feet, and a move to RAW would've put him right over the top.

Though it's since been nullified by a big trade, moving Triple H to Smackdown (even for twenty three hours) was an interesting prospect. I'd have loved to see the steps Evolution would have made in his absence, with Orton getting the chance to really reap the benefits of his association with Flair and take charge of the young group. Remember when Triple H himself got a similar chance just about... oh, six years ago?

I wasn't terribly impressed by the Spike / Christian match. Christian's the kind of worker who seems to need a significant amount of motivation and / or a great worker on the other side of the ring to put on a solid show, and he had neither last night. His angle with Trish has already contradicted itself, as he abandoned the "tough love" style that got him in with Ms. Stratus and instead gently put his arm around her on their way down the ramp... and I was about to say he also acted a bit oddly by getting angry at Spike for going after her, but then I realized that he was probably just protecting his investment. If Spike had succeeded in striking Trish, according to her character, there's a good chance she'd get a little turned on by it and develop some sort of attraction to the youngest Dudley. I mean, who wants to say they lost their girl to Spike?

Both the RAW Tag Title match and the World Title match came off as more than a bit uninspiring, due in large part to the disturbingly quiet Detroit crowd. I'm no fan of Flair and Batista as tag team champions, but since they appear to be the only freaking tag team LEFT ON ALL OF RAW, I guess there wasn't much choice. Seriously, of the eight teams competing for their various tag titles at WrestleMania, only three of them are still in contention for those same titles today. Why not just confine the tag scene to one show, like the women's and cruiserweight titles, and get it over with?

Good to see RVD, Tajiri and Rhyno getting new chances, as they're each guys I'd like to see succeed, although I think we're all probably overestimating the importance of such a swap. I mean, the only guy to ever do ANYTHING noteworthy after switching shows is Chris Benoit, and he had the momentum of a Royal Rumble win behind him. Seriously, what did swapping shows do for the Hurricane, Matt Hardy, or (looking back a ways) Chris Jericho, Christian, Crash Holly, Lance Storm or William Regal? It's easy to get wrapped up in the whole "these guys are entering a whole new federation" notion, but in reality they're not. It's not like they're jumping from the WWF to WCW at the height of the wars, when both shows had legitimately dedicated audiences and a jump between them meant a genuine clean slate in front of a crowd that honestly might not have ever seen their work before. With Smackdown and RAW, it's like a phantom of that same sensation. It's not like there are real, honest to god, "I'll never watch RAW because my blood pumps blue and silver" fanatics out there like there were with the two major federations of the late '90s. On the large, people who watch RAW also watch Smackdown and vice versa. They aren't competitors in the most honest definition of the word, and that's a big part of why the jumps between the brands haven't resulted in any really dramatic changes in a superstar's public perception.

The Edge jump (and subsequent spear) was slightly uninspiring. His whole entrance schpeel isn't as cool without the plastic trenchcoat, but that can be corrected over time. There was just something missing from this that I can't put my finger on at the moment. Something's not right.

Finally, Eddy and Trips put on a very inspiring main event before it boiled down to an all out, Smackdown vs. RAW, streetfight in the ringside area. Like him or loathe him, you've got to admit that Hunter's put on a couple of solid matches in a row opposite two of the internet's favorite underdogs. Guerrero looked really frighteningly small next to Triple H out there initially, but through good storytelling, a solid series of counters, exchanges and maneuvers, and a nice pace, they managed to make the size difference less of a handicap and more of a rallying point. Both competitors looked like they belonged in the main event out there, with Eddy immediately showing his ring smarts by focusing on the arm that Trips had in a sling just one week ago and Hunter launching a more powerful, ground based attack. This didn't resort to the Helmsley mail-in-and-squash I was fearing, and as a result was a very pleasant surprise. Thumbs up to both guys. Looking back on it, this served as a nice catalyst for the big brawl that concluded the episode. Triple H, representing RAW, and Eddy Guerrero, representing Smackdown, fight to a dead heat that brings each locker room out in an attempt to tip the scales in their man's favor. Good stuff.

On the whole, this was an oddly paced show. The looming threat of an upcoming draft pick slowed down what matches they interspersed throughout the program, and the strange choices for the draft itself lent a feeling of realism alongside a sense of bizarre confusion to the proceedings. There's no question in anybody's minds that these were rigged, but the strange choices managed to raise that little flag of uncertainty in the back of the viewers' minds all the same. I'd call this slightly above average, but not much better. The whole program was buoyed by that feeling of not knowing what's around the next corner and a strong main event.

Score: 5.2 / 10


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