The Oratory RAW Review Crew: 06/21/04
RAW was already on the right path even before this week's show kicked off. The Monday night giant had once again managed to promote a highly anticipated and unpredictable main event throughout the previous week's program, without infringing upon the rest of that particular show's needs. Bulding Triple H up as a master manipulator, using every bit of leeway Eugene gave him to his own advantage, the bookers had hit gold. The audience participation and reactions during last week's Highlight Reel confrontation told volumes; not only were they simultaneously feeling for Eugene and hating Triple H, they were really enjoying themselves while doing so. They enjoyed having clear-cut faces and heels to cheer and boo respectively. The show had successfully rebuilt substantial momentum going into this week's episode, after a couple weeks' worth of missteps and strange decisions. With a great showing this week, the program could finally jump back onto the fast track it had occupied only a few weeks ago and cruise all the way into Summerslam on the strength of the feuds that were already in place. This would be a defining moment for RAW, whether it was a positive episode or a negative one.
This week's episode kicked it off in high gear, trotting out the Rock almost before the opening theme had finished playing. I knew there were rumors that the guy would be showing up, but it's still difficult to overstate the thrill of seeing a big surprise right off the bat like that. Ultimately, this was probably the worst segment Rock's been involved with since the audience forced him to turn face about a year ago. He's starting to hit the cruise control in his monologues again, taking things further over the top than he should, concentrating on being "the cool guy" more than on being "the Rock," and unless he does something to shake that up again, the audiences will start to turn on him as soon as he appears more than once every six or seven weeks. With that said, I loved the face-off with Orton that followed his exercise in tire-spinning. Not so much the verbal sparring as the sheer electricity that shot back and forth between those two. That's a feud I'd pay good money to see unfold over a long set of months, no questions asked, and I think Orton's almost to the level that he could hold his own with "the great one." This was a hot way to kick off the show, but I was left wishing it had a little more substance.
Trish and Victoria had a few glimmers of hope in their match, but the majority of it was disjointed thanks to Tyson Tomko's presence at ringside. It seemed like every time Victoria would start to get the upper hand, she'd turn her attention to the "problem solver" without rhyme or reason. The kick the former champ hit Trish with near the end of the match was gorgeous, and it was followed by a beautiful moonsault, but Trish basically killed all of that by miraculously recovering a split second later, rolling Victoria up with a hand in the ropes and prancing around the ring victorious. Jesus, at least TRY to sell the near falls.
Did everyone except JR, Jerry Lawler and Victoria herself recognize smilin' Stevie Richards in that outrageous red wig and shimmering golden dress after the match? They could really get him somewhere by turning him full heel, berating her for abandoning him after her rise to glory / face turn and treating her like shit whenever their eyes crossed paths... but that doesn't really work if he's too busy throwing shoes and dressing like a woman. These bookers just make me shake my head sometimes.
William Regal looked great in the fourteen seconds we got of him opposite Kane this week. It's refreshing to see somebody who's actually energetic to be involved with a match again, and Regal was doing everything within his power to make Kane's offense look like a million bucks. The best part is this aids Kane's reputation without doing much of anything to damage Regal's, since the announcers made certain to mention the fact that this was his first match in over a year and a half. I can't argue with this logic, and I can't wait to see Regal back in the ring again on a regular basis.
The Evolution vs. Floridian Canadians match wasn't the best I'd seen all week, but it also managed to tell a necessary, compelling story. Jericho was rolling again this week, hitting all of his spots before the big clothesline spot that took his head off and forcibly removed him from the match. Batista's reaction to Jericho's condition really made the injury seem legitimate, (to the point that I'm still uncertain it was staged) trying to dead lift the downed athlete, looking at the referee blankly and then running to his corner to hide like an animal that knows it's done something wrong. If Y2J's KO wasn't in the script for this match, the rest of the fight's booking substituted for it infallibly. Evolution, Batista especially, came out of that match looking exactly like the kind of dominating, physically intimidating monsters they should be right now. Orton came out looking like the mastermind, picking his shots and taking advantage of a very late Batista powerbomb. I liked the messages they sent with this match; a common maneuver like a lariat could potentially end any fight, one athlete (no matter how successful) will ALWAYS have a hard time trying to defeat two opponents at once, and Evolution is a dangerous coalition to piss off. This wasn't a great match, but it wasn't bad and the booking was difficult to fault.
Words can't really do justice to how stupid this Kane / Lita / Matt thing continues to be. None of them are what I'd call decent actors, even calling them passable is a stretch, and I doubt even Oscar award winners couldn't take this awkward-ass storyline and make it work. Imagine that, Robert DeNiro is proposing to Jodie Foster in a public place. It'd almost be romantic, if it weren't for the thousands of loud, jeering spectators. Jodie's overcome with emotion when DeNiro takes a knee, and then... holy shit! Orson Welles is drunk, and he's on the Titan Tron! "Lita... Liiiiitaaaa...." Is this going to spell good things for any one of the workers involved with the storyline? Yeah, that's what I thought.
Finally, the main event. The show was pretty tame up to this point, with a lot of emphasis being placed on the match itself and the developments contained therein... and it wasn't a good sign when the audience suddenly split 50-50 on Eugene. There's no question he wasn't nearly as popular in Miami last night as he'd been in other regions previously, and it's got to do with more than the big "Eugene Sucks" sign(s) near the front row. A good section of the arena was getting into his gimmick, but a notable portion was either silent or completely against him. That was strike one.
The match itself really, REALLY didn't deliver. They worked an overly gimmicky match, based more off of Eugene's memories of the most ridiculous offensive maneuvers in history than his supposed abilities as a decent technician. That's one of the biggest problems I've had with his run thus far; he's been priceless in promos and backstage segments, but he's been really stupid and comedic in the ring. That's fun for a week or two, but to see him still doing it a month after his debut is worrisome. Triple H looked like an idiot, allowing Eugene to "hulk up" or catch him in an airplane spin, and considering Hunter's credibility on the program, that's a really really bad thing to see. Strike two.
Finally, the conclusion just made no sense whatsoever. OK, you've got the continuing momentum of Eugene's friendship with Triple H, as well as a bump in the road with Chris Benoit. It didn't resolve anything, it didn't accomplish Eric Bischoff's goal of completely obliterating him and chasing him from the program (if anything, Eugene's more inclined to show up next week, to see why Benoit hit him) and it ended the program on a really cheap note. As the marquee match of this week's show, around which they'd promoted the entire episode, it failed. Strike three.
A really strange episode to take in. Everyone seemed to be treading water, holding back for the big main event, and when that fell flat it cast a dark shadow over the rest of the show. Had the booking of that single match been better, the execution more believable and the audience more interested, it could've saved the show. As is, it knocked it down a couple additional notches. I can't say this week's program was better than last week's, at least not with a clear conscience.
Score: 4.5 / 10