The Oratory RAW Review Crew: 06/23/03
I have nothing against the show we saw last night. There were a few segments I would've done differently, but on the whole I thought the show maintained its forward momentum, expanded characters and feuds, and grew a set of nuts by trying something different in the main event. Of course, sometimes growing cajones that big can be a bad thing, as they rub together and irritate the sack area hanging between them, but other times it can be a good thing. Many times, you can't even tell until a couple of weeks later. So that's what I'm going to do.
Christian's new entrance package is a nice step up from the rotting old combo he was using up until a couple weeks ago. It's got a real, faux-epic, Rock sort of feel to it that's perfect for what he's trying to do. And the music isn't that slow, monotonous, droning remix of his old "FINALLY ON HIS OWWWWN" theme from, like, 1962. Strong, short match, with a Stacey bump occurring during one of the rare moments I chose to blink my eyes. Give these guys a little longer, and MAYBE a little more in common with one another than face-face, heel-heel. They really need to blow off this Test / Steiner shin dig before Summerslam, cause them wheels ain't greased 'nuff to keep us interested much longer.
The Kane flashbacks were goofy, and a little out of place. I liked the premise they were flailing towards, building the main event throughout the show and refreshing fans' memories, but they could do to learn a lesson or two from Smackdown's use of the same tactic this past week. It works when portrayed as a sort of sports recap, a historical piece detailing the rivalry / legacy / underlying story, but it really doesn't work as a hokey, flashback-esque dilly like we saw last night. We're losing bits and pieces of "sports" and picking up more and more of "entertainment." Funny that they went out of their way to show Kane, maskless, with a full head of hair, as he ran to the back three weeks ago. Either somebody in the continuity department fucked up, or the red and black machine had a close encounter with a high-powered staple gun a few years back.
But, hey, it was great to hear that infamous Vince call "That's gotta... THAT'S GOTTA BE KANE." Mostly because my third floor dorm-mates and I adopted the phrase as our own, often spouting it at inappropriate moments in the months after Vinnie Mac first made the call.
Maven and Chris Nowinski are having another go at it, even after their last feud fall apart quickly once they actually got into the ring together. I guess the writers' solution to that problem was to send them in there with about forty five seconds to work with. Hey, so long as we don't start doing it every week, I don't have a problem with it. I like the idea of desensitizing audiences to finishing maneuvers as the only way to end a match, so we'll see where this leads. Teddy Long got a chuckle out of me, complaining that Maven held the tights at the end of the match, when the finishing maneuver was a bridged cradle. I think that's about as far from tights as your hands can get during a pinning predicament.
I'm still undecided about the whole turn of events with Lance Storm over the last couple weeks. On one hand, they're giving the guy more time of day than he had three weeks ago, which is always a good thing. On the other hand, they're teaching the fans to turn a blind eye toward the action in the ring, which is his strongest suit, and I've yet to see him treated as the superior athlete JR and Austin keep telling the viewing audience he is. The sad truth of the matter is that WCW sometimes did things better than WWE. Take Raven, Steiner, Malenko, Storm, Jericho and the entire cruiserweight division as proof of that. So, now that I've thought about it and gone on for about a paragraph, I guess I really do have an opinion on Storm's latest angle. Hm.
Put me in the same boat as Samir when it comes to the Dudley Boyz. These guys have been boring for a couple of months now, floating directionlessly and showing up whenever RAW needed a couple random faces to compete in a "spur of the moment" tag match. Time to spice things up, or ship 'em on over to Smackdown in my eyes. True to last week's form, this match did nothing to further Storm's storyline, as the guy got in maybe one or two kicks and punches from bell to bell, even taking the pinfall in the end. I'll maintain my position from a couple weeks back; get serious with the guy or send him to TNA, where he can do what he's best at.
I just finished up Freddie Blassie's book, where he details the history behind Nikolai Volkoff's singing of the Russian national anthem before each match, so it was coincidental and humorous to see the Frenchies busting out the same old angle this week for their own purposes. Maybe I just thought the segment was funny because I kept expecting the two of them to relive the "man with a tape recorder up his brother's nose" skit from an old episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. I mean, it was the same music.
I didn't even have that major a problem with Slaughter's annual WWE appearance. I don't think anybody was suspending their disbelief far enough to imagine he'd be going over, so it was good for what it was; a guaranteed New York pop, with the veteran coming in to lend a little more heat to the tag champs and taking a pinfall through underhanded means.
Why did Austin come out, introduce the WrestleMania XX logo we saw in April, set off the pyro / music package, then completely disregard the thing for the rest of his promo? That was... weird.
I loved the Foley tribute, and found myself just as surprised as big Samir that it didn't end with a run-in or heel beatdown. Nice to see a genuine showing of respect from the fed to one of its old workhorses, as it was almost magical to watch Mick interact with the New York audience. That momentary handshake with Vince was also classic, classic stuff.
Unfortunately, that Kliq / Evolution tag was just atrocious. There were a couple glimmers of hope when Michaels and Orton were in the ring, putting on a halfway decent show, but then Nash stepped in and everything went to shit. I didn't really care about who won this match, so long as it wasn't Michaels pinning Flair, and sure enough...
That "Reservoir Dogs" style Evolution intro video is just sweet, though, and captures everything I like about the stable in one clean package. Thumbs up to whoever's behind that one.
Hey, way to kill Rodney Mack's whole gimmick. Twenty bucks says the look on Teddy Long's face after the match meant his stable's about to lose one member. Not that the guy was really keeping me awake at night, but I'd hoped they would have chosen somebody else to play the role of "triumphant white guy."
I liked the main event. A few powerful early exchanges, a slow progression towards the end of the match, a hot series of near falls and finishers, a wild crowd and a guaranteed big finish, thanks to the stipulations. I'm much happier with Triple H as champ than I would've been with Kane, (which says something) and though I'm not sure where they can take the scorched assassin's character from here, it's worth tuning in to find out. This was a difficult moment to pull off, and I think they were moderately successful, thanks in large part to the confused awe that swept over the audience after he revealed himself. The whole thing felt eerie, which is what they should've been shooting for. I'm interested in tuning in next week, so job number one is taken care of.
I liked the air that surrounded this broadcast. As Jay pointed out in his writeup, this felt like an almost PPV-calibur card, despite the problems I had with it. They built toward this match in this arena, and in my opinion it paid of, both for the fans in attendance and the audience watching at home. This is what they're going to need to do more of in the future, as they have less big PPVs to keep fans interested in the future. They're taking risks, and I don't always like the result, but that's a good sign nonetheless.
I liked just as much as I disliked. That says average to me.
Score: 5.0 / 10