The Oratory RAW Review Crew: 06/30/03
What a really, REALLY odd show, especially coming from out of the blue like this. I was busy as hell during the day yesterday, run to the point of exhaustion back and forth across town as we hurried to finish a brochure by 5PM, so I didn't get a chance to check out WWE.com's RAW Preview. As a result, it came as a big shock to me that, not only were they running a second straight week in the state of New York, but they were giving the Buffalo crowd a more packed card than even Madison Cube Garden got last week. With nothing to prepare me beforehand, I was dumbfounded as RAW sent out every one of their champions to defend the gold in front of an increasingly irritable and (dare I say) undeserving audience. In theory it's a nice idea; defend your belts prominently and frequently, simultaneously increasing interest in the weekly show and the champions themselves, as well as adding credibility to the World Champ and his reign on top. Unfortunately, Bischoff's "on the fly" changing of the rules went a long way towards confusing and disinteresting the live audience, while the endless run-ins and Dusty finishes pretty much dealt the killing blow on their own.
Chris Jericho kicked off the show, allowing his hair to find its way out of the ponytail for the first time in ages, and instantly reminding me of the Jericho of WCW. This segment started out interesting, with Chris trying his best to kick off a fresh feud, but quickly fell apart when he and Stacy started in with the blatant sexual references. In the end, Y2J came off as out of touch and lame, misusing one of Snoop Dogg's phrases and attempting to recover with a reference to how good he is "in the sack." Meanwhile, Stacey came off as brainless eye candy and Scott Steiner just stood around, flexed, and smiled. I'd love to see a feud between Steiner and Jericho, as it's one of the few matches we never got to see between their time in WCW and today, but this was as poor a launching point as I've ever seen.
The Goldberg / Storm segment isn't really worth mentioning here. I still haven't been given a reason to think Lance's new direction is any better than where he was before; jobbing whenever they needed a fresh face.
At the very least, Goldberg is out of his barracuda and nWo tights, and back in the ring with his original music. On that same hand, I had trouble differentiating from Goldberg and Mack as they fought briefly outside the ring. One's a bald guy who wears black trunks, black boots and black knee pads, and the other is a bald guy with slightly darker skin who wears black trunks, black boots and black knee pads. This wasn't as convincing a squash as we saw last week, and I'm wondering where they're going with Billy-Bo from here. They can't really feed him Mack and / or Storm every Monday, and the lineup of jobbers lining up to be slaughtered is growing slimmer by the day.
Kane is seen backstage, wearing what appears to be a small washcloth, or hand towel, and promptly refuses a rematch for the World Title. Seriously, why was the towel over his head so insanely small? Did they run out of leftover "Tazz 13" gift baskets? Is Kane's head just really, really big? I couldn't pay attention to this segment, I was just waaay too into checking out the big burned machine's head gear.
At first glance, I thought the women's battle royal was a great way to introduce audiences to Gail Kim's moveset, while at the same time protecting her from taking any awkward missteps in a straight-up singles match. I didn't expect her to walk away with the title, so that was a surprise, but not necessarily a good one. She's fresh blood in a division that's desperately needed it for ages, but she's also never been given a formal introduction and the fans don't know what to think of her. I wasn't impressed by her style, which I'd heard was spectacular, and I'm wondering if maybe they didn't make a mistake in placing the title around her waist after a single match. It's not too late for her to turn this around with a couple of great matches, but things aren't looking quite as bright for her now that we've seen her first match. Jazz looked to have been completely KO'd by that ugly kick to the face from Victoria, at which point the rest of the women in the match completely freaked the fuck out, and the rumble turned into a horrendous performance of miscommunication and poorly planned spots.
I thought the Christian / Booker T match was phenomenal, and the ending didn't get under my skin as much as it seems to have done with everybody else. Both guys came out of this looking like legitimate contenders, effectively raising their stock as singles athletes as well as pumping up an Intercontinental Title that desperately needs every bit of help it can get. I loved the brawl into the audience, though it left me wondering why somebody doesn't take the initiative and brawl all the way up to the nosebleed seats once in a while, and I thought it was a great way of immediately getting the crowd into the match. Sure enough, this was the hottest matchup of the night and neither guy let it go to waste. These two clicked from the outset in there, and gave us a nice, back and forth match that wasn't too heavy on signature maneuvers. Sure, we didn't get a definitive winner... but I wasn't expecting the title to change hands in the first place, and found this conclusion as a nice way to further the feud without giving either man the distinct advantage of going over cleanly. Best segment of the evening.
The show then went promptly down the toilet, with an uninspiring promo from RVD that showed he had no plans of seriously going in there and winning the World Title later in the night, and then a poor mixed tag match between Jericho / Test and Steiner / Stacy. Boring match, with Jericho managing to turn a couple nearfalls into something slightly entertaining, and a stupid finish. Yeah, I know, I had no problem with the finish of Booker / Christian, so I should've loved this one too, right? Nah, see, the ending of the previous match had nothing to do with altering the rules on the fly, a trick I've always disliked, and despite the lack of a distinct winner, that match felt like it was really going somewhere. This one should've ended five minutes earlier than it did, had no heat, and didn't result in anybody really moving forward OR backward. They all just kind of hovered there, on the border between ass and gold.
Rico's new schpeel was insanely funny to me last night, but in the manner that it's going to get really old, really fast. That was gay, in the same vein as the West Hollywood Blondes were gay. And when WWE is looking to late-late 90s WCW for ideas, you know things are in bad shape. What's the deal with these heel kisses on the cheek over the last couple of weeks? First La Resistance share an intimate moment, and now Rico's running around, pinching asses, kissin' opponents and dancing with refs. Bizarre.
They switched around Evolution's entrance package last week, and I'm not a fan. As I mentioned in last week's RRC, I thought the stable's pseudo-Reservoir Dogs video was nearly flawless, as it featured the three well dressed members slowly stalking down an empty street, completely in character. Apparently, that's been replaced by a "Girls Gone Wild"-style makeout session between the three guys and three select ladies. Not really what I'm tuning in to see. Every time I think WWE has finally done something great, they turn around and screw with it.
The bookers have created a monster; the "Boring" chant broke out loudly in the middle of the tag title match, as Spike Dudley was in control of a lagging series. You'd figure they would've learned their lesson from the "what," phenomenon, which plagued every promo for upwards of a year, and thought twice before introducing a phrase that could be used in a less than desireable fashion elsewhere in the show. That's like handing a loaded gun to a toddler and assuring them it was OK to use, so long as they felt appropriately threatened.
Do we have a reason to care about the Hurricane in the tag team title picture? Yeah, the live crowd didn't think so, either. Is it because he's an all-American hero? And he's... ah... angry, because the French wouldn't go to Iraq? Like we needed the help. But I'm rambling. Ding dong, the tag division is dead again.
I dozed off in the warm, soft embrace of my living room couch during a commercial, (hey, I said it was a long day) and woke up in time to see RVD escape from an Indian Deathlock, as the audience chanted for Triple H to "break his leg." Wha? Did I miss something? Closer examination reveals that they were just bored, as the ringside fans were much more interested in Flair's presence on the floor than they were the submissions demonstration in the ring. After escaping from Triple H's onslaught of leg-based submission holds, Van Dam then went completely out of his way to avoid selling the injury. Come ON, when's the last time you saw a guy's leg pounded into a pulp like that, only to watch as he calmly climbs to his feet and performs a couple back handsprings for good measure? Despite his past flaws, I've been a pretty strong supporter of RVD since his debut in WWE, but I've gotta call him on that.
Looked like we were through after a weak beltshot from Flair, but Eric Bischoff played God yet again, (this time a FACE God, as opposed to the heel god he was portraying earlier in the show) and ordered the match restarted. See my argument earlier on about how the reversal of the IC title change was OK, but the constant shifting of the rules was not. At least he was consistent, rather than turning a blind eye to the heel's actions. If you could somehow block off everything that went on before they hit the floor and the match became a no-DQ contest, this would've been a pretty hot match. The Van-Daminator on the floor, the ugly DDT on the entryway, the rolling thunder under the RAW sign, it all looked great when you overlooked the fact that RVD shouldn't have been able to walk, and that big poppa Eric shouldn't have been able to make such decisions on a whim.
Kane looked good batting cleanup, though that tiny towel had a death grip on his recently shaven head. The audience is interested, and I've gotta say the same, so that's a success on the most important part of his mission. That chokeslam Bisch took looked pretty nasty, though.
I've seen better episodes. I hated the endless bending of the rules, the nonsense matches and the nowhere gimmicks, but I liked the big-show feel, Kane's overdue character advancement and the Intercontinental Title match. Below average, though not by too much.
Score: 4.1 / 10