The Oratory RAW Review Crew: 07/19/04
After last week's substandard performance, bucking yet another apparent upward swing for RAW into the dirt without a second thought, I was wary going into this week's show already. The focus of last week's episode was unquestionably Eugene, popping up on-screen or in discussion at least once in each and every segment of the program. At best it was simple overkill, at worst it was a point of emphasis in precisely the wrong place. On one hand, the character had enjoyed a healthy run of popularity, due in no small part to his associations with William Regal, The Rock, Chris Benoit, Triple H, Eric Bischoff and the Coach. He had achieved more in his first handful of months than I'd ever assumed was possible with such a seemingly stupid, unusable gimmick. On the other hand, recent booking suggested that the higher ups were getting a little carried away with the character's lifespan and ongoing potential, and had lost sight of the fact that this shouldn't be an program-dominating storyline. It was entertaining because it was different, but if you fill the whole show with it, it's become the standard. I'm getting carried away, but you get the point. In small doses, Eugene is very effective, almost bafflingly so. As a central focus of the show, he burns out quickly and when completely removed from the program as a whole, we were soon to find out, it feels like something's missing.
We opened up with, of all things, a lengthy, LENGTHY Triple H promo. I'll concede two things: First, it's been a while since the last long-winded, rambling, "killing time until they cut me off" Trips promo. His work on the mic has, generally, been very much improved since WrestleMania as he's concentrated on getting to the point and making an impact. Like him or not, it's true. Before last night, his work with the stick was significantly more interesting than than the promos he cut when he was the champ. Second, he had good reason for going on a bit longer than usual, considering the developments with Eugene at the end of last week's program. Sure everybody in the world knew it was coming and there was no mistaking his motivations, but the piece needed to be said. He needed to rub salt into the wound to really get this story where they're determined to take it, and hey... mission accomplished.
With that said, holy god above what a terrible interview that was. Hunter seemed to be reaching back into his days as the leader of DX with some of his mannerisms and statements (which is NOT a good thing in my book) and dealt more damage to the Eugene story than anything. Everyone with half a brain cell knew that he was being facetious in front of Eugene the whole time for his own purposes, but we accepted it because Eugene was there in person and it made Trips look like that much more of a cock. Speaking into the camera, cheesing it up beyond the point of good taste, he came off as grating, almost unbearably so. It was no longer something I found entertaining, it stepped across that line into annoyance. I felt stupid watching that promo, and it just went on and on and on. Likewise, how does it make any sense for Triple H as a character to poke fun at Chris Benoit and William Regal for "crying" last week when Randy Orton was doing the same thing not twenty four hours beforehand at Vengeance? And why the hell didn't any of the faces even bring that up?
William Regal gave the segment a nice little boost at the tail end, as did Eric Bischoff with his announcement of next week's Iron Man match, but it was too little too late at that point. A minute of excitement and a call to security is not worth the twenty minutes of droning, monotonous speaking that led up to it. Still... you gotta love Regal abandoning any sense of illusionary fighting and going for the less flashy, yet more believable series of straight jabs to the face. And while we're remotely on the subject, what's with Jerry Lawler claiming RAW has an "exclusive" claim to the sixty minute epic we'll be getting next week? Is it me, or did Smackdown air an Iron Man match not even a year ago? Nevertheless, I'm pumped for the big match next week although I'm a bit puzzled about the advertised 9PM-sharp bell time.
Tajiri and Grenier pounded out a stinker moments later, reminding me again why I believe Grenier is worlds away from being ready to go as a singles competitor. He's improved a bit as a tag team regular, but he looked totally lost and inept out there on his own, and it wasn't even a very long match. The botched handspring they pulled out right out of the gates highlighted, at least to me, how far exactly we suspend our disbelief for these matches. Were this a shoot, Tajiri's handspring elbow would look like that more often than not, and he'd usually find himself in a heap on the ground, enduring a shower of shots to the back of his head. Maybe it was that spot combined with those straight shots Regal was throwing that I mentioned earlier, but my eyes opened a little wider to just how contrived some of these moves really are last night. This was not a good match by any stretch of the imagination, but the finish was at least inventive.
Last week I mentioned that I wouldn't count against the diva search in my regular grading, because I didn't really consider it to be a part of the broadcast. This week they stepped over that line, involving the girls in a number of segments and introducing them to regular characters on the show. How, exactly, it was deemed that this deserved so much time has truthfully blown my mind in the twenty four hours since I initially watched, speechlessly. Not even the vocal talents of Chris Jericho could save this trainwreck, and the thought that we've got eight more weeks of that in our future has me infuriated. Hell, in my opinion even two more weeks of that would be too much to handle, and judging from the live crowd's reactions last night I'm not alone. Honestly, that was the only part of the segment I found even remotely entertaining. Add up the minutes eaten by this waste of time and Triple H's verbal circle-running at the top of the hour, and you've got a sizable chunk of air time that could've been used to benefit any one of half a dozen deserving angles, potential matches or possible rivalries. I don't tune in to RAW for reality TV, I don't tune in for the ladies, I don't plop down on the couch to take in a Playboy centerfold and nine other Playboy hopefuls acting nervous in the ring. I turn on RAW because I want to see wrestling. This wasn't what I was looking for.
Even Tyson Tomko's physique is betraying him. He looked noticeably less chiseled on his way to delivering another completely forgettable match last night. So now, instead of "the big guy with the good body, interesting goatee, trendy tattoos and no wrestling ability whatsoever," he's become "the big guy with the flabby body, interesting goatee, trendy tattoos and no hope of every being carried to a memorable match." Seriously, Hurricane's entire job description over the last two years has been, basically, "bump around for the big guys so they look more intimidating." It's all he's done for twenty four months, and he's usually pretty good at it. Even he couldn't make this match interesting. Tomko's hopeless. To borrow a line from Casey Kasem, "fucking PONDEROUS, man.."
I liked the premise behind the Batista / Benoit match, but the execution itself was largely terrible. This was, without a question, the worst match Chris Benoit's been involved with since coming to RAW. And I'm including his match with Mark Henry in that generalization. It's a great idea to continue building Batista as the irresistible force on RAW, even if it does seem to conflict with Kane's slot, because he looks the role, has halfway decent skills on the mic and can be carried to good matches on a regular basis. That said, this isn't the way to get him there. By breaking the rules on such a consistent basis this week without repercussion, Batista made the referee and the rules themselves look inconsequential. Hebner let him get away with blatant breaking of the laws of the ring for upwards of five minutes before he finally decided enough was enough and disqualified the man. It wasn't any fun to watch, it didn't make Batista look stronger, Triple H smarter or Benoit more vulnerable, it just made the enforcement of the rules less important than ever. This could've been just as effective in softening Benoit for next week if they'd worked a competitive match and Batista, frustrated, had tied the champ up in the ropes and clocked him several times with a chair.
Didn't mind the Jericho / Kane rumble, as neither guy looked weak in comparison to the other and Jericho in particular came across as effectively intelligent and strategic. I didn't even mind Batista's interference at the end of the whole schebang, since he still had a standing issue with Y2J, saw an opportunity and took it. This wasn't amazing, especially considering it transformed into a run of the mill "falls count anywhere, meaning fight into the crowd" kind of brawl by the time things were through, but it wasn't awful either. It just felt kind of out of place on a RAW in 2004, when it would've been much more at home during the heyday of the Hardcore division in the late '90s.
And, finally, Edge and Randy Orton ran out there to close the night off on an up note. I was honestly surprised by the quality of this one, since these guys had been misfiring together on RAW for quite some time, but I'll give credit where it's due. They pulled it together and put on a really solid main event out there last night, in what proved to be the only wholly positive segment on the show. I'm getting really sick of the screwjob endings, but the wrestling, near-falls and drama that led up to this one were too good to discount. Both of these guys emerged with elevated stocks after kicking out of numerous finishers and reviving the crowd with an unpredictable ending sequence. Neither of them feel like World Champion material quite yet, but I think they justified their respective spots on the card with a strong showing last night. A fun, solid way to close out the evening that lends credibility to both the competitors and to the title itself.
Unfortunately, that's about all the good I can say about this show. For whatever reason, the segments that were booked intelligently came off badly and the segments that were booked poorly came off even worse. Barring the main event, there's nothing on this show that I'd ever want to see again. And honest to god, ENOUGH WITH THE FUCKING DIVA SEARCH.
Score: 2.7 / 10