The Oratory RAW Review Crew: 09/20/04
I'm not sure how, exactly, this was considered a 'season premiere' by any stretch of the imagination (and, to be honest, every time someone has used that phrase in reference to pro wrestling, I thought back to the commercials the WWF ran during the '94 baseball strike, featuring Randy Savage lamenting the season's premature end alongside a young boy and Vince's big overdubbed voice reminding us that "We don't have an off-season." Which, actually, is pretty funny when you look at how ferociously Vince has denied the workers the rights to a union of their own. DAMN how I'm already off-topic this week...) but when Vinnie Mac himself comes out to the ring and tells you to expect big things, it's usually a pretty safe bet he'll deliver. So, needless to say, I was interested in finding out what the special occasion was, and why they didn't bother promoting it until just seven days prior. As it turned out, I didn't have to wait very long.
I'll buck the trend and admit to thinking this is a pretty cool idea on the surface. Fans voting for the World Champ's challenger on an upcoming PPV? That's about as much audience participation as humanly possible. It's living up to their promise to constantly listen to their audiences and give them what they want. On the other hand, however, this is a company that regularly alters inconsequential polls on their own web site and OBVIOUSLY did everything in their power to keep Carmella in the recent Diva Search right up until the bitter end. It all comes back to the very heart of the business; this international conglomerate was founded on taking its fans for a ride, on twisting facts and reality to maximize their entertainment value. Buying into this idea, no matter how cool it appears on the surface, and then getting all bent out of shape about the way it turns out is no different than following WWE on tour almost religiously for years, buying up all of their merchandise, attending all of their big events, uh... writing... writing columns about them on the internet... ... and then acting completely betrayed and surprised when the heels win a match or two. You've gotta go into it with the notion that things aren't always going to turn out the way they seem. Have the participants and outcomes of Taboo Tuesday already been determined? Probably not. Will the legitimate feedback from their fans impact their decisions about who to push in the near future and who to de-emphasize? Quite likely. Will they muck around with the numbers they show the public to add drama to a reality-based event? Absolutely.
And hell yeah, I'm voting. If he's on the ballot, I'm giving my vote to Chris Jericho without a second thought.
Back to reality, this segment between Bischoff and McMahon came out of the gates on fire and then died a slow death in the ring as the events unfolded around them. I'll always love watching these two cut promos on one another in the middle of the ring, just because of their roles in the history of the business (the fan in me is always screaming "THAT'S VINCE McMAHON FACE TO FACE WITH ERIC BISCHOFF!! WHOAAAHHHH!!") but last night seemed to stumble over the same point half a dozen different times. I enjoyed Vince's dig at Bischoff's expense ("that's why you're the general manager of RAW and I'm not the general manager of Nitro") but aside from that I could've really done without. Eugene has more than run his course here, and if they miss this one last chance to turn him heel, revealing that he wasn't really mentally challenged after all, I don't see how his career will ever recover.
I don't really want to get into how I feel about the women's tag team match, because I think I covered most of it adequately last week. I don't know why they're continuing to drive Molly's character through the floor, especially considering her lengthy, convincing run as champion just one year ago, but between her series of losses to Victoria at the beginning of the year and this set of defeats at the hands of Stacy, things are looking darker and darker for her role on the show. The best thing for all involved would be to blow this off with a singles matchup where Molly systematically breaks her down and embarrasses her in front of her peers. And I'm not just saying that because I'm a Molly fan, I'm saying it because it makes the most sense in terms of storyline, character and future draws. Molly would double up on her heat almost instantly and regain the respect she's lost over the last six months, Stacy would sheepishly admit she doesn't belong in the ring, one of the face Divas could take offense to Molly's treatment of her pal and jump into a legit feud, and the fans could go back to staring at Stacy's ass at ringside during matches. Ha, I just sold myself on that one. Pull the trigger, bookers, lest I sit here and complain like a tool for another couple of weeks.
I was disappointed to see that the short little one-off between Tajiri and the Hurricane didn't get more time to develop, especially since both guys seemed to be on their 'A' Games. Well, aside from Helms obviously feeding his arm to Tajiri in time for that final rollup. I like the occasional surprise pinfall to keep an audience on its toes, but when it's two guys who haven't had enough time to establish themselves lately and the match gets less time from intro to pinfall than that whole conversation / hugging / kissing bit with Vince, Eric and Eugene, it's more than a little disturbing. Right now the Hurricane's heel turn is reminding me quite a bit of Jeff Hardy's pseudo-turn a couple of months before he left the promotion altogether. It happened, albeit with little fanfare, it's got a lot of potential to reignite a star who's been lagging lately, but I can't see them getting behind it and there's a good chance it'll be overlooked as soon as next week.
I don't know what to think about this ongoing mess between Kane, Lita and now Gene Snitsky. Nor do I really care to think about it, either. At the very least, the baby's gone, Lita's doped all to hell (or were those Kane-like black borders I saw around her eyes?) and Kane is FURIOUS. I like furious Kane. It beats mock-humorous Kane or supernatural, fire-shoot-out-my-dick Kane by a longshot.
Moving on, I had some trouble getting into the HBK / Y2J face-off to end all face-offs for the Intercontinental Title. The momentum was there, the intrigue was there, but the match fell short and the constant threat of outside interference loomed over any sort of storyline the two guys in the ring were trying to build. Shawn in particular looked sluggish here, almost convincing me he'd gassed at the five minute mark, and the match never really went anywhere. Right when it looked like they were going to start telling us a story, with Jericho's leg for instance, somebody would pop up outside the ring or we'd take a commercial break or the face in peril would suddenly land a flurry of desperate offensive maneuvers. HBK even kipped up about a minute after Y2J scored a nearfall on him with the Lionsault... like nobody would've minded if Jericho had gone for the "come on, baby" muscleman cover out of the blue after tasting some Sweet Chin Music. Sorry, but this was a major disappointment and I'm frustrated about the lack of clean finishes in the history between these two. I'm thrilled to see Christian moving up in the world with a prime time feud opposite the show stopper (and I love that "show stealer" jab he used in reference to himself all night long) but couldn't it have waited until we got a clean fall?
Sylvain Grenier and Maven met just after that in a match pitting the two greenest members of the roster not named Tomko off with one another. It's amazing to me that Maven's been around longer than Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton combined, yet he still seems to be the epitome of a bland rookie who hasn't found his niche on the roster just yet. This was watchable at best, if extremely by the books. And hey! Another roll-up out of nowhere for the finish! It worked so well in the Tajiri / Hurricane match earlier in the show they decided to go for it again here! Blah.
I'm loving these Simon Dean promos. There, I said it. It's instant hilarity to me, watching this promotion poke fun at and condemn the products and services that kept them afloat throughout most of the early 90s. All they need to do is print ICO PRO on those big drums of vitamins and powders to make this parody complete. Nova's kicking ass with these thus far.
And we wrap things up with an offbeat, odd main event between the usual suspects. Benoit, his various partners and Evolution have been almost unstoppable recently, owning RAW main events with frightening regularity, and for the most part this was no exception. I'll always enjoy a "two men fighting the odds" match like this one, as one guy goes down early and his teammates have to fight the battle in his place, and the underlying message here was surprisingly pro-Benoit and anti-Orton. While, at a glance, you see Randy Orton fearlessly taking on more than he can handle and returning just in the nick of time to collect the victory for his team, the underlying message was that Orton's young, inexperienced and lucky while Benoit's the real deal and Benjamin's starting to follow in his footsteps. Who took over the match immediately after Orton's exit? Benoit. Who finally turned the momentum after a lengthy isolation of Shelton Benjamin? Benoit. Who cleaned house, cleared the ring and softened Flair up with several finishers just before Orton's miraculous recovery? Benoit. There's a major story waiting to be told here, but the time isn't right just yet.
This was a nod below what you'd expect from the guys involved, with the glaring focus on Orton but the subliminal reinforcement focusing on Benoit.
A lot of near-misses, really. The Jericho / Michaels and Orton & Benoit & Benjamin / Evolution matches sounded great on paper but fell way short in execution, while possible surprises like the Helms / Tajiri and Maven / Grenier matches didn't even get off the ground. This was a stone's throw from last week's program... unfortunately in the wrong direction.
Score: 4.7 / 10