The Oratory RAW Review Crew: 09/30/02
Good god. They might as well just switch the theme music, alter the set design, change TNN's third initial to a 'T', and wheel out the steel "WCW" right now, because last night's program resembled Nitro a helluva lot more than it did RAW. You've got a champion nobody wants to see, running the promotion into the ground with political clout. You've got Booker T, SCREAMING for elevation, but to no avail. You've got Chris Jericho putting on a clinic both in and out of the ring, yet doing nothing to shake that perception as a tiny man in a big boy's sport. You've got Eric Bischoff in charge, playing a solid character on screen but eating up a lot of TV time. Rookies are blowing their spots, under extreme pressure to deliver the goods after less than a month under the RAW lights. The beautiful women are there, but they aren't really doing anything to aid the program. The booking sucks balls, contradicts itself after just one week, hands out turns like candy and is anything but believable. Good god, I could go on like this for hours.
If they're trying to make the RAW brand into the next wave of the WCW Invasion, as I have a feeling they might be, they're doing a damn good job of it. They're also doing one helluva job setting themselves (and the fans) up for a major league disappointment once again. It's like they're dropping this entire show into the toilet, just to ensure nobody ever gets the idea that somebody could do something better than a McMahon. I can't believe I'm even entertaining that notion, but the fact remains: NOBODY can book this badly without trying to.
But I'm letting myself hyperventilate. Let's just go down the line.
The way they handled the whole Booker T homecoming was a textbook example of what you don't do in somebody's hometown, least of all a talent that's on the verge of arriving in the main event. Not only did they kill the assuredly massive pop his entrance would have gathered by jump-starting the match right away, but they booked him to lose in an embarrassing fashion and never gave fans the retribution they so desperately desired. Handled correctly, using a talent properly in their home town can send them three or four rungs up the ladder in one fell swoop. A perfect example was Chris Benoit, taking on Steve Austin on Smackdown in Edmonton last year. Though Benoit lost, he was treated as a serious threat the entire match. Fans hung on his every move, and the electricity of the live audience was shot into homes throughout the nation thanks to their television sets. People who may not have thought twice about Benoit prior to the show suddenly took a closer look, thanks to the energy of that crowd. Despite being obscenely biased in Benoit's favor, they convinced fans nationwide that he was the next big thing. And, sure enough, The Crippler was subsequently cheered like a genuine phenomenon from that moment on.
Had Booker been treated with that same amount of respect, had he been afforded the posturing of an epic, lengthy introduction, had he just WON THE MATCH, those fans would have absolutely erupted. They wanted to, so, so badly. But they never got the chance, and I fear RAW lost a crucial moment by not taking advantage of the opportunity. A big thumbs down, especially considering the Island Boys aren't ready to be walking away with wins of that proportion just yet.
Orton and Storm gave me hope early, exchanging blows with a few impressive early sequences. And goddamned if Lance Storm didn't start to show some emotion in the ring, shouting at his opponent, slapping him around and actually acting like a heel. It seemed to be a step in the right direction, until that whole nonsense with Orton going over half of the UnAmericans all by himself. Why didn't they just make it a four-on-one elimination handicap match? Orton vs. Storm, Christian, Regal and Test. That way, they could have buried the entire stable at once, and they wouldn't have had to devote more than one segment to it.
Despite their treatment over the last month, I felt the UnAmericans could still have been salvaged, given a little time away from the cameras, a fresh attitude, a winning streak and perhaps a new leader in Chris Jericho. Forget all that, as advancing the career of Randy Orton at their expense is obviously a higher priority now. I don't mind Orton at all, I think he's got potential if he can get his moveset solidified, but nobody should go over your former tag champs like that. Not Spike Dudley, not Randy Orton, not Kane, not Brock freaking Lesnar. Absolutely nobody should be put over that strong.
Jeff Hardy won. I actually had no problem with this match. It's these kind of squashes that keep the Show from becoming a complete joke, and you need somebody like him around so you can hammer home the toughness of somebody like Kurt Angle or Chris Benoit when they mechanically take him apart. Jeff wasn't going anywhere before this match and he didn't blow his spots, so he didn't slide down the ladder much further here. And the finishing bump was grotesque enough to merit the countout finish. I know if I weighed upwards of six hundred pounds, fell over a bannister and landed with my full weight on the top of my head, I'd want to lie down for a minute, too. Kudos to the Big Show for taking the bump, and negative kudos right back for looking like a goof, prancing across the ring with goofy hair after the match had ended.
I missed the Bubba Ray / Triple H match, due to explosive diarrhea. I kid you not. If I had to miss wrestling because of a problem with my ass, you better believe it was NASTAY. No points, positive or negative, on this one.
Victoria's a helluva good worker. These gals put on a match that shamed everything that took place beforehand. It wasn't a five star, run to the VCR, save-it-cause-this-was-history-right-here classic, but it was solid for what it was. No botched spots, and Victoria came off it looking like a serious threat. Unfortunately, Jazz is going to look like even MORE of a serious threat when she returns, since she has a history of dominating that division, so I'm afraid the new girl might get lost in the shuffle. Maybe the division needs another credible face, since everybody's storyline in the last two years has been some variation of "OMG GET TRISH".
Regal and Test put on the best match of the night against RVD and Dreamer. The ending and aftermath was more overbooked than I would have liked, but it's worth it just to see Regal motivated once again. And, of course, afterwards the UnAmericans had a hissy fit. It's too bad when good angles get poisoned like that.
Finally, Chris Jericho and Kane gave us a match not totally worthy of the main event slot, but good all the same. Nice to see somebody slowing down from the regular rotation of "spot - rest hold - spot - rest hold - false finish - finish". They told a nice story with Kane's leg, although he seemed to have forgotten about it by the end of the match, and gave us a couple nice reversals and near-finishes. Plus, I'm a big fan of the ringpost figure four, so you've gotta know I was digging that.
Here's where I've got a problem. When Ric Flair comes down to the ring and goes out of his way to help Chris Jericho, despite the fact the two had a HEATED rivalry about eight days ago. What, are we just supposed to forget about all that, because Triple H is involved now? Ric Flair's character means exactly shit to me right now, and coming from a lifelong fan of the Nature Boy, that's a horrible thing to have to say. He needs time off, a big angle to come back on and a big win to end his career with. That's it. He's not going to add anything to Triple H with this association, nor is Trips gonna do anything for him. It's useless, worthless, nonsensical and unnecessary. I don't think I can say anything more about it...
I've gone on long enough. There were a few glimmers of goodness in this mess, if you looked closely enough, but on the whole this was one of the lousiest two hours I've ever endured. Not to the point where the Fink looks good to me, but frighteningly close.
Score: 2.0 / 10