The Oratory RAW Review Crew: 10/20/03
Well, on one hand you've got a bunch of people claiming this was RAW's answer to No Mercy, a knee-jerk reaction to Smackdown's now infamous "Iron Man Match" episode of one month ago. You've got these guys claiming that it was an attempt to deliver a PPV-calibur episode, and that it should be graded on a higher standard than a regular RAW, because it's their biggest card all month. On the other hand, you've got people like me. People who aren't looking for excuses to hate a show, who realize that the OTC graded the Smackdown in question incredibly high, and who admit they had justification in doing so. Whether Smackdown had a PPV Sunday night or not, this broadcast of RAW wasn't a PPV in and of its own right. I didn't shell out forty extra bucks to see the return of Batista last night, so I won't grade it as such. Plain and simple, this was RAW. More importantly, this was RAW kicking ass and taking names.
We opened up with a promo from Steve Austin, an interruption by Test and Stacy Kiebler, and an eventual stunner for the heel. I thoroughly enjoyed this, start to finish. I like the realism they introduced, with Austin receiving a hurriedly-scrawled note in his office rather than an overproduced, unbelievable video package, cutting in at just the right moment. I'm all about more realism in today's WWE, and this was a baby step towards achieving that goal. Test has taken great strides as a character, to the point that his current injury is already so much a part of his act that you'd swear he's been using it for months. His interaction with Stacy has become a lot more believable, straying from goofy physical abuse to more gut-wrenching mental abuse. Even the stunner didn't kill this bit for me, as it looks to be something that'll be coming to a head in the very near future. It's for the best, they've pretty much worn out this "don't provoke me" card over the last few months.
Bischoff played his role to perfection in the set-up for that Survivor Series match. On that same card, so did Jericho. Mocking Steiner relentlessly, he made sure we didn't forget who the first guy to confront "Big Poppa Pump" on RAW was. Nicely teased tension between those two from the very get-go.
The tag team title match was actually much better than I would've expected, too. Rob Conway is really starting to outshine his contemporaries in the tag team division, and I can't wait until he's given a chance to do some work as a single. Forgetting that hilarious "I'm on my left foot, OOP! I'm on my right foot" dance that Dupree does, the French Brigade actually looked like a physical threat to the champs, for a change. In fact, before the ref turned a blind eye to Buh Buh and D-Von's blatant double-teaming, they looked to thave the whole thing wrapped up on several occasions. I wouldn't have had a problem with the use of the Doomsday Device, (and, actually, I was wondering if someone was going to make mention of it being the first "Three D" of wrestling) if it didn't just materialize out of nowhere. I mean, seriously, one second La Resistance had the champs in the palm of their hands, the next Conway was up on Buh Buh's shoulders. At least gain a little bit of momentum before you go in for the finishing maneuver.
I loved the atmosphere surrounding Evolution throughout the night, especially during Flair and Orton's interview with Terri. These guys are so well-suited to the roles they're playing, it's almost tough to believe they're playing a character. Another nice little bit of subtlety that I noticed during this segment; the heels didn't just vanish when they walked off-camera, as we've been led to believe in the past. Orton hung around, listened to Booker's comments, and protested like you'd imagine somebody in his situation might. The match that segment led to was something of a let down, but you can't win them all. Kudos to the bookers for giving us a pairing that we haven't seen before, rather than simply continuing the Booker / Christian feud without a second thought.
I thought it was a bit suspicious they were putting the World Title match on at ten o'clock, but didn't really have enough time to predict their motivations. I thought this was a great teaser for the audience that may have been thinking about tuning in to the dull Kansas City / Oakland game. Mark Henry as a monstrous main eventer honestly doesn't bother me right now, just like the Big Show as a monstrous main eventer didn't bother me on Smackdown a few months ago. There HAS to be an ornery giant floating around the top of the card, so the more solid workers have someone to topple, deconstruct and gain momentum from.
One thing that bugged me, though; good GOD, could Teddy Long have grabbed a couple more stereotypical quotes during his three seconds of mic time? "Holla! Time to get paid! It's all about the benjamins, dawg! Bling bling! Mo money! You down wit' OPP? Let the boys be boys! Some otha brothas can't deny! Thug life! Peeeeace!"
Once again, the Intercontinental tag match stole the show. At first, I was a little pissed off that they were "wasting" Chris Jericho and even Rob Van Dam, two guys who should be main eventing right now, in a perceived secondary division. Then I stepped back and thought about what I've been really wishing the IC scene was like over the last few years. I've always wished the title meant more, that it was just as prestigious as it was in the mid '80s. I've believed the IC gold should be saved for the second-most important man on the show, that he should be someone just an inch away from the World Title. And now they're delivering just that. To accumulate and maintain prestige, you've got to involve some heavy talent, book them in matches that show off their strengths, and borrow a bit of their credibility for a while. These tag matches are the roots of something really strong, and I'll applaud them. Just a great back and forth match that really developed Lance Storm, re-established Scott Steiner and did nothing to damage RVD or Chris Jericho. Those are results I wish we could see more often.
The women's match was solid, though a tad below the standards they set for themselves over the last few months. Trish took a real beating out there, first enduring that nasty-looking kick Victoria planted right on her nose, then suffering a wicked-ugly powerbomb at the hands of the insane one and Steven Richards. I thought the post-match bit with Christian and Lita was the definition of perfection, with Christian watching Jericho's success last week and attempting to replicate it for himself this time around. It's EXACTLY what I figure someone like him would do.
Dude, seriously, who are these guys and what have they done with the real RAW bookers?
Kane's interview was one of the best he's ever cut, but I just couldn't get into it. This feud needs to ride off into the sunset, because it's only hurting both guys involved. The emotion's there, the motivation's there, but the stories themselves have been so cartoony and stupid that there's no way to take anything these two do to one another seriously. Maybe they'll have Hell in a Cell at the Survivor Series, throw each other off the roof a couple times, roll around in gunpowder and jump into an open fire together. And maybe it'll still look cool at first. Then, about an hour later, you'll think to yourself; "Wait, WHAT?!"
The main event, admittedly, blew. It's a shame that HBK couldn't pull a good match out of Goldberg, as the guy isn't impossible to carry in the least, but they had a number of factors working against them here. It looked like Shawn just didn't know what to do with himself, and kept falling back on those forearm shots in the corner and knees to the mid section. I liked the last minute or so, since I'm a sucker for the double ten count, and thought the reintroduction of Batista was incredible. From JR's memorable call of "My god, he's bigger than Goldberg" to that brutal Ligerbomb, this was very well done and did its job of introducing a new, instantly credible heel to the main event roster. Watching the big man reunite with Orton, Flair and Helmsley at the top of the ramp was one of those moments that sent a shiver down my spine, no matter how I feel about the former champ and his backstage manipulations. I've been PLEADING for them to deliver a heel like this for what seems like an eternity. And, though I'm quite sure they’ll find a way to mess it up, for right now everything is right in the world.
PPV quality or no, this was a great show. They laid out half a dozen new angles, they continued their pledge to establish new talent with strong showings from Storm, Batista, Maven, Cade, Jindrak and Booker, and though the main event wasn't everything it could have been, the majority of the matches were much better than anyone could have predicted. This wasn't perfection, not by a long shot, but it was well above average.
Score: 7.85 / 10