Ringside Shadows #177: The Tuesday Review for 10/2/01
The date was December 7th, 1999, and the issue was number 93. The subject line read, simply, "The Tuesday Review." I wonder how many readers took a look at my subject line for this week and were instantly swept back in time to that last month of the twentieth century. I'd be curious to see how many Ringside Shadows fans I've still got from the last time I did a column devoted solely to current events.
At any rate, this issue sets off what I'm hoping will be a real return to form for the old Ringside Shadows schpiel, initiating what could be termed a "return to my roots." It will also, ideally, give me a reason to get back to my weekly pace, something I've been sorely neglecting for the last six months. As you math majors will surely have figured out by this point, I've only written a measely 84 columns in the last two years. That equals out to an average of 42 columns per year, which falls about ten away from hitting one post a week. Throw in the fact that fellow Orator Xavier Von Erck posted somewhere in the neighborhood of an inhuman 60 columns this year, and I've got some explaining to do. But hey, that explaining isn't getting done here, in this unnecessarily long intro. Opening monologues should never ramble on for this long, unless they take place in a WWF ring just after the opening RAW fireworks. Let's just say I'll be trying my damndest to commit myself back to excellence every week, and leave it at that.
Raw, this week, continued its slow evolution towards something new. There's seriously something in the air these days, be it a by-product of the unusual amount of clean finishes or the general air of moving forward that's filled the States since the events of July 11th. Regardless of the reasoning, the WWF is definitely going through a change of environments. It would seem we're taking both a step forward and a step backward at the same time, as elements of what made the NWA so great in the late '80s are coming into the mix right alongside character development and ingenuity the likes of which have never been seen. More now than ever, the WWF is resembling a work in progress, and I'm becoming more and more anxious to see where it's all going.
Diving in to the events of this past eve;
RAW results appear in italics, with my comments following in plain text.
Kurt Angle spoke to open this week's program, giving Steve Austin a piece of his mind before focusing his attention on the Dudley Boyz, an action which brought The Rock out from behind the curtain. Rocky laid out an open challenge to the WWF Tag Team Champions, a challenge which was accepted by Shane McMahon moments later. As Shane and the World Champions discussed Strudels in great depth, the Dudley Boyz themselves blindsided the faces. Moments later, Kurt Angle had been put through a table and Rocky was prone on the mat, the victim of a 3D.
Pretty standard stuff here, establishing the evening's main events in no particular hurry and killing about twenty minutes in the process. I'm not a fan of the long opening monologue, (a fact which I'm sure surprises you, considering the book I wrote to open up this week's column) and when the end result is nothing more than the booking of a couple one-shot title defenses, I start to develop a real problem. There's really no excuse for the under-utilization of great workers like Kaientai, D'Lo Brown, Eddy Guerrero or Jerry Lynn (prior to his injury) when the first quarter of any particular program is used primarily as fodder for the Rock's latest catchphrase. Speaking of which, where is Latino Heat these days, anyway? It's been quite a while since we've heard anything about his condition. Ross Report, where are you?
Paul Heyman received a fax from "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
God, but this shit was annoying. And I don't mean the "oooohhh, that Austin, I hate him and will pay money to see him beaten for this" kind of annoying, either. This was annoying in a way that only the Big Bossman, Mideon and Viscera were considered capable of in the past. With that said, however, so long as this isn't continued on next week's program, I'll learn to live with it.
The Hurricane defeated Spike Dudley with a variation on the twist of fate, after Mike Awesome interfered on his behalf. Post-match, the WWF's resident superhero unveiled a new hurri-cycle, and was joined by Molly Holly for a victory lap around the arena. Or something.
A tight little match, too short to really accomplish anything for either man in the long run. I can't believe they're trying to sell fans on Spike Dudley as a serious wrestler in Andre the Giant's old ring duds, but stranger things have happened. Just look at the career of Ed Leslie. This mini-storyline with the Hurricane is fun, even if they are both being handicapped by the WWF's bizarre time restrictions on their respective in-ring repertoires. If this were the Spike Dudley who challenged Mike Awesome for the ECW World Title a couple years back, taking on the Shane Helms who chased Chavo Guerrero, Jr. throughout WCW's last year, the matches would be shining examples of what makes cruiserweight action so breathtaking. Alas, it's no use crying over spilt milk, and seeing as how the angle itself is pretty intriguing, I don't really have that much to be complaining about.
I'm genuinely interested in seeing how all this turns out, as I'm sure are the WWF fans, but I fear it's only downhill from this blowoff for poor Spike Dudley. He's descending into the pit of the non-directional character, and the added weight of the Big Show isn't helping matters. I also fear we'll see a Big Show / Spike vs. Hurricane / Awesome matchup before this is all said and done, which will no doubt serve as the only proof one needs that WCW's former Giant is a form of terminal cancer for the promise of any match. If that one sucks, ain't nobody else you can blame.
No worries, though, as Molly looked damn foxy in that superheroine outfit.
Paul Heyman received another fax from "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
As the night progressed, I actually found myself pretty consistently amused by the guys just behind the announce position when these faxes came in. They all stared in a sort of dumfounded, innocent amusement, as Heyman climbed up on the table to deliver his lines directly from the printed page. I kept waiting for one of them to make some sort of gesture towards the camera, explaining that Paul E. wasn't really getting faxes sent to ringside, but that signal never came. Hey, not even a jolly crotch chop was offered from those poor fools in the front row. What's WWF viewership coming to?
Rob Van Dam, Booker T and Test defeated The Undertaker, Kane and Chris Jericho when RVD took advantage of the referee's ignorance of the legal man and rolled up Y2J for a clean pin.
Am I the only one who thinks it's absolutely hilarious that they're playing up Stephanie McMahon's back problems, only about a month after she had those gargantuan hooters stuffed into her chest? Just a little something fun to think about...
Not as bad as it could've been. This got pretty sloppy near the end, as everybody took a turn hitting their signature maneuver and the words "legal man" completely vanished from everybody's memory, but the meat of the matchup was about what I'd expect. The Undertaker's still putting forth a renewed effort, and while he remains far from where he should be in terms of selling, at the very least he's entertaining with that dominating offense.
And how comical was that horrifyingly bad Last Ride attempt on Test? If you'd told me earlier in the day that I'd be watching one man sit on another's face in awkward silence for nearly fifteen seconds, I'd have probably deleted your mail alongside the rest of the spam AOL sends me without a second thought. Seriously, though, I think time froze for just about everybody Monday night, as the Taker ssllllloooooowwwly... leaned... back into the ropes... and selflessly took in everything Test had to offer. Get a room next time, guys.
Torrie, Stacy and Lilian did that whole "cat fight" thang, with Lilian slipping back into her native tongue for a spell. Saucy!
Veeeeery interestink.... but shtoopid...
The Rock successfully defended his WCW World Title, defeating the Dudley Boyz when he put Bubba Ray through a table.
Easily the night's best match. This one was handled exactly how it should have been, with The Dudleys functioning like a well-oiled machine. Everything these guys did was a page from the book of "Building Crowd Tension In Three Easy Steps," from the multiple near-misses early in the match to the late false finish and following conclusion that sealed the deal. I actually bought the Dudleys' chances here, and that's the kind of thing the WWF really needs to focus on in the long run.
DDP continued his spooky-as-hell "Positive Page" gimmick, smilin' all the way.
I really dig this one so far. It's really unsettling when Page hits you with that grin so often, almost to the point where I'm averting my eyes from the screen when he does it. Last week I was laughing, this week I was thinking "ok, man... cut it out..." Another angle I'm genuinely interested in seeing played out. Are they doing some sort of post-production on his teeth to make them that bright? It's almost inhuman.
Stacy and Tazz defeated Torrie and Tajiri when Ivory ran in, DDTing Torrie and allowing Stacy to cover her for the win.
Quite a disappointment, especially when I realized Tajiri was in a mood to really give us his all last night. Every one of the half-dozen moves he hit was sharp as a nail, and the segment he did with Stacy's ass was the kind of stuff I miss seeing him doing on a regular basis. Torrie and Stacy should be denied ring apron access for the foreseeable future. What a terrible way to kill an otherwise-promising little gem.
Christian provoked fans in the middle of the ring, before X-Pac introduced himself and the two had a little "meet and greet." Edge interrupted X-Pac's interruption, poking fun at the former DX member's problems establishing himself and his own brother's problems with bed wetting. Albert finally put a stop to the little mess, wiping Edge down the entrance ramp and into the ring. Christian prepared for another one man con-chair-to, but the APA hit the ring before any further damage could be done.
I have no idea where they're going with this one, long term. Well, scratch that, I do have one idea... but it's a longshot and not really worth mentioning here. Christian's character has taken something of an odd turn over the course of this last month, going from a tweener/face to a solid, threatening, vicious heel to a frightened, egotistical heel IC champ. Last night he was so close to channelling the spirit of one of my all-time favorite heels, the "Nugget" Owen Hart, that it was almost uncanny. He had that crowd eating out of the palm of his hand, but I'm not sure he was 100% sure what to do with them once he had them there. With just a little more mocking, he could've led them to chant "Christian Sucks" to an incredible degree, which would've only intensified when he chimed in with an enraged "I don't suck, I'm cool!" Ahh, well. He's young still.
William Regal forced Lance Storm to tap out after a match of roughly five seconds, finishing him off with the Regal stretch and setting his gaze upon the fax machine, which was softly chirping on the announce table. Paul Heyman read Steve Austin's message to the commissioner, who responded in turn by knocking the former owner of ECW on his ass.
Well, there's one way to completely kill any of the giant advances made by Storm's match with Jeff Hardy a couple weeks ago. William Regal is in a really strange situation right now, playing the same character that was booed out of buildings four short months ago, only getting cheered for his efforts these days. He's also far from the necessary component he was in those days, busying himself in the midcard instead of making last second modifications to gigantic PPV main events every month.
Regal's interaction with Paul E. post-match was pretty much the only real way I could see them reasonably explaining the whole deal with the fax machine. He needed some heat, and he gained some heat by putting a stop to the noise that had pestered us all night long. And like I said above, as long as we never hear that damn tone again that job will remain done. So which move do you figure busted him open? My money's on that ultra-tight dropkick early in the match.
Kurt Angle defeated Shane McMahon with the ankle lock, retaining his WWF World Title in the process.
Your standard Shane McMahon free TV matchup. Unique offense, predictable ending, no big trademark Shane-O bump. We actually got a surprisingly strong taste of the ol' McMahon psychology here, with a noticable concentration on Angle's neck throughout the duration of the match. Those reverse European Uppercuts to the base of the skull looked mean as hell. Borrowing a page from the book the Dudleys and Rocky were reading aloud earlier tonight, the crowd was treated to some nice, tense moments as Shane dropped that big elbow and Angle kicked out a 2 7/8ths. I don't think they played the Van Dam card up as strongly as they should have, but I'll admit that the frog splash from the apron was mighty fine nonetheless. An awkward finish, but the tension and psychology of the match itself more than make up for that. Not as strong a free TV main event as we've ever seen, but certainly worth the price of admission.
Despite some questionable decisions in the length of the Helms / Dudley and Storm / Regal matches and a few nonsensical character definitions for Lilian Garcia and Rob Van Dam, the night actually came off feeling a little bit above average. More than a bit of that is due to the two strong main events sent our way in the form of Rocky / Dudleys and Shane / Angle, but I'm willing to bet just as much of that is a result of the movement towards this new WWF that I mentioned in the opening of this week's installment. I have no idea where they're going when it comes to the Survivor Series card, but it's still a little early to start worrying about that at this stage anyway. A slightly above average show for the WWF, enjoyable enough for me.
Final Grade: C+
until next time, i remain...