Ringside Shadows #178: The Tuesday Review for 10/9/01
It's been a bad week to be me, loyal readers. My girlfriend's grandfather passed away after a long sickness Friday evening, and though I wanted to join her for the long drive home, I couldn't afford to miss a day of work. More importantly, I didn't think the business I'm working for could afford to lose me for a couple days. In a piece of bitter irony, I learned Monday morning that this same business, one I moved across the country to join, is going under and won't be able to keep me on staff beyond the end of the week. Add to that my former landlord's attempt to screw me out of my $500 deposit, and you get an unpleasant Q. So, to say the least, I was looking to RAW for a much-needed escape. Luckily, what we got was exactly what I needed; a little reminder why I even bother every Monday night.
The WWF promotion machine's been in full swing all week, hyping the hell out of this RAW. Overzealous announcers even pulled a Schiavone, claiming this week's episode could "alter the future of the federation." Well, to a degree those claims were accurate. It's been some time since I've found myself this hopeful, this interested about the direction of the current scene. That evolution I mentioned last week? It's continuing, starting to take a more visible shape now. The clean finishes continued, proving the WWF is serious about losing that "every TV match ends with a run-in" stigma that permeated most of 2000's broadcasts. More importantly, the WWF took some risks with proven talent, taking them in a direction we might not have expected. It's shades of what made the program so exciting to watch in 1997 and early '98, during the reign of Russo.
But I'm getting ahead of myself...
RAW results appear in italics, with my comments following in glorious plain text.
Programming opened up with our weekly dose of six-man action, as the Dudley Boyz (with Stacy) and Tazz were soundly defeated by Tajiri (with Torrie), the Big Show and Spike Dudley. After the bell, Stacy and Torrie teased a catfight before the Dudleys had enough and planted the beautiful Ms. Wilson into the soft, fertile soil that rests below a Federation table. Locked into the Tazzmission, Tajiri was forced to watch the entire ordeal. Cue stretcher job.
The match itself uneventful and short, it was the post-clash events that took the real steps forward here. Tazz here continued his attempts to reclaim that "bad ass" persona that defined his run in ECW, though a quick job to a stiff Tajiri kick won't get him too far in that category. At the very least, the Human Suplex Machine has direction. Torrie took a rather nasty powerbomb through the wood, landing almost directly on her lower neck, but to her credit she sold it like a champ and didn't flinch on the way down.
For someone being built as a literal mountain, the Big Show sure bowed out early from this one. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but it seems pretty strange to me that it took everything in Booker T's arsenal to even make a dent in The Show's stature several weeks ago, while here he's taken out of the match in its entirety by a simple low blow. Now, I'm far from a fan of the maligned Mr. Wight, but I do think he has an important, specified role in the company. In the right hands, he can be used to put over almost anyone as a god, (see Benoit, Chris) but those few heroic victories mean next to nothing if he's discarded like so much loose paper in throwaway matches like this one. Little details like this one really do add up in the end...
Stephanie McMahon made her triumphant return to RAW, but only managed a few words before Chris Jericho hit the "play" button on his patented countdown video and stepped between the curtains. As the two verbally sparred, Shane joined them unexpectedly in the middle of the ring. The trio threw sexual innuendos back and forth for a while, before Y2J ponied up and challenged the siblings to a 2-on-1 handicap match later in the evening. Stephanie vetoed that right away, replacing herself in the match with "The Whole Damn Show," Rob Van Dam. This action went over well with Jericho, who chose The Rock as his partner almost without hesitation.
A really weird, offbeat segment. Shane never really established much verbal opposition to Y2J, which made the immediate booking of a match later in the show seem almost empty and meaningless. Chris and Stephanie certainly have a special kind of chemistry together, but the WWF's been exploiting that for far too long. With the events that unfolded later in the show, it would appear this is a fact that I'm not alone in noticing. For a segment that ate up roughly ten minutes, all we got out of this was a match later in the night. Not really worth the investment, if you ask me. Would've been better suited as a short, sweet backstage vignette.
Rob Van Dam, Booker T and Test shot tough words at one another in the Alliance locker room.
Interesting how RVD managed to sidestep his complete lack of credible World Titles, while knocking Booker T's five runs as WCW Champ. Regardless, he and Booker have some nice vibes together. I'd be surprised not to see a feud develop out of this little conversation somewhere down the line. Speaking of which, I'm wondering why we haven't been seeing more of Booker and Austin together, as the two seem to share similar mindsets in regards to this whole Alliance thing.
DDP's "Positive Page" gimmick ran its vignette total to three, showcasing a woman name Jennifer and her plight with obesity. Featuring herself in a manner that gave new meaning to the term "camel toe," Jen told us how her meetings with DDP helped her to lose weight, impress her husband and regain her self confidence. Page himself then chimed in, fixing us all with that eerie smile once again.
If the WWF wants Page turned heel in just one fell swoop, they just need to repeat this commercial next week... replacing Jennifer with a hairy, sweaty middle-aged man.
The production crew's experiments with weird lighting and coloring effects continued here, as Page took on a glow not unlike that of the original Orange Goblin himself, Hulk Hogan. I lost a bit of interest in the gimmick this week, as the fed seemed to take the easy way out with this exhibitionist instead of letting DDP carry the segment himself. Still, the schpeel was over mightily with the wild Indianapolis crowd, and the cheesy finish with that yellow circle was absolutely priceless.
Booker T and Test lost the WCW Tag Team Titles to The Hardy Boyz, after The Undertaker flattened Booker with a Last Ride.
A surprisingly entertaining matchup. Test actually worked his ass off here, making himself and the Hardys look like gold along the way. Now, I'm usually of the school of thought that thinks it's out of line for a face team to win the gold in a manner such as this (with Lita interfering throughout and the Undertaker's actions resulting in a title change.) However, last night proved to be a slight exception, as Booker and Test actually came off quite a bit stronger as a result. Not only did they fail to break the rules for the duration of the matchup, the duo actually seemed to have the match put away before the Taker made his well-timed interference. Come to think of it, the WWF is actually flip-flopping the roles for this upcoming Booker / Undertaker matchup, as it was an almost unprovoked run-in by the face that cost the heel the belts he should've retained by all means. Should be fun to see how the fans swallow it.
Christian joined the announce crew to call the next match, eventually costing Rhyno the match against his brother Edge due to a disqualification. After the match, Rhyno fell short on his gore attempt while Christian was speared en route to delivering a chairshot to his long-time tag team partner.
Christian went back to his old school heel persona for a while here, giving a ringside child his sunglasses before reconsidering and taking them back. I loved it. Otherwise a piss-poor match, especially considering those involved. Rhyno's return to form appears to have been tossed by the wayside, less than a month after those gears were set back into motion. Ho hum...
Shane McMahon and Rob Van Dam defeated The Rock and Chris Jericho after Jericho accidentally hit the WCW Champion with a steel chair. After the match, Rocky and Y2J exchanged words and, later, blows in the backstage area over the way the match had turned out.
It was "WholeFNShow" who first mentioned it on the Oratory Forums, but the thought came to me as well, moments after this match; Rob Van Dam has, in the few short months he's been in the WWF, pinned Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle and now The Rock. Give me one example of a guy that's rocketed that fast to stardom. Not even Angle himself, nor the mighty Bill Goldberg can lay claim to that gigantic of a push within months of their initial arrivals. Granted, RVD had quite a bit of hype backing him up on his way in, but so did Jerry Lynn and that didn't seem to affect his push in the slightest. I'm getting away from my point. The WWF has a ready-made star here. They know it, the fans know it, the workers know it. They've even got a legendary main event feud sitting in their laps with Austin / Van Dam, and don't think the interest in that one's gone over their heads either. Thus far they've played their cards just right, and RVD's rise to stardom remains meteoric. However, it's always important to remember that such things are extremely fragile... even the slightest mistake could shatter the whole aura surrounding this guy, and I don't think that's something the fed can gamble right now. This feud's money in the bank, and it's on the way... just don't be surprised if the writers pussy-foot around it for a little while longer.
The match itself stood strongly, but that was to be expected as the workers are no slouches. Rocky's been on a steady incline in terms of ringwork over the last year, a trend I was glad to see continue upon his return from Hollywood, and he put it to solid use here. Even Jericho, who's been slumping for nearly a year, put forth a great effort. Shane continued his innovative offense this week, delivering a unique bulldog into the ringsteps on the floor, and Rob Van Dam continued to surprise by finishing yet another match without getting overly spotty. Jericho's blade job was almost perfect, and the camerawork was dead-on for the fateful chair-swinging... too bad the Rock blatantly stuck his arm in front of his face on the follow-through.
A nice touch on the post-match, as the Alliance cheered "RVD" throughout the locker room... marching directly past Stone Cold Steve Austin's door. Not too subtle, but still very effective.
And then, of course, was that big backstage segment with the Rock and Chris Jericho. Though they were two completely different situations, I couldn't help but liken this segment to one I saw on Saturday Night's Main Event twelve years ago, when Randy Savage turned on Hulk Hogan. We've all been anticipating this Jericho heel turn for ages, and it's good to see the WWF isn't going to rush it. If anything, it would appear they're letting the fans choose how this is going to turn out, with both men partially to blame for the way things turned out. Of course, I'm fooling myself if I think the WWF's going to turn the Rock heel... but it'll be a fun ride, nonetheless.
X-Pac defeated Scotty Too Hotty with the X-Factor, successfully defending his WWF and WCW Cruiserweight Titles.
A nice bit of heeling here, with X-Pac tricking the fans into buying a false finish before cheap shotting his way to a transparent victory. Too short to enjoy.
Mighty Molly defeated Lita with a beautiful bridged rollup.
Talk about wonderfully booked. Molly was given almost exclusive control of this matchup, covering up for Lita's shortcomings by limiting her offense to a few trademark maneuvers. Chances are, if you were to look up "Carry Job" in a book of wrestling terminology, this match would be cited. A nice lead-in to the main event, and a great way to re-establish Molly.
Debra wondered if William Regal might allow her presence at ringside for tonight's main event. Regal would not.
I was surprised Regal didn't challenge Debra to some sort of match on the fly, as that's how he's dealt with any and all of his duties as Commissioner over the last month. "What's that? You want a different ref for your matchup this evening? Well, you'll bloody well get one!! When I stomp your heathen arse all along the apron with these royal British wrestling boots!! Ye mackerel!"
Steve Austin was successful in his bid to regain the WWF World Championship from Kurt Angle, winning by pinfall after William Regal's interference and a stone cold stunner.
I saw the Regal turn coming as soon as he approached the ringside area. I'd be willing to wager I wasn't alone.
For a free-tv match, this was stupendous. Not match of the year quality, to be sure, but absolutely breathtaking all the same. Austin seems to have moved forward to yet another personality, rediscovering the sharp-edged attitude that made the "Two Man Power Trip" such a success, and growing his goatee out to further drive home his renewed dedication to the old regimen. An interesting shift in his offense, as well, focusing the majority of his offense on Angle's knees and not the neck. I almost expected Austin to win the match with a Sharpshooter or Figure Four, he was spending so much time on those legs, and sure enough halfway through the match he'd locked in an absolutely brutal Boston Crab. When Angle reached the ropes, Austin pulled a page out of Shinjiro Ohtani's book and drug him back into the middle of the ring before sitting right back down on the crab. Excellent stuff, which never fails to turn a crowd against you.
A lot of fun subtle touches in this match, like Angle's Lou Thesz press or rolling German Suplexes, but my personal favorite was the little "fuck you" Austin threw to Earl Hebner, after the assigned official consistently forced Austin to break a hold that was in the ropes. The final minutes of this match were almost on auto-pilot, which serves as a testament to how familiar these two have become with one another. I'm half surprised Angle was down for the count after a single stunner, especially considering he took how many at Summerslam, three? Austin's actions post-match were bone-chilling. Dropping to the ground and simply staring that icy-cold stare at his defeated opponent. I already like this new Austin a whole lot more than that last one.
It's great to see Regal as a heel again, as he just doesn't work as a face. I only hope they keep him out of the Alliance... they're starting to get a good balance of faces and heels, both in WCW / ECW and the WWF. It's almost like they're separate promotions again. That's good.
Now, I'm just gonna come right out and say it; this wasn't the greatest RAW ever. Not by a long shot. What it was, however, was an average first hour followed by a great second hour, and a giant step above what we'd been seeing for the past couple weeks. If the federation can continue to perform at this level and above in the coming weeks, it can't be long before they're on a tremendous roll again. Hey, they might even achieve something in a few months that they aimed for this week; the best RAW of all time.
Final Grade: B+
And I'm spent. I suppose this should've been a Wednesday Review, shouldn't it? As always, your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Just toss me a line and I'll do my best to get back to you in a timely fashion. Thanks for giving me a read, and I'll see you next week.
until next time, i remain...