INSIDE THE RING NEWSLETTER
by Trevor Hunnicutt and Eddie T.
Trevor Hunnicutt’s Thoughts
Monday’s RAW was the combinatory effort of an excellent atmosphere, great wrestling (Benoit/Jericho–and boy did that say something about the strengths of those two; Flair/Michaels; and the clean finish of Tajiri & Regal/La Resistance), great booking, and great execution as much as we’ve seen recently from the problematic RAW crew, although television has been their most consistent effort of all. The show hit, with the exception of 2nd-hour filler (and a poorly timed Edge/Triple H match), all of the necessary points to be both entertaining and ultimately rewarding from a long-term perspective and was capped off with a well executed end-of-show angle that solidified Batista as Triple H’s partner in a feud that will culminate at WrestleMania.
Eddie T.’s Thoughts
It has been more than two years since RAW left off the air with the fade of the WWE/WWF logo and I last cared for the show and was excited for its finish at 11:06 PM. It happened for the first time this past Monday night, on what will become a historic event. Many months from now, and perhaps even years from now, when you hear “the Tokyo RAW,” chances are you will remember this show. I hesitated a lot in my grade this week, and I’d love to explain why I thought RAW was a 10.0 show (perfect score). A more suitable score for people who’ve been following wrestling for more than five years, would be an 8.5, or a 9.0. My score, however, is a 10.0 because I judged the show based on today’s wrestling standards. The fact that it has been two years since I’ve gotten the same excitement and thrill about this show like I did this week tells me something very important. Wrestling, or WWE rather, has completely removed itself from the Attitude Era, or even the “Ruthless Agression” era Vince McMahon tried to sell in 2002. Wrestling standards today are completely different than what they used to be, just several years ago. Every time I go to Internet websites or Forums, and I see what the fans or like, I can’t help but wonder how is it possible for them to consider a certain type of programming good? Or how could they want to see something as weird as this, or that? I guess it is time for me to come to the realization, that there’s a new generation of wrestling fans, and they see things much differently than my generation, or any one before it. While this is somewhat of a letdown, seeing as the quality of programming has strongly decreased, it is a reality check that all wrestling fans need to go through once in a while. And based entirely on that idelogly, I believe that in today’s WWE, where bad storylines, poor planning, and worsened wrestling rule most shows, this show was definitely top-notch.
The opening of the program was great. Eric Bischoff was solid, as usual. Having a translator was also a cool thing to see. It allows WWE to actually show off the fact that their program is seen in so many parts of the worlds, and that they actually care about their internatioanl fans. Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit proved that they’re two of the best workers on the RAW brand. They proved that they don’t need to have a feud, or even a storyline involvement for them to have a good match. That is exactly what the Japanese crowd appreciates. Pure talent, and performing ability. I’m glad they were given the right amount of time. Tremendous TV match. Batista had to wrestle, and crushing Maven was something that fit well. Maven is simply not ready to be on RAW at this point in time. The tag team titles change was done tremendously. What’s more important here is that I’m glad WWE learned their lesson. They never learn from their mistakes, but apparently they realized that not giving William Regal and Eugene the belts in the UK was a mistake. They didn’t repeat it with Tajiri in Japan, and I’m glad. The tag team titles, for about a minute, or so after the match, actually meant something again. Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels has become a special attraction. It doesn’t matter if it’s on PPV, at Madison Square Garden, at house shows, or at a RAW taping. It’s become a good representation of the range of talent two legends have, and what WWE has to offer on one program. It was cut short and made into a TV bout, but a solid one at that. It simply did its job, and that’s all it was asked to do. The Simon Dean segment was perhaps the best filler material they’ve had with the divas for a while. Dean’s one-dimensional chracter that offers no depth is incredibly hard to pull off. Nova’s hard work is appreciated here, and this easily turned into “enjoyable” filler because of Akebono’s introduction into the segment, as well as the fact that it was kept very short and to the point. The crowd also seemed to really enjoy it, which is a great thing to do. Orton vs. Tomko was somewhat out of touch. The point here was for Orton to continue the gimmick he’s been playing, and he did a good job of it. The bottom line here is that I couldn’t care about Orton before the Royal Rumble PPV, and that although I’m not fully interested in him now, I definitely do want to find out how this storyline continues. It’s some way to get my attention back. Whether it works or not is a different story, but I do appreciate them trying something with Orton. The World Title match and the promo beforehand were well done. To have a heel vs. heel main event was a very risky move, which I didn’t support. Edge and Triple H worked hard, but more importantly than that, the promo Edge cut before the bout, assured that he won’t be hurt from losing this one. Then came the ending. The fact that RAW was edited this week, and wasn’t live certainly helped make this show perfect. The ending was perhaps the best segment and the most creativity we’ve gotten out of the company in months. I applaud them for finally showing some good writing, and I also give Batista and Triple H a hand for playing it off very well. Batista is going all out in his role, and whether he’ll make it as champ after ‘Mania or fail miserably is a different topic. However, for right now he’s doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing, and it’s working. As the two stared each other down and of all lyrics, “Time to play game” were the words blasting in the background, and the WWE logo flashed, I once again felt excited to have seen a great show. RAW gets a perfect ten from me.
Trevor Hunnicut’s Thoughts
Smackdown has been a hard show to watch with problematic booking for weeks and this week’s show, buoyed by a successful week of rhythmic clapping and unheard of atmosphere at any WWE show in recent memory with WWE’s TV tour in Japan. Smackdown didn’t compare to RAW–the wrestling, with only one exception, wasn’t nearly as good and neither was the booking–but it did the trick, if the trick would be making viewers forget at least temporarily that this is an awful show week after week. I liked the tournament at first but its predictability hurt interest (although I’ll admit it gave the show a lacking sense of direction) and the Booker T and Eddie Guerrero match last week was bad. This week, those mistakes were corrected somewhat: the main event of the show–a match between Kurt Angle and Rey Mysterio–was PPV quality (rare on Smackdown since Paul Heyman was removed as the show’s writer) and a real treat. JBL, who is hilarious, is a painful character to watch degrade as champion each week playing the Angle funny heel death role. The No Way Out main event, gimmick or not, is being put in a position to fail. Cena, as has been mentioned before, could use a new character and a fresh position. Even with that, however, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be any sort of a success, and his lack of ability in the ring became unacceptable about a half of a year ago for the position he’s about to be given. Notes: The Bashams/Reigns & Jindrak match is indicative of a problem that’s been addressed before… Something else that’s been asked before, but deserves to be asked again: why doesn’t the WWE use the Cruiserweight division at all?
Eddie T.’s Thoughts
I didn’t watch SmackDown during it’s airing time. The saddest part is that I didn’t care about watching the tape either, although I did. Bad. The show is just bad. Even judging the program the way I judged RAW, there is absolutely nothing on this program that gives me any hope. John Cena continues to die a slow death, and nobody will realize it until it’s too late. We’ve tried to warn everyone that all the pops he’s getting are a phenomena of the era of wrestling fans we live in. However, his lack of in-ring ability is hurting him big time. Although one could make the argument that Batista, over on RAW, doesn’t have good in-ring skills either. However, Batista has a very well-done storyline to back his push up, while Cena doesn’t. Kurt Angle needs to consider either a change of brands, or retirement. At this point in time, he’s simply been through too much to be considered serious. A horribly dull General Manager role, and an even duller heel role at the moment, it’s at the point where even his good matches don’t mean much. Case in point – a tremendous mach against Mysterio this week. There should be absolutely no excuse that with one week before No Way Out, there’s only two official matches made. Undertaker, who has proven to be a weird situation, where ratings are concerned, is not used well. If they’re going to go all out with “entertainment,” then please, go all out with entertainment. Eddie Guerrero, Booker T, and Rey Mysterio – the actual talent of the brand, has absolutely nothing for the PPV, not even any set-ups for a match. The dart gun angle was ridiculous. The WWE Championship, obviously means shit at the moment. I’m disgusted with the SmackDown brand. Due to scheduling troubles, I can’t see the show on Thursday nights until June. I will be taping it. I don’t know how many of those tapes I’ll see. If it wasn’t for the tremendous Angle/Mysterio match, as well as the live Japanese crowd, this show would have gotten a zero.
Trevor Hunnicutt — THunnicutt at aol.com
Eddie T — Levski11 at aol.com