After the hype encircling last week’s WWE Homecoming edition of Raw, I was interested to see how the first ‘normal’ show on the USA Network would come across. Well and truly ensconced in its new home, would Raw be a useful member of the family house or would it be parked in front of the tv with one hand on the remote and the other wedged down the front of its grubby shorts? And for those of you waiting for the McMahon family to push away the wildly jiggling hand and say “give it here, I’ll finish it off myself”, your wait came to a grunting, sweaty climax (anyone got a cigarette?)
Firstly, I have a dark secret to reveal. It’s my problem and I’m not ashamed of it. They say that admitting it is the first step to recovery so here goes … I used to fancy Stephanie McMahon. Wow, that feels like a weight on her chest … I mean a weight off my chest. But two years away from my screen, and possibly the worst blonde hair since Billy and Chuck, has left me feeling indifferent towards the billion-dollar princess so I am now free to join in with the good-natured ribbing about her fat ass and screeching voice. Unfortunately, what opened Raw this week was an attractive (if a little out-of-proportion), confident speaker who can out-perform most of the male WWE employees on the microphone and seems much more comfortable being the ‘bitch’ than she ever did as general manager of Smackdown. At least she was honest about one thing; she does have massive balls (the fact that they used to belong to HHH is neither here nor there). Anyway, Steph swaggered round the ring slapping everyone in sight and reminded us that Vince would be firing someone later in the show. And just to reiterate the point she climbed up on the announce table in a short dress and gave JR a peek at her golden-gate. Oh, and the bitch is back or something.
Fast forward to the other side of 97 minutes of WWE television and Vince had isolated the blame for last week’s McMahon family ‘stunner-fest’ firmly at the feet of the three-man Raw commentary team. Coach and Lawler did the sufficient amount of butt-kissing to save their jobs and it was left up to JR to wriggle uncomfortably toward his inevitable contract termination. I’m okay with turning Linda heel as long as she never, ever appears on screen in a speaking role again. Seriously, she can’t even play herself convincingly, let alone an evil McMahon. At the peak of on-screen WWE ‘McMahon-ness’, they were everywhere and everything and it seemed at times as if they had no confidence in their product when they weren’t in front of the camera. That changed a few years ago and they all-but vanished from WWE programming. Now it’s different. Many of the WWE’s top draws over the last five years are gone and someone needs to take responsibility for making it feel as good as when the company was creating good tv without even trying. Also, I think that now the McMahons are saying the words out loud, they’ll make sure the writing gets better than it has been of late. As for JR’s departure, it’s a difficult balance. It is apparent that he’s not the future of Raw broadcasting but his game has been good for a while and it’s a shame to lose him. Of course in two or three years time, if the announce team is exceptional and more popular than any other in history, last night will be perceived as a seminally positive moment. Who knows?
In Carlito’s Cabana, it was an opportunity to load up the main event scene and see if anyone sticks. HBK’s childish mannerisms seem far more suitable now that he’s a face again and he appears to be enjoying being let off Hogan’s leash. The whole Cabana segment was well written, even Cena’s stuff didn’t seem as annoying this week, and it was a useful character tool for any new fans tuning in to have each person reacting in their stereotypical way (especially Lita – or ‘1 vagina and no waiting’, as she’s now known). Unfortunately, the fact that Edge is still holding on to that briefcase is a sign that management believes without it, and the title shot it contains, Edge doesn’t have what it takes to be at the top. And I predict that he won’t until he ditches the slut, turns face and wears trunks instead of tights. Hey, it worked for HHH. The six-man tag was the match of the night (too obvious?) Special mentions for Michaels who carried the bulk of the match (insert Big Show joke here) and Carlito who is now overtaking Masters as the go-to mid-card guy. In fairness, even Show brought his running shoes out of retirement and broke into a sprint (then into a sweat, then into a refrigerator). Angle pinning Cena was the right result but they really need to present that outcome in a singles match for the belt.
HHH’s night was another ‘Tale of two cities’ (the best of times, the worst of times). Walking through the backstage area receiving various sneers and confrontations was the perfect way to isolate his character through the eyes of others, not just our own, and it worked really well. I did notice that in squaring up to HHH, Cena lost some of his confidence. Not as a ‘wrestler’ but as a performer. If Cena wanted to know why some fans think he’s light at the moment then he should have looked no further than the man who was in front of him, the man who can out-perform him in every department and the man who makes his title reign seem like a belt-warming summer job. Having said that, HHH then delivered one of his infamous in-ring promos that was low in interest and high in monotone pseudo-congratulations. Whether it is for reasons of entertainment or reaffirming his heel status, we don’t need to hear Hunter verbally amuse himself and we sure as hell don’t need another ‘hurts me more than it hurts you/for your own good’ excuse to justify a beating. I commented before HHH returned that they need to mix him with others and not let him become the sole focus. Two weeks into his comeback and the writers proved it far better than I ever could.
After their Homecoming pointlessness, I was hoping for something different from the women’s spot last night and it delivered, twice. I was glad to see that Victoria and Trish came to the ring alone because, even though Candice and Torrie’s roles during the match would have been as jacked-up cheerleaders, it was nice just to watch the match and enjoy the work for a change. Just at the right time too because Trish and Victoria put on the best female wrestling match in quite some time and proved, in their hands at least, that the women’s division may be light in numbers but it’s not short on talent. The other positive to come from the segment was the debut of Mickey James. I’m a little biased because I’ve been hoping Vince would add the artist formerly known as Alexis Laree to the roster for quite some time and her brief but fiery action was just a sample of how talented she is. If the WWE keeps this up, the women’s title might actually mean something again one day. Dare we ask that he gives a crap about tag teams or is that asking for too much?
Chris Masters drew the ‘I’m still here, honest’ straw with a quiet win over the much under-used Tajiri. Considering his size and current push I was surprised Masters wasn’t included in all the title fun but I guess four against three just doesn’t work (not for a six-man tag at least) but I would be equally amazed if this subdued spot on the card is his immediate future.
Rob Conway easily destroyed a goofy, stupidly-haired clown. But before that, he beat Doink.
So what did we learn? Well, the McMahons are still at the helm, Helmsley is still in a McMahon and Lita still can’t work out why we call her a slut even though her breasts are more out than Pat Patterson. More importantly, we learnt that Vince and Stephanie intend to entrust their company to the people that they feel work hardest and perform strongest. Themselves. Does this move smack of desperation? Oh you bet it does. If it succeeds then it’ll make great television. And if it fails, it’ll make even better television. But the firestorm of interest that would surround watching a corporately successful family go down in flames on a weekly basis for our entertainment is possibly just too good a proposition to miss.
Question: if all WWE fans are fired … does that mean that Internet users won’t be able to wrestle in e-feds until their 90-day no-compete clause has ended?