Most episodes of Raw start with a match or someone walking down to the ring to cut a promo. That’s why ideas like having the roster around the ring waiting for Bischoff to appear work. Fair enough, the impending announcement from the GM probably isn’t going to shake the foundation of the WWE to its core (no matter how many times they say it will) but the sparkle of something different from the norm just heightens the senses sufficiently that it lifts the show before a single punch has been pulled. It looked as though the segment was going to be nothing more than an ingenious way of promoting both Survivor Series and the upcoming two hours of Raw but Edge’s public bollocking (UK readers only) and subsequent farewell made it a good opening. Though we’re mostly using ‘knowledge’ in its fan sense, it’s not top secret information that Edge will more than likely receive an ‘injury’ from his Smackdown streetfight with Batista to explain his disappearance from our screens while he sorts out a real injury. Still, Lita did what she does best to try and get her man out of the match and showed her breasts to the one person on Raw who hadn’t seen them already. Man, you know you’ve got deviancy issues when Bischoff calls you a slut.
Kurt Angle’s displeasure at the fan’s willingness to chant “You suck” during his entrance music and his later moaning and subsequent lame happiness at seeing Daivari as the special referee in the main event are surely a sign that ‘psycho’ Kurt has been consigned to the garbage and we are now experiencing a hybrid ‘cry-baby/dork’ version of our Olympic gold medallist. I don’t think Daivari’s interjections adversely affected the flow of the contest, despite being the main source of spots during the match, but I am concerned that once again Kurt has someone else to thank for a victory. Kurt can be all the wrestling machine in the ring that he wants but unless he’s winning his matches clean and unassisted then his stock as the man who can take the title from Cena and keep it for an extended period of time won’t improve. As for the match itself, I disagree with those who would suggest that Masters and especially Cena had to be carried. For the third match in a row (yes, I’m still keeping count) Cena looked good in the ring and was at running speed throughout. He was still a bigger whore than Lita but, if what I’m looking for from him is there, I can ignore the stuff that is primarily aimed at someone else’s enjoyment. My only complaint about the main event was that nothing occurred between Cena and Michaels. Seeing as it was mentioned in the build up to the match, I was hoping for further development regarding HBK’s kick at Cena the week before and the double-team with Kurt at Taboo Tuesday. But it wasn’t referred to in the last segment and I feel an opportunity was missed to add a further dimension to the triangle whilst also putting a bit of pseudo-heel fire back in Cena’s character. Or maybe being pissed off with a fellow face is a step too close to unacceptability for Vince’s franchise ideas.
It was reassuring to see Shelton Benjamin back on the main show and his match with Carlito was given a nice reason to be there (the winner getting a slot in the Survivor Series ten-man tag) and enough time to make a watchable contest. Although obviously a reference to Carlito’s previous pretensions to be a WWE segment host, I am hoping that his determination to do more than the Cabana is a sign from the writers that they will focus more on Carlito’s wrestling, which has shown a vast improvement over the last six months, and less on the apple-spitting and grinning. It was the match of the night for me and a further indication that I just don’t see what WWE management doesn’t like about Benjamin. True, he’ll never shine in promo like The Rock or carry the company like Hogan did in the 80’s but then that’s equally applicable to lots of wrestlers today and they’re not half the athletic and dynamic wrestler that Shelton is. Not everyone needs to be the next crossover film star or talk-show circuit darling. You never know, sometimes wrestling fans might just want to watch a wrestling match in between the midgets, strippers and amusing bowel surgeries.
The hardcore tag title match didn’t disappoint either. Ex-ECW purists would compare it unfavourably to the arena-wide, weapon-fuelled mayhem that could often be found at the Viking Hall but that level of commitment to the craft would seem out of place on a WWE show and as corporately-acceptable violence goes it was good, solid stuff. But I feel the WWE has painted itself into a corner. Other than Cade and Murdoch, there a no other potentially legitimate contenders to the tag team titles on the Raw roster. So if they wish to continue using Kane and Big Show as a unit then their only challengers right now are the outgoing and now annihilated former champions who, if storyline convention is to be obeyed, will have to spend a short time selling the injuries suffered this week. If Cade and Murdoch come back strongly next week, it will make the ‘monster’ champions seem weak and ineffectual and I don’t see that happening in the run up to Survivor Series. I hope I’m wrong and the feud between these four gets stronger without the baggage that I’ve mentioned. As I’ve said before, it only takes two teams to make a worthwhile tag team division as long as they are used right and are given good platforms from which to perform.
They continued to downplay the HHH/Flair feud, but successfully this time. In another attempt to have them annoy eachother at distance, only bringing them together for some confused brawling, HHH watched from the ramp as Ric fought a brief but enjoyable contest with Rob Conway. See how much better Conway comes across if we don’t have to endure his entrance and he doesn’t act like a smarmy twat every time he completes a move? We even got a break from the ‘last chicken in the store’ see-through shorts this week. However motivated Flair becomes, he’s not going to magically transform back into what he was during his prime but his level of enthusiasm for both wrestling and travelling has to be admired in a man his age and while he keeps putting wrestling before his own interests, he will remain relevant in the WWE.
Rosey and Gregory Helms wrestled what must be the opening salvos in a tv feud that should rumble on for a little while. At least, that’s normally the way it goes when a sub-mid-card storyline starts with a short, conclusive match within a few weeks of the betrayal. It is unlikely that it’ll make a PPV singles match anytime soon but a cheap win with built-in emotion is always preferable to a pointed squash or a meaningless filler. From a technical standpoint, the match was quick and stiff, which is often the case when friends turn a partnership into a feud as they tend to work hard for eachother, and the mild indifference from the crowd was more a comment on the brevity of the preparation and not on the efforts of either men. I appreciate that Rosey is the bigger of the two and having him dominate the majority of the match is consistent with common sense but, assuming that Helms is the one that will benefit more from the disassociation in the long run, I would have liked to see Helms find a way around Rosey’s physical dominance earlier in the contest than the last two moves. That way, the resourcefulness and tenacity of the lighter man is emphasised. Let’s face it, in the WWE what else does a cruiserweight wrestler have in his arsenal? Heaven forbid the big men have to sell for their lighter, smaller counterparts for more than a few seconds.
I’m really into the whole Mickie James thing as it’s been handled with care so far. More than just being annoying and loud (although that is a valuable part of the equation) Mickie is completely overshadowing Trish Stratus at the moment and, seeing as we’re experiencing the same feelings as her, the eventual release when the suffocation is alleviated should be well worth the wait. Also, the bookers seem to have learnt from their earlier mistakes and are giving the workers the main bulk of the wrestling and the ones in partial training some tightly sorted spots and little else. Incidentally, I’m not the type of person who attributes drug use to society or celebrity peer-pressure but I do blame Candice Michelle for my addiction to crack.
All in all, very little to complain about (and you know how much that annoys me). I was glad that Joey Styles was there but I’m against throwing him the headset until he’s signed, sealed and committed to the company for a long time. The three of them worked fine on commentary and I see no reason to title him “the new voice of Raw” until he is the new voice of Raw. Until that happens, Styles is a talented but currently temporary announcer who should do what everyone has to do in a new working environment and show that he’s a team player. The other major thing of note was the absence of a McMahon on the show and the almost complete disappearance of the JR storyline. Whilst this is music to some people’s ears, I personally don’t like to see ideas dropped without an explanation (from a ‘wrestling reality’ point of view) and I would rather have seen the feud shifted in a new direction, if possibly only to then let it fade away over a few weeks. But the things that weren’t there shouldn’t detract from what was a pretty decent show and, for a change, it was good to see the right people being used in the right way. Long may it continue.