Ringside Shadows #185: The Tuesday Review for 12/4/01
Coming off the crumpled mess that was last week's program, the regular Monday Night patrol wouldn't have had to do much to impress me this week. And, sure enough, the action on this particular night was certainly a step up from where it had been less than seven short days ago. Perhaps a few lessons are being learned after such an unimpressive streak... or maybe nature is just taking its course, and a few chunks of shit are finally sticking to the wall. Unfortunately, all it really takes to stumble upon a great angle is a warm body and some luck (just take a look at Eric Bischoff), so the WWF isn't in the clear by any means. But hey... at least things aren't all grim and grits for a change.
But hey, don't you worry... I'm sure I can find a couple things to bitch about this week. It may be coming a day late yet again, but the Tuesday whine crew is here to satisfy your pessimistic cravings once again. Hoo haaah..
This week's RAW results appear in the convoluted, fragmented italic text that's been catching your eye for years, while my comments follow in that cool, crisp, defragmented plain text. Truly the apple of your eye.
Y2J pulled apart the curtains for the first time all night, addressing the Milwaukee crowd and filling them in on his plans to win this Sunday at Vengeance. Before much more could be said, our party host was interrupted by the old school king of style and profiles, Ric Flair. The two traded barbs and insults, before Flair informed Jericho that "to be the man, you've got to beat the man", and that in his eyes the man was Steve Austin. Before Jericho knew what was happening, Flair had booked a one on one encounter for later that same night.
What a surreal experience this was. It's like the one on one we never saw during WCW's glory days, with a few minor exceptions made to the status quo. As anyone could have surmised before either one of these guys said a word, the chemistry between these two was almost off the charts. With both men refreshed thanks to major shifts in their on-screen characters, they were both in top form and the viewing audience was left to bask in the glory of the ensuing fireworks. Just classic Jericho, claiming Flair should be honored to be in his presence, and classic Nature Boy, playing rubber to Y2J's glue every step of the way. Now, if we could only have a segment with this much heart out there to open up every week's RAW, we'd be getting somewhere.
Also of note; for some reason, every time JR mentioned that we were in Milwaukee, I'd think "he means mee-lee-wah-kay". It's been years since Wayne's World was a top grossing movie, but I'm still quoting miniscule phrases from it every day of my life.
Kane defeated Bubba Ray Dudley with a chokeslam, after single-handedly destroying D-Von and Stacy Kiebler.
Pretty much solidified what I'd begun to suspect after last week's program; D-Von's the real underspoken heart of this team. I remember probably a year and a half ago, my good buddy John C. posted a WWF Roster evaluation where he said something along the lines of "Bubba Ray is the only part of this team that has the character to make it in singles action." At the time, I couldn't help but agree with him. Bubba had more character, was more emotional, and handled the brunt of the team's action. Nowadays, though, Bubba' remained pretty much the same... and, for what it's worth, so has D-Von. The point, though, is that D-Von's remained fresh in my eyes while Bubba's faded off into monotony. In addition, I really can't see either of these guys going at it in singles action. Where Edge & Christian, and, to a lesser extent, the Hardys, seemed destined to split somewhere down the road, the Dudleys just don't seem like a team that's ever going to separate from the division. Much like the Midnight Express or the Legion of Doom, these guys just work that much better as two halves of a greater whole.
But the question still remains; if they're going to be the WWF Tag Team of the decade, why are they jobbing to one half of the team they'll be facing on pay per view in less than five days?
While Scotty Too Hotty donned the golden headphones at the announce position, Albert defeated Test with the Baldo Bomb.
Actually a much stronger match than I would have expected from these two, with a hot series of nearfalls at the end drawing the fans in like moths to the hum of an electric light. Test still lacks the killer instinct that's vital to the kind of physical heel role he's trying to portray, but he's made tremendous strides over the past year, and appears to be on the verge of something big. Meanwhile, Albert's still a ways off from anything that's going to draw, but last night's performance proved he's ready, willing and able to keep up in a good match when the situation calls for it.
Rob Van Dam and Christian verbally probed one another backstage, while Michael F'n Cole stood uselessly in the same general area. The two superstars traded knowledge of foreign capitols, before the geographic trivia contest became too heated, and each man agreed to pit their belt against the other's in a contest later that evening.
I guess it's time for just one more unification, then? Fine with me. The Hardcore title has never really been my cup of tea anyway. Honestly, this was a nice little peek into the future of the federation. Have you ever watched tapes of Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart ten years ago, back when both were still struggling to emerge as their own man? Ten years from now, this is the tape you'll be watching. These guys have money written all over them, and with a little bit of extra experience and fine tuning under their belts, they'll be tearing their way up the card in no time.
Trish Stratus and The Rock made babies.
A bit gratuitous, but surprisingly fresh. I wholeheartedly expected the Rock to get in close with Trish, and then shove a palm in her face and shout "it doesn't matter that you thank the Rock!" or something along those lines. Instead, it chipped away at the Rock's postured image and showed us all there's a person behind that facade after all. Not something I'd love seeing every week, but a good start for Rocky's much-needed restructuring process.
The Hardy Boyz defeated Tajiri and Spike Dudley, after Jeff hit the swanton bomb. Post-match, the brothers nearly went at it right then and there, as Matt disputed Jeff's use of a blind tag near the match's end.
Man, for every time these two stink it up behind a microphone, they make up for it two-fold when they're given an opportunity to let their actions speak louder than words. I was almost ready to buy the PPV for this match alone when they were pushing, shoving, shouting and screaming in each other's faces post-match. Then they climbed on the stick backstage and took a needless step back. Sometimes actions can speak volumes, and with the veritable encyclopedia evident in the Hardys' motions, it just doesn't make sense to force the feud with lame promotional interviews. If they can draw a crowd without saying a word, what more can you ask for?
Steve Austin defeated Chris Jericho cleanly following a Stone Cold Stunner.
This one delivered good news and bad news. The good news... well, using John's tried and true formula of "lose on RAW, win on PPV", Y2J's due for a big win this Sunday. The bad news... man, Jericho really needed the win here. As it is, everyone's expecting Rocky vs. Austin in the unification match at Vengeance, and by jobbing Chris out the week before, the WWF missed a chance to make things a bit more unpredictable. At this point, Jericho's got next to no validity behind his claims of finally winning the big one, as he had to cheat to beat the Rock just once, and the rest of his major matches have resulted in nothing but an extra check in the "L" category. A victory, or at the very least a longer match with a tighter finish, would have given Jericho instant credibility and perhaps shaken up fans' preconceived notions about this Sunday's match.
As it stands, though, it was a solid (if short) encounter between two of the biggest names in the sport today. I wonder if Bob Ryder still thinks the Lionheart made the wrong decision in jumping ship to the WWF.
Booker T hotwired Austin's truck, jimmied the door, and drove away.
Hey, at least Booker's getting TV time. That's more than DDP, Shane Helms, Mike Sanders, Dean Malenko and Eddy Guerrero can say.
Vince McMahon and Kurt Angle strode to the ring, men on a mission. Issuing multiple threats in the direction of The Rock, it came as a surprise to no one when the people's champion himself stepped from behind the curtain to defend himself. McMahon challenged The Rock and his new female of choice, Trish, to a tag match against himself and Kurt Angle later in the night, with the Rock forced to kiss the owner's ass on Smackdown if he lost. Before talk of asses, lips and connections could get too far out of hand, the merry scene was interrupted once again, this time by the Nature Boy himself, Ric Flair. Flair accepted the challenge for the Rock, then added his own twist; if McMahon and Angle lost, Vince would kiss the "people's ass" on Smackdown.
Last week I gave the WWF hell for misusing Ric Flair, sticking him in backstage skits when his real strength lies in his connection with the crowd and his spur-of-the-moment enthusiasm. This week, I've got to hand it to them; they did a complete about face. Not only was Flair featured prominently in two major promos, but both took place in front of the live audience. It seemed that Flair wielded power once again, and the interest started to fill up again in his relationship with Vince McMahon. Next week might be a completely different story, but for right now I'm pleased that the WWF's using the Nature Boy to the fullest.
It was a pretty bizarre sight to see Flair and the Rock side by side, peacefully coexisting, after they'd thrown words back and forth across the airwaves near the end of the ratings war. It was also bizarre, and somewhat surprising, to see how much larger than Flair the Rock is. The Nature Boy looked almost miniscule next to the Great One, which may have as much to do with camera angles as it does actual height.
Rob Van Dam defeated Christian, reversing the one man conchairto into the Van Daminator and sealing the deal with a five star frog splash.
Still a touch spotty, but overall another very enjoyable match. Christian nearly broke RVD in half, countering a Rolling Thunder attempt by putting his knees up and placing a chair on top. This is the kind of match I would've liked to have seen more of during the lifespan of the WWF Hardcore title. A nice mesh of original and innovative foreign object use, strong brawling, a touch of high flying and a firm base of standard wrestling maneuvers and counters. Too often the Hardcore title was overrun with garbage brawls and gimmicked spots, and the division quickly descended into lunacy.
William Regal defeated Bradshaw by pinfall, after striking with his loaded right hand. After the match, Tazz popped up on the Titan Tron, distracting Regal long enough for Edge to strike.
Boy, Tazz knows how to stall with the best of them. "Hey Regal, where's Edge? He sure isn't here. I came to WWF New York looking for Edge, but he's not here. Have you seen Edge? I haven't. Is Edge here, at WWF New York? I haven't seen him. Somebody told me Edge was supposed to be here, but I've been looking around and he's not anywhere." Hey, isn't he a former ECW world champion? A guy with one hell of a reputation, the man who ran over everything in his path just to get what he wanted and keep it? I guess that doesn't amount to much in today's WWF.
I don't have anything kind to say about the match, as it was junk. I like that they're establishing something for Regal other than the whole "I'm not an ass kisser" thing, but that's about all that was worth mentioning in this one.
Mr. McMahon and Kurt Angle fell to the combined might of The Rock and Trish Stratus, but not before Rocky kicked out of a combined Lionsault / Angle Slam, and Steve Austin chased Vince from ringside.
I was actually expecting Trish to turn here. She didn't seem to be too into Rocky's embrace earlier in the night, and the situation just screamed for a screwjob from the very get go. Fortunately enough, we were given a rare opportunity to see a main event that didn't include some sort of shifted allegiance. The crowd was hot, but that's about all that was memorable about this one. Just a poor match to cap off the evening with in my eyes, with way too many shots of Rocky kissing the sky and smiling.
Overall Grade: B
For the most part, the matches were quite good.. even when they didn't have a right to be, as evidenced by the Test / Albert match. Regal / Bradshaw and the main event were both flat, but weren't enough to drag down what had come before... at least, not fully. The build for the PPV left a bit to be desired, as there's no question in anyone's mind now that it'll be Austin and Rocky in the main event. Then again, maybe that's a good thing and the WWF will "swerve the smarks" by giving us Angle / Jericho for the unification. And wild monkeys will deliver an encore by throwing themselves full throttle out of my butt. There's a real excitement factor that's been missing from WWF TV since springtime. Things don't seem to be happening correctly, and while there remain sparks of interest, it's been a long time since RAW has had me sitting up in anticipation of what's to come next. That's a major problem, and one I have no advice about rectifying.
Still, this week was head and shoulders above last week's program, and given continued work things could turn out to be OK in the end. Keep your fingers crossed.
until next time, i remain