The SmarK RAW Rant – April 19 2004
The SmarK RAW Rant – April 19 2004
Just when you thought a road trip couldn’t get any weirder, it does.
I headed down to Calgary on Monday afternoon, to be honest more pumped about the hockey game later that night than the wrestling I was attending, and ended up in quite the adventure.
We picked up the tickets from the Will Call about half an hour before RAW went on the air, and immediately braced for disappointment when they were in the 201 section this time. However, a guy who was (supposedly) comped by Val Venis the night before was sitting in the grass outside the Saddledome and offered to trade ours for his in section 109, because he had to get rid of them to fill seats. So right off the bat, good stuff.
So it turns out that the seats were in basically the same place as the PPV — right beside the hard camera, in the “comp section”, this time to the left and behind the lighting control guy.
Sidenote: You get all sorts of interesting views when sitting behind the tech guys, like the SCRIPT, for instance. Over the course of the two evenings I was able to check out actual WWE scripts, complete with fancy cover page and everything, and yes, it’s all written down there. You can also see the lighting guy using a layout of the Saddledome to check which buttons to push to blacken which parts of the arena. Very neat stuff for tech-heads like myself.
Okay, so back to the main story, and I should set this up a little bit. Rather than the usual crew, I went to this one with Zen and his friend Dave Burton. If you’ve ever seen Fubar, you’ve seen Dave. He wore a trucker hat and an Iron Maiden shirt to the show, and he was primarily concerned with seeing the “rasslin” aspect of the show, which was something of a warning sign right off the bat for us because it’s a
So as noted, we’re in the comp section, and once again we’re sitting right by who else but Shane McMahon again. This time his date is Nidia instead of Palumbo, which is a step up in the looks department if nothing else. Zen thinks it’s a good time to get a picture with him after the show as a keepsake, so we decide to ask him after the show is over.
Now, the Saddledome was mostly blocked off because of the hockey game last night — there was maybe 6,000 people there and all of the upper deck was taped off — and the crowd was pretty distracted by the impending game, although I don’t know how that came off on TV. So there was kind of an anxious mood all night. Dave, in particular, was anxious because he was promised fireworks, and they immediately raise his ire by skipping them and going right to the show. He complains loudly.
The night progresses with a lot of talk and commercial breaks, because it’s TV and that’s what you’re getting into, and Dave gets drunker and more restless. The show might have come off really good on TV, but I was pretty distracted by the tech guys and Dave, so I could never get into it live. So by the millionth commercial break, Dave gets really loud, proclaiming that the show sucks and he’s tired of sitting through commercial breaks and there’s only been a few minutes of wrestling — so Shane McMahon turns around and GIVES HIM $100 (US) TO SHUT UP AND GO HOME. We took a picture of the bill and Shane just to make sure it was documented. So ladies and gentlemen, you now have your new rating scale for bad shows, as I will begin implementing the Shane McMahon Refund System to determine how much money Shane will bribe people with to shut up about it. Needless to say, we didn’t ask for the picture after all.
So with that said, onto the show…
– Live from Calgary, Alberta, Canada
– Your hosts are JR & King
– Opening match: Chris Jericho v. Christian. They fight over a lockup to start and Jericho gives him a shot in the corner and then goes to a headlock, so Christian gets into a slugging match with him and loses. Jericho backdrops him and starts chopping in the corner. Christian comes back, but Jericho dropkicks him for two. Back to the headlock, but Christian fights out of it again and slugs him down on the ropes. They do the pinfall reversal sequence for a few near-falls, and Jericho spanks Trish, as we take a break. The four minutes during the break were actually very entertaining, with a few highspots from Jericho and not the usual stalling by the heel. We return with Christian in control, choking Jericho out on the ropes and Trish adding a cheapshot. Jericho bails to regroup, but gets kicked in the head as a result. Man, if that ain’t a metaphor for love sometimes. Back in, Christian hits the chinlock, but Jericho uses the power of a hot crowd to fight out, into a rollup for two. Christian clotheslines him down again for two. More choking on the ropes, but Jericho fights back with a clothesline. He tries another one, but Christian ducks, so Jericho goads him into a drop toehold and gets the running choke. Bulldog sets up the Lionsault, which misses, but a leg lariat gets two. Another bulldog try is countered with an inverted DDT that gets two for Christian. He goes up and gets caught with a butterfly superplex by Jericho (a move that Jericho messed up at Wrestlemania), and Jericho gets two. Christian comes back with another inverted DDT, off the middle rope, for two. Jericho cradles for two. Trish tries to trip Jericho up, but hits Christian by mistake, and Jericho gets the enzuigiri. The ref is distracted, however, and Jericho goes after Trish again before trying the Walls on Christian, but Tyson Tomko runs in to deliver a big boot that gets Christian the pin at 16:07. Hate the finish, but it was a really good chunk of TV match. ***1/4
– Chris Benoit joins us to celebrate retaining the title at Backlash. He talks about Stu Hart and cuts a surprisingly confident promo about how everyone doubted him and he proved them all wrong. You tell ‘em, Chris. Shawn Michaels interrupts, and the “You Screwed Bret” chants start up again. History has shown that if Shawn ever needs to turn heel, he just needs a match in MSG or a run of shows in Canada. Anyway, he continues to question Benoit’s dedication to being the VERY, very, best (as opposed to being just the very best) and Benoit thinks he’s all that. But apparently you can’t be the best until you beat Shawn. God, how many title matches does this prima donna get before he takes the hint and realizes he’s lost all of them? He’s becoming the Buffalo Bills of the RAW title scene. So he lays out the challenge, Benoit accepts, and then they do what they usually do in Canada and delay the match to a later date because we “don’t deserve it”. Bischoff getting Johnny Nitro to check his PDA is just really funny for some reason. So anyway, the World title match is in Phoenix two weeks from now, so Benoit offers a handshake and they do the staredown. Now when Shawn loses THAT one, I hope he moves on with life or takes up needle-point or something.
– Women’s title: Victoria v. Molly Holly. Molly attacks to start and snapmares her into a dropkick for two. Handspring elbow is blocked by Victoria, who gets a crossbody for two. They criss-cross into a monkey-flip from Victoria, who follows with a clothesline off the apron. Back in, Molly tries to run, but gets yanked off the ropes, into the standing moonsault for two. Victoria rips the wig off, but this time Molly actually channels her rage in a positive direction, beating the shit out of Victoria and choking her out for the DQ at 2:19. It’s like Bald Backlund or something, but I’m glad to see Molly dealing with her baldness in better manner than losing every match. *
– Meanwhile, HHH and Evolution arrive, and HHH isn’t happy to hear about Shawn getting the next title shot.
– Kane vignette, as he promises to be bigger, meaner, and more pro-active. Yup, it’s a renewed push for Kane, just what we needed. He hungers for a sacrifice. Mmmm….sacrifice.
– Meanwhile, Uncle Eric and Johnny worry about Kane’s assertive new direction, but the knock on the door is just William Regal. Once again, Eugene has been conveniently lost. Whoops. But Eric lays down the law, and threatens him with Kane-ness unless Eugene is found again.
– Randy Orton, fresh off retiring Mick Foley again, joins us to brag about it. He points out that Mick beat him to within an inch of his life with all the odds stacked against him, but he still beat him clean with the RKO. Man’s got a point. That’s called “making a new star”, for those keeping track at home. Edge interrupts the self-glorification, and thank GOD they’re putting him in the Evolution program instead of keeping him side-drained against Kane for any longer. Edge wants the honor of having the new Living Legend spitting in his face, but hey, he’s tired and sore. Edge apparently really likes spit, because he attacks Orton and fights off Evolution, but falls prey to a Batista demon bomb. Benoit makes the save, but HHH clobbers HIM and it’s beatdown city. You know, the Four Horsemen didn’t end EVERY segment having clobbered the babyfaces. Bischoff books the tag champs against Edge & Benoit – TONIGHT. I guess we’re worthy of that match.
– Garrison Cade v. Tajiri. Cade got the generic rock music in the breakup with Jindrak. Tajiri ducks Cade in the corner and fires off some kicks, but Cade slugs him down. Tajiri takes him down and gets a dropkick for two. Cade blocks the handspring elbow with a big boot for two. Backbreaker, but Tajiri kicks out of it, so Cade stomps a mudhole in the corner. Suplex is blocked by Tajiri, but Cade pounds the back again. Tajiri fights back with more kicks, and this time the handspring elbow hits. Cade pounds the back again and tries a powerbomb, but Tajiri kicks him down for two. Tarantula attempt is no-sold by Cade, so Tajiri goes up and misses a moonsault. Cade finishes with a flying elbow at 4:17. I have no idea what they see in Cade – he’s just a big muscular lug with blond hair. Oh, I guess that’s it. Ѕ*
– Back from the break, Eugene is shooting t-shirts into the crowd (that actually went on all through the break, too) but Regal comes out to stop him…and gets shot in the crotch. T-SHIRT TO THE GROIN! T-SHIRT TO THE GROIN! If they can get Eugene over as a legitimate fan favorite, great, because he can actually back it up in the ring, unlike everyone else they’ve tried this basic gimmick with.
– Val Venis & Lita v. Matt Hardy & Gail Kim. No match, as Kane storms out and kills everyone…except for Matt, who runs away. However, seeing Lita in danger, he does the right thing and sacrifices himself for her. Awwww. While I’m on the subject, how lazy is it for them to announce Gail Kim from “Korea”? That’s like introducing someone from “Carolina”. Why not make it North Korea and have her threaten to nuke another Diva or something? Really go for the cheap heat brass ring.
– For those keeping track, it’s at this point where Dave makes his fateful stupid remark and gets bribed by Shane McMahon. For those wondering, I agreed fully with Shane’s stance.
– RAW tag titles: Ric Flair & Batista v. Chris Benoit & Edge. I’d like to think “Youngbloods” would be a good name for the challengers, although “Spinal Fusion” might also fit. Benoit powers Flair into the corner and exchanges chops with him, and Flair gets pinballed by the challengers. Benoit backdrops Flair and Edge comes in with his own backdrop and some chops, and it’s some good Canadian ones, too. Flair Flops and tags in Batista as JR calls this Edge’s first match back on RAW in 14 months. Actually, longer than that, since he’s been on Smackdown since the initial split. Batista uses the CLUBBING FOREARMS, but Edge dropkicks him and brings in Benoit again. He brings the VIOLENCE in the corner, into a snap suplex, and Edge goes next, but walks into a clothesline. Back to Flair, who goes after the broken hand, and Batista joins in the fun. I’m not sure I understand JR’s objection to them doing that – Edge is wearing a CAST on his hand, what does he want them to do, ignore it? It’s like when DDT would wear rib tape every week and the announcers would get all shocked when someone hit him there. Edge fights back, however, and gets a leg lariat Back to Benoit, who chops away and backdrops Flair again, and then knocks Batista off the apron too. Snap suplex into a Sharpshooter, but he releases long enough to suplex Batista, and then takes Flair down into a crossface. Benoit is so in the zone right now. HHH runs in and breaks it up, however, drawing Benoit’s attention long enough for Flair to poke him in the eyes. Batista adds the MAIN EVENT SPINEBUSTER and we take a break. At this point, the tech guys at the soundboards switch the monitors over to the hockey game on CBC, and leave it there for the rest of the show. I shit you not. Back with the champs in control (you didn’t miss much – Batista getting the bearhug and the heels switching off, basically) and Batista pounding Benoit down on the mat. Back to the bearhug, but Benoit fights out, only to walk into an elbow that gets two. HHH adds an elbow from the outside and Batista goes to a choke on the mat while the crowd chants for Bret. Benoit fights out with an evil backdrop suplex, but Flair gets the tag first. Benoit backslides him for two. Flair throws chops, but Benoit goes to the rolling germans and chops him down, hot tag Edge. He backdrops people and clotheslines Flair, but Batista tries a powerbomb, which results in Benoit breaking it up and going up. HHH pulls him down and pounds him on the floor, but Shawn runs out and gets rid of him with a superkick, allowing Edge to spear Batista to win the tag titles at 18:04. See, now that’s how to revive Edge – let him do the hot tag thing while Benoit carries the workload. And let the “Benoit is overpushed” backlash begin! Hell, I’ve been waiting like 10 years to be forced into dealing with it! I’m so ready! ***3/4
Later that night…
We headed over to the Whiskey to catch Fozzy, and it was an interesting setup because they had the game playing on screens over the stage. The opener sucked but the place was empty anyway. So Fozzy is playing and the game goes on, and it’s a pretty cool set, and then the really surreal stuff started happening. Jericho had worn a Flames jersey onto the stage, and as the set was 90 minutes old, he admitted that the band had run out of material to play and now they were just fucking around waiting for the Flames to win. It was 2-1 Flames late in the third by that point. Earlier, Edge and Matt Hardy had wandered into the mosh pit with us, and Brian Christopher danced a bit on stage, but pussed out on singing. So they start doing a cover of “TNT”, and Jericho starts introducing wrestlers as they delay while the game wraps up. So you’ve got Jericho, Edge, Hardy, Christopher, Shelton Benjamin, Lita, Stacy, Nidia and Lillian Garcia all up there fucking around…and the Canucks score with 2 seconds left in the game. Jericho is just totally buzz-killed (I tried consoling him by flipping him off after he started a “fuck the Canucks” chant earlier, but it didn’t work). So they go into OT, with the Flames still on the PP and the Canucks missing Bertuzzi AND their #1 goaltender (just saying), and Gelinas scores to win the series. The place went crazy and Jericho finished the song (which by this point was nearing 30 minutes long) with all the WWE guys helping to sing. He had to feed Lillian the words for her turn, because she didn’t know them.
Fozzy were actually a very capable rock band, and Jericho has an undeniably cool stage presence and rapport with the crowd, although I really don’t dig their actual SONGS. They were at their best covering other material (like “Eat the Rich” and “Livewire”), and it made for a really good show overall.
So having been previously promised a picture with Edge at some nebulous time after the show, we start going after the wrestlers for pictures, and keep losing them to the crowd, before it gets down to our only chance being either Shelton or Nidia. Shelton gets taken to the back as well for the private party, and since Nidia is just scraping the bottom of the barrel, we give up and go home.
However, that proved to be more difficult than originally planned, because we’re in downtown Calgary and the place is RIOTING. Fans are going nuts in the streets and the streets are clogged with parked cars and partying fans…and Dave decides to join in. So Zen (an Oilers fan) and I (a Canucks fan) are trapped in this car as he stops at EVERY INTERSECTION and jumps out of the car to celebrate, and finally after nearly another half an hour, we make it off of 17th and back to Zen’s place to recover, and here we are with me back in Edmonton two days later and detailing the whole adventure for y’all.
So for those who think that nothing interesting ever happens in Calgary, there you go.
The Bottom Line:
While I wasn’t into the show live, it made for some really good TV, setting a further escalation of the Benoit/friends v. Evolution feud and really cementing him as a top guy who’s comfortable in his spot. And with HHH off to make movies for the next six months, why not let him run with the ball? Ratings aren’t going down and buyrates are going up, so he’s as good a choice as anyone.
Big thumbs up from me this week, although sitting in attendance for it was a much different experience.