The day has finally arrived. The return of Jean Paul Levesque, aka Hunter Hearst Helmsley, aka HHH, aka Triple H, aka The Game, aka the guy who dumped his girlfriend in order to scoop the bosses daughter and bring himself untold backstage clout and personal success, aka a man who served as the best monster heel of late 2000 and early 2001 until his injury shelved him for the past 8 months.
Like him or hate him, you have to have missed him all this time. I must say, I certainly did. Now, granted, I have heard all the "HHH holds the young guys down because he wants to preserve his spot at the top" arguments. And yeah, there's likely a lot of truth there, but how many among us can say that they wouldn't (or haven't) done the same thing to preserve our own career? Of course that doesn't make it right, but I can see his reasoning.
I guess what we all need to remember here is that HHH has risen to the top for more than just banging Vince's little girl. He's a talented wrestler who's dynamite on the stick and he knows how to whip the crowd into a frenzy without insulting the local sports team. He paid his dues, proved his mettle in the arena of sports entertainment, and I daresay he belongs where he is now.
The question now is "Where does HHH fit in the current WWF scheme?" Jericho is the undisputed champion who's next defense will be against the Rock at the Royal Rumble. In all probability, Jericho will retain the title there and, if my instincts are correct, HHH is going to want his shot at the gold ASAP and he will need to go through Jericho to do it.
Now Jericho and HHH are not strangers in the squared circle, but this time we have a definitively heel and dominating Jericho. By association, HHH will need to play the face in this encounter. A new dynamic? Sure. Will it happen? I say it has to.
How can they possibly have built up HHH's return so much and not expect the crowd to cheer him when he gets back. I think any attempt to turn heel will be fruitless, at least right now. He needs some time before he can get the crowd to boo him.
So what's my prediction? Well, I think we can expect HHH to turn on his wife and join the Flair camp right now, if only to get his shot at the World Title. Once he has the gold, expect a reunion and a heel turn.
But that's just me. I guess the most we can hope is that we don't get a dozen shots of the parking lot before HHH finally makes a brief, yet "impactful," appearance at the end of the show.
There are also rumors that we may see consummate politician and Clique member Kevin Nash appear in the WWF sometime soon. Some are even hinting that it could happen tonight. I just have one thing to say about that. Without Scott Hall, who gives a rat's ass about Kevin Nash? It has to be The Outsiders or nothing at all, as far as I am concerned. Seriously, what can Nash alone really give us that we don't already have? With Hall by his side, the Outsiders could really punch up a very weak Tag Team division. Maybe the WWF has more than one surprise in store for us in the coming weeks.
Well, it's time to find out! Here we go!
The Good Bad and Ugly for RAW, Televised on 1/7/2002
GOOD: The crowd obviously has missed HHH. The moment U2 starts up, we get a monster pop. Hard to compete with those numbers.
GOOD: You gotta love the MSG crowd. They are always a little louder, a little more energized, and a little more jacked than any other crowd in North America.
HUH? Vince has a shiner there? What's the matter? Did Linda catch him with his pants down in front of a hot blonde again? Jesus, I hope that blonde wasn't HHH!
BAD: Vince is out first. Naturally, we need to have a McMahon steal the thunder of a wrestler's heat.
BAD: What? What? What? I wish these crowds would get with the program. It's funny, and appropriate when Austin is in the ring, but when anyone else is cutting a promo, it's annoying. You don't hear people shouting "if you smell what the Rock is cooking" when Jericho is cutting a promo, do you?
GOOD: Vince mentions, and shows some of Flair's greatest moments. Gotta love that stuff. Hey! Is that surfer Sting? Harley Race? Arn Anderson? Vader? Macho Man? Hogan? Luger? Some jobbers?
UGLY: Vince's eye. If he really had stitches inside and out, may I say....ewww?
UGLIER: Vince dressing as Flair? I guess you can tell that HHH is back and Nash is on the payroll again. Vince seems to be pulling a few tricks out of the old 1997 hat.
GOOD: Flair. Period. Nuff said.
INTERESTING: Why is it that whenever Vince tries to do something humorous, he comes across looking like a total jackass? Maybe he's just not built for comedy. Yeah, that's definitely it.
GREAT: Flair cutting a promo...he really gets into it. His face gets all red and his voice rises an octave or two. Nobody acts pissed off like Naitch.
GOOD: That pipe was well concealed. I have to give props for that one.
GOOD: Flair blades. Nobody wears the crimson mask like the Nature Boy.
BAD: Too bad he doesn't wipe the blood through his hair, that always seems to make it look just a little bit nastier.
WEAK: Vince's kick to Flair through the ropes. Don't accidentally hurt him, Vince.
BAD: Moments ago. We JUST SAW IT! Is it necessary to ram this shit down our throats?
BAD: One commercial, no HHH.
GOOD: Rob Van Damn's popularity. As long as they push him slowly, but methodically enough, he will continue to rise to the highest levels in the WWF.
GOOD: Test's push. I always though that he was one guy that we should see in the upper card. He's like Kevin Nash 15 years ago, only more agile. All he needs is a personality and he can go far.
GOOD: Test's delivery of power moves. He looks clean tonight.
FUNNY: RVD points to himself during a chant, despite the fact that Test had a reverse chinlock applied. Nice touch, Rob.
BAD: So Test shoves the ref a few times here and there. Is that really all that shocking? He has total immunity from being fired! I'd think that there's better ways to exploit his advantage than having him do something that wrestlers have been doing for 25+ years.
GOOD: RVD goes over semi clean and doesn't sacrifice his heat with any lame ass post-match beatdown. Yes, there was a chair involved in his win, but isn't there always?
BAD: Coach in the parking lot. This means we wait all night for HHH to show up.
GOOD: Angle in the background. I love his pissed off tantruming. (Is that a word? My spellcheck says it isn't!) Thank GOD he's a heel again. I still shudder when I think of that milk truck spot.
GOOD: No Lita or the Hardy boys for a while. Have I mentioned how much I hate "Team Extreme" lately? Well, I do. When they come back, I will tell you how much.
BAD: I tried to like Trish Stratus, I really did. Yeah, she's got a great rack, but her in-ring ability can stand some work and don't get me started on her mic skills (or lack thereof).
BAD: Frigging Lawler. You're a caricature of yourself from 4 years ago. I hated his crap then and I hate it even more now. Hasn't he been watching RAW the past few months? Didn't he see how well Heyman was doing and how he raised the bar for color commentators in this federation? Obviously not because Jerry is spewing the same lame ass bullshit that he has always spewed. Please, just let the definition of the word "puppies" be "baby dogs" again.
GOOD: I'll take a wet t-shirt contest. Who wouldn't. It's better than a Terry vs. Trish match.
EGADS: Chuck and Billy? Didn't these guys learn from Lenny and Lodi that ambiguously gay duos that are entirely too gay without actually saying they are gay simply doesn't work.
BAD: Any reference to Chuck pulling out his hose. We don't need it, really.
IRONIC: That Scotty 2 Hotty is competing against a supposedly gay tag team. Wasn't he in "Too Much"? Hmmmmm?
BAD TASTE: The falling on the testicles spot Gunn and Palumbo did. We all GET IT! There's nothing quite as lame as playing the alternate lifestyle card with all the subtlety of a Mack truck careening into a dumpster.
BAD: Does anyone else realize that 90% of Scotty's offense involves him dancing around like an asshole?
GOOD: Another clean win. I can dig it.
WHY...is Jericho still carrying both titles? Unifying the titles means you have one...unify...get it?
BAD: Charmel Sullivan? Paisley was a decent wrestler with potential. Do we really need another idiot roaming around backstage with a microphone?
GOOD: Jericho's promo. The man is hot right now...let's just hope HHH doesn't extinguish the flames.
SPEAKING OF IDIOTS... It's Michael Cole.
GOOD: What? What? What? Here it works. Why? Austin is cutting a promo. This is where it belongs.
WHODA THUNK...that Austin would have gotten one word over as a catchphrase? Sheesh. When you got it, you got it.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING: HHH returns in time to face off against a heel Jericho, who, it could be argued, was partly responsible for causing HHH's injury 8 months ago. I mean, he did apply the Walls of Jericho after the muscle tear. I wonder if they will spin the angle that way.
BAD: Three commercials and still no HHH. Sigh.
AH HELL: Lawler is involved in the wet t-shirt contest. Yay. We get to hear his nasal screaming again...hemlock anyone?
BAD: Is it me or has Edge's career seemed to stall lately? Yeah, he's got the IC title, but does anyone really care about him?
GOOD: Lance Storm. Great in the ring, good gimmick, and decent on the mic. I hope he goes over tonight.
BAD: True to form, the announcers are busy talking about the wet t-shirt competition and Jericho's upcoming match with Rikishi and are ignoring the action in the ring.
GOOD: Another clean win.
BAD: I blinked and missed it. Let me guess, we need to spend precious minutes on a Stephanie promo and half a dozen "moment's ago" clips later on and can't give these two guys more than 2 minutes to actually entertain us.
GOOD: Regal is back. Now I am interested in Edge.
BAD: During the "Slam of the Week," did Lawler call Austin a "rabid rattlesnake"? Can snakes get rabies?
GOOD: Dueling whiners in Christian and Angle.
FUNNY: Angle claiming he tears his quadriceps every every day. I bet you laughed too. You did. Admit it.
GOOD: Booker T in the WWF.
BAD: He needs to win a little bit more. If he is to be believable as a monster heel, he kinda needs to get more definitive victories.
GOOD: Nice shot of Lillian there. Gotta love her wardrobe...and her legs.
BAD: A good 2 minutes into the match and the heels have yet to assert themselves in any way, shape, or form.
BAD: Does the crowd have to shout "What?" between every frigging move? My tastes on this particular catchphrase is very specific, as you can see.
GOOD: JR's reaction to Bossman using a foreign object on the Rock: "Enough is enough with these nightsticks." Lawler's reply: "Yeah he should use a lead pipe like Vince did."
GOOD: The story being told here. In spite of Ray Traylor's presence, this is a decent match.
WOW: Rocky using knife edge chops! Gotta admit, the guy seems to learn a little more with every new opponent.
COOL: Austin as a house of fire. It looked sloppy but it also looked like a real brawl...classic Austin.
GOOD: Yet another clean win. Holy crap! What's going on here?
LIGHTWEIGHT: Rocky poured more of the beer on his chest than he did into his mouth.
UGLY: Jericho's lame ass dyed red ponytail. What's that all about? Is red supposed to be equated with evil? If that's the case, Kane is the federation's top heel right now.
BAD: Rikishi. His heel turn didn't work. His return to face status is clouded with no real direction. Is he even still over anymore or are people just interested in having heels get their faces shoved into the crack of his ass? I shudder to answer this question.
LET'S JUST HOPE...that Jericho brings out the best in him.
GOOD: Evil referee Nick Patrick. He's one of the few WCW holdovers who is being utilized to his full potential.
GOOD: Jericho goes all old school and tears the padding off the security wall before sending Rikishi in face first.
HARSH: Rikishi's impressive sidewalk slam on Jericho. I love that move.
GOOD: Jericho slithers out of the way to allow Patrick take the stinkface. Nice spot. Very nice indeed.
EH: Tainted win but I can live with it. I liked the choreography of this match.
DAMMIT: Still no HHH. I knew they'd make us wait all night long. Leeching bastards. His return better be good.
BAD: I heard tell that "The Scorpion King" was delayed due to the need to reshoot a number of the scenes...and by "a number," I mean most of them. That does not bode well.
BAD: The Big Show kissing HHH's ass. How about we just bring the guy out and stop sucking up to him?
GOOD: Angle actually makes a point about HHH making everyone miserable before he got hurt. It's about time someone said it.
BAD: We have to watch the opening Flair/McMahon sequence again. We have already seen it twice and heard about it all night long. Enough is enough. How about we cut the recap and give Edge and Storm another two minutes in their match?
GOOD: The Dudleys, Spike, and Tazz get all ECW on us.
BAD: Tazz lays down a challenge and that moment, JR announces that there will be a hardcore tag team title match next. Don't they need to sign a contract or something before the titles are put up for grabs? I mean, a simple backstage skirmish can suddenly become a title match because one of the guys on commentary says so? Well, nobody ever said sports entertainment was consistent.
GOOD: I still love Tazz's theme song.
BAD: He still looks like one of those walking M&M guys from the commercials.
COUGH: Gonna be a smoky match with all that pyro going off during the entrances.
GOOD: Spike Dudley takes a turnbuckle toss chest first. I always loved when Brett Hart did that.
BETS? On when Stacy gets her skirt pulled down (or up)? Why doesn't she just pose nude and get it over with? It's obvious that's what she wants, regardless of what she says in her interviews.
FUNNY: Good moment when Stacy distracts her own teammate with her ass long enough for Tazz and Spike to get a clean win and the Tag Team titles. I'll tell you, I was not expecting that outcome.
GOOD: Undertaker talking trash to HHH. He manages to maintain his own current storyline and attitude while addressing The Game's return and hyping the Royal Rumble.
GOOD: The Royal Rumble seems to have a few top card guys competing. HHH, Austin, and Undertaker already seem to be signed up. I am willing to bet that Angle will be in it too. Could well be something of a mystery who will actually win.
BAD: Wet t-shirt contests traditionally have the competitors wearing white shirts. Yet again, the WWF fails to provide us with that "attitude" they have become so infamous for in the past 10 years or so. I have said it before and will say it again, shit or get off the pot. Either do it right and take the heat or don't do it at all. Putting the girls in pink shirts is pointless...well looking at Terri with a wet grill, almost pointless.
UGH: The King's incessant sexual innuendos, which are capped by him pumping the water gun while it's between his legs. Is this really supposed to be funny? I have a different definition for his actions -- juvenile.
AYYY: They promote the crap out of a wet t-shirt contest and use a hokey run-in to renege on what they promised for the past hour. Would it have hurt them to have Jazz punk Trish out after the contest was done?
AH WELL: I guess this whole segment was a complete waste of time from the start anyway and I should be glad that it ended sooner than expected.
YET AGAIN: We get to see what just happened. It just happened!!!
FINALLY: HHH makes his appearance.
BAD: He's wearing his trademark leather jacket and denim vest. I was hoping to see just how big he is now. Considering he's spent the last 6 months pumping his upper body up and up...I was curious to see just how large he has gotten.
GOOD: Monster pop, folks.
BAD: I get the feeling that his heat will soon be sucked by a McMahon...likely Stephanie. Place your bets.
BAD: Little too much posing for my tastes...
GOOD: ...although I suppose he's earned it.
GOOD: Angle interrupts HHH, not Stephanie. I can live with that.
GOOD: The crowd singing "you suck" to Angle's theme song.
GOOD: HHH is huge. Holy schmoley.
ACH! Easy now HHH! Don't re-injure yourself.
GOOD: Angle gets beaten down definitively by HHH, no McMahons interrupt his comeback. Simple and classy return...although I could have stood a longer promo from The Game.
OVERALL: A pretty decent show. Mostly clean wins and a title change that took me by surprise are always a good thing. HHH's return was simple, and a bit too short, but lacked interference from that harpy Stephanie, so I am not certain that I can complain all that much. Of course Mrs. Helmsley will be showing up very soon to cause all of our ears to bleed with her "look at me, I'm a shrieking self promoter with no real talent" promos, so her absence was a pleasant change from what we have all come to expect from her and her family. No sign of Kevin Nash, and I am also happy for that. If he is, in fact, on the roster, it's good that they held off on bringing him in right away. Baby steps now will avoid another "Alliance" type storyline that would just tank in a month.
Well, I hope I shook off the writing rust enough this week to get you all to check me out again next week. You know what would be cool? If you wrote to me to let me know how much you enjoyed/hated this column. Let me know what you thought. Questions? Comments? Four fingers of scotch? Write to me at email@example.com. All letters will be answered or shot at dawn.
I am Michaelangelo and will be for a while.Michaelangelo
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