Justin Shapiro



What is that old children's saying adage tale from the sea? "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; fool me three times, shame mcmahon." (That's not really how it goes.) When Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit won the tag titles in San Jose and (false) started their main event push, I was certain that the post-WrestleMania slide was over and that the WWF was back to being an unstoppable dynasty. It wasn't. When they shot the angle in Atlanta that turned WCW heel and reformed ECW, I was certain that the invasion angle was saved and that the interpromotional feud would turn business around. Didn't happen. Now here we go again, with Ric Flair coming in and the topcard being reshuffled. So far, so great, but as the last two supposed turnarounds have proven, the most important part is the follow-up.

That being said, it was one hell of an angle and a very smooth transition, pushing the reset button and dramatically changing the direction of the product without blowing everything up. Raw was way lacking in the wrestling department (it needed a Rock vs. Angle match the caliber of 3-12-01 and didn't get one) and very oversaturated in the Vince McMahon department (his ass ... can do tricks). However, with their roster, I'll totally give them the benefit of the doubt, and creatively, I'll give them a chance - Monday's Raw was the first time in months where when it was over, I was already looking forward to the next show. Raw did a 4.8 rating, a remarkable spike dudley of some .7 points up from last week's 4.1. The key, of course, is putting on good TV next week and not re-alienating the returning audience.

Flair accepted a buyout on his Time Warner contract at, I assume, 50 cents on the dollar for a deal worth $800,000 that ran through February 2003. The WWF would be paying the other half of the $800,000 as part of whatever deal they agreed upon. The long-term plans for Flair involve the splitting of the WWF into two separate promotions/touring groups with an equal division of the roster (not on WWF/Alliance sides), one side appearing on Raw and the other appearing on Smackdown. There's no set date for these plans; the split could happen as soon as January, although that doesn't seem very logical just two months before WrestleMania. At some point, Flair will bring back the Alliance members that the WWF still has plans for. You should be able to figure out who those people are, or aren't, based on the last three months of TV, although splitting into two touring crews would make a lot more jobs available for guys who are probably in danger of being cut.

Jerry Lawler's return after a nine-month absence was just the right move at the right time under the right circumstances on the right show. Lawler was booked to return on 7/9 in Tacoma as part of the WCW announce team with Scott Hudson (originally Joey Styles, but that's another story), but backed out at the last second when Vince changed his mind on letting Stacy Carter accompany him to the ring. The angle for his return and Paul Heyman's exit was perfectly executed. Heyman did a great job as color commentator, but with the stipulations coming out of Survivor Series, there was no better time to bring back Lawler. Jim Ross mentioned on Raw that Tazz had be re-signed by the WWF as a Smackdown announcer, though I don't see why Lawler shouldn't return to that role (seeing as how Tazz isn't very good) unless they want each show to have different announce teams for an eventual split. Heyman could eventually return to do color on Smackdown, but I think he'd be far more valuable as a heel manager.

Despite the the disappointing buildup to the Survivor Series and the abysmal failure of the Alliance storyline ("the worst invasion in the history of wrestling, and maybe the history of warfare as well" - Bryan Alvarez), the main event 10-man tag was a great 45-minute match booked to near-perfection. The match incorporated almost every (reasonable) booking suggestion I'd seen on the internet and still never came across as overbooked.

The Greensboro crowd was far from capacity, but their enthusiasm really helped some matches that you would expect to struggle from a heat standpoint. The best part was the opening that incorporated every single WWF logo from over 50 years as a revolutionary force in sports entertainment. Would've been nice if WCW/ECW had some sort of representation but that was the problem with the whole angle, huh? J.R. and Heyman bickered throughout their last night together, pretty amusing at some times and kind of annoying at others. Best line was Ross telling Heyman that Jim Cornette could replace him. See, because Paul E. and Cornette have real life heat. Here is a numbered list of the matches:

1. Christian beat Al Snow to retain the European Title. Christian has dyed his hair red, although he may have done that a while ago and I'm only just noticing now. Defending the Euro belt in the opening match against Al Snow is not really where I expected Christian to be two months removed from turning on Edge. Christian wins a good match with the Unprettier.

2. William Regal beat Tajiri in a criminally short match. They're getting Regal over as an evil badass, which is nice, but at the expense of Tajiri, which wouldn't be so bad if Tajiri wasn't the guy who everybody destroyed to get heat. Regal pinned Tajiri after a, what is it, a butterfly powerbomb? Then he gave one to Torrie Wilson.

3. Edge beat Test to unify the Intercontinental and United States Titles. Super false finishes at the end. Edge turned the Bubba Bomb into a roll-up for the pin.

4. The Dudleys beat the Hardyz in a cage to unify the WWF and WCW Tag Team Titles. The match is played out but they can do a good match in their sleep in a cage or in a cage in their sleep. That cage doesn't taste like chocolate. Matt escaped and left Jeff inside, then Jeff had a chance to escape but instead decided to go for a swanton off the cage through a table onto D-Von. But he missed and the table exploded and Bubba pinned him. Matt's heel turn continues as it was revealed that he was in a ROOM with one Trish Stratus. I thought Trish liked Jeff, though she did kiss Matt first.

5. Test won the immunity battle royal. DIPLOMATIC IMMUUUUNITY. He beat up Scotty 2 Hotty and stole his spot. Funny spot where Stasiak got tossed right away. The Misfits in Action ran in. Tazz ran in to a good reaction. Billy Gunn was the last person eliminated.

6. Trish won the VI-Pac match for the Women's Title over Lita, Jacqueline, Ivory, Molly, and mystery entrant Jazz. Theoretically, you're supposed to put new people over right away so that the crowd cares about them, but realistically who gives two pieces of monkey crap about Jazz? Trish hit a neat-o springboardy bulldog to win, so I guess she'll go with heel Matt and Lita will chase her for the belt?

7. Team WWF beat Team Alliance. Vince gave an motivational speech to his team before the match and rattled off the names of a handful of dead wrestlers. Throughout this, the Rock hopped up and down nonstop for about five minutes because you can't stop CAN'T STOP the Rock from hopping up and down.

a. Shane McMahon pinned the Big Show after an Olympic Slam, axe kick, 5-star frog splash, and a top rope elbow.
b. Chris Jericho pinned Shane after a chokeslam, Tombstone, and Lionsault.
c. Rob Van Dam pinned Kane after a top rope kick.
d. Kurt Angle pinned the Undertaker after an Austin stunner. Austin had to drag Angle and put him on Taker, because if Angle was a double agent then it would have been stupid for him to eliminate people on the other team.
e. The Rock pinned Booker T. with a rollup.
f. Chris Jericho pinned Van Dam with the Breakdown.
g. Rock made Angle tap to the Sharpshooter.
h. Austin pinned Jericho with a rollup. Jericho then snapped and laid out Rock until Taker made him leave.
i. Rock pinned Austin with the Rock Bottom after Angle hit him with the WWF Title and one last fight between Earl Hebner and Nick Patrick.

Really well-booked. Every elimination was clean until the end, the good workers were kept in the longest, the strengths of the participants were played to, and Shane McMahon was utilized properly for the first time in months playing the cowardly heel and taking all the finishers. Chris Jericho's long-teased heel turn probably didn't have as much impact as desired since it didn't affect the outcome of the match, but the booking made sense within the context of what they were trying to accomplish overall. I wasn't too thrilled with Kurt Angle's double agent turn when it happened, although it repairs the logic gap he opened when he joined the Alliance, for two reasons: One, because I wasn't very eager to see him go back to babyface, and two, because I didn't think it made sense that he would fight hard for the entire match just to turn at the end. Raw alleviated both complaints, however, as Angle stayed heel and Edge provided an explanation that justified his actions in a way that made sense.

A superb match that was great when it came down to the final four and even greater when it came down to the final two. Rock and Austin have amazing chemistry together. It's strange that there won't be a face Rock vs. heel Austin PPV match, especially since they reneged on Austin's face turn in July in order to salvage that program, but whatever 'cause I need the old Stone Cold. Actually, the old Stone Cold's watch never told him that it was time to whip Vince McMahon's ass like it did on Monday night. That's not a bad thing :) :) :) :) :) :) :), that's a good thing. :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

Oh, and Martha Hart will be filing a lawsuit against Diana Hart and her Book because she says it "is filled with distortions, misstatements, and unjustified slurs that attempt to destroy the reputation of my family and me, and undermine the memory of Owen." My ooooold boss Jeremy Botter was really nice and sent me a copy of that book but I'm kind of scared to start reading it. Maybe I'll reread Foley is Good. I'll tell you who would make a good co-owner of the WWF and that is Bret Hart.

You know why this one was so hard to write? Because too many good things happened. It's all about the follow-up, but for now I will happily say whoo by god whoo by god fourteen time whoo by god sitdown fatboy whoo the consortium the consortium is ME.

It's whoo. It's damn whoo.

Justin Shapiro
[slash] Tuesday

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