In Vince McMahon’s vision of professional wrestling that he calls “sports entertainment”, less is more. Less in-ring action, that is. WWE programming is overloaded with backstage segments, unfunny comedy, feuds fought primarily on the microphone, supposedly sexy scenes highlighting the “Divas”, and immature toilet humor. What’s missing, you might ask? Wrestling. There’s often little-to-no focus on the actual wrestling matches. On the 21 August episode of RAW however, WWE offered some fairly exciting wrestling action. Imagine that.
TODAY’S ISSUE: Actual Wrestling on a Professional Wrestling Program
I’ll admit I was pleasantly surprised last Monday night, as the wrestling itself made more of an impression on me than all the other ga-ga Vince loves to dish out. There were no classic matches or incredible performances, but pound-for-pound, there was more crisp, energetic action inside the squared circle than I expect from a WWE show. And that’s a good thing.
In a short match that inspired this column, Johnny Nitro defended his Intercontinental Championship against Kane, before Umaga so rudely interrupted. Although the match was brief, Nitro showcased some innovative, exciting, and intelligent hit-and-run offense against the Big Red Machine. The IC Champ was like Vince Vaughn and company; he dodged, ducked, dipped, dove, and uh… dodged. Nitro got a chance to showcase his athleticism, ring savvy, cunning, and a game plan to avoid the trap of wrestling Kane’s match at Kane’s pace. Had this match not been thrown out so early, it would have been interesting to see how long Nitro could have maintained that tempo, and how many more creative escapes he could have pulled from his bag of tricks. This was an entertaining bit of in-ring action.
Also, I love the idea of a champion being intelligent enough to modify his strategy to fit the challenger. Nitro refused to make the mistake so many wrestlers have made before him, namely, the pitfall of attempting to match power with Kane. I’d like to see (I can’t believe I’m typing this, since I normally can’t stand Kane) another showdown between these two, to see what else Nitro has up his sleeve.
After failing to kill the legend of Hulkamania one night earlier at SummerSlam, Randy Orton sought another legend with whom he could notch his belt. The man Orton chose was none other than the Nature Boy, Ric Flair. Unfortunately for Flair, he’d been in a hardcore war at SummerSlam against Mick Foley, and was looking worse for wear. Even with his face covered in bruises and bandages, Flair gutted it out to give Orton a run for his money, but ultimately fell victim to the RKO for the pinfall. This was another solid contest, and more than acceptable for a regular television match. Kudos to Creative, for giving the fans something worth watching for a change.
Also, when an incensed Orton continued to pound the Nature Boy even after he won the match, the referee was forced to reverse his decision and award the match to Flair. This led to even more anger erupting from the Legend Killer, and when Carlito came out to assist Flair and avenge the insults he received from Orton earlier in the evening, even THAT action was entertaining, hard-hitting, and exciting to watch. I had to wonder if I was actually still watching a WWE show at that point.
The IWC has written many a derogatory word about Jeff Hardy, but I’ll admit I was pleased the Charismatic Enigma appeared healthy, coherent, alert and motivated in his return to the WWE. Hardy actually seemed to care about his performance in the ring, and I can’t remember the last time I could say that. If this second chance turns out to be the impetus for Hardy getting his life back together, getting truly cleaned up, and rediscovering his love for pro wrestling, that’s terrific. If not, he’ll self-destruct before all our eyes once again, and the fireworks will happen live on Monday nights. So we’ve got that going for us.
Also, seeing Hardy and Edge square off brought back many fond memories of the much-ballyhooed feud between The Hardyz, the Dudleyz, and Edge & Christian. If Hardy really has come to perform, he and Edge could work some great matches, like TLC, before this feud is put to rest.
There was also an 8-man tag team match featuring the Spirit Squad against Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Eugene, and the Highlanders. Although I desperately want to see Nick Dinsmore get a makeover, I hate the 1980’s-ish Highlanders gimmick, and I can’t fathom why Duggan’s on the RAW roster at this point, at least the 8-man format allowed the action to keep moving quickly. I liked the Spirit Squad’s tandem assisted standing moonsault, and the Highlanders’ double-team slingshot reverse-flapjack that scored their team the victory.
Also on the card this night was a women’s match between Trish and Victoria, the two best (or should I say only?) female wrestlers on the WWE roster. I can’t stand Diva crap, but I like women’s wrestling, and this match delivered the action and intensity. It’s going to be sad when Trish leaves the business to pursue a more normal life.
The Foley-Melina-McMahon Kiss My Ass Club angle was a nice seasoning of pro wrestling antics to close out the show. Just when it seemed Melina and Foley were turning face together, Melina solidified her heel status and turned on Foley.
Although the sportz entertainment-to-wrestling ratio was still a bit high for my tastes (especially with all the DX “marking their territory” segments), this edition of RAW provided a bit of enjoyable in-ring action, and put some focus on that elusive second “W” from the company’s name. I hope they keep it up.
For more on the wild world of professional wrestling, check out Eric Szulczewski’s Ring Of Honor, Opinions, Etc., Douglas Smith’s TNA: In the Zone, Matthew Gardner’s The Gospel of Wrestling: According to Matthew, and David Ditch’s Puroresu Pulse, issue 81.3.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.
p.s. – Why does round pizza come in a square box?