The SmarK DVD Rant for the Best of RAW 15th Anniversary – Disc Three
– Onto the modern era, starting in 2003 now.
– From March 24 2003: The Rock gives us a solo concert in full heel mode, singing “Leaving Sacramento” and it’s absolutely hilarious. Even Rock sounds like he’s having too much fun to keep a straight face. Unfortunately Steve Austin was well past his expiration date at this point so the feud was little more than an afterthought to build up Rock for Goldberg, but Rock was just so over-the-top entertaining in any role he was in that it’s almost a shame he left when he did. The storyline here is also great, with Austin trying to lure Rock back to the ring with his autographed Willie Nelson guitar, and then smashing it.
– From June 23 2003: Kane loses to HHH and unmasks. The wig looks really obvious here. In retrospect the unmasking was inevitable and gave Kane a much wider range of facial expressions, but it also killed one of the few unique looks in wrestling. The whole heel turn afterwards was kind of blah as well.
– From July 5 2004: We skip ahead a whole year now, as Eugene plays GM and sets up a World title match by having people play musical chairs. Flair hitting on Stacy and then shoving her aside to take her seat is classic Ric Flair. Chris Jericho hits Tomko with the last chair to win, and went on to lose his IC title match against Randy Orton later in the night. This was funny and different, but I wouldn’t call it one of the best or anything.
– From August 16 2004: Randy Orton retains his World title against some guy, probably no one important, and then Evolution gives him the thumbs down and turns on him. This was of course completely ass-backwards because you can’t create a new babyface star by having the heels turn on him. Weeks of Orton jumping out of birthday cakes would be mercifully ended by HHH winning the belt the next month.
– From November 22 2004: Vince gets all edgy and relevant by spoofing the Nicolette Sheridan skit from Monday Night Football. This was dumb and ham-fisted and went over the heads of everyone who didn’t actually watch football while RAW was on. Which would be a good chunk of the audience, since they run head-to-head.
– From February 21 2005: They redo the Randy Orton turn with Batista and get it right this time, as Batista outsmarts the heels and turns on HHH, powerbombing him through a table and becoming a new star.
Shelton Benjamin v. Shawn Michaels
From May 2 2005. They do a wrestling sequence on the mat to start, and Shelton gets the better of that. They go back to the mat again and Shawn makes the ropes again. Shawn tries overpowering him this time, getting a hiptoss out of that, but Shelton suckers him in for a kick and a series of armdrags that have the old Shawn beginning to show. Shelton takes him down with a headlock, but evil Shawn comes out again and he forearms Shelton out of it. Shelton takes him out of the ring with a Cactus clothesline and we take a break. Back with Shawn hammering him on the top rope, but Shelton comes down on him with a bodyblock and both are out. Shawn fires away with chops, but walks into a samoan drop and Shelton fires away with rights. Vicious backbreaker gets two. Shawn comes back with the forearm and kips up, but so does Shelton, and they do a cool pinfall reversal sequence. Shawn throws the chops, but Shelton throws the stinger splash, so he wins. He fights for the exploder, but Shawn backdrops out of it and tries the superkick. That misses, so Shelton gets the dragon whip for two. They head up to the top and Shelton goes down first, and Shawn follows with the flying elbow. Shawn is bleeding internally, but the POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS HIM! Superkick is blocked again and Shelton gets his own, and that gets two. Shelton elbows him down and pops up to the top with a springboard clothesline, and that gets two. Those are some amazingly hot near-falls. Shawn tries tossing him, but Shelton hangs on with another springboard, and this time Shawn counters with the superkick and gets the pin at 14:54. That was some seriously high-quality professional wrestling, with a creative ending to boot. **** And that superkick looked nasty from every angle.
– From June 6 2005: The John Cena era begins. You had to know that Cena would take RAW over sooner rather than later, as his star power was getting too big for Smackdown. The feud against Jericho that he debuted with was less than successful. This was the point where the love-hate relationship with the fanbase really started for Cena, though. I’m pretty surprised they left Christian in here, though.
– From June 20 2005: The lovely wedding of Edge & Lita, complete with Lita’s ultra-classy dress and poetry from Snitsky. Ah, the good old days when he was just a babykiller instead of a foot fetishist. The Matt Hardy tease is pretty funny, although it kind of lessened the impact when it happened for real later on. Sadly, Edge and Lita never complete their vows, thanks to Kane. Trainwreck appeal alone makes this one of the better weddings on RAW. A pop-up notes that all of the weddings on RAW have ended in disaster. Indeed.
– From July 4 2005: The end of a tag match with Shawn & Hulk v. Carlito & Kurt Angle, as the babyfaces triumph and then Shawn almost redeems his bible-thumping by turning on Hogan and becoming the most awesome heel since, well, himself in 1997. Then he turned back and got boring again. Well, that’s wrestling for you.
– From August 22 2005: John Cena beats Chris Jericho and Chris gets fired from RAW forever. Or two and a half years, whichever comes first.
Iron Man match: Kurt Angle v. Shawn Michaels
From October 3 2005, aka RAW Homecoming. Shawn chops Angle down for two to start and gets a neckbreaker for two. They brawl outside for a bit and Shawn comes back in with the double axehandle, and that gets two. Angle fires back with forearms, but walks into a sleeper before escaping with a suplex. Kneelift and Angle pounds away on the mat, and a slam gets two. We hit the chinlock and Shawn escapes with a jawbreaker and backdrops Angle to the floor with a sick bump. Shawn follows with a baseball slide, but Kurt slickly turns it into an Angle Slam on the floor. Back in, Angle stomps away in the corner and then powerbombs Shawn into the turnbuckle for two. That move always terrifies me. Angle tries the superplex, but Shawn fights him off, so he turns it into an Angle Slam instead for the pin at 8:08. We take a break and return with four minutes gone by and Angle holding another chinlock. Shawn fights out and throws elbows in the corner, but misses a charge and hits the post. Kurt follows with a german suplex for two. Vertical suplex gets two. Shawn comes back with chops, but Angle whips him into the corner and tries another Angle Slam, which Shawn reverses into a sunset flip, but Angle reverses into the anklelock. Shawn rolls him up for the pin out of that at 11:18. So we’re tied at 1. Shawn gets a quick rollup for two, but Angle tosses him and sends him into the stairs, which gets two. Angle goes to a bodyscissors as the pace has really died off, and Shawn has to bite him to get out of that. Rollup gets two, but Angle pushes him off and turns it into the anklelock. Shawn won’t tap, so the heel hook finishes the third fall at 15:12. And then we REALLY jump during the break, with only six minutes left now. The commercials really kill the flow here. Shawn comes back with the flying forearm, but hurts his leg on the kip up, which is a nice touch. He fights back with slams and goes up with the flying elbow, which sets up the superkick for the pin at 17:18. Shawn chops away in the corner, but gets whipping into the corner and Angle Slammed for two. Another attempt is reversed by Shawn into a tornado DDT and it’s the double KO. Shawn gets two. Angle charges and hits boot, and Shawn gets the moonsault press, but Angle rolls through into another anklelock with time running out. Shawn again won’t tap, so it’s the heel hook with a minute left, well past the point when a real human being would have a broken leg. But it’s good drama, so what the hell. Shawn rolls him over and kicks out of the unkickoutable move, and the superkick hits as the time expires at 22:08 aired, for the draw. Kind disappointing, with commercial breaks and chinlocks slowing it down. ***
– Later in the Homecoming show: Steve Austin stuns Vince McMahon. Again. And Shane. And Stephanie and her giant cans. Linda comes out to talk sense into Steve and demands an apology, so they have a beer together and he gives her the worst stunner ever.
– From December 5 2005 : Bischoff on trial! Again, a video package rather than the actual segment. Vince’s line about the IPod is pretty funny, the rest is the usual level of humor for this show.
– From January 9 2006: Edge celebrates his WWE championship victory over John Cena by announcing the first ever live sex celebration with Lita. Although this was a REALLY high-rated segment, it falls into that trainwreck mentality, and it was really far over the line for what should be acceptable for prime time. Although Flair coming out and offering to show Edge how to please his woman mostly saves the segment.
– From June 26 2006: The reunited D-X strikes again, as HHH does his version of Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels portrays Shane. They have the mannerisms down, but there’s not really any good jokes past HHH pulling on his ear and Shawn dancing. And really, the “Stand Back” joke has already been beaten into the ground. Speaking of beaten into the ground, the real McMahons come out to protest, and get poop dumped on them. HILARITY!
RAW World title: Rob Van Dam v. Edge v. John Cena
From July 3 2006. Rob got caught with pot, so we get this match. Cena and RVD take turns beating on Edge in the corner to start, and Cena gets a suplex before tossing him. We take a break and return with RVD kicking Cena down in the corner and setting up for a superplex, but Edge dumps Cena and rolls up RVD for two. Rob gets his own rollup for two and superkicks Edge into a cartwheel moonsault for two. Cena pulls Edge out and introduces him to the stairs, and RVD hits Cena with a pescado to follow. Back in, RVD gets two on Cena. Cena tries the F-U, but Edge breaks it up and lays out RVD. Cena tries to suplex Edge, but RVD comes off the top with a bodypress on both of them. Cena & Edge team up with a double spinebuster on RVD, but they turn on each other with a clothesline and everyone is out. JR gets indignant about the ref counting when it’s one fall to a finish, but he was also talking about how one guy could be eliminated earlier so really he’s got no reason to talk. Rob gets dumped and Cena clotheslines Edge to come back, and you can’t see him. Five knuckle shuffle, but Edge blocks the F-U. Lita comes in with a chair and takes the F-U in Edge’s place, but that allows RVD to get the Van Daminator. Frog splash follows, but it misses and it’s an F-U for RVD. Edge lays out Cena with the belt and pins RVD to win the title at 8:28. The image of the kid with his mouth open in shock became something of an internet staple soon after, and Edge leaving Lita in pain to continue his celebration is a totally in-character move for him. Decent three-way, although they’ve all had better matches with each other in various combinations. ***
Shawn Michaels v. Edge
From January 22 2007. This is a street fight, as we’re now into the D-X v. Rated RKO feud. Shawn beats Edge down with his belt to start, and grabs some chairs from under the ring. Trashcan to the head, but Edge comes back with the chair and we take a break. Back with Shawn bleeding and Edge hitting him with various items, including a ladder to the arm for two. He sets up for a powerbomb onto the ladder, but Shawn slugs out of it and they do the big slugfest. Shawn kips up and chokes Edge out with a chain in the corner, and now we have double juice. Shawn slams him on the ladder and heads up, but Edge follows and they fight for the superplex. Edge goes down onto the ladder as a result and Shawn hits him with the flying elbow and goes for the superkick, but Edge almost kinda turns it into an electric chair, or least enough of one to slow him down. Edge tries the spear, but Shawn counters that and then follows with a good old chair to the face before putting Edge’s head on a chair and setting up for the Conchairto. However, Randy Orton pops in with an RKO, and Edge gets the pin at 11:07. Kind of an anti-climactic finish, but it was some good blood-and-guts grudge match action. ***1/4
– And finally, from October 5 2007, Vince McMahon holds a ceremony to congratulate Randy Orton on winning the RAW World title from HHH, but Shawn Michaels returns and superkicks him.
Ugh. No wonder I stopped watching the show. I don’t even remember HEARING about half the stuff on this disc, and many of the truly great moments and matches are missing because of the elephant in the room, Chris Benoit. I mean, stuff like the musical chairs and Shawn Michaels’ return are just head-scratching. And does Brock Lesnar no longer exist? Why is Vince McMahon so terrified of acknowledging past stars? He owns ALL THE FOOTAGE.
So in summary, the first disc is great with some rare, high-quality matches. The second disc is a pretty good look at the Russo years, but lacks some footage and features too many video packages in place of the actual segments, and the third disc is a steaming pile by comparison to the first two. It’s probably worth a recommendation if you don’t have WWE 24/7, but I’d actually track down the original “Best of RAW Volumes 1 & 2” DVD set on Ebay for a better look at the glory years.