December 14, 2003

After seeing how watchable a product Smackdown! was able to produce during this same time period, it’s time to check out the flip side of the coin and take a look at what sort of product that RAW was able to produce.

Booker T . . . looks to be as far away as possible from the worker he was as WCW Television Champion.

Rob Van Dam . . . may not be at the level of Chris Benoit, but carries Randy Orton to something watchable.

Goldberg . . . should have been thankful he didn’t lose his title the way most title match 3-way matches end.


Good Lord, this is a bad opener, and not just for the usual reasons of Booker being lazy and Henry being useless. Between the backstory with Henry having Booker’s number, and Booker’s history of back problems, there is more than enough for them to work with and tell a real story during the match, but any semblance of that actually taking place is purely coincidental. You can count the number of Booker’s non-kick offensive moves on one hand, and most of the kicks look sloppy. Henry isn’t bad when he’s actually working a hold, such as the bow and arrow or the bear hug, but anything else he does looks awful. He does something at one point and Lawler and Ross can’t even figure out if it was supposed to be an upside down bear hug, or a piledriver. Booker’s selling is all over the place, and he just makes comebacks whenever he feels the need do, there’s zero build to the Axe kick that finishes off Henry. This looked like a bad enough pairing on paper, but by wasting chances to actually take the match somewhere, they only make things worse.

ROB VAN DAM © vs. RANDY ORTON (WWE Intercontinental Title)

If Orton didn’t have to carry the bulk of the match, it had a shot at being pretty good, it’s watchable but thanks almost entirely to RVD. Orton’s actual character itself was very good, but his ring work left lots to be desired, and this match is as good example as any of that. Most of Orton’s part of the match has him holding RVD in a chinlock, reeling off a spot or two, and then going back to the hold. The only really notable spots that Orton brings to the match are the body scissors neckbreaker, the DDT, and the RKO that he uses for the win. Beyond that it’s long chinlocks and punch, kick, and choke stuff.

Thankfully, RVD is able to somewhat salvage the match. He takes sickening bumps from all three of Orton’s big spots, and sells them hugely afterwards. When RVD is in control of things, the match is miles more interesting as well. It starts off with a slow exchange on the mat and comes to a stalemate, and afterwards is a cute bit where Van Dam will dodge Orton’s strikes from a mile away and level Orton with various kicks. What really makes the match though is RVD’s selling. Van Dam does a much better job than Orton, of making Orton look credible. Along with the three sickening bumps he took, came some good selling from RVD, even an attempt at selling Orton’s long chinlocks. The overbooking with Flair and Foley that led to the RKO is typical WWE unneeded nonsense. It’d have been just as well to have RVD miss the Frog Splash, and get hit with the RKO that way, and explain it as RVD taking too long to get up to the top, at least that would give the idea that Orton had earned the title and could actually beat someone cleanly.


Despite all four showing some decent intensity at times, there’s precious little actual wrestling going on. The girls don’t really have anything they can believably use on the guys to any real advantage, and the few moves that are attempted, Lita’s monkey flip on Christian for instance, look ugly. On the flip slide, there isn’t much of anything that the guys can do to the girls that isn’t extremely basic, and doesn’t look like it’d kill them. So what we get is basically Lita and Trish flailing away, and Jericho and Christian more or less taking it, and doing as little as possible in return.

What Jericho and Christian really don’t do is put anything over, other than being surprised by the girls fighting back. Lita punts Christian right in the ribs and he barely even registers it. The only things that have any real effect are Lita’s rana on Christian, and Trish’s Chick Kick on Jericho, and neither even comes close to mattering. Lita and Trish are basically ping pong balls. Lita drops like a safe from charging into a simple elbow, and Jericho haphazardly pushing Lita into the guardrail more or less takes her out of the match. And when Jericho pushes Trish off from her attempted headstand rana, she basically splats. The ending works on some level, when you’ve got the hindsight of knowing where the angle was going, but it’s not terribly consistent with Jericho spanking Trish in the beginning, standing on Lita’s hair in the middle, and suddenly feeling sorry for Trish at the end, while Christian steals the win.



Honestly there isn’t anything here that really sets this aside from the opener. The big guy who’s not all that good spends a lot of time working on the back, and the past-his-prime worker, isn’t able to salvage things enough to even make this watchable. There isn’t anything Shawn can do to Batista aside from striking him. Anything else that Shawn does is the result of him catching Batista in a compromising position and taking advantage, for instance, the moonsault which comes after Batista put Shawn up top and Shawn elbowed Batista down.

The only real thing that puts this above Henry/Booker is that Batista is much better than Henry was at working the back. He pounds him with clubbing forearms, runs him into the stairs, and puts his spine buster to good use, the result of which is Shawn’s back being ‘as red as his tights’ according to Ross. But Shawn doesn’t put the back over to any significant degree. He grimaces a bit and hesitates before the moonsault, but that’s the only real nature of Shawn selling his back. He mostly sells like he’s KO’d, which isn’t necessarily bad, but then goes and does his stupid kip-up to flush that idea down the john, and proceeds to do it twice more after Batista has done even more damage. The finish with the powerbomb escape and superkick only further makes the rest of the match that much more worthless. And after Shawn hits the superkick he drops like a safe, as though he’s totally out of energy. It’d be easy to lay the blame on Batista for being not-that-good, but at least he attempted to tell a story in the match.

TAG TEAM TURMOIL (World Tag Team Titles)

Hurricane/Rosey vs. La Resistance isn’t really notable aside from a few spots. Namely, Hurricane botching an attempted plancha, and the various ways that Rosey can throw around the heels. And finally, the big splash from Hurricane that eliminates La Resistance, not that you could expect much more out of three minutes. Cade and Jindrak run in from the crowd and steal the win to eliminate the super heroes. Cade/Jindrak vs. Storm/Venis provides the best wrestling of the actual match. It starts off deliberately slow-paced, so the fans can get in their boring chants at Lance Storm, but then picks up nicely from there. Jindrak and Cade once again Cheat To Win. The Dudely Boys rough up Jindrak and Cade for a bit, and then both teams start to trade punches and kicks. Jindrak and Cade try to steal the win again, but get thwarted and 3D’d. The once nice touch about the Steiner/Test vs. Dudley portion is Bubba’s arm getting worn down, as it allows Steiner to do something other than suplexes for a time. Of course it eventually gets forgotten in favor of yet another pedestrian brawl, with the Dudley Boys coming out on top with the Bubba Bomb. Finally Bischoff announces the surprise entrants of Flair and Batista, and the Dudleys get destroyed in a hurry to give Evolution the gold.

MOLLY HOLLY © vs. IVORY (WWE Women’s Title)

This wasn’t much more than filler, but when Molly was bumping and selling for Ivory, this was acceptable filler. When Ivory has to return the favor, the acceptability takes a big nosedive. It starts out nice with Ivory taking Molly by surprise with a bunch of cradles, and a cross body press, and Molly does a nice job of making Ivory seem like a credible threat to the title. The only thing that Ivory puts over to any great degree is the dropkick to the knee that gave Molly her advantage, after that, the match is basically like watching Molly defend against a tackle dummy. It didn’t help that after a few minutes when Molly realized that she was more or less on her own, and she resorted to typical heel tactics like eye gouging, hair pulling, choking etc. Molly reversing one of Ivory’s cradles to her own for the win works on the level of being a better actual wrestler, but right after getting rammed into an exposed turnbuckle wasn’t the right time to take things in that direction. It’d be interesting to see how a Mickie James/Molly Holly match would turn out, but knowing WWE, it’d most likely be along the lines of the Mickie/Jazz match on the WWE/ECW special.

GOLDBERG © vs. KANE vs. TRIPLE H (World Heavyweight Title)

The booking here would seem incredibly stupid and shortsighted, if one didn’t have the benefit of hindsight. Goldberg had only been with the company since April, and he’d already more or less run his course. The only other real options left for him were ‘dream matches’ with Lesnar and Austin, neither of which necessitated Goldberg holding the title. As a result, the match, which more or less emasculates Goldberg, is more amusing than offensive. The work itself is nothing to get excited over. The first half is basically made up of punches and kicks, and the actual wrestling ranges from decent, to downright embarrassing at times. Kane, who’s been doing the chokeslam since almost the instant he made his debut, almost loses Goldberg in the midst of his chokeslam through the table, and it doesn’t break. Goldberg’s Gorilla Slam looks rather bad, and he badly telegraphs the fact that his attempted Jackhammer to Kane through the table isn’t going to work. Just about the only thing Goldberg does well is his spear, and his last one to HHH doesn’t look so hot either. And HHH, who has tons of experience working with Kane, really botches his trademark neckbreaker.

The one saving grace to this match is HHH’s stooging. It looks downright odd to see HHH and Kane working together, considering that HHH is the reason Kane is no longer masked, and that Kane cost HHH his rematch with Goldberg for the title. Yet here they are working together, HHH barks orders and even pats Kane on the back for a job well done. After Kane’s chokeslam fails to break the table, HHH finishes the job with an elbow, and then attacks Kane. HHH turning on Kane to take advantage doesn’t make HHH The Cerebral Assassin, it makes Kane The Big Red Retard. Petty arguments aside that does open the gate for the one tolerable part of the match, which is Kane beating the hell out of HHH, including a chokeslam on the ramp, and HHH doing all he can to bump and sell for Kane. And by the time they get back into the ring Goldberg is recovered, and it’s time for the run-ins from Evolution, culminating in Kane hitting Goldberg with his chokeslam, and Batista dragging Kane to the floor and holding them there so HHH can steal the pin. Not that the results of Orton/Van Dam and the Tag Team Turmoil match left any doubt as to who was leaving with the gold in the first place.

Conclusion: Wow. This is almost depressing, this PPV from what’s supposed to be the flagship show of the WWE, was totally spanked by two Smackdown! TV episodes. Aside from RVD/Orton there isn’t anything here worth watching, and Orton has had several decent matches since, a definite thumbs down rating for this show.