The Booking Report: Raw (August 18, 2003) vs. SmackDown (August 21, 2003)
After two weeks away from the glitz and glamour that is The Booking Report, I’m back and better than ever. Conveniently this week is also the final week of hype for the second biggest WWE show of 2003. Based on that, this week I’ll be rating the segments more so on how they promoted SummerSlam than anything else. That’s the tough part about booking these shows before the PPV. All the build has already been done for most of the matches, but you must have something intriguing happen so people buy the show. If you just phone in a show where nothing really has to happen, no one will be interested enough to tune in on Sunday night. I really don’t feel like doing an introduction this week since my column on August 15 was pretty much just a three page introduction to a column that didn’t exist. However, I did preorder ER on DVD for this Tuesday, so maybe I’ll do a review of that once I pick it up.
Raw August 18, 2003
Eric Bischoff explores his fascination with “Mature Women”
As if having Shane McMahon taking on Eric Bischoff at SummerSlam wasn’t bad enough, they had to add this to the mix. This altercation was disgusting on two levels. The first, and more obvious being the mere sight of Eric Bischoff kissing Linda McMahon. On top of that you have the concept of rape and all that fun stuff from a company that vows to do everything EXCEPT rape and murder. From now on when Linda hosts a press conference and gives the company line, what happens when someone asks her what she considered the segment between herself and Eric to be? Maybe this was OK since the rape was only implied. But what about the cameraman just standing by and watching a middle aged women get violated? Perhaps he ran off and called the authorities that then got to the house before Eric forced himself “into” Linda. Imagine her trying to explain that one at the next shareholders meeting. As far as I’m concerned, professional wrestling is no different than movies or TV when it comes to the ethical rules they should follow. I have no problem at all with rape angles, but when the company specifically says that it DOES NOT do rape there is quite a big conflict of interests.
So why did the segment get one point? At the very least it did in some fashion add much needed heat to the unanticipated match between Eric and Shane. Even if the match includes non-wrestlers and is guaranteed to suck, it is on the card and thus should be promoted like every other match. One other question popped into my head. With Eric Bischoff in Connecticut, why wasn’t Steve Austin running rampant all over the show? Sure he was in the main event, but what about when Shane ran off or when Kane kidnapped RVD?
Molly Holly vs. Trish Stratus – Women’s Title
It’s nice to see that Molly hasn’t jobbed the title to Trish yet. I also liked the shades of gray thing they are doing with Gail Kim’s character by having her punk out both Trish and Molly. That character did work well with Jazz, possibly since Jazz looks like a freakin’ monster. Gail Kim on the other hand looks like a toothpick. Also, turning Kim doesn’t take away from the fact that she still sucks and botches relatively common spots. I don’t see why they didn’t just send her down to OVW. It’s not like she had gotten so over to the point where ditching her may impact her heat once she returns. No one gave a shit about her. It would have been the perfect time to let her work on her in-ring skills. On top of that, there is no doubt in my mind that Molly, Trish, Victoria and Ivory could have carried this division in the meantime.
Those Damn Dudleys get what they deserve
The tag team division on Raw is just so uninspired that no matter what they do no one will be interested. Regardless, since they are keeping it around and there will be a match on SummerSlam, it needs to be hyped. I think that is the underlying theme on both Raw and SmackDown this week. Even though just about every match on that PPV will suck immensely, that is the card that they have selected and thus the matches need to have a decent build. Rob Conway’s turn came as a surprise to many, something that doesn’t happen all that often in wrestling anymore. Maybe WWE is using my idea of creating a new heel character that is booed because he believes in equality and acceptance of all races, genders, religions, and nationalities. It’s gold I tell ya. Of course the highest he would ever be on the card would be getting hit in the face by Spick Dudley with the American flag. You can’t win them all.
While we are on the topic of this xenophobic storyline, I know this 15 year old girl who watches wrestling. Just the other day we were talking and she says, “I hate the French.” She then asks me if I was French, after responding no she said good and laughed. Does anyone else see a problem with that?
Scott Steiner vs. Test – Stacy on the line
Here is that theme again, even though this feud sucks they don’t seem to be ending it any time soon so this is as good a way as any to keep it going. I really liked the fake injury stunt that Test played. Some people have a problem with WWE incorporating the dreaded X into angles, but when done properly and well I don’t have an issue with it. For instance, remember back several months ago when Jericho “hit” Stacy (the ringpost) with a chair? After which they were selling it as if she was on her deathbed. That I have a problem with because it looked so goddamn fake. This time however, Test looked like he actually could have injured his leg. Then again, most of the fans don’t even know/recognize the X seeing how no reaction followed the referee giving it. On the flipside, this means that this feud will go on for at least another month. How about someone goes back and looks up the first time Steiner and Test teamed together unwillingly? I’m curious as to just how long this program has been going on for. Also, what was with Rico being so interested in seeing Stacy’s dance?
Christian vs. Rob Van Dam – IC Title
Finally we get a competitive wrestling match for the Intercontinental Title. Of course it had a screwy finish, but what do you expect? Christian really doesn’t have the credibility to go over Van Dam and since they were fighting in Rob’s hometown (thus he couldn’t win), that finish was as good as any. Seriously though, Christian needs to work a program with someone and start defending his damn title without interference. At this point, the Intercontinental Title is about on the same level as the Women’s Title. Fuck that, the Women’s Title is probably more credible than it. At least Molly has the reputation as a wrestler who can hold her own in the ring.
I would have rather seen RVD cut a promo on Kane to build to their match since so far this feud has been ALL Kane. RVD has yet to get in any offense either physically or verbally. Seeing how he will probably get squashed to all hell at SummerSlam, this feud would have done absolutely nothing for RVD. Everyone who said that just USING RVD in the match with Kane instead of having Shane take the fall, pay attention this Sunday and see how RVD comes out of that match looking. I thought the backstage bit was a little on the disturbing side, which is always a plus in my book. By disturbing, I mean the tasteful kind, not old people implying sexual relations and rape. WWE take note; don’t give Kane matches to start fire with. Try something more reliable like a lighter.
Rosey as the S.H.I.T
Maybe this doesn’t deserve a 5, but I really didn’t know where else to stick it. Finally WWE has found something that is legitimately funny. Plus it is even starting to get over. It’s been quite a while since there has been a sucky wrestler that could pop the crowd based solely on his charisma. The last being Rikishi in 2000 and prior to him the Godfather in 1999. The problem with these characters is that they tend to be flavors of the week because they never change. It’s as if the writers are afraid to alter them since it might adversely affect their heat.
Speaking of adversely affecting their heat, rumor has it Mark Henry is coming in to join Long’s stable. I really don’t think that the crowd is going to be thrilled with a Rosey/Hurricane-Mack/Henry feud. Whoever is writing Raw has really booked themselves into a corner with this tag division. The only other team that Rosey and Hurricane could work with is La Resistance, but I have a feeling their program with the Dudleys is far from over. What about Goldust/Lance Storm? How will they ever fit into the mix?
The Highlight Reel
I thought the Highlight Reel did a pretty job as the first of two segments devoted to the Elimination Chamber match. With any of these multi-man matches, you want to show the fans that going into the big show all of the participants are in it for themselves. You want to see cracks in the supposed alliances like Triple H and Orton or HBK and Nash. That didn’t happen exactly, but it didn’t have to YET since there would still be the overrun segment. Goldberg spearing Nash was a definite step in the right direction. I also liked how HBK decided not to wait for Evolution to beat him down. That was nice to see the face jump the gun for a change. What was wrong with Triple H though? “The Evolution Chamber.” “Walking out the World Heavyweight Championship”. Some people seem to think that this segment fell flat or just didn’t deliver, but I felt that it did a satisfactory job as the first of two hardsells for the SummerSlam main event.
Goldberg vs. Randy Orton
We all knew the actual match would be a throwaway, so I’m going to discuss the post match happenings. I was actually pretty close to giving this a 7 because there were definite positives, but there were also negatives. I like how now when Austin attacks someone it means more than it used to since now it is more of a special occurrence than a weekly beat down. I also thought Jericho being the man with the title at the end was a nice way to give him some credibility going into the match. He really needed to have been booked like that for the last few weeks. Not as Kevin Nash’s bitch. So what was it that held this segment back? Where was the animosity between Nash and HBK or Orton and Triple H? I was hoping they would do one of those angles where Orton tells off Triple H saying that he is in it for himself and no body else. Maybe have him get into an altercation with the Game to pop the crowd. During the match let him do a pretty good job, but ultimately job. Then the next night he returns to Triple H’s side after getting a talking to from Trips. That scenario would have let WWE see if Orton really has what it takes to be a star. All they needed to do was gauge the crowd reaction for his weeklong stint as a semi-face. The Elimination Chamber was built better than majority of the other matches on the SummerSlam card (all from the Raw side), so I won’t complain too much.
Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Nash – Hair Match
Like with the last match, this one also could have made it to the next level, but as is it was still not all that bad. What bothered me was that after getting his ass handed to him for the last few weeks, it would have been nice if Jericho won this match without the brass knux. They could have had Nash tap since he doesn’t have any credibility to lose and so Jericho could gloat that he made both Nash and HBK tap out. Nevertheless, whenever people see Nash with short hair they will think of Jericho, which works well enough.
I’d imagine this is as good a place as any to mention the Elimination Chamber match. I still stand by my comments last week that all six men have reasons NOT to win that match. Triple H is injury prone. Nash can barely move. Michaels doesn’t draw or wrestle often. Goldberg’s contract is too open, so it would be a risk making him the number one guy. Orton is still too green. Jericho, albeit the best actual wrestler on Raw, has been treated like a huge loser for the last couple of months. I’m sorry, but giving him one screwy win on the Raw before the PPV is not enough for me. That being said, I’m going with Triple H retaining the title. Currently the only hot guy on Raw is Kane and in theory for that reason alone *he* should be the Champion. So if anyone besides HHH walks out with the title, they are probably just going to take the fall to Kane.
Total Matches: 6
Total Wrestling Time: 32:58
Yeah, I decided to do away with the overall show rating because I felt it was unnecessary. This installment of Raw would have been much better had it happened any week other than the one before a PPV. The show was very solid without the usual list of horrible segments/matches. Like I said earlier though, leading to the second biggest PPV of the year you need to deliver a blow away show. Otherwise why should I or anyone else be expected to buy this damn show? The only match that I felt was built up decently was the Elimination Chamber. Admittedly, that was also the easiest to promote. If anyone cares enough, look back at the final Raw before last year’s Chamber match. Kane, RVD, Jericho, and Booker all got laid out so HHH and HBK could do the final stare down. Now compare that to what we got this week. No doubt about it I would call this an improvement.
SmackDown! August 21, 2003
Kurt Angle and Vince McMahon Confrontation
This whole verbal sparring lacked any real substance or meaning. It did nothing to forward the Angle-Lesnar match at SummerSlam and therefore did not need 10 minutes wasted on it. Vince easily could have announced that Angle couldn’t touch both himself and Brock and made the main event during a quick backstage promo. The only part of this I liked was Angle’s initial pissed off attitude, but that deflated once Vince arrived. I wouldn’t say this was actively bad. It was just pointless and did not belong on SmackDown’s final SummerSlam hype show.
Brock Lesnar vs. Zach Gowen
For some reason it seems like a lot of people really liked this “match”. Sure seeing Zach get his ass handed to him on a silver platter was entertaining, but did it really do anything to help Brock Lesnar? Over the past two weeks Brock has picked up momentum by dismantling both Spanky and Zach Gowen. I don’t care who you are or what you look like; beating up those two does not make you a bad ass monster. I think my problem with this is that Brock’s character IS (or should be) more of a bad ass than an asshole. I guess any kind of heel heat is welcomed by WWE since they just turned Brock. I would have rather seen Brock do the same thing to a larger wrestler with some more credibility. Off the top of my head, the only people who fit that bill and could be “sacrificed” would be Bradshaw and Simmons.
But if WWE really wanted to make Zach look pathetic in his hometown with his mother at ringside, they could have gone about it better. Following the first F-5 into the ring post Kurt Angle should have started walking down the ramp. Whether it is on the big screen or in person, Vince should have stopped him about halfway to remind Kurt of what would happen if he put his hands on Brock. Kurt with a look of frustration on his face just watches as the second F-5 unfolds. At this point Colleena Gowen jumps the rail and starts yelling at Kurt for not helping her son. This would have added some drama to the overall beating AND most importantly it would have been another step in the Brock-Kurt feud. The feud that was not forwarded at all on this show. My other gripe was dropping the whole Hardy-Gowen blowoff, but I’ll touch upon that in a little while.
Billy Gunn/Jamie Noble vs. Basham Brothers
In my last Booking Report three weeks ago I brought up how with a dual brand show like SummerSlam, many of the mid-carders on both shows would just meander in meaningless feuds until after the summer classic. This match/feud is a prime example of that. It just gives these four something to do. That being said, I did like the fact that the Bashams are finally getting what resembles a mini-push. It’s also nice to see Noble getting a spot on SmackDown every week. Speaking of being on SmackDown, why are these two teams on SmackDown but Haas and Benjamin, the Champions, are nowhere to be found?
I still don’t understand why a Haas/Benjamin-Mysterio/Kidman-Hardy/Moore match isn’t added to SummerSlam just for the purpose of having a hot opener. All three of those teams generate more heat than most of the people already on the card and it would be great for there to be a fact-paced match for those of us who enjoy spot fests. Also, seeing how Raw has it’s own PPV next month, why not have the SmackDown Tag Titles up for grabs at this PPV instead of green La Resistance defending against the stale Dudley Boyz?
John Cena/A-Train vs. Undertaker/Orlando Jordan
Remember that theme I mentioned during Raw. The one where all the matches and feuds suck, but they need to be promoted anyway? Here it is again. The odd thing with this feud is that it really has no purpose at all. Why did the Undertaker initially care that A-Train attacked Stephanie? Why did this bother A-Train enough to cost Taker his match against Cena? Ultimately the answer is so that the Undertaker could get another win on the one of the big four PPVs. Like many others, I’m confused as to why Cena pinned Taker in this match. Don’t get me wrong, as long as Cena wins I’m happy, but it just doesn’t make any sense since Taker is facing A-Train tomorrow night.
Rey Mysterio vs. Matt Hardy
Another week and another SmackDown without a Cruiserweight Title defense. The last time Rey defended that title was July 3rd when he defeated Nunzio. Interestingly enough, that would place this title possibly below the Intercontinental Title. Too bad Matt went back up to 227 lbs. This was a very good match that served absolutely no purpose seeing how Rey, Kidman, and Moore were never intended to be on the PPV and Matt’s match (and possibly feud) with Zach Gowen would be dropped later in the show. Since this match took place before Brock killed Gowen, I thought it did a nice job of finally letting Zach get a good shot in before his match with Matt. However, that match will not be happening anytime soon. I just feel bad that someone like Matt Hardy who has arguably busted his ass more than anyone else on the SmackDown roster since the beginning of the brand extension has been left out in the cold month after month. And now to top it all off he has that ridiculous looking t-shirt. Had the Hardy-Gowen match taken place, I probably would have asked my friend if he wanted to split the cost of the PPV with me, but as is I’ll either steal the webcast or just not watch at all.
Kurt Angle vs. Big Show – Falls Count Anywhere
It’s really amazing how far Show has come since he jumped to SmackDown. After nine months of working with guys like Lesnar and Angle he is now able to be involved in entertaining matches and be a legitimate threat to all of his opponents. I thought this match was a lot of fun and something different. Well, it wasn’t really original, but it was different in the sense that WWE hasn’t book a thought out brawl like this one in quite a while. The nearfalls did a very good job of elevating both Kurt and Show. Show kicked out of spots that would have put away 95% of the other wrestlers on the roster. Angle kept on fighting his way out of chokeslams and powerbombs throughout most of the match. Yet it still falls just short of THE GOOD category. Had this match taken place last week, it would have received a 7 or 8 out of 10. BUT what did this do to hype the Angle-Lesnar match? Cole could go on and on all he wants about how this has weakened Angle. It doesn’t matter. The bottom line is that you want your final moments of TV before a PPV to be something that the fans will remember. You want intensity whether it is a nose-to-nose stare down or an old fashioned slugfest. We didn’t get any intensity or even drama between Angle and Lesnar ANYWHERE on this show. My scenario for the Gowen-Lesnar match would have fulfilled this void, but that didn’t happen either.
Chris Benoit/Tajiri vs. Eddie Guerrero/Rhyno
FINALLY something done correctly this week. I don’t even have to go into such great detail for this match. While talking about the Elimination Chamber hype I mentioned the one thing that I felt was missing was tension between the “alliances” like Nash/HBK and HHH/Orton. In this match, the “alliances” were either shattered (Eddie attacking Rhyno) or marred (Tajiri kicking Benoit). What did I say was missing from Angle-Lesnar? That closing shot of violence or just intensity. We had that here as Eddie decked all three men with the US Title and then strutted out of the ring. Right there, perfect. One other minor detail I noticed, Benoit was really on his A+ game personality-wise. On his way down to the ring he was messing with the Low Rider a little and afterwards he offered Eddie a handshake. I loved it.
Total Matches: 6
Total Wrestling Time: 36:12
I wasn’t greatly entertained by this show like I usually am, but that tends to happen with any show that’s sole purpose is to promote another show. My general impression of the show was uninspired, mostly because that is how the focal feud (Brock-Angle) came off. Had a better job been done with those two wrestlers, the show would have been much more enjoyable. From a wrestling standpoint, we had two good, lengthy matches. The Benoit/Tajiri-Eddie/Rhyno match was also fun, although short and provided us with a good finish to lead into their big 4-way match.
THIS IS IT
SmackDown 4 :: Raw 1
HotW: Eddie Guerrero/Rhyno vs. Chris Benoit/Tajiri
LotW: “We Don’t Do Rape”
Total Matches: 12
Total Wrestling Time: 69:10
Before I even started this week’s report I said that it would be entirely devoted to each shows ability, or lack thereof, to make me want to see their PPV matches. Well out of its four PPV matches, Raw generated some interest in the Elimination Chamber match. The Shane-Bischoff storyline was more of an abomination than anything else. The Tag-Title match has absolutely no purpose even being on the PPV and RVD has yet to get any kind of offense in during his feud with Kane. I would say that Raw failed the test. SmackDown all out cancelled the match I was looking most forward too. Undertaker-A-Train wasn’t done as badly as any of those three matches on Raw, but it still made little sense for Cena to get the winning pin. It makes even less sense for this feud to exist in the first place. Angle-Lesnar can be summed up as lost potential. And then there was light. THE ONE AND THE ONLY match that was properly promoted was none other than the Untied States Title Four-Way. Therefore, by default SmackDown gets the duke. Had Eddie not turned on Rhyno and laid out everyone after his match, I would have handed this week to Raw.
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