WWE News & Views #12: Recap of a Great Raw and More

As mentioned two weeks ago, I was away last week on vacation and didn't do the News & Views. It's back this week. For the intro, all I really want to do is write about a professional wrestler that we lost this past week at the age of 33: Chris Candido.
I wouldn't consider myself a huge fan of Chris Candido, but I always liked watching the man perform. When you watched him (whether it was WWE, ECW, WCW, TNA, Japan, SMW, etc.) you could tell by what he did in the ring that he absolutely loved the business. None of us really "know" wrestlers, but by watching them as close as we sometimes do it's as if we have this connection with them. They perform for us and we show them how much we appreciate it by how we react to them. Candido had a lot of demons from his past that he had overcome and for him to lose his life over an accident like this is simply tragic. I wish all the best to those that loved him, that worked with him and that knew him because the wrestling business just lost another good one. RIP Chris.

Since people have asked me, feel free to send me banners to use for this column. Just have it say "WWE News & Views" and the name "John C." on there, that should be good enough. Throw in some pictures of wrestlers and have fun with it. You don't need to host it on a website, I have a place to upload it to, so just email me the graphic or the URL and that should be good enough.

Raw Recap for 05/02/05
I didn’t see last week’s Raw due to being away for the week. I figured with it just being Backlash hype and me not likely to see Backlash on Sunday (I didn’t), that I’d just skip it. Of course, I read about how great my boy Christian was and now I’m upset I missed it. Oh well. Heading in to last night’s Raw I didn’t have much in the way of expectations especially in knowing there’d be no Trish on the show due to her back injury. Little did I know how great of a show this was going to be.

We start off backstage where Batista flirted with Christy with Bischoff announcing there’d be a “Gold Rush” Tournament to determine the number one contender. He didn’t say when a title match would take place, but the tourney would start this week with none of the opponents knowing who they’d be facing until Lillian Garcia said it in the ring. Then Batista told Bischoff he wanted to fight him, but Eric backed off. Darn, there goes THAT dream match, huh? By the way, Christy is a great example for Diva Search contestants. That’s right, you ladies at home can win a contest, be overpaid and stand there doing nothing for two minutes. It’s a dream job.

Kane vs. Christian
So much for that Christian push, eh? It can’t be considered that much of a push considering he wasn’t even on the PPV in a match. Anyway, Kane won this in about four minutes with his usual stuff. I’m so bored of babyface Kane. This tease of Christian going to Smackdown better happen. He needs the change of scenery.

Backstage, Flair laughed at Christian and told him HHH would win the tournament. After a few WOO’s, he walked off as Christian delivered the well timed, “I hate that guy” line.

Hassan came out with Daivari. Usual promo citing how unfair everything is and then he bitchslapped Daivari, blaming him for the team losing because he couldn’t finish the job on Hogan and Michaels. He slapped him a couple times, then kicked him in the head and after the beatdown Daivari limped up the aisle right behind Hassan like a little lapdog. I don’t see this as Hassan leaving Daivari. I think they’re trying to push Hassan as a militant that has followers and I wouldn’t be shocked to see another wrestler being brought in to join the group.

Viscera beat Simon Dean in a match of the year. Actually, I flipped over to the Rockets/Mavs game while this was on. Apparently Big Vis hit on Lillian Garcia before and after the match. Good for him. Who’s next? Mae Young? You gotta love how WWE has “nothing” for a talented worker like Matt Hardy, yet they’ve got plenty for a 480 pound guy with very little in the way of athleticism.

Hunter yelled at Bischoff backstage, blaming the ref for him not winning the belt the night before. He wanted another title match because getting owned by Batista twice apparently makes him the top contender. Bischoff disagrees, then says he can be in the Gold Rush tourney, all he has to do is win three matches and he’d get another shot. Good segment with Bischoff actually standing up to somebody.

Then Maria interviewed Shelton Benjamin. Well, sort of. She was so bad here. She couldn’t even get her words out right and she was giggling during the whole thing. Just use Stacy for these interviews. At least she can talk. Anyway, Jericho came in to say he was in the tournament and that all he wanted was a one on one title shot because he hadn’t had one for three years. Benjamin said he can respect that, they shook hands and parted ways.

Nice graphic put up by WWE for the late Chris Candido. Tragic loss.

Shawn Michaels vs. Shelton Benjamin
You know, when Benjamin was standing in ring as Michaels’ music came on I was as excited as Jim Ross was. I liked the start of it a lot with Benjamin controlling Michaels on the mat with his wrestling skills as Michaels grew frustrated by it. The match was pretty even early on with Benjamin dumping Michaels to the floor with a clothesline as they went to break. Back in action, the terrific chain wrestling continued. The final four minutes of the match ruled. Michaels went for a kick, Benjamin caught it and hit his Dragon Whip kick that Michaels sold perfectly because he left his feet to take the bump before he even took the hit. It made it look that much more devastating. Great nearfall there as Michaels came back and hit the elbow off the top. Superkick got blocked and countered with a strong kick to the head of his own by Benjamin for another awesome nearfall. Then, just because he’s awesome, Shelton did a springboard off the top rope and came back onto Michaels with a clothesline for another close nearfall. The finish was amazingly good with Benjamin springboarding off the top ropes, leaping all the way across the ring and getting nailed with a perfect superkick by Michaels that looked so painful. They timed that perfectly. Amazing. That was the end after 15 minutes of awesome action. I liked the selling post match too because Benjamin didn’t move for several minutes, selling the emphatic end. Michaels, meanwhile, showed his babyface side by checking on Benjamin to see if he was alright. It would have been nice if they had shown Benjamin getting up because I’m guessing the Boston crowd was appreciative of the effort.

It was a ****1/4 match. It’s the best WWE TV match of the year, just ahead of Angle-Mysterio from Smackdown in Japan, as well as Angle-Guerrero from a few weeks ago. What I liked a lot is that the nearfalls they kicked out of weren’t finishers. That’s what made it work because it gave you the sense that should one of them hit their finisher that the match would end at that point. Not only did Michaels hit his finisher, but he hit in such a way that you’re going to remember it for a long time. Benjamin continues to amaze while Michaels continues to show just how great he is. Dude’s gonna be 40 in a few months, but he doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

Backstage, Edge got interviewed by Grisham. They mentioned if he moves to Smackdown that he loses his Money in the Bank title shot. I don’t think he’s moving. Then Edge theorized that he was in this tourney because he knew Batista couldn’t beat him twice, so he was just looking for another title shot with a tourney win here. After it was over, he walked past Victoria and Lita, asked them what they were looking at. Victoria said “absolutely nothing” while Lita looked at his package. Okay, she didn’t, but it was interesting to see Edge and Lita on screen together like that.

Rosey and Hurricane beat La Resistance. Good for them. It’s nice to have a tag title match on TV, but I still say it’s weak to have a title match on a PPV yet they don’t even announce it on TV beforehand. I guess they’re trying to have a division now.

Smackdown Rebound showed the Guerrero/Mysterio split last week. I told you two months ago that will be the feud of the year. At least on Smackdown. Depends on how much Angle-Michaels we get this year too.

Edge vs. Chris Jericho
I can dig this match. The winner of this match wasn’t in much doubt, but I liked how they went about it. It was a fairly even match with Jericho getting the upper hand, Edge trying to use the briefcase as a weapon and then having that plan thwarted. After Jericho had him in the Walls, Edge cracked him with the briefcase as the ref didn’t see it, hit a missile dropkick for two and then hit the Spear for the win. Edge continues to win while Jericho continues to lose. It works for me as long as it means heel Jericho is coming back. Personally, I’d love to see heel Jericho vs. Cena on Smackdown. They’d have some awesome promos there and there’s even some history with Cena actually beating Jericho on PPV three years ago. Match was alright for eight minutes, in the two star level.

Happy birthday Rock. I miss that guy a lot.

Chris Masters did the Masterlock challenge to some scrub from the crowd. Yawn. I swear, if this leads to Mark Henry coming back to break the hold then we’ll have ourselves the worst feud of the year. This gimmick is not getting over.

Chris Benoit vs. Triple H
Fine by me. I’ll never complain for this match. I almost thought it was going to be Triple H vs. Flair until Flair was shown walking to the ring with HHH. Would have been funny to see Batista help Flair win. Not like I’m complaining with this. After the opening minutes, they went to a break with the camera focusing on Benoit’s eyes, playing up the idea that he probably has a concussion from the night before when he took a brick to the head from Edge. Back from the break, Benoit was in control with the suplexes and the headbutt for the nearfall. As is the custom in HHH matches, the ref got bumped and that led to a HHH/Flair double team. Batista came out to a massive pop, took out Flair and set HHH down with a variety of moves, ending with a spinebuster in the middle of the ring. The finish ruled with Benoit putting him in the Sharpshooter as HHH was in pain, looking right at Batista no the floor. When he was at the ropes, Benoit pulled them back and Benoit pulled him to the center of the ring, forcing HHH to eventually tap out while everybody was yelling for him to tape. Awesome ending. I was literally shocked because I thought HHH was winning this. Batista screws HHH out of a win again. Strong end to the show.

Next week we get Benoit vs. Kane and Edge vs. Michaels. I’d rather see Michaels vs. Benoit. Oh well. Maybe if they both win. If they announced the winner of this getting a PPV title shot then I’d say Edge wins it. Since they didn’t say it’s a PPV shot, I think either Michaels or Benoit will win, getting the title shot on TV. If the lottery is on May 23 as rumored then this match would be on that show. Makes sense.

Final Thoughts
This was a strong, wrestling heavy show. The standout moment was the Michaels/Benjamin match, which as I said is the TV match of the year so far. Great finish to it. Same with the main event, it had a memorable finish that ended the show on the right note. The Edge/Jericho match was alright too although since it didn’t get as much time it was unable to be amazing. Kane/Christian was the usual Kane match, so nothing to get excited about there. The bad parts of the show were the Viscera angle continuing and the Chris Masters Masterlock challenge looking like it has no end in sight. Both are painful to watch. Other than that, this was my favorite Raw of the year. I wasn’t expecting much coming in, but by the end I was blown away by the awesomeness. Six matches with one of them in the four star range and another in the three star range makes me a happy fan.

Match Results
Kane over Christian - * (The usual from a Kane match.)
Viscera over Dean – DUD (At least it was real short.)
Michaels over Benjamin - ****1/4 (WWE TV match of the year. Love it. If you missed it, go find it somewhere.)
Rosey & Hurricane over La Rez - *1/4 (It was okay.)
Edge over Jericho - **1/4 (Solid match with a good ending.)
Benoit over HHH - *** (Really smart way to end the show.)

8 - Best Raw of the year so far.

The News
- The draft lottery is probably going to be either on the May 23rd edition of Raw, the night after Judgment Day, or the May 30th edition of Raw. There's also a chance that they may spread the lottery out over both Raw and Smackdown that week in order to pop bigger ratings for both shows. I guess that could work if each show gets three picks on Raw, then three picks on Smackdown. Honestly though, nothing is for sure about the lottery at this point, which is probably a good thing because it being a surprising thing is a good idea.

- Dave Meltzer reported in the last edition of the Observer that Batista isn't 36 years old as most of us thought. He is 39 years old with three daughters aged 20, 14 and 12. While the age of wrestlers doesn't matter that much, it's unusual to have a "new" wrestler that is almost 40 years old. The good news is that since he hasn't been wrestling his whole life he doesn't have the wear and tear that most wrestlers approaching 40 (Michaels, Benoit, Guerrero) have. He's probably got a good four or five years left in him.

- Rene Dupree is going to be off TV for a month or so and when he's brought back there will be no Fifi. Good job by WWE in spotting that the gimmick was dying. The whole "France not helping America" thing has become a non-issue now and you ened to do more than carry a French (or Quebec) flag. Plus, Dupree's still very young (21 or 22, I think), so it's going to take some time for him to develop as a wrestler. He's probably better suited in a tag team.

- We learned through a Kurt Angle radio interview that he'll be doing a WWE produced film in the upcoming year that's a comedy. Angle's a funny guy, so he could probably do a good job although if the script sucks then there's not an actor alive that could save it.

That's really all I got for the news, at least what I wanted to comment on.

The Three Count
One longer one and two shorter ones this week because I wrote too much about Raw. Can't help that. It was too good.

1. I'm both shocked and happy after reading that WrestleMania XXI garnered over a million buys, making it one of the most successful WWE shows ever. Since the news broke out, people have been wondering who to credit for it. Personally, I don't credit one single person or even several people. It was the WHOLE show that worked. What was good is that it had a little bit of everything. Sure, the major title matches weren't spectacularly done, but they were built up in good feuds that drew fans in. Both Batista and Cena have done well in terms of being a ratings draw. Then you had the Angle/Michaels match, which had terrific build and really lived up to expectations in terms of being a match you're going to talk about for the rest of your days as a wrestling fan. Then you had the returns of Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin, which probably bought back some viewers from the past who wanted to see some familiar faces. The show was built up as well as most recent WrestleManias and the resulting high buyrate is a good sign for WWE as they head into the future.

2. Smackdown has been an above average show for about five weeks in a row now. They ARE heading in the right direction and if you aren't watching it then you're being foolish. They've had a good mix of strong matches and quality promos on a regular basis. My personal favorite thing on Smackdown these days is Melina. She's terrific. Especially her ring entrance.

3. I'm REALLY looking forward to the draft lottery (whenever it is) because there's a lot of questions about it and I'm also tired of getting questions from people asking who I think is going to leave. I think ANYBODY could leave, but to guess at names would be a waste of time, I think. Nobody really knows. I think Christian is a good bet. Other than that, I have no idea. That's good, though. I like surprises.

Reader Questions & Comments
Reader comments will be in yellow, while mine will be in white.

Do you see Christian turning babyface soon? I mean, I was watching this past Monday and the fans were really into him. I could picture Tyson Tomko turning against him sometime in the future. I think it would elevate both their careers. Plus I think his music rules!

Christian is certainly getting the cheers to do a possible run as a babyface. It just seems like WWE is content in leaving him in that midcard comedy heel role he's been in pretty much the majority of his career. I don't know if I want him to be a face. If he went face his act could get stale or boring as has been the case with other hot heels who went face (Cena, Jericho, Orton, etc.). I could see it happening, but I'd rather he stay heel.

Love your WWE commentary, and since you're a Trish fan too, I thought I'd ask your opinion on the women's division. Do you think there's a chance the division will become respectable again, what with the release of first Gail Kim and now Molly Holly? It wasn't all that long ago (December?) Trish and Lita were headlining RAW in a very good match. Now that the competition is essentially down to three, is there any hope left for the women's division? Or should we just send Trish home and let her take the belt with her?

It's hard to say. They have to bring up some women they have in OVW (I don't know many of the names, but I know there are several there) and try to seek out some from the indy circuit. If they want a division, they need at least six women. Right now only Trish and Victoria are active wrestlers with Lita hurt and the Christy wrestling experiment pretty much failing. Maybe they could move Torrie and Dawn over because they aren't that bad in the ring although if they did that then Smackdown would be lacking "name" women.

With Trish having a back injury and there being no timetable for her return it's going to seem like there's no division at all for a while. Probably a good thing. I guess when Lita's healthy again in July or August they can do that feud again. It's not that bad. For right now, I'd probably just wait out Trish's injury, see how severe it is and if she's out for two or three months more from this point on then it'd probably be wise to come up with an angle to put the belt on Victoria or something.

Good or bad with the revival of interview programs? I think it can only be good to have programs such as Carlito's Cabana & the Highlight Reel. So many promos & interviews are so boring & repetitive; I think it really goes a long way to protect the weak on the mic by having them work with someone who really excels in that area.

I'm a big fan of the interview segments simply because both Jericho and Carlito are great talkers. Jericho has been for years now, almost a decade, while Carlito is a fantastic new voice that knows how to rile up a crowd. I know some people hate him saying "cool" all the time, but I think it works because he's supposed to be an annoying heel. It works for his gimmick. I like the interview segments being back. It's fun.

Whatever happened to Brian Kendrick and Zach Gowen? I don't really care much about Gowen, he didn't have a wide variation of moves with one leg, but I kinda liked Kendrick. With a little more muscle tone, he could have been a strong contender for the cruiserweight title. After London won the cruiserweight title, I thought it would have been a great idea to return him, and have like a jealousy feud with London over the title, because for a while, they tagged on Velocity. I think WWE needs to explain people's departures better, with some more, "Loser leaves town," matches.
Thanks, Milo

Brian "Spanky" Kendrick basically grew tired of things in WWE and asked to be let out of his contract because he wanted to go back to working the indies and wrestling in Japan. He's a great worker who WWE rarely used, so he was frustrated by that and wanted to go some place where he would be used better. It was a shame to see him go because I thought he and London could have been a great, Rocker-like tag team that could have sparked the division to great things. I wouldn't be shocked to see him back in WWE one day since he's only 26 or 27 years old and left on good terms.

As for Gowen, I don't think they ever saw him as a long term project. He did a good job for the most part, I thought, but then people got tired of his ego backstage and basically he fell out of favor with the higher ups in the company. I liked Gowen and I thought his PPV match with Vince McMahon on PPV two years ago was surprisingly good.

First off I would like to ask about HBK. Rumors are going around saying he might move to Smackdown! If he does this the rumors say he could go heel and compete for the WWE title against John Cena. Now my question is what kind of a heel would he be? I mean there is no chance in hell he is going to be the old do whatever I want when I want HBK. Which by the way I loved. So I don't know what kind of a heel he would be, and he needs to compete for the title I mean there's no way he is gonna be competing for the US title with Orlando Jordan, and there is no way Cena is going heel so what is the situation here?

Martin, from PHILLY

I don't know about HBK moving to SD. Might happen. Might not. Nobody really knows who is going in the draft lottery. It's just rumors at this point. I could see Michaels going there, but not going heel. Keep him a face, Eddie is going to be a heel pretty soon and Angle will be there. He could have some great stuff with them. Plus, I guess they could do JBL-Michaels too. There's plenty of options for him there as a face. I don't see Michaels going heel because he said himself that it's against his religious beliefs and he wouldn't be comfortable in doing that again.

How You Can Be Here
So now you're wondering how you can be in this column, right? Well, there are two choices for you. First choice is you can send me a commentary you may have about something current in WWE, or maybe something from the past if it's relevant. My rule is it has to be 500 words or less (used to be 350). I plan on posting a couple, so I don't want you to go really long. If you want to write me a lot then that's cool, but don't expect all of it to be posted. I can only post so much, you know? The other choice is you email me a question with regards to anything WWE related. Ask me what I think about a wrestler, what I think about a match from the past (I can give you a star rating and thoughts on it, for example), a storyline going on or anything else. My only request is no fantasy booking. I know people like to do that. I just don't want to do that in this column.

Send all comments and/or questions to me at oratoryjohn@gmail.com and throw in a name for me to reference to as well. I won't post your email address, but a name would be nice. Maybe even a location is fine too. That's up to you.

Closing Time
The next News & Views will probably be posted on Tuesday evening as was the usual for this column. Meanwhile, the fourth and final part of the "50 Matches over the Past 5 Years of WWE PPV" will be posted tonight after Smackdown at some point. If not, then it'll be in the morning. Thanks to everybody who has responded so far.

Smell ya later,
John C. - oratoryjohn@gmail.com

Links to check out:
The Oratory - The Best Wrestling Columns on the Net!
The John Report Archives - Missed something that I wrote? That's the place to go.
WrestleLine - Another great site I write for.