Staring blindly into space, getting up to splash my face, wanting just to stay awake, wondering how much I can take... welcome to the Wrath of Tito, as I quote Chicago's 25 or 6 to 4 for the second week in a row to open up the column. That's a quality song and I recommend checking it out, especially to hear Terry Kath kick some major ass on the guitar solos. It's a shame he died. Ok, today's column, we'll discuss the latest news in pro wrestling and review RAW. I tried something new this week... I wrote the RAW review FIRST and then I wrote the other stuff next. The opening stuff of the column takes a lot of out me, insomuch that I'm winded by the time I write the RAW part of my column. So, if the RAW portion looks a bit out of place this week, that's why. Tell me if this method adds any life to that part of my column, if you will...

-If you're in the Bridgeport, OH area (or Wheeling, WV area for that matter, across the river), check out the XWF Inc. show this Sunday night at 7:00 pm at the Bridgeport Eagles. The card looks to be quite excellent and the last 3 shows have been very fun to attend. Tickets are ONLY $6, which is a real bargain for a wrestling event and even an independent wrestling event. It's also for a good cause, as it's also a benefit show for the Bridgeport Paramedics, who I'm sure lost a lot of resources and funds from the massive flooding the Ohio Valley endured during the hurricane season. For directions and other info on this wrestling show in the Ohio Valley, check out XWF Inc.'s webpage by CLICKING HERE.

-The BIG NEWS OF THE WEEK is the fact that the ECW DVD is doing quite well, insomuch that there's interest, once again, of bringing ECW back. I seriously doubt it will happen, for Vince will NOT pay for wrestlers to injure themselves under guaranteed contracts for ECW-style matches. But regardless, ECW's DVD is a hot seller and is likely to creep into the top 10 or top 20 video sales based on 2 months alone, much like Flair's DVD did a few years ago. I suggest that it's a MUST BUY for most wrestling fans.

What stuck out to me, though, on the DVD were 3 wrestlers. First, you had the Dudley Boyz. They showed clips of WHY they were great heels in ECW. It baffles me, to this day, why the WWE doesn't let D'Von and especially Bubba get on the mic and act like REAL heels. Everytime the Dudleys are heels, they resort to tactics using violence with tables on faces... which actually get them more over as faces than heels! Then, you have Tazz. Showing the success of the Tazz character makes you wonder why he's at the announcing table instead of the ring. Yeah, it's a steady job and Tazz is likely to walk when he's older and live when he's in his 50's. But still, Tazz was a badass in ECW. His injuries, sudden weight gain to compensate for his short height, and wrestling style ultimately did him in, as well as backstage politics. But that was a while ago and Tazz has been an announcer for quite some time now. The Smackdown roster could use a popular face wrestler right now, and Tazz could be the man for that job. Why a perfectly healthy and very talented guy is commentating matches on guys with FAR LESS talent and ability, not to mention look, is beyond me.

-Also in the news... the WWE seems to be showing interest in signing with the USA Networks again. I'm guessing that the WWE is just talking to USA Networks just to get Viacom to renew the existing deal or even pay more. It's my opinion and belief that USA Networks treated the WWE FAR BETTER than Viacom/Spike TV/TNN. Yeah, the WWE was pre-empted by the US Open and the dogshow. So what? USA Networks believed in the WWE in 1997 when they asked that network for an extra hour to RAW, even though the WWE was bleeding heavily during early 1997 against a peaking WCW. Then, USA allowed a lot of the WWE's attitude content, despite heavy complaints by parents. In addition, USA Networks gave the WWE their Heat show, as well as many other timeslots for special WWE shows. That's not to mention how USA Networks promoted RAW with class and dignity, something that the Viacom people have yet to figure out (which is why a lot of their shows fail).

I think USA Networks has some interest in the WWE, but they are NOT willing to pay them what Viacom is currently paying them. USA Networks actually draw viewers to their network without pro wrestling, as their ratings, during some years, have actually shot up. Unlike Spike TV, USA Networks can actually create hit shows. It's my belief that USA Networks is very serious about acquiring the Sunday Night NFL Game, which I believe ESPN is going to lose (thanks to Playmakers), and USA Networks can't spend money on wrestling and the NFL at the same time, and I don't believe the NFL and WWE can co-exist on the same network. Not happening.

-I have to give a lot of credit to Gail Kim for taking the high road after her WWE release. She's just accepted the release and moved on, stating so on her webpage at LaFelina.com. Many WWE releases can't wait to find a place to vent their frustrations. However, Gail did the opposite and stayed positive during what I'm sure isn't a fun time for her at the moment being jobless. I applaud her. I thought Kim had a lot of untapped potential, as she was still learning in the business... but unlike many in the women's division, she was actually IMPROVING by the performance! I think she'll find work rather quickly and show why the WWE made a mistake by releasing her so early.

-Ricky Steamboat as a WWE agent? What kind of bizarro world are we living in now? Steamboat was disrespected at every aspect whenever he was in the WWE. Yeah, he shouldn't have asked for a long period of time off after winning the Intercontinental Title at Wrestlemania 3 (even though I agree with Steamboat about taking time off for the family), but the WWE has poorly misused this incredible wrestling talent. For instance, Steamboat was incredible during 1989, so he came back to the WWE at some point during the early 1990's. What happened? Did Steamboat get respect in the WWE? NO! They dressed him up as a dragon, made him spit fire, and kept this incredible talent in the midcard. Could you imagine if the WWE actually pushed Steamboat and had him feuding with the likes of Bret Hart, Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Macho Man, and others in 1992? Imagine Steamboat working with the likes of a young Shawn Michaels?

It's hard to say what Steamboat could bring to the WWE as a road agent. A lot of the newer OVW guys could use a good technical wrestler to teach them some in-ring skills, and that's what Ricky Steamboat can bring. Now, as far as learning how to talk or working with your gimmick, Steamboat is NOT the man to talk to. I'm not sure that Steamboat is a political "yes man", either, for that's what most of the WWE road agents are. If you disagree with the McMahons or Triple H, you are out the door like Pat Patterson! If Steamboat gets the job, I hope he excels... it would be an utter tragedy to see Steamboat get the job and get pissed on by the WWE once again.

-The word is that Hardcore Holly and Rene Dupree got into a fight backstage... Yeah, Dupree is young and probably immature, but it's quite coincidental that Hardcore Holly gets into a lot of trouble with younger wrestlers. It's one thing to be respected and to show the younger wrestlers how to respect. It's another to act like an idiot and haze like Holly and many others do backstage, such as Bradshaw on a few distinct instances. I believe it hurts the product in the long run, especially when Holly gets away with it on each account. There's nothing wrong with having a tough guy backstage, but one who constantly picks fights with younger wrestlers? Whatever.

-Jerry Lawler's book gets better by the page. Lawler and his fellow wrestlers were crazy back in their day. The King talking about throwing Coke bottles at road signs while driving over 80 miles per hour is absolutely nuts! Reading Piper and Flair's books, it's safe to say that wrestlers were a lot more wild on the road than they are today. WWE seems to have a lot better control on their guys today than the WWF and other feds did back in the day.

On to the RAW review!

RAW is TITO

Hilarious start to RAW this week, as we had the authority on sleeze, Vince McMahon involved with a parody on the Terrell Owens/Desperate Housewives skit involving Shelton Benjamin and Trish Stratus, which poked fun at the overblown controversy, racial stereotypes, and even took jabs at the Ron Artest incident. One of the best parodies that the WWE has done in a LONG time and it was a nice shot at the NFL, who are also ratings competition.

Chris Benoit starts the show and announces it's his turn. He let the wrestlers sign a sheet to ask for matches this week, so that's how Benoit booked the show. However, he wanted Triple H all to himself and in a cage. Oh man, I'd LOVE to see that match...

Our first match of the night was Gene Snitsky vs. Maven. Very different match up with two very inexperienced guys going up against each other. Oddly enough, Snitsky got the win over Maven, whom I thought the WWE was high on? After all, Maven just headlined last week's RAW (which did good in the ratings), and now he's Snitsky's bitch? Then again, I don't have too much of a problem with Snitsky's push.

The whole night, RAW pushed tensions between Triple H and Batista. First, HHH questioned Batista about where he was last week during the match against Maven. Then, Triple H questioned if Batista could defeat Chris Jericho and was willing to bet $100 he couldn't beat Jericho. Later, Batista would get disqualified for attempting to injury Jericho in the Tree of Woe (ref counted to 5). Triple H would then chew out Batista, and later, they'd pan to the backstage where Batista apparently attacked Triple H and laid him out! That would get Triple H out of his cage match against Benoit. At the end of the show, Batista was in the ring and called Triple H out... HHH comes out and the swerves was shown... Was I fooled? Nope, but it was pretty well set up and Triple H's comment about "you still didn't beat Jericho" sort of rubbed Batista the wrong way, making me wonder if Batista goes after Triple H next week. Now, that comment was WELL PLACED by the WWE, and Batista showing immediate concern after the swerve was very well timed. Good stuff.

In the ring, hot Stacy Keibler shoots t-shirts into the crowd, while pimping the new ECW DVD, which is freakin' excellent by the way. Speaking of Stacy, is she still dating Test? I wonder how she feels about the WWE pulling a WCW on Test by firing him during an injury? The DVD plug prompted Simon Dean to come out for some verbal jabs. Funny comment by Stacy, saying that she didn't want to date anybody who looked into the mirror more than her! I had a cousin once who dated a bodybuilder, and she said the same thing! Eventually, the Hurricane would run down when things got out of hand (assuming Rosey is still blinded by the powder?). Simon Dean would then get in a cheapshot to escape... well done segments, thus far, by the WWE to build up Simon Dean. Now, how can he wrestle?

The next match was Chris Jericho vs. Batista. Not much of a match, for it was just a storyline advancement with Batista attempting to break Jericho's neck to show HHH how tough he was. That's all I can say about this match.

I'm liking the Edge obsession over getting a title shot, as he kept pestering fans and WWE employees backstage to tell him that he deserves a title shot. Now, whether the WWE sticks with him or pulls the plug (like they did in 2003), that's left to be seen.

The next match was Johnathan Coachman vs. J.R.. This week, J.R. stands for "Just Rhyno", and the manbeast ran down. Rhyno's music just gets you pumped up for an ass beating! To Coach's credit, he made himself look good by attacking Rhyno the second he hit the ring. Look, if I were a non-wrestler and I had to wrestle Rhyno, I'd start swinging for the fences, too. But after that fury of punches and kicks by Coach, it was over in short notice, as Rhyno quickly speared him for the win. Jim Ross was suggesting Rhyno was a few steps away from the bigtime. Really? Outside of the neck injury and the respectable hardcore title reign, I've been waiting for the WWE to actually care about Rhyno.

Next, it was Trish Stratus vs. Lita vs. Molly Holly... I'm sorry, but I was severely bored with this match, even though it didn't last that long. Just sloppy, as these ladies have been wrestling each other way too much and Lita doesn't have that flare she once used to have. Trish retained...

William Regal/Eugene/Shelton Benjamin vs. La Resistance/Christian was up next... TOO SHORT for a 6 man match, although I liked the ending with the Stunner into the Shelton slam. I fear that La Resistance are going to get their titles back VERY soon.

Backstage, HHH is laid out (but it was later proved to be a swerve), and tonight's GM, Benoit, is fooled into changing the Main Event match to Edge vs. Benoit. Hey, at least Benoit didn't have to lose to Triple H just yet. Still, I would have taken a Benoit loss to Triple H just to see a great cage match between HHH and Benoit, as Benoit brings out the best in Triple H.

The main event was Edge vs. Chris Benoit in a steel cage. Pretty good main event, overall, although I think some silence from the fans was being robbed of a HHH vs. Benoit main event. Hey, I feel that too. Still, it was a solid match and it had an excellent ending with Benoit getting speared out of the door. It gave Benoit a revenge win over Edge, thus keeping him strong, while keeping Edge strong by accidentally losing. I can't complain, other than wanting HHH vs. Benoit instead.

And the finale is the swerve between Evolution... This would cause Randy Orton, next week's General Manager, to come out and show the world his latest metrosexual look (is that Randy Wear, a term trademarked by the WWE lately?). He would at first suggest he'd be fighting for the World Title, but Triple H reminded him that Orton lost his title shot. Good to see continuation of that storyline instead of throwing it out the window. Funny how HHH asked if the fans wanted to see Orton vs. HHH and got a very mixed reaction from the fans in Buffalo. Instead, HHH is wrestling EVERYONE in the WWE in an over-the-top battle royal for his World Title. That's going to be fun to watch, given my lust for battle royals, although you could argue it may cheapen the Royal Rumble. Still, we're seeing something fun on free television.

LAST WORD: Well, this show wasn't as good as previous weeks, but it was far better than some of the crap we've seen this year. Good main event and decent writing... but this week had some dry matches. I'll go [ B- ] (B minus), going somewhat generous... But again, I've seen worse!

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