Monday Night Raw – June 23, 2003

Monday Night Raw
Date: June 23, 2003
Location: Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Attendance: 14,451
Commentators: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler

We’re in the World’s Most Famous Arena for one of the weaker stretches in WWE history. However, there’s a heck of a main event tonight as HHH defends the World Title against Kane in a champion vs. mask match. That’s an area that we’ve touched on over the years with Kane but the idea of HHH actually losing the title doesn’t seem likely anytime soon. Something’s got to give so let’s get to it.

Opening sequence.

Scott Steiner/Booker T. vs. Test/Christian

Two feuds in one is often a good way to go. Christian takes Booker into the corner for some right hands before the much taller Canadian gets to do the same. Test mocks Steiner’s pushups and the delay allows Booker to hit the spinning kick to the face. The hot tag brings in Steiner to toss people around, including sending Christian out to the floor. Test grabs Stacy though, earning himself a slap. He shoves Steiner into her though and, since WWE Divas have the weakest ankles ever, Stacy twists her ankle. Booker and Christian take each other out, allowing Test to boot Steiner in the face for the pin.

Rating: D. This Test vs. Steiner feud is getting worse and worse every single week. Test beating up Mae Young last week helped him a little, though his complete lack of talking skills and charisma hold him back a lot. Booker and Christian were glorified window dressing here, which shouldn’t be the case for the Intercontinental Title feud.

Kane looks around stoically as we look at his debut in 1997.

Teddy Long and Christopher Nowinski come out to talk about how unfairly Chris has been treated. He’s been discriminated against due to his intelligence, which is the only reason he didn’t win Tough Enough. It’s thuggin and buggin time.

Maven vs. Christopher Nowinski

Maven reverses a suplex into a rollup and wins in thirty seconds with a rollup.

Evolution arrived earlier.

It’s time for the Highlight Reel with Chris Jericho ripping on the New York fans. He wants to talk about Steve Austin interrupting Lance Storm’s match last week to call him boring. Storm is the guest tonight and he has a prepared statement. No one enjoys a good laugh more than he does but Austin crossed a line last week. His in-ring abilities should be more than enough to entertain people and if you want bells and whistles, go to the circus. Therefore, please stop chanting BORING.

At the end of the statement though, here are some movers to take away the set. Austin comes up on screen to say they’re boring Madison Square Garden to death. Instead of reading prepared statements and Jericho annoying him in general, let’s have a tag team match right now.

Chris Jericho/Lance Storm vs. Dudley Boyz

The Canadians jump them during the entrances until the Dudleys run Storm over and toss him outside. We settle down to Bubba hammering away until Jericho trips him from the floor. The running crotch attack to the back connects and a belly to back suplex makes it even worse. Storm’s boring leg lariat sets up a chinlock before it’s back to Jericho for a quickly broken Walls.

It’s another chinlock and there go those chants again. Storm switches to a sleeper and Lawler can’t help but make boring jokes. Bubba gets out with a suplex and makes the hot tag to D-Von. Everything breaks down with a neckbreaker to both Canadians. Jericho gets flapjacked and What’s Up hits Storm but the table request takes too long. It’s Storm coming back in with the springboard clothesline for two on D-Von, only to have the 3D put Storm away in short order.

Rating: B-. They were moving out there, but the boring stuff got annoying in a hurry. I kind of get what they’re going for there but at the same time it’s hardly the most logical move in the world to get someone over. Also, Storm is now a combination of boring and a loser. Maybe it’s a long term project but my goodness it’s taking a questionable road to get there.

We look back at Evolution stealing Kane’s mask five months ago.

Randy Orton and Ric Flair mock Mick Foley’s Tietam Brown in the traditional not so subtle plug. Their goal for tonight is to have HHH retain the title.

Here are La Resistance to sing the French National Anthem. This rendition makes me long for the days of Nikolai Volkoff though as singing certainly isn’t their strong point, which I think is kind of the point. However, it’s about to get worse.

La Resistance vs. Sgt Slaughter/Hurricane

Non-title. Sarge is looking huge but the fans definitely respond to him. Hurricane dives off the top onto Grenier, leaving Slaughter to knock Dupree around. We hit the cobra clutch for a second until Dupree makes a rope. Grenier uses the distraction to get in a belt shot for the fast pin. Hurricane was never in the match.

We look at Austin trying to fire Kane up a few weeks ago. This is treated as one of Kane’s memory (complete with the screen getting all wavy as it ends), meaning we now have a camera in his head. Somehow this isn’t quite the surprise.

Here’s Austin for an announcement: Wrestlemania XX is coming to Madison Square Garden. As for tonight though, he’d like to have Mick Foley come out here right now. He knows Foley is going out on a book tour and yes he’d like an autographed copy. Before he goes though, Austin has a little gift. After Foley steps away to avoid a Stunner, Austin brings out some people who used to wrestle in ECW with a framed Hardcore Title. He’s not done though as we get a music video about Foley with quite the set of highlights. Foley: “I almost forgot how good I was!”

Before he can go anywhere else though, here’s Vince McMahon to interrupt. Vince brings up Foley saying he would never be back here again yet here he is. That’s not cool with Vince from a personal standpoint but from a professional standpoint, it’s something else. Therefore, Vince has two words for Foley: thank you.

Foley shakes his hand but wants a hug, much to Vince’s annoyance. He used to mock wrestlers for crying during their great moments but that’s the case right now. We get the required cheap pop and Al Snow joke, Foley talks about the Snuka vs. Muraco match where he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. In the words of Dorothy Gale, there’s no place like home, so he hopes he’ll be welcome back in a WWE ring at some point again. One last thing: in the words of Frosty the Snowman (noted hardcore philosopher), “I’ll say goodbye, but don’t you cry. I’ll be back again someday.”

It’s kind of random to have Foley show up less than a month ago and then have a big goodbye ceremony but this felt like a big way to make up for the way he left before. Foley deserves a big sendoff like this and I’m glad to see it be such a nice moment. At least he went out on good terms for once, which isn’t always the case.

Shawn Michaels/Kevin Nash vs. Ric Flair/Randy Orton

Shawn chops away at Flair to start so it’s off to Orton to trade right hands. Nash gets the side slam on Orton, followed by the framed elbows to Flair in the corner. With Evolution on the floor, Shawn hits a slingshot corkscrew dive to take them out and we go to a break after a rather pedestrian first part.

Back with Shawn getting stomped down by Orton and starting in on the arm. Flair comes in for an armbar of his own, which looks so out of place from him. Even more armbarring from Orton goes nowhere as I’m longing for more Slaughter to energize this tag match. A collision allows for the hot tag to Nash to clean a few rooms of the house.

Flair saves Orton from the Jackknife and it’s a double clothesline to put Evolution down. That’s enough from Nash so it’s back to the winded Shawn as they’ve managed to bore New York City. Sweet Chin Music is blocked but Orton is sent outside. The top rope elbow hits Flair and Sweet Chin Music is good for the easy pin.

Rating: D-. What in the world was that supposed to be? No one in the match looked interested in being there and it was eight minutes of lame arm work. Nash barely did anything and Orton was just there for the sake of being there. In other words, this might as well have been Shawn vs. Flair II, though I’m not sure how much good it was going to be. I have no idea what was wrong here as they’re definitely capable of better.

Video of Kane agreeing to the match last week.

The fans think Kane will win the title 56% to 44%, which surprises JR.

Foley signed a book to Vince but Evolution comes in with Foley getting beaten down at Orton’s hands. A bottle to the head cuts Foley off and Orton kicks him down the stairs. Vince sees him down and says he needs a janitor to get Foley up.

Here are Teddy Long and Rodney Mack for another FIVE MINUTE WHITE BOY CHALLENGE!

Goldberg vs. Rodney Mack

Knees to the ribs (no spear) and the Jackhammer end Mack faster than Maven beat Nowinski. Well that woke them up.

Rob Van Dam gives Kane a pep talk and Kane breaks a mirror he’s been looking into all night.

We get a Wrestlemania Recall, which isn’t from New York City. It is however of Stephanie, with HHH Pedigreeing her at XVIII.

Raw World Title: HHH vs. Kane

Kane is challenging and it’s mask vs. title. They start fast with HHH being sent into the corner and getting caught in a choke. There’s no slam quite yet though so Kane takes him outside and sends him into the steps instead. Flair gets in the ring for a distraction though and HHH scores with a chair to the head.

Back from a break with HHH scoring with a spinebuster before botching a DDT. Thankfully Kane sits straight up so HHH pulls him down by the hair (called a neckbreaker) for the same level of effectiveness. A powerslam gives Kane two and the top rope clothesline connects….only to bump the ref. He’s not bumped well enough though so Kane runs him over for good measure.

Flair tries to bring in the belt to no avail as Kane knocks HHH silly for two instead from a second referee. HHH’s low blow into the Pedigree gets two and Kane sends HHH into Flair. The chokeslam is loaded up but Orton comes in with a low blow and the RKO. The second Pedigree retains the title.

Rating: D. So this was basically a pay per view main event match with HHH going with the exact same style he’s used for about nine months now. I remember being stunned that they actually had Kane lose his mask but it’s not like he had anything else going on at the moment. Of course this could have been something they actually took time to set up but why do that when you can rush it in a week? For MSG? Eh, fair enough, though there could have been a bigger moment for such a big deal.

Post match Eric Bischoff comes out to say Kane has to unmask right now. He reaches for the chin strap but HHH hits him from behind with the belt. Van Dam comes in to save Kane (WHERE WAS HE FIVE MINUTES AGO???) and it’s a chokeslam to Orton, followed by the Five Star. Kane loads up the ring post pyro but stops and eventually unmasks. Most of his hair comes off with it, revealing a heavily make-uped face that I guess was supposed to be his horrible burns. Kane chokeslams a stunned Van Dam to end the show.

Overall Rating: D. Other than the rather good match designed to make Lance Storm seem boring and the genuinely great Foley ceremony, there wasn’t much on this show of value. Above all though, they came up with an angle where Kane gets unmasked and blew it off in the span of a week. I get the idea of popping a rating but what about popping a pay per view buy rate instead? Would Kane vs. HHH, mask vs. title, inside the Cell have been a worse idea than HHH vs. Nash? Anyway, this had a few good parts but they’re bogged down by some rather bad thinking.

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