Monday Night Raw – January 26, 2004

Monday Night Raw
Date: January 26, 2004
Location: Giant Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania
Commentators: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler

It’s the night after the Royal Rumble and things didn’t go so well for Raw. The Rumble itself was won by Smackdown’s Chris Benoit and the Raw World Title match went to a draw, meaning the World Title situation is kind of up in the air. Raw won’t be back on pay per view until Wrestlemania so their TV needs to be very good. Let’s get to it.

The opening recap looks at Mick Foley returning last night, showing that he’s not a coward by attacking Randy Orton. The terrified look on Orton’s face is great.

Opening sequence.

Here’s Chris Jericho to open things up. He’s not happy that Benoit won the Rumble instead of him, but since Benoit is on Smackdown and Jericho was the last Raw wrestler in the Rumble, he should be getting a title shot. Say, TONIGHT. Actually, let’s just make that his Survivor Series favor. He wants to defend the title in New Hampshire, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Florida, and then in New York, complete with the Howard Dean scream. I haven’t heard that referenced in a good while so it got a small chuckle.

Cue Eric Bischoff, to say the title match is on….if that’s what Jericho wants. If he takes that match though, Trish Stratus has to face Kane. See, Bischoff is embarrassed that Raw lost the Rumble again so being the last Raw wrestler means nothing. So tonight, it’s either a title shot or no Trish vs. Kane. Jericho gives Bischoff a look that means the match is off but Bischoff isn’t done. Since Jericho and Rob Van Dam were the last Raw names in the match, they’re teaming up tonight to face Evolution (sans HHH)…..NOW. Are we at least done with the Survivor Series favors now?

Chris Jericho/Rob Van Dam vs. Evolution

Jericho and Flair lock up to start and a dropkick puts Flair down. Flair pokes him in the eye to take over as JR says he hasn’t seen Flair make many mistakes over the years. Uh, yeah. Orton comes in and eats a spinwheel kick so it’s off to Van Dam for the first time. The kicks and chops have Orton in trouble and charging into Jericho’s raised boot in the corner makes things even worse.

Orton finally knees Van Dam down and drops a forearm for two as things slow down a good bit. A spinwheel kick drops Flair and a flip splash gets two with Orton coming in for the save. Everything breaks down for a few seconds and Jericho is spinebustered on the outside, leaving Van Dam on his own as we take a break. Back with Van Dam in trouble and Jericho being checked on by the trainers.

Flair starts in on the arm and it’s off to Orton, as Batista still hasn’t actually been in the match. The short armscissors stays on as Jericho is up to his knees for an improvement. Batista comes in as the fans try to get behind Jericho. Orton steps on the arm again as Jericho is now back to the apron. It says a lot when you can make walking to your corner a story within a match and actually have it work. A kick to the face finally gets Van Dam over to Jericho and it’s time to pick the pace up in a hurry.

The bulldog gets two on Batista and Orton is backdropped to the floor. There are the Walls to Batista and a Five Star to Flair but Orton runs in to….completely miss the RKO on Jericho, who doesn’t even move off of Batista because Orton (Stupid! Stupid!) wasn’t close. The second attempt works fine though (with a strategic camera angle just in case) and Batista gets the pin.

Rating: C+. That botch at the end hurt things a lot as they were doing well with Jericho being cut off for so long until the hot tag. Evolution is a good choice for a team like this as you have a little bit of everything in there to make the team work well. They had to work hard but still won and it’s not like Van Dam and Jericho are damaged by losing a handicap match.

Post break Orton is in Bischoff’s office and wants revenge on Foley. Steve Austin comes in and says Foley is going to get to talk first though.

Trish comes in to check on Jericho and thank him for getting her out of the match with Kane. She thinks they could have a good relationship….as friends. Not as friendly as he is with Christian, like going out on the town or anything and helping him pick up women. Cue Christian, who Jericho doesn’t seem happy to see. Trish leaves and Jericho wants to know where Christian was during that handicap match. Christian was in Bischoff’s office, getting the two of them a #1 contenders match for the Tag Team Titles next week. Jericho just needs to get his head in the game. I love this story.

Molly Holly/Jazz vs. Victoria/Lita

Fallout from Victoria pinning Molly on Heat last night. During Lita’s entrance, Lawler mentions rumors that Playboy is looking for a pair of Divas to pose together. I mean, they’ve already been found and announced at this point, but Lawler hasn’t been up to speed on anything in years. Lita and Molly start things up with Holly being thrown into the corner for some good old fashioned begging off. It’s off to Victoria vs. Jazz, who hit the mat with Jazz getting the better of things.

Victoria gets sent outside, setting up an argument between Stevie Richards and Teddy Long. I think I need to see those two have a match at some point. Molly comes back in for a reverse cravate and it’s back to Jazz for the same thing. The splash misses though as Lawler asks JR how he can’t comment on the wrestlers’ looks. Lita gets the hot tag and cleans house to mere indifference from the crowd. With Lita and Jazz fighting on the floor, Victoria small packages Molly for the pin. Lawler: “ARE YOU WATCHING PLAYBOY???”

Rating: D+. I know it’s not the best change of pace in the world and they still need some fresh blood, but Victoria as a face could do some good for the pretty weak division. Molly isn’t doing anything as champion though and the lack of charisma near the title is hurting things a lot. In other words, they need a shakeup but a shakeup that actually makes a long term difference.

Here’s HHH for a chat with the announcers treating his Last Man Standing match with Shawn like some kind of epic struggle. HHH says last night, two men fought for what they believed in and it came down to one second as neither was able to get up at ten. Cue Shawn Michaels so HHH asks what it takes to get Shawn to quit. Shawn says they haven’t even gotten started yet but thankfully here’s Austin to cut things off before we get a fifteen minute exchange about whatever these two decided this is about next.

Austin talks about how last night reminded him of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and thinks Shawn deserves a rematch. However, there’s one more problem and that’s the Royal Rumble. Chris Benoit won that match last night and gets a shot at whichever World Title he wants…which is a new development as nothing had been mentioned about being able to pick the title.

Cue Benoit to stare at both of them and say he went through a hard night of his own. He’s fought eighteen years to be the best and now he has the opportunity to face the best. At Wrestlemania, Benoit is coming for the World Heavyweight Championship, no matter who has it. So there’s the big Raw match in a surprise.

Kane vs. Bubba Ray Dudley

Bubba is fighting for Spike after Kane attacked him last night. Some right hands have Kane in trouble to start and a big one puts him on the floor. Kane has far better success on the floor with some uppercuts having Bubba in trouble. Back in and Kane rips at Bubba’s face, including a hard thumb in the eye. Kane grabs the steps and blasts the blind Bubba for the DQ.

Post match D-Von runs in for the save and eats a Tombstone…which triggers the gong. The Titantron goes nuts and we see one of the weird Undertaker videos, featuring the graveyard and Kane burying Undertaker at Survivor Series. Kane freaks and bails.

Paul Heyman is on the phone with Bischoff, who didn’t know what Austin was going to do. Heyman promises lawyers and hangs up with Coach coming in instead. Coach finds the whole thing funny and gets to face Goldberg in a No DQ match as a result.

Rico vs. Rob Conway

Rico takes him down to annoy Conway to start but Rene Dupree gets in a few cheap shots on the floor to take over. Back in and Conway threatens to break Rico’s neck, which is a little harsher than it needs to be. A clothesline sets up the chinlock as Jackie slaps the mat in an already loose top, sending Lawler through the roof.

We cut away for a second and come back to her holding it in place, making me wonder how that went live. Rico fights up with right hands and clotheslines but Rene pops up on the apron for a distraction. Not to be outdone, Jackie does the same, pulls her top off to really distract Conway, and allows Rico to kick Conway in the face for the pin.

Rating: D-. This is going to be about the Playboy thing isn’t it? There’s no other logical reason to give these two more than eighteen seconds on Raw so it has to be some other thing, such as pushing an angle that has already been spoiled in advance. At least it means more of Jackie, which is the only good part of the whole thing.

Post match Stacy Keibler comes out and raises Jackie’s hand to hint at Playboy. Moving on.

Wrestlemania Recall: Wrestlemania IX, with a grand total of no wrestling shown.

Mick Foley arrives.

We look at Brock Lesnar attacking Goldberg last night, setting up his elimination.

Coach comes out to face Goldberg but first he begs Bischoff to reconsider the match because no one wants to see this. Hang on though, because here are Teddy Long and Mark Henry. Teddy thinks it’s unfair for a “cracker” like Bischoff to dump his problems on the black man. That’s blatant haterizing because whitey thinks he can tell the black man to dance. Teddy gives Coach Henry for the night and we’re ready to go.

Goldberg vs. Jonathan Coachman

No DQ and Henry is in the ring for Coach. Henry shoves Goldberg around to start so Goldberg gives him a head fake into a clothesline. Coach stays in the corner as Henry gets in a splash and runs Goldberg over for a bonus. The bearhug doesn’t do much to Goldberg, who breaks out and knocks Henry to the floor, leaving Coach to take the spear and Jackhammer for the pin with a boot on the chest. Lillian: “Here is your winner: JO…GOLDBERG!”

Rating: F+. Remember those other times where Goldberg has beaten Henry up without much efforts? Well this time he did the same thing to Coach at the same time. Goldberg vs. Lesnar is all but a lock for Wrestlemania now and having Goldberg beat up Coach and Henry isn’t exactly a great way to get me fired up for it. Find some new people for Goldberg to beat up instead.

Here’s Mick Foley for his big return speech. Foley says an explanation is in order after he walked out on the company back in December. When fans talk about his career, they say a lot of nice things about his guts and courage, but they overlook his hatred. Foley was able to reach deep down into his heart and channel what he found there into some superhuman things in the ring.

That was fine when he was an active wrestler but things have changed today. Foley talks about Pete Rose working as hard as he could because he was mad at the world, which was cool with Rose was in a uniform. Seeing that same man angry at the world at 61 years old while he lies about betting on baseball is just sad. That’s not what Foley wanted to be, and it took him a long time to let go of the hatred after he retired. It was a big, big mistake to take the match with Orton in the first place because he knew he couldn’t reach down into the hatred again.

Foley calls Orton, on his own, out to the ring so here he is to respond. Orton asks what Foley wants….and it’s for Orton to spit in his face again. That’s going to be a no, so Foley shouts about all the blood he’s spilled over the years until Orton spits on him. Foley then turns the other cheek and asks Orton to do it even harder this time. You can see the confusion in Orton’s eyes as Foley says he wants this one to be extra green. Orton does it and Foley cheers for him, even asking for a closeup.

Foley is used to having things like this happen to him because he’s got four kids. That brings Foley to all the commercials that Orton’s “friends” aired because people started believing what they were saying. The spit on his face is spitting on his legacy and Foley cannot accept this, so he hits himself in the head, drawing blood. He suffered and worked too long to have Orton spit on his legacy.

Foley saw his ear thrown away in Munich, Germany and got beaten up in Nigeria and now he’s in that dark place again. There is a time and a place for hatred and that is right now in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Foley beats him down in the corner and hits the running knee but here’s Evolution for the save. A clothesline puts him on the floor but Foley comes back with a chair to clean house and end the show.

It took me some time to get into this one but Foley completely sold me by the end. He started off with the rather goofy spit stuff but then pulled Orton into the deep end, with Orton’s face perfectly selling the idea that he knew he was in WAY over his head. Foley knows how to get down into that deep, dark area and Orton isn’t even two years into his main roster career yet. This was a really weird way to get to a great place, but they better have Orton ready to come back against him because otherwise, this is going to be a really messy story.

Overall Rating: C. As tends to be the case around this time of year, the wrestling (outside of the opener) wasn’t the point here but the storytelling worked. Benoit coming over to Raw is a good idea as we’ve seen him face Lesnar already. The Foley story is very promising but is also walking a thin line. You can tell that it’s Wrestlemania season and if they stop giving Lawler so much time to yell about the Playboy thing, we could be in for a great road to New York.

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