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Champagne Shots!


The bubbles tickle our noses.
Hello, everyone out there in Internet land. My name is Keith Champagne and I’ll be your guest RAW reviewer/recapper (spell check tells me that’s not a word but screw it! I’m living on the edge tonight) while Chris Garcia is away on a TOP SECRET mission for Fanboy Planet. (Okay. So he's at WorldCon.)

Any comic fans reading this might know my name from many years of inking fine comic books, primarily from DC Comics or, dare I hope, from my more recent ventures into the writing side of the business with Legion of Superheroes, Armor X, JSA and a bunch of stuff that I can’t mention by name because it hasn’t been solicited or announced yet.

What you probably don’t know is that I’m a long time wrestling fan. Some of my favorite memories as an impressionable youth are of my father taking my two brothers and I to New Haven or Hartford, CT when the WWF would roll into town. I can’t remember a time when I haven’t watched wrestling—with one exception that I’ll detail shortly. I’ve even been lucky enough to lift weights in the gym at Titan Towers and goof around in the ring while the Hardy Boys and Giant Silva were training nearby. I’ve been front row at Wrestlemania, back stage at Summerslam, chatted with Stone Cold and The Rock, broke bread with Owen Hart, and backed a hearse into a stack of audio equipment right in front of Vincent K. himself.

Fun times.

Through thick and thin, I’ve seen it all, with the exception of the exception that I mentioned above. Over the last couple of years, for some reason my interest faded drastically, somehow coinciding with the fact that wrestling got boring and my cable descrambler box that enabled me to watch all the PPV’s for free was made obsolete by the advent of digital cable. My attention has also been stolen to some degree by the rise of Mixed Martial Arts, which I’m also a longtime fan of and even inspired me to train the last few years in Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

Just to remind you --
Keith writes good comics.
Which is all my long-winded way of saying that this is the first show I’ll have seen in quite a while and I’m approaching it from the perspective of a lapsed fan hoping to once again fall in love with the squared circle. I’m not even close to being up to date on current storylines. I may not even recognize all the WWE SUPERSTARS or DIVAS that grace the ring tonight. But I’ll do my best to take it all in and report it to you, the fine and discerning reader of Fanboy Planet.

Having said that, it’s now 8:58 (perfect timing, this must be destiny!) so I’m going to flip my TV on, crack open a diet Ginger Ale, unwrap a protein bar, and jump into the show…

OK, did you guys know that RAW is no longer on Spike TV? If so, maybe one of you could have told me? No harm done, I managed to utilize the power of the preview guide and find the intrepid RAW, now back on USA network. When did that happen?

Hey, did you guys know that SUMMERSLAM was held last night? Guess I missed it.

The show opened with a really nice, sentimental montage consisting of flashes of the greats, like Andre The Giant (my all-time favorite) and curiously, it made me nostalgic for Vince as an announcer. I grew up on his voice; to me, it just sounds like what a wrestling announcer should, even if he was never as good technically as JR. He always had enthusiasm, though.

Edge comes strolling out, looking flashy and rants and raves and brags about still being the champion. Then they cut to Lita who is sporting some serious cleavage. She must have hit puberty since the last time I watched RAW. She tosses the championship belt in Bridgeport Harbor (which was much cooler when Stone Cold tossed the Intercontinental belt in the water a few years ago), and then Edge debuts a new “RATED R” belt.

I like the slogan “RATED R SUPERSTAR;” it’s catchy.

Stuffed in that top like a sausage...
Then Jeff Hardy runs out, looking a little heavier then the last time I saw him. I remember hearing somewhere that Hardy got fired for drug issues so I’d assume he’s cleaned up his act. A lot of people gain weight in rehab -- just look at Courtney Love.

And while I was typing this, I thought I heard Jerry Lawler say something about Kane facing Johnny Knoxville tonight. Is it going to be a Jackass night on RAW or did I hear him wrong? The odds lean heavily in favor of faulty ears but nonetheless, color me intrigued.

Next up, The Spirit Squad (and nothing says spirit like the lime green, matching togs they’re wearing) face off against Hacksaw Jim Duggan, The Highlanders, and some guy who’s name I didn’t catch but looks a little like a younger Hacksaw…so I’m going to call him L’il Jimmy for the duration of this match.

The Highlanders look kind of silly (and if there can be only one, why are there two of them?) so I’ll say I like them because, for some reason, they remind me of Butch and Luke, the Bushwhackers. Don’t get me wrong, the Bushwhackers sucked but back before they were castrated by the McMahon machine, they were called the Sheepherders and you couldn’t buy two more sadistic sons of guns outside of Abdullah the Butcher. I maintain a soft spot in my hardened heart for them.

Ultimately, Duncan and Connor McLeod double-team and pin a member of the Spirit Squad. It’s a cool looking move but by double-teaming the lime green guy, they cheated to win and I just can’t condone that kind of behavior. Is Jack Tunney still the WWF president? I’m going to lodge a protest.

Edge yells at some guy working out backstage but I was on the phone with my wife so I missed it. Sorry. I did catch some product placement for that Bowflex machine and a movie poster in the background. And Vince growled that he feels “GNARLY” which sounds pretty ominous.

Checking my email during the commercials, I get a note from Andy Smith. Andy is currently penciling Claw The Unconquered from Wildstorm/DC and is all kinds of talented. So I’ll pimp him here. Give Claw a look if you haven’t already.

I take advantage of Randy Orton’s vignette to reply to a couple of emails but I do wonder if his father, Cowboy Bob, ever got that cast off his arm. That must have been a SEVERE break, he wore that thing for years! Some guy with a crazy afro haircut eats an apple… which is good. One a day keeps the doctor away. Good health rules!

DX comes on and shows how they defaced Vince’s plane. I can’t help but remember that the last time I watched wrestling on a regular basis, DX was funny. This wasn’t close to being amusing but they did seem to put Vince into an even gnarlier (F U, spellcheck!!) mood. Hopefully, that’ll pay dividends later on.

Like all good married men,
Keith skipped watching this match to spend some quality time with his family.
While Trish and Victoria are having what is probably the most athletic match of the show so far, my wife and son arrive home. I miss the rest of the match helping my boy brush his teeth and getting him ready for bed but, if you want to know what happened while I was otherwise occupied, I’d suggest the Pro Wrestling Torch website. They do good recaps. If not, I think the odds are good that they decided to hug instead of wrestle, had a warm embrace, and left the ring as friends. Friendship and love always win out in my world.

By the time I finish putting my son to bed and get back to the show, Jeff Hardy is performing a Swanton bomb on Edge. On the verge of winning, John Cena comes running in. I don’t see what he does because I’m busy writing the above paragraph about Victoria and Trish but I’ll bet it was really violent and controversial.

The recap when the show returns from the commercial break proves me right as Cena punches Edge through the crowd and through the backstage area. Maybe they could take a few tips from Trish and Victoria about how love and friendship are the most important things?

Actually, it’s a pretty good brawl ending with Edge taking a swim in Bridgeport Harbor followed by a cute USA commercial where Triple H gets a sunburn. During the commercial break, I surf over to pwtorch.com to see what I missed but their real time recap is lagging. Sorry, guys…I feel as if I’ve let you down.

Melina and her boyfriend, Johnny Nitro, show off a cute entrance and Johnny Nitro shows some good agility in his brief match with Kane, who appears to be on the Jeff Hardy diet, sporting less muscle mass and more body fat than I remember. I also realize that while I heard Johnny Knoxville, the rest of the world must have heard Jerry Lawler saying Johnny Nitro.

A giant, savage Samoan named Umaga runs in and, sporting the worst name that I’ve ever heard and abs to match, decimates Kane by sticking his thumb in the Big Red Machine’s throat a couple of times until Kane coughs up blood. I’d be concerned for his health but I’m too busy wondering how long it takes to apply the cool looking Maori facial tattoos on Umaga every night. Up close, they look pretty cool…kind of like I imagined Mike Tyson would look by now if he had kept up with his facial ink.

Sure, he pays attention to the guy with ink...
During the commercial break, I realize that I’m kind of bored and feeling a little antsy. I look at the clock and see that I’ve got about a half an hour left, so I vow to continue in my reporting duties. It’s not that I mind what I’m watching; I just don’t feel grabbed by any of it. I seem to like the ideal of the WWE better than the actual WWE and instead of being wrapped up in the storylines, I feel like an observer. Nothing is getting me to invest any interest and having to sit through a preview of John Cena’s upcoming movie doesn’t help either. Nothing like being forced to swallow product placement to really involve a viewer emotionally.

I begin to channel flip but turn back during Calvin Ayre’s bodog.net commercial. Interesting fact about Calvin Ayre is that he’s Canadian but is barred from returning to his home country. So he runs his Internet gambling empire from Costa Rica, which is where most of those sites are located. Rumor has it Calvin Ayre is starting his own Mixed Martial Arts promotion to run against the UFC and try to steal some of the burgeoning MMA market here in America.

By the way, while I’m digressing, PRIDE FC has the best fighters in the world.

Counting John Cena’s movie preview, Raw returns after about a ten-minute commercial break, thankfully, with THE MAN, The Nature Boy, Ric Flair taking on Randy Orton.

Unfortunately, all the dirtiest player in the game (copyright and trademark Ric Flair) takes is a beating from pillar to post. Finally, the apple eating kid (who’s name, I learn, is Carlito) runs in and makes the save but not before the referee reverses the decision and awards Ric Flair the victory due to Orton’s excessive violence. I check my wrestling rulebook and don’t see any sections stating that excessive violence in wrestling is wrong: In fact, as far back as I can remember, it’s been encouraged. I make a note to write a second letter to Jack Tunney, right after I find out if he’s still president.

During the commercials, I try one last time to read the RAW recap over at Pwtorch.com but it still hasn’t been updated. For a half a second, I wonder if Wade Keller had a heart attack or something but then Vince McMahon’s GNARLY voice draws my attention back to my television set.

Somebody's gonna squeal like a pig...
Mick Foley proves my point about how love and friendship are the most important things by literally kissing Vince’s ass in order to save the job of his friend, Melina. Unfortunately, she seems to subscribe to the laws of violence more than she does love and thanks him by crushing his nuts with a low blow. Mick writhes in pain, gets fired for his devoted friendship, and the McMahons and Melina head to the back.

Vince and Shane gloat their way out of the building, only to have the rear axle of their limo ripped off, another prank perpetrated by those scoundrels in DX. The show goes off the air with Vince pulling some Oscar-worthy acting out of his recently-kissed ass and I shut my TV off, my mission complete.

To sum up, many punches were thrown, Ric Flair bled, Melina did a split, and I missed a half an hour playing Daddy.

Thanks to Derek for inviting me to recap tonight’s show. I had a good time and hope you enjoyed reading this. I’m sure Chris Garcia will be back soon (if he survives his secret mission) and maybe I’ll see you guys in the squared circle again sometimes.

Keith Champagne is preparing to ink his last issue of Firestorm before moving on to a new project at DC with one of his favorite pencillers. He’s written a bunch of comics lately and the first of those books will begin being solicited next month. You can check out his blog at www.keithchampagne.blogspot.com, where he sometimes draws left-handed, just for a change of pace.

Talk about today's column in the forums!

Keith Champagne

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