RAW was good tonight. A very good show, actually.
It would have been great in 2004.
The shift to TV-PG was not more evident since the change than it was tonight. You had "Stone Cold" Steve Austin on the television, and you could tell he was trying to rein himself in, because if he went all out, he was going to make the censors work 100 times harder than they had to already. Before TV-PG, Austin would have been in his glory, ranting and raving and really delivering what we wanted... well, at least what I wanted to see from him. My apologies, I'm an old-school Stone Cold mark and have been so ever since he said "Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!" Couple that with Batista getting busted wide open and the ref openly preparing to stop the match... again, pre PG, the announcers would have sold it better.
However, both guys made hte best of their limitations. Austin was still good despite being subdued (I wonder, did someone spike his Corona Lights with Lexapro?). I especially loved his reaction to the always-great Chris Jericho trying to smarm his way back into some beers (especially great for me and other insider types who knew that Austin and Jericho were backstage buddies back in the day). Batista again played his blood perfectly. He's all cool and non-chalant when the match starts, but once shit gets real, he unleashes the animal inside. I thought it was a smart, veteran move for him yell off the ref and finish the match. It's what separates him from, say, Shelton Benjamin, who twice got busted open and twice let the refs work on him to close the cut. Then again, Shelton doesn't have a simple out like Batista does.
Still, I can't help but wonder how much better the execution would have been had everyone been unleashed. I also can't help but wonder how much more face time they give shit guest hosts like Criss Angel and ZZ Top, and it only seemed like Austin was on the screen for a few minutes. Christ, the guy is the greatest of all-time, and you keep him bottled up? At the very least they should have had him and Batista in a confrontation. I mean, Batista spent a whole promo two weeks ago talking about how he was bitter that Austin passed the torch to John Cena, and Cole and King spent the entire match reiterating that point. I would have loved to have seen that confrontation, especially with how on-fire Batista's been lately.
As for the rest of the show, it served its purpose. The wrestling was good, Sheamus' beatdown of Evan Bourne was again fantastic. I could watch Sheamus kick the shit out of Bourne all night long because Sheamus' offense is so stiff and Bourne sells like a goddamn Champ. The only real problem I had was the obvious ref botch of the Cena/Show finish. You could tell on the replay as Cole was saying that the ref was distracted by Batista enough to miss Show raking Cena's eyes that Cole doesn't fucking pay attention to anything but what comes through his earphones. They fired Scott Armstrong why? That ref should be sat down and yelled at.
But I still can't shake the feeling that this would have been a better show pre-PG. Still, it did what it had to do. It really drove home WrestleMania, and when you're building for your biggest show of the year, even with the built-in buys, these are the TV broadcasts you need to do.