Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Last night's show was even better

As I mentioned previously, we went to the SmackDown! taping last night in Manchester. Great show - probably the best live show I've been to in the couple of years I've been going to them. I marked out big time for the "surprise" ending (In the worst-kept secret arguably ever, Hulk Hogan returned as a masked character called "Mr. America, in a horrible disguise). The arena in Manchester is terrific - not too large, but big enough for the full show with pyro, raised stage, and all. The ventilation system is great, way better than the one in Worcester. The sound system was also top-notch. I wouldn't mind going to a concert or sporting event up there sometime. I took a bunch of pictures, and since I was on the floor, I got a bunch of good ones. I'll be posting them, along with Sunday's pictures, an the next day or so. E-mail me if you want the link when it's done.

Unfortunately, Jane and I are nursing simultaneous colds, but it's not too bad as colds go. Pretty minor, actually - I'm already past the worst of it. At least it's not the supercold. I'm glad we went, though I gave Jane the option of calling it off. had she not wanted to go, I wouldn't have been bitter at all - if we're too sick, we're too sick. But it was worth it.

Here's an ironic thing I noticed last night. The security at the arena was very tight. Separate men's and women's entrance lanes, with full pat-downs as you enter before you get to the ticket taker. But once you get in, you can buy beer by the bottle. And take it back into the arena. Thank goodness the heels didn't come out on top last night in the finale, otherwise those bottles might have been flying. Security was much more lassez-faire in Worcester, and there was an extended fight in the upper tier above us that night. No issues at all yesterday.

Monday, April 28, 2003

A fine show, indeed

My friend Jack and I went to Backlash, the WWE pay-per-view show out in Worcester last night. I'd never been to a PPV show before, so it was interesting. No commercial breaks, more action, and generally pretty good matches. The biggest problems we had with it were the time waiting to get out in the garage across the street, and the slow service at the bar we went to for dinner. Glaciers overrun continents faster than we got our meals - and then they brought the appetizers out at the same time. Decent food, terrible timing. But the show was a lot of fun. Tomorrow night, we're going to the SmackDown! taping up in Manchester with our friends Chon and Jane. After that, I think no more live shows for a while...

David's standing up any chance we'll give him. I've been able to catch him a few times and keep him from slamming the noggin, but not every time. It's amazing how hard baby heads have to be. He's already getting better at it, though.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Stand and deliver

Or at least stand. Last night, David was crawling around the living room and playing with stuff while I watched him from the couch. He disappeared behind his Command Module for a moment, then he crawled into it from the side. He came to the side facing me, peeked out, and giggled. Then it got interesting.

He backed out of the saucer, then vanished. I looked over, and all of a sudden his head popped up, but it was higher than I expected. So I moved to the side to see what was up, and sure enough, he was standing up! He'd used the saucer to pull himself to standing position.

So I called Jane in to see, and in the fuss he toppled over sideways and banged his head on the rug.

I suspect he may be walking by his birthday at this point. We're in pretty good shape as far as childproofing goes, so there's not too much else to do. I just have to figure out how to gate off the bottom stairs.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

On job security

I was talking with my dad the other day about life in general, and he mentioned a company in the Boston area that he said it would probably be great to work for, because of their track record of success (as reflected by their stock price over the years).

That got me thinking a little about the (relative) safety of my job - or of any other, for that matter. Where I work, I've been reviewed very favorably over the five years I've been here. I think I've done a pretty darn good job for the most part. But am I safe? Well, compared to a lot of people in the workforce I might be. But no job is truly safe anymore, including mine. Here's a bit of the reason why:

When I came here to work five years ago, we were a small insurer with a long history (over 150 years) and a "long-term view" of things. The company was struggling in the marketplace, but had a commitment to provide as well as possible for the policyholders first, and the employees second. Top management was right here in the building, and as a result any personnel decisions were being made by people who knew you personally - the decision to get rid of people was certain to not be made lightly.

However, we continued to struggle. My second year here, we made a deal with a much larger company to join into a "pool", which is basically a way that mutual insurers can merge. Top management was now in the Midwest, but we were still run as an independent entity that was part of the pool. The pooling saved the company (otherwise, recent years might have sent us down the cliff - our management did a great job of seeing the signs and cutting a favorable deal for the company while it was a sellers' market), so no complaints there. But now, despite local management, there was a veto halfway across the country.

Last year, we "merged" IT and IS operations into their respective organizations pool-wide. Now, we lost much local autonomy in that area, and personally, my management was now split between local and Minnesota (where the fellow who is in charge of the three smaller companies' IT resides). It's a pretty decent arrangement overall, but now we're one more layer removed from local management. But I'm still known by most of the people who have control over my fate.

Well, as of this year the president of the company retired. Now we're operating as one part of a "region" combined with our counterpart company in New England. Essentially, we've doubled in size, and the head of the region is based in the other state. So that's one more step of removal. Now, all the people who are likeliest to control my fate are people who I can't see everyday anymore.

Ergo, despite the fact that I'm pretty good at my job, and run a reasonably tight ship, I'm really just a number on the ledger now - and though it's not likely, it'd be much easier for someone in another state to say "cut expenses by X, and point to my position on the org chart than it would be for someone I see at the supermarket to do that.

Believe it or not, that's not a whine - it's just reality. If I were at my old company, it wouldn't be quite the same (it's smaller, and owned by three partners), but I still could be a sacrifice to the math. Even if I worked for myself, I'd still only be as safe as my next customer. If I had a corporate client who needed to cut outside expenses, out I could easily go.

So there's no really safe place short of being independently wealthy. My strategy, as a result, is just to live within my means and save as much as possible. The only real job security is cash in the bank.

That said, I still like what I do - I really do. I don't have any real complaints about the people I work with or for, I love the commute (about a mile), and the job itself remains interesting.

By the way, so you folks can read something more interesting than my twaddle above - David has now entered the Cheerios phase of babyhood. We're still feeding him jar food, but once the supplies are out, that's it. We'll move on to diced-up bits of real food, and let him self-feed entirely from then on. It's messy, but he's getting the hang of it.

Eleven months old tomorrow!

Monday, April 21, 2003

Whew.

For Easter weekend, we went to Jane's sister's house outside Rochester, NY for a get-together with Jane's family. We had a nice time, but I am exhausted. 908 total miles driven between 5:15 AM Saturday when we left and about 4:15 PM today. The trip was just over 400 miles each way. We were accompanied the whole way by our GPS (average travel speed - 67.8 MPH) and most excellent iPod for entertainment.

David was very difficult the two times we left the house for food - dinner Saturday and brunch yesterday. He was very good in the car during the trip, though, which is a significant mitigating factor. He got along very well with his three cousins (7, 5, and 1.5).

Oh, I posted the long-awaited new pictures Friday night before we left. They're in the usual place. Now I think I'll go back to sleep. Fortunately, I have the day off tomorrow.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

I haven't forgotten the pictures

I just haven't had time to build the page yet. Maybe tomorrow - I've got the day off. Or early next week. We're busy this weekend.

Last night he stood up! Granted, I helped him get there, but he held himself up on his fence, and had a great time looking around before he got tired and plopped back onto his butt. His current policy when he crawls is this: if he encounters something and it doesn't budge, he tries to climb it and pull himself up with it. If it budges, it goes in the mouth. Sometimes he does both at the same time.

He's also starting to adapt better to some of the "3rd foods" we've been trying to feed him, and he's making the first halting efforts at self-feeding. We dunk his spoon in some food and then wait for him to jam it in his mouth. Sometimes he even sticks the end with the food on it in!

Monday, April 14, 2003

More photos coming soon

I just have to get around to uploading them - we've got a few, and a couple of video clips should be coming, too.

As for other Boy issues, he had a great time showing off for his grandparents over the weekend, and behaved pretty well when we went out for lunches with them Saturday and Sunday. He loves opportunities to crawl, and he's already trying hard to stand up - everything he encounters goes in his mouth if it's portable enough, and if it doesn't move, he tries to pull himself up with it.

He's been having some sleeping issues the last few days - he gets whiny at night, refuses to go to bed until relatively late, and is sleeping pretty restlessly. I think it's an indicator of more teeth coming soon - he's still got only the two.

Unrelated - I got a set of baseball wristbands with a Red Sox logo on them as a birthday gift from Georgia (one of my employees). I think I'll save them for bowling season, then I can use them to fidget like Nomar before every ball.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Back and forth

Jimmy and I are having a blog debate today, which is fun. if you're interested, read his blog first, then mine, then his again, etc.

I do feel that, for the most part, attitude towards change is what defines the difference between liberals and conservatives - both in the classical sense and today. Liberals are, as a rule, more open and accepting towards societal change. Conservatives are not. Most major societal trends are spearheaded by liberals. The short list over the last 50-plus years goes something like this:

The end of racial discrimination. Equality for women. Increases in legal immigration. The acceptance of gays in society. "Domestic partnerships". The environmental movement.

On the other hand, conservatives have mainly opposed these, plus they've championed things like Trickle-down economics, mandatory sentencing, increased criminalization of drugs, and increased restrictions on abortion.

The biggest problem with liberals in that sense is that they have a fringe that pushes things out too far (in my opinion). For instance, the desire to eliminate discrimination turned into racial quotas and the PC movement.

From a religious point of view (I wrote my original statement as a deliberate generalization), there are secular conservatives out there. But the mainstream conservatives I'm familar with (including the ones running the country right now) come at their philosophies from a strong religious point of view that colors their thinking and also helps form their attitudes. Witness Education Secretary Rod Paige's recent comments, and the current fuss over them.

All in all, it's an interesting debate. These discussions rarely convince anyone of anything new, but it's always fun to unload opinions in a relatively protected space.

One more lap complete, with random thoughts included

I've now completed my 36th lap around the sun, and I'm setting off on number 37. Boy, are my legs getting tired!

Random thoughts:

No transportation device that relies on battery power alone will ever succeed commercially, with the possible exception of cheap kids' scooters. The biggest convenience of gasoline power is that you can fill it up in a minute or two. As long as a battery takes hour to charge, it's doomed. If my Segway runs out of juice going down the street, I don't want to plug it in and wait two hours to get moving again. Same with my car - an electric car is silly for the same reason.

The Red Sox bullpen scares me. I'm not nearly as worried about the starting rotation. Jeremy Giambi should be able to hit, but he suffers from Ozzie Canseco syndrome - not a bad player, but lives in the shadow of a brother who's a dominant player.

I love my house, but I wouldn't mind one with a little more yard space and a garage. However, DSL capability is a must, I'd say. Because cable companies (Comcast) are server-hostile.

All in all, my Palm Tungsten is the neatest PDA I've ever owned. But I haven't re-flashed my Zaurus with OpenZaurus 3.2 yet - so my opinion could change. By the way, Zaurus SL-5500 units are now going for $199 at TigerDirect. Worth looking into if you're looking for a good PDA cheap.

One week ago, David just mastered real forward crawling. Now, if you put him down anywhere he takes off. He's also tryign to pull himself up on anything that looks useful to him - so we're doing a little more childproofing.

And now, a little dose of politics:

My friend Jimmy P has a bit of an interesting rant on liberalism versus conservativism. But I beg to differ somewhat. Maybe to some it's about entitlement. Then again, I'm not really liberal in the "capital L" sense. But here, in a short version, is how I see it.

Liberalism is inherently accepting of change. Conservativism is not. Liberals believe that all people are inherently equal, and a fair playing field should exist so all people have the chance to succeed or fail. Conservatives believe that what you have, you have, and that anyone can overcome anything, including institutions that are against you. Conservatives trust authority and business to make decisions that are in our best interests. Liberals tend to trust governments (as long as the government is also liberal), and distrust other authorities and businesses. Conservatives trust the market. Liberals don't. Conservatives (in most countries) belive that religion has an official place in people's lives. Liberals generally don't - even if they are personally religious.

Me? I'm a very liberal conservative - or maybe that's a very conservative liberal? I think government is a necessary evil, because too many people don't have anything but their own interest at heart. The role of government, though, should be minimal, and generally confined to things that are best accomplished on a national scale (defense, road-building, infrastructure, possibly health care). Government should be the referee in disputes between individuals, but otherwise leave them alone to make decisions and choices on their own. Even if they're bad choices.

Government should provide minimal levels of care to citizens, with the goal of making sure everyone has the chance to get on the playing field. Shelters should be available in the short-term for people who have been hurt by the system, and treatment should be available for people who've made bad choices and need to get their bodies and/or minds back into shape. But nobody should be allowed to use these long-term. The capitalist system has winners and losers. Government should get the losers back into the game, but if they fail repeatedly, or don't want to play, then we shouldn't take care of them. As disturbing as the thought is of someone homeless living under a bridge, it's reality. Government should help people get in the game. They shouldn't carry people who only want to watch.

Finally, government should not be in the morality business. Laws should be confined to preventing harm to other, non-consenting human beings. All behavior between consenting adults should be allowed, and actions/decisions that do not affect others should be allowed. Government has no place in determining drug policy, or abortion rights, or what sexual behaviors are acceptable. Morality is between an individual, the people in their life, and any religious beliefs they may hold. As far as privacy rights and civil liberties go, the PATRIOT act is ridiculous, PATRIOT II is more so, and the efforts to remove the sunset clauses on PATRIOT are un-American.

I guess that makes me somewhat of a left-leaning libertarian. What a coincidence! I am one!

Monday, April 07, 2003

A reflection on the Iraq War

I'm not going to get into my feelings (which remain mixed) on the justification or lack thereof for this war. I've talked about that before in this journal, and nothing's changed in my mind.

But with the war in progress, and American troops zipping through Baghdad, and Americans in control of the airport, I love the press conferences that Saeed al-Sahaf (Hussein's Information Minister) gives every day. Today he's claiming that Americans are being repulsed from Baghdad and that they do not control any of the buildings they claim to control.

Yesterday he insisted that American troops had not taken the airport and that he would prove it by bringing the journalists there later on after the battle was finished. Meanwhile, we started landing C-130 freighters there.

Of course, during al-Sahaf's current briefing, smoke from the attack was billowing behind them - shortly before the press conference we'd sent troops by the Information Ministry itself.

At this point the few members of Hussein's government left to speak in public are doing a terrific impression of the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail - "Are you mad - your arm's off!" "No, it's not!"

Though I don't watch TV from the Arab world, I doubt even Al-Jazeera can portray this as anything other than the end of the Hussein regime. I hope we can win the peace as easily as we're winning the war, but I doubt that'll happen. The war part was never in doubt.

Zoom zoom zoom.

Yep. As of Friday, he's a high-speed crawler. Once he started going forward, it took just under a week for him to find his acceleration gears.

It's cool. You put him down in one spot, look up, and suddenly he's somewhere else. We bought gates for the house a few months ago, and now they're all up and secured.

Meanwhile, Gracie is dealing with the loss of her monopoly (of being a small, low-to-the-ground moving critter - because Danny doesn't move very much) with aplomb. She's kinda into it. She walks into a room, gives him a target to crawl to, and then after he gets there he tries to head-butt her, which results in a loud purr.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

As promised

I told you all that the big wrestling articles were a brief digression - I meant it. So, as promised, here's an update on David:

For the last couple of nights, we've been feeding him jars of so-called "3rd foods". These are foods with small chunks, letting him work on his chewing skills.

He doesn't like them, though. He doesn't mind the chunks, but multi-ingredient foods are still kinda complex for him. Dinners have become a marathon rather than a sprint.

We're also giving him the occasional wagon wheel-ish puff to crunch. He likes those, and they promote chewing also. He doesn't gag on them anymore.

As for crawling, he's improving, but he still does it for short bursts. We've started to dress him in good old onesies instead of his sleepers for playing in the house - that way he can more easily use his feet and legs to crawl. That's going pretty well.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Part two of my wrestling discussion

Here's my other wrestling article - covering the SmackDown roster. David updates will resume tomorrow.

Again, in no particular order (after the first):

Kurt Angle: Awsome. Amazing. Gifted. MVP. I hope his neck injury can be taken care of quickly and easily - because they're going to suffer every day he's out. The best in the ring I've seen since I was a kid, can go from funny to intense on the mic, and he'll put anyone over. They used to say about Ric Flair in his prime that he could have a 5-star caliber match with a broomsick and put the broomstick over. Kurt is that good.

Eddie Guerrero: Also a great performer and terrific on the stick. He's a great heel, although fans tend to appreciate his work so much that he keeps getting turned face.

Chavo Guerrero: Finally emerged from jobber purgatory now that he works with Eddie. He's basically Eddie Lite.

Edge: Can work a good match with almost anyone - hopefully he heals fully from the fusion surgery he had last month. The crowd loves him, and he has a great look. The program he worked with Angle last year after his face turn and split with Christian was great.

A-Train: I don't hate him the way most of the Internet seems to, but he's not my favorite wrestler. He works pretty well for such a big guy, but needs more than power moves if he ever wants to really get over.

Undertaker: Not what he used to be, but he'll still work as hard as his body allows, and he'll put people over. Worked a good program with Brock last fall. He still has the gift of storytelling in the ring - he does that better than most.

Bill DeMott: Good power guy with better agility than most men his size. After a initial push post-Tough Enough 3, he's kind of drifting now. I'd like to see more done with him.

John Cena: Loads of potential. Great look, good in-ring ability, and the mic skills he's been starting to show off have been a delight. He actually freestyles pretty darn well. He also can sell a kick better than anyone since Flair. In another year or so, he;ll be one of the guys carrying the company.

Hulk Hogan: No, he can't work a match anymore, but he's Hulk Hogan. His legend and presence are enough, and he can still be carried by the right opponent or style. There will probably never be another wrestler as over as Hogan.

Chris Benoit: Another case where a great heel is just so respected and appreciated that he turns face. The knock on him has always been that he has no mic skills, but when he just gets to turn on his intensity for a promo it works fine. Chris doesn't have to talk a lot to be over.

Billy Kidman: Terrific in-ring, minimal charisma out of it, but he's the only guy doing the Shooting Star Press, which is one of my favorite moves. Plus he's engaged to Torrie Wilson, so he must be OK.

Rikishi: He's in desperate need of a gimmick refresh or he's going to be doomed to Velocity pretty soon. Not a bad wrestler for such a big guy, but I'm getting sick of the stinkface as a move (even though it's still over). It was funny back when he was working with Scotty and Brian Lawler, but it's old.

Billy Gunn: Hopefully his shoulder heals. He was just starting to get a little traction after many years through the whole "Billy & Chuck" gay angle when he hurt himself.

Chuck Palumbo: A generic big guy until he did the angle with Billy - he drifted for a while when Billy got hurt but he's starting to find a place again in the new FBI angle.

Johnny Stamboli: So long as he doesn't talk too much, he's fun to watch.

Nunzio: Makes a good mouthpiece for the FBI, though he's tiny. Remember his original angle as Jamie Noble's cousin? That lasted about 10 minutes, huh?

Rey Mysterio: Spectacular. Absolutely friggin' spectacular. Can talk OK, but he doesn't need to.

Big Show: You know, if he lost about 50 more pounds he'd be something. Still a big improvement over where he was a couple of years ago, though.

Crash: Velocity. But he's fun. I still fondly remember his run as "The Houdini of Hardcore".

Brian Kendrick: The kid's got potential. Lots of it. I also like the version of the Acid Drop he does. So far he's shown the ability to work well with different wrestlers, look good doing it, and change styles.

Brock Lesnar: I like him, but not as much as the Internet seems to. They pushed him just right, though - a rarity nowadays. Rumors are that he's getting a bit of a swelled head lately, and I really hope that's not true. He's going to be one of the guys they have to rebuild around, and if he turns into the second coming of Triple H they're screwed.

Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin (Team Angle): I lump them together because they really haven't shown a distinct personality yet. Great skills from both of them, though, and we'll see what happens to develop them further when Kurt's out.

Nathan Jones: Great look. Intense. Powerful. Can't wrestle worth a damn. I saw him in a dark match back when he was trying out last November, and he could turn out OK, but I wonder.

Funaki: Comic relief, but with ring skills. Who knew broken English would get someone over?

Tajiri: I could watch matches between him and Rey Rey all day long. Who knew no English whatsoever would get someone over, too?

Mark Henry: Please don't put him on my TV anymore.

Matt Hardy: Version 1 rules. Period. He is on the mic what his brother can be in the ring - and he's terrific in the ring also. Mattitude rules.

Shannon Moore: I like his work with Matt, and he's a great worker in the ring. But he looks like a 12-year old girl. I can't get past that. Sorry.

Jamie Noble: Boy, can he work. Impressive as hell in the ring, and I enjoy his gimmick. It's sad to see him buried like he's been of late.

Rhyno: The Man-Beast is something else, even if his costume sucks. Looks bigger than he really is and it's always fun to hear "Gore! Gore! Gore!" from Cole.

Stephanie McMahon: She's proving to be watchable in her role as GM, but I'm never sure whether she's trying to be a face GM or a heel.

Paul Heyman: Great manager/mouthpiece for his stable, though they seem to be downplaying the stable aspect of Show, A-Train, and the Angles.

The women: Torrie (sigh) Wilson just keeps looking better and can actually wrestle a little. Nidia can work in the ring pretty well and has a great character, and Dawn Marie is useless other than as eye candy.

We will now return to our regularly scheduled Journal entries.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Limited interest entry of the month

As most of you have noticed, about once per month on average I write about wrestling, or relate another topic to wrestling. This is one of those entries. So if, in fact, you are one of the people who don't enjoy reading it when I talk about wrestling, then go away now. I promise I'll write more good stuff about my son in a day or two.

Still here? Good. In this particular entry, I'm going to dissect RAW, the Monday night show - and review the current (and forthcoming) roster. I'll do SmackDown later today or tomorrow.

In no particular order:

Steve Austin: Still wildly over with the fans. But he hasn't really brought anything new to the table in several years. Before he walked last June, he was in serious danger of dropping into the midcard - after a big pop on his return last month that he's still burning off, he's looking like a midcarder again. Has some serious physical issues that are being worked into the storyline. After being "fired" last night, hopefully they'll either rework his character a little bit (he doesn't need major changes - he only has another year or two left in his body, tops), or send him to an injury-depleted SmackDown.

Three Minute Warning (Rosey, Jamal, and Rico): Rico has real charisma as a heel, and a decent in-ring style. He's wasted with the ponderous Island Boys. Rosey and Jamal were good as Bischoff's henchmen, but once they became a tag team, they morphed into the proverbial JAG's (Just Another Guy). Get Rico away from them, and ship the Boys back to OVW for a new gimmick.

Kane: Despite being last fall's victim of the Triple H Effect (a total burying once making it into the title picture), he's over. We need to get him away for "cosmetic surgery" to "fix his burns", so he can finally lose the mask - it's shrunken to sub-Batman size anyways. Still one of the better-moving giants in the business.

Triple H: Speak of the devil. Back in the days when he was mixing it up with Foley, Rock, and company in his earlier title runs I enjoyed his character. He worked better matches, put lesser wrestlers over, and every week you thought the title really could get taken off him by the babyface. Since his quad injury in 2001, and his babyface run afterwards (culminated by his "divorce" from Stephanie), he's been a shadow of his old self. Hurry up and marry Steph for real, so you can change your last name to McMahon and get out of the ring, and into the booking room full-time.

Scott Steiner: After entering with such a splash (and with a big face push) in November, the Booty Daddy had the misfortune of having to lose clean to Trips in February, burying him. Now they're using him better (and hopefully with a heel turn coming), by letting him win squashes against some of the lower-card wrestlers. I enjoyed the way he demolished Nowinski yesterday. A few more months of that, and he'll be back atop the roster.

Rob Van Dam: RVD needs to do two things - improve his on-mic persona some more, and add more mat wrestling to his repertoire. RVD right now is the ultimate spot machine - a pleasure to watch, but no more than a buncerh of "Holy $#!+" moments. Given that he and Kane won the tag titles yesterday, they will probably remain teamed for a while to come.

Jeff Hardy: Making the transition from an RVD-type spot machine to a wrestler. Needs to lose the body paint - it looks dumb and is too distracting. The "young man in torment" thing can probably go a little farther, and I like the potential of pairing him with Trish.

Rock: Don't get used to having him around much more - he goes back to Hollywood in May for another movie, and I suspect he'll be mainly gone long-term after that, with an occasional cameo. He makes too much money as a leading man to pass up for wrestling. I love the heel turn, and hate the new tattoo. Rocky, you're not a Samoan warrior. It's not too late for the laser!

Chris Nowinski: Great natural heel charisma. Decent workrate. Great gimmick. Lousy hair. The only thing worse than that moptop for a Harvard grad would be a mullet.

Maven: No hair, nice charisma, very good workrate. He's come along real well, and a lot of folks have forgotten his "Tough Enough" past. He needs a better program than the Island Boys.

Hurricane: He is just mad over, though goofy as anything. A cruiserweight who can work with the big guys, bump like anything, and hit some amazing moves. Though I'm going to miss the Vertebreaker, I love how he's picked up the Shining Wizard as a move now - though he needs to start using it as a finisher, it's a great move. He was terrific in his program with Rock - and Triple H should watch Rock for a lesson in putting people over the right way.

Al Snow: I wish he'd get more TV time.

Rodney Mack: They dumped D'Lo Brown for this? All power, no finesse. If I wanted that, I'd save all A-Train's matches to videotape and put them in an air-tight vault for posterity.

Lance Storm: Great technical wrestler, no charisma, but in a good way. Probably in line for a gimmick refresh.

Steve Regal: Get well soon. Great heel - and he was fun as the babyface commissioner during the Alliance storyline, too.

Test: Finally was getting over with the Stacy "Testicles" storyline, and now they're ruining it by threatening to turn him heel again. Please don't ruin it, folks - I was finally starting to enjoy watching him on TV and now this!

The Dudleys: I've seen 'em heel, and I've seen 'em face - in the WWE, I prefer them face. Especially with Spike in the litter. The current "reluctant heels" gimmick may work for a while, though.

Randy Orton: When he's been healthy, he's been interesting. But he hasn't been healthy much.

Batista: Tons of physical potential, but definitely gets an "incomplete" for a grade. Hopefully when he comes back from his triceps tear he'll be more interesting.

Eric Bischoff: Love it. He's playing the Evil McMahon character far better than any of the McMahon's play it.

Steven Richards: He's a great psycho who can genuinely look like he belongs in the mixed programs with the women.

Goldust: I hope this Tourette's storyline ends soon. He's been terrific as a face since soon after his return last year - both comic and serious. Even though it held Booker T out of the singles picture, I loved when they were tagging together. The original Odd Couple of wrestling.

Christian: Great mat skills, but he seems doomed to be the comic foil for whatever heel he works with. He filled that role with Edge for years, and now he's doing the same thing with Jericho. A pity, but maybe he just doesn't have the main event skills or personality.

Chris Jericho: Y2J is awesome, and arguably the MVP of Raw. He always puts everything into his work, wherever he is on the card, works great matches, and can carry a program with anyone. He's one of the great heels of the business right now.

Chief Morley: I'm not sure what to think. He's got the look, the ring skills, and the mic skills to be on top of the business, but something's missing. Some people just have it, some don't - I think he just doesn't have it.

Tommy Dreamer: Please, please use this man better.

Booker T: Not the best worker in the world, but good enough, and he has amazing charisma. If there was any justice in the world, he would have taken the title off Triple H at Wrestlemania. A rematch at Backlash would be OK, but only if they let Book win. Booker is great on the mic, even when he's being incompehensible. Now can you dig that, sucka?

Kevin Nash: Get well fast, Big Lazy. As much as he can be painful to watch in the ring (though the buzz is that he's taken his time rehabbing to get in real top shape), he's got great presence, and he's terrific on the mic. They need someone who can carry an extended promo better that Triple H or Austin can, and they need him now. Rumor has it he's coming back in the old Diesel persona, which should be good for them.

Ric Flair: Still a legend. Wasted with Triple H, though they're finally letting Ric assert himself a little, with some more mic time and some physicality again. They need to let him have one more title, though. Maybe even as a fluke (have him inadverdently win a triple threat or something). But they need that before he sails into the sunset.

Shawn Michaels: He's still got what it takes. He's trying to get the born again message out a little too strongly (the t-shirts are kinda goofy, Shawn), though, and it hurts the character. He had a great run with Triple H in November-December - really the only guy who wasn't buried working with him, and not coincidentally the only one who got to have a title run. Maybe because he and Trips have been buds for years? Hmm...

Goldberg: They handled his debut yesterday perfectly. Don't push him as a face or a heel, just as an intense monster, and he will remain over. Big time. And let him be the one who destroys Triple H.

The entire women's roster: Huh? Actually, I like Trish a lot - she's really learned the business in the last couple of years. Victoria is promising, Ivory, Molly, and Jacqueline are wasted (Ivory has great mic skills), and I'd rather watch paint dry than watch Jazz. Stacy and Terri don't really count, because they're strictly eye candy.

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