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RAW Preview, HBK, HHH, and MORE...
December 10, 2001

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


-  The first RAW of the Jericho Era is looming...  or maybe that's overstating things a bit.

Hell, it's overstating things a LOT.

But the fact is, the WWF did an unexpected thing when they made Jericho the first Undisputed Unified Champion of the World last night at Vengeance, which makes it a risky proposition.  Risky for the Fed because if it doesn't work, well, it's bad for business; risky for Jericho because it's early into his heel turn, and having the rug pulled out from under him now would hurt his credibility more than if they'd waited till he was more established.

Then again, if it works... well, let's just say a lot of us smarty-pants types ate a shitload of crow when the "Triple H Experiment" worked to perfection.

It's hard to envision right now that Jericho will be a main event WrestleMania player in four months time, with Steve Austin, the Rock, the aforementioned HHH, and Kurt Angle all ahead of him on the depth chart.  But 3 years ago, we figured there wasn't room for HHH on a roster that already head Austin, Foley, the Rock, and the Undertaker established as major stars, either.

How Jericho performs tonight and how the fans respond will go a long way to deciding if this is a short term project, or something that will blossom into a full-fledged addition to the main event heel list.

Either the Rock or Steve Austin could emerge as Jericho's first challenger...  Austin's got a built-in feud with Booker T coming up, though, so maybe the Rock is the likelier of the two to continue battling with Y2J?  Sounds right to me...

Other storylines you can expect to see developed starting tonight on RAW:  obviously, Ric Flair and Vince McMahon are now completely at odds with each other.  What had been a quiet loathing exploded into physical violence at the PPV last night.  No doubt, this will continue and will lead to the much-rumored split of the WWF into two separate entities in January:  one led by Flair, one by McMahon.

The tag division is kind of a mess right now...  the Duds retained the titles, but have no clear cut challengers on the horizon (unless you, unlike me, are genuinely enthralled by the prospect of hearing the phrase "hip hop hippo" shoved down your throat).  On top of that, the team that joined them in delivering a surprisingly OK match at the PPV last night, Kane and the Big Show, imploded and will indubitably be pursing a singles feud against each other, starting tonight.

The hardcore division is slightly easier nut to crack.  Although the Undertaker is an odd choice as the new champ, I think his feud with RVD has got legs.  Maybe I'm just reading too much into the look on Taker's face after he finally beat Van Dam last night:  it was almost like, "Damn, I can't believe I had to work that hard to polish that boy off."  And to be honest, I wouldn't mind seeing those two go at it again; they worked well together, and wound up having one of RVD's most level, non-spot-fest-y matches in memory (not that it was lacking for a few high spots, though).

I'm not sure why JR seemed to think that it was far from over between Edge and William Regal after last night's IC Title match...  didn't Edge cleanly defeat Regal?  But I guess we are being led to believe there is more to this feud yet to come...  if that were the case, shouldn't the heel have gone over at the PPV so it's the fan favorite doing the chasing?

If the short break preceding the Vengeance PPV meant that storylines had to be jumpstarted and built more solidly than ever upon existing arcs, then the fact that we now have an extra-long break before January's Royal Rumble means the opposite.  The Fed can take their time, introduce entirely new elements, and put some stories on more of a slow burn.  We'll surely get an inkling of future directions tonight on RAW, but with the long break and the holidays ahead of us, I doubt the Fed will reveal their whole hand just yet.

Check out RAW tonight, and then come on back to OO.com for CRZ's RAW Recap on Tuesday!

-  I don't have much in the way of additional Vengeance thoughts that I didn't already mention last night in my immediate post-show recap...  'twas a good show, with a consistently above average level of in-ring work and a big, loaded-up finish that put a satisfying capper on the night.

Some things I DID want to note, however, are related to the fact that I had to go to a bar to watch the show due to my cable difficulties...  it's been a while since I watched a PPV with anything other than about another half dozen or so jaded cynics like myself.  So it was as much fun watching the other 50-60 fans -- who were totally involved in the show -- as it was watching the PPV itself.

And something that stood out about their reactions:  Chris Jericho isn't a heel.  His wins were cheered by a majority of the fans (and at such a level that I couldn't hear how the live crowd was responding).  At first, I figured it was just anti-Rock sentiment (you know, the kind you see all over the internet) seeping into masses.  But he was also cheered over Austin.

And Austin was one of the two most "over" guys with this bar crowd...  RVD was the other.  I couldn't really tell which one had the edge.  A lot of people were digging the HHH "Beautiful Day" video, too, and were openly expecting that he'd be showing up during the main event.

Of note:  the most over participant in the Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy match was Lita.  One of them boys better develop a personality, and fast.  Cuz I don't think wearing a thong will net the same results for them that it does for Lita...

-  Fans of Shawn Michaels, cancel your social plans for this coming Saturday night, because you'll be wanting to stay in to watch Excess.  Got notes from a few readers who watched this week, and they said HBK was announced as next week's special guest.

Should be interesting, as Michaels hasn't really had a shot in front of the TV audience in well over a year.  With relations between him and the WWF office cooling earlier this year, a planned return to the ring was put on indefinite hold.  So I am intrigued to know what HBK will have to say...

But probably not intrigued enough to actually, you know, stick around to watch Excess...  that's what TV recaps are for!

-  As alluded to above, a lot of people thought HHH was a lock to return to TV last night at Vengeance.  Whether that's based solely on months-old advertising campaigns that the WWF had since discarded (which were all very HHH-intensive), or on random speculation that "since it's been six months, he must be ready to return," I do not know...  but there were people who were genuinely disappointed when he didn't show up, and even though there were no promises that he would, it obviously colored their opinion of the show when they flooded my mail-box.

Well, good news, folks:  Triple Haitch himself has promised that he will be back by the Royal Rumble.  And since he's practically a McMahon-in-law, you know the kind of weight to give his "guarantees."  You can read more about HHH's timetable at WWF.com, if you are interested.

-  The weekly Ross Report on WWF.com is mostly health updates, as per usual...  the pertinent stuff from JR:

Perry Saturn, Test, Edge, Hugh Morrus, and Scotty 2 Hotty are all working through injuries...  DDP chipped a tooth last week, but won't miss any ring time...  HHH, Randy Orton, and Jerry Lynn will all be cleared to return to the ring in January...  X-Pac is about half-way back to returning to the ring...  Mike Awesome, Kanyon, Hardcore Holly, and TAKA Michinoku are all 4 or more months away from returning to action.

Some additional mainstream media notes:  Lita's feature in Rolling Stone magazine will be out in February (I spoke months ago to the guy doing the write-up, and it should be really cool)...  Booker T is on Ebony's list of sexiest bachelors...  the Rock will be featured in upcoming editions of both Vanity Fair and Stuff...  Trish Stratus will be profiled in Oxygen magazine in the next few months...  Chris Jericho will be a part of the NHL Celebrity Hockey thing taking place next month in LA...  

-  The WWF isn't even gonna bother trying to compete with New Year's Eve celebrations.  A pre-packaged "Best of RAW" special air on Dec. 31 in the usual RAW timeslot, per current plans.  Also that week:  instead of taping SmackDown! on Tuesday, the show will be live on Jan. 3.

As previously reported, tapings that would normally have taken place on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are now scheduled for Dec. 21 and Dec. 22 (tapings for 12/24's RAW and 12/27's SD!, respectively).

Once a normal schedule is resumed, that's when the whole split-into-two-companies thing is supposed to really heat up...

-  If you didn't see enough of Joanie "Chyna" Laurer in this month's Playboy, you'll be able to get an eyeful next month, when a DVD -- creatively titled "Joanie Laurer:  Nude Wrestling Superstar" is released.  I have no idea if this is in association with the Playboy shoot or something else entirely.

-  Finally: if you're attending SmackDown! tapings tomorrow night, please send along a report so that I can post spoilers as quickly as possible on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.




Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.


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