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RAW, Haas, HHH, HBK, and More...
December 17, 2001

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


-  You can look at it one of two ways...  either these are some of the more important TV shows in a while, as the WWF tries to build up the heel legitimacy of new champ Chris Jericho.  Or these are some of the less important shows in a while, as the WWF goes into "treading water" mode over the holidays.

With four tapings spread over the next six nights, tonight's RAW will be the last live WWF show of 2001.  Everything else will be canned, as the Fed gives its roster a well-deserved rest while anticipating that fans' eyeballs may have reason to be elsewhere than on their television sets for the next few weeks.

But it's not like there isn't plenty to be done if the Fed decides to keep the heat on through the holidays until they can launch the promotional split storyline.  The Jericho Project is progressing well enough, and should continue to be a focal point...  there is, afterall, precedent for a new champ gaining legitimacy over the holidays.  Remember Mick Foley three years ago?

But maybe tonight, it'll be Rob Van Dam in the Foley role...  a first time challenger to the big belt, RVD is first in line to take on Jericho for the Undisputed Title after pinning him last Thursday on SmackDown!.  This is presently projected to be RAW's main event tonight.  Certainly, those two have proven themselves in matches against either other in the last three months (mostly over RVD's Hardcore Title), and when they do lock up again -- this time with a bigger prize on the line -- I'm betting it'll be outstanding.

No doubt that guys like the Rock, Steve Austin, and even Kurt Angle will want to stick their noses into the title picture before too long, as well...  and I don't know as that the Undertaker is done with RVD.  Toss in the fact that Ric Flair and Vince McMahon are manipulating things from the Skyboxes, and who knows who else might be running in to contribute to the embryonic RVD/Jericho feud?

Two other matches are confirmed for tonight's RAW:  Tazz vs. Christian is one.  It hasn't got quite as much cache as an Undisputed Title match, but it does have about a week's worth of storytelling behind it, with tensions starting on SmackDown! last week (Tazz made Christian tap out) and then continuing on last night's Heat.  Also, the Undertaker will defend the Hardcore Title against Jeff Hardy.

The other obvious pairings over the next several weeks include:  Steve Austin vs. Booker T, Matt vs. Jeff Hardy, and Rikishi vs. Kurt Angle.  I'm sure those storylines will be furthered tonight, as well.

Check out RAW tonight on TNN (or its nearest Canuck equivalent, if applicable), and then be sure to come on back to OnlineOnslaught.com afterwards and throughout the day on Tuesday for full coverage and opinion, including CRZ's RAW Recap.

-  In the weekend's most unfortunate news, WWF developmental wrestler Russ Haas died early Saturday morning.  WWF.com reports that he died in his sleep, though no precise cause of death is mentioned.  Haas was just 27 years old.

Russ is the worker who was sidelined for the past several months after being diagnosed with a heart condition following an HWA TV taping in October.  He had just been cleared by his cardiologist to return to wrestling in the last few weeks, though the WWF was holding him back, pending a second opinion.  It appears their concern was justified...

Along with his brother Charlie, Russ was one half of one of the more promising developmental tag teams in the WWF pipeline.  I was lucky enough to see them perform at this year's Pillman Memorial event, where they were victorious in the main event of the "Indie Showcase."  Though still a little rough around the edges, there is no doubt the Haas Brothers had the look and the skills to take the next step...  they were among the developmental talents projected to get called up to the WWF sometime during 2002.

However, Russ' compatriots in the Cincinnati-based HWA are making it clear that to them, they haven't lost just a promising young talent:  they've lost a friend and a genuinely good person who will be deeply missed.  To them, and to the rest of Russ' family, friends, and fans, OnlineOnslaught.com sends its thoughts and condolences.

-  The date for Triple H's return to the ring was quietly slipped into Friday's Ross Report on WWF.com...  JR mentions that HHH is back on booking sheets as of January 4 (when the Fed resumes split crew house shows in Binghamton, NY, and Moncton, NB, Canada).  That would mean HHH's TV return would come at a live RAW on January 7, from Madison Square Garden in NYC.

Also from JR:  William Regal had surgery to fix his chronically bloody nose last week, and will miss this week's four TV tapings...  Regal should return early in the New Year after spending the holidays at home in the UK...  Shawn Stasiak has been cleared to return to duty...  Edge (hip), Test (back), Saturn (head), Crash Holly (hand) are all working through injuries and won't miss any time...  when DDP returns to TV, it could be as a fan favorite.

-  Shawn Michaels made his return to TV over the weekend, pulling guest duty on Saturday night's Excess.  For all HBK's reputation as a shit-stirrer, he was remarkably uncontroversial during the appearance:  he played his cards fairly tight to the vest and went out of his way to put over the current generation of superstars, according to those who saw it.

On the subject of "the Clique":  Michaels said that it was unlikely that Scott Hall and Kevin Nash would come to the WWF, because nobody wants them all in the same place again.  He did, however, speak kindly of HHH and all he's been going through to get himself ready to return after his surgery.  No mention of Sean "X-Pac" Waltman...

On the subject of a return:  he says that's up to his doctor and his wife. Himself, he claims he'd love to return because he would like to do matches against Kurt Angle and Triple H, but says its not really his call.  No mention of friction between himself and the front office as a restraining factor.

On the subject of Bret Hart:  nothing but the nicest of things to say.  As the night's historical match, they showed Michaels' WrestleMania 12 title win over Bret (Michaels' first WWF Title), and HBK said what an honor it was to get his first title on such a big stage and from someone the caliber of Bret Hart.

-  Today, it was announced that Vivendi/Universal is going to acquire USA Network and its subsidiaries (including production houses and other cable channels like Sci-Fi).  USA, of course, was the WWF's cable home for over 15 years, while Universal was rumored to have some interest in the new XWF.

So of course, that means that speculation has been flooding into my mailbox all morning from people who figure this means the XWF will be on USA Network, soon.  

All I can say is that I do not believe that the XWF is close to securing a national TV deal just yet (although that can change rapidly)...  instead, they are focusing on getting TV deals in select major local markets, and presently are using the infomercial model (as outlined in Friday's OO Update) to raise awareness of their product in areas where they plan to run house shows.

-  Other TV news related to the next possible "Number Two" promotion in the land...  the World Wrestling All-stars promotion, which has -- up till now -- focused on overseas tours, will be holding an event in Las Vegas in early 2002.  The event is expected to be shown on PPV.

Again, with both the XWF and WWA looking into securing a foothold as the US's #2 wrestling company, I'd expect to see them trying to lock in the top available "free agent" wrestlers quite soon.  That list balloons in the coming weeks as Scott Steiner, Kevin Nash, and Sting join the ranks.

-  So did you read that Larry Zbyszko got a little upset when Chris Jericho referred to himself as a "Living Legend"?  Apparently, Larry thinks its a direct slap in the face from Vince McMahon himself...

I've got nothing substantial to add to that little blurb other than to wonder out loud if Larry Legend stopped for even one second to worry about what Bruno Sammartino thought about Larry stealing the "Living Legend" tag....  although to be honest, the whole thing whiffs of "working the legitimate press" to me.

-  Mark Henry has taken his leave of OVW, where he had been getting positive reviews for his physical conditioning and ring work.  He is going to start training assiduously for the next World's Strongest Man competition.  Last I heard, this was being set up with the full support of the WWF, and he has not parted ways with the company.

There is precedent for wrestlers in the World's Strongest Man contest...  both Ken Patera and Bill Kazmeier can be seen on the super-old re-runs that periodically show up on ESPN2.  Though you have to wonder how Henry will fare against this new generation of Vikingly Strongmen, unless he goes all out and changes his name to something like Magnus ver Henrison.

If Henry were to do well, I'm sure the Fed would then use it as his springboard back to WWF TV.  Still, we all remember how well farming Ken Shamrock out to the world of Ultimate Fighting has worked... and wouldn't training to put back all the mass that Henry had fought to take off be counter-productive to his wrestling career?

-  That's all for today...  again, I plead with anyone attending Tuesday night's SmackDown! tapings to drop me a line with a full report...  same will go for fans in Florida who attend this weekend's RAW and SD! tapings.  It's only with your help that I can promptly and thoroughly spoil future TV shows for my audience!  Help me out, if you can...



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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