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Rating HHH's Return, and Some 
Surprising Rumble Comebacks
January 9, 2002

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


-  As usual, it seems like most fans walked away from a possible "Biggest RAW Ever" feeling like they got burned...  judging from the message boards and my e-mail, there is a definite sense of underwhelment (if only that were really a word). 

Triple H didn't really say anything to surprise us.  There was no Kevin Nash or Clique reunion.  Nothing.

But that's really only a problem for whatever percentage of us are reading pages like this and getting ourselves all worked up to think the implausible really might happen.  For the vast majority of fans, Monday was a magic night.

Just use your eyes and ears and tell me that wasn't a sufficient pay-off...  the love affair with HHH is now, officially, on.

Maybe it was a foregone conclusion to us that HHH would be a babyface.  But don't forget the unwashed masses, who last saw HHH using sledgehammers on fan favorites.  To them, it took a simple, if uneventful, bit of storytelling like Monday night's to just make sure all the fans are on the same page.  Kurt Angle's a tremendous heel, so he runs down HHH.  HHH ends the night by administering a monster beatdown on Angle.  And voila, EVERYBODY loves HHH now, not just the smarts.

It's not even a matter of "shooting your entire wad" too soon, as some have stipulated...  it's nice to maintain some drama as to exactly what HHH's agenda is, but mostly, by getting all the fans to buy into HHH the Hero, you're making sure that whenever you DO shoot your proverbial wad, it'll mean something.  Doesn't matter if it happens at SD!, or next week, or after the Rumble...  you've now either laid the foundation for HHH to be a mega-babyface, or (knowing HHH) you've set the stage for him to completely sell the fans out by returning to being a villain in a way that wouldn't have been as effective if he had just tried to go heel immediately upon his return.

So:  was I shocked into a mark-out moment by anything that happened during HHH's return?  Hell, no.  But was I able to get wrapped up in the moment and enjoy things?  Yeah, I sure was.  On that level, RAW was a success as far as I'm concerned.

I mean, if I had to pick something about RAW to bitch about, it'd have been the damn NYC fans and the whole "What?" thing...  now, I grant that it's absolutely hilarious and appropriate to use the "What?" chant during Austin's matches.  Anytime he does a stomp or a punch, the crowd should do a "What?", just like the Philly crowd used to do a "Shah!" for Hack Myers.  Then, when Austin faces Booker T, you could even have dueling "What?/Who?/What?/Who?" exchanges when they do a slugfest!

But dragging out the "What?" during promos that don't have anything to do with Austin?  Or even shouting "What?" during pauses in the National Anthem?  That's overkill, people.  If somebody's gotta run Austin's catchphrase into the ground, let it be Austin...  don't ruin it for him!

Beyond that, it's just little things that I've got to comment on about RAW:  the Rock/Austin vs. Booker/Bossman match was a good one, though it seemed to get a little sloppy/busy at the finish...  I don't know if it's possible to have a "good" 45 second match, but Lance Storm and Edge sure tried; they only did good stuff before they're match was, unfortunately, over, anyway...  the confrontation between Terri and Trish was the perfect way to blend titillation into storylines that will eventually have a pay-off in the ring, simply because now, even if people don't care that Jazz is a pretty impressive worker, they will care that she prevented us from getting to see Trish's nipples in the same state of arousal as Terri's...  and finally, the Vince/Flair promo to start the show was solid and intense once Flair hit the ring; seeing them brawl after Flair was busted open did nothing to increase my belief that this will be a ***** match at the Rumble, but the intensity of the confrontation makes me think it'll still be entertaining.

Check out CRZ's Recap for the complete details of the broadcast.

-  Even if some fans thought the WWF fumbled the ball with the return of HHH, the fact is, they still turned out in droves to watch...

On Monday night, RAW averaged a 4.9 over two hours, gaining about a full ratings point over recent averages, and more than doubling the prior week's depressed New Year's Eve rating.  HHH can take a lot of the credit for the gains, too, as the second hour-plus did a 5.2, peaking with a 5.7 rating for HHH in the overrun.

Again, as with past ratings spikes, the question before us is whether or not the WWF will maintain this momentum, or if it'll peter out over time...

-  I don't think I'm spoiling anything by covering this here, but if you're hypersensitive about such things, you've been warned....

The Royal Rumble card is starting to take shape, as the undercard is filling out, and the 30-man field for the Rumble is getting fleshed out, too.  After last night's tapings, I think we can pretty much confirm these five matches for the Rumble card:

Chris Jericho vs. the Rock (Unfied Title)
Ric Flair vs. Vince McMahon (Stipulation to be Added)
Edge vs. William Regal (IC Title)
Tazz/Spike Dudley vs. Dudley Boyz (Tag Titles)
Trish Stratus vs. Jazz (Women's Title)

And then, on top of those, there is the 60 minute Rumble match itself, which we already know will include Steve Austin, Triple H, Kurt Angle, Undertaker, Big Show, and Kane.

Vignettes to air on SD! tomorrow will also reveal that Val Venis, the Godfather, Mr. Perfect, and Goldust will all return to compete at the Rumble.  In the case of the first two, it's a case of two former RTC members going back to their former, smuttier, gimmicks.

But in the case of Goldust and Mr. Perfect, we're talking about guys who haven't been seen in the WWF for 3 and 5 years, respectively.  Both got big pops when their names were announced at tapings, though.  

I had thought Curt Hennig had committed to the XWF, though how much one can commit to a company that doesn't really have any prospects for future shows is a real question mark.  I've long pegged Hennig as a guy who -- like Ron "Faarooq" Simmons -- could finish out his career as a productive role player in the WWF, even if his best years are behind him.

In the case of Goldust, I simply grant it was one of the best, most effective wrestling gimmicks, ever.  In an era when realism was making a big time comeback, Goldust and the Undertaker stand out as just about the only two gimmick-driven wrestlers to really make a major mark on the business.  I don't know if today's audience can be as easily weirded out as in the past, but it'll be interesting to watch play out if they give it a go.

Many readers already mailed in to remind me that the WWF is the company that gave us "Diesel" and "Razor Ramon" back in 1996, even though Kevin Nash and Scott Hall were long since gone.  The WWF does own the "Mr. Perfect" and "Goldust" gimmicks, and could, conceivably, let anyone play the roles.  But given how badly Diesel 2 and Razor 2 worked out, I doubt they'd try something so silly.  Unless, of course, Hall and Nash were coming back to play the roles as some sort of twisted poetic justice!

-  Speaking of Nash, even though he was not part of tapings this week (and was not even backstage), he's still a hot topic of discussion with wrestlers and crew alike.  The assumption is that he's all-but locked in, and that he could appear at any time.

-  Scott Steiner is featured heavily in advertising for February's WWA PPV.  However, even though Steiner was a headliner of the WWA's recent UK tour, he has not yet officially signed on to work with the group permanently.

Remember, due to a miscommunication, Nash was also featured in WWA ads, even though he later was rumored to be in the employ of the WWF.

-  I covered this in the "Ask the Rick" Forum (albeit only after making lascivious comments about Terri's nipples), already, but have also got a few e-mails asking about it, so.....

Rob Van Dam got that black eye last Friday night in Moncton, NB, Canada.  Late in his main event win over Test, RVD took the big boot to the face, and came up with a swollen eye.  It's that simple.

-  The WWF's publication efforts got a huge boost earlier this week, when a partnership with Simon and Schuster was announced. "World Wrestling Federation Books" will be a new imprint under the S&S banner (and more spefically, under Pocket Books, the same S&S division that handles the publication of Star Trek books), and will be a major step up in terms of industry clout from the Fed's current deal.  

The partnership announcement should not surprise anyone, as Simon and Schuster is part of the Viacom family that the WWF has been in bed with for over a year now.  This new deal goes into effect in the Fall of 2002.

-  I've got about four months of the OO Year in Review done...  it's taking longer than expected since I don't have a nicely organized online archive of my material available to me (I've gotta hunt and peck through my "sent items" folder to find my old columns), but I'll get it done as quickly as is humanly possible.

Once the end is in sight, I'll start rolling out the individual months in serial-fashion...  hopefully I'll get something up no later than next Monday.

Till then, it's the usual slew of stuff that'll get posted here, included my next news and views update on Friday.  See you then!



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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