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Split Delayed Again, Rock's Absence, More...
January 16, 2002

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


-  It looks like the reports going around the last day or so are accurate:  the WWF is postponing the split of the company into two separate promotions for a while.  I've heard solidly that a lot of the underneath WCW guys who've been off TV since November were told they will NOT need to start reporting to TV on January 21, which had been pegged as the start of the the split.  It's back to the sidelines and/or the developmental territories with them...

The only sensible reason to delay their returns?  Because the split isn't going to happen, and they won't be needed to fill up the rosters of two distinct companies...

Your 1Wrestlings and PWTorchs have a twist on the story, saying that the split is definitely being pushed back so that a proper storyline involving the in-coming Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Hulk Hogan can be worked out.  No one knows whether the split will take place as a result of their impending arrival, or if they will arrive concurrent with the split (whenever that takes place), but the two major happenings are assumed to be intertwined by many.

The timetable now?  Split the companies up after WrestleMania...  which makes double good sense because that way, you don't split the companies and then immediately have to find an excuse to merge them back together for the biggest PPV of the year.  And that's on top of being able to work in the newcomers logically, given the extra time...

Even though we can sit here and lament the fact that we won't get to see guys like Kidman or Mike Awesome or whoever anytime soon, and won't be able to enjoy a big "draft" and the ensuing rivalry between promotions, those are longer-term considerations.  In the short term, the real story here is that Sunday's Ric Flair/Vince McMahon match now has a lot less oomph...  instead of fighting for control of the company, they're just two guys who hate each other.  That works fine for most wrestling feuds, but we're talking about two 55-year-old guys here who are going to be a bit more limited in what they do in the ring...

Oh well...  we waited longer than we wanted to last year for the appearance of WCW talent on WWF TV.  We can wait the Fed out again on this issue.

-  A sidebar to this storyline:  a lot of places are talking about Shawn Michaels possibly returning to join an NWO-style invasion storyline that's tied into the split, and they're talking like it's fresh news.

Well, HBK finally making his comeback is definitely a possibility, but I'm gathering that it's about the same possibility as it was about a month ago when I first mentioned it in conjunction with Michaels' appearance on Excess (which was itself in conjunction with a meeting in Stamford with WWF front office guys).  As I said then, Michaels is back out of the doghouse, and the main things keeping him from returning are concerns over creative decisions and Michaels' own need/desire to be in top physical shape before returning.  At that time, we only talked about how Michaels would be an asset with the impending return of HHH and the likely return of Nash, but now with Hall and Hogan in the mix, the possibilities are admittedly grander.

So to sum up:  Michaels' return remains a reasonable possibility, though I haven't heard anything to indicate it's been jacked up to a certainty.

-  Let's go back to Monday's RAW, shall we?

Not the greatest possible effort heading into a major PPV, if you ask me...  it was a show that had its moments, but it didn't build to anything.  If you've been reading me for any span of time greater than 2 weeks, you know how I like a show that builds to a big finish.  Monday's RAW had no direction, no big carrot to dangle at the end of a stick to keep you excited for whatever was going to happen in the last 15 minutes...

We did get some verbal sniping from Triple H and Steve Austin, but nothing to get really worked up about.  And certainly nothing in the way that sniping was presented indicated that a HHH/Austin confrontation was going to take place as the "main event."  The first sign we got of it was when HHH announced he was going to the ring right before the final commercial break...  that's a main event?  First of all, nothing concrete was teased or conveyed, so a lot of viewers probably didn't stick around for the whole show.  And second, for those who did stick around, a main event interview is going to be a let-down, even if it is Triple H in his third night back to work.

When the finale of a show goes nowhere like that, I'm bound to be disappointed, even if we did get some sweet action earlier on...  Angle/Kane was remarkably good, I thought, and Regal/Test vs. RVD/Edge was one of those short-but-fun matches.  On the interview side, I continue to love the Jericho/Flair chemistry, and they got the show off to a good start.

But my final thought after hitting STOP on my VCR was "That's it?"...  and I hate it when that happens.

Check out CRZ's RAW Recap for a more complete run-down of the show.

-  To be fair, it's very possible that the WWF creative team had to scramble on Monday...  the Rock was absent, as the schedule for "Scorpion King" re-shoots has been expanded to include TV taping days for the WWF.  It is possible the Rock will also miss January 28-29 and maybe even February 4-5.  

From the sounds of things, the re-shoots are very involved, and what we talked about in Monday's OO -- about this being an attempt to "save" the film after it looked poor in early drafts -- has turned out to be true despite attempts to paint this as a simple matter of picking up a few extra shots.  "The Scorpion King" could be in trouble, and these expanded re-shoots are the last chance to put it right before the planned April release.

Just to finish my original thought:  the WWF creative team no doubt assembled a show expecting to have the Rock present.  Whenever they found out (be it on Sunday or even on Monday) that the Rock would be missing the tapings, they had to adjust the prepared format.  Perhaps that's why we got what we got as a "main event"...  it wouldn't have surprised me if something like a Jericho/McMahon vs. Flair/Rock RAW match had been in the works, especially when you consider that the opening segment was custom made for the Rock to make a big save for Flair.

But now I'm just speculating...

-  RAW's rating came in at a 4.4 composite (not a 4.5, as I'd originally posted to the Ticker)...  in either case, it's a significant drop from last week.

On one hand, you could have expected a small drop, because the 1/7 RAW had the benefit of HHH's big return to boost its number.  But on the other hand, this RAW should have GAINED viewers, as it was the first one in a while not opposed by Monday Night Football.  Historically, RAW has gained viewers after MNF wraps up, but this year, they lost some.

Not good...

-  From RAW, we can now project a field of 24 for the Rumble match on Sunday.  I won't run down all 24 right now, but it seems like all the main players on the WWF roster (not already involved in other matches) are now accounted for.  With six spots still "open," you've got to wonder if the WWF has any surprises (like Mr. Perfect or Goldust) in store, if they'll perhaps rethink the decision to keep WCW-allied workers off TV, or if they'll just be picking from the WWF's own undercard guys (like Crash and Saturn).

-  SLAM! Wrestling recently had a feature on Sid Vicious, who has returned in a non-wrestling capacity to work for Jacques Rougeau's Montreal-based Lutte 2000 promotion...  Sid has recently established himself there as an evil referee, though no short-term plans exist for him to parlay that into a more active role.

In fact, Sid is quoted as saying he believes his return to full-on wrestling is "four months" down the line.  He also mentions a hope to return to the WWF (as a heel) so that he can do his own farewell tour.  

Sid also mentions that he did seriously consider retirement, but that now that his rehab from the gruesome leg injury suffered on last January's WCW Sin PPV is ahead of schedule, he's got the bug again, and wants to get back in the ring, soon.

-  Last thing today:  Booker T is going to be on the Howard Stern radio show tomorrow (Thursday) morning.  No doubt Booker will be trying to promote the Rumble PPV...  and no doubt Howard will try to get Booker to admit to various acts of deviant sexual behavior in the name of a few laughs.

If you're in one of the markets where Stern is available, go ahead and listen in...  and pass along a report to me, if you like!

-  The OO Year in Review is on-going; we'll be at the half-way mark by the weekend, so keep checking out each installment as it's released.  If nothing else, it'll give a reason to make daily stops back here (hey, I'll even promise you that I've got a new SK Retro Rant in the can for Thursday, too!) before I weigh in with a Rumble PPV Preview edition of OO on Friday.

Later, kids....



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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