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NWO Fall-out, RAW Preview, More...
February 18, 2002

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


-  The WWF is gearing up for what should be an absolutely huge WrestleMania...  but they'll be heading down the Mania homestretch without a whole lot of momentum.

The Fed basically got turned on its ear last night with the return of the nWo.  Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash immediately worm their way into the main event mix, which -- while freshening the top level storylines -- also means all storytelling basically starts from scratch.  In some cases, a grander historical perspective may be possible (for instance, in the case of a feud between Hulk "Icon of the 80s" Hogan and Steve "Icon of the 90s" Austin), but that might not be such a great idea since it would only underscore the fact that this is, technically-speaking, the 00's, now, and Hogan is past the point where he should be a main eventer.

With only four weeks to WrestleMania, we'll have to bank on the simple name recognition that the nWo trio offers, because this WM will apparently lack the feeling of months-long build up that traditionally accompanies most top Mania matches.  Star power can go a long way to overcoming lapses in story-telling, so hopefully it'll all work out.

Last night's No Way Out PPV went a long way to emphasizing that point.  Little things like a simple "Hey, yo" popped the crowd, proving that you don't need to re-invent the wheel to spark the wrestling fan's Pavlovian response.  A lot of fans wanted something shocking from the nWo, but instead we got a few promos and an attack on Steve Austin.  The Rock or Ric Flair didn't turn heel and join them or anything along the lines of the more convoluted scenarios I'd been reading in e-mail...  and if the smart fans sitting behind his keyboard was a bit underwhelmed, I can't help that.  The fans in Milwaukee seemed to enjoy welcoming back the nWo, and after we get this initial "Welcome Back" thing out of our systems, we can get on to the shocking heelish-ness, I bet.

In that way, No Way Out was an unsatisfying show to some, though.  To me, it was the holes in the undercard that hurt more than anything:  slipshod, last-second feuds used in both tag matches meant the crowd was dead for those contests, which in turn made it harder for fans to warm back up when there WAS good stuff going on (such as the better-than-I-expected Edge/Regal match and the very good Austin/Jericho main event that didn't seem to have the usual sizzle).

I got about what I wanted out of the nWo last night...  it's just that there weren't a lot of reasons to care about a couple of the matches on the first half of the show, and it sort of took the wind out of the PPV's sails.  Still, what I thought was a strong finish with HHH/Angle and Austin/Jericho/nWo was more than enough to make for an entertaining night of rasslin'.

Check out the full match-by-match results that I posed immediately after the show last night, if you want additional details.  Scott's PPV Rant should follow, too.

-  And that leads us to tonight's RAW, where whatever WWF vs. nWo feuds will culminate at WrestleMania will get started.  Based on last night, it seems that Austin vs. Scott Hall might be an initial feud...  it might be Austin vs. Hogan or Nash at Mania, but perhaps they'll feed him Hall first, over the next few weeks.  Call it a proving ground for Hall, who is probably on the shakiest political ground of all three nWo'ers.

That probably leaves the other of the nWo's big two -- Hogan or Nash -- to feud with the Rock at Mania.  Like I said, there's not a whole lot of backstory here, so they'll have to be jump-starting things tonight.  Another scenario has the Undertaker returning to being a babyface (it wouldn't take a whole lot of work, based on recent crowd reactions) so that he can face Kevin Nash at the PPV (in a rematch of a WM12 contest) or do a tag match with Kane against Nash and Hall, though I'm not sure where that would leave Austin or the Rock.  [A sidebar to Taker turning face:  I even had one guy tell me it will be as part of a double-turn with Ric Flair, as Flair will start siding with the nWo and be a heel.  I can't see that working any better than Taker as a heel did, but I figure I'll throw it out there...]

But for as fluid as the nWo situation seems to be, there is at least one storyline that seems firmly rooted and ready to go for WrestleMania:  Chris Jericho as WWF Champ will probably find himself facing a double challenge at the PPV.  Kurt Angle won the #1 Contender spot in controversial fashion last night, but pardon my cynicism when I say there's no way that heel vs. heel is gonna headline WMX8.

Triple H will get back in the mix, and the only remaining question is whether Angle stays (which is the current conventional wisdom) or whether he gets written back out in favor of the straight-up HHH vs. Jericho match.  Keeping Angle in could serve a key purpose:  if the stigma attached to Jericho is that he's just keeping the title warm for the next big babyface champ, having it be a two-on-one against HHH could add some significant drama to the PPV match that might otherwise be absent.  Booting Angle out of the mix could work, too, since it would leave another heel for the top level babyfaces to work against at Mania (which is especially important if Taker really does turn).

Sometimes being in the dark is good...  but heading into the biggest show of the year, I really would like a bit more certainty in terms of what matches we'll be seeing.  I'd like to know what I'm getting fired up for.  If we don't have a better idea after tonight, THEN there's trouble...

There's not even any clear sign of where key undercard storylines are going:  Edge has just about used up all his shots at Regal's IC Title, and it's time for a new challenger there (but who?  I think it's gotta be RVD...)...  Tazz/Spike vs. the APA is about as nonsensical a tag title feud as I can envision, so we'll need something else to happen there... the supposedly-ready-for-a-push Cruiserweight Division still hasn't seen the light of day in the last month or so...  hell, even the women's and hardcore titles haven't been visible the past two weeks.  And DDP's slumming it on Heat and Jakked as the Euro Champ?  Ouch.

Lee Filas has advised that his real job may preclude an immediate post-RAW Squared Circle Jerk from being posted here...  but at the very latest, you know CRZ's Recap will be published here at OO on Tuesday.  So come on back for that.

-  Rumors abounded this weekend that Eric Bischoff could be brought in as part of the WWF's nWo storyline...  I'm still not 100% sure that anything is even remotely "done" about this deal, but it is true that both sides have talked in the past about doing business together.

I've actually been mulling this over in my head since around the New Year, when all the rumors about Hogan, Nash, and Hall started to firm up.  I think there is DEFINITELY a place for Bischoff in this storyline, but I couldn't decide whether it was a long-term position or just a few-weeks-long thing to provide some continuity to the nWo.

In the longer-term scenario, Bischoff would help secure the nWo as villains, because (a) Bischoff the performer was a pretty good heel and (b) Bischoff the Backstage Boss was not as competent as he thought he was, which added the fans' desire to hate him when he was on screen.  It's almost a perfect set-up, too:  the nWo get the Conquering Heroes welcome at first, and make an almost-sappy thank you to Vince McMahon for being the one man who made the nWo possible.  But WHAM!, here comes Eric Bischoff to say HE was the one who should get credit for the nWo, and after you draw this out for a bit, the nWo lay out Vince and go off with Eric to wreak all kinds of havoc as bona fide heels.  By this point, Vince is running his own "half" of the WWF, and can get back to wanting the company to succeed, rather than doing his "I'm killing my creation" gimmick, and will fight to help the WWF again Bischoff's nWo.

That long-term scenario is all well and good, but the smark in me favors a short-term deal where Bischoff is in and out inside of about a month.  The set-up could be the same, but the nWo would actually swerve Bischoff, and attack him at the end, writing him out of storylines forever.  They can say that Bischoff only THOUGHT he created the nWo, but that actually, Vince McMahon secretly sent Nash and Hall down to WCW to join Hogan back in 1996.  The whole plot to destroy WCW from the inside was VINCE's idea, and Eric was just a pawn.  Six years later, and WCW's gone, and now Vince's nWo will do the same to the WWF.  And so on and so forth.  But like I said, as cool a "conspiracy theory" storyline as that might be, it's one that would only work on a small percentage of the audience that knows the whole story of what was going on in '95-'96.

In any case, it probably doesn't matter what I think...  either Bischoff is coming in or he isn't.  And he and Vince are the ones who'll get the say in the matter.

-  Vince McMahon has added more fuel to the fire...  during a recent radio appearance, Vince said that Shawn Michaels is very interested in returning to the WWF as soon as possible.  That doesn't mean he WILL come back, but combined with word that Michaels is in the best physical shape he's been in since 1998 and the fact that timing, storyline-wise, could not be any better, and you've got yourself a bunch of good reasons to start speculating.

With Sean "X-Pac" Waltman also due back on TV any time, now, the myriad possibilities for Michaels include not only joining the nWo with all of his old Clique buddies, but also the option of creating a faction to go against the nWo with X-Pac and maybe even HHH.

I know we've talked at length about Flair leading a group of 21st Century Horsemen against the nWo, but I gather the newest rage among fans (at least, among the ones e-mailing me) is to call for a reunion of Degeneration X to battle the nWo.  Let the dueling crotch chops begin!

-  The final SmackDown! rating from last week came in at a 3.9, which is down a bit in the wake of competition from the Olympics.  The show had been performing steadily in the 4's since the New Year...

-  Last thing for today is SPOILERS...  but not the spoilers you usually expect.  That's right, following up on last week's "Weakest Link" Spoilers, this week, I bring you....


Longtime OO Reader Howard Primer got his hands on a review copy of the show (which airs next Monday, the 25th), and passed along this recap:

The six participants were Lita, Molly, Jackie, Matt and Jeff Hardy and Test.

For the first stunt, they had to climb up a hanging ladder into a helicopter while the copter was flying low over water. Lita made it in 1:55, Molly did it in 1:27 and Jackie did it in 1:33. All the women thought Lita was going to win, but she was eliminated first with the slowest time. Matt made it in 1:01, Jeff fell off the ladder and Test did it in 2:17. Test had the slowest time, but he advanced because Jeff fell. The others were most impressed with Test because he had the most weight to carry.

For the second stunt, they had to drink a glass full of three of the following 10 ingredients blended together: pig intestine, durian, animal fat, rooster testicles, cow eyes, veal brain, cod liver oil, spleen and bile, fish sauce. They rolled dice to get their ingredients, and then those three were mixed with pig brain. Molly drew fish sauce, bile and cod liver oil. She only got half the drink down and said she was going to throw up because of the smell of the rotten fish. So she was eliminated. Jackie had veal brain, spleen and durian, and she drank it down in two gulps. Test rolled cod liver oil, bile and rooster testicles. He took one sip and gave up. Matt rolled spleen twice and animal fat. He chugged it and said "It wasn't too bad." So Matt and Jackie advanced to the finals.

In the final, there were six telephone standing next to each other, I'd say an average of 15-20 feet high (an actual 15-20 feet, not "WWF feet"). There were three flags velcroed to the top of the the first pole. To win, you had to take the first flag, walk across the poles without falling off (the poles were about 8 inches in diameter), and velcro the flag to the sixth pole. That's a lot harder to do than it sounds because you have to lean over or crouch down without losing your balance. Then you had to walk back to the first one and repeat the process two more times. They had harnesses, so if they fell they weren't hurt, but they had to start over. Matt fell twice, but finished it in 7:08. Jackie gave up after 2:20 because she was too short and couldn't step over far enough to reach the second pole. She would have to jump from pole to pole because her legs weren't long enough.

Matt won $50,000 for the American Cancer Society. The others won $10,000 for their respective charities. :  

Thanks again to Howard for passing along the recap...

-  And of course, if you can help out with the OTHER spoilers, then please drop me a line tomorrow night after SmackDown! tapings.  Your help in ruining Thursday's broadcast for thousands of OO Readers is always appreciated!

Till Wednesday....



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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