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SmackDown!, The Big Split, and More...
February 22, 2002

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


-  Those spoiler reports from SmackDown! tapings were right...  last night's show was one that was easy to have bipolar feelings about.

On one hand, the wrestling was non-existent and it seemed like a bit of a chore to sit through a few promos and a 15 minute recap segment to open the show.  It was 45 minutes in before we got an actual match in the ring.  And once the wrestling got started, it didn't exactly keep on coming:  the HHH/Undertaker main event didn't even happen, and I'm unconvinced that the storyline of Taker trying to screw with Ric Flair is adequate to explain why.

But on the other hand, I'll be damned if the interplay between Steve Austin and the nWo wasn't damned entertaining.  Parts of the backstage chase thing were silly, but the pay-off between Austin and Hall in the ring was gold.  If you're going to do a non-wrestling Sports Entertainment Segment for a main event, that's about as good a one as you'll see.

Other developments:

Chris Jericho and Stephanie McMahon did about as effective a job of sweeping their pasts under the rug so that they can be partners as is possible.  Jericho's "I was just kidding" explanation may be wafer-thin, but they're both such effective heels at this point that it doesn't matter.  Fans want to hate them both, so they're more than willing to accept them as partners.

Billy and Chuck are tag champs, eh?  I don't see them versus the Acolytes at Mania as a money match, but I guess it's all just a function of the weak tag division.  For whatever it's worth, I really liked Scott's idea of a double turn for the Dudleys and the Hardys as a way to freshen things up a bit.  Oh, and for Billy Gunn, this makes an impressive NINE tag title reigns.  He had three with "brother" Bart Gunn and five with the Road Dogg.  This is Chuck Palumbo's first WWF tag title, though he's also had two prior championship partners besides Billy:  he won WCW tag gold with both Shawn Stasiak (twice) and Sean O'Haire.

The six man tag was as good as advertised and was the night's in-ring highlight by a wide margin...  good match, and a nice big finish, I thought.  Although Cole may have gone a bit overboard selling how RVD had to "change course in mid-air" to hit the Five Star on Lance Storm...

I'm intrigued to see if they've got anything lined up for Christian after his little retirement speech, or if that's just a way to take him off TV and make sure he gets a fresh start after the split of the company.  I'm guessing it's the former, but who knows?

As I alluded to on Wednesday, it now appears that Kane vs. Kurt Angle is gonna take place at WrestleMania.  While I admit that Kane is probably under-utilized and deserves a good WM opponent, this still feels like Angle's getting the shaft.  It's the biggest show of the year, and he's being shunted down to the mid-card.  Plus, I'm still waiting for the big pay-off of the Kane/Pete Rose feud!

Just got word that Eitan is very ill and bed-ridden, so I can't direct you to his recap for further details from the show...  here's wishing him a speedy recovery so he's back on the job next week, though!

-  Overnight ratings were very strong for last night's show.  SD! did a 5.7 for UPN, up several tenths from the previous week, and good enough for a solid third place finish among the six networks.  SD! pulled that rating against the perpetually strong-performing Olympics, which last night featured the ever-popular figure skating.

SD!'s final rating will either be posted to the Ticker over the weekend, or will be included in my Monday column...  

-  The WWF's third fiscal quarter ended a couple weeks ago, and to accompany the release of financial statements, Linda McMahon held a conference call with investors and the media yesterday.  The quarterly conference call was once again rife with interesting bits of news and info for fans (even more so than for investors, it seems!).

Talk of the impending roster split led to Linda revealing that the hope is to eventually run two pay-per-views per month, so that each "division" can have its own events.  But until they establish the two divisions and determine that fans are on board with both, they will limit themselves to maybe one extra PPV every three months, with cross-overs between the divisions on other PPVs.

Early reports seem to indicate that Sunday's No Way Out will be a very strong-performing PPV once all numbers are tallied.  The returns of Hogan, Hall, and Nash should result in over 100,000 total buys.  The return of the WWF to DirecTV could be a part of the boost, too.

Speaking of DTV, Linda said that the deal between the WWF and DTV is only for 18 months, as both sides decided it was better to go with some kind of stop gap measure even if neither side could really get what it wanted out of negotiations.  I'm sure fans with DTV agree.

The other notable item from the conference call was the revelation that the WWF and Playboy had some discussions about partnering on a new cable network that would have been targeted at young adult males.  Wrestling, music, hot broads, that sort of thing.  The WWF pulled out, however...  the wrestling fan in me is kind of put off that the Fed would water down the -- you know? -- WRESTLING product by mixing it in with other stuff.  But the astute business student (and young adult male) looks at the success of things like Maxim Magazine and thinks that turning that mix of content into a cable network would do gonzo numbers.  Too bad it's a moot point.

-  The accompanying financial statements didn't have anything nearly as intriguing in them... business is down, that's the short version.

The numbers break down this way:  merchandise sales dropped off the most against numbers from the same quarter last year, from $31.7 million to $26.8 million.  The loss of five million dollars in revenue accounted for just about half of WWFE's total shortfall from the same quarter last year (total revenue was down to $100 million from $111 million last year).

There were smaller losses in the area of ad revenue and live event revenue.  What's interesting is that live event revenue was down nominally on an overall basis, but losses were probably more substantial on a per-event basis.  The Fed -- by virtue of the move to split-crew house shows -- held 61 live events in this quarter versus 48 live events last year.  Even with 13 additional shows, overall attendance dropped to 446,000 (about 7300 per show) from 512,000 (about 10,600 per show) the previous year.

The WWF also did 1.4 million PPV buys this quarter, down from 1.7 million a year ago.  Some of that drop can be attributed to the loss of DTV as an outlet, I would guess.

In press releases, WWFE did try to put a happy spin on some of the down-turn in business, noting that some of the shortfall in merchandising is due to the timing of videogame releases as new gaming platforms take hold of the marketplace, and that even though overall merchandise sales are down, per capita merchandise spending at live events was actually up.

If you're really interested in this type of stuff, you can get all the press releases and actual financials over at WWFECorpBiz.com.

-  I took a lot of flack for my RAW thoughts, as posted on Wednesday...  I guess a lot of people really liked the ambulance attack, believing that it harkened back to the nWo's memorable path of rage at a Nitro down at Universal Studios back when they first debuted.  

I'm not one to shit on your parade, but to me, it felt more like the stupid bit where they ran Scott Steiner's car off the road.  And actually, it's like I said on Wednesday:  it wasn't the ambulance attack itself that I had a problem with.  That part was actually about as well executed as you could get for that type of "heavy machinery" angle.  I just got really annoyed by the whole thing afterwards, when the announcers (especially Lawler, I think) went to great lengths to try to say that this was "real life" and not part of the show.  I hate that.

But more than that, I could not believe how many folks were upset at me for supporting the idea of Kurt Angle being kept in the WrestleMania main event.  It's a silly thing to debate, at this point, cuz it's not gonna happen, but I honestly think it would have been a good thing.  You can name chapter and verse of examples why three-way matches aren't usually good and shouldn't be a main event for the biggest show of the year.  And for the most part, you'd be right.  I mean, just consider WM two years ago, when the four-way main event didn't really get good until it was down to HHH vs. the Rock.  But the way I laid it out, I think this match could be an exception.  If nothing else, I just think it'd be a good idea to at least have ONE bona fide heel in the match, since you know Jericho is gonna -- at worst -- be a tweener in Toronto.

But I digress.

-  As I talked about Wednesday, this is a big weekend for fans interested in a wrestling product other than the WWF's.  Fans in the northeast can take in the first ever "Ring of Honor" show in Philly, and fans in Texas can take in the XWF's first house shows in a month and a half.

But for the majority of us, the only alternative wrestling available will be Sunday's World Wrestling All-Stars pay-per-view.  The WWA has only announced a few under-card matches, which include:  Sabu vs. Devon "Crowbar" Storm, Disco Inferno vs. Brian "Grand Master Sexay" Christopher, and Eddy Guerrero vs. Juventud Guerrera vs. Psicosis.  Those are all promising contests, wrestling-wise, but they aren't exactly gonna sell PPVs.  Jeff Jarrett (who I think is still the WWA's champion), Scott Steiner, and Randy Savage are all supposed to be in action, as well.  Bret Hart will be featured in a non-wrestling capacity.

If you happen to be in or around Vegas, tickets are still available for the event at the Aladdin Casino.  For the rest of you, either check out the show on PPV Sunday night, or come on back here Monday for a full report! 

-  Eric Bischoff, rumored by some to be under consideration for an on-screen role in the WWF, is once again all over the entertainment wire for his behind-the-scenes maneuverings.  This time, Bischoff has taken a role as executive producer for a new mixed martial arts show that will pit top fighters against each other at exotic locations.

Though the competition will apparently be real, the show's co-creator is the guy who came up with "Survivor," so apparently, they'll be adding in dramatic/storytelling elements, too.  

They're still in the process of pitching the show to various broadcast and cable networks at this point.

-  The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue was sitting on my coffee table yesterday, and I could not help but take a gander...  after satisfying my passion for reading fluff pieces about the native lifestyle of various tropical islands, I also noticed a something of interest to rasslin' fans.

There was a full-page ad for the upcoming WWF Divas TV special on UPN.  Talk about perfect placement!

The video highlights of the latest diva photo shoot will air on March 15.  The ad also noted that the accompanying magazine and DVD releases will follow in early April.  I wonder if either will also magically appear on my coffee table?

-  Last thing for today...

OO Reader Dave Krug spotted a newspaper item that said pro wrestler Bobby Nelson had died earlier this week at the age of 84.  I don't think I'd ever heard of Bobby Nelson, but the paper noted that the Full Nelson was named after him when he perfected the move back during his career in the 40s.  If that's the case, it's certainly a remarkable claim to fame.

-  Enjoy your weekend, folks...  I'm taking my show on the road (to Bloomington, IN, for a rock show, if you must know).  And then I'll probably need a day or so to recover from having my ass blown out by all the rocking.  So if I don't update the Ticker, you know why.  Don't get too worked up, though...  I'll be back in full force on Monday, with another long-form column.

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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