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Bret Hart, Hogan in the Ring, RAW
Preview, and More...
March 4, 2002

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


-  You guys had to have heard about this over the weekend...  do you know how close we came to seeing Bret Hart at WrestleMania X-8?

Well, alright, not that close at all...

But the point is, as per Bret's weekly column in the Calgary Sun, an offer was made for Hart to appear at the show, and Bret actually considered it for all of 12 nanoseconds before saying "No thanks."  He apparently did not want to be the cause of Hell's second bitter winter storm since the New Year.  First Hulk Hogan back in the WWF, and now we almost got the Hitman, too?

Anyway, the deal was being set up by Carl DiMarco, who basically runs the WWF's Canadian operations and who remains friendly with Bret even after all that's gone down.  DiMarco offered Bret a spot as an unbilled special referee for the Jericho/HHH main event; Hart's participation would have been kept a surprise until his introduction before the main event and would have been a one time only deal.

In detailing the events of the past week, Hart seemed mostly bemused by the invitation.  He noted that it came as no big surprise when the WWF came calling, looking for him to participate at WrestleMania in Canada.  But he could not bring himself to give them a surprising response:  instead, he very briefly considered doing a favor for his friend, DiMarco, but ultimately decided that given his bitter history with the WWF since 1997, he would be doing himself a disservice by working for the company.

In the weekend column, Hart goes into more detail about his reasons for declining the invitation, and also talks about his aborted "peace summit" with Vince McMahon.  You can read the column online at Slam Wrestling.

-  With Bret Hart briefly considering a WWF return, the other "Hell Freezes Over" moment of the weekend was largely reduced to an afterthought...  when Hulk Hogan left the WWF in 1993 amidst a cloud of backstage political turmoil and then half-heartedly testified against Vince McMahon in the ultimately-unsuccessful federal steroid trials a year later, the knee-jerk response to the question "When will we see Hulk Hogan back in a WWF ring?" was short and sweet:  "When hell freezes over."

As the years went on, that assessment softened, and actually, for much of the past year and a half, most folks had done a complete 180 degree turn, and were expecting Hogan back in the WWF.  But still, two weeks after his first appearance in a WWF ring to cut a promo, Hogan's first actual MATCH should also be worthy of some ink.

On Friday night in Tampa, FL, Hogan faced Rikishi in the night's semi-main event (Austin vs. Hall was the night's final match).  Hogan got the win by hitting a leg drop after he dodged a Bonzai Drop.  However, Hogan's post-match celebration was abbreviated when Rikishi dropped Hogan in a corner and delivered the Stinkface (much to the crowd's approval).  Readers who were in attendance said Hogan looked relatively smooth in the ring given his lay-off, but was still as limited as ever in terms of move-set (some credit was given to Rikishi for making Hogan's limited repertoire look as impressive as possible).

The choice of Rikishi as Hogan's first opponent is interesting from a historical perspective:  in the WWF's twisted "official" history, Hogan's last WWF match of his first run was his WWF Title loss to Yokozuna in June '93 (at the first King of the Ring PPV).  Rikishi, of course, is the late Yokozuna's cousin, which is sort of a neat tie-in.  Problem is, in reality, Hogan wrestled several more house show dates for the WWF after the title loss to Yokozuna (usually teaming with Brutus Beefcake against Ted DiBiase and Irwin R. Shyster), so the tie-in is pretty much fictional.  It doesn't help that the return match against Rikishi was also at a house show, which means it also will likely not be considered part of the WWF "canon." 

Other (domestic) house show notes:  Triple H and Kurt Angle wrestled the matches of the night around the horn this weekend, filling in the pre-intermission slot with an intense 15 minute affair each time out....  Scott Hall got reviews even more positive than last weekend's (which were usually limited to "he's rusty, but you can tell he's trying hard") for his main event efforts against Austin, which just might show that last week's good effort may have matured into this week's good showing...  X-Pac returned to action over the weekend, and contrary to what we'd been hearing, he DID have the WWF Light Heavyweight Title with him (which he successfully defended against Spike Dudley)...  and the Undertaker stepped in against Rikishi after Friday night (Hogan wasn't going to stray too far from his Florida home to stay on a house show tour with the WWF).

-  Overseas, the WWF's Asia tour has now concluded (as of this morning, US time)...  and by all accounts, the crowds were strong (though not as strong as Japan's sell-out on Friday) and very vocal around the horn.

The results appear to have been the same at all three events, and you can refer to The Ticker for Friday's Japan results if you're interested.  If you're not, you still get the quick highlights version, which include:

Chris Jericho retained the WWF Title by beating the Rock in the main events of all three shows; he got some help from Shane McMahon and finally pinned the Rock by using the ropes for leverage...  Ric Flair did in-ring promos at all shows, only to be interrupted by William Regal (who then was cinched into the Figure Four to the crowds' delights)...  and Regal successfully defended his IC Title thrice against Edge.

Others on the tour are:  the Hardys (and Lita), the Dudleys, Kane, Big Show, Tajiri (and Torrie Wilson), Billy and Chuck, Dallas Page, the Hurricane (and Molly), Funaki, and Billy Kidman.  All will be returning to the US on late Tuesday or Wednesday, and thus, will be absent from tonight's live RAW.

-  So, with a goodly percentage of the WWF's roster -- including the WWF Champ, the IC Champ, the tag champs, the half-owner, and possibly the industry's top babyface -- a full 20-plus hour plane ride away from tonight's RAW, what can we expect?  Well, my guess is (1) lots of the nWo vs. Austin and (2) Stephanie -- as Jericho's surrogate -- being a pest to Triple H.  And then (3) some sort of evil plot by the Undertaker to finalize his WM match against the absent Ric Flair (hey, how about like I said last week:  with Ric on a plane back from Asia, maybe Taker could kidnap and beat on David Flair?!?)....

Actually, the WWF has made it official that tonight will be the first in-ring match for the nWo, though it has not said which one of Scott Hall, Hulk Hogan, and Kevin Nash will be in action (nor against whom).  Since Hall has already gotten almost a half-dozen matches under his belt, I'd say he's a leading candidate, however.  He just won't be facing the same guy he did on those house shows, since there's no way that they'll give us Austin vs. Hall for free before the PPV...  but no matter what the nWo gets into tonight, you know Austin's gonna be right there in the mix, too.

More than anything, though, I think the stunt of putting an nWo guy into a match is just a ploy to mask the fact that -- with half the roster gone -- tonight's RAW will be a place-holding show until everybody is back in the States for Thursday's live SmackDown!.  That's not to say it can't be a fun place-holding show, though.  Consider who the Fed does have on hand to work with:

Austin, Triple H, and Rob Van Dam are all solid draws on the babyface side (and are supported by Rikishi, the APA, Trish Status, Scotty/Albert, and Spike Dudley).  The heel side is strong with Kurt Angle, Hogan/Hall/Nash, and Booker T at the top (supported by Test, Lance Storm, Christian, a returning X-Pac, Mr. Perfect, and Jazz).  It won't be a blow-away show, but there's enough talent here to have a good show.

Hey, it nothing else, look at it as a test run for a month from now, when the Fed splits its roster into halves, with each half getting one prime time show.  Of course, once that happens, there will also be an influx of talent from HWA/OVW coming in to help, but still, it'll be an interesting experiment tonight.

-  Friday's WWF.com Ross Report was again mostly an injury update, featuring few modifications to our previous understanding of the WWF roster's various ailments...  the one injury-related note that should be of interest to all is that both Kanyon and Mike Awesome could be back after their respective knee surgeries in the month following WrestleMania.  That's also the basic time frame for Chris Benoit's comeback.

It was, however, not an injury-related note that will probably end up sparking the most debate...  that honor goes to a throw-away paragraph in which JR says he hopes to see Shawn Michaels as a part of this week's live SmackDown! from San Antonio, TX (HBK's hometown).  Let the rampant speculation commence!

-  That's about all from me today...  sorry about shorting you a column on Friday.  Between my schedule and a lack of anything really pressing to talk about, it didn't seem advisable to rush a total piece of shit out to you fine readers (who endure my mostly pieces of shit with such good humor on a regular basis, already!).  

No need to place an open call for Spoiler reports, since SD! is live this week...  which means all I've gotta do before I quit is to remind you that OO's RAW coverage will occupy your Tuesday reading, and then I'll be back Wednesday with mid-week news and opinion. 

Till 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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