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RAW Thoughts, Live SmackDown!,
TV Specials, More...
March 6, 2002

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


-  In stark contrast to CRZ -- whose always-tremendous recap is available right here -- I actually found myself liking Monday's RAW more than the past couple of weeks...  although I do doff my cap to Chris for refraining from dwelling on the half-comedic possibilities offered by HHH's reference to Steph's big brown box.  Noble restraint, indeed!

It's not a show without its nits to pick, but I actually liked the pacing of things...  with only half the roster there, it seemed like there was less "Crash TV" style bouncing between segments, and more depth added to the segments they did do.  Now, in the case of Steph and her lotion, it was still a stupid segment I could have done without...  but for the most part, things clicked for me on Monday.

I even thought the nWo had their best, most effective night since their return...  no ambulances or gimmicked cinder blocks, just a solid beat-down on Steve Austin followed up by a thorough squashing of Spike Dudley.  And Hulk Hogan's piss-poor attempts at pushing new catchphrases aside, even the backstage bits were pretty amusing.  Sometimes Hall and Nash's ability to be so impressed by their own cleverness can be obnoxious, and sometimes it can be funny; Monday, I got a kick out of them.

I liked the Undertaker/David Flair segment, too.  Exactly what the doctor (and The Rick) ordered.  But somebody should have been more careful in framing the shot of Taker dragging David into the men's room; a clock was briefly visible above the door, and even though Taker said the beat-down took place "this morning," the clock clearly indicated that it was like 5:30 or something like that.  And I don't think the WWF mandates training at 5:30 in the AM...

Speaking of the Taker/Flair thing, it was one of THREE incidents of blood-letting on the show Monday...  we usually go weeks without seeing any color, and on RAW, we got three guys (Austin, Flair, and HHH) doing blade jobs.  What's the deal with that?  [Big time props to Angle and HHH for doing the "bloody cheesegrater" spot in the cage match, always a convincingly-brutal-looking favorite of mine.]

In any case, any time you toss in two really good wrestling matches (RVD/Storm, and the HHH/Angle main event), I'll always be pretty happy with the end result.  A marked improvement from the previous two RAWs, I thought...  but apparently, your mileage may vary.

-  Whatever critical gains I thought RAW made, the fact is that they actually lost ground with viewers.  After scoring 4.7 ratings the last few weeks, they dropped down to a 4.5 on Monday.  Coupled with last week's big drop-off for SmackDown's ratings, there seems to be a distressing lack of momentum heading into WrestleMania...

-  Also, if you missed this on The Ticker, last week's debut for Tough Enough 2 drew a 1.6 rating, which is probably a disappointment for all involved, given the hype for the show and the fact that last year's TE1 scored about a half-point higher in its debut.

A 1.6 rating is still a strong draw for MTV, though, so even if its a relative disappointment, the fact is that nobody's gonna bitch too much about it...

-  The half of the WWF roster that toured Asia last weekend is now back in the US, and will be available for tomorrow's special live edition of SmackDown!

The thrust of the hype for the live show centers on the fact that the Rock will be returning to TV for the first time in over two weeks.  In storylines, he's been recovering from the dreaded ambulance attack by the nWo from two weeks back.  In reality, he's been recovering from the wicked schedule necessitated by re-shoots for "The Scorpion King," and then he got shipped off to Asia for the aforementioned tour.  

This means we'll finally be able to put some stank on the Rock/Hogan feud, which has fallen flat since the initial verbal confrontation.  The ambulance attack was silly, and since then, we've had dueling music videos.  Hogan's was good, but I thought represented a ton of missed opportunities (but how weird was it to hear "Real American" and "American Made" both used in the same vignette?)...  Rock's was just -- I don't know -- too much.  I mean, HHH had to miss 8 months to get a big music video; the Rock only has to miss 8 days?

And why do I fear that when Chris Benoit comes back, he'll get nothing?

In any case, with SD! live tomorrow night, and with the full roster available, it seems like the pieces are in place for the WWF to follow up on Monday's RAW with another strong show.  And remember, the show is live in San Antonio, TX, which is Shawn Michaels' home town.  If there's any chance in hell of the rumors of Michaels returning coming true, we should probably see the signs of that tomorrow night.  Otherwise, shelve said rumors for about another six months or so...

-  By the way, a final note about the overseas tour and how it affected things Monday...  I know Diamond Dallas Page was part of the tour, so I assume his segment with Christian was actually pre-taped last week (despite the big "LIVE" chyron that went up in the corner during that bit).

If so, it was just part of the show-long effort to completely ignore the notable absences... or in the cases of Chris Jericho and Ric Flair, to make them part of a storyline.  It's not big deal, but what would have been the crime in saying, "Hey, a bunch of our guys just got done selling out arenas half a world away!"?

-  Next week's shaping up as a great one to be a wrestling fan...  the build up in the final days before WrestleMania will not only mean a revised and updated version of OO's Road to WrestleMania feature, but it'll also mean two TV specials and a bunch of special appearances by WWF wrestlers on other shows...

Next Tuesday on TNN, a two hour best-of-WrestleMania special will air, which could be tremendous if they feature the right clips (and don't weight things too heavily towards more recent history like they did with the "All Day Long" thing before WM a few years ago)...  

Then Wednesday on UPN, an hour long WWF Divas special will be provide the night's rasslin' fix (rescheduled from next Friday).  The special is titled "Sex on the Beach," which is probably about half-right.  I'm sure there'll be a beach, but...  

Book-ended by RAW on Monday and SD! on Thursday, that means four straight nights of prime time wrestling for fans in the week before WM...  not too shabby.

Also:  this Sunday, the second WWF-themed "Weakest Link" will air on NBC...  and Triple H will be on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" on Wednesday night.

-  The WWF is getting some of the credit for UPN's strongest sweeps month ever.  In February, UPN was the #5 network, easily topping the WB, and the item on the entertainment wire noted that SmackDown! (along with "Star Trek: Enterprise" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") were the biggest reasons why.

Star Trek and the WWF are also the biggest reasons why TNN continues to make gains...  the network is now a Top Ten cable network in terms of average prime time rating.  If you missed it a few weeks back, USA Network head honcho Barry Diller recently called himself "a dope" for losing the WWF to the rival network as USA has dropped from its spot as the top prime time cable network in the land.

Always good to see that wrestling is still a viable draw, even if our perception as smarts is that the business has taken a nose-dive in the last year or two...

-  On the other hand, the brain-fart that was the XFL has recently been reprised, reminding folks that not all that Vince McMahon touches turns to gold.  The reason for the return of XFL memories is because NBC has just announced a deal to air Arena Football League games starting next year...

Sportswriters note that Arena Football was not exactly a big draw on cable TV, and that after NBC got burned so bad by the XFL, they might have learned their lesson.  But just as NBC jumped in with the XFL after they lost NFL football, next year, NBC will ALSO be stung by the fact that they have lost rights to NBA basketball.  

-  Something I've been forgetting to mention the past couple weeks:  I got a copy of "One of a Kind" -- which is RVD's entrance theme by Breaking Point -- from the band's label, and wanted to point out two things.  (1)  I have no idea how they avoided giving a writing credit to Pantera (whose "Walk" was RVD's ECW theme song), but Jim Johnston and Breaking Point have definitely crafted a rocker that captures that basic spirit (if not the basic riff!).  And (2) the WWF is missing a BIG TIME opportunity to upgrade RVD's entrance by cutting out the song's intro for Van Dam's in-arena version; combine that mostly-drums intro with a light-/pyro-show, and you'd have something.

You can hear the full version of the song when the WWF's next album release later this month.  I thought it was called "Forced Entry," but apparently it's now "Forceable Entry."  Whatever...  I'm still mostly just looking forward to hearing how Kid Rock covers ZZ Top's "Legs" (which will be used as Stacy Keibler's new theme).

-  And since I'm off on a music tangent, I'll just close with a quick recommendation...  if you happen to hear that the Immortal Lee County Killers are coming to a bar or club near you, you ought to check them out.  I went to a show last night mostly just to see Dayton-based bands the Jackalopes and the Igniters, not even knowing who the third band on the bill was.

Well, the Jackalopes were fantastic, and the Igniters were solid, too  (hey, they were missing a guitar player), but I had my ass blown out by the Lee County Killers.  I once marveled that the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (a three man operation) rocked hard enough for 50 mortal men.  Well, the ILCK are a TWO PIECE, and I'd estimate they rocked about hard enough for 40, which is actually something like 17% more rocking on a per capita basis.  

Now, if only I could get my hands on their record, instead of having to settle for the Estrus Sampler (not that I'm complaining about having a compilation with Federation X, Cherry Valence, and Monkeywrench on it!)...  Note to out-of-town bands:  if you come to Dayton, bring PLENTY of your merchandise.  We're so hurting for quality entertainment that we'll buy anything!  You don't want to be sold out.

-  That's it for today...  if I can drag myself away from college hoops Championship Week (go Flyers!) and my studious Fantasy Baseball preparations, I'll be back here again on Friday with a big ass news and opinion column.  See y'all 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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