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nWo back in Action, Weakest Link,
and Lots of Other News...
March 11, 2002

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


-  Despite ratings that have again begun to soften after a weeks-long surge following the return of the New World Order, the WWF is hoping to spike interest once again just six days prior to WrestleMania...

Tonight's Ratings Stunt Du Jour:  the televised in-ring return of the entire nWo.  Scott Hall has already worked TV matches (and not without reasonable promising results) in the last week, but Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash haven't wrestled on TV, yet.  In fact, Nash hasn't even worked any house show matches (although Hogan did do so last week).

The trio will face off, handicap-match-style, against Steve Austin and the Rock.  The uneven match-up was set up by Vince McMahon, who continues to re-appear sporadically to support the nWo's interests.

Will the three-on-two match end in a typical beat-down by the heels, not an uncommon ploy in the final days before a PPV?  Is it just a chance to knock the ring rust off and make sure that Austin/Hall and Rock/Hogan will be able to work smoothly against each other at the PPV?  Or how about everybody who is speculating that this could be a spot where somebody unexpected could step up to help Austin and the Rock against the nWo?  Or who could possibly swerve Rock and Austin by joining the nWo, instead?

I'd be lying if I said the name Shawn Michaels hadn't surfaced in regards to this sort of role...  but I'd also be lying if I said I had any concrete reason to believe you'll be seeing HBK on TV before Sunday's PPV, and if I said that his allegiances would become that instantly important to storylines.  It does sound like Michaels is on his way back, but don't look for him to immediately jump back in with both feet...

Besides the Rock/Hogan and Austin/Hall Mania matches, the other top level PPV contest that will be serviced tonight on RAW will be Chris Jericho's WWF Title defense against Triple H.  More than ever, this looks like a match that'll go on mid-show, in the shadow of Rock/Hogan...  it just lacks the sort of sizzle and intensity I thought it would have, given how much I like both performers.  Instead of building on Jericho's superb heel work of the past three months, the feud is now being predicated on the sillier soap-opera-ish antics perpetrated by Stephanie McMahon in the wake of her marriage to HHH falling apart.

Now, I realize that a split from Steph was probably a necessary storyline to do if HHH was to go fully babyface...  but more than ever, I'm wondering if it's necessary to have continued following-up like this.  Just note the huge difference in intensity between the night where Jericho and HHH went face to face after the Royal Rumble, with HHH talking about what Jericho had to do to prove he wasn't just a flavor of the month, and the last few weeks, when genitalia-based humor and cutting cars in half have taken center stage.  If I had to, I'd say that Jericho doesn't NEED Stephanie to be a hated heel, so putting her so prolifically into the mix has diluted the feud.  A month ago, I wouldn't have guessed that putting two very good  heels together would have actually REDUCED Jericho's effectiveness, but it kind of seems that's what we've got here.  Instead of synergy, it's like anergy (tm, Matt Knachel).

If some of the fantasy booking scenarios I'm getting in e-mail -- I'm talking about the ones in which Steph and HHH have just been swerving Jericho, and the entire last month will wind up being part of a massive swerve to get the WWF Title while executing a rare double-turn with Jericho in front of Sunday's Canadian PPV crowd -- wind up bearing any relation to reality, then yeah, I guess in retrospect we'll see the wisdom of keeping Stephanie involved.  But for now, I just look at it as a situation where the WrestleMania WWF Title match currently seems like the third most enticing on the card, and that's just not right.  Hopefully, it's a situation that can be partially remedied on RAW tonight.

Besides the big "Triple Main Event," we've basically got to other matches locked in for WM:  Ric Flair versus the Undertaker and William Regal's IC Title defense against Rob Van Dam.  Both feuds will be kept simmering tonight, but I expect even more energy to be put into officially inking a few more matches to go with the five we've got.  The top candidates:  Kurt Angle vs. Kane, Edge vs. Booker T, and Jazz vs. Trish vs. Lita (women's title).  There's plenty of basis for all three of those matches, already.  Also, the talk is that they'll just be throwing together some-kind of gimmicky four-way match for the tag titles (APA, Dudleys, Hardys, Billy and Chuck).

Dallas Page and Christian are probably heading towards a feud instead of a permanent tag team thing, as it turns out, so that could materialize in time for WM...  and after that, a "Dumping Ground" match -- a big 6- or 8-man tag or a battle royal -- will probably get tossed together to make sure the maximum number of wrestlers get on the card.

We'll see how it shapes up, and we'll have the full report from tonight's live RAW -- courtesy of CRZ -- tomorrow here on OO.

-  Speaking of our RAW coverage, Lee Filas (of "Squared Circle Jerk" fame) mailed me today to let me know that he's going to have to take an indefinite leave of absence while he tends to real life matters, like work and moving into a new house.  I thank Lee for his four months of immediate post-show columns, and hope that he does manage to get things restructured so that he can return as soon as possible.

And to folks who noticed that OO seems to have an opening for a SmackDown! recapper, I thank you for your interest.  But I believe I'll be promoting from within... if this DOES result in a lower level show becoming available, you'll read about it here, and then I'll start fielding resumes.

And hey, I STILL don't have anyone doing "Excess"...  hell, do I have anybody even WATCHING "Excess"?

-  The WWF's week of TV saturation started last night on NBC, with an entertaining edition of "Weakest Link."  Seeing Kane -- the former Isaac Yankem, DDS -- miss a question about Novocain was particularly amusing.  [The show didn't exactly do gangbuster ratings...  CBS's 9/11 special was the big winner last night, and cable even took a giant chunk out of the networks' ratings with ESPN's airing of the Bob Knight "Season on the Brink" and subsequent "Beyond the Brink" special.]

The specials continue tomorrow night with the Best of WrestleMania on TNN at 9pm, then Wednesday with a Divas special on UPN (also at 9).  Also on Wednesday, HHH will be on "Late Night" with Conan O'Brien.

For our readers in Canada, you've got five special editions of "Off the Record" coming up, each with a full half-hour interview with a WWF star.  Triple H, Chris Jericho, Ric Flair, Undertaker, and Jim Ross will be appearing on the TSN show later in the week.  You lucky canucks!

-  Also last night:  the Simpsons poked some fun at the XFL.  The opening gag had Homer getting all psyched for the start of the next XFL season, only to be told by Marge that the league had folded.  

-  The World Wrestling All-Stars, who have been pretty successful overseas even though their US PPV earlier this month was not that well-received, return to Australia again later this Spring.

The talent line-up is largely the same that has worked all WWA shows, with the notable exception of Bret Hart.  Hart is being replaced in the role of figurehead commissioner by Sid Vicious.  Despite on-going rumors that the WWF is interested in Scott Steiner (once he gets healthy, anyway), Big Poppa Pump is once again committed to the next set of WWA shows.

-  It has come to my attention that Columbus, OH, is under consideration for a WWF PPV this summer...  I figured that might also be of interest to some of you other Buckeyes out there.  More info when I get it...

-  To anyone who was offended that I didn't do a column on Friday, I apologize.  To be honest, there just wasn't a whole lot to be said on Friday.  I put up about 12 paragraphs of pertinent news items on The Ticker, but didn't want to just do a full column because I felt some obligation to fill up 30 KB.  I'd rather that you know that if something gets published here, it's because it's worth reading (which I think differentiates OO from other sites that push mindless reader feedback or the LATEST HUGE NEWS about a bus trip to an indie show as being on an equal footing with stuff that -- you know? -- we actually care about).

To some extent, I know it's also my job to be entertaining and informative if I'm to keep you as a reader, but if there's just no material, then there's not a whole lot I can do.  Plus, I knew that that was time that could be better spent getting the big Road to WrestleMania feature ready for another year.  The series gets started tomorrow, so come on back for that!

Later on...


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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