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RAW, The Draft, Austin, Rock Comes
Back to SNL, and More...
March 20, 2002

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


-  The WWF certainly seems to have most fans convinced that they've turned a corner...  reaction to the past weekend's WrestleMania was (mostly) devoid of any kind of pessimism about the chances of being able to capitalize on the night's lone real highlight (the response to Hulk Hogan), and now, looking to my in-box, reaction to Monday's RAW seems to be devoid of any kind of criticism about the fact that was a startling dearth of actual WRESTLING on the show.

And if you're looking to me to be the guy who starts it, well, look elsewhere...  may I suggest starting with Special Guest Recapper The Cubs Fan's RAW Recap?

But me, hey, I likes my rasslin', but I also likes good drama and stories.  I think a wrestling promotion is entitled to one or two of these shows per month (i.e. one or two per pay-per-view) to get all stories properly aligned for the next major show.  And Monday's RAW is one that did it right.

Hell, just look to a quick comparison to the previous RAW, and maybe that's why I was able to stomach things...  one week ago, Steph and HHH were getting worked up over a damned dog; this week on RAW, there's a genuine reason for their hostility, and it was used to set up an interesting stip match for next week.  One week ago, the Vince/Flair roster split issue was turned into what seemed like an eternities worth of shitty "board room" scenes; this week, Linda McMahon (quite effectively) got the entire point across in one simple two-minute announcement.  It's things like that that make you wonder who thought doing things that first way was a good idea at all...  

And while they were fixing storytelling problems of weeks past, they also managed to squeeze enough completely new and exciting stuff in that it's hard to even know where to begin...

How about with The Draft?  I think everybody who calls himself an Internet Wrestling Personality did a "Fantasy Wrestling Draft" column about a year ago, when we thought it would happen as part of the acquisition of WCW...  and now, here we are with a draft as a reality in less than a week.  Hey, I know it probably means another wrestling-devoid show on RAW next week, but this is also a concept that has intrigued me for no less than a year, so I think it gets some leeway.

From the ideas I had last year (about a guy getting drafted, but maybe doing the wrestling equivalent of "refusing to report to camp"... or obviously having one side drafting for star power and the other for in-ring showmanship) to new concepts that the WWF actually smoothly introduced last night (like how the Hardy/Lita/Regal bit conveyed the possibility that the draft could be used -- whether by accident or as part of a diabolical plan -- to split up familiar existing teams), there's a ton of potential for good material here.

Plus, there's the simple interest in seeing which stars end up where, and against whom they'll still be able to compete.  Based mostly on Flair's promo about the focus belonging on the "Superstars who walk that aisle," I'm guessing he'll get custody of the cruiserweights and other guys who may be more known for leaving it in the ring than they are for selling tickets...  but I'm also sure they'll be enough stars on each side of the equation to make things work.

Anyway, I don't think I'll bother republishing my "Draft Column" from last March (parts of it ARE pretty well prognosticative, but others are just plain dated), and I'll just toss a bunch of new thoughts together in a column on Friday (since I doubt we'll have a ton of fresh REAL news to go over).

So that leaves Big Story #2:  Hogan and Rock are a team, now, and they are feuding with the nWo.  It clearly was NOT just a one night thing, as the ovation Hogan got on Monday was off the charts.  But I stand by my cautionary note from Monday:  this will have to be carefully managed, or it WILL wear off.  Hogan will get one of those ovations in every building he visits for the next few months, but after that, more new towns (or returns to other ones) may not be as kind.  And there's no amount of shelling out for the rights to "Voodoo Child" that Vince McMahon can do to stop it.

The feud with the nWo is a natural, though, and puts Hogan on firm ground for a while.  The walk-out/count-out finish to the RAW main event is a rare case of a non-finish seeming palatable...  mostly because I was expecting it (c'mon, the second the match was announced you were thinking "There's no way they give us a clean finish to a PPV match on RAW?", too!), but also because it conveys a key storyline point:  Hall and Nash are bad guys, and they'd rather walk away from a fight and regroup (with new memebers?) than take on Hogan and Rock, two-on-two.  It's only if that finish is reprised in lieu of actual creative thinking that we'll have a problem.

Big Story #3:  internet smarks get their dream, as Stephanie McMahon agreed to put her right to be on TV up against Triple H's new Undisputed Title.  Since nobody's actually thinking that the Fed will go back to Jericho as the Champ, that leaves us all to presume that Steph is about to get written off TV for a while.  I'm right there with you people when you bitch about "Too Much Steph," but I'm tempering my glee right now because I'm ALSO a guy who has voted Stephanie "Best Second" for two years in a row.  For as questionable as I sometimes find the creative teams judgment in terms of spotlighting Steph, I have never questioned Stephanie's ability as a heel manager type.  She has, as I've stated before, mastered the art of being obnoxious.  I hope this isn't a case where the Fed will lose a valuable role player by pandering a bit TOO much to internet types...  but I also find myself smiling on the inside because it'll probably mean the end to a lot of that dreadful and ubiquitous soap opera silliness between HHH and Steph.

Big Stories #4 and on....

How about that Brock Lesnar, eh?  Those of us who've been lucky enough to see him on the developmental circuit (even if it's just once or twice) have known for a while that he's ready to step into a WWF ring...  but what's been missing is the ability to talk.  That's where Paul Heyman comes in, and man alive, the fit could not be more perfect.  Once the Fed expands its roster with more developmental guys, there's a chance Heyman could find himself guiding more of these types of workers, as the mouthpiece for a small faction of "rookies."  Oh, and some have already dubbed him "The Brock," but if the guy's gonna steal any existing wrestler shtick, I think a sing-song "Lezzzz-Nar" (in the style of "Golllld-Berg") chant would fit him a lot better.  "Les-Nar"...  sounds like of like a He-Man villian from back in the day, doesn't it?

The Dudley's tabling of Stacy Keibler was probably intended to keep them ultra-heels...  but the perverse twisted nature of most wrestling fans means it's probably just become twice as hard to keep the the Duds from getting babyface pops.  BTW, when the Duds put a girl through a table, it's usually humorous to note that Bubba's ass actually took the bump; not so this time.  It looked like Stacy got plastered...  ouch.

Ivory's back, and I must note 2 things:  (1) I am happy, since I get a kick out of her heelishness, and think that her ability to work the mic will provide a super counter-point to Jazz's more "I let my ass kicking do my talking" variety of heel shtick. And (2) it's only because she's part of Tough Enough 2, and this'll be used to push that show on a weekly basis (and I'm less happy about that).

If you did want some actual wrestling on Monday, and the non-finish to the main event spoiled that match for you, you need look no further than the Angle/Booker vs. Edge/Kane contest.  I mean, nothing for the video archives, but if you can envision a better 5 minute TV special, I'd like to hear about it.  Good stuff, with a great sequence of near finishes towards the end.  

Any way, good show overall.  Maybe it doesn't convince me a corner has been turned, but it was a damned fine two hours and set the table for more similar shows to come in the future...  let us hope that the trend continues.

-  If you missed it, the rating for RAW was a 5.3, up 0.8 from the week before, and over a half-point stronger than the last two post-PPV Monday ratings (for Royal Rumble and No Way Out).  That's about as strong a RAW performance as I can recall on TNN, as a matter of fact (but since I've stopped updating my data with the conclusion of the Monday Night Wars, I would take that with a grain of salt).

The big tag team main event provided the peak rating for the show (a 5.8 for the overrun), and was the only time the rating deviated by as much as half-a-point from the two hour average.  The steady viewership over the course of two hours is a good sign that people tuned in, liked what they say, and stuck around, rather than flipping around and only finding the main event.

-  Noticeably absent from RAW:  Steve Austin, the Undertaker, Rikishi, and many other mid-major performers.  Hell, even though Chris Jericho was there, he got all of 90 seconds (kicking the living shit out of some local indie worker, I'd guess) on TV.

I'd figured it was an exercise in doing a show with only half the roster to see if it could be done effectively.  Though, jeez, I thought they proved that on the RAW where half the roster was still in Asia (it actually wound up being about the best RAW on the Road to WrestleMania)...  and while that was probably part of the reason for the spartan use of talent Monday, at least one other guy was absent for more nefarious reasons.

Steve Austin wasn't even in the building for RAW, as he'd flown back to Texas after WrestleMania.  There have been (un-confirmable) rumors about Austin throwing his creative weight around in the way his feud with Scott Hall built towards WrestleMania, and now those same sources are saying that Austin is unhappy with his prospects now that that feud is apparently over.

HOWEVER, though Austin missed RAW (and also SmackDown!), everybody involved in the company expects him back for next week's RAW at this point.  If there's frustration over going from the guy upon whose shoulders the company rested for a year to de facto #4 babyface (behind HHH, Rock, and now Hogan), it's understandable and it's something that will have to be addressed (likely by the fact that the roster split will probably put Austin right back to that top level once he's separated from the Rock).  If it's anything more serious than that, nobody's talking about it and is still putting the "it'll all be water under the bridge by next TV tapings" spin on it.

Just take a "wait and see" approach on this one, folks...  don't go jumping to any conclusions.

-  Confirming pre-existing rumors, the website for Andrew WK (whose pop-ish hard rock/metal is alright and should, at least, be taken internally before things such as Blink 182... and that single "Party Hard" is one half rockin' and one half over-the-top funny in a "Quiet Riot" sort of way, too!) confirms that The Rock will be hosting Saturday Night Live on April 13, while AWK is the musical guest.

It's a shame the Rock couldn't get a slot early enough to do WrestleMania hype... instead, his primary role on 4/13 will be to promote the "Scorpion King." Regardless of the reason for the gig, the Rock should be every bit as entertaining as he was during his appearance two years ago.

-  If you missed 'em, you can get full results for tomorrow night's SmackDown! courtesy of OO Reader Jeffrey LeBlanc's SmackDown! Spoilers.

-  Following up on the news item I had about Ken Shamrock on Monday...  the WWF website actually confirmed that Shamrock was backstage hanging around with old friends at WrestleMania, and posted an interview with him.  

The interview quoted Shamrock as saying that he'd like to return to the WWF after he gets shootfighting out of his system, and even suggested that he might do both at the same time.  

Sure, it's basically the exact same thing we said here on Monday, but it's always good to hear it get confirmed, right?

-  The most amusing sidebar out of tapings this week was the proliferation of "You Screwed Bret" chants directed at Vince McMahon...  Vince has said in the past that "Bret screwed Bret," and that everybody's basically forgotten about that whole incident, anyway.

I guess the nation of Canada disagrees.  

Vince got it a couple times on Monday night, and the second time, you could actually see the, "Geez, people, that's SO 1997" look on his face as he (not-so-covertly) gave Flair the "Hurry up and talk over these idiots" signal.  He got it again at SmackDown! tapings (during a backstage bit), which should be pretty easy to edit out, if the Fed so desires.

What's funny is that the "You Screwed Bret" and "We Want Bret" chants of the last few days come AFTER Bret turned down a chance to appear in front of his fans.  Hey, Hitman fans, Vince and the WWF wanted Bret, too.  Hart said, "No, thanks" (and it's not up to us to question his motives).

If the chants are just a way to get on "Mr. McMahon's" nerves as part of the show, yeah, they are kinda funny...  but if you think you're really making a plea to Vince McMahon -- a la the "We Want Flair" chants from WCW, circa 1992-3 (which wound up working) -- then you've missed the boat.  Go to Bret's house and chant "We Want You Back," and you'll be closer to preaching to the right party.

-  OO Reader Ryan MacMichael passed along a note from the newswire about Yahoo!'s upcoming offering of subscription-based content...  with broadband now available to something like half of all internet users, Yahoo! is going to extend its services to include things like movies-on-demand and sporting events, all for a fee.

Of note to us is the fact that the news item listed "professional wrestling" as one of the things Yahoo! wants to distribute as part of the new packages.  I have absolutely no idea if this means Yahoo! will be getting in bed with the WWF to sell their PPVs and programming... but the Fed has a proven track record of preferring to do stuff like this on their own, which might mean Yahoo!'s been talking to another group to provide their pro wrestling content.

Some interesting possibilities here.

-  By the way, the reason I do not necessarily rush to mention the new Jerry Jarrett-led promotion (you know, the one that you probably read about elsewhere, where JJ's dad is going to run a company that promotes a $10 two-hour PPV every weekend as its only programming) is because that promotion falls under the "I'll believe it when I see it" category.

Or rather, the "I'll start talking it up after it lasts more than 4 weeks" category.  The group might see the light of day, but I don't see their model resulting in any kind of sustainable financial situation.

Instead of declaring doom and gloom for them, I'll just go back to not mentioning it at all, now... 

- Delving into the mail bag...  reader Nick Smith just dropped a note, and came up with something that I'd briefly considered and then dismissed:  the possible REAL reason for Booker T and Edge fighting over shampoo.

Per our idea, the only way this makes sense is if it builds up to a hair vs. hair match.  The ONLY way.  

Think about it:  Booker is so pissed about losing the shampoo endorsement that he wants to shave Edge bald.  Hair vs. hair match ensues.

Yeah, it'll still be STUPID, but it WOULD make sense in terms of why this had to be a Japanese SHAMPOO company.

Eh, I say just scrap the whole thing and move on, actually.  Forget I mentioned it.

-  That's about enough for today...  by the way, sorry about the OO outage on Monday (first one in a while, though).  It's a situation where -- when too many readers try to connect at one time -- a brief snapshot taken automatically decides that I'm a threat to my provider's overall server performance.  The site gets suspended until somebody can manually go in and reset me.

This happened a few times on Monday, and the last time it happened, the site wound up being suspended overnight.  Even though total readership remained inordinately high on Tuesday, I guess the server never got totally slammed over a brief period, so I've been up solidly since early AM on Tuesday.

If you missed Monday's update because of this, you can catch up right here.  

And if you want to help make any of my future decisions about upgrading my web hosting a little bit easier, you can do so by making a donation (as little as $1) to my Amazon Honor System Account.  Or, since some have asked about non-credit-card donations, you can also check out the OO Contact Page for my PO Box.

And again, my apologies, and you have my word that I'll be trying to minimize future downtime to the best of my abilities and my checking account!

See you Friday with a big rambling opinion column about The Draft!


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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