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RAW Thoughts, Ratings, Austin Update,
and the Ubiquitous MORE!
March 27, 2002

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


-  Upfront, let me say this:  you give me a shot to do something as potentially unique and history-making as Monday's draft, and I would NOT have handled it anything like the WWF did.  

But I'll get to my gripes (in an abbreviated form) in a moment, because it also bears saying:  it will not, ultimately, matter that the Draft was so lackluster (or lacklogical, to mint a new word).  There are two possible states of affairs here...  one is that the duel roster concept does gonzo business, and in that case, all that matters is that fans have bought into the two distinct shows (which could turn out to have very compelling rosters, even if the draft itself was tedious).  And two is that the duel roster concept tanks inside six months, in which case it's not the fault of the draft, but simply the fault of the WWF to realize that it is impossible to re-create the kind of believable competition that once existed between promotions without having AN ACTUAL PROMOTION OTHER THAN THE WWF in existence.

What hurt the draft concept?  A couple of things...

First, the "co-owners" didn't seem to be taking it seriously at all, which flew directly in the fact of the footage we saw of the entire roster seemingly on the edges of their seats as if this was the most important thing, ever.  Vince and Flair started off making a show of carefully considering their options, but before too long were just spouting off two or three seemingly random picks in a row.  Mark Henry?  Come the fuck on!

Flair's top level drafting didn't grant the thing any legitimacy, either... granted, without HHH, Jericho, or Austin to select, it was a bit thin, but going Taker at #1, nWo at #2, and Kane at #3 raises the real prospect that Flair DID belong in that nut house (as seen on Nitro) all along.  Although Flair rallied with a stronger bottom 5 picks, Vince obviously had the better draft...  which pretty much telegraphs that Free Agent Austin will be landing on Flair's RAW.

And lastly, can someone explain to me how a random lottery fits in AT ALL with the "most important event in all of history."  Twenty guys get selected based on their importance and value to the company, but then a "lottery" distributes the rest at random?  Look, I think there might have been possibilities for handling the full 30 rounds more like the actual NBA draft, but even I was not gonna sit here and stump for 2 hours of sitting around watching Vince and Flair alternate turns at the podium. 

Still, would it have been so hard to say, "Tonight on RAW, Vince and Flair will pick the first 10 rounds live.  Then the draft will continue tomorrow during the day, with full results and highlights on SmackDown!"?  Then on Tuesday, you tape Vince and Flair doing another 10 or so rounds, then they can (just like in the real draft) hand things off to assistants; Arn Anderson takes over Flair's duties, while the Stooges return to cover for Vince.  Every pick is shown on TV (so that people can get used to hearing names like "Tommy Dreamer" and "D'Lo Brown" again), and each pick can seem to have some importance, even if each pick does not lead to an extended Vince vs. Rock promo.

But no, it's a lottery...  and before that, it's Vince and Flair randomly taking some guys higher than they should have been (Undertaker, Kane, and yes, folks, Benoit, too!) and some guys who should DEFINITELY been shunted over to the post-RAW lottery (Mark Henry, again, I'm looking at you!).  So no sir, this was not a RAW that accomplished anything along aesthetic lines...  it served its purpose in terms of telling the story of the roster split, a necessary function.  But it missed out on a chance to live up to the hype as a memorable, historic night.

Besides that (and Brock Lesnar once again looking like a million dollar prospect), about the only other thing of note from RAW was the main event....

And I'm not saying I was one of those people calling for the End of Stephanie, who thought her banishment would be the greatest thing ever... but even I felt let down by the finish of the main event.  Sure, Steph lost and is gone (which is the right way to go, for now), but it seemed to come out of nowhere.  A spinebuster and that's it?  So Stephanie getting Pedigreed is for WrestleMania only, and can't be given away on free TV?  I'm no Pat Patterson or Johnny Ace when it comes to assembling a match, but I know a crowd that didn't sound like they thought they just saw a finish when I hear one.  I also know I was sitting back and feeling quite confident that Jericho (who hadn't been sufficiently "written out" yet) would make the save.  But no, a forearm to Jericho, the spinebuster on Steph, and before you know it, three seconds later and it's all done.  It got a nice, "Oh, so that WAS it.  Yay!  That's what we wanted to see" pop.  But that's all.  Do a better job ditching Jericho and build up to FINALLY doing the Pedigree (which was teased, I think, three times in the match), and then you got yourself something that might feel like a main event.  And after the draft fizzled, this RAW needed one of those.

Oh, but wait... didn't I say my bitching was going to be in abbreviated form?

Check out CRZ's RAW Recap for all the other pertinent details, and you can also check out yesterday's Full Draft Results to find out how the Fed divvied up all 60 draft-eligible superstars.

-  Last night's RAW did a 5.4 rating (actually a 5.35, but I always round up), which is roughly equal to last week.  And that's a good thing.  Last week's RAW and SD! were the most watched of each program in a while...  both were seen in just over 4.3 million households.

This also marks the first time in a while when RAW has remained basically competitive with SD!...  UPN's Thursday show had been significantly out-pacing TNN's RAW for a while, there.

-  In case you have missed them, you can get full spoilers for tomorrow night's SmackDown! right here.

-  The latest I'm hearing on Steve Austin is that things WERE actually patched up with him in time for Monday, but that they'd already decided to go forward with the "free agent" storyline at that point.  So even though everything was cool between Austin and the WWF before this week's tapings, for angle purposes, he stayed at home and didn't participate.

This way, when Austin -- now the "Number One Free Agent in Wrestling" -- does return to TV to announce his intentions (which now should happen next week), it'll launch him back into a top level position, alleviating whatever concerns he had about his role in the company.  Austin's closest babyface competition on Flair's RAW will come from RVD and Kane (HHH, as champ, will also be a visitor there), so he's solid as the cornerstone of the show again.

Note:  this conflicts with other reports that Austin was expected to be a big part in the draft and that the "free agent" thing was actually a last-second cover story when fences couldn't be mended in time.  I guess we'll know by next Monday what the deal is...

-  Noticeably absent from the 30 rounds of the draft/lottery were any non-wrestling TV talents...  that means the announcers may just be "neutral," and can work for any show they want.  We'll know soon enough, since Monday's RAW will be the first one with the split in full effect.

The way TV announcers are distributed is also important because it'll affect B-level shows like Excess, Heat, and Jakked/Metal.  My initial thought was that those shows would become even MORE recap-oriented, since that would allow them to be neutral and to feature highlights from both shows...  but per a recent radio interview with Jerry Lawler, the shows will actually become more WRESTLING-oriented, to allow each of the two rosters to fully showcase its talents.

Given that info, and given a basic understanding of the penetration of both TNN and UPN (both are available in about the same number of homes, even though UPN is a broadcast network and TNN is limited to cable homes...  I think market penetration for both is hovering on the high side of 80%, last I read), it makes sense that you'd try to switch up networks for the weekend or B-level shows.  Maybe give WWF-R control over Heat and Jakked/Metal (Jakked/Metal is syndicated and available to homes without cable, so that one should definitely not get doubled up with SD), and give WWF-SD control over Excess?

I don't know...  but I know if I were the WWF, I'd be thinking hard to come up with an equitable way to allow fans who don't get UPN to see Rock, Hogan, et al... and to allow fans who don't get TNN to see Austin, RVD, et al.

-  Word of warning:  do not believe everything you will read elsewhere about "Clique Politics" and Triple H getting heat for joining in with the nWo's political games...  I don't know if there might be some small kernel of truth in there that just got blown out of proportion, or if it's an outright piece of misinformation.  

But for whatever it's worth, here's a paraphrasing of how it was explained to me:  If Hunter has been able to cohabitate with the boss' daughter/head writer for damn near two years and avoid getting labeled as a guy who's wielding unfair political power (beyond the internet morons who don't really know what's going on), then do you really think he's stupid enough to get that label after hanging with the nWo for just 2 months?

-  Fans attending the balance of this week's split-crew WWF house shows will apparently be seeing randomly cross-bred "mutt" shows.  As of the latest published cards, there is no correlation between scheduled matches and the recent draft:  all shows feature a mix of WWF-R and WWF-SD talents (including both the Dudleys and APA working as teams).  

I guess maybe SmackDown! was NOT the last time some of these guys would be working together?

The entire roster is also available for next week's live RAW, since there is no WWF-SD house show scheduled that night...  but I have no idea if that will play into how RAW is booked or not.

-  Last note for today is a pair of non-wrestling things...

First... to the handful of people who wrote in about my "Blank-ing Noun" band name tirade from Monday, yes, let me publicly apologize.  There has been at least ONE good (and distinctly memorable) band that fit that mold, and their name is the Rolling Stones. No points to the reader who suggested "The Counting Crows," because not only did I hate them, but they still did not have a name that helped me easily distinguish them:  for the longest time, I kept getting them confused with "The Black Crowes" (who also were not high on my list of favorites).

And second...  I need one (1) serious baseball fan to fill up a Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball League my friends and I are doing.  It's a 5x5 roto league, with a live draft on THIS SATURDAY AFTERNOON (it'll be done before the Final Four games!).  If interested, send me an e-mail, and I'll get back with the League ID# and password.  First come, first served.

See you again on Friday....


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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