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Hulk Hogan:  Welcome to RAW!
April 22, 2002

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


-  I guess maybe we SHOULD have seen it coming...  back in February, Hulk Hogan signed a limited appearance deal with the WWF that basically committed him to two TV tapings per week, and nothing else.

After the roster split, the only way for the Fed to get its full money's worth out of Hogan?  Give him the belt so he can actually show up at both those contractually obligated tapings!  Makes PERFECT sense...

I'm no more optimistic about Hogan enjoying a lengthy run as a popular WWF Champ today than I was last night when I did OO's immediate post-show PPV recap...  hell, the lack of multiple large draft beers in my system alone should mean I'm in a more reasonable state of mind right now!

But something else has happened in the last 12 hours since Backlash to make me think that maybe I'm not as pessimistic as the majority of fans who read websites like this.  I expected to get raked across the coals when I admitted to reverting back to Hulk-a-Maniac status at WrestleMania, but I didn't...  but last night, when I call a Hogan title win "shocking" and "memorable," I get my ass reamed out by people who think this is the worst, most disgusting promotional move ever?  That kinda caught me by surprise.

I'm talking about people who went so far as to totally swear off all WWF programming until Hulk Hogan is not the champ...  people whose arguments consisted of nonsensical statements about how Hulk Hogan is not what the fans want to see (I guess they were seeing a different live crowd last night than the one included in my PPV broadcast?)...  one guy even went so far as to wish death upon Hulk Hogan so that he'd never tarnish another wrestling broadcast again.  Yeah, this is the e-mail I got when I woke up today.

And so, in one short weekend, I go from feeling like I'm the only guy on the Hulk-a-Mania Death Watch to feeling like I should go an get me a red and yellow spandex outfit to become Hulk-a-Maniac #1...  because for as much as I'll still warn anyone who'll listen that the bottom could drop out of this latest Hogan push at any time, I'm simply NOT able to deny that it IS working and the fans are responding positively, and that it's a good idea to strike while the iron is hot, with regard to Hogan.

Let's face it:  the ideal plan would probably be to have had Hogan stay heel a bit longer so that you can do a slow build to his face turn and eventual retirement match at WrestleMania 20...  but Hogan's body is 49 years old, and if fans want to see him on top now, then dammit, you'd better let him have the run while the flesh is able.  Hell, maybe by doing this now, there will even still be time to tear down Hogan and build him back up for whenever it comes time to retire.

What's even funnier is that I KNOW, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that these are the same types of fans who would wet themselves with glee if Ric Flair got one last nostalgia run as WWF Champion.  I KNOW it.  But since it's the evil Hulk Hogan, well, boo!  These people are still living in a reality where Hulk Hogan refuses to do the job, and who used strong arm political tactics to FORCE Triple H to lose the title...  and by all accounts, that reality does not exist any more.  In a strange way, the fact that Hogan got the title back after so long should be proof enough to you people that he's learned his lesson, and he knows his place in the grand scheme of things, now.  It was the political chicanery that landed him on the outs with the WWF back in 1993 to begin with, afterall...

Look, I'm not asking anyone to stand up and cheer for Hulk Hogan if you really don't find the guy entertaining...  but settle down and realize this isn't forever.  I still think, at the current rate, Hulk-a-Mania will burn itself out by late Summer.  Get whatever enjoyment out of this while you can.  Or at least step and let the other 90% of fans who ARE getting a kick out of Hogan enjoy it while it lasts.

Me, I'll stay right here, straddling the line:  openly predicting the bottom dropping out of Hulk-a-Mania while still getting a solid chuckle out of every Hulk Up, every shitty clothesline thrown, every arm that doesn't fall on the third time, and every "Brother"...  at least, for a few more months.  Maybe if it keep persisting past that point, I'll ask the militant Anti-Hulk-a-Maniacs to have me back.

But not for now....

-  Nothing really new from me as far as last night's Backlash goes...  I gather if you got a charge out of seeing Hogan win the belt, it was the capper on a mostly good show.  If you're seething with rage that the Hulkster is back on top, then it was a shitty finish to a show that never got above mediocre. 

Main events have a tendency to do that...

I don't know if I enjoyed seeing Hogan win, precisely...  or if I enjoyed watching the RESPONSE to Hogan winning.  But all I know is that after the realization set in that "Oh my god, Hogan's actually gonna win" (which, in retrospect, I should probably have realized as early as Jericho's promo), I only briefly buried my head in my hands in wonder before looking up and smiling to myself.  The whole live crowd on PPV loved it, and the bar I was at started its own spontaneous "Hogan" chant at the finish.  Unreal.  Like I said, I don't know what aspect of it I liked more, but the fact was, I enjoyed the main event, and thus was not shy about handing out the Thumbs Up call.

Tajiri/Kidman and Angle/Edge were both positively outstanding, the night's two best.  RVD/Eddie was a step behind, but was effective because the finish was the right one:  Eddie winning the title means more interest in future rematches.  With the exception of Austin/Taker, the rest of the card was exactly what I'd have expected:  good, solid filler action.  Austin and Taker should not have been asked to go 25 minutes, in my opinion, however; they ended up having just about the flattest match of the night, solely because of the length of time in between important things happening.  But that was about my only significant complaint on the night.

All other thoughts and results from the show are summarized here.

-  Tonight's RAW should set the wheels in motion for the next PPV... now that Hogan's allowed to appear on both shows, he'll actually be spending a lot of his time on RAW, I'd assume.  His next challenger -- as it stands now -- is the Undertaker, a staple of WWF-R.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves...  Taker's #1 Contender spot was not had without controversy, as he pinned Steve Austin while Austin's foot was on the ropes.  Special Ref Ric Flair is probably gonna get caught in the crosshairs of an angry Austin tonight on RAW.  Time will tell if Flair backpedals and allows for Austin to somehow interject himself into the WWF Title mix (a rematch with Taker?), or if he stands firm by his original decision.

It wouldn't shock me to see Taker vs. Hogan stand as the main event of the next PPV, with Austin vs. Flair taking a secondary role.  [On a tangent that we'll talk more about later in the week, it seems obvious that HHH vs. Jericho is going to be WWF-SD's marquee match for the next PPV.]

The nWo, despite Scott Hall's PPV win last night, is in DESPERATE need of something worthwhile to do.  Without Kevin Nash and without any real top flight competition, the faction is treading water at best... and maybe even dying a slow death.  Having Hall and X-Pac dominate the tag title scene might have been a good way to go until Nash is back; but of course, that's impossible, since the tag titles are on the other show.  Maybe something will come of Hall and X-Pac's mysterious and unexplained (and eventually pointless) presence in the latter half of the Taker/Austin match at last night's PPV?

As noted above, an on-going feud between IC Champ Eddie Guerrero and Rob Van Dam is a no brainer.  As they ramp up for future re-matches, here's hoping that both get to showcase their skills in quality TV matches -- probably a tag match or two, with them on opposite sides of the ring -- along the way.  Bubba Ray Dudley is also the reigning Hardcore Champ, which is a division loaded with potential (WWF-R is stockpiled with old ECW guys who can brawl that style to perfection), too.

Check out RAW tonight to find out how all these issues pan out... or, if you're just too damn busy to sit your ass on the coach for two hours, come on back to OnlineOnslaught.com on Tuesday and spend 15-20 minutes getting caught up with our comprehensive RAW coverage!

-  Well, it's official:  the Rock is a movie star.

"The Scorpion King" opened to mostly mediocre reviews, but also opened to packed houses.  The movie raked in $36.2 million during its first three days in theaters, easily earning the #1 spot for the weekend, and setting a new record for the biggest opening weekend EVER for any movie released in the month of April (besting 1999's release of "The Matrix" by about $10 million).

The early release (and success) of "The Scorpion King" is being accepted as an early start to the "Summer Blockbuster" season...  this year's Blockbuster season was projected to start with the release of Spiderman and the new Star Wars movie in early- and mid-May, respectively.  Though "The Scorpion King" fell a bit short of the big opening weekends enjoyed by the first two "Mummy" movies, the $36 million take is being considered a very pleasant surprise, establishing the film as the first legit blockbuster of the year.

The Rock has also, according to trade journals, officially inked his contract to star in "Helldorado," a buddy/action flick to be filmed starting later this year. According to reports, the Rock's price tag doubled from what he got paid for "The Scorpion King."  He'll make just over $10 million for his next picture.

Wrestling fans:  at present, the Rock is scheduled to work at least a house show or two on a WWF tour through Florida this Summer, but it's unknown what -- if any -- meaningful return to TV he'll have before setting out to film "Helldorado."

-  Wahoo McDaniel, a wrestling legend who was a top draw during the 60s and 70s, passed away late last week following a stroke.  According to reports, he had been feeling ill, and had actually been hospitalized the last 10 days before his fatal stroke.

Though McDaniel's biggest days were behind him by the time I personally became a wrestling fan, I also remember him being active well into the 80s.  As a regular for the NWA, McDaniel won both the NWA Tag Team Titles (with Mark Youngblood; I believe they actually swapped the titles with the infamous Brisco Brothers) and the US Title multiple times during the first half of the 80s.

Condolences go out to all of Wahoo McDaniels' family, friends, and fans...

-  The final rating for last week's SmackDown! was a 3.8 broadcast rating.  That is up a few ticks from the prior week's 3.5 final rating, but is still slightly off the peak numbers the show has pulled in earlier in the year.

Let's see if there's another spike in viewership coming off this weekend's PPV... or see if the re-shuffling of the talent roster (HHH to WWF-SD, Hogan allowed on both shows) has any significant impact.

-  Jim Ross' WWF.com column over the weekend supplied some big news on the injury front.

Kane's biceps injury is significantly more severe than Kevin Nash's, and will sideline him for four months (note:  the injury was sustained during a work out, and NOT during a house show match).  Speaking of Nash, he should be cleared to wrestle again in about 2 months (but as was indicated earlier, could be back on TV in a non-wrestling capacity to help keep the nWo over).

Dallas Page was recently diagnosed with bone spurs on his spine, which if it's as bad as it sounds could be career-shortening according to JR.  A second opinion is being sought.

Scotty 2 Hotty's finally gonna have to have surgery on his injured neck, it appears.  He's seeing Dr. Youngblood (the same guy who took care of Austin, Rhyno, and Benoit) this week.

Lita's injury -- suffered on the set of "Dark Angel" -- will leave her out of action for several weeks.  Off TV, she's actually been relegated to wearing a neck brace.

-  It's true:  plans for this year's Brian Pillman Memorial are off.  While I'll miss my one opportunity out of the year to pretend like I'm really "press" (the HWA always treated me great... and it's like pulling teeth to get the WWF to even leave me free tickets for TV tapings!), it might not be all that bad an idea to let the event "rest" for a year.

With the national wrestling scene down to basically one company, that special feel of uniting a bunch of different workers from different companies on one show would be missing.  The event would basically become a WWF B-level show promoted by the HWA...  

Regardless, the memory of Brian Pillman will live on, and I hold out hope for the day when this event returns to its place as a once-a-year, cross-promotional super-show.

-  Speaking of memories of wrestlers who died too early... I hope at least a few of the fans shouting out "Whoo's" last night at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City were doing it in memory of Owen Hart.  I think that the WWF's last PPV broadcast from Kemper Arena is still all-too-fresh in a lot of wrestling fans' minds...

-  I think that about does it for today.  Anyone attending Tuesday's SmackDown! tapings should most certainly pass along a report, so that I can make sure we get Spoilers posted as quickly as possible on Wednesday.

Of course, I'll be here with Spoilers and a full mid-week update on Wednesday...  but before that I'll leave you in the hands of guys like CRZ and SCJ for RAW coverage and more!  Be sure you check it all out. 


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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PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28




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