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RAW Thoughts, NWA PPV Debut,
Jesse Quits, and Lots More...
June 19, 2002

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


BREAKING NEWS UPDATE! (added early AM, June 20)
WWE has just officially acknowledged that Vince Russo has been welcomed back to the creative team.  This comes less than 2 weeks after Vince McMahon publicly stated that he was open to the idea of Russo returning.

Already, people have begun to wonder how Russo will fit back into a team-based atmosphere, though word is, we won't have to wait long to find out.  He's due back on the job almost immediately, possibly as soon as this Sunday's King of the Ring PPV.

More in Friday's update....

Just as on Monday, we've got no shortage of things to talk about today...  I mean, nobody's been arrested or anything, but it's still a pretty big day.  You'll see what I mean as we forge ahead:

  • First order of business on any given Wednesday is to talk briefly about RAW...
    And in this case, I've really got nothing be pretty nice things to say.  I'm not entirely sure that they handled the Steve Austin situation exactly perfectly for the vast majority of fans, who seem a bit less plugged in to the real situation, and who seemed 100% sure this was some sort of storyline.
    Just look at the reactions from the crowd during the X-Pac/RVD opener:  this was a hot crowd.  Then Vince comes in and does his "Thanks for the memories, Stone Cold" speech, and the crowd seemed to spend the rest of the night waiting for the other shoe to drop.  They perked up only when they thought their suspicions were confirmed (when Eddie briefly used Austin's entrance music), and when they saw the Rock come out in replacement of Austin.  Killing off a live crowd like that isn't what the Fed intended, I'm sure, but it seemed like that's what they got.
    On the other hand, I enjoyed the whole mess in a unique way:  actually putting on the "Smart Hat" and trying to figure out what all the Austin-centric storytelling really meant.  I usually try to avoid using the smart perspective while I'm actually in the process of watching a show, but for the first time since the post-Montreal-Screwjob TV shows, it seemed really appropriate and fun.
    Was Vince's speech just an honest attempt to give Austin a classy send-off?  Was it a purely storyline-driven thing to set up Austin's return within a few weeks?  Was it something in between?  I finally put it all together about an hour into the show:  that it was a way to get fans everywhere thinking that FOR SURE this must be a storyline, just so that they could be swerved in the end.  The pieces were actually all in my Monday column, in which I mentioned the possibility that the Rock would be getting called back into action for a more-extended "emergency run" (rather than a token appearance before leaving to shoot his next movie)...  and the result was beautiful.  A non-pay-off to a storyline (Austin showing up) that actually satisfied the vast majority of the crowd.
    By the way, let me take this opportunity to say that while I am certainly going to miss Austin, and think that it's BS that so many people believe that his bad behavior now is grounds for ignoring years of being just about the most entertaining man in the business, I'm also not gonna go total CRZ on you and eulogize the man's career.  It's not even a matter of "is it a work or a shoot?"...  it's a matter of "even if it is all for real, he'll be back some day."  I mean, Jesus, how many comebacks did the let the Ultimate Warrior have before they wrote him off for good?
    Or maybe I'm just in denial...
    Anyway, the rest of RAW:
    X-Pac/RVD was, as mentioned above, a really good match with good heat...  the nWo's status is getting confusing, and I'm not even totally sure what will end up being Brock Lesnar's affiliation; "shades of gray" style booking returns, I guess...  I don't want to jump the gun, but if the Fed wanted to do something with Raven and Undertaker working together, I can think of about a thousand ways to make it REALLY cool in a way that the "Ministry of Darkness" was not...  and maybe best of all, the Eddie/Flair/Benoit promo was absolutely outstanding, giving sound, convincing reasoning for why Eddie and Benoit blame Flair for everything (smarts got a little something, but it's totally accessible to those not up to speed on behind-the-scenes info...  plus, those pesky four fingers reared their head; tease or foreshadowing?).
    Really good show, if taken on it's own terms.  Those terms being "We're gonna try to get ourselves out from under Austin once and for all," instead of "We're gonna do all the usual things to try and build interest in this PPV in six days."
    CRZ's got the full recap of the show right here.  And much like the Rock himself, Lee Filas has come back to OO to file this Squared Circle Jerk about Monday's show.
  • The rating for Monday's RAW?  A 3.9.  That means even with the gains made the previous week, and adding to that the supposedly red-hot Steve Austin controversy, the show still dropped a third of a point.
    At this point, I think it becomes pointless to try to look to the other channels or the summer weather or whatever for excuses...  I think you just chalk it up to the fluctuating interest level of the home viewer and leave it at that.
  • With interest in wrestling, overall, seemingly at a five-year low, one has to wonder if there is room on the national scene for another wrestling company.  Especially one that's going to insist that its fans shell out $40 per month for the privilege of seeing their weekly show.
    But that's exactly what Jerry Jarrett and NWA: Total Nonstop Action are banking on...  rationalizing that WWE fans shell out $35 for 3 hours of PPV action, the group hopes that wrestling fans will see the value in getting two hours of action every week for just $10.
    If it works, it'll drastically restructure the way the industry works here in the US, because suddenly, even if WWE doesn't have to compete with NWA-TNA for cable ratings, they will find themselves competing for talent.  NWA-TNA's financial model requires that they'll never have to run more than 26 shows a year.  But if people buy into the PPV-only concept, they'll have the kind of money to pay top-level talents a very competitive salary.  Will a wrestle take on WWE's 200-plus shows per year schedule, when a slight pay cut would mean working just 26 times per year (with the freedom to also accept other bookings)?  It would become an interesting issue...
    But only if NWA-TNA really takes off.  And if they don't, it'll be the miscalculation involved in thinking that people will pay ANYthing to see a product that they can't sample for free every week.  And what percentage of the weekly RAW audience actually shells out the $35 per month for PPVs?  NWA-TNA is perhaps hoping against common sense that, without that same four hours of prime time promotion per week, they can attain the same type of buyrate based simply on the "dollars per hour" cost calculation.
    Soon enough, we'll be able to put all our speculating and armchair-promoting to rest and analyze NWA-TNA's real results.  Because they get started tonight on PPV.
    Live from Huntsville, AL, NWA-TNA's debut show will be headlined by a 20 man "Gauntlet for the Gold" -- a Royal Rumble style match that will turn into a one-on-one contest after 18 men have been eliminated.  The primary competitors are Scott Hall, Ken Shamrock, Jeff Jarrett, Buff Bagwell, Brian "Grand Master Sexay" Christopher, Konnan, Rick Steiner, Norman Smiley, Vampire "Grangrel" Warrior, Steve Corino, K-Krush (a/k/a K-Kwik), and Devon "Crowbar" Storm.  Ricky Steamboat will be the special referee.
    In addition, these matches are promised:  a 10 woman lingerie battle royal featuring Francine, Elektra, and others....  a Legends Ceremony featuring Steamboat, Dory Funk, Harley Race, and Jackie Fargo...  Christian York and Joey Matthews vs. the Dupps (in a battle of four former WWE developmental talents)...  AJ Styles, Jerry Lynn, and Lo Ki vs. Jimmy Yang, Sonny Siaki, and Jorge Estrada...  and some NASCAR and country music stars will be on hand, too, but I forget who they are.  Because I like neither NASCAR nor country music as much as I like wrestling.  But apparently, the marketing people have decreed that I'm in a minority there, since NWA-TNA is going to be doing a lot of cross-promotion that is NASCAR based.
    The show airs on inDemand and on DirecTV tonight at 8pm eastern time.  Replays on DirecTV are going to be constant throughout Thursday and Friday, but cable subscribers with inDemand PPV will have to wait until Sunday afternoon for a replay.  This schedule should remain in force throughout all of NWA-TNA's run.
    I actually broke down and let Time Warner Cable start raping me for additional dollars per month to get digital cable in hopes of checking out NWA-TNA (in addition to wanting to be able to watch WWE PPVs somewhere other than a bar, where my tab usually wound up exceeding my share of buying the PPV would have been), but they won't be here to get us set up till later in the week.  Otherwise, I would promise an immediate post-show recap.
    Instead, I do believe we'll have CRZ on NWA-TNA duty, with his recap being posted tomorrow.  CRZ goes PPV.  Who'd've thunk it?  I'm not sure, but we might also be getting a PPV Rant from Scott, too...
    So I encourage you to give NWA-TNA a look tonight.  But if you don't (or can't), then just come on back here tomorrow for a full dissection of the show.
  • I said on Monday that I knew I was forgetting some things after I'd done my best to filter through all the material that had accumulated over the weekend while I was away...  and sure enough, one of them was pretty major.
    World Wrestling Entertainment hadn't fully given up on the chances of regaining rights to the "WWF" moniker, as an appeal was still outstanding in a London court.  But that appeal was flatly denied late last week, and the World Wildlife Fund (now the Worldwide Fund for Nature) owns exclusive rights to the initials W, W, and F.
    Our WWF (now WWE) probably saw the denial coming, which is why they launched the "Get the F Out" campaign about 6 weeks ago.  No chance they wanted to wait until the last possible legal second to start implementing a name change...
    So anyway, there goes any glimmer of hope we might have had of dropping the gay-sounding "WWE" name...
  • Speaking of the transition to "WWE"...
    I got that update from the Lycos people again this week, and sure enough, this was the first week since the name change that internet searches for "WWE" outnumbered  searches for "WWF."  The edge is small, but hey, now we can say that OVER half of fans have accepted the new name, right?
    One area in which "WWF" still far outstrips "WWE" is with fans searching for the divas.  The inference is that the chronic masturbators are not as aware of the name change as chronic wrestling fans are, I guess....
  • Yesterday, Jesse Ventura announced that he would not be seeking re-election this fall.  I can't believe it's already been four years since he was elected governor of Minnesota...
    Jesse's approval rating -- though still formidable -- had declined in recent weeks as a minor scandal involving his son using the governor's mansion for parties broke in the press.  While I don't believe Jesse ever confirmed or denied the rumors of damage done to the mansion during these parties, he did cite "protecting his family" as one of the reasons for not running for another term this fall.
    In addition to the more sordid reasons for his decision, I'm sure there was an element of frustration, too.  Only one other third-party candidate was elected to Minnesota's legislature during Jesse's term in office.  That meant non-stop stand-offs with Republicans and Democrats in the state house, which severely hand-cuffed Jesse in terms of making any major changes.
    Sure, as a wrestling fan, I'll miss Jesse being in the headlines...  but mostly, as a thinking person, I'll miss the idea that an outsider, a third-party guy can actually accomplish something at a significant level in politics in this country.
    Thanks for the ride, Jesse...
  • And I guess we can't escape without at least SOME mention of the Austin situation....
    Contrary to a lot of reports, he is NOT wanted by the police.  Apparently, Debra has shown no signs of wanting to press charges, though she will retain that right for two years.  Austin, in fact, has returned to his home, where he was spotted by TV news choppers on Monday.  He's not a fugitive by any means...
    Also, in fairness to Austin, I am guilty of the same mis-reading of the police report as the KMOL-4 people in San Antonio were...  a comment that Debra had been afraid to call the police because of the possible scandal Austin's fame might cause was interpreted by some reporters to mean that she'd been afraid to call during PAST similar incidents.  In fact, there is nothing to indicate that Debra had claimed ANY past misdeeds by Austin in the actual police report.  She may simply have been saying that she delayed her call to police in THIS incident due to Austin's fame.
    When I read the report, I read it having already been exposed to the news reports that this was not the first time Debra had been struck by Austin, and it colored my reading of it.  An impartial reading of the same statements does NOT yield any sort of evidence that Austin is a repeat offender.  In fact, Debra not pressing charges would seem to indicate that this would be the first time anything like this has happened.
    Thanks to OO Reader Michael Thomas for calling me on the carpet for my mis-reading of the document.
  • And with that, I think I'm done for today...  full slate of NWA-TNA stuff tomorrow, then Friday, it's KotR Preview and other news here in a fresh, full-length OO.  See you 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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