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Big RAW Shaping Up, Hogan at MSG,
Lots More News...
July 1, 2002

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Hope everyone enjoyed their weekends... and here's hoping you won't notice TOO much if updates seem a bit slow in coming this week.  As a filthy, capitalist American swine, I'll be using the Fourth of July as an excuse to make this coming weekend four days long.  And I don't know which of the other guys might be doing the same.

Maybe I can convince Scott to carry the load for a few days later this week.  As you know, the metric system equivalent of "Fourth of July" is "July 1," so those goofy Canucks will have their celebrating well out of the way by Thursday.

But that doesn't really apply much to us today, anyway...  we've still got at least three solid days of rasslin' news to cover, so let's get started:

  • Tonight's RAW is shaping up interestingly enough.  It's kind of a one-match card from a preview perspective, but that one match is a big one.
    Jeff Hardy is slated to challenge the Undertaker for the Undisputed Title in a ladder match.  The match concept itself may even be more over with fans than either wrestler, which may be twisted, but which does mean that fans will get into this one.  The ladder stipulation also means that despite all conventional wisdom to the contrary, one is almost forced to look at Jeff Hardy as a legit challenger.  Taker is a lot of things, but I don't anticipate that he'll be looking all the comfortable perched on an 8 foot ladder.  This is Jeff's match, plain and simple.
    In addition to adding some drama and uncertainty to a feud that has been rather one-sided, the ladder stip also ensures this'll also be the most action-packed match these two have had from an in-ring perspective.  Several weeks back, the Fed did a nice job of setting aside plenty of time for "PPV caliber" matches given away on free TV.  Hopefully, they'll do the same tonight for Jeff and Taker.
    It would seem another top priority tonight will be the continued build-up of Brock Lesnar.  His RAW main event last week against Rob Van Dam was light years better than the PPV match the two had the night prior, and was Brock's first good match against someone other than Bubba Dudley.  Hopefully, the Fed will continue to build on that, and allow RVD and Lesnar to work together some more in the coming month.  Already, Van Dam can now claim the first decision over Lesnar (albeit via DQ), so I think the foundation has been laid for these two to face off again on PPV at Vengeance.
    Speaking of Bubba Dudley:  it seems his feud with Eddie Guerrero has spun a bit out of control, and now Bubba's got himself in the middle of a 2-on-1 situation.  Chris Benoit has joined Eddie against Bubba.  And get this:  effective tonight, Chris Benoit has been medically cleared to wrestle.  So Bubba needs more help now than ever...  and I'm guessing that the best candidate to supply it is none-other-than Ric Flair, who got a PPV win over Eddie last week, but who has also tasted the 2-on-1 beatdown at the hands of Benoit and Guerrero.
    Some other little things:  last week Vince hinted that more wrestlers would be subject to "loser leaves RAW" matches, so look for somebody else to join Raven in being Banished to the Land of Wind and Ghosts...  Booker T and Goldust are likely not done with the nWo after losing that tag match last week; hopefully, whatever antics they get up to will be funny and not retarded...  
    Check out RAW tonight, and be sure to come on back to OO on Tuesday for CRZ's big-ass RAW Recap, too.  [FYI:  Lee Filas is again taking the week off.  This time, to enjoy Milwaukee's week-long summer music fest thingie.  So no Squared Circle Jerk till next Monday.  And when Lee comes back, he'll have a big -- non-wrestling-related -- announcement, too.  Or so he hopes...]
  • Hulk Hogan returned to Madison Square Garden over the weekend, headlining a RAW brand house show against the Undertaker.  Hogan was shuffled over to the RAW brand show for one night only -- hell, you could even jest that he was pressed into house show duty, period, for one night only -- in an effort to boost interest for the show being held at the Fed's home base.
    In addition to being a WWE stronghold, MSG is also a building that Hogan owned for much of the 80s.  He won his first WWF Title there in January '84, and headlined live MTV specials and the very first WrestleMania there in the ensuing year-and-a-half.  With that in mind, I'd long thought that Hogan's return to that building would probably be a real high point in the nostalgic feel of his WWE return.
    Guess again...
    It turned out the atmosphere was something less than special at MSG on Saturday night.  Thousands of tickets went unsold, as Hogan dropped the main event match via pinfall to the Undertaker (due to Vince McMahon's interference).  The fans who did show up were strongly behind Hogan, but reports I got from folks in the crowd basically said that seeing Hogan's return to WrestleMania on TV seemed more special than being there live for his return to MSG.
  • Nothing really new to report on Bret Hart, who remains hospitalized following his stroke last week.  I guess there are published reports that Hart was able to move his toes on his left foot over the weekend, which is a good sign that he'll could eventually regain full use the left side of his body.  But obviously, that's a long road to recovery.  We all again wish him the best.
    Vince McMahon was also quoted in the media as wishing Bret well.  Despite their well-documented troubles, Vince says he's always respected Bret and that he was saddened to hear of his health problems.  Jim Ross echoed that sentiment in his latest WWE.com column, too.
    BTW, if you wish to add your good wishes to the pile, you may send them via e-mail to Bret's assistant at marcyengelstein@aol.com, and they will be forwarded on to Hart. 

  • Speaking of JR, some other items of note from his latest:
    D'Lo Brown may be looking to get back into the ring on a more regular basis; conversely, William Regal may get a shot at becoming a broadcaster in the next few weeks...  Kevin Nash is set to return to in-ring action on July 12 (a house show), and JR is quick to note that odd dynamic that exists within the nWo:  Nash and Shawn Michaels are fan favorites, but X-Pac and Big Show are heels...  both Dawn Marie and Rikishi were put over as likely having their TV time expanding soon...  Bubba Dudley missed some action two weeks ago following the death of his mother; condolences to him and his family...  Kane is now six weeks away from returning to action, which should mean he's back by SummerSlam.
  • The final rating for last week's SmackDown! was a 3.3 broadcast rating.  That's up two-tenths from the prior week's distressingly low figure.  Two-tenths up is better than two-tenths down, I guess...  but ratings are still hovering almost a full point below where they were as recently as six months ago.
  • The National Enquirer has picked up on the Steve Austin saga in a new article just published.  Not usually known for hard-hitting, fact-based reporting, the tabloid does resort to the tried and true "unnamed source" for some of its more sensational quotes...
    But the article also got quotes from Melanie King (formerly Melanie Pillman, the widow of Brian Pillman), who goes on record as saying that Steve wants to settle down and raise a family with Debra, but that Debra doesn't want to "lose her figure," so she's against kids, and is pushing Austin to stay active in wrestling.  Melanie classified Austin and Debra's marriage as "rocky at best."
    You can read the entire article next time you're standing in line at the grocery store.  Or, if you're too embarrassed to pick up such rags in public, you can do what I did:  read it online at the Enquirer's website.
  • Remember Mark Madden?  Well, he lives on... and not just every time we hear the word "Spin-a-roonie," either.  He's resorted to pro wrestling for his inspiration for his latest Pittsburgh Post-Gazette column...
    The gist of it is a nicely encapsulated version of what it seems like I try to preach here three times a week:  that we, as fans, know wrestling is fake, but that we hate to be bludgeoned over the head with that fact.  From there, Madden goes on to determine (quite reasonably) that the perfect guy for the Fed to build a new plausibly fake version of the product around is Kurt Angle.  [Damned Pittsburghers and Canadians...  thick as thieves, they are!]
    Read the column right here.
  • Rey Misterio continued wrestling on SD! brand house shows this weekend, full mask and all.  Although his promo is airing on both RAW and SD! shows, it would seem nonsensical if he landed any where other than on SD!.
    John Cena also worked house shows, building on his effective debut last Thursday night.  He got at least one win, over Christian, on weekend shows.
  • The current fall back plan for Tough Enough 3 is apparently to return to the same Stamford house/facility they used for the first TE.  The hope is to get production underway sometime in the next few weeks after they got shut down in Malibu, CA, last week.
  • That about does it for today...  as always, any help from readers attending TV tapings this week is appreciated.  Your full report means that we can get detailed spoilers for Heat, Velocity, and SmackDown! posted on Wednesday.
    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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