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RAW Improves, TNA Revived?,
and Other News...
September 18, 2002

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


At least for one day, it almost feels like we've actually got two national wrestling companies worth talking about... and while that's nothing compared to rasslin's glory days of the 90s (when we had three big PPV-ready companies), it's a nice change of pace from all-WWE, all the time.

So let's get to it:

  • Monday's RAW in one word:  better.
    But when have you ever known me to settle for one word when several hundred will suffice?
    Right off the bat, I thought we got treated to a worthwhile in-ring promo.  Triple H was clearly channeling himself from about 3 years ago.  And that's good, because that's just about when he just started convincing people he deserved to be a top heel. And Rob Van Dam countered with an ultra-laid-back and periodically hilarious response that almost has me thinking the guy ought to think "cocky dickish heel" for his next career move.  I mean, I expect HHH and RVD to do a great job on Sunday, and this promo certainly helped along those lines, but HHH is established (no matter how hard he tries to be hate-able) and RVD is the new guy doing the "I'm the shit" promos; doesn't it feel almost like they're INVITING a mixed reaction to both guys?  Not that it matters as long as whatever reaction they get is strong.
    The ambiguity of their roles wasn't cleared up much later in the show.  If anything, the mutual interference in each other's matches confused the issue further:  HHH did not ACTIVELY screw with RVD in his IC Title defense (he merely provided the distraction that allowed Chris Jericho to get the title win over Van Dam, and even got his ass kicked in the process).  But RVD was on the offensive, bloodying HHH before his (ultimately successful) World Title defense against Jeff Hardy (and then attacking again after the match).  Which sounds like the heel to you?  That's right:  not Triple H.
    It's not like I'll go all out and predict a role reversal the likes of which we saw between Rock and Brock at SummerSlam, but still...  the build-up of hostilities has been outstanding, the hype for Van Dam stepping up to the next level very effective.  But character-wise, I don't think Monday night did a whole lot of good for either guy firming up his position (Triple H as the dominant monster heel, RVD as the gutsy babyface).
    By the way, how about that Jericho over RVD IC Title match?  Just what The Rick had ordered on Monday morning, eh?  I thought that match was really good, too, and not just because it's a booking move that I had called for earlier in the day...  quality TV, no matter how you slice it.
    Something really surprising from RAW:  in one week, they managed to take the HLA concept from the embarrassingly juvenile presentation it was the prior week (in no small part due to Jerry Lawler) and turn it into an admittedly-amusing (and potentially money-making) part of the upcoming PPV.  Something about two hired temps necking awkwardly while a grandfatherly announcer squeals like a 12-year-old is decidedly NOT titillating.  Something about the boss' daughter, who has been one of the more effective characters of the last couple of years (often doing things she probably doesn't, strictly speaking, HAVE to do), put in that same position is demonstrably enticing and interesting, though.  As long as Lawler doesn't ruin it by acting like an ass.  The IOW swerve won't go down as being as memorable as the gay wedding, but it effectively continued the RAW/SD feud and created some intriguing stipulations for this PPV match.
    I think crowd reactions will bear that out.  And if I didn't go out on a limb with a wacky prediction about crowd response in the RVD/HHH match, I will go out on one here:  against all odds, Billy, Chuck, and the Island Boyz will probably have one of the hottest matches on the show if they even put one iota of thought and effort into mapping out the story/psychology of the thing.  A certain level of quality ringwork should be a given, but beyond that, they ought to sports-entertainment-ize the hell out of this thing, using Bischoff and Steph copiously.  But more on that Friday...
    Let's see, what else?  Well, putting Bubba Dudley into Bradshaw's spot against the UnAmericans made perfect sense, and it should set up another pretty hot match, fan-wise.  No reason it shouldn't be a quality, almost old-school, type of contest...  as far as building to that match went:  Bubba/Spike vs. Storm/Christian was really good, Regal vs. Kane was just sort of there (basically just an excuse for the 8-man schmozz that set up the PPV match), and Booker/Test was unfortunately a bit sloppy (but points for finally remembering they were tag partners after about 2 months worth of CRZ pointing it out).
    Ric Flair's loss to Rico puts him in an interesting position.  Obviously, they are now playing the Aging Veteran Who Has Lost It Card...  it's a precarious situation, because, you want to build up that long enough so that it means something, but you don't want to stretch it out so far that Flair can't (believably) come back for a final, farewell victory tour, either.  His confrontation with Triple H was certainly an interesting aside (assuming they have plans to build on it... maybe a feud?  or maybe Flair manages/forms a stable with HHH?), and more pertinent to us in the short term, Chris Jericho singling Flair out for his first IC Title defense on the PPV puts the whole Aging Veteran storyline in the spotlight (which, I'm sorry to say, isn't something you can say against Rico).
    Given that each edition of RAW is dependent on the past weeks' editions, I think this is about as strong a show as they could have put on.  For the most part, storylines that had been mishandled were given a positive spin on Monday night, and now we're heading into the PPV with the RAW brand contributing more than just one interesting match.  Not a bad two hours worth of work.
    As always, CRZ has the full details right here.
  • The rating for Monday's show was a 3.4.  Exactly the same as the week before, which itself was one of the poorer performances for RAW in recent memory.  To be honest, things may not get much better for a while, now that Monday Night Football and the new TV season is in full swing...
  • And while we certainly did a lot of talking about the Fed building up to Sunday's Unforgiven PPV above, we would be amiss if we didn't talk about NWA-TNA's return to pay-per-view tonight.
    Although the group's financial situation remains a matter of much speculation (and in fact, saving some money is probably the key reason TNA took two weeks off from presenting new material), the Nashville-based group is loading up tonight's return to pay-per-view with a bunch of big name stars.
    As discussed last week, Sean "X-Pac" Waltman will start with TNA tonight, teaming up with his fellow former-nWo pal Scott Hall as part of a gauntlet match to determine new TNA Tag Champs.  For TNA to boast two guys who have worked WWE PPVs together in just the past couple of months on their roster has got to be a good thing for them.
    Also tonight, Buff Bagwell will return to PPV.  He was last seen during TNA's opening weeks, in which a string of losses caused Bagwell's on-screen persona to get frustrated and walk out.  Supposedly, on the heels of that, "Buff" was dead, perhaps leaving Marcus Alexander Bagwell to carve out another niche for himself, gimmick-wise.  [And after Bagwell's real-life backstage reputation while performing as "Buff," it might be a chance for him to recreate himself in a more positive light from that perspective, as well.]  Buff is entered in the tag team Gauntlet match, too, although his partner has not yet been revealed.
    Disco Inferno, who has been limited to interviewer duties for the most part during his TNA tenure, will also be stepping into the ring as part of the tag gauntlet match, also with a "to be announced" partner.
    There are even rumors that TNA will be debuting "Road Dogg" Brian James tonight.  Though far from confirmable, one extremely obvious spot for Road Dogg would be in the Jeff Jarrett/"Bullet"/Bob Armstrong storyline.  In the ancient past, Bob portrayed "the Bullet," though he is not in this case.  Road Dogg is Armstrong's son in real life, and also has an expansive past as a henchman for Jarrett.  You could easily put Road Dogg under the hood, to be revealed as the masked Bullet tormenting Jarrett.  Or you could go with Jarrett bringing in Road Dogg as a bodyguard/lackey to aid him in dealing with the Bullet.  Or you could even combine elements of both those possibilities to stretch the storyline out for several weeks.  Bottom line is that if Brian James is on his way in, it makes perfect sense for it to be as part of this storyline.  At the very least, I think a lot of people would view it as a waste if he was just being brought in to be one of the above mentioned "Mystery Partners."  [Oh wait, maybe I meant to say: if Road Dogg's brought in as a mystery partner, it'd be an Awesome Swerve because all the fans would EXPECT him to be involved in to the Bullet storyline.  I keep forgetting to think like Vince Russo when I'm previewing TNA...]
    The gauntlet match will also feature Ron Harris/Brian Lee, the Spanish Announce Team, the Flying Elvisses, and Chris Harris/James Storm, and probably a couple others.  
    The main event of the night will pit NWA Champ Ron "the Truth" Killings against the X-Division champ, Jerry Lynn.   It should be a really solid contest, the type of match that should deliver the steak to go with all of the sizzle (i.e. the returns/debuts).
    Still, with all the debuts/returns, some long-simmering storylines and the guys involved in them seem destined to take a back seat.  The X Division has been on of TNA's best elements, but with the division's champ moving up to face Killings, that leaves the rest of the guys kind of directionless for a week.  Monte Brown and Brian Lawler are a couple other guys who've toyed with main event status in recent weeks, but who've got nothing to do on the show tonight.  I'm sure they'll get worked in, but it's still worth noting how bringing in all this additional talent is effecting the roster that's done more of TNA's dirty work for the past 13 weeks.
    Oh, and you want a GREAT reason to buy this PPV:  Screech, from "Saved by the Bell," is gonna be there.  NASCAR's Hermie Sadler, too! Oh, yippee?  I'm not saying I expect David Arquette-caliber bad things or anything, but I'm just saying that a company that's strapped for cash and that's throwing everything they got into what looks like it should be a huge re-launch of the TNA brand tonight might have better uses for its money than flying in a B-level celebrity that hasn't been a blip on anyone's radar in at least the past 5 years.  At least Sadler, I assume, is a guy who can just make the short drive in to Nashville. [Oh, no, have I just resorted to an unfair NASCAR stereotype?]
    No, wait...  Must.... Be... Positive...  no matter how unnecessary Screech is.  It's a struggle, folks...
    Actually, it isn't.  There certainly seems to be enough promised by TNA to make tonight's broadcast something worthwhile.  After taking a few weeks off to regroup (and to save some cash), this is an important show.  TNA knows that, and they are loading up.
    And you, the Home Viewer, should be the winner.  Check out NWA-TNA on PPV tonight.  And for results, be sure to come on back to OO on Thursday for a full recap.  CRZ may be off the job, but Online Onslaught isn't!
  • Tough Enough 1's Josh Matthews was used as an announcer-type guy in some foreign market programs over the weekend.  I only heard from a few Canucks who saw him doing those "upcoming events" hype spots, but the general consensus was that he wasn't all that good.
    So this guy Josh is on his way to being a TV personality, and Chris Nowinski is in the middle of an on-going RAW storyline...  hey, has anybody heard from Maven?  You know, the guy that actually WON Tough Enough?
    Yeah, alright, I know Maven's out another month or two with an injury, but it just chaps me that the Fed's right hand is in the midst of churning out a third Tough Enough, while the left is shouting to the world how utterly meaningless the concept is by putting the losers under contract.
    I know I never pretended to be a big fan of Tough Enough, simply because "reality TV" seems like nothing more to me than an excuse for every person in American to eventually get their 15 minutes of fame, regardless of whether they deserve it or not.  But at least the concept seemed like it might be a competition/drama less contrived and silly than all the other shows like "Survivor" or "Real World" or "Fear Factor" or "Big Brother" or "Dismissed" or what have you.  If the competition means nothing, then there's absolutely nothing left to distinguish "Tough Enough" from the rest of the crap that calls itself Reality TV.
    Wow.  Where the hell did that rant come from?
  • WWE has announced that Ron "Faarooq" Simmons recent absence from TV is because he's been at home, caring for his wife.  She has experienced vision problems, and the cause has yet to be diagnosed accurately.
    Best wishes to Mrs. Simmons for a quick and full comeback from whatever's ailing her...

  • WWE has announced details for a press conference to be held next Tuesday, September 24, in Seattle, WA.
    The event will take place at 10am (local time) at the Experience Music Project at the Seattle Center.  Just about every single major star presently active in WWE is scheduled to be there, including Eric Bischoff, Stephanie McMahon, and Vince McMahon.
    As previously discussed, it is widely expected that the event will mark the official announcement that Seattle has won the rights to host WrestleMania next year.  [The press release about the event, as I received it, was even named "WM19 Advisory.doc".]
    Although members of the media will receive preferred seating, several hundred tickets to the event are being made available to the public.  Seattle-area fans can get tickets at EMP ticket desks starting tomorrow (Thursday, 9/19).
    For those not in Seattle, the aforementioned press release notes that event's highlights will be broadcast via satellite at 5pm eastern time on the 24th.  Hopefully, these numbers mean something to those of you with big dishes, because they don't mean squat to me:  Telstar 5, Transponder 8, C-Band, Audio 6.2 and 6.8.
  • WWE has, quite wisely I think, decided to pretty much contract their "SmackDown! Records" label into an in-house deal.  The label's lone non-WWE release -- of Neurotica's LP -- hasn't sold all that well, and it's mostly because the Fed doesn't have the expertise of dealing in the music industry.
    In fact, a reader passed along an item from Neurotica's website that said the band had been released from their SD! Records contract, noting that they were actually happy with the parting of the ways because they could pursue signing with another label that had the ability to do "the day-to-day shit required to be a rock label."
    There's little doubt that Vince knows how to run a wrestling company, but it seems that he's dead-set on finding out the hard way that there's more to running football leagues and record labels than he thinks...  next case to be determined by the jury of pop culture:  WWE's new films division.  But a verdict is not expected for at least a year...
  • Last thing:  going back to Monday, where I mentioned that Eddie Guerrero had slipped "chinga" (apparently "fuck" in Spanish) into his bi-lingual rant against Chavo during SmackDown....
    I wound up wondering aloud what would have happened if I was still broadcasting to you from SportsLine:  how would they have edited Eddie?  Well, I heard from two of my former WrestleLine producers on the issue.  Denny Burkholder thought "ch*nga" would have been the #1 option.  Kevin Langbaum seconded the asterisk-ing of the vowel, but also suggested an alternative:  "el frick."
    Heh heh.  I like that.  If I ever wind up as a lucha libra color commentator, I'll be sure to work "el frick" into my act.  It is, as the French would no doubt note, "lé shit."
  • 'Tis all for me today.  Friday, it'll be a big-ass Unforgiven PPV preview.  After my successful prognosticatory work on Monday's RAW, I've got my work cut out for me this weekend, eh?  We'll probably throw a few newsbites in there, too, if trying to slice, dice, and analyze the PPV isn't quite your bag.  So come on back for that....


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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