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RAW, Steiner Wrestles!, More...
December 9, 2002

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


There are just six days to go until the final WWE pay-per-view of the year...  which probably means these will be the six busiest days we'll have to talk about before we head into a holiday lull.  Of course, it's during the holiday lull that we go full bore into Year in Review Mode, but that's neither here nor there.
Let's just get today's news:
  • Last Monday, I promised you we'd celebrate a big anniversary today...  and while "big" may be a matter of some dispute, I think it's worth at least a brief mention that today marks the exact 10 year anniversary of my debut on the internet.
    It was on December 9, 1992, that I made my first post to RSPW... at a time when Dave "1Wrestling.com" Scherer and others were already discoursing in an intelligent way, I bumbled in as a naive mark.
    If for no other reason than to enjoy a good laugh at my expense, check out the OO Redux featuring my kinda-embarassing public debut.
    [I've gone through some of my other really old RSPW posts using Google, too, and sometime in February, 2003, we ought to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the day when I said that Robbie V, "Barring an unwarranted push, is a never-will-be." Ummm, whoops.]
  • With a PPV less than a week away, tonight's live RAW will need to establish at least another pair of PPV matches.  And maybe three of 'em.
    Last week, Triple H earned a shot at Shawn Michaels' World Title, leaving Rob Van Dam sitting out in the cold.  Though I still contend strongly that leaving RVD in the mix -- for a three-way match at the PPV -- would have helped add some additional sizzle to a HHH/Michaels match that we've already seen twice in the four months, Michaels is still early enough in his come back from a five year lay-off to make even a twice-reheated match seem like something special.
    Plus, if there's something to the suspicion that he and HHH both work best and hardest when they're in the ring against one of their backstage pals, then hey, I'm cool with that, too.
    Since HBK seems to be getting a couple weeks' worth of break between wrestling matches, I don't think the Fed will have him going out on RAW tonight to wrestle.  A physical confrontation of one sort or another wouldn't be out of the question, though, since they'll have to do something other than just spin their wheels on the HHH/HBK feud.
    But beyond that main event match, RAW hasn't gotten anything else set in stone for the PPV.  The most promising segment of the card would definitely be the tag division, however.  Tag champs Chris Jericho and Christian presently have huge heat with both the Dudley Boyz and the tandem of Booker T and Goldust.  Though you could sign either one of those 2-on-2 matches, I'd suggest that since we've seen each of them in the past two weeks, the Fed's gonna go a different direction.  Perhaps Jericho and Christian will tossed into a triple threat match scenario against both teams that despise them?  Or maybe Three Minute Warning (who fit in because they participated in the huge beat down on the Duds last week) get added in to make it a four-way elimination type match?  Either way, the tag division is loaded with three or four teams who could work against each other in an effective match...
    In the women's division, you've got a situation that's a bit tougher to make heads or tails of.  Trish Stratus is the hands-down star of the women's roster, but it's Victoria (to her credit, she helped legitimize Trish's status with a convincingly physical feud over the past three months) who holds the title.  And Jacqueline holds a recent non-title win over Victoria, so she stands to be in line for a title shot.  How they will sort this out for the PPV is a mystery to me at this point... with Ivory and Molly Holly also populating the heel side, a tag match might work best. Or if you want, I bet you could take Steven Richards' association with Victoria and come up with some kind of mixed tag scenario.
    Other possible PPV-ready issues:  Kane and Batista have been tangling lately, and thanks to help from Ric Flair, Batista has even gotten the better of Kane in a one-on-one match; I doubt we've heard the last from those two...  Tommy Dreamer has been on the wrong side of beating from Lance Storm and William Regal over the past month, but even with Jeff Hardy as his tag partner, those have seemed more like segments to establish Storm and Regal and less like an attempt to jump-start a PPV feud; we'll have to see...  Al Snow and Maven dealing with Chris Nowinski has been relegated to Heat the past couple of weeks, but could re-emerge at any time...  cut out of the World Title picture, Rob Van Dam has absolutely nothing to do; I don't want to harp on this, but there ARE some very simple, effective ways you could get him back into a three-way main event scenario, all of which would be far preferable (to me, anyway) to a stupid one-off feud with someone like Test that serves solely to get him on the PPV...  Scott Steiner's on SD! this week (where I fully expect him to thank Steph for patronizing the Big Bad Booty Daddy-brand boning, but tell her he's got his freaks in every city, blah blah blah, the upshot is that he won't sign with SD! just because he can bang the boss, and oh by the way, tune in to the PPV on Sunday because that's when he'll make his official choice between RAW and SD!), so nothing doing there tonight other than, I'm sure, some oblique references from Eric Bischoff... and lastly, speaking of Bischoff, his "Chief of Staff," Sean Morley, will probably be up to more selective enforcement of the rules; two weeks ago, he behaved heelishly, but last week, he made a more babyface-ish call, so more than anything I'm just hoping for a bit of consistency so that we can figure out where this character is coming from.
    Tune in tonight to see how RAW does in delivering on their last show before the big pay-per-view... or at least come on back to OO on Tuesday to see how Lee Filas does at foisting The Man off his back so that he can try to get a RAW Recap done for you folks.
  • The final rating for last week's SmackDown! was a 3.4.  Discounting the previous week's rating (which has impacted severely by the fact that it was Thanksgiving night), that's down one-tenth of a point from the 11/21 edition of the show.  So after the down week due to the holiday, viewership seems to be just about right back to where it was...
  • Scott Steiner, who has only been used on TV for very brief, non-match segments since returning to WWE a month ago, wrestled his first matches for the company over the weekend.
    Saturday night in Hamilton, ONT, Steiner faced off against Bull Buchanan.  Bull was subbing, apparently, for an ill John Cena who did manage to make a brief ringside appearance to cause a disqualification.  Steiner got a huge pop upon entrance, but between the horribly slow pace of the match and the quality of his opponent (not to mention the decision to go to a DQ finish), it had diminished substantially by the end of the 7 minute match.
    Last night in Uniondale, NY, Steiner got an upgrade to Version 1.0... he faced Matt Hardy, and got a submission win with the Steiner Recliner.  Still, even as good as Matt Hardy is, and even with a decisive finish, reports are still that Steiner's entrance drew the biggest pop, and that fans faded away as the match adopted a slow and methodical pace.
    I firmly believe in seeing before I believe, and will look forward to Steiner's TV wrestling debut -- after he's gotten acclimated to his opponents and surroundings, and knocked off the ring rust -- before I pass any kind of judgment... but in the court of second- or third-hand opinion, "Big Poppa Pump" seems like he's already facing an uphill battle.
  • On the whole, however, fans who attended the SD! shows this weekend got all-around strong efforts, especially in dual main events...
    Both shows featured Los Guerreros escaping from a match against Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle with their tag titles intact.  In the main event on Saturday night, the Guerreros stole a pinfall win; as a supporting match on Sunday night, they took a DQ win when Benoit was caught using a tag title belt that the Guerreros had originally introduced into the match.
    And although he is suspended on TV and injured in real life, Brock Lesnar worked both shows against the Big Show.  As a supporting match on Saturday, Lesnar and Show went to a DQ finish, with Lesnar getting the win thanks to Paul Heyman's interference.  As the Sunday main event, Lesnar and Show wrestled inside a steel cage, and Show won when Lesnar actually threw him through one side of the cage (Show therefore hit the floor first and was the winner).
    Also on SD! shows this weekend:  the artist formerly known as Little Guido debuted as "Nunzio" and teamed with Jamie Noble on the Saturday show (he reprised the role of Guido, however, when he teamed with Crash Holly on Sunday night)... and the newest WWE diva, Gail Kim (previously known as "La Felina" in other organizations, and trained at the same place as Trish Stratus) made her debut by beating Dawn Marie in bra and panties matches on both shows. 
  • The World Wrestling All-Stars tour of Europe has wrapped up.  The second-to-last night of the tour was a show in Glasgow, Scotland, and was taped to air on pay-per-view here in the US sometime in early 2003.
    It was headlined by Sting vs. Lex Luger for the vacant WWA Title... although the two had been partners for the rest of the tour, Luger flopped over and was the de facto heel here.  Although Sting was in control down the stretch, a huge helping hand from Jeff Jarrett and two guitar shots were enough to help Luger steal a pinfall win to become the new champ.
    Both guys were said to look about the same as they did when we last saw them in WCW:  in Sting's case, he looked sharp and carried the match.  In Luger's case... well, he still gets to sleep with the Lovely Miss Elizabeth, so that's something.
    The decision to put the title on Luger although Sting has been the undisputed star of the tour (biggest pops, and generally strong in-ring performances) indicates that Luger has probably committed to further WWA appearances, while Sting was just testing the waters with this tour.
    Other match results: Shark Boy beat Frank Kazarian...  Konnan beat Nate Webb...  Johnny Swinger and Buff Bagwell beat Norman Smiley and Malice...  Teo beat Puppet (Midajah was the guest ref, and after the match, Perry Saturn came out and did Steiner's old shtick of beating up the midgets; then he absconded with Midajah)...  Mike Sanders beat Joe E. Legend...  Jeff Jarrett beat Nathan Jones...  Sabu defeated Perry Saturn and Simon Diamond in a no-hold-barred match (tables, chairs, midgets, and Midajah were all involved before it was over).
  • Not a whole lot to talk about from Jim Ross' WWE.com column this week... unless you count unnecessary rationalizations for being an Oklahoma fan in Texas at least week's RAW tapings.  Then again, I'm still just a couple weeks removed from having to deal with Ohio St. vs. Michigan here in my neck of the woods, so maybe it's best that he offered some kind of explanation to those who have their minds warped by college football and for whom the phrase "all in good fun" has no meaning.
    Other than that:  Taker, Mysterio, Kanyon, Rhyno, Jazz, and Mark Henry are all slated for returns in January '03...  Orton is due back in February... Lita's back in May...  Billy Gunn's return is still up in the air; his shoulder is improved by now he's addressing nerve problems in his arm...  Tajiri's on the shelf for a couple weeks with a bad ankle sprain...  and of course, of the most interest to conspiracy theorists out there: JR mentions that he hopes to catch up with Bret Hart in the future, and again mentions how Lance Storm is now using Bret's Sharpshooter (even though the move has -- within WWE's internal reality, anyway -- belonged to the Rock for a couple of years, now).
    Remember: a couple weeks ago, OO had a little birdie tell it about Bret Hart supposedly traveling to Florida on WWE's dime later this week... something that would have been very easy to dismiss as a ruse until this unprecedented three-weeks-in-a-row stretch of Bret Hart mentions by Jim Ross. Why, JR, why do you tease us so?
  • Alright, so my rambling on Friday about SmackDown! seeming to "lose it" didn't meet with as strongly negative feedback as I'd have thought.
    Mostly, people agreed that last week's show made a few odd choices, but refused to go so far as to suggest the whole show was in an downturn.  That's probably the wiser position to take, right now, but like I said, I wasn't in the best of moods as I sat down and absorbed 2 hours of the Albert Show.
    Making last Thursday's choices even more difficult to accept, now, however, is the revelation that the first choice for the role Albert got (destroy Rey Mysterio, get a PPV feud with Edge) was apparently Matt Hardy.  If true, this jibes with rumors the are swirling, and also helps one to make sense of a recent commentary on WWEMattitude.com...  and if true, it also pisses me off.
    Among the more strongly-worded e-mails I got were claims that the way they booked Albert last week was actually a clever bit of storytelling: you have him beat the hell out of one guy, and you then immediately shift him over to a feud with that guy's tag partner.  By the time he's done with the partner, Rey's ready to come back and probably get some revenge of his own.  In one fell swoop, the argument goes, Albert's got his next month pretty well booked.
    I'll grant that much.  But if developing a top shelf product is two parts good stories, there's still at least one part of it that is identifying and inserting the right characters and performers into those stories.  And that's where I have a strong dispute with WWE.
    Matt Hardy's been on TV in his new "Version 1.0" character for several months, now... he started slowly, but wound up in the middle of a Brock Lesnar/Undertaker feud and still has ties to Paul Heyman and Big Show.  By going slow, Matt never seemed over-pushed, and fan response to him has grown; sure the chants may be "We Want Jeff" or whatever, but it signals the same thing as cheers would, namely, that the character's been accepted by fans as one that they care about.  If you put Matt Hardy into the Albert role last week, it might be the sort of thing that puts him over the top, because he's coming into it from a rolling start.  A PPV match with Edge is not only about revenge for Rey, but has the added context of all the tag battles the two have had; the inevitable match against Rey when Rey comes back would also be outstanding.
    Instead, they made the call to go with Albert.  No slow start, no attempt to revitalize the character over a span of time.  Just -- BANG! -- you're gonna go from losing matches and not cutting any meaningful promos on Velocity to hospitalizing one of the most popular babyfaces on the rosters and getting a PPV feud with another one.  It's nothing against Albert; hell, it's basically the same argument I posed last month about the way they were pushing the Big Show too hard and too fast.  But Show's situation was accelerated in part by Lesnar's injury, and at least he's got Heyman doing his talking for him.  In Albert's case, too much too soon is going to equal fans sitting on their hands, waiting for him to land back on Velocity.  It's a Catch-22: if he loses the matches against Edge and then to Rey, there's nothing left to justify his presence at such a high level... but even if he wins, all that does is reinforce fan opinion that he's getting "shoved down our throats," as we sit back and pray for the day he's brought down a notch.  All of which can be avoided if you start slow and let the fans decide if they want to embrace a particular new performer or character before pushing them into such a key position. 
    Unexpected "shock" moves like bringing a guy out of nowhere, having him injure one star while moving into a singles feud with another do have their uses.  But for the most part, they work with new, unfamiliar talents, or stars who have been away for a long time.  They do not, however, work to erase a year's worth of losing matches on the B-show.  They work when you're starting fresh, not when you're digging out of a hole.  Like I said, a lot of this really is my whole Big Show rant revisited, made worse by the fact that they actually had a really good, viable plan in place (Matt Hardy) before opting for this one.
    I really hope that this isn't coming off as just an anti-Albert, pro-Matt Hardy diatribe...  the issue here is greater, the issue of introducing, re-inventing, or upgrading characters most effectively.  Given the exodus of top level stars in the last year, you'd think this should be a priority for the Fed...  but instead, it's been an area where they've made a handful of missteps; Albert and Big Show are just two of the more recent ones that are easiest to discuss.  
  • And before I descend much further into negativity and aimless rambling, I'll call it a day.  Folks who attend TV tapings tonight and/or tomorrow are, as always, encouraged to mail me a report so that we can get spoilers posted in a timely and accurate fashion.
    See you again on Wednesday... 


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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