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RAW Returns, The Rock is BACK!,
Ross Departs, and Monday NewsBites
January 6, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

Ah, screw it.  I just want my first official words in a column for 2003 to be something more noble than my first spoken words of the new year.  "Wow, that's crap!" I uttered at approximately 12:00:07 AM on January 1...  in reference to the alleged champagne handed to me for free at a local bar.  Not a particularly illuminating or eloquent observation to kick off '03, was it? 

Here's hoping I've got some illuminating or eloquent content for you, wrestling-wise, today:

  • Following a canned "best of" show last Monday and a pre-taped program the Monday before that, RAW finally returns to its natural state tonight:  100% live and in color.
    With the lack of momentum that comes from missing a week of storytelling, I suspect we're in for a lot of reinforcing things that have already happened more so than for a lot of fresh new angles.  We'll go back in time and see Scott Steiner intimidate Triple H into backing away 3 weeks ago; then revisit his arm wrestling win over HHH from 2 weeks ago...  and when they bump into each other again tonight, I'm sure it'll be more of the same:  Steiner looks like a million bucks heading into his title match against HHH at the Rumble.
    Then again, HHH is now cleared to wrestle, so perhaps they could do more of a physical angle, or even put HHH and Steiner in the ring together (opposite sides of a tag match, like on weekend house shows, would work).  We'll have to see...  but I almost want to say that keeping the two apart as much as possible is the smart play at this point.  Reviews of Scott Steiner's in-ring work since returning to WWE haven't been too positive, and you don't want to risk exposing that to an audience that is still popping like mad for catchphrases and clotheslines.
    The other big issue the Fed needs to pick up and run with is Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho.  Michaels was MIA from the last RAW, so you've gotta go back 3 weeks to pick up this story... but now Jericho is free and clear from his tag team commitments, and should be able to pour himself 100% into being the perfect asshole heel foil to Michaels.  I expect good things here.
    With Booker T and Goldust holding the tag titles, it seems clear that Lance Storm and William Regal are being pushed as the top heel tandem on RAW, and thus, are the de facto top challengers.  Depending on who's going into the Rumble match itself at the PPV, you could either set up a PPV feud between the two teams, or have them blow their wad on RAW itself.
    Speaking of the Rumble match, RAW -- like SD! -- will get 15 participants in the match.  Some -- hopefully MOST -- of those 15 should be revealed tonight.  It's always possible that the Fed will hold back a spot or two for "mystery" entrants; it's also always possible that smarks will get all over-anxious over such mystery entrants only to be disappointed when Crash Holly comes out.
    I'm not necessarily thinking tonight will be a blow-away show or anything... but isn't there a cliche about "absence makes the heart grow fonder" or something like that?  Well, it's been a couple weeks without RAW, and dammit, I miss those guys...
    Check it out, or come on back to OO on Tuesday for coverage and analysis.
  • Last Thursday's SmackDown! was...  well, an awfully schizophrenic affair.  The good was really good.  The bad was embarrassing to sit through.  I've said it plenty of times, but there is no worse feeling than KNOWING that somebody else is right when they spy you watching wrestling and tell you, "I can't believe you're watching this crap."
    There's a lot in wrestling I can defend.  There's even more I can rationalize.  But things like the the Dawn and Al Wilson marriage skit leave me with no option but to mutter something about how, "I think it'll get better after this" and then quietly endure the taunting.
    I don't want to get into a whole big thing about why it sucked, but suffice it to say that my biggest problem with it is that not only did it suck, but it also showed no signs of being over.  I was mentally prepared for outright, unfunny, pointless suckiness; but I thought we'd at least get the big blow-off for the angle so we'd never have to deal with it again.  No dice.  Al and Dawn are back again next week.  With honeymoon footage.  And may god have mercy on us all.
    On the other hand... Eddie vs. Kidman was really good, made better by John Cena's hilarious guest commentary... Kurt Angle's "This is WRESTLING" promo was heart-warming to hear on a show that diverted way too far from the in-ring action... and damn, how scary-good are the Team Angle guys gonna be; individually, they look crisp and sharp, and their tag moves are already awesome;  when do we find out if they have the mic work down?...  the fact that they got to wrestle Benoit and Edge meant another guaranteed solid match...  the Lensar/Heyman/Show thing dragged a bit, but I can't blame Heyman for belaboring a few points to make sure even the densest fan could understand the trap he was baiting for Lesnar; the run-in from Matt Hardy and their show-closing match weren't anything complicated, but were both highly effective... 
    Two other things of note:  a vignette promising the impending arrival of Aussie body builder Nathan Jones aired; this is a guy who has The Look, but in WWE dark matches and WWA appearances has lacked The Skills, so we'll see how the WWE packages and polishes him.... and another vignette promised the return of the "Dead Man" at the Royal Rumble; so go ahead and pencil in the Undertaker with his old gimmick for a slot in the Rumble match.  I guess now we know why he's stayed at home for the extra couple months since becoming a daddy and getting healed up:  had to grow out the hair!
    TCF has got the full SD! Recap right here for you.

  • The Rock made an unscheduled appearance on a RAW brand house show on Saturday night in Anaheim.  
    The pre-intermission semi-main event was Booker T vs. Chris Jericho in a No DQ match.  Of course, this led to Christian interfering copiously on Jericho's behalf.  When it appeared as though things were headed towards a con-chair-to on Booker, the Rock's music hit, and he ran out to make the save.  After the match wrapped up in Booker's favor, the Rock did an extended celebration and speech.  He hit some catchphrases, and coaxed a Spin-a-Roonie out of Booker (and even did a Rock-a-Roonie).  And there was much rejoicing.  
    The Rock's finishing up work on "The Project Formerly Known as Helldorado," but is expected back on WWE TV soon.  At the very least, you'd expect him to be present for the RAW 10th Anniversary next week.
  • Speaking of which:  SmackDown! tapes on Sunday night this week (in E. Rutherford, NJ)... that will allow all SD! talent to be in NYC for the RAW 10th Anniversary Show.
    In addition to active RAW and SD! wrestlers, the hype clearly suggests some surprise guests from the past or from the Inactive List.  Mick Foley would be a cool surprise, and assuming he's no longer got WWE on his Great Satan List, he's just a quick limo ride away from the party.  The Rock, as outlined above, is coming back, and might make it if his schedule permits.  So sue me if I'm a starry-eyed optimist, but I want to think that there was something to Bret Hart and WWE both being in the same places at the same times last month.
    And how about Steve Austin?  Everybody expects him back.  They just don't know when.  But maybe it really will be very soon... I can't remember if it was in an e-mail or in the Forums or where, but didn't Steve Austin officially enter the 2003 Royal Rumble Match on the RAW after the 2002 Royal Rumble?  Hey, is he a man of his word or not?  [Oh, keep your jokes about the moral fiber of a man who gets charged with beating his wife to yourself...]
  • I don't know if this is supposed to be a public thing or what, but OO Reader SuperRob just dropped me a line to say that TicketMaster.com is currently doing a pre-sale for WrestleMania 19 tickets.  I hopped on, used the password, and sure enough, I could be in Row F on the Floor.  If I had $100 for the ticket and airfare to get to Seattle burning a hole in my pocket, anyway.  Still, sixth row ringside for WM?  That'd kick ass...  if you're planning on going to the event, I think NOW is when you should be doing your shopping!
    Tickets go on sale to the public this Saturday, but if you want to order yours early, go to www.ticketmaster.com/promo/1913/, and use the password "wmania" when searching for tickets.  Good hunting, folks!
  • Jim Ross announced that the WWE.com Ross Report he posted on Friday will be the last one.  JR had a bunch of reasons for making the call, but the one that seemed to make the most sense is the simple fact that writing about the progress of the very talent he's in charge of helping to develop was a bit of a conflict of interests.
    The reliable injury updates, straight from the horse's mouth, will be missed... but the truth is, this was probably an inevitability.  WWE has refined its definition of "the New Work" and trying to do a column like the Ross Report within that context would eventually have become a pointless exercise.  There are just some things -- for better or for worse -- that fans are gonna be shielded from.
    With the dumbing down of RAW Magazine in the last year or two (at the very least, you have grant me that it's become a lot more rah-rah, party-line oriented, and loaded with such off-topic fluffery as Terri Runnel's Really Vague G-Rated Sex Advice) as a prime example, I'll theorize that the Fed is actually moving backwards, instead of forwards, in terms of dealing with its fans in a forthright fashion.
    So with that said, I'm not exactly shocked that the Ross Report has been retired. A little disappointed that we won't get at least ONE WWE-sanctioned opinion that's actually critical sometimes... but not shocked.
  • Lastly, some plugs for some REALLY good reading here at OO.   
    First, the OO 2002 Year in Review is underway, and will continue to be doled out in two- or three-month increments over the next week.  This is my full-comprehensive collection of all the news, key match results, and various meta-type crap that goes on here in a given year.  You can check out the first few parts right here, and keep checking back for additional updates.  [If you somehow missed it, make a mental note to make sure you check out the OO Honor Roll, which is included as a link from the YiR main page!]
    And second, Scotty Szanto-Nicodemus has outdone himself:  he was only in charge of TNA Recapping duties for OO for 13 weeks, and he's already stepped down from that spot... but he's collected a really detailed set of the highlights and lowlights from TNA's six months on PPV.  Check it out here.
    For my part, I'm thinking that now I'm pretty much back to a regular schedule, which means M/W/F columns... and it means a quick request for help from folks attending TV tapings out west this week.  Spoilers will be a part of my Wednesday column, and I'll need your help to make sure I get 'em all right.
    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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