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Rumble Fall-out, RAW Preview, the
Original Sheik Dies, More...
January 20, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Ten weeks and counting till WrestleMania... and while it seems like one of the two WWE brands has got itself in order for the stretch run, tonight's live RAW will almost certainly have to make good on Eric Bischoff's promised "atomic bombshell" to convince fans that it will be able to deliver the goods in 10 weeks time.

Let's get the rasslin' week started:

  • Let's head back briefly to last night's Royal Rumble PPV...  because one of the toughest things to do is watch a big show, and then try to get a recap turned around in under 30 minutes.  Yeah, you try to take into account what the people who watched with you thought, and you try to catch the live reaction of the crowd to make sure you don't say anything to jackasstastic...  but basically, you don't have anything other than your own opinion, the expertise of which is no doubt a matter for much debate.  And let the teaming masses be damned: they might agree with you, but they might also crucify you (via e-mail... nails and crosses being way too big an ordeal for most lazy-ass armchair bookers).
    But that said, last night's show was one that generated a few strong opinions in me.  I knew Steiner/HHH was pretty poor, and it didn't take a rocket scientist to see how good Angle/Benoit was by comparison.  And sure, I've gotten a few mails from people who claim it's hypocrisy that I rag on Steiner for a limited moveset and then praise Angle and Benoit when they turn around and do something like a dozen consecutive German suplexes between them... but for the most part, the fall-out from last night has fans even MORE angry with the quality of HHH/Steiner than I was.  Which I'm not sure is reasonable.
    Look, Scott Steiner wasn't brought in as a favor to the Undertaker.  This isn't like Kronik all over again.  He doesn't just get shipped back to WWA or anything like that.  He was a big time free agent signed to a major league contract.  He's here to stay.  And remember: this was the first time he's been asked to go 20 minutes in over 2 years, probably.  Yes, talk about conditioning and whatever you want, but one thing you hear a lot of workers agree on is that getting your wind up in training and going 20 minutes in a wrestling match are two different things entirely.
    You have to think Steiner wants to put on a good show, that he doesn't want to get upstaged with such ease by Angle and Benoit.  But maybe that'll mean giving him some time to get acclimated.  I know I was as frustrated as anyone by the sloppiness in the HHH/Steiner match, by the slow, struggling transitions that seemed to go beyond "selling" on the part of Steiner, but I don't think the performance was one that earns you an immediate pink slip (especially since it was just his first TV match).
    Actually, the story of the match was quite good, and I think that a lot of "average" fans probably bit on it: HHH knew he couldn't beat Steiner, so he tried everything in his power to protect his title.  If Steiner's not so broken down that he can't continue the acclimation process, then a rematch might actually be OK here, because of the way the Rumble match was set-up, story-wise.
    But what to do if we truly got Steiner's best on Sunday night?  Well, like I said, he's not just fading away like Kronik... so I say turn him heel, where he can rely on shorter beatdowns and crutches (like his old, trusty steel pipe) to mask deficiencies.  There is time to build up a Booker/Steiner feud (revived from the dying days of WCW) in time for WM19, I think.  The problem is, this would mean tossing away your de facto top RAW babyface, as well as the lingering storyline left from the Rumble match.
    Somebody's gotta make that choice, though:  do you maintain continuity and try to wring some return out of your investment in Steiner by pushing forward with more HHH/Steiner?  Or do you try to give the fans the best possible match-ups by tossing all that aside and starting fresh?
    And if you do start fresh, where do you go?  RVD and Kane both had their shots at HHH last fall, and they didn't really take off; though both were the victims of shoddy storytelling, the stretch run to WM19 is not the time to try to fix past mistakes.  Which leaves me to consider two options:  one is the one that I mentioned in my immediate post-show recap last night, Steve Austin.  The other was Scott Keith's suggestion in his PPV Rant, Chris Benoit.
    Each guy has plusses and minuses...  Austin is the safe play, as he could step up for Chapter 18 in his never-ending feud against HHH and co-headline a WrestleMania without hardly any complicated storytelling.  Somehow tie HHH in with Vince, and voila, you got yourself a match that will SEEM fresh enough, since Austin's been gone for essentially a year.  The risks:  Austin walked out twice last year, which has to sit in the back of your head if you're booking him immediately into a title feud.  But if Austin's mental health is just as strong as his physical condition (said to be the best its been in years), then maybe the risk is worth taking.
    With Benoit, you're taking a big chance.  One huge ovation does not make him an instant main eventer.  The guy has yet to show that he's got a personality that endears him to fans, and what does make him popular -- his in ring work -- would be detrimentally affected by a trade to RAW from SD!.  HHH is not Kurt Angle.  Kane is not Edge.  It takes two to tango, and Benoit's not got the same caliber of dance partner to choose from on RAW.  That said, if he DOES find that bit of personality and charisma and if he DOES coax top shelf performances out of everybody he faces, then the upside to immediately changing gears and going to a HHH/Benoit WM19 showdown could be huge.  But I'm saying it would not be easy.  [Oh, and logistically, if you did want to do this, I'd say the obvious "trade" would be Benoit for Kane, straight-up.  Kane needs to get away from RAW and distance himself from last fall's crap-o-rama; on SD!, he'd have the omni-present crutch of the Undertaker if he needed a short-term storyline, and would also have Paul Heyman's magic touch in terms of helping him with some character rehabilitation.]
    Either way, the Rumble gave us an awful lot to ponder...
  • Tonight on RAW, we'll simply assume for the time being that the Fed will try to candy coat last night's fan mutiny, and pretend that Scott Steiner is still Freakzilla and that HHH is still a coward who knows he can't win.  That is one pairing that seems destined to be recycled as a rematch, be it in February at No Way Out or in March at WrestleMania.
    The other match that is now clearly on a slow-burn to a blow-off at Mania is Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho.  They could probably have done more with the two at the Rumble, but suffice to say the stage is set for what should be a quality war of words and psychology, with the pay-off at WM19 being just as top shelf in the ring.  For anyone who cares, my own personal fantasy booking would have Kevin Nash getting involved either at the NWO PPV or on the RAW immediately after;  I just like the idea of him reprising as much of "Diesel" as is possible, and showing up as one of these guy's bodyguard would be perfect.
    And then the third element that's a lock tonight:  Eric Bischoff, fearing for his job, will be trying to shake things up.  He's promised an "atomic bombshell" will be dropped (and I presume he meant tonight, though I was half-talking-over his promo last night at the Rumble, so I'm not sure)...  things are certainly aligned such that something Steve Austin-related would fit perfectly:  Vince bad-mouthed Austin at RAW-X and said he wasn't invited to be part of WWE, while Bischoff and Vince are now also at odds over the 30-day proclamation of last week.  For Bisch and Austin to put aside past differences (if they'd even see the need to bring up the past differences at all, since they were all from 1995) to get the better of Vince would make sense.  We'll see if that's where they're going soon enough, though...
    Duds are the new tag champs, with any number of makeshift teams (Booker/Dust, Jericho/Christian, Kane/RVD) waiting in the wings along with established duos like Regal/Storm and 3 Minute Warning.  But the potential also exists for them to do something fresh here, finding a tag partner for Chief Morley (either elevating someone whose got nothing better to do, or using the spot for bringing up a developmental guy) and going with a Morley vs. Duds feud.
    Also, in the next month or two before Mania, there are a handful of stars who'll be ready to return from injuries.  At least one of them -- Jazz -- is a lock to show up on the RAW roster so she can resume a feud with Trish Stratus.  That could happen any time now.  Kanyon and Rhyno are also supposed to be getting close to cleared to return to TV.
    Check out RAW tonight or come on back for full coverage here on OO tomorrow.
  • Ed Farhat, who wrestled for decades as The Sheik, passed away early Saturday morning.  He was 78 years old.
    The originator of the prototypical mid-eastern "sheik" gimmick, Farhat began wrestling in the early 50s.  He was known world wide by the 60s, at a time when he was a staple performer for the Detroit territory's NWA affiliate (which was on TV throughout the midwest under the generic brand name "Big Time Wrestling").
    Also wrestling tours of Japan and working as a semi-regular in the Toronto territory, the Shiek terrorized the midwest circuit well into the 70s.  He was known to bloody his opponents using any means necessary, and sometimes dabbled in fireballs.  His brutality was featured in the film "I Like to Hurt People," which followed a tongue-in-cheek "Stop the Sheik" campaign in between clips of Big Time Wrestling matches.
    Today, the Sheik's legacy lives on in his more famous protégés...  Sabu and Rob Van Dam both trained in Michigan with the Sheik. 
    Condolences to the family, friends, and fans of Ed "The Original Sheik" Farhat.
  • OK, so apparently Bob Holly beat the shit out of some kid in a training session on Tough Enough 3 last week...  I don't watch TE, and even though I'd heard about the incident, it wasn't nearly enough to make me want to make an exception.  So Bob Holly's an asshole in real life? Not exactly a newsflash, and since I have no idea who "Matt" is, it's not like I would have been particularly sympathetic to him, anyway.
    What makes the story kind of interesting is an article from the Syracuse Post-Standard that pinpoints the taping date of that particular episode of TE3 as just after Holly had been informed of the severity of a neck injury that would require surgery and a year-long lay-off.  Of course, that injury came in a match against Brock Lesnar when Holly quit cooperating fully with Lesnar, leading to Lesnar dropping Holly awkwardly on his head.  So, before having his neck surgery, Holly decides to take some liberties on a kid who isn't 6'4", 280 lbs. and slated to be the next big thing?
    I know Bob Holly (along with Billy Gunn) has been one of the guys quoted as talking about how the mere fact of his lengthy tenure in WWF/WWE should qualify him for a push above younger guys... and for everything that's wrong with that assumption on his part, you can only shake your head in bewilderment if it turns out Holly thought that THIS was the way to get his point across.
    Me, I don't expect anything to come of this, except of course that now "Matt" will win TE3 and will get to have a feud at some point in late 2003 with Bob Holly, which all of you Reality TV suckers will fall for, hook, line, and sinker.
  • If you're in the market for a used Mercedes with almost 200,000 miles on it, this might interest you...
    Mick Foley is selling his '89 Mercedes-Benz 420 SL on eBay.  Half of the sale price will go to charity, and is tax deductible.  The kicker: if you live within 600 miles of New York, and if the winning bid exceeds $10,000, Mick will drive the car to your house himself.
    Get the full details right here.
  • The final rating for last week's SmackDown! was a 3.4.  That's pretty much back to where the show had been prior to the holidays caused a minor slump.
  • During a recent radio appearance, Jerry Lawler addressed the RAW Tenth Anniversary special and why it was a disappointment... he said that the plan was to load up on past superstars, but that Vince McMahon backed off that plan when the stars under consideration began asking for bigger pay-offs and more perks (first class travel for entire families, etc.) than was deemed appropriate for a one-shot deal.
    Not to sound too cynical, but that sounds like a bit of a smoke screen to me...  it wouldn't have been asking too much to have at least ONE big name from the past, would it?  And hey, what kind of perks or travel accommodations did Mick Foley need to get from Long Island to NYC?  I think there was probably more to this story than Lawler let on...
  • OO Reader Micah Prude tried to catch last night's Rumble at a Hooters location near him, but no dice.  He was told by a waitress that because of last month's lesbian skit with Dawn and Torrie, Hooters got some complaints from families, and decided not to screen the Rumble this month.
    Micah called up other Hooters in Texas, and got the same basic run-around, with some locations saying they were taking a three-month break from showing WWE PPVs because of it.
    Now, rather than get into a whole big thing about HOOTERS (the bastion of class and demureness that it is) getting upset about 2 girls kissing, let me just point out that I know of at least one usual "Blast Area" (code name for "Bars that Show PPVs") here in Dayton that opted to put the Raiders/Titans game on all the big screens with the sound turned up.  My friends who tried that option didn't bother sticking around to see if the Rumble would be shown on a smaller screen in a corner...  that scenario, to me, sounded like a more reasonable explanation for a bar not showing the Rumble PPV.
  • I'm looking forward to hearing from any of you up in the northeast who happen to attend TV tapings tonight or tomorrow... c'mon, you know you want to help OO get Spoilers posted by 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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