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RAW, The Plan for The Rock, Asia
Tour, and More...
January 27, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Words words words blah blah nobody pays attention to this part anyway words blah blah blah blah blah:
  • Tonight's RAW outghta be an interesting exercise...  because the current WWE planning would probably have the biggest, most interesting star within storylines being absent from the actual building.  Last week's revelation that Eric Bischoff was bringing Steve Austin back was met with a level of enthusiasm from fans... but that quickly turned into a chorus of boos when Bischoff made it clear that Austin wasn't going to return until the No Way Out PPV (current four weeks away).
    It sets up a bit of a conundrum: do you press ahead with that current plan, hoping (quite reasonably, I think) that the knee-jerk boos that rained down upon Bischoff's qualifying statements will go away as fans begin to anticipate just what Steve Austin will do in four weeks' time?  Or do you tweak things by trying to coax Austin back on TV earlier, where he could either make vague statements or not speak at all about his future plans, leading up to the PPV, where he will finally declare his intent?  Normally, understanding how the Fed usually works, I'd lean heavily towards the former...  but the latter just might be a possibility after they witnessed how well Hogan's surprise return went over on SD!.
    When Austin does come back, one would have to hope that he'd be programmed into a feud with Triple H for the World Title...  but until that day, it looks like we'll be served up a little something different:  Triple H and his trio of sycophants (Ric Flair, Batista, and Randy Orton) -- who may or may not be going for a Four Horsemen vibe -- brutally attacked Scott Steiner last week, which means HHH/Steiner should remain a top issue for the next month.  I guess it's also possible that Steiner could plumb the depths of the potential breakthrough (but variously-mishandled-in-the-last-8-months) stars like Booker, RVD, or Kane to join him in his battle... except that the fact is that Flair is not a full-time in-ring performer and Orton is still a month or so away from returning to wrestling duties, which means it's still basically just HHH/Batista that Steiner has to deal with.
    Chris Jericho's dual-pronged agenda will also be furthered tonight...  on one hand, he's got a slow-burn issue with Shawn Michaels (whose one-night-a-week work schedule means he oughta be in the building tonight) that should culminate at WrestleMania.  And in the shorter term, he's got Test all pissed off at him because he hit Stacy Keibler with a chair last week.  Hopefully, they can figure out some way to take a little from Column A and a little from Column B, and mix it all together in a way that's not too confusing or convoluted.
    My favorite segment from last week was the diabolical way that Chief Morley thieved the tag team titles from the Dudley Boyz, and practically handed them to William Regal and Lance Storm on the proverbial silver platter.  It may seem like rehash to some, but on the strength of that angle last week, I'm sure that Duds vs. Regal/Storm would go over well, and even if you had Morley sick his dogs in 3 Minute Warning on the Duds (for the umpteenth time), that'd be OK, too.  The Dudleys are most fun when they're chasing (since tables and "Whassup" spots are always gonna be over, no matter what), and right now, they've got some serious work cut out for them.
    Other stuff to look for:  I'm hoping that they can keep the vibe right and pull off Jeff Hardy's heel turn in a productive way (if this is just a way to keep him on TV and ostensibly "fresh" so that adolescent girls can squeal when he does something, when what Jeff really needs is a vacation from the business to get his head straight, then I say "Why bother?")...  Project Down With the Brown will continue, though one would hope (and I say this as a guy who really loves Tommy Dreamer) that they'll take D'Lo's push seriously and start letting him play with guys higher up on the card; otherwise, the precariously race-based gimmick with tank sooner rather than later...  Trish pinned Victoria in a mixed tag match last week, which might be used to set up another title shot for her; which in turn could lead to another title reign and then the eventual feud with a returning Jazz...  and Sean O'Haire is likely to show up on the RAW roster, but who knows for how much longer they'll milk his cool-looking vignettes?  I'm not even really sure what the vibe is they're going for, but they look slick.  Is he a sinister and genuinely evil character, extolling the virtues of sin for his own personal satisfaction?  Or is a more subtle thing, where we learn to hate him because he thinks he's some kind of Nietzschian superman, above any worldly authority, suspicious of the existence of any divine authority, and obliged only to his own brand of hyper-morality?  The latter would be sweet, but would probably be TOO subtle to get over with the masses; better to go with the former and just have him periodically quote lines from "Sympathy for the Devil" instead... 
    Check it out tonight on RAW, or come on back to OO on Tuesday for full coverage.
  • Last week, we talked about the Rock's loaded Hollywood dance card and mentioned that one trade paper actually referred to him as a "former wrestler," despite Rock's public statements to the contrary (in which he frequently promised that, even if it was only for one match a year, he'd never leave wrestling behind).
    Well, if you believe everything that circulates, "former wrestler" is exactly what the Rock will be after WrestleMania this year.  After that, the Rock will take a month or two of vacation before setting off to film his next movie, and from there on out, will be strictly a Hollywood actor.  At least until they've had enough of him.  But with all the projects lined up for him, trust me, it'd probably take at least a half-dozen years before the Rock's star could fall far enough that he'd have to resort to pro wrestling for a big paycheck.  And that's if his very next movie tanked badly and set these events in motion, pronto.  It's amazing the sort of inertia that can be generated by one good box office showing and a phalanx of publicists and PR people.
    According to this new paradigm, the Rock is only coming back for 2 matches and a handful of TV appearances.  He'll be a heel, allied with Vince McMahon against Hulk Hogan.  The Rock's first appearance would be a return match against Hogan at the No Way Out PPV in February; then, the hope is that a deal could be reached to bring Bill Goldberg in for a brief run (as a running buddy of Hogan's), setting up Rock vs. Goldberg (as well as permitting for Hogan vs. Vince) at WrestleMania.
    Now, to the ever-cynical me, this wreaks of some weird combination of disinformation and fanboy speculation... I mean, a fully detailed "career plan" for the Rock, and yet, we know with certainty that Goldberg and WWE haven't yet gotten even close to agreeing on terms for him to come in and play his part?  That sounds fishy.  Even fishier are other elements of the story that have the Rock completely severing his relationship with WWE because he "owns his name" (i.e., he can go to Hollywood as "The Rock" and not as Dwayne Johnson), even though he had negotiated a new long-term WWE contract (pre-Scorpion King) that was structured with the assumption that Rock's wrestling dates would be limited by movie work (and that WWE would get a cut of his movie fees); it's a deal from which I wouldn't foresee Vince McMahon just releasing the Rock.
    But hey, if nothing else, these rumors leaking out over the past few days could serve a beneficial purpose:  they can only enhance the impression among smart fans (which always has a way of trickling down to the masses) that the Rock has "gone Hollywood" and thinks he's bigger than wrestling.  That could just about cement his heel status as he makes this next return to the ring.  Assuming that's the real plan. 
    We shall see.
  • The RAW brand returned to the continent yesterday after a successful tour of Korea and Japan...  the third and final show, on Saturday in Tokyo, was headlined by Triple H narrowly defeating Tajiri (who was on loan from SmackDown! so he could wrestle in front of his countrymen) in a good match.  There were big crowd all around, as once again, the Fed continues to draw well as a special attraction overseas, even if standard domestic tours are slumping.
    Other notes from the tour:  Booker T did not appear as advertised due to visa problems...  Stacy Keibler appeared in Test's corner for all shows, wearing a neck brace (and for those who followed last week's reader-induced tangent on the possibly reasons for the injury angle, the answer is "No")...  and Stephanie McMahon also traveled with the RAW brand stars, and cut promos on the shows, promising that her SD! brand stars would be making the next WWE tour of Asia.
  • The final rating for last week's SmackDown! was a 3.5, up a tenth of a point from the prior week.  It's possible that the slight gain was due to "spoilers" about Hogan's comeback leaking out, but the real test will be to see if this week's show can build on that momentum now that everybody knows Hogan's back and feuding with Vince.
  • FYI, the season finale of Tough Enough 3 drew a 2.6 cable rating, which is well above the series average.  It seems even if fans didn't flock to the weekly antics of the third TE crew, they were still curious to see who walked away with WWE contracts.  It's also possible that the well-marketed scrum with Bob Holly and that Matt kid helped the show hit its stride at exactly the right time, so that they could gain about a full ratings point over the start of the season.
  • As always, we wrap up this Monday with a humble request that any readers attending TV tapings please pass along reports of their experience so that we can get detailed and accurate spoilers posted as part of my Wednesday update.
    See you folks 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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