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Angle out of WM19, Replacement Options,
RAW Gets a Boost, and More... 
March 5, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


The news from Monday was not good...  and it doesn't really get any better today.  Read on:
  • Kurt Angle, concerned about a possible neck injury due to symptoms that surfaced while wrestling over the weekend in South Africa, has consulted a doctor...  and the news is not good.
    Angle has reportedly been told that surgery will be required and that continuing on to the WM19 main event is NOT an option for him.  That said, I can also say -- without spoiling anything -- that no replacement for the WM19 title match was made at least night's SD! TV tapings, and in fact, Angle appeared on the show and even took some bumps.
    He defied doctor's orders to qualify for the 1996 Olympics with a broken neck, so might one more match really be out of the question?  
    Unfortunately, it probably is...  and Angle would lose the honor of headlining the biggest show of the year after just 3 full years of experience, not to mention the pay day and the accolades that might have come from blowing the roof of Safeco Field with his fellow amateur champ, Brock Lesnar.
    While WWE did not tip its hand at last night's tapings, and did not even hint at the possibility that Angle was injured and limited in the ring, the consensus is that high level talks on Monday and Tuesday have resulted in a back-up plan, one which will shake up the WM19 line-up to supply Brock Lesnar with another opponent.
    And who might it be?  Well, I'd be telling you no lies if I said that the online vote is for Chris Benoit.  He's been in the WWE Title mix for the past few months, so he's a legit challenger.  And there is no doubt that he'd get the best wrestling match out of Lesnar, too.  But Benoit going to WM19 as the challenger and him winning the title are not the same thing, and I think many online Disciples of Benoit would be really disappointed come the morning of March 31.  You see, Booker T's already playing the "hard-working underdog who finally gets his due" card at WM... it's the same vibe that a Benoit title win would have; and the Fed rarely tells the same story twice on the same show.
    Benoit would also be the easiest to cover for, since the expectation right now is just that he'd be involved in a quickly thrown-together tag title feud with Rhyno against Team Angle.  Hey, it's easy to put Los Guerreros back into the mix as challengers, and if Rhyno's the guy who gets screwed in the deal, well, he'll get over it.  You could even do a deal where Benoit walks out on the tag title shot to accept the match against Lesnar, causing Rhyno to get mad and turn heel (filling a void left by Angle, no less), giving you a solid upper-card feud for SD! through the spring months.
    The two other most popular choices for replacements to face Lesnar at WM are two guys with unfinished business left from last summer.  First is Hulk Hogan, who was left in a pool of his own blood by Lesnar last August.  Problem with doing the match again is that Lesnar's a face this time around, and Hogan's can't wrestle the same kind of match that Benoit could (in which the fans could pop for spots and for a good all-around match, without really having either guy be a total heel), and might risk undermining the build-up of Lesnar as the monster babyface by relying on his usual sentimental shtick.  Less problematic would be getting Hogan into the title match and out of his feud with Vince McMahon:  you could roll it all up into one package, actually.  Have Vince appoint himself the referee of the title match: he gets the more physically-capable Lesnar to kick Hogan's ass for him, and he's right there to make sure that Hogan doesn't eek out a win.  But still, I don't think they'll toss the surefire Sports Entertainment Segment that is Hogan/Vince down the toilet for a potential trainwreck of a Hogan/Lesnar wrestling match.
    Second popular choice is the Rock, who got beat for that very same WWE Title back last August.  It'd be really easy to set up the story, since Rock now has the power to go wherever he wants (according the Vince).  He could just return to SD! as soon as he heard that Lesnar -- who dared to best him last year -- had no challenger in a WWE Title match.  That's all the explanation you'd need.  Plus, Lesnar as a face and Rock as a heel should click perfectly, unlike other proposed solutions.  Unfortunately for this scenario, what doesn't click is that suddenly, the RAW brand is shafted and has no marquee match for the returning Steve Austin.  Austin/Rock is guaranteed magic, and it'd be really hard to scare something up for Austin that would come even close...
    That's where we enter the realm of the outrageous... because what if Bill Goldberg could suddenly be wooed into the fold?  Hmmm...  and if ever there was a motivation for WWE to submit to his demands, it'd be now...
    Best use of Goldberg, unfortunately, is as a babyface.  And what the Fed needs is a heel.  Still, I think that despite Goldberg's one tepid, half-hearted effort as a heel, you could get fans to boo him in the short term if you put him in the right storyline.  To that end, the storyline I'd suggest would be this:  Bischoff's bizarre "option" to Rock of getting a World Title shot instead of a match versus Austin is because Bischoff wants to get revenge on Austin himself, using one of his own creations:  Goldberg.  Rock doesn't take the hint, but finally does succumb to the desire to get revenge on Lesnar; so Rock goes over to SD!, replacing Angle in that main event, while RAW gains an Austin vs. Goldberg (managed by Bischoff to ensure his heel status for a month or two) dream match.  It'd work for me; better than Goldberg vs. Lesnar, anyway (which was another suggestion).  But it'd also be contingent on getting Goldberg in.
    Of course, anytime you enter the realm of the outrageous, you're likely setting yourself up to be disappointed.  So we close with a few more sundry thoughts about who, from the current WWE roster, could be suddenly tossed into the WWE Title mix versus Lesnar...  the two "big name" suggestions were Undertaker and Triple H.  Both those guys have enough history to be considered viable challengers, but I see squeezing HHH into a feud with Lesnar to be a tough challenge, story-wise, and doing Taker/Lesnar again puts you in that face/face conundrum.
    Two elevate-a-new name suggestions:  Rhyno and John Cena.  Cena is obviously positioned to be the first lamb fed to Lesnar after WM19, and I'm not sure if I would agree with tossing what could be a 2 month post-WM program (if it's well-built) away by rushing Cena back for a foregone conclusion of a match on the biggest stage of the year.  With Rhyno, I just don't think there's enough time to build up a good reason for him to get the shot against Lesnar.
    So what's my favorite idea in terms of a more "obvious" choice:  you'll actually be stunned, because it's Scott Steiner.  Yeah, and I'm the guy who called him DUD-Zilla.  Think about it: on RAW, they didn't quite pull the trigger on a heel turn, but I'm not exactly convinced that spinning his wheels against Triple H is gonna amount to any kind of crown interest.  Why not construct an excuse for him to defect to SD!, where he can get the shot against Lesnar and go full speed ahead with a heel turn.  Let's face it: Steiner with the crutch of his old lead pipe, not having to sell like a babyface for vast stretches in his match, and generating chuckles and frustration with his moonman language promos is the Steiner who might actually be a contributor to the overall WWE product.  And that's a heel Steiner.  Plus, against Lesnar, he might be able to have the kind of power match that might play to his strength; it'd be short, Lesnar would win, and I think everybody'd be happy.
    So until we find out that Angle will tough it out for one last match, or that Bill Goldberg has signed a contract, or that Bret Hart's set on un-retiring, or that the corpse of Mr. Perfect has been re-animated for a PPV-first Death Match at 35,000 Feet, maybe I'll do the unthinkable and endorse Scott Steiner as my choice for facing Brock Lesnar at WM19.  Just to screw with all your heads!  Yeah!
  • In all the worry about where the SD! half of the WM19 main event is heading, we've perhaps lost sight of the fact that the RAW brand put together a really good show on Monday, essentially shoring up it's top three Mania matches.
    Booker T and HHH started off the night with what I thought was a solid promo that played to the strengths of both.  HHH -- though I know some accused him of toeing the line of racial slurs -- was the perfect self-absorbed, cocky asshole.  Booker T's silent rage followed by a confident prediction of victory actually seemed plausible.  
    Later in the night, Booker got a pinfall win over Scott Steiner in his first try (it took HHH two!).  In an angle of indeterminate purpose, HHH was at ringside and seemed to distract Steiner.  Even though it was just as obvious that HHH was the guy who orchestrated the seemingly odd pairing of babyface Steiner vs. babyface Booker.  Maybe it was just a "heat check" for a possible heel turn?  I don't know... for now, the important thing is Booker beat Steiner, and I think is really building up a solid resume for his championship match at WM.
    The Rock was gold again.  In backstage bits with both the Hurricane and Eric Bischoff, he was the charts entertaining.  And then when it came time to go face-to-face with Austin, he was able to find the right mode to ensure that the fans got behind Austin and not him, despite earlier efforts at entertaining us.  Good stuff.
    What I didn't get was Bischoff coming out of nowhere to offer the Rock an option of winning a WM19 title shot next week on RAW.  Unless this really is part of some plan where Bischoff is trying to distract Rock from going after Austin because he (Bischoff) has his own plans for Stone Cold, then this was straight out of left field, and will likely turn out to be nothing but an excuse to have the Rock put over Booker T on the way to WM.  [Not that this is a bad idea, it's just that the declaration by Bischoff made absolutely no sense at all.]
    And finally, Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho is on, officially.  I think Jericho again came off really well, as a bit of an evil genius, by laying the trap for Michaels.  What didn't sit so well with me was the previous Test/Stacy/Jericho stuff that predicated the whole scenario...  Jericho screening footage of Test chastely signing the chest of a nubile young co-ed to get Stacy upset just didn't work.  What would have worked better?  Showing footage of Test promising "Nothing will happen to you, I swear" prior to Stacy being bent in half last week.  Now THAT I can see Stacy being upset about, thus setting up the whole situation that eventually ended with Jericho getting Michaels to run out to make the save.  Only to bloody him with a chair and challenge him to a one-on-one match at WM19.  End result was still good.
    A couple of little logic hiccups aside, it was another really good RAW in the same vein as three weeks ago (the Bischoff countdown episode)...  a lot of stuff seemed to happen, but at the end of the night, they were just incremental changes in storylines, and we were essentially in the same place.  Everybody could tell what the main matches at WM were going to be, but somehow, the Fed managed one of those shows that used a ton of bluster and hype to basically tell us something we already knew... and it worked.  That's probably the definition of "episodic TV," but in this case, it really worked well.
    Get the full recap from the show right here.  And get the RAW Satire, too.
  • The rating for Monday's RAW was huge.  A 4.5, up a full half-point from the week before, and one of RAW's strongest ratings in a long time.  Hopefully, the new viewers liked what they saw and will be back for upcoming weeks....
  • Spoilers for SD! are available right here, if you missed the main page link.
  • Randy Orton has had surgery to repair broken bones in his foot, and even though he's telling people he only expects to miss three months, expectations are it'll probably be closer to six.  Time to fire up the RNN Updates, I guess...
    Batista's torn triceps has not been operated on, yet, so the prognosis is not as certain for him.  People are guessing it'll be maybe four months before he can come back.
  • I got word that Jimmy Hart was backstage at SD! tapings last night, but heard nothing about what he was doing.  He might have just been there palling around with Hulk Hogan, or he might have been stumping for work.
  • A couple OO Readers/Howard Stern fans mailed in to say that it sounds like Stern's band The Losers will be doing a Battle of the Bands type thing against Chris Jericho's Fozzy in the near future.  Stern started talking smack on Tuesday, and earlier today it sounded like Fozzy would accept the challenge, so...
  • A couple of Jerry Lawler newsbites...
    First, of most import to wrestling fans:  Lawler is telling people that live Saturday morning wrestling will return to Memphis on UPN-30 in a couple of months.  That's sounds cool.
    And also:  WWE is saying that Lawler will be a "guest photographer" for Playboy at some point in the future.  Whatever that means.
  • Finally for today, a quick mention of NWA-TNA's PPV tonight, which is mostly centered around the intrigue of the Raven vs. Sandman "Clockwork Orange House of Fun" match.  It's a gimmick match of Raven's making, with rules not presently known.  Given Raven's gimmick and the matches these two both had back in ECW, it should be something fairly wild, though.
    Also on TNA tonight:  Kid Kash defends the X Title against the Amazing Red in a match that should showcase just why the X Division ruled for so much of 2002.
    No other matches have been officially announced, but all the other main storylines should be advances such as: Jerry Lynn vs. Konnan/luchadors, Jeff Jarrett vs. SEX (possibly including David Flair, Brian Lawler, and Eric Watts), Jarrett vs. AJ Styles (who continues to stay a separate entity from SEX), and the vacant tag titles will be filled tourney-style.  And lord knows what other kinds of surprises Vince Russo might have up his sleeve this week...
    See you all again on Friday...


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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