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RAW Backpedals, SD! Moves Forward, 
and Other Trying-to-Avoid-Spoilers News
March 12, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


The biggest thing to talk about today is... well, I can't talk about it, because it'd piss off some indeterminate percentage of you.  So I'll sit back, try to sift through some stuff and come up with enough material to make a column.  Then we'll sit down tomorrow night (well, you will; my band's got a show and I've a Flyer tourney game, and trying to figure out how I'm gonna do both easily takes precedence over TV rasslin' that I can tape), watch SmackDown!, and then on Friday I'll finally get around to talking about what everybody else is talking about today.

Oh well, the wait'll be worth it... since I think I'll be entitled to at least a small amount of gloating.

In the meantime, here's the best of the rest:

  • It's rare, but it happened on Monday's RAW: a wrestling company spent a week hyping a main event match, backed out of delivering it, and deserves to be CREDITED for making the right decision.
    Rock vs. Booker T was an out-of-left-field idea from the start.  It was utterly unnecessary, and if anything, took the focus AWAY from where it should be (on Rock vs. Austin and Booker vs. HHH) at this late stage of the game.
    Calling off that match and replacing it with Rock vs. Hurricane, on the other hand, accomplished a couple of very positive things.  First, it capitalized on a throw-away "feud" that fans have decided to respond to:  I'm not saying Hurricane is your next main event superstar, but him playing on the same field as the Rock has provided some solid entertainment, and can only help him in the future.  But mostly, it allowed the Rock/Austin focus to be maintained without hurting a major WM19 program.
    Face it:  Austin runs in and helps Hurricane get the upset win over the Rock, and all Austin's over-shadowing is a Rock/Hurricane feud that doesn't really have any long term legs anyway.  You play it the other way, and do Rock vs. Booker, with Austin running in to cause Rock's loss, and Booker T, the challenger for the World Title, looks weak since he needs help from an even bigger babyface to retain his title shot.  This was a win-win.
    Actually, maybe it was a win-draw.  As good, fun, and entertaining as Rock/Hurricane was, Booker T's promo on Monday was a mixed bag.  Though it, properly, emphasized his world title aspirations and feud with Triple H, it was definitely a case where less might have been more.  Booker seemed to lose the live fans when he started getting all reflective about his tough life growing up, and I certainly was confused about what all that had to do with anything as I watched at home.  It'd have been enough to condense all that down into two or three sentences about how "Yeah, maybe I'm an entertainer, now, but I really do come from the streets, and I really did hard time, and even though I regret it, it's a part of me, and now Triple H is fixin' to find out just how hard I can be."  I think things were pretty well on track once Flair hit the ring, though.
    Even stronger was Booker being so pissed by his exchange with Flair that he went back and confronted HHH backstage.  HHH flashes a dollar bill and tells Booker, "Get me a towel," and Booker snaps and leaves HHH laid out in his own dressing room.  Good assholitude from HHH, good intense response from Book.  And then HHH turns around and squashes Maven in the ring to take out his frustrations; hey, you'll all hate me for it, but in this case, a HHH squash was the right call, too.  Not only does it underline how pissed HHH was at Booker to help their feud along, but it also meant that Hurricane was free to play the "curtain-jerker who pins a main eventer" card later in the night without having it be a repeat of an earlier segment.
    I loved the stuff between Austin, Bischoff, and the Rock, too.  Look, I know (no matter what the parties involved might claim) that this doesn't quite have the sizzle of either of their past two WM showdowns, and certainly not of their first IC Title feud... but it's still really entertaining stuff from two guys who both know how to work a crowd.  Rock's yellow-bellied coward act while Austin plays the resigned bad-ass role just really worked for me.
    Toss Bischoff into the mix for another tussle with Austin, and I'm saying you had yourself a winner of a segment.  Bischoff's comparison of himself to Austin was good heel material, and then later on, when he decided to book himself vs. Austin again for next week's show, you had a good mix of good logical grounding (Bischoff can now make it any match he wants, unlike the PPV) and easily-hyped Crash TV fluff (Austin/Bischoff will suck as a wrestling match, but most everyone will expect it to be fun).
    Other stuff:  RVD/Kane vs. Jericho/Christian was a really good opener, and gets bonus points for giving us another forward babystep in the Jericho/Shawn Michaels feud...  technical difficulties obviously resulted in the Trish/Jazz match being shortened down to essentially nothing; still told its story, though, since Victoria made her run-in to keep the three-way feud alive...  a better place to have trimmed time: the least-titillating wet t-shirt contest I, personally, have ever witnessed; Stacy's be-moistened rump definitely made for 30 seconds of really quality TV, but getting there was really quite tortuous...  and it looks like it'll be up to Bubba Dudley to be the one who takes advantage of Chief Morley's Misplaced Heel Bravado to get the Duds re-instated...  
    You can get the full details from Monday's RAW right here.  And it goes without saying that regardless of what you thought of the real RAW, you will get a charge out of Matt Hocking's RAW Satire.  This is like three weeks in a row of being the funniest RAW Satire ever.
  • The rating for Monday's RAW was a 4.0...  that is down a half-point from the previous week's number.  Despite the precipitous drop, this is only the third time in the past 10 months that RAW has gotten into the 4's, and the first time they've done it in back-to-back weeks in even longer.  [I think... I don't have my spreadsheet handy.]
    I don't know if that means the Fed should be credited with doing a great job of promoting Austin's return to RAW on last week's show... or if the Fed should be concerned that Austin's on-going participation on RAW didn't seem to be of as much interest to most fans... or if the Fed should have some other entirely different interpretation of the ratings drop.
    Suffice to say that, even if they don't rebound up into the mid-4's, the Fed is still performing well down the WM homestretch.
  • And speaking of ratings, several people e-mailed in on Monday to tell me that the reason SmackDown!'s rating may have dropped a few ticks was because of President Bush's prime time news conference.
    And indeed, there is something to that argument.  Whether or not a nationally-important news conference is the sort of thing that would steal the attention of a wrestling fan may be a matter of serious contention.  But what's not under dispute is the fact that several UPN affiliates (mostly in the bigger markets) with in-house news teams cut away from SD! in favor of a live feed of President Bush.
    This almost certainly had a major (negative) impact on the rating of the first 45-60 minutes of last week's SD.  It's never good to lose viewers, but it's certainly less bad if you at least know the reason why...
  • But there is also some genuinely good news for SmackDown! and WWE today....
    WWE and UPN have reached an agreement that will keep SmackDown right where it is for at least another 2 years.  Despite rumors, UPN has not asked the Fed to cut the show back to 60 minutes, nor was FOX ever really close to tendering an offer to steal the show.  UPN, it seems, was quite happy to finalize the deal that keeps their top-rated show for the past 3 years at home on Thursday nights.
    The new agreement changes the nature of the UPN/WWE relationship, however.  For the first 4 years of SD!, WWE actually paid UPN approximately $300,000 per week for their Thursday night timeslot.  In exchange, WWE retained the vast majority of advertising minutes on the show to sell themselves.  UPN claimed only 2 minutes of ad time, local affiliates receive 4 minutes per hour, leaving 22 minutes of ad time per two hour broadcast that was sold by WWE.  During its peak, SD! commanded upwards of $25,000 per 30-second spot, which means the Fed was making over $1 million per week in ad revenue, versus its $300,000 pay-out to UPN (a gain of over $700,000 per week).
    Under the new agreement, UPN pays WWE a weekly licensing fee of about $500,000 (which, quite possibly, could fluctuate based on ratings performance, though the entertainment wire item does not explicitly say so), but retains ALL ad time for itself.  Given that ad revenues have almost certainly dipped since SD!'s peak performances, the all-profit half-million dollar pay-off per week is likely equal to or greater than revenues WWE was able to achieve from selling advertising itself while still paying $300,000 per week for the timeslot.  On UPN's side, as long as they can clear over $800,000 per week in ad sales, they're also gaining in the deal (since they'd then be surpassing the $300,000 in gains they had every week under the previous agreement); and even with reduced ratings and ad rates, the probability is that UPN can easily accomplish this since -- by virtue of being sold, en masse, as part of the massive Viacom media network -- each spot sold by UPN will command a higher price than WWE did.
    Wow.  A business deal where it looks like both sides stand to gain, and in which the consumers (us) also gets exactly what they want.  Impressive.
  • This is from last night's SD Tapings, but it is not a spoiler: Billy Kidman injured his arm or shoulder during his match, and is due to be evaluated by a specialist today.  Though Kidman finished his match as scheduled, I guess there was concern backstage after a Kidman got a once-over.
  • Some early-rising OO Readers wrote in to mention that Howard Stern was at it again, playing up the as-yet-unscheduled Battle of the Bands between his Losers and Chris Jericho's Fozzy.  Stern was apparently quite hilarious this morning, and had a good heel rap going.  He feigned not even knowing who Chris Jericho was, saying that only the really big wrestling stars like Rock and Austin would ever be on his show, and then ragged on Fozzy for playing so many covers (even though his own band does the same thing).
    Though Stern has issued the challenge and Jericho has accepted, I don't think they've set a date or venue, though you'd have to think this would be a good thing to do leading into WM week, right?
  • I can't believe it, but I've actually got people e-mailing me, asking about the Girls Gone Wild PPV tomorrow... mostly, they want to know for sure if Torrie, Nidia, or Stacy are really going to be naked on it.  Like I'm in on those meetings, people...  [Note to WWE: I'd love to be in on those meetings.]
    I don't know what to tell you.  I mean, obviously, there will be a ton of nudity on the PPV.  Just as obviously, Torrie Wilson does not have a problem taking her clothes off for money.  You could do the math and probably come up with the answer you want.  Myself, I tend to be more pragmatic:  WWE knows that the tits and asses it has under contract are worth a lot of money, and I suspect that they will only dole them out to a salivating public  in a company-controlled environment where they stand to get a sizeable cut of the action.  Which, to my understanding, is not part of the parameters of this deal tomorrow night.
    So: if you buy the GGW PPV tomorrow, do it because its fun to watch a roomful of random girls taking turns removing their tops while some of your favorite divas stand around looking hot (but probably not naked).  And if it turns out I'm wrong, hey, you get a really nice surprise.
  • And finally today, a quick look at an entirely different PPV animal... better or worse, I cannot say.  Just different.
    Tonight's NWA-TNA PPV will be headlined by Raven vs. AJ Styles in a match to determine a #1 contender to Jeff Jarrett's NWA Title.  Both guys have been chasing Jarrett for a while, now... Styles actually had a shot at Jarrett a few weeks back, while Raven has been sidetracked by winning a feud against his old foe, the Sandman.  It could be really good stuff tonight.  For some reason, I find myself thinking that going for the perfect mix of gargabe-y brawling and real wrestling that we saw during Raven's feud with DDP could be a really cool way to go...
    Also tonight:  Kid Kash defends the X Title against Amazing Red and Johnny Storm...  Vince Russo's XXX faces America's Most Wanted in a match to fill the vacant NWA tag titles...  Jerry Lynn will have a Mystery Partner against Two Mystery Luchadors supplied by Konnan... and the Harris Twins take on ECW alums Sandman and Steve Corino.
    Though Russo's SEX faction seems to be retreating a bit, you never know what might be in store there.  Also, Jarrett should be around, whether to involve himself in the #1 contenders match or with Russo... and with the way TNA seems to be carting out surprise guests every week, the retarded old cliche ("expect the unexpected") might actually fit, too.
    Check out TNA tonight, or come on back tomorrow for Damian Gonzalez's PPV Recap.
  • Tomorrow's site update may be a bit late, since I think I'm attending the first session of tomorrow's A-10 tourney games... so even if it gets up on 5 and there's no new stuff, don't get antsy.  I promise, at the very least, that I'll make sure the TNA recap and Jeb's Designated Replacement Column are posted before I then get sidetracked by my evening activities.
    Friday should be business as usual...  see you with a new column 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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