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Lesnar, Angle, Goldberg, Nash, and
Other Post-WM Fall-out...
March 31, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


You could say a lot of things about last night's WrestleMania.  And one of them would be that it's given us a lot to talk about today, so we should probably eschew the chit-chat and get right to it:
  • Brock Lesnar was hospitalized last night following brutal looking bump on an attempted Shooting Star Press.  For those that didn't see it, he under-rotated when trying to make enough distance to hit Kurt Angle, who was lying two-thirds of the way across the ring.  Lesnar wound up coming down with all 300 pounds of force on his forehead and face.
    To the untrained eye after the match, Lesnar seemed to be suffering from some "rug burn" and swollenness in the face, and was also visibly disoriented and bleeding from the nose.  This morning, the word is that Lesnar suffered a concussion; and given the way the bump looked, it's a fair guess that many are happy that seems to be the only malady Lesnar walked away with last night.  At present, the only other problem Lesnar's coping with is flat-out disappointment that his first WrestleMania match didn't finish on as grand a note as planned, and I think he'll get over that; they covered it well, and frankly, the move in question was so spectacular that not even Billy Kidman hits it clean every time...
    OO's Man in Seattle, Rob Stevens, reports that the very second the PPV went off the air, WWE officials and medics hit the ring to tend to Lensar.  Lesnar continued to look dazed, and also nauseous, while they spent about 10-15 minutes checking him out.  They had a stretcher/back board ready for Lesnar, but Lesnar opted to leave the ring under his own power, albeit in a a protective cocoon of about 15 officials within about a 6 foot radius around him.  A few times, Lesnar was prompted to hold up the belt in a celebratory fashion, which he did, and eventually he made it backstage.
    Despite the attempt to keep up appearances with the post-match mutual respect angle and later raising the belt on the way out, just about every fan in the building apparently knew something had gone pretty wrong.  The SD! crew has a day off today before TV tapings tomorrow, so from here, we'll probably get a more detailed re-assessment of where the health status of the new WWE Champ lies.
    For now, I'm just happy that it sounds like my off-hand (and perhaps in bad taste) quip last night -- along the lines of "Ouch, I wonder which of these two needs a year off for neck surgery NOW?" -- will end up being as off-base as it was off-the-cuff.  Lesnar should count his recovery time in weeks.  Not months.
  • And while we're on the subject: WWE.com is reporting that Kurt Angle is also looking to cut his recovery time down to just a matter of weeks.  A procedure suggested by a neurosurgeon in Angle's hometown of Pittsburgh read a newspaper interview with Angle two weeks ago -- one in which Angle lamented the fact that he was facing a year of inactivity and rehab following spinal fusion surgery -- and reached out to Angle to suggest an alternative operation that would restructure the spine without fusing and vertebrae.
    The upshot of the new procedure: Angle could return to action just 4-6 weeks later, as healthy as ever before, and reportedly with LESS risk of future neck problems.  If it sounds too good to be true to you, well, you're not alone.  Angle was a bit suspicious of a replacement procedure that flies in the face of what he'd been hearing from the very accomplished Dr. Youngblood (who worked on Steve Austin 3 years ago and has since had a steady stream of WWE workers come to him for spinal fusion surgery), but received a full endorsement from Scott Hall, who had this doctor perform this operation on him some time ago.
    The piece on WWE.com was not clear on whether Angle had officially opted for this alternative procedure yet or not, but the tone of some comments from Angle himself made it sound like he was leaning that way.  He was quoted as saying he wanted to not only do the best thing for him, but also the best thing for the company: and to him, that might mean taking a flyer on an alternative surgery so that he can return to the SD! roster sooner rather than later.
    If he ends up going that route, his decision to postpone surgery long enough to compete at WrestleMania -- and to conduct that fateful newspaper interview in Pittsburgh -- could end up being the most fortuitous turn of events to date in Angle's young pro wrestling career...  otherwise, there's a good chance Angle would already be lying at home in a neck brace with six months of complete inactivity ahead of him before he could even resume training.
  • So... we've got Brock looking at -- who knows?  -- maybe a month or so on the shelf.  Now, Angle's situation is looking like a similar time table after he has surgery...  what else have we got going on in the wake of WrestleMania?
    Well, first we've gotta talk about Hulk Hogan: I seriously considered predicting Hogan to lose last night, simply because at this stage of Hogan's career, writing him out for months at a stretch is just as important as putting him over in a big match.  Though Hogan himself sets the goal of making it to WM20 at MSG (likely for a send-off match), he also has no intentions of working anything resembling a steady schedule through till that point.  His back simply will not allow it.
    Some people thought they saw the seeds of Hogan vs. Shane McMahon for this summer being sown last night, or perhaps even a revival for Hogan vs. Piper, but that doesn't seem likely.  Hogan, instead, is talking about a months-long lay-off, and has also listed Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, and Goldberg as the guys he'd most like to work with when he steps back into the ring again.
    [BTW: I'm not even going to give Piper his own bullet point...  as cool as it was to see him come in and stake his own claim to having played a big part in the success of the WrestleMania concept (a babyface is only as good as his foil, and Vince was lucky to have a guy as charismatic as Piper to bounce Hogan off of), I think Piper's pasty-white, doughy appearance speaks for itself as far as the chances of him sticking around for more work goes.  Piper was a one-and-done deal; a quick promo would be about the only additional participation I could see coming from him.]
  • And what of Michaels?  It's clear that they are going the same route as the HBK/HHH feud from last year: let Michaels get his win(s) early, but you must suspect that the active wrestler (Jericho) will go over in the end.  Michaels wants to be a special event wrestler, but at this point, has given up on trying to convince fans that every match is his last.  Rather, he's basically on an open-ended deal to wrestle about every other month.
    With the brands soon splitting to alternating PPVs, this might fit Michaels schedule perfectly: he'll be able to work most major events without skipping many "off-month" PPVs.  The feud with Jericho should have enough legs to last through till early summer, at that pace... and then, well, not to sound like a broken record, but Kevin Nash is coming back, and whether it's to feud with Michaels or to team with him, he'll be in the mix.
  • Steve Austin might be starting to consider something similar to the Michaels schedule...  there is no concrete word on how they'd implement it, but the indications are that Austin's 38 year-old body wouldn't hold up under the rigors of a normal schedule.
    Certainly, Austin made a few cryptic comments over the past two weeks of WM hype -- about this possibly being the last WM for Stone Cold and the Rock -- which I tried to interpret as simply trying to sell the PPV.  But which also play into rumors about a lightened schedule for the Rattlesnake.  Also of note is that Austin has publicly said he's only got about 6-7 more months on his current WWE contract and that he doesn't know what he's doing after that.
  • Then there's the Rock.  He's sticking around for at least one more PPV.  Why did he exercise the "option" for an extra show on this latest WWE run?  Because, he'll be facing one of the two guys who are coming the other way in the wake of WM... one of the guys who is starting up with the company, instead of leaving or working a reduced schedule...
    The Rock will likely be feuding with Goldberg.
  • As the Backlash promos during last night's show indicated, Bill Goldberg has signed with WWE and will be active no later than April's Backlash PPV.
    In fact, Goldberg has told people to look for him on tonight's RAW as he kicks off his WWE career.  Everybody suspects that Goldberg/Rock is the first program we'll see, and since that was an original plan for WM19, and since Rock was integral to convincing Goldberg to sign up, I see no reason why they'd go an alternate route.
    It's a perfect scenario, because the Rock is a huge first victim for Goldberg, but one who is also expendable.  Rocky's going back to Hollywood this summer, so he can do the job for Goldberg and help establish the new guy.  What Goldberg does from there on out, though, will be a function of the marketing machine behind him:  do they re-do the Winning Streak and the Strong-but-Silent vibe, with an early World Title win?  Or do they go a more traditional route, and try to coax promos and the occasional loss out of Goldberg? 
    I really don't know what the answer is... I'm just hoping that Goldberg shows up ready to perform at a level commensurate with the hype and the creative direction assembled for him.
  • Kevin Nash is the other guy slated to return to the company.  Like Goldberg, there is a very good chance he could appear on TV starting tonight.
    A few reader reports indicate that Nash was present for WM festivities this weekend, and also note that his hair was all black, dyed from the natural gray and a deviation from his more traditional recent blonde dye-job.  So of course, everybody thinks that this means Diesel is back.
    I'm not so sure I'd jump to that conclusion: I mean, once a guy ditches a one-dimensional gimmick name and becomes an even bigger star under his real name, you can't just slap the old label back on.  The genie is out of the bottle.  I'm not saying it can't be done, but what I am saying is that what's important here is not the "Diesel" name... it's bringing back the things that made "Diesel" a break-out character.  Call him whatever you want -- my personal vote would probably go to "Big Daddy Cool" Kevin Nash, a nice melding of the old and the new -- but the key will be re-creating the ass-kicking vibe Nash had back in '94.  Things like hair color and entrance music are cursory issues, but could help signal to fans the new (old) direction, too...
    Obviously, Nash's best use would be in storylines involving either Triple H or Shawn Michaels, his old Clique buddies.  My own personal thoughts have not changed in the last three months: I think Nash should come in as Chris Jericho's new bodyguard.  Not only does it play into Jericho's promo last week about doing everything he can to emulate Michaels, but it also goes a long way to re-establishing the original "Diesel" vibe.  Plus, it's exactly the sort of thing Jericho should do to turn things in his favor after losing last night at WM19.  It really is perfect.  Even if this ISN'T what they do, I'm a damned genius for thinking of it of championing the idea since back in December!
  • As for the rest of RAW...  most of the show will be a reset, with the highlights probably coming from things like Goldberg and Nash's debut and comeback, respectively, and the way they shift things into new directions.
    We'll just let those guys show up (or not show up, who knows?) and worry about analyzing their impact afterwards...
    I'd say that Triple H/Booker T could probably stand to go around one more time.  Yeah, HHH won clean last night with a Pedigree, but Booker holds two previous pinfalls over HHH, so... eh, who am I kidding?  If the fans didn't believe Booker could be HHH last night at Mania, why would they buy it in a rematch?  It's frightening to say, but we might just be in a holding pattern until a viable babyface like Goldberg is ready to take the title from HHH...  at best, Booker will be a sacrificial, place-holding lamb next PPV, then.
    The only other option that strikes me is that Steve Austin could step up to challenge for the belt... but as outlined above, no one is sure about his schedule.  Regardless, Austin is about the only guy who could go from a PPV loss one night to challenging for the title the next.
    The tag title situation is still just about where it was last week: Morley and Storm are the champs, and they're just barely keeping the Dudley Boyz leashed in.  That's gotta explode sometime... and the women's division should be set for a Trish/Jazz feud that'll carry us through until Lita's ready to comeback in a month or two.
    Other than that, hell, it's the post-WM RAW, the start of a whole new booking year.  Who knows what we'll see?  Tune in and find out, or come on back to OO tomorrow for full results.
  • You know what? We oughta get back to that earlier topic... about performers who will be scaled back after WM.  Because in my haste to make the nice segue from the Rock to Goldberg, I forgot to mention at least two.
    First is the Undertaker, who is slated for early April elbow surgery.  Under a best case scenario, they'll just go in and clean out some bone chips and stuff, and Taker would be back about a month later.  If damage is found to be more severe once they get in there, a more involved procedure could leave Taker sidelined for several months.
    While on one hand it's too bad that something like this comes up right as Taker is looking sharper in the ring than any time in recent memory, the idea is that he'll come back even healthier and in better shape to keep up with the young pups running in his yard.
  • And also from the SD! side of things:  Paul Heyman was conspicuous by his absence last night at WM19... though it sounded like Stephanie McMahon's edict eliminated him from participating in the Lesnar/Angle main event, you would have thought that he'd still make an appearance with Team Angle.
    Instead, the slight de-emphasis on Heyman in recent weeks became and outright absence of him.  Heyman, who already has seen his creative role in the company redefined into a nebulous "consultant" position (rather than the head writer for SD!), apparently asked to be written out of his on-screen role entirely.
    It's actually kind of a crafty play: Heyman, despite being a dissenting voice, creatively, has avoided any major political blow-ups that would threaten his overall employment (even though they might have been enough to threaten his authority as head of SD!, hey, he's still got a job, right?)... and now, by willingly pulling himself off TV, fans will remember the ultra-successful, easily-despised loudmouth who simultaneously managed the WWE Champ and the tag champs, and not some pitiable schmuck left with nothing better to do than to try to convince us that Big Show and A-Train are worth booing.
    Heyman, in other words, picked the perfect spot to go out.  And when the Fed comes sniffing around, wondering if he'll come back (either to a more prominent creative position or to his on-air job), he'll be positioned to make the maximum impact.
  • Kevin Kelly has left WWE, for the proverbial "pursuit of other opportunities."  I have no idea what precipitated his departure, or if Kelly continues to have aspirations in the wrestling business or not.  [He had, it should be noted, cut his teeth as a heel manager-type -- and one who improved massively to the point where he was really good -- in an east coast indie fed earlier in his WWF tenure.]
    The biggest casualty in this move will probably be Byte This.  Already of spurious value as a genuinely "smart" show for wrestling fans, my guess is the program will fall in even tighter with the WWE party line.  Bleh.
  • A couple of links for those of you who are interested in some other wrestling-oriented reading...
    First is a fun little Q&A thing with the Big Show conducted by the Phoenix Suns website.  Talks a lot about Show's past as a dominant high school basketball player before becoming a not-so-dominant college player, as well as his unique story about breaking into the business.  Check it out here.
    And this other one is not so fun.  It's a piece about the prevalence of early deaths that seems to exist among the pro wrestling fraternity, with a bit of a focus on Curt Hennig.  It never fails to annoy me that these articles invariably seem to take on a tone that suggests someone other than the actual individual is responsible for the individual's actions, but this writer (for the LA Times) actually seems to have done the homework that guys like Phil Mushnick never seem to bother with, and also presents the alternative take (including an article-closing quote from Ted DiBiase, who says that Vince McMahon and the wrestling industry aren't responsible for this behavior, that it is self-induced) so that readers have a chance to decide for themselves what's going on here.  It is the best article of its type that I've read recently, and is available for your enjoyment right here.
  • Um, since this'll probably be the last chance I'll have to plug it for another 51 weeks or so, you should check out the OO Road to WrestleMania feature now before it goes away.
    All the stats (including the downloadable spreadsheet) have been updated on the Winners/Losers page, and there's at least a dozen or so new bullet items on the trivia page for this year.  But mostly, I'm very proud of myself for actually doing a nice on-the-fly job of making the distinction between "WWF" and "WWE."  Hey, WWE is the company's name now, and I have to accept that.  But the company was called something different for every WM previous to this one, and I'm not going to let some panda-hugging tree-lovers make me forget it.  I think I accurately included the "WWF" initials the multiple times there were used in a purely historical context.
    Here's the OO Road to WrestleMania.

  • That's it for me... it's Opening Day, baby, and I gots me some ball to watch!  I can finally leave my Flyer Pain behind and focus on something fresh... oh, wait.  I'm a Reds fan.  There's probably more pain ahead.  Thank goodness I can always pull the October Switch and default to my second most favorite team, the Yankees, when it counts!
    I'll see you again on Wednesday with spoilers and all the latest updates to the stories -- regarding Lesnar, Angle, and others -- that we started on today.



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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