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Hardys Halved, RAW is Strong, WCW
Represents in Atlanta, TE4?, and More...
April 23, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


I only have so much wit and insight to spare in a given week... so after expending some of it doing the RAW Recap yesterday, I'm looking to be well over-budget this week.  So I better just cut the crap here at the top, and get started on the news:
  • We'll start in the "Frankly I'm Surprised This Didn't Happen Sooner" file...
    Jeff Hardy has been released from WWE.  The official word from the Fed says that they "severed the relationship," which is the first time I can think of for that particular turning of a phrase.  We've had mutual partings of the way in the cases of friendly departures, and they've never been shy about saying they've outright released somebody, either... in any case, Jeff is gone, and the Fed did wish him the best in his future endeavors in the official statement.
    Going back at least to late 2001, Jeff's interest in wrestling has been waning.  That, at least, was the first time he (along with brother Matt, in that case) was given time off to "recharge the batteries," or whatever other euphamism you want to use.
    Despite a 2002 that included his first serious foray into singles competition and a big time push that included wrestling for five different titles in five consecutive weeks on RAW (including a World Title ladder match against Undertaker), Jeff still was increasingly distracted by things other than wrestling.
    And while know-it-all online smarks will enjoy jesting that self-medication might have been one of Jeff's hobbies that kept drawing his attention, they won't be speaking with any firsthand knowledge on that front.  It's enough to say that Jeff is a creative person, and that he has dabbled in anything and everything from arts and crafts (and minor construction projects) to poetry to music.  For a guy who has also said he thrives on new and exciting experiences, it only stands to reason that pursuits like those would be more interesting than pro wrestling, a universe in which he has practically done all there is to do.
    No, Jeff never really broke out as a huge singles star or headlined WrestleMania as a World Champion... but he's done enough that those things would be only incremental additions to an already-impressive resume.  At least, to him; other people (his own brother included) have more of a thirst to succeed in this specific industry.  But while maybe Jeff was never the Best in pro wrestling, he did make it into the top couple percentile, which is pretty good.  Good enough to say, "I did it, and now on to the next thing."
    It was that waning interest in wrestling that left Jeff to accrue a less-than-sparkling record of reliability in 2002.  More "battery charging" was done, but it wasn't really a case of curable burn-out.  Though signs started to point towards chronic disenchantment, Jeff and the Fed tried to keep things on track by working out a new schedule in the last 4 months or so:  Jeff was expected at all RAW and PPV events, but only worked house shows on every other weekend.
    Jeff publicly talked about the arrangement, and how very few other wrestlers would accept such a deal, because he basically agreed to get paid only half as much money by working that schedule.  But he liked the freedom to take those off weekends to spend time with friends and pursue his other interests, and could afford to do it because he had money saved up.
    Even with the new deal, Jeff still had problems with being on time and showing up focused at 100%...  the Fed had tried everything to keep Jeff in the fold, as they definitely viewed him as a marketable performer.  And while Jeff may never have stepped right up to Vince McMahon and said, "Hey, fire me!" the fact is that his actions spoke for him.  So even though I don't have a clue how the final meeting/negotiation went down, I'm pretty sure that both parties are probably alright with being cut off from the other.  In an unspoken, philosophical sort of way, you could definitely call it a mutual parting.
    While Jeff was viewed as a marketable wrestler, and deservedly so, he's also exactly the kind of guy who winds up not really being missed.  Except maybe by the adolescent girl demographic.  Which is a distinct minority in wrestling's overall audience.
    Look, I am not at all proud to say this, but here goes:  the Jeff Hardy I liked, the one I have the fondest memories of, is the one who did crazy shit and stole a majority of PPVs between 1999 and 2001.  At that point, yeah, maybe he was still focused on wrestling, and that helps.  But the truth is, at that point, nobody was stopping to ask Jeff to have a personality, or to develop a persona, either.  We were just asking him to keep jumping off of high places.  And he did it, and with a flair, too.
    And then, when they did start asking him to take it to the next level, to be accepted as a viable top level star by the WHOLE audience, instead of just as a PPV-stealing daredevil... well, that's when I kind of said, "Eh."  Makes me feel bad that I like the guy when he's trying to kill himself, but when he tries to move up the card, I turn him into little more than a weekly punchline to jokes about missing spots, outlandish wardrobe choices, and having a fanbase limited to 13-year-old girls.  Like I said, I'm really kind of upset when I look back and see that trend, because, hey, I STILL liked Mick Foley, even after he stopped being insane and started playing with socks and being pissed at the company that made him!
    So I'm left to try to rationalize my poor behavior away; it's actually easy.  I just tell myself that when they started trying to push Jeff as a singles star, he had lost his interest.  Thus, he wasn't putting in a real effort to create a worthwhile on-screen persona, and it's because he wasn't trying very hard that I never made the connection with the 2002-3 version of Jeff Hardy.  Under this paradigm, I liked the earlier Jeff because his head was still in the game... and I could have kept on liking him if he'd kept it that way.  Yeah, that's what I'll tell myself.
    Not, I'm sure, that Jeff particularly cares.  Like I said, he's got money -- he worked for 4 really profitable years, often near the top of the card, and took home countless bonuses for show-stealing and career-shortening TLC matches and the like.  And if the guy could barely keep an interest in being an integral cog in the wrestling business' top company, I doubt he's expending much energy worrying about what fans on the fringes of the business think about him.  He's too busy.  He's got stuff he wants to do.  He'll be alright.  I hope.
    And hey, for all you teenage girls who flock to hear The Rick's every word, don't worry:  Jeff may yet come back.  Let's face it: Jeff was good at wrestling.  He'll have a go at all these other things, but if he never cracks the top percentile in any of 'em, well, that savings account won't hold up forever.  And Jeff'll know there's always a paycheck for him in wrestling.  Of course, by that time, the teenage girls of today will be the nubile co-eds of tomorrow, and they'll have grown out of fixations on body-paint-wearing creative-types.  Tick tock, tick tock. 
    OK, that was the last Jeff-Hardy-wears-weird-stuff-and-has-limited-appeal joke for me.  Ever.  Probably.  Not.
    Seriously, though, thanks to Jeff Hardy for the good times, and here's to him making some more good times for himself now that the ones in the wrestling business have gone away...
  • I was pretty much digging RAW on Monday... at least till the final couple minutes.  They did all the build-up right, made the match seems special, and then... no finish at all?
    OK, so you can do the non-finish, I reason, if there's some kind of major storyline development to close the show, instead. And we get...  Kevin Nash is still friends with Shawn Michaels, but not with Triple H.  So you mean that the six-man PPV match that we'd already been promised is going to actually happened as scheduled.  WHAT A SHOCKING TURN OF EVENTS.  TRULY, ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN HERE IN THE WWE!!!
    But perhaps I overstate my shock and awe.
    Look, with an extra day or so of perspective, I've maybe softened a bit.  I actually do see what the Fed was going for... it's just that only having Nash around for 3 weeks, and really only playing with the issue of his dual Clique allegiances for 2 of them did not provide anywhere near enough time to build up a deep story.  Nash ending RAW at HBK's side is simply an affirmation of a pre-existing state of affairs.  There wasn't time to give us any reason to believe HHH could actually sway Nash or that Nash could bring HHH and Michaels together.  Not even close.  So the storyline-centric finish to RAW wound up being just a big a nothing as the finish to the main event wrestling match.
    One of those two should have paid off.  And I'm not even saying you "had" to pay off the main event by having Booker go over...  because even a  frustratingly cheap and illegal win for HHH would have been massively preferable to the no decision.  In that scenario, we still walk away remembering that, "Dammit, Booker had him BEAT."  As it went down on Monday, most fans will only remember, "Booker Who?  Oh, yeah, I think he was in that match before all the Clique stuff started to happen."  So nothing was accomplished by the who mess:  Booker's sort of a forgotten man in the scenario, HHH isn't any bigger a heel, and as mentioned above, the Clique stuff was merely a re-affirmation of what we'd already been told.
    I hope I've spelled that out in a way that makes sense, so I don't just come off as one of these jerk-off internet types who have learned the terms "schmozz" or "non-finish" or "screwjob," and use them only when discussing how they are entitled, in every match, to NOT have to endure them, ever.  I've said many times in the past that there are plenty of right times for various screwy endings; this RAW, however, was either not the time.  Or it was not the right screwy ending.  Simply put, nothing of interest or import was accomplished in either the match or the post-match angle.
    But like I said, I liked the rest of the show.  For instance, just to prove my point from the immediately-above paragraph:  the Dudleys vs. Trish/Spike match was as decisively non-decisive a non-finish as you will ever see.  But IT WORKED.  It told a story with the Dudleys, which flowed directly into TWO run-ins that built heat towards 2 upcoming PPV matches.  No finish (hell, not even a match), but something was accomplished.  I can endure and even APPLAUD screwjobs, see!
    I'll leave you to check out very own RAW Recap if you want more of the details of what took place on the show, as well as my opinions.  I'll leave it up to you to decide if I did a good or bad job in a straight recapper role...  since I felt like the best parts were when I was making fun of the French, I'm not so sure I was exactly focused on the wrestling the way I should have been, though...
  • The mostly-tremendous RAW also did well in the ratings... the show gained nearly a half-point over last week, garnering a 3.8 cable rating.
    To me, it seems like the Fed massively hyped Rock Concert II and Booker/HHH, so one of those two things is probably responsible.  I know which one I want it to be, but I think I'm probably wrong.  I guess it might also be possible that it's just a case of word of mouth about Goldberg and/or Nash finally getting around, too...  we'll see how things hold up next week.
  • Got some e-mails from folks live at RAW in Atlanta Monday...  some interesting tidbits came from them.
    First, the Phillips Arena was really close to sold out, which has got to be heartening for the Fed.  It's been a while since a venue of that size (outside of a few stronghold markets) has been close to capacity for a RAW taping.
    And second -- without spoiling anything for those of you who, for some demented reason, are anxiously awaiting the shocking developments of this week's International Heat -- the Fed loaded up the pre-RAW matches with a number of old WCW performers.  An homage to the old group in their former backyard, I guess.  Among those who worked matches:  Ernest Miller, Mark Jindrak, and get this, Norman Smiley!
  • We talked over a month ago about how the chances of Tough Enough 4 taking place were very slim...  now, it looks like that early buzz -- supported by conjecture from Ivory -- will be borne out:  some eagle-eyed OO readers have wrote in to say that WWE has eliminated Tough Enough content from their website.
    If TE were to boot and rally -- make a call for applicants in an attempt to get another season together by fall -- you'd think they'd want to leave the material up...  but this looks like the final nail in the coffin.  It's not exactly shocking: MTV's major goal is to be hip and culturally relevant.  WWE is no longer the fad it was when MTV went into business with them.  So Heat said bye-bye a couple weeks back.  And now, Tough Enough looks like it's not getting renewed.
    TE, like Heat, had seen its ratings decline over the course of its MTV run.  TE3 was down about a 30% from TE2... and while that still left the show as a reasonably solid performer, probably as good as most other things MTV could run on Thursdays at 10pm, it combined with the aforementioned "no longer cool" factor to spell the end for Tough Enough.  Also, what with WWE getting a generous cut of profits and all, MTV could also put a slightly lower-rated (but hipper) program on in that slot and still make more money out of it than it did out of TE.
    Man, you don't know how much I'd like to tout this as the beginning of the end for Reality TV... but I've seen the commercials for that new thing on FOX where a bunch of guys wear wrestling masks and try to seduce girls, or something.  What the fuck?  And I think it's doing really good ratings...
  • A couple of neck injury updates that I didn't cover very well when I did them last week...
    First: Scotty 2 Hotty was on Byte This, and basically said he's doing really well, right on schedule.  That means he should be back in the ring in about two months.  Same time table as Lita, I guess. 
    And second:  Bob Holly wants to be on a similar time table, too.  Although the original prognosis was that he'd be out for a year after surgery last fall, an interview with Holly on WWE.com indicates Bob feels really good right now and wants to knock at least a few months off the prescribed lay-off.
    Good luck to both guys as they continue to work towards in-ring returns...
  • I caught Goldberg on Jimmy Kimmel's show last night... they talked briefly about current events and his PPV match against the Rock, but mostly joked around about stuff like Goldberg's status as the only Jewish wrestler (well, the most famous one, anyway).
    Also, Goldberg was forced to pillow fight Jimmy's cousin, just like Stone Cold was.  Unlike Stone Cold, Goldberg had to resort to cheap tricks (ripping off the guy's shirt and trying to steal his pillow) to get the upper hand...  then again, he did take a potshot at another guest, some whack-job who thinks he's Peter Pan, so that was pretty cool.
  • Chris Jericho and Fozzy have got a trio of live shows this week, including a show tomorrow night in Worcester, MA, as they try to make sure interest is building for the Backlash PPV (which is in Worcester on Sunday).
    Other shows are in W. Springfield, VA (Wednesday), and Brooklyn, NY (Friday)... tickets for these two shows are available through TicketMaster.com, and the Thursday show's tickets are at Tickets.com.
    Everybody who's ever written in to me after seeing a Fozzy show has always sounded like they had a blast, so check them out if you can.
  • Actually, NYC fans have a choice to make on Friday... Fozzy, or Kaiju.  Both events doors open just before 8pm, both will run you about $20 for a ticket, and both should be fun...  it's a pick 'em...
    I mentioned it on Monday, and just to reinforce as we head to the weekend:  Kaiju, the cool melding of Japanese monster movies and pro wrestling, is doing a huge show at the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC on Friday night.  There's a meet and greet and live music before the Battels (five of 'em, I think) start at 10pm.  The Kaiju website not only has details, it is also a damned entertaining place to kill a half hour or so.
  • Lastly, a quick mention of the expected highlights of tonight's NWA-TNA card...  Jerry Lynn faces Amazing Red for the X Division Title.  That alone has plenty of promise to be an outstanding match, but there's also some story here, as Lynn and Red are also tag partners who will get a shot at the NWA titles in the next week or two, so who knows how that might affect this match, or how this match might affect their partnership?
    Also tonight:  Raven and Jeff Jarrett will both be present, and they've got just one more week until their PPV showdown for the NWA Title, so there could be fireworks...  Chris Harris and James Storm get back together to face XXX for the Tag Titles...  and Sandman/New Jack will take on Brian Lee/Slash in what should be a crazy brawl.
    Check out the show or come on back here tomorrow for Damian Gonzalez's PPV recap!
  • That's it for me... see you Friday with a look at the Backlash PPV card, and maybe some other newsbites, too.


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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