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RAW, Ratings, Austin's Status, WWE
Survey-Mania, a Little TNA, and More...
April 30, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Added Thursday, May 2, 2003 / 2:00pm

There is very little new to report about the unfortunate passing of Miss Elizabeth...  however, Atlanta media outlets are saying that preliminary autopsy results could be released today or over the weekend.  So go ahead and frequent your favorite "breaking news" wrestling website of choice to follow the story while I'm outta town.

Also: it has been confirmed that Larry "Lex Luger" Pfohl's arrest yesterday on controlled substance charges were related to his possession of some form of steroid or growth hormone or something along those lines.  He is free after posting a $25,000 bond.

I'll have a full update on the situation on Monday.

Added Thursday, May 1, 2003 / 7:00pm

In addition to the details listed below, WBS-TV in Atlanta is reporting that Larry Pfohl (Lex Luger to us) had been free on bail following an arrest for beating on his girlfriend, Elizabeth Huelette (Miss Elizabeth to us), on Easter Sunday.  This afternoon he was arrested again after police found a controlled substance in his home.  

It was not immediately clear if the substance was something that might have played a part in Elizabeth's death, or if it was perhaps just a remnant of Luger's "training regimen."

The WBS website confirms that Elizabeth was 42.

Any other details that emerge before tomorrow afternoon will be added here.  Also, I'll have an additional column covering some of my favorite Lovely Miss Elizabeth memories up on Friday...

Added Thursday, May 1, 2003 / 3:00pm

Elizabeth Huelette -- known to wrestling fans as The Lovely Miss Elizabeth -- died this morning after being rushed to an Atlanta-area hospital.  A 911 call was placed around 5:30 this morning, and medics rushed to Lex Luger's home (Liz and Luger -- real name Larry Pfohl -- had been cohabitating for years).  Elizabeth was pronounced dead at the hospital an hour or so later.

Little is known about the circumstances or cause of death at this time, though Atlanta media outlets are offering up plenty of conjecture.  One radio station is reporting that police had responded to a domestic disturbance at Luger's residence less than two weeks ago, and that Luger himself was detained for questioning this morning.  Luger has since been released from what I assume would be a by-the-book, standard-procedure-under-any-circumstances interview, and any other conjecture along those lines would be beyond inappropriate at this time.

The only information authorities have been willing to release so far has been the complete LACK of information they can confirm.  One officer told Atlanta's WSB-TV that they did not even know yet if they were dealing with suicide, homicide, or death by natural causes.

I believe Elizabeth would have been 41 or 42 years old; far too young, in any case.  Condolences to her many friends, family, and fans.

Additional updates will either be posted in this space before I leave town for the weekend, or will be included in Monday's full-length OO along with a more fitting, in-depth tribute to Miss Elizabeth.

If you want the full SmackDown! spoilers, you can find them right here...  but at the top, I don't think I'm ruining much if I gloat that I will NOT be eating any bugs.  More than a few of you mailed in ready to call my bluff if Luger actually showed up as "Mr. America".  But you ought not to have doubted The Rick.  Sometimes he actually knows what he's talking about:

  • I was a big fan of Monday's RAW...  right from the get-go, they set a super tone.  Debuting Chris Jericho as the host of "The Hi-Lite Reel," didn't just boost my confidence that the Fed is finally serious about making full use of Jericho's abilities on a week-in, week-out basis.  It also served to lay the foundation for what I suspect will be a slow-burn, drawn-out, big money feud between Jericho and Goldberg.
    I said on Monday I thought it could work, and that Jericho/Goldberg should come after Goldberg builds himself up against a few lesser opponents...  and today, it looks like that's almost precisely how they're going about it.  Starting with the verbal sparring between Jericho and Goldberg, they did a brilliant job of bringing back just enough of the past to tell a story that we can all buy into.  But they didn't delve into too much "smart" nonsense that would only have muddled the issue.
    They brought up the Feud That Never Happened, and it works because Jericho was actually ON TV back in '98, calling out Goldberg for a few weeks.  The context for why that matters now has changed (smarts believe that Jericho left WCW because higher-ups wouldn't allow feuds like one with Goldberg), but the fact is, that was a real on-air issue at one time.  A lot of today's fans remember seeing it.  They could drag out the footage if they wanted.  They left out the overblown backstage altercation from two weeks ago because that only matters to some miniscule percentage of the hyper-aware smarks who put what they read in newsletters on the same level as what they see on TV in terms of soap opera value.
    But while the Goldberg/Jericho stuff was all well and good, it was mostly subtle background stuff, setting up what was to follow.  I'd be shocked if Jericho/Goldberg happened any sooner than SummerSlam.  But what matters now is Goldberg vs. Steven Richards, Goldberg vs. Three Minute Warning, and Goldberg vs. Christian.
    It's an ideal set-up.  Richards can be the first patsy, just an appetizer, really.  Then a series of matches against the Three Minute warning guys accomplishes two things:  (1) those matches have a bit more drama because of the possibility of outside interference, and (2) because 3MW are so huge, Goldberg looks like an ultra-bad-ass if he can hit his power moves on them. Finally, you can use Christian as Goldberg's PPV opponent in May; Christian gets his one month to see if he can carry the ball that the Rock handed him, and I think he's got the mic skills to make fans really want to see him get his ass kicked by Goldberg.
    You can get a new slate of underneath guys for June, and then maybe use Nowinski as the carrot at the end of the stick for that PPV (the first RAW-only one).  The trick will be to use the heels who've got no heat at all as the cannon fodder, but then using the guys like Christian and Nowinski -- who can incite crowd responses -- as the PPV victims.  It's not that fans will doubt the outcome, it's that they'll be willing to go the extra mile to see that particular heel get throttled by Goldberg (unlike the cannon fodder you feed him on free TV).  That was part of the magic of the original Goldberg streak, and the Fed's got enough guys to use to stretch things out before they gotta throw Jericho to the wolves.  I've already got 'em through the June PPV; then July is a SD!-only PPV... and August is SummerSlam.  There you go...  Goldberg/Jericho waits till SummerSlam, by which time Goldberg could have his streak up to about 35-0 or so (if they're willing to pad him with house show wins that, strictly speaking, may or may not actually take place).  That's long enough to make people think Jericho could end it...
    But I'm getting WAAAYYYY ahead of myself.  What's important to point out about Monday is that Goldberg came off like the mega-superstar he was in 1999.  They booed him at the PPV, and some booed him to start RAW.  But they handled it perfectly, and by the time Goldberg made his last exit, it was 100% cheers.
    He set the stage with the right attitude ("I'm here to earn my stripes") early on.  Fans might not have bought it right away, but it set the tone.  He did some good mic work with Christian, and later with Booker T.  We slowly start migrating back to Goldberg's side, and then BAM! the run-in to save Booker.  The Jackhammer on Jamal would have been enough to make most fans go "Wow."  But then he did the spear through the barrier on Rosey...  game over.  It wasn't anything particularly risky or complicated, but it was, simply put, Highlight Reel material.  Please, no Chris Jericho jokes.  This was discussed in the post-RAW chat: if Goldberg is a long term success in WWE, we'll look back on that spear as the moment he turned the corner. 
    Hands down, Goldberg was your big winner on Monday night.
    Other good stuff: I'll admit it, I was a bit swerved by the final couple segments on RAW.  I thought the pay-off to Bischoff/Trish was gonna be Lita coming in to cost Bischoff the match.  They tried to feed you the Dudley bait, so you knew it wasn't them... and I just thought Lita made sense in terms of someone who could make a surprise appearance to get revenge on Bischoff on one of his slimier, more perverted nights.
    Of course, once Bischoff won and Linda McMahon showed up, I put two and two together pretty quickly... and sure enough Austin comes out as Bischoff's new co-GM.  Now, I know "power struggle" gimmicks sometimes don't work out so well in practice.  But at the very least, Austin's an always-entertaining character, and I think he'll excel in this role more than anyone since Mick Foley.  
    One thought:  Linda and Austin both went out of their ways to emphasize that he co-GM status did not go into effect until "tomorrow morning."  That might just have been a cheap ploy allow Austin to Stunner Bischoff on Monday without any repercussions... but they could also use it as a way to give Bischoff an early advantage over Austin.  What if, after, RAW, Bischoff quickly took some legal action or made some management decision that would hamstring Austin starting next week?  It puts Austin in the position to "chase" the power, which, since he can't chase the Gold, is probably a viable way to tell a story with him...
    Only downside to that:  if they pull some stunt with Bischoff, it could slow down the process of Austin bringing Jim Ross back to work.  Which is not a good thing.
    Another swerve, of sorts, that I liked: when HHH and Flair went for the tag titles, I thought for sure they'd win them.  I had talked on Monday about how it would make sense to get Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash into the tag ranks to spice things up.  I thought for sure a HHH/Flair tag title win would send us along that very route.  Instead, in the end, RVD/Kane retained because Nash scared HHH out of the match.  Looks like the focus here stays singles, and not tag, gold.
    Really, a super show just about all around.  If I were to pick nits, I'd admit that most of the Test/Steiner stuff got FF'ed when I watched my tape.  But again, at least they're trying to actually tell a cogent story, instead of just trying to bounce them from pointless vignette to pointless vignette very week.  And if anyone can trick fans into paying attention to these two, it's probably Stacy.
    Big Danny T. has got your full RAW Recap if you crave additional details.  [And you'll never guess who decided to sit in on the RAW Satire for a week...]

  • Well, apparently it wasn't just me who thought RAW kicked a bit of ass this week.  The ratings were up a tad, too.  RAW did a 3.9 cable rating, which is up a tenth from the previous week.
    Alright, so maybe it's got nothing to do with whether people thought the show was good or not... more than likely, this was just the usual post-PPV "let's see what happened last night" courtesy viewing some fans seem to give RAW.  We'll see if things hold next week...
  • On a recent radio interview, Steve Austin basically said that he considers himself essentially retired from the ring.  He admitted that, after some introspection, it was just as much frustration with his deteriorating health as frustration with creative that led to his melt-down last year.
    He needs additional spinal fusion surgery, but said he will hold off on that as long as possible.  Because once he has that done, it's Curtains for him.  He will not be allowed to wrestle after the second surgery.
    The hope is that, at the least, he'll be able to work a final match at WrestleMania 20 next year.  Under a best case scenario, there could be some other matches (along the lines of a Shawn Michaels' schedule) leading up to WM20.
    In the meantime, they're just going to go full speed with the co-GM thing, which should enable him to use his charisma and appeal with only requiring limited physical activity.  Most of it, I will assume, will be doling out the ass-whuppings, which is probably less strain that taking them.
  • I got more than a few people asking about the new WWE Survey Fetish...  the Fed is polling people at live events, bribing them with free month-old magazines if they'll fill out the forms.  And there is also an online version of the survey on their website.
    The impression I get is that people are really excited that WWE is suddenly taking an interest in our opinions.  I hate to be the guy who bursts that bubble, but..
    Look, first of all, WWE already does care about fan opinion.  They don't have total retards driving the ship.  Even without surveys, they can look at ratings, merchandise sales, live fan responses, stuff like that, and figure out what fans like and don't like.  They make decisions accordingly.
    But now, just because they've put a survey online, fans think it's a chance for us to "stuff the ballot box" and really get things turned around the way we like.  Not gonna happen.
    (A)  The Fed already knows what we think.  Or, to be precise, I have web logs that show that they know what I think.  I may not be the guy you want talking for you, but my point is, if people associated with WWE are checking me out, they're checking out TONS of websites, and not just the biggest dogs in the yard.  Unless, for some reason, they just like me... but enough self-aggrandizement.  Bottom line: somebody out there on the web is probably saying the things you are thinking (let me guess... it's about BENOIT~!?  I'm right?!?  Wow, I'm amazing), and just as likely somebody from WWE is reading.
    (B)  The Fed will know strange things are afoot if they get their survey data back and it reads "79.7% of all fans think Triple H is ruining the product single-handedly and should be fired forever and ever and ever, amen."  They will suspect some form of ballot stuffing by the smarks.  They will discard the data.  The only think that would make them even more suspicious of the veracity of the data is if it came back reading "94.2% of fans think that Ivory is really hot.  Even more so than Torrie Wilson."  But you see, I don't have that kind of free time on my hands.
    (C)  Perhaps most damning: the whole survey idea is pretty stupid, anyway.  I bet I could accurately predict what the data will look like without sampling a single completed survey... because all the Fed is doing is polling current fans.  You can get the current fans' opinions by looking at ratings, listening to who they cheer loudest for, shit like that.  There will be no shocking revelations once the results are in.  Nothing useful can really come out of these surveys, unless the goal is simply to make sure the audience doesn't get any smaller.  Which is setting the bar mighty low.  Now, on the other hand, if they could find a way of reading the 8 Nielsen points worth of ex-fans (probably close to 10 million of 'em, all told) who used to contribute to monstrous combined ratings for RAW and Nitro on Mondays and ask THEM some questions -- "Why the hell aren't you watching wrestling anymore?" would be one just off the top of my head -- you might be doing something constructive.
    But if it makes you feel better to get your opinion in the database, do it.  If it makes you feel better to get it in there a dozen times, knock yourself out.  But don't kid yourself into thinking your changing the world.
  • WWE has had to cancel some international shows due to slow ticket sales.  A May tour featuring the SD! brand has cancelled a show in Belgium; that event was rescheduled for the UK.  A June tour with the RAW stars (culminating in a Euro-only PPV) has tentatively been scaled back to just two shows in the UK following the cancellation of shows in Vienna and Milan.
    So much for overseas being the WWE's cash cow, eh?
  • That was TE3 loser "Jonah" sitting next to Tommy Dreamer in the background of a Trish Stratus backstage bit on RAW Monday.
    His story is that he is training in Massachusetts, and was just hanging around backstage as a guest.  Sorta like Shark Boy a month or so back.  Doesn't mean he's coming in.
    I mean, hell, the TE3 WINNERS haven't even been on TV since that first time, yet...

  • Edge is, flat out, doing some of the entertaining and informative online commentaries that I've seen out of a major star... and he's doing them on WWE.com.  Considering that there are guys who seem to be working you in their own independent website commentaries, it's amazing to me that Edge is coming off as totally honest and candid in his columns, even though they are posted on the company website.
    Or maybe it's just that Edge doesn't feel like he needs to do anything over the top, so he can just strike that quality mix of humor, insight, wrestling current events, and a bit of what he's going through personally, instead of going all Honkey Tonk Man on us.  Plus, he done can write really good; which is a plus he's got over the majority of even the most well-meaning and candid workers who put columns online.  At any rate, this week he talks about Jeff Hardy and some other stuff, so check it out.  
    You might as well book mark the page.  I did.  It's the first decent reason to visit WWE.com semi-regularly since they axed the Ross Report. 

  • We'll close with some TNA talk... because tonight is a night that you should consider for giving TNA a look.  It's the months-in-the-making NWA Title showdown between Jeff Jarrett and Raven.
    Both Jarrett and Raven have been making the rounds, doing radio publicity and stuff like that, which has lent a certain big match atmosphere to tonight's match.  
    Of course, the most interesting things said in those interviews had nothing to do with the title match... for instance, I've heard that Raven spent a good portion of one interview savaging the manhood of head RAW writer Brian Gewirtz, who he suspects might be responsible for his planned "Se7en-inspired" gimmick (enthusiastically approved by Vince McMahon, originally) never taking off.  He also talked about regretting that he didn't give WCW a chance to bid on him after he left ECW the second time, and how he feels Jeff Hardy will eventually show up in TNA once he has had a chance to focus on his music and get over being burnt out on wrestling.
    Hardy was also a key topic of conversation in interviews with Jarrett, who said that he'd be really interested in talking to Jeff about working for TNA.  Coming from Jarrett, who has tons of clout in the company, that's pretty solid indication that the ball's in Jeff's court.
    But for our purposes here today, the spotlight is on the match between these two.  Jarrett has held the NWA Title since beating Ron Killings last year.  Raven showed up in TNA in early 2003, and with his track record, was immediately considered a contender.  This match has been in the works for quite a while; in fact, it's been close to a month since Raven earned the title shot in a #1 contenders match.  Just last week, Raven allied himself with Sandman, New Jack, Justin Credible, and Perry Saturn, creating an army of loyal ECW cast-offs who helped him to brutalize Jarrett to close the show.
    The implication is that Raven will have tons of help available to help him take the title from Jarrett...  but Jeff's a strong babyface down in Tennessee, so you can't count out the fan favorite.  They have ways of prevailing against insurmountable odds in pro wrestling.  As I'm sure you've noticed.
    Should be a really good match if all things click.  Both guys are unique in that they can brawl and wrestle, so they ought to be able to have a nice long match spanning those styles.  I'm looking forward to it.
    Also tonight:  Kid Kash and Amazing Red will battle for the X Division Title in what should be a good match... even better should be a match between X Division contenders Jerry Lynn and Christopher Daniels; that could be off the charts...  there will also be an X Division elimination match with Shark Boy, Jason Cross, and two new guys (Jimmy Rave and Chris Sabin, don't know anything about either)...  AJ Styles and D'Lo Brown will team up against Sonny Siaki and David Young...  and a 4 way tag match will pit the Harris Twins vs. Slash/Brian Lee vs. Saturn/Justin Credible vs. America's Most Wanted.
    Looks like a super line-up.  If the plan is to put the best foot forward and impress casual fans who buy the show because of Jarrett/Raven, then clearly they are on the right track.  Lot of X-Focus, anyway, which can never hurt.
    Give TNA a look tonight... or at the very least, come on back for Damian's full recap here at OO!
  • That's it for me today.  Looks like it will be an OOpinion Friday for me, so I guess you'll hear from me one more time before I split the always-exciting confines of Dayton, OH, for the even MORE thrilling environs of Muncie, IN.  
    Why can't my brother be graduating from somewhere cool, dammit?  At least my other brother went to school in Boston, which was a fun place to hang out for his graduation weekend...
    Enough.  I'm out.


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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