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RAW, IC Title Thoughts, Old is New Again, 
Jeff Hardy, TNA, and More...
May 7, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


On an unseasonably cool May afternoon here in the midwest, let's just skip the crap and get to some wrestling talk:
  • Monday's RAW is our starting point, and frankly, it leaves us with nothing to do but gush.
    Maybe it wasn't the Greatest RAW Ever -- there was, now that I think back on it, a notable lack of any one single truly outstanding in-ring match -- but it was tremendously entertaining.  Enough so that I'm not even sure where to start.
    So let's go with the night-long focus on Austin/Bischoff, the battlin' GMs.  The opening segment was perfectly done, and the fact that the crowd was mega-hot from the start didn't hurt.  For at least one night, they did a good job with letting each guy get a decision in and making it seem kind of balanced (Austin gets the IC belt, Bischoff gets his PPV Title match, they both agree to stips regarding Jim Ross, and they both agree Morley is fired afterwards).  The stuff that came later, with Austin loading up the office with beer, was played more for comedy, but the earlier elements gave me reason to hope that they'll strike a good chord with the on-going battle of wills.
    About Ross' return: it is welcome.  But how many people see Coach walking out of this with a heel announcer gimmick?  From the second he mentioned what an honor it would be to be a part of a 3-man crew with King and Lawler, I had visions of him not taking his dismissal too well.  He's obviously been established as Bischoff's "designated announcer," but even better....  PAGING TEDDY LONG:  We got a playa over here who's been doused in some hater-ade.
    And about the IC Title: this is a very good call by the Fed.  With all the guys who feel like they are spinning their wheels on the RAW roster because they haven't been allowed to break through with a win over HHH, this will be a huge aid.  I checked it out, and there are 11 former IC champs on the RAW roster.  However, you eliminate HHH and Nash immediately from the proposed battle royal.  That leaves:  Shawn Michaels, Goldust, Chris Jericho, Lance Storm, Christian, Test, RVD, Kane, and Chief Morley. (William Regal should be in there, but his health status is unclear.)
    Now, even assuming all 9 of those guys would compete (which they might not; Morley's "fired" for instance, and RVD/Kane might have to do a tag title thing), that's still not much of a battle royal.  You need to open things up a bit.  One option would be to simply have Austin open up another way for RAW stars to qualify for the battle royal.  You could get a few more mid- or upper-carders in there, and you could flesh this out to about 15 dudes pretty easily (Hurricane and Booker T, I've seen both of them mentioned).
    Another option: have Stephanie McMahon insist on the SD! brand's claim to the legacy of the IC Title being recognized, and put the SD! former champs into the match.  This would include: Chris Benoit, Rikishi, Roddy Piper, Billy Gunn, and A-Train (Eddie's already booked for the PPV; Angle and Edge are hurt).  I like this idea because: (a) anytime you put Benoit in a situation where he might win gold, that's pretty cool, (b) given the way things have been progressing, it'd be pretty neat to see Piper in a battle royal with Jericho (a tease of a singles program to come?), and mostly (c) we're about a month away from going to brand-specific PPVs, and hell, BOTH shows might need secondary titles.  So why have only the RAW guys compete for it?
    A little bit of hostility over who controls the IC Title could even be used as a foundation for whatever storyline they end up doing to explain the full and complete brand split at the PPV level.  Plus, since SD! seems to be retaining the "WWE" prefix for all titles, I'd almost rather see them control the IC belt as their secondary title.  Then you can have RAW come back over the top with the revival of the US Title or something like that; it'd fit the current scheme better, I think.
    The Fed also has a way of keeping this an entirely-RAW-centric battle royal, too: they can just open the doors to past IC champs not currently on the WWE roster.  Now, realizing that there are many IC champs who are too retired/injured/old/obscure to be a part of something like this, there are also a handful of guys who might still be politically friendly enough with the current office to come in for a one-shot deal.  Guys like:  Marc Mero, Godfather, D'Lo Brown, Road Dogg, or Scott Hall.  Maybe even Jeff Hardy if that's not too awkward at this early juncture of his sabbatical.  Or how about the standby old-timey surprise: Honky Tonk Man, the Greatest IC Champ of All Time?
    If you get into bringing HTM in as a bit of a comic relief element, then you must also consider the possibility that Pat Patterson could be carted out for a one-time deal.  He was the FIRST IC champ, you know.  And if you consider inactive members of the RAW roster, it might be possible to use Steve Austin as part of the battle royal, too.  But now I'm deviating massively from my main goal here, which is to talk about how much I liked RAW...
    The Hi-Lite Reel was once again a pleasure.  Jericho's monologue didn't just serve to continue getting his own persona over, but it also was a great job of telling the HHH/Nash story.  If not in Canada, it would have been the perfect set-up for what followed.  Alas, those contrary Canucks having already adopted Jericho, found it necessary to therefore adopt Triple H.  When the segment degenerated into a HHH/Kevin Nash brawl, one part of the crowd seemed dead-set on being pro-HHH (how about them "Diesel sucks" chants?), and the other was just sitting there, quietly confused about the other part of the crowd.  "When did HHH become Canadian?", you could almost hear them wondering.  Anyway, that seems to be the segment that most people have decided to single out as the One Sucky Part of the Night That Kept This From Being a Perfect Show.  Me, I thought they had a relatively intense brawl, and could not be held responsible for the fact that those Canadian fans THIRST for being as difficult as possible.
    If I had to complain, it'd once again be something about how I could care less about this Test/Scott Steiner stuff.  I mean, I don't mind too much, since at least they're following some solid internal logic and trying to keep the storyline reasonable.  It's just that the story is not so inspired as to make me care about to characters that have not, at any point in their recent past, given me a reason to invest my energy in them.  Miscommunication costing them the tag title match?  Formulaic.  Getting back on the same page to get revenge on La Resistance?  Sorry, but savaging the French hasn't been a noteworthy achievement since the early 1800's...
    Loved Christian's work on Monday, too.  He was quite obviously channeling the Rock's style and mannerisms at times, but given his gimmick as the anointed new People's Champ, that's actually kind of funny and appropriate.  Great promo with Terri, and then he played a perfect chickenshit when 3MW decided to get first stab at Goldberg.  If I'm to be right about Christian stretching this feud out to the PPV, he'll have to pull an even more astounding escape next week when he's supposed to face Goldberg inside a steel cage.
    Really excellent 2 hours of work on Monday.  You can get the full report right here.
  • The rating for RAW on Monday... well, unfortunately, it dropped a bit.  After last week's strong showing, RAW came back down to a 3.5 cable rating.  I'd have thought that since last week's show was pretty good, more people would have come back for another week (and would then have been even more impressed)... but it looks like last Monday's rating may have just been more of that post-PPV bump phenomenon than anything else.
  • Well, you won't believe this:  the Road Warriors are getting another crack at WWE.  During an appearance on the No Holds Barred radio show, they stated in no uncertain terms that they were booked for dark matches at both RAW and SD! tapings next week in the northeast.
    Of course, they were also quick to point out (quite correctly) that their last surprise TV debut came on a night when they were only supposed to be wrestling a dark-match try-out, so you never know how things might change.
    In response to critics who think they are too old to contribute, they were quite vehement in saying that age has nothing to do with performance level.  They used Eddie Guerrero (a 20 year vet) as an example; nobody ever says Eddie's too old, but he's only a couple years younger than the Road Warriors.  [Umm, but... Eddie Guerrero 15 years ago was REALLY GOOD, and if he's lost a step, it's one he could afford to lose.  Where as the Road Warrior's 15 years ago...  oh, never mind...]
    On how they got a second chance with WWE after their rocky departure last time: Hawk and Animal thought that their strong cameo in TNA probably helped a lot.  Also, Hawk has found the Jesus and is a new, better man now, which supposedly helped them in talking to Vince McMahon and others.  What didn't help is the fact that Animal's brother (Johnny Ace) is a key member of the WWE front office.
    This oughta be interesting... you bring out the LOD with that music and wardrobe, and hell yeah, it's good for a huge pop.  But is it something that can sustain beyond that first wave of nostalgia?  We'll have to see.
  • You want some news along the same lines, but good?  OK...
    Ultimo Dragon, himself a 15-year pro, is finally set to make the WWE debut that Jim Ross first started teasing us with back last year.  Dragon, of course, falls in that Eddie Guerrero category of being so flat-out awesome back in his day that even if he's dropped a Workrate Points, he's still gonna be outstanding.
    Dragon has told sources in Japan that he'll debut at the Judgment Day PPV, but an alternate version going around here in the States is that Dragon was asked to be at the PPV, but that he wouldn't necessarily be used on TV until that week's SD! tapings.  Obviously, SmackDown! is the place for Dragon, where he could be a major cruiserweight player.
    If you don't remember Dragon from WCW's hey-day, he was a unique worker among the cruisers even then.  Yes, he did have the high-flying arsenal, but he also worked really stiff and had a bunch of kicks and submission style moves that were rare among the high-spot-oriented cruisers.  Before he donned the Dragon mask, he was Yoshi Asai (and yes, there's a reason the "Asai Moonsault" has that name).
    Dragon's WCW career was cut short by an arm injury; a subsequent surgery to repair the injury went awry and Dragon had to retire about 4 years ago.  Advances since that time allowed Dragon to have his arm fixed the RIGHT way, and late last year, he made his in-ring return in Japan.  He's reportedly looked better with each outing, to the point that WWE has decided to take this gamble on him.
    I don't think there's any gamble involved, though.  He'll never sell a bunch of T-shirts or anything, but I suspect Dragon will deliver the goods in the ring against a wide array of cruisers.  Myself, I anxiously await the day that he and Tajiri get about 10-12 minutes on PPV.  That will rule.
  • Jeff Hardy's first public statements since leaving WWE have been posted to the website of OMEGA, the Carolina-based indie that was sort of the Hardys homebase as they got started.
    I would provide you with the link to the brief commentary, except that OMEGA's site is simply hosted by Angelfire, and they've far exceeded their bandwidth limit since word of Hardy's statements started making the rounds yesterday.  So, for your edification, here is the full text of Jeff Hardy's commentary:
    "Beware of Falling Dreams. They can fall just like our bodies. Mine has soared with grace and now it is falling smooth. Whoever would worry over the fact that I’ve been released…DON’T WORRY! It’s not a Bottomless Pit that I have fell in…It’s a wonderful hole of sound, harmony, melody, peace, rhyme & time off…time out from the squared circle…time in for the eternity called music.

    Beware of Rising Dreams. They can come true just like mine did. The succeeding process was so perfect…it was just like Imagi had told me it would be. I feel I can succeed in the music business. So there’s only one way to find out if people dig your sound and that’s to spread it around the world. So here I go…wish me luck…or…wish me the worst. Whatever you feel like saying towards me or saying about me…SAY IT…Feel it…Know it…But most importantly whatever you feel or say…know to yourself & your soul that it is right…However you do that is your beeswax! Okay…Back 2 the bottomless pit I’m falling in. There’s a super soft & relaxing bottom…that I’m already kind of wanting to crash into. For now I’m going to fall firmly for a while…only a while. See ya in time…OMEGA fans this is the alpha of my attempt to be a rock ‘n roll star. If you wish to be welcomed…welcome. "

    I have no idea what, if anything, should be read into that, or if it should be taken at face value.  I DO, however, think that Jeff Hardy and the Ultimate Warrior should think about getting together and forming a tag team.
  • Lastly for today, a look at tonight's NWA:TNA PPV, which looks to capitalize on interest generated by last week's mostly-exceptional effort.
    On the heels of Jeff Jarrett's retaining the NWA Title, the company will look to determine a new #1 contender tonight.  Their method:  a 15-man "Gauntlet for the Gold."  The rules are just like the Royal Rumble (new entrant every 90 seconds), except that eliminations can also happen via pinfall or submission (as well as by being thrown over the top rope).  There are no DQs and anything goes, and last week they made it sound like a "Come As You Are"/Bunkhouse Brawl type thing where any outfit/weaponry would be legal, too.
    The participants?  Well, that's trickier.  It sounded last week like the doors were open to any former NWA champs anywhere in the world, but that ain't exactly gonna result in an all-star cast.  I'm not sure how many "free passes" into the GftG match have been issued or to whom.  There will probably be some obvious ones (Ron Killings), and maybe a few surprises (has Chris Candido got anything better to do?)...
    In addition, almost the entire undercard tonight will be featuring qualifying matches with winners advancing into the Gauntlet match.  These qualifying matches include:  AJ Styles/D'Lo Brown vs. Elix Skipper/Lo-Ki...  Sandman vs. New Jack vs. Sabu...  and Chris Harris vs. James Storm.
    The one non-qualifying match: NWA Tag Champs Jerry Lynn and Amazing Red will face off against Christopher Daniels in a handicap match (as stipulated by Lynn's win over Daniels last week).
    Check out the show, or come on back to OO on Thursday for Damian Gonzalez's full report.
  • That does it for me.  See you Friday.  Probably.  


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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