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What Next for RAW/SD, Hogan,
Ratings, and Other News...
May 19, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Well, on Friday, I posited that if past trends were replicated in 2003, then Judgment Day would be a mildly entertaining PPV that kicked off a period of renewed momentum for WWE...

But since nobody seems to be able to agree on whether the first half of that prophecy came true and we won't know about the second for a month or two, let's just forget I ever said anything and get to some new stuff, OK?

  • I have no real beef with last night's Judgment Day.  I wasn't super fired up for it, but I'm a reasonable enough man to know (unlike a preponderance of smark critics) that the Fed is not TRYING to put on a shitty show.  Maybe they miscalculate here and there; maybe an injury puts a damper on another match; but at the end of the day, Vince McMahon and those working for him know that they need to squeeze every ounce of lemonade possible out of the crate full of lemons they were charged with selling.
    The good:  obvious the ladder match, the stretcher match, and the IC Battle Royal were the best things last night.  The first two matches were lengthy, action-packed (in their own ways) affairs.  The latter was an entertaining melding in which the final four personalities all got to shine to some extent, with Christian's deviousness outlasting the rest.
    The bad: the Austin/Bischoff nonsense (those skits were barely worthy of an episode of RAW, and were clearly only there to serve as the justification for the exclusive-to-PPV phenomenon of VOMIT~!... fine, cart Austin out for a quick in-ring promo to start the show off, but those other skits were time that could have been better spent elsewhere), and Mr. America vs. Roddy Piper (moderately atrocious as a wrestling match, this didn't really disappoint me until the end; I knew the wrestling would suck, but expected it to be "saved" by Tenacious Z doing something spectacular; but obviously, they are saving that for later).
    Everything else was sort of middlin':  Test/Steiner/La Resistance and the SD! six-man were both matches without even an iota of value at the PPV level, and felt more like first-hour-of-their-respective-shows type matches...  Nash/HHH wasn't pretty, but it also wasn't HHH/Steiner; even if you thought that it was (idiots!), I thought the post-match stuff was pretty intense and fun, and "saved" things in a way that Hogan/Piper was not "saved."...  Helms/America backstage was fluff; funny, hell yeah, but fluff nonetheless (only the fact that it was a rare RAW/SD! crossover made this seem moderately PPV-worthy)...  Sable/Torrie in bikinis: harmless titillation, I guess; but not all THAT titillating, all things considered (hey, so sue me, I seen 'em both nekkid already!)....  women's title match:  another really good effort, but as long as they are throwing the girls out there in four-minute palate cleansers between main event matches, they're never gonna break through as an integral part of the show. 
    I'm not gonna sit here today and tell you the Judgment Day is a must-see show that deserves a ton of praise...  but I will opine quite strenuously that it didn't deserve to be pre-dismissed in the last few weeks, either.  I think if you're really a fan of wrestling, you probably got enough bang for your buck last night; I do not dare to speak for those of you who are just fans of being loud-mouthed internet types.  
    Full details from last night's show are available right here.
  • Might the value of Judgment Day be the way it sets up future developments?  Well, to be honest, at this point, there isn't a whole lot that indicates that the next few months will have any more sizzle or cache than this month's PPV did...  but there is also one looming matter that could shake things up substantially.
    Though nothing has been announced publicly, WWE has been planning for months to start brand-specific PPVs in June.  Assuming they won't back-peddle due to recent declines in the buyrates of the last few (non-WM) joint PPVs, June will feature the RAW brand delivering "Badd Blood", while SD! stars won't be back on PPV till July.  August's SummerSlam would be the next time both brands are represented on one show.
    It raises an interesting philosophical issue:  should the focus be on loading up the brand-specific PPVs so that fans will immediately see them as important and worthwhile?  Or do you use the extended periods between brand-specific PPVs to just do a slower-burn "business as usual" to build interest in those feuds and save the REALLY good stuff for the joint-PPVs (where you then could create a genuinely special atmosphere)?
    The way we left things last night at Judgment Day leaves me to presume the former mindset is the one the Fed's working with: tell me that HHH vs. Nash in a rematch doesn't look damn likely now.  That's fine for the June PPV main event, especially if you add a stipulation (Hell in the Cell has been discussed, and that might be cool).  This way, you save HHH vs. Goldberg (which seems like an obvious money match, assuming they can keep Goldberg's momentum rolling without having to throw Jericho at him yet) for the "special" joint-effort at SummerSlam.
    We'll get a better idea just what's in the cards on tonight's live RAW, but I'd guess that Nash/HHH should be a focal point, with Goldberg pre-occupied by who almost ran him over last week.  Along with Nash/HHH, you could throw a few other personalities in there to keep the singles match "fresh" for the next PPV.  Nash could be joined by Shawn Michaels (and maybe also the Hurricane, after last week's brutal pants-letting with Flair), while HHH has Flair on his side (and could quickly be joined by Jericho to make it a six-man deal, if necessary; also, Randy Orton is coming up on being ready to return, too).
    For now, we'll just say Goldberg's gonna be off in his own universe doing his automotive thing.  I think it's silly, and I think it threatens to undermine his recent momentum, but I also think it beats moving on to the feud against Jericho too soon.
    The IC Title instantly gives us a ton of potentially interesting feuds.  For one: can Chris Jericho and Christian ever get along again after last night?  I'd half-expect to see Jericho/Christian vs. Booker T/Goldust tonight on RAW playing up that very ambiguity.  Jericho can, perhaps, hang Christian out to dry, and then in coming weeks, we build up to Booker vs. Christian for the IC Title (at the June PPV, I'd say).
    Two other tag teams had their share of problems at the PPV last night, too:  Rob Van Dam and Kane are the tag champs and went at each other in the IC Battle Royal.  I have no idea what you do about that, other than to say if somebody's gotta go heel, it's probably gonna have to be Kane (RVD's moveset is too "Holy Shit" laden to keep him as a heel), and they need to get the titles onto a "super team" like Nash/HBK or HHH/Flair or maybe even Goldberg/Booker to re-establish the division while all these regular teams break up.  [The other team on the rocks is Steiner/Test... I care significantly less about those two, but could actually see Big Poppa Pump getting over more as a heel than Test could.  His blithering moonman nonsense would have me hating him inside 3 weeks.]
    Luckily, we've got the Road Warriors ostensibly set for a full-time comeback to really shore up the tag division.  Yippee?  Oh, and I can't imagine it'll be too much longer before the APA come back, and RAW seems the best place for them;  a feud with La Resistance is a no-brainer.
    Check out RAW tonight to see which way they go with all these different scenarios... or at least come on back to OO on Tuesday for full results and a sound satirizin'.  No relation to haterizin'...
  • The future on SmackDown!?  A bit hazier, but that's OK, because if all goes according to plan, SD! doesn't have to sell us on any PPV matches for a full two months.  They got some time to play with.
    Show/Lesnar is now played; they've gone three times, and last night reeked of "blow-off."  Show has Rey Mysterio to deal with, now.  Within a couple weeks, I guess they want Ultimo Dragon in, too, and everybody suspects he'll be partners with Rey to start.
    But that leaves the champ without a whole lot to do.  I figure they've got two options: Kurt Angle comes back and immediately goes back into a feud with Lesnar.  Angle's schedule is for him to come back either next week or the one after for an on-screen appearance.  Angle just might be the internet's favorite wrestler right now, but those cheesy, over-the-top vignettes they've been running (though all actually true in content, they are smarmy in tone, much like his original entrance vignettes) should keep him solidly as a heel when he comes back.  It's hard to know if it'll last, but for however long it takes to get to the re-match vs. Lesnar, Angle should be able to stay a heel.  
    Figure if they rush job Angle/Lesnar II, it could headline that July PPV.  But using my "save the big stuff for the joint PPV" philosophy, I'd rather they save it for SummerSlam.  Coming out of Judgment Day, I can see John Cena and Chris Benoit getting tangled up in a feud (Cena was tapping out to Benoit even as his team won the six-man tag).  Perhaps it's not a PPV-ready feud, but build it up over 4 weeks, then on SD!, you have them do their "blow-off" match, only it's for the #1 Contender spot.  I don't even care which guy wins; they are just clearly the best two choices.  Then you spend the second set of four weeks building to THAT WWE Title match with Lesnar vs. Whoever.
    Meantime: Lesnar maybe helps out his Li'l Buddy Rey in some tag matches or gets a few random squashes to re-affirm his status as Lord of All Asskickers after last night's beatdown of Big Show...  and when Angle comes back, you let him spend his first month or two feuding solo with Eddie Guerrero before unleashing him on Lesnar at SummerSlam.  Oh, and when Angle's done with Lesnar and is probably forced to turn babyface by sheer force of fan reaction, add me to the list that thinks Angle vs. Cena could be hilarious AND a good in-ring feud.
    The other primary storyline on SD! is the Vince/Mr. America thing, with Tenacious Zach, Roddy Piper, and Sean O'Haire all tangentially involved.  I know I made the case for Tenacious Z stealing the show at Judgment Day, and I know I registered my disappointment that he didn't in an above paragraph.  But I can actually see how this will go down:  Vince, livid and vindictive, will make Tenacious Z just as big of a target as Hogan/America is.  He will find some way to force Z to wrestle.  We will be subject to poignant training videos of Mr. America and Z working out, but the majority of fans will remain clueless to the fact that Z is a trained wrestler with an arsenal of pretty amazing moves.  Only when the time comes for the pay-off match will we see Z hit some huge highspot.  I was disappointed we didn't get it last night, but I can see, intellectually, that this is the smart way to play it.
    Coming out of Judgment Day, I'm not sure which show, if either, has an edge in terms of most intriguing future direction...  if anything, they are tied in terms of most uncertainty.
  • The final rating for last week's SD! was a 3.2, which was identical to the week before.  With SD! holding steady as RAW gained almost a full (cable) ratings point, last week marked a return of RAW to the position of most-watched WWE brand.
  • Got a few e-mails from folks who listened in to Byte This on Friday...  apparently, HHH was in quite the rare form.  Though he's made his stance on internet fans clear in the past, he was quite strenuous this time around.  As always, you never know just how much of that is him trying to play a heel so that some percentage (25%?  MAYBE a third if you really stretch...) will hate him all the more, and how much of it is really him thinking smart fans are worthless.  But still...
    I am having trouble accessing the show right now, so I'm going on a couple of summaries I got in e-mail, but... "12 year old jack off"?  Is that what I am?  Did he really say that?  Sounds like he's just heeling to me, but I gotta hear this for myself.  And then, quite possibly, an OOpinion piece will follow on Friday.  A retort, if you will...  [If technical troubles continue to hamper me, might I trouble somebody out there for a more detailed report/transcript, if you've got one?]
  • This past week, Hulk Hogan was on the No Holds Barred radio show...  he covered a lot of ground, but was utterly ambiguous when discussing Goldberg's WWE future and was in total kayfabe mode when it came to matter of Mr. America.  But he was on the level when the topic of Elizabeth's death came up...
    He said he was training at the gym when he got a call; originally he was told both Liz and Lex Luger were dead.  Hogan said he tried to call Randy Savage, but their relationship has deteriorated over time to the point that Randy didn't take the call.  He thought it was his duty to talk to Savage after something like this, but claimed Randy took "the low road" by cutting off their friendship the way he has.  Oddly, Hogan said their last major flare-up came as a result of something involving Savage and Gorgeous George (his ex-girlfriend and valet from the latter WCW days); given that Savage had already publicly claimed Hogan was responsible for his break-up from Liz, you gotta wonder how the Hulkster found himself between Randy and his significant other again...
  • Booker T, obviously, worked the PPV last night, but was still not at 100% after being hospitalized the previous weekend with pneumonia.  His status for tonight's RAW is unclear; he'll be present, but they may not ask him to work, or may have him work in a limited capacity.
    Also a question mark: head ref Earl Hebner hurt his should at the PPV last night.  His status is also unknown.
  • Hidden way down here at the bottom is my admission that I Fucked Up on Friday...  in my faux enthusiasm for Hogan/Piper at the PPV, I presented Roddy Piper's claim that Hogan never pinned him as fact.
    In truth, Hogan pinned Piper (with a whole lot of outside interference, of course... NOT cleanly) at WCW's SuperBrawl '97.  Sorry, my bad.  I'm guessing that SuperBrawl was so close to the Epicenter of Suck that was Souled Out that I've tried to block it from my memory.
    Only if you accept the condition that "If it happened in WCW, it didn't really happen at all" could you have said that Hogan had never pinned Piper prior to Judgment Day.  Actually, if you additionally accept that "Mr. America is not Hulk Hogan," that claim is still true.  During the 80s hey-day, at least, Hogan never decisively finished off Piper in a one-on-one match.
  • Alright, that's it for today.  See you Wednesday with Spoilers and other mid-week news.  Well... actually, you might see me tomorrow.  I think I got one more week of sitting in as RAW recapper before a new guy will be officially starting.
    See you whenever....


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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