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RAW, Rock and Angle Comebacks,
Portland, and Other Monday Business...
June 2, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


If updates here are sporadic over the next few days, it's because I'm in the middle of moving to Elk Lick Township, PA, the new reigning Happiest Place on Earth.  If updates here are sporadic in the weeks and years that follow, it's because I'm in the middle of drowning my sorrow and feelings of inadequacy in approximately 145,000 cases of free rum.  I hear that sort of thing happens all the time out there...

Just kidding.  I wouldn't move to a place called "Elk Lick" for anything less than 145,000 free cases of 12 year old Scotch!  On with the news:

  • What in the blue hell does the Rock think he's doing showing up at RAW tonight?  Good question...
    Is this just a one-off deal so that the Rock can have a Happy Ending to this WWE run?  You know, show up, make peace with Goldberg, hear a few cheers, and then ride off into the sunset...  certainly if he did that, it would involve turning against Chris Jericho, which would leave a VERY enticing dangling feud for Rock when he made his NEXT brief comeback (around the time of WM20).
    Or is the Rock willing to invest a greater amount of his free time before starting full-time on his next movie in WWE bookings?  If that's the case, he might be around for a few weeks, helping to put a little extra sauce on the first RAW-only PPV...  obviously, his last feud was against Goldberg, so if they want to draw this out, it'd be a simple matter of milking that for a few weeks, as Rock backs Jericho, leading up to the inevitable:  whenever Rock's final booking for the summer comes, it'll end with him getting cheered (Jericho turns on him, Goldberg befriends him, whatever).
    So all we know at this point is that Rock is gonna be on Jericho's "Highlight Reel" tonight on RAW and that when all is said and done, Rock's walking away from WWE this time as a babyface.  What we don't know is the timetable.  Maybe it happens tonight, maybe it happens in two weeks at the PPV, who knows?  So I say just sit back and enjoy the only other sure-fire thing we know about the comeback:  the fact that if you give Jericho and Rock two mics and 15 minutes of airtime, the real winners should be the fans.
    I'm still of the opinion that there is enough sizzle to the Goldberg/Jericho steak that they shouldn't be giving it away so soon.  To my way of thinking, it's a super-special match that you could build up to at SummerSlam; in the interim, Goldberg could benefit from more nights like the one he had right after Backlash (crushing the b-teamers), while only VERBALLY sparring with an ever elusive Jericho.  The effectiveness of last week's segment (Jericho gets out of a physical confrontation with mace) pretty much gives you the vibe I'd want to see play out for 2 months before Goldberg FINALLY gets his hands on Y2J.
    Goldberg won't keep his nose out of Jericho's business this week, either.  I'm sure he'll interrupt the Highlight Reel.  The only question is whether they play it like last week (another effective get-away), or if they quit teasing and just give us a Goldberg/Jericho brawl (maybe leading to a Jericho/Rock vs. Goldberg/??? tag match at some point in the next two weeks?).
    Another point of interest tonight:  we can probably expect Eric Bischoff to name his poison with regards to his PPV contest with Steve Austin.  It won't be a wrestling match or a fight, I'm sure, but I'm still curious to see where they go with this one.  For the co-GM concept to work, they need to establish that Bischoff is every bit a dominant when it comes to devious, underhanded, back room dealings as Austin is when it comes to physicality.  This is their chance to do so.
    Two other major PPV feuds:  Kevin Nash vs. Triple H and Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair.  It would shock me if they DIDN'T somehow tie these together at some point in the next two weeks with a tag match.
    Nash/HHH has been surprisingly under-stated in terms of hype.  That is, to my way of thinking, simply because the HitC does plenty of hyping for you.  That's why Nash's reserved promo last week worked for me.  Either the Cell is enough of a gimmick to turn this into a marketable match or its not.  No amount of blustering by HHH or Nash is going to change the smark mindset about their individual skills, but the Cell -- the Cell! -- that thing is a workrate PHENOMENON!
    Alright, maybe I'm letting too much cynicism in there... I like the Cell, too.  It wasn't good enough to help Big Bossman to a watchable match either time he was inside of it, but hey, nobody's perfect.
    Michaels/Flair, on the other hand, is sold on exactly the things that Nash/HHH is not.  Legacy, respect, in-ring acumen.  These two could very easily have pulled off a very sell-able babyface/babyface match.  Last week, they decided to toss that aside, and go with Flair as a full-on heel again.  That's fine.  That works, too.  These two should be gold on promos, and if asked, they'll take care of business inside the ring, too.  Like I said, I can see them piggybacking on Nash/HHH for a tag match before the PPV.  In that case, Randy Orton -- the third wheel in the hopefully to-be-renamed Evolution faction -- becomes the difference maker, and the heels get the heat heading into the two separate PPV matches.
    Also:  La Resistance has two weeks to make us believe that they are legit tag title contenders and not just sissified Rick Martel clones deserving of cheap heat and little else; considering that RVD and Kane are so over individually and so convincing when on the same page together (as they are... for now), I have my doubts that La Resistance will be able to sell us...  after the blow off to Jazz/Jackie on Heat last night, Trish/Victoria is the most pressing women's feud, though that leaves the champ in the cold for the upcoming PPV; man alive, do we ever need Lita back...  I'm not sure how it'll be explained, but apparently Rodney Mack and Chris Nowinski are forming a union (Nowinski and Long together on promos should be hilarious, though); the Dudleys look to be their challengers in the short term...  Scott Steiner and Test will continue spinning their wheels until finally we set up the cataclysmic one-on-one Battle For Stacy...  and finally, Booker T is getting his shot at Christian's IC Title at the PPV; I'm sure they'll cross paths before that, though (perhaps Christian looks to get some revenge on Goldust for last week, setting Booker/Goldust vs. Christian/Storm?).
    Can someone please explain to me how Rodney Mack and Test have important things on their plates, but the Hurricane is rotting in a corner despite his commendable ring work and solidly consistent pops?  Maybe he could be the sixth man in a Nash/Michaels/Hurricane vs. HHH/Flair/Orton match should such a thing become necessary....
    But now I'm venting unnecessarily.  Lots of potential for RAW tonight.  Check it out, or come on back here to OO for full results, analysis, and satirization tomorrow....
  • The final rating for last week's SD! wound up being a 3.4... that's actually up a tick from the week before.  With May Sweeps concluded and summer reruns in the offing, the Fed needs to take advantage of weaker competition.  
  • Big week for SmackDown this week...  and since it'd be stupid for me to do a "SD! preview" on Wednesday (when I'd be unsure of what I could sell you as informed speculation and what was just a spoiler), let's talk about two things right now.
    First:  Vince McMahon promising a change for the better.  A lot of people seem to think this means the end of Stephanie McMahon as SD! GM.  And of those people, about 95% think that Shane McMahon would be the ideal replacement.  You could certainly make that case, except I disagree for one tiny reason:  Shane is the only McMahon with the proven Babyface Gene, and to waste him as Vince's heel puppet would be pointless (and to put him in there and just turn him back babyface would be even more pointless, since it puts us right back where we are now). 
    The idea I like best:  if we're changing GMs, let's bring back Paul Heyman.  He kicks ass as a heel performer, and even if his backstage duties have been limited, there was still plenty of chatter back before WM19 that Heyman just wanted a little bit of time off, to drop some weight maybe, and then he'd be happy to go back out on TV.  [Let's just gloss over the fact that Heyman being off TV just so happened to mean he didn't have to try to lead a heel stable minus its top star, Kurt Angle.  We'll chalk that up to coincidence.]
    Which leads me directly to major issue #2:  Kurt Angle's comeback.  The question of "Heel or babyface?" seems mostly to be boot at this juncture, although it's still hotly debated as if it were an open case.  Simply put, the Fed looked at the Case of Triple H and the Torn Quad of Doom, and realized they were powerless to stop fans from giving Angle a Respect Pop upon his return.
    After weeks of ambiguous promos that could have gone either way (tell me there wasn't a touch of that smarmy "I'm so great" vibe that made Angle a heel upon his debut in '99 in those bits!), the Coldplay video last week was pure "My Sacrifice" all over again.  Hell, he's even being promoted for upcoming house shows against opponents like Big Show and John Cena.  You figure it out:  Kurt Angle will be cheered on Thursday, and there's no point trying to fight it.
    The more interesting debate, to me, is what role Angle will be playing by SummerSlam.  Because like HHH, Angle's best work has always come as a heel and probably will always come as a heel.  So hopefully, like HHH last year, Angle's babyface run will be brief, will allow fans to get the cheering out of their systems, and will end in favor of the more efficient use of Angle's skills.  Let's face it:  how long can John Cena and the Big Show hold down the fort for heels on SD?  [I refuse to count Vince McMahon, Roddy Piper, or the FBI as viable top heels.]
    The way I'd play it is simple:  upon coming back, Angle expresses disappointment in Team Angle for their loss of the tag titles.  That keeps him solidly a babyface for a few weeks until two things start happening:  (1) Team Angle does something to "win back" Kurt's admiration, and (2) Angle starts to lose his composure with Lesnar; they shared the Hug of Mutual Respect at WM, but Angle, in storylines, had his neck broken in that match, so mutual respect will not hold, and Angle will want to take a shot at Lesnar, eventually.  Also, doesn't Eddie still have Kurt's gold medals?  Another good reason for Kurt to go heel sooner rather than later!
    Look, the alternative is Lesnar turns heel to keep things balanced.  I know the smarks out there will cry foul and say that this is a chance for them to turn Benoit and use him as a main eventer, but I'm not so sure I agree.  Look, I see Angle/Lesnar II as a money match for SummerSlam, and unlike Flair/Michaels, I don't think those two have the legacies to do a babyface/babyface match that really strikes a chord.  One's gotta be a heel once we build back up to that.  I could go either way, actually...  but one of 'em's gotta turn.
    Interesting stuff ahead for SmackDown!...
  • Another upcoming returnee to SD! will be Billy Gunn.  A recent WWE.com column reveals Gunn expects to go back to SD!, where he last worked, and that he favors bringing back the "Mr. Ass" gimmick.  Oh, lord...  unless he's willing to combine that with the Ambiguously Gay Billy Gunn gimmick, that's just about the worst idea I've heard today.  And considering how seemingly not-into-it Billy's heart was with regards to acting ambiguously gay, I don't seem them going that direction at all.
    Let's just compromise: "Bad Ass" Billy Gunn should do just fine, even if it's just a nickname and not really a gimmick.  For whatever it's worth, Gunn returned as an essentially gimmick-free babyface at weekend SD house shows.
  • I've gotten some confirmation about Bryant Gumbel's "Real Sports" show on HBO considering some sort of expose on recent pro wrestling deaths.  I'm assured that it was the dramatic events at Lex Luger's house last month that put this over the top and turned it into marketable sensationalism and not just a dirty little secret only Phil Mushnick cared about.  That's what has the producers thinking that this is a viable story.
    What I don't know is if they'll decide to go full-speed-ahead with this, and if they do, I don't know what slant they'll take.  Certainly there is a fair and balanced way to do a story like this, it's just that knowing some of the motivation behind it (and suspecting that they would be bringing Mushnick in as an "expert" given that motivation), I have a feeling this would not be done in that way.
    I mean, I think it sucks that what happened to guys like Pillman, Rude, Hennig, and Davey Boy had to happen... but in those cases, we're talking about grown men making their own decisions.  Life on the road, taking bumps five nights a week, whatever it is...  they chose to live that life, and whatever they did to compensate for it, well, they decided that for themselves, too.  I am, as I talked about at length a month ago, substantially more torn on Elizabeth's situation and how her habits were more facilitated by those around her than in other cases.
    In any case, to try and assign blame to an institution or an industry makes little sense to me.  If they do a beefed up version of Mushnick's inane personal vendetta slant, they'll be missing the boat in my book.  What I'd like to see is an investigation into the personal decision making process that has led to these sorts of deaths among (ex)-wrestlers.  Because let's be honest, with the exceptions of Brian Pillman (WWF) and Louis Spicolli (WCW), all these deaths have occurred among a class of wrestlers toiling out of the mainstream spotlight, using chemicals to extend a career for one more month of indie/international bookings or to hold out hope for a WWE return.  The story, to me, isn't about why a company or an industry can't crack down; it's why these guys, individually, feel so compelled to do self-destructive things to remain in the industry, instead of just getting out and doing something else with their lives.
    Of course, that's just my opinion.  I could be wrong.
  • WWE got huge press over the weekend, when the RAW brand rolled into Portland, OR.  It was the first time the Fed had been in Oregon in a decade.  This is due to the state's restrictive regulation of pro wrestling...  they still lumped it in with boxing and other real sports in terms of taxation, testing, and all sort of other cost-prohibitive stuff.
    It's the same regulation that led to the ultimate demise of the old Pacific Northwest territory, which had, at one time, been one of the strongest in the country, helping to launch the career of Scotty "Raven" Levy and even featuring regular cameos by Roddy Piper during is WWF hiatuses.  That territory tried to hang on by changing its practices so that they could circumvent the rules:  their shows were free wrestling "exhibitions," though fans would be charged something like $10 a head for parking.  The commission put an end to that fairly quickly, too.
    And obviously, the Fed was in no position to try such shenanigans.  They just stayed the hell out of Oregon for 10 years.  Until Saturday night.
    The house was packed with rabid fans, and all reports out of the event said it was a very strong show.  Highlights included a Chris Jericho "Highlight Reel" segment with Hurricane that was pretty much similar to the ones that made the rounds a couple of weekends ago, and a very effective Dusty Finish in the HHH/Nash main event.  After a ref bump, Nash managed to pin HHH, and a second ref came out to count the fall.  Nash celebrated briefly, but the original ref eventually came to and reversed the decision and DQ'ed Nash.  Fans ate it up with a spoon.
    Also of note from the enthusiastic Portland recaps:  Jackie Gayda was once again testing out a pairing with Rico (if all works out, she'll be on TV as Rico's valet sometime in the next few weeks)...  Christian was over huge as a heel, and was only more so after he pinned Booker T in an IC Title match (used a handful of tights, that lousy Canuck!)...  Jazz winning a four-way women's title match and Test/Val Venis were the only real slow points the entire evening.
  • That should just about do it for today... looks like it should be a very interesting week for us.  Rock tonight on RAW.  Angle Thursday on SmackDown!...  sit back and enjoy the ride.


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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