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RAW, Ratings, Sting Returns, HBO,
and Lots More!
June 18, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


You'll love this, kids: I'm probably going to take ANOTHER Friday off this week.  But once again, it's a deal where I'm confident I'll have the time to get other folks' columns/recaps posted at some point, even if I, myself, am not contributing anything.  And it'll be good stuff, too: we should definitely have SD! and TNA recaps (including Sting's return to live US PPV), the Battle of the Brands, a CtB Spotlight (on which World Title is the REAL one), and a fresh Broad Perspective (though Erin'll have her hands full topping herself after last Friday).

I'm not sure of the when, or even that it'll all go up at once, but by Friday evening, I'll certainly have squeezed a site update or two in between Commitment #1 (my mom's birthday dinner, which she has graciously agreed to have at an early hour so that I can move on to Commitment #2) and Commitment #2 (a rock show with my band Flight Risk; not opening for a nationally known act this week, just a big ass local shindig with two of Dayton's other most-beloved bands... and one group from Cincinnati, too).

So load up on The Rick while you got me here today:

  • Monday's RAW, at the very least, sets the table for a very interesting show next week at MSG.  Three weeks invested into Project Kane, merged with an intrigued subplot of whether he'd be the fourth man to join Evolution, have resulted in an World Title storyline that probably has more juice to it than anything involved Kevin Nash did (prior to Mick Foley's involvement).
    It's funny that everybody else's opinions seem to be roughly as positive as mine, too...  considering that just 24 hours before, RAW was serving up what was apparently the lamest PPV of all time.  Well, Monday's RAW was good, but it wasn't so spectacular that it'd have the power to wipe the taste of poop out of my mouth.  Which leads me to believe people were perhaps a little overzealous in their criticisms of Bad Blood.  Hey, how about a little retroactive compromise there, OK:  can I get you to go along with "Didn't seem like it was really worth $35 on PPV, but it was pretty entertaining in spots"?  I can?  Good...
    But now I'm being snotty and lecturing at you, instead of staying focused on RAW...
    The whole thing with Kane on Monday played perfectly.  Though I felt it became increasingly obvious as the tag title rematch was pushed back  (by 10:30 at the LATEST) that Kane would be the Evolution invitee, it was presented in such a way that you still didn't know exactly what was going to happen.  Even a relatively dense fan could see Kane and Evolution converging on that final segment a half-hour earlier, but all you'd know for sure is that there'd be an invitation proffered.  Kane's response was a complete mystery, and that's what made the segment. 
    HHH made his case.  Then Austin made his.  Then Bischoff chimed in with a stipulation that really ups the interest level.  And you STILL didn't know for sure where we were headed.  In the end, Kane chokeslams HHH, takes the title shot, puts his mask on the line.  Good TV.
    I've also said my piece about just about everything that took place on RAW already (in the RAW Recap), and most of it was positive.  So I won't repeat it here.
    But I do want to go back and revisit one thing:  the Austin/Storm "BOOOOO-RING" segment.  Again, I know that many of you are upset by that because it hamstrings one of the internet's adopted sons, Lance Storm.  And I'll re-iterate the reasons why I think you're being hypersensitive:  like for one, Austin was hilarious.  Or for two, just by being involved in an angle with Austin, Storm wins future pivotal RAW TV time.  Or for three, there are any number of "outs" for this storyline if it continues that would land Storm in a VERY good place.  Or for four, along the way to those outs, there could be some hilarious sidebars with Storm trying to adopt some gimmick/charisma (and hey, remember what happened when boring old John Cena put on a Vanilla Ice costume as a one-week joke, kids).
    But all that said, my half-criticism of the segment also stands.  Austin should have been more careful in what he labeled boring.  Storm should have been intentionally focusing on boring elements to set Austin up.  Stuff along the lines of, "Jesus, Lance, don't tell me you're really gonna do another armbar... oh Christ, he just did another armbar.  BOOOOOO-RING!" or "Let me guess, Lance, a chinlock?" (Lance, guilty look on his face, suddenly shifts tactics) "Oh, a side headlock, how excit.... nope, still BOOOO-RING!".  Maybe that seems subtle compared to what the did do, but I think the distinction is important.  Instead of everything Lance Storm does being boring, you condition the fans to be bored only by restholds that won't have a place in most TV matches.  The way the Fed handled it on Monday, it'll be just a smidge harder to get fans to turn the corner on Lance because they didn't specify what about him was boring.

    Worse: the way the Fed handled it on Monday, they actually gave the fans carte blanche to bust out the "BOOOOO-RING" chant during Rico vs. Spike Dudley.  Rico and Spike weren't wasting time with restholds, but the precedent had been set by Austin earlier:  it doesn't matter if a guy is trying in the ring or not, if he's not a main eventer, you're allowed to chant "BOOOOO-RING".  Not only does that just suck in general when two guys are working hard like Rico and Spike, but it's doubly bad since this was supposed to be Rico's big (no pun intended) coming out party with his new look/gimmick, and it sort of flopped.
    Still, this remains a potentially very fun, neat idea for an on-going storyline gimmick with Austin and Storm; but that's offset just a bit by my belief that there's also the potential here to set some very bad precedents, which could have been easily averted with just the slightest tweaking of the segment on Monday.
    That's all I wanted to get off my chest.  Like I said, the rest of the results from RAW and my thoughts on them are in yesterday's recap.
  • Well, RAW got a big bounce in the ratings this week, up to a 4.1 cable rating.  That's one of only a handful of 4-or-better numbers posted by RAW so far this year.  Chalk it up to Mick Foley, or to post-PPV interest, or maybe even to the fact that there was no competition from play-offs of either the NBA or NHL variety.  But chalk it up as a big gain from the week before, the second consecutive sizable weekly increase for RAW.
  • Normally, I save the TNA preview for the last thing I talk about on Wednesdays... not that it's the least important thing, but that's just sort of the habit I've fallen into (RAW thoughts at the top, other stuff in the middle, close with TNA).  Well, tonight, TNA turns 1 year old, and they've got a big show planned.  I guess I can give them a little better spot.
    On June 19, 2002, NWA-TNA kicked off with a lot of lofty goals.  They had finagled the NWA Title off of Dan Severn and put it up for grabs in a sort of battle royal setting.  Ken Shamrock won it, and stuck around to defend it for a few months before giving way to WWF-cast-off Ron "K-Kwik" Killings, who adopted a new gimmick as "The Truth."  But for much of TNA's first quarter, they weren't exactly burning it up in terms of box office; neither PPV buyrates nor live attendance were where the group had hoped, and they decided quickly to pull back and fortify in Nashville, TN, instead of moving shows around on a bi-weekly basis.
    The one hands-down victory for TNA in its first quarter was the creation of the X Division.  Designed to be a "style class" rather than a "weight class," the X Division didn't care how heavy you were, only whether or not you were gonna go out and bust ass in high-flying, fast-paced matches.  Fans loved it from the start, and TNA was able to mix in known cruiserweights with some new faces (including an unknown named AJ Styles who, just as TNA was getting off the ground, opted to decline a WWE developmental contract so he could keep working more lucrative indie dates, including for TNA).
    But again, the first quarter of TNA's history didn't see the group set any records, business-wise.  In fact, after 13 weeks, the company took 2 off to regroup.  As they launched into a second quarter, a management shake-up took place, and Jerry and Jeff Jarrett divested their majority ownership to a publicly traded energy concern (Panda Energy).  The influx of money meant stability for the future, plus some upgrades.  TNA's Nashville homebase, the Asylum, got a make-over, and rather than taping two PPVs every other Wednesday, TNA began broadcasting every PPV live.  It was also in the second quarter that Vince Russo's heavy booking hand came into evidence with a bit more profanity, T&A, and Crash TV elements.  Russo even became an onscreen personality, leading a faction called Sports Entertainment Xtreme (SEX) against the traditionalists of TNA.  This led to a lot of surprise old timers appearing for one-shot gigs in TNA, including Roddy Piper.  But momentum only started to build, business-wise towards the very end of TNA's second quarter, after they had already planned to take a two week holiday hiatus.
    But since January, the group has run un-interrupted, seemingly stable now on the financial front as Russo's hyper booking (and sometimes too "smart" booking that put himself on screen as a character) settled down.  Instead of trying to shock internet fans, TNA has been focused more on simply telling good stories, and the result has been things like AJ Styles breaking out of the X Division as first a legitimate NWA Title contender, and then (just last week) as the new NWA Champion.  TNA has also benefited in the last six months from a pair of WWE personnel decisions: both Raven and D'Lo Brown have been among TNA's most valuable contributors this year, with Raven, in particular, standing out.  The group had a huge show on April 30 that featured the climax of a months-long Raven/Jeff Jarrett feud.  Just last week, they had another huge show that added AJ Styles to the Raven/JJ mix and ended with Styles taking the NWA Title in a surprise change.  The group has clearly gained a ton of momentum since starting out without a real focus and with a very unique (possibly suspect) financial model.
    Tonight, as they celebrate their first anniversary, TNA will be trying to top themselves again.  They have secured the services of WCW mainstay Sting, who will wrestle in the main event with Jeff Jarrett against Styles and a Mystery Partner.  Just Sting's presence would be enough to sell that to most casual fans, who haven't had a chance to see him (except in canned WWA appearances in the past six months).  But here, unlike in WWA, Sting walks into a situation where there is an established storyline and a ton of heat.  Styles and Jarrett have a good-sized backstory, and though Russo has returned to TV to help Styles in gaining the NWA Title, you should know by now that when Russo appears as onscreen character, logic and the obvious sometimes take a hike.  There are tons of possibilities here, especially considering the Mystery Partner gimmick.
    Below that, the next most intriguing situation in TNA is a brewing feud between Raven and Shane Douglas.  Douglas made his TNA debut just last week and prevented Raven from winning the NWA Title.  There's nothing officially signed as far as I've seen from TNA, but both guys will be around tonight, and I'd be shocked if they didn't cross paths in some capacity.
    Also:  Triple X will defend the NWA Tag Titles against America's Most Wanted (who, after AJ Styles, are probably TNA's next biggest success story in terms of converting unknowns into marketable PPV performers)....  Justin Credible will face Jerry Lynn in a battle of former ECW Champs...  New Jack and Mike Sanders will brawl in another Hard 10 match (hardcore type rules that seemingly favor New Jack)...  Chris Sabin will take on Paul London (who just this week got a look from WWE) in an X Title match...  Erik Watts will be looking for revenge on Kid Kash and his masked man...  Sandman/D'Lo Brown/Frankie Kazarian will take on Sonny Siaki/David Young/Don Harris...  and Konnan/Ron Killings will be in the house.
    I'm the first to admit that I have a hard time getting fired up for a TNA PPV on a weekly basis...  it's one thing to get "up" for a PPV every four weeks, if you spend the intervening time catching some good free shows and every now and again having to set the VCR so you don't miss them.  That's probably why my conversion rate on catching TNA shows has been so low...  cuz I'd never set a tape for something I'm paying to see.  If it's PPV, it had better be an EVENT.  So a lot of weeks, TNA gets the shaft from me.  I'm not proud of it, but that's how it is.

    That said, I'm due for remembering to set my Wednesday night aside for an EVENT.  Might as well make it this week.  Sting, and all!  I'm gonna be there tonight.  If you not, well, like I mentioned above, Damian will have your back with a recap here on Friday.
  • Got some e-mails from folks who found Goldberg's booking on RAW pretty suspicious.  Amidst rumors that he's being a bit of a doodoo-head backstage, and that WWE is officially "disappointed" him him, they found it odd he was sort of hidden in a mid-show tag match when the previous rumors were that he was in line for a World Title feud against HHH.
    I probably made things worse in my recap when I made some snippy comment about how both Jericho and Christian got their big entrances for the tag match... but Goldberg didn't.
    I'd say two things on this issue:  one, it's already the standard WWE policy to take a guy who's coming in from another company, get a big first feud out of him, then sort of break him down before building him back up. [Remember everybody thinking Booker was a can't miss prospect, but after feuding with the Rock, he spent a year on the midcard?]  If Goldberg's making it worse for himself with his attitude, hey, of course, they'll do the same to him, no matter what he's getting paid.  And two: you're probably reading way too much into this anyway.  It's 8 weeks before SummerSlam and there's plenty of time for him to get his feud with HHH in gear.
  • Expanding on another "disgruntled" WWE employee... I mentioned on Monday how I'd gotten e-mails from readers who saw an interview with Shawn Michaels on WWE.com in which he openly complained about how he and Flair only got 15 minutes of PPV time.  Then I mentioned that when I went to go read it, I couldn't find it.
    Well, a bunch more people mailed in and told me that the deal is that WWE.com took the interview down shortly after it was posted.  Further more, they explained that some of Michaels' frustration was due to the fact that as recently as Friday (on Byte This) he was saying he thought he and Flair could tear the house down with a 30 minute match.  So being told they had 15, and then watching as the PPV came up 10-15 minutes short when it went off the air, of course Michaels was upset.
    I'd like to say 2 things: (1) in hindsight, Michaels is in the right on this one, because too much time was wasted on that Austin/Bischoff crap and then the show came up short, all minutes that I'd have loved to have seen given to him and Flair.  Of course, that's easy in hindsight, because I have no idea what the format sheets for the intended Bad Blood PPV looked like; sitting there the day of the show coming up with the format sheet, maybe it was the smartest play, and it's only because other things got screwed up that I think there were some extra minutes for HBK/Flair.  And (2) this is as good as any evidence for why my raging bitchfest about WWE's attitude towards the internet was perfectly justified.  And pretty well on target, too.  Censoring Michaels for making an understandable gripe?  Proof positive there will never be honest dialogue for fans looking for an intelligent, smart, insider, whatever perspective from WWE.com.  I can also see how WWE could view that honest dialogue as counterproductive to their money making mission, but if that's the case, I again implore them to just stop trying.  I can accept WWE.com as all "part of the show," and I won't be upset.  Just quit ALMOST making it worth my while, only to excise the shreds of intelligent, honest opinion that might seep in there.  That's when I get annoyed and insulted.
  • The back-to-back tapings at Madison Square Garden next week look to be absolutely loaded, though my understanding is there are tickets still available for both shows.  I have to assume those are new tickets being released now that production teams have made final determinations about set-up and stuff, because as event attendance seems to be rebounding elsewhere in the nation, it'd be odd if WWE couldn't sell out its strong hold at MSG, even if it is back-to-back shots.
    For RAW, the big draws will be:  the Kane/HHH main event, with the promise that either we'll have a new champion or we'll see Kane unmasked....  Mick Foley will be there, and promises it'll be his last TV appearance for a while...  it is, I'm almost sure, the MSG debut for Goldberg.
    For SD!, the big draws will be:  well, I think I can tell you that Ultimo Dragon will be making his TV debut next week on SD! without it being TOO big a spoiler.  His pyro/entrance has even been finalized as of his dark match last night, and it looks great (one reader who apparently knows my hobbies wrote in and said that Dragon's entrance looks like he's ready to "burninate the peasants").  Just based on what you saw LAST week, it's also probably not too much of a spoiler to suggest the possibility that Roddy Piper could be returning to wrestling at MSG for the first time in over a decade (in a tag match).  And then there are two other things that are MUCH bigger than these, but which I can't mention here on the grounds that they are spoilers.
    Big week next week for WWE, and I doubt it's coincidence that it'll all be happening at MSG.
  • Next week's edition of "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" is going to feature the story about early deaths in pro wrestling that we first started hearing about back 2-3 weeks ago.  The segment -- titled "The Sickness" -- is about 15 minutes long and its already in the can; Armen Keteyian was the lead reporter for it.
    From what I've been told, this actually is a very good, properly-focused look at the problem of pro wrestler's dying too young.  Though it was originally presented to me that the sensationalism surrounding Miss Elizabeth's death is what made this an attractive story to HBO's show, Keteyian's focus is on the lifestyle of the pro wrestler and how it leads him to make the decisions he makes.  Sometimes, those decisions lead to unfortunate outcomes.  It is NOT, thankfully, a Mushnick-esque indictment on the industry.
    Roddy Piper is interviewed extensively in the piece, as are a few other veteran wrestlers with thoughts on how life on the road affects a worker.  But I think Piper's the only one currently affiliated with WWE (not sure, though).
    The segment will run during the next new edition of "Real Sports," which starts airing next Tuesday, June 24, at 10pm (eastern) on HBO.  As is their custom, HBO will repeat the show with some frequency on its various channels over the course of the next two weeks, too.  If you're even vaguely paying attention, you should be able to find it.  And from the sounds of it, you SHOULD want to take a look at this one.
  • Nothing new on the TNN/Spike TV front...  the name change is still being held up pending further arguments made in front of a judge in New York's State Supreme Court.
    One item of interest passed along to me: Viacom (owner of TNN) is trying to gain sympathy in the PR battle by saying publicly that they've already lost over $16 million due to the delay in changing their names.  I'm not quite clear on how those numbers add up, but at the very least, the money Viacom invested in advertising the name change (into the tens of millions, I'm sure) has to be written off as a loss at this point...
    It's worth noting that as part of the order that delayed the name change, the judge also insisted that Spike Lee (who, for inane reasons that we shan't rehash here now, petitioned for the delay) put up a bond to cover any of TNN/Viacom's potential losses.  I thought that'd be more associated with court costs... but if he loses the case (and if common sense prevails, he will), and if Viacom can make their guestimate stand up legally, I guess he could be stuck with this $16 million price tag, too.  Maybe more, since I can only see that number going up.  Ouch.
  • I can't think of anything else important to mention today... which means that I'm also probably done for the week.  Unless something odd happens, and I find myself swimming in free time, I'll see you all again.  But not till Monday....


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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