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Back to MSG, Lesnar, Another Spike in
the Coffin, JR, Corino, ECW, More... 
June 18, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Positively huge week for WWE...  knowing that they were returning to their home base at Madison Square Garden for back-to-back RAW and SD! tapings, they really ratcheted things up last week, setting the stage for two positively huge shows.

All the pieces look like they're there.  And soon enough, we'll know if the Fed converts on all that promise.  But why wait till tonight or Thursday to dissect the cold, dead carcasses of the shows when we can pick at their still-living flesh like the vultures we are?

  • The MSG mini-series launches tonight with a live RAW.  And we know what to expect as the centerpiece of the show:  Triple H vs. Kane for the World Title.  Not only is the big strap on the line, but there are some well-plotted bits of secondary storytelling that are almost as intriguing.
    For one, HHH's Evolution faction will be on hand.  If it's just Ric Flair and Randy Orton, that itself would be more than enough to impact the direction of the HHH/Kane match.  But we can't dismiss the fact that HHH announced last week that they're looking to expand their ranks to four.  Could the ongoing recruitment of #4 be another side issue (former WCW tag champ Mark Jindrak is slated to team with Randy Orton on upcoming houseshows)?  And if Kane is playing a numbers game, who might have his back?  His increasingly-estranged tag partner, Rob Van Dam?  Mick Foley, whose issues with HHH run deep and could always be revved up again?  Maven and Al Snow, who saved Foley from Evolution last week?  Shawn Michaels and/or Kevin Nash, who have had very recent troubles with HHH and Flair?  It could be any of the above.  Or none.  Tons of cool opportunities to create layered storylines...
    And the second subplot:  if Kane fails to win the World Title tonight, he must unmask in the ring.  For five-and-a-half years, Kane has wrestled with his mask, as his character was introduced as a childhood burn victim who must hide his shameful mutilation.  In that time, however, the loss of the mask has been teased a number of times, each time suggesting the Fed was ready to take a new step with the Kane character: perhaps humanizing him by removing to mask and letting his deformity show (the Fed has explored and tested special make-up treatments for Kane along those lines in the past), or maybe even revealing a whole new backstory for Kane (perhaps he's not really Undertaker's burned up little brother at all, but just some dude who wanted to use that gimmick and Paul Bearer to make a splash in the 1997 WWF).  Of course, each past time the Fed has teased us with Kane-losing-his-mask angles, they've just gone back and reset everything by having Kane show up again the next week looking the same as ever, so...
    As you might expect, the cynical variety of fans -- or "90% of my readership," if you prefer -- don't honestly see this as a case of Kane will win the title or Kane will unmask for real.  Those possibilities do exist, but they are looking for the easy out, the thing that keeps us closest to the status quo without REALLY making a quantum leap forward.  The run the gamut from the simple and logical (Kane wins the match so he doesn't have to unmask, but does so via DQ or count-out so that the title doesn't change hands) to the outrageous (HHH will beat Kane by nefarious means, at which point they'll figure out some way to do a sneaky switch -- Kane goes under the ring, or falls in a dumpster or something -- and when Kane comes out and gets unmasked, he'll be revealed as...  oh, let's just say Kevin Nash).  They've actually done the bait-and-switch unmasking for Kane before (it was Undertaker that time, I believe), so I'm not saying the idea itself is ludicrous; but it would seem kind of out of left field for them to have set up this whole scenario for Kevin Nash when Nash wasn't even at RAW tapings last week on the grounds that they didn't have any creative plan for him.
    Whatever the case, the simple truth is that the Fed's got people talking and plotting, and that USUALLY translates into people watching.  And that means they've already won.  They can really score big if they pick the right finish tonight and entice fans to spend another week anxiously awaiting the next live RAW...
    But although RAW will likely focus on a Kane/HHH main event and subsequent post-match angle of some kind, one that will be supported by an earlier show promo, there's still gonna be at least another 90 minutes of time to kill tonight.  Who'll be handling that?
    Well, for one, we know Mick Foley's gonna be in the house.  Since he announced last week it would be his last RAW for a while, I'm gonna figure he's NOT going to be deeply involved in any on-going angle (such as with Evolution, as was included above as a possibility).  Instead, I look at comments made by Foley on last week's Byte This, and suspect that he'll be a special attraction tonight in some kind of one-off segment.  Foley said that they were planning to do "something special for me," and even suggested that Tommy Dreamer and Terry Funk might both be involved.  I won't pretend to know precisely what direction they'd go with that, but it sounds like something that could be very cool.  Toss in the venue (MSG) and the fact that Foley's going away again for a while, and it could also be very significant.
    In the last 8 days, Test may have lost Stacy as his manager, but he's gained something else that may be of use:  distinct signs of possessing a personality.  Maybe taunting Stacy and abusing Mae Young makes it easy to come off like a dick, but until I'm shown otherwise, I'm gonna say this is Test turning it up a notch and being genuinely entertaining for the first time since he was Stephanie McMahon's fiancé.  That I'm not completely disinterested in the likely continuation of a Test/Steiner feud is a testament to the fact that Test appears to have found his groove lately.  And, if I must be brutally honest, also to the fact that it probably means getting to look up Stacy's dress once or twice per show.
    The tag division is now being dominated by those iron fisted tyrants from France, La Resistance.  Oh, wait, replace "iron-fisted tyrants" with "limp-wristed surrender-monkeys," and that'll be closer to the tru.... ah, dammit, wait, if it's ACCURACY we're going for, you also have to replace "France" with "Canada."  Which probably means you should re-replace "limp-wristed surrender-monkeys" with "hockey-loving American-teat-sucklers."  But what was my point?  
    Oh, yeah, La Resistance have the tag titles, and with the disintegration of RVD/Kane, and with the Dudleys currently occupied with Mack/Nowinski, there don't seem to be any real babyface threats to the heel champs.  I honestly thought nobody would have been more perfect in the role of America-loving sons of bitches than the returning APA, but turns out they went to SD! (where, to give credit, they are equally as perfect in the role of brawlers-for-hire helping out Undertaker, especially if it means -- ahem -- "more seasoning" for Nathan Jones).  So who's left?  Maven/Al Snow might deserve an actual month-long shot to see if they can click with fans...  and I honestly think that Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash could be put to great use in the tag division, too.
    Other stuff:  Booker T isn't giving up his IC Title quest just yet.  Last week, he pinned Christian in a tag match one night after getting a DQ win over the guy....  Goldberg and Jericho were the other plays in that tag match, and though they didn't figure in the finish, you have to assume they're still "married" to each other, since neither has a better feud to move onto...  one of these days, Ivory's gonna get her women's title shot against Jazz.  And with the chaotic, almost random booking in the women's division lately (hey, Trish ACTUALLY LOST to someone who wasn't the champ!), maybe I'm not 100% sure she'd lose against Jazz, anymore, either.  I mean, I'm 99.44% sure, but who knows, maybe they actually want to throw a few more surprises at us before we get Lita and Gail Kim in here to fill in the top spots....  Steve Austin and Eric Bischoff will probably continue to be at odds; but for Austin, there may be another, more specific role for him tonight.  Last week, his accusations of sleep-inducement towards Lance Storm cost Storm a match against rookie "Garrison" Cade.  This week, Storm could conceivably want revenge on either Austin (by adopting some non-boring persona, which could get very funny) or Cade (by winning a rematch).  Or both.
    Should be a tremendously entertaining night if it comes even close to following through on all the promising bits set up last week.  Check it out, and be sure to come on back to OO for full recap and analysis on Tuesday...
  • And while RAW's week is looking big, SD!'s if anything, is looking bigger.  Check out this list:
    (1)  Ultimo Dragon Debuts
    (2)  Undertaker/APA vs. the FBI
    (3)  One or two more US Title Tourney Matches
    (4)  Los Tajiros vs. Piper/O'Haire
    (5)  Likely: Angle/Lesnar/America vs. Show/Haas/Benjamin
    Dragon's debut will be super-cool for the hardcore fans who remember what he was doing 6 years ago in WCW.  But from the sounds of things, they've got him an entrance theme/pyro display that should immediately signal to ALL fans that this guy is freaking awesome.  Remember back a year ago when Rey debuted: he was just a fondly-remembered cruiserweight who hadn't done anything significant in 2 years or more.  But after an effective series of vignettes, from the first second Rey came into the arena with that Spider-man entrance and theme music hook, fans were paying attention.  Of course, Rey delivered the goods in the ring, too, and he spent his first six months in the company playing with heavyweights and winning tag titles.  But you can't dismiss the very first impression he made, either; Dragon's debut on Thursday could be every bit as significant.
    Taker/APA vs. the FBI would probably be a SD! main event in any other given week, except that they have better options and the desire to deliver something special at MSG.  We can also count on another US Title tourney match or two.  Benoit's already advanced.  I expect that both Matt Hardy and John Cena will join that list and make the final four.  You know what'd be awesome?  If they decided to run with Angle as the second babyface to fill out that Final Four.  If those guys advanced, let me tell you something: last year's tag tourney fall-out (round-the-horn great matches featuring the SD! Six) would look like NOTHING compared to the potentially awesome countless iterations of interwoven feuds, rematches, and multi-way and gimmick matches these four could have in the coming months.  And the US Title would give them all meaning.
    Roddy Piper back in a wrestling ring at MSG is special on its own.  Having it come in a pretty entertainingly-crafted tag title feud (with Sean O'Haire vs. Eddie Guerrero and Tajiri) is a bonus.  I almost feel like they could have held this one back (just give me an MSG Piper's Pit, and I'd probably have my nostalgia itch scratched), since the show is so freaking loaded already, but hey, I'm not gonna complain too loudly.  I say put the heels over and make the build up be to a rematch, actually...
    Beyond what's 100% locked in, the plan is also to have Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar, and Mr. America team up in the main event to face Big Show, Charlie Haas, and Shelton Benjamin.  Last week's finish lent itself perfectly to this six-man, and local ads in NYC and the hype on Velocity have confirmed this main event match in the past week.  That's a huge team on the babyface side, and it also marks (I think) Hogan's first televised appearance from MSG in over a decade.  But at this point, there is a question as to whether or not an injury to Lesnar will force them to change this match around (more on that later).
    If you can't wait till Thursday to see how it all goes down, remember, Wednesday I'll have Spoilers up...  and then spend the non-spoiler part of my column trying to figure out how to keep the conversation here current without ruining anything for those of you who actually do prefer to avoid said spoilers.  Oh, the awkwardness of it all.
  • Quickly glancing back to last week:  the OO Staff once again named RAW as our Brand of the Week.  Two in a row for RAW, and this one came by a slightly greater margin of victory than the week before.  Oddly, however, I myself gave the higher rating to SD! (which was just about perfect if you removed all the Steph's-office silliness) this week.  The controversy!  The Boss has been voted down!
    RAW also out-scored SD! last week in the real (Nielsen) ratings.  A week after SD! scored huge, they came tumbling back down to earth and did a 3.2 final rating (down a half point from the week before).  I wonder if they'd have done better if they'd made a big deal out of Kurt Angle's comeback match instead of just springing it on us as a surprise?
    No matter... you can get the full OO Staff ratings (and the Nielsen ones, too) in this past weekend's edition of Battle of the Brands.  Now updated with The Cubs Fan's ratings (hey, TCF, I almost named Farnsworth vs. Wilson as OO's "Match of the Week," so consider myself UNteased... afterall, I got no problem catching a bloody nose or two if we still win the ballgame!).
  • Following up on something I mentioned above:  Brock Lesnar is a question mark for this week's SD! following an injury suffered last week in San Antonio, TX.  
    He stayed there following tapings on Tuesday to visit with friends and was out boating on Wednesday.  Somehow, he fell out of the boat, and cut his leg on the propeller of the boat.  The three-inch long cut across the back side of his knee obviously required stitches to close, and was reportedly an extremely gruesome sight.  
    Lesnar, however, had tried to downplay the severity of the injury, and initially was even offering to work his house show dates this weekend as scheduled.  Why, pray tell, am I getting an image of my head of a leg-less Brock Lesnar declaring "'Tis but a scratch!"?  Management, of course, decided it was better to be safe than sorry, and told Lesnar to stay home, anyway.  

    After a day or two there was some significant swelling in the area of his knee, enough that it would severely hamper his in-ring performance.  If I had to guess, I'd say they can pretty well "hide" Lesnar in a limited capacity role in a six-man tag match if they want, though as of the last I heard, Lesnar is still being officially considered as the oh-so-popular "game time decision."
  • An appeal by Viacom was denied last week, and they will not be permitted to change the name of The National Network to "Spike TV" until after a full hearing is made...  likely not until the autumn.
    Viacom had sought to overturn the earlier decision that forbade them to go forward with the name change; their thinking was that they are very confident that they will win the eventual court case, and so therefore, they'd make every possible play to go through with the change now and limit their losses.  If, for some reasons, they lost the eventual hearing, they'd have to change their name again, which would be a headache and a half... but obviously they don't consider that to be a real possibility.
    So, Round One in the Court of Law goes to you, Spike Lee.  Kudos.  Unfortunately, in my humble estimation, you were also KO'ed at about 4 seconds into Round One in the Court of Common Sense.  And whenever we get around another round in the court of law, well, let's just say my faith in the good sense of all mankind will be shaken if you are not soundly thrashed.
    On the upside, maybe Viacom will just decide "to hell with this," and come up with a less stupid-sounding new name for the network and change it to that.  Then they can still litigate against Lee for whatever monies he has cost them with his boobery, win the rights to the name, and then tell him to cram it with walnuts because they don't wanna be "Spike" anymore, anyway.  That'd be delicious.
    Meantime, Viacom/TNN are getting a ton of press due to the court battle.  Way more than they were getting for just deciding to change their name, at least.  So maybe all's not lost.  An AP story last week is of special note, since it confirms that WWE had some kind of storyline/skit planned to coincide with the name change on last week's RAW, and it had to be pulled (it was just about the only programming change TNN had to make because of the legal proceedings, though).
    Furthermore, a reader forwarded a Daily Variety column to me that was VERY pro-Viacom, enforcing my theory that all right-thinking humans are probably laughing pityingly at Spike Lee because of this fiasco.  Michael Schneider, of Variety, notes (among other things) that anyone under 30 (Spike TV's main demo) is likely to think of Spike Jonez ("Being John Malkovich" and "Adaptation") or the character "Spike" on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," than of Lee (who hasn't had a popular movie in 10 years), and that a quick Google search confirms Spike Lee's complete lack of a reasonable claim to the "Spike" name.  Put "Spike" into the search engine, and nothing Spike Lee related will come up until the SIXTH PAGE.  Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Spike-o.  Oh, wait: you'd prefer to roll it up, right?  Eh, I don't care....
    It was a great piece of opinion, and I'd love to give a link to it here.  Except that Variety's online stuff is pretty much subscription based.  And unlike Viacom, I'd probably BELONG in court if I just went ahead and published what my reader had forwarded to me so you could read it that way...
  • Remember: the "Real Sports" segment on pro wrestling deaths starts airing on HBO tomorrow night at 10pm (eastern).  I outlined the whole thing last week, so go back and read that if you want a preview.  Or just watch it tomorrow night.  It sounds like it'll be balanced and very interesting.
  • Speaking of some of the deaths in wrestling -- many known or suspected to have been expedited by drug use -- Jim Ross was interviewed on TSN's "Off the Record" last week... and while his purpose there may have been to plug his cookbook, host Michael Landsberg didn't let him off without answering some tough questions.
    Regarding some of the wrestling deaths in past years, JR said that he couldn't really feel guilty about any of them, because he thinks that he and the company behaved as responsibly and compassionately as they could have, and at the end of the day, we are talking about grown adults who are going to do what they want no matter how much you want to help them.  Some of this discussion was, I gather, in relation to Brian Pillman, but apparently, JR also explicitly mentioned that he and WWE tried to counsel Jeff Hardy, but that he came back positive on a couple of drug tests, and they decided the best thing they could do would be to part ways with him.  That's significant because, despite all the rumors and innuendo, it's the first confirmation that Jeff Hardy's self-medication was a factor in his WWE release (the party line from both sides was always that Hardy was simply burnt out on the business and wanted to pursue other interests).
    Other things discussed by JR:  they realize they need to quit trying to screw around with the Goldberg formula and just let the guy get back to what he proved he could do back in WCW, namely quietly and convincingly kicking ass....  he admits he finally had a conversation with Sting a few weeks back, and that the company would like to bring him in, though Sting's financial situation and personal beliefs might make that tough...  he was even less optimistic that Randy Savage would ever be brought back...  Steve Austin, despite having to cope with the chance of not wrestling again, is a completely different, more positive man than he was a year ago at this time...  he defending Booker T's place in the company, saying his shot at the big gold would come, and that for now, he's part of a very interesting IC Title feud...  he also mentioned that he thinks we might see Mick Foley back on a part-time in-ring basis at some point.
    Thanks to the trio of Canadian readers who all sent along a few thoughts/highlights from the show.
  • It's been a week, but it's only just worked its way on down to me that the sale of all of ECW's assets to WWE has been OK'ed by a bankruptcy court in New York.  Though technically, this means WWE could use any ECW-trademarked names or gimmicks, the truth is I think most ECW guys owned their own gimmicks anyway, and I don't see WWE finding much value in renaming some PPV "Hardcore Heaven" unless they wanted to try to steal a few buys by tricking people into thinking they were buying porn (which happened to ECW a few times, as I recall).  

    Rather, the Fed is now just a formality or two away from owning ECW's tape library, which is what they're really after.  As time goes on, these library acquisitions almost take on a multiplicative value for WWE, I think.  Just having a tape library might be nice, but having ALL of them that are of any historical significance creates a nice little monopoly.  That massive joint tape library becomes of a value greater than the sum of its parts.
    Already, the Fed has made sporadic use of their WCW/NWA tape library, and effective with this week's release of a Shawn Michaels retrospective DVD, they're also getting their money's worth out of the AWA library they acquired last year.  Toss ECW onto the pile, and consider that Linda McMahon has hinted that there are one or two other tape libraries the Fed is trying to buy (Memphis?  Stampede?  Those'd be my two choices...), and basically anything that has happened in this business in the last 25 years will be property of WWE.  If that's the pool of footage you have to work with, I think just about any of us could suddenly come up with reasonably profitable projects for WWE's home video division to work on.  I think a monkey and a dartboard could, for that matter.  Just awesome possibilities.
  • Earlier this month, Steve Corino was detained by customs officials in Detroit when he returned from a tour of Japan.  Apparently, there was a warrant out for his arrest, though he didn't know about it.  Turns out, the warrant for felony fraud and forgery charges was issued in Pennsylvania on May 19 following a 2 year investigation by police there.
    His extradition and arrest resulted in his missing a Ring of Honor booking on June 14.  He's currently out on bail (he was a key performer on this weekend's MLW show, for instance), and I believe is due in court again this week for a preliminary hearing.
    In a press release from Corino, he strenuously claims that the charges that he forged a check and inappropriately used a credit card 25 times at the expense of an ex-girlfriend will be proven false in court.  He further thanks those fans and friends who have stood with him for the past couple weeks since all this went down, and promises their faith in him is not misplaced.
    I figure Steve makes a good point:  let's say we let the courts get to the bottom of this before we make any rash armchair decisions of our own, OK?
  • That's a pretty goodly-sized update for today, now isn't it?  I think we'll wrap it up...
    But first, a purely personal request:  up in Columbus, OH, there's a guy named George Koenig -- my band director in high school -- who was already dealing with paralysis after removal of a growth on his spine when doctors also discovered pancreatic cancer.  I think every one of us has maybe 3 or 4 teachers who have significantly impacted our lives, and for me, George is probably at the top of the list.  
    I doubt I would ever have picked up a musical instrument if not for him, and I can't even imagine how differently I might have turned out in that case.  Nor do I want to.  On top of that, in the ten years since I've been out of high school, George has been a great friend to me and my family, too.
    Needless to say, my thoughts are with him as he starts up a chemo program and hopefully down the road to a full recovery.  If you all can also spare a positive thought or three for a guy you've never met, I'd sure appreciate that, too...
    See you again on Wednesday. 


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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