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RAW, Ratings, Real Sports, Spike v.
Spike, and Other News...
June 25, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


One down, one to go in what had the appearances of being a very exciting week or rasslin' action.  We'll discuss whether RAW hit the mark or not below, and you can either wait till Friday's column to pick apart SD!, or just go get the Spoilers right now.  Your choice.

Here's the mid-week thingie:

  • RAW was all about Kane this week.  If you liked the way they handled his unmasking, you probably loved the show.  If you didn't, well, this was not the week for you.  It was a case of a main event match/angle being so big and so effectively overshadowing the rest of the show that it'd be hard to have an opinion of that show not flavored by it.
    Myself, I'm firmly in the camp that is a fan of the New Kane.  Yes, the make-up job was underwhelming, and yes, the announcers over sold it.  But guess what?  It's the announcers JOB to sell the product, and now that I've had a few people spell it out for me, the truth is, they had to give the New Kane a look that he can actually wrestle in 4 nights a week (what's he gonna do, go back to the mask for house shows only?) and not have it fall off/wear off.  So OK, I'll take what we got: it wasn't a hideous deformation, but it was pretty odd-looking.
    I reiterate that the only REAL complaint I have is that in the past handful of times Kane was unmasked, his wig never came off.  In fact, his real hair was used to obscure his face long enough for him to make an escape.  Yet on Monday, the mask comes off, and his hair comes right with it?  It's real easy to scream "CONTINUITY ERROR," and the Fed made it even easier when they showed the footage of Kane's latest unmasking (by Evolution) in which he clearly made his getaway thanks only to his long hair.  I was worried I was overthinking when I put that criticism in my RAW Recap yesterday, but I got a bunch of mails from people who say they were struck by the very same incongruity.  A few tried to explain it by suggesting that the mask and wig are two separate things Kane uses to hide his deformity, and in the past, the wig's just never been pulled off.  But on Monday, Kane, for some reason, decided "Ah, the hell with it," and gave us the full monty.  I guess that'll have to do...
    So I accept the new look for Kane, and furthermore, I think the way the match and post-match angle played out, he's clearly in a better place than he's been in -- well -- years, probably.  The match with HHH was no great shakes for the opening bits, but built to an awesome finish with a few really good teases, and finally, with both Flair and Orton having to help HHH beat Kane.  That means Kane walks out looking pretty monstrous right there.  Add in the unmasking, and this is a scary new Kane.  First item of business, I'm guessing, is a total decimation of RVD in his first feud.  They might try to keep him as an ostensible tweener for a while, but I see the value in getting him full-on heel relatively soon.  In fact, without going into my five paragraph dissertation on how best to handle Kane, let's just say that I think a well-built-up heel Kane vs. Goldberg may be be something they should be looking at instead of Goldberg vs. HHH in terms of a money feud.
    RAW wasn't just the Kane angle, though.  I thought, for instance, that Goldberg was handled perfectly.  The fans were going nuts, and it was probably equal parts because Goldberg looked like an ass-kicker and because he killed off the kinda-lame "White Boy Challenge" gimmick.  Let's face it: Mack wasn't booked in those matches to look particularly strong (even against jobbers, he was taking 2 minutes or so), so the gimmick wasn't a showcase for him and fans never had a reason to care one way or the other.  The same fans who don't care about Mack are probably seeing how the gimmick has developed over the weeks (Spike Dudley took him to the limit), and figure it won't end until some guy scores the "big" upset over Mack, setting up a feud that nobody will give two shits about.  Yee haw.  Thus, when Goldberg kills the gimmick off, we're pretty fired up about it.  Mack's still got Teddy Long doing his talking, which was the strength of the White Boy Challenge, anyway, and now Goldberg's back on track as a bad-ass.
    We also had two other really good WRESTLING matches in Flair/Orton vs. Michaels/Nash and the Thrillseekers vs. the Dudleys.  The extended bit with Foley in the ring was "nice," and then the backstage bit was very intriguing as it clearly indicates that when Foley comes back, he'll have business to tend to a bit more pressing than being a referee and accepting trophies.  And all around, the pacing of the show was another big step in the right direction; after years of following the same basic format, they are shaking things up so that commercial breaks are coming right when you want to keep watching the action, instead of right where you could very easily expect them to be.  The "low-content segment" seems to be more and more a thing of the past.
    I say it was a really good RAW that lived up to expectations.  And since I did say most of my piece already in the RAW Recap (and I'll have to say some of it again in BotB on Friday), I'll leave it at that.
  • The rating for RAW came in at a 3.9.  That is down just a bit from the previous week's 4.1, but is still fairly solidly above RAW's year-to-date average.  Since the previous week's rating had the benefit of being a post-PPV show (always good for a ratings bump from fans too cheap to pay for the show) and being the first RAW back where fans knew Mick Foley was back in the company, that might not be a fair rating to compare to.
    So instead, let's just look at the 3.9 and say that coming in well above the 2003 average is a good thing.  I no longer have access to quarter hour breakdowns, but according to the numbers published at 1Wrestling.com, RAW actually started at a 3.0 at 9pm and built up to a 5.0 for the overrun with Kane's unmasking.  For one thing, that steady building of the audience is good, and shows that once the Fed got you, they were "sticky."  And for two, I can't remember the last segment on RAW that scored up at 5 or better, so that bodes VERY well for the attempted career rejuvenation for Kane.
  • OK, so that "Real Sports" thing that was on HBO last night?  Not what I was expecting at all based my advance information.  Though Armen Ketayian seemed headed down the right path at the start, the piece stagnated, just barely scratching the surface of any sort of real investigation in favor of just repeating sensational statistics, self-righteous sentiment, and implications of institutional responsibility where there really shouldn't be. 
    Of the three main guys interviewed for the piece, Del "the Patriot" Wilkes was the only one who came out looking even remotely good.  He's a guy who was deep into the "sickness," and who came out on the other side.  He seemed willing to talk about it, so of course, instead of getting in-depth with him about how he let himself get into it, and if it was just peer pressure ("7 of 10 guys were doing it," Wilkes contended), then what prevented him from seeing it was destructive and not following along with the pack... instead of doing that, they wanted to get some face time for the bigger names.
    Roddy Piper, unfortunately, seemed back to his self-contradictory ways: he had to refer to himself in the third person, saying the Roddy Piper who was on TV disgusted him because the real Roddy Piper doing the interview can't stand the wrestling business and thinks its a cesspool.  Look, I do not deny the poignancy of the moment in which Piper explained that he's back in the business to make some money while he can because his pension doesn't kick in till he's 65, and "let's face facts, I'm not making it to 65."  But the Piper Logic that he could exist as two entities baffled me as much as his WCW promos from Alcatraz ever did....
    And then there was Vince McMahon, who might tell you he was just playing up a character (but who may just have been in a pissy mood that day), who tried to physically intimidate Armen when faced with touchy questions.  What Vince should have realized is that he was essentially in the right, and his stance made perfect logical sense.  If only he had explained it clearly instead of slapping Armen's papers out of his hand and getting all confrontational.  He made no points with anyone the way he handled it, which is too bad since he could so easily have scored big with just about everyone, including (assuming he's a rational person) Ketayian.
    To Ketayian, however, it seemed like the more interesting (or at least, easier to pursue) issue was the idea of institutional responsibility.  Obviously, he could not interview the deceased to understand their motives, so instead, he took the piece in the direction of wondering about the business that "killed them."  But even if he didn't want to acknowledge the truth of Vince's one moment of cogent debate (something along the lines of "if there are guys in this business that have to drink, take painkillers, snort coke to continue performing, then it's up to them to realize they have to get out and do something else"), he should have realized that it's not "the business" that's killing anybody -- it's the individual's judgment -- after he got quotes from Teddy Hart.
    Hart, the nephew of Davey Boy Smith (who died of a heart attack, but one probably brought on or complicated by his use of drugs over his career, including at least 2 very serious battles with pain killer addiction), told the cameras that he's not using any steroids or anything now, but that he realizes that appearances are important in wrestling.  And if what he's doing now doesn't quite work, then he'd be willing to "take it to the next level."  And then he added, "if you know what I'm saying" or something like that with a little smirk and a wink, clearly indicating that the "next level" is probably something illicit.
    This is a guy (actually, a kid, all of 17 or 18) who's uncle died at age 39, clearly a victim of "The Sickness" as defined by Ketayian.  This is a guy who tag teams with Smith's son.  This is a guy who had done nothing in "the business" beyond wrestling in front of a few hundred people in a high school gym.  You're telling me his revelation that he's open to the idea of hitting the juice is indicative of anything other than cataclysmically bad judgment?  To me, at that point, the story should have ceased to be "How does the business get its claws into you?" and started to be "How does the individual allow the business to become so important that all other considerations become meaningless?".  Or more bluntly, "How can rational people be so stupid?".
    But "Real Sports" didn't go down that route, and the result was a pedestrian and predictable segment that was probably sensationalistic enough to rope in non-wrestling-fans to watch and evocative enough to upset them, but which gave those already knowledgeable about wrestling absolutely nothing new to gnaw on.  We knew guys who wrestle for a living make bad decisions at a rate higher than the national average.  And we still don't know why.
    The segment will be repeated on "Real Sports" on all the HBO channels ad nauseum for the next two weeks.  Despite my disappointment in it, I guess I'd still tell you to check it out, if for no other reason than to try to draw your own conclusions out of it.  It's not that the piece goes out of its way to bury WWE or anything like that, it's just that I think it missed the more interesting and important issue in favor of the misguided one of institutional responsibility.
  • Clearly, nobody had a leash on Piper when he was interviewed for the "Real Sports" piece...  it's believed that WWE management didn't even really know what Piper told the cameras until the show aired last night.  Your guess is as good as mine as to whether or not he ruffled any of the wrong feathers...
    But what is interesting is that in recent radio interviews, Piper has also been vocal on other issues, as well.  Most notably, that the current creative process has left him feeling way too confined as a performer.  He thinks that "Piper's Pit" works best if there is some improvisation, but currently, he has to stick to a script.
    What's interesting is that -- in an attempt to build up the house show business -- Piper will be hitting the road for WWE starting next month, doing the Pit at house shows.  These segments will serve a double purpose as an experiment to see if Piper -- in an almost purely improvisational setting -- can deliver on entertaining and focused interview segments.  If the house show Pits go well, the story goes, Piper will get more free reign on the ones taped for SD!.
    Of note: Piper's guest on the first run of house show Pits will be none other than Vince McMahon.  Even before Piper went off on the "Real Sports" show, that would have been interesting... now, the two have even more material to work with.
  • In the battle over the "Spike TV" name, Viacom may have won its first victory.  A judge has ordered Spike Lee to increase the size of the bond he's had to post (to cover any losses incurred by Viacom should they win the rights to "Spike TV" in the eventual hearing) from $500,000 to $2.5 million.  Lee has until Monday to post the additional money.
    The $2.5 million still looks to be a drop in the bucket compared to what Viacom claims they have lost already due to delaying the name change.  But to Lee, that number's gotta look pretty hefty.  He can't be blind to the fact that public opinion on this matter is almost 100% against him, and unless he has serious reason to think that Johnnie Cochran can sway the legal opinion the other way, the increased bond may make him blink.  We'll have to see.
    Also, in an interesting twist, the estate of Spike Jones (with an "s") threw in with Viacom on Monday, as they also have a vested interest in the name "Spike."  In fact, there are plans for a Spike Jones bio pic that would be titled simply "Spike," so the family wants to also contend that the name "Spike" is non-exclusive.  I think I read a quote from Spike Jones Jr. along the lines of, "Spike Lee has no more claim to exclusivity of the 'Spike' name than I do," indicating, of course, that he himself didn't fell like he had any claim to such rights.  Oh, the common sense!  How refreshing!
    Also of note: an August 18 start date has been set for the full hearing on this matter -- provided Lee makes good on the $2.5 million -- which is a little earlier than had been anticipated.  Thanks to everyone who keeps sending me the newswire items updating this story, since it does, fairly clearly, fall outside the realm of traditional wrestling news...
  • A bunch of movie rumor sites are reporting that The Rock is under consideration to play the titular role in a proposed "Captain Marvel" movie franchise.  Considering that he's also slated to be the lead in the "Spy Hunter" franchise if that thing gets launched, rumored for a role in the third "Spider-man," the leading candidate to play "Duke Nuke 'em," expected to accept the role of young Sonny Corleone in "Godfather 4," and already booked to play the lead (the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia) in "Star Wars: Episode 7" when it begins production in 2016 -- all in between regular wrestling appearances -- I'd say the Rock's dance card is looking mighty full.
    OK, so I made some of those up.  But you get the idea.
    Something I'm not making up: last week, WWE turned an Aug. 5 SD! taping in Vancouver into an Aug. 4 live RAW in Vancouver.  Why is that interesting?  Because principle filming on "Walking Tall," starring The Rock, began on Monday in Vancouver, and will still be going strong when WWE passes through in earlier August.  Could they be planning ahead just in case it's possible to squeeze another one-shot out of the Rock in August?
  • Last thing for today is a quick glance at tonight's TNA PPV....  after a few weeks of headline stealing developments such as an NWA Title change and the live PPV return of Sting, TNA this week is selling the show almost purely on the promise of a kick-ass wrestling match.
    America's Most Wanted -- Chris Harris and James Storm -- are probably TNA's #2 success story (after AJ Styles) in terms of created talent over the past year.  Tonight, they'll challenge Triple X -- Elix Skipper and Lo-Ki -- for the NWA Tag Team Titles (titles that they've actually held for good portions of the past year, at least until recently).  And it'll be inside a steal cage.  It's TNA's first cage match, and based on what these guys are capable of (including a very good non-gimmick match against each other last week), this should be an outstanding main event.
    Also tonight:  all the players except Sting from last week's big main event should be around, so NWA Champ AJ Styles, Jeff Jarrett, Vince Russo, and Syxx-pac should be making each other's lives difficult...  along those lines, both Raven and Shane Douglas should be around for another chapter between them...  Jerry Lynn and Justin Credible will lace 'em up again, this time in a "lights out match"...  Chris Sabin (the X Division Champ) will wrestle a non-title match against Frankie Kazarian (recently of WWE try-out fame)...  Sony Siaki will face the Sandman in a Hard 10 match...  and Erik Watts will get his hands on Kid Kash in a one-on-one match.
    As always, we'll have Damian Gonzalez's full TNA recap for you here on Friday.
  • I'm out for today.  It might interest you that I have absolutely no plans and nothing to do this weekend.  Maybe I'll sit around and knit a blanket.  Nah, too hot for that.  Maybe sit out on the porch, drink a few beers, and listen to the Battle of Ohio on the radio.  Yeah, that sounds good.  
    And for you, it means I'll definitely be around to do a column on Friday!  I figure it's only fair.  After a few weeks of taunting you by not doing Friday columns because of my exciting,  globetrotting, wedding-going, rock 'n' roll lifestyle, I figure I might as well be just as honest when I'm looking at a big fat weekend of nothing.  Full disclosure, baby: the Rick sucks sometimes, too!
    Old me tomorrow, then I'll see you with something new in two... 


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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