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Red Hot RAW, Ratings, Goldberg, Etc.
July 17, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


If, for some reason, you've been under a rock the past week or so, and are out trolling for spoilers today, well go back to Monday's OO and read them.  That's where they're at.

Rest of you, it's the usual Wednesday pile of turds for you:

  • OK, so in the OO RAW Recap, I decided not to include even one iota of my own personal opinion along with the dry recap, opting to let to old friends fill in those blanks.  Or something like that.
    Well, I've had the extra day, now, and I think I'll vent.
    We'll go back to Monday night, first... after RAW, I briefly popped into the OO Post-RAW Chat session, and of course the question of what I thought about Kane setting JR on fire came up.  I said I wasn't sure, but I thought it was a mis-step.  And then someone (sorry, I forget who, now) asked the question "Was it wrong in theory or wrong in execution?".
    In the end, that distinction is what led me to being kind of torn on the issue.  After thinking on it, the fact is, in execution, RAW's final angle was spectacular.  Not "spectacular" in the value judgment sort of way we usually tend to use the word; but "spectacular" in a completely literal and value-free sense.  Kane setting JR on fire was a spectacle, the sort of thing you kind of have to see to believe.
    Now, because of that, I think we can safely say that RAW delivered the only possible ending that would have "paid off" on the tease of the gas can introduced by Kane.  I think we can also say that the actual production of the angle (Kane shoving down JR, seamless subbing in and out of a stunt man, the way (most) of the assembled camera/lighting crew tried to stop the thing from happening, all that) was very good, and means that we've got us some footage that can be replayed ad infinitum without generating snickers and BBQ sauce jokes from fans who thought it looked hokey.  
    But does that meant his was a good idea when someone tossed it out in a conference room who knows how many days or weeks ago?  Nope.
    Look, it's like my esteemed colleague said in during his spell of oxygen deprivation: I know in my head that they were going for a recreation of the sit-down Jim Ross interviews that Mick "Mankind" Foley did after Hell in the Cell.  Those are what launched his career, for all intents and purposes; if the follow up to his mind-bending bumps in HitC hadn't been that dead-on, he may never have garnered the fan following that justified his WWF Title runs.
    Problem is, Glen "Kane" Jacobs is not Mick Foley.  And I don't even mean that in terms of "Glen Jacobs can't cut a promo," because honestly (a) we don't exactly have a whole lot of samples upon which to base a judgment and (b) comparing anybody to Foley in the promo department is likely to be unfair.  What I mean is that in his interviews, Mick basically told an exagerrated version of his real life story; there was enough real there that we could buy into the Mankind gimmick, and enough real about it that when JR kept asking "hard" questions, it seemed almost understandable that Mankind would put him in the Mandible Claw.
    By contrast, the material Glen Jacobs has to work with is outlandish.  Not only is it a complete deviation from his own real life, which in and of itself would create a sufficient disconnect for fans... it's also a deviation from what we already "know" about the Kane character.  This was the third not necessarily mutually exclusive, but certainly distinct attempt to tell the backstory of Kane.  That inconsistency is probably the sort of thing that sends hardcore fans (and looking at ratings, we're increasingly a significant percentage of the audience) into fits of frustration.
    Tangent: are there ways to make sense of Kane's entire backstory, incorporating what we know from the past with what he revealed on Monday? Maybe...  I mean, I remember an attempt (was it ScoopTHIS, or some place similar?) to not only make sense of Kane's past, but to reconcile it with the known pasts of Isaac Yankem, the Fake Diesel, and the mysterious masked UNABOMB, and there are ways to equivocate your way around just about any pro wrestling silliness if you try hard enough.  Damian Gonzalez has even made a (more serious-minded) attempt to put all of Kane's past highlights into one contiguous story arc, which you can check out right here.  But my point is that if you're having to TRY to make sense of Kane's past, the Fed has already lost.  It's not like they were dropping subtle hints all along that Kane might be psychologically scarred, not physically scarred; instead, with this latest retelling, we can't go back and appreciate the well-constructed six-year build-up, but rather have to go back and ignore several moments from Kane's past (or at least, re-remember them to change Kane's motivation at the time) to have this make sense.
    I mean, I said on Monday in my RAW Preview: "However, if Kane spends much more than just one more week playing around with GMs instead of getting himself into a feud that will have a bona fide in-ring pay-off, I think we may see fan interest level off or perhaps even begin to drop.  It'd be different if the new Kane's strength were going to be killer promos and quality mic work."  What they did on Monday with him flies directly in the face of my theory...  I'm not saying "I'm right, they're wrong," but I'll be sure to stick to my guns in coming weeks.  If Monday's BBQ winds up launching Kane sky-high, I'll happily include this in the OO Year in Review "quOOtable" section as one of my biggest brain farts of the year.  Otherwise, we'll throw this little gem on the pile along with amazingly prescient comments made by Yours Truly about puppydogs and corpse fucking well before those particular angle spun WAY out of control.
    Would it have been so terrible to have Kane's ultimate act of  heelishness come against someone who could actually get in the ring and get revenge?  No, not at all.  Why not throw a fireball at Rob Van Dam, have Van Dam spend 3 weeks out of action selling the injury (for TV purposes, anyway), then come back in time to set this up as a major SummerSlam showdown?  Torching Jim Ross accomplishes only one thing:  it means we've got Jonathan Coachman on play-by-play for (I'm guessing) at least another month.  And that's not necessarily a plus.
    I also remain a fan of the idea I first brought up about three weeks ago: Kane should be paired up with a heel manager type, someone who could be portrayed as manipulating Kane's mind so that his wild actions make some sense.  Because trust me, if Kane just keeps acting psychotic on his own, fans will get sick of it; we'll want Kane fitted for a straightjacket, not for the 30 pounds of diamonds and gold, and that's a bad thing.  I've mentioned a few names that would be perfect for the role of Kane's puppetmaster, and still think Raven's a good one... but after I briefly mentioned Paul Heyman as an option, somebody e-mailed me on Monday with superior choice: the "Sinister Minister" James Mitchell (late of SMW, WCW, and ECW, now in TNA).  He really HAS been hospitalized with serious burns, and is a killer promo guy who specializes in the dark and diabolical undertones.  The pairing could be perfect.  And correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Mitchell actually do some talking for Jacobs back in SMW? Or am I thinking about another big man who he managed, albeit briefly?
    But even with all I can say about how I'm against the RAW finale in theory, the fact remains: they still executed it very well.  That means there's one important consideration left to be made: this is footage that will "age well," which means the Fed will have a week or two in which to shift our perceptions of just what happened and why.  A very viable New Kane can still emerge from this depending WWE's next step.  To me, it's the introduction of a manipulating puppetmaster that gets us where we want to go: it would give depth to Kane's actions on Monday, and give us a reason to boo Kane as a tool of evil, rather than just sort of dismiss him as some crazy guy who can't even get his own backstory straight.  But there might be other options, too.  Ball's in your court, RAW Creative Team.
    Rest of the show: a big ball of Mostly Forgettable, especially as compared to the closing segment.  I mean, there was the palpable sense that this was a show designed to build us up to next week, which is always kind of a red flag signaling that this week may be a tad uneventful. Everything with Austin and Bischoff was for the purpose of next week, from the opening Highlight Reel to the post-JR-fire showdown, and a half-dozen segments in between.  Next week: Austin, Bischoff, Linda McMahon will be in the same ring, ostensibly for the purpose of firing Austin.
    Also announced for next week: Kane vs. Rob Van Dam.  On one hand, I say "No a moment too soon."  On the other, I wonder if RVD getting tossed through a wall and asking for a match is really sufficient motivation to make us forget that Kane should probably (if we used realistic judgment) be in police custody next week (the fact that Kane cannot afford to actually be in custody in storylines is another reason why the creative team might have chosen something different for Kane's big heel act).  It seems, somehow, anticlimactic now that RVD should care about going through a wall, another reason why JR as Kane's target may have been an unwise choice.
    Only briefly mentioned, but definitely on for next week: Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels.  Now, here's a case where I'd have been happy taking some of that time away from the sort of loopy Bischoff/Austin angle, and giving it to Jericho and Michaels to build up to next week.  Them building up is inherently more interesting than Bischoff and Austin building up, because they'll actually have -- you know? -- a match.  But I guess this was another off-day for HBK, so... oh well.
    What we actually get THIS week?  I thought that Evolution's decisive win over the Dudleys was easily the match of the night, it was very old school in construction, but still played well on TV.  It served the purpose of keeping Evolution dominant even if they don't have anyone around who they are SPECIFICALLY feuding with.  As for the Dudleys, they may have lost miserably, but it doesn't matter because next week, what they'll drag out is the footage of them running of La Resistance, which should equal a tag title feud.  Who care if they lost to Evolution the week before?  Not your average fans...
    Not a damn thing else, not even a solidly-worked 37th rematch between Booker T and Christian, stands out to me.  It would have been better to just go ahead and book it as a "Best of Seven" series (like Booker had with Benoit over the WCW TV Title), to give each match and each outcome meaning... instead, each subsequent match between them seems kind of, I don't know, stale.  There just wasn't quite enough juice behind this feud to justify this many rematches; even though both guys are good, I find my attention span being stretched to the limit.
    Toss in my strong misgivings about the Kane/JR angle that closed the show along with the generally tepid material that preceded it, and this was not a RAW that frosted my cupcake in a particularly effective fashion.
  • Oh, about the RAW Recap...  I actually think it's kind of funny the feedback I got for that.  Pretty evenly divided into two camps: "Don't ever do anything that stupid again" (OO Reader Michael Fierro, Spokesman for that camp) and "Funniest and best recap I've read in a while, but I don't think it has legs" (OO Reader "JAM," Spokesman for that camp).
    I found it funny not that people were so polarized by it, but that even among people who liked it, there was a sense that it should not be revisited.  All I can say is, "Well, duh."  First, if you couldn't see how Beavis was the perfect guy to have commenting on this particularly fire-centric edition of RAW, well, you apparently weren't watching MTV 8-9 years ago.  That sort of perfect intersection of fire and the opportunity to be critical in someone else's voice isn't likely to re-occur with any regularity.  Worry not, either camp!
    And second, hey, it was hard!  As witnessed by the fact that three-quarters of the "jokes" weren't really jokes, but just sort of retellings of tried and true shtick (that's OK, all I really wanted was the chance for Smart Beavis to appear and explain what went wrong; the whole thing was really just that one joke).  And also by the fact that I actually sat here for about 10 minutes trying to remember what the hell the hippy teacher's name, and was getting really close to going to look to see if I still had "Beavis and Butthead Do America" on tape when "Van Driessen" suddenly popped into my head.  It's been a long time since I've seen any Beavis and Butthead, so I was even having a hard time coming up with the synonyms for "assmunch" that used to come so naturally.  I don't need that kind of aggravation.
    So if you liked it, great.  Thanks.  And if you didn't, perhaps I should ask, "Did it suck in theory, or in execution?"   HA!  
  • Rating for RAW:  a 3.8.  That's down four-tenths from the week before, but still pretty strong compared to RAW's 2003 numbers to date.  

    Of note: RAW's peak rating was almost a point lower this week than last, as the sit-down interview between JR and Kane apparently appealed to fewer folks than did last week's in-ring showdown between Kane and Austin.  Either that, or the old "stickiness" argument could be brought in, and you could say that Molly vs. Gail Kim gave some viewers an easy out segment that stalled ratings momentum in the final two quarter hours.  Hey, I thought they had a nice little match, but I can see how Johnny Smartmark would change the channel.
    Considering that fans had the option of the MLB Home Run Derby, it's also very possible that once they flipped from RAW, they didn't come back.  I mean, all due respect to Evolution and the Duds, but I misspoke above: the hands-down Match of the Night (and possible Match of the Week... prove me wrong, Benoit and Hardy, prove me wrong!) was Albert Pujols vs. Jason Giambi.  Just awesome displays by both men.
  • Goldberg missed another RAW on Monday... and the general buzz is that the arm infection that was bad enough to send him to the hospital last week was bad enough to keep him home this week.
    Look, I don't want to sound cynical here, but if this is the guy who is supposed to be challenging for the World Title in about 5 weeks at the second biggest PPV of the year, might you not still want him showing up -- infection or no -- to play some MINOR part in TV tapings?  Surely he's not bed-ridden by this, is he?  Isn't this probably just one of those, drain-some-fluid-take-some-antibiotics-deal-with-a-fever kind of things?  If HHH/Goldberg is still management's plan, I say get him back on TV ASAP, even if it is just to have HHH cut a promo on him, have Goldberg run in and scare off all of Evolution without an iota of physical contact.  Let's at least get this story in motion and set the tone (Golberg's a bad ass and HHH is a cowardly heel).
    Don't you think?  Or am I over-reacting?
    There were rumors that -- despite his light-by-agreement wrestling schedule -- Goldberg would be tapped to work house shows starting this weekend against HHH (to prep them for working a PPV match together).  I'd say those dates are obviously in jeopardy now.
  • As mentioned above, SD! had to tape its Thursday show back on Sunday, and that's because they are in full swing over in Asia for a three-show tour.  Wednesday night's show was in Thailand.  Then I think Thursday's an off-day, then two shows in Japan.  That's close, anyway.  Then a night's rest and a flight from hell back to California for SD! tapings next Tuesday.  Then all of 3-4 days off to recuperate before the Vengeance PPV.
    Oh, and I got my verb tense right above.  The Wednesday night SD! show WAS in Thailand.  Even though it's Wednesday afternoon as I write this.  Blame the fricking International Date Line.
  • Not a whole lot else going on this week, so let's close with the usual glance at tonight's TNA PPV...
    No clear-cut stand-out big draw on the card, but there are a couple intriguing contests.  One is Jeff Jarrett facing Joe E. Legend; formerly best known for his one month run as "Just Joe" in the then-WWF, Legend showed up a couple weeks ago in TNA, and has found himself smack dab in the middle of this feud with Jarrett.  And second is a match between Jerry Lynn and Justin Credible that should give them back the lead over Booker/Christian in terms of most consecutive weeks working TV matches together; the difference here is that TNA has actually played up the back-and-forth nature of the series and has kept adding stipulations to the matches (tonight's is a Last Man Standing match).
    Other things: Sting's "Behind the Paint" interview continues/concludes (Pt. 2 was less illuminating than Pt. 1, so lord only knows what was left for Pt. 3)....  Chris Sabin vs. Frankie Kanzarian in what should be a very good X Title match...  New Jack and Shark Boy (who have recently had some of the most entertaining skits since the hey day of the Rock 'n' Sock connection) vs. the Harris Twins...  and interviews with Kid Kash/Abyss and with America's Most Wanted.
    Check out TNA on PPV tonight, or come on back here to OO for Damian Gonzelez's full recap.
  • That is all.  End communication.


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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