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The Un-Screw-Up-able RAW, Goldberg,
Heat/Velocity, Jeff Hardy, Lots More
July 21, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


The RAW brand doesn't have a PPV scheduled for July, but you kind of get the feeling that tonight's show is what will pass for one.  A couple big matches -- weeks in the making -- are confirmed, there's a major angle slated to play out, and as recently as 2 weeks ago, the Rock was planning on making a special appearance in LA tonight.

So after years of getting ripped off to the tune of $35 anytime we wanted to see a big event, it's kind of fun to sit here on a Monday, looking forward to what should be a killer free show.  I know we're not getting away with anything, but it kind of feels like we are, doesn't it?

Here's the deal:

  • When RAW hits the Staples Center in LA tonight, it'll be with a loaded line-up.  And the best part is, it's not even really predicated on following up on last week's Kane/JR angle.  Removed and protected from that region of the ill-conceived, we've got a few others things to look forward to.
    Number one: Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho.  This was set up two weeks ago, and though it didn't get proper attention last week from the creative team, that's OK.  It's a match that largely sells itself on the merits of both workers and the fact that it is a "WrestleMania rematch."  These two did end up stealing the show and having the best match at WM19 a few months back, and even though there's no chance in hell they get another 20 minutes to work with here, I have no doubts that they should be able to steal the show again tonight.  Whether they get to go on last or if they have to play second fiddle to the latest wacky adventure of Kane is not so big an issue: they'll probably get the free-TV main event allotment of 10-12 minutes, no matter what, and they'll make good use of it.
    Hopefully, they'll put the show together tonight so that Jericho (and Michaels) can also get some stick time.  That they can both work a great match is a boon, but why waste their verbal abilities?  Unless they decide to throw them out first to get the show off to a hot start, I say do some kind of promo/skit with them to make sure that the live crowd is fully amped for the match...
    Something else to look forward to: Triple H and Goldberg are gonna wrestle at SummerSlam, and after three weeks of stalling, they'll finally start telling that story.  Both guys are as healthy as they're gonna get and wrestled each other for the first time ever last night in San Jose (more on that later), so look for this feud to finally be on.
    And as I alluded to above, we've also got the possibility of a special appearance by The Rock on tonight's show.  In a radio interview earlier this month, Rock said he expected to show up on tonight's RAW and be involved in an angle that would set him up to wrestle in a match on the Aug. 4 edition of RAW.  After a terribly entertaining heel run this winter and spring, the Rock couldn't keep generating boos because he was just too damn funny.  Unfortunately, when he starts acting like he's expecting the cheers, he becomes almost insufferably un-funny, so... but now I'm getting off track.  Fact is, last time he was around for a special appearance, he was essentially a full-on babyface, and he crossed paths with Chris Jericho and Christian.  Either guy would be a quality foil for Rock, though for the purposes of a one-off match on RAW, Christian might be the better fit (save Jericho for a major PPV feud when Rock makes a full time return).  Christian is, conveniently enough, unfettered by the IC Title at this time, though I'm sure he still imagines he holds the title of "New People's Champ."  It wouldn't take a lot to get Rock and Christian together for a match in two weeks...  but again, I'm just sort of guessing here.
    Now after those three things, we do have to delve into the realm of Kane-centric stories for top angles.  Kane himself is slated to wrestle Rob Van Dam in a match tonight, which SHOULD be a big deal, and which SHOULD have provided Kane's breakthrough heel act.  Instead, it feels like it's being presented as an afterthought to Kane roasting a TV announcer, a misalignment of priorities that I've already gone on and on about in previous columns about last week's JR-BQ. It almost leaves you hoping that somebody injects a little dose of realism by having Kane spend tonight in jail, instead of in a wrestling ring... but if that happens, we get our "realism" at the cost of being cheated out of a match we were promised.  The Fed grabbed our attention with a shock TV segment last week, but now they'll have to prove that they've got a sensible master plan for this whole storyline, and that last week wasn't just a one night grab for ratings.
    So again, Kane vs. RVD was announced as a match last week, though now it seems like it's little more than an excuse to cart Kane out so that they can replay footage of last week, and talk about the admittedly interest new character element of his: that his scars are psychological, not physical.  The import of match as the break-up of the former tag champs and as Kane's chance to have his new, monstrous side come out in an angle that would have actual real, in-ring repercussions is bound to be lost a bit.
    Also muddling things: Kane's rampage over the past 3 weeks is a major part of the reason that Eric Bischoff has (apparently) convinced Linda McMahon to show up on RAW tonight to fire Steve Austin.  At least, Bischoff thinks that's what's gonna happen, and we, as fans, have been conditioned to believe that whenever Linda shows up on TV, it's almost always a signal something big is gonna happen.  While Chris Jericho rallied the (heel) locker room against Austin's poor management style last week on RAW, Bischoff went straight to the boss, and convinced Linda to make an appearance this week.  When Kane set JR on fire, Bischoff showed his face again to underscore his belief that all of Kane's actions in the last few weeks are on Austin's head, and that such a general manager is not good for RAW.  RAW can't afford to be without Austin as a drawing card, and since Austin can't wrestle a regular schedule, I'm suspicious of them removing him completely from the GM equation...  but some kind of shake-up seems inevitable tonight.
    That's a lot of stuff to get through tonight.  Now that I stop to think about it, maybe doing a cheap angle where Kane is not in the building tonight isn't such a bad idea.  Him vs. RVD can be saved for another night when it wouldn't be so buried, and letting the Kane storyline rest for a week with just some footage of him being hauled into some psych ward for observation would prevent another week of Kane overload like we had last week.  I'd be willing to give up the match tonight, I guess, if it means letting all these other segments play out without being rushed.
    Possible big losers tonight: when every segment I outlined above has "main event" written all over it, it means there's probably not gonna be a lot of room on the show for your Rodney Macks and Chris Nowinskis, your Hurricanes and Roseys, your divas, or your tag team champions.  Wouldn't surprise me if Test and Scott Steiner were about as far down towards the mid-card as we delved tonight.  Again, I'd rather have fewer stars in fewer segments and let them all play out to the fullest, rather than trying to rush a bunch of guys out there just to say they were out there.  If somebody actually has this week's equivalent of last week's 45-second Rosey/Mack match booked, hey, let's just call it off and figure out some way to give that time to Jericho and Michaels, alright?  Thanks in advance...
    I'm pretty fired up for tonight's RAW; I don't think there are a lot of ways the Fed can screw this up unless they tried REALLY hard... and don't expect them to be putting their energy into such an enterprise tonight.  Check out the show and come on back for full results and analysis here at OO tomorrow.
  • Back to the subject of Triple H and Goldberg for one moment...  Goldberg did indeed wrestle a rare house show date last night in San Jose, CA, and it was against HHH.  The result was a pinfall win for HHH, though it was far from clean.  Goldberg fell prey to interference from both Ric Flair and Randy Orton, allowing HHH to hit the Pedigree for the pin.
    The match was about 15 minutes, and was met with mixed reviews.  Though it was pretty slowly paced, everything they did looked pretty tight (in contrast to when Scott Steiner and HHH first hooked up, and the result was a poorly paced match that also featured a lot of sloppiness).  For a first time pairing, that's not so terrible, and we must also consider that Goldberg's been on the sidelines for 3 weeks with an arm infection and that HHH is working through a deep thigh bruise that had him visibly limping just a week ago.
  • Despite HHH/Goldberg headlining a RAW brand show, it was SD! that once again drew the largest and most enthusiastic crowd of the weekend.  The fourth and final show of WWE's latest tour of Asia played to a crowd of about 10,000 in Kobe, and was headlined by a "dream team" of sorts in a six-man tag.
    Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, and Brock Lesnar teamed up and defeated Big Show, Eddie Guerrero, and John Cena in a very good 20 minute main event.  Benoit, of course, has been hugely popular in Japan for almost a decade, as that's where he first became a star.  Lesnar, in the past year, has gotten over big time with Japanese fans due to his combination of size and technique.  Angle, surprisingly (since his act is pretty much equal parts sports and entertainment, as opposed to the personality blackholes that are Benoit and Lesnar), was described as just about the most popular performer on the entire tour, which just goes to show how small the world is becoming: guys like Tajiri, Dragon, and Funaki got a little bit of preferential treatment from fans, but in the end, fans still responded appropriately to the top babyfaces based on how they're pushed on TV.
    Also on the show in Kobe on Saturday night:  Rey Mysterio beat Jamie Noble...  Haas/Benjamin beat Tajiri/Rhyno...  Dragon beat Kidman...  Funaki beat Matt Hardy...  O'Haire beat Spanky...  and A-Train beat Billy Gunn.
  • The final rating for last week's SD! wound up being a 3.4, which is not nearly as bad as the overnight rating (which was impacted by preemptions in at least 2 key markets) suggested it might be.  That's only a two-tenths drop from the week before, a loss that you could explain due to the preemptions (rescheduled airings do not count towards the final ratings number).
    However, the fact that SD!'s final rating wound up being relatively strong despite distressing overnight numbers also means that both RAW and SD! wound up scoring higher in the Nielsens than in the OO Ratings (we said SD! earned a 3.1 rating).  In our Battle of the Brands parlance, that means both shows UNDERperformed for the week.  That's the second week in a row in which both brands have performed worse with OO's crew of expert critics than they did at the box office (so to speak).
    If you missed last week's Battle of the Brands, it's right here.
  • Well, I've kind of been wondering about this for like two months now...  what was gonna happen with Sunday Night Heat when the SD! brand was presenting a PPV?  Clearly, I have a lot of free time on my hands if these are the kinds of issues that occupy my time...
    Anyway, the Fed announced what's gonna happen -- and what do you know? -- it's a perfect common sense solution.  Next week, Heat and Velocity simply switch timeslots on TNN.  Heat will air on Saturday night, and Velocity is live from Denver preceding the PPV.
    I know this takes a little bit of the steam out of the rivalry between the brands (if RAW really wanted to stick it to SD!, wouldn't they insist on keeping the Sunday night slot?)... but the benefit of having the live hour of hype before a PPV (instead of having to rely on something canned like that silly half-hour countdown show on the PPV channel) more than offsets that.  In my opinion, anyway.
  • Ring of Honor, now more than a year into presenting an almost purely workrate-driven wrestling product, loaded up a show this past weekend in New Jersey in hopes of having a signature/break-out event.  But it ended up being notable for an unexpected reason:  the live crowd tore pretty hard into Jeff Hardy, who was making a one-time appearance for the group.
    Live reports indicate Hardy was booed lightly starting as soon as he made his entrance (in his old Will o' The Wisp mask/get-up), but that the crowd turned further against him after he blew a few spots.  Hardy won a three-way match over Joey Matthews and Krazy K, but was also subjected to a chant of "Go Get Well" from the assembled fans.  Ouch.
    By all accounts, Jeff took it all pretty much in stride, telling the No Holds Barred radio show that the fans paid their money, and they can do what they want.  But he also said he has few, if any, plans to do any wrestling over the next several months, and you have to assume that reactions like this one would factor into that decision.  Instead, he'll be focusing on his music.  In the same interview, however, Jeff admitted that he envisions a big WWE comeback down the line, but that the timetable on that will have a lot to do with how things work out with him and his music.
  • Another surprise at the ROH show: Tommy Dreamer made an unexpected appearance to help out his old rival, Raven, in a match against CM Punk.  When Dreamer and Raven embraced, the live crowd willingly succumbed to a few years of amnesia (what Loser Leaves RAW match?), and chanted "ECW," preferring to remember their spectacular feud from '95-'97 (and again, kind of, in 1999) instead of the shadow of their hostilities from WWE.
  • OO Reader and Channel Surfer Extraordinaire, Howard Primer, wrote in today to mention that he found our ol' pal Warrior in a rather unusual place this weekend:  on C-SPAN2.
    Warrior was taped speaking at the Young American's conference, talking about corrupt government and all kinds of stuff (probably with a conservative slant, since I think that's his shtick, now).  Howard said the funniest part of the whole thing is that the very staid and respectable C-SPAN had no choice but to list the speaker as "Warrior, Former World Wrestling Federation Champion."  
    Warrior: your #1 choice for a guest speaker when completely incongruous chyron is your ultimate goal!
  • In my on-going effort to make OO the home for inappropriate and un-PC comments about Zach Gowen and how his handicap will affect pro wrestling, I have no choice to to turn the reigns over, briefly, to OO Reader Jason Winter, who was motivated to write in with these thoughts after one of my recent outbursts:

"It occurs to me…

You’ve mentioned a few times (half-jokingly) how someone like Ric Flair could never beat Zach because he couldn’t use his finisher on him. What I want to know is what kind of problems the guys who make the Smackdown video games are going to have in representing Zach. Consider:

1)       He’ll require a completely new walking and running animation. While not a major problem in its own right, all wrestlers currently run at the same speed, and, while Zach looks goofy enough when he hops around the ring, imagine how that will look in a video game when he’s running at the same speed as, say, Rey Mysterio.

2)       As you mentioned, how will certain moves work on him? Can Flair do a figure four? What about the Sharpshooter, Walls of Jericho, or Edgeucation?

3)       And what about Zach’s moveset? It’s obviously limited. Even something as simple as a kick to the gut is impossible. Right now, from a standing position, all he seems to have are dropkicks and simple arm-based moves (punches, chops, forearms). I imagine we’ll see more after he has a real match, but there just ain’t that much to work with.

My thought is that they should make him come down to the ring with the prosthetic and a mat-based moveset that comes with that (and the ability to receive any moves), and then, if he takes a certain amount of damage, the leg is knocked off and he has to go to his high-flying moveset. Plus, the leg makes a handy foreign object!"

Wow.  NOW we're cooking with gas, people.  I thought I was being clever and insightful when I joked that Zach would be the perfect opponent to help get Lance Storm off the scheid...  but this puts me to shame.  If THQ doesn't integrate these elements when they give us the first playable Zach Gowen, they are missing out, badly.  The knock-off-able leg alone might cause hours of headaches for the programmers, but would supply end-users with just as many hours of couch-bound, totally wasted fun trying to figure out the fastest way to get the damn thing to come off so we could start using it to whack people in the head with.

  • I'm out.  See you Wednesday with news and spoilers.  Well, actually, see you tomorrow with the RAW recap, but not with a regular column again till.... oh, nevermind, you know what I mean.


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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