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HHH Injured Again, RAW, Ratings, 
and Other News
July 30, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


So, following up on Monday's non-wrestling intro, the Cinci Reds' shake-up is officially on.  I'm liking Bowden and Boone gone.  I'm not so keen on the big fat wad of nothing we got back from Boston in exchange for Williamson, but if the makeshift front office comes back and does the deal with Seattle that people are talking about, I'll be pleasantly surprised.  No, we aren't gonna do jack squat the rest of this season, but I think I prefer the idea of getting some key prospects and payroll room to work with instead of carting out the same bunch of jack squat again next season.

What'll REALLY piss me off: if Williamson helps put Boston over the top and they take the AL East from the Yankees.  Not only will they have fleeced by favorite team in a trade, but they'll have knocked my second favorite from winning another division crown.  

But onto the wrestling:

  • Triple H is hurt.  Again.  Crappy Birthday to you, big man.
    WWE gave the fans in Colorado Springs on Monday night a bonus match after RAW went off the air, as HHH and Goldberg  hooked up in a SummerSlam preview.  Since Goldberg's house show schedule is limited, this was more a way of getting the two ring time with each other than it was the start of a new WWE policy of giving fans at TV tapings a little something special that's not aired on TV.
    Early on in the match, HHH appeared to come up lame.  He and Goldberg plodded through some awkward time-killing spots for about 5 minutes, and then Randy Orton came out and caused a DQ by attacking Goldberg.  By all accounts, this WAS presented as a World Title Match, so the Orton DQ was the easiest way to get out of either Goldberg jobbing or HHH dropping the strap, and was probably the planned finish all along.
    Yesterday, WWE.com confirmed that HHH was injured, and had additional details.  They say that, at this time, the injury is a "severely strained groin."  An MRI countered the original diagnosis of a torn groin muscle, which is good.  However, the amount of trauma to the muscles in the area meant that doctors could not yet rule out that HHH has suffered a hernia.
    HHH was basically ordered by doctors to pull out of the RAW brand's tour of Australia this weekend.  The story mentions that HHH still wanted to go, even if only to make non-wrestling appearances, but doctors insist that the only way he'll make any progress is to take the next week and basically spend it in bed.  No physical activity at all.  At that point, a re-diagnosis will be possible, also.
    If this does turn out to be "just" a strained groin, the possibility of HHH vs. Goldberg still taking place at SummerSlam is maybe 50/50 (though the possibility of HHH being at 100% in that scenario is absolutely zero).  Worst case scenario, though, would have the diagnosis come back as the dreaded Sports Hernia...  which would probably require surgery, and would sideline HHH for at least 8-12 weeks (maybe longer).  The "sports hernia" injury with which I'm most familiar is the one Barry Larkin suffered 2 seasons ago, and which ended his season less than halfway through (he didn't even start working out/rehabbing seriously until 3 months after the injury, and still wasn't quite back to 100% even at the start of the NEXT season).  Needless to say, that would be very bad news for WWE, which would lose not only one of its World Champs, but also the expected top match for its second biggest PPV of the year. 
    At this point, I'd say all signs point to the pessimistic outlook being the more realistic.  I do not doubt that HHH has the type of ethic that would motivate him to try to work SummerSlam, no matter what... but I'd contend that a half-speed or less HHH does nobody any good.  Goldberg is in a tenuous position, and cannot afford to have anything less than a very good, very convincing match.  From the sounds of things, the only really "convincing" type of work HHH will be ready for in the next few weeks would be to do a 90 second squash loss to Goldberg.  And while I'll leave it to others to debate if that might not actually be a good thing, I'll DEFINITELY opine that it's not something you want to ask people to pay money for.
    If HHH cannot go at SummerSlam, you gotta look -- I think -- to one guy to really fill the hole.  His name is Chris Jericho.  I know he just started his thing with Nash, but you could either extract him from that in favor of reviving his feud with Goldberg, or you could go with some kind of a deal where the Fed just decides NEXT WEEK to cut its losses and strip HHH of the title due to injury.  Then set up a mini-tourney, or multi-way feud with Goldberg in the mix along with Jericho, Nash, and a Player to Be Named Later (I wonder if they wish they'd turned Steiner heel now, instead of Test).  In any case, Jericho stands to be the main heel player in the World Title picture if HHH is absent, at least until they are done resurrecting Kane's character with this on-going series of beatdowns on non-wrestlers.
    The only other option: Ric Flair.  Actually, if the prognosis for HHH winds up being "out for a month," instead of "out for 3 months or more," then this is the option I like better.  You can keep Jericho doing his thing without upsetting the apple cart.  The only caveat: you HAVE to have Flair get the better of Goldberg in their match next week on RAW.  I'm not necessarily saying "pinfall win," but I'm saying -- via some combination of his veteran craftiness and help from Randy Orton (having HHH around, even if on crutches, would help to, but the thinking is that is an impossibility) -- you have Flair come out looking strong.  Then, and only then, will you make fans believe that Flair vs. Goldberg is a suitable replacement for SummerSlam.  In this scenario, I suggest you spin it like this:  HHH does not vacate the title, but rather gives Flair permission to defend it on his behalf.  I know, it doesn't make a WHOLE lot of sense, but these things have been done in the past, and as long as the parties involved agree, I'm sure you could plausibly have the GMs sign off on it.  Then Angle/Lesnar easily gets the spotlight at SummerSlam, too; Kane/RVD might even, by default, become RAW's biggest match on the show.  No problem on either front, the way I see it.
    I'd say it sucks to be HHH... but never-ending stream of injuries since May 2001 aside, the guy's still got it pretty good.  It probably sucks more to be the company that has to try to cover for him during these absences; I'm probably about the last person on the internet to suggest this, but the regularity with which HHH is suffering these sorts of muscle injuries might just mean its time for him to drop a few pounds of muscle and start worrying about how he WORKS instead of how he LOOKS.
    Chances are good there won't be anything new on this front till at least next Monday, so just sit tight, and let this be the end of our (potentially quite pointless, if the injury is the less severe of the two possibilities) speculation about HHH for now....
  • The RAW after which HHH was injured, unfortunately, probably needed the Bonus Match to really send the fans home happy.  The show itself was a bit of a let-down. 
    The return of Shane McMahon stands out as the night's primary stand-out moment.  Shane's the one McMahon who has never been over-exposed to the point where he's annoying, and his nearly two-year-long absence has gotten us worked up to the point where we were genuinely stoked to see him.  We forget he's a non-wrestler: we just figure we're probably in for another jaw-dropping spotfest against Kane, and then, all too soon, Shane'll go away again.
    Did the Fed accomplish anything with Kane this week?  No, not really.  As I briefly touched on in my RAW Recap, I think what appeal of Kane is not so much from the character he is now, but from the fact that just about all fans are now interested in seeing the big match against Shane.  The new Kane, himself, is still an intrinsically sloppily crafted character, with the past 2 months barrage of shifting, sometimes inconsistent, storylines serving mostly to give us logic holes to point to, rather than a monster to be scared of.  Plot elements have been dropped or altered (what happened to the "Should JR press charges" story that was SO important last week, but not mentioned even once this week?), and all we're left with is that nagging idea that Kane SHOULD be involved in something cool down the line, like when he faces Shane.  
    Kane's all about upside and potential at this point.  By now, over a month into the New Kane, I'd have preferred something more tangible, more NOW.
    By the way, in the RAW recap, I bitched about how I thought that it was now obvious that Vince McMahon would become a regular RAW character, quite probably as the "puppet master" for Kane that we've been talking about for about a month here at OO (with cool ideas like Raven, Paul Heyman, and Jim Mitchell all discussed).  I said that not only did I see Vince as the least appropriate of those options, but that I resented that his participation would also mean that another feud that could/should stand alone would become, at heart, another McMahon vs. McMahon feud.  [Remember, both Steph/Sable and Vince/Zach, as well as they turned out on PPV, were essentially spawned from Vince vs. Steph, which was really, really lame.]
    A day later, and the OO-ites on the message boards have gotten me to soften my stance.  Involving Vince in this story could have a VERY big upside, as its the only way it might be able to cross brands, realistically.  And once I stopped to think about it, I liked a lot of the ideas tossed out there for a slow-burning Taker/Kane feud (possibly the one in which Taker, on his last legs, puts over his "little brother," who's got a few more years left in him).  If that's where this ends up going -- and I'd suspect we'll know if Taker and Kane cross paths and give us a little tease of something at SummerSlam, the first time the brands will have been together in 3 months -- then I can forgive all.  
    Something I can't see forgiving ever, for as long as I live: the mishandling of at least 3 or 4 segments on this past RAW.  A brief bit of exposition from the announcers or a 10 second clip of Sunday Night Heat is simply NOT the way to get the audience to care about a match.  I'd suggest it is a necessary, but not sufficient, tactic.  Yes, build on the previous week's events!  But also: show us ON THIS SHOW a reason to care about the next development.  Give us a quick skit backstage or some pre-match mic work.  Something.  ANYthing.
    Val/Rico, the tag title match, and the women's title match were basically all just sent out there to die on Monday.  Even a "Coming Up Later Tonight" graphic would have been something (not nearly enough, but something), but we didn't get that, either.  I know it's out of character for me to argue for MORE skits/promos, but since this isn't Angle vs. Benoit I'm shorting on ring time, I'm willing to make a few sacrifices.  And still, with proper time management (La Resistance vs. the Rookie Jobber Connection, for instance, did not need 9-10 minutes), you can give us some good in-ring action and still tell the stories to make those matches MEAN SOMETHING.
    I'm trying to think back to the last RAW I rated higher for Battle of the Brands. I think it was the one 3 weeks ago, when they did a beautiful job of setting up almost every segment: instead of just tossing Booker T and Christian in there for an IC Title rematch with some footage from last week, they had Austin go out and cut a promo explaining why he booked a rematch.  They did the nice Trish story arc, starting with a 45 second backstage confrontation to set up Test vs. Nash, and which put some heat on her run-in during Test's match, which led to her being assaulted, which tied in to her losing in her own match.  They had Kane's backstage attack on Tommy Dreamer be misconstrued by Bubba Dudley, so he wound up challenging Evolution to a match (instead of just using "You beat up Dreamer last week, and here's the footage").  Most everything flowed together, and events from early in the show made you interested in the later ones.  If I recall, I was only critical of the fact that they threw a Jericho/Jindrak match out there with absolutely no reason given... but the rest of the show was intricately assembled, and was appropriately praised.
    I'm not asking for anything ridiculous, here.  I think the RAW team ought to be able to duplicate their own successes, is all.  It almost seems like they've been trying to generate interest and ratings with the gimmicky placement of commercials the past month or so... hey, you can still do that (in fact, most of the time, I like the live/unpredictable feel it gives the show), but I'd focus on properly setting up each segment first, and only LATER worry about the gimmicks.
    If you haven't, the full results (with less rambling) of the RAW that sent me off on this rant are still available right here.
  • The rating for Monday's RAW came in at a 4.2.  That's exactly the same number as last week, and my understanding is that the viewership patterns were sort of the same, too.  Not so much a steady build-up of an audience, but rather, a slight build-up over the first half-hour, then a fluctuation around a mid-point from there (strong for Highlight Reel/Jericho vs. Nash, then down some) before the anomalous peak for the over-run and Shane's return.
  • With HHH off the Australia tour, the three shows are being headlined mostly by other members of Evolution.  First show gets a Michaels/Nash vs. Flair/Orton main event, with RVD/Kane as the semi-main... second show gets Michaels vs. Flair, plus Nash/Jericho and Booker/Christian... third show gets the biggest match of the tour in Michaels/Nash/RVD vs. Kane/Flair/Orton, as well as Booker vs. Jericho as the semi-main.
    The RAW crew left for their 20 hour plane ride yesterday, and have the shows scheduled for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights (which is more like Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning, US Time) before another 20 hour ride that'll get 'em back to the west coast on Sunday afternoon/evening, with about a day to get ready for RAW tapings in Vancouver.
  • Speaking of RAW in Vancouver, I had one source tell me that a guest appearance from the Rock is still possible, but that it'd be something with just about zero physical activity if it happens.  He says I was pretty close to right on when I talked, a week or so ago, about Universal's insurance not covering Rock doing anything in wrestling while he's in the middle of filming a movie for them... they can't risk him getting hurt while they've invested tens of millions in the production of "Walking Tall."  Usual wrestling sources don't have much to say about the issue, and I'm not sure if Rock news via the entertainment side can be trusted for sure, but this DOES sound right.
    Apparently, Rock wanted to do something -- as he outlined in that radio interview a month ago -- but didn't know at the time that the movie people would put the kibosh on it.
    If you put a gun to my head, I'd guess Rock doesn't show up at all... if he was going to, even just to do a promo or something, the Fed would have been shouting it from the mountain top by now, in an effort to generate ratings.  That has been their usual tactic with Rocky's guest spots, anyway.  No unannounced arrivals for a guy who can single-handedly sway a few tenths of a ratings point....
  • Last for today, a quick rundown of tonight's TNA PPV, which looks to build on a strong outing last week (after the company sputtered a bit previously).
    The main event should be the latest iteration of the Clockwork Orange House of Fun match...  in the simmering feud between Raven and Shane Douglas, the two have taken on allies: Raven's "Gathering" is CM Punk and Julio (no longer Dinero, I guess), and Douglas has forged an alliance with James Mitchell's "New Church" (Slash and Brian Lee).  After an interference laden six-man tag last week, Douglas and the New Church beat Raven and his Gathering, so Raven issued the challenge to up the ante this week.  Now, in a move that should help offset Mitchell's antics, the ring will be surrounded in all manner of weapons to use in what should be a tremendous brawl.
    In other matches: Jeff Jarrett will have a rematch with Joe E. Legend in a Guitar/Baseball Bat on Poles match (both weapons will be hanging above the ring, and will be legal if they are reached... which is kind of stupid, since why wouldn't each guy just go for his weapon straight away?  But maybe I'm thinking too hard...)....  Chris Sabin defends the X Title against Michael Shane (Shawn Michaels protege, for certain, don't know if the blood relationship is accurately portrayed or not)...  Ricky Morton vs. Kid Kash (Kash attacked his former mentor/trainer last week)...  sit-down interview with Vince Russo (since I guess they're finally out of footage from Sting's interview)... and D'Lo Brown and AJ Styles get the week off after last week's grueling best of three fall match, but might be around to talk about it.... also on the premises will be America's Most Wanted, Simon/Swinger, Shark Boy, and more.
    Check it out, or come on back to OO for Damian Gonzalez's practically-sanctioned-by-TNA-itself recap. 
  • That's it, kids.  Fresh fodder on Friday.  See you then.


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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