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RAW, FPV vs. PPV, Quadruple H?, and
Trying Not to Lose TNA in the Shuffle...
September 17, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Rest easy.  The Sports Anguish is gone today, and my unreasonably pissiness with it.  It is now time to try and find the logical, insightful, and interesting reasons why RAW fell flat.  And also to suck up, big time, to SD.  And to try desperately to not forget that I'm supposed to be talking about TNA, too.

Here goes:

  • Give me a day, day-and-a-half of perspective, and my opinions about RAW coming up short do not change.  But my ability to tell you why does...
    It starts and ends with the choice they made for the "main event."  To reiterate: I'm not one of these uber-smarks who gets all pissy just because something other than a wrestling match gets put in the main event slot.  Maybe I was once upon a time, but I've mellowed.  I still think it's something you should only do sporadically, however, and only when you have a really spectacular idea with which to end a show.
    Triple H's "going away party" did not fit this bill.  I will ignore the technical difficulties; in the end, they did not make the promo any worse.  There was just not enough CONTENT here to justify the top billing.  I mean, yes, plus 10 for trying to put the main focus on the title belt and match.  But minus a thousand for not doing it in a way the wasn't obvious and anticlimactic.  I'm not even sure if it was the right segment to do.  The smarmy "going away party" idea was OK, but don't you think that an audience that is already mostly convinced that Goldberg's not gonna retire and thus not gonna lose might have needed some sort of cleverly-plotted Evolution scheme instead of an as-expected Goldberg moral victory?  And regardless of whether or not you re-script it in Evolution's favor, this segment still had the taint of "mid-show promo," and should have been scheduled accordingly.
    If you've been with me for any appreciable period of time, you know one of my quirks is that I tend to let how I feel about a main event disproportionately affect how I feel about a whole show.  In this case, RAW's "main event" was a let-down at best.  That had a trickle-back effect for me, since the immediately-preceding two segments were also both "minus-interest" ones for me, personally (Test/Val/Steiner and the Announcer Fight).  Now, you give me a main event-caliber main event, and I forget that the other 20 minutes in the final half-hour were also off.  But with the main event coming up lame, I can't help but be struck by how it was the ironically-fitting finale to an entire half-hour of Boring.
    That's not to say I didn't like anything about the show.  Because I LOVED Kane and Shane and how it knocked the Stupid 100 yards clear of their feud.  And I also thought that the Austin/Jericho/Christian into Jericho/RVD segments were gold, and that the women's tag match with Lita's return rounded out the trio of significantly better than average bits for the night.
    It's just that RAW didn't put the pieces together in a way that left me thinking about the good.  That's not as big a faux pas as hooking some guys package up to a car battery, but it still makes the Top 50 List of Things Wrestling Shows Should Avoid.
    Yesterday, I was stumped on how you could even have re-arranged the show to give it a more "main event" feel in the final segment and to shine the spotlight where it belongs.  Well, again, an extra day, and things occur to me.  You may be unimpressed that I can't turn it around faster and be all insightful in time for the RAW Recap... but I remind you that the creative team gets A WHOLE WEEK to think about this stuff.  And look what they did on Monday night.
    Anyway, my solution is half what I was leaning towards yesterday, half something a little different.  I still think you end with Kane and Shane (since it's the semi-main event of the PPV, it can play in the RAW main event spot), but you don't do it in the form of just supplanting the Contract Signing the final quarter hour.  Instead, you do it in the form of a run-in to a main event match, which is RVD vs. Jericho.
    Follow me:  Show still opens with the protest and Austin setting up the RVD/Jericho #1 Contender match.  He just sets it up for later in the night, as the main event; that's the only difference here.  Segment #2 can be the Mack/Henry vs. DustStorm match, if you must; I'd just suggest letting Long talk before the match (even if just to mock Storm's dancing) so that it has SOME heat.  Then, I do the women's match and Lita's return as Segment #3, to bracket the previous suck with something neat the heat the crowd back up.  Then in Segment #4, we do the Shane/Kane Contract Signing, but with a twist: when they start brawling, Shane gets an early edge, but Kane rallies; just when Kane's about to do something totally evil to Shane, RVD makes a run-in to save Shane, and Kane just bails out rather than face the 2-on-1.  Sneak in some more suck with the Test/Val into King/Snow pair of segments right after that.  Then with Segment Number, um, I think it's 6 now, you do HHH, the going-away party, and Goldberg's big run-in; used as a mid-show spice to perk the crowd back up after two down segments, Goldberg scaring HHH back to the dressing room would be a satisfying little skit.  Then a quick palate cleanser (the Conway/Spike thing) in the seventh segment (although, if you gave me the total power over RAW, I'd have moved the Spike-getting-punked skit to a shorter backstage thing earlier in the show, then done an Orton/Random Babyface match here that, due to Flair's interference, quickly gets out of hand, and sets up an HBK run-in so that Michaels/Orton get some ring-time instead of just a lame backstage face-to-face; plus, doing something with HBK here keeps the Suck out of the final half-hour and builds up to our main event).  
    And then it's main event time: RVD and Jericho get a full 15 minutes to do their thing, so their match need not be as rushed and disjointed as Monday's felt.  They span a commercial break, and when they go for the finish, you can again have Christian try to whack RVD with his title belt, but this time, instead of missing and hitting Jericho, he takes out the ref.  Then RVD rallies, tosses Christian from the ring, and puts the smack down on Jericho as prelude to a Five Star.  But just as Rob's ready to hit the killshot, Kane's music and pyro starts, and here comes the Big Red Machine to get revenge for RVD's earlier run-in.  He ends up laying out all three of RVD, Christian, and Jericho, which is when Shane decides it's time to run-in himself.  This is when they do the big spot, as Shane hits the 3 uppernuts to gain the edge, and then does the Heat Announce Table spot (added Logic Bonus: doing it this way, we now know why that table was there before Shane uses it!).  Shane can get up from the table scraps, and do the walking-away-stare-down with Kane to close the show as JR blusters, "By Gawd, Shane just gave Kane everything he had, and both men are still standing.  What will they do to each other on Sunday?"  while, in a rare moment of paying attention, King will add "And what about the IC Title match?"...  JR closes with, "You're right, King.  I guess we'll find out Sunday at Unforgiven, folks.  See you there," as the show fades to black.
    The loser in my version: the IC Title picture, which tells the entirety of the same story they did on RAW, but just doesn't get its conclusive finish (the announcement of a three-way title match), because Austin sauntering out and announcing that would take away from Kane/Shane, which would be bad.  But the winner: everything else.  People will get the picture that Christian's defending the belt against either RVD or Jericho (or both) without having to be told; you can just finish that up with a bonus Heat promo on Sunday.  The show as a whole would just have played a lot stronger in this order, I think.
    So there: don't ever accuse me of being one of those internet wanks who is always quick with the reasons why something sucked, but utterly mute if you ask him how he'd fix it.  I'm not selling internet wrestling commentary, folks.  I'm selling SOLUTIONS.  Yeah.
    Like I said, some good and some not on Monday.  For me, the final feeling was the "not" won out.  Nothing as totally dreadful as things got at times in August, so maybe a few bonus points for a second straight week of Suck Free TV... but still, I'd have liked something stronger, especially six days before they're asking me to pony up the cash for a PPV.
    Full results are still here, if you need them.
  • The rating for Monday night's RAW was a 3.7 cable rating.  That's up a nominal one-tenth from the week before, but still puts this week's show near the bottom of the pile in terms of RAW's last 10 weeks or so.
    Again, you would be well within your rights to blame a low rating on Monday Night Football.  The Giants/Cowboys game not only had a lot of drama/smacktalk heading in (Shockey/Parcells), but it would also be a big-drawing card in NYC, which in other weeks would stay more loyal to WWE.
  • It's normal and healthy for us, as fans, to sort of pit RAW versus SmackDown in a weekly battle of the prime time, 2-hour wrestling shows.  In fact, I think it'd be healthy if the company itself could somehow take that fan-fabricated battle and convince the key contributors to each brand that it's a real contest, and that they should take pride in trying to win it.  The RAW creative team and locker room should want to out-do SD! every week, and vice versa.
    But the problems creep in when we have a week like this one's shaping up to be.  Because I don't want to take our fictional little battle and declare it hopelessly lopsided.  That would sort of take the fun out of it, and in a way, it'd be demoralizing to the face the fact that one brand just doesn't seem equipped to compete.
    Still, I'm left with a very serious conundrum.  This week's "battle" for the best show of the week shouldn't even exist.  On that one week a month when there is a pay-per-view, that show immediately gets the combined blessing/curse of fans expecting it to be worth 35 bucks.  It's a blessing because it shows we're looking forward to the latest big show, but a curse because we often talk ourselves into having outlandish expectations.
    And this month, it's also not an issue. The PPV this month is not overshadowing the RAW vs. SD! battle.  It's second fiddle to  tomorrow's SmackDown!, a show that just seems far and away more likely to be this week's best wrestling show when the smoke clears.
    Here's the non-spoiler preview: Rey Mysteiro and Chris Benoit vs. Tajiri and Rhyno...  Shaniqua vs. Dawn Marie, Torrie Wilson, and Nidia...  a rap from John Cena...  Los Guerreros vs. Charlie Haas/Shelton Benjamin (tag title match)... and Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle (Iron Man Match for the WWE Title).  OK, here's one minor spoiler:  the main event is being considered by all four of the readers who mailed into me about the tapings as a Match of the Year candidate, and instantly became the run-away leader in that category for one of them.
    Want the rest of the spoilers?  They are right here.  But seriously, if ever there was a week when you just let yourself sit back and enjoy a SD! as if it were really live, you oughta let this one be the one.
    Angle/Lesnar is clearly a pay-per-view match that just so happens to be airing on free TV.  If I have to explain the reasons why to you, it's only because you haven't been paying any attention for the last several years.  But the two tag matches both feature foursomes that I really like and should be excellent in their own rights.  The women's match is one part an excuse for T&A, and one part an excuse to have Shaniqua kick some ass and is harmless palate-cleansing filler.  The basic formula and ratios are ones that would make a killer PPV card.  It's just, by necessity, scaled down by one-third.
    On the other hand:  the RAW brand's Unforgiven PPV on Sunday is coming from the half of the company that tends to put storytelling ahead of in-ring action in terms of its priorities.  But they didn't even do that particularly well heading into the show.  I remain most interested in the Shane/Kane, Michaels/Orton, and Jericho/RVD/Christian matches... but it's not due to any particularly great storytelling, it's just because of my faith that those guys can and will deliver when the bell rings.  Shane/Kane has openly sucked over much of the last month, Orton/Michaels has been openly ignored for the last month, and the IC Title three way materialized just on Monday, feeling more like another stop gap measure from a company that has no idea what the hell it should do with Chris Jericho than anything.  The World Title match is like the inverse of those three: I'm not expecting much of a match, but at least they told the story well, and treated Goldberg's character right for four consecutive weeks for the first time since he arrived in WWE.  The best I'm hoping for is an adequate match, but one that a Goldberg-loving crowd will eat up.  I'm sure all the participants in the Dudleys/La Resistance and Steiner/Test matches will give the ol' college try, but I couldn't care less about these stories, and the ringwork won't be enough to sway me.  And then the Announcer Fight: the story does zero for me and here, the match WILL probably outright suck, too.  The women's tag match is a wild card: I could get excited for it, but only if I thought both fans and management were going to give it a shot as something other than a 4 minute throw-away whose legitimacy as a match will be ruined by Jerry Lawler's blithering idiocy.  Am I forgetting anything?  I think not.
    In any case, I think the ratios are pretty telling.  Tomorrow, on Free Per View, SD! is giving me a show that is 95% hit, and 5% T&A filler.  Sunday, on Pay Per View, RAW is asking me to fork over cash to see a show that has about 40% stuff I'm looking forward to, 40% that I'm not, and 20% stuck roughly in the middle that could go either way.  I can't be the only one who feels that way, can I?
  • By the way, on the off chance that you are clinically insane, and somehow miss SD!, there's a good chance I might be handling that review with my own hands, so be prepared for additional ass-kissing from me.
    That's because our SD! Recapper, Big Danny T, is in the path of Hurricane Isabel, and isn't sure what that might mean for his ability to watch SD!, much less to type up a recap.  Here's a quick "hope you dodge the rough stuff" out to Danny and the rest of the folks along the east coast who are getting ready for some bad weather....
  • Thanks to everyone who sent the links to these stories to me in e-mail yesterday...  there are too many to mention individually...
    "The Game" looks like he's adding another "H" to his name....  because he's going Hollywood.  "Hollywood" Hunter Hearst Helmsley?  Eh, I'll let you folks decide.
    In addition to a small role as a bad guy in the third "Blade" movie, HHH was announced this week as the lead character in something called "Jornada del Muerte"/"Journey of Death", which is a WWE Films production.  So he's in the next "Blade" sequal, but it's only a bit part... and it's the lead actor, but it's only on an in-house "WWE Films" project.  Not exactly "The Scorpion King," is it?
    Actually, as easy as it might be to dismiss HHH managing to out-duel other qualified candidates to head-up a WWE Films project, that movie actually doesn't sound completely dumb.  A guy named John Milius (integral to both "Apocalypse Now" and the original "Conan the Barbarian") is the writer, so that's nothing to sneeze at.  The story, according to entertainment wire reports, is one of motorcycle gangs, drug running, and codes of honor set in the American southwest.
    Not to be a dick or anything, but as cool as this must be for HHH, I don't see his vacations from wrestling ever ballooning up to 10 months at a time to film movies, like Rock's.  It's something I can't quite put into words (at least, not without pausing now to think hard, which I don't feel like doing), but there's something intangible about HHH that just says "Pro Wrestler."  Whereas Rock can transcend that to make "Sports Entertainer" a meaningful title. 
    By the same token, though, put the brief "Blade" part on the list of things that might take HHH out of circulation for a bit here over the next few months, along with "wedding," "honeymoon," and "letting that damn groin heal."
  • FYI: as of 11am Wednesday morning, still no reports of anyone showing up in jail, the hospital, or anywhere else undesirable following HHH's bachelor party in Raleigh, NC...  which is remarkable.  Last I heard, it was gonna end up being upwards of 80 guys (including just about the entire SD! roster, over half of RAW's, and also some officials/crew) tearing that town a new one, so I'm sure it was a Crazy Go Nuts good time.
  • I've caught Mick Foley on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" the past two nights, and while there hasn't been a WHOLE lot fresh and new for existing wrestling fans, it is pretty cool to see Foley tell his stories in his entertaining way, and have them get over with a crowd that is probably not entirely familiar with him or with wrestling.
    So far, he's told the losing-the-ear and the Hell in the Cell stories for Jimmy, as well as the original Dude Love backyard videotape story (complete with footage).  My favorite stuff so far, though: Mick and Steve Miller talking shop...  Miller was an old school wrestling fan, and in later years became a fan of the heel manager archetype, and had a cool tale of how he almost got involved with Maxx Payne, one of Mick's former partners.  Really funny and interesting exchange.
    Mick's got three more nights as the guest co-host for the show (which is on ABC after "Nightline," usually at either 12midnight or 12:30), so you can feel free to try to sit through Jimmy's hit-and-miss comedy to see how Mick's doing for yourself.
  • One thing I did not include over in the Spoilers: Heat tapings results.  That's because this is a PPV week, which means the Heat matches taped on Monday will only air in overseas markets.  US and Canada get a live, pre-PPV edition of Heat.
    For you completists, though, Int'l Heat will feature: Maven over Rico... Hurricane and Rosie over Two Guys...  Stevie Richards over Tommy Dreamer...  and Cade/Jindrak over Two Other Guys.
    Also worth a mention from Monday's tapings:  after RAW concluded, Vince and much of the crew got in the ring and helped the Fabulous Moolah celebrate her 80th birthday in the ring.  There was a hilarious Austin-led "Happy Birthday" sing-along, and then a bit of comedy that ended with Mark Jindrak getting a pie (the birthday one, you sickos!) in his face.  A fun moment for Moolah and for fans.
  • In all my talk about how SD! was stealing the RAW PPV's thunder, I'm perilously close to forgetting that TONIGHT there's yet another two-hour, prime-time, week-night wrestling show that is well worth a look.
    NWA-TNA's return to live action (after a one week hiatus caused by the Tennessee State Fair over-taking their venue) is one that, on paper, looks to combine that proper mix of in-ring action and drama/entertainment.
    Leading the charge is a hair vs. hair match between Raven and Shane Douglas.  While their roots go back to ECW, this most recent issue stems from the fact that Raven came to TNA to chase the NWA Title, a title that Douglas (eight years ago) threw to the ground and declared meaningless.  They it blossomed to involve other players on both sides, but tonight, it's back down to one-on-one with the loser going bald.  The strength here has been the promo work, at which Douglas has not lost a step, and Raven remains strong.  In the ring, it's not quite the same "Franchise," but there's still enough left in that tank for tonight's match to deliver.  [I hesitate to mention it, in case you're REALLY not wanting anything spoiled, but I can't pass up a chance to show you how smart I am...  Raven had originally planned a hair vs. hair match on an indie show later this month.  That was changed in just the last 10 days so TNA would get him in a hair match.  The implication: that Raven knows he wants a hair cut, was gonna do it on an indie show, then TNA got wind of it, and how they're gonna do it tonight.]
    Perhaps my Highlight of the Night: AJ Styles defends the NWA Title against Jerry Lynn.  These two basically put the company on their shoulders and are responsible for establishing the X Division with their 2002 feud.  Now, six month since they've had one of their killer matches, they'll lock it up again with the big gold on the line.  If it doesn't rule, I'll eat a bug.
    Also:  TNA is using the return of Roddy Piper as a major selling point.  They ain't saying what he'll be doing, just saying that he'll be there tonight, and it'll be live and uncensored.
    Other stuff:  D'Lo Brown vs. Sonny Siaki in a casket match...  the New Church vs. America's Most Wanted vs. 3 Live Krew vs. Kid Kash/Abyss in a #1 Contenders' Match...  Juventud Guerrera, Frankie Kanzarian, Eric Young vs. Michael Shane, Chris Sabin, Nosawa...  and both Jeff Jarrett and Christopher Daniels will be in the house to address their current hostilities.
    Check it out tonight on PPV.  Or at the very least, keep this in mind: prior to the $10 live show, you can still check out one last broadcast of TNA's One Cent Highlight Show.  It features some really good action, and though the second-half storytelling gets a bit spotty, you should be able to figure it all out, and just might find yourself convinced to plop down the ten-spot to check out the live event.
    But if you don't, hey, we won't take it personally.  Damian will still be here later this week with a recap of the show for you.
  • So alrighty, then...  I think I've talked enough graps for one Wednesday.  Rest of the week is looking kind of cloudy; I may dig up a little something for "OOld School Thursday," or I may not (Jeb's got what's looking like a thought-provoking HHH/Goldberg piece, and that pesky Bulldog will be Inside the Ropes again, so it's not like you NEED me to supply something)... and then Friday, I may need to cover the SD! Recap, but I may not.  I may be compelled to do the big Unforgiven PPV Preview, but that may be handled by someone else.  I may end up doing both SD! and the PPV preview; I may end up doing neither.  Who the hell knows?  
    So just come back and read whatever I put up here, and I'll just say I'll personally see you again "whenever."  It's all good, I promise.


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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