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RAW Exploring New Territory, SD!
Makes Do, Ratings, Rock Update...
September 22, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


So you remember how I felt like I had to do a SmackDown! recap last week, what with Danny hurricaned into submission and all?  Well, talk about wasting my time.  All I needed to do was tell you to CLICK HERE.  And even though it's four days after the fact and you don't care about SD! recaps, anymore, I might still advise that you CLICK HERE.  For the Master has come back, for the first time, for the last time... and he made my recap look pretty stupid.  Or at least much shorter.

Z, in exchange for staging a one-night comeback so low key that I had no idea what Matt was talking about in the PPV Chat last night, making me look like an idiot in the process, I am forced to offer congratulations and best wishes on your upcoming wedding that are only about 96% sincere.  A man in my position can't afford to be made to look foolish!  And I hold grudges!

And speaking of weddings... our very own Jeb Lund is not waiting 12 more days.  He's doing the deed TODAY.  And my plan to become Internet Wrestling Journalism's Most Eligible Bachelor by virtue of little more than attrition moves one step closer to completion!  [And also: who's the competition, really?!?  Truly, I am a god among dorks!]  Big time congrats to Jeb and Elaine... and I'm being a whopping 98% sincere!  I'm still 2% salty from the enormous pain in the ass that was Jeb's last haiku column!  OK, not really....  100%!

And now... no more people getting married:

  • Tonight's a big one for RAW.  The brand really is about to head in a new direction for the first time in a while.  The summer's long-arcing storylines seem to have come to a head last night, and just about every feud that we've been enduring since April seems ready to be recycled in favor of something new.
    Except for Steiner vs. Test.  Nah, baby, that ones got LEGS!  Unfortunately, they belong to Sta... oh, wait, you were one step ahead of me on that lame joke?  OK, I'll zip it.
    It's not just the summer's storylines that are fading away, either.  For the first time in over a year -- hell, for the first time since the creation of the belt -- we can look on the World Title horizon and not see Triple H looming ubiquitously.  Now, his 2 month long feud with Goldberg may yet be recycled to pop a Monday Night rating (much like SD!'s September Free-Per-View featured an Angle/Lesnar PPV rematch), but it's not likely that HHH will be regaining the title after four weeks like he did with Shawn Michaels late last year.  Instead, HHH will have to take a back seat (hey, he needs time to get healthy and married and maybe get his movie career started) and find another way to occupy his time.
    And Goldberg, the new champ, could have any number of guys gunning for him.  Well, provided the number is between zero and two, I guess...  one option would be Chris Jericho, who is "feuding" in a sense with Steve Austin.  But that's more a vehicle for keeping Jericho in the heel mix; he needs an actual full time wrestler to feud against.  Jericho's got a past with Goldberg, and plus, Jericho's "mind games" approach with Austin would be a perfect fit into a storyline where he goads the GM into "punishing" him with a match against Goldberg.  Many possibilities there.
    However, the more likely option:  Kane.  Goldberg's a monster.  Kane's a monster.  Both have pretty much divested themselves of existing feuds, and are looking for something new.  Why not put 'em together.  Now, realizing that the promos with these two would have potential to get pretty brutal ("You bet your damn ass I'll kick your ass at Survivor Series, but your ass doesn't have to wait till then if you get your ass in this ring right now so we can ass it up. ASS!"...  "Uh, feel my pain?  [flicks his Zippo, but Goldberg no sells the fire]"), and realizing that using Bischoff as a mouthpiece for Kane is not really a great idea, they'll have to be careful.  But I think there are very compelling actions-speak-louder-than-words ways to tie these two together.  Hint: they don't involve jumper cables.
    The IC Title picture's "newness" will actually be a recycling of a two-months-dormant issue, and will take two more weeks before it gets started.  Until Booker T can come back to face Christian, keeping RVD in the mix seems the best idea.  And even once Booker is back, having RVD linger around might keep things fresh (remember, Booker and Christian faced each other like 18 consecutive Mondays back in June and July, and we were starting to get restless).
    What you probably won't be seeing is Jericho gunning for the IC Title.  Even if he doesn't get the shot at Goldberg right off, he'll still be delivering Segment of the Night caliber material courtesy of his verbal feud with Austin.  If Nash is up to coming back, he can keep Jericho occupied in the ring, at least in the short term.
    The tag picture needs a complete overhaul, and may be getting it.  The Duds have the titles, and there are indications that La Resistance may be on its last legs.  Grenier needs some time off to address a neck injury, and its not like the duo was making friends backstage when they did stuff like almost kill Spike Dudley.  
    Unfortunately, the most promising teams on RAW are, like the Duds, babyfaces.  Storm/Goldust and Hurricane/Rosey, if handled correctly, could both get pretty over pretty fast.  On the heel side, I'm not so sure the same can be said of Rodney Mack and Mark Henry.  Teddy Long is good.  He's real good.  I just don't know if he's that good.
    The next place to look for a heel tag team:  actually, it's Test and Scott Steiner.  For all my conventional thinking dread that the two will continue an adversarial relationship now that Steiner is Test's "property," there are also possibilities for a Steiner heel turn and for the two to work as a team.  Options discussed last night in the post-PPV chat: Steiner is pissed at Stacy for costing him the PPV match, and he and Test become unified in tormenting Stacy....  or Test holds the stipulations of the match over Steiner's head and forces him to do his evil bidding, and Steiner gullibly goes along with it till fans turn against him (an added twist that I, personally, am not really that proud to have thought of: Test could also portion out Stacy as some sort of sexual payola to manipulate Steiner).  Test and Steiner, instead of dragging their feud out past the six month mark, could become, instantly, RAW's top heel tag team.
    And hey, you know what?  It's not just summer-long feuds ending, or HHH's year-long reign...   it's damn near SEVEN YEARS of signature announcing.  I think it's been since at least 1997 that there has been a RAW without either Jim Ross or Jerry Lawler.  One or the other has been in the booth every night for as long as most of us can remember.  Tonight, Coach and Al Snow will be driving the ship.  Part of me will miss the consistancy of King and JR.  Part of me is so frustrated with Lawler's antics that I'm happy to see the change.  Still another part of me doesn't really care because it's sure that Austin will somehow get himself involved in this and bring JR and King back within a month or two.  Either way, it's another big shift for RAW.
    Change for change's sake is not a good thing... but with RAW's spotty nature over the past several months, the promise of top-to-bottom changes actually has me awfully intrigued.  And mildly optimistic.  Check out the show tonight, or just come on back here to OO tomorrow for the full coverage.
  • Not a whole lot else to add with regard to last night's PPV.  I did the immediate post-show recap, and if I sounded underwhelmed, well, it's because I was.
    Unforgiven was not, mind you, a bad show.  I found it significantly more entertaining that RAW's "Bad Blood" PPV, for instance.  However, it was also not a show that delivered much in the way of sustained, get-off-your-ass-and-cheer content.  The outstanding stuff came in bursts, like Shane's crazy bumps and the final minutes of the IC Title match.  What made the mere adequacy of the show all the more glaring is the simple fact that SD! delivered -- for free -- a show three days previous that sustained that Big Time Atmosphere for almost two full hours.
    Is it fair to compare?  I gotta think so.  This is a situation that threatens to repeat, so shining the spotlight on it now is a good thing.  My pure fan instinct is that I love the idea of getting "Free per views" once during each brand's off-month from PPVs.  Erin outlined some very good reasons why the free per view concept may be dangerous in a column on Friday.  And I've come to this idea for a compromise: for the sake of the PPV business, I think WWE should keep a one-week-plus buffer between the off-month free-per-view and that month's PPV event.  Preferably with the PPV preceding the free-per-view by 8-10 days; we shouldn't be allowed to load up on "dessert" before the month's main course.  Ruin's the appetite.  Their proximity this week was a big part of the reason why I just could not get up for Unforgiven.  I'm about as enthusiastic a wrestling fan as there is, and I just didn't really have enough in the tank to get that pumped twice in one week.  
    I mention all this because I did get a decent amount of feedback from people who really seemed to like Unforgiven a lot, and who were a bit put-off by the fact that I (normally as positive as it gets among internet critics) did not give it a huge, glowing review.  So here: there's a bit more of my thought process.  Hopefully, you'll be able to see where I'm coming from a bit more clearly.
  • SmackDown, dealing with absences of Kurt Angle and Shelton Benjamin (as well as with a building that was barely 1/3 full), still put on what was described as a great show at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
    OO Reader Tim Lauria passed along this quick report:
       Hey, I just got back from the Smackdown brand house show at Madison Square Garden. First of all, it was my first time there, so it was a cool first time feeling. We got seats about 15 rows from ringside, which was great, with the exception of the rowdy fans standing on their chairs & speaking in that awful accent. To my surprise, the arena was barely even filled. I guess I can see why, since it's just a house show, but I remember when they'd sell out MSG no matter what. Anyway, onto the results.

       We kick off with Stephanie coming to the ring. Before she can speak, Vince comes out with Sable. Vince tells Stephanie that she should just quit now. She says never. Vince is mad that she booked Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker in a cage match for tonight's main event. He says he's going to send someone out here to get her out of his ring. The Big Show's music hits, & he comes out. Right when a chokeslam is about to happen, Chris Benoit runs in to make the save, which leads us to our first match.

    1) Chris Benoit vs. The Big Show
    Nice short match. The Big Show is very huge in person if you haven't seen him before. He was out of breathe pretty early. No matter what the critics may say about him, he does what he's supposed to do, and that's look like a dominant big man. Benoit ofcourse was Benoit. The match ended after Show tapped out to the crossface.
    Winner: Chris Benoit

    2) Spanky & Paul London vs. Matt Hardy & Shannon Moore
    This was a pretty exciting tag match that really got the crowd into the show. London looked really impressive in this one especially. His back flips he does on his dropkicks will really get him over well once he's on TV. Match ended with a Twist of Fate by Matt to London. London & Spanky got a decent ovation when leaving.
    Winners: Hardy & Moore

    3) Funaki vs. Nunzio
    Nunzio played to the crowd a lot in this one, which really got them fired up. Semi-comedy match that saw Funaki get the win after a fluke rollup.
    Winner: Funaki

    4) The Basham Bros. vs. Ultimo Dragon & Jamie Noble
    No Nidia or Shaniqua tonight. Dragon got a really good ovation. Match ended after a Basham's double team. Once again, another good ovation for the losing team when they left.
    Winners: The Basham Bros.

    5) Orlando Jordan vs. A-Train
    This was a total squash match. Albert did his job of being the bruiser heel, & won it with a devistating pump kick.
    Winner: A-Train

    6) Rey Mysterio vs. Tajiri - Cruiserweight Title Match
    Mysterio got a huge pop from the crowd. Nice cruiser match that looks to be a preview of this weeks Smackdown title match. Mysterio won it after a 6-1-9 to a West Coast Pop.
    Winner: Rey Mysterio


    Tony Chimmel pumped the fans up with the T-shirt gun guy coming out as well.

    7) Charlie Haas vs. Billy Kidman
    Haas comes out and tells the fans to respect the greatest. He says that Shelton's surgery was a success, so he'll be back in no time. In the mean time, he's here to take care of business. Nice short match, with Haas getting the pin after Kidman missed a Shooting Star Press.
    Winner: Charlie Haas

    8) Eddie Guererro vs. John Cena vs. Rhyno - US Title Match
    This match got the biggest pop of the night to thsi point in the show. Eddie was his usual self with his sneaky ways. After the ref was knocked out, Rhyno gored Cena into the belt, knocking them both out. Guererro looked at the crowd & shrugged, threw the belt out of the ring, & gave Cena a frog-splash for the pin.
    Winner: Guererro

    SUPRISE OF NIGHT came when Cena got on the mic after the match. He said he just got his butt kicked, so he does a free style knocking New York & praising Boston. All of a sudden, Tazz's music hits, & Tazz comes to the ring. Cena is a little scared, & Tazz ends up giving Cena the Tazzmission to a massive pop from his home town crowd.

    9) Bikini Contest - Sable vs. Dawn Marie vs. Torrie
    Chimmel introduces Funaki as the special guest announcer. Funaki then announces two butthole DJ's from some crap station as the hosts. Sable coems out & taunts the crowd about not having to be here tonight. Dawn Marie comes out to a huge pop, being that she's from Woodbridge, NJ, close to my home of Piscataway, NJ, by the way. Torrie then comes out, & all three stripped down. Torrie ofcourse got the win, but Dawn Marie came in at a very close second. Personally, I think Dawn looked the best tonight, although Sable wasn't bad herself. Sable attacks both ladies after the match.
    Winner: Torrie

    10)Cage Match - Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker - World Title Match
    This is under escaping rules. Brock & Undertaker both came out to good pops. Lots of exciting spots in this match, as these two guys shocked me by putting on a 25 minute PPV-caliber match. I was surprised they gave us that much. Vince came out & caused the Taker to lose by holding his boot as Brock escaped. I left after that, so whatever happend afterward is a mystery. Winner: Brock Lesnar

    Overall, a definatly great house show. I couldn't really judge the pops, so I'd just say Mysterio, Tazz, Taker, & Brock got the biggest pops, while Cena got the most heat.

    SmackDown is coming to the Meadowlands on Nov. 11th for a taping, so I'll be attending that one too. The only people not at this show that I noticed were Kanyon, O'Haire, Palumbo, Stamboli, APA, Nidia, & Shaniqua. Angle had the weekend off due to his sister's death, so he's excused. Anyway, it was a great show.
  • An update/clarification on Shelton Benjamin.  I was confused in Friday's update because of what I thought were mixed signals.  Turns out both signals were correct and weren't mutually exclusive at all.
    Benjamin DID have knee surgery on Thursday of last week, AND he'll also be back very soon (first half of October).  The surgery was just a simple scope to take care of some loose cartilage.  The condition existed prior to last week's SD! tapings, and its unclear if Benjamin really did tweak the knee badly enough in that match to necessitate the surgery, or if the surgery was planned and what we saw on Thursday was just a quality sell-job.  Most lean towards the former explanation.
    Meantime, Charlie Haas probably does NOT get the chance to show us much of his personality by working a singles program.  There's just not enough time, and plus, Benjamin is likely to still make TV tapings in a non-wrestling capacity for the next few weeks.
  • Final rating for last week's "season premiere" of SmackDown! came in at a 3.2.  That is a drop of 0.3 from the previous week, and and down slightly from SD!'s 10-week moving average of 3.3.
    Now, on the surface, a sub-average ratings performance from a heavily hyped, super loaded edition of SD! may look like a bad thing.  However:  an estimated 5 million homes were without power on the eastern seaboard due to the hurricane last Thursday.  That's a little under five percent of the TV universe.  It's also realistic to expect that even areas that did not have power knocked out by the hurricane may have had TV reception affected or may simply have had priorities ahead of wrestling.  Anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of the TV universe could have been adversely affected.
    Keeping that in mind, SD! three-percent drop from its ten week average ain't so bad, and it's ten-percent drop from the week before can be partially rationalized.
  • Predictably, we biased whores here at OO chose SD! as our Battle of the Brands winner last week.  In fact, SD! garnered the highest ratings that the BotB challenge has ever seen, including the first perfect 5.0 (from our resident ring-tested expert, Calum Macbeth).
    Sorry about the delay getting this week's BotB posted... here it is, for your consumption.
  • If word of mouth means anything, "The Rundown" will be a huge hit.  Positive reviews keep flowing in, and even Ebert and Roper were falling all over themselves to give it a pair of Thumbs Up, calling it the best of the "summer blockbuster" action/adventure fare that Hollywood has served up all year.
    The Rock will be featured briefly on tonight's RAW, as WWE will cut into the show to include an interview with The Rock from the site of "The Rundown's" premiere.
    Also:  looks like what I mentioned on Friday was accurate...  the Rock is out as guest host on SNL's season premiere (Oct. 4), and Jack Black is in.  Or so it goes at this moment in time. 
    The Rock remains the lead guest on Conan this coming Friday night.  Also, these new appearances have been added: Late Show with David Letterman (this Wednesday, 9/24), Regis and Kelly Lee (this Thursday, 9/25), Tonight Show with Jay Leno (next Monday, 9/29), and they're working on Jimmy Kimmel Live (TBA, week of 9/29).  FYI: the fact that the Rock's schedule has him on the west coast the week of 9/29 should be all the proof you need that he's out as the host of SNL on 10/4 (the host pretty much spends the entire week in NYC working on the show).
  • In collecting the Rock's upcoming appearances, I also got a note that Stephanie McMahon is gonna be on Kimmel at some point during the week of October 6.  I'll leave it to you all to get all indignant about how those damned McMahons are taking another spot that SHOULD go to an ACTUAL WRESTLER.
    Because I know you will.
  • You might want to reserve a spot on your Christmas list right now... because WWE will be releasing a 3-DVD collection of Ric Flair's greatest matches in late November.  Remember, WWE owns the entire WCW tape library as well as old AWA footage, so this really should be a comprehensive and representative compilation of Flair's signature moments. 
    Flair was an obvious choice for one of these huge, comprehensive collections (both Hogan and Michaels have gotten the same treatment, so far, but only got 2 DVDs apiece)... and after Roddy Piper's relationship with WWE fell apart this summer amidst plans to enshrine him on DVD, there remains talk that Bret Hart could be one of the Fed's next career-spanning DVD projects.
  • I think that's about enough for today.  RAW Recap tomorrow, regular OO on Wednesday (plus Spoilers from Philly).  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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PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28




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