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RAW Minus HHH, Ratings, WM Tix,
Rock, and Wrestlers Gone Wild!
September 29, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Open Letter to the State of California:

Dear Morons, get your heads out of your asses.  By next Tuesday.  Or else, seriously, the other 49 of us are gonna have to do something about you.  One U.S. governor who once fought Predator was plenty.  And if it wasn't, you'd still be way better off with Busey or Apollo Creed or even Chet from "Weird Science," anyway....  Love, Concerned Brother of an Actual California Citizen, The Rick.

Open Letter to the Cincinnati Reds, Barry Larkin, and Barry Larkin's Douchebag Agent:

Dear Slimeballs, way to restore my faith in your abilities to at least pretend that you're all reasonable adults.  Barry can say, "See, it really wasn't about the money," the Reds can say, "See, we really didn't MEAN to tell a loyal, 18-year employee 'Take it or leave it' while secretly wishing he'd leave it."  And Barry's agent can sit in a corner and kvetch about how Tampa Bay probably would have doubled the Reds' offer, and thus, his 10% commission.  Love, Opening Day 2004 Reds Fan and October 2004 Yankees Fan, The Rick.

Open Letter to September Weather:

Dear Asshole, I'm getting sick and tired of 48 degrees and rainy when I go to the Formula One race in Indianapolis.  That's really more of a November thing.  Please keep my three out of the past four years worth of personal inconvenience in mind when they move the race to June next year.  Do not feel the need to "make it up to me" with 105 degrees and pounding sunlight, however.  Love, Sometimes Enthusiastic Supporter of Any Auto Racing Other Than NASCAR, The Rick.

Open Letter to You, the Home Viewer:

Sorry about all this ranting and raving.  Really.  So here, have some wrestling news...  finally:

  • Tonight's RAW, simply put, is my own personal most-anticipated edition of the show in a while.  And it's got nothing to do with anything except for the promise of what should be a leading candidate for Match of the Week when all is said and done.
    It's kind of a SD!-esque way of getting my interest piqued, but hey, I ain't complaining as long as it works.
    Christian defending the IC Title against Rob Van Dam in a ladder match has all the potential in the world to steal the show.  Christian literally made his name thanks to break-out ladder matches when he teamed with Edge against the Hardys starting almost exactly 4 years ago.  RVD made his name in ECW, where playing with foreign objects (including ladders) was encouraged, and has had a pair of high profile, excellent ladder matches since joining WWF/E two years ago.  
    Toss the two together in a feud, let it percolate the past two weeks, and voila, tonight, we've got ourselves a nicely constructed mini-feud for the IC belt that looks to culminate in a top-shelf wrestling match.  With Booker T slated to return to action as soon as this weekend/next Monday Night, the expectation is that Christian will retain so as to restart his feud with Booker.  However, there is also some concern that Booker's days in the wrestling ring are numbered (due to injury), and that when he returns, the Fed hopes to fast-track him to main event status rather than slowly building him up with a return to the IC Title picture.  In that case, the start of an extended run for RVD would not to an outlandish thing to expect. 
    Mostly, it's just fun to look forward to a RAW and know that it'll deliver in the ring.  That's usually more of a Thursday night thing, but this week, with so little bankable prospects in terms of storylines, it's a solid move by the RAW team.
    Triple H, after making a little "you need me more than I need you" speech last week, does indeed look to be finished with RAW appearances for a couple months.  As late as last week, there were those who thought he'd honor commitments for about another 3 weeks before taking time off to get married, heal up his injury for good, and participate in filming for "Blade 3."  However, HHH did not appear on house shows this weekend (after having been originally scheduled for them), and buzz that he's off WWF TV for a while has intensified.
    If this is the case, I don't expect a huge uproar from the internet fans.  You probably all are looking forward to a couple HHH-free months.  But if this is the case, I, personally, think the situation was poorly managed.  HHH's speech last week had the feel of the START of something, a little mini-angle to play out over the course of a couple weeks to properly remove him from TV.  That he gave a previous speech demanding a title rematch against Goldberg only reinforces my opinion: if he knew he was gone from TV immediately after that night, then giving the "I Want my Title Back" speech was counter-productive: he could give it upon his return to TV, and thus, NOT undermine Chris Jericho's own perceived chances of winning the title (or those of any Goldberg challengers who will follow between now and the time that HHH does return, to an audience that now does not believe Goldberg is vulnerable to any challenger until after HHH gets his rematch).
    Three more weeks of goading the fans, followed by a rematch loss to Goldberg and THEN a sudden disappearence...  all I'm saying is THAT is the play I would have made.  And if HHH simply had to be gone after last Monday, then I'd have let the whole rematch with Goldberg thing die and just focused on doing a better job explaining why HHH suddenly decided to give his little Jack-in-"A Few Good Men" speech.  HHH simply being absent starting tonight doesn't work for me on any level, and as much as I know y'all dislike the man, I think even you will feel the inadequately-explained absence of a man who was a top heel in his own right and who single-handedly lent legitimacy to another guy (Randy Orton) who is desperately trying to convince us he belongs at the top level, too.
    In HHH's absence, the man who stands to gain the most has got to be Chris Jericho.  Last week, it felt like he was in about three-quarters of all segments, stirring various pots en route to his participation in the main event.  Few in the business can entertain both in the ring and on the stick like Jericho.  And although there's no reason to suspect that the Fed won't still focus most of its energy behind making Kane the biggest, baddest heel on RAW, you also need more than one villain to carry a show.  By sheer force of ability, when Jericho finds himself counted on each week to play a key role on RAW (roles that would previously have fallen to HHH and Evolution), he'll suck fans into whatever storyline he's involved with, be it mostly verbal taunting with Austin, a revived feud with a returning Kevin Nash, or even more shots at Bill Goldberg's World Title.
    The shots at Goldberg remain a viable option, since after last week, it looks like Kane is not quite done with Shane McMahon, yet.  I'd thought "monster vs. monster" between Goldberg and Kane was a logical feud, but if it's coming, it won't be for another couple weeks, probably.  Shane and Kane are headlining RAW house shows (in HHH's absence), and probably have one big TV blow-off match yet to come.  And Goldberg could mess around with Jericho, or possibly just get fed a few lesser stars just to make him look like a million bucks.  Randy Orton and Ric Flair, I'm looking at you.
    We've already discussed the IC Title picture, but the tag title situation is a complete mess.  However, I prefer the utter chaos of a division in disarray to the boring, obvious direction of a division being controlled by one-dimensional heel team with only one set of challengers, so...  I say turn somebody heel, or go baby vs. baby with the Duds vs. Hurricane/Rosey, or put the HHH-free Evolution to good use by having Orton/Flair (or possibly Orton and a returning Batista) go after the tag titles.  Try anything.  It's gotta be better than the last few months have been.
    Women's division is also wide open, but in a slightly more structured way.  Yes, the focus lately has been on tag matches, with the evil alliance of Molly and Gail wanting to end Trish Stratus.  And yes, that led to the return of Lita, who has now pinned both Molly and Gail and is a more logical foil for Molly and her women's title.  And yes, that means Trish sits around and does nothing if more tag matches aren't forthcoming.  But also yes, Jazz is recovered and ready to return, meaning there's another more than competent heel who'll further overload the diva roster (where it's also really hard to discount Victoria, who just might be the best CHARACTER among the heels).  So basically, it's a deal where anyone might decide they want to fight anyone else on any given week; it's just that in this case, they've got recent footage to explain the reasons why.  It's just a matter of picking which direction to go in tonight.  I'll only venture this much of a guess: Lita will be at the center of it.
    And yep, there's one big story that I'm ignoring.  Because very little good is gonna come out of it.  In addition to the enticing Ladder Match, the only other announced match for tonight is Jim Ross vs. Jonathan Coachman.  Since this issue started, my lack of faith that WWE actually intends to shake up the RAW announce team for the long term has kept it from really appealing to me.  Certainly, if I thought this story might end with Jerry Lawler relegated to calling B-shows like Heat, I might get fired up.  But this is a case of being unable to shake the smark mindset: I know that Coach and Snow probably won't be given months and months to find the right chemistry (i.e. NOT what they gave us last week), but are just a quick aberration.  Maybe it's tonight, or maybe it's in another week or three... but Jim Ross (good) and the King (not so good) are coming back.  And no match that the four announcers have along the way will come even close to adequate, only serving to further annoy me.
    The one good thing about the Announcer War: if they want to, they can relegate it to a side issue in the sure-to-be-renewed Austin vs. Bischoff GM Battle.  And that one doesn't strike me as nearly as frustrating to sit through.  Austin KO'ed Bischoff last week, apparently in violation of the Physical Provocation Act... which means we might see their long-standing rivalry take a new direction tonight.  As long as Austin remains as captivating a performer as he's been since going the GM route (even if it is just for gum-flapping, mudhole-stomping, and occasional Stunnering), I can deal with that.
    Check out the RAW tonight, or come on back to OO for recap and satirization tomorrow.  
  • The final rating for last week's SmackDown was a 3.1.  That's down a nominal one-tenth from the week before (Iron Man match), which is actually not as bad a drop-off as you might have expected.  Overnight ratings were significantly down in light of the other networks firing up their new seasons of proven ratings-getters on Thursday nights ("Friends" and other crappy sitcoms on NBC, "Survivor" and "CSI" for CBS, all of which did big, big numbers), but the final rating for SD! didn't fall off too much.
    Still, the back-to-back 3.2 and 3.1 numbers for SD! marks the first time SD! has scored that low in consecutive weeks since at least May, and probably before that.  It's just that my ratings spreadsheet for Battle of the Brands only goes back to June, and SD! hadn't scored consecutive sub-3.3 at any point since then.
    SD!'s 3.1 was still enough to out-draw RAW by about a hundred thousand households last week; SD! has been the more-watched WWE brand for three weeks running.  Also, SD! won BotB last week, as OO's staff gave the show a narrow victory over RAW.  You can get the full details on both OO ratings and the Nielsen ones from last week right here.
  • WrestleMania XX tickets sold out Saturday morning within a matter of minutes of the on-sale start time at 10am (eastern).  That's good news for for WWE, as well as for the savvy fans who managed to get through by phone or via the internet to place orders.
    Not so lucky: several hundred fans who actually stood in line at MSG on Saturday morning, many of whom could not be served before phone and web orders caused the sell-out.  D'oh.
    WM20 is going to end up having the highest average ticket price of any wrestling event held domestically in all of history, resulting in a total gate that should exceed $2 million.  Although MSG holds less than half the number of fans that the last 3 domed Manias have hosted, the total gate is also going to be among the top handful in US history.
    The sell-out also shows that even though hardcore WWE fans in NYC may not be quite as loyal as in the recent past (MSG was less than half-full for a SD! house show last weekend), they'll still turn out in droves when they expect the Fed to turn it up for a special show.
  • Also making some money over the weekend was The Rock.  "The Rundown" easily dominated the box office, and was the country's #1 movie, raking in over $18 million.
    That figure is roughly in line with the $20 million opening that most observers expected.  Of course, the ever-nitpicky internet wrestling fans are looking for any chance to find fault.  In this case, they note that "The Rundown" only did about half as much money as "The Scorpion King" did in its first weekend 18 months ago.
    What they don't mention at the same time is that "Scorpion King" was a spin-off of an already-wildly-popular franchise ("The Mummy" movies) that opened right at the start of the Summer Blockbuster season (April, right when movie fans start gearing up for the biggest hits of the year).  
    By contrast, "The Rundown" is a stand-alone film, not a sequel/prequel, and opened well after the summer blockbuster season has wrapped up (and many movie goers are again wrapped up in school, or are just plain bored by the fancier "prestige" pictures Hollywood tends to trot out in Autumn and Winter).  "The Rundown's" opening weekend take is actually about equal to (or better than) opening weekend/#1 weekend movie hauls of any movies to come out in the last month since the summer blockbusters dried up.  Two other movies in that time have opened up in the $20 million range, and the last to do significantly better than "The Rundown" was "Freddy vs. Jason" back in early-mid-August.
    "The Rundown" also has a slim chance to become the first back-to-back-week #1 movie since "Freddy vs. Jason."  Word of mouth is very good for the film, and audience demographics have been favorable (it's not just young male wrestling fans who saw it), which points to a movie having legs.  Also, next weekend's new movies don't feature any additional competition in the shoot-'em-up action genre.  More than likely, Jack Black's "School of Rock" takes the #1 slot on sheer comedy power, but you never know...  the simple fact is, among online wrestling fans and journalists, critiques of the Rock's drawing power have popped up this weekend; but the Hollywood types who'll make the decisions about the Rock have absolutely no reason to be anything but happy with "The Rundown" opening the way it did.
    Me, I haven't seen "The Rundown" yet...  I had a birthday party in Cincinnati and then the F-1 race in Indy this weekend, and I just didn't have time.  But I'm thinking I actually will check it out this week.  In doing so, it'll become the first wrestler movie I actually go see in a theater since a friend and I ditched out of the last half of the last day of school to catch a bus so we could see "No Holds Barred."  [For the purposes of our discussion, Macho Man in "Spider-Man" does not make it as a "wrestler movie."]
  • FYI: Rock's appearance on Leno is off.  Instead, tonight he'll do the Craig Kilborn show on CBS.  Then there's something called "The Wayne Brady Show" that I don't even know when or where it's on; Rock's there on Wednesday.  There might still be a Kimmel appearance this week, too.  Not sure. 
    This is confirmed, though: Kimmel is gonna have Stephanie McMahon on NEXT week, and now I've got the exact night.  It'll be next Thursday night (early Friday). Also, Steve Austin should hit one or two shows (I think somebody said Conan was the big one?  One of the NYC ones, since he's also doing Stern...) in the next week or two, as his book's gonna be released soon; Austin already did the mini-LA tour ("Best Damn Etc." and Kimmel)...
  • Some sad news today...  last week, Anthony Durante, who wrestled for ECW in the company's formative years and into their PPV era as "Pitbull #2," was found dead in his home of an apparently accidental drug overdose.  Durante was 36.  Also: his 29-year-old girlfriend was also found dead at the same time, also of an apparent drug overdose.  Neither body showed any signs of foul play, though both did have visible needle marks; needles and prescription painkillers were found near the bodies, according to newspaper reports out of Rhode Island.
    The couple had two kids, a 2-year-old boy and an 8-month-old girl, both of whom were OK and will be released to the custody of relatives this week.
    Durante was undoubtedly one of ECW's early success stories.  The Pitbull tag team -- "Pitbull #1" was Gary Wolfe -- had the size and the look of a WWF-caliber team, making them instant stars in ECW (where talent was enough to earn you a spot on the show, but where size and muscles were at enough of a premium that they alone could make you top player).  Though they broke in as a tag team, the Pitbulls looked enough the part of pro wrestlers that Durante was pushed into singles action within a year of his debut for the company, and he even held the TV Title.
    He was also a part of the company's second-biggest feud heading into their first PPV in 1997, as he faced off against Shane Douglas in a match that was not just about Douglas' heinous actions towards Durante while Durante had suffered a neck injury, but which also served as the backdrop for the late Rick Rude's then-enormous entry into the company.  
    But the singles push and Durante's tenure in ECW came to an end shortly after that high, at least in part because of legal problems.  He and Wolfe had been arrested on steroid possession charges, which I think might also have been part of the reason why Wolfe disappeared and Durante moved into singles action.  Then, in '97, Durante again ran afoul of the law on marijuana and steroid charges, and ECW dropped him, as well.  The same problems may well be the reason why, despite a WWF try-out or two and more than enough size and talent to be stars there, the Pitbulls never made it as a national act.  Both as a tag wrestler and after his singles push, Durante had plenty of really good matches in ECW, and many, at the time, considered a matter of when and not if the WWF would pick them up....  but I guess there was more going on than met the eye.
    Since the '97 incident, Durante had had a clean police record, though the circumstances of his death seem to suggest that was more a function of his not getting caught, rather than his not acting poorly.  He also had not been active in pro wrestling in about 5 years, and had instead spent time working for the Foxwoods Casino and a local Wal-Mart.  No doubt, somebody, somewhere (probably named "Phil") will try to spin this as another case of pro wrestling's evil influence on its own workers...  I apologize if I overstate my own spin: that this as a case of an individual (years removed from the wrestling business) unable to police his own habits even after run-ins with the law and ample evidence that he needed to clean up his act, and what SHOULD have been ample motivation (in the form of two young kids) to do so.
    Thanks for all the good memories, Pitbull #2...  just not so much for this last one.
  • And not to make this TOO morbid a segue... but today we can also tell a little tale about a guy who DID get a handle on his personal problems and came out well on the other side.  Eddie Guerrero was front and center for an unfortunate incident at a SD! house show in Winnipeg this past weekend.
    A fan poured a beer on Eddie, and taunted him about his past as an alcoholic.  Eddie lost his temper and went after the fan, even after security had started escorting him from the building.
    But perhaps I'll just let OO Reader Andrew Shallcross tell you how it all went down:
    "Thought you might hear something about this, so here's the story.  I was at a SD house show in Winnipeg Saturday night.

    In a very unusual situation tonight, several WWE workers were involved in a fight with fans during a match.

    During the tag match of Los Guerreros Vs Basham Bros., a ringside fan poured a cup of beer onto Eddie Guerrero. The fan was immediately escorted away by security.

    Guerrero then jumped the barricade and knocked the fan to the ground. From my position, it appeared as though several other fans then got involved as security rushed to the scene.

    Chavo Guerrero then jumped the barricade and got into the group, followed by one of the Basham Bros. I could not see what Chavo did, but it appeared as though there was fighting continuing. A Basham Bros was pushing fans away.

    Agent Blackjack Lanza went to ringside and the ref frantically called for the bell, but Lanza told him to continue the match.

    After the match (Best of the night), Eddie went up to the friends of the guy who had been ejected and began yelling at him. Security approached and Arn Anderson made his way to ringside.

    Eddie then got in the ring and demanded the mic. He was obviously angry and flustered and told the guy's friends that he came to Winnipeg to put on a great show and that everything reported about him and his battle with alcohol was legit. He said it was a major insult for a fan to dump beer on him and smile. Eddie went on to say that he always talks about being a Christian and he felt he did not act like one, so he wanted to apologize to God and to the fans of Winnipeg.

    He left the ring to a standing ovation and chants of Eddie, Eddie.

    Clearly, Eddie should not have proceeded after the fan, but abuse by fans is becoming a problem (especially here in Winnipeg).  The guy deserved it and it was classy of Eddie to apologize."

    With rumors that the fan who taunted Eddie is contemplating legal action against either WWE or Eddie (or both), let me echo Andrew's comments: this is a guy who acted like an ass, by all counts, and deserved what he got.  You're allowed to be part of the show in wrestling, but if you're not smart enough to zip it and back down after you cross a line and goad a wrestler into coming after you, then hell, maybe you need to be thinned from the herd.  If his defense is that "he was taunting Eddie cuz it's part of the show, and I didn't really mean anything by it," then he shouldn't have had a problem backing out sooner, preferably before a $5 beer was wasted.  Instead, his behavior indicates he was really trying to go beyond the show and to get under Eddie's skin with a personal attack... and that would make him an asshole.
    We'll have to see what, if anything, comes of this.
  • An incident the next night at a SD! show elsewhere in Manitoba is thought to have been a work: as part of an Angle/Lesnar main event, Lesnar shoved down a ringside fan.  At least one report suggests the ringside fan was either Lesnar's brother or a friend of Lesnar's brother or something, though... which would make the whole thing a bit suspect.
    I'd also consider it suspicious that Lesnar would actually lose his cool just one night after Eddie lost his.  Unless I miss my guess, there should have been some sort of a brand-wide memo sent out after that, the gist of which would have been "Try really, really hard to not punch fans."  If that didn't happen, well, somebody at WWE dropped the ball.  It's not even a matter of whether the fans "deserve" it or not; it's a matter of trying to train your guys not to create PR nightmares.  The asshole fans provoking them are simply not worth the hassle.
  • Bunches of readers saw this item on various websites/newswires and passed it along:
    Wrestling was named the #2 Most Hated Sport in America according to a recent study.  The #1 most hated as "dog fighting," which I don't even know what that is.  Are there actually organized, televised, sanctioned battles between canines that I'm somehow missing out on?
    If memory serves -- and after my own personal Decade of Destruction (of my Liver and Brain Cells), that's not necessarily something you should bet on -- this isn't exactly a new study.  Rather it's a new version of an annual (or bi-annual, or something) poll.  I know in the past few years, wrestling has shown up on "Worst Sports" lists before, anyway, and usually right near the top.  And it's always weird to me because, at most times, the US press doesn't recognize wrestling as a sport.  But when they can make fun of it, fine, it's on the list.
    My personal instinct: file this one under "Who the hell cares?"... except so many of you sent in the various links that I guess you do care.  Sorry I can't work up the quality indignation past the "wrestling's only a sport when it serves their purposes" issue....
  • I think that's about enough for today.  RAW Recap tomorrow, then Spoilers and midweek news Wednesday.  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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