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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
RAW, Angle, PPV Fall-out, WWE Finances,
and Other Monday News
November 17, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

Let me say this bit at the top and then be done with it:  today is the end, my friends...  the end of the OO Pledge Drive.  I think I've explained the need for and importance of the pledge drive in as many ways as I can without resorting to sounding like a total prick over the past 4 weeks, so I won't linger on the topic for long.  I merely remind you that, to a large extent, OO is Reader Supported, because even I have my limits to how many ads I'll throw on a page, and how many of them will shout "Buy My CD, Oooohhhhh Yeah!" at you.  

And anyway, if you're like me, you're using some form of pop-up blocking technology, anyway, further avoiding being a revenue generating contributor to OO's well-being.  Well, actually, I guess I can't begrudge you that, either.  But once a year, I can and will spend a month telling you about the spectacularly convenient credit card, Pay Pal, and check/cash options that the Pledge Drive offers you!  

So there it is: if you have the means and motivation, please donate today.  And of course, a gigantic Thank You to everyone who has already done so since I began my panhandling back in late October.  This is my final word on the topic for 11 months.

May you enjoy the return of OO's usual pristine, whine-free content:

  • I think the most important place to start today is with the official word on Kurt Angle's neck condition.  Last week, we took kind of a roller coaster ride, first fearing the worst, and then re-iterating that Angle's condition was not thought to be career-threatening.
     
    Well, the results of last week's tests are in, and reality seems to be closer to the latter than to the former presumption.
     
    Angle will undergo surgery this week (one source says it could happen as early as tomorrow) in Pittsburgh, but the procedure is not a major one.  Apparently, Angle's exam last week showed a bone chip impinging on a nerve, or some such scenario...  there was none of the the major structural damage that would necessitate a year or longer on the shelf.
     
    I had one person (half-jokingly, I assume) compare this procedure to the neck equivalent of getting a knee scoped: more clean-up than anything else.  I mean, the mention of "neck surgery" is always grounds for a bit more concern than a gimpy knee, but I gather that this is an in-and-out deal to remove the offending bone chip.  
     
    Angle will be off TV this week, obviously, but assuming that the procedure goes off without a hitch, could be back in a non-wrestling role as soon as next week, and back competing inside the ring in December.
     
    While you never want to hear about a guy having to go under the knife, I gotta admit to a certain amount of relief that upon examination, Angle discovered what was causing him the pain and numbness and that it's something that's relatively easy to fix.
     
    Fingers are crossed here at OO for Kurt's full and speedy recovery following his surgery this week.
     
  • Some PPV fall-out...
     
    In my immediate post-show recap, I expressed my frustration and confusion over Mark Cuban (sometimes-idiot and full-time-NBA-owner) getting an ego spot on the PPV, while Tajiri and Jamie Noble got shunted over to Heat.  Well, my frustration remains unabated, but a few e-mails addressed my confusion...
     
    You see, the deal with Cuban was referenced on SportsCenter and some other sports shows last night.  And good as they are, Tajiri and Noble would not have gotten WWE those mentions.  I guess maybe I should have set my smarkdom aside last night to think it through...  but then again, even if I had, I wonder if I'd have reached the "this was done for mainstream press" conclusion.  There is a very substantial part of me that assumed that very few people still cared all that much about Cuban's latest moronic antics, especially outside of Dallas, and that if anything, his previous track record would mean the mainstream press would use this PPV incident to condescendingly mock both Cuban and WWE.
     
    But whatever...  any press is good press, I guess, and Cuban taking the RKO delivered some press.  I'd have rather WWE tried to satisfy the fans who paid their money to see Survivor Series than try to reach out to the non-fans who watched the Sunday night NFL game on ESPN, but I'm smart enough not to get all pissy about it.
     
    The demotion of Tajiri/Noble to Heat also contributed substantially to the other most-common issue I'm seeing in e-mail today: that Survivor Series was basically a RAW show with SD! providing very little.  It's a perception that's common enough to warrant some discussion here today...
     
    In some ways, I don't think the RAW-centric-ness is all that surprising: Team Austin vs. Team Bischoff was, for just about every wrestling fan I've interacted with in the last 2 weeks, THE match on the show.  SD! was leading with Vince/Taker, which I'm sure appeals to a certain type of fan, just not the ones I get to meet.  The RAW World Title match also had every right to be presented as a major, main event-type match, and although it was not destined to be a ***** wrestling contest, putting the World Title on last sends out the right message.  The balance of the PPV was the result of the last month of TV, which was, by and large, stronger on Mondays than it was on Thursdays.
     
    That said, should WWE be encouraging fans to perceive one brand as better than the other?  Not only did RAW get more screen time last night...  but RAW was also subtly portrayed as having the superior roster.  Goldberg got the last word in on Lesnar... Kane buried the Undertaker...  RAW got 4 matches to SD!'s 3, including the main event.  If you wanted to say WWE didn't even make a token effort to make SD! seem like RAW's equal, I would probably have to agree with you.
     
    But you know what else?  I'd also not think it was all that big a deal.  I'd perhaps even go so far as to say something like how it's a good thing if SD! gave RAW a little rub.  For all our internet smart fan wisdom that says RAW's been on a role lately, it's been SD! that has been slaying RAW in the ratings since the start of September.  If, in some small way, Survivor Series will wake some people up to the idea that RAW's gotten good again, then I say no harm's been done.
     
    Sure, you don't want some new RAW viewers to materialize if it's going to cost you SD! viewers...  but I don't think that SD! came off SO weak that they'd actually lose any momentum as a result of last night.  For all RAW's arguable dominance at Survivor Series, it's actual the SD! brand that has me most fascinated in the short term.
     
    Think about it: Benoit chasing Lesnar for the WWE Title.  Cena going after Big Show and the US Title.  The likely slow disintegration of Los Guerreros leading to a ***** feud.  More Tajiri/Noble, with guys like Rey, Dragon, Nunzio, Akio/Sakoda, and others able to offer up an endless string of 6 minute TV specials every week.  The probable face turn of Haas/Benjamin so that they can line up against the Bashams.  The oddly-appealing prospect of a new, old Undertaker showing up soon.
     
    Just about the only thing that is NOT appealing about SD! is the thought that after last night, we have not seen the last of Vince McMahon using 5 minutes of over-acting to convey 30 seconds worth of information.  And also my lingering fear that, for some reason, they will be intent on re-instating Stephanie as GM, when Paul Heyman's working out magnificently.  (Honestly, the longer Steph's gone, the more impactful her return can be... why just waste her comeback and simultaneously snatch the rug out from under Heyman's own impactful return following his 9 month absence?)
     
    RAW's perceived superiority last night does not translate quite as directly into stuff that I'm fired up for...  it raises a lot of questions and there are lots of doors open, however.  Which is probably appropriate.  RAW is the live show, the one where you can (and like to) be surprised.  But we'll get into all that in a RAW preview portion of the column later.
     
    Right here, the topic was putting the finishing touches on some Survivor Series analysis.  And after last night's recap and my two main topics here today, there isn't a whole lot more that I have to cover.  I've already declared Shawn Michaels as the winner of the OO Gold Star of the Night for his great work in making the final 15 minutes of Team Austin vs. Team Bischoff the best of the whole PPV.  I've already registered my mild disappointment in the Guerreros/Bashams match, but also that that was off-set by my pleasant surprise at how well Lita/Molly came off.  Ummm, I think I've also more than adequately praised the booking decisions made in almost every match (from Cena/Benoit going over, to Molly besting Lita, to the way Goldberg oozed bad-assery in his win, and even to the way most-worthless "matches" featuring the McMahons still told the right stories and were value added segments).
     
    So why the hell am I still rambling?  Don't rightly know...  if it's just the match-by-match result you need, I again refer you to last night's post-PPV Survivor Series Recap.  Otherwise, I think we're done here.  
     
    Let's move on...
     

  • WWE ended its second quarter for fiscal year 2004 back in late October, and today has released its usual best-possible-spin on the results.
     
    My prestigious business-y college degrees may be getting more rusty with each passing day, but they still give me the right to try to make my amateur analysis of information WWE supplies each quarter...
     
    And in this case, my opinion is that for all the Fed's attempts to describe this quarter as superior to the same quarter last year is little more than a trick of smoke and mirrors (and circumstance).  A net income of about $17 million this quarter (as opposed to a small loss of about $2 million the year previous) can be tracked to two main sources: the fact that this quarter included 4 PPV events (last years 2Q featured the usual 3), and that WWE's settlement with Lewmar in the Owen Hart case was posted to this quarter's bottom line.  Combined, those two factors contributed $11 million to WWE's bottom line this quarter.
     
    Breaking it down a bit, per-PPV buyrates were just about flat from the year before (averaging just less than 400,000 per event both last year and this year)...  but that holding steady is just about WWE's best news in the event/TV spectrum.
     
    Live event revenue dropped by about half-a-million dollars... which would be insignificant except for the fact that the drop comes despite substantial rises in ticket prices.  Average attendance actually dropped from 5300 to 5100, and this area continues to be a source of concern for WWE, since fewer fans doesn't just mean fewer tickets sold: it means less merchandise sold, too.
     
    Revenue from ad sales was also down, but WWE spins this as a result of WWE surrendering most of the ad inventory for SmackDown! to UPN (previously, WWE preferred to sell that shows ad time in-house).  The restructured UPN contract, however, contributed to an almost $3 million gain from last year for TV rights fees (UPN now pays WWE an increased flat rate for SD! and sells ad time itself), so I guess maybe those two factors cancel each other out.
     
    Merchandise sales were down almost across the board.  Slight gains in video game sales were not enough to stop a drop of $2 million in this department from the same quarter of the previous year.
     
    The overall impression one gets reading the report for 2Q FY2004 is that WWE is getting healthier financially...  but then you stop and realize that not a single one of the company's revenue generating elements saw any significant improvement over the same quarter the previous year.  Gains, instead, appear to have come thanks to trimming costs and realizing the benefits of litigation and tricks of the calendar.  I'll be the first to admit that net income of $17 million sounds lots better than a net loss of $2 million, but I'd also have to say that I see few signs that WWE's core business is substantially stronger than it was a year ago.  
     
    But as is my mantra once every three months: it's also not like I really care.  I don't own the stock.  We should mostly just care about what they put out on TV...  
     
    WWE's full 2nd quarter report is available right here if you're interested.
     
  • The investor's conference call that accompanied the release of 2Q financials was said to be extremely uneventful.  Usually, Linda McMahon winds up being called on the carpet by at least one or two interesting questions...  but my understanding is that the conference call was originally supposed to be tomorrow, and late last week was rescheduled for this morning.  Perhaps they managed to dodge any really tough questions in the process?
     
  • In the interest of fairness: I fell all over myself to keep you updated every week as the Rock's "The Rundown" scratched its way to a respectable $50 million (or so) domestic take at the box office.
     
    Well, another wrestler had a movie debut this weekend, although WWE's done nothing to promote the fact.  Hmmm, could it be because it was done when the wrestler in question had nothing to do with WWE and WWE has no piece of the pie?  Ding ding, we have a weiner!
     
    Anyway, Goldberg's in the "Loony Toons: Back in Action" movie.  You might remember hearing that he had a part in it back a year, year-and-a-half ago, and I remember thinking it was just a bit part.  Well, the "behind the scenes" thing that showed up on HBO this weekend certainly made Goldberg seem like more than a 30 second cameo guy.  And no, you may not ask why I actually stuck with the Making of Loony Toons thing when I had 300 other channels of crap to choose from.
     
    Bottom line, I guess Goldberg's a pretty big part of the movie, which opened up in fifth place for the weekend with a disappointing $9.5 million.  People looking for family movies took a pass and stuck with "Elf" and "Brother Bear."  The "gibbering fan boy in denial" demo opted for another helping of suck by putting another $16 million in the coffers of  "The Matrix."  Personally, I blame the poor Looney Toons outing on Brendan Fraser, not for any good reason, though... just because he seems (with all apologies to Jeb Lund and Randy Orton) to be a REAL "sack of duh," and I loathe that I must be subjected to his brain-dead banter on Conan or the Daily Show or whatever whenever someone sees fit to let him be in a movie.  Yeah, I blame you, Fraser!  Goldberg rules!
     
  • Some people mailed in over the weekend, and took me to task for just assuming Nidia's elective surgery of choice was a boob job, and for parroting that now-widespread assumption here at OO.  Apparently, there is strong support for the "Nidia got a nose job" theory...
     
    I'll say this: playing up the angle that Nidia has had eye surgery or whatever in the wake of the black mist certainly seems to lend credence to that theory.  If everybody who heard "cosmetic surgery" and assumed "new tits" is wrong, I'll certainly not be put out.  Clothesline to the chest results in swelling of that region... mist to the face results in reduced swelling in the nose?  Hmmm.  Let's just table the issue and wait and see, alright?
     
  • The final rating for last week's SD! was a 3.7.  That matches the show's six month high, and means that SD! is continuing to kick RAW's ass.  For the past five weeks, SD! is averaging a 3.6 broadcast rating, it's best stretch in over a year.
     
    And again, I reiterate that this could not come at a better time.  WWE pulling strong numbers during November sweeps is the best possible timing for a ratings rally.
     
  • Cool little interview over at ign.com with Ricky Steamboat... the reason for the interview is Steamboat's inclusion in next year's "Legends of Wrestling" videogame, but the discussion covers a lot of other ground.
     
    Most interesting to me is near the end when the possibility of a final farewell match for "The Dragon" is mentioned...  and for the first time that I know of, Steamboat actually said he'd be quite amenable to doing one final showdown with Ric Flair on a WWE stage, although he also sounds confident that his history with Vince McMahon would preclude such a thing from happening.  Still, it's a step forward, since all I can recall hearing from Ricky (including in an interview I did with him a while back) was that he considered himself fully retired and that he didn't think his bad back would afford him the chance to do anything else in the wrestling business.
     
    Man, I can't be the only one who has enough faith and trust in wrestling fans to think that all Vince would have to do is put the words "Flair. Steamboat. PPV." on a black screen, and interest would be materialize instantly....  can I?
     
  • Here's an anecdote that is hopefully at least marginally more interesting to you than the average Obscure Wrestling Reference....  
     
    So I went out to this rock show on Friday night after watching the Flyers beat up on EA Sports.  It was like a Reunion Night for The Rick's Former Drummers, as two bands featuring ex-drummers of mine were on the bill.  One I've seen a bunch, and they are excellent (The Weird Now, on the off chance they ever leave the confines of Dayton), the other I hadn't.  So I was looking forward to an interesting night of rock.
     
    What I didn't have much interest in was the third band, the actual headliner.  I didn't know much about them, and asking around that night, it sounded like most people showed up for the local bands, anyway, cuz I didn't get anything useful other than "out of town band from Louisville or something."  The end result: when the two local bands were done, me and most of my friends left for another bar, and didn't think any more of the out of town band we had ditched on.  
     
    So of course, while at another bar that night, I found somebody who DID know something about the third band: that their claim to fame was doing the entrance theme for some professional wrestler.  And by gawd, I actually did the "Slap the Forehead" Move of "I am Such a Dumbass."  It all clicked.  The band's name was Waterproof Blonde, and they do Sean O'Haire's entrance music, which you should remember from back when he was actually on TV and doing stuff.  I know I remembered it instantly, if only because I recalled thinking it was a decent little tune, except that I thought it was not-quite-right that O'Haire would have a female vocalist for his theme.
     
    Finding out who the third band was then also helped to explain the Mystery Babe who was at sitting at the bar every time I went up for a drink.  You go see enough bands in a town the size of Dayton, and you pretty rapidly can identify all members of the class of Hot Rock Chicks (you know: some combination of tattoos/short hair/piercings that is somehow very effective).  Turns out the reason I couldn't identify this one on sight is because she was the lead singer for Waterproof Blonde and had more than likely never had a reason to visit Dayton before.
     
    So, because I feel like a dick for skipping out on a band that I should, in retrospect, have checked out, I now report to you that if Waterproof Blonde comes to your town, you have two very good reasons to pay the $3 cover charge, or whatever: (1) they did Sean O'Haire's music, and (2) their singer is hot.  OK, so maybe that's like two half-reasons...  but together, they should certainly be enough to give 'em a look, especially if you're already there checking out the other two bands.  And that way, you'd be able to do what I cannot: say for sure if there is a valid third reason -- "(3) They Rock" -- to add to the list.
     
    I'd be REALLY upset with my rash decision that night, except that one of the bars we ended up at later was the pub down the street that had in its possession the only keg of the Double Bastard made available to Dayton this year.  Five bucks a glass, but hoo boy, is it ever worth it. 
     
    So how's that for a barely-relevant story?  I personally think it beats the hell out of "I think I heard Booker T's theme music on a radio commercial"....
     
  • Lastly, just a few quick thoughts heading into tonight's RAW...
     
    I alluded above to the fact that RAW has more questions than answers at this point, and I believe the biggest question is, "How will they get Steve Austin back on TV at the earliest possible moment?".  It's pure pragmatism.  Austin, although a non-wrestler, remains one of the most entertaining and best-drawing personalities on the show.  They cannot go for long without him, in my opinion.
     
    There are any number of ways to get Austin back on the show.  A Dusty Finish, undoing last night's result due to outside interference?  Signing him to a different contract (Bischoff making him jump through hoops to get a shot at Evolution, perhaps?  Or Austin the ref?  Austin the announcer?).  Another of the random appearances by Linda McMahon.  Lots of ways out.  My instinct is that whatever they're going to do, it will happen sooner rather than later.  And I do admit, I'm thinking that somehow Bischoff's pride and his desire to rub it in the face of Austin will be the route they go: he'll let Austin keep showing up if he (Bischoff) thinks he can humiliate him.  That's probably the dynamic I'd guess they'll go for...
     
    But even if Austin's back on TV sooner than later, we cannot escape the fact that RAW is now Bischoff's show.  And that will impact every facet of the program (unless they do the aforementioned Dusty Finish, which I'd vote against just because it's, by far, the cheapest and least creative of the options).  Bischoff hinted that he'd fire Lita if she didn't "play ball," which will affect Lita's attempt at revenging on Molly.  Bischoff will be very grateful to Randy Orton and Evolution for ridding RAW of Steve Austin, which might mean that you can forget Kane as Goldberg's next challenger (which was where I thought they were going)...  Orton sure did seem to get a huge rub last night, didn't he?  Then again, nobody's been a bigger Bischoff supporter this last month than Chris Jericho, whose chair shot on Shawn Michaels was a turning point in the Team Austin vs. Team Bischoff match...
     
    RAW, in essence, has a clean slate to work with, if they want.  Sure they can pick up the threads of storylines like Lita vs. Molly or whatever... but they can also use the change in management to introduce all new angles (which will be required in the case of Goldberg and RVD, the World and IC champs, respectively).  I find that to be sort of intriguing and exciting.  If they go a screwy route with things, however, I reserve the right to be disappointed and indignant tomorrow.
     
    Check out RAW tonight, or just come on back here to OO tomorrow for the full results and analysis.
     
    See you then.
     

E-MAIL RICK SCAIA
BROWSE THE OO ARCHIVES

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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