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Weekend Update:  SD!, Ratings,
House Show Stuff, and MLW Reborn
November 21, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


It begins:  college hoops is here.  Tonight at 11pm, I'll be taking my first hit from the Flyer pipe.  I hope that it will be sweet.

And if it's not... well, after Pepperdine, UD heads out to Maui where they could very well be the silent assassins in a weak tourney field.  I'm honestly expecting at least 2 wins out there.  It sucks having to get our new coach and new gameplans baptized by fire on the road like this, but as long as the Flyers come back home .500 or better for the trip, I'll be satisfied.

Follow along with me, won't you?  Tonight on FoxSports Pacific, and the Maui games are on ESPN and ESPN2...  at the very least, you'll be able to guess ahead of time what kind of mood I'll be in when I do columns next week!

For today, though, the mood is this: anticipatory.  With a slight undertone of rushing to get done so I can get some straightening up and stocking of my bar done before the Flyer Fanatics descend.  Deal with it:

  • Last night's SD! wasn't quite as annoying as I'd thought it'd be after I compiled the Spoilers...  actually, strike that: it wasn't annoying at all.  No reason to make the compliment overly-back-handed.
    From onsite reports, it sounded like the Vince and Kane promos went long and that Nathan Jones managed to suck in a match against Benoit and so on and so forth.  None of that really happened, in my opinion.
    Vince's show-opening promo was the one spot that, yeah, you could have hacked it out and not a single person would have missed it.  But while you could have restructured the show so that Vince did some mild gloating and introduced the idea of Kane showing up to eulogize Undertaker in a backstage bit, you would have lost what I assume was the main reason for carting Vince out to flap his gums: being able to bring out John Cena to cut a rap on Mr. McMahon.
    It's not just symbolically important (Cena getting to go over on the Mr. McMahon character tells the crowd this guy is here, for real), but it seems like they were pushing hard to get the idea across that Cena may have acting a bit brashly, and the repercussions after verbally assaulting Vince will be severe.  A storyline like that should serve to erect surmountable road blocks in front of Cena, fully establishing himself as a top level babyface.  Cena won't just get to keep working with Vince, but also against various goon hired by Vince; it'd also be a good way to make his quest to get the US Title from Big Show a longer, more arduous ordeal.  There are times to strike while the iron's hot...  but in this case, I don't think Cena's in any danger of cooling off soon, and in fact may only become hotter if Vince keeps preventing him from winning gold.
    In contrast, Chris Benoit ought to be handled a little differently... and I think they're on the right track.  Benoit has a sort of legitimacy in the ring that when he strings together wins like he has in the last week, fans will, at that moment, start buying into him again.  This is a strength of Benoit's that I think allows him to bounce back after directionless phases like the one he had over the late summer (Eddie's failed heel turn didn't help matters, but honestly, a 2 month feud with A-Train?)...  of course, Benoit's weakness is that he can't really do the sorts of promos that facilitate a slow build up over time (in short, it's not Chris' persona that people buy into).  So you have Benoit making Lesnar tap out at the PPV, and then last night, he makes Jones tap out even though Lesnar was there TRYING to interfere (in a match that was very solid, save for Jones'  extended Chinlock of Only Slight Discomfort)...  and now you keep pushing and get things set up so that Benoit vs. Lesnar is your SD! main event at the Royal Rumble.  Strike while this iron is hot.
    Kane's eulogy was very effective, I thought.  If there was any doubt that the old school "Dead Man" Taker was on his way back, I think you can dismiss it, now.  What Kane did was lay out the actual reason why Taker should come back in his old persona.  It's not just "Uh, well, he was buried and took some time off... and now he's sudden reverted back to 1991."  Kane created a reason for Taker to bring back his inner monster... and just as important: he supplied the very plausible, and very intriguing, justifications for his actions, which, in turn, will be the grounds for a renewed Taker/Kane feud next year.  My fears that the return of the old Taker and a feud with Kane were being rushed into are looking unfounded: this has been nicely plotted out so far.
    This isn't the first Taker Resurrection following a "burial"...  remember 1994 with Yokozuna beating Taker in a casket match, and then the Evil Undertaker showing up, and finally the god-awful Leslie Nielsen skits?  I hope WWE remembers.  Because that would be an outstanding example of what NOT to do as this storyline advances.  Keep it simple: maybe have a few bizarre happenings (preferably nothing TOO supernatural) shadow Kane on RAW (maybe have Taker's "influence" prevent Kane from beating Goldberg?) and Vince on SD!... and then Old School Taker makes his return at the Royal Rumble to exact his revenge on both.
    Guerreros/WGTT was criminally short, it seemed to me, and I'd have loved to see it tripled in length with A-Train and Bradshaw given the chance to knock some slobber on Velocity.  The 3 minute length of their match was the source of my most frustration... I know the focus wound up being on the Eddie/Chavo story, but why must that preclude them from doing a 10 minute "anchor" match in the middle of the show in addition to telling the post-match story?  BTW, I said it when compiling spoilers, and having seen the segment with my own eyes, I will again wonder out loud about Chavo begging for some pain medication before slinking out to hang with his "real friends."  I am, for the record, against any sort of "Chavo gets hooked on pills/Mirrors Eddie's Descent" storyline.  Not that they'll do it, but something about the way that backstage thing played out definitely left me no option but to consider the possibility.
    That left the Tajiri/Noble and Cena/Show matches to vie for Match of the Night with me.  Tajiri/Noble was crisp and fast-paced, but was also another 5 minute TV Special.  Cena and Show did a nice, long main event match with some nice bits of psychology and intra-match storytelling, but which lagged a few times and had an awkward finish (second ref coming out to count the pinfall for Cena seconds after he'd blatantly used the ring steps?  felt wrong to me... unless it's a future plot point?).  Hmmm...  I guess I'll say Tajiri/Noble was my favorite match on the show, because I'm a smark, dammit, and I'm supposed to hate the Big Show.
    Oh, and the big return of Nidia?  I think I can unequivocally state that Nidia underwent the following procedure during her little "vacation":  she had her hair straightened.  A giant pair of blind man sunglasses and her big fur coat made it impossible to detect either a nose- or boob-job.
    Overall, a good show.  Not necessarily worthy of mounds and mounds of praise.  But like I said, also a much better outing than what I'd expected after sorting through a couple tapings reports.  It's gonna be close when I gotta make my Battle of the Brands picks this week...
    And if you missed the show, I highly recommend you check out Big Danny T's SD! Recap.
  • Overnight rating for SD! came in at a 4.1.  That is pretty much in line with recent numbers, and should mean that the final rating is another one in the mid-upper 3's.  SD! is currently in the midst of its best ratings run of 2003, and on top of that, is actually topping its ratings from November sweeps of last year by a quarter of a point.  Upward motion in wrestling's TV ratings?  We haven't seen the likes of that since 1996!
  • On Monday, I talked about my lingering fear that Stephanie McMahon would be re-installed as GM of SD! now that she and HHH have gotten done with all that gettin' married stuff.
    With HHH back on RAW, I figured we'd see the start of that storyline as soon as this week... and now that it has NOT reared its head, I think we can safely pencil Paul Heyman in for at least another couple of months.  And it is good.
    Like I said Monday, it's basically a two-pronged reason I have for maintaining the status quo.  One, Heyman's just very effective in the GM role: he's a natural heel, but can also, from time to time, capitalize on his "I used to run ECW" credibility and just give the fans something they want to see.  I think he's more multi-dimensional than Stephanie.  And two, having Steph come back now would do her and the storyline she did with Vince a disservice.  Her absence means the match they had was important, with a stipulation worth adhering to.  And it also means that when she comes back, we will be that much more fired up for it.  Absence, they say, makes the heart grow fonder.  WWE knows this, and they know how to manipulate that fondness.
    Now, if only they'd put their heads to making me grow fond of Vince.  If you catch my drift.
  • Speaking of his better half, Triple H is expected to maintain a pretty steady WWE schedule from here forward....  his injury is apparently of the "lingering/nagging" variety, and I believe the plan is to hide him in tag matches as often as possible for house shows over the next several weeks.  But he is scheduled to work them, none the less.
    Some exceptions, however, will affect HHH's availability...  commitments to "Blade 3" will keep HHH off the road and off TV for a week or two in the middle of December.  I believe HHH also mentioned in a recent radio interview that he'd miss limited time in January for the same reason, but I don't know how long or precisely when that absence will take place.
  • WWE's December schedule presently includes an 11-day holiday break between 12/16 and 12/27...  that means there are no TV tapings scheduled for the week of December 22.
    Unless WWE hopes to sandwich in an extra edition of RAW at tapings on the 15th and/or 16th, we might be looking at a "Year in Review" type program for RAW on the 22nd.  It goes without saying that bending over backwards to produce a fresh edition of SD! to air on Christmas Day would be pretty pointless; a "Year in Review" deal would be very appropriate in that spot, and frankly, it wouldn't surprise me if UPN pre-empted SD! for something holiday themed that night, anyway.
    Tapings resume the usual schedule on the 29th and 30th.
  • My understanding is that, with the long break, the SD! tapings on the 30th would be the first day Kurt Angle would be available to resume a physical role on the show.  His surgery this week was uneventful (which is a Good Thing), and so basically, he's looking at the 4 week or so recovery time.
    WWE might take it easier with Angle, however, and take a bit extra time to make sure he's definitely at full strength before returning him to the ring.  One indication was that they're considering not using him in the ring again until Royal Rumble.
    Like we've talked about earlier this week, though, it's very possible (likely, even) that Angle will return in a non-wrestling capacity as soon as next week.  Prior to finding out Kurt needed surgery, the plan was to have him working with John Cena (the two were to headline house shows in tag matches throughout December).  And I see absolutely no reason why those two couldn't do spectacular skits/promos while Angle's limited to verbal work, only.
  • Speaking of Cena, his star is on the rise, Kurt or no Kurt.  Plans to headline this weekend's house shows with Lesnar vs. Benoit have been scratched, and now it's Cena who will challenge Brock on SD! brand shows in LA and Portland.
    This is, plain and simple, a ploy to sell some last second tickets at shows which hadn't been selling all that strongly.  Cena, probably quite rightly, is thought of as a bigger draw than Benoit.  Thing is, this conflicts with my "take it slow" theory from before...  as long as this is just a house show thing, I'm cool with it.  People are more willing to pay to see Cena in a main event, that's cool.  But on TV, everything I said above stands: even getting the US Title (much less going after Brock for the WWE Title) should be an ordeal for Cena.
    Benoit, meantime, is demoted to Cena's old spot in a six-man tag featuring members of Teams Angle and Lesnar from the PPV.  Bob Holly, suspension and all, is working those matches, too.
    Since I'm looking at WWE house show line-ups for the weekend, I might as well also mention that they list the Akio/Sakoda tag team as "Kyo Dai."  Anybody want to help the ethnocentric ol' Rick out with a translation/explanation? 
  • Over the last month or so, we've been following the saga of MLW (Major League Wrestling)...  the company scratched scheduled shows in Florida and Texas amidst rumors of financial troubles.  And as I'd mentioned, I pretty much assumed those rumors were true, given the "once-a-month mega show" model MLW pursued.
    Well, it's looking like I guessed right.  MLW announced some restructuring this week, and will be back in business in January, 2004.  First and foremost, they are going to a "one weekend a month" model, which will allow for a lower per-show expenditure on talent and travel, as they'll do two shows within driving distance of each other.  The first such weekend will be 1/9 in Philadelphia and 1/10 in Elizabeth, NJ.  The process repeats on 2/13 and 2/14 in the same venues.
    From the looks of the line-ups, MLW also seems like they'll be a little less ambitious in terms of loading up on high-price indie names.  Even so, you're looking at appearance by Terry Funk, Vampiro, Christopher Daniels, and other recognizable faces...  they are line-ups that should have plenty of appeal in the northeast, where wrestling fans are more willing to pay for **** matches than famous names.  [I suspect this is at least part of the reason why MLW is shifting its focus north, away from Florida.]
    MLW will also be running smaller shows than before, using about one-third fewer workers per show.  On top of that, they'll stay away from renting out huge buildings, and will be happy with crowds around 500.  I can definitely see this being a successful model for the company.  MLW shapes up as a wrestling company in this alignment... before, I thought they resembled a TV company, a la early 90's WCW.  Just without the TV outlet.  That made little to no sense to me.  Here, they should be able to make enough money at the gates to sustain the promotion, and video and merchandise sales will be gravy.
    Also: a revamped TV show will begin circulating soon.  Kevin Kelly is taking over for Joey Styles as the Voice of MLW.  It's been hard for me to follow, since all I've gotten to see of MLW are non-linear editions of their "Underground" program that appeared to originate from between May and August of this year...  but my understanding is that MLW hasn't produced any fresh shows for over a month (sensible, since their last tapings were in September).  I hope once the new shows are being pumped out, somebody will straighten out the situation up here in Dayton so that if I set my DVR to record MLW, I'll get a show that is (a) less than 4 months old, (b) exactly one week newer than the episode I saw the week before, and (corollary to b) not a repeat of the same episode for the third week in a row.
    Good luck, MLW.  
  • I think that's just about enough for this week, kids.  And even if I didn't, I'm outta material, anyway.  So I'm out.  See you again on Monday. 



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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