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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
You Call This a Column?
November 28, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

Kentucky.  Duke.  Kansas.  Syracuse.  North Carolina.  Arizona.  Indiana.  Dayton.

That's right, dammit: Dayton.  When you run the list of teams who have won the prestigious Maui Invitational, you will forevermore have to include the name of the Dayton Flyers alongside all those other storied programs.  Pardon me while I dance a little jig.

And pardon me while I ignore the anomalous weakness of this year's Maui field.  Three wins is three wins, and for the last one, you could forget all about "neutral court," too.  I won't make any brash predictions, but I'll say this: anyone who did their pre-season write-ups and had the A-10 penciled in as "St. Joe's, Xavier, and then everybody else" had best be ready to eat some crow.  It may not be a glamorous conference, but the A-10, collectively, will be seeing an awful lot of UD's backside as we also pull away from the pack.

So anyway, that's what I was giving thanks for yesterday.  To think, a week ago, I was saying I'd be happy coming home 2-2, and today, the mighty Flyers are 4-0, with a chance of actually breaking into the top 25 next week.

And to think, today, that I'd have extremely slim pickin's for a wrestling column and would waste your time with UD propaganda...  that's a total shocker, eh?

Well, I ain't promising a whole lot, but let's just get on to the column:

  • Last night's SmackDown! was a very pleasant surprise for me.  The past few Thanksgivings, they've usually used SD! as a total throw-away show, with food fights and Gravy Bowl matches and what not.  They know the audience is going to be smaller than usual, they know that they don't want to blow their wad on anything really important.
     
    Well, this year, the philosophy changed a little.  At the end of the night, sure we hadn't really moved forward a whole lot: but the twists and turns in the road were still exciting, and they kept the holiday-themed crap to a minimum.  Other than that creepy-ass turkey graphic, I think the only other time they even touched on the holiday was for John Cena's little rap (which was short and funny enough to not offend).
     
    Instead, they did a very effective job of building a show-spanning story around the idea that John Cena and Chris Benoit are the top contenders to Brock Lesnar.  From the opening promo, through two matches and one battle royal, up until the final beatdown on the two by Lesnar and his goons, everything pieced together perfectly.  And while the truth is that we ended the night in exactly the same place as we started it (with Cena and Benoit as the top logical challengers to Lesnar) and didn't blow any major "free-per-view" caliber matches on the holiday show, what they wound up doing was getting every fan who did tune in last night that much more stoked for next week, when the storyline finally will take a forward step.  
     
    It really was a beautiful thing.
     
    And in between those connected segments, there were only three major issues addressed.  First was the standard good-as-expected match with Eddie Guerrero and Charlie Haas, which included further friction between Eddie and Chavo... and by the way, my concerns that they will try to do a "Chavo's hooked on the same pills that got Eddie in trouble" storyline were only heightened after Chavo's over-the-top insistence that he felt "great" despite the knee injury.  I'm not saying it's automatically gonna suck, but I am saying it'll take a deft touch from the writers and great performances from both Eddie and Chavo to make something like that work.  Second issue was Nidia again costing Jamie Noble a match (again, as part of a segment that also featured a dandy, if short, wrestling contest).  And third was Paul Heyman again assigning Shannon Moore to Whipping Boy Duty (with the stated assumption being that Moore is paying for Matt Hardy's sins), which has got to be going somewhere.
     
    For the purposes of our discussion, I'm just going to pretend that overlong and not very entertaining bit with the Cat and Torrie Wilson did not happen.  I said it Wednesday (in the spoilers), and I'll say it again: I can recognize that the Cat is over, and that he can pop a crowd.  I made my peace with that fact back when he was in WCW.  But please, do not expect for one second that my recognizing his value means, for even one second, that I'm gonna like it.  Plus: I'd have much rather seen Cat go to RAW, where not only is his "entertainment-centric" style a better fit, but where they could have used him as a Bischoff crony of some kind (they real life friends would probably interact very well together in skits).
     
    So anyway, a very strong outing for SD!, with the Cena/A-Train match probably taking the Match of the Night honors.  You can get the complete report from Danny right here.
     
  • As of this afternoon, there are no overnight ratings available for UPN.  No matter: I've already told you to expect that ratings will be down this week, and I'll just have the final numbers on Monday, anyway.  
     
  • This is VERY important, despite the dearth of much real news today:
     
    Voting for the RSPW Acheivement Awards is winding down.  I really should have mentioned this a week or two ago, but scatter-brained as I am, it didn't occur to me until just now that December 1 is right around the corner.
     
    That is the cut-off date for voting, and CRZ will then begin tallying the results.
     
    If you want to participate, you can point your newsreader to rec.sport.pro-wrestling.moderated and look for all the posts that start with "[AWARDS]"...  that'll give you full lists of nominees, past winners, and everything else you could possibly need.
     
    Alternately, if you think you know what you're doing, you can just grab the blank ballot (RIGHT HERE, in plain text format), and follow the instructions.  An instruction of my own: if you open the plain-text ballot, just copy-and-paste the ballot into an open e-mail to the proper address.  Don't do anything silly like save the text file, fill it in, and then send it as an appended file to CRZ.  He will discount your votes and probably get pissed at me for facilitating your dumbass behavior.
     
    Again: the text of the ballot is RIGHT HERE.  But you should just cut and paste it into an e-mail to the proper address, and then fill that in.  No attachments, no funky formatting.
     
    VOTE, dammit!  These are the best online awards I know of (intelligent, but not necessary 100% "smart" in the annoying sense of that term), and they have been for 13 years, now.
     
  • On the off chance that Renaldo or Fernando or whatever the guy's name was really tickled your fancy in that Capture the Midget match this week on RAW....
     
    Wrestler-in-training and OO-ite Shane Jones reports that his real name is Bobby Dean, and is a regular for Midwest Powerhouse Wrestling.  
     
    Didn't I warn you pickin's were slim?
     
  • Just today, I watched my recording of the "Stone Cold Truth" UPN special from Wednesday...  and it was very much worthwhile.  I'm not so sure that there was a whole lot of really new information, but hearing it and seeing it put together the way WWE did made it fresh and interesting.
     
    They went to the effort of interviewing Steve's ex-wife, Jeannie, and his daughters (and also his mom, dad, and brothers), which added another perspective... and hearing and seeing Austin address Owen Hart (both the piledriver and Owen's accident) was much different than just reading brief quotes in an interview.  Plus, WWE made great use of old WCW and ECW footage to flesh out the first half hour or so of the special.  
     
    The only false note came in the final 10 minutes, when they took what had been a very real-feeling document and turned it into a storyline tool.  They told the story of Survivor Series and Austin's "last night on the job," and really did the hard sell on the idea that we'd never see Austin again.  Look, I'm not saying WWE has to come right out and say, "Look, smarks, you're right, and Austin will be back soon"... but in the context of this particular special, the melodrama seemed out of place.  Keep the touching tributes and whatever on the storyline shows.
     
    But honestly, that's a minor gripe.  The preceding 50 minutes were very good, very interesting.
     
  • And speaking of Austin and his inevitable return to TV....
    I guess maybe I'll use this as a jumping off point to a bit of OOpinionated rambling to finish things up today.
     
    Because in the last week or so, I've found my attention wandering at points, as it often does after Survivor Series is in the bag.  We are at the point in the year when it is appropriate to start thinking about what'll be shaping up for the Royal Rumble which is, itself, the show that sets up the WrestleMania main event and, by extension, starts putting guys in their slots for WM undercard feuds.
     
    A couple of times, that wandering attention even resulted in fully booked and chronicled "Fantasy Universes," with the pay-off being my own November vision of the following year's WrestleMania.  I'm not necessarily fired up to stick myself in that quagmire again... but I also could not help but have a few ideas start percolating in the past week or two.
     
    Figuring out how Austin will be used on the show was actually what launched everything else for me.  Well, it was that, combined with my festering discontent with the Goldberg/Lesnar verbal confrontation at the PPV.  Those two things got the gears moving, and now, I've got the skeleton of what I think would make a very solid WM20.
     
    Note: as is my custom, I prefer to fantasy book a REALISTIC WM20 line-up.  Yes, I would soil my boxers if WWE broke down and brought in Ricky Steamboat so that he and Ric Flair could have a legends match at MSG next March.  But it just does not seem a realistic thing to hope for.  Similarly, even though I don't like it, I am resigned to a WM20 without Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper.  Hogan's TNA deal probably precludes it, if nothing else.  So nothing wacky from me.  
     
    So what are my top line matches?  Well, let me start by saying that I see no real value in doing a Champion vs. Champion match unless WWE is set to just pull the plug on the brand split entirely.  I think the cross-brand storytelling presents one headache, for instance.  Also: I think that it's too early for the Champion vs. Champion concept to really mean anything.  Fans are only now getting used to the idea that the shows are actually "separate but equal," and saving Champ vs. Champ for another year (or later) down the line will increase its impact.  I think you can do one RAW vs. SD! match at WM20, and it should be Taker vs. Kane, and anything more than that would just muddy the waters too much.
     
    So: starting with SD!, I make my main event Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena.  Cena, by next March, will be AHEAD (I think) of where Lesnar was this past March in terms of crowd reactions.  It's odd to think that two guys with so little experience could headline the biggest show of the year, but this is a perfect convergence of personalities and timing (Cena's face turn came just about the same time this year that Lesnar's did last year, which provided the ideal pacing for his path to WM19).  It doesn't have the same cache that Lesnar vs. Angle had, but I think Cena's abilities on the mic and Lesnar's blossoming heelishness could make it every bit as hot a feud by the time March rolls around.
     
    On RAW, coming up with a World Title Match is much trickier.  After Kane, the heel depth chart on RAW would seem to indicate it's Randy Orton's turn next.  But I've got other ideas for Orton.  Another go round with HHH? Possible, but I've got other ideas for him, too.  So what to do?  The limited options for a RAW main event is the ONLY good reason I could muster for going Champ vs. Champ.  But it's not good enough...  not when I can counter with Goldberg vs. Shawn Michaels.  Why?  First, as I began filling up other spots on the card, I realized most ideas I had for Shawn were either uninteresting or retreads of things past.  Bischoff's reign of terror is bound to be up by WM20, and whatever balancing element is introduced in storylines could easily be used to "reward" Shawn for putting up with Bischoff's crap with a renewed push.  Or just have Shawn win the Rumble and build the storyline from there.  A fan favorite vs. fan favorite title match has been done before at WM to good effect.  I think this is the best possible use of the talent on hand for RAW.  Goldberg vs. Michaels.  A returning Kevin Nash (as a "Diesel"-like bodyguard) could also figure into the storyline early next year.  Lots of options, which I won't get into here on grounds that I already said I'm not doing the whole 3-month-long Fantasy Booking thing.  Suffice to say I think it'd make for fun TV in the lead-in, and then the final match would be about as good a Goldberg match as is possible.  
     
    Then, you've got your one cross-over match:  old school Taker vs. Kane.  I hope I don't have to explain why this works and what'll go into it.  You're all sharp enough to see this one coming down main street already.  And honestly, it's interesting enough that I have no desire to fantasy un-book it.
     
    So that's three matches.  Assuming that there will be a shitty music act, plus flashbacks and pomp and circumstance because this is the 20th Mania, I'm still only going to anticipate room for a total of 10 matches (even with the extended PPV length).  So, seven more matches between the 2 brands....
     
    Three from SD!:  two things will happen in January (Benoit, after failing to beat Lesnar for the title and getting passed over in favor of Cena, goes heel -- in fact, Benoit vs. Cena at the Feb. PPV would be ideal -- and Eddie Guerrero liberates the US Title from the Big Show -- maybe faces Chavo at the Feb. PPV?). I think you can see where I'm going with this.  Sprinkle in a dose of Kurt Angle, too (who is upset to see his Team Angle compadres, Cena and Benoit, arguing, and tries to mediate, but instead only finds himself at odds with Benoit?).  End result: US Title Match, Eddie vs. Benoit vs. Angle at WM20 (add a ladder or other gimmick, if you want, and possibly throw the surprise return of Edge into the finish to set up additional US Title feud options after Mania)....  in the tag division, I'll find some way to move the titles onto the team of A-Train and Big Show, and then at Mania, it's the Big Boys vs. the freshly babyface Haas and Benjamin....  we'll keep the Cruiserweight Title on Tajiri (using his henchmen) till Mania, but at that point, the rest of the division will have risen up in frustration: we'll put Tajiri in a modified Gauntlet Style match (complicated gimmick thing where Rey Mysterio, Jamie Noble, Nunzio, Spanky, London, maybe Zach or another viable CW are the six challengers, and they wrestle one at a time.  But the catch is that Akio and Sakoda are the frontline for Tajiri, and the challengers only face Tajiri after those two are eliminated...  it's sort of like 6-on-3, but not really.  I've got it worked out in my head, but I'm probably explaining it poorly).
     
    And four from RAW: Triple H vs. Mick Foley has got to happen.  Flair/Steamboat is a pipe dream, but all indications are that Foley is interested and able to do something like this, and there's no doubt HHH is the perfect opponent for him...  IC Title Match: Randy Orton vs. Ric Flair (Orton, upon beating RVD for the IC Title, will get too big for his britches... I envision him eventually usurping control of Evolution away from HHH, but by March, all we'll do is have him force Flair to turn face... works as Flair's last stab at gold, or as another legend for Orton to kill)....  the Austin comeback will take the form of a match against Chris Jericho (hey, there are 100 good ideas in my head for turning Jericho babyface, but none of them are enough to make me think that Austin vs. Jericho is worth tossing aside, not after it was the unspoken key feud in WWE for much of this fall; the work those two could do would be awesome, and I'd be one billion times more stoked to see this than I would for the option, which is another go round for Austin vs. McMahon; if Austin really only has a few more fights left in him, he deserves for them to be good ones, and Jericho can help there)....  and finally, in the name of accomplishing two necessary goals (getting everybody on the show and having at least one garbage-y brawl): we have a Table Match Battle Royal (only way to be eliminated is to be put through a table).  I figure I could come up with a way to get a bunch of cross-feuds going by using the Dudleys and the tag titles as a keystone, and then you have them be the ones who push for the stip.  The guys in the battle royal: Bubba, D-Von, RVD, Matt Hardy, Steiner, Test, Booker T, Christian, Cade, Jindrak, Conway, Dupree, Hurricane, Rosey, Dreamer, Henry, Richards, Maven, Batista, and some other guy or two (whatever I need to make it 20).
     
    My apologies to the women, who get shafted in my vision.  Even with the extended PPV slot and 10 matches, there are just other things I want to see ahead of another go round of Lita-or-Trish vs. Molly-or-Victoria.  Maybe on Heat?
     
    So anyway, that's my story: a WM20 line-up that I think is realistic in so far as I don't require any outlandish special appearances or contract signings, that balances special, crowd pleasing gimmick matches with straight up matches, that has a few very appealing feuds that could be promo gold leading up to the show and then a few appealing matches that could be ***** show-steadlers, and that, bottom line, I'd gladly pay my $40 (or whatever) to see.
     
    So of course, the real card will end up looking nothing like this one.
     
    Nevertheless, these are the thoughts that have been passing through my idle mind lately, and I thought I'd pass them along to you.  Feel free to lay your own WM20 thoughts on me in return.
     
  • With that, I'm spent.  Enjoy the continuation of the weekend, and I'll see you again on Monday!
     

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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