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RAW, Ratings, TNA, and Other News
December 3, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Sometimes, I think I can't win.  I say I like a show, and people tell me "You're a mark, a cheerleader, and that's why you've lost all your smart fan street cred, Scaia."  I find something to complain about on a show, and people get in line to tell me, "Hey, lighten up.  It's a soap opera.  You're a 13-year-old jack-off."

I mention this, today, because it applies specifically to Monday's RAW.  Yeah, it was exciting, edge-of-the-seat stuff at times, in no small part because Mick Foley came out of nowhere to spruce things up.  But because I found holes in such an exciting, edge-of-the-seat show, I had to endure copious flame mail.

I suppose I could just take the criticism, see the massive wisdom in it, and flog myself for being so obviously stupid.  But that ain't the self-aggrandizing OO Way, baby.  When I stop to think about it, I guess what I'd like to do is puff out my chest and chalk up the flames from all sides to the fact that, by virtue of being about as level-headed a wrestling FAN as there is on a wrestling website, I've got readers from across a wide spectrum of types and tendencies who can, on average, stomach my opinions.  Because I haven't adopted some easily-categorized Online Persona and alienated the half of people who think any given persona is pretty retarded; my opinions, on average, work out to be, well, pretty average.  But if I stray too far to one side or the other, frankly, the folks on the other side are quick to let me hear about it.

Maybe that ain't so bad.  Keeps me honest, in a way.  Let's me keep my ego (and my unblemished record of never, ever being wrong) intact, too!  But make no mistake, a few critiques aren't what scare me back onto my perch squarely straddling the fence.  What puts me back there is my understanding that what I like does not always equate to what makes money (and vice versa) and my desire to merge the "fan" desires with the "backstage/smark/armchair booker" desires as intelligently as possible.  When something fails both those little test, though, I'm still more than capable of staying well away from the fence.

So today, which will it be?  Back to the fence for me?  Or more nitpicking at Monday's show?  Only one way to find out, kids... read on:

  • Fuck it.  I'll end the drama right now.  I'm not taking back any of the nitpicking.  No way.
    Everything positive I said yesterday in the RAW Recap still stands, too, though.  The show was exciting, and felt big and special and all that.  But it was not the seamless, taut, and contiguous show that it could have (nay, should have) been.  And the reason why practically slapped you in the face with every segment: RAW had surprises and swerves for you, and because of that, the attention to detail, the thinking things through, all went out the window.  Shock and awe is enough, the creative apparently thought.  Carefully packaging it for maximum effect was not deemed necessary.
    A big deal?  Probably not.  As I noted in my closing comment yesterday, a lot of what nagged at me on Monday are things that can be addressed and fixed next Monday.  But that doesn't take away from the fact that RAW let things get a little bit away from itself this week.  Look: for the past 2 months or more, the strength of the show has not necessarily been huge surprises or major twists.  It's been crafting episodic TV that builds (sometimes only incrementally, but still builds) on what happened last week, or last hour (in some cases), and that seemed to be the result of well-mapped-out, long-term planning.  Pro wrestling, in any form, is not rocket science, and having the announcers there to hold hands was more than enough for anyone to jump in after missing a week or three, but it was the viewers who were there every Monday who were rewarded the most, I think.
    That's what went out the window on Monday.  The mere addition of Mick meant a certain amount of newness and chaos, but even within that chaos there could and should have been more attention to continuity and detail. Again, my mind wanders to how Foley's presence wound up raising more questions and leaving more issues dangling than it provided closure or advancement or storylines.
    Now, granted, my guess is that Mick's just here for a few weeks, and the important thing will end up being that he started the campaign to bring back Austin.  But does that preclude a more logical explanation for his presence than the one we got?  Or excuse the "Nah, I was just kidding about firing everybody" ending to RAW?  And how about this one: what in the blue hell was the point of Bischoff telling Kane that Foley was going to take away Kane's title shot?  Not only was that a completely isolated segment that added nothing to the show...  it was also a completely isolated segment that was 100% CONTRADICTED later in the night when Foley awarded Kane a title shot in next week's RAW main event.  Again, the feeling I get is one of stuff being slapped together to feature Guest Star Mick Foley as much as possible, instead of a show that was part of the previous wide-ranging long-term plan.
    Keep in mind, I'm all for as much Guest Star Mick Foley as I can get.  But I'm also all for having somebody put more than an afternoon's thought into how best to over-expose him!
    Obviously, the other thing I ranted at length about yesterday was Jericho/Trish, and it's the main thing people bitched back at me about.  Well, mostly bitching, and some more helpful souls trying to fantasy book WWE out of the hole they've dug for themselves, but not really accomplishing a whole lot (for instance, the "Trish is still so hot for Jericho that she goes heel to impress him and becomes like a TOTAL SLUT in the process" gambit would only make things about 100 times worse).
    For some reason, it's important for me to reiterate at this point that my dissatisfaction is probably along SLIGHTLY different lines than most.  Yes, I know I got wrapped up in a lot of theories about how Jericho could be genuine in his pursuit of Trish and all that.  But check the archives kids: within the first 2 days of the RAW Love Rhombus taking shape, I had raised the possibility of a Jericho/Christian Bet.  Building up the story for another 2 months or so may have obscured that initial possibility, but I certainly never forgot about it.  So I'm not so much a hopeless romantic who feel betrayed by WWE's decision to heel re-turn Jericho as I am (a) a self-loathing puss who is upset that he let WWE use those two months of obfuscation to trick himself into thinking the original likely outcome was now less likely, and (b) a know-it-all smark who believes that if they were just going to default back to Plan A, then they needed a much grander way of introducing it than what they did on Monday.
    Seriously, that backstage thing was so tacked-on and disposable.... they had put almost 2 months of work into making us think one thing.  But the amount of thought that went into the big reveal of the swerve seems negligible at best.  Like I said yesterday: you can do a throw-away backstage Jericho/Christian thing back 6 weeks ago.  Saving the reveal for Monday, there needed to have been something massive and epic, and should probably have included Lita, too (and as an active participant in whatever happened, not as a passive eavesdropper).
    And don't even get me started again on the possibility that WWE is going to rip off [Insert Movie Name Here], and have Jericho announce next week that he's really sorry he made the bet and that he really, honest injun, fell for Trish after he made the bet.  On top of every bit of seething disdain I showcased towards such chick flicks yesterday, and my disgust that they'd expect me to keep caring after they replace something that seemed honest and realistic with something that is ripped straight from something else that already sucked before WWE even had a chance to bastardize it, there's the simple matter of continuity, again: exactly 2 weeks (and 2 days) ago, Jericho was part of the master plan introducing Matt Hardy to RAW (which now must be viewed as part of the masterer plan to help Christian bag Lita).  At what point, precisely, are we to believe Jericho had his Change of Heart?  Surely, after over a preceding month of chasing Trish, a switch didn't suddenly get flipped in the past two weeks?  I'd opine that the "guy acts like an asshole and decides too late that he really likes the girl he was trying to screw over" story is an over-used cliche and also not particularly compelling, anyway... but fer chrissakes, if you're gonna do it, I don't think I'd be asking too much to have it done right.  I'm not sure the pieces are in place for this to be done right.
    Unless Jericho DOES make the predicted protestations next week, and the week after, and so on, until Trish finally does believe him... and THEN Jericho does the mega-, ultra-, super-cataclysmic dump job that I thought should have happened on Monday because, damn him, he really WAS just trying to have sex with her, and that's why none of the pieces of the puzzle fit quite right.
    But now I'm definitely thinking too much.  I really do need to, as per suggestion, lighten up and relax.
    I think what I mostly wanted to convey here today was that none of my reservations about Monday's show went away with another day of perspective.  I am, more than likely, overstating them a bit bit here and not emphasizing my compliments about the show enough... but that's your fault, people, for making me get all defensive.  I respect you folks enough to know that you'll be able to synthesize everything I've said to get my main point, even if I'm not presenting it in as balanced a way as I could.

    Monday's wasn't a horrible show.  Hell, it couldn't have been horrible with so much happening and such a strong "I wonder what's gonna happen next?" vibe...  it just got away from some of the things that I think RAW had been doing well lately, and those shortcomings were not completely masked (at least, not from me) by all the big, shiny surprises and twists.  I still had fun watching the show.  So sue me if I think it would have been neat to have more.  And that I think it wouldn't have taken much more than a little extra forethought to have it.
    Again, the complete RAW recap with non-opinion results and then my more focused (and less theoretical) ranting is still right here, if such things interest you.
  • An FYI: Matt Hocking's Satire didn't appear yesterday.  But it's here today.  Just in case you somehow were foolish enough to skip it when it didn't show up exactly where you were looking for it.  Read the damn thing, already.  And tell me you're not secretly crossing your fingers for a Body Fusion Love Triangle whenever Austin comes back....
  • Forgot to do this on Monday...  ratings for last week's UPN shows were not impressive.  But not disappointing, either, really.
    SmackDown!, on Thanksgiving night, did only a 3.0 rating, which is down a substantial six-tenths of a point (about 17%) from the week before.  But the good news is that this is WWE's best Thanksgiving SD! rating since 2000 (I think).  And it's probably more fair to compare last Thursday's rating to other holiday ratings than to the week preceding.
    Wednesday night's "Stone Cold Truth" special did a 1.9 rating.  Only about half of a usual SD! audience, but still better than what UPN usually gets in the Wednesday 9pm timeslot, so it's a moral victory.
  • As I type this (Wednesday, 2pm), there are still no ratings available for Monday's RAW.  Data backlog after the four day weekend is almost certainly to blame.
  • What is available are spoilers for tomorrow's SD!, even if I don't necessarily endorse the reading of such a document.
    I'll say this: tomorrow night will feature the no-doubt-about-it Match of the Week.  Sadly, I can't even tell you who's involved in it without it being a spoiler in its own right.  Suffice to say, I'm stoked for the show.
  • Since Mick Foley's all the rage this week -- showing up on RAW, maybe getting a detective show on CBS, almost certainly working a feature match at WM20, et al -- I'll pile on with a little morsel of additional info.
    Mick is also going to be spotlighted in a book called "The 16th Minute" that will be released next Fall.  The idea is to take a look a bunch of different personalities who are at different points past their peak of mainstream popularity and see how they are dealing with it (running the gamut from "Flashdance" alums to men who walked on the moon to wrestlers-turned-authors).  The book is by award-winning author Jeff Guinn, who is currently getting rave reviews for his brand new holiday-themed release The Autobiography of Santa Claus.
    Boy, that's a strange thing to plug, even for money-grubbing ol' me....  I must have had a good reason, though.
  • Here's something that makes a lot more sense to plug: the Ultimate Ric Flair Collection 3-DVD Set.
    Everybody has heard that it's sold like hotcakes, and one might be tempted to chalk that up to dubious WWE hype.  But it's all true.  Last week, I actually broke down and said, "Screw Christmas, I gotta have this now."  Went to 3 different places, all sold out.  Dammit.  Picked up the "Complete Masterworks of Tenacious D," instead, so it wasn't a total loss, but still...
    So, with all the rave reviews for the collection, and with all the tales of headaches that you might encounter if you do what I did and actually tried to go out shopping for the set, I'm just casually mentioning that The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection happens to be available, hassle-free from Amazon.com, and will be at your doorstep as soon as the second printing is available.
    If I also just so happen to collect 15 cents on the dollar for everything you buy when you click on of these product links, well, what business is that of yours?
  • Starting tomorrow, NWA-TNA will have a unique feature available to broadband web users:  you'll be able to download and watch their archived PPV events on a reduced-price PPV basis.  There will be a 60-day lag between the Wednesday night shows becoming available on the web, and the older shows will go for $6.95 a pop.
    It's an interesting idea, though I do have questions about just how many fans would be enamored with the idea of sitting in front of their PC for 2 hours to watch a show.  But the other side of the coin is that if you give the viewer the flexibility to actually download and save the video file somehow (something that could be ripped and burned to a DVD, for instance), then piracy could be a serious problem.
    Or maybe this is just another thing I've thought too much about.  Afterall, I'm a guy who has deep, dark fantasies about working at Titan Tower in a purely business capacity, and has been one-half flattered and one-half frustrated to see his harebrained schemes regarding things like video-on-demand initiatives show up fully-formed in WWE business plans months and years after I first pondering them.
    To get back to the point: TNA is actually jumping ahead of WWE in this regard, and I hope that it works out for them.  Nothing wrong with having as much wrestling as possible at one's fingertips.
  • And to finish up on the TNA tip....
    Tonight's the titanic rematch between NWA Champ Jeff Jarrett and former champ AJ Styles.  Jarrett's attempts to dismiss Styles as a bush league wrestler since beating him for the title over a month ago have failed, and Styles has again risen to top contender status.
    Also: Lo Ki vs. Christopher Daniels vs. Kid Kash should be a show-stealer...  Raven, CM Punk, and Julio Dinero will take on Abyss, Kevin Northcutt and Legend...  the newly united Shane Douglas and Michael Shane will face Chris Sabin and Sonjay Dutt...  Don Harris vs. "X" will happen, though at this precise moment (and honest, I DID read Damian's recap from last week) I couldn't tell you why... plus comments from 3 Live Kru and Roddy Piper, and of course, the requisite Lots, Lots More.
    Check it out, if you can.  Or come on back here for Damian's recap...  that's what I'll have to do again this week.  You guessed it:  UD Flyers' home opener is tonight and takes precedence over all, including wrestling.  We're facing the hated Miami Redsk... I mean, Red Hawks.  Doesn't matter.  I hate them just the same.
    Go Flyers.  See you Friday.


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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SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28




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