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Rock, RAW, Ratings, and the
Other Midweek News
December 10, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


So remember Monday when I said I could spin a tale or two about the 25th-ranked Dayton Flyers Men's Basketball team?  Well, I spoke too soon!  The Coaches' Poll came out after my column was written, and in that one, we're 24th-ranked, baby!

Now, if only we'd start playing like it for 40 minutes at a time, dammit.  All this turning it up just long enough to beat shitty teams by a half-dozen or so is gonna get us burnt.  And it's gonna give me an ulcer, especially as I, a ninth-year senior, enjoy upcoming home games from the second row, in the student section.  Hey, so I red-shirted.  Six times.  

How about a 25 point win over the terrifying Ooooey-Poooey (IUPUI) Fightin' Hoosier-Makers, and then a 40 point domination of the hated 320th-ranked warriors from Prairie View A&M?  That'd make me feel a little bit better heading into our ninth game down in Cinci against Bob Thuggins' also-ranked UC Bearcats.  Not that I'm looking ahead.

OK, so here's some rasslin':

  • I'm not in much of a mood to talk much more about Monday's RAW.  Although I promised further explication in the RAW Recap yesterday, the truth is, I've probably only got a few paragraphs of fresh material...
    Everything else would be rehashing my thesis that RAW, itself, was a pretty sweet two hours of TV, but two hours of TV that did almost NOTHING to add to my interest in the brand's next three hours of TV.  The ones they expect me to pay for on Sunday.  
    I figure I'll save most of my Armageddon-hatin' for the preview I'll do on Friday.  It's still my plan to convince myself the show will suck donkey balls so that if it's even remotely watchable, I'll find myself pleasantly surprised.  But my heart's not in it today.
    So keeping myself focused on RAW, I guess there's no point denying that the highlight of the night was the Rock's surprise appearance and his and Mick's confrontation with La Resistance.  The second best stuff: the show-opening Jericho/Christian/Trish/Lita promo into the tag title match (which did a nice job salvaging the Love Rhombus from potential retardation, and then delivered the Match of the Night), with the "Battle of the Sexes"twist and women's tag match (for my purposes) being included in with the entire class of material that ranked as "second best."
    Everything else was just kind of extra.  Nothing on the show sucked.  But nothing else came even close to contributing to the Big Show Aura or to storylines heading into the PPV.  It was all just sort of there.  Which was fine.  Because there were other good, enthralling things spaced out over the course of the two hours.  
    If I had to make a complaint that was based on RAW, and not based on some perceived-incompetence related to Armageddon hype, I'd be hard-pressed... but I think I know what I'd come up with.  I'd insist that giving that six-man tag match 12-13 minutes was a mistake, and that they could not only have made the six man better, tighter, and more entertaining by stripping away five of those minutes, but they could have made the tag title opener even better by handing them those same five minutes to work with.  Seriously, who did the math on this one?  "OK, let's give Mark Henry time for three chinlocks...  and keep the fast-paced tag title match that's part of a storyline that people care about down at 5 minutes, max."  Somebody actually had to think that...  baffling...
    Anyway, with nothing much fresh to add about RAW, all that's left for me to do is to tell you that my outstanding, tremendous, witty, insightful, yet-relatively-detailed-and-informative RAW Recap is where you can collect the rest of the results from the show, as well as my opinions on them.  Read it, dammit.
  • RAW's rating for Monday?  A 3.8 cable rating.  That makes the second week in a row that RAW grew by one-tenth of a point.  It's creepin' on you.

    The bad news?  Well, I guess it's not really bad, but it's something... this was another night where the rating grew over the first hour, then peaked with the first quarter hour of the second hour, and then never quite recovered to those levels.  That's right, the audience accumulated, saw the Rock make his surprise appearance, and then kind of disappeared before building back slightly for the Kane/Goldberg main event.  The over-long six man turned people off, mayhap?  Don't tell me the Rick might actually know what he's talking about on this one!
  • And while I'm thinking of it, I forgot on Monday to tell you that SD!'s final rating was a 3.4 cable rating.  See, I told you that Nielsen's new method for generating a fast preliminary rating for UPN would be closer to the final rating than the overnight (top 20 market) method.  [The prelim rating I told you about Friday was a 3.3.  I think the overnight rating was another up over 4, as it usually is due to the fact that UPN is in all the Top 20 markets, but only in about 85% of all markets, nationally.]
    Anyway, the 3.4 is, of course, a big gain over the Thanksgiving Night show (which did a 3.0, itself the best Thanksgiving Night rating for WWF/E since 2000, I'm pretty sure).  However, Thanksgiving made enough of a dent in SD!'s momentum that the show didn't get quite back to the prior-to-Thanksgiving rating of 3.6.  In fact, discounting the holiday, last week's rating was the first sub-3.5 showing for SD! since the middle of October.
  • Today's really big news (after the obligatory talking about RAW and ratings first) is actually Rock-related.
    On Friday, we talked about how Rock's next project, "Stay Cool," begins filming in February.  It's really great opportunity for the Rock, as it's the sequel to "Get Shorty," and will be the Rock's chance to contribute to a star studded ensemble cast, instead of trying to carry a predictably one-dimensional action movie with a couple b-level co-stars.  Except for Walken.  Do not speak ill of Walken!
    In any case, my suspicion was that this would severely impair Rock's chances of being a part of a major feud/match at WrestleMania 20.  It was my opinion that some TV appearances in January and then phoning in "via satellite" promos for the WM stretch run wouldn't be a viable option for getting Rock into a WM program.
    Well, guess again.  Rock WILL be back on WWE TV starting in January, and will get involved in storylines.  Then, yeah, he'll have to phone stuff in (a la HHH in October with the "bounty hunter" storyline) for most of February.  But he's gotten "Stay Cool" producers to arrange his schedule so that all Rock's filming is done quickly, allowing him to return for the final few weeks of pre-WM TV tapings, leading up to a role on the big show.
    Rock confirmed these details in a WWE.com interview, but also noted that unlike last year, there's little chance of him sticking around for the extra month or so that he did in 2003, because after Mania, he has to hit the road almost immediately to begin the press tour in support of "Walking Tall," which opens in April.
    Not confirmed in the interview, but very likely in my mind, is that Rock's participation in WM20 is expected to bolster the box office performance of "Walking Tall."  The release of "The Rundown" came smack dab in the middle of a lengthy WWE lay-off for the Rock, and despite movie footage and other hype on RAW and SD!, his absence from WWE TV leading up to the movie's release might have meant fewer of Rock's wrestling following checked out the movie (which ended up grossing about $50 million domestically, which was viewed as a mild disappointment).  
    Other good news in the interview:  that stupid "Instant Karma" project is off the Rock's radar now.  The "Stay Cool" project segues into his brief WWE comeback and media tour for "Walking Tall," and then right after that, Rock confirmed that work begins on "Spy Hunter," which he'll be the star of.  Man, I think back to my childhood, and let's just say the "Spy Hunter" I played when I was like 9 would have made a shitty movie.  Just a lot of Rock pressing the button for the oil slick while Peter Gunn plays in the background...  I can only assume that since then, there have been major upgrades to the "Spy Hunter" videogame franchise.  I vaguely recall seeing commercials to that effect, at least...
  • Rock's appearance, by the way, was something that had been in the works for at least a week or two, once everybody involved realized the confluence of schedules would allow it.  They did a real nice job keeping it quiet so that it'd be a big surprise.
    Last time RAW was proximate to the Rock (when RAW actually rescheduled to be in Vancouver, where he was filming a movie), you'll recall everybody expected Mr. Movie Star to show up as a surprise, and he'd even said as much in a radio interview.  Of course, that one didn't work out, and it led to major disappointment from fans.
    This time, nobody even thought about the possibility of Rock (who spends a lot of time in LA/Hollywood on business and pre-production work) showing up on a RAW in Anaheim.  Made it all the more special when he did show up.  Big ups on the tight lips.
  • Full Spoilers for Velocity and SmackDown! were posted earlier today and are available right here, if they're the sort of thing that interest you.  If they don't interest you, then at least digest this: SD! again has the hands-down match of the week waiting for you tomorrow night.  I'm such a tease.
  • WWE has got a big show on Friday night at the site of WM20, Madison Square Garden.  On the the matches on the show that they are putting a little extra hype into is a Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair match.  Yes, they've wrestled before, including on TV, but they're spinning it as a big deal that they're doing it for the first time at MSG.  It'll be the semi-main event behind a rare Goldberg house show appearance (he'll be working out some more of the kinks before the PPV with a singles match against Kane).
  • Although fans need to get it through their thick skulls that Bret Hart is almost certainly incapable of wrestling the "dream match" against Kurt Angle at WM20 that many would give a body part to see (every e-mail I've gotten from people who have met Bret at recent personal appearance say the same thing: that it's great to see Bret up and around and fully functional, but that a wrestling match just doesn't seem possible for him), the indications that he and WWE are on speaking terms and willing to cooperate on certain projects are mounting.
    For one, rumblings have started that, if the kinks can be worked out, Hart could actually have some input on/participation in the production of an "Ultimate Bret Hart Collection" DVD like the current Ric Flair one...  and for two, Bret will be included in a series of new "old school" action figures being released early next year.  Of the others in the series, only the Ultimate Warrior really raises any eyebrows.  The other choices are about what you'd expect: Andre the Giant, "dead man" Undertaker, snob-era Hunter Hearst Helmsley, and Shawn Michaels (which is maybe a little odd, since his look really hasn't changed at all since about 1993).
    Will Bret wrestle Kurt Angle at WM20?  No.  But am I starting to think that if WWE extended an invitation for him to be involved in the pomp and circumstance of the show in some non-wrestling capacity, he'd accept this year?  Yeah, I kind of am.  There definitely seems to be a bit more back-and-forth between the parties than there was last year when WWE extended a similar invitation.  And it'd be really nice for Bret to get in a WWE ring and get the sort of ovation he earned by never got from the fans because of the way he left the company.
  • A week or two back, I mentioned how Major League Wrestling had restructured and was going to re-launch in January... well, they've restructured the restructuring.  The re-launch will still go down the second weekend of 2004, but shows have been moved from NJ/Philly back to MLW's homebase in Florida.  
    The promotion has regained a slot on the Sunshine Network, which makes re-focusing on Florida a sensible move... however, the reason for moving the shows out of NJ and Philly probably has more to do with promotional pissing contests than with cable TV clearances.  MLW was hoping to expand into northeast venues commonly booked by Ring of Honor and other groups, and was going to do it using much of the same talent.  This, predictably, didn't sit well.  So rather than incur the wrath of other promoters or ask talent to pick between companies or otherwise get caught in the middle of a mess not of their making, MLW's moved it's 1/9 and 1/10 shows to Orlando and another site to be named later.
    Announced rosters and line-ups for the show will remain unchanged.
  • Big thanks to everybody who responded to my query about Clinton Portis and his World Title belt...  following his huge rushing day (200-something yards and 5 TDs), he was not just shown on the sidelines with the belt, but the TV announcers (Greg Gumble and Phil Simms) commented extensively on it.  Gumble (more loyal to the Gumble Family Wrestling Bias than to his bosses at Viacom who make money off WWE) belittled wrestling and the belt, saying it was kind of a silly prize for Portis given what he'd done on Sunday.  Simms, affirming just why he remains one of my all-time favorite Giants, tried to get Gumble to lay off and treated the celebrating with the belt like the harmless fun that it was.
    Many also forwarded me photos of Portis wearing the belt during the latter stages of the game and during post-game interviews.  I was quickly able to deduce that my "RAW was in Colorado, so maybe Goldberg was at the game and gave him the belt to play with" theory was off base.  This belt was a replica and lacked the "Goldberg" name plate.
    In all the e-mails I got, there were two stories for how Portis got the belt.  One was vague, and just said that he got it from Shannon Sharpe.  The other makes a bit more sense: the belt was bought by Portis' friend, rapper Pastor Troy, and given to Portis in honor of being the "Heavyweight Running Back of the World."  Troy, predicting a big game for Portis against KC, told Portis to have the belt with him on Sunday.  Sure enough, a huge game was had, and Portis had the belt with him to celebrate.
    There, all cleared up?
  • Lastly for today, a quick rundown of the card for the NWA-TNA PPV that kicks off in about 4 hours.
    The big selling point of the show is the return of Roddy Piper, who has mailed in a couple taped promos the last couple weeks, but hasn't been seen live on the PPV in months.  His taped promos have been sort of vaguely insane, with the point being that Piper is apparently assembling a stable of wrestlers to fight some evil or another.  I don't know.  I haven't seen a TNA show in a month or so, and Piper's only been back the past few weeks, and I'm trying to put this together from the recaps.
    The main event match tonight will be a battle for the NWA Tag Titles between two well-liked teams.  Champs 3 Live Kru (BG James and Ron Killings, backed by Konnan) will defend against America's Most Wanted (who are TNA's best team, but haven't held the titles since summer).
    Other matches: Michael Shane (representing Shane Douglas' new stable) will defend the X Title against Christopher Daniels...  Raven will face Abyss...  CM Punk and Julio Dinero take on Legend and Kevin Northcutt...  and Kid Kash faces Don Harris.
    Check it out if you can, or come on back to OO.  Hopefully Damian will have his troubles sorted out this week, but if not, we'll probably find some way to get you  a recap!
  • That's it from me.  If things happen the way I think they will, you HAVE to come back here tomorrow for what could be the Greatest Thing Ever Seen on OO All Year.  Or at least, since the comparative analysis of pro wrestlers and their Japanese challenge food.  Be sure to stop by.
    Then Friday, I'll be back , and shoveling the same ol' crap as usual.  PPV Preview, and maybe a few tiny newsbites to fill up the column.
    Next week: the start of the OO Year End Somethingorother!  I'm trying to get all your favorite columnists and recappers to play along, and it looks like we'll have a good participation rate.  We're all going to do 2003 Honor Rolls for you, picking winners in 25 categories.  Then, on December 30, we'll combine all of the columns and unveil the Consensus Best of 2003 According to the Significantly More Intelligent Than Other Websites Staff of OO.
    No more of me passing off my own personal favorite stuff off as award winning.  Nah, baby.  This is a democracy now!  Well, one where about a dozen people get to vote, at least.
    So look for that starting up soon.  And don't forget the sheer awesomeness tomorrow, either.


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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