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The SD! Shuffle, Ratings, 
And Some Other Weekend News
January 2, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


What better way to get 2004 off to a rousing start than with a half-assed Contractual Obligation Column?!?  I actually had (have) a really cool idea for a one-off gimmick column, but between Jeb coming in late with his Excellent 2003 Year in Review (giving me a nice headline item for the weekend, and also making the timing too tight for me to do the Consensus OO Awards compilation) and me being a lazy sack of crap, I wasn't particularly motivated to rock your socks off today.

Perhaps that idea shall be resurrected next Friday?  Yeah right, and perhaps I'm really doing a whole big Fantasy Booking Universe starting next week, too.  And the big-ass 2003 Month-by-Month thing.  And I'll come to your house and clean your pool and bartend at your next swanky high society affair, while I'm at it.

Nah, I'll just stick with what I'm good at: spouting off day-old news and copious amounts of my opinion, and somehow making it seem like something you NEED to read, baby.  Yeah....

  • How about that SmackDown! last night, eh?  Just when you think you know the answers, WWE goes and changes the questions...
    For those of us who are obligated to read spoilers each week (in the name of putting them on the website for the rest of you), the show was something of a surprise.  The entire second hour of the show was restructured.
    The as-taped main event was Big Show vs. Bob Holly.  Vignettes with Eddie and Chavo and the Los Guerreros vs. Haas/Benjamin match were earlier in the show (right after Angle's return promo, actually).  That's not how it went down on TV.
    I'd actually hinted at it in my compilation of the Spoilers: that Holly/Show sort of tanked with the live crowd and had a crappy non-finish and just isn't main event caliber material anyway.  It would have marked (not counting SD! in Iraq) the second straight show where SD! ended with a whimper and not a bang.  Why they needed to book the Holly/Show main event to see those results for themselves is beyond me... I'm just a jackass sitting at home, and I'd have had it figured out pretty quickly, without having to see it to believe it.  These are the people out on the road, getting paid to know this stuff...
    Anyway, I'm not saying the reshuffled ending (Eddie and Angle face-to-face in the back, following Guerreros/WGTT in the main event) was particularly strong...  it was, in fact, decidedly awkward to end the show with a backstage skit, a few comments from Tazz and Cole, and then a quick cut to the cheesy Happy New Year graphic.  But there's still a ton more upside to Eddie/Angle playing out as something people care about down the line than there is for Big Show having to act as Lesnar's surrogate in on-going issues with Bob Holly.  It wasn't an ideal climax... but it was an improvement over the alternative.
    And once you upgraded the ending, SD! as a whole became a more enjoyable show.  Obviously, your match of the night was Rey Mysterio taking the Cruiserweight Title from Tajiri; an excellent 15 minute match.  From a booking perspective, I am severely miffed, as this probably means much less TV time for Tajiri, as they probably intend to elevate Jamie Noble to the top Cruiser heel over the next few weeks.  I like Noble, too.... but I'd hate for his elevation to come at Tajiri's expense.  There aren't even really any tag team options for Tajiri (that's what Akio and Sakoda are here for), so unless somebody in the front office likes Tajiri as much as I do and wants to elevate him to US Title level, he's probably screwed.  See you on Velocity, Tajiri... oh wait... I forgot: I usually don't watch Velocity.
    The angle/match with Cena and Benoit was perfect.  Two guys who don't like each other but who respect each other and will use each other to achieve their shared goal of getting into the Rumble match despite the crooked GM.  Good stuff.  And then Benoit being forced in at #1?  Man alive, you wouldn't believe me if I told you, but let's just say I liked this idea lots the first time I heard it.  Which was over 2 weeks ago.  So I like it fine, now, too.  Benoit could have a very special night at the Rumble.  
    Angle's comeback?  Kind of some odd choices there.  But they all sort of seem to fit together in a way that might land Kurt back on the heel side (which I have to assume is the intention).  Look, obviously his stuff with Eddie and Chavo leans that way, and I don't want to come off as an uber-dickhead by saying more, but...  well, his promo mid-show was not the sort of thing that works for a babyface in 2004.  It's the kind of sap that had people starting to boo Hulk Hogan 5 years before he actually turned heel.  And I hate myself for saying that because, unlike Hogan in 1991, Angle was being genuine and sincere, and not just spouting propaganda.  Problem is, he was too genuine and too sincere for far too long, and it just... I don't know... it turned into something that was not a good babyface pro wrestling promo.  Kurt Angle is probably a good person for saying those things he said, and I'm probably a bad person for suggesting that those things (when combined with the Eddie/Chavo stuff later) could make him a heel-in waiting.  I'll see you in hell, I guess...
    Rhyno/Bradshaw was pure throw-away, and if I had to get actively ANGRY about something, it's that WWE is apparently putting more effort into Solo Bradshaw than into Rhyno.  Which makes little sense to me.  I mean, common sense: Johnny Wallstreet over there is (a) older than Rhyno and (b) investing his money wisely.  You're telling me that beating himself up in WWE is what's gonna make sense for Bradshaw a couple years from now?  But it will for Rhyno, so why not quit wasting the guy?
    And for all my shitting on Holly/Big Show as a main event (justified shitting, mind you!  even if well built-up, it still lacks any real sizzle due to Holly's general taint of the mid-card, and in this case, it was clearly a forced issue due to Lesnar's absence... it just did not click on any level), the fact is that Show was hilarious in his little promo with the t-shirt and Rey.  It's hard to believe it only surfaces so sporadically (his "Showster"/impersonator phase, on SNL, and now, last night), but Show's knack for comedy is the sort of thing that could help him build on his 2003 improvements and become an even more valuable contributor in 2004.
    Full recap of the good show is available for you courtesy of Big Danny T.
  • The prelim rating for last night's SD! is a 2.8. That is not good news... the prelim numbers have been pretty close to the final ones this past month or so.  It MIGHT bump as high as 3.0, but I wouldn't hold my breath.
    Even at 3.0, that would mean last night's New Year's SD! only matched the previous week's Xmas SD!, which kind of goes against conventional wisdom.  I actually watched last night's show cuz I had nothing better to do.  A week ago, I was tied up with family and had to wait to catch a tape of SD! in its entirety.
    Then again...  well, SD! in Iraq had a certain quality about it that might have motivated some people to make it part of their holiday plan.  And last night, many wrestling viewers may have been occupied with college Bowl Games... the Rose Bowl bled over into SD!, and then after that there was, ummm, that Other Bowl, you know, the one where I hate both teams.  The Rock vs. Faarooq Bowl, if you will...
    Anyway, maybe it makes some modicum of sense that New Year's SD! would have a hard time finding an audience....
  • The rating for this past Monday's RAW was a 3.7, a big gain over the previous week's "Best of" show for sure, and a gain of 0.2 from 2 weeks ago.  Such a gain is probably always good news...
    Which is not to say WWE wasn't secretly hoping for even better news.  The promise of a PPV caliber World Title Match AND of Austin's return should have given this week's RAW one of its strongest "on-paper" draws.  And for all the faults I found with it, RAW didn't really do anything in reality to turn people away over the course of the two hours, either.  I mean, just because I say the Austin storyline is insultingly lazy doesn't mean it's not a bona fide Crowd Pleaser when Stone Cold shows up and Stunners Bischoff.
    Also: this was the first week since August that WWE didn't have competition from Monday Night Football to deal with.  Unlike SD! and the Bowl Games last night, RAW pretty much had no sports-/male-oriented competition on the dial.
    Again, it could just be the general holiday malaise/obligations keeping some people away from their usual TV habits.  The test should come this Monday; everybody's back to a normal work schedule, or, if you're a lucky punk-ass kid, back to school, and the holiday party season is officially over.
    We'll have to see what happens then.
  • Some quasi-big news...
    Kevin Nash is, as of yesterday, done with WWE.  I had presumed his contract ran through mid-February, the 2 year anniversary of his "activation" on the WWF roster.  I guessed wrong.  The 2 year contract he signed around New Year's 2001 expired with the calendar year 2003.
    This is only "quasi-"big, in my opinion, because this is by no means the end of Nash's relationship with WWE.  Just the end of the relationship where they pay him outrageous sums of money to be hurt 75% of the time.  Contrary to popular belief, WWE has put a concrete offer on the table for Nash to join the front office or to be retained in some other non-wrestling capacity... however, both sides are probably amenable to that.
    Nash has said he'd like to explore some other options, and has even explicitly discussed his desire to reform the Outsiders with Scott Hall (which would almost certainly happen in Japan).  He might want to get that bug out of his system, and also collect a few more disproportionately huge paydays, before agreeing to settle in with WWE.  But he has also talked about an interest in a front office spot, or possibly limiting himself to something along the lines of his original WWE role (as a bodyguard/second, which I personally think would be ideal, especially if he did some sort of incentivized deal where he was only obligated for TV tapings, but the door was open if the right convergence of storyline opportunity and good health necessitated a brief run as a full-time wrestler).
    WWE (read, Vince McMahon) also sees some value in having Nash around, so the lines of communication will remain open, and I'd wager heavily that at some point in 2004, the parties will work together again.
  • Speaking of Nash, did you see him in the teaser trailer for "The Punisher"?  Probably not, if you blinked...
    About a week ago, I finally got my lazy ass to see "Return of the King" (and let's just say if it wins awards and Oscars as a surrogate for the entire "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, I won't raise too big a stink), and that was one of the approximately 48 minutes of commercials and lame previews we were bombarded with.  Nash (blond crew cut and all) got about 3 seconds of time in 2 brief flashes of a fight scene, pretty much getting his ass kicked by Mickey Mantle.  Um, I mean THE PUNISHER.  Or somebody.  I wasn't paying much attention.  I think I was still joking with my brother about how hilariously retarded the preview for the "Guy From Punk'd Tries to Be a Serious Actor" movie looked.  Trying to WB-itize Phillip K. Dick is an insipid exercise, at best....  let the pros handle the mind-fuckery, pretty boy.
    Should that go double for Affleck, then?  I dunno....
    Oh, and while I'm thinking of it:  in case you really like "Punk'd" and you're really bummed out about it being cancelled a few weeks back, don't worry.  "Punk'd" is, I have it on good authority, actually "punking" Hollywood on this one.  They pretend to pull the plug so that they can "punk" more people without them being suspicious, and then have a whole new season of shows ready before word gets around.  Ooohhhh, tricky!
    Take that, Ashton!  Your secret is out!
  • Brock Lesnar's pair of surgeries (knee and elbow) went off alright back last week...  they'll probably have him at TV next week, but not wrestling.  Originally, he was supposed to be available to work matches again starting at either the 1/6 or 1/13 tapings, but there is now word that he might just sit out till the Rumble PPV and stick to less-strenuous run-ins/beat-downs on TV.
  • Billy Gunn's return was also announced as taking place at the Rumble PPV.  Can someone check me on this, or am I right in thinking that trying to do a moving, inspirational vignette for Billy's return with "I'm an Ass Man" playing in the background was one of the more unintentionally hilarious things I've seen so far this year?
  • And... ummm... well... I think that's about it.  I wish I had more, but I'd REALLY be stretching.  As if riffing on the guy from "Punk'd" for no real good reason wasn't stretching enough as it was...
    Anyway, I gotta get outta here so I can go pretend like I care about Ohio State football when there's not a national title on the line... then tomorrow, care for real about UD Flyer basketball (although after this past week, I'm now officially only PRETENDING to think we're really good, national rankings notwithstanding).... and then Sunday, REALLY care about the return of Curb Your Enthusiasm.  Gotta have something to look forward to.
    See you Monday, with (hopefully) the start of the 2003 OO Big Ass Year in Review Bash, as well as the return of Business as Usual.... 


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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