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RAW/Ratings, Maven/Richards,
Lesnar/Angle, TNA, and More!
January 7, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Can somebody explain this one to me?  So Pete Rose is all over the news the last few days because he admits he bet on baseball, and even though this appears to have had no impact on popular opinion regarding his return to baseball (about three-quarters of fans still say he should be in the Hall of Fame, and of those, a significant percentage even think Pete should be allowed to participate actively in the game), the pundits are shouting louder than ever about how Pete confirming his guilt should pretty much keep him out of baseball forever.

And the example I've heard used most is this one: that if baseball lets Pete back, then they have to go back and let Shoeless Joe Jackson into the Hall (and admission into the HoF is really all I'm about; the rest I'm not necessarily sanguine about).  Huh?  Seriously, I need help here...  I know Pete broke a rule, and so on and so forth, but is there not any weight given to the intent of the transgression?  Jackson conspired to alter the outcome of a sporting contest.  Rose was looking for a competitive rush after his baseball days ended, got into gambling, but never let that affect any element of the actual game.  How are they equal to each other?  Doesn't a single one of these sac-less sport-talk wonders have the intelligence or guts to come out and say that there are times when the Letter of the Law misses the point pretty badly, and that this might, just maybe, be one of them?  Anybody who believes and argues "because it's the rule" as the justification for anything needs a swift boot to the head.

Then again, I'm one of these self-important assholes who believes quite fervently that there are a number of rules that don't apply to me, and who can't quite bring himself to see the literal truth of the statement "All men are created equal," either.  I think everything is relative....  and in this case, I think that anyone who relates Pete Rose to Joe Jackson was created significantly less equal than me and all other rational individuals.  

Not that I meant to get off on a rant, there...

  • I mean, hell, there's plenty to rant about with regard to Monday's RAW, right?  But I already did most of that in my witty, detailed, and incisive RAW Recap, so you should read that.  Seriously, you should read it: it's got Lita in the shower instead of Mae Young!  If Lita in a shower don't equal ratings, I don't know what do...
    There's not a whole lot to add here today.  What sucked on Monday and sucked again in the recap will suck all the same now.  That means the commentary still blew, Mae Young was a huge mistake, Triple H was not funny, and the idea of a "sheriff" was still enormously lazy and uninspired.
    The Cliffs' Notes, in case you're too lazy to slog through the Recap, however, would go something like this....
    On the issue of commentary, I fully understand that Coach was out there to be a heel and personality, and not a commentator.  I ain't stupid, I get that.  But how and why he essentially rendered 2 hours of TV unlistenable, that's still beyond me.  It wasn't funny, it wasn't despicable, it was just poor.  JR and King, themselves, aren't guaranteed gold every week, but Coach's unnecessary ramblings made me appreciate the Dynamic Duo a bit more.  Coach is outstanding in interviews/skits as a heel, but this is not a way to make people think anything about him besides "Boy, I wonder what's on ESPN right now?"...
    On the issue of Mae Young, my stance was this:  I already was kind of annoyed that absolutely nothing happened in either the Jericho/Christian or Jericho/Trish fronts, and that ANY development would have been welcomed.  They are, essentially, still in exactly the same place as they were 5 weeks ago, except that now, Lita's not involved.  Ugh.  So "nothing" had me wishing for "anything."  And then, the Shower Scene.  Well, that was something, no denying that.  But it left me wishing for the nothing, again.  How can Mae Young be spun into a logical and compelling part of these intertwined stories?  Trick question: she can't.
    Then again, logic and compelling-ness aren't exactly the bread and butter of RAW these days.  I mean, Steve Austin as "sheriff" exudes neither of those qualities.  Rather than come up with an even vaguely interesting return for Austin, the creative team has slapped a silly title on him, but might as well have just used "Well, even though we wrote in a stipulation that says Steve Austin can't ever be GM again, we'll just call him a Sheriff, which is the exact same thing as a GM, but without the Physical Provocation Rule."  Granted, it's not as memorable as "Sheriff," but it's also not as lame-sounding, either.  Who knows, maybe they'll save it by having Austin talk to his badge.  You know, just like when he used to listen to his watch...
    I also didn't see the point of Triple H's Dated Reference Comedy Jam.  To interrupt Austin's promo, HHH should have had a reasonable motivation... bursting at the seams with "Dukes of Hazzard" and "Andy Griffith" jokes is not sufficiently compelling motivation for your World Champion.  At least they brought that promo around by the end, with Austin throwing in the Last Man Standing stip to the HHH/HBK Royal Rumble match.
    But whatever...  I don't want to talk about that stuff any longer than I have to.
    How about some of the good stuff?  It was sparse, but it was there.  The Kane/Booker T segment was a tremendously effective one: it not only gave a very plausible reason for Kane's actions last week, but it also sprung Booker from the Mark Henry feud, and put these guys into the Rumble match as anchors for the RAW side.  Continuity is good!  And I also loved Teddy Long getting a shot to do something other than second a tertiary wrestler; somehow, when Teddy plays the race card, it doesn't annoy me quite the same way it did when Clarence Mason did it... is that only because I'm so conditioned to it now, six years later?  Or is it because Teddy kind of has this tongue in cheek style that makes it less uncomfortable?  Or something else?  I don't know, but Teddy Long entertained me last night.  And if nothing else, I think you all probably got a kick out of Austin tormenting him (instead of Bischoff for the one billionth time).
    Beyond that, well...  my mama taught me that if I didn't have anything good to say, then I shouldn't say it at all.  So I'm done here. You can read the RAW Recap if you need further details about the show.
  • The rating for Monday night was a 3.5, which is a negligible 0.1 drop from a week ago.  
    The show didn't have the PPV caliber draw main event, nor Austin's return, so that's one possible reason for the slight drop.  But with everybody back to a normal routine after the holidays (and no football or anything else providing distractions/compeititon), WWE probably was hoping to regain its pre-holiday form.
    Another possible explanation: the show did kind of suck, and if viewers bailed on the show over the course of 2 hours, I wouldn't be shocked.
  • And by the way, I don't think I remembered to include it in Monday's column (although you could have found it in the new Battle of the Brands), but SD! final rating from last week was a 2.8 (the same as the prelim rating I reported on Friday).
    This is a huge disappointment, as I'd have thought there'd be more viewers available for New Year's night than on Christmas night (that was the case for This Viewer, at least), but instead, the reverse was true.  Xmas night SD! in Iraq did a 3.0.
    And of course, both shows' ratings are significantly down from SD!'s usual average, which over the last quarter of 2003 was a 3.5.
  • Maven was off the road this past weekend, and was replaced in matches against Jon Heidenreich by Steven Richards.  According to Maven's official website, he is spending time with his mother and family.  His mom's battle with cancer has taken a serious turn, and Maven is tending to more important business than wrestling.  His hiatus is, obviously, with WWE's full blessing.
    I'm sure I speak for all of us when I say our thoughts and best wishes are with Maven, his mom, and the entire Huffman family. 
  • If you've missed them, Spoilers from last night's SD! tapings are right here.
    In a non-Spoiler-ish sort of preview, I'll tell you that they have once again TAPED Bob Holly vs. Big Show as the main event...  but after last week, who knows if it'll actually air that way.  Also, you can look for the Bashams to reprise a tactic that they used at tapings last week, but which was cut from the final broadcast.
    Let's see... is there anything else quasi-cryptic, but ultimately non-spoiler-ish I can say here?  I don't think so...  so you're on your own.  Either check the Spoilers or just do what you should and watch the show tomorrow night.
  • Well, I guess I should say this, as well: Brock Lesnar did make his return to TV at the tapings, albeit in a non-wrestling capacity.
    As you'll recall, we talked a month ago about how Lesnar's simple arthroscopic elbow and knee surgeries were not expected to keep him sidelined long at all.  In fact, we were talking in terms of him being back in action by this week's tapings. 
    Well, that was a bit optimistic, obviously.  Now, Lesnar's first match back is expected to be held back till the Rumble PPV itself.  Most currently anticipate he'll be present next week on SD! again in only a non-active capacity to put some mustard on his PPV showdown with Bob Holly.
    Kurt Angle is also not expected to do any ring work until the Rumble PPV, and also appeared in a non-active role at last night's tapings.
  • Tough Enough 3's Matt and John worked a Heat match against Jindrak and Cade at RAW tapings on Monday.  I'll dance around the result of the match, but the general sense I got is that it was a very good match, and that many think Matt and John might be ready for prime time.
    Also: at the very least, Matt was also on house shows over the weekend, working as Rene Dupree's designated jobber, and was again said to look sharp.
    Kind of weird that they'd be on the RAW brand shows.  I don't know much about Tough Enough, but I do know this:  I assumed from the second it aired that this Matt kid was gonna win because of the beatdown he took from Bob Holly, and that it'd be to set up a feud with Holly (currently on SD!).  I was right about the first part, but the second doesn't appear to be coming any time soon....  and I'm actually kind of happy.  If it wasn't enough to make me watch TE, why would it be enough to make me care on Mondays or Thursdays?
  • A handful of curious folks have e-mailed in lately about WWE's recent frequent use of "World Wrestling Federation" and the old block WWF logo in home video releases and "throwback" items (like replica belts).  Because Linda McMahon, as recently as 9 months ago, was quoted as saying they weren't necessarily done with the World Wildlife Fund, people see this trend as possibly indicating an upcoming return of the WWF.
    Well, much as I wish I could confirm those theories, I can't...  as lame as "WWE" sounds, it's not going anywhere just yet.
    The deal is this: the idiots at the Wildlife Fund actually only had enough of a claim to prevent WWE from using the initials "WWF" in sequence and from using the scratch-style WWF logo.  They can't stop the use of the phrase "World Wrestling Federation" (it's just that without the initials, WWE didn't have much use for it, either), and for some obscure reason deep in the litigation, the block-style logo was left in play by the courts, too.
    So, the fewer things WWE has to alter on home video releases, the better.  Thus the phrase "World Wrestling Federation" lives, as do all instances of the block logo.  For authenticity purposes, throwback items are also left as untouched as possible.  This is not a grand scheme to re-introduce the WWF, it's just getting away with whatever is legally permissible.
    "WWE" turns 2 this May, and much as I hate to say it, we're probably stuck with it.  Not that I'm saying the Fed should stop pursuing any options, if they still remain.  I mean, just this past weekend, I was at a bar and wrestling came up casually in a conversation at our table (not my doing, I assure you!), and it was "WWF" this and "WWF" that, and I quickly abandoned any thoughts of correcting the folks.  "WWF" still probably has more name recognition/acceptance than "WWE," sad as that is.
    So anyway, what was my point?   Oh yeah, that the new John Cena 3/4 t-shirt is about the only new WWE t-shirt I've seen in a long time that I might actually, you know, wear in public.  No, that wasn't it... but something along related lines, I'm sure...
  • Speaking of Linda McMahon and WWE business, it's worth noting that "WWE business picks up" will be a strong performer in the "Best Real World News" category when I get around to publishing the results of the consensus OO 2003 Awardies.  And you don't need any rose colored glasses to believe it's a true statement.
    WWE stock prices are as high now as they've been in years, and with the exception of house show attendance, most metrics are heading slowly (but measurably) upward.
    Readers have forwarded two articles regarding WWE business that you might find interesting.  One is from MSN/CNBC, and is a more hardcore financial-focused piece designed to appeal to your inner-Bradshaw.  You can see it here.  And the other, from the Stamford (CT) Advocate, is more tied to the nature of the wrestling business and even includes quotes from Jeff Jarrett regarding WWE and TNA tactics.  You can check it right here.  Both are definitely worthwhile reads.
  • Man alive... after my Britney-related diatribe on Monday, anyone want to guess the number of HHH/Steph-(TV)-wedding-related joke e-mails I got?
    Sorry, rhetorical question.  Suffice to say I was proud of myself, at least, for passing on the too-easy reference...
    And anyway, didn't you read the paper: it said she was sober!  Totally sober!  Not drunk at all (and certainly not drugged by Cerebral Assassin George Costanza)!  C'mon, you believe, don't you?
  • While also briefly scanning the In Box for anything mention-worthy, I do want to pass along one interesting Fantasy Booking idea that I got from Tim Rothermel...
    With Goldberg's situation uncertain, and WWE apparently unclear on how to use Da Man, this one appealed to me:  in short, you have Eric Bischoff make Goldberg's "reactivation" contingent upon Goldberg agreeing to eliminate Steve Austin as the "sheriff."  I think you could use the ambiguity of Goldberg's motivation (is he just doing this to have his job back, or might there be real hostility dating back years to when he was mocked as "StoneColdberg"?) and the general fanbase's sense that these two SHOULD feud with each other to build up to a one-shot wrestling appearance by Austin at WM20.  
    Tim's idea is that the WM20 match is "loser leaves town," and it spells his end in WWE.  That's where I'll diverge (because even if Goldberg leaves, he wouldn't be down with that departure).  Depending on Goldberg's future, you could still realistically go any number of ways with it, though: making him a full on heel (a tool of Bischoff, which would work given their WCW ties), or have the match at Mania turn into a Mutual Respect thing to keep Goldberg face, or whatever you want...  but mostly, I thought it was a really interesting way to use Goldberg upon his return, since nothing else has really clicked for him, yet.
    And as is often the case when I present a reader-suggested booking scenario I simultaneously thank and apologize to Tim.  The idea is good, and yet I bastardized his original idea vision a few of my little add-ons and suggestions.  Ah well, such is life when you e-mail The Rick with your ideas...
  • Lastly today, some TNA preview... tonight's show marks the return of the Ultimate X match.  In the press release for Ultimate X2, TNA quotes some insider wrestling website or another as calling the match "the most innovative since the ladder match was born."
    Oh, well, I guess quoting OO as saying Ultimate X was "interesting in theory and sloppy in practice" wasn't quite as sexy....  I'll live.  TNA probably wouldn't like it if I also said that I think Hell in the Cell was at least as innovative as Ultimate X and it also came after the ladder match.  And they'd positively HATE it if I said that I, and I alone, have the idea for an even MORE innovative and awesome match concept (and that TNA probably doesn't have the resources to build the structure necessary to do the match).  Well, actually, anyone who read Fantasy Universe 2001 has the idea, too, but you've probably all forgotten it by now.  I practically had until just now.
    But now I'm really getting off target.  Ultimate X2 is tonight, and for all of the faults of the original, it WAS a very interesting concept and it did feature a number of jaw-dropping highspots.  If they can hammer out some plausibility issues and make sure the belt doesn't keep falling to the mat, they'll have a shot at something genuinely special tonight.  That ain't hype, it's just how it is.
    The match works like this: two steel cables are criss-crossed 15 feet above the ring, with the X Title suspended at their intersection.  With no ladders allowed, four men will battle with the goal being to climb up to the cables and shimmy their way to the belt.  The first to grab the belt and hit the mat is your winner.  X Champ Michael Shane, Christopher Daniels, Chris Sabin, and Lo(w) Ki will compete in tonight's match, which is actually a stronger line-up (the outstanding Daniels and more-than-competent Low Ki replace the spottastic Frankie Kanzarian) than last August's first go-round.
    And also to be fair: many (including the aforementioned other website) praised the first Ultimate X match heavily, happily over-looking some of the orchestration and hardware problems.  I, personally, didn't find it as smooth or dramatic as most ladder/TLC/HitC matches (and thought the two interludes where the belt had to be re-hung were almost inexcusable instances of non-preparation), but still thought it a very fun and entertaining spotfest.  TNA is selling tonight's show almost exclusively on Ultimate X2, though you'll pardon me for not thinking the first warrants QUITE this level of hype.
    Actually, coming off a 2 week holiday break, TNA's use of Ultimate X2 as a selling point is probably a good move.  With storylines resting over that break, they're basically saying, "We don't care if you've forgotten the key issue, but tune in to see a killer wrestling match."  I can think of worse messages to send.
    If your favorite college basketball team isn't playing a home game tonight, perhaps you should check out the TNA PPV... and if you can't pull the trigger, well, then gods willing we'll manage a TNA recap of some kind later this week.  Remember, Damien's off the job, and I forgot to feel out/audition any of the people who responded to me looking to take over his TNA recapping gig over the the holidays.  I'll figure something out...
  • And I'll see you again on Friday.  And I also promise the Year in Review is still percolating.  I may be perennially slow with it, but tell me it doesn't always kick ass when I'm done.  I don't usually like going back and pouring over my old shit, but the Years in Review are reference items that I genuinely enjoy going back to check out...
    I promise 2003 in Review will be more of the same.  Eventually.


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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