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RAW/Ratings, Spanky Quits WWE,
More on Benoit/RAW, and Other News
January 14, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


We're going to the moon again?  You know what?  It may be unpopular to say, but I think that's pretty neat-o.  Everybody who fashions themselves a socially conscious person is all "Well, that's money that could be better spent here at home" and stuff...  but I ain't even gonna pretend to be like that.  I mean (a) you leave the realms of the tens of thousands of dollars, and it pretty much seems like made-up fake money to me, anyway, so I don't care if you spend billions on paper going to the moon or rebuilding Iraq or financing government cheese rations, cuz it really doesn't affect me and my five-digit finances, and (b) I'm a guy and I like souped up gadgets and stuff like big rockets and moon bases and the myriad possibilities of 1/6th-G sex (although by the time they get the moonbase up and running, I'll be more interested in 1/6th-G shuffleboard, dagnabbit). 

So to the mOOn!  And then to Mars!  And anybody who disagrees with me, I say move the hell back to Europe and petition the queen to not finance Christopher Columbus's wacky voyage to the New World.  Yeah!

And now, the wrestling talk:

  • Monday's RAW did a lot right.  But I can't shake the impression that it was trying to be even more than it was.  By the end of the night, the combination of Randy Orton's ubiquitousness and the way the announcers were treating him made me think this was the show that -- when Randy Orton DVDs are produced in 2007 -- everybody reminisces about and says, "That's the night I realized the kid really had it."
    My claim, and I'm sticking to it, is that this was just another night when I realized, "Hey maybe it'll click for Randy in time, but he's just not there yet."  The performance in the main event IC Title match was about as good as we've seen out of him, yet.  Clearly not the paradigm shift that JR and King tried to sell us on, but still a display of a new skillset that Orton had not previously shown.  Using his first real Crimson Mask as the impetus, Orton gave us a new intensity -- evidenced in subtle facial expressions and body language -- that he could and should build on in the future.  But in the future, his other shortcomings will only be underscored if the announcers try to oversell a three-minute leg scissors like it's the most vicious maneuver in the history of the sport.  The New WWE focus is on mat work and psychology?  Fine.  But how about some variety on the mat?  How about something that might convincingly lead to the finish of a match?
    By the by, in my RAW Recap yesterday, I expressed complete and utter confusion over the intent of Orton's "playing possum" strategy at the end of the match.  Even the announcers didn't get it, and Lawler was left to just vaguely talk about "playing possum, it's the oldest trick in the book," although neither him nor JR could figure out how it was pertinent to this match.  I got over a dozen e-mails attempting to help me out, though they were all sort of like "I didn't get it either, but maybe it was..." and then they'd theorize something that didn't really fit.  Of the e-mails I got, two made some sense.  One is that the the Playing Possum tactic would have been a really heelish thing but that Orton misplayed it and sold it wrong: the idea here is that Randy thought the nutshot on RVD would be enough to keep him in a fetal position for a 10 count, but maybe not enough to keep his shoulders down for a three count, so he did the possum trick, and was gonna get up at 8 to steal the win.  The idea might have gotten across if Orton had shown us some sort of frustration, maybe a mini-tantrum, when RVD got up, instead of just moving in for the RKO attempt.  The other idea: that the Playing Possum trick really made no sense for Orton, but that they had to do it to set up the finish of the match...  RVD thought he had Orton hurting after his two near falls, and thus, went up top for the Five Star; in reality, Orton was mostly OK and quickly rebounded to knock RVD down and hit the DDT for the win.
    Either way, it still came across awkward at the time, and trying to make sense of it in retrospect does nothing to alter the fact.  But it's still an interesting little intellectual exercise... as I said yesterday, after nearly 20 years of watching wrestling, I pride myself on being able to pick up on the subtle things and in general "get it."  But this one had me stumped.
    The main reason it was not a breakout night for Orton, however, was that first backstage promo he cut.  Good lord.  The less said the better.  It was one-half a reminder of his complete dearth of compelling mic work to date, and one-half an example of actively poor mic work in the present day, and it put a taint on everything else he did on the night.  Even as he was impressive in the main event, you couldn't shake that past image, couldn't shake the idea that this really isn't the guy you'll want on top of the company any time soon.
    But anyway...  enough about that.  'Twas mostly a good show.

    You can read all about it in yesterday's RAW Recap, if you for some reason have not done so already.
  • The rating for last night's RAW was a 3.6 cable rating, a barely significant gain of 0.1 from the week before, and the same rating as the 12/29 show headlined by HHH/HBK.  Seems this is pretty much RAW's comfort zone now that we've exited the Monday Night Football season...  at least for now.  Looking back, there's been a bit of a "WrestleMania Bump" in ratings the last few years since the demise of WCW, though that might (in both 2002 and 2003) be attributable to returning stars (the nWo in 2002, and Austin/Rock/Hogan in 2003) generating some interest from casual fans.
    This year, Austin's already back, Hogan ain't coming back, and it'll be up to the Rock to supply a late February/March ratings push all by himself.  I'm sure he's up to the task, and I also think the WMXX aura itself will be good for a little boost, too.
  • Alright, kind of a shocker today....
    Amidst rampant rumors that WWE is preparing to shave down its talent roster by cutting the less-productive members of the RAW and SD! crews, one man decided to remove himself from the equation.  Brian "Spanky" Kendrick gave his notice to WWE at SmackDown! tapings last night, and is done with the company.
    My understanding at this time is that Spanky offered to work whatever upcoming bookings WWE had planned for him, but that the company was generally pleased with the upfront way Kendrick dealt with them, and granted him a full release effective immediately.  The immediate full release may sound like a WWE dick move to you, but actually, it's the more desirable outcome for Spanky, who can immediately accept other, potentially higher-paying and higher-profile, bookings as a result.

    And it won't take long before he's got 'em lining up for his services...  already, Spanky is expected to get on upcoming tours of Japan with the ZERO-ONE company.  This is the group where Dustin "Goldust" Runnels is expected to be a regular in the near future, and is also a group that has some kind of designs on distributing their product here in the United States (under the brand name WORLD-ONE).  When his Japan schedule allows, Spanky is also very likely to show up as a feature performer for Ring of Honor.  And who knows if TNA might step in and offer him a recurring spot?
    The move is apparently more shocking in a "Whoa, I can't believe he really did it" sort of way...  those in the know say Spanky has been unhappy with his position in the company for the last few months, where he and Paul London have frequently been part of show-stealing matches on house shows and Velocity, but have not gotten even an inkling that there might be a spot for them on Thursday nights.  But being displeased is one thing... being able to actually stand up and walk away from the "dream job" in WWE and the steady paycheck is another.
    I think Spanky's probably a little older than you think (29 or 30), so it's not like he's the 22 year-old rookie up-and-comer who can bide his time on essentially a glorified developmental assignment.  He's an outstanding worker, has more personality/charisma than many of the typical cruiserweight types, and can easily find work that will be more fulfilling to him, personally.  Taking a lesson from guys like AJ Styles (who turned down a WWE contract because his work on the indie circuit not only pays better, but lands him in more important matches) and Raven (who didn't weep when he was cut from WWE last year because he can command a premium on the indie circuit), Spanky made the tough choice.  The surprise that he actually pulled the trigger is exceeded only by the respect many have for him for being able to do it.
    So don't cry for Spanky...  he's gonna end up a winner in this deal.  And from all reports, the door will remain open at WWE, too; no bridges were burned.  The losers?  Well, us as fans won't get to see him (at least, not without a lot more effort).  And this kind of blows for Paul London, too, who other than "Spanky's partner" has really not developed any kind of WWE persona at all.  Hopefully, he'll find a niche of his own... or at least get SOME kind of bone thrown his way (a la Spanky's mini-run with John Cena) so that if he decides to walk away, too, he'll have the kind of recognition that will command a premium on the indie circuit, too.
  • Spanky's departure did catch management by surprise.  They had him scheduled to work a (surprise surprise) Velocity tag match.  Instead, they unbooked him entirely and had Paul London work a solo dark match.
    You can get the full reports from Heat, Velocity, and (the only one you care about) SmackDown! tapings right here.
  • As alluded to above, there is talk that WWE wants to pare down its talent roster a bit, a rumor that gained steam when the company held brand-wide meetings with both crews in the last week.  SD!'s was at least week's tapings.  RAW's was at this weeks.
    I gather from e-mails that this is a pretty big story on other sites and has people interested in the real scoop... but as is my custom, I'm downplaying it.  Why?  Well, frankly, because these trimesterly meetings always seem to get panties in a bunch, and then a month later, nobody can remember why.  Things may get said that ruffle feathers or make people thing the company is really shifting gears or something, but it's usually back to business as usual.  The meetings seem like a big deal because they happen less frequently, but in the end, the vibe is that they are mostly lip service.
    So, this time around....  I don't know.  I get my third-hand word, and it seems like more of the same:  Half rah-rah pep talk that nobody really believes (you can only hear "Make your own opportunity" so many times and be inspired by it when management ignores any input you might have and gives you 3 minutes of TV time every two weeks), and half vaguely-threatening suggestions to alter performance (this time around it was "Look at HHH vs. HBK from RAW, and do that") to make the ring a safer place and to make careers last longer (again, responded to sort of cynically because the company isn't exactly giving everybody 30 minute TV matches to work a methodical style).
    I figure if that sort of thing is big news on other sites, it must be pretty slow going...  I don't expect there to be any long-lasting fall-out from this latest round of brand-wide meetings.  Or at least, nobody in the locker room really expects there to be any long-lasting effects, and I'm certainly not one to debate the fact.
  • There are some very vague rumblings that RAW's creative team is making a play to have Edge jump to Monday nights when he returns in 2 or 3 months.  It'd be more logical to have him return to SD!, where he worked before his neck injury, and where he could have an instant angle trying to figure out who laid him out in the hallway back before last year's No Way Out PPV (if I had any faith in WWE getting behind Rhyno and doing something constructive with him before his contract expires, I'd say Edge vs. Rhyno would be a quality feud... remember, Rhyno conveniently popped up as soon as Edge was gone and "took his spot").  And looking at how spectacularly RAW has put Matt Hardy to use, I'd seriously question their ability to insert Edge, cold-turkey, into their product.
    But it's something to think about.

  • Oh, and while I'm thinking about it....
    Back last week, I said something about how people were e-mailing me and asking "Is it true that Benoit is jumping to RAW?", and how I'd heard nothing about it and figured it was just a crazy fanboy theory based on the fact that there is a RAW-only PPV in Benoit's hometown after WrestleMania...  well, I don't know which way the information is flowing here, but now there are people in the RAW locker room talking about Benoit maybe coming in.
    Good lord, I hope this is just a case of idle chatter about an internet rumor that one of the boys read, and not a real case of Benoit jumping ship.  I cringe at the thought of Benoit being taken out of his element, taken away from the workers he can kick ass with and the announcers who know how to call his matches.  Even if Edge joined him in jumping to RAW, they'd both be fan favorites, which does us no good.  They'd still be stuck wrestling against the likes of Kane, Scott Steiner, and Batista.  Yee haw?  I don't really see Benoit making RAW (the "sports entertainment" show) better; I can see RAW making Benoit (the "wrestler") a less important commodity.
    Look, at this point, I'm not saying this is definitely happening or definitely not happening.  Like I said, the flow of information is kind of confusing, and who knows what is fact and what is speculation...  I'd like for it not to happen, but if it does, I also laid out (after I got done with my whining) a way that it might work last week, too.  Who knows?  I still lean towards this being kind of speculatory based on somebody seeing the RAW PPV in Edmonton, and then there's also word about Benoit possibly being added to the upcoming RAW tour of Japan (which really doesn't prove anything, as the brands have sometimes swapped performers when they can be of geographic assistance; Benoit's a big name in Japan and could boost ticket sales).  I just don't know...
  • To answer another question that popped up in e-mail over the last two days: no, Randy Orton was not really KO'ed during that match with RVD on Monday night, and he was not seriously injured at all.  I don't know if that's another fanboy site speculating because RVD went over to him at one point, sort of lifted his head, and then walked away, or if maybe that's a mini Work the Smarks disinformation campaign from some jokers...
    Stitches to close his cut?  Yes.  A bump on the noggin?  Sure.  But no missed house shows due to concussion or anything dramatic as apparently has been reported.  FYI, until somebody tells me otherwise, I'm assuming that RVD walked away from Orton during that spot to give Orton some off-camera time to do his blade job.  I mean, it's not like it was obvious in a bad way, but if you even stopped for a second to think about it, it should have occurred to you.
  • I spent some time analyzing the new "WWE Originals" album (released yesterday) as best I could based on snippets from this week's Confidential... 
    Well, Matt Hocking actually picked up the album, and has a review ready for your enjoyment based on actually, you know, hearing the whole thing.
    I figure you might find that more useful than me going off half-cocked, so here you go:  Matt's WWE Originals Albums Review.
  • WWE sent out a press release yesterday trumpeting a major legal victory over about 3 dozen bars and taverns in Canada that were illegally screening WWE PPV events for patrons.  According to the release, the settlement could reach into the millions of dollars, which seems pretty freaking outrageous.
    I realize WWE has a system in place for bars that want to show PPVs to buy a license, and that that's significantly more than the $35 price tag the rest of us pay...  but c'mon.  Millions?  The Fed needs to chill out and realize that, in about 90% of cases of people who watch PPVs at bars, they aren't losing any money.  If they can see a show for free at a bar, fine.  If they can't, they'll skip it and lose no sleep...
    My point here is not to encourage thieving, but rather to point out that if WWE put as much energy into improving the product to the point that those 90% of people WOULD want to buy PPVs instead of trying to bilk bar owners out of the profits they realized by selling 72% more jalepeno poppers on every fourth Sunday night, they'd probably come out ahead in the deal.
    Next: WWE sues those of us who congregate in groups of  8 or 12 to watch PPVs, instead of sitting at home, all alone as the law prescribes, and forking over the $35 individually.

  • The Legends of Wrestling game that is coming out this Spring already attempted to make headlines when they agreed to terms with the Ultimate Warrior to be included...  that kind of fizzled, if you ask me.
    Well, they're going a little lower profile with this new announcement, but Acclaim did circulate a press release yesterday mentioning that Diamond Dallas Page is going to be included, as well.  When I get annoyed by Lawler on a weekly basis, my mind often leaps to DDP as a guy I might like to see in that chair, instead.  But he'll be on a videogame instead...  oh, well...
  • A few readers sent in a link to a UK retailer who is hyping the upcoming release of a few old WWF PPV events on DVD.  Apparently, the first two WrestleManias and the first two Royal Rumbles will be released on Region 2 (Europe) DVD in February; they will be released as double-disc sets (the two WMs in one, the two Rumbles in the other) at a price of 16 British Pounds each (or around $30 American).
    Region 2 DVDs won't play on your DVD player, unless you're one of those crafty devils who has souped up his player or has one of those region-free players...  and no, I have no idea if this is a harbinger of US (Region 1) DVD releases to come or not.  I think there's definitely a market for retro events on DVD, especially if they package them together like this at a somewhat bargain price.  I find myself wondering what a big-ass WrestleMania DVD box set might be like to own...  without a functioning VCR anymore, I might take a real interest in something like that.
  • I think that's about all I got for today.  I might see you Friday, if there's news aplenty, but I might also take the day off...  in case you haven't been paying attention, Scotty is doing a really cool  ECW retrospective, and the pay-off will be on Friday (which just so happens to be the third anniversary of ECW's final PPV event), so you'll have a lot of cool reading without me.
    And plus, maybe I can use that time for the.... sigh.... Year in Review.  Which I want to have finished and published all in one piece.  By Monday.  
    Yeah, right....


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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