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Rumble Fall-Out, RAW, Hogan,
and Other Monday Newsbites
January 26, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Actually, I don't know how much of a column we've got today... a few things to talk about for sure.  But like Jeff Hardy one year ago, I'm in serious need of a relaxed schedule to "recharge my batteries."  You see, with my annual mini-tizzy that I work myself into for the Rumble Match (well worth it this year) and the scores of man hours that went into the 2003 Year in Review, I'd actually be perfectly content to take a week or two off from the wrestling...

But I can't, you see.  The Office won't give me the time off.  Just promise me this: if I'm like missing spots all over the place here, don't go making up stories about my drug habits.  The Rick didn't grow up to be all big and strong and cool by doing drugs.  Unless you count whiskey as a drug.  Or count college.  Which The Rick doesn't.

Here goes:

  • We've definitely got a few things to talk about with regards to the Rumble PPV last night.  If you missed it, the complete (Not-so-)Immediate Post Show Rumble Recap is still available if you just want the straight results with a minimum of editorializing.  The "not so" part?  We braved a Level 2 Snow Emergency to gather for the PPV at a friends house, and the roads actually significantly worse over the 4 hours span including Heat and the Rumble...  took me a while to get home.
    First thing, I stopped counting how many people mailed in to say that, by their calculations, Chris Benoit became the Royal Rumble IronMan with his performance last night.  Although Ric Flair's is the performance everyone remembers, on the grounds that he WON the match after entering #3, and even though Shawn Michaels won from #1 (but in a year with 60 second intervals), the actual longest duration in the Rumble match was Bob Backlund in 1993 at just over 60 minutes.
    Well, last night, even though the intervals were shaved down to 90 seconds, the post-#30 segment was the longest in Rumble history, and Benoit's total time was 1:01:38 (or 37 seconds, or 39 seconds, you people really need to calibrate your stopwatches!).  Not just the longest run ever in the Rumble, but he (unlike Backlund) did it in a winning performance.  Move over Ric Flair in '92!
    This was also just about as much fun as I've had watching a Rumble Match besides the '92 one.  As good as HBK/HHH was, even if they'd done a decisive finish, I still think I'd go with the Rumble as the Match of the Night.  Excellently put together, I thought, and again, the final 15 minutes or so (after Goldberg entered) were particularly outstanding.  This will be one that stands up to repeated viewings and that people are still talking about in positive terms 10 years down the line as a glowing example of why we always seem to get ourselves worked up over the Rumble Match.
    Benoit also led the way with six eliminations (Orton, who lasted a commendable 33 minutes and change, had 5 to his credit), cementing his domination in just about every possible facet of the match.  For all kinds of other cool stats and stuff from the Rumble, Tony Cottam has been kind (and obsessive) enough to once again compile the very useful Royal Rumble: By the Numbers for 2004!
    Oh, and I loved hearing from those of you who have adopted the "Royal Rumble Game" (which should probably get a better name if I'm gonna keep pimping it year in and year out) for your own.  I actually scored the win this year.  I drew the first rotation spot (#1, #7, #13, #19, and #25), meaning I got Benoit (good for six elimination points, plus 10 as the winner).  I also had Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho in the final five, so I got the five bonus points for most wrestlers in the final five (which I sort of needed because I got totally shafted by Spike Dudley and my other wrestler... umm, I forget who it was, but I don't think I got anything from him).  It was close till the end, though; the last rotation spot was also a good one (a bunch of elims from Goldberg, and that same guy also had the Big Show, so it wasn't decided till Benoit actually won the Rumble).  Funny story: my friend who got Rene Dupree had not ever seen La Resistance before, and as soon as he saw the fey little dance Rene did, started threaten to break shit because of his bad luck.  Rene's first act: to toss Matt Hardy.  My friend all of a sudden thought Dupree was for real, and became his biggest fan.  For about 20 seconds, until Dupree himself was tossed.  Hilarious!  This is the sort of personal investment and buy-in you get when somebody in the room has a stake in every wrestler in the ring.  Play it next year, you'll like it!
    Other post-Rumble fall-out:
    Almost as many people mailed in to tell me I missed the boat on the HHH/HBK finish as mailed in with Benoit record keeping...  turns out it's not the first time WWF/E has done the double count-out finish to a Last Man Standing match.  They also did it with a Rock/Mankind match at the 1999 St. Valentine's Day Massacre PPV (complete with double stretcher jobs).  I should have remembered that, I think...  but when I did the quick mental inventory, it didn't pop up.  Probably because if have that PPV filed under "Vince/Austin brawl and Big Show debuts" and not under "Rock/Mankind Title Match" in my alcohol-corrupted database...
    In any case, it's been just about exactly 5 years, so the statute of limitations was probably up.  My frustration had nothing to do with the ending being an over-used out, but rather that I thought this feud could have handled a decisive finish one way or the other even if the intent is to continue it.  The only reason not to do it that way is if they honestly intend for HHH/HBK to headline WMXX for RAW, and doing it this way means that the hype can include "HHH has not been able to beat Shawn Michaels" as a key selling point (double pinfall on RAW, double count-out on the PPV).  But that's such a subtle element that -- on a PPV where so many matches got short shrift due to the time crunch -- I'd have been willing to forsake it so that the Rumble PPV itself benefited from a great brawl with a solid climax.  
    Speaking of the time crunch: Basically, the Rumble was a 2 match show, with the four first matches all coming in under 10 minutes and in every single case seeming like throw-away free-TV segments.  Even Eddie/Chavo, which of the bunch should have been the biggest deal.  What could have been done about it?  Well, they could have taken five minutes back by just axing the totally unnecessary Puddle of Crapp video; the Rumble's not something that needs a whole lot of set-up or explanation. The stories that need to be told can be told over the course of the hour-long match by the announcers.  And hell, if it was only gonna get 3 minutes, why bother doing Rey/Noble on the PPV at all?  Save it back for SD! where it might get 8-10 minutes, I say...  counting entrances and everything, there's 10 extra minutes for you, which I'd probably have given all to Eddie/Chavo.  Then tell Brock and Holly to lay off the restholds on the grounds they're only going 8 fricking minutes, and voila, you got yourself a much more efficient undercard.
    Still, don't get me wrong: as a 2 match show, the Rumble still succeeded, and I'm saying "Thumbs Up."  Again, the PPV Recap is right here for you.
  • Another item from the Rumble: OO Reader Joel braved dangerous road from Maryland to Philly to see the Rumble in person, and mailed in to say there was a cool little post-PPV segment that went over great with the live crowd.
    Austin came to the ring and celebrated with Benoit.  Between the two, they sucked down a case or more of Lite Beer from Miller.  Or at least spilled it. Austin congratulated Benoit on winning the big one, and Benoit got on the mic and did a very genuine bit of work talking about his dream of being a pro wrestling and how the dreams that have been coming true have only gotten bigger and bigger over time.  From breaking into the business, to jumping to the WWF, to winning the Rumble, and then at WMXX, the biggest dream of all will come true when he wins the WWE Title at the biggest event of all time.  Few, if any, left the building before the segment concluded.
    Look for it on the 2-disc "Complete Crippler" DVD set that will probably come out at some point later this year.  [Save your e-mails wondering where you can buy it: I'm just guessing here.  It would be WWE's M.O., however, to put together a DVD for a guy in the midst of a big push, and even more their M.O. to include the post-Rumble celebration as an extra.]
  • Oh, and one other piece of Rumble fall-out....
    When Big Show eliminated John Cena, he fell kind of awkwardly and twisted his knee, and a bunch of you did catch a ref making the dreaded Overhead "X" of Legitimate Injury.  I only caught a quick flash of it, and then a minute later did see Cena heading back up the ramp on his own power, so I figured it was probably no big deal. Every now and again on RAW or PPV, you'll see a guy take a bad spill, and in the heat of the moment, a ref will throw up the X, only to take it back, so...
    As of this early Monday writing, the indications are that Cena felt better once he got back to the dressing room, and that he didn't even make a hospital trip to have a doc check it out.  Don't go writing Cena off your WMXX line-up sheets just yet...
  • I fully expected to have a pretty clear idea about the path to WrestleMania after last night's show... but I find myself still somewhat baffled.
    On one hand, they did start up Goldberg vs. Lesnar, which we kind of expected.  But on the other, they CLEARLY signaled that HHH and Michaels have another big showdown coming down the line, which I did NOT expect if they really intend to divert Benoit from SD! and the Lesnar match at Mania.  As it stands, you have good reason to suspect Goldberg vs. Lesnar and HHH vs. HBK as your WM title matches.  And yet, Benoit has to fit in somewhere.  He won the Rumble, fer chrissakes.
    My solution: forget about Benoit to RAW.  That's wrong for so many reasons I don't feel like enumerating them right now.  But have Goldberg jump to SD! IMMEDIATELY (like this week).  At first, it can be a rogue thing, not sanctioned by the GMs.  Simultaneously, the harbingers of the Undertaker plague Kane on RAW.  By some convenient piece of deus ex machina, you can reveal that Bischoff and Heyman have essentially done a Taker for Goldberg trade.  At the SD!-only February PPV, Goldberg gets his shot at Lesnar, satisfying that particular fetish of Vince's (San Francisco is also infinitely more likely to cheer Goldberg over Lesnar than the MSG crowd, so that's another bonus).  Throughout February, Heyman tortures Benoit, tries every dastardly thing he can imagine to cause Benoit to lose the WMXX title match, but Benoit perseveres.  By WMXX, Benoit has traversed a horribly treacherous road and should be more over than ever for the prescribed showdown with Lesnar.  Also at WMXX, HHH and Michaels can have their big blowoff for the other title (Hell in the Cell or some other gimmick might be necessary), they'll have had plenty of time to make Kane/Taker a key RAW match (instead of the sloppy cross-brand story I'd originally envisioned), and Goldberg can be re-assessed (depending on his contract status) and given something appropriate to do (if he's on his way out, I doubt he'd want to do it by jobbing on consecutive PPVs, so maybe you give him a token win, or maybe if Hogan really wants to come back, you can do something fun and harmless there).  Everybody wins!
    So of course, this won't happen....
  • Speaking of Hogan, I forgot to mention in Friday's update that I saw him on the Jimmy Kimmel show... and although Hogan supposedly has nothing going on on the wrestling front, wrestling is just about all they talked about. 
    Hogan told a few Andre stories, and near the end of the segment, they busted out some footage from WM3.  This was significant, to me, because it's further proof positive that Hogan and WWE are on friendly terms at this point in time.  WWE wouldn't have granted permission to show the WM3 footage, otherwise...
    You may feel free to jump to your own wacky conclusions based on that.  Keep in mind that all I've said, however, is that "Hogan and WWE are on speaking terms."
  • WWE has announced its first-ever show in Mexico.  RAW will head down for a Saturday night show in Monterrey on April 3.
    I'm sure the show will do fine, but it would have seemed more intuitive to use SD! to break into the market...  guys like Rey Mysterio, the Guerreros, and Ultimo Dragon all have a ton of history working for various lucha groups down there prior to breaking in with WCW in the mid-90s.  I'm hard pressed to think of anyone on the RAW roster who would be a natural/geographic draw in the same way...
  • Last for today, a quick glance at tonight's RAW...
    At the top of the card, I'm not sure what to expect with Michaels and HHH.  On one hand, it'd be standard WWE operating procedure to have both guys off the show to sell the intensity of their match last night.  On the other, after such a unsatisfying finish last night, I'd say maybe rushing another chapter of the story would be something I'd want to see.  Something to wash the taste out of my mouth.  
    If they go the former route, we won't know much more about where and when HHH/HBK will blow off this feud; they'll probably just give us a slick video package highlighting last night's match, and that'll be that.  If they go the latter route, we should have an idea if HHH/HBK goes to WrestleMania, or if it'll end sooner and if there's a chance something (or someone, like Benoit) might be in the title hunt by then.
    One big thing I do expect: Mick Foley will cut the promo that explains why he walked out on RAW over a month ago and why he decided to show up at the Rumble last night.  Could be gold.  Should definitely point us towards Foley vs. Orton at WM, too.  And in the meantime, I guess the IC Title just sort of lies dormant?  I mean, Foley's not gonna be in this one for the gold, is he?
    In the tag division, the Duds seem like they'll probably still be the #1 team in the chase, going after Flair/Batista, and even if they're falling short for the gold, it'll probably be a while before fans get tired of seeing them savage Coach.... in the women's division, Victoria scored a non-title win over Molly to further muddy the waters there.  Or maybe it's not so muddy: Trish seems completely consumed by dealing with the Jericho Situation and trying to fight off Jazz.  Lita's kind of receeded the past few weeks.  So it's newly face Victoria as the top challenger.  I can dig it.
    What else? I fully suspect that Taker will be felt, but not seen, again tonight, with the same basic formula playing out for a few weeks.  Hell, the part of my brain that got good at Fantasy Booking the "Dead Man" version of Taker (so he was spooky, but not overly supernatural) has been dormant so long that I'm only now starting to realize how easy it would be for WWE to keep Taker off TV ENTIRELY until the actual WrestleMania PPV, where he'd face Kane.  
    Goldberg should be around, but only in so far as he's expressing an interest in going to SD!.  There's nothing pressing for him on RAW at this point.  Which isn't to say he won't destroy somebody disposable just to make his point, but I don't think he'll be starting anything serious tonight...
    Other than the Jericho/Christian/Trish thing, the losers will probably be every other mid-carder.  I don't see the Bookers and RVDs of the world finding anything important to do between now and WM.  The card's gonna be maybe 10 matches, and those slots will fill up fast.
    Check out RAW tonight, or come on back to OO tomorrow for the full recap and Satire treatment....
    See you then.


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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