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RAW v. SD! Heats Up, Ratings, TNA
Makes News, Real Wrestlers, and More
February 27, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Mark it down: tomorrow begins the Third Season!

Back in November and into December, the University of Dayton Flyers surprised everybody by mowing through Maui en route to nine straight wins.  Then they ran into a Top Ten ranked team (the UC Bearcats), and lost; dispirited, they also 2 of their next 3.  The tally: 10 wins, 3 losses.

Then starting in January and into February, the Flyers got it back together, running off -- you guessed it -- nine straight wins.  Until they ran into a Top Ten ranked team (the St. Joe's Hawks), and lost; and then lost 2 or their next 3, to boot.  Another 10-3 segment, and today Your Dayton Flyers are looking at 20 wins versus 6 losses.

So logically, we're going to win 9 in a row again!  Undefeated St. Joe's in the A-10 tourney, you're going down.  The #1 or #2 seed we'll have to face in the Round of 32, consider yourself upset.  And everybody: enjoy the ride as the Flyers make it to the Elite Eight!  It's LOGICAL!  Don't tell me it isn't!  I'll even GLADLY lose 2 of our first 3 next season to fully balance the karma!

But I probably oughta wrap up my delusional rambling.  When the Third Season starts tomorrow with the Flyers' final weekend home game against the La Salle Explorers, my extended network of jack-ass friends (including a goodly number in from out of town for their requisite one Flyer game of the year), somewhere between 15-20 of them counting locals and out of towners, will be there, baby!  On the grounds that I'm the one who's grown up the least and who still lives only a mile away from the Arena, I get to host them!  Lucky me!  Since an event of this magnitude justifies getting into town a day early for most of them, I need to cut this shit out and finish the damn column so I can get on to cleaning all the bar glasses that have been slowly piling up for the past month and doing some booze shopping before sundown.

Because that's when the Bad Things come out to play:

  • I wound up enjoying a heavily FF'ed version of SmackDown!...  it was a show that certainly hit a few very high notes, but I'll be honest: watching it after the fact and being able to slice out some of the filler was much appreciated.
    It wasn't nearly as bad as the week before, but the focus was definitely on a handful of key players.  And you know everything with Eddie and Angle was gold. I remain curious to see how far Eddie can go with talking about being a recovering addict (remember, this is an audience that wets itself in glee when Steve Austin pours a beer down his throat) before the crowds say "enough," but for now, I'm just thrilled on his behalf, as holding the WWE Title probably symbolically represents how Eddie's gotten his entire life, personal and career, together.  Also, playing the Addict Card is apparently necessary to Angle's heel turn and primary motivation; Angle's promo last night was tight, in a lot of ways close to the motivations I proposed for Angle about a month ago (except that instead of Kurt doing a "deal with the devil" by associating with Chavo, I said they could have played it with Kurt acting like he was reforming Chavo by getting him away from the lying, cheating, stealing addict). [Oh, and while I'm thinking of it: we should have all seen Kurt's turn coming!  You know how I have that theory about all hairstyle changes have hidden meanings in wrestling?  Well, Kurt's hurting in that department, but...  well, he didn't have that chest hair as a babyface did he?  Mark it down: chest hair = EVIL.]
    At the secondary level, Cena, Show, Rey, and Chavo all contributed nicely, as well.  In fact, seeing Rey and Chavo up there working the de facto main event, knowing that both were involved in last week's main event... well, let's just say I'm a fan of that.  With Eddie already on top, with Rey's exposure in 2 matches, with Chavo holding the CW Title, a cynic could theorize that WWE is pandering to a latino demographic.  I couldn't give a fuck: it means quality rasslin' on my TV, and that's all I care about.
    But beyond those six guys last night, the only memorably good stuff was the Cruiserweight opener/angle...  give those four guys 8 or 10 minutes, or whatever it was, and it's always gonna be quality.  And although they did that non-finish, it was with positive intentions: Heyman can say "racial discrimination settlement" all he wants, the bottom line is it means Tajiri's actually being presented as a threat to the gold, and it sets up this elimination match at WM20 with pretty much every Cruiser on the roster.  Which has the potential to be very, very good.
    Everything else: bleh.  I'm not sure why Lesnar/Gunn wasn't more one-sided and shorter, I'm not sure why Haas and Benjamin were missing from the Scotty/Rikishi vs. APA match (since if you put me in charge, Kish and Scotty are just transitional champs, with the WGTT going over at WM20), and I'm not sure *I* needed quite so much of a flogging over the head with what happened on RAW.  Seemed real recap-heavy...
    Still, being able to gloss over the slow parts made this a plenty-entertaining show.  I'm thinking I might still give the edge to RAW in this week's Battle of the Brands, but the 75-minute SD! made it close.  Closer than the 120-minute version would have, anyway.
    Get the full (120 minute) report on SD!, courtesy of Big Danny T's SD! Recap.
  • The prelim rating for last night's SD!: another 3.4.  Which is right where you'd expect it to be.  The final number is almost certain to be in the 3.4-3.6 range, meaning SD! continues to perform steadily, with little to no deviation from its average, as February Sweeps conclude.
  • Meantime, since I was AWOL on Wednesday, I might as well riffle through the notes and uncover RAW's rating: a 3.9 cable rating.  That's up a nominal one-tenth from the previous two weeks, which means for Sweeps, RAW's actually nudging upward very slightly from its recent average.  Good for them.
  • And doing this week's ratings back-to-back is as good a segue as I can think of for a few related items, all with a "RAW vs. SD!" theme...
    To set the stage, I probably oughta lay some ground work.
    For starters: every week, you see me talk about ratings, with RAW usually in the 3.6-4.0 range, and SD! in the 3.4-3.6 range.  But you gotta realize that a cable ratings point is only worth around 85% of a broadcast ratings point.  So if you have the general perception that RAW is out-performing SD! every week by a slim margin, you need to forget that.
    In fact, over the past six months, I think RAW's been seen in more homes than SD! only a handful of times.  They've had a few very close calls/dead heats, too.  So far in 2004, RAW can claim victory for the week ended January 2 (which was actually the last RAW of 2003 up against New Year's Day's SD!), but that's it.
    But even with SD! proving itself week in and week out, the general feeling is that WWE still thinks of RAW as The Show.  And that certainly is something that's been apparent in the last couple months.
    Think about it: Benoit jumped to RAW, and SD! really hasn't gotten anybody back as a result.  The Taker/Kane feud, ostensibly inter-promotional, has played out almost exclusively on RAW.  And in the matter of Lesnar vs. Goldberg: well, Goldberg's off finishing up on a movie, and has made a grand total of one SD-exclusive appearance, while Lesnar is popping up over on RAW.
    Even in more subtle things, RAW is getting a bunch of help: in the last month, if you add up the total length of SD! footage shown on RAW and RAW footage shown on SD! (and time spent by announcers talking about the other show), I'm quite sure you'd see a discrepancy.  Hell, just the RAW packages from last night on SD! alone probably exceed the entire last month's worth of SD! footage shown on RAW...
    Part of me wants to argue that it's unfair: that WWE is seemingly hamstringing SD! for the benefit of RAW...  but for now, I can't do it.  The numbers don't back me up.  And unlike many, I can disassociate my own feelings and emotions (which still include "Don't think Benoit jumping was the right move") from what actually, factually appears to be the case.
    In the past five weeks (basically, since the Benoit jump and all the inter-promotional stuff has kicked into gear), SD! ratings are rock steady.  Actually, they are up negligibly over the preceding five week period, but that's probably not fair because it includes the holidays, and SD! fluctuated wildly for about a month, there...  in essence, SD! has -- since getting "hamstrung" -- stabilized right back close to the level they were at during last Fall's strong string of ratings.
    In that same period of five weeks, RAWs ratings have bumped up a little over 5% from the previous five week period (and that's discounting the "2003 in Review" week, which was a notably poor-performer).  In fact, RAW's current five-week Rolling Average is the best its been since the first or second week of September.  So all these moves have had the net effect of improving RAW's ratings while leaving SD!'s audience untouched.
    With last week's revelation that WWE believes 70% of its audience is "brand loyal," and only 30% religiously watch both shows, it is completely understandable that the Fed would want to do everything in its power to get SD!'s fans to watch RAW.  I just hope that, at some point, we see some sign that the Fed is trying to coax RAW's fans over to SD!, as well.  The thing could work both ways....
  • So...  now with the understanding that SD! usually outperforms RAW, but that WWE is implementing measures to close that gap and draw some of SD!'s fans over to RAW, we can move on to another RAW v. SD! issue:
    Where does Edge go?
    A year ago, he was an upper-mid-card staple for SD!.  Logic dictates that he's still "property of SD!," and conventional wisdom says that WWE would be foolish to piss away the opportunity to have Edge come back to get revenge on the unknown attacker who laid him out last year.  A while back, I envisioned a scenario in which Edge could get back some of his original mysterious vibe by sort of doing a Sting/Crow thing, showing up in the rafters to observe for a couple weeks before BAM attacking someone (his attacker from last February) brutally.  At the time, I was a fan of using Rhyno (who conveniently showed up and took Edge's spot on the roster after Edge was gone), but it'd work really well with Kurt Angle (who was opposing Edge the night Edge got attacked), as well.
    Hell, now that I think about it, if you went sort of vigilante with Edge, you could even tie in some of the backstage attacks that have been happening on SD!... but that's just off the top of my head, and might not fit together quite so well.  Point is that Edge has an entry plan for SD!, and he'd move into a spot as a Top Four Babyface (with Eddie, Cena, and Taker).
    So you've got all this good sense dictating that Edge go back to SD! where he belongs...  so of course, there's a strong buzz that RAW wants Edge and that management is actually considering their plea.  Oy.
    There is nothing, no strong opening angle, for Edge on RAW.  Unless you want to paint convoluted scenarios in which Edge actually comes in and turns heel instantly by aligning with Christian, or something...  but that defeats the purpose of Edge on RAW, because as I understand it, they want him as a babyface to sort of take the spot on the roster that Goldberg might be leaving and that they seem unwilling to hand over to Booker or RVD.  
    Except isn't Jericho turning sort of filling in a big hole on the face side?  I mean, you've already got Benoit and Michaels in there as main event fan favorites...  you've got Foley and Austin who, although not wrestlers, are so mega-over that they'll always be granted significant TV time.  Edge would be walking into a deal where he'd be, at best, like sixth from the top on the face side of the ledger.  Maybe if Michaels really does go down for 4 months with knee surgery, or if there's some plan in place to ship Benoit back to SD!....  but otherwise... 
    And hell, let's talk about Taker for a second: does he just show up at WM20, do his thing with Kane, and then go quietly back to SD!?  It's probably not that easy.  The new Taker's brand of spooky BELONGS on RAW...  so I'll go so far as to bump a RAW-bound Edge down to maybe seventh on the depth chart, while at the same time, another top babyface slot opens up on SD! if Taker doesn't return there.
    There's maybe two wild cards here: one is HBK's knee.  Personally, I think maybe we're hearing some exaggerated stories on that front. Guys with shredded ACLs can't do what Michaels did against Benoit two weeks ago, don't get booked into tag matches this coming Monday, and don't make plans to headline the biggest show of the year.  A relaxed schedule for a while after Mania?  Yeah, sounds sensible.  Reconstructive knee surgery?  If Shawn really needs that, then damn, the guy really is a god for doing what he's been doing the past couple weeks...
    Second wild card: Goldberg.  Conventional wisdom says that he's gone after Mania.  But the two sides have actually talked about extending their relationship in the past week or two, which is more progress than had been seen in the preceding few months.  I THINK this is related to the fact that WWE has a lingering hard-on for the prospect of getting Goldberg vs. Austin as one of the handful of matches Austin would consider doing in his post-active-wrestler phase, and they've certainly left that door open considering what happened on Goldberg's last night on RAW.  I'm not saying it's gonna happen, I'm just saying the door's not as nailed shut as has been presented lately, and if there's even a glimmer of hope that Goldberg would be back, even in a part time capacity or working heelishly, it's more star power for RAW and less reason to lose Edge in that shuffle.
    Make no mistake about it: the battle for Edge is on...
  • FYI: the battle for Edge is definitely gonna be a post-WrestleMania thing.  It was probably going to be, anyway, but a recent ankle injury has slowed his work-outs...  however, the neck's feeling good, and that's the important thing.
  • Another curious RAW vs. SD! note....
    If you want to talk about things the Fed has a hard-on for, running more than 12 PPVs per year is one of them, and has been since the acquisition of WCW in 2001.  For 3 years, the Fed has eyeballed the additional revenue that 20 or 24 annual PPVs would generate, but between bungling the inVasion horribly and the slow start to the Brand Split Era, they've (wisely) held off.
    Till now?
    WWE won't make an official announcement until the conclusion of this fiscal year (which comes in April), but for FY2005, they are apparently ready to jump ahead with a few extra PPV events.
    Under the current model, WWE has the Big Four joint-brand PPVs, and then each brand has four solo shows per year, for a total of 12.  That works out nice and evenly to one $35 lay-out per month for fans.
    Under the new model, WWE will keep the Big Four in place, but then, each brand will promote either 6 or 8 shows of it's own.  I know WWE craves 8 solo shows per brand (so that each non-Big Four month has two PPVs), but for starters, indications seem to be they'll utilize a modicum of discretion and go with only 6 per brand to start.  That'll mean 16 PPVs per year, and an average of about 3 weeks between events.
    Just as the "brand-specific PPV era" began last June, so might the more than one PPV per month era begin this June.  Already in place is Bad Blood for early in the month (RAW-only), but late in the month, there is talk of an as-yet-unnamed SD!-only PPV being inserted to the schedule.  If nothing else, it'll be fun to watch and see if any old WCW PPV titles get recycled: I gotta think that "Starrcade" and "SuperBrawl" and "Great American Bash" (among others) would have a ton of value and might help make the new events seem more like special shows, rather than like obligations.
    I'm torn on this news.  On one hand, if the data indicates that 70% of the audience is brand-loyal, then WWE should most certainly make out like bandits by adding more shows, because the only people put out will be the ones like us, in the 30% of Brand Whores.  And really, will we be THAT put out?  As long as they stick to 16 shows per year, I think they're gonna be just fine... the only time it'll be tough is when the calendar conspires to put two PPVs within less than 2 weeks of each other.  All bets are off, though, if the Fed pushes up to 20 and 2 PPVs in every month by January, March, August, and November....
    On the other hand, you can look at the buyrates for the Brand Specific PPVs since last June and wonder if this is really so wise, afterall.  The drop-off in performance for those five events versus the previous year indicates that fans clearly recognized that the shows were thinner and less special because they only featured half the roster.  Now, you're asking them to watch the thinner, less-special shows with even greater regularity...  and, possibly, risking further reductions in audience size as a result.  And December's Armageddon did so poorly (the least-viewed WWE/F PPV since WCW was winning the Monday Night War) that those are losses I'm not sure the Fed can afford...
    You can argue this one either way.  But maybe it'll be better to refrain from arguing at all until WWE confirms the exact situation.  I mean, we're talking about proposed PPV scenarios for 4 months down the line... and anybody who remembers all the false starts and TV taping/PPV arena bookings and stuff that were discussed by the WWF as they prepared to re-launch WCW knows things are always Subject to Change.
  • And with that, I think we conclude the SD! vs. RAW portion of our telecast.  In the interest of equal time, maybe we can hit a few TNA highlights...
    Such as Lex Luger returning to the promotional this week.  AJ Style and Abyss were the de facto Tag Champs (Styles had actually won the titles on his own when Abyss pulled a no-show a few weeks back, and as a result, they weren't exactly getting along), but were fought each other in the main event.  The stipulation was that (a) it was a tables match and (b) the winner got Tag Titles and could name a new co-championship partner.  In the match, Styles seemed to have things well in hand, but a ref bump meant that he didn't win after tabling Abyss.  And then enter Lex Luger, who was actually beaten by Styles last time he was around...  Luger put Styles through a table, woke up the ref (who saw Abyss standing and Styles in the middle of a broken table), and that was that.  Abyss is your new Tag Team Champions, and one has to assume that he'll name Luger as his partner next week, so Lex is around for at least a little bit longer.
    Sabu also made a guest appearance on the show, teaming up with Raven against CM Punk and Julio Dinero in what was said to be a pretty good match.
  • A no-show, of sorts, was Teddy Hart, who was supposed to be a part of a 3-way match pitting Team Canada vs. Team AAA vs. Team TNA...  he was replaced by Petey Williams, who actually scored the win over Juventud Guerrera and Jerry Lynn.
    Hart was down with a knee injury he suffered in a match before the PPV.  As part of the on-going "America's X Cup" gimmick, TNA is doing a Team Canada vs. Team AAA series on their March 10 PPV, and Hart wrestled Aguila in a match taped for that show.  The hope is that the injury is mild, just a sprain or strain, and will be better in a week.
  • Teddy is also continuing his award winning series of How to Make Friends and Influence People Moments.  Prior to even getting to the building, Hart got into a pull-apart outside a restaurant with CM Punk.  I've heard one version of the story that had the normally-reserved Punk reacting more to Hart's reputation than to what Teddy actually said or did... but the more prevalent version is that Hart instigated things.  
    Sabu and others had to pull the two apart, but supposedly there's no serious bad blood here.  The two held court with locker room leaders, and will be able to co-exist.
    It's a shame that Teddy, undeniably talented and an amazing human highlight reel, seems to be unable to shake these sorts of incidents.  He was already dropped from the WWE developmental program due to attitude/immaturity, and this is the second or third blow-up on the indie scene for Hart in the last six months.
  • A ton of people mailed in a link to a NY Times article discussing one of the recruiting plans in place at WWE... namely to chase top level athletes -- mostly football players and amateur wrestlers -- and train them to become sports entertainers.
    The more-grueling-than-most-people-realize nature of the business is suited to "real" athletes, and the success of Kurt Angle and others speaks to that.
    There's really nothing in here that you don't already know or couldn't surmise for yourself, but it's still cool hearing these things voice by Angle and Jim Ross and others, so check out the article right here.
  • Speaking of "real" wrestlers....  I've gotten a couple e-mail notes about a few who just might interest you.
    About this time last year, we talked about Cody Runnels, son of Dusty Rhodes and half-brother of Dustin "Goldust" Rhodes, winning a state wrestling championship in Georgia.  Well, the kid did it again this year, his senior year.  The note I got didn't say, but I'd have to assume a guy with a resume like that is looking at a wrestling scholarship somewhere next fall....
    Last year, the articles I got about Cody included quotes about how he was very much interested in making in the Family Business someday, and with his accomplishments so far, he might be just the kind of performer WWE is looking for, per the NY Times article.  
    And also: a few folks passed along this article about Mike Rotunda, himself one of those "real" wrestlers who made it in the pro wrestling biz.  Much of the piece talks about Mike's upcoming retirement (which will take place in May in Japan), but it also makes a passing mention of his son, the magnificently-named Windham Rotunda, chasing a high school state wrestling title this year.  Maybe another to keep an eye on?
  • Last thing for today, and just to end the way we started, it's gonna be something that only I (and whatever miniscule percentage of you are actually from Dayton) could care about....
    A little birdie tells me that Dayton is currently penciled in for the post-PPV RAW tapings in June (post-RAW-PPV, I guess I have to say, now).  Lots can change, but apparently, we've been ID'ed as a strong RAW Town, and after the strong turn-out for a middlin' RAW house show a few Saturdays back, we're getting rewarded.  Or maybe getting rewarded.  Official confirmation won't come for a month or so...
    Well, suddenly, I care a lot less about driving an hour out of my way for the RAW/SD! tapings coming up in Cinci and Columbus in a month.  Come on, WWE, come to Butthead....
  • That is all for this week.  Go Flyers!


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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