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Rock 'n' RAW, Ratings, Tons of
WMXX Weekend Info, HBK, and More
March 1, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Well, let's all take a moment and give thanks that this is a leap year, and that we had an extra bonus day yesterday.  I comported myself spectacularly well during a Flyer-themed, 20-man, 15-hour, non-stop booze-a-thon on Saturday: unlike many of my guests, I exhibited no inappropriate passing out, no projectile vomiting, and certainly no vaguely-disconcerting and never-adequately-explained pantslessness...  but then on Sunday, let's just say that the toll was such that I also exhibited no desire to leave my bed until close to dusk.  Fifteen straight hours, even if the first half is only beer, is just too much for my old, decrepit body, it seems...

Could I have done something useful with the Leap Day?  Sure...  for instance, the big annual Road to WrestleMania feature needs some updating, since its due to appear in the next week!  But if I had done that, it would have meant that I'd failed to take advantage of the preceding and incongruously gorgeous February day, the glorious UD victory despite our best player being injured, and the company of old friends.   

So for now, I'm gonna go ahead and pat myself on the back for making a very noble use of the bonus day...  but with my plans in place to be out of town next weekend (to see the Flyers' regular season finale in Pittsburgh), I have a feeling that come NEXT Monday, when I should be debuting the first part of the Road to WM, I'll be wishing I'd been a little more responsible.

You'll cut me some slack, won't you?  Won't you?!?  

  • Tonight on RAW, the Fed's loaded up to deliver a huge surprise...  of course, we all kind of know what it is, and thus, it's not really THAT surprising, but still...
    Local radio ads in Atlanta have been promoting the idea that tonight's RAW is the one where the Rock will return to TV.  The live audience should be well-conditioned to expect the Great One.
    Those of us who aren't supposed to have ears in Atlanta or know about the Rock until he shows up on TV have also kind of been conditioned, though...  after a few weeks of treading water, Mick Foley made a great save last week with a promo that gave context and meaning to the water treading.  He perfectly introduced the concept of not having any friends or allies on the WWE roster...  which in turn should lead us to suspect he'll turn to an outside source for help.  Who better than the Rock, his old tag team partner, and a guy who -- in his last WWE appearance -- joined Mick for a beat down of La Resistance?

    The end result is that the Rock showing up to help Mick Foley out of his jam against Evolution is probably going to be about the least-surprising surprise in recent memory... but that doesn't mean it won't be fun and satisfying all the same.
    As I said, Foley set the stage perfectly last week, which means that Rocky's arrival won't have that taint of "Token WrestleMania Guest Appearance," which I sort of feared back a month or so ago.  Having Rock show up to be a part of a well-constructed storyline, instead of just kind of popping in because it's WrestleMania and he's supposed to, is a welcome feature here.  
    Also: tonight, RAW is going to include a Shawn Michaels/Chris Benoit vs. Randy Orton/Batista match.  With Orton and Batista the probable WM20 opponents for Rock/Mick, and with their stablemate Triple H in the midst of a feud against both Michaels and Benoit, AND with Michaels and Benoit being unwilling partners because they don't much care for each other either, you can see a bunch of elements converging.  The chance to intermingle the storylines, spread a handful of killer segments out over the course of 2 hours, and then bring it home for a big finish should afford RAW all the tools it needs to blow our socks off, even if there will be, technically-speaking, nothing shocking about the Rock showing up.
    With just those elements -- Rock and Mick showing up together to oppose Evolution, and a possibly-excellent tag match that could also feature any number of storyline elements from the face team splitting apart to HHH running in to Rock/Mick getting involved -- you'd have a practically idiot-proof RAW.  RAW's two biggest matches for WM20 will be front and center, and I think that you could even hand the raw materials over to the old crew of monkeys operating a random-match generator who sometimes oversaw Nitro, and they'd turn out a damn fine show...
    But, as the TV ads say, there's even more!
    Like the prospects for another long-simmering storyline to finally get kicked into high gear.  Christian's decidedly asshole-ish attack on Trish Stratus last week won't be without repercussions.  Chris Jericho will be back in the house, and that should mean serious advancement on two fronts.  For one: Jericho vs. Christian at WM20 should be on.  And two: Jericho and Trish might finally quit futzing around with this Just Friends charade.  All of which has been months in the making, and has been infuriatingly-engrossing for about 80% of the time, including the entire last month.
    It might be hard to do directly, but I suspect a fourth huge WM20 match will figure into tonight's storylines: it might not be wise to have Lesnar make another cross-brand appearance (if those become weekly phenomena, they become less special)... nor is it likely that Goldberg will show up (even though Atlanta would be the one place where he SHOULD make an appearance prior to WM, if he was so inclined).  But Lesnar vs. Goldberg is on for WM20, and Steve Austin is the guest ref.  Austin will be in the house tonight, and after having been Speared by Goldberg and F-5'ed by Lesnar in the last 3 weeks, he'll probably have a words to help us figure out where, exactly, he stands....
    And there's a fifth major WM20 match that will be addressed at least tangentially tonight: Kane vs. the Undertaker is confirmed for the PPV, and with two weeks left, I'm sure Taker's got a few more mind games up his sleeve.  Hopefully good ones.  Not like the indoor thunderstorm from two weeks ago.
    Also, let's not forget that last week, Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff were in the middle of a match when Lesnar popped in and caused a non-finish.  Now, is it possible that Vince/Bischoff was just a little distraction they threw out there to provide a canvas for other storylines (like Vince's big announcements and Austin getting punked by Brock) while simultaneously providing a cheap, subliminal plug for the Monday Night War DVD?  Sure, I guess so...  but I gotta think they wouldn't have busted it out if they didn't have SOMEthing solid in mind in terms of a finish.  And what better place would there be for the implied continuation of the RAW/Nitro war than Atlanta, GA, former home of WCW?  I'd keep that in the back of my mind as I watch tonight, if I were you....  it's a unique opportunity for the Fed, should they choose to capitalize on it.
    So there's five WM-caliber feuds, plus the extra issue of Vince/Bischoff, all of which figure to get plenty of time tonight on RAW...  but there's even still MORE that might sneak into the show, depending on how they structure things. Like: the new women's champ is Victoria, and by the looks of things last week, Molly Holly is not planning on sitting idly by after losing her belt...  RVD and Booker T are the new tag champs, but apparently, they WILL be sitting idly by, since Evolution's got Foley/Rock to deal with and no other interesting heel challengers are likely to step up before WM20...  and Miss Jackie and Stacy Keibler will have to be present in some capacity to provide a little T&A while reminding us that they also have a "big" cross-promotional match at WM20 against Torrie Wilson and Sable.
    I feel very strongly that the Fed is gonna bring a strong show tonight.  So check it out.  Or alternately, you can come on back here tomorrow for my RAW Recap, which if I may say so myself, is quite likely to be every bit as freakin' awesome as RAW itself.  Either way's fine with me....
  • Quick step back to last week: the final rating for SD! was a 3.5.  The consistency of SD!'s ratings since New Years' Day is remarkable.  One week, they did a 3.4.  Another, they did a 3.6.  And then there's a whole mess of 3.5's.
    That was enough to edge out RAW in terms of total viewership last week...  but contrary bastards that we are, OO opted to crown RAW as the better of the two shows.  You can get full ratings information (both the Nielsen kind and the critics ratings from OO columnists) in the latest Battle of the Brands.
  • Fans curious about Shawn Michaels' knee injury -- reported as a torn ACL by the Observer and other sources, but secretly thought of as possible hyperbole by certain other cynical assholes -- will want to take note that Michaels was in Mexico late last week, heading up a press conference announcing WWE's first-ever show south of the border (in Monterrey, on April 3).
    Michaels was announced as headlining the show against HHH in a World Title match, saying that it didn't matter if he came in as the champion or challenger because either way, he'd leave Monterrey with the belt.  That's notable for two reasons: (1) HBK's choice of language seems to indicate that Chris Benoit winning the title at WM20 is not likely (or at least, we're not supposed to be considering it likely), and (2) Michaels wouldn't be booked for a major main event like this and carted out for the press conference if he had any intentions of being laid up with knee surgery after WM20.
    I don't feel like getting into a whole big thing about Benoit and the WM20 match right now, and whether or not this announcement means jack squat about that (because, for the most part, I really don't think it does)....  but combine Shawn's strong work in TV matches since his knee injury with word that he's apparently not planning on post-WM knee surgery, and I'm finding it harder and harder to believe the torn ACL scenario.
    Strained, gimpy, whatever you want to call it, I'm sure HBK's knee isn't at 100%...  but I actually think it's structurally impossible for him to have done the things he's been doing the last few weeks if he'd really torn out the ACL...  anybody out there a doctor and want to fill us in?
  • Before I forget, the only other match officially announced for Monterrey at that press conference was Chavo Guerrero defending the Cruiserweight Title against Rey Mysterio.  Again, you could try to add some WM20 spoiler significance to that announcement, but it's probably quite pointless to do so....
    In this case, probably doubly-so.  Chavo vs. Rey isn't on the card because of the title, it's there because both guys are known in Mexico, and will be bigger draws there than they would on whatever corresponding house show SD! runs that night....
  • Last week, we talked about WrestleMania XX, and how it's a five-hour PPV telecast.  It starts one hour earlier than usual (7pm, eastern) and ends one hour later than is customary for WWE PPVs (at midnight).
    And now: it looks like you can pencil in a sixth hour.  On advance program charts, SpikeTV has a 6pm (eastern) edition of Heat scheduled for March 14.  Now, having an hour-long show on before the PPV is one thing... but whether or not this means that WWE is actually going to use that extra hour for an extra match or bonus interviews/angles as they tend to before standard three-hour PPVs is a whole other matter.
    Even more so than usual, I'd expect the pre-WM edition of Heat to be a purely hype-driven hour.  And unfortunately for WWE, I'd also expect that unless they EXPLICITLY tell us ahead of time that my expectation is wrong, 90% of us will probably be watching the NCAA Tournament Selection Special instead of Heat...
  • More about WrestleMania XX weekend...
    It looks like the inductees to the Hall of Fame have been finalized.  The Class of 2004 will include:  Jesse Ventura, Billy Graham, Bob Backlund, Bobby Heenan, Sgt. Slaughter, Tito Santana, and Greg Valentine.
    From a purely wrestling perspective, Backlund, Graham, and Heenan are pretty much unimpeachable choices... all are very deserving: Backlund was the WWWF Champ for the better part of six years in the late 70s and early 80s (two reigns interrupted right in the middle by a "phantom" double switch with Antonio Inoki over in Japan in which Inoki held the title for one week without US fans being any the wiser), and during a comeback in the mid-90s became a top-level heel and even had a third WWF Title reign that was as notable for its brevity as his first were for their longevity. 
    Superstar Billy Graham was also a WWWF Champ, albeit only for about half-a-year before being unseated by Backlund.  However, his loquaciousness as a trash-talking heel was remarkably innovative, and that patter, along with his personal flash/flair, directly inspired the styles of Jesse Ventura, Hulk Hogan, and even Scott Steiner in the present day.
    Bobby Heenan, even as only a manager and sometimes color commentator, was probably more important to the WWF boom of the Hogan Era than... well, anybody not named Hogan. OK, or Roddy Piper.  Yeah, yeah, and a few others, I'm sure.  But seriously, 90% of the ACTUAL WRESTLERS of the era would have been lucky to have been as instrumental to as many major feuds and matches as Heenan.  After Piper turned face, the Fed had trouble finding compelling villains for its always-strong roster of fan favorites centered around Hulk Hogan.  That's where Heenan came in, as a master shit-stirrer and mouthpiece for just about every top-level heel during the period.  The single biggest match of all time is arguably Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant, and Heenan was there.  The single most profitable feud of the 80s was Hogan vs. Paul Orndorff, and guess who was there again guiding Mr. Wonderful's heel turn and making us all hate him?  That's right: the Weasel.
    A step down, you'd be really hard pressed to argue against Sgt. Slaughter and Jesse Ventura.  Slaughter is another former WWF Champ, but his real value was earlier in his career, during the 70s and 80s when, even without a title, he was able to headline shows simply by pressing the right patriotic buttons.  And Jesse, even if you say he's "bigger" because of what happened to him after he got out of wrestling than what he accomplished in the biz, still has a lot to recommend him.  His career as a wrestler was cut short due to health issues, and he could have been right there with Piper, Orndorff, or Andre as Hogan's top foes if not for that...  and he also did manage to re-invent the role of the color commentator, so let's go ahead and give the Body his due.
    Chico Santana and Greg Valentine are both borderline choices.  On one hand, they were integral to my early fandom, first as InterContinental-level performers, later as tag team specialists, and finally as jobbers to the stars.  But on the other, if they hadn't been there, I can't imagine it would have impacted me becoming a fan; neither was really that attention-grabbing, and even in the era of running three shows per night, I doubt either guy was ever tapped to headline a WWF event, not even a C-show.  Still, their resumes are nearly identical on paper, and aren't without a few shining moments.  You take one, you gotta take the other, I guess....  
    There's a really giant dickweed part of me that would rather see the Hall of Fame be a bit more exclusive, and that by saying Tito and the Hammer are HoF'ers, you're setting the bar kinda low.  I mean, of comparable performers (not even getting into the Randy Savages, Bret Harts, Ted DiBiases, etc), you're now saying that Mike Rotundo/IRS and Jacques Rougeau/Mountie are HoF candidates (I think both those guys match Tito/Valentine in terms of combining singles and tag team success), which I'm not sure should be the case.  I mean, by this heuristic, Christian could retire RIGHT NOW and be inducted to the HoF in 20 years...  and I say this not as a knock on how talented or entertaining Christian is, merely as advocacy of how exclusive the Hall should be, but: that ain't right.
    But in any case, barring any late/surprise developments, that's your line-up for the Hall of Fame dinner the night before Mania.  You can also bank on all seven being present at the PPV itself as part of the historic night.
  • Reader norwoodwideright passed along a further update on WWE's plan to do "Stone Cold Beer"...
    An upstate NY brewery has been in talks with WWE and Steve Austin about a possible partnership.  High Falls Brewing Co. (which it turns out is also responsible for the regionally-renowned Genessee adult beverages) has had Austin in for taste tests and everything.  Although a spokesperson stressed that no deal is in place and that they are so serious about pursuing this as a legitimate brand (not a novelty) that they'll only finalize the partnership if both sides are happy with the product, it does sound like things are moving forward and that last week's WWE.com beer survey is more than just idle curiosity on the Fed's part.
    You can check out the entire Rochester newspaper article about the burgeoning relationship -- including a guess that Stone Cold Beer might even be available by this fall -- right here.
  • On Friday, I had what I thought was actually a pretty good column... for a Friday, anyway...  
    Lots of RAW vs. SD! stuff was featured, including a discussion about how Edge is kind of finding himself in the middle of a bit of tug o' war backstage.  He left TV as property of SD!, but the RAW Powers That Be are making a push to have him jump ship....
    As part of my dissertation on what Edge jumping to RAW would be bad, I noted that it'd be foolish for WWE to piss away the obvious return storyline for Edge: namely, getting revenge on the Mystery Attack who knocked him out of commission.  What I DIDN'T bother to note was that I was being very narrow-minded in assuming that the attacker would have been a member of the SD! roster just because Edge was a member of the SD! roster.
    A couple of folks, including the Cubs Fan, called me out on that, reminding me that Edge was KO'ed at the No Way Out PPV last year, which was, conveniently enough, a joint-production.  ANYONE, RAW or SD!, could have punked out Edge.  I still say it makes more sense for that person to have been a member of the SD! roster, since that's where all Edge's main issues were taking place, but hey, you caught me: Edge could very easily jump to RAW and find himself in the "revenge against whoever attacked him" storyline that I thought was only possible on SD!...
  • That just about does it for me.  You know I'm running on fumes when I actually willingly do a bullet point exposing my own ignorance!
    So go on, get outta here; enjoy yourself some RAW, and I'll see you again tomorrow for the Recap or on Wednesday with the news....


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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