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RAW, Rating, Big Hall of Fame News,
Rock, Shaniqua, and Other Midweek Stuff
March 3, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Looks like I should have kept my freaking yapper shut and saved the whole WWE Hall of Fame discussion for today, doesn't it?  Oh well, what's done is done....  

Just read on, and you'll get to enjoy the second straight day of HoF talk, folks:

  • But first, we start with Monday's RAW.
    The Fed really made us sweat it out.  They skipped a perfect chance for Foley and the Rock to run in after the "mid-show main event" match.  Then they had Foley talk about going backstage to call Rocky on the phone...
    But finally, at a few minutes past 11pm (eastern), out sprinted the Rock, off went the roof of the Gwinnett Center, and a notch more entertaining got the WM20 PPV card.
    Even if the rest of the show had been lacking, that finish would have gone a long way to making Monday's RAW a fun and memorable one.  But that wasn't even really an issue: despite a few sluggish moments, RAW was pretty solid, through and through, with Rock's appearance putting the icing on the cake.
    As is increasingly the case, I don't feel like repeating myself here today, after I already dissected the show in the RAW Recap, yesterday.  So I vote that you check that out.  It's good.  If you saw the show and want the analysis, I'm pretty awesome at that.  If you missed the show, and want the details on what actually took place, I don't scrimp on those, either.  I rule!  Read the Recap!
    But because I know about 75% of you are resistant to reading recaps of shows you already saw, here's a Cliff's Notes version of what I thought about the show, as broken down by what WM20 feuds were winners or losers....
    Big Winner: Rock 'n' Sock vs. Evolution.  Duh.  They could have spring Rocky earlier in the show and had more segments with him and stuff, since it wasn't like it was a REAL surprise.  But instead they went the other way, built up the delicious anticipation, even had me worrying that I'd end up looking like a jack-ass for putting a picture of the Rock up on the main page on Monday morning.  But then they delivered, and it was good.
    Second Winner: Victoria vs. Molly Holly.  Seriously.  I thought the Fed blew it by doing the title change in a throw-away RAW match where Victoria didn't even pin the champ last.  Instead, doing the out-of-left-field hair vs. title gimmick means this match will have a lot more heat and fan interest.  And it'll still be every bit as well worked as it would have been playing to dead silence.
    Bronze Medal: HHH vs. HBK vs. Benoit.  They didn't introduce any new concepts on Monday, but they really underscored the fact that this is a genuine three-way feud and not two babyfaces vs. HHH.  Nice work.
    Loser: the tag team division.  Hell, if they'd just had RVD/Booker win a re-match against Evolution, or had Evolution show ANY sign of anger at losing the belts before moving on to deal with Foley/Rock, maybe this wouldn't reek of so much pointlessness.  You could have had champs who said, "We took care of them, so who's next, bitches?"...   but no, Evolution just says "What tag belts?" and leaves RVD and Booker with nothing to do but watch three random teams of varying appeal line-up for a four-corners tag title match.  Yee frickin' haw.  The four-way gimmick has the taint of desperation and the fact that it resulted in that bland and over-long Jindrak/Cade vs. Hurricane/Rosey match on Monday didn't help....
    Sort of loser: Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon, or Goldberg vs. Lesnar, or however you want to categorize that opening segment.  I mean, I realize that Goldberg's situation is making it hard to use him as he should be in a WM-caliber feud, and I realize that Austin vs. McMahon really tore shit up back in '99, so reviving it probably seems easy and sensible.  But this just didn't seem like the most constructive possible direction for Austin/Vince/Goldberg/Lesnar.  The pointless fluffery of another vaguely cheesy Austin vs. Vince vehicular stunt PROBABLY gives way to that being Brock Lesnar who stole Austin's Justice Buggy, which might prove to be useful, so...  I don't know.  I'm not asshole enough to say the Austin/Vince stuff was lame on Monday, but nor am I confident enough that the prospects for the future are worth a vote of confidence from Yours Truly.  So for now, yeah, "sort of loser" is ambiguous enough a label....
    Pushes: Jericho vs. Christian is on, but not really with the fireworks or drama I would have liked to see...  Kane vs. Taker continued with an understated bit of good-spooky, which is probably the best we can hope for...  and the Evening Gown match essentially sells itself, so no matter how stilited I thought Rico's 60 second speech sounded, it doesn't matter because they can't make us UNinterested in seeing bare ass.... 
    Still an easy Thumbs Up call on the whole, though.  Remember, Read the Recap for the full report!
  • The rating for Monday's show was a 3.8.  That's down a barely-significant 0.1 from the week before, but is still keeping RAW a notch or two stronger than where it was late last year.
    And there goes the support for the school of thought that says the internet or "smart" underground can really impact much of anything in terms of wrestling's mainstream performance.  We spent a week falling all over ourselves to talk about Rocky showing up, and it's not like Joe Averagefan turned out in droves to watch it happen....
  • The real test of whether its our impotence or some distressing reduction in Rock's appeal that resulted in a slight contraction of RAW's rating will come next week....
    Rock WILL be on RAW.  We probably could have figured that out for ourselves, but WWE is going out of its way to make sure that everybody knows.  They even did a press release confirming Rock will be a part of next week's RAW.  Hear that, Joe Averagefan?
    And then the next week is WrestleMania XX, and then... well, and then it's not quite clear, yet.  The original plan was for Rocky to have shown up a few weeks earlier than he did, then be gone right after WM20.  Now, I'm hearing a mild buzz that Rock might try to stick around for a few more weeks after Mania... not as any sort of a "make good" for coming late to the dance, but just because if he stays in the spotlight, it might help the April 9 release of "Walking Tall."   Pure pragmatism...
    You'll remember that when "The Rundown" opened last September, Rocky was not a part of WWE TV...  and even though the movie turned out to be very enjoyable (it was well reviewed by critics as cynical as The Me!), it scored one big week at the box office and then faded.  It didn't come close to matching the box office performance of the much-more-obnoxious "Scorpion King," which hit screens in early 2002 when Rock was a part of the historical feud against Hulk Hogan (and then followed up by being a part of the angle that turned Hogan babyface immediately afterwards).
    Keeping the Rock around for 2 or 3 extra Mondays might not guarantee success for "Walking Tall," but if the parties involved are thinking it might help, you can't blame them....  FYI: don't go jumping to huge conclusions based on my little report here.  For one, the extra couple weeks aren't confirmed.  And for two, if it does happen, there's about zero chance of Rocky making it through to the RAW-only PPV in April for a second marquee match because he'll have to be hitting the road to promoting "Walking Tall" (which would basically tie him up through the end of April) and then getting started on the "Spy Hunter" project shortly afterwards (which last I heard starts full-time filming in early June, and which will probably require Rock for pre-production work prior to that).
  • Guess I better get back to that Hall of Fame thing I mentioned in the teaser...
    Suffice to say that radio around me (and messageboards I frequent) have been buzzing the past day...  Tuesday was notable for Cincinnati Reds fans, as two of their most famous/infamous, simultaneously disgraced/beloved figures were in the news.
    Marge Schott, well, you don't care about her, probably... she owned the Reds for a really long time.  She did some cool things.  She did some questionable things.  And yesterday, she died.  
    But Pete Rose....  oh, Pete.  He went and accepted a "nomination" to the WWE Hall of Fame.
    Now, Rose has made a grand total of 3 wrestling appearances in his life, and each one ended with him flat on his back.  But with (at least the first two of) those appearances being really fun and entertaining and with the added storyline of Rose's inability to get his deserving spot in baseball's Hall of Fame, the induction to WWE's HoF makes a perverse sort of sense.
    Of course, the announcement has everybody flapping their gums, but almost nobody making any sense.  A lot of people think Pete is tarnishing his image and baseball's image by accepting an appearance fee to be a part of WM20 weekend.  Those people apparently didn't see the footage of Pete (after accepting an appearance fee) getting Rikishi's ass shoved in his face.  Some other people are making the more subtle argument that this announcement shows that Pete has lost touch with how to play the political, self-promotional game and is unintentionally undermining his chances of getting into the Baseball Hall by stooping to be a part of pro wrestling.  Those people obvious have chosen to ignore that Pete's such a capable self-promoter that he just released a best selling book a while back and now has YOU all talking about him again, and ALWAYS has 75% of baseball fans thinking (correctly) that Bud Selig is an idiot.
    Hell, there are even a few people on the other side of the equation, people who think that WWE shouldn't have anything to do with Pete Rose.  Some are jokers who act like Rose is even slimier and shadier than Vince McMahon, but some are actual wrestling fans who don't understand what Pete did to deserve induction into a wrestling Hall of Fame.
    So here I'll stand, in the middle of the maelstrom, to announce what SHOULD have been obvious to all: THAT THIS IS A GREAT CHANCE TO MAKE PETE-ROSE-BETS-ON-WRESTLING JOKES!  Ha!  They practically write themselves!
    OK, seriously, so the simple fact is this: this is a marketing move, and you've all been had.  Yeah, there's definitely a part of me (the same dickhead part of me that did the anti-Tito and anti-Valentine rant on Monday) that wishes wrestling could have a real, legitimate Hall of Fame.  But you know what? Wrestling's fake, a marketing phenomenon... so what's so awful about using a particularly effective marketing phenomenon as part of a Hall of Fame induction ceremony?
    I at least see the point of view of the wrestling fans.  The first two classes of bitchers and whiners, I just have to laugh at, pityingly.  Pete Rose at WM20 has nothing to do with baseball, has nothing to do with forty-two-some-odd-hundred hits, and if you think it does, you're an idiot.  Then again, you're probably not alone: apparently the class of idiots who keep sports radio a going concern seems to be quite large.  But honestly, I think that most people can be broken down into two classes: (1) those who (like me) are Pete Rose proponents, who view his achievements on the diamond as worthy of the Hall of Fame, and (2) those who (unlike me) are Pete Rose opponents, who already view his off-the-field exploits as so criminal that he can never be in the Hall.
    Maybe, MAYBE, in between there are a narrow band of complete dolts who are on the fence or so easily swayed raving loons that Rose at WM20 actually affects their opinions on his Hall of Fame worth...  but I don't think those morons are here reading this.  They're probably glued to the AM radio dial, nodding their head in agreement at the latest theory that puts a steroid-feuled Babe Ruth Zombie right in the middle of the ARod/Jeter Shortstop Controversy that will only be solved once Pete is re-instated to manage the Yankees with Vince McMahon as his evil bench coach.  Or something.
    Bottom line: Pete, by appearing at the WWE Hall of Fame, is doing nothing anywhere NEAR as bad as he's done in the past, is doing nothing that has anything to do with his baseball career, and is just gonna be a part of a spectacle that'll probably be really entertaining in and of itself.   
    I think I forgot to mention it in my over-long diatribe there, but as part of Pete's induction, he IS confirmed as also being at the WM20 PPV on Sunday, as well...
  • Obviously, I didn't mention Pete in my Monday Hall of Fame bullet point...  it's kind of too bad I pulled the trigger early, but the deal is that I'd been hearing for a month or so that WWE had some kind of surprise plan in store for the HoF, but over the last 2 weeks or so, it became increasingly obvious that it wasn't gonna be Bret Hart or Bruno Sammartino (who were presented to me as the likely choices).
    So with them off the radar, I figured, "OK, so the Fed's screwed, I can just run with these other Hall of Fame names"....  and then they go and spring Pete on us.
    On Monday, I named seven inductees.  For reasons unexplained, Bob Backlund is NOT on the final list, despite the fact that I'd heard he was going to be and the fact that he is, by any measure, VERY deserving of induction.
    On Tuesday, WWE named a Class of 2004 with eleven names: Jesse Ventura, Superstar Billy Graham, Bobby Heenan, Sgt. Slaughter, Tito Santana, and Greg Valentine are the six you already know about.  Pete Rose makes seven.  And then there's also Harley Race, Junkyard Dog, Big John Studd, and Don Muraco.
    Go back to Monday if you want my thoughts on the first six.  Go back 6 paragraphs if you want my thoughts on Pete.  About the additional four, though, read on....
    Of the bunch, John Studd is probably the closest to a no-brainer in purely WWF/E terms.  His headline feud against Andre the Giant was huge in the mid-80s, and was a big drawing point of the first WrestleMania.  Andre was Andre, an amazing phenom.  But at least some of his fame came because John Studd was there to be a foil and a fellow "giant."  My tendancy to romanticize the old timey heels who, I realize in retrospect, made me cheer for old timey babyfaces back when I was a kid means I got absolutely no problem with seeing Big John Studd in the Hall.
    JYD and Don Muraco are kind of in the same class as Valentine and Tito... valuable mid-card role players for WWE during my very earliest stages of fandom.  But if anything, I see JYD and Muraco as a notch more worthy than Tito and Valentine.  Muraco was actually more valuable to the WWF than I realized in my youth: I caught him pretty much as he started a feud with my first favorite wrestler, Ricky Steamboat (in fact, the two headlined the very first live wrestling event I ever attended!), but before making his home on the mid-card and doing entertaining fluff like "Fuji Vice," Muraco had been an early IC Champ and was, at times, the Fed's #2 or #3 heel during the early 80s.  So yeah, I guess I endorse The Magnificent One, as well.  JYD, on the babyface side, tasted main events of B-shows, and even got shots where he teamed with Hogan and stuff on A-shows; though he never held singles gold, I always remember thinking of him as a bigger star than Tito ever was.  And if you want to consider non-WWF efforts, then JYD becomes a no brainer.  Prior to coming to the Fed, the Dog tore things up as a major draw in the mid-south and other territories.
    Which brings us to Harley Race.  If this is a WWF/E Hall of Fame, Race has no business in there.  He showed up in the Fed in late '86, a distinguished NWA mega-star but also already in his mid-40s.  The WWF put him in a crown and cape, called him the "King," and had him do a few upper-mid-card feuds (including against the late JYD) before sacrificing Race to Hulk Hogan in late '87 in a symbolic "WWF Champ Better than NWA Champ" feud.  After that, his manager Bobby Heenan gave up on him, and Race had about a 2 month "comeback" as a babyface against the new "King," Haku.  Then it was curtains for Race in the WWF.  If that sounds like a Hall of Fame career to you, I'd LOVE if you could pack up a little bit of whatever it is you're smoking for me.
    But before that WWF run, Race was an 8-time NWA champ in the 70s and early 80s (a time when that was THE belt in the entire wrestling business), and a very strong technical performer.  After that WWF run, Race might even have made a case for a completely different kind of HoF credential, as he became one of WCW's top heel managers for a four-year span.  You count this stuff, and Harley Race is an easy choice for a WRESTLING Hall of Fame. 
    It's an issue I'd kind of like to hear the Fed clarify.  If they adopted the legacy of the NWA/WCW when they bought its assets, and are gonna start inducting its stars, then they've got some interesting choices ahead.  I mean, if the buy-outs of the last two years means the WWE Hall of Fame is basically an All of Wrestling Hall of Fame, then I can't see how you wouldn't put Ricky Steamboat and Terry Funk ahead of Tito/Valentine/Muraco/JYD, for instance...
    But now I'm really getting off target.  All I really meant to do here was lay-out the 11 man Class of 2004 for the WWE Hall of Fame: Nine wrestlers of varying worth (depending on your criteria), one manager (the very deserving Bobby Heenan), and one Pete Rose.
  • If you're looking for them and can't find them, here's the Spoilers for the next few days of WWE TV shows...
  • I've had some people ask about Shaniqua and why she's not on TV...  and I apologize for not filling you in sooner.
    The deal is this: she's spending more time in Louisville, training with OVW, and has been for the last month or so.  The Fed's seeing if they can't get her polished up enough to join the women on the RAW roster...

    I heard about this, and just assumed it was in addition to (not in place of) her duties on SD!... for the first week or two, the Bashams weren't exactly ubiquitous enough on TV that I noticed she was absent (and if I had, I'd have chalked it up to selling the beating she took in the PPV tag match last month).  But now she's going on 3 weeks absent, and people are asking...
    And it turns out there definitely is a school of thought that the next time you see Shaniqua, it'll be on RAW.  Personally, I think the Bashams are so bland without her that they should try to keep her around on SD! until they're 100% sure they want to pull the trigger on a jump, but... well, what do I know?
  • In a possibly-related development: Gail Kim's doing OK healthwise, and might be under consideration for a move to SD!....  which could explain why she's not been back on RAW, yet. 
    No doubt, Gail's got more text-book eye-candy appeal than Shaniqua, which seems to be the order of business for SD! divas...  but for all the Jeff Hardy/blown-spot jokes, I also thought she had enough upside/dedication that she'd be an in-ring asset to the women's roster before too long, so...
    We'll just have to sit back and see....
  • According to an announcement on the Major League Wrestling website, MLW has been sold to an Asian-based company called WGO Properties.
    Given that MLW basically threw in the towel and suspended operations last month, the word on the street is that this is probably just a move for this WGO company to get access to MLW's video library (which features American and Japanese wrestlers who are all arguably more popular in Japan than in the US).
    Don't go expecting new MLW tour dates, is pretty much what I'm saying...
  • I got a few e-mail from people after my item on Monday regarding Shawn Michaels' knee and how I was increasingly disbelieving about the "torn ACL" report that made the rounds 10 days ago.
    The two most-insightful were from reader Robin Beer who suffered an ACL injury a few years ago, and from reader bdevilz4376 who is "studying to be a doctor" (don't know if that means med school or a few anatomy classes or what, but he helped).  The doctor-y analysis is that the knee would be very unstable with even a partially torn ACL, and that Michaels should at least be wearing a brace if he's wrestling with that kind of injury (which HBK doesn't seem to be, at least not the big, bulky, outside Austin-type one).
    The first-hand ACL injury account backs that up.  Starting with a minor injury, Robin had weakness and random buckling doing even the simplest things.  And the minor injury set the stage for a later full-blown tear, so Robin thinks there's no way Michaels would be wrestling the matches he is on TV prior to WM with even a mild injury that could turn into a Grade 3 tear and take him out of the WM main event... much less being able to wrestle them without random collapsing and buckling.  Which is pure speculation, but which sure makes a lot of sense to me.
    So let the other diagnoses begin.  Best guess among these two: that somebody in the wrestling newsletter business doesn't know the structure of the knee and just assumes that there's only one ligament in the thing (the anterior cruciate ligament, which is so sexy and gets all the press), and so tossed the ACL into a report.  Meantime, there's the medial collateral ligament (MCL) that could be injured, repaired with rest and rehab, and even worked through without any major impact on mobility... and I think that's the one that Victoria dealt with last year....
    But dammit, I'm no doctor, so let's just drop it, OK?
  • Alright, so when I'm playing doctor, that probably means I'm just about through.  At least, if I'm playing doctor and it's with a dude's knee....
    I'm not sure, but I HOPE I'll see you again on Friday.  It'll depend on whether there's anything significant to talk about that I decide to squeeze out a column before I ditch town on Friday evening.  And secondarily on whether or not I've got stuff to run in my place.
    Maybe I'll get the Road to WM feature updated and ready to go by Friday... or maybe Erin "As Seen on TV" Anderson will have a column... or maybe WWE will announce the first ever Reanimated Corpse WrestleMania 1 Re-Match between Andre and Studd and I'll have Big Newz for a column of my own...
    You'll just have to come back and find out!


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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