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This is Your RAW, WM Hype Update,
Sex Sting Gets Ugly, and A Wrestling Death
March 8, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


You look at me, and you see an obsessed jack-ass who went out of town for 2 days to follow his second-tier basketball team to a meaningless road game against a third-tier opponent.  Although the game was in Pittsburgh, I'll refrain from making a "fifth-tier city" joke.  Mostly because I don't know any other place I could have gone and gotten a ridiculous sandwich that had french fries, about three handfuls of bacon, egg, and cheese all tossed into a deep fat fryer for my co-mingled salivation/horror.  Then they put some cole slaw and a tomato on there so I'd have my vegetables.  I think the place was Primenti Brothers (or something like that), if you're a fellow life-shortening enthusiast.  But god was it delicious.

Anyway, my main point was that you look at my choice of weekend entertainment, and scoff.  But I look at it as being a part of over 1000 Flyer Fans (out of a crowd of less than 5000) who took over an opposing team's gym, cheered our boys to victory, and gave ourselves some momentum heading into a possible showdown in less than a week against the undefeated, #1-ranked St. Joseph's Hawks.  We both have two tough games to get through before such a showdown would take place here in Dayton....  but I've seen St. Joe's play enough to believe in them.  And I just got done seeing what a crew of Flyer Fanatics can do to help boost our boys up, and in our Arena, that effect will be magnified a dozen times over.  I'm not saying we can beat St. Joe's; I fear and respect them too much to say that.  But I'd relish the opportunity to try them again.

I have never been a part of a game of this magnitude -- #1 ranked opponent, conference tournament final, possibly being the team to ruin an undefeated season adding spice to a rivalry that will continue for years -- and in five days, it could be coming to the D-Rena just a mile down the road from me.  You know what?  The co-mingled salivation/horror I felt towards that sandwich in Pittsburgh is a much-muted version of what I'm feeling when I think ahead to next Saturday.

What, you think there's something else going on next weekend I should care about more?  Ah, dammit, you're probably right:

  • That's right, kids: it's WrestleMania week.
    For OO, that means that tomorrow will be the official launch of the ever-popular four-part Road to WrestleMania feature.  Tomorrow, it's the year-by-year-summaries.  Wednesday, it'll be winners and losers and me using way too many numbers and stats.  Thursday is for oddball trivia and other obscure observations.  And Friday will be the only WM20 Preview you'll need to read.
    But for today, it means the final RAW before Mania, and the Fed is not skimping on the hype.  In what's gonna be one of the Rock's last dozen WWE TV appearances before his contract expires next year and puts his wrestling future in serious jeopardy, the Fed is finally playing a trump card they've been holding for years: one of RAW's highest rated (non-death-related) segments ever was Mick Foley's "This is Your Life, Rocky" skit.  Tonight, the sequel: the Rock will present "This is Your Life, Mick."
    Of course, fewer than half the fans who watched wrestling back in 1999 are still around today, so it's not like there's any chance of sniffing anything much higher than a 4.0 rating for the re-do... and the ugly truth is that time has seriously softened our view of the original "This is Your Life, Rocky" segment.  It's beloved by all, today, or so it seems.  But that's only because of WWE's revisionist history, which presents a heavily-edited (and therefore, much tighter and funnier and not at all obnoxious) version of the segment as The Way It Was.

    And it wasn't that way at all.  The original segment was good for about 10 minutes, and then it got bad.  So bad, I wound up doing some of my trademarked over-reactive ranting and raving two days later.  But for every time I have over-reacted to stuff like that (*ahem*car-battery-to-the-testicles*ahem*), I sometimes actually, you know, get one right.  One of my proudest calls EVER is when I said (in September 1999) that:
    "As a stand-alone comedy segment, this should have been tightened up to about 10 minutes.  Both the Rock and Mankind are funny guys, and I'm sure this was more their doing than the creative team's.  But somebody should have stepped in and pointed out that the hard part of writing comedy is going back and editing yourself so that's it's actually funny all the way through.  Hell, I would have cut the segment off after the high school sweetheart bit; the Rock could hit a Sky Twister Press 45 minutes into the greatest World Title match of all time, and he will never pop the crowd like he did by turning the phrase 'poon-tang your ass on outta here' at exactly the right moment on Monday.  He should have stopped while he was ahead, because it only went downhill from there."
    Today, you will not see a version of "This is Your Life, Rocky" that doesn't end in EXACTLY the spot where I said it should have.  Forgotten forever is the next 10 minutes of crap that included Yurple the Clown and Jim Ross doing one of his wink-wink-nudge-nudge-"I know this sucks, bear with us, folks" secret code messages to us smart fans.  Vast stretches of the preceding material are also cut from today's canonical version (the economics teacher and his high school coach).  What's left is maybe 5-6 minutes long, and what do you know, it's really tight and funny. I am so smart, I am so smart, S-M-R-T, I mean...   
    Actually, my point is not to pat myself on the back, here.  It's to say that just because the Fed has spent the last weekend trying to use their romanticized, non-sucky version of "This is Your Life, Rocky" as some sort of reason to tune into tonight's "This is Your Life, Mick," doesn't mean you should be getting your hopes up.  It could be very funny.  It'll almost CERTAINLY have a few thigh-slappers. 
    But it might also include Yurple.  And if it does and she doesn't eat a Rock Bottom, we could be in for a long night.  Rock 'n' Sock vs. Evolution basically sells itself just because it's so special seeing Rock involved in a match; they don't have to do much beyond a skit (of possibly-dubious entertainment value) and MAYBE an Evolution run-in to get fans up for the WM20 match....
    So get fired up for "This is Your Life" at your own risk.
    The rest of RAW tonight...
    Almost every marquee match at WM20 is RAW-centric.  Even the cross-promotional feuds seem like they have more oomph on Monday's.  On that front, the big one is Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg, in what has been one of the most awkward-feeling build-ups that I can ever recall.  Lesnar and Goldberg have been on the same show maybe 4 times ever.  The actual active feud here SEEMS like it's more Lesnar vs. Steve Austin.  And yet, there's enough good will built up that "Goldberg" chants still surface at the wholly appropriate times.  This is one of those deals where I know I'm not explaining myself well, but I hope my point is somehow getting across...
    I guess what I mean is that even though it's Lesnar vs. Goldberg at WM20 in five days, tonight I expect wall-to-wall Lesnar vs. Austin with the Stone Cold Justice Buggy involved in a major way.  And it'll be fun and entertaining and won't feel wrong until you actually stop to think about it.  
    Also: the Undertaker's displays of Spookiness have been limited to RAW, and tonight's his big chance to make one final display of cool, good-spooky before his return at WM20.  Kane won't make it through the night without SOMEthing happening to him, anyway.
    Moving down, two additional matches to be emphasized tonight will be RAW-only feuds.  The big one is Triple H vs. Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels with the big gold on the line.  Last week, our story advancement was an underscoring of just how little Benoit and Michaels like each other, leading to them both getting KO'ed by HHH.  I kinda like that vibe: the fan favorites can't get along, leading to HHH seeming like the favorite to retain heading into the match.  It should make for a win by either Michaels or Benoit at the PPV that much sweeter.
    And then there's Chris Jericho vs. Christian.  Last week, things ignited with Christian doing the expected "Trish ruined our friendship, I did it for your own good" riff, while Jericho did the generic Babyface o' Rage run-in in response...  hopefully this week, we'll get something with a little more depth.  Maybe with Trish back on TV this week, we'll get some help on that front: some added tension from just one more week of trying to sell us on the Just Friends act, one week of "I'll get that no good Christian because it's the right thing to do, not because I have any non-Platonic feelings towards you, Trish," one week of teasing us along since it's obvious to even the densest idiot in the audience that Trish and Jericho are the only ones believing this Just Friends crap anyway...  
    Then we move down another notch to two final RAW-only matches.  Thanks to the cross-promotional things, they are only #6 and #7 on the depth chart.  But Victoria vs. Molly Holly, at least, should have some sizzle to it due to Molly's hair being on the line.  I'm less sanguine about the lazy four-way tag title match, but RVD and Booker have enough star power that they should be able to carry that reasonably well in the absence of anything even vaguely resembling a storyline.
    And then, for the sake of completion: #8 Most Important Issue tonight is another cross-promotional one, the Playboy Evening Gown Catfight Whatever You Want To Call It Match.  I said it last week, I'll say it again: tits and ass don't need any additional sell job.  Another 90 second cameo for Stacy and Jackie like last week's is all they need to do to remind us that that match is happening.
    So check out RAW tonight, or come on back here tomorrow for the Recap and analysis....
  • The final rating for last week's SD! held steady from the prelim rating: it did a 3.3.  That's down 0.2 from the preceding week (and in fact, SD! had been on almost a 2-month streak of consecutive 3.5 performances).
    After my aside comment last week, I did get some e-mails from folks in markets where SD! was pre-empted last week, including Boston, so I was right to suspect that could be a reason behind the lower rating....
  • The Rob Feinstein/sex-sting story got a bit more bizarre over the weekend.
    Even as I off-hand-mentioned some minor backlash against the media/internet sting operation on the grounds that it stank of entrapment, I guess the groundwork was being laid for a response that wasn't quite so sickeningly bleeding-heart.  The authorities and local community are apparently really upset with the Philadelphia NBC affliliate that teamed up with the Perverted-Justice.com website to do the operation.  I guess the "sting house" was in a neighborhood with two middle schools, which didn't sit well with parents who let their kids walk to school.  The logic goes that the TV station brought sexual predators into their neighborhood, I guess.  Charges could even be filed against the TV station.  That makes no sense to me (I mean, logically, wouldn't perverts desiring sex with teenage boys now be much LESS LIKELY to go anywhere near the house where three of their ilk were nabbed?), but apparently it's a very real investigation that could have very real repercussions on those involved in the sting.  Here's the Yahoo News Story that I saw yesterday.
    By comparison, Feinstein and the other two men who were lured to a house with promises of hooking up with a 14-year-old have not been charged with anything (although one is now the subject of a military investigation). 
    I don't want to get into a whole big thing here, and I grant that this was clearly a ratings stunt, not some altruistic campaign to reduce child molestation in the Philadelphia area, but still...  I don't know, this doesn't seem right.  But if this wasn't a wrestling story on Friday, it's even less of one now, so let's just move along to something else....
  • Some further details/clarifications about the WrestleMania Hype Machine, also as discussed here on Friday....
    For one: the Big Show is definitely on Conan, and that's gonna be on Friday.  For two: it'll be HHH that does Regis, and that's gonna be Wednesday morning.  For three: I still don't know about Stern, but as of last week, those in the know assumed the Fed would get somebody on there for Thursday or Friday morning (or maybe both). 
    And a new one: apparently the rules are different for The Rock, and he WILL be flown out to LA to do promotion for WM20.  He'll be on with that hack Leno on Thursday night.  Since this'll be doubling as Rocky's "Walking Tall" promotional appearance on the Tonight Show, wrestling talk might be sparse.
    And then one I totally forgot to mention, since it was taped three weeks ago: on Saturday night, MadTV will have Jericho, Trish, Eddie Guerrero, and the Big Show as guests.  Head-to-head with Confidential!  Which one will I watch?!?  Probably neither!  I'll be doing something Flyers/St. Joe's related!  
  • During a weekend promotional appearance in Toledo, OH, John Cena was wearing a soft-cast on his hand/wrist.  When asked by longtime OO Reader ConcreteTG about it, Cena said he had broken a bone in that match against A-Train last week on SD!, but that he was still absolutely a go for WM20 against the Big Show.
  • Missing his promotional appearances over the weekend: Randy Orton.  WWE.com reported that fell to some generic illness after last week's tapings, and would be missing the dates....
    But over the weekend, one source told me it was a bit more serious than that, and that Orton will actually be having his tonsils removed after WM20.  Might miss a week of TV, might not.
  • Also from the weekend circuit: weekend RAW shows were very well received, as HHH vs. HBK vs. Benoit headlined around the horn.  The main events went 25 minutes plus, and were really excellent, so already fans were considering it a harbinger of good thigns at WM20.
    They tested out some different endings, too... I mean, HHH won across the board.  But at one show, Michaels and Benoit ended the night with a handshake and grudging respect.  At another, Michaels superkicked Benoit to finish things off.  They are leaving options open, maybe testing the market to see how fans will react....  
    I'll say this: I know we started getting ourselves worked up into a Benoit lather once it was obvious he was jumping to RAW.  But I'm starting to like the idea of Michaels winning on Sunday, with maybe a light heelish turn vibe, setting up Benoit going over HBK at the next PPV (in Canada).  Then again, I was vocal in my support of it being HBK/Benoit one-on-one for WM20, too (instead of this unnecessary three-way, and then you could have had HHH be Orton's partner against Rock/Mick, which would have been so much cooler), so maybe I just want to see that match.  We'll have to see...
  • There's still this low-level buzz going around that maybe WWE has more in store for WM20 in terms of surprise appearances than what they are letting on....  that they are using Jesse Ventura and Pete Rose as distractions, or something.
    I wish I could say 100% that was true...  but I think that this is maybe a bit more of a case where we are letting or fandom or naiveté affect us.  And I say that, even with a few people in the biz who couch it as "I think maybe Vince has something up his sleeve" but what they are really saying without realizing it is that "I think it'd be neat-o keen if Hulk Hogan showed up."
    The "big three" in terms of speculation: (1) Bret Hart, who has been writing about WM in his Calgary Sun column the past couple weeks, is known to have opened a dialogue with WWE, and will probably do something with the Fed (at the very least, a DVD project) down the line.  (2) Roddy Piper, who is already known to be in town for other WM-weekend events.  And (3) Hogan, because he's Hogan and it's WM at MSG.
    Just going on feel, I'd say Bret's not gonna be there. Unlike the others, his return to TV should be handled with hype instead of as a surprise (it's a function of how he left the company) to get the maximum impact.  That WWE hasn't mentioned him tells me Bret's not gonna be at Mania this weekend.  Hogan and Piper are both in a boat where they could be brought out as surprises for a one-time deal, and it'd be pretty cool/effective, and between them, obviously Piper's established travel plans make him kind of suspicious.  But who knows?  Wouldn't you rather that WWE's surprises be, you know, SURPRISING, anyway?
    On the other hand, it looks like I got fed a bum bill of goods on that Mr. T rumor a few weeks back... so you can go back to NOT expecting any fool-pitying on the show.  Maybe T can be the second "celebrity inductee" into the HoF in a future year?  He deserves it AT LEAST as much as Rose does....
  • This one's kind of sketchy, but I know it's making the rounds, and from the sounds of things, it actually does have some teeth even though it might be getting slightly blown out of proportion...
    Brock Lesnar's situation with WWE is apparently getting more and more tense by the week.  I guess one story going around is that Lesnar and Vince McMahon finally had a discussion of sorts last week after the South Africa tour, and that maybe it didn't go so well, and now the Fed is thinking about Lesnar also being gone from WWE after WrestleMania (same as his opponent, Goldberg).
    I'm almost certain this is hyperbole, and in any case, I think Lesnar signed the "Mark Henry Special" when he decided to get into the biz a few years ago (basically, a 10 year contract, of which there'd be like 7 or 8 years left, except that in Lesnar's case, he turned out to be worth the investment).
    The way the situation was presented to me is that Lesnar, in the last few months, has sort of fallen under Steve Austin's wing a bit (which is probably why Austin's involved in the Lesnar/Goldberg storyline, and why Austin might be willing to stay involved and maybe boost Lesnar up by doing a one-on-one storyline with him down the road).  And maybe he'll take a page out of Austin's book, and after WM20, take some time off to de-compress and get his head back on straight so that he can come back and be happy to be performing again. 
    And even then, that's only a possibility.  Lesnar is still booked on shows post-WM...  but even if he did "pull an Austin," the Fed would still expect him back after a few months.  If things really are this bad, it might be an inconvenience to SD! in the short term (Lesnar and Undertaker were supposed to feud, I gather), but things should be just fine in the long term....
  • Last note for today is sad news...
    Ray "Hercules" Hernandez died on Saturday, apparently in his sleep of a heart attack.  In one of those stupid things you remember from your childhood, I know Hercules' birthday was May 7 (because he and Tito Santana -- May 10 -- were the WWF superstars closest to my birhtday), but I'm not actually sure how old the guy was.  He debuted in the late 70's, so I'd guess around 50-ish, plus or minus five years.
    In any case, that's still on the young side to be passing away in your sleep.
    I know Hercules started in the south/Florida territories before finally making his way to the WWF in 1985.  There, his chisled physique made him an instantly credible challenger to the Fed's jacked-up babyfaces, and he spent a year or two as a upper-mid-card heel.  His most memorable feud came against Billy Jack Haynes in a battle of Full Nelsons (the two went to a draw at WM3).
    Then, as was the curse of top level heels, Hercules got fed to Hulk Hogan, and became an also ran afterwards...  by the early 90s, he formed a tag team with one-time jobber Paul Roma, and "Power and Glory" actually had a really sweet finishing move (the PowerPlex, which consisted of Hercules hitting a superplex just as Roma came off the opposite turnbuckle with a big splash).  During a period when I was just getting comfortable with the idea of cheering for the bad guys, I remember taking a shine to Hercules and Roma's team.  So of course, they were deemed disposable by the WWF, and were fed to the Legion of Doom upon LOD's arrival in the Fed.
    Hercules eventually put on a mask and wrestled as Super Invader for WCW for a year or two in the early-/mid-90s, as well, and that wound up being pretty much his last hurrah on a national stage. I think he might have stayed active in Japan for a few more years beyond that, but couldn't tell you with certainty when his last match took place.
    And with that, another one of the familiar faces of my earliest fandom is gone.  Condolences to Hercules Hernandez's family, fans, and friends.
  • That's it today.  I'll be back with the RAW Recap and Part One of the Road to WM tomorrow, so 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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