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Back to Business: RAW, Lesnar, Controversy
Overshadows Mania, and Other News... 
March 15, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Let me spin you a tale: one of my favorite weekends ever was one back in grade school.  On a Saturday, my grade school basketball team won its game, and I scored 2 points; "eh, who cares?" you mock me, but consider that the B-team to which I was assigned won ONLY THAT GAME in all three years I was on it, and the final was 8-5, so I was pretty proud of being responsible for 25% of our total offense in a rare win!  Then on a Sunday, I saw my first ever WrestleMania (#3), live on a jumbo TV at Dayton's Hara Arena, front row in the bowl, directly in front of the screen; Steamboat/Savage, Hogan/Andre, it ruled.  Then on Monday, I sat at home with the family and watched as my Indiana Hoosiers (well, at the time, they were my parents' Indiana Hoosiers, but I was along for the ride, and had even fashioned myself as a Young Steve Alford) won one of the most exciting NCAA Championship games ever on a last second shot by Keith Smart.

Pretty awesome.  And I started to feel it again this past weekend.  All the pieces were in place: a chance for the Dayton Flyers to face St. Joe's, an A-10 Title, and then WrestleMania XX!  So of course, first St. Joe's dropped before we could get to them.  But the team that knocked them off -- the vile, hated, putrid Musketeers of Xavier -- are our arch-nemeses, so there would still be something very satisfying about beating them for the A-10 crown, right?  And we STILL had tons of shocks, swerves, and surprises coming at WM!

Didn't quite work out.  Instead of NCAA glory for my present-day favorite team, Dayton got shellacked by the hated Muskies in the second half, and was stuck limping into the Big Dance as an at-large team.  Then, instead of personal glory for my own amazing accomplishments, I got so shit-faced to drown my sorrows that I actually decided "Yeah, playing Monopoly at one in the morning sounds like a great plan!" and somehow kept on drinking throughout the monotony.  Around 5am, I finally made it to my couch and really wanted to put board games and Flyer Pain behind me by getting into The WrestleMania Mood.  I guess I settled on watching the "Mania of WrestleMania" special that I'd recorded the night before.  But I didn't get much further than pressing "Play" before finally hitting the wall...

At least the WrestleMania had some glory.  Not quite as much as I'll take away from WM3,  but the main event was pretty awesome, and much as I don't want to be Part of the Problem, I can't help but feel a certain satisfaction at seeing Benoit and Eddie together in the ring with the belts at the end of the biggest show of the year, too.  I shy away from smark tendencies like that, but damn...  good for those guys.  And good for us, since we'll get to enjoy them in main events for at least a little while, here...

No promises that my Flyer Pain and possibly debilitating drunkeness won't resurface.  We are in the Dance!  I have Hope.  I have Faith.  I think it's MEGA sweet that we got paired up against DePaul in the first round.  Not because they are push-overs, but because the two of us have a history.  An assignment for you kids:  do a Yahoo search on "Schelly to Chapman to Young" and "Dayton/DePaul" and "1984," and you'll see what I mean.  Or maybe you'll get no hits.  I don't know.  But around here, and up in Chi-Town, it was a pretty big deal.  On the tails of WMXX, this could be another 20 year old phenomenon that "all begins again."

But then, even if it works out, we'd have to face UConn.  Fuck.

Hey, I got an idea!  How about some wrestling:

  • Although WrestleMania is now passed, and we can start getting back to a bit more business-as-usual, this is still kind of a slack period.  Consider it like WM is a big ol' atom bomb, and the blast zone extends in both directions: leading up to the show, we're all frozen in anticipation of what should be a night of awesomeness.  Now, we're all kind of spent, and realize that the Fed will take a week or two to reload.
    Of course, there are news stories like Brock Lesnar quitting the business to keep us going... so let's be thankful for that.  Well, "thankful" is the wrong word.  But it's something to talk about, at least.
    So let's talk...
    The sportswires picked up the story of Lesnar quitting WWE to try the NFL, and apparently the legit press in Minnesota (where Lesnar went to school) have been all over it.  It's worth noting that in articles from Minneapolis, readers are saying that Lesnar's college wrestling coach said he thinks this is all it's a pro wrestling storyline because Brock has a good thing going for him and just bought a plane so he could travel on his own and stuff like that.  And Minnesota Vikings' coaches are apparently telling reporters that they have no interest in a 26-year-old project who has never played organized football.
    So make of that what you will.  For me, it just ties into the general sense that this doesn't feel right, like maybe at worst we'd have an Austin Situation here, where a guy just needs a break to get his head back on straight, because all logic points to hopping back in the ring at some point.  We'll have to see.
    Certainly, if Lesnar were never to work a wrestling match again in his life, he went out the "proper" way.  Actually, both he and Bill Goldberg did business the right way, to the extent that I thought one of the biggest surprises of WMXX was the LACK of drama and surprises in the Goldberg/Lesnar match.  Just by the books, Goldberg over Lesnar, then Austin over both of them.  Cuz he's the one that'll be on TV this week.
    It was far from a good wrestling match, but it was perversely compelling, mostly because of the way the fans forcibly turned on both men.  Goldberg was MAYBE the nominal babyface, but amidst choruses of "You Sold Out" and "You Both Suck," I don't think either man was feeling particularly loved last night.  Whether the reaction rattled the two, or if they just miscalculated with that "parity" gimmick to start out and then could not find the groove afterwards, I don't know.  But the fan reaction to the match was way more notable than the match itself.  The simple fact that the entire crowd of 20,000 seemed clued in to the "insider" news was kind of remarkable.  I honestly thought that WWE was going to escape with nothing but a token, half-assed "You Sold Out" chant before fans settled in to be entertained.
    Instead, they had to spend just about the entire crappy match entertaining themselves.  Wild.
    WWE.com has also acknowledged the Lesnar story, posting a quick blurb about how Brock is going to try his hand at pro football, and wishing him the best of luck.  The statement is even more perfunctory than usual for the Fed's farewell messages.  You'd REALLY have to be making shit up if you wanted to get a secret message from between those lines.
    Don't be looking for Lesnar any time soon on TV, I guess...  despite rampant speculation that this was a "worked shoot" gimmick heading into WM20, and despite the press out of Minnesota where others are professing the same opinion, this is looking more and more legit.  It may feel wrong, but I guess maybe Brock is actually going to have to try and strike out as a football player before we'd see him back in a ring.  But like I said, I do think that'll be the eventual outcome.  It's just a question of how long the process will take.
  • Another guy who we don't know about is the Rock... as recently as 2 weeks ago, I was hearing rumblings that the Fed and Rock were talking about extending his stay by a week or two.  Nothing major: nothing like last year when he wound up sticking around for an entire extra PPV after Mania.  Just enough to give him a chance to keep up his visibility heading into the release of "Walking Tall."  
    And also to give a little bit of closure on his story with Mick Foley.  Because nobody really is thinking in terms of Mick going away forever, now.  He'll come and go in little spurts, and I honestly think the next spurt will be in preparation for a singles match against Orton.  Writing Rock out of things would be a nice touch, instead of just having him mysteriously evaporate on Foley like everyone else has lately...  so for that, another week or two might be useful.
    Nothing was set in stone, however, when I was hearing those rumors, and now, the Fed has pushed forward with hype for tonight's RAW that doesn't even tangentially mention the Rock.  Which kind of bodes ill, I think.  If you've got the Rock, don't you hype him?
    We'll see....

  • Speaking of tonight's RAW and the hype for it that's in place...  it's all about Chris Benoit.  And that's probably the way it should be.
    Discounting Benoit's one-day reign as WCW Champ, this is his first World Title, and as much as he deserves it, as HUGELY over as he was with fans last night at MSG, he'll need every ounce of hype and promotional effort the Fed has to convince the fanbase at large that he is a true main event star.  Pushing him to the moon and making his win seem special is up to WWE... delivering the goods, however, that's Benoit's job.
    Inside the ring, he did that last night.  Tonight, the mission will be a little different.  I think tonight, you gotta give the guy a microphone, you have to let him do his "Thank You" speech.  I think he'll be fine... because it doesn't have to last long.  In fact, it probably shouldn't.  Because you can interrupt it in the name of setting up Benoit's first PPV Title Challenger.  RAW's next up with a PPV in just 4 weeks, so something's gonna have to happen on that front.
    More than likely, they won't try to re-invent the wheel by carting out somebody unexpected.  Benoit's spent the last 2 months tangling with Shawn Michaels and Triple H.  One of those two will get first dibs on the new champ.  If I'm running the show, I do HBK.  But I'm not running the show.  HHH makes sense since he's more the classic heel foil, and the Fed might be worried about HBK scooping some of Benoit's cheers, but seriously: I say you give Benoit the opponent with whom he can put on the best match.  Because THAT is how he'll win over fans.  And Benoit/HBK just seems to me to have a higher ceiling than Benoit/HHH (which would still be good, but which would probably peak lower).
    So that's one thing to keep in mind with regards to Benoit tonight.  The other thing I can't get out of my skull: Benoit only jumped to RAW to get his World Title Shot.  That's all that was stipulated as a result of his Rumble win, right?  So what if Benoit said, "Thanks for the shot, now I'm going back to SmackDown! where I belong" and took the belt with him?  Am I just thinking too hard?  Still too salty over the fact that Benoit jumped instead of staying on SD! to face Lesnar?  Or is there something here we should be remaining aware of?  The fact that Benoit's post-match celebration was with SD!'s Eddie Guerrero certainly made perfect sense from a "they're friends" standpoint, but what if it was laying a foundation for something entirely different?
    Again, I know I'm just over-analyzing, but I just can't get away from the idea that Benoit's "loop hole" for coming to RAW is now closed.  He got what he came for.  So what's to keep him there?  
    I go back to an aside comment I made in the WM20 Preview, where I said maybe Kane should go to SD! full time, to offset the loss of Lesnar on the heel side.  Maybe they could assuage my concerns by acknowledging this issue and having Bischoff and Heyman do a straight Benoit-for-Kane trade, or something?  Kane's got nothing else to do on RAW, right now... so send him on over.
    Next post-Mania storyline that'll demand attention tonight: Trish Stratus and Christian.  I was a fan of going with the Happy Ending for Trish and Jericho.  I don't know if it's because I'm a damned pussified little bitch, or if it's because, logically, the pieces really did fit better that way.  I mean, this'll take some 'splaining, now that Trish is with Christian.  When did she turn?  Seems like this is a plan that had to have been weeks, if not months, in the making.  But it was just 3 weeks ago that she took the Death-Kill-Destroy Clothesline from Christian.  So unless they come out with the "Trish likes it rough" twist, I think the only way to explain things is that something happened in the last 2 weeks to change her mind about Jericho.  I await the attempt.
    But all that said, I also very much appreciate the OTHER kind of logic here.  I mean, internally, the storyline just got a lot more confusing, but booking-wise, this is certainly smart.  Like I said on Friday: Christian with a heel Trish remains a viable upper-mid-card heel.  Christian being beaten at Mania has little to do but to form a low-card heel tag team with Matt Hardy so we can bitch about them being under-utilized.  And Jericho doesn't need Trish to be over; he'll be just fine without her.  But she can do wonders for Christian's standing, and judging by her convincing (and yet not entirely unappealing) Evil Smile and the fan reaction last night, I think this'll all work out just fine.
    Issue the third: Steve Austin.  He's the sheriff of RAW, but he's really got nothing to do there, now.  Goldberg's gone.  Lesnar, even if he wasn't also gone, would have been on the other show.  Last week, he actually made the statement that there's nobody on EITHER brand that he can't whip...  and then he showed up on SD! and seemed to usurp Paul Heyman's authority.  If I had to guess: what we saw last week was the start of Austin being phased off RAW and over to a similar position on SD! where he can be Heyman's foil for a while.  Maybe he'll still be on both shows, I don't know...  but it wouldn't surprise me if Austin's importance on RAW faded starting tonight so he could get up to no good on Thursdays.
    Other stuff to look for tonight: Bald Molly will need to have some TV time (something that's one half "Hey, everybody have a laugh at what we made this girl do" Ritual Humilation for the cheap pop, but also one half :Molly Better Kick Some Ass and Act Really Psycho So She's Back to Being a Viable Heel," too) to showcase her new look, and hopefully a new attitude that is turned up to eleven...  Randy Orton and the forgotten IC Title will need something to do starting tonight: I'm sure, whether Rock is around or not, some gloating over Foley will be in order, but not much more than that (Foley/Orton probably gets back-burnered for a while, since Mick's not gonna be wrestling once a month or anything).  Orton needs a singles feud with somebody who could actually take his belt.  Or maybe you start sowing the seeds of Evolution's implosion: Orton still has his belt, HHH does NOT have his....  the tag division is even messier, and needs some sorting out.  I have a feeling that what'll shake out is an RVD/Booker vs. Jindrak/Cade feud.  Or at least, that's what'd make most sense to me.
    The post-Mania RAWs are an odd bird: part of the show is just recapping/hyping what happened at the biggest show of the year.  But another part is the Fed realizing that fan interest is at its peak, and that if they hit a home run on this show, they can keep some casual fans around, so they'll try to jumpstart a few new storylines, too.  Oughta be fun.  
    Check it out tonight, or come on back to OO tomorrow for the full Recap.
  • The rating for last week's final SD! before Mania was way down.  The 3.2 broadcast rating is the worst SD! has done all year (well, except for New Year's Day), which is a bit odd.  It was not a bad show, at all.  They went out of their way to hype Austin showing up.  It was the final program before WM20...
    And yet, the rating tumbled by about 10% from its recent average.  Huh.
  • I don't have a whole lot else to add to my thoughts about WM20, as posted last night after the show...  in some ways, I know I let my expectations run wild, and when there was really about zero in the way of surprises or acknowledgement of the past (honestly, Jesse interviewing Trump was really more lame and self-serving than entertaining), part of me was disappointed.
    I'm not even talking about something ludicrous like having Hogan or Piper or Bret Hart there.  I'm just talking about making a little better use of the legends and history at your fingertips.  Hell, I'm not even talking about Pete Rose doing a run-in on Kane... but SOMEthing besides Mean Gene and the Brain making out with Moolah and Mae Young would sure have been appreciated.
    But even over the course of the 5 minute drive home last night, that lingering disappointment faded to nothing as I reviewed all the good stuff we did get. A bona fide Match of the Year candidate in the main event, two other excellent 20-minute-plus matches, a couple other strong supporting cast matches, even a uniquely compelling-if-shitty Goldberg/Lesnar match...  throwing expectations aside, that's an easy Thumbs Up call on the usual PPV scale.
    On the tougher WrestleMania scale?  Still a Thumbs Up.  Give it some time to sink in, and maybe we won't be talking about WM20 in the same breath with WM3, 10, or 17...  but I still liked it lots.  We'll see, but I'm thinking maybe slapping it in with the second quarter of Manias.  
    But like I said, I didn't want to say much more about that.  Just check last night's Recap, if you need details.
  • The stuff I DID want to touch on from WM20 were just a few numbers.  
    MSG was a total sell-out.  No exact attendance figure was announced, as tickets continued to leak out until Thursday as the Fed configured the building, but it was in excess of 20,000.   With ticket prices through the roof, the total gate wound up being $2.4 million, the highest for any wrestling event at MSG (easily eclipsing the 2002 Survivor Series, actually just about DOUBLING that previous record holder's $1.3 million gate).
    In fact, the $2.4 million gate is either the fourth- or fifth-top grossing WrestleMania, despite the fact that seven previous Manias have drawn WAY more fans to domes or baseball stadiums.  Again, chalk it up to higher ticket prices.
    You can also tack on close to a half-million more dollars in revenues from the Hall of Fame and Sunday Brunch events.  Not a bad rake for the weekend....
  • And then, one final WrestleMania XX number:  Jeb Lund was the OO Champion of the Universe in terms of PPV predictions.  In the Massive OO WM Preview, he correctly picked 8 winners out of 12.
    Tied for second, with 7 correct picks each, were Matt Hocking and The Immolator Calum Macbeth.  Then there was a big-ass tie for third: a bunch of OOsters got half right (6 out of 12).
    And me, the Fearless Leader?  I finished a spectacular eighth out of nine prognosticators, getting only 5 matches correct.  I'm supposed to be the expert?  To my credit (and damn, I need some), I was one of only two who correctly guessed on the main event!  Yay, me!  Who is the only one to finish worse than me by picking only 3 matches correctly out of 12?  I'd say, but it wouldn't be very gentlemanly of me... and I'm nothing if not chivalrous. 
    Also of note: OO's staff picked unanimously on three matches.  We got Taker over Kane and Cena over Show right.... but all nine of us missed on Rock 'n' Sock vs. Evolution.  Damn you, Foley, you're making us look bad! 
    Actually, we made ourselves look bad.  Usually, OO is good for nailing a solid three-fourths of PPV outcomes.  Even our best guesser, Jeb, only hit two-thirds, and I was WAAAYYY off the mark.  Hopefully we'll get back on the horse at Backlash...
  • Also, going back to last week for a quick item... WWE stars were all over the media heading into WM.  But not all the exposure was necessarily that great.  In some instances, WrestleMania was barely mentioned.
    The worst offender: the Rock on "The Tonight Show," where WM20 was not mentioned even once.  His people tell him that he has to distance himself from wrestling to be a bigger movie star... but wrestling fans made him a movie star, and get pissy and start cheering for Ric Flair instead when he goes and does stuff like this so... I don't know what the answer is, but it's a tough situation for Rocky.

    And then, there was a whole class of similar appearances in which wrestlers were grilled about drugs and steroid issues.  Although wrestling kind of got out from under that cloud when Vince McMahon dodged charges a decade ago, the fact is that it's an issue that's never gonna go all the way away.  And with the crap going on in baseball these last few weeks, I guess various interviewers thought it'd be fun to ask some wrestlers about drug use in their business.
    For the most part, the wrestlers got off looking good.  Ric Flair, in particular, played the "Hey, look at me, I never did that stuff, I had to get by on personality" card.  HHH was kind of at the other end of the spectrum, admitting he took steroids under a doctor's care and that he didn't really think they were that big a deal, anyway...  but nobody came off looking really bad, even though some of the questioning must have seemed like a bit of an ambush job.
    Also last week heading into Mania: USA Today published a feature article about wrestling deaths in the last few years.  It was the very dictionary definition of Nothing New if you've been reading websites or newsletters in that time frame.  But to a lot of non-fans, it was probably eye-opening to see those details rehashed by the mainstream press, so... well, we'll see if there's any major backlash from the article in the coming days.  
    You can check it out for yourself right here.
  • A much more interesting read, if you ask me: a recent interview with Vince McMahon in the Hollywood Reporter. 
    Vince talks about beating WCW, future plans for the Brand Split, and how he hopes to make use of the WWF/WCW/ECW video libraries.
    Check it out right here.
  • Last week, any wrestling fans with DishTV or EchoStar got a little bit of a scare...  those content providers reached an impasse with Viacom over carriage of Viacom's cable networks (like MTV, Comedy Central, Nick, etc) as well as some CBS/UPN affiliates directly owned by Viacom.
    Luckily, although those networks are presently gone from your line-ups, it looks like SpikeTV has been spared due to a contractual vagary that requires that network stay on DishTV and EchoStar for another year.  So wrestling fans can breathe much easier.  This dispute should be settled well before then, and Viacom networks will be readily available to all.
  • A few wrestling fans in Georgia have also mailed in, thinking that maybe they should be getting a little bit of a scare... but they've probably got nothing to worry about.  
    A state representative has introduced legislation that would more closely regulate pro wrestling in the state, and put wrestling under the auspices of the Georgia State Athletic Commission.
    Under the proposal, though, there would be a grand total of a one-time $1000 fee for anyone seeking a promoter's license, and then a $250 fee any time that promoter put on a show.  If you're a hardcore fan of NWA-Wildside, or some other indie fed, maybe this would affect you...
    But believe me, WWE and other major promotions would have no problem dealing with this legislation should it be passed into law.  It's chump change to them.  A pain in the ass, and maybe even a serious hurdle for indie promoters, yes.  But for most of us who aren't pouring over Georgia's Indie Results, this is a non-story.
  • And I think that's about enough for today.  RAW recap tomorrow.  Spoilers and other news on Wednesday....  black-out-wasted on Thursday and no weekend update for you if the hated Blue Demons don't fold on Thursday night.  But the guy who Lorraine'd Bobbitt is suspended, right?  That'll help us...
    But if it doesn't... well, you've been warned!


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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