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RAW, The Lottery, Angle, and 
Other Sobering St. Patty's Day News
March 17, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


What the hell am I, Noted Lush and Exceptional Drinker, doing checking in on this, the drunkest of all holidays, with the usual Wednesday column?  It's simple:  (1) I ain't Irish, and (2) My observed holidays lately have all been basketball-related, so I don't need to be adding any more excuses to slaughter my liver to the calendar.

Seriously: I haven't gone out in about a month now.  I mean "out" in the usual "Hey, it's the weekend, I'm gonna go see a band or hang out at the bar and see what happens" sense.  I mean, I HAVE been leaving the house, thank you very much.  But what's happened is that I had a ton of friends in town for Flyer basketball one weekend.  Then the next, I went to Pittsburgh for Flyer basketball.  Then just this past weekend, a couple friends were around for the A-10 tournament.  These are good people, my real friends, not my "rock friends" or my "bar friends," and I do enjoy hanging out with them....  but they test me, as well:  I go "out," and I'm not gonna throw down more than 20 bucks or so getting sociably drunk with acquaintances at bar prices on any given night.  But when my jack-ass friends are around for allegedly-rare visits (or when I'm making a rare visit to them), and we've got cases of beer and bottles of bourbon stashed away?  I turn it up a notch, I try to make like I've still got my college-era chops.  And I pay the price.  I could use a break, frankly...

But it's probably not coming.  We'll be assembling tomorrow night for UD/DePaul.  If things work out well there, it'll be UD/UConn over the weekend, and that would be awesome and horrifying all at once.  So, with one last weekend like that staring me in the face, I've got no problem handing today over to the amateurs and their green beer.  Have fun, losers.  

I'll sit soberly by and deliver to you the St. Patrick's Day rasslin' report:

  • Monday's RAW was a minor victory in the overall entertainment category.  You had a great main event match (albeit one that was a little short), you had a good tag team title match (albeit one that ran a little long), you had a solid opening promo that left doors open on the World Title front, and you had an OK "tone-setting" (but not really "detail-explaining") promo by Trish and Christian.
    Not gonna blow any roofs off with that, but wheels are turning, and that's all you can ask for.
    But in another way, RAW was a grand slam.  In the Get 'Em Talking Moment of the Year so far, Vince McMahon announced a new Brand Lottery to be held next Monday.  All RAW and SD! stars -- apparently even support personnel like GMs, announcers, and sheriffs -- are supposed to show up and be assigned to a new home.  It's part of Vince's announced plan to create a "New WWE" and take the "It All Begins Again" tagline to heart.
    Given then I've said my piece about RAW in the Recap, I guess maybe I'll just tap out and tell you to go check that out.  Because I'm serious: it was an OK show, but there's nothing I feel like talking about besides this Lottery thing.
    So: which guys won, which guys lost, which girl showed her skull, which third generation superstar gave a tepid, stilted promo... for that, hit the RAW Recap.
  • Before I forget, the rating for Monday's RAW was a 3.9...  that is up a negligible one-tenth of a point from the week before.  WWE never really got a huge WM-related bump in the ratings, but the last few weeks, they've stayed solidly in the upper 3's and generally speaking have been stronger than they were prior to the Rumble-to-Mania corridor.
    So: a 3.9 isn't setting the world on fire, but continues RAW's slightly-stronger performances and gives them the mildest of post-WM bumps.  
  • But that leaves us to talk about what we're supposed to be talking about today: the reshuffling of the WWE brands.  Now, to prevent myself from, in the heat of the moment, getting my expectations all up with wild fantasy booking scenarios, I'm instituting a two day cooling off period.
    I've got some stuff in my head that I want to get out, but I think it'll be presented in a more level-headed fashion if I do it Friday.  It'll be my attempt to reconcile Simplicity with Insanity.  Those are the two extremes here: the Fed's taken about 18 months (since they got everything sorted out) to build the brands up to this point where each has unique characteristics, and the simple thing to do would be to make only minor and cosmetic changes to maintain those characteristics.  But minor changes after Vince promised sweeping ones... well, that'd be a huge disappointment to fans, wouldn't it?  So what to do?
    I've got a few ideas, but I'll do them in Friday's column...
    However, that does not mean that we don't have things Lottery-related we can talk about today.
    One of the big things I'd like to discuss would be the current rumor that this complete Brand Reshuffle was a new idea only conceived of in the past week.
    Certainly, we fans are registering Utter Shock, but even those in the biz are a bit surprised by this, or at least, they're acting like it.  And not to say they're working the internet or that we're stupid for believing it or anything, I KIND OF think maybe we could have seen something like this coming...
    I mean, maybe there was never a plan to do a whole Lottery until a few days before RAW.  OK, I can buy that, no problem.  But the pieces of this puzzle were all out there on the table, and we might have been able to put them together if we'd been paying attention.
    On the "business-y" side of WWE, there were rumblings about shake-ups at the start of the next fiscal year (which is in April).  Already, we know about the addition of a few more PPVs.  Some people were talking about a possible re-branding, complete with a new corporate logo, to go along with recent campaigns that have raised the unique profiles of RAW and SD!.  And most telling: there was that harping on the "We just found out 70% of our audience is loyal to one brand and doesn't watch the other" that happened a month or so ago when WWE released its latest round of financials.
    On the wrestling/creative side: cross-overs were already running rampant.  Benoit jumped over from SD! to RAW, Vince made interpromotional matches for Mania, and just last week Austin looked like he became more integral to SD! storylines than anything he was doing on RAW.  SD!'s roster was getting ready to take a hit, too, with the loss of Brock Lesnar (and possibly of Kurt Angle, but more on that later), so more shuffling was going to be in order.  And were even specific plans being discussed: how to get Kane to SD!, how to get Edge on RAW, and so on and so forth.
    These two paragraphs worth of facts are things we all knew BEFORE Monday and BEFORE Vince's announcement.  Suddenly, it doesn't seem THAT shocking a swerve, does it?
    The Fed needs to cover for some injuries/departures, they want to make its audience LESS brand loyal and boost ratings for both shows in the process, and just maybe Vince's talk about "an all new WWE" is laying the foundation for the new logo/re-branding.  It all fits together.  Even if the specifics of a plan to do The Lottery were a creation of the last week, I gotta think that a lot of the changes that the lottery winds up bringing were already in the talking stages or beyond.  More interpromotional stuff, more roster trades, and so on... these things were coming, Lottery or no.
    My primary concern -- to be amplified on Friday -- is that this is more of a Business decision than anything, and it might not manifest itself so well on the Wrestling/Creative side.  Again, that comes down to that dichotomy between making real changes and wowing fans and making minor changes and maintaining logic and the hard-won distinctiveness of the brands.
    If nothing else, it's already a win for WWE because they've got us perked up, paying attention, and talking about them.  And even if next Tuesday we're damning them and their short-sightedness, we'll STILL be talking.  Vince loves this shit, I just know it!
  • I briefly mentioned a possible loss of Kurt Angle...  here's the deal on that.
    Effective immediately, Angle has been taken off the road.  Following Mania, Kurt talked with WWE officials, and the decision was made.  The Mania match against Eddie was NOT the problem (it was really just the cumulative effect everything since Angle's latest comeback), but after keeping quiet to get through the big match, Angle's concerns were finally strong enough that he had to talk to somebody.  Everybody agreed that the return of some of Kurt's old symptoms from a year ago was a bad thing and that he should be off until he can get checked out.
    As you might expect anytime you're talking about a guy who has already had two neck surgeries in the last year, there is a very serious concern here...  a year after Angle seemingly hit the jackpot by delaying his fusion surgery just long enough to find out about a less-invasive procedure that reduced his recovery time to 2 months, and four months after a surgery that was considered to just be minor clean-up work, you really start to worry that Kurt's luck might be running out.
    And let's not forget that this all traces back to 8 years ago, when Angle cracked his neck in preparations for the 1996 Olympics, either.  He's been kicking ass on borrowed vertebras for a while, now...
    Obviously, I'm confident I speak for every one of you when I say I hope for the best possible news for Kurt as he checks with his doctor's in the coming weeks.  Not just for Kurt, himself, but also selfishly for us.  Because there aren't many (if any) guys in wrestling who can be counted on to entertain us in every facet of the business the way he does, and we'd miss him if he had to hang it up after less than five years in the sport.
  • And from a guy who has done so much awesome work in five years to one who did it in two...
    Brock Lesnar is apparently a non-person as far as WWE is concerned.  His bio is gone from the company's website, and other than the terse, two-sentence farewell they gave him there, he's not been mentioned or seen since taking a Stunner at the hands of Steve Austin at Mania.
    Needless to say, the conspiricists and their theories about this being a work -- hey, even Lesnar's college coach is among your ranks, so don't feel too bad!! -- are fading away.
    Back home in Minnesota following WM20, Lesnar appeared on a sports radio show, and discussed his NFL dream.  A few readers sent in snippets, but the most illuminating thing was the part of the interview where Lesnar revealed he DID play high school football.  And of course, he claimed he was quite awesome at it, and would have gotten a scholarship for that if he hadn't wanted to focus on wrestling in college.
    Now, Brock might be hyperbolizing about how good he was, but at least having some gridiron experience is a plus for him in his current situation.  It'd been presented to me that he'd never played serious football in his life, so I apologize to passing that along to you.  With this latest revelation, maybe Brock's NFL pursuits are only a ludicrous pipedream, instead of the fevered ravings of an asylum inmate who somehow got himself into the LSD.
    In the interview, Brock didn't shed much more light on his reasons for leaving.  In fact, in one particularly circular piece of information, he directed listeners to the internet for details.  And listeners wrote in to tell me that.  And now I'm telling you that he said it.  So Brock Lesnar told me to tell you to read me telling you how he told you to read this?  Ow, my brain hurts.
    Anyway, it seemed mostly like Brock was tired of talking about it: he hated the travel, it all started piling up six months ago, he's got a daughter he'd like to be with more, and so on...  you HAVE heard it all on the internet, already.
    I guess Good Luck to Brock, as his presence on these pages is probably waning.  But I can't help feeling a certain amount of betrayal, too....  I can't describe it adequately, but this is different from the Rock going Hollywood, and its even a bit different than Austin's hissy fit of 2002.  Maybe it's as simple as those guys were around long enough that I felt sure I'd seen their best inside the ring.  But Brock, even though I made my case for him as Wrestler of the Year in 2003 (and I stick by that, dammit!), I think he still had a lot to give us, improvements to make, promos to deliver, and matches to compete.  He's going away before we saw his best, and that kind of annoys me.
    It's sort of like I invested my time (and occasionally, my money) in the guy, watched him develop to the point that he was a franchise player.  And then, before he could build up a resume of genuine signature moments, he walked away to do something different.  I guess now I know how the Montreal Expos feel?
  • Speaking of the Rock... you shouldn't need me to tell you this after Monday's RAW, but...
    You've probably seen the last of the guy in a WWE ring for a while.  His absence from RAW (or should I say, "His presence in nothing but a 3-minute movie commercial"?) should tell you that he won't be squeezing in another week or two of WWE gigs as he starts up the promotional machine for "Walking Tall."
    The movie's release is still three weeks away, but already special screenings and other promotional appearances have begun.  Last week's non-wrestling-related appearance with Leno is all the evidence you should need of that.
    Oh, and quashing one rumor that a few people mailed in about: No, I don't think Rocky's even in talks to host Saturday Night Live.  He was at least discussed, internally, last fall when "The Rundown" came out, but I think SNL's booked through to the end of its season, and there's no room for the Rock.
  • If you're looking for them, spoilers for SmackDown! (and also Heat and Velocity), are right here.  It might be the last time you EVER read Spoilers of Eddie Guerrero on SmackDown!  Damn Vince and his Mighty Lottery!
  • OO's own Canadian Bulldog passed along an item he heard yesterday:  WWE is making a push for SummerSlam to take place in Toronto, ON, Canada.
    The venue would most likely be the Air Canada Centre (SkyDome is both too big an undertaking and is also hosting a Jays game that day).  Edmonton in April, Toronto in August.... geez, if the Fed scheduled the June RAW PPV for Montreal or something, I'd start to think they actually intended to let Benoit hold this title for a while!  But that's a ridiculous thought....
    And anyway, apparently, the Fed has started announcing Benoit as "From Atlanta, Georgia" on TV, effective this last weekend.  I missed it, since I spent WM20 talking over my TV instead of listening to it, but I have it on good authority they've made that change....  
    Man, Benoit's lived there for years.  Why go pissing of his Canuck Constituency now that he needs them the most? 
  • MTV News has an article posted where Method Man interviews John Cena.  Not really interesting from a wrestling-perspective, but he talks a lot about rapping and hip-hop and does reveal that he's putting together an album that he hopes will come out this year.
    Check it out right here
  • Last thing, a correction!
    On Monday, I should have said "The guy who Lorena'ed Bobbitt," not "The guy who Lorraine'd Bobbitt."  That's what I get for just stealing what I thought was a funny line from a buddy without actually stopping to think about it.  It sounded right to me when he said it, and I just repeated it.  Damn me and my thieving ways!
    To the three people who understood my attempted joke on Monday well enough to correct me, I say thank you!  To the other 98% of you who don't remember the story of Lorena and John Wayne Bobbit and who didn't immediately think of them when some guy from DePaul whacked UC's Tony Bobbitt in the package, well, screw you.  It WAS funny!
    And I still think DePaul's "Lorena" is suspended for tomorrow against Dayton, too.  Bonus for us.
  • So on that note, I'm outta here.  I'll try to take it easy tomorrow night so I can deliver on my promise of a Friday OOpinion column about the Brand Lottery.  See you then.
    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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