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SD! Stumbling, Austin Update, Huge
WWE TV Changes, Lots More News...
April 9, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Hey, how about them Cincinnati Reds?  Atop the NL Central along with mighty powerhouses like the Pirates and Brewers, baby!  So much for all the re-tooling in Houston and Chicago: I hope the Cubs and Stros like it in the basement!

Please: keep your retorts to yourself.  Let me have this one.  For now.  I know it won't last...

  • Something else that might not last: my patience with SmackDown!...
    In the interests of providing you with a borderline relevant column today, I've just gotten done flying through a heavily FF'ed edition of the show.  The things I do for you people.  And I gotta say: even if I wasn't in a hurry because I had to write a column, I probably would have been leaning just as much on the button.
    Two weeks of trying to rationalize with arguments like "Well, it only SEEMS weak because RAW's been so awesome" or "It's not like it's a bad show, and you gotta give them some time because they're re-tooling" simply does not take away from the fact that I'm getting to the point of not giving two shits about ANYthing on Thursday nights. 
    I don't mean that like "SmackDown! sucks donkey phallus."  I just mean it like "SmackDown! is capturing my imagination almost exactly as effectively as TNA."  I know I can sit down and watch the show and there will be decent, competent material...  but there's just no sizzle, no edge-of-my-seat anticipation.  Obviously, the difference is SD! is free, so that's still enough to get me to tune in...
    But still: with this latest phase of cross-brand competition, is it so wrong that I want SD! to have that sizzle, to get me as excited about Thursdays as I have been about Mondays this last month or so, to at least give the illusion of matching up favorably against RAW?  I don't think so...
    My favorite stuff from last night: Booker T and RVD.  It was cool that they finally decided, in their third week, to have them cross paths and acknowledge their past from RAW.  It was equally cool the way Booker's abandoning RVD further cemented him as a heel.  It's maybe NOT so cool that they're going to piss away the Booker/RVD feud with a throw-away match next week so that they can eventually take the "dark" feud (Booker getting squashed by Taker) and push it on TV, but hey, it's something I can actually look forward to for next week, so that's a plus...
    If you give me the choice, I'd sacrifice a body part (as always: my appendix) to change things up and rush Eddie Guerrero vs. Bradshaw as a throw-away "free-per-view" feud, cuz if they think that's gonna carry a PPV, the Fed is sadly mistaken.  See my column from two Fridays ago for a way in which they could still do a Eddie/Angle match at the May PPV (given that Angle's neck status WILL allow him sporadic in-ring activity).  And hell, if not that, then at least go with Big Show...  there is LOTS of material to go with in a resumption of Show vs. Eddie, and that's even if you leave the sewage at the door.
    Look, I'm all for trying to repackage Bradshaw and getting the most out of him that you can.  This gimmick certainly seems like it will have more legs than Bradshaw's previous solo run as a barroom brawling babyface, but still... anytime you take a mid-card tag team wrestler and try to push him, you just need to be extra careful to make sure that the push is commensurate with the response: it's a two-way street, and the fans will dictate Bradshaw's spot on the card as much as Stephanie McMahon will.  And when the best thing you can say about the guy is that at least he's stealing half his shtick from the extraordinarily awesome Ted DiBiase, I just don't know that the fans' half of the equation is really gonna develop.
    And I'm pretty sure I'm not just bitter because Bradshaw decided to pick a guy named "Ricky" to humiliate last night.  

    Most of the rest of SD! just rated a giant "What the Frick?"...  I'm supposed to sink my teeth into Rene Dupree vs. Orlando Jordan in the second hour?  Or Teddy Long forging a manly bond with Mark Jindrak as our semi-main event?  Actually, the second half of the show was a giant problem, pacing-wise: even if I'd only been FF'ing commercials, it seemed like the second hour was really barren.  What was there was unenthralling, too, but it seemed like we had too many "Low Content Segments" between ad breaks.  Putting a commercial in the middle of the main event promo didn't help matters any, either...
    Anyway, SD! again failed to capture my fancy this week.  I apologize for being a little terse in breaking it down... but that's what Big Danny T's SD! Recap is for!  Check it out for the complete details from last night's show...
  • Prelim ratings are in, and as of this writing, SD! is looking at a 2.9 broadcast rating for last night's show.  Whoa.  As we've discussed, these prelim ratings are WAY better indicators of final numbers than the popularly disseminated "overnight" ratings...  based on this 2.9, SD! is probably looking at a final number in the 2.8-3.2 range.  
    Even if they max out and hit the top of that range, they'd still only be matching the last couple weeks' ratings, which themselves were significantly down from SD!'s year-to-date average of 3.5.  The last few weeks, UPN affiliates have been hit with pre-emptions in major markets which impacted ratings, but I have no idea at this point if that was a factor last night.
    It's looking to me like the lasting impact of the brand lottery may end up being shuffling a handful of viewers over to RAW, and that's about it.  Depending on the precise final number, this could end up being the third week in a row that RAW has more viewers than SD!...  and that has not happened at any other time since I started keeping tabs for Battle of the Brands a year ago.
  • Following up on Wednesday Steve Austin story...
    He definitely DID meet with Vince McMahon at SD! tapings on Tuesday night, and if you needed any evidence that the "Austin done with WWE" rumors were jumping the gun, there it is.
    Now, no major forward progress was made in their meeting, and the expectation is that Austin will remain off TV for the time being...  but the sides are definitely talking, and considering history, I'd say that pretty much points to a deal getting done sooner rather than later.  I stand by my claim that Austin being back on TV at some point this summer as a completely reasonable expectation...
  • Jim Ross has been re-assigned by WWE, which NOBODY should take as any kind of indication on how the Fed's negotiations with his buddy Austin will go...  Ross has given up his role as Vice President of Talent Relations (or a title very close to that, basically he oversaw the scouting and development of the talent roster), and will now be "Executive Vice President of Business Strategies."  
    It sounds kind of like a promotion, but as a man well versed in business-y double-talk, let me assure you this is basically a lateral move for JR.  He's giving up one set of (grueling) responsibilities in exchange for a different (and less-intensive) set.  After years of being a vital part of shaping the WWF/E, Ross is simply looking to move into a less-immersive, more office-y type role.  Good for him.  The guy deserves to relax a bit after overseeing the creation of the current WWE developmental system.
    In JR's place will be Johnny Ace, who has actually been JR's right hand man for a while and has seen his responsibilities increase significantly over the past year or two.  The transition should be seamless to those in the system, and I can't imagine that fans will have any reason to even know the change took place.
    Obviously, this does not change anything with regard to JR's status as RAW's lead announcer.

  • Big shake-ups are coming for WWE's TV line-up on SpikeTV.  Per my only periodically useful contacts in the TV industry, it sounds like both B-shows, Heat and Velocity, will have new time slots, and it looks like "Confidential" is gonna be gone.
    With regards to Heat and Velocity: instead of at least one of those shows being on at an accessible time (to me, anyway), now neither will really be easy to catch, except by the magic of DVR.  One will air on Saturday evenings (prior to prime time), the other on Sunday mornings.  There's no guarantee that Velocity will stay on Saturday, or Heat on Sunday, or that the shows will even retain the same names.
    Given that both shows generally draw around (or below) 1.0 ratings, the move to get WWE out of prime time on Spike isn't really that shocking.  Wrestling ain't "hot" any more, and what audience exists for the b-shows are probably the kind of loyalists who will follow it to new slots.  As Spike continues trying to re-brand as a general interest network on par with USA and others, you had to kind of see this coming.
    The absence of "Confidential" from SpikeTV's proposed May schedule is a bit more baffling.  I mean, it didn't do any better in the ratings than the other shows, but at least it was usually interesting enough to get my eyeballs at some point on Sunday afternoon....  although the sheer pointlessness of watching non-stop "behind the scenes" packages from YJStinger ads and magazine photo shoots sometimes tested me, I always got a kick out of overseas packages and some of the historical things they did.  Even though it's probably one of the best examples of WWE's infuriatingly-condescending "new work," there's a part of me that will miss "Confidential."
    If "Confidential" really is gone, and not just lost in the shuffle as Spike prepares its new line-ups, it's confusing for another reason: I think WWE *is* on the hook for that hour of programming.  That they are contractually obligated to provide a third hour to Spike.
    I don't want to start anything untoward, but remember that "New ECW" thing we talked about last week?  Hmmm...
  • Although William Regal returned to TV this week in what appeared to be a purely managerial capacity, he has actually been medically cleared to wrestle.  As recently as a month or so ago, nobody seemed exactly sure if Regal would ever get that clearance given his health problems over the past year, so this is definitely good news. 
    I stand by my claim that if Eugene is gonna get over, it's gonna be because of Regal being the ideal long-suffering, dignified sap...  and now, if that doesn't work, at least we can look forward to the day when Regal just snaps and turns on Eugene, and crushes him inside the ring, sending him back to OVW, never to be seen again.  At least, not without a less silly repackaging.
    You can get the full report on Regal's situation in this WWE.com report.
  • Thanks to everybody who sent this one in...
    Bill Goldberg recently did an online chat, and as he did in a recent radio interview, he certainly pulled no punches with regards to WWE.  He thinks the screwed up promoting him over the last year, and so on and so on.
    He also talks about TNA as being an option for him, as well as his Japanese gig... but does not rule out a return to WWE, either.  He even specifically mentions that he'd be interested in facing Steve Austin at WM21.
    Some interesting, open, and honest comments from Goldberg (who, it should be noted, is STILL listed on WWE.com as a RAW superstar)... you can get the full transcript at www.BillGoldberg.com.
  • Another reader-submitted item: a couple of folks who couldn't help but notice my unbecoming grown-man-crush wanted to let me know that Trish Stratus is in the midst of a grueling battle on the FOXSports website.  It's basically a 64 woman "hottest sports babe" popularity contest.
    LATE UPDATE: I had a line in here about Trish being in the final eight, per the e-mails I got, but being the good little lemming I am, I just went to go vote for Trish, and she's actually in the Final Four.  It's Trish versus Martina Hingis and Michelle Kwan versus Sasha Cohen.
    I think there's been some ballot-box-stuffing, though, since Anna Kournakova is long gone, and I have no freaking clue who Sasha Cohen is.  So I don't feel so bad giving you this link to go vote for Trish.  Like she needs to win another internet babe contest....
  • Speaking of FOXSports....
    In a possible indication that things are reaching a climax with regards to TNA's talks with FOX about getting a weekly national TV show on their network, TNA has officially told its contracted talent that they can't work for Ring of Honor for the foreseeable future.
    This has been a move a couple weeks in the making, as the unpleasantness with ROH's Rob Feinstein a few weeks back made them a dodgy proposition to be associated with.  TNA not only has an interest in selling FOX on its talents being as  "exclusive" as possible, but also on their talents not associating with suspected pedophiles.
    TNA guys like AJ Styles have been cornerstones of ROH, as well, and the companies co-existed peacefully for the past couple years... they have been talking and will continue to talk about possible ways to get past this little road block, too, as ultimately, neither wants to alienate fans (TNA by cock-blocking ROH, and ROH by losing top-drawing stars).

  • In case you REALLY cared about some of the issues I raised in Wednesday's column...
    (1) "The Whole Ten Yards" was made because the first one WAS very profitable.  It didn't cost a lot to make, did moderately well at the box office, and according to one reader, was one of the best selling DVDs the year it came out.  Okey-doke.  I still think there's about a billion other sequels I'd rather see made, but whatever...
    (2) The second "Mortal Kombat" movie was not straight to video, it just really sucked.  So they really are up to #3, although I was right to not think it was really a pressing matter, since it's apparently been in development for years with no forward progress.  So don't go booking Trish for a couple months off just yet.
    (3) It IS possible for WWE to have actually done that Diva Challenge thing as a shoot.  Despite my feeling that the fix had to be in for Torrie winning the Diva Mag cover, I was assured by many in the publication business that what WWE could easily have done is print up the insides of the magazine, and only have to print the covers, assemble the copies, and distribute the mags to newsstands in the two-week window.  Even without resorting to the tricks that the weekly news magazines use to get current events on their covers within days, WWE could definitely have pulled this off.  I STILL don't think Gail actually had a chance, but it's nice to know it's at least possible that WWE actually ran a non-crooked poll...
  • And with that, I think I'm just about done.  But I can't leave without a quick sacri-licious mention of my favorite holiday meal: the Easter Ham, which comes very close to being a deity in my eyes.  Mmmm, that's good eatin'...  you can keep your chocolate eggs and marshmallow bunnies.  Just fork over the pork, and I'll be happy!  
    Hope you enjoy your weekend, and I'll see you again on Monday. 


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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