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Austin's Official Status, Rock Stumbling,
Lesnar Hurt, SD!/PPV Fall-out, More!
April 19, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


For the first time in well over a year, I wound up checking out last night's PPV at a public venue (in this case, Hooters).  I don't want to step on Jeb's toes, or anything, but the experience of watching a PPV at a bar or restaurant is pretty instructive.  I'm so used to checking out shows with the same 6 or 8 dudes, and so used to the generally "smart" chatter during shows...

But that set of my PPV Pals had a rock show (one of 'em is in a band, the others are close enough friends that they wanted to go to the show instead of watch a PPV).  Sitting around my house with one or two other dudes didn't strike me as particularly fun, so I let myself be goaded into the trip to Hooters once it was discovered that the area BW-3s no longer screen WWE PPVs.

It wasn't an exceptionally lively crowd, but they definitely reacted to a few things that were different than what I, left to my own devices, would have.  But if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, I say...  as I watched my PPV Predictions take hit after hit, I decided to go into pure mark mode, and started shouting at the nearest TV about how Edge used his cast as a weapon and should be DQ'ed and whatnot.  It was fun in more spectator-y way: I got to act how I get to act at UD basketball games or live rasslin shows.  I got to be a vocal advocate, instead of a smart-ass sitting on a couch who can, at will, beat JR to his next line.

Might have to try it again some time.  Might have to try cutting the chatter and getting to the news, too:

  • For as big a debacle as the departures of Goldberg and Brock Lesnar turned into in the days prior to WrestleMania XX, WWE should get a big ol' Gold Star for their handling of the Steve Austin situation.
    They snuck in an official announcement that Austin was done with the company over the weekend.  If you weren't paying super close attention, you probably missed it.  I mean, it looks like WWE.com issued its statement at some point Friday evening, after I'd posted the Backlash Preview and walked away from the PC.  The first I hear about it is a deluge of messages from concerned readers when I check my e-mail at like 4am on Saturday night, and frankly, at that point, I couldn't have cared any less: I registered the news, then got distracted by online poker and other stuff far more interesting to my drunken mind.
    Way to be sneaky, WWE!  Take a note: the surefire way to make sure nobody hears about a bombshell is to drop it after 6pm on a Friday night!
    Actually, even if they'd made the announcement in a more auspicious manner or if my mind wasn't wandering when I heard about it, I don't think it should have registered as THAT big a deal.  WWE's official acknowledgement of Austin's status is maybe a bit surprising, but the fact is that Austin's actual status has NOT changed with this announcement.
    He was off TV and at a contractual impasse before WWE.com's announcement.  He's in the exact same place after it.  The door is no more open or closed to Austin returning than it was before.  Austin's departure is characterized as a mutual parting of ways, and makes it clear the sides would entertain the notion of on-going negotiations.  All this announcement does is tells fans -- at least those who read the Fed's website -- to not expect Austin on TV any time soon.  Which is nice, because one of my personal crosses to bear these last two weeks has been repeating the Tale of Austin to casual bar acquaintances who vaguely know I'm a "wrestling guy" and assume that I just love making small talk about wrestling after spending 12 hours a week writing about it.
    Anyway, hopefully the public acknowledgement that Austin's done with WWE for the time being will mean those questions dry up.  The next phase of Austin Banter will indubitably be "What will he do next?"...  I don't think you have to worry about him showing up on TNA, or anything.  I would, in fact, continue to place good money on his next appearance in a wrestling ring coming in WWE at some point this year.
    The only other alternative would be for Austin to adopt a Goldberg Schedule over in Japan.  Basically work 4-6 huge matches per year for massive paydays.  He's got the box office appeal to make that work.  And, it should be noted, if Austin made a deal like that during his hiatus from WWE, it would not preclude him coming back to WWE TV full time at any time.  Goldberg's Japan commitments were largely a non-issue with regards to his WWE schedule, and I'm sure whatever Austin's role would be in WWE upon a return, it would not be "Full Time Touring Wrestler," so him needing one weekend every three months to travel to Japan shouldn't be too big a pain in the ass.
    The primary problem between Austin and WWE at this point is that Austin wants the right to use the "Stone Cold" name on his own, outside of WWE.  And WWE doesn't want to relinquish the name or the royalties it generates for them.  Austin's leverage couldn't be any less at this point, either, as he was working in a non-wresting capacity and his absences have NOT adversely affected ratings in the last month.  Throw in the fact that Austin's recent run-in with the law makes him a bit of a PR headache, and obviously, WWE wasn't gonna be in any rush to bend over backwards and meet Austin's contractual demands.
    That said, there's just too much common sense dictating that the best way for both parties to make money is to make it together... and neither side in this dispute is the kind who'd hold a grudge when there's money to be made.  Just use your noggin: if Eric Bischoff can draw a WWE paycheck after everything he did, does Austin coming back some day seem that outlandish?  Hell, it almost seems inevitable.
  • Another little story broke over the weekend, ironically enough related to the aforementioned Brock Lesnar....
    Seems Brock was out and about Minneapolis Saturday night on his motorcycle, and he collided with a minivan.  The toll?  A few stitches and resting at home in time to see "Confidential."  No word on whether the mini-van survived.
    Seriously, I don't know whether to think Lesnar is crazy-tough or just lucky.  You probably wouldn't walk away from a motorcycle collision with a mini-van with nothing but a few stitches.  I know I wouldn't.
    In a comment to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Lesnar's agent said Brock was gonna be perfectly OK, and this his NFL try-outs (scheduled for mid-May) would go on as scheduled.  Good for Brock.
  • A day later, and I remain a big fan of last night's Backlash PPV.  Two off-the-charts awesome matches, two more pretty good ones, and only one stretch where things got kind of boring (La Resistance/HurriRosey and Kane/Edge).
    If that's not a blueprint for a successful PPV, I don't know what is.  You can get the full details, results, and analysis in last night's Immediate Post-Show Backlash Recap.
    And in the interests of Total Disclosure, I guess I gotta break down how the OO Staff Predictions worked out.  I'll save you the drama and go straight for the punchline:  I, the Mighty and Infallible Rick, finished dead last, with 3 correct picks out of 7.  On the upside, my 3 correct picks were in the three top matches, and I DID accurately guess that La Resistance vs. Hurricane/Rosey would be an extra.  But 3 out of 7 is still 3 out of 7.  Boo for me.
    Alfonso Castillo gets the Prognosticator Crown this month.  He hit all 7 of his picks, a perfect 1.000.  
    Honorable mentions go to Adam Gutschmidt and the Cubs Fan, who each got 6 out of 7.  Big Danny T, Canadian Bulldog, and Matt Hocking each got 5 out of  7.  Erin Anderson, Jeb Lund, and Brad Smoley all stayed over .500 by getting four picks right.  sayEitan got somewhere between 3 and 5 picks right (I THINK 5 is right), but I couldn't tell 100% for sure who he was picking on a couple matches because he failed to follow my instructions for playing!
    Actually, I think I'm going to dock Hocking: I'm issuing him a 3 point Demerit for putting "Edmonton, Ontario" in his comments and NOT joking when he did it, resulting in ME getting over a dozen pissy e-mails to complain about Matt's lack of Canadian Geography Knowledge.  So that puts Matt at 2, which is last place, behind even me!  Cheating is fun!
    Actually, I can't do that.  Integrity of the game and all that.  But it bears noting that in two months of doing these Team Coverage PPV Previews, I'm pretty sure the running tally has me tied for last place (with Erin -- SCREW CHIVALRY, misery loves company).  I'll have to crunch the numbers for sure once we get a few more PPVs under our belts, but for now, I think that's right.  Second-to-last place for me at Mania and now outright last place for Backlash!  Part of me wants to suspend these group predictions and pretend they never happened.  But another part of me wants to prove he's not an idiot and keep doing this until, by year's end, I am at the top of the leader board!
    We'll see....
    And I still say that my picks for Kane/Edge, Tajiri/Coach, and Flair/Shelton made LOTS of sense.  I'm more than happy to have been wrong on Victoria/Lita... but those other three would have been better if they'd done what I said!  That I also would not have been humiliated in front of my adoring fans if they'd done those finishes is in no way a motivating factor in my thinking here!
  • "Walking Tall" finished up its third weekend in seventh place at the box office.  That's a slide of two more spots from the previous week.  After hauling in about four-and-a-half million bucks, the total box office receipts are right around $36 million.  Certainly nothing to sneeze at, but after the mediocre business done by "The Rundown," this is another tepid performance for The Rock.
    "The Rundown" topped out right around $50 million, I think, and I'm not sure "Walking Tall" will get to that mark at its current rate.  We are now officially starting to enter Summer Blockbuster Season, and I can't see "Walking Tall" remaining a viable multi-plex staple for much more than another week or two...
  • Ads over the past week for "WWE Experience" have shown up on SpikeTV, and sure enough, that's the new Sunday morning magazine show that none of us will be watching.
    The format will be highlights from both RAW and SD! compiled into a single hour-long show, which is slotted for Sundays at 10am.  Your hosts will be Ivory and That New Guy (Todd Grisham, I guess I better quit pretending not to remember him now that he's officially the New Terri).
    I cannot comprehend why this show exists: highlight/recap shows already exist for each brand, and apparently do such GREAT ratings in syndication that they air in such prime timeslots as 1am on Saturday night on low-power WB affiliates.  I don't know if its "AfterBurn" or "Jakked" but one of those shows definitely airs in that slot here in Dayton.  And if we're already not watching "AfterBurn" or "Jakked," why bother with "Experience," which sounds like it shapes up as a recap of the two recap shows?
    And oy, don't even get me started on Ivory.  I mean, I'm a fan.  I remain a fan.  I wish there was room for her on RAW every week  But for all my years of Ivory Advocacy, the memory of WrestleMania All Day Long is still burned in my memory, co-hosted by Ivory and Cole.  And unless Ivory has switched to the decaf (and preferably some horse tranquilizers, too) she has no business being on TV at 10 o'clock in the morning on a Sunday.  There's "chipper" and then there's "putting a brick through your TV to make it shut up"....  mean wrestling bitch Ivory is kind of cool, but TV Host Ivory could not have been more a  more obnoxious or affected caricature of the Perky Morning Host Archetype.
    WWE Experience will debut on Sunday morning, May 2.  That same weekend, Velocity will move from 11pm to 7pm (eastern) on Saturdays.  This Saturday's "Confidential" is the last one ever.  And I guess that's that for Gene Okerlund... I'd had a source telling me he was sticking around and would have work with WWE with this latest shake-up, but I'm not seeing the spot for him at this point...
  • Last week, Ric Flair was over in the UK doing promotional work for Backlash, and part of the tour included an online chat with The Sun.  Fans submitted the questions, and Flair seemed to answer quite candidly.
    He talked about the sexual harassment lawsuit lobbed against him a couple weeks back (denies it ever happened, and says it's fishy that it took two years for the stewardesses to decide to file it).  He talked about his manlove for Triple H, which bordered on the absurd at times (or at least came off as WAAAY too obviously part of The Work, instead of an honest shoot and assessment of HHH's ability, and I'm saying that as one of HHH's bigger fans on the 'net).  He talked about Mick Foley and Eric Bischoff (neither guy is on Flair's Christmas card list).
    It is, in short, a very interesting read.  Check it out right here.  Thanks to all who passed along the link.
  • I guess before we get to quickly discussing tonight's RAW, we oughta give SD! some equal time.  Although for the life of me, I don't think they really deserve it.
    As I said in my Battle of the Brands commentary, it was kind of heartening to at least see SD! put on a show that TRIED to get people talking.  I think there was more good on last week's show than SD! has had in about a month.  But in the quest for generating a spark of interest, SD! also sucked out loud with one of those overly-cheesy, eyeball-rolling climaxes centered on Big Show's ridiculous over-reaction to a loss and subsequent homicide of Kurt Angle.
    So one step forward, two steps back, I guess.  SD! took a grab at headlines, and pretty much succeeded only in making me realize how many other dozens of ways there would have been to write Show out for him to get surgeries on his knees.  I don't know...  stilted, Hollywood-itized skits like those with Show/Torrie and Show/Angle don't paddle my canoe, and when you pile on Bradshaw, PPV Main Eventer, on top of that....
    Well, let's just say that SD! has its work cut out for it this next month.  I'm not saying they can't pull it off.  But I have my doubts.  When your Ace Up the Sleeve is dragging out Undertaker either this week or next to set up a squash match on PPV against Booker T, you're not exactly capturing my imagination or fancy....
  • The rating for last week's SD! was a 2.9, which is another small drop from the week before, and now leaves SD! more than a half-point below it's pre-WM20 2004 average.  It's not just internet wankers like me who are getting annoyed by SD!....  almost 20 percent of SD! once-loyal audience has given up on the show in the last month.
    Of course, as is our custom, we'll try to rationalize the poor rating: last Thursday was a night of Highly Touted TV For Idiots.  And that's even if you DON'T count Show killing Kurt as being as retarded as I thought it was.  The grand finale of "The Apprentice" aired on NBC, and FOX had a special edition of "American Idol" that had been pre-empted by the President's speech earlier in the week, or something.  Both did big ratings, and left mere table scraps for UPN and the other networks to fight over.
    Must.  Restrain.  Self.  From.  Ranting.  About.  Reality.  TV.  Sucking.  Ass.  And.  Resume.  Speaking.  At.  Normal.  Speed.  No, screw that:  you know something, America, if you look at these TV shows and find yourself thinking, "Whoa, these are like, real people, except they're doing more interesting things than me," then the solution is NOT sitting around on your ass watching TV!  The solution is getting out there and doing something interesting.  Unless...  well, unless you really are just useless, uninteresting pustules, in which case, I guess stay at home and watch your Reality TV and dream about getting your own 15 minutes of fame someday on a yet-to-be-created show about Real People Who Watch A Lot of Reality TV so I don't have to deal with you.  You know, out there in reality.
    Sorry 'bout that.  It happens once every 6 months or so.  I just gotta vent.
  • And that brings us to our close today:  a look at tonight's RAW.  It's live, and it's in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. And I gather that means some of you have a few ideas for cool stuff that might happen.
    Well, I don't know what the hell you're insinuating, can't possibly imagine what you're talking about.  So let's just move on, OK?
    Here's one thing we know for sure is going to happen: a main event rematch between Chris Jericho and Christian, one-on-one.  I've outlined a few ideas for cool ideas for keeping Jericho/Christian/Trish a going concern over the past 2 weeks, and I think coming back from the PPV handicap match with the immediate one-on-one rematch plays right into those schemes.  We'll see where they go with it tonight, but I gotta admit, the more I think about it, the more I kind of like the idea of Trish going to extraordinarily bitchy (and if necessary, slutty) lengths to get revenge on Jericho, even if Christian can't seem to pull it off himself.  And even though that's only my own little stupid pipe dream, fact is the match should be really good, and that's more than enough to get me excited about tonight's prospects.
    We don't know this for sure, but we can guess that Chris Benoit is gonna need a new challenger for his World Title, and after last night, it seems like it'd be REALLY easy to have that challenger be a heel-turned Shawn Michaels.  Who can say if it would play the same way in the States, but I don't think it's a bad idea.  Again, it's a case of no matter how they play it, story-wise, the resulting MATCH should be awesome, so I'm willing to just sit back and enjoy the ride and let the experts decide what to do.
    The Calgary Connection?  Oh, I get it now!  You want Lance Storm to return to TV tonight, don't you?!?  Hey, that's a pretty interesting idea...  but too bad he'll probably get squashed by Rosey, or something.  Or not.  We'll see.  The Fed showed last night they are not afraid to taunt and tease the Canadian crowds with all manner of Montreal Overtones, so with a cast that includes Michaels, HHH, Earl Hebner, disgruntled Canucks like Lance, and so on, who knows what they might serve up...  oughta be interesting, though.
    And they can take a week to dick around with cock-tease storylines like that, too...  RAW doesn't have to do a PPV again for two months, so they can take their time, and reset a little bit.  It looks like a few new storylines have already been put in place (Tajiri vs. Cade, Regal/Eugene vs. La Resistance, maybe), and it also looks like one very sensible storyline (Molly vs. Victoria, possibly augmented so it's Molly/Gail vs. Victoria/Lita) has returned to its rightful place.  And I'm sure that Shelton Benjamin vs. Evolution will continue to take shape tonight and in coming weeks, as well (maybe a bit more with Flair or in a tag setting against Flair/Batista, but ultimately against Orton, I think).  Toss in a few other fresh sidebar issues, and I think RAW's looking to have a more watchable "free-per-view" month than SD!'s last month has been.
    To see how they kick off the fallow phase, check out RAW tonight.  Or come on back here to OO tomorrow for the Best Damned RAW Recap Anywhere.  At least, it usually is if I am in a good mood.  Which I can usually fake adequately as long as the show is half-way decent.  Which I'm thinking it will be again this week.
    See you tomorrow with RAW coverage or on Wednesday for the midweek news...


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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