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Quarterly TNA Update!  Plus: SD!/PPV
Thoughts, RAW Preview, and More...
May 17, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Residual pissiness about Judgment Day?  Fading.... but not gone.  I'm actually pleasantly surprised that feedback has been running towards the "I agree with you, Rick," instead of "Quit being such a douchebag, Scaia."  

I'm not one to troll other websites for information or the right "groupthink," but after I vented last night in the Judgment Day Recap, I did make a flyby of a few places... and seeing the PPV getting 7 out of 10 points and what not in a lot of reviews really had me worried.  Worried that the entire populace of wrestling fans had become addicted to some fantastical new wonder drug, and worried that I'd be getting an earful for daring to say the show was a disappointment.

So maybe we can put that behind us for now and talk about some other stuff, since it appears we all agree?  No?  Well, we'll talk a LITTLE bit more about it, but first:

  • It's actually kind of funny that on a day after a SD! PPV, it actually seems like TNA is more worth talking about that SmackDown!...
    That's because after about 2 weeks of low-level rumors, confirmation finally came late last week that TNA would be getting its weekly, national cable TV slot.  As widely expected (but widely unmentioned by me, I think, what with my anti-TNA bias), TNA will begin airing a 2-hour "event" program every week on Fridays at 3pm (local time) on FOX SportsNet.
    The show will be a huge upgrade over TNA's existing free-TV show, Xplosion, which is a shabbily-produced recap show featuring little more than transparent PPV hype.  Or at least it was the one time I gave it a look.  This new weekly show will be taped at Universal Studios in Orlando, FL, and the hope is that TNA will be able to give away these two hours of "event programming" for free and then build to a monthly PPV model, as WWE does.
    The show will be called "Impact," and it debuts June 4, roughly concurrent with TNA's 2 year anniversary.
    Now: to break this down.  Friday afternoons at 3pm may sound awful to you.  If your market is kids coming home from school then (a) maybe Friday isn't the right day to run the show, and (b) even if it is, the kids still probably miss at least a half-hour or more of the show even if they rush straight home from school.  Or at least, that's how I remember it being for me.  Sometimes, I didn't even get home in time to watch the old GWF show on ESPN, and I think that started at FOUR.  And if your market is adults, well, they're all at work.  Maybe TNA just really wants the college audience: classes are always done by 3, and then there's that delicious period of nothingness before it's time to go out at night...
    I don't know: intuitively, it just doesn't seem like a great timeslot for a wrestling show.  And yet, after I think some more about it, it just MIGHT be ideal.
    Look, FSN is more an interconnected series of regional affiliates than an actual network.  Areas that don't have a local FSN affiliate do get a national/regional feed, too, and I think FSN's total market penetration is at about 80% of TV households, which isn't much lower than SpikeTV.  But my point is that the same programming doesn't run on all of those tens of millions of TVs at the same time.
    It actually creates a situation where TNA pursuing a more intuitive timeslot (like Wednesday night in the old PPV slot, or even, if they had balls, Mondays head-to-head with RAW), they'd actually be shooting themselves in the foot.  On any given Monday, maybe a third of the FSN households would actually get "TNA Impact."  The other two thirds would get their local baseball, NBA, or NHL game.  A more "common sense" timeslot would basically be nothing but a non-stop series of pre-emptions and headaches for TNA and its fans.
    By airing at 3pm on Friday afternoons, TNA is gonna be immune to pre-emptions.  Your local FSN affiliate has nothing better to show at 3pm local time than TNA wrestling from the national feed, and you can bank on it being there every week.  No pre-emptions, no following the show around to repeat airings, none of that crap.
    If FSN is the network TNA has to settle for, then this timeslot just might be ideal for building a loyal, weekly audience.
    A lot will, of course, depend on the quality of the show.  As I've mentioned many times before, "Xplosion" was certainly not worth my time as a casual TNA fan, and not even worth setting my DVR to record it every week.  But more telling is that I haven't been particularly inspired to even check out the "flagship" TNA broadcasts on PPV the same way I was six or eight months ago.  Not that I was ever a huge fan of the weekly PPV model, but I had a phase there where I was seeing about every other TNA show back last fall...
    All they'd really have to do is recapture some of that magic, put it on TV for free on Fridays, and trust fans to set VCRs and DVRs to check the shows out.  Another weekly "event" option to go along with RAW and SD! is certainly welcome, assuming it's top shelf.  Being able to see the best TNA has to offer for free every week (and knowing you can watch it whenever you want, at your leisure) is a far cry from having to build a third night a week around wrestling (since, as I've outlined before, I never considered PPV replays an option: if I'm paying for a show, it better be live and I'd better not already know what happens).
    This is basically my long-winded and round-about way of saying, "I don't know for sure if this is gonna be the business move that changes TNA's fortunes, but it WILL be a move that at least gives them a chance to win me back."  And I have to think there are more than a few other fans out there who'd at least give a weekly TNA show a look-see for a few weeks...  hey, no obligation to stick around, and maybe, just maybe, you'll see something you like.  And it don't cost a penny.

    Mark it down: June 4.
  • For whatever it's worth, I guess the Friday weekly show is not an IMMEDIATE replacement for the Wednesday PPVs.  Though that was the plan as discussed dating back months, it appears the two programs -- one free and one with a $10 price tag -- will run concurrently for the time being.  
    This is actually a part of the deal that doesn't make much sense to me.  To generate interest, TNA needs to load up the free show... but to generate revenue, TNA needs to keep fans tuning into the PPVs.  That's why the move to a monthly $30 event at the same time as the move to FSN seemed like the wise move to me: no conflicts of interest.  But I guess maybe there are contractual issues with PPV distributors or something, here...  still, last I heard, the HOPE was to go to a monthly PPV model at some point down the line.
    TNA's contract with FSN is for one year, so they'll have time to shift strategies and to work out the awkwardness of trying to do what even WWE isn't doing right now: producing two 2 hour shows per week that are BOTH good and worthwhile.  Also FYI: TNA is paying FSN for the timeslot, which might reek of desperation, but it's actually the way ECW got most of its clearances back when it was an underground darling.  It's just that TNA might have a few more resources in terms of its organizational structure, so they can actually sell ad time and make some of that money back (instead of just running in-house Sandman t-shirt ads and hype for 3-year-old videos every commercial break).  We'll have to see how they reconcile things: win over new/casual fans, or keep money rolling in by focusing on PPV and the existing loyal fanbase?  
  • A couple other business-y things about the new TNA show...
    For one, the plan for the first three months (at least) is to tape the Friday show every week on Thursday nights, with the TNA crew being transported, en masse, from Nashville, TN (weekly PPVs on Wednesday) to Orlando, FL (for the FSN tapings).  A slight bit of editing/tweaking, and the show is ready for the public 12 hours later.
    Also: the two shows will apparently have a distinct feel, with the FSN show going all futuristic on us.  Jeff Jarrett has even talked about a six-sided ring being used on the Friday show.  Whatever.  It's like a plaque that used to hang on my dad's office wall said: "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit."  A six-sided ring MIGHT end up being the next "Hell in the Cell." But it might also end up just being unnecessarily complicated fluffery to mask the fact that there's nothing actually compelling INSIDE the Hexagoned Circle.
    And finally: TNA is getting pretty hardcore about protecting its talents.  I might have vaguely mentioned the TNA/ROH controversy a few weeks ago, and the newest twist is that TNA will not necessarily "forbid" their talents from working other shows, but they want all outside bookings to go through TNA.  That way the office can decide which shows their signature stars work.  And, it should be noted, skim 15% off the top, since they believe they are making them "bigger stars" what with the new FSN show and all. 
    Indie fans are making a big deal out of this, like TNA is preventing them from seeing their favorite semi-stars, or something.  But ugly truth be told, a lot of the hardcore indie fans tend towards hyper-reactive Trekkie-like behavior.  TNA's trying to run a business here, trying to build up a whole new roster of stars; why not get pissy at WWE when they don't let Shawn Michaels work an All-Star Wrestling show in a high school gym in Bumblefuck, Egypt?  The guys who do have a right to be concerned with this are the workers themselves, and for them, it comes down to a simple question: is it better to get 2 dates per week with TNA and know you're gonna be on TV and then limit your options and earnings for outside bookings, or is it better to remain a total free agent working Japan and other non-TNA indies?  Run the numbers, they'll tell you what to do.  It's nothing that should be a huge scandal for wrestling fans, though...
  • And I think with that, we can now move past TNA... next scheduled discussion of the group:  probably after the June 4 FSN show.  Mark it down, indie lovers!
    So let's go back to another bit of news from last week: SD!'s final rating wound up being a 3.1, which is back up 0.3 from the Friends-finale-slaughtered rating they did the week before, but still down about a half-point from pre-WM20 levels.  Spin it as a ratings increase if you want: I spin it as a return to the merely disappointing, rather than the exceptionally dismal.
  • And that's as good a springboard as any to just say a few more things about Judgment Day and the future of SD!... because sadly, the one area in which I DID think the PPV could excel was in shifting gears and signaling that the brand was ready to try something new after an 8-week experiment that has seen a good 15-20% of the audience evaporate into thin air.
    Instead, Bradshaw is "protected" while Booker is sacrificed (an exact reversal of what would have made sense to me, and also a reversal of what SEEMED to be the consensus plan as recently as a week or two ago, when they seemed to have a master plan for something Gay Spooky to save Booker, but instead: just a bag o' dust).  Not a single thing was settled at Judgment Day, at least, not in compelling fashion.
    I mean, Chavo did vanquish Jacqueline, and it was kind of a fun bit, but it was mid-card filler... and Taker did squash Booker, but that was more frustrating than satisfying in its decisiveness...
    Leaving me with nothing beyond an impression that SD! has no idea what to do until Kurt Angle and Big Show are back in action.  They could just as easily have said, "You know folks, we're just gonna keep doing this same audience-alienating show for the next month or two...  we'll let you know when we're ready to step things up.  We're thinking around SummerSlam," and that way, Eddie wouldn't have had to dump 3 pints of blood and look like the only guy on the entire show who KNEW he had to do something extra and special because the stuff around him was just not clicking.
    [Note: to be fair, I'm actually not saying Eddie tried to "save" the show by bleeding extra hard.  It's something I've had a chance to ask about, and guys CAN control the difference between "PPV blood" and "Monday Night Blood," but gushers like that...  I guess it's more a freak thing, something they can't control.  I think I'd question Eddie's sanity if he thought intentionally cutting extra deep was a necessary idea, and I'd feel even worse for admitting that, in some sick way, it DID add to the final 10 minutes of the match, so...  well, point is: I am NOT advocating that kind of blood loss as a solution to SD!'s problems.  Honest.]
    I know my frustration with Judgment Day stems more from "smart" type criticisms than is common for me...  PPVs are a time to kick back and mark out and be a fan.  But the truth is that it's been HARD to be a fan of SD! lately, and when the PPV did nothing to improve matters on that front, well, I got frustrated.  As I said last night, it's not like there was a whole lot of Pure Suck on the PPV: guys worked hard, most matches had at least a couple nice little spots...  but I hear tell that Velocity usually doesn't suck, and I still don't make a date of it every Saturday night.
    Judgment Day needed to go beyond "not sucking."  It needed to give us hope that we were turning a corner.  Instead, it delivered a show that was EXACTLY what SD! of the last 8 weeks has been, and what I now have no choice but to accept will be forthcoming for at least 4-6 more weeks: watchable but far from inspiring.  If I'd had a FF button, it's a show that I could have watched in about an hour flat. 
    Paint it however you want 7-out-of-10'ers...  you had such low expectations that a "watchable" show was good for you, whatever... to me, being bored, frustrated, and wishing for a FF button when I'm watching a PPV is nothing but bad.  
    If you missed 'em, the complete results from last night can be had in the OO Judgment Day PPV Recap.
  • Quick Scoreboard Update...
    In the OO Staff PPV Predictions Battle, we have a tie.  Both Alfonso Castillo and Canadian Bulldog accurately picked 4 winners out of 6 (real) matches previewed in our absurd-yet-oddly-compelling PPV Preview.  Kudos to them.
    Rounding out the pack: Adam, Jeb, and the Immolator all picked 3 out of 6.  [Although his picks arrived to late to be included, I'm also, for the sake of the aggregate rankings, allow Danny's 3-for-6 picks to count.]  Myself and Matt Hocking got 2 out of 6.  And once again doing me the massive favor of keeping me from coming in last, Erin got 1 out of 6.  
    Upon completion of the First Quarter of Staff Predictions, I will also give you a quick rundown of which OO-ites seem to know their shit.  Sadly, I am not one of them.  Among Qualified Prognosticators (playing along for at least 2 of the 3 PPVs), the percentage leaders are:
    1.  Alfonso Castillo (11 out of 13, .846)
    2.  Jeb Lund (15 out of 25, .600)
    (tie) Canadian Bulldog (15 out of 25, .600)
    (tie) Adam Gutschmidt (15 out of 25, .600)
    5.  Big Danny T (14 out of 25, .560)
    (tie) Matt Hocking (14 out of 25, .560)
    7.  "Immolator" Calum Macbeth (10 out of 19, .526)
    8.  Rick Scaia (10 out of 25, an emasculating .400)
    9.  Erin Anderson (8 out of 25, .320)
    Not counted: Kyle Maxwell, sayEitan, Brad Smoley, and the Cubs Fan, who each only played along on one Team Coverage PPV Preview...
    So I guess the moral is: Fonzo should be the one doing this three times a week, since he actually knows what he's talking about...  All hail Fonzo!
  • Astute readers have been asking: is this "Kenzu Suzuki" guy the guy I said was going to be "Hirohito."  He sure is.  So mark it down: the horrifyingly-dumb "Hirohito" gimmick is dead.  The potentially stultifyingly-dull "Kenzu Suzuki" non-gimmick lives on.  
    My understanding is that all along, the plan was for Suzuki to appear on SD!, so contrary to what some of you thought, THAT MUCH did not change.  It's just that WWE caught heat for the Hirohito thing that it never got a chance to also air later in the week on SD!...  now that they've settled on the non-gimmick, they're just going ahead and promoting Suzuki on the show that he'll land on.
    Again: he'll be a rarity, as a Japanese grappler who is actually a bona fide heavyweight.  If they want to push him, even if not as far as originally hoped with the Hirohito gimmick, I'm thinking a little more window dressing might be in order (whether it's an English-speaking mouthpiece, or as discussed a couple weeks ago, his wife who supposedly is going to be signing a WWE contract as well).  We'll see...
  • Both Dallas Page and Konnan were apparently backstage at the PPV last night.  In DDP's case, it's well known that he's staging a mini-comeback (actually, it began the night before at an indie show in Oklahoma, I think), but there have been no serious rumors about him pursuing a WWE comeback...
    But in Konnan's case, people HAVE been talking about him hooking up with the Fed, possibly for a feud against Eddie Guerrero to mark time until Angle/Show are ready.  Konnan is currently affiliated with TNA, but has not inked one of the exclusive/we-pimp-you-out-to-other-indies deals, and would be free to pursue a WWE contract were one offered to him.
    Good lord: the day has come when I have to choose between Bradshaw and Gonad in main event feuds?  If this is true (not just about Konnan drawing WWE interest, but also that he'd be in line to feud with Eddie, which admittedly seems like a semi-ridiculous bit of hyperbole), Jeb may end up winning the Wrestling Burnout Debate, afterall...  man alive.
  • Sadly, Andy Kaufman did not return from the grave last night at the big "Andy Kaufman: Dead or Alive" event in Hollywood.  Sadder: Jerry Lawler, who was at the event but apparently didn't do much besides make a few token comments, will not be receiving the 1.4 million piledrivers to which he is entitled, and will continue annoying the piss out of us all on Monday nights...
  • And yes folks, that's my segue into a quick preview of tonight's RAW.
    Maybe it's just Judgment Day taking the wind out of our sails, but after a couple really killer weeks of highly-anticipated shows, tonight's RAW feels like one of those maintenance episodes, albeit one with a strong anchor around which to build.
    A 20 man battle royale to crown a #1 Contender to Chris Benoit's World Title will headline the show, and features enough legitimate challengers that it should be pretty exciting and dramatic.  For the purposes of our discussion, let's pretend that we don't know about embryonic plans for Kane to challenge Benoit at the Bad Blood, PPV, OK?  And hell, who's to say they couldn't have somebody else win tonight and still pull some kind of swerve down the line?  Just put your smark hat away for once, OK...
    The 20 men involved are the same as I outlined in the RAW Recap last week, with one change: Maven is returning to action, and will replaced the fired/departed Grand Master Sexay.  That said, the guys who need to really concern yourself with really only number maybe 8 or 9 who could either (a) win or (b) actually be involved in some kind of intra-match storyline: HHH/Orton/Flair/Batista, Edge, Jericho, Christian, Shelton, and Kane.  Those guys'll be your lightning rods for interesting developments in the match.  
    Maybe Matt Hardy, too, depending on exactly what the plan is for him and Kane.  I kind of hope they put the Kane/Lita "Answer My Question" crap off in its own little world, so if it does end up sucking, it doesn't hurt Kane's "legitimacy" as a World Title Contender.  But we'll see: him and Matt will probably tangle, nonetheless, once the bell rings.
    Not present: Shawn Michaels, who is suspended.  But who I wouldn't be surprised cost HHH his shot at winning the Battle Royale.  It would fit into plans to have them finally blow off their feud at Bad Blood in a Hell in the Cell match, as HHH could get so pissed off that he demands Bischoff re-instate Michaels so the Game can kick his ass.
    With all the key feuds contained in the 20 man Battle Royale (Jericho/Christian, Evolution vs. Shelton/Edge, Matt vs. Kane), there is limited content for the rest of the show.  Well, sure some guys can always pull double duty, but we're probably looking at the women being asked to carry TWO segments:  first, we know that Lita vs. Trish is definitely on.  And we can assume that Matt Hardy, Christian, and eventually Kane will all get involved, too, which will give them enough extra-curriculars to go longer than a 4 minute TV special if they want.  And it'll also set the stage for the later Battle Royale.
    And two: after Gail Kim has made Champ Victoria tap out the last two weeks, I'm gonna say she's in line for a title shot, finally.  And I'm again going to advocate Molly Holly screwing her henchwoman over and stopping her from winning the title.  Or: if Gail wins, Molly attacks her, instead.  Something like that: Gail and her new moveset are seeming babyface-ish, and frankly, Victoria and her new muteness is seeming mighty boring-ish, so something's gotta give.  Whatever the question in the women's division is, I still say the answer is "Molly," so thus, my solutions involve bolstering her heelishness at Gail's expense.
    Just about the only other non-Battle Royal-affiliated guy I can think of off the top of my head is Eugene, who'll certainly be up to something tonight.  Oh, shit: and Chris Benoit.  He's IS the champ, and all.  If nothing else, I'd guess he'd cut a promo and be an interested observer for the Battle Royale, but who knows, they might even toss him in the ring for a token squash match or something, too.  I just guarantee his only presence will not be in Music Video Form this week...
    Maybe it's not as easy a sell as the past couple weeks, but there's no reason to think RAW will be anything other than really entertaining tonight.  So check it out.  Or otherwise, come on back here to OO tomorrow for the full recap and analysis, courtesy of Yours Truly!
    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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