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Impact Delivers Glancing Blow, plus
RAW Readies for PPV, Adolf Layfield, MORE! 
June 7, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Words, words, big words, allegedly funny anecdote, words, big words, I play a mean bass and drink a lot and am an even huger rock star than Jericho, words, words, words, nobody even really reads this part and I don't feel like wasting my time with it today, words, big words, words, something about the Reds or Yankees, words, big words, words.

Ham-handed segue:

  • At least for the next year, the weekend will now be bracketed with Red Hot Wrestling Action.  Even as we gear up for RAW tonight, we gotta take a quick step back and talk a bit about Friday's debut of TNA Impact on Fox Sports Net...
    Although maybe the "red hot" thing was a bit of hyperbole: RAW's been down for two weeks, and TNA came out of the chute with a show that... well, I'm not sure exactly what it did besides the safe and expected.
    It wasn't a bad show: on the contrary, it was an hour that flew by pretty quick if for no other reason than the novelty of it all.  But if this was a show that was supposed to grab viewers by the lapels and intimidate them into showing up again next Friday, lest they miss something totally awesome, well... on that front, I think they came up a bit short. 
    When Dusty fricking Rhodes is what passes for a top level surprise mega-star (complete with the Mysterious Who Could It Be Camera Shot of Feet Walking Down a Hallway Before a Commercial Break) and does an angle with your top champ, it kind of leaves one feeling... I dunno, underwhelmed.  Remember, a month or so back Harley Race and Randy Orton did a little angle, but it was (appropriately) treated as kind of a mid-show throw-away bit to build up Orton's gimmick.  Here on TNA, the tubby 60-year-old guy actually gets shots in on Jarrett!  The message is subtle, maybe even subliminal, but if this was a show designed to get existing WWE fans to take notice, then it's also a message that got across.  "TNA is bush league enough that here, Dusty Rhodes is still relevant."
    Yeah, I know, I'm being a dick, and probably unnecessarily harping on a minor issue... because the real story coming out of that angle was that Jeff Jarrett and Ron Killings are on a collision course.  It's just that I think there MUST have been better ways to tell that story that DIDN'T involve Mike Tenay and Dusty stuttering all over themselves ("the NW Title?") in a way that would even have made Colin Quinn blush, and then punctuating it all with an embarrassingly-bogus "Elbow, Elbow" chant that if it wasn't the work of Jimmy Hart's hired cheerleaders, I'll gladly sacrifice a body part.  I understand what they wanted to get out of the segment (Jarrett vs. Killings), but also don't think they accomplished it.
    Beyond that, there was not a whit of character building or storytelling: just a series of matches.  And of the four, one was a squash, two were good, and one was very good.  Let's just dismiss Abyss squashing Shark Boy...  the tag title match (America's Most Wanted re-uniting and winning the belts) was solid in way a lot of TNA matches aren't: nothing TOO flashy, they actually built up to the handful of really big spots, and used the usual tag match formula.  In a lot of ways, this was as close as TNA got to looking or feeling like a Monday Night match....  the opening 6-man was also exciting, in the more standard Indie Spot Fest kind of way; lots of cool moves, albeit little rhyme or reason to them.  And worse: even me, a confessed wrestling fanatic, didn't know jack shit about anybody on Team Canada, and this was how they decided to start off a new show?  If you want to debut with a highspot-a-thon instead of grabbing fans with some kind of angle, fine, but how about characters a semi-casual TNA viewer could get excited about?...  but there's nothing back-handed about my compliments towards the main event: it had the spotfest-pacing of the opener, but just a bit more smoothly executed, and also featuring four guys I know and like.  It also had the night's two Holy Shit moments (Style's no hands dive, and Elix's rope-walk-rana), by my scorecard.
    Actually, what I realize is that using the four-man X Division match as an opener would have been exactly what I'm talking about: hot action, but with guys who are at least kind of recognizable/marketable.  But then, with TNA still trying to hammer out exclusivity deals with many of their top talents, they might have been screwed on an actual main event match (no Raven, Sabu, etc.)...  so I dunno.
    Jarrett's the NWA Champ... AMW's got the tag belts...  Styles is back to the X Division....  kind of a TNA Reset, isn't it?  Like we're almost back to TNA Year One, instead of getting ready for TNA Year Three.  But whatever: I can't fault the company for wanting to play it safe and put proven commodities in familiar spots.  AJ Styles and America's Most Wanted may not be "WWE Bankable," but they are more money than Kid Kash/Dallas or Frankie Kanzarian, so I think it all makes sense...
    A couple other notes, mostly production-wise:
    The six-sided ring was less of an issue than I thought it'd be. After Tenay attempted one or two Schiavone-caliber over-sells ("EIGHT MORE IMPACT POINTS, Don West, can you believe it?"), it was mostly just, you know, a wrestling ring.  I was actually struck more by the SMALLNESS of it more than I was the hexagonalness of it.  I know most companies use a much smaller ring than WWE, even if only to make it look like their wrestlers are actually bigger, but this was a case of it being almost distracting: the lowness of the ropes and the fact that it looked like it took about three strides to run the ropes certainly made it feel like a scaled-down, pretend version of a wrestling ring at times.
    The lasers and entrance tunnels were kind of as I'd feared: a little bit cheesy, in a "WCW Clash of the Champions circa 1989" kind of way.  I don't know whether to blame budget limitations or somebody's misguided sense of what looks cool here in the Year of Our Lord 2004, but I blame something.  It struck me more like a Poison or Def Leppard video (or maybe one of those Moonlight Skate roller rink parties we had back in grade school, where Poison and Def Leppard were, of course, ubiquitous) than like a WWE-style light show.  There were times when I was actually chuckling nostalgically (both Jarrett and Dusty's entrances, for instance) at the sheer late-80s-ness of it all, and I don't think that's the impression TNA wants to make...  of course, Jarrett's wardrobe choice didn't help that, either.  But now I'm digressing.
    The overall production certainly was a step up from the TNA PPVs I've seen over the past two years, and I'm assuming (hoping?) is also a work in progress as everybody gets more comfortable with the equipment and the venue.  I like the "Fox Box" ticker across the top of the screen.  Looks exactly like anytime I tune in for a Reds game, which is kind of a nice touch of legitimacy, or something.  Only problem I can foresee: during main events, when the "time remaining" in the match is clearly longer than the actual time remaining before the show goes off the air, it's gonna be kind of pointless (or worse, kind of "exposing the business") to have the clock up there, isn't it?  Maybe TNA will have to add another element to their structured time-limit rules and just start announcing all those final matches as "TV Time Remaining," like WCW frequently used to.
    And a final thing: having Don West in my house every week is certainly going to make "Most Obnoxious Television Personality" voting a bit more interesting at the end of the year.  I doubt anybody will ever trump The King in terms of sheer Annoying the Living Piss Out of Me, but doubling my Don West Dosage from its previous most intensive is sure gonna be a chore.
    The final analysis on Impact's debut: some stuff was really good, some stuff really wasn't.  Maybe they shouldn't have debuted until they had their full roster locked into official contracts so they could have brought all their stars to bear... or maybe they should have worked faster to lock those guys in so they could have appeared on the debut show.  Cuz all I know is that I think Impact will stand to gain, be it in a week or a month or whenever, when you can bust out Raven and the rest.  Out of the gate, Impact delivered....
    Well, I was gonna do the trite, writer-y thing and say "a whimper, not a bang," but that's not quite right.  What TNA delivered was exactly stuff I'd seen on previous TNA PPVs.  And not even the really good TNA PPVs, I'd seen.  Just the mediocre ones that made me feel OK taking a week or two off afterwards.  
    Now that it's free, I won't take a week off, mind you, but I still gotta admit to being a bit surprised that TNA would do such a pedestrian, safe, and ultimately forgettable show with their first hour of national cable TV exposure.  Like I said: maybe they get their ducks in a row and things look up once all the contracts are hammered out, so keep on coming back, folks.  Don't cost nothin'!
  • A quick comment to folks who thought my Friday rambling about TNA was inappropriate.
    First, just let me say that I appreciate that many of you are loyal to TNA and enjoy having as many alternative products out there as you can get.  But please, please, PLEASE understand that I am of the mind that just because a product exists does not obligate me to cheerlead for it.  I think it's OK for me to be kind of realistic about how casual fans (in a way, myself included) will respond to a "minor league" product and to try to isolate potential problem spots for TNA.
    But that does lead me to a second sort of feedback I got, which did kind of hit me where it hurts: instead of being pissed off that I'd dare to rag on TNA at this crucial point in the company's history, a few took the time to put me in my place, remind me that "Hey, I thought you always say you're just a wrestling fan, so why are you going and harping on all this businessy/taking over WWE market share crap that's got nothing to do with being a fan?  Just relax and enjoy the fact that for a year, we get another hour of wrestling on TV."
    Fair enough, people.  Fair enough.  But realize this: even as a wrestling fan, I have a certain interest in the wrestling being GOOD if I'm to dedicate myself to it.  That was PART of what I was getting at on Friday: how TNA would have to tweak their product and roster to be truly entertaining.  But another part, a part I also think is fair: if the product IS good, then I want it to stick around, and like it or not, that means considering whether Impact and TNA succeeds or fails in a purely dollars and cents kind of way.  I don't think I was off-base to draw WWE comparisons and all that: WWE is where TNA will have to look to siphon off fans, to create a sustainable model for running shows and developing/paying talent, and so on.
    I guess maybe I do apologize if I was taking myself too seriously and acting like I understood the solutions to all the problems... but I also don't think I can, in good conscience, apologize for pointing out the problems themselves and TRYING to discuss ways around them.  For better or for worse, TNA getting a national cable slot is the START of something big, not the end-all, be-all, and I think it's fair to go ahead and wonder what they're gonna do with it...
  • Enough with the TNA talk. But let's go ahead and continue in the Stuff That Is Maybe Not THAT Important But Which the Internet Is Probably Going to Drive Into the Ground vein, anyway...
    Because over the weekend, the SD! crew made their own trek to Europe.  Unlike the RAW guys, SD! actually hit The Continent, instead of just flitting around the UK, and their travels brought them to Germany.
    Specifically, it brought them to Munich where John Bradshaw Layfield....
    wait for it....
    go ahead, try to guess....
    you'll NEVER get it....

    John Bradshaw Layfield taunted the German fans with the always-classy "Heil Hitler" Nazi Salute.
    And it got the desired response: according to one report, a fan was so enraged that he tried jumping the barricade and was ejected from the building.  Problem is that Nazi symbolism (and the Hitler Salute has GOT to fall under this definition) is pretty much verboten in Germany.  You know: illegal.  Against the law.  So really, who's the villain, here?
    And I mean, I know I've got this big brain and all, got me some book learnin', maybe even took an International Management class or something...  but I've never been no big time stock analyst on TV, or nothing, and even I knew that "imitating Nazis is a bad and ILLEGAL thing to do in Germany."
    Now, listen, I'm not gonna get my panties in a bunch over this: if you've been paying attention, it's not like I need another reason to care less about Bradshaw.  I'm sure you can go to any number of other wrestling websites where they'll be crucifying Bradshaw for being criminally stupid (at best) or an outright fascist, genocidal sympathizer (at worst).  And if it makes them feel good to say those things about Bradshaw, fine.
    Me, I'm a strong believe in words and symbols not really mattering compared to the INTENT behind their use.  I've gotten into it with you people on things like my use of the word "retarded" or the "gay spooky" concept, and if I believe it's OK for me to use certain words because my intent is pure, then to be fair, I gotta give JBL the same benefit and say that it's not the Nazi salute that matters, it's the thought behind it.
    Although: that's kind of the problem.  I'm quite sure that Bradshaw's no Nazi, and wasn't making any political statement by using the salute.  But I'm also quite certain than the "thought behind it" was probably just about ZERO.  At maximum, it was: "I need heat, so here's something cheap I can try."  It was thoughtless, it was ultimately meaningless (though internet pundits will surely spin it otherwise), and I'm sure it'll blow over, as well it should.
    It's not unlike his lobbing accusations of fat gayness towards the entire internet a month or so ago: he can't possibly mean it (unless he really is criminally stupid), he just knew it'd get him some much-needed heat that hadn't been forthcoming via other measures, and didn't stop much to think about it beyond that.
    Get upset about this if you want, folks.  For me, this story, much like Bradshaw himself, does not inspire any real loathing or distaste.  It just inspires more of the same boredom and disinterest that has marked the last two months of his push.  Bradshaw rates a big ol' "Whatever"....
  • A bit more about Brock Lesnar: on his side, he does NOT want to pursue an NFL career just to be a bench player or a PR tool.  Recent articles have painted Brock as a man willing to bust his ass to become the same type of world class athlete in football as he was in wrestling.
    That said: well, another little note from the Philadelphia Eagles camp says that Brock will be in Philly in late June for a 2-3 day meet and greet.  The football people (coaches/scouts) have one opinion on Brock: that he's a long-shot, at best.  The community relations people have another: that Brock would be great for the team, and they intend to roll out the red carpet for him when he's in town.
    As I said Friday, I don't know how the low-football-expectations but high-PR-expectations issues are meshing with other teams, nor do I know how Brock thinks about the idea of being a public relations tool more than a ball player...  but considering that the Eagles are the team that first took a flyer on the XFL's "He Hate Me" en route to the guy becoming a marginal star last year (albeit with another team), well...  maybe there's worse things in the world than collecting league minimum for a couple years until you realize that rasslin' wasn't so bad afterall?
  • And I guess we can close with a bit of RAW preview...  tonight's show is turning out to be a more important one than I would have guessed.  A month ago, I would have bet the farm that RAW could have dialed in the Cruise Control and coasted into Bad Blood with a show that each and every one of us would be fired up to see.
    And then... well, they actually DID seem to hit cruise control, and in the course of two weeks, RAW's three-month sizzle had died down, and the brand was pulling a SD!-esque trick of only building up a small handful of PPV matches, and not even handling those particularly well.
    That said: it's still Shawn Michaels, it's still Triple H, and it's still Hell in the Cell, and maybe I'M to blame, since I boldly declared back a month and a half ago that nothing else matters cuz HitC with those two would sell itself.  I didn't mean it LITERALLY, WWE... you should have still kept on putting some effort into other storylines, too.
    To wit: elevating Kane to the #1 Contender position has been about as messy and confounding a proposition as SD!'s handling of Bradshaw.  It's just that Kane actually has some legitimacy and past claim to top level status, so we're not revolting quite as much.  But honestly: like JBL and the "Great American Award," Kane was arbitrarily awarded a title shot (the battle royale) instead of moving into the title picture due to some other, more personal issue with the champ.  Like JBL, who saw his original push muddied by idiotic garbage like Mexican Rustling, Kane has put more time into a disastrously poorly-handled deal with Lita when he should have been more concerned with showing us why he's a better wrestler than Chris Benoit.
    It's a really bad place for your World Title Match and semi-main event to be in, if you ask me.  For the past however many weeks, I've sat here on Monday and said, "Well, maybe tonight's the night they get Benoit/Kane back on track."  And they haven't.  Now they don't have any more chances: if it doesn't happen tonight, it won't.  And I've got a sinking feeling, as there's still that dangling issue of Kane and Lita that was never settled, and Lita was just a little TOO happy last week, and you know there's another shoe that's gonna drop, here.  Why do I fear it'll be a really stinky one?  And why do I fear that it'll be the world title and Benoit who have to pay for it when it comes time for a match on Sunday that is almost guaranteed to have less heat on it than any RAW Title match since, well since at least Kevin Nash or Scott Steiner were involved...
    So OK: I'm massively displeased with Benoit/Kane, and I think they've pretty much done the bare minimum with HBK/HHH but that's OK cuz the match will still rule... but what about the other stuff, what with a PPV just six days away and all?
    There are the two other announced matches: Shelton Benjamin vs. Randy Orton oughta be OK as long as it's more like the final five minutes they worked last week and less like the opening five.  As I've said, I think they've really overplayed the "Shelton dominates Evolution" angle to the point where it's going to hurt him when he loses the One Match That Counts to Orton on Sunday, but that's picking nits...  and then there's Victoria vs. Gail Kim, which is the right play, but the reasons why have been obscured by two weeks of "Vickishi" when staying the course with Gail's submission mastery and Victoria NOT being an obnoxious twit would have worked just fine.
    Then there are a couple other issues that are almost certain (albeit at a late date) to develop into PPV feuds:  most obvious is Chris Jericho vs. Tyson Tomko and Trish Stratus (probably in the form of Jericho/Tomko at the PPV), which has been necessitated by Christian's injury absence.  I like Jericho, I like Trish, and what I know about Tomko is pretty much limited to what you know about him: that he hasn't exactly blown anyone's mind, yet.  But if anyone can make the dude entertaining, it'll be Jericho.  And as long as she brings it like she did last week, at least Trish will have the fans into booing SOMEbody in this match....  also, it got just as muddy as the Kane/Benoit story last week, but I still think Eugene/Coach is a do-able story/match, I just wish they'd been more focused in telling it, instead of maybe trying to rush it to PPV with six days of hype; just please, NO MORE EUGENE AND KANE...  and we've got new tag champs, so maybe, hopefully, something will happen tonight to set up a feud over those titles.  La Resistance vs. Regal/Eugene could happen down the road, but for now, we need somebody a bit more disposible, and I fear that La Resistance will draw Hurricane/Rosey one more time, and that I will be cataclysmically bored.  My Edge/Tajiri idea was SOOOOO much awesomer.  But I've vowed not to talk about how awesome my ideas are, and only concentrate on telling you about how UNawesome the RAW tag division is at this point...  so there: you've been told.
    That'd put us up to a seven-match PPV card, which would be about right.  So look for these folks and these stories tonight... 

    Oh, and late e-mail:  I just got a note saying that WWE intends to headline tonight's RAW with a Michaels vs. Orton non-title match.  Also: Shelton will face Batista.  A couple interesting pairings there, HBK/Orton oughta be pretty solid.  But I'm left wondering if it would have been THAT hard to plant the seeds for these matches a week or two ago, build them up in episodic fashion, and then have them mean a little more tonight.  Instead, doesn't it just seem like both are screaming "Randomly Generated Match to Lead to Evolution Schmozz"?  They kind of are to me...
    But maybe I'm wrong.  Tune in tonight to see.  And if you don't, fret not, as OO will have you covered tomorrow with the net's finest in RAW Recappery.  But maybe I'm just saying that because I know the guy who writes it...
    Come on back tomorrow for the Recap, or I'll see you again on Wednesday in this spot with news and spoilers and probably more of my trademarked OOpinionated rambling.


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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