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RAW Heats Up, Injury Bug, plus
Impact/TNA Notes, and More!
June 21, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


I don't think I've ever made a secret out of my loathing of NASCAR: not just the stultifying dullness of watching jacked-up bumper cars going around in circles, but also the confidence-in-society-sapping retardedness of much of the sub-culture it has spawned.

That said, I still harbor plenty of awe and respect for truly amazing machines and the men who pilot them, and therefore had a lot of fun during the annual family trip to yesterday's Formula 1 race in Indianapolis.  Not only was the race itself quite fun (and genuinely exciting, as NASCAR's lone redeeming feature, the CRASHES, were unusually ubiquitous, and I think we must have set some kind of record by only having 8 cars finish the race), but cruising the infield, seeing the sights, and talking to fans who were every bit as enthusiastic as their NASCAR counterparts, but who could intelligently discourse about the latest F-1 events (most of them in more than one language)...  well, let's just say it was a far cry from a shirtless, Busch-Light-fueled, bemulleted dude shouting "Whatchyou talkin' about, ya faggot? Dale Earnhardt was the fuckin' king, man!"... and even *I* know that within the NASCAR sub-culture, it's Richard Petty who is the king.  Morons, the all of them.

But I didn't mean to get into a discussion of how I can never decide if I want to laugh or cry when I see somebody earnestly sporting the number 3 with angel wings... I just wanted to say that the US Grand Prix was a good time, and if Indy gets its contract renewed for next year, fans of Cars Going Really Fast could do lots worse than to check it out.  [And in deference to you Fine Folks, I'll restrain myself from continuing my anecdote with the part how we got back to the car just in time to tune in and hear Junior Griffey's 500th homer, and then also find out that NOBODY was hitting the Bong yesterday.  Yeah!]

Why do I have a feeling I may have pissed off a certain, statistically significant, percentage of my audience here?  Well, all I can do is to try to win you back with some of the rasslin' talk:

  • Tonight on RAW, you can pick one of two things to focus on: the potential Suck Factor as we get the next chapter in the Pregnant Lita story... or the potential Kick-Ass Factor as we get a Triple H vs. Eugene that could be highly entertaining both on its own as a stand-alone match and as part of any number of different storylines.
    Guess what the OOfficial OO Tendency dictates?  That's right... who's pregnant again?  Maybe I'll remember later...
    For now, let's look at HHH/Eugene.  It's something that's been building ever since Eugene hilariously taunted William Regal with a HHH water bottle and then later declared HHH to be his favorite wrestler.  It's something that, actually, I didn't think we'd get until much further down the line... in my head, an interaction between HHH and Eugene is worthless unless you can at least tease a "heel turn" by Eugene (even if it's less a heel turn and more HHH warping Eugene's fragile little mind).  And I kind of thought that would be a card best played months later, maybe when Eugene's good will with the audience finally started to wane.
    I also thought that there were plenty of other directions to go with Eugene before you got to that point...  some good (I'm still telling you that a heel William Regal against Eugene is something that would be pure gold, because of the Sap With Dignity Factor).  And some not (but Eugene's a character who kind of needs a "keeper," and since this is WWE and we've seen how these idiots work, I'm betting that somebody, she's probably working down in Louisville right now, is going to get the job of being Eugene's First Girlfriend, and we'll just have to cross our fingers that it's more like Spike/Molly than like Kane/Tori).  But still: lots of places to go.
    And maybe we'll still have those places to go... because over-riding the "HHH is Eugene's favorite wrestler" vibe is the fact that this match tonight is for a World Title shot.  Maybe HHH doesn't care about things like toying with the simple mind of Eugene: maybe he just comes out and kicks ass in an attempt to win back what he feels is rightfully his, and in so doing, pretty much forces Eugene to pick a new favorite wrestler.  No teased mind control/heel turn.  Just HHH scoring huge heat for finally being the guy to put Eugene in his place.
    Except you know what?  That doesn't ring totally true, either.  For one, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that The Rock was quoted in interviews saying that he'd love to be written into the show when it passed through Miami.  That's tonight, kids, and who else would the Rock come to help than his new friends Eugene?
    But even without harping on mere speculation about Guest Stars, you've got another factor at play: Eugene has displayed genuine in-ring ability en route to his undefeated record.  He CAN be taken seriously as a wrestler.  And HHH?  He was massively selling the injuries and toll taken upon him by the Hell in the Cell match last Monday...  and you can't tell me that 7 days has put him back at 100%.  It's almost like they've intentionally left HHH semi-vulnerable.  But for what purpose?  Benoit vs. Eugene probably doesn't headline a PPV, but Benoit vs. HHH could.  Unless: maybe Benoit/Eugene could headline the "off-month" Vengeance show, saving Benoit/HHH for SummerSlam?  And during that off-month push, maybe THAT is when you have HHH ramp up the bogus kindness, try to use Eugene as a pawn in his own mission to regain the World Title, and then eventually, to smite Eugene but good.
    I don't know, kids... the possibilities are so numerous, and so many of them are really intriguing.  I guess maybe I'll just take some advice I got last week, and sit back and enjoy the ride with Eugene. Against all odds, WWE hasn't made a severe misstep with what sure seemed like a Danger Gimmick when it debuted, and I'll trust whatever they go with tonight will be more on the good side of the ledger.  HHH vs. Eugene should be fun.
    Beyond that: well, the main event will kind of dictate what's next for Chris Benoit.  Although even a win by Eugene probably means that Benoit's main rivals are going to be Evolution.  Not only does HHH crave the World Title, but Benoit mowed down the rest of the faction in last week's RAW main event.  I can't imagine any of them are pleased.
    Benoit's partners in that match, Chris Jericho and Edge, also stand to continue feuding with Evolution.  More than likely, Randy Orton's next IC challenger will be one of those two.  As I outlined last week, I'd like to see Jericho get that spot, just as something to keep him fresh and busy while Christian's Soldiers regroup and focus on Trish's business until the leader himself gets back. 
    Speaking of Trish... well, I guess here's where we have to start discussing Pregnant Lita.  Lita just pinned Trish in a tag match last week, but can she stage a run for the women's title?  Will she be medically cleared?  Or do WWE trainers/doctors sit in the same room as Matt Hardy and not watch TV?  I stand by a previous comment: Victoria wasn't pinned or made to submit when Trish took her title, and could very easily have her character rehabbed (again, no more shitty music, no more dancing, just bring back wacky antics with Stevie Richards and the Russian Lesbians) and be over as a babyface challenger to Trish.
    Either that, or have Lita reveal she's color blind and mis-read the results last week, or something.  She's not pregnant, let us never speak of this embarrassingly-ill-conceived idea ever again, and go ahead and let her and Trish feud for the belt, afterall.  That'd be fine with me, too.
    The tag title picture is a huge mess, with La Resistance holding the belts and being relatively over as one-dimensional, cheap-heat-generating heels... but with no single babyface tag team that seems worthy of challenging them.  In my fantasy scenario last month, I advocated the return of Tajiri in a tag team role: if Edge isn't doing a heel thing against Benoit, I still think Tajiri/Edge could be good.  Or: at weekend house shows, Tajiri and Rhyno teamed up to good effect.  Something.  ANYthing.  Again, I find myself making myself sick that I think the return of Jeff Hardy has never been more necessary than it is right now, simply so that fans have some team they can cheer for on RAW....
    I expect plenty of Touching Video Footage of Shawn Michaels, as they play up the severity of his injuries.  Michaels himself may be absent from live TV for a bit, but the Fed ain't gonna let you forget what happened.  Michaels will be back in August, and a big match with Kane won't be far behind.
    In the meantime, I don't know if you have Kane stalk Shawn Michaels, or do any other pre-produced vignettes... or maybe you just have Kane plow down an assorted assemblage of babyfaces until Michaels is back on TV.  I'm guessing, at the very least, he's got a mini-program with Matt Hardy/Lita to look forward to.  Again, I gloss over that which pains me....
    That's the paradox that is RAW tonight: there is evil lurking in the corners... but I sense much good, too.  How the Fed plays it will determine which of those two natures wins out.  It makes for an interesting co-mingling of terror and anticipation as I think forward to tonight's show.
    But come this time tomorrow, we'll know which side won out, and if you happen to miss or skip the show, just come on back to OO for the Full RAW Recap, courtesy of Yours Truly.  I'll tell you what happened and break it all down in a Fair and Balanced Manner.  As the wise man once said, "I tell it like it is, McMahon."
  • Quickly going back to last week: the final rating for SD! wound up being a nice, round 3.0 broadcast rating.  Good enough for fourth place as reruns and whatnot place all of television in the summer doldrums, but certainly not setting the world on fire.
  • Both WWE brands got hit by the injury bug last week...
    I wondered aloud why SD! would move the tag titles to the Dudleys, but if they hadn't done it last week, they would had to have done it this week... Rico worked that match at less than 100%, after suffering a leg injury early on, and is looking at an undisclosed amount of time on the shelf.  On unsubstantiated report even says Rico could miss three months if surgery is required.  Tough break, although to be honest, if there's anybody on the SD! roster who doesn't need to actually wrestle to keep his heat, it's Rico.  Even as a manager/spokesperson for Charlie Haas, I think he's got tremendous value.
    And over on RAW, I guess Shelton Benjamin broke bones in his hand at last week's tapings in Dayton.  I sure didn't notice it, but then again, I was hitting the booze, too, so who the hell knows?  But everybody saying it definitely happened in the match against Cade that aired on last night's Heat.  Again, there are no solid reports as to exactly how long Shelton will miss, but it wouldn't surprise me if it's next to none, and they just bring him back reprising Edge's hard cast gimmick.  But Shelton did miss weekend house shows, and if he's on RAW tonight, it'd probably only be in a non-wrestling capacity.
  • Speaking of weekend house shows: RAW headlined with Chris Benoit vs. Ric Flair around the horn in the Carolinas.  From all reports, they were stellar showings by both men, and fans treated them as equal babyfaces.  Obviously, it's a case of WWE knowing how to make the most of Flair on his home turf...
    But this does raise an interesting issue, as the Fed frequently takes effective one-off house show pairings and uses them on TV...  as part of Benoit's war with Evolution, might we get a Benoit vs. Flair match tonight on TV?  By all accounts, we'd be extremely lucky if we did...
    Also: Tajiri was on all house shows over the weekend, and after he worked (what ended up being) a dark match at RAW last week, I'd guess they are priming him for a TV return, too.  Again: the only night he didn't work as a singles, he did team with Rhyno for a tag title shot against La Resistance, and I've heard plenty worse ideas...  if nothing else, I'd love to get them together as a tag team just so I could start looking forward to them breaking up: they had a kick-ass feud back in ECW.
  • And while I'm still thinking of last night's Heat...
    I gave the show a very thorough once-over on the grounds that if I made it on TV, it would have been during one of these matches... but no dice.  My bright red Miller High Life t-shirt made no guest appearances that I saw.
    But two things I did notice: (1) I think I need professional help, or maybe a vacation from wrestling, or something.  Because in my recap of the event, I joked about how I thought I had ID'ed a spot in the Cade/Benjamin match where they'd put in an ad break... and I was exactly right.  My instincts are uncanny, and clearly indicative of an unhealthy level of wrestling addiction.
    And (2) I went out of my way to compliment Joey "Sinatra" Matthews for a cool little mannerism/taunt in my report... and WWE went out of its way to edit it out of the final telecast.  What the freaking hell, man?  I'm not talking about just missing the camera angle, I'm talking about an actual 0.7 second hiccup where Matthews went from standing still with his back to Maven to suddenly being already turned around and taking the flying cross body.  I'm begging somebody to explain this one, because I know I didn't imagine the taunt, and the proof is in the awkward edit.  Are jobbers not allowed to show charisma?  Or did Heat run 0.7 seconds long, and that was deemed the best place to cut time?  Help, please....
  • Let's go back further still, to Friday's wrestling TV....
    With TNA's second anniversary show coming up this Wednesday, I expected a big final push to make the show a Must See to fans just getting exposed to TNA on Impact.  What I got... I'm not entirely sure.  Some good stuff, but a confounding final segment that almost undid whatever good preceded it.
    Here's the show's cut-and-dry results, first:
    Hector Garza won a six-way X Division match; he pinned the debuting Miyamoto (doing a quasi-Great Kabuki gimmick), though I felt the highlights of the spotfest were the four other guys, who I all know and like alot (Chris Sabin, Elix Skipper, Michael Shane, and Frankie Kanzarian). Fun six minute match, but again, I marvel at how TNA thinks that randomly handing out wins in the X Division is a better idea than doing things to develop personas/characters and sticking to a primary "theme" in pushing the division's stars (and personally, my theme would be Sabin and Elix getting most of the TV time).
    The Naturals beat Sabu/Sonjay Dutt; the storyline here was that the Naturals are trying to wrestle their way off the "Gut Check List," so on the PPV two days before they attacked America's Most Wanted, and here on Impact, they overcame a pre-match attack by AMW to still get the win over Sabu and Sonjay.  Pure formula here, as Sonjay did about 4 minutes of work, hot tagged Sabu for about 90 seconds of work, then tagged himself back in to get pinned.  As has always been the case these past few years, seeing Sabu work is kind of a bittersweet treat....
    Video Package: Raven won't fight Sabu since they share a bond of having been trained by The Original Sheik.  Raven will have a special video tribute to Sabu's uncle at the 2 Year Anniversary show.  Simple enough, and for an old time ECW mutant like myself, you can keep it simple because some part of me is still pre-conditioned to think "Raven vs. Sabu will RULE."
    Abyss squashed D-Ray 3000 (jobber doing a definite Outkast homage).  Nothing to see here, just an excuse to oversell Abyss' size and let the announcers ramble about his love triangle with Goldilocks and Erik Watts.
    AJ Styles beat Aguila in a really good match.  Probably about 8 minutes, counting a commercial break, and exciting throughout.  Nice post-match, stuff, too: Styles' current arch-nemesis, Kid Kash, watched the match from the stage and attacked after the match with Dallas.  The 2-on-1 was ended by a surprise save from D'Lo Brown, who also got on the mic and promised that after Wednesday's 2nd anniversary show, he'd chase the NWA Title and make an Impact.  Good for D'Lo: I think I'm clearly on the record as thinking he's one of the most criminally misused performers of the last 5 years.
    And then the big finish: Ron Killings, the #1 Contender to the NWA Title, beat Eric Young in a virtual squash.  Dusty Rhodes was a nuisance on commentary, preventing Mike Tenay from doing anything remotely related to conveying why Killings should be taken seriously by fans.  Lord knows that if I had only seen three episodes of Impact, I wouldn't have any reason: the guy has barely spoken, and winning tepid squash matches ain't gonna set the world on fire.  After the match, Killing's celebration was cut short by Jeff Jarrett appearing with a guitar in hand... except, instead of going after Killings, Jarrett detoured and kabonged Dusty.  Which makes not a lick of sense, really, other than I think TNA overestimates how much I care about Dusty Rhodes as a whipping boy.  Even less of a lick of sense: Vince Russo hits the ring and cuts the show closing promo on Jarrett.  Blah blah blah, if Jarrett uses the guitar against Ron Killings, Ron Killings will be the NWA Champ because titles change hands on DQs here.  Finish is officials keeping Killings and 3 Live Kru from going after Jarrett.  I'm baffled as to why the big Final Push to your huge main event is Vince Russo nattering on about nothing particularly shocking.  Baffled.  Instead of some reason for Jarrett and Killings to fight, we've got Jarrett pasting Dusty Rhodes and Vince Russo cutting promos on Jarrett...  Okey-doke.
    Pardon me if probably just decide to wait till THIS Friday to find out what happens at the big 2 Year Anniversary show.  TNA hasn't exactly set the world on fire with Impact, yet, and that means they haven't won back the interest they had last year.  Which means me and my thing about watching PPVs alone (I think that's lame, and it's been probably about 2 months now since the last time my group of wrestling buddies called up to say they thought checking in on TNA was a good idea) results in me finding something else to do on Wednesday night.
    C'mon, TNA, get it together!  Nobody wanted to see Main Event Vince Russo in WCW four years ago, why'd you think we'd want it now?
  • I think that's all I got just now at this moment... I'll be curious to see what completely pointless throw-away comment gets me the most e-mail today.  Friday's winner was the one about "The Girl from NewsRadio."  I was pretty sure no one would even know what I was talking about, much less share my affinity... and instead I get over a dozen dudes who feel it is there duty to let me know that her name is Maura Tierney, and if I want, I can see her now on "ER."
    I guess thanks for filling in the blank on the name, fellas... but "ER"?  I got standards, folks.  And anyway, I think SD! is fulfilling my Thursday night requirement of patience-trying TV quite handily on its own, just now.
    So let fly, you NASCAR fans... I'm sure you're the ones who'll have something to say to me today.  I'll try to take it all in stride, and come back at you in good spirits come Wednesday's update.  Or tomorrow's RAW Recap, come to think of it....
    Till 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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