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PPV Overload Debacle, RAW, Tons of
Injury Updates, TNA, Lesnar, and MORE!
July 7, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Can't believe it's been a week since I did a straight newsy-type column. Such is life when you've got Hot Insider Communiqués from WWE and then a holiday weekend, huh?

I'm not so sure there's anything super-pressing that I've missed filling you in on, but in the name of getting back on track a bit, let's can the smalltalk and get to the wrestling, OK?  Good:

  • With an extra 24 hours of thought -- both hindsight looking back on RAW and foresight looking ahead to Vengeance -- my stance has only solidified:  RAW was a success as "two hours of entertaining TV," but a pretty abysmal failure as "a reason to get fired up for a PPV."
    On Sunday, when Vengeance takes place, it will mark the third Sunday in 29 days when fans have been asked to shell out their money and congregate for a pay-per-view event.  And it seems to me that as burnt out as we fans are on being sold a bill of goods we know ain't QUITE worth it, it seems WWE itself is burnt out on trying to find ways to hype said bum bills of goods.
    I mean, going back four weeks, Bad Blood was mostly a One Trick Pony: Hell in the Cell and not much else.  SD!'s Great American Bash was an absolutely mess, and took Lack of Preparation to all new heights when they only had THREE PPV MATCHES until the Thursday night before the big event.  And now, RAW's falling into that same trap and only has five matches lined up for the PPV, and has done varying levels of good work on hyping those said matches.
    Unlike SD!'s Bash PPV, the stories heading into the big show have been fairly amusing and as such, this cast of characters is one that we're WAY more amenable to paying to see.  Even with some bungled storytelling, Benoit vs. HHH just feels WAY more PPV Main Eventy than Eddie vs. JBL.  But there's a huge difference between feeling like "Hey, I still think this show should be pretty good" and WWE doing such a focused job of preparation that fans have no choice but to think "Only an idiot would miss this show."
    To me, the last time any PPV had the sizzle to it was April's Backlash (Benoit/HHH/Michaels rematch, plus Orton/Foley and a few other reasons to care).  Since then, we've had two brand-specific PPVs for each of RAW and SD! (JDay/GAB for SD!, BBlood/Vengeance for RAW), and though the two RAW ones have been vaguely marketable, I don't think even THEY have grabbed anyone much beyond the more hardcore/loyal fans.  And the SD! PPVs, well, just awfully conceived, the both of them.
    Those four shows in the span of seven weeks (three of them in the last five weeks) have tested the ability of the WWE creative team, and tested the patience of fans.  I don't have exact figures (and in fact, won't have exact figures until at least a few weeks after Sunday's Vengeance), but a simple Common Sense Analysis seems to suggest to me that WWE either picked a REALLY bad downswing in business to attempt this 3 PPVs in one month experiment or has been struck by a really bad downswing in creative inspiration RESULTING in what I'm guessing is a downturn in business.  
    I'd wager a body part (as always, you may choose between my tonsils and my appendix) that when all is said and done, you could add up the profits generated by Judgment Day, Bad Blood, the Bash, and Vengeance this year, and they would fall short of the profits generated by only Judgment Day, Bad Blood, and Vengeance last year. The cost of producing the third show alone would have to be a huge factor, not to mention my sneaking suspicion that this year's four PPVs will end up being among the least-purchased in recent memory.  Not that last year's three were huge sellers, but c'mon: the addition of the Bash is the straw that broke the camel's back and probably made a lot of wrestling fans re-think their purchase strategies.  And when WWE gave fans a reason to rethink that, WWE sadly was simultaneously giving fans pretty good reasons for thinking that maybe NONE of those four shows (instead of 2 or 3 of the four) was worth paying for.
    WWE needs to get the PPV Sizzle back.  In lieu of inspired storytelling, the only way I see that happening is just backing off the PPVs.  The five weeks between Vengeance and SummerSlam will be GLORIOUS.  I can sit back and try to enjoy TV shows without worrying about "How can I POSSIBLY do a convincing PPV preview of this crap".  And WWE can sit back and take time to actually think ahead, for once, instead of rushing into PPV after PPV, barely having half-a-card lined up even the week before the show.
    I know we've already got another little Dense PPV Dance Card coming up in October, but that one shouldn't be as bad, as it's 3 shows in a 6 week span that time.  Still, with WWE continuing to have a hard-on for the idea of getting up to 14, 16, or even 18 total PPVs a year, I hope the abysmal failure of this string of four shows in 7 weeks is not lost on them, that they can crunch numbers and realize the three show string from last year made them more money than the four shows this year, and that it's simply not worth it to alienate the paying fans that way.
    We'll see.
  • And I kind meant to start this off with a follow-up on my RAW thoughts from Monday's show before I got off on that tangent...
    Suffice to say that I appreciated the lack of Pregnant Lita and other crap.  Suffice to say most of the stuff with Eugene was really interesting and/or fun.  Suffice to say Orton/Jericho and the main event tag match were both very well done (a few awkward spots in the IC match aside).
    I really did find it to be an entertaining two hours of TV, with very little to bitch about.  But the second you ask me if I thought it did WWE any good in terms of the PPV, that's when I go apeshit and rant for 800 words.
    They did a horrible job building up Benoit/HHH, all in the name of keeping Eugene in the mix.  If they'd pulled the trigger on a three-way main event, it'd have made PERFECT sense to do things this way, but as it stands, they want Sunday's PPV to be Benoit vs. HHH, one-on-one, and I think they've been very lazy and scattershot in the way they've built it up.
    That includes Edge's involvement on Monday, which seemed completely randomly generated. Why's HE the one cutting promos on HHH, instead of Benoit?  And what of Edge's own IC Title match against Orton?  That got NO help on Monday.
    They tangentially helped the Jericho/Batista feud (Batista cost Jericho the IC belt).  And I guess I gotta applaud them having the guts to put Matt Hardy over Kane in a brawl to help keep heat on their PPV match, and also grant that the spontaneously generated tag title match for the PPV should at least be fun... but that's still only 5 PPV matches (when they'll need at least 7), and even among the 5 PPV-ready ones, I'm not so sure how sell-able any of them are, even after Monday's pre-PPV show.
    So I dunno.  The part of me that likes to think he's all smart and insightful can find things to bitch about, I guess.  But the part of me that sits on the couch and doesn't think too hard thinks that guy's a bit of a douche, and I should just enjoy the fun when it happens and quit worrying about what's good for business.
    So I'll clam up and tell you that you can read the more-involved discussion between my two selves, as manifested in yesterday's much-more-detailed OO RAW Recap.  Enjoy.
  • Here's something I almost can't believe: tomorrow night's SmackDown! looks like it's gonna be a good one.  Maybe even a REALLY good one.  If you've strayed from the flock, this would be a good week to flip to UPN, or at least set a tape, or something.  
    Don't worry about not having kept up the past 3 months, either, as the thing that sounds most exciting is that SD!'s almost going for a Complete Reset.  All we need is for next week's cage match to bring us the start of Eddie's second WWE Title reign and all will be peachy.  
    It really ain't rocket science: when the main event horses went down, SD! could have done this right away, could have just put the talented workers into actual wrestling matches where they could shine, they could have taken notes from who gets pops at house shows and on Velocity, instead of feeling like they had to "create new stars" by pulling crap like JBL: World Champ out of their ass.  Not to mention all the poop jokes and asking Kevin Fertig to bleach his eyebrows for no discernable reason and so forth...
    But perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself.  It's just one week (and contrary to other, more lenient, reviews, I really haven't had much reason to note any substantive improvements in SD! at ALL over the past 2 or 3 months).
    My point: check out SD! this week, you shouldn't be disappointed.  You skip it anyway, we'll have recap and analysis for you on Friday.  You want to test drive before you buy, well, we've also got the Spoilers for you.
  • Speaking of Kevin "Mordecai" Fertig...  he's done.  Well, Mordecai is done.  Kevin Fertig remains near the top of the list of WWE prospects in a lot of people's minds, but that character is likely gone for good.
    With last week's loss to Rey Mysterio, Fertig will be sent back to OVW, where it's believed he'll resort to his old "Seven" gimmick instead of trying to hone "Mordecai."  The rap on Fertig is that maybe the character wasn't a good one (maybe?), but he just wasn't comfortable or able to pull off that kind of gimmick.  Again, I repeat myself: in today's wrestling, a guy who looks like that and is that much of a throwback to TL Hopper and other 90s gimmickry was probably doomed to fail, and it had nothing to do with Fertig's ability to cut a promo.
    But he'll go back to OVW, hone that personality and charisma, and await the day when WWE has another opening for him.  Luckily, "Mordecai" looked like such a weirdo that with a new gimmick and non-bleached eyebrows, fans may possibly never know that he'd already had a failed WWE run.  Which is kind of interesting, since another guy who had all the skills but was given a shitty gimmick in his first WWF run was Glen "Dr. Isaac Yankem" Jacobs... but he looked so different in that gimmick that he was able to be brought back with ANOTHER greatly affected gimmick as the Fake Diesel and then AGAIN as Kane, and few fans were ever the wiser.
    And I mention it because, for the past year or so, Kane is almost always the guy I compared Fertig to, skillwise.  Perhaps, when all is said and done, the comparison will be more apt than I'd ever realized....
  • Something we missed talking about last Friday: Trish Stratus really is injured, that wasn't just a gimmick on Monday.  There'd originally been reports that WWE expected her to miss as much as 2 months of ring time, but after Monday's RAW, that's clearly been revised, and Trish is willing and able to do nominal work to keep herself and her title in the spotlight.
    I think this could be a really fun gimmick for her to play up: the sneaky cheap-ass title defenses and playing up the injury for sympathy and all that... fits her bitchy diva persona pretty well.  And as an aside, I think it might even give her valet, the Lovely Miss Tomko, a chance to develop some sneaky evilness of his own.  Tomko would have to be integral to many of Trish's plots to retain her belt, and even if it's as a lackey, it'd be nice to see Tomko start doing something other than predictably boring (or worse, outright bad) c-level feuds.
    But someone, please, tell me what deity did I piss off to have TOMKO be the only one healthy and able to work at full capacity out of Christian's Soldiers?
  • And while Trish is looking at limited work for a while, Vince McMahon was back at full speed this week at TV tapings.  No word on whether he brought the evil midget with him.
  • A follow up on last week's Test Update: yes, he did return for a grand total of one (1) house show.  But now, it looks like he's once again off the road for the foreseeable future.  It wasn't something new he tweaked, either, it was just that he worked one match and had enough pain in his injured neck that they didn't think it wise to let him word again.
    He'll have it checked out again, and for the first time, people are talking about a possible surgery and year on the shelf for Test.  That'd suck for the guy.
  • A-Train is also gonna be MIA for a bit, with a shoulder injury: I'm not sure how bad it is, but if it's determined he needs surgery, we'd be talking on the order of 4-6 months.  But that's not for sure gonna happen.
    Man, how about that: Trish, Test, and Albert hitting the DL together.  T&A, a tough 10 days or so, eh?
  • Eddie Guerrero and Matt Hardy are also among the walking wounded, though both are in spots that dictate they work hurt.  Eddie's working through a tweaked hamstring, and Matt's knee injury (that has kept him off some house shows the last few months) isn't going away.
    In fact, depending on the latest check-ups for Matt, he may well require surgery, in which case, they will certainly make use of his feud with Kane to do a major injury angle to write Matt out for a month or two.  The only real question is when Matt and WWE might decide to quit trying to rehab and just pull the trigger on the arthroscopic surgery: some of that might also depend on when WWE thinks they'll get Shawn Michaels back on TV to pick up his feud with Kane (since Matt and Lita will surely occupy Kane till then).
  • Not a good week for TNA... they've found out that weekly PPVs have been dropped by DirecTV, the second biggest PPV distributor in the US.  The droppage is supposedly only for July, but there's actually no guarantee that DTV will pick them up again in August.  Or ever.  This means TNA's "PPV Universe" has been contracted by about 10-20%, and further constricts their chances for increased exposure thanks to Impact.
    Speaking of which: last Friday's Impact was a step backwards. A week after what I thought was their strongest free FSN show yet, I really didn't think TNA busted out anything particularly fresh or compelling to make fans think about checking out the next PPV.  I'd say more, but honestly, that was 5 days ago, now, and even I have my limits on how much you people crave my Insightful Analysis of Extremely Dated Material.  So you get the short version: not so good.
    Then again, maybe what I'm the biggest fan of is sustainable, sensible storytelling, and TNA had another SHOCKING SWERVE~! this past week when they carted out Ken Shamrock for no reason other than because he's Ken Shamrock.  And not to be a dick, but it's been about five years since there was any real reason to be a Ken Shamrock fan, so...
    I dunno.  I realize there's a balance TNA has to strike between sustainable, in-house talent and periodic guest stars.  But to have D'Lo Brown (the Criminally Mistreated D'Lo Brown, if you ask me) and Monty Brown doing an ostensible #1 Contender's feud at the same time you just drag Shamrock in off the street?  Something like that just grates on me a bit....
    BTW: yes, that means Shamrock vs. Jeff Jarrett for the TNA Title is tonight on PPV.  But not exactly: it's actually a guantlet style match where Shamrock is kind of an add-on to the Jarrett/Elite Guard vs. 3 Live Kru feud.  See how I kind of mean that TNA is just eschewing attempts to tell it's in-house stories the best it can in favor of shoe-horning in guest stars?  But in the guantlet match, the TNA Title is on the line, so there you have it: a main event tonight.
    Also: AMW vs. the Naturals in a tag title rematch, D'Lo vs. Monty part 2, Sabin/Red vs. Team Canada vs. Team Japan, and an update on Jeff Hardy.  Check it out, if you like.  And if you don't have DTV!
  • While on TNA...
    Kid Kash is likely done with the company.  His "suspension" last week is a cover for his deeper problems with the company dating back weeks, and even months.  If he's gone for good, they'll have excised Kash without doing the pay-off to his feud with AJ Styles.
    And though I've always been a big fan of Kash's ring work, and was SHOCKED at how good a heel he turned into last year in TNA, I wouldn't exactly started looking for him to pop up in WWE.  There's a reason he clashed with TNA management, and there's no reason to think he'd temper his act or become less outspoken in exchange for a WWE contract.
  • It's looking more and more like the Brock Lesnar Football Hype over the last month will end up amounting to nothing.  Despite (or maybe, in a roundabout way, BECAUSE OF) exposure on ESPN and whatnot, most teams are backing away from Project Lesnar.
    Already deemed not-football-ready despite his ample raw physical gifts, a few franchises were ready to take a flyer on Brock because of the PR possibilities and the slim chance he'd blossom sooner than expected as a football player.  But after blunt outspokenness against gays and a general sense that he's a bit of a loose cannon, those teams have revised their estimation of even Brock's PR value.
    Two teams expected to make strong plays on Lesnar were the Philadelphia Eagles and the NY Jets.  And as of late last week, I got word that both franchises had essentially retracted their interest and had quit making plans to woo Brock.  On Brock's side, I guess they'd tell it a little different, that Brock cancelled out on them after they suggested Brock would only be with the team through the pre-season and then would be forced to play the minor leagues for a year.  I'm not clear on the he-said, he-said part of it, but the bottom line is that whoever walked away first, Lesnar and his two former top suitors are not looking to go into business with each other, any more.  I don't know if any other teams remain in the running for Lesnar's services or not, but my Man on the East Coast didn't seem to think so.
    That leads to the obvious follow-up issue: would Brock keep working for another year (even if he refuses to lower himself to Canadian or European football, he could work out on his own) to try the NFL again next season?  Would he rest on his laurels, and his 2 years worth of Big WWE Money?  Or would he get the itch to return to wrestling?
    I'll say this: a lot of people may have thought Lesnar's a dumbass and a jerk for the way he ditched out on WWE, and a lot more people may have come to that conclusion after seeing some of Lesnar's recent quotes about gays and loving to fight for the hell of it and all.  But I couldn't care less: I don't want to be the guy's friend, I just want my wrestling to be as good as possible.  So hell yeah, I'd welcome my own personal Wrestler of the Year for 2003 back to WWE!
    Then again, I'm on record thinking Barry Bonds is a fucking bad-ass who doesn't have to be nice to the press if he doesn't want to, and who wants Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame... so I think maybe you all know about how good a judge of character I am....
  • Another wrestling couple has bitten the dust, it sounds like....
    Last week, Dallas Page announced he'd separated from his wife, Kimberly.  He presented it as amicable, and possibly not permanent.  Although Kimberly was the first Playboy Wrestling Babe and my personal choice for Hottest Wrestling Chick of the Mid 90s, I'll restrain myself from making the obvious lecherous comments...  and instead just hope that everything works out for the both of them.
  • And I do think that about does it for me today.  This should be enough to get you up to speed after the last week, anyway.
    Then Friday, it's probably not so much news again: instead OO Team Coverage PPV Preview gets the top spot.  We'll break down the entire Vengeance card for you.  Probably do it so completely that you don't even have to check out the PPV, if you don't want to, because we've covered every possible angle...
    Except that's not why we do it.  No, we do it so that we can make our picks and beat those swine at WrestleLine!
    So come on back, and I'll see you on Friday with PPV Preview!


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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