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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
Bret vs. Flair, Diva Search vs. Common 
Sense, and Tons of Other News 
July 14, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

It's come to my attention that on Monday, OO and WWE.com used the same, identical "RE-Vengeance" headline when referencing the post-PPV RAW fall-out.

I would just like to state for the record: I don't know which of us came up with it first, by the time I had a chance to check WWE.com for myself (shock of shocks, the hard-hitting and ever-informative WWE.com is NOT on my list of regular places to visit~!), they'd already shifted to a different headline about Eugene getting decimated, and if nothing else, I'd like to think that the fact that I at least had the good sense to TELL YOU that I knew "RE-Vengeance" was a shitty, third-rate pun makes my use of it MUCH cooler than WWE's, even if they thought of it first.

And if they DIDN'T think of it first? Well, WWE, lets just say I've put a TON better ideas here on OO that I would have preferred you steal first, you sons of bitches!

There might even be some right in here:

  • Stick with me till the end today, folks...  we've got some interesting stuff developing between Ric Flair and Bret Hart that we'll talk about.  But since that's gonna end up being even LESS newsy and MORE OOpinion-y than I usually am, I'll close with my rambling instead of starting with it...
     
    And for a starting point, we might as well bust out the OO mid-week standard and talk a bit about RAW.  Except, as always, there isn't a whole lot left to say that I didn't say yesterday in the ever-outstanding RAW Recap.  But I'll say it anyway, perhaps a bit more succinctly, on the grounds that I know a good half of you didn't read that fine document.
     
    To wit: yes, the Diva Search thing sucked, and More On That Later.  And Tomko/Maven on its own really reeked of Heat; it's not just my own personal bias, I hope, but really, out of the Tomko, Maven, Trish, and Nidia, only one of 'em is really RAW-Ready in terms of the made up metric of "over-ness."  And we all know who she is.
     
    But everything else: dy-no-mite.  Really. 
     
    I think you start with the overall story they told with Eugene, which was well done and NECESSARY.  Eugene can go back with Regal, now, can get back to doing what made him popular-against-the-odds, and can do it out of the main event spotlight (which SHOULD now be the province of Benoit and HHH).  Not to say we shouldn't first have Eugene and Regal WITH Benoit against Evolution, but what I'm saying is that by the time SummerSlam rolls around, we should get the sweet-ass, straight-up, no-frills Benoit/HHH one-on-one match that I'd originally thought they were trying to do for Vengeance.  SURE you do other stuff in the interim, though, but ultimately, that's our goal, and now I think we're on our way.
     
    And then, hey look, I'm an asshole and I still see NO REASON for a Pregnant Lita storyline, but given that we have to have it, I'll at least try to derive some enjoyment from the minor victories, such as we had on Monday.  I cannot tell you how nice it was to have Lita back doing something that suits her and plays to her abilities.  Weepy, whiny, actory Lita: an channel-flip inducing abomination for reasons that start with the creative direction and run right down through to the execution/performance aspect.  Blunt, ballsy, to-the-point Lita: still involved in a stupid storyline, but at least now you can kind of like her and sympathize with her even if you don't exactly like what she's involved with.  You know, kind of like how I felt when they had Trish ALMOST being seduced by that Creepy Jeff Hardy last year.
     
    And actually, that whole arc with Jericho completely rewriting history so that he never lost on PPV and instead is the Musical Chairs Champion of the World segueing into Lita cutting the promo on Kane and finally into Jericho battling his ass off and getting a DQ win over Kane: very well done.  It's still just treading water for Jericho, but it's treading water at a pretty high profile while effectively glossing over the part where he got drowned at the PPV, so I guess I can't bitch too much.  And for Kane, it's pretty clear to me that those two days (loss to Matt, punked by Lita, beaten by Jericho) will culminate in something very nasty in the near future; I'm confident that Matt Hardy will be the victim, and I can only HOPE that it doesn't suck.  They made some nice strides on that front on Monday.
     
    Beyond that: very solid opening match with Edge/Batista. I actually liked it better than Edge/Orton at the PPV, if for no other reason than it was shorter and tighter and more focused...  Rhyno beating Conway is obviously the start of his and Tajiri's run at the tag titles, and this is a Good Thing; their match was short, but it was intense and stiff (as most things with Rhyno are) and had a very effective finish in terms of setting the stage for a tag feud...  the Flair/Hurricane stuff was a lot of fun; the match maybe went a minute or two longer than it had to, but it was meant as a showcase for Mr. Book Author and it still came off well.  And obviously the promo was awesome.  Foley/Flair is OBVIOUSLY coming, the only question is, How Soon?...  and I think you saw some things out of Eugene in the main event that he'd not shown before: yes, it was a "story" match, but paired against Benoit, they let the old Nick Dinsmore out a little bit to show what he could do as a wrestler (and credit to JR for doing a very plausible job of introducing it as "Eugene's INSTINCT" as a long time student of wrestling, and not some one-match fluke; granted, it's right to wait till he's in the ring with a guy of Benoit's ability to bust this stuff out, but it's all part of a building process and making it so Eugene can have competent, compelling matches with anyone AS WELL AS doing the comedy).
     
    A very good show, says I.  And SAID I.  For the full report and details on every match and segment, I strongly suggest you just go back and Read the Recap.
     
  • Quickly, about the recap...
     
    Right in the opening segment, I kind of crapped out on you (I do the recap from memory, except in VERY special situations where I need to know an exact sequence or quote, and trust me, this was NOT special)...  I was going through Evolution's beef with Eugene, and I said "I don't know what sand got into Batista's vagina, but he didn't like Eugene, either" or words to that effect.
     
    Helpful Reader Ben Graff wrote in to tell me that Batista's problem was that "I had to take Eugene to Chuck E. Cheese," and castigated me for not remembering since it was funny.  He's right: it was actually pretty funny, and I shoulda remembered it.  The "Batista at Chuck E. Cheese" visual alone is even FUNNIER than the time I saw Randy Orton sipping a Corona with Lime.
      
  • The rating for Monday's RAW: a 3.7, which is actually up a tenth from the week before, and I think has got to be considered an even bigger moral victory/gain than it was a numerical one...
     
    I mean, I'm as big a wrestling dork as any of you know, and I found myself pulled into the Home Run Derby, and even with the magic of dual-tuners and DVR, I didn't get done watching RAW till a little after midnight as I was going back and forth.  I'd have to think the Derby similarly appealed to the rest of the young adult male demographic, and yet, RAW holds strong and even moves up a tick.  Yay!
     
    It could also have just been a bit of interest in the post-PPV edition of the show from fans who didn't check out Vengeance (and I'm guessing that's lots of them, but let's not get into the "too many PPVs" debate again).  But even so, that's a "win" of sorts because it means that at least the fans still cared enough about what happened at the show to tune in to RAW, even if they didn't care enough to plop down $35.
     
    Either way, I don't think you can spin RAW's ratings performance as bad, no matter how hard you try...
     
  • More about the Diva Search thing....
     
    First of all, I made a big stink about the thing in the Recap yesterday, and I stand by most of it.  Really, the core of the issue was my closing line: if, after the display on Monday night, you really found yourself entertained or thinking that THIS is how you find the Ultimate Girl, you are a waste of space.  It was devoid of any value, and I was SO heartened to see/hear the live crowd turning on those segments.
     
    That said, I have to take back ONE thing I said.  I guess maybe it's not all just a set-up for last night's Girl #3, the Playmate of the Year.  But not necessarily for the right reasons.  A bunch of people wrote in to tell me that there isn't just one semi-famous ringer in the Diva Idol line-up, there's AT LEAST three.  WOW!  Well, that certainly makes it... ummmm...  EXACTLY AS INTERESTING.  Which is not very.
     
    Anyway, in addition to Playmate of 2004 Carmella Notevengonnatrytorememberhowtospellhername, Alert Readers have told me that the Diva Search Roster also includes another Playmate of the Year, Karen MacDougal, and another former Playboy Model, Amy Weber.  I actually recognize both those names: Karen MacDougal was definitely one of the hotter Playmates from that window of time between the time I turned 18 and the time I realized that the internet made going out in public to pay money for naked pictures was stupid.  And Amy Weber was much less ubiquitous than a Playmate of the Year, but I remember her vividly because SHE KEPT APPEARING IN PLAYBOY BUT NEVER GOT NAKED!  Lord only knows how many dozens of names of owners of Bared Breasts In Playboy I've forgotten, but however many years after the fact, when I saw the name "Amy Weber," I remember it, dammit!  Score one for the "having" not being as much fun as the "wanting," I guess....
     
    But that's getting off track.  Way off track.  Point is, WWE obviously opened this up to professional models, and got themselves more than a few ringers here, which (unless I'm missing the point) seems to be in direct opposition to the concept that they're trying to rip off: somebody who watches, tell me, isn't the whole charm of "American Idol" that you're seeing unpolished, undiscovered diamonds in the rough who just might be BETTER than some of the "talents" who already exist in the industry?  I know I've fast-forwarded 90% of the Diva Idol crap, but I'm beginning to think that we'll have NONE of that here, just an onslaught of pre-fab model/actress/dancers looking for a quick payday, instead of an actual possible new diva with an appreciation for the business and a non-zero shelf life.
     
    Which leads me to my last point.  Maybe a $250,000 isn't a lot of money to Corporate WWE...  but to me, it seems clear that the Diva Idol concept isn't exactly gonna be raking it in (we'll wait till after ratings are in for Thursday's special, but I'm feeling pretty confident), and when you add in the cost of staging the try-outs and producing the segments and all, that, the final price tag is gonna be a lot more than a quarter of a million...
     
    And it forces me to ask the question: if the Diva Search and the eventual winner are NOT gonna be contributing to WWE's financial bottom line in a significant way (and from what I've seen, I feel VERY confident that the actual winner will also NOT contribute significantly to the on-screen product; at worst, we'll get a Jaime Koeppe, and at best we might hope for a Terri Runnels), then what in the blue hell kind of message is WWE sending to the girls they're already paying (and NOT paying $250,000 a year, either!) by running this contest?
     
    It was a couple weeks ago when I first said that this whole thing was making me angry on behalf of the Trishes and the Mollys and so forth.  And nothing's changed.  If the Diva Search is mostly just a beauty contest, it doesn't even matter, since any of the existing WWE women can hold there own on that front.  And on top of that, they've spent months and years busting ass, developing their skills in the ring, and developing their personalities out of it to the point where they ARE contributing to the WWE bottom line and ARE contributing to the on-screen product.
     
    So, OK, I'm guessing they'll probably run the "internet babe of the year" contest again in 2004, and I'm guessing that it'll again be an afterthought, and that Trish will NOT be winning any $250,000 for being the hands-down most appealing babe on the roster to the vast majority of wrestling fans.  Whoop-de-fricking-do.
     
    And at the same time, you'll have some actress/model making a huge payday for doing nothing more than (in a BEST CASE SCENARIO) holding a microphone and reading lines of a cue card.  Actually, after saying that, you know on whose behalf I'm MOST angry?  Ivory's.  You want to pay a babe $250,000 for being a glorified mic stand, pay her.  As a bonus, you'd actually be paying a girl who actually has charisma and personality and who, GASP, could get in the ring if you need her to!
     
    I'm not sure what the solution is. I'm betting there are bylaws against shutting down a contest without declaring a winner, or something.  But even if there IS a law against "Employees of WWE, Inc. are not eligible," that doesn't matter, because as we all know, wrestlers are Independent Contractors, NOT employees.  So you know what, here's what I propose:
     
    Let every diva on the roster be a part of the contest.  Watch as every non-WWE diva gets "voted off the island" first because NONE OF US CARE, and then as soon as it's down to the 14 or 15 women on the roster, just call the whole thing off and let ME award the quarter million based on merit.
     
    Here's what I'd do:
     
    "Hey, Trish, here's $100,000 for being so awesome even though you could have just skated by on being hot but decided you wanted to actually get good. Also consider some of this money reparations for the time we made you bark like a dog for no reason other than because Vince McMahon has the world's shittiest sense of humor."
     
    And then: "Hey, Molly, here's $100,000 for being the most valuable diva we have, but never having the fans realize it because Jerry Lawler is a douchebag.  Consider a large chunk of this award as a bonus for when we made you cut off your fricking hair and then we NEVER DID ANYTHING WITH THE GIMMICK OTHER THAN PLAY IT FOR COMEDY BECAUSE WE ARE STUPID. God, that was bad."
     
    And finally: "Hey, everybody else, here's $50,000 to split between you.  We know it's not much, but you should be able to all buy yourselves something nice.  And please, try not to get too angry at us for trying to bring in some untrained model to take one of your jobs and give her this money instead.  We realize we were wrong.  Truce?"
     
    That would be that, and then we could move on and never speak of this again.  Of course, it shan't be happening that way...
     
  • In addition to the Rock finding his niche as the star of videogames-turned-into-movies (currently, "SpyHunter," but as discussed on Monday, soon to also be "Doom"), a few more wrestlers will be dabbling in film in the near future...
     
    According to a bunch of e-mails I got, it has been announced that Steve Austin, Kevin Nash, and Bill Goldberg will all be doing bit parts as football players in Adam Sandler's remake of "The Longest Yard."
     
    And if we're talking movies, no, there is no new word on when/if Triple H will be taking off to do "Journey of Death." It's still locked in Developmental Hell, due to a conflict between WWE and the director.  
     
    And yeah, I did get your e-mails about HHH and Conan the Barbarian, folks, I just didn't feel like mentioning it... but if we're talking about it, anyway, alright, here goes: first you have to buy into rumors that the "Conan" series was being resurrected (an iffy proposition to start), THEN you have to buy into rumors that HHH was the #1 Choice to star in them, and THEN you have to buy into rumors that last week Ah-nold himself stepped in and wanted to take a more active role in the revival (possibly to the point of making the production wait till he was out of office and could play Conan himself).  So with a string of ever-so-plausible rumors like that, I hope you can see where I didn't much feel like ONLY reporting the last one, since I'd yet to totally believe in the previous ones.  Whatever...  you people know by now that I'm trying to write columns that *I* would read, and this is definitely bordering on the minutiae that I don't give a shit about.
     
    So let's move on...
     
  • Another thing many wrote in to tell me:
     
    On a new ESPN 25th Anniversary special counting down the "most outrageous characters" of the ESPN Era, Vince McMahon came in at #20, apparently as much for the XFL as for WWF/E.
     
    Struck me as kind of strange for Vince to get on a list like this, when I can think of some easily more "outrageous" straight-up athletes that'd be more up ESPN's alley, but I guess the size of the stage upon which Vince has performed counts for something, too.
     
  • Folks, it's looking like maybe another pretty good one on SD! this week, so check it out again.  Last week's show was as good as they've done since March.  Don't know if tomorrow's will necessarily match or top it as a whole, but they've got a SWEET finish that definitely makes me think these improvements are not aberrations, but rather something that'll continue on into the (at least near) future.
     
    If you must, you can get all the details in The Spoilers.
     
  • And that leaves us with one last thing to talk about.  Ric Flair vs. Bret Hart.
     
    I don't even know WHERE to start on this one.  I guess first thing is, if you haven't already, you need to click here to read Bret Hart's recent online rebuttal to Ric Flair's autobiography.  It's OK, even if you haven't read the Bret-themed parts of Flair's book, it doesn't matter, since Bret tells you what Flair said before he rebuts him.  Just check Bret's site, and read the whole thing.  I'll still be here when you're done...
     
    Finished?  Good....
     
    First, let me just say that it turns my stomach to have to sit here and preside over a Ric Flair vs. Bret Hart "Which One Of Us Was Greater?" Dick Waving Contest at a time when we are being subjected to Bradshaw as WWE Champion.  It'd be ever so much nicer to have them come together and say "Hey, at least we both smoked that chump's ass!".
     
    Second, let me just say that part of me really wishes I could tell you with certainty this was all Just A Work.  I mean, actually, it might be: both guys gloss over periods when they really were political allies in the name of making it seem like they never really cared for each other, so who knows?  But I can't really subscribe to that theory for the simple fact that there'd be nothing to be gained by that...
     
    This is not Ric Flair vs. Mick Foley, where they speak their mind about each other with the clear-cut intent to put personal feelings behind them and make money together by selling more books and feuding on screen.  [And yes, it will happen, and it IS only a question of when, as mentioned above; anything you read to the contrary about Mick being FOR REAL pissed at Flair and WWE is not true.]  Ric Flair vs. Bret Hart simply isn't going to happen: and if books are gonna be sold, that only benefits Ric, since Bret's giving it away for free on his site.  Bottom line: unless they're doing it for shits and giggles, this is real animosity, folks.
     
    Which leads us to have to accept that two of our (the internet's) favorite sons think the other is a piece of shit.  And that ain't fun.  It's one thing to band together against the Evils of Hulk Hogan, it's another to take potshots at one of your own.
     
    But that's kind of where I find my stepping off point into my own slant on this issue...
     
    Because whatever you want to say about Bret and Flair, they really AREN'T one and the same, and never were. They never wanted to accomplish the same things, or at least, not the same way.  They were, no matter how much they both appeal to "the smart fan," compliments and NOT substitutes.  They were, in my opinion, as different as Chris Benoit and The Rock, to put it in present day terms.
     
    It's just that time has clouded that distinction, and all we're left with is the memory that both used to be really awesome, forgetting exactly what it was that made each one individually awesome.
     
    Ric Flair was involved in a lot of **** and better wrestling matches.  Ric Flair was on top at a time when there were NOT any other Ric Flair's in important positions: the business was generally about bigger men.  When you did have guys who could technically wrestle, they frequently couldn't back it up with talk.  As a master mic man, Ric Flair drew attention to himself.  And then, with matches that looked like none that you'd see Hulk Hogan or Sid Vicious have, he seemed like a virtuoso in the ring, as well.
     
    This is not to say that Ric Flair was NOT talented inside the ring. He had the moves, he had the conditioning, he DID know how to put them together to get a reaction from the crowd. But to say that was ever Flair's #1 talent or his #1 priority would be downright false.  He, at all times, knew the value of being an entertainer, of being involved in big storylines, and you need look no further than the caliber of his promos or some of the things he and the Four Horsemen got into while Flair was holding the book.  Of course Flair could always step in the ring and deliver at a high level.  But Flair still knew there was not just more to it than that: he considered the other aspects just as, if not more than, important.
     
    I said that makes him more like The Rock, in present day terms. This is not a slam, as I think The Rock is about as good in the ring as anybody NEEDS to be, and he just augments that with unreal amounts of personality and charisma. If the Rock had existed in 1988, he would have been considered just as much a ring wizard as Flair, I think, and in a league distinct from the Hogans of the world.  But if you think "The Rock is only a mediocre guy in terms of workrate and that's not Fair to Flair," fine, I'll give you another one: maybe Ric Flair is more like Chris Jericho.  Would you give me that one?  Crazy charisma, good in the ring, and an uncanny knack for BOTH sides of the performance aspect.
     
    And of course, I'm saying Bret Hart is in the Chris Benoit mold.  Which is not to say that I'm suggesting Bret sucked personality-wise any more than I meant to give off the vibe that I thought Ric Flair sucked workrate-wise.  It's just that here, you flip things around a bit, and Bret's proclivities were in the ring and not on the mic.  It's what he considered important, and it's what he was best at.  You can argue the chicken and the egg, if you want ("is it important to him only because he was good at it? Or is he good at it because it was important to him?") all day long, but leave me out of it: the point is, what obsessed Hart and what he excelled at is a very different thing from what Flair aspired to.
     
    Bret wanted matches to look real and to make sense. And at that, he kills Flair six ways till Sunday, bottom line. Bret thought that's what sells tickets, that's what's entertaining, and that's what he'd do. And to a lot of fans (myself included), he was right. And no, Bret didn't completely dismiss the promos and the storytelling aspects of the business: he just wanted to bring more reality and intensity to THOSE as well.  To him, that meant being himself, not making jokes, and keeping things a bit more real.  So maybe any catchphrase he ever coined came from Gorilla Monsoon, and maybe he'd never take a crowd on a 20 minute ride with a mic in his hand, but when Bret talked, it usually meant something, and anybody who doesn't have fond memories of the STORYLINE aspects of things like Bret vs. Owen and Bret vs. Austin is a liar.
     
    It annoys me to have to sit here and watch Bret and Flair try to decide which one was greater (as have their fans: judging by a quick perusal of websites, this has been a HUGE day for "idiot feedback columns that I know would make me dumber if I actually clicked on them but which must generate ratings if those other sites are publishing them"; you know, there's a REASON why god invented Message Boards! and a reason why I empowered the ModSquad to keep mine free from said idiots, too!), when it's really a moot point, and this seems more like a personal grudge than anything that can be settled in a meaningfully impartial way.
     
    Anybody who tries to use ticket sales or ratings to prove greatness is a dolt. Flair and Hart existed at different times, in different companies, and in different business cycles.  Flair can lay claim to selling out football stadiums, but for an essentially regional promotion, as the top dog in the 80s NWA.  Bret was a headliner for a NATIONAL company for almost the entire 90s, but during a period when the WWF and wrestling as a whole was doing poorly.  Which one is a better resume item?  I can't say.  Perhaps the one thing that truly is a Major Similarity: both, regardless of the state of their domestic drawing power, were GIANT overseas, Flair in Japan, and Bret in Europe.  You know, you try to compare this stuff, and it's like apples and oranges, and still, part of intuitively thinks you might come up with almost exactly a bushel of each.
     
    So c'mon people, let's rally behind The Rick: quit acting like you're gonna be the one to once and for all prove which of Bret Hart and Ric Flair was the bestest wrestler of all of time and space.  Accept that what we've got here is a personal grudge (and as an aside: the only time in the debate where one guy is clearly in the right, it's the part where Bret gets hot for Flair's comments about Owen's death), and that there really isn't a right answer, anyway.  Both were great.  Both are First Ballot Hall Of Famers (tm, JR).  But both excelled at different enough aspects of the business that they're not even competing for the exact same spot in the halls of greatness.  They're both internet darlings, but they got there different ways.
     
    Chew on that, and then let's move on.
     
  • That is all today.  As a quick note: I have been in "technical difficulties mode" the last few days.  At first, I thought it was Road Runner and at my end, but even if that was contributing, there have also been some "backstage" issues with OnlineOnslaught.com.  I hope that (other than the inexcusable lateness of updates) you have not noticed any problems, but if you have, let me know, OK?
     
    Although: one of the things that has been wonky is e-mail, so... I dunno. Sorry for the lateness and I hope there's been no other troubles is really all I can say.  Should be sorted out by the end of the week, though.
     
    See you all later....
     

E-MAIL RICK SCAIA
BROWSE THE OO ARCHIVES

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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SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
 
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
 
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28

 

 

 


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