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Make-or-Break Night on RAW, Plus
WWE Financials and Tons More News!
August 23, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


OK, so not only have I not yet received even an ATTEMPTED explanation from any of you regarding my "How in the blue heel does the shitty movie Anaconda get a sequel?" rant from last week, but NOW I have an additional problem I need help addressing...
To wit: so I'm guessing since the sequel to Crapaconda is coming out soon, the original movie is on my HBO channels. Ubiquitously. And when I'm scanning the Digital Schedule Thingy at some point this weekend, there's Crapaconda... and it's rated at 2.5 stars (out of 4). Honest to god, this past week is the first time I've even thought of the shitfest that was 

"Anaconda" in years, but my only memories of it are that it was awful. Who in the hell is coming up with a 2.5 star rating?

Then again, I also stumbled across the cinematic gem "UHF" on (I think) Friday night at like 5am, just as I was getting bored and ready for bed, and the same jackasses who thought "Anaconda" was above average only gave "UHF" 1.5 stars.  I learned long ago that admitting my Weird Al Yankovic fetish is no way to impress the peeps, but c'mon... at least "UHF" was SUPPOSED to be dumb and funny!  Then again, this is the same ratings service that gave the two newest "Star Wars" movies 3 stars each, so...

Anyway, color me confused. And color me just about ready to finally start in on the rasslin' talk:

  • Let's start briefly with tonight's RAW...  because it's been a long time since we've had a show quite like this one, and I'm DAMNED curious to sit my ass down and see how it all plays out.
    You've got not one, but TWO, possible make-or-break situations tonight. WWE can go months without presenting even one scenario with this much potential impact on the future, and tonight... two of 'em.  

    First is the Kane/Lita wedding, which happens tonight and absolutely MUST cast Kane in a positive (not fan-favorite, but NOT RETARDED) light as he gears up for what could be a months-long feud with Shawn Michaels.  You know my feelings on all things related to Pregnant Lita, you know that I couldn't give two shits about the soap opera side of this, you know that I think that both Lita and Kane's characters have been seriously harmed in the Making of This Crap. But that doesn't mean you can't limit the nonsense, put the kibosh on the crap, and at least try to salvage something bad-ass out of Kane.  Specifically, I think I'm in the majority when I say I'd fully expect Matt Hardy to Speak Now and Not Hold His Peace, and get his ass handed to him for trying.
    Whether Lita turns on Matt and willingly weds Kane or not? Well, again, that's more the soap opera side of things, and I don't really care unless they do the Internet's Wet Dream and having Lita not just turn heel, but also reveal she's not pregnant, and it was all a ruse to get revenge on Matt or something. Anything that ends the pain: good.  Anything else: I just hope it's not TOO stupid.
    And the second make-or-break? It's Randy Orton. For all my presaging that Orton is gonna flop as a babyface, I figure he should still get at least one night to prove me wrong. Certainly, all things seem aligned so that HHH's Evolution are the heels, and Orton's the fan favorite. I am baffled as to why, since: (a) Orton's never shown a single spark of wit, charm, or likeability, (b) in so far as Orton has fans, they are fans of his asshole, disrespectful "Legend Killer" gimmick, not of a vanilla babyface, and (c) Randall's theme song is Evolution's theme song, and frankly, it's one of the few things about the guy that I honestly consider to be among the top third of its kind in the company, and now he's probably gotta change it.
    So it becomes a HUGE matter tonight (easily bigger than the Kane/Lita wedding, actually, just harder to preview, since you don't know exactly what form it takes)...  how does RAW present Orton in his first night as a de facto babyface World Champion? How do fans react? And most important, how does RANDY react? It'll be fascinating to see exactly where WWE goes with Orton/Evolution storyline-wise... for this to work, I remain of the opinion that slowing down is better, and they might even have to back track a bit, and have the guys all kiss and make up tonight. [Sort of play it as a one-time Object Lesson, and have Orton accept his lumps in relative good cheer... because ONLY this way can you milk this for another month and have the REAL reveal be Batista and Flair siding with Orton against HHH. But again, this all goes back to my theory about Orton needing a singular break-out moment, and even more, needing to be a heel since I just don't think he's got the chops to be a consensus fan favorite. So you do a little tease here, but in the end, turn it all on its head by having an Orton-led Evolution....]
    Those two stories will be massive, and will color RAW's top two or three feuds through Survivor Series.  If tonight's RAW delivers the goods, then we're looking at sweet-ass TV featuring Kane/HBK and some swirling concoction that includes Orton, HHH, and Benoit feuding over the World Title.  If tonight's RAW features an abundance of soap opera crap for the wedding and bears out my predictions about Randy Orton, Babyface Champion, it could well sour fan sentiment heading into the next couple months...
    By comparison, everything else that happens on RAW is practically insignificant. Well, not insiginificant, but not in the same league as two make-or-break situations like these...
    Chief among the Other Issues is the IC Title situation, where Edge played his Dickhead Card last Monday by hanging Chris Jericho out to dry, instead of making a save.  When Jericho did it to Edge 2 weeks ago, it was because he was looking ahead to an IC Title Match where it'd be every man for himself, and letting Edge take a beating was just Good Sound Strategy.  When Edge did it last week, it was just because he's a prick who wanted to dish out a little revenge.  We SEEM to be inching towards an official heel turn for Edge, but no matter how slow the going on that front, a continued feud with Jericho should be good for some quality matches and quality mic work.  Jericho's always gold, and if Edge can keep coming up with the Zingers the way he has in the last month, I almost look forward as much to a couple of Highlight Reels between the two as I do the actual matches.
    The Tag Title picture is locked in for the next PPV, where it'll be La Resistance defending against Tajiri/Rhyno. It's a match about 6 weeks in the making, now, and those six weeks of slow build have mostly been predicated on Tajiri and Rhyno kicking tons of ass to gain credibility, and La Resistance finding ways to weasel out of defending the titles against them. Now that the tag title match is set, I'm thinking we switch gears and see La Resistance use their evil and cowardice to actually put one or two over on Tajiri and Rhyno, building heat for the PPV showdown....
    The women's division should finally start to get focused again, as Trish Stratus is a week or two away from returning to full-time action, which should also mean a simultaneous return of her suspended feud with Victoria.  Perhaps to mark a bit of time until Trish is totally 100% and ready to handle a one-on-one match, we milk this mixed tag feud a bit more, with Trish/Tomko battling with Victoria/Mystery Woman. Again, I think everybody knows that the Mystery Woman is Stevie Richards in drag... but that widely-held assumption makes it a PERFECT chance for them to pull something like have a Trish/Tomko vs. Victoria/Woman match end with the Mystery Woman revealing herself to be the returning Christian, or something...
    With the show taking place tonight in Anaheim, you might expect a TON of "Site of WrestleMania 21" hype... and any time WWE is proximate to Hollywood, well...  I've heard nothing solid, but people always wonder whether the Rock can squeeze in a quickie when WWE's in the region....
    And yeah, they'll be Diva Search Crap, too.  Last week, they finally played the "All the Other Contestents Think the Playmate is as Vapid and Worthless as The Rick Does" Card. But they also played the "Let's Eliminate Michelle McCool" Card, so honestly, the two cancel each other out, and I'm back where I started: not giving a damn.  
    You can check out RAW tonight to see how the Fed delivers on a BIG TIME Make Or Break Night...  or you can just come on back to OO tomorrow, and trust me to tell you whether they made it or broke it in the always-excellent RAW Recap.  It's entirely up to you.
  • If you're looking for ANY hints as to how RAW might play the Evolution/Orton dynamic tonight, then I can maybe tell you about what they did at house shows over the weekend...
    Or at least one house show over the weekend.  Thanks to reader Landon Anderson for passing along the highlights:
    The show ended up being headlined by HHH/Batista vs. Orton/Benoit. The match was set up by HHH hitting the ring and cutting a promo on Orton, saying that Orton should just hand over the World Title to HHH, that he should lay down and get pinned and learn his role as the #2 man in Evolution.  So Orton came out (note: to no music, since I guess I'm right about him not being able to keep the Evolution theme song... but also to little crowd response, as fans were more behind HHH), and attacked HHH.  Which brought out Batista for the save.  Then Benoit came out (to a much bigger pop than Orton's), and the match was on.
    Good stuff, I guess, but Orton didn't get the fans behind him till the very end, when he scored the pinfall win for his team by hitting an RKO on HHH.  Again, a one night anomaly? Or a harbinger of the hard road Orton has to hoe if he wants to be accepted as a fan favorite?
    We'll see....
  • It's the end of yet another Fiscal Quarter for WWE, Inc., and that means yet another chance for us to hear from Linda McMahon about the state of WWE business and their prospects for the future...
    I'll gloss over the numbers-part of Quarter 1 of Fiscal Year 2005 (ended July 30), since I increasingly get the impression that you people don't care that I can look at these numbers, use my Big Brain and Book Learnin', and figure out what they really mean.  
    So to sum up the dollars and cents briefly: it was a good quarter, with profits higher than the same quarter a year ago. Sort of. But not really. Almost every gain made by WWE in Q1 of 2005 over Q1 of 2004 can be traced to PPV revenues, where the Fed held FOUR events this year, as opposed to only TWO last year. Which is, of course, gonna mean higher revenues and profits. Almost every other metric either held steady or dropped off slightly from the previous year.
    Actually, you know what, let me spin you another little yarn based on these numbers: my gut instinct was that WWE's added PPV (Great American Bash) would not substantially increase profits at the end of the day, because the PPV saturation would mean fewer buys for surrounding PPV events. And I turned out to be right: last year, total buys for the quarter (2 PPVs, remember) were around 900,000, and this year (with 4 PPV events), total buys were around 1.1 million. Synthesis: overall revenue increased slightly (about 20%), but Per Event Viewership dropped by nearly a third, which is a dangerous fall-off. For this first experimental phase of 4 PPVs in a 7 week span, WWE managed to bilk loyal fans out of enough money to off-set the reduced per-event viewership, but I'd wonder if they can count on fans to continue coming back for more as they continue to add even more events...
    Live attendance on domestic (US/Canada) shows dropped precipitously from the same quarter the year before (down 1000 fans per show to 3700 paid per event).  TV ratings were down about 15% for both RAW and SD! from the same quarter last year; as such, ad revenue was down appreciably, but at least that was partially offset by the Fed's new licensing agreement with UPN for SD! (they are paid a set fee every week, and UPN sells almost all ad time).
    Modest gains in merchandising are almost entirely traceable towards gains in the Home Video Market over the same quarter last year.  There were also some gains made in publishing (thanks to Ric Flair's autobiography).  All other merchandise sales were down for the quarter, though.
    I will refrain from delving any deeper into the income statements and balance sheets, and instead will tell you that, if you're interested, you can collect all the data you could EVER want about WWE's latest finances by clicking here.
  • And before I got sidetracked with a few of the numbers, my main point was that Linda McMahon addressed investors today, and put a decidedly simple and math-free spin on WWE business.  A few of the highlights, which might actually interest fans and not just investors:
    WWE considers its gains in Home Video sales to be indicative of a growth segment, and wants to continue pumping out comprehensive DVD sets (it went unspoken, but it's widely expected that a Bret Hart collection will come sooner rather than later), and also views the launch of the 24/7 Video On Demand service as a potential source of serious revenue, since the tape libraries are already acquired and running the segment should require limited overhead (as opposed to the cost of producing live TV and PPV shows).
    WWE is also pursuing a "conservatively aggressive" strategy with regards to its film-making division.  They have one movie ("The Marine" with John Cena) set to begin production next month, and then another (unnamed) project that'll start up possibly by year's end. WWE is budgeting each film at $20 million, which is conservative by Hollywood standards but represents a major investment for them... as such, Linda actually noted that this could impact WWE spending in other areas if they don't get a return on investment.  [Editorial Note: see, THIS is the kind of shit that just baffles me. Why we can't have a couple more cruiserweights on the roster just because Vince McMahon thinks he can make movies really sticks in my craw. Why WWE continues to find new ways to piss away money just baffles me, too: just stick to wrestling, and leave the bodybuilding, football leagues, theme restaurants, and movie-making to people who know those things, dammit!]
    The third area that WWE is pursuing aggressively is the overseas market, where the Fed will hold their first televised RAW and SD! events this fall, and where they hope to hold even more tours in coming months. Can't blame her logic here: why play to 1200 in Bumblefuck, Iowa, when you can fill up a 10,000 seat arena in Europe?
    Only two other things from her talk with shareholders really stuck out to me:
    First, in discussing the "Taboo Tuesday" PPV event that RAW will run in October, Linda revealed it will have a kind of unique format, with a very fan-friendly atmosphere, including fan voting determining much of the show.  My understanding is that basically, they'll use Monday's RAW (Oct. 17) to heavily hype and set up the next night's PPV (Oct. 18).  I'll wait to see this in action before I say much more; it could be very cool (along the lines of some of the interactivity I advocated a few weeks back), or it could be a clusterfuck.
    And second, Linda made it clear that WWE would be expanding developmental operations, as they consider one of the driving forces behind recent ratings losses (especially on SD!) to be a lack of TV-ready young talent and a general thinness of the talent roster.  [I'll never vote against bolstering the Developmental System... but if anybody at WWE HQ really thinks it's Jim Cornette's fault that Paul Bearer got buried in cement or that Kane and Lita are getting married, than I CONTINUE to suggest that WWE is really missing the point. There's nothing wrong with the talent roster that a smarter group running creative couldn't take care of covering for...]
    That's about it.  Not the kind of financial numbers that would give me great faith in WWE's ability to make me rich if I invested... and some of the stuff from Linda makes me wonder (as a wrestling fan) if I'm investing my TIME as wisely as I could if they're sitting here worried about making movies and blaming the developmental system for low ratings.
  • Speaking of aggressively targeting the overseas market, SD! is heading out again later this week.  This time to Australia for three shows.  The line-ups have been released, and I think two things are intriguing enough to bear mention here:
    First is that WWE will actually be conducting one of the Best Of Five matches between Cena and Booker on this tour.  The opening night in Sydney will be Match 3 in the series.  I think that's kind of cool to take the Best of 5 on the road, and have footage of it on SD!...  but it'll also be kind of weird because fans in Australia won't know who won Match #2, and I don't even know if *we* will know who won Match #2 when Match #3 happens in Sydney.  Damn you International Date Line! [OK, so SOME of us nosy, spoiler-reading SOBs will know, but you get my meaning...]
    Second is that Taker vs. JBL headlines two of the three nights, but on the in-between show, Eddie gets the shot at JBL and Taker vs. Kurt Angle is a featured match.  Why is Taker/Angle interesting?  Well, because a lot of people are already talking about it as the front-runner for SD!'s main event at WM21...  certainly you don't want to put a whole lot of stock into rumors about a PPV line-up that's still 7 months away, but it MIGHT be an interesting glimpse of things to come for the kids in Brisbane.
  • I gather the Vikings played another pre-season game on Friday night...  reader "Proty98" said he watched most of the game (against the Falcons of Atlanta), and didn't see Brock Lesnar's #69 in the game even once (not even on special teams).  That's the only report I got about the game, so I won't say 100% for sure that meant Lesnar got gas-faced on playing time, but it sure seems telling that as the Vikes shore up their roster and rotations, Lesnar went from Substantial Minutes in game one to Invisible in game two...
  • Speaking of Atlanta....
    Reports out of Soviet Georgia today have a former wrestler making headlines for very wrong reasons.  Harrison Norris (who acheived more than a modicum of fame as "Hardbody Harrison" in WCW during the Nitro hey-days), was arrested last week on what is OFFICIALLY being called "False Imprisonment." 
    But it's more like "bailed women out of jail and then forced them into prostitution to repay their debt to him."  Which, if true, is about as slimy as it gets.  Harrison was released from Cobb County jail, on bond, and is awaiting trial.
    OK, so the pimp thing makes me want to do a Godfather joke. But the Cobb County Jail tie-in makes me want to do a Big Bossman joke. But then I realize there's really nothing funny about forced prostitution, so I'll just tell you that if you want any more details about this story, you can get them from the Atlanta CBS affiliate's website. [And thanks to those who spotted the story and sent along the link.]
  • Last thing today: just a minor, personally-edifying bit of information...
    A bunch of people mailed in regarding some Revisionist History done by WWE.  I guess in the RAW Rebound and in vignettes that aired over the weekend on Heat and Experience, Randy Orton's Monday promo was altered so that he now claims to be the "Youngest World Champion" in history.  As you'll recall, on Monday, he ACTUALLY claimed to be the youngest "WWE Champion," setting me into a patented tizzy of bemusement at Randall's lacking cognitive capacity.
    So I guess WWE FINALLY has decided to pay attention to enforce the distinction, though now they're stuck with the fact that Orton's really only the Youngest World Champion, a title that only has 2 years of history.
    Unless, like a moron, you really do want to tie it into the NWA/WCW title lineage, in which case, Orton's NOT EVEN CLOSE.  Mailing in to correct himself from last week, David Fong reminded me over the weekend that Lou Thesz won his first NWA World Title at age 21.
    I continue to espouse the theory that WWE running with this "youngest ever" thing is a story that only THEY care about (and possibly only because they wanted to erase Brock Lesnar's achievement), and worse, a story that they are telling all wrong, simply because the facts don't fit the situation.
  • That is all, folks.  RAW Recap tomorrow.  Midweek news and spoilers on Wednesday. Hopefully something cool over the weekend.  And then....
    Well, and then, we'll have to sit down and talk...  cuz there's a chance that we'll have an OO Outage that could last a week or more at some point proximate to Labor Day weekend. I wish I could report that it was something cool like WL's outage; but sadly, there'll be no me running away and getting married like Mr. Burkholder (when you like as few people as I do AND are as hard-to-like and uncompromising an asshole as I am, trust me, the mathematical probabilities approach zero on the "dealing with the same person every day for the rest of eternity" front)... but after a weekend of failed negotiations, I think I'm gonna have to run away with my fricking MOM on a cross-country trip to get my youngest brother and all his stuff situated at a brand new job in Oregon. Because she hates to drive, I LOVE to drive, I have a truck, and I wasn't smart enough to just outright say "I'm busy" when she asked the mysterious question "So, what are you doing for Labor Day Weekend?"...
    So I had this sprung on me, and now I'm pretty sure I can't weasel out. I looked it over, and figure it could be a five day trip (two full days out, one day unloading/resting, two full days to get back) because like I said, I'm an Awesome Driver (speedy, but safe, and NO UNNECESSARY STOPPING WHEN I'M ON A ROLL). But already Mom's calling up and asking "Hey, how far off the interstate do you think it is to Mount Rushmore?" and stuff like that.  Which makes me think I might be in for a week or more away from home and away from OO.
    My IDEAL goal would be to turn Labor Day into a five-day weekend (Thurs-Mon), and have you folks really not miss a whole lot. But we'll have to see.  I'll keep you abreast of how my spinelessness (NAY! My "considerateness" and "kindness") will affect your Favorite Wrestling Website once I know more...
    See you tomorrow for RAW, though. That much I promise you!

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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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