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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
Austin/Hogan/Others Returning?, plus
Ratings, Noble, Fantasy Game, and MORE!
September 17, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

I guess the first thing I want to do today is thank that commie douchebag Ivan for being such a pussy; I think it was Sunday or Monday night, I was checking things, and they were projecting that Ivan would still be categorized as a Hurricane as it chugged in-land through Georgia on Thursday night, and come Saturday would be plant his remains over top of us poor bastards in southwest Ohio.  
 
But then I go and not check weather for a few days, and all of a sudden, Ivan wimps out. Hits shore, loses steam fast, and now he's sitting out over West Virginia or something, getting cleared out by a delicious cool front that moved through Dayton last night. Couldn't have happened to a nicer hurricane!  Because we didn't need his kind fouling up plans 

for a big-ass cook-out/party/Reds Game in Cincinnati tomorrow (as a bonus, it's also Joe Nuxhall Day at the park!).  

I was prepared for the worst when looking at forecasts 5 days ago.  Now I check, and I'm prepared for the kind of gorgeous autumn day (sunny, high around 70, but cooling off into the 50s by the end of the evening ballgame) that is just PERFECT for drinking.  You all know what I mean: nice enough to want to be outside, with just enough of a nip in the air that you want to throw down the cocktails and start generating a little bit of Internal Warmth.  This precise phenomenon is why October is my favorite month of the year (well, that phenomenon combined with Playoff Baseball in the background as I enjoy the outside drinking, actually), and I know few greater pleasures in this world!  So thanks again, Ivan, you wuss; because of your ineffectualness, I'm getting an October Preview tomorrow (except for the part where the Reds and "playoff baseball" are mutually exclusive concepts)!  Nee haw!

Am I rambling?  Just a bit, probably... well, it's cuz I have failed to follow through on threats to do either a massive Theory Piece or a sequel to "Hail to the Crap." And instead, today's just your usual slow-ish Friday news column.  Enjoy as best you can:

  • I don't think we can start anywhere other than last night's SmackDown!... cuz although I've been making the case for SmackDown! being on a creative role all week, and even though we've talked about them stealing headlines with returning superstars and stuff, I don't think anybody was quite prepared when they made a big announcement about NEXT week's show last night.
     
    Namely, that Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, Mick Foley, and others would be part of a "reunion" celebrating SD!'s five year anniversary.
     
    To be honest, I heard that, and I thought, "Well, they mean in historical clips, that's all." Then I went out for a bit, and didn't think much of it.  Mildly devious promotional work by WWE is part and parcel of the product.
     
    Turns out, it looks like Hogan, Austin, and Foley will all be part of the show in their 2004 forms, however.  Just not live in the arena, or anything.  Rather, they will tape little one-shot promos that will air as part of the season premiere/Fifth Anniversary show next week.
     
    At this point, the only uncertainty seems to be over whether the guys will interact with each other (both Hogan and Austin will be in Los Angeles for the next few days, so it's a possibility) in a roundtable fashion, or if the interviews will all be conducted separately. I believe they also mentioned Stephanie McMahon as being part of the "reunion."
     
    Not mentioned: The Rock.  Which is odd, because for years, "SmackDown!" was "the Rock's show" (named for one of his catchphrases, no less). And even more odd since Rocky's in LA, as well, and if WWE's already gonna be there for Hogan and Austin, well... you get the picture.  This afternoon, one guy (theorizing, NOT trying to hand me a scoop) thought the unvitation of the Rock was suspicious, and said it almost felt like a deal where WWE might spring something like having Rocky be an actual in-arena surprise for fans.  He also granted that maybe the Rock is just really busy with his movie and couldn't fit ANY participation in.
     
    In any case, it's kind of odd to realize that SD!'s fifth anniversary is getting more pomp and circumstance than RAW's 10th Anniversary back 18 months ago.  Remember that debacle?  On that forgettable night, the Rock was the ONLY surprise guest the Fed unleashed....  for SD!'s fifth, they may only be quick/pointless cameos, but we'll be hearing from arguably the two biggest stars in pro wrestling history, Hogan and Austin.
     
    Obviously, as limited as their participation will be, WWE will still be pimping the appearances big time for the next week. This is 100% marketing move, baby.  WWE wants to get people back watching SD! as the fall season gets into gear, and to be honest, it's actually not a bad idea to shell out to get Austin and Hogan to appear, since I think the quality of the rest of the show might convince curious fans to come back for more the next week.  We'll have to see how it all works out...
     
  • As for the rest of SD!? Well, it again had that slightly-off-kilter feel that I strongly suspect is the handiwork of Paul Heyman...  matches ending without any announcers, little mini-swerves that maybe aren't ultra-dramatic but which keep you guessing (like Show first signing the Eddie Contract before changing his mind), and so forth.
     
    It's in stark contrast to the feel on RAW lately, where half the segments reek of inevitability and predictability and there seems to be some sort of creative Tunnel Vision going on that keeps the show from leaping off the screen at you.
     
    Now, that's not to say that SD! was 100% gold last night either.  I have no fucking idea what to make the Heidenreich/Cole skits.  Part of me wants to rail against it in the same way that I rail against Kane/Lita, and wants to reprise the "it's not how normal, rational people behave" theory, and wants to point out that there's no part of me that in any way "gets" or relates to men abducting men to read poetry at them.
     
    But then another part of me realizes, "Hey, this is just Michael Cole and Heidenreich. They're bit players, they aren't Kane and Lita, they aren't gonna get 15 or 20 minutes of TV or be sniffing around the fringes of the main event scene.  So maybe I can just sit back and laugh at the sheer absurdity of it all." Because I have to admit, as we were being treated to A Poem By Heidenreich, my mind flashed back to two things:
     
    (1) A parody wrestling federation my brother and I did when we were kids; we did audio recordings of our TV shows, and one of our recurring bits was "the Illiterate Warrior" trying to prove his mental acumen by snorting and growling his way through love poems.  Hilarious, we thought.  Heidenreich's delivery was not unlike mine when I was performing as The Illiterate Warrior. And;
     
    (2) Vogon Poetry.  If you don't get the reference, then Pedro, you've got some books to read.  Or better yet, you've got some downloading of a certain BBC radio series to do.  I don't normally endorse thieving the intellectual property of others (actually, that's a lie, but c'mon, let me have it), but in this case, it's for a good cause.  So get started: I promise you'll laugh your ass off.  At least at the first 3 books, and the first 6 radio episodes...  after that, it did kind of peter out...
     
    So anyway, part of me really thought the Heidenreich crap was stupid. But another part was taking perverse, guilty pleasure at Heidenreich's compassionate arteest's soul being laid bare for us all to see.  Or something.
     
    If I had to bitch about anything else on SD!, about the only thing I'd come up with is that I think we can officially punch Eddie's ticket to the mid-card. He and Benoit have sure had a roller coaster year, but it doesn't look like it's gonna end well for either.  In Eddie's case, if he's got anything more than a throw-away feud against Luther Reigns staring him in the face at this point, I'm not seeing it.
     
    But everything else, I was digging it big time.  Booker T and Cena aren't setting the world on fire, but I thought their match last night was the best they've had yet.  The Dudleys vs. RVD/Rey was quick-but-fun, and I LOVE Spike Dudley doing the Littlest Dictator routine (kicking D-Von in the nuts for losing).  In fact, the whole tag scene on SD! is getting kind of interesting; RVD/Rey could be a GREAT tandem to oppose the new champs, Suzuki/Dupree, while the Duds have their own interesting new dynamic and could ALSO have a nice little feud starting up against the reunited Haas/Rico. And what of Kidman and London? I'm loving their story, too, and was impressed with London's mic work in their promo. They could rock the house by feuding with each other, or could just as easily come out of that with a newly-won mutual respect and contribute to the tag title picture, themselves.  Really nice stuff developing on SD!'s tag scene, all around.
     
    What else? Well, Taker/JBL still completely fails to glaze my donut as a main event wrestling match. But with the bells and whistles they threw at us last night, at least the ride getting there should be tolerable fun.  JBL did another decent little promo, and then when he called Taker out for a fight, he sprung the surprise returns of Gangrel and Viscera on us. And in a lot of ways, Taker looked as strong as he has in months in fighting off the attck for a few minutes, and I was digging on that.  Then finally, the numbers caught up with him, and it also ended up being JBL's most convincing bit of one-upsmanship over Taker since they started their feud.
     
    It's also genius in another way: prior to the PPV, Taker can now destroy two disposable stars in Gangrel and Viscera, leaving JBL and Orlando Jordan unscathed.  Very shrewd move by WWE.  And again, another one of those not-hugely-important-but-still-semi-surprising little things that added to the off-kilter/anything-can-happen feel of the show.
     
    On the whole, a fun two hours. A few spots here and there that maybe didn't sit totally well, but once again, I think SD! turned in a performance that was more entertaining, as a whole, than RAW's.  Nothing quite as sizzling as the mid-show Jericho/Michaels/Christian stuff from RAW, but also no major holes or painfully predictable spots, either (which RAW also had in spades).
     
    You can get the full SD! report courtesy of Big Danny T's SmackDown! Recap.
     
  • The rating for last night's show: a relatively robust 3.2 broadcast rating. That's really good news, as SD! rebounded over a half-point from the previous week's demoralizingly low rating. The 3.2 is back in line with where the show had been recently (but is still about 10% off where it was last year around this time, and where it'd been pretty much up through WM20 earlier this year).
     
    But at least it looks like SD! should be competitive with new fall shows...
     
  • Clarifying (before I get off on some other tangents): my understanding is that Gangrel and Viscera are both pretty much in for a couple of weeks, and then they'll be gone again. Depending on the creative plan, they might make it through the PPV (helping JBL to retain the title), but that'd be about it...  which should be just about perfect.  They'll be gone again before anybody can remember how bad Viscera sucks! 
     
  • Another bit of clarification: I'd wrongly presumed that the backstage Angle/Eddie altercation took place earlier in the evening, BEFORE the actual tapings. I was quickly corrected on Wednesday evening, and was told that the two had their words (and their little shoving match) AFTER the tapings concluded.
     
    Still, even though that erases my "Hey, they still worked together after the rhubarb, so this probably isn't that big a deal" thesis, I don't think this'll end up being THAT big a deal. If nothing else, that main event segment pretty much insures that Angle and Eddie shouldn't have to work directly with each other much for the next month or two...  we'll see, though.
     
  • If you were hoping to get SummerSlam on DVD, well, first I'd get your head checked out. Oh, wait...  Randy Orton fans. I forgot some of them might like a video reminder of the night Orton fulfilled his Density!
     
    And actually, I'm just kinda kidding: it was a pretty fun show, actually.
     
    But the point is that if you were wanting to pick up that show on DVD, you'll have to wait.  WWE's first pressing has been pulled from shelves due to problems with the audio (one reader mailed in to say that it cuts out in the middle of the main event).  WWE is having to completely re-issue the DVD after a new pressing can take place.  It might be 2 or 3 weeks before this is done...
     
    On the upside, if you managed to get your hands on a copy BEFORE the DVDs were pulled from shelves, I'm thinking maybe you'll have a collector's item.  Or maybe not; I dunno what kind of market there is for defective DVDs, regardless of how rare they are....
     
  • It's come to my attention that some other wrestling sites are only NOW getting their collective panties in a bunch over the fact that the Diva Search could be fixed.
     
    I'd thank everybody for mailing in with your questions, and for displaying confidence in me that *I* would be able to sort this out, but frankly, I'd rather rap you all over the head with a stick...
     
    Because we talked about this MONTHS AGO, people.  I either reprinted or had a link to the Actual WWE Rules for the contest, and pointed out the various ways in which WWE had left themselves any manner of "outs" in terms of picking whoever they wanted to win.  Look it up in the archives.  Cuz I'm not gonna go back and find it myself; I already did this story, and it ain't my fault if you didn't read it.
     
    So congratulations on being only about 10 weeks behind the rest of the class.  If you want to e-mail somebody, why don't you e-mail the websites that are only now making a big deal out of this, and ask them where they were when that punk upstart OnlineOnslaught.com was talking about this in July?
     
    For whatever it's worth, I don't actually know if WWE has been rigging the weekly eliminations or not. Even me (who hasn't been paying the closest attention) kinda got the vibe a month ago that this was pretty much looking like it'd come down to the Vapid Playmate and the Red Headed Spaz, so I don't think WWE would had to have rigged anything to get us to this point.  But I'd suggest that if Carmella wins on Monday, that something very fishy is going on.
     
    Either that, or being a worthless waste of space to the point that live fans can't bring themselves to cheer for you is being trumped by home viewers who don't really care because at least they've seen Carmella naked and thus she's clearly the deserving winner.  I dunno.  I also duncare.
     
  • Word filtering down is that, in accordance with my guess from Wednesday, Jamie Noble was cut loose by WWE for reasons almost exclusively tied to his relationship with management.
     
    While it sucks that somebody who seemed so perfectly suited for the "WWE style" cruiserweight division had to be let go, at least that makes some sense that this was backstage-based and not performance-based.
     
    I guess Noble has tended towards the vocal when it comes to not being happy with certain new rules and guidelines, and I'm not clear on the details or timing, but the straw that broke the camel's back might have been something to do with Noble seeking medical treatment or a second opinion or something that was NOT OK'ed by WWE.
     
    Like I said, I'm not clear on that last part of the story, since WWE goes out of its way to make sure its wrestlers are "independent contractors" and not employees, so it sounds a bit bogus that Noble would get in that much trouble over independently taking care of his health.  Or maybe that, itself, wasn't such a big deal, but my lazy-ass cliche above about the straw breaking the camel's back is right on.
     
    In any case, Noble's free to move about the indie scene, now.
     
  • I think the last thing we should touch on today is the new WWE Fantasy Game that WWE itself is launching next week.
     
    In an attempt to piggyback on the popularity of Fantasy Baseball and Fantasy Football leagues, WWE is starting a new "salary cap style" game in which players draft a team of superstars, and then accrue points based on various actions by those stars.
     
    It's very easy for me to say this now, but it's also very true: I had this idea many years ago, and a lot of the way WWE's breaking down the points are similar to how I thought it should be done.  Granted, it's really easy to be creative and have awesome ideas for somebody else's intellectual property, but this makes TWICE in 2004 that WWE is standing to get rich on ideas I had a long time ago (the other is the video-on-demand thing).  People, it's about time you realize I'm just as much a visionary in the board room as I am a prodigy with the booking sheets!
     
    Anyway, the first "season" starts next week, and if I had to wager, I'd guess that WWE will be running about six 2-month seasons per year, with four of them culminating at the cross-brand PPVs, and then two others ending at other points in between.  Over that span of time, you get points ONLY for things that happen on PPV, RAW, SD!, Heat, and Velocity.  PPV appearances/matches/wins count more than RAW/SD! ones, which count more than Heat/Velocity ones.  There are also a few other ways to get points (kicking out/escaping finishers, landing a foriegn object shot), as well as ways to lose points (like getting caught with a foreign object and getting DQ'ed).
     
    Looking over the rules, it seems WWE has been VERY anal in spelling out how the scoring will be done, and I don't think there should be TOO much controversy as the "season" wears on.  Kudos to WWE on that, since one of the reasons I STOPPED thinking about this little game idea was cuz I didn't think there'd be much of a chance that you could do it without players ending up at each other's throats over rule interpretations.
     
    I also stopped thinking about the game because, frankly, it's not really the "fantasy" aspect of wrestling that I enjoy. I mean, once a month, I get the trOOps together and we pick PPV outcomes, but basically WWE's game amounts to trying to guess what the Fed is gonna do, and then having the appropriate superstars on your team to get the points.  There is a certain elegance and science to assembling a fantasy team in football or baseball; it becomes a bit less interesting a prospect when you're picking a team for something that is fixed.
     
    My fantasy attraction continues to be more along the lines of coming up with the BETTER ways to do things than along the lines of guessing what fucked-up way of doing things WWE will actually put on TV.  
     
    But to each his own... if you'd like to play the WWE's game, you can go to fantasy.wwe.com to sign up.  Word of warning: it costs $10 for every team you enter into the game, and there are NOT any prizes at the end.  Well, that's not quite true: the winner will get a replica WWE Title belt (cash value, probably about $200).  But the point is, I can't think of any Fantasy League I've ever seen that insists on an entry fee and doesn't have prize pay-outs at the end of the season; when I want to play for pride, I play my fantasy sports Free Of Charge on Yahoo.
     
    Another case of WWE figuring they can gouge the loyal/hardcore fans, I guess. 
     
    Although... for all my nonthusiasm, there is one thing I'd ask as a favor of any of you who do sign up: I'd love if you could e-mail me with the pre-season salary values they've assigned to each superstar.  I assume that as the season goes on, they'll adjust the values according to actual points accrued by each guy, but part of my Smarky Sense would LOVE to see what arbitrary starting values they've given each guy.  It'd be like getting a secret glimpse into how WWE, internally, rates its own talent.  Which might be interesting.
     
    So pass that along, if you can, OK, kids?  I'd love to find out that Randy fricking Orton is massively over-priced, or something.  More fuel for my fire, and all.... 
     
  • And on that note, I think I'm done for the week.  Enjoy the weekend, all, cuz I know I will!  And I'll see you agayn on Monday....


  
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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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