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RAW is BISCHOFF, Plus WWE Changing
Gears, Injury Updates, and Lots More!
December 13, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Effective this month, I'm officially ceding the PPV Predictions Tallying to PyroFalkon (who is actually stepping in as the Independent Auditor for BOTH OO and WL)... his document covering the winners and losers of the Armageddon Predictions Battle can be found right here
But because I am an egomaniac, I must point out that I went a remarkable 6-of-7 on the night, winning the OO Portion of the Predictions Battle for this month. I'm pleased about that, and I'm also pleased that the good showing boosted my percentage for the 2004 PPV Season to 50.6%. I long ago stopped caring about how many people picked better or

worse than me, but I kind of *did* want to make sure I got more matches right than wrong in 2004. I managed to finish exactly one match over .500.  Well, actually, technically HALF a match (since we picked an odd number of matches, and... well, you know what I mean). Whew!

"Big ups" (as the kidz say) to The Cubs Fan, who wins the OO Prognosticatory Crown for 2004. His .610 percentage was best of the nine "qualified pickers."  The Canadian Bulldog (.597) inched out Big Danny T (.596) for second place, and by the slimmest of margins.  From there, you move down to a tightly packed trio: Jeb Lund (.547) finished fourth, then Matt Hocking (.532) in fifth, and Immolator (.528) in sixth.  Then the stragglers: me and my .506 in seventh, and then Erin Anderson and Adam Gutschmidt tied for last a half-match UNDER .500 (at .494). Erin's observation upon being told of this, "I don't care, my picks made more sense than what WWE actually ended up doing."  Which I'm going to steal: "Hey, WWE, maybe I had my worst year ever predicting your PPVs and only got about half the matches right, but I bet *my* choices wouldn't have lost another 15% of my TV audience and about 25% off my live event attendance!" Yeah, that's the OO Spirit! 

So that's it: the 2004 PPV Season is done... just four weeks from now, we'll kick off the 2005 Season live from Puerto Rico. Prepare to defend your crown, TCF! I promise you .610 won't get it done again next year...

And here's your fresh batch of news and views:

  • Tonight? Well, maybe for one week, I'll call it RAW is BISCHOFF... but I'm mostly glad that we can quit it with the RAW is FILL-IN-THE-BLANK and get back to business as usual.
    GM Bischoff is done with his month-long vacation, and comes back to find his house in shambles. A test-run of the "Inmates Running the Asylum" seemed to go over pretty well... but four straight weeks of that? We've got a vacant World Title because apparently Vince McMahon is the only one who likes making decisions, and the decision he made was to NOT make a decision and to let Eric Bischoff decide what to do about the championship.
    Now, realistically, we have a deal in which three men have pretty good claims on the title. And we've also had Vince McMahon show up a couple weeks back to say, "No shenanigans with the World Title; I don't want any fluke champion." So it'd probably be "logical" if Bischoff basically came up with a Title Solution that only included Triple H, Chris Benoit, and Edge.  Of course, while that'd be "logical," it would also be "underwhelming" to fans who probably view the vacated title as Quite Lame, but at least as a chance to do something interesting.  Which might mean opening things up to a wider field.
    We'll talk more about exactly what those options might be here in a second, but for now, what's important to note is that you can probably bank on adding Randy Orton, Batista, maybe even returnees like Shawn Michaels and Kane or a heel-turned, Evolution-joining Maven to the mix if we open up the gates. So all these guys who've already been largely tied together for the past couple months will continue to be, which is nice and easy for WWE to come up with different iterations of RAW main events while they do all the cross-wise storytelling.
    For instance, tonight it's another chapter in the Edge vs. Randy Orton feud. You'll recall that Edge ended Orton's lengthy IC Title reign back in July, and it was Edge getting booed and Orton getting cheered that probably helped convince WWE to do what they did with poor Randall (the face-turn to nowhere, when REALLY all they needed to do was heel turn Edge, which has turned out quite nicely). I'm hoping these two bring it strong to the rack tonight, with a full 15 minutes of top shelf action (instead of that confounding mess that was their PPV match: 10 minutes of absolute boredom, then a stellar closing 5 minutes, which WWE tried to pretend was enough to wipe out the suck of the first 10 minutes). Fans oughta be into it, at least (because the two are now "aligned correctly" and also because of the strength of their promo/brawl last week), and the chance that there will be World Title Implications adds to the potential here.
    Another key part of the "cross-wise storytelling" will be the changing dynamic of Evolution. I don't want anything sudden, I don't want tonight (or any night much before the Royal Rumble, really) to be the one where they just pull the trigger and say, "Tonight, Batista is a babyface."  I think you go slow and instead of jumping the gun because some vocal minority of fans are getting behind Batista, you keep on doing the things that got that vocal minority fired up until it's a seething cauldron of support for Batista. Make fans BEG for it, make 'em yearn for the day when Big Dumb Dave finally gets it through his head that he doesn't need Triple H.  This is the best way to not repeat the mistakes of Randy Orton, and plus, I just think it fits Batista's laid-back, don't-fly-off-the-handle persona that he's working on here.
    I think Ric Flair becomes instrumental in this: as the buffer, he clearly commands the respect of Batista, and yet Flair himself is INCREDIBLY loyal to HHH.  I think that's the dynamic that you play up as Batista (a bit more grudgingly ever week, maybe) continues to be HHH's foot-soldier. You can even have there be weeks of give and take where Flair himself seems to side with Batista a bit more, and really milk this thing. Where Flair ends up can become almost as important an issue as to whether or not Batista stays heel: I forget who it was I was talking to, but several months ago when it became apparent Evolution would be breaking up, somebody referred to Flair as the "Soul" of Evolution. Which at first I didn't get, since I was, at the time, pretty well hooked on Flair being the first one OUT of Evolution (the Legend to be Killed by Orton)... but I get it now: the entire concept of "Evolution" is that it is the "Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow of Wrestling" all in one faction.  You can, with the right storytelling, make ANYbody into the "today" and the "tomorrow."  But you can't rewrite history, and there's just NOBODY in the business who can be the "Yesterday" like Flair can. As Flair goes, so goes Evolution, I say; the name and the concept are not HHH's to keep (at least, not till he's ready to be the "Yesterday" himself, and that ain't happening any time soon), and I'd like to see WWE keep that in mind as they keep this Batista/HHH thing on a slow simmer for at least another month.
    Other things to be prepared for tonight: Maven beat the shit out of both Eugene and William Regal last week; Eugene got a DQ win, but that was winning a battle, not the war; another skirmish (probably Regal vs. Maven) would make sense tonight...  Christian was pretty well humiliated last week by GM Chris Jericho, and if that was an excuse for them to have a little mini-arc the next few weeks, that'd be fine with me... anything to keep Jericho out of the way of Mohammed Hassan, who debuts tonight after crashing Jericho's limbo party last week, and who I suspect will be greeted in a rather predictable fashion by those in the Deep South; we'll wait to see how it plays, but my instinct is that this character won't really have much more in the way of multi-faceted intrigue than Simon Dean... and although Lita's the new Women's Champ after a very fine main event match last week, it's kinda hard to get excited for her prospects when there's really only about 2 possible challengers for her; I'm assuming Trish has "dibs" on a rematch, and that we'll have to figure out some way to mark time with only 4 women wrestlers on the roster until it's time for said rematch...
    Check out RAW tonight to see how the show rebounds after a few confounding weeks. And then whether as a supplement to or as a replacement for watching the show, you can report on back here to OO tomorrow for the Finest RAW Recap In All The Land.  I'm assuming I get next week off (WWE has no tapings scheduled, and I believe it's a "Year in Review" deal), so I'll try to make this week's extra good, folks.
  • I also want to speak a bit more in-depth about the World Title options for WWE, and specifically how a lot of people have written in in the last 2 weeks saying I need to chill the fuck out, and that the vacant title isn't so bad.
    People: yes it is bad. OK? We've been over this. The Guest GM Concept was practically OVERFLOWING with cool and fun ways to get the title off of HHH. And instead of exploring or executing any of them, it really felt to me like the RAW creative team had some sort of a Group Seizure in the week between RAW is MAVEN and RAW is BENOIT, and just forgot what the fuck it was they were doing and so they just came up with something totally different.  The Baltimore crowd booing the shit out of HHH being stripped of the title is all you need in terms of evidence that this was not handled well by WWE, people. Triple H losing the title is SUPPOSED to be a joyous day, and an entire live crowd agreed with me, instead. "Boo."
    But I also cannot deny the essential point that many of you made: that maybe, just maybe, the Suck is over now. That this was a necessary (if lazy) transitional phase. That yes, WWE changed gears for some reason, but that now we can commence with Plan B, and it might be more focused and sensible.
    An interesting theory, folks. And if true, a reason to be mildly optimistic. Two separate people compared it to autumns past, which have included Phases of Suck such as Katie Vick and Al Wilson. They think it's a cyclical thing, and that some of what RAW's dealing with is just the 2004 version of WWE running on fumes before finally getting re-energized for the Rumble-to-Mania stretch run.
    Huh. So a seasonal thing? And I just have to trust that once the calendar turns to January, WWE is magically imbued with logic and focus again? I actually have a hard time buying that, and even if I *did* accept it, I'd still find it a wholly unacceptable state of affairs. Because WWE has the manpower and resources that "burnout" should NEVER be an issue; if there's shortages of ideas (good ones), it's not because people are over-worked and tired come autumn every year, it's because WWE is hiring shitty people. Not that I want to mention yet again how I cannot fathom how being a writer for Jenny McCarthy's dumbass sitcom qualifies you to write wrestling, or how if people ARE burnt-out it makes excusing An Actual Wrestling Mind like Paul Heyman from creative duties all the more baffling.
    But all that said, I can't entirely dismiss that what we've seen in the last 5-6 weeks on RAW might be a genuine transitional phase. That WWE had a plan in October, and then maybe thought twice about it, and came up with a new plan in the last few weeks. The result? This herky-jerky, makes-no-sense, title-vacating crap that essentially gives RAW the option of almost a Total Brand Reset if they want.
    I stopped to contemplate this possibility, and really, it becomes pretty easy to isolate what MUST be at the root of the shake-up (if indeed, this is a shake-up, and not just unconscionably bad writing)...  the long standing plans to have Randy Orton challenge Triple H for the title in the WM21 Main Event must have changed. What the plan has been changed TO, I don't really know, but it's not like I'm making it up when I do all my trash-talking about Orton: he simply has not run with the ball that was handed to him, and maybe shouldn't even have been asked to run this particular play to begin with.
    So perhaps a change had to be made. Or at least, WWE wanted to shake things up enough so that they had other options they could explore, instead of just forcefully feeding us Orton/HHH. You people got me thinking that this could be what's happening... and if so, I applaud the decision (even if I don't applaud the ham-handed way we're handling the switchover from Project Orton to Project Whatever).
    And instead of Katie Vick and Al Wilson, the comparison I decided that would be most apt suddenly becomes Lex Luger. The year was 1993, and with the Fed desperately looking to create a new generation of superstars with the Final Departure of Hulk Hogan and whatnot, they executed the Face Turn That Nobody Was Asking For, and in one afternoon put the entire company on Lex Luger's shoulders. Despite a massive promotional effort, Lex just never managed the likeability that you need out of a Company Carrying Fan Favorite. Instead of getting the WWF Title at SummerSlam that year, Lex took a count-out win over Yokozuna, as the WWF struggled to try to find a way to make fans appreciate Luger. The new plan was for Luger to struggle against the odds to finally get one last title shot at WM10... but at some point that winter, the WWF got cold feet and realized they needed to have a contingency plan. So they brought Bret Hart into the mix, and shoehorned him into the title picture by virtue of a "tie" at the Royal Rumble. So for 2 months, the Fed weighed options and did little "dark match" tests to see which of Hart or Luger would get a bigger response with a title win, and when Mania rolled around, their decision was easy: they had Luger lose to Yoko in the first of two title matches, and then had Bret win the WWF Title in the main event of the show.  Luger just never got on track, not even after 9 months of one of the biggest, most concerted pushes in the company's history.  And even with everything they invested in Luger, the Fed showed they aren't TOTALLY insane, and came up with Project Bret, instead.  Worked out pretty well. And Luger? Well, he fumbled through another 18 months in the WWF, and was FINALLY poised to get back to the main event level with a heel turn, but opted to make his memorable jump over to WCW instead.
    It's probably been a good 18 months since I first started making the Luger Comparison with Orton... possessing the "look" but missing the "it."  Luger as a heel always had nominal main event value; but I honestly think that of all the guys of that era, Luger's the one who'd show up on the least number of "Most Favorite Wrestler" lists of fans. He was never a strong enough performer to earn fans' respect, and he never really had that genuine connection with the audience, either. It's funny to think that 11 years after the Fed had to pull the plug on the Lex Express, they might have gone into Chaos Mode the last few weeks cuz they've decided to short-circuit Project Orton. At least for now.
    And forget however much they've already invested in Orton, and all that: sometimes you do just gotta cut bait, and if that means using Orton/HHH as a sidebar feud instead of a title feud, or if it means re-heel-turning Orton, or whatever, then I tip my cap to WWE for realizing (albeit six months after certain dashing and charming internet jack-offs!) the need to change gears.
    Now, what's the new plan? I sure wouldn't mind if it involved an under-appreciated Canuck being put back in possession of the title like it did in 1994. Benoit, Jericho, you decide. You have a TON of options if you want to try some fancy Evolution storyline that combines Batista's face turn with an Orton heel turn or something like that. Michaels is coming back. Edge is on the cusp of breaking through.  The point is, if the pain and agony of the last few weeks of senselessness is setting us up for a Total Reset, then it might, maybe, possibly have been worth it.
    Bischoff can announce just about anything tonight, and we can head into the Rumble-to-Mania corridor with something genuinely exciting and fresh on top for RAW. Which would beat the hell out of babyface Orton against heel HHH sucking all the way to Los Angeles. My personal choice: it was actually a month ago when I suggested that the Elimination Chamber would be an interesting way to try to make this extra PPV seem worthwhile, and that's a feeling that's only enhanced now, since 6 guys (HHH, Benoit, Edge, Orton, and then you pick two more: I think you GOTTA have Batista in there, and then a returning Michaels would be perfect, but it'd also be easy as pie -- building off the last few weeks and his recent partnership with Benoit -- to put Jericho in there as #6) is the ideal number for freshening things up and adding some intrigue without violating Vince's "no wacky shenanigans" rule. The Elimination Chamber is also Eric Bischoff's "creation," so it'd make TRIPLE sense if he busted it out to solve his little problem here on RAW.
    So there you go people: your "settle down, Rick, maybe it's only a phase" has got me cautiously optimistic, albeit NOT in the way you intended it to.  I took your "just a phase" and I added in my own twists... the end result of which is that if Babyface Randy Orton wins the World Title at any point in the near future, I will absolutely EXPLODE in rage, and it'll be all YOUR faults for making me think all this through and come up with the wrong answer.
    That'll learn me to try to be optimistic about anything ever again....
  • The rating for last week's SD! was a 3.4, I believe exactly the same as the week before. The audiences for both RAW and SD! sure seem to have stabilized lately...
  • Jesus H. Kidneypuncher was apparently not at 100% last night for the PPV, which is part of the reason why his match with Cena was as one-dimensional as it was...  reports conflict, but it's either a groin problem or a neck problem (or maybe both, who knows?), and he'll be getting checked out this week. For now, though, off the road.
    With Carlito Cool's shoulder keeping him out of action till February-ish, a healthy Jesus was gonna be his only excuse to stay on TV... now that's looking like it's gonna be in jeopardy, too. Another unfortunate break for Carlito. I mean, unfortunate for Jesus, too, but... you know what I mean....
  • It also means that WWE will pretty much have to create a completely fresh challenger for John Cena's US Title, since there's no existing storyline in place for Cena.  They'll have time, though. Between Cena's last week or two of movie filming and the Iraq trip, they won't have to push too fast.  Just get something set up for Cena once he resumes a full schedule after the New Year, and they'll be fine.
  • Speaking of SD!'s tour of Iraq, it sounds as if Mick Foley will be a part of it. Probably in an "Austin-like" role from last year (when Austin was ostensibly a RAW talent, but joined the SD! crew for the tour). SD!'s taking only about 15 workers, plus a small support team, just what they need for the show, nothing extra, so a little bonus star power in the form of Mick Foley will be useful.
    Foley will leave with the SD! crew later this week after TV tapings, which means he'll be hooking up with WWE in time to appear on TV, if they want him to. So you might look for him to actually appear on SD! this week to set up his presence on the Holiday Iraq show, unless they want to keep it a surprise like they did with Austin last year....
  • I have absolutely no additional comments about last night's Armageddon PPV. There was some good, about an hour's worth of genuinely amusing stuff. But there was also one of the most unbelievably awful contiguous hours ever broadcast on PPV that killed momentum in the middle of the show.  Seriously: there was some stuff on here that would give "Velocity" a bad name.
    The end result: a show that was in no way, shape, or form worth $35. Or even worth $5.  It would have, perhaps, made for a tolerable edition of SD!. Any praise above and beyond that, though? You'll have to look somewhere else.
    But full details and analysis of the entire show? That I can help you with. You can still get my Full Armageddon PPV Recap, if you're in need.
  • And lastly for today, a couple little follow-ups from last week.  First, it's come to my attention that Lana Starr (former WOW girl and last week's Limbo Assistant to Chris Jericho) never turned babyface, as I'd said. She was always a heel in WOW.
    And apparently a pretty good one; she was a better character than she was a wrestler, though I believe it was the Cubs Fan who chimed in that "I remember her being better than Stacy Keibler." Which isn't necessarily high praise, but still...
    Also: "Jungle Grrrrl" apparently *did* get a WWE deal, at least briefly, but never developed even with training extensively with Ivory (who, herself, is the only good thing to have actually come out of the original GLOW)... and some of the other names of WOW girls who I thought should have been considered for WWE jobs ahead of Eye Candy Lana Starr, there were various reasons why they didn't pan out (a few attitude problems, a few had other career ambitions, etc). Nobody has yet to explain to me why Terri Gold isn't a WWE employee, though!
    And since we don't even know if Lana will be appearing again on WWE TV or not, perhaps we can just cap this WOW talk for now... it might just be a big fat non-issue.
  • But that leads us to a quick closing tidbit about some women we SHOULD care about... specifically about Lita and her scariness.  
    My little diatribe last week about Lita's "extra gravity" was couched humorously, perhaps, but I think it's a real problem, and a bunch of you did seem to agree and were looking for possible solutions.  Much to my dismay, a lot of them *did* center on the "catching" concept (people insisting that Trish should have done a better job catching Lita on her sick bump, people theorizing that the women just aren't massful enough to catch a high flying opponent, all kinds of stuff)...
    But folks, my instinct is that the problem is NOT in the "catching"... it's in the "Lita jumping" part.  To get to the root of the problem: there's no "catching" involved in a moonsault, and yet, every time Lita tries one, I hold my breath for just a second.  To me, all this talk of "catching" Lita is like the proverbial Band-Aid on a Bulletwound.
    And luckily, I gots me some back-up. Erin Anderson is an ex-gymnast and a Reformed Cheerleader who has done her fair share of High Risk Tumbling and who also counts a grand total of zero (0) spinal fusion surgeries to her credit. So she probably knows what she's talking about. A few nights ago, she took the time to explain the Physics of Lita's Scariness, and I took the time to set it aside to share with y'all since it vindicates me! Erin's "Primer on How You, Amy Dumas, Could Drastically Reduce Your Risk of Breaking Your Neck Live On TV" would start out like this:
    If I can switch gears for a second... you mentioned if I could possibly explain the Physics of Lita's Scariness. It's pretty simple, really: when you're flying through the air, your body will always follow the direction of your head. Any person who's taken a tumbling class learns this really quickly, or else they kill themselves.
    Lita's moonsault is so scary because she throws her head straight back the instant she jumps. So where does her body go? Straight towards the ground. You want to keep your head in a normal position when you do a backflip -- staring straight forward, so your body follows your head -- UP.
    Same thing with the Suicide Dive. When Benoit does it, he doesn't take a nosedive because he doesn't point his head towards the ground; he goes straight forward, parallel to the ground because that's where his head is pointing. Lita made the mistake of looking straight at Trish and ducking her head down.
    Better way of the explaining the moonsault: to flip backwards, you have to get your center of gravity (for a woman, her hips and ass) over your head. Lita instead tries to throw her head under her ass.
    Make sense? Shit, I'd love to take an hour and work with her on this. I ran into this all the time when I briefly coached cheerleaders learning backflips. They're afraid they'll land on their heads and try to flip over as fast as possible.... as a result, they DO land on their heads. Go figure.

    So there you have it: the root of the problem explained. It ain't about the "catching," it sure as hell ain't "extra gravity."  But it *is* something entirely coachable/trainable that Lita could fix. Unless she *likes* scaring the shit out of us every week.
  • That's all I got today. See you tomorrow for RAW, and then again on Wednesday for the mid-week news.

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PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28



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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