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RAW/Ratings, WM21 Issues and WM22 News,
Batista Speaks Out, TNA, and Financials!
February 23, 2005

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Apologies to those who are used to the very structured OO update schedule, and who thought this column should have been posted 8 or 12 hours ago....
For a combination of reasons that includes and apparently more-debilitating-than-I-thought back injury, I'm just gonna cut my office-chair-time as much as I can by creating a kind of consolidated Late Wednesday/Early Thursday update. You shouldn't really lose that much in terms of content, you just have to deal with it being distributed 

at a late and awkward time. I hope you don't mind. And if you do? Well, unless you want to send Vicodins, shut the hell up. As it stands, this column was already written in "shifts" over the last 36 hours, which is love people. Probably more love than you deserve.

I'm not actually anticipating this being a recurring problem, but I also might as well admit that I'm considering giving myself the day off on Friday. Why? Because that'll be the debut of Matt Hocking's follow-up Epic Satire; part one of "The Titan Towers" will go up on Friday, and should provide you with ample weekend entertainment!

But before that, we do have a lot of ground to cover here in this special Almost-Thursday OO! Let's ride:

  • I honestly had anticipated more pissy e-mail with regards to my RAW Recap... because even if I was more than happy to grant what a cool moment Batista's actual face turn was, I thought my vehement dislike of the preceeding two hours would get me some reactionary feedback from people telling me "it doesn't matter" or "chill out, it still ended great" or something along those lines.
    Glad to say: none of that materialized. If anything, it sounds like y'all were even MORE put out than me over everything that wasn't the first 5 minutes of the show, or the last 5 minutes. I mean: lord knows I did my best to foment preemptive suspicion of Chris Masters' skill level (based on admittedly limited videotape footage), but you folks have certainly outdone me with some of your analyses after YOUR first look at the guy!
    On top of that, the real problem with RAW is not only that you had these segments (like Jericho/Dean, Kane/Tomko, even Benoit/Hassan) that were far from entertaining on their own... but that when taken as a cohesive 2-hour program only 5 weeks before WrestleMania indicate an ABSOLUTELY inexcusable lack of fore-planning. We know have 5 more editions of RAW until the biggest show of the year, and what do we have?
    (1) Batista vs. Triple H, which admittedly is gonna carry a huge part of the promotional load of the show just because of how the fans have embraced Batista and DEMANDED his face turn.  And:
    (2) Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle, which was established in just about the least-thrilling, most-flaccid manner possible when Shawn Michaels asked Teddy Long to "deliver a message." OOOOOHHHH, a message!  How manly and intimidating! I honestly don't understand what would have been so wrong with actually putting some "PPV Sizzle" on the No Way Out Cena/Angle match by having Michaels make an appearance to do to Angle what Angle did to him at the Rumble... and then on RAW, instead of pussy-footing around by asking Teddy Long to deliver a message, Michaels could cut the promo explaining his actions, and speak DIRECTLY TO KURT (who one would have to assume would, at the very least, be watching the show) and DEMAND a WM21 match to settle their differences. It's as if they're just banking on fans being dazzled by the Cross-Brand-ness of it all, rather than actually putting any thought into telling the story and selling the match-up...
    Even over on SD!, you have exactly one (1) match set for Mania, and that's JBL vs. Cena, and again, it's a deal where there is hardly any real story; rather, it's just the result of a tournament final, a match made by happenstance, not the result of some long-standing story arc or feud, not a match fans have been eyeballing and salivating over for month. I again bust out this word: inexcusable.
    It's not that there aren't options out there for potentially great matches, either... it's just that even if WWE made those pairings, there's just not been enough time and energy put into them to really make it feel like WrestleMania. If I didn't know better, I'd say the company is banking on Batista and on the possibility that they'll be able to squeeze a few buys out of the Hall of Fame personalities (which may still include Hulk Hogan) and other part-time stars (Austin will be a part of the show in some capacity, and all of a sudden, the door isn't COMPLETELY shut on a possible Rock appearance, or Mick Foley popping in, at least to say hey-howdy).  I've got no problem with using those extras as a selling point, but the cool thing about WM is that it should be the one card per year when every match seems like it could be a main event on a Monday or a Thursday night.  Things are just so well-constructed that it doesn't matter if Jericho vs. Christian is a battle of mid-carders: their story has just been so well told that it seems huge when they lock up.
    There is NONE of that heading into WM, and back-to-back editions of RAW like we've had the past two weeks really underscores it. I mentioned this on Monday, and I'll detail it again today: there is no reason why WWE should know, at some point between Survivor Series and the end of the calendar year, what they want to do at the following year's WrestleMania, and then reverse engineer all TV and PPVs so that as soon as they come out of the holiday break, ALL THINGS point to WM. We haven't had one single week of TV in 6 weeks of 2005 that made me feel that way, yet. Not one.
    Compare to last year: we may not have been enamored of Taker/Kane, but it was set-up with the Buried Alive match at Survivor Series (Nov.)... Goldberg and Brock Lesnar first crossed paths in a promo at Survivor Series (Nov.)... the RAW Love Rhombus that birthed the Jericho/Christian rivalry actually kicked off even earlier (in October)... the tale of Chris Benoit being forbidden to have a WWE Title shot by SD! GM Paul Heyman which propelled Benoit into main event level stories, to a Royal Rumble win, and to jump ship over to RAW to battle for that title started before year's end (in late November and into December)... along with Benoit's World Title Quest story, there was the intertwined HHH/Michaels feud which dates back to the stone age (basically, to the summer of 2002)... and let's not forget that Foley vs. Orton was a huge part of WM, and dated back to July 2003 (the stairwell incident) before really picking up steam and it becoming apparent that the two would be involved in a WM match (which happened in December, and led to the return of the Rock 'n' Sock connection).
    Last year, that's like five matches (out of 12) that fans were anxiously awaited BEFORE THE CALENDAR EVEN TURNED TO 2004! And of the remaining seven that were set-up a bit later, you had: a women's title match that had head-shaving on the line, which was certainly unique (and which still infuriates me, given how WWE did *not* follow up with Molly); a Kurt/Eddie match that filled a niche as an OMG WORKRATE~! match for smarks even if it had limited backstory; a Show/Cena US Title match that was the pay-off of a 2-month chase by Cena after he turned babyface by opposing Show; and a cross-brand T&A thing that might have been stupid, but which sold itself.  Really, on the entire WM20 card, only the two tag title matches and the CW Title match were hastily-assembled throw-aways.
    This year, we could end up with a deal where three-quarters of the card fits that "hastily-assembled throw-away" bill. And even then, a couple of the hasty assemblies seem to include WWE's misguided notion that Trish Stratus vs. Red Headed Spaz is gonna appeal to much of anyone. Spaz is gonna look great in Playboy, I'm sure, but if these two really do tangle at WM21, it's gonna be less of a match and have less heat on it that when Trish had to resort to feuding with Stacy for a bit last fall. I'm serious: these feuds where an actually-capable woman toys with an eye-candy diva are not without value (a case I argued when Stacy was offered up as a lamb for Trish at a time when she had nothing better doing), but the time for that value is NOT WrestleMania, and the justification and storytelling to set up such a feud had damned well better be something less insulting and retarded than "Christy's ability to remove her clothes not only enrages Trish Stratus, but also qualifies her to be women's champion." Awful; so you see my conundrum... when WWE's actually TRYING to lay the foundation for WM21 now, they're doing it in a way that pisses me the fuck off.
    And then for the rest of the show, they're serving up crap that leads absolutely nowhere. Chris Masters had by christ better NOT be competing at WM21, and yet, valuable TV time at this important time of the year is being wasted on him. Has anyone heard anything from the tag champs in the last week? Do you suspect they'll be able to muster a quality feud and quality match for WM21 at this rate? And what are we to make of the current pointless water-treading being done by such potential upper-mid-carders as Benoit, Jericho, and Shelton Benjamin?
    Perhaps these larger, more theoretical complaints about RAW would be easier to ignore if the minute-to-minute action on the show was still distractingly entertaining. But on Monday night, I'm being dead serious when I say that about the only things that entertained me were the opening women's match (although it was too short to actually be "good," I still thought it was fun while it lasted), the anchor tag match (which was good, but still about three notches below the previous week's Orton/XTian singles match), and the Batista turn at the very end.  Everything else ranged from pointless to bad, and made it real easy for my mind to wander to the larger, theoretical things that were wrong with RAW...
    For my running commentary of those complaints (as well as more detailed results of each segment), you should check out yesterday's OO RAW Recap. Remember: I consider it my job to make wrestling fun, even when WWE can't be bothered to do so themselves! If you're of a mind with The Me, you'll probably have more fun with the recap than you did with the actual show...  I bet I'm the only wrestling site on the web that's ALREADY got Jose Canseco/Chris Masters/butt-injecting humor! 
  • Monday's RAW rating was a 4.0, the second time this year that RAW has broken the 4 barrier. Viewership patterns definitely indicated that fans were interested in the Batista Decision, as the show started at just about its usual audience level in the mid-3s, and grew only nominally over the course of the craptacular first 7 quarter hours before really exploding for the final QH and overrun.

    Consider it the first sign that Batista just might be a soothing ointment for SOME of WWE's current problems...
  • As briefly alluded to above, and as I've been saying for like a month now, the Rock/WWE situation isn't nearly as dire as some other headline-grabbing sites made it out to be. In fact, per recent articles, WWE and Rock are speaking again about figuring out some way to craft a deal that would put them in business together again, even if the amount of that business is incredibly limited by Rock's Hollywood schedule.
    Of course, that leads people to suspect that Rock may once again be "in play" for WM21... and while I'd caution against getting too excited by the prospects, a non-wrestling appearance, perhaps unannounced, would certainly not be out of the question, and would be a nice little surprise.  The only problem is that I might have been misinformed a month or so ago when I mentioned that Rock would have a "vacation" window around the time of WM...  word I'm getting now from the left coast is that Rock is apparently gonna barely have time to take a deep breath between the conclusion of publicity for "Be Cool" (which is released next Friday) and the start of production on his next project (I forget which, it's either "Spy Hunter" or a football movie).
    I don't know how much flexibility there would be there, but I know I'd mentioned that after doing the talk show rounds for "Be Cool," Rock would have a few weeks to show up on RAW and get involved in something in time for WM, if he wanted. That might have been a lie. Albeit an unintentional one.
    FYI: remember Rock's on Letterman next Monday (2/28) and on Conan next Thursday (3/3).

  • Remember that cool Batista-in-the-UK interview I linked a while back in which I thought Batista just came off as a super-cool regular guy who seemed to be a bit sharper than the average bear?
    Well, Batista's done it again, with another remarkably straight-forward and candid interview (he even had to address his candidness from the preceeding interview, in which he did trash SD! a bit) where he says more cool stuff that makes me think that the guy's probably an alright cat.
    This includes: making fun of bodybuilding (or rather, of the bodybuilding subculture; although that still doesn't explain why he's so damned good at Pointing The Toe)... pretty much acknowledges that the reason why he's catching on now is because it has nothing to do with the idiot writers and all to do with him getting to act like a real human being and be himself... and how he intends to guard against being watered down or "goody-two-shoe-ized" even though he's now a babyface. Good stuff.
    There is also a very important NEWS item that is just casual touched on and not followed-up upon by the interviewer: Batista reveals that he has just negotiated a five-year contract extension with WWE as part of this rise to prominence.  Good for him.  Like I said: no follow-up, so no terms or anything, but this contract will now take him up through age 41, and just the way Batista's built, you might have to begin thinking about that as the possible end of his career unless he drops some mass and becomes less injury-prone. So he's done a great job of maximizing his income by getting WWE to extend him out that far, I think.
    The interview is yours for the taking by clicking here. It's another chance to bask in Batista's remarkable level-headed normalness!
  • Speaking of that old Batista interview, the same guys who conducted that one have got ANOTHER winner of a read: they got their mitts on Eddie Guerrero, and conducted this interview.
    Eddie's very candid on a lot of things, including how he didn't handle the pressure of being WWE Champion very well, and also in an almost-uncomfortably-casual mention of how if he dies in the ring, he'll die a happy man... and even though he and Rey just won the tag titles on SD!, Eddie talks openly about how he thinks he and Rey just might have a kick-ass PPV match in them, one that would make people stop talking about the match they had at Halloween Havoc in 1996. Which is mouthwatering.
    So check it out. Consider these Bonus Links to be my penance for making you wait so long for today's column....
  • This may well be confirmed by the time you read this, but there are very strong rumors that Chicago has won the right to host WrestleMania 22 in March or April of 2006. At this point, I don't have a date for the event, nor do I know for sure whether WWE's gonna slum it at the Rosemont Horizon (or Allstate Arena, or whatever that building is called now), or if they'll be hitting the bigger, newer, and more upscale United Centre.
    I'd almost guess the latter, since it's got room for 4000-5000 more fans and is just a nicer facility... but WWE also has quite a relationship with the Horizon, which has hosted 2 previous WMs.
    In any case, details might be sketchy, but this is apparently a "done deal" with an announcement that could come as early as this Monday's RAW.
  • This isn't, I don't think, a "spoiler" in any real sense... but a lot of people suspected that the Dudley Boyz would return to SD! with the tapings that were in Philadelphia last night (the perfect place for a Dudley homecoming). But it didn't happen.
    This only further muddies the WM21 waters, since a lot of folks expect the Duds to be in a WM21 WWE Tag Title match. And every week that goes by that we don't get that set-up (a match against Eddie/Rey would be great, obviously; but who knows if Eddie and Rey will face each other, and somebody else will face the Duds for the tag gold?) is one week less enthusiasm fans will have for that match(es).
  • Someone who DID show up at SD! tapings: Frankie Kazarian, late of TNA. He worked a dark match, teaming with Shannon Moore. Supposedly, Kazarian will do the same thing next week... the general sense is that once he hits all his indie commitments, there WILL be a WWE deal waiting for him...
  • Steven Richards apparently suffered a broken nose, and there are ADDITIONAL rumors that he might have cracked a cheekbone as well, in his RAW match against the debuting Chris Masters.
    OK, in his debut he: uses a Full Nelson as a finisher, showcases a mind-numbingly dull and boring ring entrance that had more effort put into it than was put into his wrestling training, injures Stevie for real. Forget all the comparisons to Lex Luger... this guy is the next Heidenreich.
  • Some folks wrote in to ask about something I wrote on Monday about who is "in charge" while Vince McMahon is unable to attend TV tapings...  if you missed it, basically the story is that Vince is wheel chair bound following his Rumble injury, and is gonna be off the road at least through WrestleMania. [Possibly longer, since now there's this new twist where people theorize that Vince is very vain about appearing strong and healthy that he wouldn't show up at TV tapings until he's not only walking on his own, but has gotten back in the gym and regained his usual size. Which sounds nutty, cuz the guy's got a fricking company to run, not a beauty pageant to win, but if that's how his head works....]
    And I mini-ranted on Monday about how Stephanie McMahon and her hired band of Hollywood Idiots might not be the folks we want in charge, without Vince there as the ultimate Buck Stopper. But I guess some of you picked up a story elsewhere that Jim Ross is actually "in charge," or at least, is Steph's equal or something...
    All I can tell you is that I know JR's experience has meant that he's stepped up the last few weeks in terms of directing traffic and making sure people are where they need to be in order to do their jobs, and stuff like that. But in terms of the creative direction of shows, he's not involved in any of that. His increased authority is more mechanical and procedural, not creative. Or so it's been explained to me.
    And that's not to belittle those tasks, because production-wise, WWE really hasn't seemed to miss much since Vince's injury... and a lot of that is JR (and others) making sure that things move smoothly behind the scenes. This as opposed to the last time Vince missed a set or two of tapings, and the result (right after Taboo Tuesday) was really sloppily-produced TV that included RAW having to open one week with a total replay of a Taboo Tuesday match because nobody had been told ahead of time to prepare a video package.  These are things that you only notice when they fuck up, and so far, they've not fucked up in Vince's absence, so yes, that's part of where JR is definitely helping out.
    But in terms of creative and the general thrust of the show's content? That lies on Steph's shoulders, on the shoulders of her Hollywood Hacks, and to a supposed-lesser extent, on HHH (who also is an increased presence in terms of production things, too). I continue to be fundamentally uncomfortable with this, if for no other reason that Steph's scouting report is that she has a hard time fielding criticism and incorporating non-gushing feedback (be it from a guy like Paul Heyman, from other wrestlers, or just from the noises the fans in the audience make) into her creative plans.  Whereas Vince might have dumb ideas, but had a rep of being able to back off them before things got out of hand.
    This continues to be a situation that none of us can really monitor first-hand, but which I think we have enough information about so that we can monitor the vestiges of the situation as they make it through to the end product. Call it "fingerprint identification" or something... we might be on the look out for certain tell-tale signs on the TV product, and we might be able to reasonable theorize where they came from.
  • Following up on Monday's newsbite about TNA's prime time Fox Sports Net special that is agreed-to in principle, but which still has some particulars that need hammering out....
    It looks like FSN's request for a weekend event is gonna be met, and TNA will produce either a Friday night or a Saturday night show, which'll be taped in Las Vegas. [The event MIGHT air live, I'm not sure; but the regional nature of the FSN affiliates and the fact that both baseball and basketball will be in season come April means the show might air taped in most part of the country, anyway.]
    Fortunately, it sounds like TNA will NOT produce any gimmicky crap like they did with their last prime time FSN exposure (which included midgets and way too much Tom Arnold), but will instead treat this like a bona fide "Free Per View," with emphasis given to longer matches, the X-Division, and the stuff most fans actually LIKE about the TNA product.
    Can't confirm this, but some folks have said that once the weekend slot was decided upon, TNA and FSN might have targeted WrestleMania weekend for the special. So possibly either April 1 or April 2, if that's true... for whatever it's worth, I can't decide if that's a good idea, a bad idea, or an idea that will have absolutely no impact on the success of the TNA show.
    I'd lean towards "bad idea," since I can promise you that here at OO, weekend headlines are gonna be WM-related, and nothing TNA could ever do in one million years would change that.  They'd be a tertiary story at best.  So yes: it could be symbolically big to put on a free show that reviews very well proximate to WWE's signature event, but why not just chill and pick a weekend when you can be THE story, instead?

    We'll continue to monitor this deal... it'll have to be brought together pretty quick if TNA and FSN really want to shoot their wad in five weeks.
  • As I said Monday, WWE released it's FY2005 Third Quarter financial info today... and the main stories were just as I suspected.
    If you discount the revenue from the added PPV this quarter (New Year's Revolution), business was slightly down from the same quarter last year. Able to mask that with the extra PPV revenue, WWE spun stories that focused (as the Rick predicted) on overseas successes and home video successes (especially the ECW DVD, which is the second best selling in WWE history).

    Domestic attendance (and thus house show revenue) was down very slightly from the same quarter last year, per-event PPV buys were down slightly, and TV ad revenue was down slightly.
    The biggest gains were in home video and new media (which includes all the new "a la carte" pay features on WWE.com); the former posted gains of 33% over the year before, the latter nearly doubled its revenues.
    TV ratings were almost exactly flat compared to the previous year, as were merchandise and licensed products (mostly videogames).
    Normally, I'd use some actually numbers and do some financial wizardry here, just to remind you all that I *am* a diploma-carrying Master of Business Administration. But not today: I'm not feeling up to it, and I can also just tell you to get your own numbers, if you're really interested, by checking out the business wire (this link has the full quarterly summary for you to analyze yourself).
  • Along with the release of financials, there is also the traditional conference call with investors, where Linda McMahon talks shop... there were definitely a few pass-along-able details discussed this morning.
    First, contracts for both RAW and SD! will be negotiated separately; even if both stay where they are with Viacom, WWE is not going to combined the properties into one TV deal. The current deal for RAW expires in September, and Linda promised that an announcement would be made about the future of RAW "within 60 days." So it sounds like they are probably entering End Game in those negotiations. A primary consideration with the RAW deal is that all the ancillary shows (3 hours, including one b-show for each brand and a joint-magazine show) be retained as part of that deal; so basically RAW is leveraging the huge success of RAW to get its three hours of shitty-rated shows in on the coattails.
    Second, in the near future, WWE expects the 24/7 to blossom into a huge revenue stream, as negotiations are on-going with all major digital cable providers to build market penetration. Even after cable companies take a cut of between $2 and $4 per subscriber, that still leaves WWE with $6 or $8 of nearly pure profit per month off each subscriber.
    Third, Linda dropped a bombshell when she revealed that there will be a "Super Tour" in April, with the stars of both RAW and SD!. Because of this time of year being WWE's chance to do cross-brand stories, WWE is apparently going to try to capitlize on that with a quick house show run combining the brands. Also, for the second year in a row, Linda busted out the "brand-loyal viewer" metric, and said that some cross-brand storytelling might increase the number of viewers who watch both shows.  This year, it's apparently only 28% of WWE viewers who loyally watch BOTH shows. As you might recall, I got quite a bee in my bonnet last year over the non-specificity of Linda's "brand-loyal" claims, and wanted to know exactly how that number was arrived at and how the other 72% of WWE viewers are categorized, but no dice... she once again just offered it up as fluffery to make the cross-brand stuff sound like a good idea.
    Fourth, Linda discussed a new category of employee (or "independent contractor"), as WWE is going to be locking in some of their legends and Hall of Famers to exclusive deals. In exchange for being on the payroll, these stars of yesteryear will make appearances for WWE at ticket sales and stuff like that. To be honest: if 24/7 takes off, this is a VERY shrewd business move to get some of those familiar faces on board. Synergy baby: 24/7 might make those old stars famous again, and once they're famous again, they might give some of that rub to current WWE events.
    I think that's about it in terms of interesting tidbits... most of the rest of the conference call was the rah-rah stuff to try to mask the fact that business ain't so great by talking about the segments that ARE doing well, and the segments that project to do well in the near future (note: WWE thinks this includes the movie business, but I am suspect).
    If I missed anything, I'll be sure to mention it in the near future...  but for now, I really just gotta go lay down on the couch or something for a bit, and this is as good a stepping off point as any.
    So later on, kids, and I'll see you again either Friday or Monday...

SMACKDOWN RECAP: Bonding Exercises
RAW RECAP: The New Guy Blows It
PPV RECAP: WWE Night of Champions 2012
RAW RECAP: The Show Must Go On
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Boot Gets the Boot
RAW RECAP: Heyman Lands an Expansion Franchise
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Losing is the new Winning
RAW RECAP: Say My Name
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Deja Vu All Over Again
RAW RECAP: Dignity Before Gold?
PPV RECAP: SummerSlam 2012
RAW RECAP: Bigger IS Better
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Hitting with Two Strikes
RAW RECAP: Heel, or Tweener?
RAW RECAP: CM Punk is Not a Fan of Dwayne
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Returnening
RAW RECAP: Countdown to 1000
PPV RECAP: WWE Money in the Bank 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Friday Night ZackDown
RAW RECAP: Closure's a Bitch
RAW RECAP: Crazy Gets What Crazy Wants
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Five Surprising MitB Deposits
RAW RECAP: Weeeellll, It's a Big MitB
RAW RECAP: Johnny B. Gone
PPV RECAP: WWE No Way Out 2012
RAW RECAP: Crazy Go Nuts
RAW RECAP: Be a Star, My Ass
RAW RECAP: You Can't See Him
RAW RECAP: Big Johnny Still in Charge
PPV RECAP: WWE Over the Limit 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: One Gullible Fella
RAW RECAP: Anvil, or Red Herring?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Everybody Hates Berto
RAW RECAP: Look Who's Back
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Care to go Best of Five?
RAW RECAP: An Ace Up His Sleeve
PPV RECAP: WWE Extreme Rules 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Sh-Sh-Sheamus and the nOObs
RAW RECAP: Edge, the Motivational Speaker?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: AJ is Angry, Jilted
RAW RECAP: Maybe Cena DOES Suck?
RAW RECAP: Brock's a Jerk
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
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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