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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
RAW, Spike TV Walks Away From WWE,
Orton, and Making the Poisonous Wolverine
March 14, 2005

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

No celebratory color-scheme switch-over here at OO this March... although they exceeded all expectations, the freshman-laden University of Dayton Flyers have had their season come to an early end for the first time since 1999. Not even the NIT was interested... but hell, I'll take 18 wins (2 more than even I had predicted, and *I* was an optimistic one!), and building towards next year. The next TWO years, really. We lose very little; next year we'll be good; two years from now, we'll be SCARY good (Top 25 good).  
 
But with nothing but the most cursory of interest left in the college hoops season, maybe I can waste a moment of your time another way...

Cuz it was quite the weekend for crazed gunmen going on killing sprees. And the one in Milwaukee? That's the part of town where one of my best friend's wife grew up. And better yet: the hotel where

the crazy nutjob mowed down 8 people? That's the exact same hotel we stayed at for their wedding a couple years ago. Adding to the "It's a Small World, As Long as You Like Deranged Killer Anecdotes" vibe: the weekend we were at the hotel, it was the weekend that was the height of the DC Sniper manhunt. I can't remember, they might even have caught Malvo and Muhammad while we were there, at the very same hotel that would -- two years later -- host a not insignificant amount of nationally-covered bloodshed of its own.

So that's a pretty funny little aside with which to fill some space. And actually, I could expand the weekend's Killing Spree Related Coincidences even further... but I'll restrain myself on the grounds that I'm really only here to make some small talk. Not to crush your faith in the essential goodness and sanity of mankind. So for now: we quash the talk of murderous rampages.

Except that that leaves us with Wrestling Talk. And really, how optimistic are any of us on that front, nowadays? Well, actually, it's Monday, and we got a good one coming tonight, so I guess maybe there is reason to be enthusiastic:

  • Because, tonight RAW is live from the site of the OTHER half of the weekend's flurry of Killing Sprees: Atlanta, GA. But the suspect is safely behind bars, leaving Chris Benoit's adopted hometown fans to assemble and enjoy watching him in what *should* be a stellar main event match.
     
    On tonight's show, Benoit faces Triple H in a resurrection of a feud that carried the lion's share of the load for RAW back about a year ago at this time. First, Benoit's pursuit of HHH ended in a World Title victory at WM20, and then throughout the spring and early summer, HHH came up short in every rematch. In fact, Benoit has an undefeated record against HHH in singles matches since jumping back to RAW 14 months ago.
     
    Throw in that backstory, throw in the fact that every time these two have been in the same ring, it's been a memorable affair, and that's reason enough to let oneself get a bit optimistic.
     
    But wait! There's more!
     
    Tonight's match is *not* a title match; rather, it is the result of GM Eric Bischoff's "Pick Your Poison" concept, in which each of RAW's two WM21 main eventers will pick matches for the other in the weeks leading up to Mania. This week, it is Batista's turn to "pick HHH's poison." And he has selected Chris Benoit.
     
    Just when you thought Batista couldn't get any more logical or intelligent, he goes and pulls this: forcing Trips to face the one man he's never beaten just 3 weeks prior to WM21. That's good reasoning, Big Man... forget all the crap that HHH's had with Hurricane/Rosey, and just give us a match we can sink our teeth into. And while we're all enjoying the action, it's a match that they can spin as not just physically brutal for HHH, but also as a mental assault by Batista (reminding HHH that he is beatable). It might be Poison for HHH, but it's Delicious Workrate Candy for the rest of us.
     
    Meantime, as the one story so bulletproof that not even WWE can screw it up continues rambling towards WM, we have to assume that the "pick your poison" concept means that Batista has tonight off. At least, off from wrestling. Better to build him up with some talking this week, and then he gets his "poison" match in 7 days.  I think Batista's pursuit of HHH's title requires him to do more, character-wise, tonight than in-ring-wise. Rather than have another Batista squash, let him do some talking, and put some emphasis on building up to Triple H's "poison" for Batista next week, so it's not a completely random match.  And christ: I'm BEGGING for it to not be a Flair/Batista rematch, even though that's the rather obvious likelihood given how undeft and by-the-numbers the HHH/Batista story has been the last few weeks.  
     
    Another thing I'm begging for: an end to HHH and Batista's respective Sick Fetishes. I realize HHH has a new t-shirt out that emphasizes a sledgehammer, but that's no excuse to creep me out with sexual tension so palpable it was off-putting. Hit people with the thing, Trips, don't fondle it and make goo-goo eyes at it. And Batista: you get ONE (1) "Thumbs Down" per match, that's it. I suggest using it to signal the BatistaBomb (a la Taker/Benoit's throat-slit, or any number of other "Signifier Gesture"). Any other use of that crap-ass, cheesy, contrived pose shall be met with EXTREME mocking at the hands of yours truly. You're a smart guy: tell the idiot marketing consultants that you feel like an ass doing that stupid thing 4 times per minute. Leave the blindly following bad advice to Randy Orton and his Pose of Ultimate Douchebaggery.
     
    But besides hoping that Batista gets a "talking/character" week and that both HHH and Batista leave last week's annoying affectations at home, this is still mostly a fool-proof feud. So let's just sit back and see how they play all that.
     
    Actually, I dunno, maybe because of the "poison" gimmick, that could open the door for Batista to be an observer for the HHH/Benoit match. Either allowed at ringside, or (even better) I'd love to hear what Batista could do on color commentary now that he's getting more comfortable speaking in public. If nothing else, commentating during a 20-plus minute match would give Batista plenty of time to tell all the nuanced backstory that I've been begging them to reveal the last few weeks, and he wouldn't have to do it by eating up a 10 minute promo spot where some of the details might be TOO subtle and fly over idiot fans' heads.  But making small talk on commentary? Batista could let slip a LOT of cool things about how his relationship with HHH fell apart and what his motivation has been for the past six months leading up to this title shot.  I'd dig that. A lot.  And of course, whether a guest commentator or a ringside observer, that opens the door for Batista to play a part in the finish of the match, which is always a nice piece of flexibility to have....
     
    And which also spurred me on to an idea not just for how to have tonight's match end, but also how to continue the "Pick Your Poison" gimmick into next week, and in general tell a VERY cool story heading all the way to WM21 and beyond. But I'll explain that more in a bit.
     
    First, a bit more about RAW:
     
    The only other really intriguing RAW brand match at WM21 is the six-man "Money in the Bank" Ladder Match for a shot at the World Title. There are more than a few pre-existing hostilities among those six men, and really, only Kane is an odd man out. As a heel, he had mini-feuds with Jericho, Benoit, and Edge over the last 14 months, but that slate is pretty much erased, since not a single one of those feuds was even remotely memorable. And plus, Kane's a babyface now, so why go reminding them of his more dastardly deeds, like when he'd beat up Trish Stratus and piss off Jericho in the doing? Except that, come to think of it, maybe you could use it as a sort of silly one-off excuse for Kane and Jericho to bond now that they both despise Trish?  Or maybe I'm just coming up with bullshit reasons off the top of my head to somehow land Jericho and Trish back in the same storylines, as it would reduce the amount of crap that each has to put up with on his/her own...
     
    But I'm getting off track. The pre-existing rivalries that "count," here, involve the other five guys. Jericho and Benoit have had PLENTY of problems with Edge, and one of Shelton's most serious IC Title contenders in the last four months has been Christian. And plus, there's been some other cross pollination, too, with Christian helping out Edge against the Canadian Chrisses, and with Shelton having his troubles with Edge going back to before he won the IC belt. On top of all that, the ostensibly friendly Benoit and Jericho have had flare-ups in their relationship in the last 2 months. In two heated matches, they each have one win. Is there any latent hostility there over the unfinished business? And hell, just last week, Benoit cleanly defeated IC Champ Benjamin, another fellow babyface. More friction there? Either frustration from Benoit that he got a decisive win, but no title? Or anger by Benjamin at being one-upped in a non-title match?
     
    As you can see, Benoit becomes something of a lynchpin here, and again: I'll spin you a little yarn here in a bit, because there are some AWESOME possibilities. But for tonight, Benoit's got a full plate with the HHH match, so maybe the cross-wise storytelling about the Ladder Match will have to be a 5-way job. If I had to guess: last week, Edge beat Jericho, but Kane beat Christian... so why not hook those four up in a tag match this week? E&C together is always good, common sense. And holy shit, I must be a profeshunal riter, cuz I just gave you a really easy way to create a Jericho/Kane bond (even if just for one night) not more than a paragraph-and-a-half ago. Sometimes, I think you people don't realize just how good I am, dammit...  nothing's by accident, people. I definitely say do this tag match. And make it a "rehab week" for Shelton (either a difference-making run-in on the tag match, or give him a decisive win -- shunt him over to Heat if you gotta, I guess, but I'd rather see it tonight -- to get him off the losing streak). It's real easy: episodic television at its best is so NOT rocket science, no matter how hard WWE makes it seem, sometimes.
     
    Of course, now that I've laid all that out, you know what this means? WWE will serve up Kane vs. The Lovely Miss Tomko in the follow-up match that absolutely NO ONE is begging for after last week's ladder attack by Tomko. Christ, why must I be cursed with so many good ideas, but also with the certainty that WWE will do things the much dumber way?  How hard is it to just have Tomko at ringside for this little tag match concept, and have him get his comeuppance that way? Because in this vision I have of "sustainable episodic television," if you MUST do a match like Kane/Tomko, then you put it on Heat where it shan't bore and offend. Prove me wrong, WWE, prove me wrong.
     
    The only other RAW-only match we know about for Mania at this point: Trish defending the Women's Title against Spaz. And a bigger part of the story than Spaz is that Lita will be hobbling around as Spaz's mentor... enough to turn the tides enough that Spaz could actually win the title? Let us hope not, for that is wrong for so very, very many reasons. Unless they do it just so Trish can totally fucking DESTROY Spaz in the first rematch and win back the title, and put Spaz out of action with a horrifying injury (a FAKE one, people!) just as Lita's ready to return to action her own self.  But honestly, I don't even see the need to do the token temporary switch; it'd add nothing to the story. So rather than asking the question: does Lita's presence change the likely outcome of the Trish/Spaz match, let's just move past that, and be happy that (for all the reasons I discussed last week) Lita's presence DOES facilitate the possibility that Trish/Spaz will be an entirely more entertaining match than I'd have been capable of imagining 2 weeks ago. Let's just hope that with Lita around, they tweak this story so that fans don't keep being bludgeoned over the head with the rather insulting concept that somehow being naked in Playboy is a greater accomplishment than holding the company's top prize for your gender.
     
    Beyond that, RAW has its halves of two cross-brand matches to address tonight.
     
    The Shawn Michaels/Kurt Angle feud is heating up, and dammit, from where I sit, it's ALL Kurt at this point. Aside from Michaels' camera-man-in-disguise act 2 weeks ago, every reason to care about this match comes from Kurt's side. His RAW promo last week was tremendous, and made it seem like there might really be 9 years of hatred here. And then on SD!? Well, it wasn't quite Lecter-esque, but Angle was again at his Genuinely Dangerous best as he took the mindgames to the next level. I gotta say, when Angle announced his special opponent for this week on SD!, and then he busted out the line, "Marty Jannetty taught you everything you know, Shawn Michaels. And next week, he's gonna teach you something new: how to tap out and get your ankle broken," that was just gold. But for as much as it's awesome to see Kurt once again having something worthy of firing up his A-Game, here's hoping that somehow, Michaels finds a way to match him. Because so far, HBK's contribution to this feud has mostly been the sheer potential of the awesomeness he'll provide at WM21, proper; tangible additions to the story from his side have been negligible.  Perhaps we'll rectify that tonight.
     
    The Randy Orton/Undertaker match is NOT heating up. I can't even tell if I'm joking or not, but after SD! last week, I think I'd almost rather see Undertaker vs. a one-armed Carlito Cool. The promos and skits would be infinitely more amusing, and the match itself might not be a **** workrate classic, but I bet it'd be fun. As it stands, there is NOTHING fun about Orton vs. Taker. And that's because WWE seems convinced that this is some kind of epic showdown, where there's no time for fun and laughs. We must be Deadly Serious, for this is Legend vs. Legend Killer. Except they forgot to put in the part where they started making us care about this two months ago, when there might have been time to do so. So that puts us here: Taker accepted the match last week in the climax of a series of skits in which Carlito was the highlight, and now Orton's gotta follow-up. Even with the tag of RKO'ing Bischoff, the reaction to Orton last week ranged from negative to tepid, and I just hope that WWE's pretending it didn't happen that way. Orton needs to go heel at or slightly after Mania; and in the interim, just cross your fingers that the guy doesn't do anything else genuinely stupid or unlikable.
     
    Few last things for tonight: Muhammad Hassan made a hot fuss over not having a WM21 match last week, and Eric Bischoff got a contemplative look on his face when Hassan left. Methinks that one way or another, the rumors are true, and Hassan might end up paired up with Hulk Hogan himself at Mania. The only question is: does Bischoff book the match, or does Hassan dickishly give Hogan a verbal punking to set it up? I prefer action to deus ex machina, so I lean towards the latter...  one week, hopefully not TOO far into the future, the World Tag Team champions had, by christ, better do something on RAW. Even if there's not a spot for them on the WM21 card, Regal and Tajiri are too entertaining to leave off the show entirely. Not only would it be nice to see some tag team wrestling, but they could be every bit as funny in backstage skits as Regal/Eugene, if only WWE weren't dead-set on their own unfunny idea of how Tajiri is funny (if that makes sense to you, pat yourself on the back, cuz I think that'll probably make 2 of us!).... and lastly, might there be some cOOl signage you should look for in the front row? I don't actually know, since I'm too self-conscious to ask others to do promotional work for me; it doesn't count if it's not done voluntarily! But keep an eye out right behind the ring steps, as you might see Jason Longshore hold up a "Fuck The Rick: TNA Rocks~!" sign, or witness Erin Anderson making wildly profane gestures at the first sight of Randy Orton. You just never know.
     
    The one thing you CAN know, though, is that come what may tonight, OO will have you covered with the Greatest and Best RAW Recap in the World here tomorrow. So whether you miss RAW and need details, or saw RAW and just want to marvel at how The Rick can make it even better, come on back to OO on Tuesday for the Recap! 
     
  • Thanks to the cross-brand feuds, I've already touched a bit on last week's SD!, which I missed talking about on the grounds that I was taking a well-deserved Friday off. 
     
    And other than saying how much I loved Kurt's intensity and how he continued to find new ways to ramp up the WM21 feud with Michaels, and also saying how effortlessly Carlito continues to steal just about every segment he's in, there's really only one other significant observation I had to make:
     
    That WWE just canNOT find the right vibe with John Cena.
     
    I'm clearly (and repetitively) on the record with regards to how much I hate Pandering Chain Gang Cena. Before he backslid into that routine, he was Poop Joke TV-PG Cena, also not very becoming. And as of Thursday, we've added Petulant Brat That Just Needs A Spanking Cena to the list of rather unflattering iterations of his character.
     
    It was clearly an attempt to ditch the pandering and replace it with intensity, but here's the problem: the people who scripted the segment forgot to give Cena something compelling to be intense about! In fact, the one reason Cena SHOULD be pissed off? They go out of their way to DISMISS that as his motivation...  nope: he's not pissed about losing the US Title (way to make sure OJ's title run gets off to the most tepid and meaningless start possible, Creative Team!), he just wants to whack some people with a lead pipe. Teddy Long tries to be the voice of reason, "Hey, playa, why don't you just accept my offer of a US Title rematch?" but whiny, desperate-for-attention-fourth-grader Cena says "WAAAAAAHHH, no, me wanty!!!!!! WAAANNNNTTYYYY~!" but JBL and the Cabinet just won't come out and face a hyperactive brat with a lead pipe. So Cena decides to F-U Teddy Long instead.  Allow me to register absolute confusion over what the hell this was supposed to accomplish.  Cena had to act Not Mad at something he'd be well within his rights to be mad about, so that he could be all sandy-vagina'ed about something that makes no fricking sense. In some ways, Cena's apparently the poor-man's Batista (in the sense that no matter how hard they try, they can't fuck up his existing popularity with the fans), but stuff like this probably starts treading dangerously close to that territory. This goes beyond just me being annoyed at Cena's neediness and patronization; this goes to the point of actually giving Cena's real fans a reason to wonder what the fuck the guy's problem is.
     
    Complicating matters: I almost felt like JBL's promo to open the show was a babyface promo, in spots. I'm not one to deny that certain things are "hip" for a cup of coffee, and right now, Cena's trading on a happy coincidence of pop culture, and even if there'll always be SOME audience for him, it's gonna be a constantly changing one, with some people outgrowing a fad and being replaced by more impressionable youngsters. These things ebb and flow, and Cena's really appealing to a niche audience in a lot of ways.
     
    And when JBL goes out and talks about how nobody wants to see World Title Belts disgraced by Bling (and then bringing back the old US Title for OJ), that's something that runs the risk of APPEALING to the majority of fans, the ones who might dabble in hip-hop and find a few things they like but who don't feel the need to mindlessly immerse themselves in the subculture like some vapid blank canvas of a person who must imitate others to give meaning to their own pathetic lives. [Note, I neither strongly like nor dislike hip hop and rap as a genre: if it's good, I'll dig it. But I have a long-standing hatred of anything that counts as a "subculture": biker subculture, hippie subculture and it's laughable cousin the Weed Subculture, wine drinker subculture, and so on... christ, people, it's OK to have hobbies, but how's about you also have enough self-esteem, intelligence, and balls to incorporate those hobbies into YOUR life, instead of subjugating your life to some retarded subculture in the name of "fitting in."] This little pet peeve of mine is a HUGE reason why I simply cannot view John Cena as anything but a braindead caricature, instead of as a real person. When JBL starts cutting promos like he did on Thursday, he actually displays more of a complete, immersive character where you can understand his motivations and all that... whereas Cena's running around acting like a monkey on crack, babbling about nonsense and not giving us any real insight into where his head's at. 
     
    Or at least, if *this* is where his head's at, it's nowhere where most fans are gonna particularly keep on caring about cheering him. I think they did this once before with Cena, and it didn't work: tried to just make up for his own lack of real character depth by ladling on a couple spoonfuls of Steve Austin, right? Maybe about 15 months ago? They did it either 2 or 3 times, but only one time did it make it to the final broadcast version of SD!, and the other times, it played wrong, so they edited it out, right?  Or am I making this up?  In any case, trying to make Cena out as the Austin-esque Tweener Rebel without first giving him something real and compelling against with to rebel is just lame...  I really didn't think it was possible to find new ways to make me not like Cena's character, but WWE did it last week. It's like they kinda realize that they haven't found The Right Cena, yet, but will just keep throwing shit at the wall (be it blatant fan pandering a la Hogan and his Hulkamaniacs, or just going around whomping ass like Steve Austin) until he finds something that doesn't feel fake when he does it.
     
    It again puts me in this weird spot of not being able to cheer for Cena... but for as much as JBL The Character has become a non-black-hole when he talks on SD!, he's still not a guy I want responsible for 20-plus minute matches on a bi-monthly basis. What am I supposed to do, here? I probably lean towards JBL, just because I *know* what that fucking promo was supposed to accomplish at the start of SD! last week... by destroying Cena's pimped out US Title and declaring that we will never see a title belt disgraced like this again, you KNOW that this is WWE's idiotic idea of a Major Plot Point, so that when Cena wins the WWE Title and has a new customized belt made, we're all supposed to think it's the awesomest thing EVER. Except that really: it's kinda gay, and I don't think that much more than 10% of the audience will think much of it one way or the other. And of that 10%, I bet 5% will be annoyed, just like JBL, at the disgracing of history. Way to miss the boat and focus on something unimportant yet again, WWE!
     
  • The rating for Thursday's show was a 3.2, which means that SD! continues to lag behind its recent average by a few tenths of a point. This is not the time of year for lagging behind...  we'll have to see if there's still time for SD! to build anything resembling some momentum in time for WM21.
     
  • Still, SD!'s ratings are quite solid (especially by UPN standards), and the show will probably keep on performing very well for the duration of its UPN contract, until September 2006.
     
    But what of RAW?  Its contract is up in just six months, and in a not-exactly-shocking development last week, it was announced that SpikeTV is out of the running to renew their deal with WWE.
     
    For months now, the conventional wisdom has been that renewing with Spike/Viacom was a distasteful option for WWE. Vince McMahon simply feels like he got burned by "The New TNN" when he brought his shows over from USA Network 5 years ago, and even though there's little evidence to suggest that the network was to blame, Viacom is the easy target for explaining away WWE's accelerated drop-off in business between 2000 and 2002.
     
    So WWE didn't exactly crave a renewal with SpikeTV, but what IS surprising about how the whole deal went down is that it was SpikeTV who walked away from the table. Not WWE. And then, just to be dicks about it, they went public with a press release about how they were out of the running for WWE programming.
     
    As unsurprising as Spike's elimination from contract talks is, it's pretty shocking that it happened like this. By all accounts, Spike was gonna make a play to keep RAW, if they could, but it was WWE who was whoring itself around, almost certain to make a deal with somebody else.  Instead, Spike walks away, and publicly eliminates themselves from the bidding.
     
    And this, my friends, could get interesting. I mean, fret not: RAW will still have a home in September. And as we've been sort of talking about for months, the likely home will be USA Network. WWE has had a bunch of talks with NBC/Universal (the parent company for USA), and most suspect that they're on very good terms, and ready to bring WWE back to the fold. Pretty amazing considering how NBC got burned on the XFL, but then again, RAW is foolproof TV, not an experimental new football league. And ratings is ratings.
     
    But Spike's public withdrawal from negotiations WILL weaken WWE's standing with NBC/Universal, simply because it is widely believed that the negotiations had come down to two parties, and WWE was using that as leverage between them (the reason Spike pulled out, so they say, is because of a $12 million per year increase in WWE's asking price, one that Spike was unwilling to pay). The old Turner/Time Warner networks are known to have passed on WWE shows, and I believe (but cannot confirm) that FOX is out of the running (WWE would have run on the FX Network, and implications for TNA on Fox Sports Net were unclear). So with nobody to leverage NBC/Universal against, WWE's insistence on a $12 million annual price hike and other fringe benefits might be in danger of being refused by NBC/Universal, now.
     
    Without a second suitor, ways NBC/Universal could play hardball would include: (1) dropping the price they are willing to pay for WWE's weekly shows, (2) reducing their cooperation with regards to preemptions (for tennis and dog shows) or possible primetime/NBC specials (such as a potential return of Saturday Night's Main Event), (3) banishing WWE's poorly rated B- and C-shows to crappy timeslots, or possibly even "hiding" them on other NBC/Universal networks (like Bravo), or even (4) outright refusing to give WWE the 3 extra hours a week for their poorly-rated B- and C-shows (although there'd be far worse things than WWE having to go back to just 2 extra weekend hours, if their hand was forced; does ANYbody watch "Experience"?).
     
    So you see where I'm headed with this: it's not so much a question of "Will RAW be on TV in the fall?"... you can bet a body part that it will be, and the smart money's on it returning to USA Network. But the way Spike folded their hand and walked away from the table might have implications for some of the fringe elements of the deal that'll bring RAW to USA.  Definitely something to keep an eye on, as WWE was hoping to have their new TV deal in place by the end of their fiscal year, which is the end of April.
     
  • But while WWE remains on Spike, they aren't exactly gonna be a lame duck.  On the contrary, they've lined things up so that on the Saturday night before WM21, highlights of the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will air on Spike, in the usual Velocity timeslot (11pm eastern)
     
    Rather than a telecast of the whole event, fans will be treated to a one-hour sampling of the ceremony. Although I believe there are some reports circulating that this will be a taped deal, at least one guy I talked to say that it'd be a live broadcast, but that we'd join the ceremony in progress, and only get 2 Inductions (Hogan and Piper, obviously).
     
    I'm not sure which format to expect at this point, but one thing is clear: when I theorized weeks ago that a schedule change was made for TV purposes, I was on the mark. Wheee, I am SMRT~! By moving the start time of the Hall of Fame thingie up earlier in the day, WWE was obviously arranging things so that they could "get to the good stuff" in time to air it on the east coast. With the doors opening at 5:15 local time in California, and with the ceremony, proper, likey to get underway around 6pm, it sure does seem to me like that's a perfect way to make sure that at 8pm west coast time (and Velocity Time on the east coast), we'll just be getting to Piper and Hogan. Throw in a bit of WM21 hype as a break, commercials between the induction and acceptance speeches, maybe just a few very quick highlights from the other 4 inductees, and I think you can probably make a pretty decent little one-hour live show out of this. And I bet it's a deal where if WWE wanted to run a little long, Spike wouldn't begrudge them that.
     
    So there: at the very least, you'll probably want to set your DVR (or VCR) for wrestling on a Saturday night, for once! Obviously, we'll mention this again as we get closer and we know more details...
     
  • One thing I'm NOT so ready to pat myself on the back about, now, however, is that the reason TNA and FSN ran away from WM weekend for their proposed prime time special is because of expectations that WWE was gonna run the HoF on TV.
     
    They clearly had other reasons for postponing that little scheme till June (or later).
     
    But TNA was still going full-speed ahead last night on PPV. At Destination X, Jeff Jarrett retained the NWA Title in a rather unexpected fashion: in a lumberjack match, known Jarrett-hater Monty Brown turned heel and helped Jarrett beat Dallas Page. Huh. I already know I don't like Monty Brown nearly as much as most TNA fans seem to, but I don't exactly know if my "not liking" is the same thing as "buying him as a heel," either... the heel turn comes totally out of left field, so we'll have to see how Monty and Jarrett sell it in coming weeks. Given Jarrett's inability to keep the "Kings of Wrestling" as allies for more than 6 weeks, who's to say this isn't just part of a little detour en route to Monty being the one to unseat Jarrett? And for as boring as the TNA Title picture has been for the last 380 years since Jarrett won the belt, hopefully unseat him sooner rather than later. 
     
    The in-ring highlight of the show was apparently the convoluted 4-man X Division Match (where even after reading the recap, I don't understand why the fuck they picked these dumb rules; and if they were stuck with the retarded stipulation, I consider it a missed opportunity that they didn't at least do the one compelling story for the tag team portion of the match by putting Styles and Daniels together)... but "convoluted" doesn't matter when you're watching a high-spot-a-thon, and in this case, once we got down to the last two guys, there WAS some actual story, as it wound up being Styles vs. Daniels in the end. And Daniels won the title, which is most definitely a Good Thing. Whether wrestling or talking, he's been the Best Reason to Watch Impact for about the last two months straight... and as personality deficient as Styles is, it ceases to matter if his dance partner for the next two months is gonna be Daniels. The matches sell themselves to some extent, and however increasingly-confident I am that AJ Styles ain't the sharpest tool in the shed, Daniels will bring enough PRICK~! to carry the charisma load by making AJ seem wholesome and likable (if a bit bland) by comparison.
     
    And besides those two big matches? Well, there was a bunch of other stuff. Including: Jeff Hardy attempting to unfruitify his enigmatic little self by taking a dive into thumbtacks... Kevin Nash and Billy Gunn reprising a match that was probably better when it was on "Wrestling Challenge" in 1993.... and absolutely NO elderly, shirtless NASCAR announcers!
     
    If you need the full details, Jason Longshore has OO's full Destination X PPV Recap.  
     
  • After a few weeks of just being "written out" of RAW house show main event matches during the opening minutes (leaving Batista to fend for himself without a partner), Randy Orton didn't even make it to the opening minutes this past weekend.
     
    Instead, Orton was replaced in tag matches by Shawn Michaels, and was not present at the house shows. Also no-showing: Stacy Keibler. Ahem. Just insulating the rest of the RAW roster from Orton as he gears up for a cross-brand match with Taker? Or might there be more to it than that? I, sadly, have had my fill of mindless, tittering gossip for this month, and am not fond of outright rumor-mongering; so let's have OO be the last place on the web that just takes this at face value. At least until such time as Amy Weber talks to the National Enquirer, or something, OK?
     
    That said: in the spot to which Randy Orton contributed 3 glorious minutes of nothing over the past few weeks worth of live events, Shawn Michaels stepped up as a huge highlight, joining Batista for matches that lasted over 20 minutes against Triple H and Edge.
     
  • My Fred Durst riffing from last week was not met with nearly as much acrimony as I'd have guessed...  is it possible that even *I* have over-estimated Limp Bizkit's waning appeal?
     
    Anyway, the folks who mailed in MOSTLY fit into two categories...
     
    1) People who revealed that Limp Bizkit actually DOES have a new album coming out in a few months, and they TOTALLY think I'm right that that idiot Durst leaked his own sex tape in a desperate attempt to get some publicity for a band that has been off the pop culture radar since their last record kinda flopped 18 months. [Apologies to Radio Magnate and Sometimes OO Guest Recapper "Sledge," who was one of many to provide this information, but did so under duress, since I misappropriated his name about 1,232,097 times in last week's RAW Recap as part of a running gag.]
     
    2) People who told me I was wrong about Durst's age. Well, duh: it was kind of meant to be an exaggeration. Because the real joke isn't how old Durst is, it's that nobody seems for sure how old he is because he's apparently spent years lying and changing his birth year and stuff. I think he finally settled on being born in 1971, but nobody really believes that, and you can find plenty of places that make him older than that by lots of years. Who cares how old he REALLY is, the mere fact that he's embroiled himself in this web of lies is what makes him truly laughable. Dudes don't lie about how old they are, Fredo; you're ostensibly a rock star, which means you can be shameless and don't have to deal with the same "institute-a-within-ten-years-age-policy thing" with regards to girls. Like the rest of us mere mortal guys have to when we start approaching a certain age and we don't want to be creepy. Dumbass. And anyway, it's not how old you are on parchment, it's how young you are in the humours!
     
    Although, judging from Durst's body of work, he may be somewhere between his mid-30s and early-40s, but he has the mind of a seventh-grader!. Not that I really feel like beating this dead horse any longer... Durst is a tosser, and his band had contributed nothing but derivative, mindless crap to the Argot of Rock: 'nuff said.
     
  • And lastly, just to end on a more positive note... I promised a few more ideas about "Pick Your Poison" and Chris Benoit, and I shall deliver.
     
    Because as I was enjoying a week in which I intentionally scheduled as little real work as possible in the name of college hoops (hey, just because my Brain knows the Flyers weren't gonna advance much past Thursday doesn't mean my heart can't plan ahead! You know, just in case!), I was doing a little extra boozing and ending up bored on my couch with a slight buzz on at late hours with nothing better to think about -- since UD did, indeed, crap out on schedule -- than wrestling...
     
    And then it struck me: for over a month now, I've been advocating a re-push of Chris Benoit, accompanied by a heel turn at or after WM21, all to set him up as the first serious post-HHH challenger to Batista's World Title. My justification: Batista had his best singles match ever against Benoit, and to legitimize the Big Fella, I say let's put him in the ring with those who can make him look good. Plus, I just like any excuse to shine the spotlight on Benoit, and don't care if he works as a heel or not: even if storylines dictate that people won't LIKE him, they will still RESPECT him, and thus, believe in him as a challenger.  That's a huge plus.
     
    And then a second thing struck me: Benoit's already "HHH's poison" tonight on RAW... but who is gonna be "Batista's Poison" next week?
     
    As soon as my wandering mind realized "Benoit should be BOTH their poisons," the pieces started falling into place.
     
    Think about it:
     
    Tonight on RAW, we get an early show backstage segment in which Benoit is warming up, and suit-wearing Batista pops in to talk and wish Benoit luck. Cue Benoit getting snotty, "You're wishing me luck? Oh, that's rich, Batista. You forget who you're talking to: I'm the Wolverine, the Crippler, I beat HHH last year for the World Title at WM, and I've never lost to the Game. I don't need luck. And I sure as hell don't need it from you. I'll go out there tonight and kick Triple H's ass, because I can. But don't for one second think that I appreciate being a little pawn in your chess game, or enjoy answering to you, Batista. You've got your World Title match at WM21 all sewn up, don't you? Nothing I do out there tonight will change that, because I'm just Batista's hired gun tonight, Triple H's title isn't even on the line. I already beat the InterContinental Champion last week, and I got nothing to show for it, and now, when I go out there and do to HHH what I've done to him EVERY DAMNED TIME I've faced him, when I make him Tap Out, I won't have anything to show for beating the World Champion, either. So don't come to me and wish me luck, Batista... cuz the way I see it, you're the luckiest son of a bitch on RAW: at WrestleMania 21, you'll get to face what's left of Triple H when I get done with him tonight. Now get outta here." Batista, of course, might not like Benoit's sass mouth, but if there's one thing the Big Man has shown us, it's that he doesn't over-react when there's nothing to be gained. So Batista and Benoit do nothing but stare holes through each other before the situation is defused...
     
    Then, in the Benoit/HHH match, you give them 20-plus minutes, and we'll go ahead and have Batista either on commentary or just watching from the stage. Not an active participant, but he's "on call." It heats up to a near-fall-laden final 5 minutes in which Benoit keeps coming thisclose to beating HHH... but then, Ric Flair lends a helping hand, and HHH regains the advantage. But that interference by Flair also causes Batista to go from "on call" to "standing at ringside looking menacing." Flair behaves himself, but the damage is done, and now it's Benoit's turn to keep kicking out and avoiding near falls... and it's HHH's turn to get frustrated as hell. After Benoit kicks out of a Pedigree at the 25 minute mark, HHH says, "Enough of this shit" and signals something to Flair. So Flair starts distracting the referee... and with that happening, Triple H goes under the ring and gets the sledgehammer, ready to deliver the knock-out blow to Benoit's head. But Batista's here, and he's had enough: he gets up on the apron and dismisses Flair quickly, and hops into the ring against the referee's orders. We have a convergence of events: Benoit is getting to his feet, back to HHH and the sledge, the ref is restraining Batista ineffectively, Benoit starts turning around, HHH is one step away from cracking Benoit's head like a melon, Batista has to act so he shoves the ref down, and then: Benoit turns all the way around just in time to see Batista spear HHH to the mat, and just in time to see the referee signal for the bell immediately afterwards. HHH wins by DQ.
     
    After the match: before Batista can follow up on HHH, he's yanked back by Benoit. Benoit is not happy that Batista just cost him the match, but in Batista's defense, he might have just saved Benoit from a gaping head wound. So the two have a spirited debate while Ric Flair corrals HHH out to the safety of ringside. And while Benoit/Batista are shouting and making everybody's favorite kinds of gestures (the Broad kind), Flair and HHH are whispering... just as Benoit and Batista seem like they're ready to come to blows, HHH gets on the microphone...
     
    "Hey, Batista, Big Man: looks like you picked the wrong bottle when you picked my poison." [Maybe takes a swig of Aquafina, and savors it quasi-orgasmically, just to be a dick.] "Cuz the match you picked, Triple H is the winner, and Chris Benoit is the loser." Big boos, and now, Batista and Benoit have forgotten about each other, and are both mad at HHH for belittling the both of them.  HHH continues, "But tell you what, Big Man: I had no trouble finishing off Benoit there [more boos at the revisionist history], but it looks like you two've got a little something to settle. So here's the deal: next week, I pick your poison. And I pick Chris Benoit. Good luck doing what I just did, Batista. A hundred bucks says you can't beat Chris Benoit." Smirk, play HHH's music, and he begins retreating.  Batista is LIVID at the return of the "hundred buck bet" and is pacing around the ring, following HHH around ringside... but that's when Benoit yanks him back for a second time, and Batista realizes he's got other fish to fry. Benoit and Batista have a mega-ultra-super-duper-supreme Staredown of Ultimate Intensity, and HHH and Flair just giggle their way up the ramp. In the front row, Erin Anderson declares this to be the simultaneously the Greatest RAW Ever *and* the Worst RAW Ever for ending on such a tantalizing cliff-hanger and NOT providing the Time Travel Technology to FF to next week, since she gets enough of that agonizing pain from "24" on Mondays...
     
    Of course, then we *can* fast-forward a week, here, since none of this is ever gonna play out anywhere other than inside my cavernous noggin. It's a bit harder to envision the details a week further out, but I figure you give HHH an in-ring promo to brag about beating Chris Benoit (the fans boo the shit out of because they know it was via DQ), and then to cloud the issues and the heel/face alignments by again stating his belief that Batista will lose in the main event tonight. I do believe I'd do this, then: Eric Bischoff interrupts and bars HHH and Flair from ringside in the main event, tells them that they may scout/do commentary just like Batista did last week, but if they step towards the ring, Triple H will be stripped of the title immediately. HHH is furious, but seems to remain fully confident, "Screw you, Bischoff: Batista interferes in MY match last week, and leaves me with bruised ribs, and he gets nothing, and now, if *I* do the same thing, I'm stripped? That bullcrap, Eric, and you know it. But guess what: it also doesn't matter. I said it last week, and I'll say it again tonight: No way can Batista do what I did last week. No way can Batista beat Chris Benoit." Hmmm...
     
    Maybe you toss in a backstage confrontation between Batista and Benoit, where you make sure that Benoit says that this is just like last week to him: he might just be a pawn in somebody else's game, but that's not gonna stop him from going out there and kicking the crap out of his opponent and loving every minute of it. Batista, as is his style, is not intimidated.
     
    In the match, I think you keep it a bit simpler than the week before: less than 15 minutes, so as to play to Batista's strengths, but definitely hitting some of the super-cool spots from their first match 2 months ago.  Book the psychology and flow of it so that Benoit's the heel: he gets some end game near falls, and then Batista fires up and starts taking control. HHH maybe stands up on commentary, but Flair's there to restrain him. The two get maybe halfway down the ramp, and because of the import of the "no interference stipulation," the ref becomes distracted by their progress... he's not paying attention as Batista hits the Grade AA Spinebuster, and signals for the BatistaBomb: he's too busy making sure HHH doesn't cross that Magic Line. Which is why he DOESN'T see when Edge comes in from out of the crowd and spears the crap out of Batista, and then follows up with a few punches before deciding to get out of the ring and duck down at ringside.  
     
    Benoit, of course, also saw none of this, but regains his feet to find Batista clutching his ribs.  HHH and Flair gladly give up their "run-in" at this point and retreat, so the ref turns around just in time to see Benoit hit a swandive headbutt directly into Batista's injured ribs. Goes for the cover, but NO~! Kick out~! Perhaps Batista is Superman... Benoit tries to follow up with the Sharpshooter, but Batista powers out of that, and seems ready to rally. But he's having a heard time moving smoothly with the busted ribs, and even though he eventually gets Benoit in position for the BatistaBomb again, he executes it too slowly, and Benoit is able to wriggle his way into the Crippler Crossface!  Batista makes a move to the ropes, but just as Benoit did against Shelton, he rolls it back to center ring: but Batista's more tenacious than Shelton, and makes for the ropes again. This time, it's Benoit's turn to get frustrated, and he feints rolling the hold back into the center of the ring, fooling Batista, and instead traps Batista into a pinning combination... and Benoit, that dastard, puts his feet on the ropes for added leverage. The ref does not see this: one, two, three, Benoit pins Batista.
     
    After the match: Benoit stands up to celebrate his hardfought victory, only to find that Edge has stood up at ringside and is doing the Sarcastic Golf Clap. And HHH and Flair have both gotten out onto the stage and are doing the Sarcastic Gold Clap, too. Benoit begins to realize that he really WAS just a pawn in a game even bigger than he knew. Is Edge in cahoots with Evolution? Is that why HHH specifically referenced "broken ribs" and "doing the same thing to Batista" in his promo, and why he wasn't too concerned about Bischoff's announcement? Or is that all just Happy Coincidence? We'll all just have to tune in next week to find out.... but first: a Happy Ending for this show...  as Benoit looks with semi-disgust at Edge and HHH, Batista recovers, comes up behind Benoit, turns him around, and hits a big-ass BatistaBomb. The Sarcastic Golf Clappers? Suddenly not so smug; they look worried, but the mission was accomplished: Benoit did beat Batista, and Batista suffered injured ribs just 13 days prior to WM21.
     
    Then on the final RAW before WM, I think you keep Batista and HHH out of action, maybe just let them do some promo stuff... the meat of their story has been told, and that's why you make the final RAW more of a build-up for the Six-Way Ladder Match. It all starts with a show opening Highlight Reel in which all six men are guests... and it rapidly turns into the Edge and Benoit Bitch and Moan Fest.
     
    With Jericho quarterbacking, he'll put himself over first, and then give the other guys some mic time before getting to the heavy hitters. Edge can reveal that he did what he did the week before NOT out of love for HHH, but out of hatred for Batista. Because Batista is just another guy who has stolen Edge's spotlight and stolen Edge's title shot. Edge will then dickishly claim that even though they announced Benoit's name, everybody KNOWS that Edge was the one who really beat Batista the week before, and that's why it doesn't matter who wins between Batista and HHH, Edge is gonna win the ladder match and take his rightful place as World Champion. 
     
    And of course, that's our segue to get Benoit on the mic. Benoit makes it clear that *he* beat Batista last week, and he didn't ask for any help from Edge. And not only did he beat Batista last week, but he's still never been pinned or made to submit by HHH, and the way Benoit see it, that means he'll win the ladder match, and whoever's got the gold after WM is dead meat. At this point, Edge gets indignant, and he and Benoit go nose-to-nose, but the other guys, they don't like being left out...  
     
    Shelton goes first and tries to wedge himself in to cool Benoit/Edge down while reminding us that he *is* the IC Champ; Benoit plays the Asshole Card by saying, "Oh yeah, way I remember it, I made you tap out 3 weeks ago [sneering voice]CHAMP[end sneering voice], so get outta my business." Christian is next, saying, "I'm undefeated in ladder matches at WM, so let's not forget Captain Charisma," but then it's Edge's turn to "break ranks" by telling little bro to stuff it and get real. Then Jericho, as host of the show, tries to be the voice of reason, and it's against Benoit's turn, "Settle down? Save it for WrestleMania? Well, tell you what, good buddy, pal o' mine, what've you been doing the last 2 weeks when I've been getting jerked around by HHH and Batista? You've been too busy looking out for Y2J, that's what. So instead of flapping your gums and telling these people how great you are, why don't you get in the ring and show 'em? Why wait for WrestleMania, Chris?" At which point Edge, Christian, and Shelton all get involved and apparently want a little action, too...
     
    Which is when Kane, silent and observing all this from one corner, suddenly lurches into the middle of the fracas. He looks for all the world like he's just gonna kick ass on all five guys, and all five guys show respect by acting scared shitless. Kane is surveying the scene, picking his first chokeslam victim when... SHAWN MICHAELS hits the stage~! He says that he's sensing a lot of hostility in the ring, and that he hopes that that won't stop the six from having a kick-ass match at WM21... so you see, ol' HBK is the guy who INVENTED the ladder match, and (in a shout-out to Kurt Angle's intentionally-crappy ladder match on SD!) seeing as how some people have the wrong idea about ladder matches, HBK wants to provide a little assistance here for these six guys. HBK wants to have himself a Ladder Match. Right here. Tonight. On RAW. OMG~!
     
    Shawn proposes that those six guys have themselves a  mini-battle royale, and then later on tonight, in the main event, Shawn will face the winner in a Ladder Match. And here's a little Bonus: on SD! a week or two before, let's say Shawn showed up and stole Kurt Angle's gold medal So Shawn proposes: we'll hang Kurt's gold medal above the ring, and whoever wins, can keep it. There's enough Angle backstory in the ring (Shelton was a member of Team Angle who got dicked over; Benoit and Angle have tons of history; Edge shaved Angle's head) so that while it might seem kinda jerky for Shawn to be so cavalier with the medal, it'd also be something that most of those guys would want to get their hands on just to hold it over Kurt's head.  And so, it is agreed.  A six-man mini-royale, and then the winner faces HBK in a ladder match. Talk about a kick-ass way to head to WM21.
     
    Battle Royale is simple fare: I think 10 minutes, tops, and you really shake things up a bit... Benoit and Edge are eliminated first (eliminated together, since they end up too pissed at each other to concentrate on much of anything else). And then you just play around with Kane as the big man basically getting teamed-up upon and stuff... but in the end, Kane wins, and advances to face Shawn. Why? Because (a) it's unexpected, but (b) it reminds everybody that Kane is a legit title threat, (c) you're not gonna give away a real 20-minute HBK/Benoit Ladder Match for free, but (d) you can still use it as a way to showcase Kane and give people an idea for how the "odd man out" will still have cool things to do in a ladder match.
     
    So you do the HBK/Kane ladder match, and since it's not a huge PPV blow-off type deal, you keep it pretty simple, too. Maybe 12 minutes of B+ caliber high spots, and then the other shoe falls: Kurt Angle, furious about his medal being stolen, makes a run-in out of the crowd (or in a disguise, or whatever you want to do as the counterpoint to Shawn's attacks on SD!) just as Shawn seems about ready to win the match. As Angle gets into the ring, Shawn is on the ladder, and Kane is struggling to his feet: suddenly, Kane has a choice to make... stop Shawn from winning the match, or attack the intruder from SD!. As Angle realizes he might have made a bit of a mistake as he faces 7 feet of Kane, he slows down and begs off... but then SHAWN makes an odd choice: instead of continuing up to grab the medal, Shawn leaps off the ladder, over Kane (using Kane's body to screen Angle off, actually), and cross body-blocks Angle.  Suddenly Shawn and Angle have a brawl of their own going on, which Angle starts to get the better of, since he's fresh and Shawn isn't. Meantime, Kane has an easy job: he heads up the ladder and grabs the medal...
     
    At that exact instant, the other five guys in the Money in the Bank Match appear (in some order that will be determined by what happened in the Battle Royale: i.e., the last guy Kane eliminated attacks first, drawing out the next guy, and so on and so on), and in the chaos, Kane drops the medal. In a Moment of Clairty, Kurt realizes he's got Shawn beaten pretty badly, and sees the medal lying on the mat. So Kurt grabs the medal, puts it safely in a pocket, and then grabs a steel chair: he whacks Michaels with it, drawing blood. In one tableau outside the ring, Angle is standing over a bloody Michaels, while in the ring, a crazy six-man brawl and pile-up on Kane ends with a Zombie Sit-Up, and him cleaning house. Until Edge hits him with a Spear and starts celebrating.  Until Benoit gets him with a German and anoints himself the Last Man Standing. 
     
    Until Kurt Angle realizes, "Hey, I have a chair," and smacks Benoit with it just to be a cocksucker. Batista/HHH sells itself, so you end the last RAW before Mania with a shocking Joint Hard Sell of the next two most appealing matches on the card (the six-way and Angle/Michaels), and even more shockingly, you play up the unpredictability and cross-brand-ness of the show by having your last RAW image before Mania be SD!'s Kurt Angle standing tall over 7 RAW stars. Unconventional, but I think it'd work.
     
    At WM: Batista wins the World Title, and Benoit wins the Ladder Match by pretty much stealing the win from Chris Jericho and betraying his friend. For Batista, April, May, and June will be spent dealing with HHH's rematches (and also maybe with Edge as a bit player, on the grounds that we'd already seen Edge and HHH work together a bit, and so why not do it some more?)... April, May, and June will be spent cementing Chris Benoit's heel turn by way of an intense feud with Chris Jericho, which Benoit will, in the end, win.
     
    And then come July, when Batista has smote HHH and Benoit has smote Jericho, Benoit remembers he's got some Money in the Bank. At that point, he remembers all the crap that went down during Pick Your Poison weeks on RAW, and declares that it's time to get him a piece of Batista. Batista tried to use him as a pawn, and Batista got pinned by the Wolverine. And now, Benoit demands his title shot. It happens at SummerSlam. 
     
    Who wins and how you handle rematches is entirely up in the air. I think I've booked this far enough in advance... and I also think I've once again committed the crime of raising expectations way too high. But what the hell, I figured you all would enjoy a little glimpse into the kinds of half-assed ideas that run through my head when I'm bored.
     
  • And on that note, I am running *way* long today. So that's about enough gOOdness for you.
     
    More shall be forthcoming tomorrow in the RAW Recap, so I'll see you then. Enjoy RAW, take 'er easy, and I catch you kids later.


  
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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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