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RAW/Ratings, WM21 Promotional
Strategy, Cool New Book, and MORE!
March 16, 2005

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


I will keep today's column under 40KB. I will keep today's column under 40KB. I WILL keep today's column under 40KB.
I will not waste time with stories about my tangential ties to killing sprees. I WILL keep today's column under 40KB. I will not type 3000 words of fantasy booking, no matter how fucking awesome my ideas are. I WILL keep today's column under 40KB. I will not do unusual amounts of detailed match play-by-play because I made the mistake of actually scanning through RAW a

second time looking for screencap-worthy material and wound up dedicating even more detail to memory than usual. I WILL keep today's column under 40KB. I will repress the urge to waste your time with an anecdote about something that happened to me last Thursday night, even though it's really fucking funny and kinda spooky. I WILL keep today's column under 40KB. I WILL keep today's column under 40KB.

To that end, I will cut short this pre-ramble now that I'm past the box ad, and I will start the column. Which, no matter how much you wish I'd make as long as Monday's or the Recap, *will* be less than 40KB:

  • We do, however, start by discussing Monday's RAW for just a little bit... because 160KB in the last 2 days, and I still haven't fully said my piece.
    Obviously, my stance in yesterday's recap was that the show was bordering on awesome for the first 1:45 or so, and then it kind of went south. Predictably, this got me feedback from people telling me that it wasn't nearly as bad as I made it out to be, and I was probably making a mistake that I've made before in the past: getting so attached to my own fantasy booking that when WWE does something different, I get all pissy without actually analyzing the show fairly.
    OK, so yeah, I do that sometimes. But in this case, no matter how awesome the scenario I laid out was (and man alive, I don't know whether to be gratified that I got so many people writing in to say that was close to the best OO EVAR! Or be offended and insecure that columns I've written featuring ideas were actually fully formed and NOT devised when gently buzzed and watching basketball are apparently second-fiddle to my rambling fantasy jackassery?), I was not offended that WWE didn't use it. I just flat-out didn't like what we got in its place. I'm sorry.
    The goal at this point should be to make sure you surround Batista only with people who can make him look his very best. Gene Snitsky is *not* this man. And worse: Gene Snitsky in the MAIN EVENT? That's an inexcusable case of WWE not only giving Batista D-grade material to work with and then shining an extra-bright spotlight on it.
    Another point of view is that "it sucked, but I understand why they laid it out the way they did," because of the order of events that had to set up the Kane/Batista "Pick Your Poison" match. I respectfully disagree. Obviously, WWE did what they did because they couldn't think of a better way to re-order the show, but that doesn't mean better ways didn't exist. It just means that WWE couldn't think of them. Could I think of them, and give you a show that includes the set up for Kane/Batista *and* which ends with a satisfying Benoit/HHH match? You betcha. But I'm not fantasy booking today. Use your own imaginations, though. I'm sure you can do it, too: bonus points for anybody who can just leave Snitsky completely the fuck out of it so that we don't have to be reminded of last summer's crappiness.
    Also: as much as the live crowd died for almost all of the Batista/Snitsky stuff, they did get a kick-ass post-show dark match, and another possibility is that WWE booked their TV show so as to make the transition into the Batista/Michaels vs. HHH/Edge match as smooth as possible. But c'mon: booking your TV show seen by millions to make a transition for 10,000 live fans as smooth as possible? That's the proverbial cutting off your nose to spite your face. [Oh, before I forget: I don't owe anybody a body part... something else only the live fans got *was* some pre-match promo work by Triple H and Ric Flair while we were getting commercials. Just like I guessed in the recap. OMG I am SMRT~!]
    So no free pass for any of these "we had to lay the show out this way" theories. You think it through, and you can come up with ways around any of these logistical issues that do NOT include fans sitting on their hands while Gene Snitsky "wrestles" in a main event.
    But other than the last 20-25 minutes of the show? Man, that was a good RAW. My only other gripe was the anti-climactic finish to Benoit/HHH, and who it was a flaccid finish to 16 great minutes of action. Like a microcosm of the whole show. I'm sorry, but when a match ends, and I'm actually caught by surprise (swear to god, I hadn't even gotten done laughing heartily at Flair's exit, and all of a sudden, I'm sitting there muttering, "Whoa, wait. THAT was it?"... I almost missed the sac punch, and didn't think that was anywhere near sufficient set up for a decisive Pedigree, but it was), that's not a good thing.
    The finish of the match actually had the net effect of making me unable to decide what was the Match of the Night. I think Benoit/HHH was actually technically "better" for over 15 minutes, but the finish was bleh. Whereas Edge/Shelton might have been a notch less intense for 15 minutes, but did a great job telling a formulaic Babyface Comeback story and had a super ending that I think it almost steals the title.
    In any case, it's been a long time since I remember RAW having two 15-plus minute (Edge/Shelton counts, I'm including the "pre-match" brawl) matches this good. And then you had the Rockers match, which was 10 minutes and not THAT far behind in terms of quality? Monday was a good night to be a wrestling fan.
    And we can't finish up RAW Talk without mentioning that the opening angle with Randy Orton turning heel on Jake Roberts... because that was a ton of fun, too. It's not exactly a compliment, but even when he's not trying to, Orton really does just exude a quality of unlikability. It's some mix of dimness, cheesiness, sliminess, cockiness, and probably a few other things; he'll always have misguided teenage girls behind him, but other than that, even when he was trying to be a babyface, his true nature just kept on shining through. And finally: Orton and WWE can make the most of that rather remarkable quality.  
    How valuable is Orton as a heel? Here's how valuable: I actually thought Jake was gonna hit the DDT, and more than that, I WANTED Jake to hit the DDT. My sheer desire to see Orton get punked out overcame my logical brain, and tricked me into losing myself in the moment. As long as WWE realizes this value, and realizes that to keep it intact, they need to make sure we KEEP ON believing Orton could get punked out at any time (this will require Orton "showing ass" every now and again, unlike the previous iteration of the "Legend Killer" that never got his comeuppance because they were too concerned with protecting him for a babyface run), Orton will contribute positively to WWE TV shows for the first time since last June.
    Let's see: three good-to-great matches, one very entertaining (and very necessary) major angle, a Trish throw-away promo that left me totally spOOked in a good way... yeah, I can add all that up and come up with "best RAW in a long while." But then I've got this sick perversion where I like the final segment of a show to be a good one: and instead, it was one of the worst and more forgettable (ahead of only Kane vs. Christian/Tomko, really)... and that just chaps my hide, and I can't ignore that when RAW ended on a sour note, it kinda took an hour and forty minutes of complete enthusiasm down with it a bit. But that's just me, I'm sure.
    For a more detailed and descriptive look at roller coaster ride that was RAW, check out yesterday's comprehensive and ever-excellent OO RAW Recap. You'll get details if you didn't see the show, and you'll get a whole new appreciation for the show if you did see it. That's the beauty of the OO RAW Recap: we do it just right so that it's good for the goose AND for the gander.
  • The rating for Monday's RAW was a 3.8, which if I recall correctly is exactly the same as the week before. After breaking the 4-barrier a few times, it looks like RAW has settled back down to at (or just below) it's recent average.
    Sadly, as of this Wednesday afternoon writing, I don't have any quarter hour breakdowns or anything... but I'd love to get sweet, sweet vindication by finding out that ratings dropped for Snitsky inexplicably in the main event. Again: Batista's good, but WWE needs to realize that they can showcase him in better ways, and make fans think he's GREAT. There are plenty of examples of how WWE knew enough to surround guys like Sid and Diesel with Michaels and Bret; and when they screwed up with crap like Diesel vs. Mabel, it really hurt Diesel's momentum as champ. You'd think they'd have learned enough from their own past to give Batista the best chance to succeed. That means NO SNITSKY. And to a lesser extent, I'm not even totally sure that Kane's the best guy, either: but if you've got a hard-on for big hosses and Slobberknockers, Kane's about as good a dance partner as there is for Batista...
  • Before we leave RAW behind, many have written in to say that Jake Roberts has actually been added to the WWE.com RAW Roster page, and has a full bio... and want to know if that's indicative of some significant relationship between Jake and WWE. 
    Well, I think y'all could tell just by looking at Jake that he's not exactly in condition to be a contributor to the onscreen product at this stage of his life. But I also know that WWE has been trying to bring more "wrestling minds" into the fold to help consult with creative... Kevin Sullivan was under consideration, Ted DiBiase is helping out on SD!, and you could do a LOT worse than Jake Roberts if you want a high Wrestling IQ.
    And while the addition of a comprehensive profile page is odd, it's also worth noting that other Superstars listed on the active RAW Roster page include: the Rock, Mick Foley, and Steve Austin. So it also doesn't necessarily mean much that Jake's got one, too.
  • Oh, and a quick thing about the man whose career Jake righted: an alternative theory about Orton's no-showing last weekend's RAW house shows and under-showing the few weekends before that has Orton too injured to work, and so they've been writing him out of those tag matches.
    And while I don't deny there have been rumblings that Orton's a little dinged up (I think some nagging shoulder pain), he's also wrestled a few RAW matches (including that super one against Christian) in the last few weeks, and could clearly work through this if you was asked to. 
    And not to be a dick about it: that he probably WOULD be working through if he was still headed for a main event match against HHH.

  • Speaking of differences between WWE's original vision and the current vision for this year's Mania....
    A little more than 2 weeks to go, and we still don't have a full WM card established. And what we do have? Well, WWE sure seems to be banking on Batista vs. HHH to carry an awful lot of the promotional load.
    Of the other matches, Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels seems ready to take over the spot as the #2 most-anticipated match, and if WWE plays their cards right, they could end up with people fired up for the Six Man Ladder Match. Off in the far distance, it feels like JBL vs. Cena is kind of a straggling #4 on the depth chart, with Taker/Orton perhaps threatening it for the biggest of the "second tier" matches.
    From there, what have we got?
    Maybe Trish vs. Spaz has actually ascended to the #6 spot, just because of Lita's involvement and the strength of the Trish/Lita feud... and I think Big Show/Akebono might be next at #7 just because that'll be one impressive visual... and per WWE's philosophy of burying the cruisers, there's been no build for London/Chavo in the last 2 weeks, and it's bringing up the rear in terms of announced matches.
    At least, that's my unofficial tally of announced matches: I got 3 RAW, 3 SD!, and 2 cross-brand.  With WM21 clocking in as a four-hour show, that means probably room for one more match from each brand.  Presently, it sure seems like RAW is building up Muhammad Hassan to interject himself into a WM match (and there were those pesky rumors that WWE might have had talks with Hulk Hogan about working a match on April 3), while (without being spoiler-y) all signs on SD! seem to be pointing to Eddie vs. Rey being a last second addition for them.
    That's my present read on the likely fleshing out of the WM21 card, and actually, those would be two strong additions. Hogan/Hassan could just be flat-out fun, while Eddie/Rey would instantly catapult in the Top Four Actually Worthwhile Matches For Internet Smarks. But considering that as a final 10-match card, I'm still left with the feeling that this isn't exactly the best promotional effort WWE's done for a WM... and, in fact, that it might be one of the 2 or 3 worst of the past decade or so.
    I'm also struck by the notion that maybe, just maybe, they'll get away with it, regardless. Why? Because even if there's no real "WrestleMania Sizzle" in more than 2 or 3 of these matches, this show is also shaping up unlike any typical WWE PPV event.
    Simply put: WWE might successfully distract us simply by dragging out special attractions this one time per year. They've made a deal with Akebono to wrestle, and we might get a Hulk Hogan match, too. I'm not sure I'm super-fired-up in either case, but those also aren't everyday occurrences. You've got Steve Austin returning to TV to be in Piper's Pit, two special attractions together in one segment. And even just on the ROAD to WM21, we've seen Jake Roberts and the return of the Rockers, something that we probably wouldn't see any other time of the year.
    It's an interesting promotional strategy that reminds me of plaque that used to hang on my dad's office wall: "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit." We've frequently discussed here how WWE basically had to re-work the entire top half of their intended WM21 card. In some cases due to injury (Lita), but in other just because they chose poorly and finally decided to eat crow (Orton, the Taker/Kane tag match of suck) rather than present something the fans would crap on. But even though they had plenty of time back in December to re-align their creative plans to do interesting, compelling, and long-spanning story arcs starting immediately with the New Year, they haven't really started getting the WM house in order until the last 2 or 3 weeks.
    It seems like they realize this isn't the best case scenario, and so: open up the checkbook, and line up the special attractions. It's cheap and lazy, but like I said: it also might work. A side benefit of WWE's slide into too many PPVs and not many of them actually seeming all that worthwhile is that they've lowered the bar for themselves.
    WrestleMania 21 might not feel even half as special as last year's show... but every single fan can eyeball these mounting special attractions and realize, "Hey, this is still gonna be a totally different class of show than whatever that one before Christmas was called that I didn't bother watching." A combination of lowered expectations, the WrestleMania brand name, and a few returning legends, and WWE just might pull this off, afterall.
    And once they fake their way to a Major Event Atmosphere on April 3, all of a sudden you've got a good 3 or 4 matches on this card that -- even if the stories building them up have been sub-par -- might take advantage of that atmosphere to blow us away. Just something I was thinking about in the last day or two, folks... and believe me, I don't even know WHAT I think about it. Do I be happy that I can tell my markish enthusiasm is starting to wax even though my smarkish cynicism doesn't want it to? Or do I get pissed at WWE for buying their way out of a hole and using smoke and mirrors to trick me?
    I dunno... I'll think some more on it and get back to you.
  • If it's a little dose of legends you crave, I've got an interesting one for you here today. I have, in fact, been waiting many, many long months to spring this on you, but the book was only been released this week.
    Mick Foley is one of 7 people profiled in a new book called "The Sixteenth Minute," by award-winning journalist Jeff Guinn and Douglas Perry. The concept of the book? To look at how celebrities have been changed by fame, and how they cope with it when their Andy Warhol prophesied "fifteen minutes" are up. In addition to a very cool and candid and in-depth chapter on Mick, you've got an extremely intriguing and diverse roster of other profilees that range from baseball players to "American Idol" winners to politicians.
    But I'm not writing a book review, and you're all only interested in the Mick Foley part, right? Well, let me assure you that while the book as a whole is plenty worthwhile, you won't be disappointed if you pick it up just to read about the Hardcore Legend. I, in fact, STRONGLY recommend the book.
    As an added bonus, when you get to the Mick chapter, you'll be stunned to see 3 or 4 quotes from Yours Truly peppered throughout (one of them is even pretty good! and another one makes me sound like a total self-centered douche, which I totally didn't mean to do, but which was used to illustrate a very valid point about Mick's post-wrestling writing career and how even his biggest fans aren't exactly flocking to his books! dammit, could I be any bigger an ass?). You should buy this book for about a billion reasons before "because Rick's in it," but I actually am proud of my involvement. Let's just say that in the Foley chapter, there are only two people interviewed for their insights: one is Terry Funk, and the other is me, and that didn't happen by accident.
    So come on: Mick and Rick together in the same hardcover book... can it get any better than that? Well, actually, yes it can, and I got no problem admitting that the best pages of "The Sixteenth Minute" are the 340 other ones on which my name does NOT appear.  It's well worth your time.
    You can get more information or buy the book by clicking here.
  • Lastly:
    Lots o' folks apparently still more interesting in the Matt Hardy/Lita/Edge gossip than I, personally, think is healthy... I guess Matt's back to posting on his official website's message board, and the drama has never been crazier.
    There's two specific things a bunch of people wrote in about that I figure I'll repeat, just in the names of keeping my ratings up with the Tittering Housewife Crowd out there. One is that Edge has a new nickname: Matt refers to him only as "Feces," I guess. But the other is that Matt has reversed course and is being very conciliatory towards Lita, on top of that has apparently been photographed out in public with Lita, and has had to start defending himself against accusations that this is all a work because of that.
    Oy. Why can't people just be like me? If this is real, it's really not any of our business. And if it's a work, it's like I said originally two weeks ago: it's a dumb one, since you should be able to figure out that it can't possibly ever fit into WWE TV storylines (without WWE admitting the difference between "fake" storylines such as Kane/Lita marriages and pregnancies, and "real" ones such as Matt/Lita real life relationships), which is the only kind of "work" that has any value. It's not something you should be wasting your time on, in either case.
    Although hell, maybe it's just fun to fuck with people's heads. So here, let me tell you that my top secret, anonymous, insider source has confirmed to me that Matt Hardy and Lita are still truly, madly, and deeply in love, and having their own fun by toying with the fragile little minds of the internet fans. The proof is that Matt has changed his tune about Lita, and they've had to "re-write" the storyline on the fly so that she's not a heel, since she's currently a face on TV, and they didn't realize fans would boo her when they started all this. So now Matt still likes Lita, but Edge is "Feces." It's all SO OBVIOUS if you just USE YOUR HEAD. Please flock to Matt's message board and make him reply to this clear-cut STATEMENT OF FACT. I'm sure he'd LOVE to hear from TRUE FANS like you.
    I stand behind this made-up horse manure 100%! I hope that your lives have been enriched by this vital insight into the lives of people who you've never met! And now: back to our regularly scheduled not-obsessing-over-crap-we-shouldn't...
  • And I think that's it for me today. Friday is the last part of Matt's "The Titan Towers" Satire, which, unless something interesting happens between now and then, means I can't see me feeling particularly motivated to write a column of my own when you should be reading his.
    So I'll see you when I see you; but absolutely, positively no later than Monday. Later on, kids....

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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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