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Final Push to WM21, Cena Issues,
Hall of Fame Update, TV Appearances...
March 28, 2005

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Ahhh, March Madness.... the only time of year that forces even ME to behave irrationally. 
For I have always loathed North Carolina as long as I've paid attention to college hoops. I don't know if it was the atrocious baby-blue, or if it was the way Dean Smith just rubbed me wrong, or what... but I've never been able to bring myself to do anything but root enthusiastically against the Tarheels. Until this year, that is.

Because now I have to cheer for UNC, since the dastards can make me a nice chunk of hypothetical change in a hypothetical pool (remember kids: gambling is illegal and bad!) if they win the national championship. It might hurt a bit, but in the battle between my love of money and my hatred of Tarheels, it's really not even that tough a call.

But man... you tell me six months ago that I'd be spending the first weekend of April cheering for North Carolina to win a National Championship, and for JBL to retain the WWE Title, and I'd assume you were clinically insane. And yet: here we are, with circumstances conspiring to make me root for the least objectionable of not-quite-appealing alternatives. WHHEEEEEEEE!

Let's talk some rasslin': 

  • This is it: the final push for WrestleMania 21. Each brand has just 2 more hours of TV time to impress us, starting tonight with RAW.
    RAW's top match at WM -- and the likely main event of the entire show -- is Batista challenging Triple H for the World Title. And although Batista's appeal and momentum are undeniable, the Fed has done just about the bare minimum to tell anything resembling a compelling story between the two. Not only has Batista failed to get his one break-out promo to tell his side of the story, but the potential-laden "Pick Your Poison" concept was monumentally fumbled, and what limited storytelling has been done since Batista's Powerbomb Heard Round the World came screeching to a halt last week when Triple H took a good 15 minutes to tell 5 minutes worth of story. Worst of all: 5 minutes worth of story that we'd already heard from him before.
    So with no signs of Inspirado over the past 6 weeks with regards to Batista/HHH, there's no real reason to expect a sudden appearance of it tonight. In fact, we've been promised a "face-off" between Batista and Trips; which is basically secret code for "flimsy excuse to get these two in the ring for the entirely predictable windbaggery and pull-apart brawl," I assume. I'm not saying that I disagree, in principle, with keeping Batista and HHH out of action tonight in favor of doing some storytelling/talking... I'm just saying that I'm not exactly expecting the most thrilling of TV given what we've seen out of these two the last couple months and given the seeming laziness of the "face-off" gimmick. But I'm also entirely willing to be surprised. We'll see, but I continue to feel that WWE is essentially very lucky that Batista's appeal is as strong as it is, since it makes it very hard for them to screw this up...
    RAW's other genuinely huge WM21 match is the six-man ladder match. Given the various iterations of tag and singles matches we've seen among the six men the last few weeks, it seems like we might see a six-man tag match tonight, with Jericho/Benoit/Shelton taking on Edge/Christian/Tomko... which could very easily be booked in such a way that requires a post-match run-in by the final participant in the ladder match, Kane. Because of the way Kane was beaten in the main event of last week's show (thanks to an attack by E&C and Tomko), having him "get his heat back" by doing a major league ass-kicking run-in tonight would probably be the best way to remind everybody that Kane is gonna be a major player in the WM ladder match. For shits and giggles, you could even have Kane take out the babyfaces, too, after getting his vengeance on the heels.
    The other established RAW brand match at WM21 is the Trish Stratus vs. Christy Hemme women's title match. I contend that WWE misstepped badly last week, when Spaz was able to score a clean pinfall win over Molly Holly despite possessing exactly one (1) well-performed offensive move in her arsenal. Better to play it in the more believable and relatable way, which would be to cast Spaz as the plucky, over-matched underdog, and Trish as the cocky, over-confident bitch, with Lita lurking as the X Factor... instead, they've asked us to believe that Spaz is already Trish's equal (or at least, Molly's superior) and doesn't need Lita's help, and Trish (instead of playing to her strengths as a fetchingly-bitchy heel) has to Take Spaz Seriously (despite her redonkulous ring attire). I think this has the net effect of making WHATEVER happens at Mania a lot less satisfying/compelling... if you play it with Spaz as the over-matched underdog, then at Mania, she could win (with Lita's help) and it'd be a feel-good moment, or Trish could wipe the mat with her and make good on her promises and be that much more despicable a villain for doing so. I dunno: maybe they can do something tonight to shift us more towards that vibe. Spaz getting a one-on-one ass-kicking from Molly (and Trish following that up with some ultra-cocky promo work, talking about how Christy is just not at her level, and her showing against Molly proves it) is probably about the only way to do this; but let's just say that I'm not holding my breath. 
    From there, we go Cross-Brand with a few additional matches that need attention tonight.
    Shawn Michaels continues to do almost NOTHING to address his WM21 match against Kurt Angle (while Angle has been carrying the load with some absolutely outstanding promo work, which he'll hit on in a second), and tonight, it doesn't exactly look like he's gonna be making Kurt his #1 Priority. Instead, Shawn is penciled in for a one-on-one match against Muhammad Hassan. I see a few possible outcomes here, and none of them really do much of anything to advance the HBK/Angle issue... if WWE still hopes to make use of Hassan in a special "bonus match" at WM21, they can't afford to have him suffer his first pinfall win tonight, which kind of gets my mind racing about various schmozz options. Here's something to consider: if Daivari gets involved and is responsible for a DQ finish, it might be exactly the opening for Marty Jannetty to show up for a save... I can think of worse things than a Hassan/Daivari vs. Rockers mini-feud after WM21.
    This'll also be an interesting match for another reason: because if Hassan can't have a really good match against Shawn, there's trouble. Even against guys like Benoit and Jericho, Hassan hasn't shown us a whole lot, and continues to be more impressive just in terms of his easily-boo-able promo work... tonight could be a chance for Hassan to have his first really good WWE match, which could serve him well, depending on what WWE has in mind for him over WM weekend. This could be the start of kind of a break-out phase for him, and as far as the in-ring side of things go, you can't ask for any better a dance partner than HBK.
    And then there's Randy Orton, who's got a match coming up against the Undertaker. Orton's kind of doing two different things: (1) claiming not to be scared, and (2) "sending messages" to the Undertaker. Being boastful and cocky and too dumb to be scared is actually perfectly in line with the sort of brash and disrespectful Legend Killer vibe that Orton should be giving off. But the "sending messages" crap? Bleh. Limp-wristed slaps and RKOing waify girlfriends are not exactly convincing. As noted last week, even with the necessary heel turn, I don't think WWE genuinely knows how to get the most out of Orton... so I'd expect more generic heelishness from Orton, nothing particularly inspired, and then we'll get him RKOing his dad at the Hall of Fame, and then we'll hopefully get him on the losing side of the match at WM21 and then traded over to SD! for a career "do-over"... that prospect is about the only thing I'm excited about with regards to this feud: that Orton could land over on SD!, where he can put the last year or so of baggage behind him and start fresh as a heel once he gets healthy.
    If Hassan's not getting some kind of Bonus Match at Mania against a certain red-and-yellow-clad Orange Goblin, that does leave one more slot open for RAW to add a WM21 match... it'd be nice if Tajiri and William Regal had worthwhile opposition so that the tag team titles would be defended on the show. But at present, the closest thing we've got to a contending tag team is probably Maven/Simon Dean. And as the biggest Tajiri/Regal fan any of you know, even *I* would not propose to run that match any place other than hidden during Hour One of RAW as a little throw-away.
    So we'll see how it goes tonight. Five matches that need varying levels of attention: some can get by with just some icing, but others, the cake still ain't done baking... and the option is open for RAW to whip up an entire new dish from scratch if they want to add another WM21 match. Conventional wisdom says that WWE should have a bunch of killer ideas for tonight's show to whet our appetites for Sunday, and that tonight should be one of the most exciting RAWs of the year... but conventional wisdom also says that the entire last two months of post-Rumble RAWs should have been kicking ass, and they haven't quite been there, so who knows?
    Actually, we'll all know in about 10 hours time... but if you happen to miss RAW, then you can count on OO to fill you in tomorrow with the indisputable Greatest and Best RAW Recap in the World. Come on back for that...
  • Going back to last week's SD!, the show did a 3.3 broadcast rating up against college hoops (and the rest of whatever the hell is on TV on Thursdays). That continues the trend of SD! performing at about the same level for calendar 2005 (and just slightly below the last quarter of 2004)... no increased momentum heading into WM, but again, that could be as much a result of NCAA basketball the last few weeks leeching some of SD!'s primarily male audience.
    I thought last week's show was an amusing one... for the most part, it was the perfect example of the kind of "lots of talk, not so much wrestling" show that is good and appropriate before WM21. Which is what RAW was NOT last week.
    Stealing the show was Kurt Angle, poured into some HBK ring attire, accompanied by Sensational Sherri, and doing the full 1992-style Shawn Michaels ring entrance and mannerisms. And when he and Sherri cued up the music and sang "Sexy Kurt"? Believe me, it's an early contender for Funniest Moment of 2005.
    Wrestling-wise, the show was anchored by a decent Eddie/Rey vs. Holly/Haas match, but even there, the story was... well, the story. Goosed by nephew Chavo, Eddie challenged Rey to a one-on-one match at WM21, which was duly accepted. And though we've all known the match was gonna happen for weeks (since it was mistakenly revealed in SD! Magazine before the writers could get around to revealing it on TV), seeing the actual set-up was cool. Eddie's very much a tortured soul heading into the match, but he seems to be holding his frustration in check so far... will he be more interested in tearing the house down with a **** workrate classic against Rey? Or will some of that simmering emotion come out and give us a heel to boo against on Sunday? I don't know, but I can't wait to find out...
    I know it's got nothing to do with anything, but I would have loved more TV time for Carlito's Elvis impersonation... and if we're gonna be carting out legends to distract us from a semi-weak WM21 line-up, if Carlito had done more over-the-top disrespect of The E, you could have followed up THIS week with a little cameo from the Honkytonk Man. Which would be silly and would have nothing to do with WM21, but which might have been fun. Carlito continues to impress me every week with just how effortlessly entertaining he is in these skits. His late-show backstage bit with Funaki was another winner, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who was mouthing along with him when he hit his necessary-but-hilarious punchline, "Carlito has left the building."
    Speaking of not having anything to do with anything, Big Show turning over the jeep was amusing, if semi-pointless. Without Akebono appearing on WWE TV until this week, I guess the jeep as the stand-in is decent enough. But in so far as I got into the bit, it was mostly just because of Show's charisma and the way he worked the crowd... one question: how is it that in the 2 months since Luther Reigns revealed potential show-stealing charisma of his own, he's basically turned into SD!'s designated bitch? Show's bitch, the jeep's bitch, even Mark Jindrak's bitch... baffling.
    The only part of the show that really annoyed me? Predictably, it was the main event "debate" between Cena and JBL. If WWE's missing the boat with Orton on RAW, it seems like they're doubly guilty of misrepresenting Cena on SD!... because I'm a pretty hip cat and I don't like authority figures any more than you, but JBL is practically the babyface to me the last few weeks. And Cena's just a petulant brat with a 7th grader's grasp on schoolyard justice.
    Knifing tires? "Tagging" a limo with "JBL Sucks" (I would just like to point out that Trish Stratus has much better penmanship with the spray paint!)? Using scissors to cut off JBL's tie? Busting out MORE spray paint to "tag" JBL himself with an "FU"? Again, it just seems very uncreative, juvenile, and unprovoked to me... like Cena has somehow morphed into the love child of CarrotTop and Mike Tyson: always itching to start a fight for no discernable reason, and using hacky comic props as a crutch during his instigations.
    Cena's antics would be much more tolerable or cheer-able if his target was more convincing. But the fact is that Cena's lashing out like this against JBL who hasn't really done anything to deserve it. Cena's rebellious disrespect is not commensurate with the amount of JBL's douchebaggery that he's had to endure. The only thing JBL's really done to Cena is cause him to lose the US Title.... and so of course, that's the one thing Cena is NOT pissed off about and that Cena just dismissed without giving a damn. We talked about that particularly mind-blowing misstep a few weeks ago. 
    Instead, it's like we are just being asked to buy into Cena and JBL as archetypes. JBL's the Rich Guy, and Cena's the downtrodden Regular Guy. We're supposed to hate Cena for being wealthy and snobby, and we're supposed to sympathize with Cena because he's just like us. I guess maybe this is enough for some folks (since Cena's fan base doesn't not seem to be eroding substantially), but it doesn't work for me at all. That just seems kinda lazy. There's no genuine tension between the two guys, no real reason for Cena to be acting like he's acting... the lack of compelling motivation for Cena's actions combined with the sheer immaturity of his actions is a potent cocktail for me.
    Discounting the archetypes, JBL's actions have actually been the more sympathizable the last few weeks. He's had to endure childish and uninspired vandalism, he's restrained himself from lashing out, he's kept his cool and kept the focus on getting to WM21 for their match, and he's not let himself get baited by the "mind games" of a guy who's increasingly coming off as not-very-bright. The only thing that really makes JBL a heel is the fact that he's a Rich Guy. And also that he's been champion for 10 months, and nobody's been able to beat him. Which isn't enough, not when this is supposed to be the Biggest Title Defense Of The Year at Mania Time. In fact, for me, it's enough for me to start hoping that Cena's NOT the guy to end that streak.... trust me, nobody wants JBL out of main events more than me, but WM21 is shaping up to be the first time I've not viewed his challenger as a more tolerable SD! headliner.  
    In any case, this is one of those unfortunate circumstances where I know I'm bitching about a problem more than I'm suggesting ways to fix it. I don't like doing that, but other than the nebulous notion that JBL should have done more to really motivate Cena's antics, I'm coming up short on ideas for righting the Cena/JBL ship.
  • Carlito Cool wrestled his first match back from injury over the weekend for his dad's company in Puerto Rico... that basically means that once WWE clears WM21, you can expect Carlito back in the ring on SD!.
    Assuming that both men remain on SD! after the Draft Lottery, it would seem to be a logical follow-through if Carlito feuded with Cena... problem is, whatever issues I have with Cena's likability NOW would be magnified greatly if he was feuding with Carlito. And I almost wonder if it wouldn't become a bigger problem, since I feel like audiences are on the verge of realizing just how entertaining Carlito is. Given the choice between Cena and Carlito, and if tweaks aren't made to Cena's character from where it stands today, I'm not entirely sure a significant percentage of fans wouldn't side with Carlito. 
  • WWE has made one minor change to the Hall of Fame line-up... Chris Jericho will now induct Roddy Piper (instead of Steve Austin).
    I actually like this idea. Going back two years ago, we seemed to be subtly setting up a Jericho/Piper "feud" when Piper revived Piper's Pit on SD!, while Jericho debuted The Highlight Reel on RAW... there was nothing overt, but there were a couple little things that seemed to hint at a possible rivalry developing. And although Piper was gone from the company 3 months later, the Highlight Reel remains a RAW staple, and like so many other interview segments over the years, draws its inspiration from Piper's Pit.
    Jericho's a very cool and appropriate guy to have inducting Piper into the Hall of Fame.
  • The Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young were on Conan O'Brien last Wednesday, and man alive did things ever get ugly... Mae was moments away from jumping poor Conan's bones, was taking out her falsies and throwing them at Conan, and in general was being about as frightening as any talk show guest I can ever recall. Ugly, but funny.
    That show will be replayed in SUPER late night on Wednesday night/Thursday morning this week, if your local NBC affiliate airs the week-old late night shows in overnight slots (around 3 or 4 am).
    In Conan's regular 12:30 slot on Wednesday night, you'll also be able to check out a fresh show with another wrestling guest: the Big Show will be on, and always brings the funny to Conan.
    Other TV appearances I know of this week: Steve Austin is on the Late Late Show on CBS on Tuesday night, and Christy Hemme's recent Howard Stern appearance will be shown on E Network in two parts (tonight and tomorrow night at 11pm, with plenty of replays of each show). Supposedly Spaz (despite not knowing the Democratic Presidential nominee from a mere 4 months ago) was quite engaging and fun in her appearance, so don't worry about it being another soul-crushing trainwreck like the Chyna appearances a while back... 
  • In addition to taking over the "Velocity" time slot with key inductions from the Hall of Fame ceremony this week, SpikeTV will also replay that HoF show at 5pm on Sunday afternoon, followed by a special timeslot for Heat at 6pm. This is to accommodate the 7pm start time for the WM21 PPV (which will run for 4 hours until 11pm).
    In exchange for accommodating WWE on WM weekend, it looks like Spike is axing Velocity on April 9, in favor of a special episode of that "Ultimate Fighter" reality crap that I guess is actually going to just be a live card of fights, and no reality crap.
  • I think that's about it for today... enjoy RAW, I'll see you again with the Recap, and get you started on the OO Road to WrestleMania Annual Feature tomorrow! Keep an eye out for that, since it's a guaranteed way to learn some useful bits of trivia that you can use to impress your less-well-read friends and maybe even win some bets and steal their money!
    Later on....

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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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