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Catching Up on RAW, Mania, HUGE TV
Contract News, and Lots More!
April 6, 2005

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


So what the fuck has been going on at OO the past few days? Let's just say "technical difficulties" and leave it at that. I don't feel like spinning the whole yarn, and I'm mostly just relieved that things were rectified as painlessly as they were. Suffice to say I'm not at all pleased about OO going unupdated on the highest-traffic weekend of the year, but I'm also just grateful to be back in business here with little to no significant losses.
RAW and the Satire both got posted yesterday, per custom, and Monday was the only day I missed. Today, I'll try to make good on that with a bloated, nutrient-rich column full of back-stories that I missed, and will also get the results of the weekend's OO vs. WL PPV Predictions Battle posted. Also: a contribution from Denny that went unpublished over the  

weekend due to the bizarreness of the April Fools Publication Schedule (and as far as that goes? I'm very proud of the results, and am glad you folks enjoyed being fOOl'd!).

There won't be any make-good Velocity or Heat recaps from Cubs Fan because there WAS no Velocity, and Heat freaking was a pre-taped pile of suck. Also, it is my INTENTION to get a make-good WrestleMania 21 recap done, but after sitting here in this chair and struggling with it for 2 hours yesterday, I decided I can't do it until I figure out some way to get a tape of the show... let's just say that with my technical difficulties, I spent Sunday night in a completely wasted haze, trying to have as much fun as I could with my friends by blotting out the real world with chemicals! Very healthy, I know! But the end result is that while I have strong feelings about the show, I don't have as many vivid memories of the play-by-play and my recap would suck donkey balls. I'd rather hold off and recap the show for posterity after I can do a respectable job of it. I hope you understand.

So I think that brings us up to speed on OO-based news. Which leaves me to do the pre-ramble item that I SHOULD be doing today... because I'm sick and tired of people stealing my shit! It's been about 10 or 11 months since Jon Stewart FLAGRANTLY stole "douchebaggery" from me. And last night on his very own show, I heard a quote from the stately New York Times that included the phrased "nincompoopery" (with regards to weapons inspection in Iraq, of course). The fuck? I don't know whether to be pissed that that's CLEARLY a theft of my patented Style Book, or be pissed off that I didn't think of that precise "-ery" first!  But I'm pissed!

Deep breath. I'm feeling much calmer. So let's move on to the rasslin' talk. I won't get worked up again until the part where I have to talk about John fucking Cena's title win, I hope....

  • Sadly, a genuinely big story did break during my little OOutage... and worst of all, I knew about it on Friday, and felt like "Oh, the April Fools thing is more important, and then we have to give WM21 a good push, so I'll just save this till Monday, and I bet I still am not far behind Keller and the other tools." Think again, The Rick, think again.
    Anyway, the deal is this: a major shake-up on the TV Industry front which will put WWE back where it began. And in more ways than one. Not only will RAW be returning to USA Network on the first Monday of September, but as OO discussed 6 weeks ago, the deal with Universal will ALSO lead to the return of Saturday Night's Main Event on NBC.
    For the record: the deal currently only calls for 6 editions of SNME over the course of the 3 year WWE/Universal contract, but if they are ratings successes, you can bank on more being purchased by NBC. With SNL's ratings for repeats and "best of" specials generally on the decline this season, there's a good chance that WWE shows would provide an attractive alternative on the 30 weeks per year when there are NOT fresh editions of SNL. Also: contrary to published reports, it is *my* understanding that the NBC late night specials will not necessarily all be RAW-only shows, but that they'd possibly be joint-brand shows or would alternate BETWEEN the two brands, depending on the disposition of the SD! TV contract that expires in 18 months.
    Another side note to the deal related to that element: I believe that only one hour of additional weekly programming on USA is included. This is said to be Sunday Night Heat, which means the SD! b-show is screwed, which COULD lead to WWE shopping the SD!/Velocity pair as a three-hour block to another network, while trying to keep RAW/Heat as exclusive to the Universal networks. Who knows? The other alternative that was put in front of me over the weekend is that WWE is taking this deal as an opportunity to MASSIVELY rehab their syndication network, and that Heat and Velocity will both become syndies, and could lead to WWE getting out from 1:30am weekend ghettos (where they air in almost all major markets) and back on Saturday/Sunday mornings, or early evening slots. In this scenario, the extra USA Network hour would be open to be a cross-brand magazine show, some sort of re-do on "Confidential," or any number of other possibilities.
    As for RAW itself....
    As noted above, the deal with Universal is for 3 years, and puts RAW back where it started, on the USA Network on Monday nights. WWE took sizeable cuts in terms of their rights fees, and also gave USA rights to sell most of the ad time on RAW, but in exchange, receives the NBC specials, a primo slot on Universal owned Telemundo (as WWE continues to reach out to the Latino audience, this was reported HUGE to them), and mostly: they get network management that they LIKE again. The current head of USA programming is named Bonnie Hammer, and she was an exec there when WWE and USA had their biggest successes. As frequently outlined here before: Vince McMahon harbors an illogical and misplaced hatred of Viacom and Spike/TNN, and blames them for a lot of things that went wrong over the last few years. So we cannot overstate how important it is that Vince is back in business with a network boss that he likes.
    A lot of people are making a big deal out of the reciprocal of that: that the network boss likes Vince, and "gets" the WWE product... but honestly, there's been very few issues between Spike and WWE when it comes to content, and promotion-wise, Spike has done right by WWE, no matter what Vince thinks. Perhaps more open communication will create a synergy between WWE and USA the likes of which materialized back in 1998... but more than likely, a return to USA is going to accomplish nothing for WWE in terms of improving the core business. The core business remains creating a product that speaks to fans, and the company seems comfortable continuing to make dubious choices on that front.
    But on the fringes? This actually is a deal that intrigues me a lot... RAW itself is no better or worse for the jump, but the things like NBC Saturday Night specials and the weekly slot on Telemundo? Those are things whose value cannot be measured at this point... those things could be HUGE if WWE makes the most of them, and could drive business for the company as a whole in an upward direction. Personally, I'm guarded about this, as *I* think the right play would be axing 2 PPVs per year and turning SNME into a must-see special the two times it happens... but WWE would never do that. Which means that even if it's free, it won't feel "special." And frankly, who among us doesn't have something better that they can do on Saturday nights other than stay home and watch a superfluous edition of RAW? That's what DVR was invented for...
    Another alternative that I'd personally endorse: making at least one of the two late night specials an ECW-esque event. The late night slot fits that vibe, and even if you don't really gore it up, this would just be a way to make the network shows seem SPECIAL and DIFFERENT.  Instead of "Saturday Night's Main Event," you could go a different route and do bi-annual "WWE After Hours" specials where you sell them just based on the live anything-goes atmosphere and one big match, instead of on any particularly strong top-to-bottom card. Put gimmick matches on the show, maybe load it up with the pointless T&A that you can't do in prime time... just thinking out loud here, folks...
    Ultimately, does it matter what channel we turn to for RAW come September? Nah, not to any of us... with some of this fringe stuff, there may be some impact on marginal viewers, but we won't know that till year's end, probably. If I had to pick something to really focus in on, it'd be the fact that even if WWE's happy with this deal, I'm PISSED that this means RAW gets preempted for fricking DOG SHOWS every February for the next three years.... that was my favorite part about the jump to TNN/Spike. Not to mention tennis for two weeks every August. Ugh. I'm sure those things have their audiences, but all I care about is that *I* will be inconvenienced, here.
    Man alive: WWE's taking this "turn back the clock" thing seriously... first you got an insistence on simplifying the in-ring work, then you got lame 80s gimmicks like Simon Dean stinking up the joint, then you got movie spoofs that are OBVIOUSLY rip-offs of the classic "Fuji Vice" vignettes of 1985, and then you had Hulk Hogan beating up filthy Ay-rabs... and now WWE returns to the network where it got its start. After 6 years away, WWE returns "home" to USA, where it spent 17 VERY successful and formative years, and where they gave birth to the concept of live Monday Night Wrestling.
  • Speaking of Monday Night Wrestling... I remain underwhelmed by the latest installment. RAW didn't suck this week, but it was just... man, I hate to keep using the word "lazy," so maybe I'll change it up and call it "under-thought-out." Because it wasn't a show where a segment started and I felt like "Ah, crap, I better check the hoops score, cuz this looks lame"... but it was a show where at the END of segments, I couldn't shake the notion that I'd just wasted my time.
    I hope that distinction makes sense, because even if I'm not explaining it well, it is a pretty important one. Example: Triple H comes out to start the show, and my mind goes, "Oh, OK, so he'll trashtalk Batista and Batista will come out and establish some new element of his character." But 15 minutes later, the segment ends and all I can tell myself is, "Huh, so Batista gets trashtalked, doesn't defend himself, and the punchline of the whole thing is HHH telling us that he's got a rematch? Didn't we all already kind of know that?"... there were similar experiences all night long, where something you COULD care about turned into something that just seemed to have no effort put into it. The Orton promo (again, a chance for Batista himself to accomplish something, and instead, it's Bischoff who comes out to address Orton's complaints) and the Trish/Spaz bit were especially pointless. Things like Austin vs. Simon/Maven were also pointless, but were at least FUN.
    This is what the show came down to for me: even after 6 weeks of shoddy storytelling, this could still have been the night Batista stood up and said, "Hey, this show is MINE." And he didn't get that chance. He could/should have sparred verbally with HHH, and he could/should have done the same thing with Orton to set up their match.  Instead: nothing. Batista got EVEN LESS of a promotional effort put behind him on Monday than Benoit did a year ago after he won the title, and that's saying something... contrast that with Orton winning the title last summer: he's all over the show, he gets his decisive rematch win over Benoit immediately, and even after he loses the title, the company is SO keen on making him a star that for 5 months, every single fucking show ends with his goddamned shitty-ass theme song playing and the not-so-subtle message that "Randy Orton is Awesome." Retroactively, it made me pissed for Benoit, who got NONE of that in his five months as champ, and today, it makes me real-time pissed for Batista, who could not have been a less significant footnote on Monday night.
    I re-iterate my theory that WWE, because they never intended for Batista to become a star, just doesn't know why Batista's so popular, and are scared to death of doing anything to screw it up. So they don't let him do ANYthing, and hope fans just keep cheering. Which might work for a while, but will ultimately tank. I hate to act all self-important and superior, but wrestling ain't rocket science: we all knew Randy Orton would suck as a babyface before he even turned (and it took WWE 9 months past that to discover we were right), and if you go back to August or September, you'll see the start of us talking about what made Batista so cool. WWE could go back, take some notes, and just re-emphasize all the things that Batista brought to the table up until about January of this year (when he suddenly became a mute, emasculated shell of himself, instead of breaking out of that shell and developing a full-blown personality). Or, if they're lazy, they can refer to the PPV Preview, where I laid it out in Cliff's Notes form: basically, Batista is the Anti-Austin... instead of doing the things we FANTASIZE about when we run into jerk-face superiors, he does what we all REALLY DO when we have to deal with that. He stays calm, he observes, he picks his spots, and he takes over in the end.  He's way more an "everyman" than John Cena... I've said and done the things Batista's done in the last six months before; I can't say the same for anything Cena's done. It's a very simple thing, and WWE just doesn't seem to know how to make the most of it... one the rare occassions they do let him speak, it's to deliver shitty one-liners that wouldn't even play at amateur night at the only comedy club in Boise, ID. So frustrating.
    That was actually the over-riding pissiness I had about Monday... no Batista in the HHH promo, no Batista in the Orton promo... and when Batista finally got his match, it was a 4 minute squash that also showcased nothing particularly fresh or exciting about him. For a guy who ostensibly set RAW on its ear by winning the World Title on Sunday, Batista sure as hell was an afterthought on Monday. HHH, Orton, even Hulk Hogan were all presented as bigger deals than Batista, and that just strikes me as ass-backwards.
    Saving the show: two of the best free-TV matches you'll see on the same show.... the IC Title 3-way was a bit short, but was also 100% high-speed action, and entertained my socks off; the Benoit/Edge match was longer and more pschology driven, and was no less entertaining in the end. Two things out of those matches....
    (1) We really need to get Shelton something to do. Something important. The guy has really evolved into perhaps the smoothest, most-watchable in-ring performer in all of WWE, but he's more a bit player in a big 5-way feud than a guy defending his valued title in a singular feud. He's a workrate superstar treading water from a storyline perspective. In a lot of ways, I could make a REALLY fun tangent out of comparing Shelton to AJ Styles... except that Shelton actually DOES have some spark and personality to him, if only the creative team would give him a place to channel it. To me, the answer is simple: get Charlie Haas on RAW. Stat. Cuz Haas is way better than he's  been allowed to let on, too, and these two could help to "make" each other, I think. A bitter, jealous Haas (hey, he's been learning from Bob Holly on Velocity, right?!?) who has all the backstory you need to create a compelling feud with Benjamin, AND who can hold up his end of kick-ass matches? Beats the hell out of Shelton vs. Hassan, if you ask me...
    (2) Benoit, via his win over Edge, SHOULD find himself with some upward mobility. He beat the guy who has a shot at the World Champ. That should, by the Dick Vital Transitive Theory of College Basketball, make Benoit a #1 Contender in his own right. I still like the idea of RAW getting one more bit time non-HHH heel, and could see Benoit sliding into that role. Although, after WM21, I also can't dismiss my ORIGINAL notion (had last winter) that Michaels could be a quality RAW heel... but Benoit re-establishing himself as a mega-bad-ass (maybe winning matches with one arm?) and also gravitating towards the dark side until such time as he could be opposition for Batista? I'd be SO there, dude. I also think that the best way to get there would be for Benoit's slide towards evil to take place at the expense of Chris Jericho... there's never ANYthing wrong with those two working together.
    So that's kind of my take on RAW: from bell-to-bell, there was a ton of awesomeness... it's just that there wasn't a whole lot of bell-to-bell, and what took place in between ranged from pointless fun to pointless pointlessness. And how you come up with such a breezy effort filled with missed opportunities on the follow-up-to-WM episode is beyond me.  
    The full results of RAW, and some more of my editorial thoughts, are included in yesterday's OO RAW Recap. Check it out.
  • The rating for Monday: a massive 4.3.  You can take that a few ways... as a huge success, as RAW was up against the best-rated NCAA Finals game in 7 years. Or as a huge missed opportunity, as I'm betting the extra half-a-ratings-point worth of fans who tuned in probably did so to see Batista and the new direction of RAW.
    And instead, they got... well, what they got. Not fresh or exciting at all.
    The litmus test will be next week... if the extra fans who showed up liked what they saw, at least some of them will return, right? But if RAW is back to 3.8 or so next week, that means it was a one-week blip, and WWE's back to the core RAW audience.
  • Since I mentioned getting Haas onto RAW... it's still my understanding that a lottery/draft is coming. As recently as a month ago, it had been slated for mid-April (actually, my intel on that was that it'd take place at the joint RAW/SD! tapings on April 18, but that was from one of my sketchier sources, and it seemed like more of a guess based on common sense than a fact).
    Presently, I'd still have to suspect that it's coming, but that at most, it'd be delayed a bit. Possible reasons: it might be as simple as Vince McMahon won't run the draft till he feels cosmetically comfortable appearing on TV to instigate the draft... and it could also be a separate issue related to both RAW and SD! wanting to run and close out their post-WM storylines before shaking things up. Still... man, I see spending a few weeks teasing the mechanism for Shawn's vision of Michaels/Angle 2 as being a HUGELY valuable thing to play up while you've got your post-Mania audience tuning in.
    We'll see... I'd personally not be shocked if announcements were made next week about the lottery taking place on April 18, but you never know. I had this certainty in my head that Randy Orton NEEDED to go to SD! and re-establish himself away from the stink of his failure, but now, they certainly seem to be setting the stage for an Orton/Kane feud, don't they? Maybe the draft lottery really is getting tabled.... and maybe it's a bad idea if it is.
  • There was a dark match at WM21, and it was a 30-man battle royale won by Booker T. Oddly enough, by my own well-established rules, that means that this match WILL count towards future Road To WM stats analyses, since it was presented as part of the show for the WM audience, and not as part of Heat. 
  • A night before WM, the WWE's Hall of Fame ceremony attracted a huge crowd to the Parent Company of USA Amphitheatre in LA... 
    From tons of e-mail I got from those in attendance, it was apparently a pretty good time. Well, except for the one douche who spent more time ripping on fans for having fun and wearing t-shirts and waving signs than they did pretending like the WWE Hall of Fame was the freaking Noble Prize or something... then again, *I* probably would have thrown on at least a golf shirt for the event, and also could not stop laughing my ass off at what a buffoon John Cena looked like in his lame-ass costumery (while all the other wrestlers actually just went out and dressed up like normal people going to a big whoop-de-doo). So who can say?
    The stars of the "undercard" were apparently the Iron Sheik and Bobby Heenan. Randy Orton's speech on behalf of his dad, in particular, was savaged as being bland, uninspired, and riddled with suck. Not surprise there...
    But once we got to the televised portion of the evening, I thought things came of absolutely great. Fancy without being pretentious, distinguished without being pompous, and all that...  Flair's induction speech for Piper, and Piper's own acceptance speech were perfect microcosms: Flair told some fairly ribald road stories, and Piper, man alive, he got me my biggest laugh of my Sunday afternoon when I finally got around to viewing the footage, and he deadpanned, "Is HBO here?". HA! He also was pretty upfront about the "vitamins" he took, and clearly sent the producers scurrying to find an "above the waist" angle to show his pantomiming. When he's inspired to stay on topic, Piper's quality, no two ways about it.
    Stallone's induction speech? Crap. Hogan's acceptance speech? Crap, but it didn't matter. I think Hogan said all of, what?, three dozen words... but that was a cool moment to watch as the fans just refused to let him speak, because they wanted to cheer for the old Orange Goblin one more time. Even I can dig that. [An aside: I noticed this as I was watching on Sunday afternoon, and then when I got to a friend's house for the PPV, one guy just, apropos of nothing, blurted out, "You know, maybe Hogan's son is a queer." Yeah, I keep real civil company, folks... anyway, I wasn't quite THAT rude in my observation, but I definitely laughed my ass off that Hogan's son is this timid, tiny, vaguely metrosexual guy, and his daughter was dwarfing him, this 16-year-old giantess... another guy said he saw here on some TV show and she's a legit 6-foot. True? If so, then it's the seven inches too tall for me that becomes at least as big a deal as the five years too young for me...]
    One last observation from the telecast...
    Trish Stratus is now back on my good side after dabbling with body-spray tossers a few weeks ago. She was seated in the front row, and was apparently paired off with Steve Austin. At the very least, she was square between Austin and Cena, and she was never once caught on camera leaning towards or speaking to the clown-ish-looking Cena, but was quite friendly with Stone Cold, so let me pretend, OK? Hey, Trish, I have a magnificently shaped and sleekly-aerodynamic cranium, I drink a lot, *and* I don't punch women! Wanna upgrade?
    Actually, I lied... one LAST last observation...
    I rolled through the recording of the Hall of Fame on Sunday, and right as I was finishing up, the repeat of the ceremony was on Spike. As I was making final arrangement and beginning the process of Technological Disaster Forgettening with some beers, I let the repeat stay on in the background... and I think there were some pretty significant changes. I didn't catch anything edited out, but Hogan's speech, at the very least, was at least doubled in length to include a TON of extra stuff about his career and family.
    I know from all the live reports that Hogan, Piper, and Flair's speeches were all edited for TV, but does anybody who saw the two different airings on Spike know precisely what was different between them? Were some of Flair/Piper's racier comments taken out, maybe, to make room for Hogan? 
    I guess we could also all just wait for the inevitable DVD release of the entire event. Assuming it's gonna be released on its own, and not just as an extra on the WM21 DVD set...
  • Some MORE news from over the weekend that I'm late getting to...
    WWE has counter-sued Brock Lesnar, citing breach of contract. Lesnar appeared at ringside at a New Japan Show a few months ago, and WWE is using that as evidence that Lesnar's already broken his no-compete agreement. WWE is looking for permission to bar Lesnar from receiving future royalties, and also for strict enforcement of the no-compete clause that Lesnar agreed to on his way out of WWE.
    It is the no-compete clause that Lesnar originally sued WWE over, claiming it was unjust, and a "restraint of trade" issue.
    Without getting into a whole big thing here, I chatted with a lawyer pal about this on Monday, and his take is that, now more than ever, this silly mess is headed for an out of court settlement...  both suits have just enough teeth to be scary, but both also amount to huge bluffs by the parties involved. His read is that Lesnar and WWE will settle, likely with Lesnar being granted some partial relief from his no-compete issues, but with WWE being freed from paying royalties to Lesnar, or something like that.
    Whether the out-of-court settlement would also lead to Lesnar returning to work for WWE? You never know... the animosity seems quite genuine and strong, so I'd think maybe it won't happen right away. One clause in WWE's counter-suit does make it clear that Lesnar tried to get his way back into WWE earlier this year, and used his New Japan options as leverage to try to lure WWE into giving him an exorbitant contract... that's the kind of trickery that won't go unsanctioned by WWE.
    As I've been saying all along: I'm a HUGE fan of Lesnar getting back to The Show, but I also don't know that he's in any position to dictate terms. He could/should take a reduced deal, reprove himself, and he's good enough that in a year or two, he'll be indispensable to the company again.
  • A few little gossipy tidbits for you: both Bret Hart and The Rock were known to have cavorted with WWE personnel at points during WM weekend. Neither appeared on the WM event, and I don't believe either were even at the arena... but both were ubiquitous before and after the show. 
    Hart's appearance is not surprising, as he was booked for personal appearances in the area over the weekend, and is thought to be in a fence-mending period with WWE, and was likely discussing future projects, including the upcoming Bret DVD set.
    The Rock is a bit more of a shock, since his relationship with WWE is thought to be trending downward, instead of upward. But he was around. Probably just saying "howdy," but that's better than completely cold-shouldering the company....
  • I think that'll have to do it for today. We should be sticking to a fairly normal schedule from here on out... so see you again on Friday, I'd assume! Take it easy, kids.

SMACKDOWN RECAP: Bonding Exercises
RAW RECAP: The New Guy Blows It
PPV RECAP: WWE Night of Champions 2012
RAW RECAP: The Show Must Go On
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Boot Gets the Boot
RAW RECAP: Heyman Lands an Expansion Franchise
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Losing is the new Winning
RAW RECAP: Say My Name
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Deja Vu All Over Again
RAW RECAP: Dignity Before Gold?
PPV RECAP: SummerSlam 2012
RAW RECAP: Bigger IS Better
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Hitting with Two Strikes
RAW RECAP: Heel, or Tweener?
RAW RECAP: CM Punk is Not a Fan of Dwayne
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Returnening
RAW RECAP: Countdown to 1000
PPV RECAP: WWE Money in the Bank 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Friday Night ZackDown
RAW RECAP: Closure's a Bitch
RAW RECAP: Crazy Gets What Crazy Wants
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Five Surprising MitB Deposits
RAW RECAP: Weeeellll, It's a Big MitB
RAW RECAP: Johnny B. Gone
PPV RECAP: WWE No Way Out 2012
RAW RECAP: Crazy Go Nuts
RAW RECAP: Be a Star, My Ass
RAW RECAP: You Can't See Him
RAW RECAP: Big Johnny Still in Charge
PPV RECAP: WWE Over the Limit 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: One Gullible Fella
RAW RECAP: Anvil, or Red Herring?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Everybody Hates Berto
RAW RECAP: Look Who's Back
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Care to go Best of Five?
RAW RECAP: An Ace Up His Sleeve
PPV RECAP: WWE Extreme Rules 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Sh-Sh-Sheamus and the nOObs
RAW RECAP: Edge, the Motivational Speaker?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: AJ is Angry, Jilted
RAW RECAP: Maybe Cena DOES Suck?
RAW RECAP: Brock's a Jerk
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28



Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.




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