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RAW Readies for PPV, TNA Recovers 
from PPV, and Lots of Other News!
April 25, 2005

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Sometimes, my ability to be such a small and petty man amazes even me. And trust me, nobody knows better than I how small and petty I am...  
Case in point: last night, I was doing some reading-up on the NFL Draft (because actually WATCHING the NFL Draft in real time is for only the biggest choads in the universe; I'm not joking: if you did more than flip past it to see who your favorite team picked, then you are part of the reason why we have 180 channels of crap on TV, and maybe good stuff on 5 of 

them! not every obsessive compulsive hobby deserves unlimited airtime! especially not a phenomenon that consists of 20 minutes of braindead sports-talk-radio caliber tripe followed by 5 seconds of actual information which you can, if you're not a retard, read about the next day; you know, like I did)... and I came across the headline "Orton Falls, Takes Slide in Stride."

Now obviously, this wound up referring to Purdue QB Kyle Orton who fell from a Heisman candidate and 1st round lock to a 4th round draft pick over the course of last season. But you know me: sometimes, I see a headline, and my imagination gets ahead of my logical mind... and part of me was momentarily wishful that some new misfortune had befallen our favorite Language Mangler, Randall Orton, and I was about to read all about it! The guy's already injured and had his best week of TV in years last Monday, and I'm wishing more ill upon. Again: I am a small and petty man.

Although, to be honest, more than once last fall, I had to fight off the urge to draw parallels between the two Young Ortons, whose simultaneous floptasticness and falls from grace were things I noticed on more than one occasion.

But enough dilly-dallying... I'm actually on a bit of a different schedule today, trying to get this out of the way early. Might mean a rush-job, might mean I skip a few late-breaking things, but it's what I gots to do, folks... and as a bonus: since this'll be posted before noon, eastern time, on Monday, you can be GUARANTEED that I'm not peaking at spoilers or anything while I preview RAW! Not that you should need that reassurance. You should know full well that I strongly believe that spoilers, like the NFL Draft in Real Time, are for LOSERS.

On with the show:

  • Tonight's RAW is, as obliquely hinted at just 75 words ago, "live-to-tape" tonight, as it's taking place in the UK. Which means the show will probably conclude around 6-7pm eastern time, giving the truly obsessive compulsive among you ample time to go trolling other websites tailored to the obsessive compulsive among you (the ones who care not only about spoilers, but also about the newest action figure releases, the identity of the no-name schmuck who got squashed by Matt Muh-Muh-Morgan, or Ring of Honor)...
    But me, hell, the reason I'm about 5 hours ahead of my usual schedule today is because I intend to be in Full Relaxation Mode no later than 6pm tonight. That gives me a full Cocktail Hour to get primed, and then it's on to an evening of trying to figure out how in the blue hell to squeeze about 7 hours worth of TV into 4-and-a-half hours of couch time... that's right, baby: NBA Playoffs mean that I'll actually let myself pretend to care about pro hoops! At least in so far as My Pacers cease and desist sucking IMMEDIATELY and lay the smack down on the hated Celtics of Boston. So getting into the zone for the Indiana/Boston Game 2 takes precedence over rushing a column to completion late in the afternoon... 
    Of course, then major problems are likely to develop at 9pm, sharp, when DVR's dual tuners are insufficient for handling RAW, 24, *and* the end of the basketball game, so I'll have to repair to the back-up TV for the end of the game, while RAW/24 get recorded for my time-shifted viewing pleasure, I guess... and if all goes well, I can still somehow get caught up to CLOSE to real time as I use "The Daily Show" as the cherry on the sundae, and can hopefully resume a non-sedentary existence around 11:30pm tonight.  Just say a prayer that The Rick maintains his faculties well enough that he can do the usual bang-up, detailed job on RAW after such a long night of wallowing in his own crapulence. Your best bet: cheer for the Pacers, so I'm not drowning my sorrows in half-a-bottle of whiskey come RAW-viewing time.  See how crafty I am: blackmailing all of OO Nation into becoming Pacer fans, even if just for one night? Only CRZ's love of his purple-clad Kings of Sacramento was more diabolically insidious!
    And am I digressing? Just a bit, huh? Chalk it up to this being the first time in a long time that I've written something without having endured a whole day's worth of being beaten down before sitting down to type... so I'm fresh as a daisy, and in the mood to chat away! Lucky you! Somebody: shove me back on topic!
    RAW tonight: not-quite-live from the UK... could get interesting, as WWE's international audiences are not exactly known for giving typical responses to the superstars. And a week after WWE's "barometer arena," MSG, gave the front office a few things to chew on, following up overseas could make for another eye-opening night of cheering and booing.
    If nothing else, William Regal and Tajiri had, by christ, better be on the show tonight, as they'll be welcomed like conquering heroes, rather than getting the Wall of Apathy served up by MSG's crowd last week. They immediate foes, the Heartthrobs, could also stand a week of character-building (be it in a promo or in a skit) to help fans understand exactly what their deal is. As outlined last week, there are a few very funny options, and one very lame option; and judging by Coach's presentation last week, WWE's leaning towards the lame one, but we shall see. To be honest, a chance to see Regal and Tajiri in front of an appreciative audience is something that I, in a moment of admitted internet-jackoffery, crave more than worrying about the Heartthrobs getting their gimmick straightened out this week....
    But another not-inconsequential concern: how will fans react to Christian, who has the main event match against Batista tonight? Dating back to the Hart Foundation, international audiences have kind of had a penchant for cheering for some of WWE's more underappreciated Canucks, even if they are ostensibly heels on TV... wouldn't it be just Batista's luck that the first chance he'll have to look good in the ring since WrestleMania will be against a guy who MIGHT be on the verge of winning over audiences and who might siphon off some of his cheers? Given how idiotically WWE has handled Batista since his official face turn, I still continue to wonder if this isn't being done on purpose, because the number of coincidences piling up that have hamstrung Batista the last 9 weeks begin to form a bit of a pattern.
    Of course, Christian is still exactly the kind of guy who can make Batista look like a million bucks in the ring... in many ways, WWE's lazy (almost like they are scared to screw up by doing anything subtle or original) presentation of Batista harkens back to Goldberg, and it was probably almost exactly 2 years ago this week that Christian got called into duty to provide Goldberg's first official WWE match. Now he's on the clock again... and I'm sure he'll take care of business again.
    And the good thing is: even in the case of a fan mutiny, Christian vs. Batista isn't even CLOSE to being the real story tonight. Although a more creative mind could envision ways in which you'd use tonight's match to weave in subtle hints about Edge's possible intentions with Batista by having him appear to help his brother, the truth is that WWE's mindset is much simpler: Christian, regardless of result, can just go back to running his mouth next week as he continues to evolve into kind of a teflon-esque Jericho Jr.... while all REAL storytelling, like the nine planets, must revolve around the sun... er, the son-in-law, at least.
    Triple H vs. Batista's rematch is 6 days away on PPV, and if you think for a second that the show's gonna end with Christian in anything resembling a spotlight, you're probably mistaken. "But Rick, what if HHH helps Christian win, just like Batista helped JR win last week?" I hear you asking. But that's just about the last thing I want to see: again, witness my 2-plus months of rambling about how WWE's doing everything wrong with regards to Batista. Having him drop a non-title match when the show is ostensibly revolving around him is just wrong. Having Batista and HHH lose matches leading up to WM would have been ideal; now that we're trying to build up a new champ, sorry, WWE, but now's not the time. You blew it with Pick Your Poison, already, now let's just try to make sure we do right by Batista. So it'll be something else that'll allow the show to end with Triple H/Batista as the final visual. Or so I'd guess. Or at least, so I'd hope. [Also: conventional wisdom is that HHH should get the last laugh heading into a PPV, especially if Batista's gonna retain.... which he fricking should!]
    In addition to finding some way to interject himself during or after the Batista/Christian match, I'm sure HHH will get a (probably lengthy) segment earlier in the show. Because lord knows he needs to "get his heat back" after losing to Jim Ross last week. Best thing I'm coming up with (off the top of my head, in my desire to Keep It Short) is that HHH hits the ring for a promo, starts yapping about Jim Ross being a worthless pustule, and although JR is bandaged up and in no condition to answer the trashtalk, Jerry Lawler is, so he heads to the ring, and after less than 2 minutes of yammering, we have a match, which also lasts less than 2 minutes, and HHH "gets his heat back" by pinning Lawler. As a bonus: if Coach *must* speak at length, then at least putting him in the color commentary role means he'll be less intrusively counter-productive (as he was last week), and means JR will be there to reign him in when necessary.
    After Batista/HHH, the next biggest story on RAW is the looming Shawn Michaels/Hulk Hogan vs. Muhammad Hassan/Khosrow Daivari PPV match... thing is, Hogan won't be making the cross-Atlantic trip, so at most, he'll be contributing via taped interview or something. But actually: this is a match that really -- much as I'd rather act all tough and cynical -- just seems really special and sells itself. You don't need to get fancy. When assholes such as myself are entranced by a 7-minute Hulk Hogan posedown, that probably speaks well of what the audience at large is feeling. They don't need to do ANYthing with this storyline tonight, if they don't want to: just mention it, show some footage of Hogan to remind us of last week, and that'd be enough. Certainly, we've exhausted all iterations of Michaels vs. Hassan/Daivari in the ring, so at most, this will be a Talking Week. Hassan/Daivari's spiel need not be complicated; and you could go a couple different ways if you decide HBK gets promo time... it could be as simple as him thanking Hogan for making a dream come true. Or if WWE planned ahead while they had Hogan last week: it might be cheesy, but wouldn't just a pre-taped Hogan/Michaels "training montage" be perfect for the sheer 80s-ocity of this feud?
    Third on the depth-chart is something I'm really looking forward to, and for entirely different reasons from why Hulk Hogan returning appeals to me: Chris Benoit vs. Edge in a Last Man Standing Match simply ought to rule this, and many other neighboring, universes. These two have had issues going back to last fall, when they were involved in the scenario that resulted in the brief vacating of the World Title... their hostilities resumed when Edge won the "Money in the Bank" ladder match, inching out Benoit, and then taking out his frustrations on Benoit with a steel chair one night later when Benoit dared to beat him in a one-on-one match. They've been at each other's throats the last two weeks, to the point that GM Eric Bischoff made them a PPV match with the Last Man Standing stip. What's in store tonight? Unlike the preceding match, these two guys are simply too good in the ring to NOT showcase that side of them tonight; they can't make do with just a talking week. Somehow, both these guys need to be in action tonight, and somehow, their paths need to cross...
    Fourth level storyline is Shelton Benjamin vs. Chris Jericho for the IC Title. Rather than letting fans decide who to cheer for, WWE seems to be planting the seeds for Jericho to be the de facto heel... which is actually fine: more than seeming forced, it's actually a play-field-leveler. Jericho, as the established vet, would be more apt to get cheered than a young pup like Shelton... so playing up a bit of assholitude might reduce Jericho's likeability just enough to make it a 50/50 proposition for fans. Or who knows: after Jericho got a "heel week" last week, maybe Shelton gets one this week? All I know is that the resulting match on Sunday oughta be sweet, and that I don't see either guy walking out of it as a permanent heel, so I'm just gonna enjoy the ride.
    A quick brainstorm: if you come to me 4 hours before showtime and ask me to book tonight's RAW, I probably do something semi-wacky.... I bring these last two storylines together for a tag match. You could use a show-opening Highlight Reel to accomplish this VERY easily (I shan't fantasy book the whole things, but use your imaginations, it's pretty simple stuff)... and then you could end up with a mid-show, 20-minute "anchor" match with Benoit/Shelton vs. Edge/Jericho. You could do the cheap/lazy schmozz finish, and that'd actually be OK if it's all tied into the teams breaking down and the guys only wanting to brawl with their PPV opponents... but you could also use this match to set the stage for post-Backlash if you have a decisive result happen, but between "mis-matched" opponents (like if Edge beat IC Champ Shelton, or if Benoit beat Jericho). It's just a match that would be guaranteed-to-be awesome, and it's a match that, even if counter-intuitive on the surface, can be quickly and easily set-up using Jericho's Highlight Reel.
    And then we hit a little snag... what to make of Trish Stratus and Viscera? Do I go ahead and let myself get naively optimistic that they might deliver one of those rare High Quality Skits tonight? Clearly, we're to believe that Big Vis will be taking Trish out on a date, be it "plausibly live" tonight, or have it be footage from "earlier this week." In either case, a romantic date in the UK would give Vis a chance to top my Trish-related half-entendre of last week by ordering up plenty of "bangers and mash" for his ladyfriend. Mheh heh heh heh.
    And the silliness of the "date"? Well, it could be good (if they did it last week, why not again this week?), or it could suck... but I also suspect that Trish wasn't kidding around when she said she did want to talk bidness. Since she's nursing an injury (in fact, she's not been on any of the Europe tour so far, and doing pretaped skits with Vis could be her excuse to not be live in the arena tonight, too; who knows?) and there's no other women wrestlers on the roster other than Victoria, you can pretty well count on moth-balling the women's title for a while... but that doesn't mean that the simmering-till-injuries-heal Trish/Lita feud can't spawn other matches. In this case, I'm expecting Trish will make a proposition that Viscera face Kane at Backlash. For poor, poor Trish's sake, I shall not contemplate what sort of proposition Viscera might make back at her. Which could end up coming off as anything from very funny to very awkward and uncomfortable... but again: it'll probably also end up, one way or another, with Viscera vs. Kane at the PPV, with Trish and Lita in the respective corners. 
    And you know what? If they aren't careful, and if they don't have a good "character week" for Lita and Kane tonight (which they sure as hell haven't done the last 2 weeks), I'm not so sure Kane wouldn't be the heel in that match. I'm serious...
    Like I said: the tag champs SHOULD be present tonight, and it SHOULD be in a capacity that sets up a Tag Title defense at Backlash against the Heartthrobs. The only other team I could see coming off as even REMOTELY compelling as challengers would be Christian/Tomko, but that'll be hard to set up tonight since Christian's got bigger fish to fry. So I'm guessing Regal/Tajiri vs. Heartthrobs, it is. Such a match, along with a Kane/Vis match, would give WWE six announced matches for the PPV, which is about their standard for brand-specific PPVs these days. Maybe let Regal/Tajiri squash Maven/Simon tonight, and have the Heartthrobs get the promo time that sets up the match for Sunday? Simple, and again: because of the partisan fans, I think a quality showing for Regal/Tajiri will go over well tonight.  [An aside: in order to not seem to be duplicating SD!, the Heartthrobs really can't take the titles on Sunday... a cool way to "protect" them and give them a chance to build up the gimmick despite whiffing in their first title shot? Have Eugene return at the PPV, where not only could he come to the aid of his old mentor, Regal, but he could cross paths with Hogan backstage for a funny skit.]
    The last two things: Chris Masters and his Crap-Ass Full Nelson Challenge ain't going anywhere. Expect him to waste 5 minutes of your life tonight. But let's just hope that however he wastes it, it doesn't result in him getting himself a slot to waste MORE of our time at the PPV.... and if I'm in charge, I have a lot of fun with the Draft Lottery build-up, and I start it tonight. People wrangling for position, people wanting off RAW, people wanting to stay on RAW, all kinds of stuff to lay foundations for future stories and to provide misdirection away from future stories, too. It shouldn't be the #1 priority, but giving us a concrete date for the draft and start to plant some seeds are things that could be done without taking away from the Backlash build-up, assuming the creative team is capable of multi-tasking.
    I think that's everything that's Ready-for-PPV, and which (along with the requisite Masters Segment of Suck) should be MORE than enough to fill up two hours tonight. So I implore you to be like The Rick, and avoid spoilers so you can go into tonight's show fresh! And then, whether you watch the show and want the finest analysis and observational humor in all the land, or if you miss the program and need to know what happened, the OO RAW Recap will be posted here on Tuesday, and it will scratch every possible itch you have! Assuming, again, that you all say your prayers and the Pacers win, and I can give RAW my 100% full attention!
  • While WWE is gearing up for a PPV in 6 days, TNA threw a big show just about 12 hours ago... presenting an entire card full of 8 cage matches, Lockdown was, if nothing else, a booking curiosity.
    And actually, TNA spiced things up by SORT OF following a road map that I'd laid out last week, adding a bunch of last-second bonus stipulations to many of the matches. So in addition to being held inside cages, you had a tables match, a strap match, and even what amounted to a blindfold match... I'm telling ya, my road map was GREAT in theory. I can't be held responsible if, in execution, it led to things such as a blindfold match. Ugh.
    But unfortunately, Lockdown is gonna go down as a show that might be remembered more for injuries than for the high-risk in-ring action...
    Getting off easiest was Abyss, who separated a shoulder in the consensus Match of the Night against AJ Styles. Word on the street is that he'll be sore and limited at this week's TV tapings, but the damage is thought to be minor and he should be back and 100% for the tapings in 2 weeks. Of course, that's based on word from last night, when Abyss just had a trainer pop him back into place and required no additional attention other than lots of ice. Who knows if the prognosis changes if he ends up having a doctor really get a good look at it?
    Completely absent from the show, in a bit of a surprise, was Kevin Nash. Nash was, as recently as Wednesday, still holding on to a sliver of hope that he'd be cleared to wrestle, and was confirmed as at least appearing at ringside at the show. Instead, Nash's only appearance was a brief glimpse at his rather disgusting staph infection from TV tapings 3 weeks ago. As yet, no word on why Nash didn't at least appear at ringside... he was replaced in the six-man tag match by BG James, which, as I noted last week, actually makes a lot of sense. So bravo to TNA on that, at least...
    But then the worst of all: Chris Candido fractured bones in his ankle/foot just a few minutes into a show-opening tag match. I've not seen the footage, but apparently it was pretty clear immediately that Candido was badly hurt. Candido, by the time you read this, will probably have already undergone surgery to repair the broken bones, and is looking at several months on the shelf. Two months would be a best-case scenario, I gather.  Ironically, Candido wasn't even booked on the show, originally, as he was doing a gimmick on TV where he was feigning serious injuries... instead, out of left field, Candido got the call to team up with Lance Hoyt (who, without Kid Kash, strikes me as a ginormous waste of space, so maybe that's why they were gonna put Candido with him? then again, much like Monty Brown, Hoyt seems to enjoy some kind of inexplicable following among TNA fans that I simply do not grasp). And just as quickly as he got the call, Candido found himself being carried out of the ring. Here's hoping he get healthy soon, and without any serious complications...
    As for the non-injury-related highlights of the night? Well, as mentioned, AJ Styles beating Abyss to become the #1 Contender to the NWA Title is what everybody who wrote in agrees was the match of the night. Where there's some disagreement is in exactly how good that was: a few called it spotty and a bit disappointing (which might just be because Abyss was working hurt, folks, so take it easy! then again, as people get more and more familiar with the TNA "PPV-style" matches being busted out after 4 weeks of tepid free TV, spotfests will have less and less appeal unless the story backing them up is sound), a few (including OO's TNA pinch-hitting recapper) didn't bother worrying about any of that other baggage and just enjoyed the match immensely and without any qualifiers.
    Second best of the night, and the only other match that seemed to inspire a whole lot of excitement from folks who saw Lockdown: Chris Daniels beating Elix Skipper to retain the X Title. Why am I not surprised. This is the match that would have been #1 on my Personal Depth Chart, and now that it's past, Chris Daniels will go back to being #1 on my Personal Reasons To Keep Watching Impact list.
    A notch or three down the quality continuum seemed to be Shocker winning the X Division 4-way (which, as Jason describes it, actually does more to make me excited for a possible Shane/Sabin feud, complete with dueling valets in the form of my #2 Personal Reason to Watch Impact and also the curiously-unhot Trinity, than it does make me care about Shocker), Jeff Hardy beating Raven in an Exactly What You Would Have Expected Match, and AMW beating Team Canada for about the one-billionth time (and much like Monty Brown and Lance Hoyt, Team Canada are just one of those things that I COMPLETELY fail to "get"; their shtick flirted with tolerability for about one month last summer, and then got old real fast).
    For the full and complete details from Lockdown from someone whose TNA expertise significantly trumps mine, and who'll actually tell you what happened instead of rambling theoretically about what he HEARD happened, check out Jason Longshore's TNA Lockdown PPV Recap.
  • I heard from many a Canuck over the weekend, regarding the TSN/RAW/Monday Night Football situation... I guess the intel from the Great White North is that TSN desires to keep rights to RAW once they pick up the ESPN version of MNF in 2006. The way they tell it, this will entail TSN bending over backwards (or paying out the ass) to keep WWE placated, because during the fall, TSN will pre-empt live RAWs in order to broadcast MNF live.
    RAW would air in late night (and possibly get a Tuesday replay during more convenient hours) for about 18 weeks out of the year. But TSN wants to do this because of how valuable RAW would be to them the other 34 weeks a year. They don't want to lose a year-round ratings-getter just because they've got the rights to MNF... but by that same token: every Canadian who wrote in to give me a primer on the situation said to make no mistake about it, that MNF is a higher priority and a bigger ratings-getter than RAW, and WILL air live on Mondays ahead of wrestling.
    So again: that's how things stand, but I wouldn't dedicate too much thought or energy to the issue, since there's 15 months before TSN or the nation of Canada have to worry about this.
  • Matt Hardy conducted a few interviews last week, discussing his departure from WWE and his future plans.
    In a nutshell: his no-compete is up on July 11, his knee is 100% healthy, and he already has offers from just about every wrestling company in the world, so he'll be back in action before you know it.... he's actually back to being on pretty-decent speaking terms with Lita, but could apparently not care any less if Edge was ejected into the sun... his release caught him by surprise: when he got a call from WWE, he thought it would be them telling him they were gonna want him to switch back to SD! to avoid unpleasantness, and instead it was his release.... and he might have a sex tape of him and Lita.
    And OK: so that last part everybody who heard it said sounded like Matt was just kidding around, so do NOT go getting all worked up over it. But on the other, more serious stuff: pretty much nothing too shocking, just interesting to hear it come from Matt's own mouth, instead of from his webmaster or other sources.
    One thing I *do* want to mention, though, is a direct quote from one of the interviews in which Matt is talking about possible reasons for his release. He brushes off the notion that he got fired for taking his story public; he says that WWE knew all along he was "an internet guy," and doesn't see how that would have played a role in this particular decision when they never cared about it before. But as part of this discussion, Matt also said that he believes that WWE still has yet to fully realize the value of the internet.
    And to that, I say: Preach On, Brother Matt.
    This, of course, ties into my Vonnegut-esque mantra of last week that WWE needs to "Listen"... but more than that, it goes back years to things I've been saying about how if WWE considered perceptive, loyal, and vocal fans to be a BONUS, instead of some sort of easily-dismissed band of jackoffs, they could not only milk some marginal money out of that market of "smart" fans, but also realize myriad intangible benefits (from speedy feedback from "early adopters" to an even-more-rabidly-loyal fanbase that will advocate your product to others).
    I'm not talking about some kind of soul-crushingly-lame product such as the stopwatch-toting, pretending-to-be-real-journalists mindset that permeates most of the biggest wrestling websites; nor am I talking about the kind of braindead, style-over-substance, juvenile garbage that defines the smaller newsboard/opinion-type websites. I'm talking about something unique, where being a fan is first and foremost, but where making critical observations and having an understanding of the backstage underpinnings of the genre are handled responsibly and honestly. No internet "jackoffery," but no "new work," either. Where criticizing HHH is done because he really is overstaying his welcome and boring the crap out of a crowd... not just because he's banging the boss' daughter and that makes him an easy target. And where, when HHH performs well, you don't have to be ashamed of admitting that, either....
    Of course, for the same tunnel-vision-related reasons that WWE seems to be having trouble finding a groove creatively, you know they'd never want to sanction any kind of smart internet presence. They've willfully tried to rebottle that genie in the last few years, so we're SOL, and stuck enjoying my idea for a "responsibly smart" wrestling website here in our own little corner of the virtual world. 
    One last note, though: I'm not one to do online petitions for my favorite TV shows or anything like that. It's FRICKING TV, people, just relax.... but that said, in the last few weeks and months, I've gotten an object lesson in how a savvy and confident TV show crew can, by including (rather than dismissing) their most vocal and outspoken internet fans, create a veritable army of unpaid shills who will go out and conduct all manner of guerilla marketing operations (including ballot-stuffing E! and Entertainment Weekly Polls, and hitting the streets with handmade flyers and stuff) that ultimately resulted in a marginally-rated Tuesday night guilty-pleasure of a teen drama getting picked up for a second season. On the strength of the "buzz." And "buzz" is something WWE hasn't had in damn near 6 years. Curiously, the last stretch where they did have "buzz," was back when they weren't pretending the internet didn't exist. Coincidence? I think not.
    Look, maybe I'm just saying all this stuff because I want the vindication of being right, and if and when WWE ever decides to go back to acknowledging the internet (instead of pretending like its 1985 again), I'll get that... but I don't think I'm being quite the self-centered. I really have seen, in action, the power of reaching out to a loyal core of vocal fans, making them feel like part of the process (even when they are being critical; and that's when having the confidence to take criticism comes into play, which is something that, by all reports, WWE's sadly lacking these days), and then watching as they do a lot of your advocacy work for you to build up the buzz... just as I'm 100% confident that WWE needs to do some creative housecleaning and get rid of some Hollywood types and replace them with people who simply grasp WRESTLING, and might not have "Staff Writer for the Jenny McCarthy Show" on their resume, I think WWE could use some fresh blood in the marketing department. 
    I'm talking getting younger, dirtier, and more creative: I'm talking going all out with guerilla marketing, taking some notes from the way "Adult Swim" (from where I sit, they are the Gold Standard in Creative Marketing Tactics) not only reaffirms their existing viewers "inclusiveness" in the product but also reaches out to prospective new viewers, but then put the WWE Twist on them... ways to make fans believe WWE recognizes and appreciates their patronage, and to in turn, make those fans feel so proud and empowered that they not only stay loyal, but also spread the word. There are a ton of very cool things that WWE could be doing here, all of which could not only make great use of the internet fanbase's loyalty, but which could, if handled correctly, result in the return of a bit of "buzz." And wouldn't it be nice for wrestling to be "cool" again?
    So there: I think I've just invented at least 2 other new WWE jobs I'd be very good at. So if you don't think I have any business writing the TV shows, you can put me in as Shane McMahon's underling in the web/New Media division, or you can put me in as some sort of Vice President In Charge of Guerilla Marketing. Any one of these three jobs, whatever WWE would pay me, I guarantee it'd be more than worth it for them.
    Oh, and don't forget: I also want to be the Liason to "Celebrity Poker" for the WWE-themed episode of that show, and I still have the best idea for a quantum leap forward in WWE videogames in the whole world (and have been happy to see it remain exclusively my idea for about 3 years now, as WWE keeps just putting out unimpressive sequel after unimpressive sequel to existing games)! I'm like a quintuple threat, baby!
    Getting back to my point: Matt Hardy says WWE's not utilizing the internet correctly, and will also be coming soon to some wrestling show you don't watch near you in mid-July!
  • Going back to something I mentioned on Friday: The Jack Black wrestling movie is a definite for-sure thing, folks. That wasn't just some rumor...  Jack's deal is signed, sealed, and delivered, and it was in all the trade papers late last week.  
    Jack Black in an untitled wrestling movie, man alive... he's already done a rock 'n' roll movie... if, at some point, he signs up to do a movie in which he's a championship caliber whiskey drinker, he'll have pretty much hit The Rick's Holy Trinity of Unique Skills! Is it any wonder I like the guy? I even watched "Shallow Hal" all the way through, dammit....
    In any case, the mail I got about that over the weekend was split into two camps: people assuming that I was talking out my ass, and people telling me that if the movie really happens, it's based on a true story. And to those second batch of folks, I say: good call!
    Mike White (who wrote "School of Rock") and Jared Hess (who wrote "Napoleon Dynamite") collaborated on the script, which is loosely based on the life of Father Sergio Benitez. In order to make money to fund his church and orphanage, Fr. Sergio decided to don a wrestling mask and become a luchador. As "Fray Tormenta" ("Friar Storm"), he wrestled for over 20 years all over the world (including the US and Japan). Even though his in-ring gimmick was that of a priest, nobody ever put it together and his true identity remained a secret until another wrestler attended one of his masses, and recognized his voice, and realized, "Hey, Fray Tormenta really IS a priest!"...  upon being "outed," Fr. Sergio tried to retire in 1998 at the age of 53. But his popularity and his desire to make money for the children has resulted in at least a handful of "comeback matches" since then. 
    After one of those matches, Fr. Sergio actually passed the gimmick on to another (real life) priest, as is customary for many masked Mexican and Japanese wrestlers. I'm sorry to say that I've been unable to quickly locate much about Fray Tormenta Jr., but that's OK: it's not really pertinent to our story here....
    Important thing is that Jack Black is starring in what sounds like it should be a jim dandy of a movie about a priest-by-day/masked-wrestler-by-night. In the rather limited genre of movies-about-wrestling, there ain't a whole lot of competition, but this one SHOULD instantly become the best of the bunch!
    Also: just to reiterate that I knew my "fantasy booker" for Tenacious D vs. Fozzy Lite was a bit redonkulous, I'll also mention that I got the timeline a bit wrong on Jack's work schedule. In fact, work hasn't even begun yet on the Tenacious D movie, so the timetable of that movie being released just as Jack would be wanting to get some training in front of a wrestling audience was completely off base. You can add yet another reason why NOT to look for Tenacious D on WWE TV to the list... even though it would have been fun as hell, no? 

  • Speaking of movie news: you can have all the rumors you want about The Rock joining up as "He-Man" in an upcoming movie.... but it now looks like the Rock's next project (after SpyHunter) is going to be his first foray into the world of indie film.
    You know how I rail against all the dumb mainstream things that America likes? Well, with the flip of a switch, I can turn 180 degrees and rail against all the pretentious, over-wrought crap that America likes when it wants to pretend that it's not so dumb. It makes them feel a little bit smarter to act like they enjoy some piece of dense, unentertaining garbage! For as much as I'm bored by 98% of sitcoms and summer blockbusters, at least nobody making those thinks they're saving the world. But by christ, the "arteest" type who is more concerned with being original and re-inventing the wheel, instead of being concerned with telling a smart and entertaining story, can kiss my ass.
    Here's the distinction I draw: I want to ENJOY a movie. Enjoyment can take many forms (laughing, crying, frustration, vindication, whatever), but it's pretty much the one thing I demand from a good movie. Now: if I see some piece of art house schlock and don't enjoy it, I invariably end up with some pseudo-intellectual tosser telling me that I didn't APPRECIATE it. No shit, smarty-pants. Just like I don't go to the wrestling matches with a stopwatch and notepad to APPRECIATE the OMG WORKRATE~!, I don't go to movies to APPRECIATE some masturbatorial assclown's "creativity." If I need to know secret words like "workrate" or need to have a filmmaking textbook on my lap, then you're more worried about APPRECIATION than you are about ENJOYING, and that's where I say you get eyeball punches! Sadly, this subculture of idiots who pretend to like Fellini and 95% the other crap masquerading as independent cinema are too wraped up in their own pretentious bullshit to realize that the REAL trick to quality filmmaking is coming up with a smart, entertaining, and accessible story, and NOT covering up your own lack of real intelligence or creativity with technical chicanery or dense symbolic imagery and dialogue. There's smart, and then there's dumb-pretending-very-hard-to-be-smart. Kind of like how there's me, and then there's the Ultimate Warrior.
    Anyway, the Rock's first independent film casts him in the lead to "Southland Tales," which is the second film from the writer/director who brought you the widely-appreciated "Donny Darko." It reunites the Rock with his buddy from his one good movie to date, That Guy From American Pie, and also features Sarah Michelle Gellar in the female lead. As recently as a few months ago, the budget for the movie was projected to be less than $20 million, so obviously, the Rock isn't making his usual payday here, but is taking this job because it might help "make" him as a Serious Actor.
    The premise of the film is basically, "on a pre-Apocalyptic July 4 in the very near future, a bunch of seemingly unrelated characters cross paths as part of three intertwined stories." Rock is a movie star with amnesia, Gellar is a porn star with a heart of gold, and what's-his-name is a cop who knows too much. It could well turn out quite interesting, but with a director who's lone work to date was definitely one of those "pretending-to-be-smart-by-being-purposely-dense" pieces of wankery, I wouldn't bet on substance behind put ahead of style in his second picture, either. [Would I annoy the piss out of many of you if I even said that more than a bit of post-Pulp Fiction Tarantino annoys me? When story dictates a certain style, nobody does ultra-violence in a cooler way: but I hate anytime I go to a movie and I can practically hear the director's voice saying, "I know this is silly and dorky. So why'd I do it? Because now I'm famous and I nobody has the balls to tell me no! Bwhahahahahaha!"]
    Shooting on "Southland Tales" is slated to FINALLY begin (after more than 2 years of delays, searches for funding, and casting problems) on August 1. Then the film will roll out in 2006, almost certainly doing so on the Film Festival Circuit before opening wide. Further underscoring that this project seems to have wanktastic tendencies: apparently the story is so "epic" that only one-third of the original vision is being made into the movie. And the first two-thirds of the story will be released as Graphic Novels (wankspeak for "triple-long comic books") over the next year leading up to the film's release. So yippee: you have homework to do if you want to fully APPRECIATE the filmmaker's vision!
    Art House Rocky... I never thought it'd come to this. Maybe I'm just a bit salty cuz I sort of hoped the Rock would be the guy who, with his abundance of charisma and likeability, would help bring some of the sizzle back to the Summer Blockbuster for a few years to come before going and deciding it's time to become a Serious Actor. I mean, christ, if nothing else, couldn't he have learned from the lesson of Adam Sandler, who wasn't exactly setting the world on fire at any point after "The Wedding Singer" but was still serving the world better with "The Waterboy" than he was with the eyeball-rolling piece of dumbass dreck known as "Punchdrunk Love"!
    But if Rock wants to be a Serious Actor, well... let's just hope, for his sake, that this is one of the rare GOOD indie flicks. You know, like "The Usual Suspects." Or "Memento." Or, ummmm.... hmmmm.... was "Rushmore" an indie-flick-gone-mainstream, maybe? That was a good 'un.... but you get my point. Rock ain't gonna get the big budget, breakout "glory role" like Jamie Foxx or Will Smith have gotten in recent years... so he's gonna have to go this route: working for cheap in a movie people may or may not see... I guess if the option is "He-Man," you can't really argue, though...
  • We talked about WWE letting the cat out of the bag on Judgment Day's main event last week... well, THIS week, we can add three more matches to the Judgment Day card, at least, according to local advertisements running in Minnesota. 
    The SD!-only PPV taking place in 3 weeks will be headlined by the previously-discussed JBL vs. Cena "I Quit" Match. But then you can also add: Booker T vs. Kurt Angle (presumably a de facto #1 Contender's Match), Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio (duh), and curiously, Big Show vs. Carlito Cool (of which there hasn't been even a hint so far).

  • Another odd note from the late May WWE schedule: the Fed has just added a SD! house show on Monday night, May 23, in Lacrosse, WI, going head-to-head with RAW, which is live in Green Bay, WI.
    Now, the presence of a SD! house show head-to-head with RAW is not all that odd an occurance... but in this case, it's odd because most everybody had pegged May 23 (the night after the Judgment Day PPV) as the date for the Draft Lottery. The Lottery would require all stars to be at the live RAW taping, and now, this late addition makes that impossible. It also seems unlikely that WWE would add a show at this juncture (the show was just announced last week, and tickets go on sale this weekend), and then cancel it in such short order. This has to have been done on purpose.
    So a competing SD! house show on 5/23 seems to eliminate that as an option for the draft lottery. One alternative I've heard kicked around is that the draft lottery would be "hosted" by SD! this year, which means all the RAW stars could still be present at the 5/24 SD! tapings.... except I hate that idea on the grounds that one of the cool things I liked about the draft last year was the cool little "24 hour trade window" after RAW and ending at the start of SD! tapings the next night. Unless you open things up for a 6-day trade window (which is far less dramatic), ending at the start of the next RAW, you're losing some of the unique charm of the draft.
    We'll see: doing the draft before 5/24 seems impossible, since you don't want to shake-up the rosters before SD! finishes up with the JD PPV. And doing the draft on 5/30 seems unwise since that's Memorial Day, and viewership tends to be a bit down that week. So might we really be talking about early June, here? Dunno.... like I said last week, maybe it's best just not to think too hard about the draft until we know more, because otherwise, it really will just make your head hurt.
  • I think that's about enough for me today. Enjoy RAW, Go Pacers, and I'll see you again soon, kids!

SMACKDOWN RECAP: Bonding Exercises
RAW RECAP: The New Guy Blows It
PPV RECAP: WWE Night of Champions 2012
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PPV RECAP: SummerSlam 2012
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PPV RECAP: WWE Money in the Bank 2012
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PPV RECAP: WWE No Way Out 2012
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PPV RECAP: WWE Over the Limit 2012
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SMACKDOWN RECAP: Care to go Best of Five?
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PPV RECAP: WWE Extreme Rules 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Sh-Sh-Sheamus and the nOObs
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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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