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RAW/Ratings, WM21's Success Story,
TNA/UFC, Nash, Batista, and Lots More
April 27, 2005

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


For reasons that shan't be made clear just now, I've tried to be way more polite about "American Idol" here in calendar year 2005... I still think that one of the biggest problems in America is that too many people are "famous," although less than one in ten of them actually deserves to be, leading to a massive lowering of standards in just about all facets of life. Mediocrity is the new Excellence here in the 21st Century!. I can't figure out if it's just because the American Populace's motto is "If This Jerk Can Be Famous, So Can I, So I'd Better Encourage Him And Then Maybe Someday I'll Get My Chance" or what... I *do* know that "More Making Your Own Fun, Less Deriving It From Marginal Celebrities Who Should Never Have Ascended Much Past Getting Polite Applause At Local Karaoke Night" is *my* motto, though! 

But that said, I know I've tried, I've tried real hard Ringo, to be more tolerant and understanding these last few months....

And yet, that shan't stop me from pointing out that I do believe the end is near for "American Idol." Oh, it might not die off totally for 2 or 3 more years, but THIS is the moment in time when the cracks are forming and the slide is beginning. You've got Paula Abdul -- ostensibly the one normal, inoffensive personality on the entire show -- going on benders that are (depending on who

you believe) either the result of mental illness or drug use. You've got the same Paula Abdul sleeping with contestants, causing them to get thrown off the show before accusations of preferential treatment can be made, with said contestant now trying to tell his story on ABC's 20/20 even though FOX is suing to prevent that episode from airing.

And on top of that, isn't the appeal of "American Idol" that it's only around about 22 episodes a year, giving you six months to get worked up for the next one? As Mr. Spock once so astutely pointed out, "The having is not so pleasing a thing as the wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true." Or, as the more standard version of the cliché goes: "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." It boils down to the same thing: American Idol isn't exactly the kind of thing you want EVERY week; it's more a special occasion thing, and you CAN have too much of it. This was a lesson learned by "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?", I believe...

Yet yesterday, they announced a new spin-off that'll be ANOTHER 22-episodes and will be "American Idol" for dancers. DANCING American Idol? I think I'll just turn this one over to Conan O'Brien, who made the following observation last night, which I cannot improve upon: "Wow. I didn't think American Idol could get any gayer. But I was wrong." [That's right, assfaces: Conan uses "gay" just like I do. Perhaps once they finally put a bullet in Jay Leno, and Conan's on at 11:30 and reminding everybody that comedy is supposed to be funny (instead of safe), I'll finally be allowed to make my jokes in peace...]

So that's it: impending over-exposure with a spin-off that will provide America with nothing except unintentional comedy in the form of Ryan Seacrest pretending not to be massively attracted to all the flaming male finalists, and then other cast members going on full tilt, complete with drugs, sex, and possible psychosis... that spells the end of ANY hit TV show, folks! Just remember where you heard it first!

Now let's see if I can be anywhere near as prescient or ground-breaking when talking about the wrestling, today:

  • A day later, and you can still color me Mostly Content... I think it would be very fair to say that Monday's RAW didn't exactly hit a home run in terms of hyping up the full Backlash PPV card for Sunday. But I also think that, in the macro, they didn't exactly waste time on Monday either.
    My point: Christian was once again a major star of the show. But Christian is not currently booked on Sunday's PPV. So in terms of "conventional wisdom," that makes putting Christian on TV for upwards of 25 minutes on a pre-PPV episode seem like a bad move, right? I've heard that case made, and frankly, I think it's horse manure.
    Christian may not be in a position to sell Sunday's Backlash, but he served a vital dual role on Monday: (1) he was tied into the HHH/Batista story, and performed his role there to perfection, and in so doing, made Batista look about as convincing has he's looked in 2 months, and (2) he interacted believably and compellingly with top level stars such as HHH and Flair, and in so doing, made HIMSELF look about as convincing as he ever has. Maybe Christian doesn't help sell Backlash, but more weeks like this, and he'll be a contributor to the brand before too long. And it's never a bad idea to be so focused on the short term that you lose sight of the big picture.  So despite what a few jack-off types have said to me, I'm all for Christian getting such a huge chunk of spotlight on a show just 6 days before a PPV that he's not booked on.
    Well, booked on YET. More on that in a bit.
    Now, does that mean that I don't have some issues with the way Monday was laid out? Of course not. I think both Shelton/Jericho and Benoit/Edge were criminally short-changed. And if you want the flip-side of the Christian Coin, his name is Chris Masters. Why a guy who is generating nothing but "boring" chants is getting 5 minutes of precious TV time on a pre-PPV show is baffling. Hell, why he's not still in OVW letting his ability catch up with his physique (and letting creative come up with a non-shitty persona for him) is even more baffling, but that way lies madness... I would also have probably preferred stuff been done differently in terms of the Useless Diva "Party" and how that segued into the Regal/Tajiri vs. Hassan/Daivari match (I know for sure you don't bother carting out the divas if I book the show, and I gotta say that I'm not entirely sure that Hassan/Daivari needed this meaningless win over the ostensible tag champs, either).
    So you tweak a few things, axe Masters, come up with other ways to showcase Regal/Tajiri and also Hassan/Daivari, and then if you do it right, you got another 5-8 minutes of time so that Shelton/Jericho and Edge/Benoit aren't so criminally under-featured in such cheap, lazy segments. Shelton/Jericho was OK, even, since there was a touch of story/one-upsmanship there (Shelton saved Jericho, but why? And then Shelton T-boned Jericho)... but when you basically reprised the same basic run-in formula for Edge/Benoit, it kinda sucked. I'd have put a lot more time into those two, if I'd had my druthers... but what would you think of me if I suggested WWE might have booked things this way on purpose, so as to reduce Edge's profile. With the Matt Hardy stuff he's dealing with, WWE might be hesitant to put him in a position where he's gotta cut a live promo... cuz it's not like he can directly address the chants coming his way, and if he has to ignore them to tell a story, that'll just seem lame.
    I definitely had my issues with the build-up for Shelton/Jericho and Benoit/Edge, and think there were a few simple solutions... but by and large, those are two matches that "sell themselves" to a certain type of fan (i.e. "us," the ones who like OMG WORKRATE~!), but which aren't huge drawing cards to most casual fans. So what the hell? RAW was entertaining enough at all other points that it's hard to get worked up.
    I think the two major drawing cards for Sunday *were* featured properly, too. Obviously, the simple, old school, 80s-style Michaels/Hogan promo was spot-on; that's actually kind of what I was jonsing for with those two. I know I called for a "training montage," but that might have been TOO 80s. This promo, with Mean Gene directing traffic, struck exactly the right chord of being nostalgic and fun, but without being too cheesy. Also: I'd be remiss if I didn't note that Coach introducing the issue of "egos clashing" seems an interesting notion. As I've mentioned before, the best reason *I* can think of for slapping together a Michaels/Hogan team out of left field (instead of doing something fluffier like a Hogan/Eugene vs. Hassan/Daivari match) is if it somehow sets up Michaels VERSUS Hogan at some point in the future. It'd be just like that Shawn Michaels with his massive ego and backstage clout to want to be the guy who has the tough job of carrying Hogan to his last **** match ever, wouldn't it?
    End Sarcasm.  But you get what I mean: Hogan ain't gonna have his farewell match be some throw-away, off-month tag match, so if you try to project things out for a bigger retirement match, you can see how I might not be averse to Michaels being his opponent, right?
    The other big match on Sunday is the Batista/HHH rematch. Which is big, but not nearly as big as they've hyperbolized it to be. And you KNOW how I hates me the Schiavonization of Pro Wrestling. But that said: they stuck to a pretty basic formula this week with Batista/HHH: the heel gets the last laugh heading into a major match. Which tends to set the right tone for the PPV, with fans rallying behind the babyface. In this case, the focus on The Unbeatable Pedigree made HHH's last laugh all the more effective: although it's also "effective" in the same way the 37th baseball-bat-blow to the head of an already-dead mafia informant is "effective" (it still makes a nice sound, but you really didn't have to bother doing it). I'm guess this entire last 3 weeks has been in preparation for the finish to Sunday's match in which Batista DOES kick out of the Pedigree en route to victory... it strikes me that they've presented this in a pretty ham-handed and unsubtle fashion (something that would be more appropriate for the 80s-esque Hogan/Michaels match), but if it works, and the crowd-at-large (which isn't as perceptive as us smart bastards) is shocked and awed when Batista kicks out of the Pedigree, then fine. It's not a storyline that was made for me, in that case, but it's still made for the masses.
    Batista himself (not tied to his particular storyline) had an interesting night, too. He was all over the place. He scored HUGE points by actually reverting back to his old calm, cool, collected self, and seeming to have a sense of easy-going humor. But then he lost those right back by displaying his old personality in a promo in which he started out praising Jim Ross (already a sketchy enough idea) and then took it so far over the top that it felt like he was actually patronizing JR instead of genuinely commending him. Like I said yesterday: it was less a real/honest moment and more a "jock pretending to be friends with the fat kid for a day" vibe. It was not exactly fun to watch, nor did it do much to enhance Batista's appeal.
    Then he went out in the main event and had another "scores a bunch of points, but then loses lots of them back" kind of showing. With Christian, he did get to have a good solid wrestling match. Plus 10 points. But with Christian, Batista was dealing with a guy whose popularity (especially by the end of the match) seemed to rival his. Minus several points. Once we get past the PPV, it'll be interesting to see how RAW sorts everything out. Because I think Batista, on Monday, was much closer to what he needs to be than he's been since January: it's just a matter of creative not giving him fakey, JR-praising skits in which to showcase his personality, and not sending him into a minefield where he's gotta dodge Christian's burgeoning popularity. I'm still ragging on WWE's handling of Batista, I know: but I'm also saying that I think they're inching closer, and that I hope they learned something on Monday, something that they can apply again in the near future.
    The fifth match that was address on Monday? Kane vs. Viscera. And this is just a crazy situation. Because *I* had a lot of fun with the Trish/Viscera skits. I think most other folks probably did, too. Then again, if you did, maybe you're like me in another way: you can't help but really dig Trish Stratus. And is that what they want to be accomplishing? Even dismissing all the Matt Hardy/Lita stuff, the last month has been week-after-week of Trish being more likeable than Lita to the point that she's boosted VISCERA up to the point of watchability, while Lita has dragged Kane down to the point where he's getting boos (and *he* had NOTHING to do with getting Matt Hardy fired, so you KNOW it's in the TV presentation). What the hell is gonna happen Sunday? Does the audience get behind Viscera? Can they bring themselves to boo Kane? Or is this wacky heel/face flip-flop gonna just be limited to the corner-women? Or have the last 3 weeks just been aberrations, and things will magically be back to "normal" in rustic old New Hampshire on Sunday? I honestly don't know, but I'm so intrigued in this storyline as a pure Psychology Experiment that I've almost totally forgot that there's little-to-no chance of Viscera vs. Kane being action-packed.
    Something else interesting about Kane: it's one thing for him to get booed for doing Lita's bidding... but coming out for no reason and attacking Christian and Tomko on Monday? VERY odd, and again ANOTHER little shred of evidence that almost makes me think WWE wants to start encouraging fans to think ill of Kane for reasons besides "his on-screen wife is, as far as some jack-offs think, a real life slut." Otherwise, why send a babyface whose position is increasingly tenuous out to attack a heel who's almost more popular than your World Champion?
    I'm also reminded of a harebrained notion I tossed into the Recap yesterday... that for as knee-jerk a reaction it was to picture Christian and Tomko as new Evolution members, the pieces are almost in place for Kane and Lita to join the group, if the E so desires. Not only would I think it'd go over gangbusters if we saw a "civilized" Kane and Lita (in the same way I felt like fans had *no* desire to see Randall and Stacy having over-the-top, cheesy, 2-minute sessions of grab-ass every week on TV, it's kind of the same deal with them not wanting to see Xtreme Lita get a classy make-over or Kane as a henchman; and the eventual re-fracturing of Evolution in another year's time practically writes itself, too), but Kane's inexplicable run-in on Christian's "State of the Peeps Address" would make a HELL of a lot more sense if HHH put him up to it in order to intimidate Christian into going along with Evolution's plan to deal with Batista. And I suppose I don't even have to touch on how quickly I figure fans would warm to Trish as part of a "double turn" in the women's division, do I? I just assume as long as you're half as discriminating as I, Trish wouldn't even have to really do or change anything: she could just keep being herself, and cheers would begin flowing freely before the ink on Lita's Evolution Membership Card was even dry....
    I guess that's all just my long way of saying "I don't really have any desire to see a Kane vs. Viscera match, but given Trish and Lita at ringside and all the other ancillary issues involved, Monday's RAW sure as hell has me thinking awfully hard about it." Interesting stuff.
    I think that's about enough rehashening for today. As always, I put my Grade A RAW thoughts/opinions/analysis in the OO RAW Recap, the finest document of its kind anywhere in the explored multiverse. So if you need more about Monday's show, just go read the damned thing, already.
  • The rating for Monday's show: a 3.9, which I think is the same as the week before. Or is it one-tenth up? I forget, and I'm too lazy to check.
    Point is, no surprises here. WWE seems to pretty much have its core audience, and they keep showing up faithfully every week... and this wasn't one of the rare weeks where a significant number of casual fans showed up to bump RAW's viewership up to unusual levels. 
  • But speaking of viewership bumped up to unusual levels...
    WrestleMania 21 is, according to preliminary reports, going to become the second most-watched wrestling PPV of all time, trailing only 2001's WrestleMania 17. WWE is practically shouting from the mountaintop how they've gotten word that WM21 recorded an estimated 940,000 buys, a number that could conceivably still rise by as much as 10% or so as final numbers are tallied and replays are included in the final figure. In fact, WM17's roughly 1.1 million buys *could* still be toppled if WM21 got a bunch of repeat/replay buys (although I consider this unlikely).
    And I'll be honest: I'm stunned. WWE was exceptionally happy last year when the 20th WrestleMania netted them about 850,000 buys, and made it clear in press releases that they considered that an unusually-strong showing attributable in part to the 20th anniversary thing and the return to MSG and all that. Then again, they might have just been bragging at the time because WM19 was a bit of a flop (only around 700,000 buys, and the least-watched Mania since the start of the Attitude Era). WM18 was actually had almost exactly the same audience as WM20.
    But then going back another year to WM17, that was pretty much the turning point for the industry: the WM that took place one week after the WWF bought WCW, when all eyes were locked on the WWF, and WM17 scored a huge number.
    To think that somehow, here in 2005 with the industry as a whole stagnating beyond belief, WWE could come close to that record setting performance forces us to do some thinking. Because it does seem puzzling that wrestling's mainstream popularity probably peaked in 1999 or 2000, and at the very tail end of that, WM17 brought us the peak of WM buyrates... but now 4 years later, we score another anomalously high rating.
    Two purely-pragmatic thoughts on that matter:
    (1) Although the "PPV Universe" has been largely the same size since the late 90s -- after a decade of massive growth as more and more homes became PPV capable, that growth plateaued around 1998 -- there are still marginal increases every year. At this point, it's no longer a matter of cable systems adding PPV capability... it's a matter of cable households adding the digital box or whatever level of service required to be able to order PPVs. So yeah, it might be minor increases, but every year, there ARE a few more prospective buyers of PPVs out there. Which means that of COURSE WWE would see a relative increase in buys as that universe gets bigger.
    (2) Starting this year, WWE has greatly de-emphasized its "Blast Zones." There aren't nearly as many places screening PPVs in public, anymore, forcing casual fans (if they want to see a PPV) to buy it themselves. And if there's one show a year casual fans WOULD pay their own money to see, it's WrestleMania. This would be the first WM that might have benefited from the halving of WWE's public screenings.
    But that #2 leads me to a much more intangible/theoretical idea... that the success of this year's WrestleMania doesn't so much prove the overall health of WWE as it proves the opposite. Month-to-month PPV buyrates (especially for SD! shows in 2004) are pretty anemic. That WrestleMania scored so well doesn't so much tell me that the company's about to enter a renaissance as it tells me that it was the first time (probably in about a year) that most fans bothered perking up and remembering "Hey, I'm a wrestling fan. Kind of."
    A simple look at how WM was promoted this year illustrates my point, I think. Triple H vs. Batista was a well-promoted, relatively long-spanning story that fans wanted to see paid off. But other than that, there wasn't a whole lot mega-appealing about the SUSTAINABLE parts of the show.
    And no: I don't mean that we weren't all fired up for the RAW ladder match, or anything... but I mean: a casual fan who's only semi-paying attention isn't gonna be buying WM21 for a six-man ladder match that he doesn't know the backstory of.
    Besides HHH/Batista, I think every single selling point of WM (from an "average fan" perspective, not from our perspective of thinking Eddie vs. Rey could be the bee's knees) was a one-off, one-night kind of a deal. The credit for WM's big buyrate cannot, in my opinion, be directly tied to any particular sustainable RAW/SD! performers/storylines. That credit has to go to gimmickry. Like the Hall of Fame stuff that directly led to the well-disseminated belief that Hulk Hogan would appear. Like the return of Piper's Pit. Like Steve Austin making an appearance. Hell, even like the Movie Spoofs that were, in about 6-out-of-9 cases, pretty damned appealing and might have roped in a few viewers.
    And you could make a case that Angle/Michaels was another big drawing card. And maybe it was, and NOT just to us workrate-loving goons... but that match (and also Orton/Taker) are STILL in the category of "one-night, one-off, non-sustainable" deals. Cross-brand matches are no less "gimmicky" than Piper's Pit returning for one night only.
    So what's my point? That what WWE has done is kind of a nice bit of smoke and mirrors work. They've actually reduced the specialness of their month-to-month, sustainable operations on RAW and SD! to the point where this year's WM21 seemed absolutely unique and unmissable by comparison. They carted out the legends, they busted out a unique marketing campaign, they did the whole nine yards... and a casual fan who took a pass on lord knows how many JBL-headlined SD!-only PPVs sees this and realizes, "HEY! Now THIS is why I used to watch wrestling every week."
    It's a point that is perhaps made a bit more clear this way: WrestleMania every year is SUPPOSED to feel like it's head and shoulders above all other annual events, like its the climax of the wrestling year. But maybe WM21 achieved that not by kicking ass, but by virtue of all the other annual events being way more forgettable, making it lots easier for WM this year to SEEM relatively stronger: because if we compare WM21's end results to other WrestleManias, is it head and shoulders above all but one of them? Nope. As always, it'll take a bit of perspective to say for sure, but WM21 had the feel of a "middle 1/3rd" Mania, not the feel of one of the top tier shows.
    In the big picture, we'll usually end up comparing WMs to other WMs... but this year, our near-term perception tells us that WM21 is hugely important, not because it'll end up comparing well to other Manias, but because it compares so damned favorably to the other lukewarm PPVs WWE offers up every month. I hope I'm explaining this well, and that it makes sense...
    And if I'm am making sense, then I hope you can all agree that this is not necessarily a good thing in the long run. Yes, nobody's a bigger sucker for marking out at WM than I am... but wouldn't it be nice if we could go an entire 2-3 year stretch again where every PPV made it feel like Christmas? Instead of the already-returning sensation that there's Too Many PPVs? I mean, we haven't even gotten done with Backlash, and I'm already kind of antsy about how I'm not exactly thrilled with what SD!'s probably gonna serve up a mere 3 weeks later...
    You know what might be an interested experiment to test my theory? Seeing how the ECW PPV performs in June. Because to *me* that feels like the next real good reason to get excited about a PPV that will actually be special, and that has a justifiable price tag (instead of just feeling like a money-grab by a company that is making up for a contraction in mainstream appeal by raping its loyal fans an extra 6 times per year). If I'm right that shows score bigger buyrates by seeming "unique" and seeming like an excuse to set aside time and make an evening out of wrestling again, as compared to the tepid month-to-month brand business, then the ECW show should score well. Not WrestleMania-well, but probably better than any actual ECW PPV from 1997-2001 scored. We'll have to remember to bring this up again in a few months.
  • Before we get to the ECW PPV, we gotta get through Backlash and Judgment Day first... and Sunday is Backlash. Presently, it's only a five-match card.
    Word I got was that WWE was gonna announce a 4-way tag title match (with the Heartthrobs, La Resistance, and Hurricane/Rosey) on RAW Monday, but for whatever reason they didn't. That could just have been because the Hassan/Daivari angle/match with Regal/Tajiri prevented them from setting it up the way they'd wanted to, and they'll still add it to the PPV as an added attraction... or they could have also just decided to change that plan entirely.
    The other main area of speculation in terms of added matches at Backlash: what of Christian? He's been a key player on RAW three weeks running now, but is not part of the PPV. Will he simply, in a non-wrestling capacity, have something to say or do? Might he run his mouth, issue an open challenge, and end up with a singles match of some kind that further enhances his appeal? Or could you even make a case for the 4-way tag title match being scrapped in order to give Christian and Tomko a shot at the belts, instead?
    I don't know, but at this juncture, I'd consider it a damned near impossibility that Christian wouldn't have something (and something pretty cool) to do on Sunday. Because if Chris Masters is gonna get 10 minutes of PPV to bore the shit out of all living creatures, Christian had fricking better not be on the sidelines.... 
  • Just because I don't want to be accused of missing the Important News of the Day, I shall now present you with quick summaries of....
    Three Stories I Don't Think We Should Give A Shit About, But If Me Mentioning Them Will Keep You From Whoring Yourself Out To Some Other Website, I'll Do It
    (1) So did you hear the one about Ric Flair's son? Reid Flair, who once fake-beat-up Eric Bischoff, has turned into quite the high school wrestler. But when he was beat in a recent match, his opponent taunted him with a bit of Flair Strutting. Reid was gonna go after the guy, but was restrained. Both Flair's son and the Strutter were sanctioned, and their school's fined. We care about this, why? Don't ask me...
    (2) So did you hear the one about a kickboxer and some of his goons trying to stir the pot at the hotel after Monday's RAW taping in England? Apparently Batista and few others had no problem keeping the idiots at bay until hotel security broke it up for good. And this is news, how? I have no idea....
    (3) So did you hear the one about Dustin Rhodes being absent from Impact Tapings yesterday? There's a rumor going around that it's because he might have been arrested for domestic violence. Even if that's true, it's our business, for WHAT reason again? Oh, that's right, there isn't one....
    Thus concludes our Pointless News Update. If these three items in anyway contributed to your enjoyment of televised professional wrestling, I'd like to know how. Because frankly, all three seem like the sort of thing that I'd just file away under "useless knowledge."
  • Interesting little tidbit about Batista...
    Yahoo's TV section (don't ask what I was doing there; the answer probably amounts to "commiting genocide against my own brain cells") had a poll up on Monday night, asking "Which of the two new WWE Champions do you like better?". And despite getting significantly less of a TV push since WM21, Batista was easily handling John Cena in the poll. There were a few more than 5000 votes cast, and as I recall, Batista had about a 55%-45% lead.
    I just checked the page again, but the poll has been replaced, so I don't know what the final figures would have been... but I'm gonna go ahead and tell myself Batista won, and that I can use this as further evidence that no matter how hard WWE tries to push him, John Cena needs to break out of his niche caricature before he's really gonna connect with an overwhelming majority of the wrestling audience.
  • Quickly, one other note about Batista:  in recent weeks, I've taken to making fun of him running out of breath after just making his ring entrance, leading to him gasping, huffing, and puffing at the start of promos. Well, I might lay off in the future. Many loyal parishioners of the Church of D-Von (and his Deacon Dave) have written in to tell me that in interviews back when Batista was just starting out with the WWF, he revealed that he suffers from asthma pretty badly. 
    D'oh. That's something that either I didn't know, or that I'd known and forgotten. And in either case, all of a sudden, it's something that's suddenly going to be a lot less fun to joke about if it's a contributing factor to Batista needing a bit of extra time to catch his breath before promos... I honestly don't know how asthma works, so I figure I'll just play it safe.
    Just please: nobody write in to inform me that Randy Orton has crippling dyslexia, please. My bag of tricks is thin enough as it is; I don't need to be losing any of my staples!
  • As TNA continues to experiment with Flavors of the Month, it looks like the next one is gonna be Ultimate Fighting. What the hell? They've already tried Toby Keith, Survivor cast-offs, NASCAR announcers, and a whole PPV of nothing but cage matches... at least maybe they're inching towards something productive?
    In this case, TNA noticed the modest success of Spike's crap-ass Ultimate Fighter reality show, and then noticed the more pronounced success of that show's finale which (OMG~!) featured more in the way of actual fights, and less in the way of lame, fabricated drama featuring the aforementioned idiots who don't deserve to be famous, and whose trials and tribulations are significantly less interesting than those I (or my friends/family) might face in real life, which makes it real easy to ignore. Fuck reality TV. Get out there and enjoy REALITY people, and fuck Reality TV. Really. So much for my politeness and tolerance, I guess.
    Also, UFC is inching towards the level of PPV popularity that it enjoyed briefly in the mid-90s, before The Man stepped in and made it illegal to have ultimate fights in the US without all kind of added rules and regulations. That's swinging back around now, as the two parties are finding equilibrium, and it's OK again for UFC to hit the mainstream. Me personally, I follow UFC about the same as I do boxing: I get fired up and interested in big matches and big personalities, but I think the genre is still struggling to find that right mix between instituting enough rules to be fair to all different styles of fighters while still retaining some sense of the brutal "real fight" vibe that made UFC once seem way more interesting and visceral than boxing. Or maybe that just all boils down to the simple fact that real fights just tend to be kinda boring to watch (well, except for total one-sided ass-kickings) unless you're somebody honestly obsessed with some specific discipline or technique....
    In any case, this bullet point isn't about UFC... it's about how UFC's upward swing in popularity (as defined by having an audience on SpikeTV of about one-third of RAW's audience) has convinced TNA to try yet another Flavor of the Month. Longtime UFC stand-out Tito Ortiz will be refereeing the Jeff Jarrett vs. AJ Styles main event of next month's Hard Justice PPV.
    It's worth noting that all signs point to this just being a one-off deal... but it's worth noting that that's kind of what people thought at first when Ken Shamrock was announced as the referee for WM13's Bret/Austin match, too. But within 3 months, he was actually working WWF matches after a crash course at Stu Hart's dungeon.
    For whatever it's worth, I *did* get into Shamrock debuting in the WWF. Then again, I was also a much bigger UFC fan back then when it was unabashedly about two guys beating the piss out of each other (I think the only two rules were "no fingernails to the eyes" and "no crotch stuff") and you could just watch and cheer for the biggest bad-ass instead of having to pay attention and figure out which completely-honorable-athlete has the better technique. I know here in 2005, there are certain internet jackoffs who don't think that wrestling and ultimate fighting should mix, because ultimate fighters "expose" pro wrestling as fake. The fuck? Show me a percentage of wrestling fans who think wrestling is real, and have it be more than 20%, and THEN you can talk to me about how letting UFC and wrestling co-mingle is a bad thing. Till then, if a guy has personality and can convince people that he can win a fight, then why not let him play in the wrestling ring? Or is it that it reduces UFC's credibility to be associated with wrestling? Cuz I know (and this is fucking HILARIOUS to me) there are some wrestling sites out there that actually cover UFC, as if it's just another part of their all-encompassing Journalistic Coverage of the World of Fighting... christ, the two aren't the same thing any more than boxing and wrestling are the same thing. And even the "journalists" of the 1930s knew enough to not equate boxing and wrestling...
    And again, at this point, Ortiz is only gonna be a referee, so why are all y'all's panties getting bunched, anyway? And if he does get more involved down the line, why's it a problem as long as he's good at the job (as Shamrock wound up being)?
    If I had to make a snide remark about TNA coming to terms with Ortiz, it'd be a simple pragmatic business observation: they're reaching out to include a semi-star from an organization that, on the same network as RAW, draws about a third of WWE's audience. Which tells us, pretty clearly, that TNA would kill to be a third as popular as WWE. Not that I'm explicitly equating popularity with quality, but: well, in this case, I guess maybe I kinda am.... 
    Anyway, the main point: Jeff Jarrett vs. AJ Styles with special ref Tito Ortiz headlines TNA's May PPV. And all expectations are that Jarrett finds a way to retain, since they're also doing a big 20-man dealy at the PPV to determine the #1 Contender for June's 3rd Anniversary PPV (which is where most people figure Jarrett might finally drop the title).
  • A possible reason for Kevin Nash's total absence from last Sunday's Lockdown PPV: apparently he's gonna be unavailable for the next 2-3 months, as he's gonna be filming a movie. I've got no details about the movie, but somebody said at least part of the shooting schedule involves being in China. So there's not even a chance, during those periods, of Nash being shipped in for PPV appearances and then shipped back out to the movie set.
    Nash had been expected by all to be at ringside for the six-man tag match at the PPV, despite being unable to work due to a staph infection. But he was not present, and was also not present at Impact tapings yesterday.
    So it could be as simple a matter as TNA deciding not to pay to bring Nash in for these last few shots before he goes off to make a movie, since that'd only clutter up storylines and make things more difficult once he's gone. This way, it's more like a clean break and a fresh start...
  • Also on the shelf, but hopefully only very briefly, is Luther Reigns, who apparently got hit with a nasty flu bug during the Europe tour, and was so sick they sent him home early. He missed tapings yesterday, but should be back for next week.
    Not that it much matters: at this rate, it's only Velocity viewers who really miss Luther. Which kinda sucks as long as Heidenreich is stinking up the joint on Thursday nights.
  • And finally: goddammit, people, I KNOW Eddie Money is still alive. That was a fricking joke. You can stop mailbombing me and threatening to report me to eddiemoney.com's message boards. I'd defend myself by trying to explain the Conceptual Underpinnings of the joke (i.e. "Eddie Money may, technically, be alive, but his CAREER is dead"), except that half of you who wrote in to browbeat me were also thrilled to report about Eddie Money's 2005 summer tour dates. So you probably wouldn't much see the humor in me suggesting that Eddie Money belongs in the "Where Are They Now?" File, would you?
    This just in: Eddie Money also never wrote a hit song titled "Get Out of My Skull, Get Into My Pants." But I thought it might be funnier if he had. So I made the appropriate alterations to the lyrics, and turned that into a fricking joke, too. Strangely, nobody took me to task on that one, though. Does that mean I could actually write said song, and Eddie Money's Estate wouldn't try to come after me for copyright infringement?
    HA HA! Got you again. 
  • OK: taunting lovers of 80s crap rock means it's the end of another awesome column here at OO! My tank's on empty.
    Friday I'm back quarterbacking the OO Team Coverage Backlash PPV Preview, so I'll see you then, 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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