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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
SD! Thoughts/Ratings, Cena, Hogan,
ECW = $$$, and Other Weekend News
May 6, 2005

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

Full disclosure: this column may be below average.
 
Not only is the same Heaping Pile Of Nothing still taking place in the world of wrestling (which is what made me feel quite comfortable not doing a column on Wednesday, actually), but I've got no particular patience for sitting around here spraining my brain to invent worthwhile material for you.... not when we've got a weekend shaping up like the  

one ahead of us. Well, ahead of *me*, anyway.

The first really gorgeous spring-like weather weekend is upon us here in Dayton (did you know that it freaking SNOWED here two Saturdays ago?); better yet, this weekend marks the opening of Mint Julep Season; and right after Mint Julep Season is opened, we'll have the Pivotal Game Seven between the Pacers and Celtics; and if all this happens to roughly coincide with my birthday and a few other related shenanigans, well, ain't that just the icing on the cake?

So yeah, my heart may not be in it today. See if you can tell the difference:

  • For about the third week in a row, SmackDown! delivered a very strong show. Didn't check it out in Real Time, but I did DVR it (not because I thought the show would suck, but because I'd spent my earlier evening suffering through the Pacers game; so I figured I'd wait till later, after I could wash that taste out of my mouth before trying to watch wrestling)... and man alive, let me tell you how nice it is to have SD! back as a show that takes the better part of 90 minutes to watch! For vast chunks of 2004 and into 2005, I was watching SD! in 45 minutes flat some weeks.
     
    But no more! The formula seems pretty simple: they are finally focusing TV time on the talents people actually, you know?, WANT TO SEE. Ingenious! And better yet, they are putting those talents into the right kinds of roles so as to showcases strengths and hide negatives.
     
    Like how JBL is at his best when he's cutting promos and being a jerk, but NOT wrestling (which is exactly what he did last night)... like how Chavo Guerrero is too talented to not be wrestling every week (so they gave him a fricking 20 minute main event match last night!)... like how the supporting crew such as Booker, Kurt, Carlito, Morgan, and MNM are the most appealing mix of talented vets and promising newcomers in a while (no Heidenreich gumming up the works, no blackholes like Chris Masters is over on RAW, just solid)... and like how Eddie and Rey have pretty much been carrying the entire program the last two week since they are the best of both worlds: charismatic character AND ultra talented wrestlers.
     
    It's hard to screw things up too badly when you're populating the show with all the right people and in all the right roles. Nothing sizzled nearly as much as RAW's peak moments did on Monday, but three weeks and counting of shows this good is nothing to sneeze at. As far as I'm concerned, there's a lesson to be learned here: that the show got better when they made it about Eddie and Rey and demoted Cena/JBL to a supporting role. Hmmmm.... or maybe that's just me being an Internet Jackoff?
     
    Let's run a few thoughts past you folks:
     
    (1) There is not enough good to be said for how the whole Eddie/Rey thing played out. Very intense promo to start the show off hot. Chavo butts into the storyline backstage, and ends up getting a Street Fight against Rey for his troubles. Chavo approaches the just-victorious MNM about supplying some back-up in said Street Fight. Said Street Fight ends up going 20-plus minutes and absolutely rocks, almost nudging up against Shelton/Michaels and the 2 PPV matches in terms of quality. And said Street Fight ends with Rey eeking out a win despite MNM's interference.... but then gets a post-match beating. So who's out to make the save? Eddie. And for the first time since Paul Orndorff embraced and raised the hand of Hulk Hogan after saving him from Bundy/Studd, I ACTUALLY BELIEVED that a face wasn't gonna turn heel on his friend when Eddie embraced and raised the hand of Rey. Such was the depth of the story they'd told over the past 3-4 weeks. But boy was I ever wrong: Eddie leveled Rey (again, shades of Orndorff/Hogan!), and I was genuinely surprised. [Total tangent: and THIS, people, is why I loathe spoilers, and why I want you to feel the same way. If you're gonna watch a TV show, why would you want to know ahead of time what happens? That makes no sense, and I will not rest until I've reformed the all of you!] And then, just because SD! wanted to compete with HBK's Sweetest Chin Music from Monday in "Spot of the Week" voting, they did a spot in which Eddie hoisted Rey up for a vertical suplex while standing ON THE RING STEPS, and then Eddie stepped off the steps, and suplexed Rey rudely onto the steel. Ouch. Just, ouch. And that, my friends, is probably the level of Dick that Eddie needed to show to actually pull off a heel turn. Awesome TV, all around, and including promos, skits, a match, and the post-match, it accounted for over 30 minutes of SD!'s two hours. Only complaint: my shitty-ass UPN affiliate lost sound for the final 10 minutes of the show.
     
    (2) The other major set-up was for Booker vs. Kurt Angle. Booker beat Orlando Jordan (in a non-title match), which I think pretty well clarifies that we need to get the US Title back onto somebody who people care about... but the story was backstage, where Booker's wife and mouthpiece, Sharmell, was threatened by Angle, who wanted Booker to wrestle him at Vengeance. And that led up to later on, when Kurt whupped up on a jobber, and then Booker and Sharmell both hit the scene to accept Kurt's challenge. And when Kurt calls Sharmell something that got bleeped (what of the Integrity, Kurt?!?), Booker had no choice but to jump in the ring to defend his woman's honor. Now see: given the past few weeks, the way I'd have done it would have been Sharmell grabbing a mic to call Kurt some name that got bleeped and have Booker just laugh at Kurt for once again being punked by a girl, causing Kurt to become even angrier (and thus, more dangerous). But now: Booker just charges and gets his ass kicked. And when Angle stalked Sharmell to close the segment, it didn't have nearly the intensity or believability that it would have if Sharmell had gotten a punchline in on Kurt; instead, it just felt like Kurt was over-reacting a bit. Still: Kurt continues to be in a zone, so I'm sure he and Booker will deliver the goods here both at and leading up to Vengeance.
     
    (3) JBL and Cena, as mentioned above, was almost a side issue. JBL got promo time, not a ton, but enough to once again remind us that he's in possession of the REAL WWE Title belt, and that once he ends Cena's 15 minutes of fame at Vengeance, he'll once again be opening up the pews so the faithful can worship their wrestling god. Whee. Cena interrupted this, and tried to keep it light (read, "tried to keep it lame by failing to be even one-tenth as funny as the writers probably thought he was") at first. But when JBL kept harping on the line that he is not a "quitter" and that he'll come for Cena at Vengeance, Cena flipped some switch and went from "Clown" to "Hypertensive" in about 3 seconds flat. Instead of keeping it light and failing, Cena's blood pressure seemed to go up about 80 points, and he commenced to try make it intense. And also mostly failing. There's something unintentionally funny about a guy suddenly "dropping his persona" to "get serious" but then still doing his clenched-teeth shouting with his affected Street Accent. Or maybe that's just me. Anyway, the gist of Cena's insanely hyper-reactive shouting is that if JBL's so tough and so not a quitter, why don't they make their match at Vengeance an "I Quit" match? JBL, it should be noted, does his best Vince McMahon Gulp Of Fear when he hears this and does NOT accept the stip. But I guess, much like HHH, Cena now has the power to make his own matches? I dunno... and I also won't complain TOO hard, since the gimmick should give them a way to tell a story and have some actually drama at Vengeance (things that did NOT happen in their crapfest of a match at WM21).
     
    (4) I know a lot of you hate the stuttering gimmick and aren't seeing the same Big Picture that I am, but trust me, Matt Morgan is for real and if the creative team handles this right, he could be a viable US Title contender before the Autumn. That finisher (delayed vertical suplex snapped into a Rock Bottom) is sweet, if nothing else.... 
     
    (5) MNM are also gonna be OK, and having Chavo join them on a more full-time basis to create a stable of wrestlers for Melina might even be cool; but their tag team prospects are more than a little bit reliant on the caliber of their opposition, which right now is non-existent on SD! (at least, until the Dudleys return)...
     
    (6) Carlito continues to impress me, and unlike Morgan, it doesn't sound like he needs me advocating for him, because fans are reacting positively to him, too. Carlito makes it look pretty damned easy out there: even if he's not setting the world on fire with his moveset, his charisma and body language make the moves he does do that much more effective. Kind of Rock-like in that regard, I'd say. A win over Bob Holly is nice, and promising to call out the Big Show next week on the Cabana? Sounds like Carlito's ready to step up and get his first PPV singles match, eh? Not sure the match result will be a favorable one, but Carlito and Show getting to verbally spar is a promising idea....
     
    (7) And I think that's it, actually... but since I know my own opinionated rambling doesn't necessarily feed your needs if you missed the show, I heartily recommend Big Danny T's SmackDown! Recap for more detailed coverage of last night's events.
     
  • Although the show seemed to be at least as strong as the last few weeks, if not stronger, SmackDown! only scored a 3.0 broadcast rating last night. Huh.
     
    That's not just a drop of another 0.2 from the week before, but it's also a full half-point off SD!'s target rating and about as low a number as I can remember since last summer. This is *not* how WWE wanted to kick off Sweeps Month on UPN, I can tell you that much.
     
    Anybody know of any preemptions in major markets? Because it sure as hell didn't seem like there was any serious competition last night. Maybe a few lost eyeballs in Boston and Indianapolis, but not enough to account for all this drop-off, right? Any thoughts?
     
  • But while SD! is fumbling in the ratings, RAW scored a big number on Monday. Coming off a PPV, and delivering its strongest over-all show in a long time, RAW posted a 4.1 cable rating, a slight gain over the previous week, and marking the fourth or fifth time this year that RAW has broken the magical 4-barrier (which is more times than I think they did in all of calendar 2004).
     
    Interest coming off the PPV is almost certainly a contributing factor, as RAW opening the night at 9pm with its largest initial audience in a while. Because of that, there was not so much of a building-up of viewers over the 2 hours, but instead, RAW held on to all those eyeballs for the whole show to score the big rating.
     
    If fans liked what they saw (and they should have), hopefully they'll be back again next week...
     
  • If interest coming off the PPV was strong, there's likely one big reason why: Hulk Hogan.
     
    The current consensus is that (given the mostly-tepid card at WM21) it was special attractions like Hogan, Austin, and Piper who really helped boost WM21's buyrate to near-record levels. It thus would follow that there would be strong interest in Hogan's "one more match," even among people who didn't necessarily buy Backlash to see it for themselves.
     
    I bring it up because WWE.com has published an interview with Hogan in which they make the distinction between "one more match" and "one LAST match." It's halfway-insulting, actually, that they think most fans honestly believe that Hogan's farewell match would take place in a throw-away tag match on an off-month PPV... but I guess that's all part of WWE.com's Lust for Kayfabe, huh? Anyway, the interview published SHOCKINGLY REVEALS that Hogan is leaving the door open for another possible match down the line. Wow, now *that* is good reporting, WWE.com! You've scOOped the world!
     
    But anyway: for those of you who don't believe it if it doesn't come from WWE-sanctioned sources, there you have it.... pretty much as close to a confirmation as you'll get at this point that Hogan has more left in the tank.
     
  • Oh, before I stray too far from last night's SD!... John Cena's video was pretty fun stuff. The "Bad Bad Man" track? Oh, that blew goats, my friends... but the "A-Team" inspired video was really entertaining. 
     
    It is kinda weird, though, that Cena -- whose character sure seems to pander to the 10-15-year-old audience -- would make a video that would have an appeal mostly limited to the roughly 25-34 audience of folks who were weened on "The A-Team" and "Knight Rider" and "Miami Vice" in the 80s. Not complaining really, because I just so happen to be 25-34 and not 10-15, but it's still an odd little bit of character dissonance for Cena.
     
    For whatever it's worth, Cena's album comes out next week, and WWE is trying really hard to make a go of it. They've got him doing all kind of radio and record store appearances, and they've even arranged for a bit of exposure on MTV and on MTV's website. Unlike just about every other type of project WWE attempts, they actually went out and enlisted actual experts to help Cena out, so this isn't some shitty in-house job... and because of this, they have some high hopes for mainstream acceptance.
     
    Don't know if that'll quite pan out; after hearing two tracks, we've got one that's pretty cool (his new entrance theme, which trumps his old one quite easily) and one which was really lame (the "Bad Bad Man" single, which if not for the video, should have bored the crap out of anybody with half-an-ear after about 15 seconds). A 50% hit rate won't win any awards... but who knows, maybe it'd be enough for Cena to be taken seriously as something other than a novelty act.
     
    Myself? I wouldn't bet on it. He'll still sell more records than Fozzy (which kinda sucks), but if this thing stays on the charts for more than about 2 weeks, I'll eat a bug.
     
  • WWE has announced its return to Dayton... sadly, it'll only be a RAW brand house show in June, so I doubt they'll have my ass in a seat.
     
    Of note: for the house show, WWE returns to Dayton's premier shithole, the Hara Arena! And I say "shithole" in the nicest possible way! It's the building we have that's simply perfect for wrestling, tough man contests, and rock shows: no manly and barebones building for manly and barebones events! I guess it's only worth paying for the nancified WSU Nutter Center when there's TV to be taped... of course, nothing against the nancified Nutter Center: they actually do have some frills, one of which is hard liquor, so that ain't so bad.
     
    Anyway, I bring it up by way of making a few observations about house show booking sheet irregularities....  there are events both before and after the Dayton show that feature what appear to be "current" line-ups (they've already adjusted for Hurricane/Tajiri's tag title win, have Kane/Viscera matches listed, etc.). But the information that Hara had for me is oddly antiquated.
     
    Of note: Regal and Tajiri have a match against La Resistance, Hurricane is only listed for a singles match, and Kane is facing SNITSKY (huh? did I take a time machine back to January?)...
     
    Also: if you believe the booking sheets, Dayton will mark Trish Stratus' return to house show competition (against Spaz). Which would be awfully sweet of her to come visit me in the middle of her injury rehab, but I'm not expecting that to stand, as shows before and after Dayton actually list Victoria vs. Spaz.
     
    The three top level matches, at least, seem to make some semblance of sense, and don't look as though Dayton has entered some kind of nutty time vortex... we'll also be getting Batista vs. HHH/Flair, Edge vs. Benoit, and Shelton vs. Christian, all three of which are pretty much locked in around the horn for the next two months of house shows.
     
    Of course, the oddness of the Dayton line-up comes with the ubiquitous caveat that "Card Subject to Change." Not only because somebody might have had their head up their ass when they put together the line-up for Dayton, but also because we do still have that pesky brand lottery between now and then, which could also shake things up.
     
  • While I'm leafing through WWE house show plans, here's a couple other quick notes....
     
    First, Roddy Piper is gonna appear on a pair of RAW house shows in the Pacific Northwest in June (d'oh, I already lost that note, so I'm not sure where, exactly, but I'm sure if this pertains to you, you'll figure it out; the rest of us are just interested in learning that Piper has more WWE appearances in him, and not so interested in exactly which cities near his home they'll be in). He'll be in the corner of Shawn Michaels in scheduled matches against Muhammad Hassan. 
     
    And second, for the first time that I can recall since 1996 or 1997, WWE is going to be making the rounds of the northeast summer festival/carnival circuit. These are tiny events held in tents and stuff throughout Massachusetts and whatnot, where WWE plays to vacationers hitting their summer homes and condos. Back in the day, WWE would run these shows with C-level talent (you'd be lucky to get the tag team champs, and a guy like the Brooklyn Brawler was a legit semi-main-eventer), but I'm guessing WWE will sink no lower than B-level. I think both RAW and SD! have three each of these sorts of shows scheduled in July. It speaks volumes about WWE's house show business that they are resorting to this old tactic from the Dark Ages...
     
  • Holy Crap:
     
    Many have written in to say that ticket prices have been announced for the ECW One Night Stand PPV.... cheapest seat in the house is $150! Ringside if $400, and the only other price level is $250.
     
    Man alive, just the live gate could be a cash cow for WWE. As I recall, the capacity for the Hammerstein Ballroom was around 2700 or so. Maybe let's figure 2500, since WWE will have actual production equipment and stuff that might alter the configuration. That's gonna be close to a three-quarters-of-a-million dollar live gate!
     
    Everybody expects a nearly-instant sell-out when tickets go on sale next Saturday morning, and that should make ECW's reunion show pretty much the highest grossing event of the month. Because of the inflated ECW ticket prices, a standard WWE house show or TV taping would pretty much need to put 15,000 asses in seats to match that take. And that won't be happening.
     
  • WWE's next overseas tour in late June and early July is gonna mean a pair of joint-tapings (instead of just one set of tapings prior to the tour)...
     
    RAW and SD! will both tape together on Monday, June 27, and again upon returning stateside on Monday, July 4. But as we saw with the last MSG "supershow," that's no promise of any crossover zaniness. Since it looks like the Draft Lottery will be completed well before these shows, I don't know if I'd expect them to be all that special at all...
     
    Well, except for the live fans, who get a rather unique double-dose of the WWE brands.
     
  • Totally by accident, I wound up catching Tito Ortiz on the Jimmy Kimmel show on Wednesday night. What was I doing watching Kimmel? Well, let's just say even *I* have my off-nights, and I was scraping bottom in terms of fun.
     
    Or actually: I was watching because the listed guests were gonna be Seth McFarland/Alex Bornstein and Bonnie Hunt. The former two are from "Family Guy," which means they are funny; and for some reason, Bonnie Hunt (in addition to also being very funny) has always been the most probably-old-enough-to-be-my-mom woman I've always had a thing for. [Hmmm, let's see if *that* gets me any e-mail; because I sure as hell was shocked when an off-hand mention of Sarah Vowell in the RAW Recap resulted in a deluge of "quit thinking filthy thought about MY obscure celebrity crush, you bastard" e-mail. Sorry folks, but I can't help myself: actually, Sarah Vowell is handy for that game where you want to name five crushes in the hopes that nobody else playing will name them, so you have to go semi-off-the-beaten path (no Halle Berrys or Natalie Portmans, needless to say). Helpful Hint for said game: Tina Fey is apparently the one babe that all guys want to nail, but for some reason all guys are also convinced that no other guys wants to. Weird. So guys, just don't bother picking her. This is why I finally replaced my "smart chick" slot on that list with Sarah Vowell. Which is also how I played this game for the first time in a long while a few weeks ago, and managed, for the first time ever, to get all five of mine in un-cherrypicked. Even got a wrestling-related one in, and with jerks trying on purpose to guess that one away from me!]
     
    Oh, but wait, I had a point, right? And it was not just defensively trying to explain why my Wednesday was so lame that I watched Jimmy Kimmel...
     
    So Seth and Alex were NOT on, as promised, and much to my surprise, Chico Ortiz was brought in. So after Bonnie Hunt, I figured I'd stick around, and see what he had to say, since he's making an appearance at the TNA PPV next weekend.
     
    And that's about 15 minutes of my life I'll never get back. Chico's always seemed pretty charismatic as far as those UFC guys go, but on this night, he was really playing the "I'm such a normal, bubbly, likeable guy with many facets that don't have to do with fighting" that he was EXTREMELY annoying. Kind of like a dumb guy version of The Rock when the Rock goes into "downplaying wrestling mode." I'd say he made me want to slap him, but frankly, Chico's one guy that I really don't want to get into it with.... so he can get a free pass on his toolboxery, I guess.
     
    One thing that I will NOT excuse, though, is that when discussing TNA before Chico came out, Jimmy and Bonnie had no idea what "TNA" stood for. Great work supplying the show with promotional materials, dumdums! And then when Chico came out, not only did he again downplay the wrestling show in favor of talking about his acting aspirations and what an all-around swell guy he was (about TNA, he actually said he just got a call, that it was only for refereeing, and so he decided to take the easy paycheck; way to be in it for the money, instead of selling the excitement of the show, lunkhead). And further: Chico didn't know what TNA stood for either.
     
    The icing on the cake: when the interview wrapped up and Kimmel went to give TNA its plug, he declared that "Hard Justice" is airing on FOX Sports Net. Wow! If it's free, even I would tune in to watch, I bet! Too bad it's not.
     
    I can't imagine a less-productive promotional appearance from TNA's perspective. They didn't even know what the TNA initials stood for, Chico's just in it for the payday, and the host told viewers the wrong channel for the PPV event you're hyping. But hey, at least now the world knows that Chico Ortiz is a swell guy with an awesome sense of humor and tons of personality who really wants to act instead of beating people up. We know this because Chico told us so. Wheee.
     
  • Last things: you people can quit mailing me about the new job opening listed for a WWE writer. 
     
    Don't we have to cover this pretty much any time such a listing pops up? You say, "Rick you should totally go for this," and I have to say, "I'm flattered you think so, but read the small print: they are only hiring experienced TV writers." And frankly, there's a bit more to it than that, too, and it amounts to "I know where I'm not welcomed."
     
    That's not to say I don't think it's the job I was meant to do, and that I'd do it well (even if I had to *gasp* swallow my pride and spend a few weeks observing whatever handful of Idiot Filmschool Techniques I might actually need to know about to contribute)... but it's more a deal where I know I'll never get the chance to show it. Just look at how frequently Paul Heyman gets booted off the creative staff for daring to have a dissenting opinion....
     
    So instead, get ready for another coffee-fetching staff writer who scribed 2 episodes of "King of Queens" to join the WWE Team and start fitting right in!
     
    Not that I've been recently inspired by Vince Russo's tale or anything, but.... can someone tell me where the guy who redirected the mid-90s WWF away from The Suck graduated from Film School again? And which shitty sitcoms he wrote for? That's what I thought... way to think inside the box, WWE: High Wrestling IQ is bad, but contributing to failed TV series is good!
     
  • Alrighty, I think we all know that when I begin the self-aggrandizing delusions, that means I'm out of material. So I'll just get on out of here.
     
    I hope you all enjoy your weekend. I know I'll enjoy mine, and I'll catch you on the other side!


  
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Bonding Exercises
 
RAW RECAP: The New Guy Blows It
 
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RAW RECAP: The Show Must Go On
 
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SMACKDOWN RECAP: Losing is the new Winning
 
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PPV RECAP: SummerSlam 2012
 
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SMACKDOWN RECAP: Destiny Do-Over
 
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
 
SMACKDOWN RECAP: In-BRO-pendence Day
 
RAW RECAP: Crazy Gets What Crazy Wants
 
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Five Surprising MitB Deposits
 
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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?
 
SMACKDOWN RECAP: No! No! No!
 
RAW RECAP: Brock's a Jerk
 
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
 
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
 
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28

 
 
E-MAIL RICK SCAIA

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

 

 

 


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