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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
RAW, TNA PPV Thoughts and Backstage
News, Hints from House Shows, and MORE!
May 16, 2005

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

I think I may have irreparably broken something over the weekend....
 
Because, while flipping around the TV dial, I saw the most amazing thing: a commercial for the Brand New Season of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," featuring Very Special Queer Eye Test Subjects, the Boston Red Sox.

Oh. My. God.

I saw this and immediately snapped  

out of the whiskey-induced haze I was in. I had to make a mental note to remember this for use in a pre-ramble! 

And yet, I sit before you today unable to fashion a joke out of this. I don't know if this is because some part of me was damaged by seeing the Cosmically Perfect Harmonic Convergence Of Suck between two of the nation's Suckiest Things To Ever Suck. Or possibly, it's just that the Union of the Red Sox and Queer Eye is so fricking inherently laughable that there's nothing I can say to make it any funnier.

Let's hope it's just the latter. Because lord knows that a The Rick who can't make fun of Dumb Shit and the Even Dumber People Who Watch It is hardly a The Rick at all. I'll endeavor to be meaner and have nasty things to say about Queer Eye another time, providing all my circuits are in good working order. But for now, this:

  • Tonight's RAW is kind of the reverse of last week's... last week, I sat here in this spot and was reveling in how the Goldrush Tournament matches had four possible outcomes and I didn't really know which of them was more likely than any of the others, and I also didn't care because I thought it'd be hard to come with one combination that would suck.
     
    Well, I was wrong last week, and WWE did manage to deliver the one combination that fails to intrigue. And now we're here a week later with a tournament final on our hands, one that pits Kane vs. Edge, and one that really only has ONE possible outcome. Or at least, one possible non-anticlimactic outcome.
     
    So this is how we go from visions of Benoit vs. Michaels, who could deliver 25 minutes of gOOdness at the drop of a hat and then also provide Batista with a kick-ass Free Per View showcase match next week, to Kane vs. Edge, where the only question is "Will Lita be turning on Kane to side with Edge, and if so, will anybody other than houseplants be shocked?"...
     
    WWE really painted itself into a very unfortunate corner. If Lita doesn't turn on Kane, then the already-dubious Kane/Edge match becomes pointless and anticlimactic (along with its other faults, which will include (a) Probably Being Kinda Tepid and Boring, and (b) Not Generating the Proper Challenger For Batista). But if Lita does turn, it surprises almost no one, since most fans are sharp enough to realize that Kane vs. Edge is not exactly a thrilling match-up and it can only exist for one reason. Or: if you refuse to deny the general "smartness" of the wrestling audience, just realize that both Edge and Lita have been subject to numerous "You Screwed Matt" chants in the last month, and tell me that fans won't see the two of them in the same place tonight, and do a little mental arithmetic...
     
    And again: my issues with Kane/Lita/Edge being not particularly compelling aside, the simple fact that this tournament to crown a new #1 contender is now being used as little more than the backdrop for some convoluted re-telling of backstage drama is pretty annoying. Shouldn't Batista and the Gold be the focus here? Instead of trying to re-align things so that (I assume) Kane will be a sympathetic babyface, and kind of a surrogate for Matt Hardy in storylines? Because I honestly don't see any "You Screwed Kane" chants in the near future, and yet, Batista's title reign will continue (at least for another month) unabated. Simple matter of misplaced priorities.
     
    Or maybe I'm just misrepresenting the priorities: because it does seem like Batista and the Gold have one very pressing issue, and his name is Triple H. Gold Rush tournaments aside, pretty much every fan can tell that things are building up to a HHH/Batista re-rematch. And no amount of HHH's feigned "disappearing act" will stop that vibe from settling in. I'd give a princely sum of money for HHH to be absent from RAW again tonight, but you know that won't happen; the only way for HHH's walk-out to have impact is for him to stay gone long enough that we start to believe it. [Alternately, my one idea for last week would have been for Triple H to show up backstage on SmackDown!, kind of pimping his services; he wouldn't REALLY want to jump ship, but he'd do it to make Bischoff angry/jealous, he'd do it as a way of hyping the possibilities of the Draft Lottery, and in the end, he'd do it for a couple of weeks until Bischoff gave him what he asked for: another title shot at Batista. See, so simple, would have helped to Unsuck SD!, would have made HHH's walk-out and absence from RAW seem more compelling, but of course, this is not what happened....]
     
    Beyond that, we seem to be in a bit of a state of flux on RAW. Not to repeat myself, but the impending Draft Lottery has a lot to do with that, since you're never sure who'll end up where. And also, RAW without a PPV till the end of June means they can futz around with some consequence-free mini-arcs. That certainly seems to be where we are in a couple of RAW's underneath issues.
     
    The biggest non-Gold Rush issue tonight seems to be the final showdown between Ric Flair and Christian, who've had quite the nifty bit of verbal sparring going the past month. Last week, Flair beat The Lovely Miss Tomko, and that means that tonight he gets his hands on Christian. I'm 100% confident that the majority of the match (as well as what I hope is a LOT of pre-match skits/mic-work) will be hilariously amusing, but I find myself hoping that the outcome is one that finally puts Christian, quite seriously, on the map with a win. As a sidebar: I continue to be convinced that there's more to Christian's recent sacrificing of Tomko than meets the eye. That maybe they're building up to Tomko identifying Christian as A Problem. Thing is, recent upgrades aside, Tomko is still really only checked out to be back-up, a hired goon, so he can't really split off as a singles... so would it be interesting if maybe this little Flair/Christian tiff somehow had the net result of landing Tomko as the "new Batista" for a reconstituted Evolution? I mean, what's Evolution without an overly-tattooed musclehead who slowly begins seeming more likeable by comparison to the company he keeps?
     
    Another mini-issue I expect to be front-and-center tonight: Chris Jericho and Shelton Benjamin vs. Muhammad Hassan and Khosrow Daivari. Hassan and Daivari laid 2-on-1 beatdowns on both fan favorites last week. The only difference was that Shelton came to Jericho's aid when he had the chance, but Jericho did NOT make the save for Shelton. Hmmm. Could a tag match tonight be in the works? And if so, doesn't it seem likely that tension between Jericho and Shelton could be a major subplot? Perhaps even setting us up for an IC Title rematch between the two next week (which, along with Batista vs. Kane/Edge, would make for a mighty fine Free Per View line-up)? That'd work for me, although I'll stop short of advocating a cute little idea I got in e-mail over the weekend: the Jericho could go full heel and actually join Hassan/Daivari on the grounds that Jericho IS, afterall, the "Ayatollah of Rock 'n' Rolla." 
     
    Unless I miss my guess, we've also got some the next pair of interim challengers to Hurricane and Rosey's tag titles: Maven and Simon Dean. The less said about HOW they became the new challengers last week, the better... but I'm sure they are next in line. And since I can't see this particular match-up enthralling anybody (except for the part where I'm guessing Stacy Keibler will be at ringside to provide us with our FDA Recommended Daily Allowance of Upskirt Panty Shots, as seems to be her area of expertise), here's hoping that they rush this mini-story to completion, and don't dilly-dally with singles matches or non-title matches, first. Let's just get it over with and send Simon back to Heat, where he can't possibly frustrate and annoy me with his uncreative 80s-style gimmickry.
     
    Other possible stuff: it's sad but true that in the Flux Phase for RAW, Chris Benoit and Shawn Michaels officially have Nothing Interesting To Do tonight; two of my three or four favorite guys on the show, and there's a chance they'll be MIA. D'oh.... and yet, I'd expect both Chris Masters and Viscera to be present, on the grounds that WWE does not care that they are also Not Interesting, but is pushing ahead with their crap, anyway; here's an idea: let's combine The Suck, have Viscera break the Full Nelson and then squash Masters like a bug, only to realize that his Hunger For Love extends to Hunger For Manlove, and then they both disappear from TV forever and ever while Viscera nurses his glossed-up hunk of metrosexual manmeat back to health.... I'm hoping that there's more to the Eric Bischoff/ECW thing that they teased last week: like I said on Friday, the idea of using Bischoff as a foil to ECW would not only be a cool way to subtly hype the ECW PPV on RAW, but it could also have a very sweet, very satisfying pay-off at the PPV itself if they have Bischoff try to shut the show down, or something, only to be humiliated and beaten by -- oh, let's just say -- Joel Gertner... even if they don't go THAT in-depth with the Bischoff/ECW stuff, they DO need to start putting more hype into the Draft Lottery in backstage bits with Bischoff. Not just who'll stay and who'll go, but also simple things like WHEN THE FUCK IS IT HAPPENING AND WHAT'S THE FORMAT? It's been "about a month" since Vince said the lottery would come in "about a month," so let's get cracking, kids!
     
    So there you have it: a bunch of stuff you can keep an eye out for tonight on RAW. Maybe we'll all get lucky and tonight will be the counterpoint to last week: instead of high expectations and a shitty pay-off by WWE, our low expectations will be shattered with a surprisingly decent show? You never know. So either check out the show, or just come on back here tomorrow for the OO RAW Recap, for which there are ALWAYS high expectations and which never fails to meet or exceed them! I'm back on the RAW job this week, as I have no birthday to evoke generosity and no Pacers basketball to use as an excuse for needing a week off or anything like that.
     
  • Last night's TNA Hard Justice PPV was as odd bird, from the sounds of things. You had heels working as babyfaces as a result of their affiliation with the late Chris Candido, you had an X Division match that stayed almost entirely on the mat, and you had a few last-second replacements in major matches. Oh, and Jeff Jarrett finally lost the damned NWA Title, too!
     
    First things first: Jeff Hardy missed the PPV and was replaced by Sean Waltman in what was SUPPOSED to be the big blowoff to the Hardy/Raven feud. Hardy's excuse: he missed a flight. [He actually showed up in Orlando around midnight last night, after catching a later flight.] This will NOT sit well, as this is the sort of lax behavior that started grating on WWE towards the end of his tenure there and which eventually resulted in his departure. For whatever it's worth, Raven stepped it up by essentially re-cutting the kick-ass promo he did on Hardy 2-3 weeks ago (which was a bright spot on an otherwise forgettable edition of Impact), this time subbing in X-Pac's name in order to put some intensity behind the random pairing. And Waltman brought it strong in the ring, too, reportedly delivering the Match of the Night against Raven. With Hardy in Orlando, and available for tomorrow's Impact tapings, it'll be telling whether he is used and if so, in what capacity; given his track record, it wouldn't be out of the question for him to be sent home, or at the very least, forced to do some sort of ritual jobber duty by way of contrition. Then again, as thirsty as TNA is for recognizable names, maybe they'll just pretend this never happened? We shall see...
     
    Second thing: BG James' absence in his match was done entirely by design, and James was at the show. But for storyline purposes, they wanted to sow the seeds of unreliability, so that had James no-show on Dallas Page (he was replaced by Ron Killings). That way, when James (after arriving late) and the Outlaw shared their brief moment later on during the gauntlet match, you didn't know for sure if they were still enemies or if they were in cahoots. Of course: Abyss rendered that a moot point by kicking both their asses. Note: I annoy even myself when I have to type up paragraphs like this without using "Road Dogg" and "Billy Gunn," which would be a lot more natural and make a lot more sense to you casual readers. I don't know whether to blame WWE for being such tightwads when it comes to trademarked names, or blame TNA for being such uninspired dolts when it comes to fashioning new identities and personalities.
     
    And of course: AJ Styles beat Jeff Jarrett to win the NWA Title for the second time. But, in what I have to consider a pretty lame booking decision, he only did it after Special Referee Chico Ortiz KO'ed Jarrett. Way to book your new champ to look strong, there, TNA! Are you sure that finish didn't get faxed in on stationary reading "From the Desk of Steph and Paul"?
     
    To be honest, I have mixed feelings about Styles winning the title, and it's not like I exactly enjoy the onslaught of Jeff Jarrett every week, either. But in terms of finding alternatives, I'm just not sure that Styles (or at least Styles in THIS match) is the best option. For one, I got absolutely no sense that this was a "money feud," that there was anything special about the build-up for this match that was any different from the build-up to countless other Jarrett title defenses. I know this runs counter to some other TNA fans who say they DID feel like this was built up well, but I almost have to wonder how much of that is just Sweet Sweet Relief for them that Jarrett lost, and NOT genuine appreciation for how the new champ ascended to that spot. I mean, what was so special about AJ going into this match: he was the arbitrary #1 contender after winning a match the previous month on PPV, and the one promo he did with Jarrett was one of their patented Cable-Access Caliber "empty arena" interviews that fails to generate any authentic emotion or intensity. Seeing how things went the past month, I just didn't feel like this was the time or the place to pull the trigger on AJ Styles. Then again, I'm the guy who campaigned heavily for JBL to keep the title at WM21 so that they could have a re-do and get it right for John Cena, too, so....
     
    The Chico Ortiz assist doesn't help matters much, as it means Jarrett will be all HHH on us, not going anywhere far from the main event. I'm assuming you can pencil in Styles vs. Abyss vs. Jarrett as the conveniently-appropriate 3-man match for the 3-year anniversary show in June. If you tell that story right, you could actually have *that* be the special "breakthrough" match for Styles, as he has to overcome BOTH of his most challenging recent opponents in one grueling match. Or something like that. 
     
    I don't know as that Styles as champ is necessarily the answer to any of TNA's problems when it comes to declining viewership or anything, either. Nobody denies what AJ does in the ring; but I don't think any rational person would bother denying that he also only does it once a month on PPV, and that if you don't have a compelling weekly TV show to drive PPV buys, nobody new is gonna be lining up to check out AJ on the Big Stage. The nature of "Impact" (in its current form) limits matches to less than 10 minutes, and that's just not gonna be how you convince any casual fan that AJ Styles is special enough to carry a whole promotion on his shoulders. And unfortunately, the things you CAN do in less than 10 minutes on a weekly basis (in terms of interviews and character building) are things that AJ is not very good at. Who knows: maybe the backstage booking shake-up will result in AJ getting stronger material in terms of creating an on-screen persona that is anything other than Boring As Hell? Improved storytelling ACROSS THE BOARD needs to be a priority for TNA as they continue to eyeball a jump away from FSN and (hopefully) into primetime, so this isn't just something that they need to address with AJ. It's just that as the torch bearer for the company, Styles is the one who needs the promptest attention so that fans who watch wrestling for more than just the bell-to-bell action (which, at some level, is probably 90% of us; the other 10% of you can enjoy your ROH, and we'll think nothing less of you) will see AJ as a champion worth paying to see.
     
    Or maybe all this ranting is just because if I'd played along with the TNA PPV Predictions, I know I would have predicted Jarrett to win, and I'm trying to retroactively justify a pick I didn't even make. That's why I let the Experts handle the PPV Preview (their collective percentage was pretty amazing, indicating that they knows their TNA). And that's why it remains in the hands of Actual TNA Fan Jason Longshore to supply you folks with a detailed account of last night's big show. Check out his TNA Hard Justice PPV Recap.
     
  • Tickets for ECW's One Night Only reunion PPV went on sale Saturday, and in a mild surprise, are still not sold out as of this Monday afternoon writing.
     
    It's been kind of funny reading e-mails about how other sites have done a 180-degree about face on this issue and are declaring that this is a sign of the apocalypse and that the ECW PPV is doomed to fail, and that WWE is getting what it deserves for charging ridiculous ticket prices, and all kinds of stuff. There's even a bit of that sentiment that I spotted in the OO Forums.
     
    All I can say is: chill the fuck out.
     
    Was the show an instant sell-out? Nope. But will it be sold out in a month's time? I'd wager it will be, or damned close. And that's what'll matter for WWE. They don't care how fast they sell out or how many upset customers wanted to buy tickets but couldn't. They only care about the customers who do buy the tickets. It's simple economics, people, supply and demand: you want to set pricing so that the two are at equilibrium, NOT so that demand is so great that you run out of supply 5 minutes after your product or service goes on sale.
     
    And for an event that still has no announced line-up, I'd say WWE's probably pretty satisfied with the demand they've seen so far, and is confident that once they shore up the roster/card, they'll see another burst of ticket sales. And it's not like WWE sold NO tickets over the weekend. On the contrary: the cheapest seats (making up the largest percentage of seats) are sold out, leaving only the higher two pricing levels. And even then, over half the available tickets in both those levels are gone already, too.
     
    WWE knows they are presenting a special event, and will end up making a mint off this show because they've priced it as such. If, as is currently expected, ECW shows become an annual or bi-annual thing, they won't price them like this, but for this first one? Viva la capitalism!
     
    Of course, the funny thing is that most of the e-mails I got are from salty TNA fans, usually quoting from certain TNA-affiliated websites (who of COURSE are blowing the non-sell-out way out of proportion)... even though it's unstated, allow me to use my Mighty Powers of Perception to tell you why you all felt the need to mail me about this (and why certain websites seem to be taking joy in WWE's "failure"): it's because you can't handle the fact that even with a non-sell-out, first day ticket sales clearly prove that ECW is the #2 wrestling promotion in the country despite not, technically, existing outside of the realm of certain best-selling DVDs. Chew on that.
     
  • WWE.com has made their Fantasy Game free starting with June's "season." I mention it only because I'm actually pondering playing. Just to see if I'm as smart as I think I am. It doesn't seem like it'd be THAT hard a game to crack.
     
    Of course, as soon as I say that, I'm sure that there are actually schmucks out there who treat Fantasy WWE as seriously as I know some people treat Fantasy Football (and man how I pity them and their 300 pages of draft notes), so I'd still get crushed due simply to my half-assery. Such is life when you put five minutes into line-up setting each week, while others run 3 hours of statistical analyses every day in order to maximize points.
     
    I think I'll still give it a try, though. The one Fantasy Baseball trick I have might be useful: I'll draft players I hate or players from teams I hate so that if they do well, I derive Fantasy Benefit, but if they do poorly, I derive Personal Satisfaction. So my trick applied to Fantasy WWE: draft Chris Masters and keep him in my line-up every fucking week! Yeah!
     
  • Undertaker was scheduled to return to house show action this weekend (my, how convenient: just in time to get warmed up before a notoriously thin SD-only PPV?)... but he was absent.
     
    The word on the street is that Taker asked off in order to remain with his VERY pregnant wife, and WWE has happy to comply. They also had time to come up with a back-up plan, as they got Roddy Piper to do weekend house shows: fans were plenty pleased as Piper came out as the Surprise Guest Referee for Cena vs. JBL/Jordan matches around the horn. Piper, as you know, is also booked for a couple of RAW shows in June, as a guest manager against Hassan/Daivari, so the positive relationship between Hot Rod and the E continues.
     
    I'd figured Taker's return to house shows was, in fact, designed to coincide with him making a surprise appearance at the PPV to re-establish his presence in time for the Draft... I don't know that this necessarily changes that opinion of mine or not.
     
  • Some notes, also, from the RAW brand house shows (thanks especially to the OO Forums' own resident Road Dogg, ConcreteTG, for supplying some first-hand details from what I estimate have got to have been her 164th, 165th, and 166th live wrestling events of 2005)...
     
    Biggest news is that Shawn Michaels was pulled from Saturday and Sunday line-ups, and was announced as still suffering from a concussion that occurred on Monday's RAW. Of course, said concussion is just a work, and the proof: Michaels worked the Friday night show. But on that show, he tweaked a knee, and was held off the rest of the events pending a diagnosis. At this point, no such diagnosis is available (at least, not to me), so maybe that's another little something to keep in the back of your mind while watchign RAW later tonight.
     
    Also: Stevie Richards returned to the main roster (after a quick rehab stint in OVW)... he attacked Chris Masters out of the crowd, in an attempt to get revenge for the broken face he suffered against Masters in Masters' debut. Sadly, this didn't work out so well for Stevie. Again, a little mini-angle you might look for on RAW though, if they were testing it out around the horn. 
     
    [By this logic, you probably can pencil in a Jericho/Shelton vs. Hassan/Daivari match for tonight's RAW, too, as it was tested out... as was the Edge vs. Kane Gold Rush final on two of the shows; although not to exactly rave reviews.]
     
  • I think that's about enough for today. RAW Recap tomorrow, probably mid-week news on Wednesday, but we might have a bit of a schedule shake-up the next few days... the Canadian Bulldog has a little something special for you, and we're thinking we'll not wait till Thursday to unleash it on you! Something about not wanting to go head-to-head with some big movie that I guess is coming out, or something. I don't know: I hadn't heard anything about that, but if Bulldog wants a head-start, a head-start he shall have.
     
    So keep an eye out for that, and bear with me if this means that some usual OO content is displaced from its usual day or anything! Everything will even out by Friday, I promise.
     
    Later on, folks....


  
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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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