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RAW, Ratings, ECW DVD Shortcomings,
New Matt Hardy Developments, and MORE
June 29, 2005

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Wow. I don't particularly like going back and reprising a pre-ramble topic (that's what makes doing this so FUN; each one is different; each one is a unique snapshot in time; each one is like a snowflake; or some crap like that)...
But to the overwhelmingly vast majority of you who felt the need to mail in after I riffed on the Discovery Channel's Greatest Americans List, I simply must say:

Congratulations on almost COMPLETELY missing the point. Seriously.

If RAW hadn't been so awesome on Monday, then mail 

about Ronald Reagan and The Greatest Americans would have been the most popular item in my box for that 24 hour period. It was a veritable flood of e-mail... and only some of it sensible.

But the 90% of you who declared that I am some kind of bicycle-seat-sniffing liberal pantywaist? Kindly get your heads out of your asses. Where did I make a single statement about political beliefs on Monday? I'll answer for you: nowhere. I just happened to be upset that, in direct opposition to all informed reason, Ronald Reagan (a conservative) was named the #1 Greatest American Ever. I don't think this is a controversial or political charged observation. Hell, Ronnie's OWN SON was on the show acting utterly baffled that his dad won, so don't take it out on me. I also never said that Reagan didn't belong on the list (which I did say about some others like Oprah and Billy Graham); I just think his rightful place would be a bit lower.

So what was it? That I also railed against George W. Bush coming in at #6, but DIDN'T bother mentioning that Bill Clinton was #7? Well, dum dums, at least Clinton's legacy is mostly-written, and we can start judging the guy. But that said: he doesn't belong up that high either. Better? Because I was making observations about how piss poor the list was, not revealing my secret political leanings.

But that's just how you conservatives roll, isn't it? You invent an argument that isn't even taking place, which you can then easily win, since there's nobody actually taking the opposing viewpoint. I may not like you, I may not always agree with you, but I recognize guile and craftiness when I see it.

And frankly, I never see it out of you people. Ohhhhh ZING~! You didn't think I was gonna turn it upside down there, did you? But I did. Because anybody who could honestly see a whit of Liberal Bias in my ramblings on Monday possesses neither guile nor craft, but instead possesses the gift for tunnel vision and misperception. Way to be, morons. Maybe just sit back, relax, and wait, and at some point in the near future I'm sure the limp-wristed, misguided liberals will do something to piss me off and you can enjoy watching as I tear them a new one, too. Just remember it doesn't make me one of you. I'm an equal opportunity offender who thinks anybody who blithely (and blindly) ascribes 100% to either ideology is probably a gigantic retard. Or at least lacks the ability for independent thought.

Pay attention, folks, and you'd know I'm one of the ones in the middle, and you could have saved your time (and mine) by keeping your accusations of Liberal Bias to yourself. I'd rather you mail me with wrestling thoughts than misguided jackassery like that. And by that same token, I'm assuming that you'd rather me TALK about wrestling here. So here goes:

  • Gotta quickly touch on Monday's RAW... but only VERY quickly, because the RAW Recap yesterday actually does an excellent and comprehensive job of saying what needs to be said about the show. So you should just go read it.
    It was honestly a pleasure to take a little bit more time than usual to put into a POSITIVE recap. Usually, when I up the effort lately, it's to make sure as much Pure Assholitude makes it into the recap as possible. So it was fun, for once, to take that extra energy and channel it to enthusiastically and THOROUGHLY convey the events of RAW. Oh, don't worry: there's still plenty of snark (afterall, we did visit with the Useless Divas, and got a big ol' dose of Chris Masters), it's just not the defining characteristic of the recap this week.
    So I guess if you missed the recap and my opinion isn't clear to you already, let me just state for the record: I REALLY enjoyed RAW. Probably more than I have any RAW in a long time, since it topped the ECW inVasion episode which I think was probably my favorite of the year to date.
    How'd they do it? Well, the easy answer is: they had Hulk Hogan in their back pocket. And Hogan may not be a guy who we want to see lacing 'em up every week, but anybody between the ages of 20 and 40 probably has fond memories of Hogan... and Hogan and WWE are expert at trading on those fond memories while not giving us a chance to remember when our memories of Hogan started going south. Hogan's surprise appearance was a HUGE cherry on an already delicious sundae, and made for a fun main event.
    And any time a Hall of Famer shows up, unannounced, to wrestle a match? Well kids, that counts as "A Moment," to me, which is exactly what I (unfortunately for me) spent my Monday column accusing WWE of being unable to deliver. In my face, huh?
    But as big as Hogan's appearance was, RAW sizzled in other ways, too...
    Obviously, the Flair/Angle promo and match was a huge part of the show, and I don't think I'm exagerrating when I say that's probably the best Wrestling Match that Flair has had in damn near a decade. Without meaning it as a criticism, Flair's spent the recent years getting by on his trademark spots and going through the motions. Which is fine and fun, since we love those motions. Even his memorable match against HHH 2 years ago wasn't exactly a showcase for the ringwork: it was more just about a story (albeit a fantastically told one). But on Monday, Flair (whether by choice, or because Kurt Angle forced it out of him) broke out of that rut and had to do things in the ring that he's not done in a while. And the result, I thought, was extremely satisfying and entertaining. Flair lost the match, but his 20 minute performance and expert weaving-in of cheating tactics may signal the return of the Dirtiest Player In The Game being able to do a bit more than 6-8 minute TV Specials, if he is asked to do so.
    And after that, there were thee other things which I can't compliment enough. 
    One is the foundation being laid for a Carlito/RVD IC Title feud. I think the way they set it up on the Cabana was just about perfect, as both guys were dead-on. The Newly Verbose RVD was bringing the attitude, but the threatening-to-be-likeable Carlito took a step back to the dark side in the way he savagely attacked RVD's injured knee. Good stuff.
    Second was the general sense that the show seemed less "scripted" than usual. I mean, I'm sure it was still carefully planned out... but I'm talking about in the micro: in the actual segments, it seemed less like guys were talking off a written page and more like they were free to let their character speak in his own voice. Not only was this apparent in the Angle/Flair and Carlito/RVD promos, but it was especially noticeable in a pair of hilarious Jericho/Christian skits. Even Kane/Lita seemed to benefit from less writery-ness: their backstage vignette didn't have any of the gay spooky lighting or stilted dialogue that we've come to expect from any Kane-related storyline. I'm BEGGING that this be the start of a new trend of "hands-off" creative, where the talents themselves will have more of a say in... well more of a say in what they say. One of my cardinal rules of wrestling would be "Viewers Should Never See the Hand Nor Hear The Voice of the Hollywood Writers." It's a rule that WWE has broken on a weekly basis for years, now... until this week.
    And third is something near and dear to my heart: the pacing of the show was vastly improved over recent weeks. I'd taken this up as a pet issue, pointing out the many ways WWE's formatting was inviting viewers to zone out or flip channels by stacking low-content segment on top of low-content segment... but on Monday night? There was nary a momentum-killing video package in sight, as far as I can remember... instead, every segment featured actual content and left you enthused to get more of the same, since it was mostly GOOD content.
    Yeah, there was still Masters and a very-awful Diva Search Segment (which the live crowd turned against, to the surprise of absolutely NO ONE except WWE's ass-hatted braintrust)... but that wasn't enough to get me down. No sirree. Excellent show. But enough of me speaking about it in vague generalizations... if you haven't already, you should read me speaking about it in Sparkling Detail! Check out the OO RAW Recap.

  • Get this: Monday's RAW did a 4.4 cable rating, which I believe bests the previous year-to-date high by one-tenth of a point. It's also a gain of about a half-point from the week before.
    Now, as we constantly talk about here at OO, it's hard to attribute a strong rating simply to that show being strong. A good show WILL keep viewers riveted and that'll help build ratings momentum over two hours, but there are other factors at play.
    RAW started out with a larger-than-usual audience size right out of the gate at 9pm... to me, I figure this is probably the bump RAW gets from being a post-PPV show. Generally speaking, only about 10% of WWE's Monday/Thursday fans actually watch PPVs... so there's always a lot of interest from the other 90% to see the post-PPV show. ESPECIALLY when the buzz about a PPV is positive (which it was for Vengeance). So starting out strong at 9pm is something that's probably just a by-product of some of WWE's casual fans reading/hearing good things about Vengeance and wanting to check out what comes next.
    That said, the ratings did build for the entire 2 hours, and peaked with the over-run. I think that might be where the generally-strong show helped out. Because there weren't very many "out" segments, and on top of that, I thought Cena/Michaels (and the announcers) all did great jobs of hyping the Mystery Partner in such a way that you believed a big surprise was coming. That's the sort of thing people will want to stick around for! So RAW's rating snowballed over the course of the show, instead of ebbing-and-flowing quite as dramatically as it normally does.
    Still, whatever the particulars, a year-to-date high rating is good news for WWE. And the fact that a year-to-date high rating came for such a strong show might be good for fans, if WWE tries to learn a few lessons from what they did on Monday and decides to replicate that on a weekly basis. Which, even if you take out Hogan, is something that CAN be done, folks. It ain't that hard....
  • FYI: Hulk Hogan will be back on RAW again next week. I believe he will be a guest on Carlito's Cabana.
    And if you're asking yourself why we're so lucky to be getting back-to-back doses of Hogan, well... he's got a new reality show coming to VH-1, and it'll help if his profile is high heading into the premiere. Which I think is in 2 or 3 weeks. I don't sully my brain with such minutiae, but I BELIEVE the premise of the show has something to do with the Hulkster's jailbait daughter (her singing career, her attempt to find a boyfriend since they're all so terrified of her dad, etc.). I'm sure it'll be absolutely thrilling TV to those of you who look to the uninteresting antics of other people to make up for the fact that you, yourself, are even LESS interesting.
    Anyway, this wasn't mentioned at all on Monday, but already I'm fearing that there will be Helpful Video Packages and whatnot on RAW next Monday to tell us all about it. Afterall, Spike is owned by Viacom, who also happens to own VH-1, so it's all Corporate Synergy to them! But to us: it's WWE fucking up the pacing of their show with stupid, pointless video packages. Oh well: assuming Erin's feeling better, I'll not have to put up with the return of Video Packages, with the Bikini Boot Camp, or with the spirit-crushing squash of Tajiri by Chris Masters next Monday...
    And here's hoping that no matter how self-promotional Hogan is next Monday, that his appearance on the Cabana is ULTIMATELY more beneficial to Carlito than it is to VH-1. Could be another chance for Carlito to do something cool....
  • Something else that I'm ASSUMING happens next week is the final Roster Lock Down after final trades. Which could be very interesting. If it happens.
    Because oddly, WWE has not mentioned the ability to trade or existence of a trading deadline or anything since back before the Draft Lottery actually started. Back then, vague mention was made that GM Approved Trades between the brands would be legal "until the conclusion of the Draft Lottery." But it was never explained more clearly than that. And now, there's been no mention of the Trade Mechanism AT ALL on TV in the 2-plus months since Vince announced the basic rules. Strange.
    I hope the trading is still on, and that WWE is just sort of keeping it quiet because they don't want to spoil the thunder of the final round of draft picks. Hopefully, on next Monday and Thursday, we'll find out a whole other slew of Role Players who have been traded, since it can't ALL be high profile mega-stars, right? There's too many of those role players who would benefit from trades to NOT make a bunch of moves after the "drafting" is done.
    I guess maybe we'll see if they mention anything about this on Thursday, or if they keep us hanging till Monday... I've mentioned this before, but my Best Case Scenario is for next Monday night to be a huge show with both brands in attendence so that the GMs may make trades on the spot, and have EVERYbody be fair game for skits/campaigning/etc. I think that'd be a really cool use of the "supershow" taping situation, and I think it'd be the way to put a big climactic tag on the whole month-long draft lottery. That said: if WWE had something cool like that planned, I'd think they'd have started hyping it. And they haven't. So I wouldn't go getting my hopes up.
  • Speaking (however briefly) about Thursday night...
    I've again managed to keep myself Spoiler Free, since I think that's the best way to wring as much entertainment out of Thursday nights as possible. But I'd like to chat for a bit about a few SmackDown! topics...
    So I guess if you HAVE spoilered yourself (SHAME ON YOU, you weakminded nosy nellies!), this is gonna be a useless bulletpoint for you. Me speculating about something that (to you) already happened. Hey, deal with it. And maybe if you weren't so insistent on being a know-it-all, you could quit worrying about Spoilers and just try to enjoy the show on Thursdays! 
    Anyway, I didn't get to say much about last week's SD!, other than generically praising it as much better than last week's RAW. A huge part of that was the 30-minute Eddie/Rey main event, which was pretty much outstanding. It almost felt like it could be the blow-off to the feud, with Rey getting to claim the victory; I kinda thought one of the two (preferably Rey) might get sent over to RAW as a final Draft Pick, but that didn't happen. I guess that probably means they aren't done yet, afterall. And man alive, that can only be a good thing if it's more like that that we got in store. Bring on Eddie/Rey Chapter Whateverteen we must be up to! I'll take as much as you want to serve up! 
    But even with the killer main event aside, I actually didn't think the show had ANY serious holes at all, which is what distinguished it from the pacing-problem-laden RAW last week... even if I don't give a shit about Heidenreich, there's still something a bit more amusing about him vs. MNM (*with* a storyline, no matter how silly) than Charlie Haas/Bob Holly vs. MNM (with NO story). 
    The big mid-show promo with the invention of "the SD! Title" was also a pretty good showcase for all involved. Even BEFORE I saw the show, back last Monday when I was doing some chatting and thought that Hassan was a likely guy to go over to SD!, I was curious as to whether that would lead to a face turn for JBL; I fear that even more now. And my guess is that it would be the end of JBL's relevance, because the few things that make him entertaining aren't things I think he can do as a babyface. Which won't stop him from trying to mask that with patriotism, but I really don't think it'll work. The alternative that I proposed was something that one or two readers have actually since mailed in about (but hey, I had this idea 10 days ago, dammit!): that JBL and Hassan would make a VERY interesting tag team/faction, and instead of playing the blind jingoism card, you play it smarter, you take a look at current events, and you see how a certain Texan appearing to be in bed with those of Arab descent has made him a heel to some. I'd name names, but I'm just trying to tell a wrestling story here, people, not get ANOTHER four dozen misguided e-mails about my political biases. Obviously, it might get a little silly if Hassan was selling JBL oil, but a bit of creativity, and I think Hassan could supply JBL with something else (even if it's just muscle/back-up in the wake of the break-up of the Cabinet) and JBL could be a stronger heel than ever by declaring that no matter the color of his skin, Muhammad Hassan is a capitalist and a man of principles, and JBL can respect and celebrate that. If you do *THIS* for long enough, then you MIGHT actually get to the point where (again, paralleling current events) the masses start DEMANDING that the dim-witted Texan quit giving preferential treatment to the Ay-rabs... and if/when JBL does it after an extended build-up, then and ONLY then might he have a future as a babyface. But I digress... 
    I also didn't mind the debut of the Mexicools.  There's some things they'll have to be careful about, but since SD! is intentionally designed to appeal to the Latino audience (it's one of the top 10 shows on all of network TV among Latinos), I think WWE will be cognizant of that and not do anything TOO silly. So yeah, there's shades of Kaientai or the LWO... but there's nothing wrong with a bit of comic relief. And there's nothing wrong with three guys who I'd like to see wrestle getting pushed with a new gimmick. You know: somebody should check to see if TAKA Michinoku's busy. Because a Kaientai Reunion would not only make my Favorite Wrestling T-Shirt relevant again, but it would make for an interesting style of Promo Warfare. Imagine TAKA doing the "voice-over"/"evil" part of a Kaientai Promo, while Funaki supplies the real "indeed" at the end since he's now capable of speaking; imagine that being countered by Juvi's half-intelligible gibberish. Could be amusing... Akio can even be the third Kaientai, if you want. Or Kenzo (since he's apparently almost healthy again)... yeah, Kenzo might be hilarious at this, if only because adding Hiroko to the mix intrigues the Fantasy Booking Lobe of my brain. Kenzo vs. Juvi promos might be worth whatever in-ring shittiness Kenzo might cause. But I digress again.
    About the only thing I didn't care for last week was the opening Orton/Taker bit. Orton played fast-and-loose with logic and causality again (rewriting the weeks leading into WM21, either intentionally or not, to eliminate key portions of his own Injury Story, including the part where he ORIGINALLY blamed Batista for the shoulder injury, but last Thursday, went OUT OF HIS WAY to ignore Batista's contribution and claim that Taker alone was responsible; christ, the continuity flaws are drawn to Orton, like bird poop to a pretty statue). And then it all led up to a display of the Gay Spooky, in the form of a Very Bad Special effect, which was supposed to simulate a lightning bolt striking from the heavens in front of Orton. Goddammit... I got nothing against an Orton/Taker feud, mostly just on the grounds that I trust that Take's bad-assery will require Young Randall looking like a Little Bitch with great frequency... but Gay Spooky light shows are not what I want Randall cowering from. I guess maybe until he's recovered from surgery, taking Grade-A ass-whuppings is out of the question, though?
    And of course, all this build up to this week on SD!... where the show seems to revolve around six men fighting for the new "SD! Title." Well, make the five men, since Big Show was drafted to RAW.
    But still, even before that, I'd basically whittled the possible winners down to three. No sooner had SD! gone off the air last week then I'd pieced it together: Taker's already got Orton on his plate and that doesn't need the title to work, so you can just have Orton come in and cost Taker the match... Big Show I had figured for being screwed by Matt Morgan, given Morgan's appearance last week, but now I don't even need that since Show's on RAW... and Booker T? Booker isn't allowed to win the big gold, it's a a Rule (just ask HHH).
    So that left me down to Hassan, JBL, and Benoit. If I thought that SD! Title was gonna mean anything, I swear that I'd spend paragraphs INSISTING that Benoit win it, since he's the only one of the three who could legitimize a title. But as you know if you read the Vengeance Preview, I do NOT think the SD! Title will mean anything in the long run: the crappy, half-assed name of the title alone makes that clear. I think the SD! Title is being created for the sole purpose of being "unified" with one of the established titles coming over from RAW. And since both those titles are held by babyfaces, that kinda seems to disqualify Benoit, doesn't it?
    So I figure we're down to JBL or Hassan winning the "SD! Title." And then, since it makes no sense to TRADE for a champion (Bischoff would have to be an awful negotiator to trade away one of his champs without getting something massive in return), I figure the final Draft Lottery Pick will be revealed once Hassan or JBL wins. And you know what? I'd probably wager a body part that it'll be Batista who comes over from RAW. Two reasons: (1) it SEEMS as though it is not legal to be "redrafted," so Cena may not be eligible, and (2) Batista's promo, which included a tangent about his belt being the only one in the business that means anything, practically BEGS for him to be the one to go and say, "Cute belt, JBL-or-Hassan, but MINE is the only one that matters, so let's fight: two belts on the line, winner take all." In my mind, that's really the only possible logical ending for tomorrow's SD!...
    I figure Batista-to-SD! MIGHT mean JBL wins the SD! Title, too... if only because I'd rather see Hassan "protected" by taking some cheap loss in a six-man match so he can claim, like the spectacular liar that he is, to be undefeated for months and months to come. Which wouldn't happen if his first "SD! Title" Defense was a one-on-one match with Batista. Instead, JBL is a perfect first lamb for Batista: he's got just enough juice left that people will want to see him get his ass kicked again, but his value is on the decline, so you can job him out cleanly and decisively to the new arrival. As a bonus: if I'm guessing right and it's JBL vs. Batista for Title Unification, you can go back and rehash some of the storyline stuff from February, when JBL was caught taking smack about Batista as part of HHH's ploy to try to get Batista to jump to SD! (and remember, it worked well enough that Batista showed up on SD! to beat the shit out of JBL's limo... AND JBL, too), so there's history here to play off of, which is a cool value-add.
    Batista-to-SD! has ANOTHER possible bonus. Once Batista settles in and gets the titles unified (I figure this will happen no later than SummerSlam), then he can get down to the business of just worrying about his World Heavyweight Title... which should happen just about the same time that Randall Orton is done getting his ass handed to him by the Undertaker. You could even have Orton steal some cheap win over Taker to temporarily end their issue, and then all the history between Orton and Batista is fair game for THEM to do a feud this fall. Of course, if this happens, you realize that it makes Orton's promo from LAST week all the more astoundingly inept in retrospect: why eliminate Batista from your past if you want to leave that door open for a future feud? Orton's probably good for a couple title shots, and then here's a story that I think might be interesting: HHH spends the next 7 months seething that Batista "escaped," but HHH wins the Royal Rumble, and out of spite, chooses to jump to SD! to take his shot at Batista and the precious World Title one more time at WM22. It'd be a nice counterpoint to Batista winning this past year's Rumble and opting to stay on RAW to face HHH...  but again, I'm probably planning WAY too far ahead, and digressing to boot, right?
    What can I say, it's a gift.
    I realize that I'm acting like Batista-to-SD! is a lock here... which those of you who spoiled SD! already might think incredibly foolish of me. But if I'm right, you may feel free to think me incredibly wise, too. But I really do think it's the only POSSIBLE way to go for one of SD! final two picks. One of those titles has to switch back, anyway, and I see no logical way to do it by trading, and Cena can be redrafted, AND Batista cut that promo on Monday, so... this really is the only way. But I've kinda got myself convinced that even if it's the only way, there's some cool things that can come of it. So we'll have to see how things play out tomorrow....
    The other draft pick? Beats the hell out of me. Remember: we had WWE.com fuck up temporarily and put Eugene on the SD! roster page last week.... which would make sense, since then it's a perfect fit for Eugene and Heidenreich to form Retardation Nation, the OMG~! HOTTEST Tag Team Ever. Just in time for Heidenreich to need a partner against MNM, too. Could it be more perfect? [Note: I'd actually rather NOT see this, but all the pieces seem to fit, and in "WWE Think" I figure it's practically inevitable that Eugene goes to SD! to team with Heidenreich.] The question is: would Eugene be a draft pick, or could they sneak him in as a trade? Come to think of it, a trade would make LOTS more sense... wouldn't it be a nice tip of the cap to continuity to have Eric Bischoff going OUT OF HIS WAY to pawn off his meddlesome nephew onto Teddy Long? Yeah... yeah, I like that. If Eugene MUST go -- and remember, I wish he wouldn't -- then it would be via trade, not via draft. Of course, trusting WWE to come to the same conclusion is NOT something I would do.
    Another guy who I think is a VERY likely alternative is Chris Jericho. Going back to stuff we've been talking about since last week: with fellow heel Carlito now doing the talk show gimmick on RAW, it seems like Jericho's usefulness there has been halved. If the two could feud, that'd be one thing, but they're both heels, and Carlito appears to have his plate full in the short term with RVD. So Jericho going over to SD! makes a lot of sense to me. Plus: if he follows World Champ Batista, that means he might be in line for Title Shots, since JBL and Orton can't carry the brand for a year. Glorious Title Shots for Y2J! And while he's waiting for them? Feuds against Chris Benoit and Rey Mysterio! Are you kidding me? This is a Good Thing, dammit!
    Something that makes Jericho a strong possibility to be the other draft pick: what if Teddy Long wants to replace Big Show in the six-man "SD! Title" match? What better way to do it than by mixing in a newly drafted heel from RAW? Slide Jericho in there, and instantly, you have another possible winner... in fact, I'm going to give myself a raging hard-on here by fantasy booking Jericho to show up as the draft pick, and WIN the "SD! Title" and THEN have Batista show up with the World Title, and THEN, after some cat-and-mouse, the Unification Match could be put off till the fall or later, because Batista only started laying the foundation for "title unification" with his promo on Monday night. But Jericho LIVED Title Unification 4 years ago. If World and SD! Titles are to be unified, Jericho is a WAY more convincing heel to have playing foil to Batista than Hassan or JBL: because unlike either of them, he HAS unified two titles before. Oh, man: that would be the PERFECT play here. Shocking because Jericho shows up and takes Big Show's spot in the match, more shocking because then Jericho wins the SD! Title, and then most shocking of all when Batista shows up with the World Title in tow.
    Goddammit: I know there are other entertaining outs, but now, if this exact scenario doesn't happen, I'm going to be disappointed tomorrow by SD!. Jesus, people, won't one of you organize an intervention or a telethon or something to get me to quit Fantasy Booking these sweet-ass ideas which end up serving no purpose other than to reduce my enjoyment of whatever WWE actually ends up serving up? I need to stop doing this to myself....
    Anyway, I think I've pretty much exhausted all the SD! thoughts I wanted to talk about. And then I went and off-the-cuff made up a few new thoughts (like that Jericho thing), to boot. Point is, tomorrow oughta be interesting. I really do think Batista's a lock to jump. But the other draft pick and which of Hassan or JBL wins the SD! Title are some pretty wide-open issues (and depending on the other draft pick, it might NOT be Hassan or JBL who wins the SD! Title). Last week's SD! caught me totally by surprise by being awesome. But tomorrow night, I'm actually gonna be fired up for the show heading in. Should be a good 'un if they do things even halfway smart. Big Danny T will have the recap for you on Friday, so come on back for that.
  • Matt Hardy's managing to stir the pot in a new and exciting way... in a new posting to his official website, Matt asks fans (purely hypothetically) where they would like to see him show up next. He goes out of his way to say he wants them to consider a "perfect world" where all options are open to him.
    Then again, he also prefaced his post with "Hola amigos," which unless he did it as a purposeful homage as a bad idea; because that ALWAYS reminds me that one stoner character who does editorials for "The Onion" and starts off every one with "Hola" or "Hola amigos" or something close to it. Because of that guy (what's his name, dammit? he's nowhere near as awesome as Smoove B or Jackie Harvey, but still, I should remember this!), anybody who uses Hola-related Spanglish greetings in an attempt to be chummy puts me in the mind of losery, whiny, slackers like that guy in the Onion. For better or for worse, because of that guy, the "hola" people are right up there with the "dawg" people in my book. Which I figure I'd mention only because SOME of you dickweeds out there have pegged Matt as a "whiner" in this ordeal, which I didn't think fit at all. [cue dramatic music] Until now......
    Except not really. One isolated "Hola Amigos" does not a loser make. And Matt's question is really the important thing here, because the general belief is that WWE and Matt Hardy probably spoke at some point late last week or over the weekend, leading to them calling the audible to use Matt's entrance theme as a late addition to the Edge/Lita wedding.
    The nature of that discussion? Nobody knows for sure.... but there are a few people on the TNA Side of Things who have become very concerned that they will NOT be getting Matt Hardy under contract to do a planned appearance at the next PPV (where it was expected that he'd debut in an angle against Jeff Jarrett). They aren't necessarily saying Matt has already agreed to return to WWE, but that Matt has decided to leave his options open... which means honoring his ROH and other indie commitments over the summer, but NOT signing a TNA contract that would eliminate the possibility of a WWE return.
    Interesting. And Matt's wording of his question to fans is interesting to. He can't come right out and say, "and go ahead and include WWE as an option, and maybe even go ahead and consider that both RAW and SD! are possibilities." But he did make it clear that this "purely hypothetical" question did not have any limitations.
    The one issue that raises in MY mind is: did Matt put this out there just to get people talking about a possible WWE return? Or did Matt put this out there to test the waters and make sure his supporters want him to go back to WWE, even if there's a chance he might not be as big a star there as he would in TNA or wherever else?
    If it's the latter, I speak only for myself when I say: if WWE is an option, that's where Matt should be. Consider this: I like Matt Hardy, but I like Molly Holly even more. But if Molly shows up in TNA, I'm not suddenly going to be compelled to watch the show more enthusiastically or religiously just because she's there. A wrestling company is bigger than one person, and there's enough wrong with TNA that just Molly ain't gonna fix it for This Viewer. Same thing holds true for Matt. As a selfish fan who wants his favorite stars on a show he actually cares about, I say bring Matt Hardy back to RAW. No true fan will think less of Matt picking the bigger paycheck and more-gratifyingly-large audience.
    This'll be an interesting one, folks. *IF* Matt still shows up on TNA's next PPV, I'd guess that means we know for sure he's not coming back to WWE... but if he doesn't show up there, then who the hell knows? It just means he hasn't decided yet.
  • The ECW One Night Stand DVD was released yesterday (correctly guessing that the show would have a strong and positive buzz, and remembering that ECW's early growth came as a result of tape traders, WWE wanted to short circuit bootlegged copies of the PPV by getting the PPV to market as quick as they could)...
    And the reviews are unanimous: if you can find a bootlegged copy of the original broadcast, get that instead. There are minor edits throughout, which are more annoying than anything else, I guess... but a small deluge of angry e-mails says that WWE eliminated one of the night's signature moments in a cost-cutting move: Sandman's ring entrance is clipped down, and the sing-along to "Enter Sandman" is muted out in favor of generic background music. The fuck?
    OK, so I know Metallica are a bunch of whiny douches when it comes to protecting their music. But they should be happy that somebody still remembers the last good record they put out, and wants to include it on a DVD. I can't imagine the band outright forbade licensing "Enter Sandman" to WWE for DVD use (they let them have it for single-broadcast use, and they -- or at least their record label -- was in bed with WWE two summers ago to help promote their last album). Whatever my issues with Metallica, the bad guys here HAVE to be WWE, for refusing to pick up the tab to retain a signature moment of one of their events. And somebody tell me: did ECW have any of this trouble on their home video or DVD releases? I think not, since I got more than a few ECW Arena shows on video, and "Enter Sandman" was always there...
    And christ, ECW went out of their way to get somebody (it might even, ironically enough, have been Dave Mustaine, but don't quote me on that, it's been YEARS since I threw that CD in; either him, or it might have been Motorhead, which would be oddly apropos) to do a half-assed cover of "Enter Sandman" for one of the ECW Compilation CDs they put out towards the end of their existence. And *that* version should almost certainly have been the property of ECW, and thus, should NOW be property of WWE. If you HAD to take out the Metallica version because of either (a) cheapness or (b) the band's douchebaggery, why not just throw the crappy ECW-paid-for cover version in instead? With the computers today, you could easily phase or pitch shift it so that the cover could still fit the sing-along.
    I'm not saying nobody would notice, but I'm saying at least it'd be CLOSER to the real deal.
    So WWE kinda screwed the pooch there. Somebody in the front office thinks, "Eh, it's just a ring entrance, let's save the money." But that's only because so few people in WWE actually understand ECW or how they managed to form a bond with fans that WWE should be insanely jealous of... it's not "just a ring entrance," it's pretty much the only thing Sandman does really well! And he includes the fans in it. Without that ring entrance, Sandman's a shell of himself. Just ask WCW.
    And honestly: it's yet another example of why I just don't fit in with most internet jackoffs and the "IWC" or whatever label they want to use, but even though One Night Stand had some dandy wrestling, one of the biggest "just-sit-there-and-grin-like-an-idiot" moments for me was Sandman's ring entrance. It ain't all about the workrate; sometimes, it's just about The Moments. The One Night Stand DVD will be devoid of at least that one Moment. Boo on that.
    Making matters worse: because of the rush job they did to get the DVD to market, there are almost zero bonus features. Just a few of the segments that aired on RAW, I gather, and some of the personalized vignettes that ran as ads on WWE TV. The only significant bonus feature is live running commentary by JBL: he was mic'ed after he sat down in the balcony, and you can turn on that audio track if you want. But it's nothing to write home about... it's all "in character" stuff, just randomly mocking all things ECW. Unless JBL actually believes all the things he's saying, which would somehow make it even less entertaining to listen to.
    From e-mails, I guess the one kinda-funny part is that JBL is drinking beers at a rapid rate after he sits down, and starts claiming Extreme Drunkenness right before leaving for the Show Closing Brawl. Fucking lightweight: six beers and you're wasted? And you're 6'5" and 300 lbs? Pansy. Put that on the list of things about JBL that do not impress me.
    Still, you can probably find the ECW DVD easier than you can track down a bootlegged copy at this point, and the price will probalby end up being about the same, as long as you shop at Best Buy or Amazon, where they'll mark it down to under $20. Sandman's ring entrance aside, this really was the PPV Of The Year, so far and you just need to see it. You can always do your own Remix at home, anyway. I don't know anybody my age, plus or minus 5 years, who doesn't own The Black Album. As I recall: your cue to hit "play" on Track 1 so that it syncs up with Sandman's beer openings and posing is when Dreamer suddenly stops staring intensely at the Dudleys and busts into a shit-eating grin. That's the cue that the opening arpeggio has begun...
    One way or another, though, folks: get a look at this PPV. You won't be disappointed.
  • A few things from Monday's TV tapings: apparently, there is a belief that another round of releases is coming up before WWE's jump back to USA Network. A few reasons trickled back to me, but I guess a lot of it has to do with WWE losing the Heat/Velocity b-shows, which means they need less b-talent. Although my understanding was that they intend to continue the b-show tradition by upgrading the syndicated programs, those shows will be even lower-profile that Heat and Velocity were.
    Plus, Viacom PAID for Heat and Velocity (and paid handsomely), but WWE's new deal with NBC/Universal for slots on USA Network are not nearly as lucrative for WWE, and they won't come close to matching the Heat/Velocity fees in syndication, either. So less money coming in from TV shows apparently means less money going out to staff those TV shows, since there'll be even less room for them to get spots on TV.
    If I thought for sure that WWE would only cut the guys who work the b-shows and DESERVE to be stuck on the B-shows, that'd be fine... there's nothing wrong with thinning the herd a bit if you only cut guys who are not drawing now and who also have limited upside. But WWE's shown time and time again that it has it's own criteria for making personnel decisions and they are NOT in any way related to making sure they retain the guys with the most talent/appeal to fans. 
    So if the buzz is that another round of cuts is coming (which I'd tend to think is a sensible thing for WWE's workers to believe, given the nature of this fall's TV contract shake-up), I guess we, as fans, might as well be on edge, too. We might be getting ready to lose some more of our favorites.
    What a happy piece of news to make the rounds just as the combined RAW and SD! crews got ready to head off for a 5 day tour of the Orient! I'm sure that made the flight even MORE fun!
    And another thing: I might get my wish afterall, with regards to the Diva Search. Apparently more than one of the girls were NOT happy backstage with the nature of their first "challenge"... not so much that they were asked to strip down, but that they weren't warned ahead of time, and thus weren't prepared to do it well. I guess naming names on this story is a bad thing (since the girls in question were careful to NOT bitch to management to create the illusion of being troublesome, but did to some of the other girls and guys in the lockerroom since it really was kinda unfair), but I figure I can toss out a few Completely Speculative (I Swear!) Suggestions, and let you pick and choose your own Happy Meal of Discontent... because even just from what you saw on Monday, you might be able to figure this one out. Maybe it was the girl who wasn't wearing any underwear who was one of the upset ones? Or maybe it was the one who was wearing functional underwear, instead of sexy underwear? Or maybe it was the girl who couldn't get her jeans off since she was wearing boots, and had to spend part of the segment waddling around with her pants around her knees? Or maybe it was the girl who didn't even bother taking off a single item of clothing and tried to cover it up by pouring beer all over herself? Pick a few: maybe you'll be a winner!
    And again: the ONLY way I can see really being interesting in any of these contestants is if they actually nut up and take their discontent public. A few girls tried to "turn heel" on the other girls by calling them "prissy" or "cute" or whatever... but turning heel on a bunch of bimbos we already don't care about won't work. But if one of them took a chance and just decided to turn heel ON THE ENTIRE CONTEST? Wrestling fans HATE the contest, as is evidenced that every In-Arena Diva Search Segment last year and the only one so far this year have been met with boos! So if you turn on that, you'll be adored by the fans!
    You'll have to do it right: you want to be cocky and aloof, but you gotta do it with a sense of humor otherwise you'll just seem like a bitch (note: this means that annoying European Model is out) or like you're trying too hard (note: this means the beer-spilling girl is out, too). Something to consider, though. Doing this might eliminate your chances of getting hired as a Diva Search Loser, but it might also be more than enough to guarantee your victory in the popular vote! Something to consider, anyway... afterall, if WWE can keep it secret from the girls that they'll be asked to strip on national TV, why can't one of the girls keep it secret from WWE that she's gonna make a mockery of the whole contest and win over the audience in so doing?
  • OK, OK, I hear you folks: so I checked out another interview done by the guys who did the Ivory one a few weeks ago. This time, it was with Billy Gunn. I'm sorry: "The Outlaw."
    And scanning the typed summary, it seemed like maybe you just wanted me to hear one specific passage... because there was largely very little new or interesting said, it seemed. Billy, like many WWE cast-offs, doesn't think highly of HHH. Billy, like many TNA employees, tries to put the company over as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Entire topic areas that fail to intrigue me... given that this same pair of hosts got Ivory talking semi-bad about HHH (but also seemed to lack the intellectual quickness to ask probing follow-ups that might have specified her complaints about HHH and other aspects of the WWE product), I wonder if maybe they aren't just in the realm of Internet Jackoff.  The realm where HHH is evil, and as long as you acknowledge that, you will be taken seriously by the other clueless putzes who populate the "IWC."
    Anyway, I'm not entirely sure how it came up, but in the middle of talking about TNA's two divas and their troubles (from what I gather, though, if one of the girls leaves, TNA's gonna get the better end of the stick, because mega-hot Tracey will be the one who stays), Billy goes off on a tangent about the bitchiness of the WWE women. And then, apropos of nothing, blurts out that Trish Stratus is a "piece of shit." Whoa. No other WWE woman is singled out (well, except for Nidia, who is singled out in a positive way), and Billy just vaguely talks about the bitchy, catfighty-ness of the WWE women, saying, in essence, "You know how it is when 2 or more girls get together." Oy, Billy. You've been around the world HOW MANY times, and THIS is your enlightened stance on women? Two or more women can't get together without getting into fierce arguments over who is hotter/smarter/more talented, and thus possesses the attributes necessary to attract the male of the species for purposes of marriage and procreation? I'm not saying it isn't funny to JOKE about the dumbness of "Sex in the City," or that I don't prefer girls who have more guy-friends than girl-friends, but you STILL shouldn't say that shit in public without it being clear that you're being ironic or sarcastic or something, Billy... which he was not.
    Anyway, Mr. Enlightenment opted to NOT explain his comments about Trish. And the idiot hosts? Didn't push him hard at all. Now see, me, I don't care if it's Trish or if it's Boobies McTitsalot.... somebody says something that inflammatory, I'm gonna follow up and make them defend it and explain it. And I won't let the interview proceed until they do, or until I'm satisfied that I've made my point that I tried really hard and it's the INTERVIEW SUBJECT who is a dillhole and not me. This, sadly, did not happen. And now, I just really want to know what spawned Billy's sudden (and unprovoked, nearly non-sequitur-ish) outburst.
    I mean, the truth is, I've never met Trish. I've met most of the other divas, and the kinda-funny thing is that it's the fact that I've NOT met Trish that makes it so easy to have my little Grown Man Crush on her. Because I can take the available evidence from TV and interviews and whatnot, and it APPEARS to add up to a girl who's pretty cool. So I can pretend she's as fun to talk to as to look at, which isn't really the case for all the WWE babes. And yet, here's Billy Gunn, calling her a piece of shit. A level of hostility he was only barely able to muster when talking about that dastard Triple H. Perhaps it's just that part of me I try to keep under wraps (the Inappropriately/Incongruously Possessive and Protective Side), but I REALLY want to know what Trish's awful little secret is, now. What have I missed in my part-time attempt to fabricate and attribute a real-life persona to her based on scraps of evidence?
    Or is it as simple as Billy Gunn pulling a Randy Orton on this one? Don't pretend like you don't know what I'm talking about...
    Anyway, my curiosity is piqued. You can check the exact quote (and the rest of Billy Gunn's interview) at voiceofwrestling.com... but you'll only be left as baffled as I was.
  • I think that's about enough for today. Twas a loaded column, don't you think?
    And good news: if news is slow (as it might be, with WWE off the continent this week), I might give myself Friday off, but I've got something pretty sweet waiting in reserve to bust out on you. Five pages of Photoshop Phun, baby! We'll see how it goes, but the rest of the week should be loaded with gOOdness whether you see me again or not.
    Might not be a jim dandy of a column, but I do promise to pop in with SOMEthing on the Fourth of July. Even if it's just RAW Preview and stuff, I'll get it posted before I head on out for the day (and evening).... see you then at the latest!

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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