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A Surprising SD!, Ratings, "Terror Cell" 
Outrage, Releases, Lesnar, and MORE!
July 8, 2005

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com



I don't know whether or not Live-8 was a success in terms of generating awareness and mobilizing the forces of People Power to change Global Politics. But I think it's hilarious that it was a success in terms of mobilizing the forces of People Power to change MTV's programming plans! 

I'd like to think I was some small part of that, what with my Monday Pre-Ramble and all. But I honestly never expected an actual admission of guilt from MTV for the way they presented their coverage (with frequent interruptions and few, if any, complete performances shown). I figured that was par for the course, and I honestly hadn't expected must more from them.

But then today, they announce that due to viewer outcries, they are gonna have a complete re-do tomorrow. Ten full hours (five on MTV, five on VH-1), completely re-cut and re-edited, with full performances by the higher profile acts (and at least full SONGS by the lesser ones) and no commercial breaks. Hey, that's nice of them. Maybe The Who won't get cut off in the middle of a song this time?

Too bad the main problem remains: that there probably weren't 10 hours worth of memorable performances all day long. From what I saw, the handful of acts I'd want to see in their entirety if probably limited to: the Who, Floyd, U2, Audioslave, Green Day, Jet, the Black Eyed Peas, and maybe Deep Purple (only if they played "Space Truckin'," though). Did Velvet Revolver play? I thought they were supposed to, but I can't remember seeing 'em; if they did, they're on my list to. There's a few other bands I guess I *should* name, out of respect, or whatever, but do any of us really want to get in line to watch Year 13 of Michael Stipe pretty much just acting weird instead of putting out good records like he used to? Nah... for all the names, there were few on the line-up I could really get excited about, and several of the venues had zero (0) watchable acts. London, Berlin, and Toronto seemed to get the best of it. Hell, the Philadelphia line-up was borderline-horrible, and I thought that was supposed to be the "#2 show" (behind London). Seriously: after the Black-Eyed Peas, I guess seeing Stevie Wonder's full set might not be too hateful.... but from there, the only other two acts I saw that even remotely caught my eye were Bon Jovi and Def Leppard, and that was more in a "Whoa, I bet I would have LOVED this back in third grade!" kind of way. Other than that, it sure seemed like Philly got stuck with a lot of newer Crap Rock and Pseudo-Country.

Although, if Toby Keith played that "Boot Up Your Ass" song, that never fails to amuse me. Albeit probably not the same way it amuses most of his True Fans.

Anyway, it was fun to see a multi-billion dollar corporation humbly admit they fucked up. The Live-8 remix: maybe something to keep an eye on tomorrow, if you're bored. But probably not. I mostly just mention it because of the Sweet Sweet Vindication Factor!

But let's get on with the rasslin':

  • Gotta start with last night's SD!, right? And while we'll get to the part that it seems like YOU all want to talk about in a second here, I just want to start off with more of an overview of the night.
    I guess you pretty much have to call SD! the better show over RAW this week; they had two matches that were better than any in-ring action on RAW (and a third that was close), they had a really neat surprise in the form of the bWo showing up to confront JBL, and they even made a semi-save on the Rey/Eddie thing (to turn it more into a mystery, instead of having it be a lame soap opera with Rey's kid asked to be an on-screen character). But at the end of the night, they also had nothing even CLOSE to the cool surprise of Shawn Michaels turning heel on Hulk Hogan, and it really did feel like the show limped home from a momentum standpoint.
    Caveat: some of that could be attributable to the live fans, who had already seen the Michaels heel turn and were coming up on 5 hours of TV tapings by the time SD! finally wrapped up. They might have been tired, and their exhaustion might have played a part in my sense that for as much as Christian and Batista were trying in the main event, it just wasn't getting on track.
    So maybe it was a bit more solid, segment-by-segment, than RAW... but I still couldn't deny the sense that it was solid stuff that didn't exactly rivet my attention the way it should have. The way RAW did during it's 2 or 3 rare moments of excitement earlier in the week. SD!'s only real "perk-up and pay attention" moment was when the Blue World Order showed up. Whoa. Was NOT expecting that. And again: god bless Spoiler Avoidance...
    Some general thoughts on what went down (excepting one segment, which I'll cover later on):
    I know he impressed us and made us eat crow last fall when he finally morphed into a viable chickenshit heel champ (in our faces!), but my OOfficial guess is that JBL Jumps The Shark after Great American Bash. Assuming "Jump the Shark" hasn't already Jumped the Shark, that is, cuz lord knows I must look hip! Point is: JBL's promo style works when he is the champion and when he can twist facts around to make himself look strong, because he DOES still have the title. But without the belt? His promos are kinda lame and flaccid, and take on a vibe of HHH's "I'm talking to hear the sound of my own voice, rather than to say something substantive that will be a value-add to the product." It was a hell of a year for JBL, and after sucking out loud for about 2-3 months, he sure as hell blew away all expectations as champ: but you heard it here first... three weeks from now, JBL's value will be as a tag team wrestler or as the head of another faction or something like that, because he's got no juice left in this current incarnation. His opening promo on Batista just BARELY inched over the Credibility Line because JBL was able to bust out the one-year-anniversary of the memorable-for-all-the-wrong-reasons Great American Bash 2004 PPV, which is where he won the title. Nice little tip of the cap to continuity, but it's not ultimately enough to make JBL a compelling challenger, and it sure as hell had better not be enough to make him the champion again.
    Luckily, just when I thought JBL was running on fumes, we got bailed out with the night's biggest and most pleasant surprise: the Blue World Order. Neat. And hey, if *this* is why Stevie Richards and Simon "Super Nova" Dean got traded over to SD!, well, I'll retroactively unsand my vagina on at least those two members of the trade. For one night, their gimmick was a parody of the Cabinet, and it all led up to Meanie pinning JBL. Double neat! One complaint: at what point did the thing become a No-DQ match? Because I don't think that was an original stip, and I have no clear memory of it being added in... or was I just not paying attention? In any case, Meanie's win only came after Stevie bloodied JBL with a chair, and after Batista made a surprise appearance to spinebuster JBL. Fun stuff, and I really do think that the bWo could have legs if the creative team doesn't get too much in the way of Stevie, Meanie, and Nova being creative... the genesis of the bWo involved parodying lots of other guys, not just Nash, Hogan, and Hall. SD! could milk that, and the bWo could do all kinds of "mini-runs" as different impersonators, just always coming back to Big Stevie Cool, Hollywood Nova, and the Blue Guy when they're done with a particular target. Effective return for the BWO and a fun angle to bail JBL out of a boring promo...
    Then you had the Benoit/Booker match. Nice attempted history lesson from Cole, who mentioned that 7 years ago, these two men fought in a best of 7 series for the US Title, and here they are tonight fighting just for a shot at the US Title. But somehow, it seems really unconvincing and patronizing to ask me to take wrestling history lessons from Michael fricking Cole. Also, the match itself was crisp and solid and thoroughly enjoyable... but was also only about 6 minutes long, which kind of craps on the memory of the Best of Seven Series, too, since we know what these two are capable of. Benoit wins, and I guess that's necessary, for the Good Of The Brand. I was talking to a friend right after Benoit got traded over, and although we had all kinds of ideas for how Benoit could end up back in the main event, I couldn't help but be Johnny Bringdown with some aside comment like, "Yeah, but I'll bet you anything that Benoit's over on SD! for US-Title-Rehabilitation Duty." And it looks like I was on to something. It might seem like a huge step down right now, just because of what Orlando Jordan (hasn't) done with the US Title, but give Benoit the right opponents and six months, and the title will be all better, and THEN we can recommence to moistening our panties with all manner of Benoit Fantasies.
    Next up was the Eddie/Rey/MNM stuff. They really should have left the overlong video recap of last week out of it, because last week really was quite lame. In fact, the backstage bit where Eddie just sort of dickishly made it clear that "I have a secret; a good one" would have been more than enough to propel the night's match and angle. I know there's still a lame soap opera-y-ness to it, but handled correctly (i.e. "handled NOT the WWE way") you could make it into an interesting mystery that people care about ("What the hell is Eddie's secret, dammit?!") instead of some crap-ass melodrama that leaves them chanting boring and wondering who wrote this shit (which, as it turns out, is what they were doing live in the arena last week, and I only found out this week about the monumental sound-fuckery WWE had to do so that it didn't come across on TV). Only idiot writers could have come up with Twizzlers as a Meaningful Symbolic Prop, and we don't need that horseshit in wrestling.
    Anyway, the backstage bit effectively unlamed the video package by just having Eddie convincingly play a dickhead who manipulates Rey into being his tag team partner for a match against MNM, even though Rey would rather not do it. Match is actually a good one (possibly even best of the night), albeit in a unique kind of way: very storyline-y and dramatic, as Eddie abandoned Rey about one-third of the way in, leaving Rey to work by himself. But that's still more than enough talent in the ring to work a good match to go along with the story, so it was a fun way to spend about 7-8 minutes. Obviously, Rey wins after not getting a lick of help from Eddie when MNM double-teamed him. And after the match, Eddie piled on with a verbal beating, and even forced him to open the ropes for him. Dick. Although part of me dreads that this will return to RetardoLand (since Rey's son was mentioned a few times even though he didn't actuall appear on-screen this week, and there are absolutely ZERO good "secrets" that could involve that; at least, none occurring to me off the top of my head), for one night, I got myself appreciating Eddie's assholitude, Rey's hands-tiedery, and the general anxiety over "I wonder what could be the secret." Cuz this week, it seemed like it might be more interesting and less gay than it seemed the week before. Blind optimism, I know....
    Then you had a William Regal vs. Matt Morgan match which did not happen. Because the Mexicools interrupted and beat the shit out of Morgan while Regal looked on with bemusement. Huh, strange. Mexicools are heels, Morgan's a heel, and Regal's a face, so that little dynamic was out of place. After the beatdown, the Mexicools did some of their perversely-engaging borderline-unintelligible ranting. Apparently, they are Taking Over. I wonder if they consulted the bWo? And off the top of my head, I guess getting a reunited Kaientai to take on the Mexicools is out, but what if the bWo went International, enlisted Funaki, and did a Kaientai PARODY to oppose the Mexicools? This way, and ONLY this way, could the line "choppy choppy your pee pee" be rendered funny for the RIGHT reasons. Note: This little harebrained idea that literally popped into my head seconds ago? Funnier and more creative than anything Steph's writer monkeys would have come up with if you give them three days and a dozen bottles of Trucker Speed. Not ultimately a big deal, or even PPV-worthy, necessarily.... but still funnier and more entertaining than a lot of things that HAVE been deemed so in the past.
    [Sidebar: did some checking today, and apparently the Mexicools segment was edited to eliminate a humorous tangent in which Juvi made fun of Matt Morgan for the way he talked. Oh, the ironing. I actually don't know what to make of that, since it sounded like this person thought it was the highlight of the Mexicools promo, due to the incongruity of Juvi giving anybody diction lessons... but my guess might be this is as good a sign as any that maybe all your smarky conspiracy theories need to be re-worked. Because taking out a promo against Matt Morgan is more than likely a sign that WWE didn't want to give Morgan any more TV time than absolutely necessary last night. So they just had him get his ass kicked, and that was the end of that. No extra mentions for the Fired Guy. Just a guess...]
    And then, skipping past a Particular Segment, we hit the main event. Which I thought was a nice try, but this just wasn't Christian and Batista's night. The crowd was already dead, and at 12-15 minutes long, this match featured a requisite 3-minute chinlock by Christian that didn't help matters. Nominal heat for Batista's comeback and decisive, squashtastic win, but not as much as there should have been.... which is doubly bad because I feel AWFUL for Christian that he didn't a better Exit Package in this match. There was no build up and no heat, and he just lost ignominiously; from being one of RAW's hottest underneath characters to being squashed in a flat-ass SD! match in just 2 weeks. Too bad. The way things finished last week, I really thing this should have been Christian's week to "get his heat back" (I would have gone with a cheap win over Booker T, since they were in the ring at the end of the preceding week's match), instead of a week to make him look like a clueless putz for the second time in a row.
    Then, with Booker already "spoken for," Benoit could have had his #1 Contender match be against an Actual Heel (instead of a fellow babyface), which would have upped the heat for that match. Muhammad Hassan would have worked, from a number of different levels, not the least of which is if you do that, then you COULD have changed up a few things with the Undertaker/Daivari match to make a more cohesive (and less-off-putting-to-idiot-viewers) story for the night. But now I'm getting ahead of myself, and I don't really have the time to do a whole SD! Remix like I've done recently for RAW. But suffice to say: sacrificing Christian this way to Batista is not what I'd have done, and once you change that up, there's a trickle down to other parts of the show that I might have liked to have seen altered, too.
    Still, it's not like RAW put up much of a fight this week. Take out Carlito's all-around hilarious performances, take out Jericho/Cena actually moving ahead with their feud despite my doubts, and take out Michaels' sweet-ass heel turn, and RAW had nothing to recommend it. Whereas SD! had decent stuff in most all segments, just none of it peaking anywhere near as high as RAW's peaks. I know my rantings and ravings do not suffice, so for the full details on last night's show, check out Big Danny T's SmackDown! Recap.
  • The rating for last night was a 3.2, which I think might be up a tick or two from the week before, but which is still not quite on par with SD!'s desired averages (which is more in the mid-3s).
    Then again, SD! can claim some manner of a moral victory, for their audience dwarfed RAW's this week... RAW only drew a 2.6 cable rating, it's worst for a first-run show in at least 18 months. Blame the July 4 holiday, I guess, except for the fact that I know a LOT of places where the major festivities/fireworks were done on Sunday, to allow people to stay up late and have fun, since they'd have Monday off... leaving Monday night as a "return to normal" night. I mean, it didn't work out like this for me, but I know it was like this even just in different parts of Dayton for different fireworks displays. So I might have guessed at a ratings drop-off for RAW. But not one like this. That is a loss of over one-third of their average audience.
    My analysis here might be flawed, but I checked ratings for network TV, and collating ratings data with share data, it looks like TV viewership was down around 20% one the whole Monday. That's more like what I would have expected.  But WWE lost about 35% of its audience. Is there something in the translation between network and cable viewing patterns that make my analysis flawed? Are WWE viewers merely 75% cooler than average TV viewers, and thus had better things to do on Monday night in greater numbers? Is there some other explanation? I dunno, but that's a HUGE hit for RAW, one that's even bigger than what they might have expected, and one that means that SD! was actually seen in about one million more households than RAW this week, which is certainly NOT the standard these days.
  • OK, we have to talk about this, right? Muhammad Hassan's "Terror Cell" attacking the Undertaker. On the night after terrorists killed 50-something people in London.
    Let me just go ahead and get this out of the way upfront:
    If this bothered you (I mean REALLY bothered you, not just annoyed you, but OFFENDED you enough to write or e-mail about it), and you're not living in the UK and weren't directly affected by Thursday morning's events, then you may kindly kiss my ass.
    Don't get me wrong: there was a lot wrong with that bit. But none (zero, zilch, nada) has anything to do with subway bombings in London.
    Fact: WWE taped this on Tuesday. This was not an attempt to capitalize on current events, or even a willful ignorance of current events in order to press ahead with a tasteless angle. They just didn't know. They couldn't know. And thus, they can not be label evil in this.
    Fact: Hassan's "terror cell" didn't bomb the Undertaker or use any form of imagery that had anything resembling any ties to what happened in London. Hassan's goons didn't fly model airplanes into the ring to crash into Taker, nor did they come up from the hidden subway under the ring with suicide packs strapped to their chests. They beat the crap out of him with pipes and a garrote. You people gonna bitch if men in striped suits come out and save Nunzio from an attack next week? Assuming Nunzio ever gets on TV again, that is? Of course you won't. Re-fucking-lax.
    And the BIGGEST FACT OF ALL: it's time to fucking quit worrying about what other people think about you, and actually THINK about something before you SAY something about it. Because sure: the easy thing to do is to respond with "Yeah, sure, I guess that could have been handled better by WWE" if some overly-sensitive, self-righteous, wants-to- prove-he's-more-socially-aware-and-sensitive-than-you douchebag blurts out "Hey, did you see SD!? That was pretty disgusting what they did.". You respond that way because you don't want to be thought of as a bastard or a bitch. But admit it: if you stop, think about this, and aren't a completely spineless wussbag, then you don't mean it. Because no rational human being looks at a tragedy like what happened in London and thinks "It is incumbent upon a pro wrestling company to respond to this horrible incident in a responsible, conciliatory, and apologetic fashion." If you think this, kindly pop off out back and shoot yourself in the skull. You know who should feel sorry for what happened in London? You know who should apologize? You know who should be vilified for bad behavior? THE FUCKING TERRORISTS. They? Did something wrong, very wrong. WWE? Did nothing wrong, not a damned thing.
    I mention this because I know there is some small subset of people out there who really lack and perspective and they honestly WILL get their panties bunched over WWE running a "terror cell" angle after what happened in London, and they WILL BELIEVE THEIR OWN BULLSHIT. I can't help that. But those people who are genuinely offended are more than likely also the types who will be in a rush to confront you with smalltalk, or post on message boards, or even (hey, Keller, guess what? I killed a few braincells visiting your sit today!) pontificating about it for an audience. Because it's just as important that YOU KNOW they are offended, and that YOU KNOW they are good and decent and moral people as it is that they might actually feel an iota of sympathy for the real victims here. Trust me: more people expressing outrage towards WWE today are doing it to impress you with their decency than are doing it because they read a single news article or self-investigated a single element of the deal in London. They don't give a shit about what happened. They give a shit about Looking Good To The Public.
    Well, fie on that. Bland, vapid rhetoric about WWE's thoughtlessness doesn't make you look good. It makes you look like somebody who can't be bothered to nut up and put the blame for yesterday where it belongs. But it only makes you look like that to me, I fear. Because what really annoys me is that these self-righteous morons spout off their stuff, and then people who honestly might not be bothered by WWE's actions are forced into the politically correct response of "Oh, yeah, I guess that wasn't too smart." Because nobody wants to look like an asshole.
    Well, folks: here I am... I'm an asshole. I'll be your uber-asshole. You don't have to feel guilty or lonely if you follow me. But guess what? That's what make me different from the self-righteous douches: because I'm not insisting that you follow me with big, grandiose talk about how right I am. All I'm doing is asking you to read up on what happened in London, learn about the real victims, learn about the real criminals. And then consider what WWE ACTUALLY did last night. Think about it, ponder it. And in your own head, decide what you think about the situation.  But just don't follow blindly the "WWE are heartless pricks" PC Group Think out of fear that you'll be labeled a Bad Person, OK? Please don't do that.
    And hey, if you decide you still don't think WWE behaved the best way possible, I guess that's your business. But it's YOUR business, and I don't think many of you who actually take the time to think this through will feel so strongly about it that you need to go flying off the handle. The most I can really envision a healthy and sane person mustering is "There were probably better ways to handle this." But then you realize, given the scope of the REAL tragedy, that WWE's actions are far from criminal, and you just keep your disappointment (but no anger or outrage or any stronger emotions) to yourself. Because it might not have been a GOOD situation for WWE to be in, but it's also not one where anything they could have done would have made things substantially better for anybody.
    Are we clear on this? Good. Because until you can show me that WWE drastically altering last night's already-taped show would save one life or make the world any happier of a place, then mild disappointment is about all one should feel about this. Unless one is a moron.
    For the record: WWE edited out the entire angle for today's UK broadcast. Which I will agree with. Because there's a difference between doing your own thing and knowing that you had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks and rubbing the REAL victims' nose in it. Just another thing that makes me laugh about many of the Americans (in e-mails and in forums/columns) who bitched and moaned about this: not only is it akin to all the hyper-sensitive straight people who seem to swarm on me the second I say something remotely humorous about homosexuals, but it's worse because it's an EVEN LESS-INFORMED version of that, since they all say that WWE is being "insensitive" to the victims, without stopping to understand that WWE's broadcast where the victims actually lived and worked IS being altered. Again, I *hate* these types who act like they are always one of the Corsican Brothers in some ill-conceived of cross-Atlantic (or cross-sexual-orientation, or whatever) Orgy of Misery. Just start taking an interest in your own life and living it well, morons, and don't worry so much about empathically living somebody else's to try to make yourself feel like you're a better person, dammit.
    Whew. End Rant. I think.
    All that said? Hey, I didn't like the angle, either. But for reasons that are actually Not Retarded.
    The whole beauty of the Hassan/Daivari gimmick was that they were Arab Americans, and that they hadn't done anything wrong against our Nation. They weren't heels because they committed criminal acts, they were heels because they were whiny little punks who thought they were owed something by the system. Going back to one of my very original analyses of why Hassan and Daivari were catching on, and why: at their best, Hassan and Daivari weren't booed for being Ay-rabs, they were booed for being Ay-holes. This frequently involved them saying and doing things that inspired "USA, USA" chants, but at the end of the day, their evil stemmed not from being terrorists, but from being obnoxious. And some of you might not want to hear this, but at least PART of that obnoxiousness came from the fact that you kinda knew Hassan was right about some things. Even without making this political, he could still say he's undefeated and hasn't been rewarded commensurate with his accomplishments. And you kinda had to know he was right. Which made him annoying to many fans. It's a good thing.
    But that Good Thing is what makes last night's angle such a Bad Thing. It's got not a damned thing to do with political correctness or sensitivity. Because unless you were one of the clueless tards who wrote in and tried to get "24" off the air last year for their portrayal of Arab Americans, trust me, you're not nearly sensitive enough to get your dander up over this. It's got to do with the simple fact that this is a complete departure from what made Hassan and Daivari's characters work for the past 8 months. And that strikes me as monumentally stupid. And unlike the rest of you cliche-spouting jack-offs, my stance is just as rock-solid no matter what happens or doesn't happen in London yesterday morning.
    With this latest twist, Hassan and Daivari now *ARE* terrorists, or at least in league with people who look and behave like them. Why? This wasn't necessary; the characters were so much more genuine, so much more versatile, so much deeper when they had more realistic and genuine motivations. Now, after 8 months of relative success, Hassan and Daivari are the one-dimensional caricature that RAW managed to avoid turning them into for so long. Even if the "terror cell" was a one week thing, it now lingers in the back of the creative team's mind whenever they need an "out" for Hassan but are too lazy and uncreative to come up with a good one. And the image of Hassan leading the "cell" won't be washed away from fans' minds so easily either. I might disagree with the fucking morons who are so worked up over this, but I won't deny that there's a lot of them, and the damage WWE did to Hassan's character in those fans' eyes will be harder to repair than they think. Because these are the type of people who won't forget easily.
    The last thing that really added to the "character assassination" element was the closing bit where the "terror cell" carried Daivari's carcass away from the ring in martyr-like fashion. It's the presentation of Daivari (not of the "terror cell") that came closest to calling up the image of a "suicide bomber" or a true "terrorist," if you ask me. But even though I felt that underscored the "new side" of Hassan and Daivari, and that was bad, I also think it was presented tastefully enough, since it's not like Tazz was making jokes about the 72 virgins awaiting Daivari backstage. 
    Instead, *I* will make those jokes. Because they are funny. And not particularly in bad taste, either. No matter what you thin-skinned douchebags might want to believe.
  • Oh, and the identities of the "terror cell" members? Will probably end up being exactly as historically significant as Jerry Lawler's Masked Knights at Survivor Series Whateverthatyearwas (who, by default, had to become Shawn Michaels' knights).... in other words: not at all.
    I do believe one of them was Val Venis, though. Other than that? Maybe developmental guys if WWE intends to run with this gimmick by having the "terror cell" be a regular tag team in Hassan's faction... but maybe just California indie guys if it was a one-off deal. If I find out more that illuminates the situation, I'll share Monday.
  • Oh, and before leaving the issue of SD!: Blue Meanie does not yet have a WWE contract, but is expected to have one soon. Probably a standard WWE deal with the 3-month roll-over so that no matter what, if the bWo tanks, WWE can get rid of Meanie in 90 days. But hell, it's probably well worth their while even if only to firmly eliminate the chance that Meanie would sue them or JBL over the One Night Stand incident.
  • Surprisingly, no other WWE releases have been OFFICIALLY confirmed in the last 2 days. Well, unless you count Joy Giovanni (a Useless SD! Diva) who was actually released back on Wednesday, but apparently after I'd already published my column without mentioning her. I was under the impression there were a handful more (important ones) coming, but there are now two different stories going around... one is that WWE isn't officially announcing any releases until they contact that talent first to inform him/her, and that some talents have been unreachable; the other is that earlier information was wrong, and WWE pretty much shot their wad on Wednesday in terms of getting rid of who they want to get rid of.
    One interesting element of the releases: starting yesterday, WWE.com started posting interviews with the released superstars. Huh. Now, obviously, this could play into any of your grand "it's all a work" theories that I know some of you harbor.... I mean, why'd post an interview with somebody you just fired? But I go back to what I said above about Matt Morgan's being edited down on SD!, and suggest that this begins to look like it's for real, and that WWE is just trying to make hay while the sun shines by getting a few marginal hits on their website.
    Don't get me wrong: I'd love for there to be something super-secret in the works, and think there's enough odd about the release list and all that you can go ahead and entertain those thoughts if you like. But right now, reliable intel is against that. Maybe this is the part where you shift gears and start fantasizing about some Big Money Mark to step up to start a new national wrestling promotion, instead? Cuz like I outlined in Wednesday's huge kick-ass column, for the first time in the last few years, I think there might be enough of the right free agent talent to do it, and with the right financial backing and know-how to present a respectable-looking TV product, you could have people wondering "TN-What?" inside of three months. Remember: my name is Rick Scaia, and my resume is available by request.
  • And though the release list is stagnant at 20 superstars (assuming you throw in last week's Marc Loyd release and count Kenzo's wife, Hiroko, towards the tally) for the time being, there's been another head chopped off today. But it's not part of the "house cleaning" or "roster trimming."
    Instead, Jim Cornette has been fired in a spontaneous and unrelated move, after he got into an altercation with one of WWE's developmental wrestlers at this week's OVW TV tapings.
    I don't know whether to call it surprising, or possibly the least surprising thing in the whole world. It's surprising because Cornette had been back on the job in OVW for either 1 or 2 weeks, tops, after a forced "vacation." He should have been refreshed and on his best behavior. On the other hand, it's not at all surprising if you consider that it was these sorts of altercations that led to Corny's suspension in the first place, and that he's not exactly the kind of tiger who changes his stripes.
    Cornette's certainly become increasingly disenchanted with WWE in recent years, and it showed in the way he wanted to prepare students in a more old-school way, and demanded certain things of them that others in the WWE system didn't quite agree with. All his altercations with students (according to my intel) were always deals where Cornette was "right" in a "by the book" kind of way, but where he over-reacted and became "wrong" because of how he blew things out of proportion. Nobody disputes that Corny had the best of intentions when he'd confront a developmental talent about a mistake, but paying back a minor mistake with lengthy verbal (and on at least one occasion, PHYSICAL) assaults in front of fans and co-workers was considered unacceptable. I'm actually a huge Cornette fan, but even I'd have to agree that the best learning is done behind closed doors and is NOT accomplished via humiliation in front of ones peers and the fans.
    So Cornette's got his walking papers, now, and makes for an interesting "free agent" in his own right. Truthfully, I'm not sure if there really is a place for him as a top booker for a nationally-relevant wrestling company... but I say that at the same time that WWE continues to insist on trying to turn back the clock and run an old-tymey style of wrestling, in many regards. And if that is what somebody wants to present, then goddammit, there is NOBODY on the planet who is more adept at presenting a COMPELLING (i.e. not like WWE's) version of old-tymey rasslin' than James E. Cornette. He could also still have value as a mouthpiece or manager, if that's what he so desired. Somewhere on the indie circuit, be it TNA or ROH or just this new phenomenon of "reunion" conventions, there will be a place for Cornette, though.
    And like I said: Cornette had only been back on the job for 1-2 weeks, so OVW shouldn't skip a beat here. In Cornette's absence, Tommy Dreamer went down to Louisville and helped out a lot with the creative side of things. He could well get called back into duty, or WWE might look to somebody else, no that Cornette's vacancy is full-time, and Dreamer does have other responsibilities. Al Snow is one guy who I know has pitched in, and could be in line for an increased role outside of his job as WWE's top trainer. If Al were to dedicate more of his time to that, I think WWE would have to also figure out a way to keep Lance Storm in Louisville, since I was under the impression he was due for a break, here... but his services might be needed now more than ever. An alternative would be to leech some resources away from the still-not-full-speed Georgia developmental program, at least until a full-time fix can be developed for OVW. Or hey, Tommy: you could always pick me! Louisville's only about 2 hours from here, I can commute once or twice a week for the right compensation package!
  • Last big thing for today is the once-and-future Next Big Thing. WWE.com's coverage of "Brock Lesnar's Meeting with Vince McMahon" has been unilluminating to say the least. A pure New Work phenomenon, they're playing it as an internet-only angle... which I reassert is hella lame. Either tell a whole story, or just shoot straight with us, but don't populate this uninteresting, insulting netherworld between real and work.
    Anyway, the interesting part of Brock's story is not what WWE.com is portioning out to you in allegedly vague and enticing tidbits. It's the part BEHIND that. Because WWE wouldn't be making Lesnar part of ANY kind of story if he was just coming in for a "test the waters" meeting. The nearly-unanimous consensus is that Brock Lesnar is a lock to return to WWE by SummerSlam, and that all this other stuff is just WWE's lame attempt to generate a few extra page views for their website, despite the fact that fans would have to go somewhere else to get the true story.
    Again: I know this is probably me being selfish in some regard (since I can make like OO is such a better website than WWE.com), but I also think there is just a fundamental bit of ass-hattedness going on here anytime WWE attempts to perpetuate the New Work. They rail against fans "knowing too much," and try to clamp down on that. But then they come out and do "New Work Angles" like this, which serves to ENCOURAGE their "average" fans to want to know more of the backstage stuff... but does NOT encourage them to get FOR-REAL smart. Just pretend smart. And dammit, WWE, THOSE are the "internet jack-offs" you don't like. The ones armed with just enough information to be dangerous. If you're honest with yourself (and I know most of your ROSTER is this way, even if management isn't) the more well-rounded For-Real Smart Fans are NOT a problem. They are actually your best friends. So I just don't get the "New Work," I really don't.
    For whatever it's worth: the consensus that Lesnar's deal to return is either done (or close to it) is only SLIGHTLY more unanimous than the consensus that he'll probably end up on SD!. Now granted, that second consensus is more guys just looking at the recent cuts/trades/draft and noticing that SD! was gutted more than RAW, but I gotta say: I agree.... Lesnar to RAW makes no sense, but Lesnar to SD! is gonna be EXACTLY what they need to get things rolling. Once JBL's used up, they're gonna need a top heel. And believe me, while my love of Christian knows no bounds (at least, in the purely platonic realm), those who wrote in pissed at me for ignoring Christian while I was booking Batista vs. Lesnar as SD!'s big money feud for later this year do need to chill out and get a bit of perspective. 
    It might not be Lesnar vs. Batista in time for SummerSlam (I think Brock oughta take some time to knock off the rust and to ALSO reprove himself to management and his co-workers), but that one's gotta happen, and I find myself thinking it'll be pretty good. Then again, I'm the guy who had Brock as the Wrestler of the Year in 2003, and even then thought he had nowhere to go but up... but I'm betting that 15 month hiatus or no, Brock's not swallowing his pride to come back and underwhelm. He'll want a paycheck, yes, but he'll not want to collect it Scott Steiner Style, if he's got a lick of self-respect.
    I'll be interested to see how this all plays out. The only aspect of WWE.com's "new work" that I can fathom is that now maybe fans at RAW/SD! tapings will be on edge for Brock's return, and the creative team (should they decide to be creative in a given week), could use that to their advantage in terms of creating stories and misdirection, while simultaneously increasing the anticipation for Brock's ACTUAL arrival. We'll see....
  • We'll also be seeing more of Hulk Hogan for the next 2 months. Though not confirmed, it seems like a lock that Hogan vs. Michaels will happen at SummerSlam. And though Hogan is expected to NOT appear next week on RAW, a little birdie told me that Hogan and WWE have worked out a deal where he'll appear "at least every other week" through to the end of his crappy reality show's run on VH-1. 
    "Hogan Knows Best" got a 13-episode pick-up, I believe, so do that math on that, and it seems that Hogan might even stick around for a bit AFTER SummerSlam and well into September. Then it could be a break, but given that relations have warmed with both Hogan and Austin this year, Vince McMahon's hard-on for putting those two in a match could be massaged to a metaphorical expulsion of creative juices at WrestleMania 22. I wouldn't necessarily BANK ON IT~!, but I'd start suspecting it.
    And this raises a VERY important question: at what point does nostalgia stop being nostalgia and start being just plain "old"? I could easily take Hogan matches 4-6 times per year, assuming they were each of slightly different tone (maybe one a tag match, maybe one Hogan trying to actually have a real match, and then the rest can be his cutesy going-through-the-motions, and I'll be totally fine), and will get off on more frequent Hogan appearances on TV in order to tell the stories BUILDING to those 4-6 matches if they are done well. But the notion of Hogan winding up on TV in a key role for 10 of the next 15 weeks? I don't know man.... I really don't know.
    I wanna say I'd be able to relax and enjoy it without going all smart-fan on you... but I'm not sure I can. I don't know if most fans can say that. I think Hogan still has plenty of value and all, but at this point, it's not in being a weekly performer, it's as a special attraction. My fear is that if Hogan keeps a "every-other-week" schedule, then even by the end of July, his appearances on TV will feel no more special than if WWE brought back The Mountie for a one-night gig. Because after a month of Hogan, he might just get old.... but after a decade without The Mountie, he'd actually be nostalgia. Just like how Marty Jannetty managed to be a hugely-over superstar again for one night. Does this distinction make sense, I hope?  
    Just something that I think we need to be aware of, and something WWE needs to be even MORE cognizant of.
  • And I think that's about enough for today. And for this week. Another good big 'un for you here, so I hope you got no complaints. Well, unless you're the type who just can't shut your self-important yapper about WWE supporting terrorists, in which case you can complain about the CONTENT of the column, but not the length and effort that went into it.
    And I'll just ignore you, anyway. Those holding such strong opinions on that issue are pre-qualified as idiots. But feel free to try and convince me. Because, afterall, my stance isn't "I'm right," it's "at least I took more time to consider this from all angles than most people did." And this big brain o' mine? It NEVER stops considering different angles.... but it only tends to get attached to the good ones, so if you're gonna debate me, don't half-ass it, OK, junior?
    Everybody else out there with a level-head on his/her shoulders can accept my wishes for a happy and restful weekend, though. Have some fun, and I'll catch y'all again on Monday with RAW Preview and some other goodies.

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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