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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
PPV Fall-out, Some (Ex-)Diva News,
New Wrestling on TV, Cena, RAW, MORE! 
July 25, 2005

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

I'm not a whiner by nature. I'm not thin-skinned, I'm not overly sensitive, and I can deal with pretty much anything from verbal abuse to physical pain without batting an eyelash. Nothing you can do will send me home, teary-eyed, to rethink my value to society, and it'd take nothing less than a compound leg fracture or the ebola virus to get me to go to a doctor. 
  
I am, in short, not a pussy. 

And on top of that, I really don't like pussies. They annoy me. With their incessant complaining about how they are clearly the most tortured soul on the planet, and everything bad only happens to them. 

Yet I stand here before you today a Giant Pussy.

 
Because there is absolutely nothing I can think of to pre-ramble about that ISN'T the fucking heat. I even tried to change up my schedule (I'm typing this column in the morning before doing some real work, instead of later in the afternoon) in order to be in my office during the "cooler" part of the day. Result: at 11am (eastern), it's 92 degrees out, with a Heat Index of 107, here in Dayton. Ninety-two and dry would be fine, but this humidity, it's intolerable. I am, to put it mildly, miserable.

I vomit in terror just thinking about what it's gonna be like at 4pm, when I'd NORMALLY be getting started on this column. And it's not like things are getting better at nights here. Get this: our forecast low for tonight is WARMER than the forecast high for Wednesday (low tonight: 80, high on Wednesday: 79). That's fucked up.

But at heart, I'm a doer, not a whiner. So I've pretty much had enough of kvetching. When shit goes wrong, I deal. Like by changing my schedule to do a column when it's a few degrees cooler in here. Or by hauling my box spring and mattress down into the basement so I can get some comfortable sleep where it never gets above 75 degrees, no matter what. Or picking some shitty movie to go see at the $2 second-run movie house, bring a flask, endure "Sahara" thanks to a rapidly-improving buzz, and just chill out in the air conditioning for a bit. Or any number of other tricks I've learned to Beat The Heat. Shut up and cope, that's my motto.

So even if this *is* truly an exceptional Weather Anomaly (first like this in over 7 years say the TV weather dweebs!), I think I'll take my own advice. And just move on to the wrestling:

  • Last night's PPV? Well, I can't say it's "aging well." In fact, I have been pleasantly surprised to see that my rather-negative recap of the Great American Bash appears to have met with almost universal agreement. Anytime I bother to have, you know, like a strong opinion or something, there's usually SOMEone there to disagree with me.
     
    Not this time.
     
    Then again, there could be a couple simple reasons for that: (1) the show really did pretty much suck, and (2) you could TELL that the show was gonna suck ahead of time so I'm guessing this PPV didn't exactly have a huge audience, which means there's fewer people out there who might have seen things differently than I did.
     
    Where were the problems? Well, I don't see any way you can get around acknowledging the fact that this show was a Creative Failure. A booking failure, whatever you want to call it. It was not set up in preceding weeks to be an interesting or satisfying show. And once the show happened, it was not executed in a way to be interesting or satisfying to those who, out of loyalty, decided to watch.
     
    Case in point: Chris Benoit and Orlando Jordan had a very serviceable match. But nobody gave a shit once it got up past about 6-8 minutes because WWE's Creative Efforts in the past six months have had the effect of making Orlando Jordan a useless jobber. Fans just wanted it to be over. That's Failure of Booking, Part 1. Part 2 is that after this thing stretches out past 15 minutes, they have Jordan score the win. The hell? It's like I said yesterday in the recap: *now* is not the time to be starting Project Orlando. You had six months, WWE, and you did nothing for Jordan, resulting in this match being a boring, over-long chore for most fans. And your idea for how to fix that is to make us sit through the 15 minutes to watch Jordan win and RETAIN the title whose legacy he (of only partially his own fault, but mostly because of the creative team's screw ups) diminishes a little bit more with each passing day? 
     
    That's so stupid it actually makes my brain hurt. Again: there's nothing wrong with NOT giving the fans what they want (that is, in fact, the trick to good, sustainable episodic TV: making them have to wait to get paid off)... but when you don't give them what they want, you MUST give them something that they want to cheer against. Instead, WWE gave us something we don't give a shit about. It's quite baffling. The US Title needs rehabbing very badly, the man to do it is Chris Benoit (with the help of established challengers that people believe in), and the time to start that project was last night with a convincing Benoit win. Instead, WWE's brilliant scheme is gonna be to make us sit through another 4 weeks of Orlando Jordan boring the crap out of us; don't know for sure, but WWE might have succeeded in insuring that when Benoit's win finally does come, absolutely no one will care about it. Because it should have happened on back on July 24, and everything else was just WWE wasting our time.
     
    And again: all that venom and rage I have really has nothing to do with Jordan and Benoit. The two actually had a very sound match. It's just that (because of the shitty build-up and because of the mind-numbing decision for a finish) they were put in a position to have that match while maybe about 2% of the audience really cared. Which is really inexcusable, in my opinion.
     
    The same problem repeated in the main event, where JBL was "protected" with a cheap DQ win over Batista. Why? Beats the hell out of me. The heat the match had leading up to the finish should have told WWE everything they needed to know about fan interest in seeing more of these two feuding, and yet, this is what we get... JBL scores a DQ win, and you know what this means? Batista vs. Taker vs. JBL at SummerSlam in a "main event" that will serve only to make snarky comments once again about how SD! just can't stop looking like the bush leagues compared to RAW.
     
    It's really taking significant amounts of restraint for me to not just totally reprise my Vonnegut-inspired "Listen" Recap of RAW from a few months ago... but most of my points would be valid, if rehashed. Bottom lining it: WWE's creative team is taking a very easy job and making it look very hard, and it's because they don't seem to comprehend the simple fact that we, The Fans, like to be entertained and gladly tell you each and every week how you may provide us this service. And I'm not talking about "us" as in Internet Fans. Although I like to tell myself I represent a lot more of the Average Fan than your typical internet pundit (and think that, with a few notable exceptions, things like crowd responses and TNA's mainstream unpopularity tend to bear me out as a "regular fan," albeit one who knows his shit when he wants to put his Smart Hat on), I know it's the fans in the seats whose opinions really count. And they didn't tell WWE anything last night that WWE shouldn't have already known heading into the show: that they're mostly bored with JBL, that they've NEVER cared about Orlando Jordan and may never, that they really enjoy booing Muhammad Hassan, that they could sure do with a lot more Christian, and so forth.
     
    And yet, every booking decision at the Bash seemed to fly in the face of those wishes of the fans. Is it because WWE isn't listening? Is it because they listen but don't care? I dunno. But it gets to the point of being really difficult to be the fan I once was when SD! scores strong shows about 25% of the time, and RAW's batting maybe a little over .500.
     
    Before somebody gets the bright idea to rebuttal me with "Well, but what about Muhammad Hassan? Maybe WWE had one show planned, but then UPN ruined everything, and WWE had to rebook the show at the last instant." And I grant that, yes, I'm sure the UPN/Hassan situation caused WWE to have to make some changes to their formats. But that's still no excuse for an entire show to go south like the Bash did. Again, I harp on this, but it's true: this is NOT rocket science. It's actually a pretty easy thing to have good, creative ideas for a wrestling show and then to execute them. But WWE insists on making it look they're desperately trying to crack the atom before the Germans do. I don't *think* that's an unreasonably cocky attitude to have, but I guess at some level it boils down to me saying "You guys have an easy job, and I'm sitting here telling you how to do it, because I'd be better at it than you." Which is maybe not so becoming. But it's also true. I think. 
     
    If I could, I'd be glad to prove it. But my kind ain't welcomed in those there hallowed halls. Even if I think I've shown plenty of times in the past that I have the ability to "fantasy book" things that aren't necessarily MY favorites because I know they'd go over well with the audience (i.e. just about every skillfully-handcrafted Randy Orton scenario I've ever presented because I realize that just because *I* think he's a beer-fruiting, dim-witted, belt-notching toolbox doesn't mean he can't be a compelling on-screen character), and would never try to put together shows or PPVs with just an internet audience in mind. I'd even offer to return to the Smash Hit "Fantasy Universe" gimmick, starting at the same point as WWE, and then doing my own thing for 3 months, leading up to a Major PPV Event... I'd gladly let you grade me on a weekly basis and compare me (favorably or not) to the "real universe's" WWE shows. Except that then I realize I'd have to do both RAW and SD!, and keeping all that straight in my head and writing it all up would get really involved and time-consuming for what basically amounts to me showing how I can do WWE's job better than they can. I guess what I'm saying is "I'd be glad to prove it," but I'd want to be assigned to just one brand or the other, and not have to worry about the other one, except for when we might do cross-overs.
     
    But I digress, don't I? I think I covered all this stuff a few months ago, anyway, when I last went in-depth with my bafflement at WWE's creative team structure, and how they basically have 12-15 people (Steph, two head writers, and then 4-6 staff writers for each show, depending on whose been hired; they have MASSIVE turnover lately) doing the job of 5. Seriously: One person to oversee everything and keep you on a leash, but then I think a Creative Dyad is the perfect way to script each show. Two people for each brand.  Not enough manpower to get sucked into tunnelvision and groupthink even when the ideas suck, but you still have somebody to bounce ideas off of, to improve them, to be your Stupid Patrol, and so forth. That's all you need. And to protect against burn-out, maybe you only use those Dyads in 3-month shifts. Well, maybe I'd work it so it's more like 4-month shifts: 3 months straight of writing all the TV for one brand, climaxing at a PPV. Then you get two months off while the Beta Team takes over. But then you come back on the road for the last month of Beta Team's shift, and get fully integrated into what they have planned for the brand, and also get them to incorporate a few seeds for the ideas Alpha Team has for their next shift. Then you do your 3 months back in control of the brand, get two months off, lather, rinse, repeat. So I guess make that *9* people WWE needs: one overseer, and four teams of two, only two of which are On Duty at any given time. Man alive, that'd be a sweet gig: work 8 months out of the year, and get paid to write wrestling? I hereby hire myself for the job. Assuming (1) that I get to name the other person in my Creative Dyad (I shan't be Gewirtz'd!), and (2) that I get to put myself on RAW's team for the January-March WrestleMania Shift.
     
    Trust me people. WWE might not want me on that wall, but you fans NEED me on that wall. Or however that line from "A Few Good Men" goes. But I've somehow managed to keep digressing after noticing that I was digressing, which has got to be some kind of record for being One Talkative Bastard. I don't know if it's the heat frying my brain, or just the fact that anything's better to talk about than last night's Bash PPV...  
     
    Probably the latter, but let's try to quickly go back to that and wrap up.
     
    I will quickly give props to the Taker/Hassan segment. Look, it's a case where I don't agree with doing that, but if WWE's hand really was forced by UPN, it doesn't matter what I want... it just matters that WWE took that segment and turned it into the ONLY time of the night where they really got the fans up and cheering (and booing). And CARING. If Hassan had to go (even if it's only a temporary hiatus), WWE brought the house in that segment and made it a satisfying send-off. That wasn't a good "match," per se, but that *is* a blueprint for how you do a Sports Entertainment Segment. 
     
    Still, I can't shake the notion that even if UPN were being thin-skinned dickweeds about this, WWE did NOT have to do this. I think they might even have missed an opportunity to turn Hassan into an uber-star, and they could have done it with him either (1) not showing his face on UPN, or (2) adopting a new "persona" on UPN, but doing it with a twinkle in his eye that says "You people know who I am, and you know why I'm doing this" and then getting MEGA-heat when he shows up on PPV and utters the simple phrase "My name is Muhammad Hassan." But maybe I'll save all my Hassan Fantasy Booking ideas for another time, lest I digress for a third time...
     
    Beyond the booking failures, the Bash was a PPV that just didn't have enough in-ring substance to overcome the creative weaknesses. The show peaked with Eddie/Rey, a match which was above average, but not spectacular. Too much of it was about "the secret" and Eddie's frequent pauses to act creepy towards Rey's son. When they were wrestling, it was crisp and entertaining, but too many diversions to really sustain a sense of excitement. Usually, PPVs are mortal LOCKS to deliver the Match of the Week, but I doubt very seriously that'll be the case come Friday. Unless RAW and SD! both really suck, anyway.
     
    Below that, OJ/Benoit was good (but as explained above, flat) and Christian/Booker was about at that same level (and was hurt by a weak, anticlimactic final few minutes). On a better-presented show, surrounded by stronger material, both those matches would hold up well as Supporting Cast Members, but they are NOT the types of matches that should be your #2 and #3 matches of the night. And the other five matches? Well, the diva match and the bWo/Mexicools match were just fluff, each filling a different role and each doing it about as well as it could in a 5 minute timeframe. Taker/Hassan was, as explained, not "good" but was "satisfying," so that counts for something. And then I hate to say it, but I really thought that both the opener and the main event were pretty crappy as far as in-ring match quality goes. At least the tag title match had a "happy ending." The JBL/Batista main event was just methodical slobberknockery, mixed in with the return of JBL's Five Minute Main Event Sleeper, a bunch of sloppy miscues, and an ending that absolutely sucked.
     
    Not really a show for Sports Entertainment fans, since not a whole lot good happened on the storyline side, nor did this PPV give fans much reason to be excited about tuning in on Thursday night... and considering the above breakdown, definitely not a PPV for the Wrestling Fan, either. Which I guess is why I have yet to hear a real enthusiastic endorsement of the show from anybody in e-mail.
     
    You know, I was in the crowd for the United States Grand Prix last month, and nobody was more shocked than I when I found out we'd all be getting full refunds of our ticket price (courtesy of Michelin) due to the event not living up to expectations. That's a very ballsy (if very expensive, to the tune of $20 million) move to make sure fans realize that the parties involved know they fucked up and are sorry that it hurt the product the fans paid to see. I didn't expect it to happen. I'd make some joke about how WWE should do the same thing. Except then I realize that for the Bash to have "not lived up to expectations," a fan would had to have gone into the show expecting something really good. Which I don't think many of us did. Still: just once, I'd like to see some public acknowledgement of a shitty show by WWE, and some attempt to make-up with fans afterwards. And I'm not just talking about letting Jim Ross keep his job when he speaks in Bowling Shoe Ugly Code. I know you're reading up there at Titan Tower: one among you really should drop $35 in my PayPal Account (hey, just because it's not Pledge Drive/Donation season doesn't mean I shut the thing down!) to make me feel better about last night's debacle. It's not even really the money, it's just the principle. You're the one who farted, so be a man and 'fess up to those of us who had to smell it for three long hours last night, WWE.
     
    Enough rambling: the Great American Bash PPV Recap is available for your reading pleasure. And also to just tell you who won and how, and give you all those details, in case you missed them. But mostly for your reading pleasure: because I wound up watching this show all by my lonesome, at home, last night, I'm happy to report you got a PPV recap more along the lines of my RAW Recap offerings. Such is life when you can actually hear the audio and concentrate all your attention on the show. Instead of 60% of your attention on the show, 20% of your attention to conversing with friends, 15% to trying to AVOID conversing with all but the one (1) cool Hooters girl, and 5% still trying to keep an eyeball on other the other Hooters girls asses when they sashay past without being too obvious about it because even if you pretend you're a refined and civilized 21st Century Male you're still just A Horny Dude at heart. So just read the recap.
     
  • Another possible reason I am so pissy? I am NOT looking forward to seeing the Team Predictions Percentages for this show...
     
    I eyeballed it last night, and I think I win the OO Crown with a whopping 4-for-8 (50%). Erin felt guilty about her 3-for-8, but little did she know that that's good enough to claim a tie for second (with 4-5 other trOOps). That's right: 38% is good for second place. And I think I might have spied a few 2-for-6's, as well. But I didn't look at it closely, and PyroFalkon's OOfficially Audited Stats aren't here as of this writing. Still: it seems certain that our group percentage will be under 50%, and possibly closer to 35%.
     
    And making matters worse (or at least making them kind of tolerably funny) is the fact that I scanned WrestleLine's picks, too, and I don't think they did any better. I couldn't tell, off-hand, which of our sites would "win," but if we're both clocking in with sub-.500 percentages, I think we both kinda suck this month.
     
    Then again: WWE would probably have had a less-shitty show on their hands if they'd changed EVERY SINGLE OUTCOME on the show, and as a result, caused the OO Team Percentage to balloon up to 65%. Then again, if they'd done that, then my 4-for-8 record would remain, except that instead of in first place, I'd have been in last. So... ummm....
     
    I have no further point. Keep an eye out for Pyro's Stats, which I'm sure I'll have soon enough, and which'll be posted on the main page.
     
  • Going back in time to cover some of last week's news...
     
    Ivory has been released by WWE. Her last TV appearance was on the edition of "Experience" that I can only assume aired on Sunday morning. I mean: if a TV show airs on SpikeTV and nobody's watching, does it make a sound? On Heat, she was replaced by her fellow WWE Diva, Josh Mathews. It wouldn't surprise me if he stayed on for "Experience" duty, too. Because (a) it gives the show a "cross-brand" flavor by having a SD! personality involved, and (b) the show is only on the air for 2 more months, so it's not gonna be a ton of work for Josh.
     
    I know a lot of you are probably expecting a big, indignant rant from me on this issue. But if so, it probably only means you've been with me for WAY too long if you can actually remember the times when Ivory was the main Object of my Erection. Note, this is not a comment about Ivory's age; she is, in fact, still smoking hot, and other than her ill-advised decision to upgrade the boob job about 2 years ago remains a somebody I might just point to if asked the probing question, "Rick, what plumpens your wang?". It's just the fact that since RTC Ivory, she hasn't gotten to do the kinds of things on TV that are really appealing to me. She's wrestled little, and she's talked a lot. A LOT. I liked Ivory better when she was using her verbal abilities to be the women's division best heel (cuz you know it's hard to get fans to boo a hot chick), instead of using them to be chipper and annoying as a "broadcaster."
     
    So yeah, Ivory kinda got passed up by some other WWE babes for me, and it's because you could just tell that she was never gonna get to do the cool things that she was good at again. Even Molly Holly was wrestling semi-weekly up until the bitter end. But Ivory? She honestly hasn't done anything important in 4 years. [Note: the first person who says "Tough Enough" WILL be punched in the face. Because you are wrong, and it's the only way you'll learn.] I can't really bring myself to work up any rage when the Ivory I knew and loved (OK, that wasn't love, but lust ain't entirely a bad thing) was "released" back in 2001, if we're honest with ourselves.
     
    Ivory was a "TV Personality" in a company that (conservatively) seems to employ about 20 "TV Personalities" to do the job of 8. Seriously. This is like the writer thing: each brand needs an "Alpha Team" and a "Beta Team," and the Beta team can make themselves useful by being the backstage interviewers and stuff on the A-show. To me, Ivory had become part of the shrubbery that needs to be pruned.
     
    Give *me* the shears? And I actually probably keep her. Lord knows I got my first real dose of "Steve Romero" about a week ago (for the Benoit/Regal Velocity), and cannot fathom how somebody that clueless and annoying has a WWE job. And if you want to ditch a female TV personality? Well, although I know I've set you all up to assume that I'm gonna make a Josh-Mathews-is-a-girl joke here, I was ACTUALLY gonna say that Maria the Mic Stand should go. It was funny (in a schadenfreude kind of way) when she'd be stupid naturally; now that she's doing it on purpose, it's not nearly as amusing. But I don't get to make these decisions, so Ivory is gone.
     
    I wonder if she kinda knew it was coming? Because the loss of WWE's b-shows when they leave Spike for USA in 2 months probably SHOULD have had her worried... and just a month or so ago, she did an interview where she was refreshingly honest about a lot of things (including about HHH), so I don't think the girl was going out of her way to kiss ass and save her job. Which is cool for her, if she's got the kind of confidence and security to know she didn't need WWE if they didn't want her. But next time you want to speak your mind, Ivory, let me be your huckleberry: I'll still be a Good Listener for your lengthy 3-minute missives, but I shan't let it distract me from having Actual Follow-Up Questions!
     
  • Speaking of fallen divas, I got a message from a Molly fan who says that Molly has been seen around Minneapolis at some indie shows, just there in a capacity as a fan, apparently. And it wasn't clear from the e-mail, but either this fan or somebody she knows talked to Molly and found out something mildly unsettling: that Molly isn't entirely sure if she'll come back to wrestling at all.
     
    D'oh.
     
    Something about Molly being content to maybe help out with training some new girls, but not really being sure if she cares about appearing on TV or in the ring again on a full time basis. It's another case where I wish I could have been the one asking the questions, since I could have pinned Molly down on exactly what that means... because it could mean that she just really doesn't have an interest in being an in-ring performer anymore, or it could just have been an observation about the business where it's basically "work for WWE if you want fulltime work" for women (with Molly still being willing to consider other parttime options, but not really considering it the same kind of deal). Given that I know Molly's still making personal appearances and doing stuff for charity, I'd almost lean towards the less-sensational interpretation, since that doesn't seem like the behavior of somebody who is totally done with being a public personality. Again: if only I were asking the questions, instead of receiving the e-mails.....
     
    So it's with that caveat that this Personal Encounter With Molly could probably be interpreted a few different ways, and with the disclaimer that I'm NOT trying to start any rumors, that I report that Molly Holly might be considering staying out of the spotlight since she walked away from WWE about 3 months ago.
     
    Which would suck. I wonder if the WWE Writing Job I gave myself in the first bullet point includes any Personnel Decision Making Power? If it does, I'm not joking when I say that Molly, Gail Kim, and Jazz are probably three of the first people I hire, even ahead of most guys. Because I'd have enough guys to work with to start, but fixing WWE's ass-hatted usage of women on the show would need an instant infusion of Actual Talent.
     
    And believe me: Molly Holly would NOT be disenchanted with wrestling if I was calling the shots, nor would she ever ask to be released from MY WWE. Out of discretion, I shall not make the next obvious joke about Molly also not wanting to be released from my manly-yet-tender embrace, were she ever to sample it. Or did I just make it anyway? Meh, if I did, I forgot to make it funny....
     
    And just a note: I actually *like* Molly, and I keep calling her "Molly" even though I know that's wrong and will be of no use to her if she does actually decide to ever head back to the ring. It's funny to be dismissive of Billy Gunn, Road Dogg, and X-Pac when they have to adopt lame new names.... because there's a reason why they aren't in WWE still using those names, and it's that they quick being entertaining (to me, anyway). But maybe if I'm such a nice guy, I should stop calling Molly "Molly"? Because it's "Nora" who would be coming soon to a TNA (or an ROH, or some other indie show) near you....
     
    Or actually: I guess she could probably legally be "Miss Mona," if she wanted to. Although I'm not sure why she would. Mona? Ugh. I hope I'm not the only one whose sole association with that name is from "Who's the Boss?" and thus finds it an entirely unhot name. On the other hand, I have zero mental associations with "Nora," and Molly looks like a "Nora," so you might as well dance with what brung you. Maybe a snazzier last name than "Greenwald" would be in order, though....
     
    I think I'm digressing again. I think my brain has been completely roasted by the heat and is unable to stay focused for more than 2 mintues at a stretch. Sorry.
     
  • Also from last week: longtime WWF announcer/voice-over-guy Alfred Hayes passed away last week at his home in Texas. I'm sure he was a wrestler at some point in the 50s/60s, but I'm also equally as sure that I know NONE of the actual details that would make it worth your while to read about....
     
    What I do know is that hey found his niche as a pompous announcers, doing the "Lord" Alfred Hayes gimmick in the AWA, and then bringing it over to the WWF at roughly the same time that Hogan and Okerlund and all them came over. And that's the part of Alfred's career that I remember. After being a comedic sidekick on the old "TNT" (Tuesday Night Titans) "talk show," I think most of Alfred's work was just doing voice-overs for the Fed. Specifically, those end of show "Promotional Consideration Paid For By The Following" ones....
     
    Funny aside: nobody made crappy products like English Leather or Castrol sound as convincingly-high-quality as Lord Alfred. And I remember his British Charms even working on me, once upon a time. Back when Your Humble Webmaster was just a boy starting to become a man, he had not yet developed an attachment to a particular brand of underarm-deodorant. Once I started stinking from places I hadn't previously stank from, I just sorta put on whatever my mom would buy at the grocery store (a decision I can only assume was mostly influenced by what was on sale or for which she had a coupon). But one time, I insisted on trying Brut Brand Deodorant, on the grounds that Lord Alfred shilled Brut Brand Products on "Superstars of Wrestling" every week. And lemme tell you something: it might have covered up my stink with an even mightier one, but my main memory of that one... I don't even know what to call it, cuz it was this weird shape with a roller ball on top... but let's say this one "bottle" of Brut gave me a wicked rash any time I wore it. I think I only about half-finished it, but kept the bottle since it was the perfect shape to be my Pretend Microphone for when I'd lock my door and sing along to "I Got My Mind Set On You" (by George Harrison).
     
    Which is yet another addle-minded digression, but which serves as my set-up for the punchline, "Thanks for nothing, Lord Alfred!"... which I mean in the nicest possible way. Because my guess is that there's an entire generation of wrestling fans out there who will never forget the way he pimped those products at the end of every show. And who STILL REMEMBER THOSE PRODUCTS to this very day. Talk about a man who did his job to perfection.
     
    I wish I knew a bit more about Alfred's pre-voice-over career to do a full bio, but I really don't. So I think I'll just clam up and move on to the part where I say that our thoughts go out to all Alfred's family, friends, and fans....
     
  • Some interesting developments on the "alternative wrestling companies" front....
     
    First, we stick with the "re-doing last week's news" vibe, as I have to take a moment to confirm that TNA finally announced it's deal with SpikeTV late last week. In one way, it's a big deal (hey, another company on national TV!), but in another, we knew about all this a month ago, and talked about it then, so it's hard to get re-worked up for what amounts to a formal announcement of something that was already common knowledge.
     
    The deal is basically this: once WWE is gone from Spike, TNA will take over a slot on Saturday nights. It's unclear at this point whether that'll be 10pm or 11pm, but the belief is still that TNA will be paired up with that UFC Reality Show (which is roughly to UFC what "Tough Enough" is to WWE; but which, for some reason, did decent ratings for Spike last winter; note, my annoyance does NOT extend over to ACTUAL UFC FIGHTING EVENTS on Spike, which are a bit more fun, but only to attempts to turn them into "Reality TV"). 
     
    There's good news and bad news here, if you ask me. But more bad than good. Here's some of the bad:
     
    Spike will increase TNA's cable penetration by about 30-40% as compared to what they had with FSN. Even if you raise TNA's average rating by 40%, they'll still be pulling in less than half (closer to one-third) of the Velocity rating. And as I've noted before, there's a reason why USA didn't pick up the b-shows when they negotiated the new deal for RAW. And that's because 0.7 really doesn't cut the mustard. One can only imagine who long Spike would stick with a show drawing a 0.3.
     
    Spike has to wait until OCTOBER before they are on TV again. Oy. That's at least two more PPVs. Possibly 3, depending on the exact timing. And mostly: it's 10-12 more weeks of "TV shows" that I and most average fans won't watch. Because most of us don't like sitting in front of our computers to watch TV. Which is the only way "Impact" is available right now. I was talking with Jason about this while making arrangements for the last TNA PPV Coverage Dealy, and I think I'm at the point where I agree with something he said: that TNA shouldn't even really try to do any major surprises or anything until they're back on TV. Just stay the course with Quality Wrestling, placate the audience that is actually downloading the webcasts (unfortunately, the current belief is that TNA's "ratings" for webcasts are such that THIS COLUMN will be seen by as much as twice as many people who saw that Michael Shane got a new name over the weekend -- it's just a deal where a WWE developmental guy, one of the Shane Twins (who are also two of Hassan's Terror Cell, I think), owns that name so he had to change it; hey, he's still got Traci, though, so it's all good). And then wait till TV is back before splurging on the Dudley Boyz or something else big. I know it'll make for a tough few months for those of us who only tangentially follow TNA, but the right play at this point is to debut on Spike with a bang... so they really should save up any surprises or free agent signings or major angles until they actually have an audience of more than a couple dozen thousand a week.
     
    I could also talk about the timeslot as a bad thing, but I bet that's been done to death. Suffice to say Saturday night is not when you want to try to reach a young adult crowd. To be honest, I figure this as only the slightest of upgrades from the Friday afternoon slot. I didn't like this slot for WWE, and that was with them only using it for a complimentary B-show... this is gonna be TNA trying to use it for their flagship. Might not be the best case scenario.
     
    But the good? Hey, it's national TV, and it's better exposure, on a purely penetration basis, than FSN. Also: if packaged with the UFC show, TNA might get a strong lead-in which could boost their numbers up above the "projected" figures you start with from their old FSN audience. Instead of just transferring that basic audience over, you might make a few new TNA fans, which would be good. And mostly: there's something vaguely-compelling about TNA being a direct replacement to WWE. It's an intangible thing, but fans will think, "Hey, I hadn't really followed TNA before, but if they're good enough to take over WWE's old timeslot, that might mean something!"... also: Spike will be permitted to hype the holy living shit out of TNA for the next few months while they've still got the WWE audience. I think they'll even be able to do it during WWE's own shows, but that might get dicey, depending on the contract language.
     
    Jason says the fricking laser beams are gone at the "Impact Zone," and if TNA can keep bringing the production values at least up to the 1990s and also produce a slick couple of 30- and 60-second commercial spots (better than the shite they tended to churn out for PPVs) that would actually air DURING WWE programming, that would actually be just about the #1 thing they could do to enhance their chances of success with this show.
     
    If TNA can just hold onto whatever audience Velocity usually got, that's gonna send a message to SpikeTV, and it's gonna open the doors for other timeslots, or prime time specials, and stuff like that. I don't think there's anything that we, as wrestling fans, should cheer for more than for TNA to make good on this opportunity and upgrade their product to the point that (a) we watch it, and (b) our watching of it causes WWE to get motivated to upgrade their efforts.
     
  • Another new TV project, and one that's apparently gonna get the jump on TNA by at least a month:
     
    Joey Styles is heading up something called "Extremely Hardcore Wrestling," and they've already got PPV clearance for their first monthly show. In deference to what the press release assures us will be a very violent product, the timeslot is 11:30pm on September 9. I think that's a Friday night. Again with the weekend timeslots? Oy...
     
    The event will be taped on August 20 in Atlanta, GA. Joey is taking his show to the old "Center Stage Theatre" (which hosted a decade's worth of sometimes-entertaining, but always-bush-league-looking WCW Saturday Night tapings), which is now called something else. I think "Earthlink Live," but if so, that's a retarded name for a theatre. Tickets will, at some point, be available via TicketBastard, but I checked this morning, and they aren't posted yet (but the timeslots on inDemand are on their website, so this deal is for real). Curious that he'd go to Atlanta and one of WCW's old digs. WWE's doing the same thing with their not-yet-full-speed developmental territory (even going back to the same part of town where WCW had some of their old offices). For now, the August 20 taping is the only one scheduled, but the hope IS for this to be a monthly (or at least semi-regular) thing. Given that Atlanta (not-so-)coincidentally happens to be the only other Metropolitan Area other than Dayton to be home to two (2) OO personalities, maybe we'll be able to plant them on the scene and get you the full report on whether this product is gonna be worth your PPV dollars.... and even if it turns out to not be, something cool always seems to happen with those two are front row for a wrestling show. 
     
    Oh, and if you want the full PPV schedule (and also a look at the promotional poster) for the PPV, you can click here. I love Joey and all, probably more than any straight man should, but would I be a dick if I pointed out that making your own name a bigger font than the title of the show, and holding a microphone with your name on it kinda makes you look like a tool?
     
    Whoops... looks like I just lost Erin and Jason their chances of getting comped for the show. I'm such an ass.
     
  • Another possible TV Wrestling Company.... the long-mocked NWA-Ohio guy is now claiming that (along with changing the name of his company to the World Wide Wrestling Association and opening a satellite office in Orlando) his show will be on ESPN2 this fall. On Saturday afternoons.
     
    Or at least, so says OO Reader Shawn From Richmond, who has worked with NWA-Ohio in the past and has been dead-on about some other indie-related news items in the past. Then again, Shawn also says that WWWA already has designs on an October PPV and an overseas tour, both of which seem even further-fetched than a weekly TV timeslot.
     
    I not only am an asshole, but I also play one on TV, so you'll have to pardon me if I put on my public persona, and also put this rumor in the "I'm gonna need a bit more before I believe this." Presently, the NWA-Ohio/WWWA product is only available on cable access in portions of Ohio (not including mine), and the company's website still looks like a pitiable throwback to 1996, and the biggest news from their last event was the debut of "Even Colder" (a Stone Cold knock-off)... so I don't think I'm being unreasonable to think that them landing an ESPN2 spot with that resume (when there are other reputable indies out there who seem to have a stronger, more marketable product) is a bit fishy. On top of ESPN2 picking up a Saturday afternoon wrestling show to start in the fall, when it seems like I manage to see 18 different college football games per Saturday during the fall without even having a team that I care about, and ESPN2 is part of the reason why. That's sketchy. This is a "I'll believe it when I see it" deal for me. But I figured I'd mention it...
     
    Part of me would love for this story to be right, just because anybody getting a wrestling show on TV will probably light a fire under WWE's ass. But part of me is suspicious enough that I actually named a source, for once, just so you can have somebody to blame other than me if it's wrong. Hey, like I said: I have my doubts, but this guy has been right about other indie stuff in the past, so.... 
     
  • For posterity, I will report that last week's SD! did a 3.2 rating. Still below the 3.5 "benchmark" that seems to be the show's average when it's doing well. And that was for a show that I thought was about the strongest SD! has had in a while... not a good sign.
     
  • Hey, lookit me! I remembered to set DVR on Friday night, and it recorded the Jimmy Kimmel show... because John Cena was on, and I figured I'd check it out.
     
    Verdict: he seemed sharp and funny for the most part, but any time Kimmel talked about his hip-hop character and stuff, Cena just went into what sure-as-hell felt like Total BS Mode. His story didn't even really check out: for one, he went OUT OF HIS WAY to say this is how he really is, this is how he really talks (and said it in his Wigger Voice)... but then he went on to tell the tale of how his "character" came into being (openly acknowleding that it was a character), and said that he'd always like hip-hop music, but hadn't ever really jumped into listening to it with both feet until WWE asked him if he'd like to play up that part of his real life persona. Which he agreed to do. Which has led us to where we are today: with a Doctor of Wiggernomics putting out crappy CDs.
     
    So by Cena' own admission: he didn't even really get all the way into hip-hop until about 3 years ago, and only did so for "a character"? But then he tells us, "this is how I am, this is the real me"? Homey, next time you say anything about "real recognizing real," I'm gonna laugh double hard.... because you just went on national TV and admitted that this version of you is about as real as the version of *me* that existed about 12 years ago and thought he was a Leading Authority On Star Trek, and acted like it so that people would like me... 12 years later, and the Star Trek's out of my system, and the REAL me is still into the wrestling (and baseball, which has been with me forever) and has found other little hobbies to go with it; like rock 'n' roll and whiskey. It's called going through a phase, homey. It's just you're getting paid to go through yours. But don't sell it like it's real. You're just making yourself look worse, you know.
     
    FYI: I think Hogan's on Kimmel THIS Friday. Probably talking a little SummerSlam, but also probably talking about his crap-ass reality show (which, THANK GOD, saw it's audience plummet from it's near-record levels in its second week).
     
  • Next week's RAW will be the 636th original episode of the show. This is significant why? Because the previous longest running fictional/entertainment show on TV was "Gunsmoke" with 635 episodes. So WWE is trying to claim they are taking over that crown next Monday.
     
    Whatever. WWE will relabel itself whatever's most convenient at any given time. Sometimes they want to be reality TV, now they want to be "scripted entertainment," other times, they'll be a sports show or live event programming... it's great the RAW lasted 636 weeks and all, but sometimes, I wish the company would quick caring so much about shoehorning itself in with other entertainment forms and JUST BE ITSELF. Christ. I've never even seen one minute of "Gunsmoke," that I know of, but I know enough that whatever WWE accomplishes next Monday night won't be knocking "Gunsmoke" off its perch in any real way. You're not "Gunsmoke," WWE; you're a WRESTLING COMPANY. Just accept it, act like it, and believe me, everything will still be alright. You won't lose a single viewer due to using that naughty word "wrestling." Trust me. And those of us who know you and like you already will love you all the more for it.
     
  • But next week is next week, and our last order of business for TODAY is to talk about THIS week's RAW. Tonight's RAW, to be exact.
     
    I have no idea what to expect at this point. The "advertised" card seems pretty weak, as it includes a Kane/Edge stretcher match and a Jericho/Cena Battle of the Bands. Neither does anything to relish my bratwurst.
     
    By the way: "relish my bratwurst"? I've been sitting on that for about a week. I enjoy coming up with the new phrases in the genre of "butter my corncob" or "creme my twinkie." Sort of vague-suggestive versions of "float my boat" or "scratch me where I itch." That new one tested well a week ago, and I've forgotten to unleash it until now. Silly me. It's sure to become a standard, on the grounds that I can't think of anything that puts a bigger smile on my face than when my bratwurst is being relished. *rimshot*
     
    That's why I don't get paid for this, folks!
     
    Anyway: Edge/Kane? Bleh. We've seen it a billion times, and we all know the real reason this match is happening has nothing to do with Kane, it's just so that Matt Hardy can do something. And sadly, the stip of the match anvilizes that involvement to some level. Unless WWE took OO's advice from last week, look for some combination of Matt Hardy and EMT Costume to cause havoc for Edge. And look for nobody to be surprised. If WWE can't be more creative than this in the "trying to keep it real and make Matt's attacks seem unscripted" phase, then they should probably just think about moving to a new phase, where we start setting up the TV Storyline.
     
    And Battle of the Bands? Ugh. Look, I love Jericho, in a manly sort of way. I love 80s metal, in a kitschy sort of way. I would love to see a Fozzy show some day. But we have empirical evidence that Fozzy on a Wrestling Show is not a good thing. And I hate to say it, but I don't need any evidence to say that John Cena rapping over a CD track isn't exactly gonna make for CompelliVision, either. I don't need evidence because I traveled back in time and found out that "John Cena performing live will suck" is one of the truths our founding fathers held to be self-evident. This is just another week where they'll use some flimsy excuse to do an ineffective promo/angle deal... when, as we've been saying for two weeks now, what this storyline needs is JERICHO ACCOMPLISHING SOMETHING IN THE RING. God, it seems so obvious, and yet, we get a Battle of the Bands where the best Jericho can hope for is "whacking Cena over the head with a snare drum." Nee haw.
     
    Obviously, the Battle of the Bands advances RAW's WWE Title storyline, as Cena/Jericho is the match for SummerSlam. And Edge/Kane could well be leading to Edge/Hardy at SummerSlam. But the real big drawing card fro RAW at SummerSlam will be a third story: Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels, who got together for last week's lone really solid segment (a sweet promo carried mostly by HBK). I assume there's at least one tag match in the chute featuring those two before SS, but I don't necessarily know that you pull the trigger tonight. Or maybe if Hogan's gonna work a couple of matches before SummerSlam, you can use one of 'em tonight; I don't know. All I really wanted to point out is that, unlike Jericho/Cena, these two don't really NEED to do a whole lot in the ring to sell the match. The match has been sold already. But a Hogan/Piper tag team against Michaels and a partner (or Hogan/Piper/Cena vs. Michaels/Jericho/Partner) would be pretty awesome for pure entertainment value at some point the next few weeks....
     
    Fourth string on RAW: the IC Title picture, which SEEMS like it's guaranteed to supply a final kiss-off for Shelton vs. Carlito. Maybe tonight, but maybe not till SummerSlam. The next logical step is to have them do a no-DQ, no-Count-Out Match (or a match where the title changes hands in those situations), given the past 2 weeks. With RVD sounding like he's not gonna be a "go" till September, holding that pay-off match back till the PPV might be best. And again: these two have done enough in the ring the last few weeks that they can take a break and push things along with promos.
     
    Fifth: I guess Chris Masters vs. Big Show gets it by default. Can they really drag this out 4 weeks to the PPV? If so, who thinks that's actually a good idea? No one? That's about what I thought. The squashenating of Masters is gonna be vaguely satisfying, but why do I fear that RAW is gonna do with this feud what SD! did with Jordan/Benoit? YOU DO NOT PROTECT A HEEL WHO HAS COMPLETELY FAILED TO GET OVER IN THE PAST SIX MONTHS, DAMMIT! You feed him to a babyface who might then go on to do bigger and better things. Let's hope we get instant gratification next time Show and Masters are in the same ring....
     
    Also: there will be Diva Search crap. Last week's was the shortest yet, if that counts for anything. See if you can top that this week, RAW!
     
    Wracking my brain, and I think that's about it in terms of established stories.... RAW's really been floating aimlessly the past few weeks since their last PPV.  Some shows have still delivered on the strength of some gimmicky surprises, but in terms of sustainable episodic TV, RAW's got some gaping holes in the mid-card. The tag champs are an afterthought, the handful of new gimmicks we've seen (Kerwin White, "The Con-Man") toe the line between sucking and not being given enough TV time to convince us they DON'T suck (if that makes sense). It's not been a productive month for RAW on the meat-and-potatoes side of things. Sure, they're doing great with stuff like Matt Hardy showing up out of nowhere and making use of Hulk Hogan.... but those aren't things you can repeat every week. The stuff you CAN repeat every week? That's where RAW's been weakest.
     
    Don't know how it'll all add up tonight, but I'm sure most of you will be tuning in to find out. And if not (or even if so), that's why I take such pride in OO producing the Finest RAW Recap In All The Land each week. I'll be on the job. Sweaty, possibly drinking nothing stronger than ice water, and probably not in the best mood. But I'll be on the job. And I'll have your recap right here tomorrow. 
     
    Come on back to check it out.
     

  • On that note: I'm done for this early afternoon. I think it's already 5 degrees hotter than it was 2 hours ago. You know what else is as fucked up as that "low temperature being higher than Wednesday's high temperature" thing? Showering more times in a day than you eat.
     
    Although really, only one of them is a shower. The thing I'm off to do now is more of a "cold rinse." Bring the core temperature back down, and get on with my day. Like a man! Because there's no whining at OO!
     
    See you tomorrow, people.... 


  
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E-MAIL RICK SCAIA

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

 

 

 


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