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RAW/Ratings, Big Lesnar and Bret Hart
News, Tatanka Signed, Molly, MORE! 
August 3, 2005

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


A moment of silence, please....
For two days ago, a tragedy befell Dayton-area Breakfast Fans, as the Golden Nugget Pancake House suffered a serious fire.

"But Rick, it's just a pancake house," I hear you saying... you ignorant slut!

It is, in fact, the finest establishment in the explored universe for breakfast. Or for

eating breakfast at times other than breakfast time, as I am often wont to do. Since I would gladly eat breakfast three meals a day, if it were socially acceptable.

But it's not just me and my fetish for the eggs, the meats, the breads, and the cheeses of breakfast: in the media coverage of the tragic blaze, the Nugget was referred to as a "local landmark." And deservedly so; they must be doing something right to have a line stretched halfway around the building every Sunday morning and well into the afternoon, filled with people willing to wait to gorge themselves on the sheerest deliciousness.

Hell, even on a random Tuesday afternoon, there'd be a line. And thus, I'd have to wait to be seated so I could satisfy my lunchtime craving for cholesterol. My favorite: the country omelet (sausage, cheese, and potatoes packed inside, and then the whole thing slathered with sausage gravy), with hashed browns and a stack of three huge pancakes (big and fluffy) included on the side. For less than six bucks. Mmmm mmmm, good. 

Now, I'll have to wait even longer. I gather the damage is repairable, but it will take a while before the Nugget gets back on its feet. Looks like I'll need to dust off my Waffle House Lingo a bit more frequently for a while, here. I likes mine Scattered, Smothered, and Covered... 

And don't anybody even bother mentioning (1) Bob Evans or (2) Denny's. Unless you (1) like over-paying for under-tasty food, or (2) are an delicate arteest or goth type who likes sitting around drinking a bottomless 90 cent cup of coffee for 4 hours on a Friday night. Fie on both those establishments. I could stomach IHOP, I guess, but the nearest one of those is like 20 minutes away from me; and Waffle House is still better, anyway....

So please, everybody bow your heads and take a moment to wish the Golden Nugget a speedy recovery. I simply won't be the same till she's back and clogging my arteries a few times a month!

And in exchange for your kind thoughts, I figure you might as well get an actual wrestling column in return: 

  • Monday's RAW still sits uneasily in my belly. It was just another week where maybe things weren't outright bad... but where things were just a bit on the bland side.
    To repeat my favorite new mantra: no matter what anybody out there thinks, and no matter what WWE's Writer Monkeys might say, it is NOT THAT HARD to come up with 2 hours worth of interesting TV every week. Two hours that people will ENJOY instead of ENDURE.
    But RAW on Monday seemed intent on testing our endurance, what with 15 minute Snitsky/Masters matches and 8 minutes of Val Venis vs. Rob Conway. Not to mention a Diva Search Segment that, thanks to the addition of Rob Schneider, actually made anyone viewing it about 2% stupider. I'm just lucky I had the 2% to spare. And I can probably rebuild that 2% by engaging in some pretentious wankery, like pretending to listen to NPR for about 10 minutes. 
    There were also varying levels of missteps in storylines that SHOULD be chugging along nicely. First and foremost is the Cena/Jericho feud over the WWE Title. Which, because of WWE's mishandling of the situation, feels a LOT more like Eric Bischoff vs. John Cena. Which is wrong for so many reasons.
    Look, the joke-that's-a-little-too-true-to-actually-be-funny is that Jericho never gets pushed, he's being held down, and yadda yadda yadda. But it's something you can deal with as long as WWE's not slapping you in the face with the fact that Jericho is doomed to lose his next major match; you can still hope, you can still come up with some rationalization. But that's not really the case here, because WWE is telegraphing to just about ALL fans (not just the ones who like to talk about Jericho being held down) that Jericho's just a pawn here. He's a chess piece that Bischoff has moved into position in front of John Cena. And ultimately, it doesn't matter if Jericho wins or loses, cuz Bischoff will just find somebody else to throw at Cena.
    Obviously, some dunderhead on the creative team thinks that John Cena is the second coming of Steve Austin; it's obvious in a lot of the supposedly "rebellious" things Cena does, in the way announcers talk about him, and now even in the way he's standing up against an Evil Boss. But somebody forgot to realize that Cena is NOT Austin. He doesn't have the same backstory, he doesn't even really have the same bad-ass appeal. The biggest problem is that there is not one single edgy thing about John Cena; but 7 years ago, Austin's envelope-pushing edginess was the KEY COMPONENT to his character, and it's the reason why his boss (Vince) felt the need to reign him in. Today, Cena is doing nothing controversial, nor anything particularly interesting, and yet, Eric Bischoff rants and raves week after week about the damage Cena is doing to RAW with his "thuggery." It rings so false, and yet, WWE is hanging the entire Bischoff/Cena rivalry on that issue.
    Making matters worse is that Jericho's character isn't really one who fits in as a brown-nosing toadie. Whether as a heel or as a face, Jericho's tended to be either a lone wolf, or be the alpha of a team (such as when he was palling around with Christian). It doesn't suit Y2J to have his allegedly-main-event feud with Cena being overshadowed by Bischoff's "feud" with Cena... but it also hurts him to be bastardizing his own character and personality to be Bischoff's pawn. There are other guys who are much better at playing that ass-kissing sycophant without it hurting their own character: as a ferinstance, Kurt Angle is tremendous at it, and I thought right after he came over from SD!, we caught a glimpse of just how good he could be as a close ally of Bischoff's.
    But none of that really matters: we've got what WWE is serving up, and on Monday night, it was another night of Jericho's quest for the WWE Title seeming secondary to Eric Bischoff's quest to remove the WWE Title from John Cena's waist. Which is kind of an ass-backwards way of telling the story.
    Also: holy christ did the finish of the main event ever piss me off. As soon as they announced the stip in the opening segment, I knew they were gonna have trouble paying it off in a way that didn't completely underwhelm. As noted yesterday, most of these would have included playing up tension between Jericho and Carlito, and telling a more layered, subtle story that could eventually end with Jericho grudgingly counting three for Cena. But heaven forefend that WWE do something that gives fans a reason to possibly cheer for Jericho or Carlito, and thus dilute Cena's appeal. So even before the main event started, I figured it was gonna be one of three things: (1) a no decision schmozz, (2) Jericho gets bumped and another ref makes the count, or (3) Jericho gets bumped HARD, and Cena steals the Stone Cold Trick of using Jericho's limp arm to count to three. I'll say this: thank god they didn't do #3, as that would have REALLY sanded my vagina. But I think I can safely say that they also did #2 in about the lamest way possible. Where the hell did Chioda come from? He was there in a flash? And not that I want Hot Referee Storylines, but why do I suspect his outright mutiny against Eric Bischoff's Evil Plan won't be addressed at any point in the near future?
    Anyway, that's all my long winded way of explaining who a storyline that SHOULD have the full attention of the Creative Team, and thus which should be sailing along significantly more smoothly than other crap on the udnercard, is still some managing to almost completely miss the mark. Yes, they ended the show with Cena bloodied at the hands of Jericho. But then it was Bischoff who gave Cena the talking to. And most of all: until you find me one fan who actually thinks this means Jericho might win the belt, I consider it a storytelling flop. There's no uncertainty or ambiguity here. It's almost like a SD! Title match... which is about the rudest insult I can think of to hurl. So that's probably a good hopping-off point...
    And after dissecting Jericho/Cena in depth like that, I don't know if I have the energy to wrap my brain around the logic-hole-infested hellscape that is Matt Hardy's "official" return to RAW. I foresaw this 3 months ago, but I also thought that my cautionary words would mean that WWE's creative types might take the time to cobble together SOME kind of clever way of weaving together Matt's real life drama and TV storylines into one storyline that fans might get excited about. Instead? We got this: Matt comes out and says all things about Kane/Lita were a fake TV storyline. Matt says his relationship with Lita was real, and used death threats to make it seem like his hatred of Edge was just as real. But in talking about the "real" Edge and Lita, he had to reference Lita's injury at the hands of Kane. Which was, according to him mere moments before, fake. But now, it's a part of the "real" storyline in which Edge's life is miserable because of Lita's injury. I knew there would be problems reconciling the "real" and the "fake" when Hardy came back, I just had no idea that WWE would be so cataclysmically stupid that they'd create problems THIS HUGE within a single 4 minute promo.
    I'm sorry to report that I'm not exactly brimming with good ideas for how this could have been handled better. Unlike most of my creative gripes, this is not an issue where I feel like I have a solution. I merely know that what WWE's doing is annoyingly, frustratingly, mind-numbingly wrong. And in the end, Matt Hardy's gonna be the one to pay the price; already, I think the case can be made that he was more popular 3 months ago than he is today. And that's not the way his stock should be trending.
    Other than the boring, Heat-caliber matches and the 2 major areas of dubious storytelling, RAW did have two strong segments. One was obviously Michaels' Hogan parody, which is a fine example of how you CAN weave together "shoot" and "work" comments to tell a story that appeals to different fans on different levels (completely unlike what WWE's doing with Hardy); I thought the ending tagline to the skit was incredibly gay, but up till then, it was probably RAW's strongest segment. Which is half-a-compliment to Michaels, and half-an-insult to the RAW creative team for not coming up with other good stuff. And the second thing I liked was the Eugene/Angle/Tatanka bit; mostly, I just like Eugene and Angle's dynamic together, and look forward to more of it. Tatanka was a nice little surprise, who played his role to perfection.
    If it's actual results from Monday you want, instead of my theoretical rambling, then I suggest you check out the OO RAW Recap. I promise that even if RAW wasn't that fun of a show to watch, the recap shall be plenty of fun to read.
  • Monday's RAW did a 3.8 cable rating, which is either the same as last week, or maybe up one-tenth. I forget. And in either case, the real important thing to note is that RAW still hasn't regained the ratings form it had prior to July 4.
    Not to pat myself on the back, but I'm gonna again point out that my little theory about "Stunt Booking" and using gimmickry (instead of focusing on fixing the core problems and putting out Sustainably Entertaining Episodic TV) seems like it might be holding water. Ratings did go up for the Draft Lottery. But now that that's done? RAW's actually back down below where they were before the Lottery. Because they only drew more eyeballs for the gimmick of the Lottery, and then failed to impress them with the sustainable week-to-week stuff.... so now those marginal fans are gone.
    C'mon, WWE: it's not that hard. Two hours of interesting TV a week. And the thing is, it's so unhard that to my way of thinking, you really should have the last four hours of RAW leading into SummerSlam already done. In fact, they should have been mostly-done two weeks ago. Then again, if you were planning ahead by a month or more (which I think should be standard), I doubt the roster would have shown up at Mohegan Sun this past week and seen "Snitsky/Masters = 15 minutes" on the format sheet. That strikes me as something that can only be the result of a creative team that is out of ideas, entirely.
  • And now, something completely different....
    WWE.com might have all the credibility of Rafael Palmiero at this point, but they've got their own little version of the hokey-pokey going the last two days. You put your Lesnar in, you take your Lesnar out, and so on and so forth. And then you can put your Bret Hart in and shake him all about; but not too hard, since you don't want him to pop another blood vessel in his brain.
    What am I talking about? Well, after turning Brock Lesnar's WWE return into an "internet-only" storyline over the past month, WWE.com is now reporting that Brock Lesnar has broken off negotiations and will not be returning to WWE. The problem is that most believed that there was (at the very least) a verbal agreement reached between Brock and WWE, which is the only reason WWE even started acknowledging the rumors on their website (although they were widely known and being discussed on websites like these). Even current and former WWE stars have gone on record as saying that the reason for last month's massive lay-offs was because WWE wanted to cut payroll because they'd already signed Lesnar to a renegotiated big-money contract.
    Is it possible that we should take this story at face value and write off Brock Lesnar? Of course, it's possible. But the fact of the matter is that if Lesnar doesn't agree to terms with WWE, he's basically agreeing to sit out the remaining 6 years or so of his no-compete clause. The whole reason he came back to WWE was because if he provided his services to WWE, they could work out a new version of the no-compete in exchange, and both parties would be able to avoid costly litigation (litigation which it had begun to appear Lesnar would lose). It seems odd to me that both sides would swallow their pride enough to hammer out a fundamentally-mutually-satisfactory deal, only to have Lesnar get cold feet at the last second because he didn't think he was getting enough from the Fed.
    So what to believe about Lesnar? I can't tell you for sure, but I'm still of the opinion that we've not seen the last of Brock in a WWE ring. Because even if the new reports ARE true, he wouldn't be legally allowed in another ring until 2011, and trust me, I don't think he'd honestly be able to sit out that long, living off the money he made in his two years on top for WWE.
    Work or shoot? Shork or woot? I dunno. But I'm hoping that Brock is still on his way in, and this is some dumbass ploy by WWE to toy with the internet fans. Because man alive does SD! ever need a top heel to challenge Batista. Randy Orton will make for a cute little diversion, but I mean we need a REAL challenger. Batista gets a free pass to play around with yutzes like JBL (and next with Orton) since he's coming off a decisive series of wins over HHH.... but eventually, SD! will need a legit, compelling challenger, otherwise, it's Dave who'll pay the price.
  • And a day after announcing all ties with Lesnar have been severed, WWE.com announced that Bret Hart was coming to visit Titan Towers.
    This, at least, is a documentable news item, and one that also jibes pretty closely with stuff we've been talking about here in the last week. I think it was just last Friday where we talked about WWE's desire to get Bret Hart locked into some kind of a deal so that he can take an active role in the production and promotion of the 3-disc DVD set WWE is releasing this fall.
    That's been a sticky issue, as Bret still hasn't completely gotten over the Montreal Screwjob, and knows that WWE's telling of the story will not -- in a billion years -- ever be the same as his side of the story. So there's kind of a disconnect there: does Bret want to get involved and possibly be a part of a "distortion" of the story? Or can he get involved and sway the story towards his side?
    WWE also desires to induct Bret Hart into the Hall of Fame next April during WM weekend in Chicago (site of Bret's memorable WM13 match against Steve Austin), but there's plenty of time to work out those details. If Bret's visiting WWE HQ today, it's because time's running short on getting Bret included in the DVD compilation.
    I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention about 900 different fantasy booking scenarios that have popped up in the last 12 hours in my mailbox.... because everybody's picking up on the "shooty" nature of Michaels' promos heading into SummerSlam (about not laying down for anyone), and thinks that's a perfect set-up for Bret to return to WWE to screw Michaels in his match against Hogan.
    Some mistakenly believe that Bret's physical capable of being a full-time wrestler again, I think, judging by their booking. [Note: he is not.] Some think that he'd make a great Special Referee for the Hogan/Michaels match, and go from there (limiting Hart's physicality to what he might actually be capable of doing). And everybody managed to realize that the final RAW before SummerSlam is being held in Montreal. Cue the dramatic music...
    I'm not exactly sure this is a healthy area of speculation. Then again, what've I been saying about Stunt Booking the last month or so? It seems like WWE's new bread and butter. So I guess nothing would shock me at this point.
    But I really do think the more reasonable interpretation of Bret's visit to Stamford is that he's just there working out possible details of his involvement in a DVD project. Now, there's no doubt in my mind that said involvement (if it comes to fruition) would include appearances on WWE TV to do some hype and to remind us of just who the Hitman is... but as far as trying to screw Shawn Michaels and stuff like that goes? I dunno... I just dunno... because how do you pay that off with a guy who is simply not physically capable of stepping into the ring and having a match? It'd be one thing if Vince wanted to step up and sacrifice himself to a half-speed Bret Hart as part of a one-off TV angle... but it'd be hard to justify doing the same with an active wrestler like Michaels.
    I'm sure WWE.com will have more Completely Honest and Factual Information for you about Bret's visit, if you want to check them out tomorrow.
    Or you can just wait till Friday, and I'll probably have a less patronizing version of the story.
  • Think the Lesnar/Bret stuff isn't zany enough? How about WWE.com reporting that Dusty Rhodes is also visiting WWE HQ today. And in his case, they specifically say he's there to visit Stephanie McMahon.
    So maybe we're not supposed to think that Dusty's here to sign up for future DVD projects or the Hall of Fame? Maybe we're supposed to think that Dusty is the solution to Stephanie's Hollywood Writer Problem?
    If so, may I be the first to make a loud farting noise? I may? Thank you.
    Actually: in a battle of Dusty vs. Hollywood Writer Monkeys, Dusty might be nominally preferable. But his track record pretty clearly indicates he's not the real solution. Yeah, he's got a bit more of the Wrestling IQ, but what WWE needs TODAY, in the Year of our Lord 2005, is somebody with Wrestling IQ who is also comfortable with the changing fanbase. Not somebody who would go to war with the fans in a further attempt to turn back the clock to simpler times.
    There are elements of old-timey wrestling that'll always work. But there is also a fundamental need to evolve a bit: from dealing with what information the fans might be reading on the internet to dealing with the way fans might be watching the TV shows (due to new technology like DVR) to crafting gimmicks and characters that are relevant to today's audience (instead of to children or to folks stuck in the 80s), it's a whole new world out there since the last time Dusty SUCCESSFULLY ran a wrestling company.
    But who knows? Maybe he's only there to put his two cents worth in on a WWE 24/7 special, or something... in either case, TNA's loss is not exactly WWE's gain. Unless this could somehow result in the return of Goldust. Because honestly: if you're gonna have really goofy characters, at least let the guy who did "goofy" the best have the job.
  • Many have written in saying that Tatanka is claiming to have received a WWE contract after his one-shot deal on Monday. He made the announcement on his website's message board, saying he was looking forward to dropping some pounds and making the most of his next chance with WWE.
    If true, it's a mildly confusing move... nothing against Tatanka, who I remember liking reasonable well back in the day (he did the very basic sympathetic babyface thing very well; but as my "smartness" kicked in and he turned heel, I remember his stock plummeting a bit). But given some of the talents out there on the market, he's not necessarily one I'd rush to get in line to sign.
    Then again: WWE needs more mullets. And Tatanka's on Monday was truly magnificent.
  • Many have also written in to alert me to the fact that orders are now being taken for a Molly Holly "shoot" DVD. And as big a Molly fan as I might be, I'm not entirely sure a glimpse of the DVD's website inspires much interest...
    For one, the title of the DVD is "Shooting the Shi.... Crap." Which I'm sure is somebody's idea of a joke about Molly's demure non-foul-mouthedness. But didn't I remember her declaring her fondness for Jay (of Jay and Silent Bob fame) in some interview? I'm guessing that no matter how much Molly likes the Jesus, a swear word or five wouldn't exactly scandalize her. 
    And for two, the main promotional blurb's first sentence is "Nora discusses her views on SEX" (their capitalization, not mine), which really makes me wonder about the motives of the producers. I mean, I am probably among the Global Leaders in terms of Filthy Thoughts Had About Molly, and I can safely say that there's about a hundred other things I'd love to hear Molly chatting about on a wrestling DVD. And I think 99% of her fans are in that same boat. This might come out sounding uncomplimentary (which is NOT how I mean it), but it's not like Molly exactly had a ton of fans in the compulsively-masturbating 13-year-old crowd... trying to sell her "shoot" DVD like it's an issue of Maxim thus strikes me as really, really inappropriate.
    Also: for as much as I joke about the unreadability of the Torch, they do a nice job, production-wise an preparation-wise, on their shoot DVDs. That does not appear to be the case here with the company that's releasing Molly's. In addition to the missteps in terms of titling/promotion, it looks like a pretty bush-league production. And christ, Molly's in fricking Minnesota, Keller, she's practically your neighbor... and you couldn't lock her down for an interview? You had to let these imbeciles handle it instead?
    You can judge for yourself whether to plop down the $20 at www.NoraDVD.com.
  • I think that's about it for today. If things go according to plan, Jeb'll be back with Part 1 of a two-part series for you tomorrow... a little something that'll probably make 90% of you go "oh, yeah, I know those types," and probably piss off the other 10% of you who ARE that type. Which is just how I likes it. In either case, come on back tomorrow, and you should get to find out exactly what "type" Jeb's talking about.
    More than likely, my own next appearance will be on Friday, so I'll see you then, folks...

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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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