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Expanded Homecoming Preview, plus
SD!, TNA, and Other Monday Newsbites 
October 3, 2005

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Ahhhh, October. My favorite month of the year is back once again.
It involved a bit of drama and way more intrigue than I would have hoped, but the Yankees are still playing baseball, just as they should.

And then, in a bit of a shocker, a quick glance at the New York Giants and the Cincinnati Bengals reveals that both seem to be approximating Successful Pro Football Franchise

Status. That's not something that I associate with October, but I'll take it.

On the downside, another unexpected October Twist: fricking back to back (to back) days with highs in the upper-80s. Not that it's unlivable or anything. It's just that this is the month of the year where I'm used to not seeing the high side of 70, and when the air takes on that smell (you know the one, the one that smells like winter) when it cools off at night.

Apparently, all I gotta do, weather-wise, is make it through to this weekend. And that's when I *really* form Voltron: you put the playoff baseball with the brisk autumn air and sprinkle in some of my porch, and THAT, my friends, is a recipe for about as much fun as a man can have by himself. Unless the Yankees lose. In which case, it's a recipe for me saying "Screw this Solitary Man horseshit, I'm going out."

In any case, I hope October see all of you as well and in as good of spirits as I am. I'll try to do my part here with a Very Special Two Part OO Column. First, we'll have an expanded preview of tomorrow night's live RAW Homecoming. And then second, we'll rifle through some other analyses and newsbites, in bullet point form.


RAW Homecoming Preview

Why a whole special section for this? Why publish Monday's OO on Sunday night so that the RAW Preview is actually relatively timely, instead of something I throw together 4 hours before the show airs (on the east coast)? Why get a few of the trOOps to chime in with their thoughts?

Simple: because RAW's Homecoming episode appears to have had more thought and promotional effort put into it than just about any pay-per-view WWE has put on this year.

On one hand, that's an unconscionable oversight on WWE's part to have asked us to pay for all the dreck that they have so far in 2005 (and during the latter portion of 2004, too). But on the other, hey, if the question is "What have you done for me lately?" then it's hard not to get excited for the prospects of a star-studded Homecoming line-up.

And whether Homecoming really stands on its own as a highly anticipated night, or whether it only stands out because of the poor quality of the product surrounding it, it really doesn't matter. It *does* stand out. And if WWE's treating the show as something special, then I figure it's only right to treat this preview as something a little bit special.... thus, the handful of guest stars and special publication schedule, all intended to lend a certain bit of gravitas to the Homecoming Edition of RAW. Afterall, if cynical jerks like The Rick can get fired up for this show, I can only imagine the excitement level some of you more-easily-amused types are feeling!

Alfonso Castillo says...
Monday Night RAW is back on USA and all is right with the world again. Maybe itís just me, but even after five years, RAW just didnít seem like a good fit on Spike TV. With pro wrestling always fighting the good fight to gain mainstream acceptance and legitimacy, ďThe First Network For MenĒ Ė with its wacky Japanese stunts, pickup truck maintenance shows, and countless other testosterone-centric programming, was everything WWE should get away from. Spike is quickly becoming, to the male gender what minstrel shows were to black Americans. Yes, I like the Godfather Trilogy. But not every day of the week. 
When WWE left USA, it was a generic cable superstation. Through its affiliation with NBC, it has evolved into a sleek, hip and popular cable network, with first-rate programming. If its elegant marketing campaign for the return of RAW is a sign of things to come, WWE made a great choice in returning to USA.

There's no denying that USA Network really is WWE's "home." In a purely intangible way, I understand Fonzo's point about RAW never quite seeming "right" on TNN/SpikeTV, but that's probably just because some of my earliest wrestling memories from middle school were early morning, pre-dawn USA Network reruns of "All American Wrestling" that I'd be able to check out while waiting for my turn taking a shower. "All American" on "USA"? It's a perfect enough fit that I guess maybe the notion got hard-wired into my brain...

But there are also tangible benefits that WWE should start accruing by returning "home." USA Network is available in a few more homes than SpikeTV was (and has a FAR greater penetration in "institutional" settings like hotels and college campuses). USA is a part of the NBC/Universal family, and it seems like WWE has positioned itself to reap those benefits more than they ever did while working under the Viacom (CBS/UPN/SpikeTV) banner. And perhaps most of all: USA "understands" WWE, and will support the company if they decide to push the envelope a bit.

Certainly a fair amount of the hype I've seen actually centers on the notion that "anything can happen," with the unstated implication that that was not always the case on SpikeTV. Whether Vince McMahon's posturing is to be taken seriously or not (he did, afterall, claim to abhor censorship in the very same interview, and we broke our Irony Meter discussing THAT chestnut last week), we're at least supposed to be thinking in terms of WWE having the handcuffs taken off now that they are back on USA. 

Of course, whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is something we may not know for a while. For every intense, profanity-laden face-to-face promo, for every bloody brawl, you just KNOW that "taking the handcuffs off" comes with the risk of Viscera impregnating Mae Young. Ugh. At least that's one thing you don't have to worry about seeing on TNA...

But I'm getting ahead of myself, here.... the "no handcuffs" think might be little more than marketing sophistry. Something Vince is trying to plant in our heads so that we think that RAW will be just as balls-to-the-wall as TNA. But the proof, as they say, will be in the pudding. Which is a stupid thing to say, since I can't even remember the last time I ate pudding... but the proof will be there at 7:55pm (eastern) tonight on USA Network, and we'll be able to judge for ourselves just how far WWE's willing to go to create an all new set of RAW memories for us fans.

Which is as good a time as any to turn to the small cadre of OO staffers who sent in some of their favorite extant RAW memories....

Canadian Bulldog says...
Monday Night Raw has always been about the mark-out moments for me. Save for a few angles on SmackDown (or any televised wrestling show, for that matter), the "Holy Shit"-type highlights have been few and far between. But there have been so many of these over the years on Raw.
In the early years, you had to stay up until 2 a.m. here in Canada to watch Raw, yet I vividly remember things like Steve Austin's first stunner on Vince McMahon; a promo advertising the WWF debut of Vader; the freaky "worked shoot" between Austin and Brian Pillman that actually ended in gunfire; and the emotional, unexpected reunion of Bret Hart, Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith. Plus, for the first time, there were decent matches being shown on free television. Who could ever forget the night Sean "1-2-3 Kid" Waltman upset Razor Ramon, then stole his cash a week or two afterwards?
In later years, when Raw became available in "real time" here, moments that stand out for me include Mick Foley winning his first World Title against The Rock; the debut of The Radicalz and their surprising heel turn a week later; Chris Jericho defeating Triple H in the ultimate Dusty Finish; the hilarious Austin-Rock "duet"; and of course, the night that ECW joined the WWF-WCW invasion angle. There have been great matches, too: Shawn Michaels vs. Shelton Benjamin; Ric Flair vs. Triple H; TLC IV; the list goes on and on.
Good times. 
"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth says...
There was a time when I felt I had an emotional investment in RAW. Those feelings reached their peak when Mankind first won the title in late 1998. For those who weren't around at the time, this was when RAW did live shows every two weeks. Mankind's win over The Rock was taped for the following week. As Mick Foley recounted in his second autobiography, Tony Schiavone was prompted over his headset during Nitro's live broadcast to spoil the result and make fun of the concept of Mankind as champion. Instead, viewers changed channels to watch Mankind's victory and Nitro was pretty much hooped from then on.
Alfonso Castillo says...
As for my fondest memories of RAW: I guess itís easy to harken back to the timeless visuals of Steve Austin driving a beer truck to the ring, and other favorites. But I think back to those moments that maybe arenít remembered so well, but gave me a huge rush at the time. One of my very favorite moments maybe the Memorial Day 1997 Raw in which Shawn Michaels and Austin reluctantly teamed together to win the tag team titles from Davey Boy Smith and Owen Hart in a 4-star classic. I also fondly remember the thrill of the once-a-month live RAW, usually the night after PPVs.  The next three weeks of RAW would be taped the same night, and spoilers were always readily available. But for one hour a month, you were watching something truly special.

For me, I'm a man who has to divide his memories into two distinct categories. Because I really just can't equate watching something on TV to participating in an event live and in person. TV, even at its very best, just sits there, and has a hard time making truly indelible marks on me. But seeing something live, up close and personal? That's when I'll make a permanent mental record of my experience.

And I've been to a number of live RAWs in my day. But the one I'll spin a quick yarn about was my first one. It was during July of 1993, and it was a trip designed to both touch base with relatives in Connecticut and also make some College Visits. As it turned out, one full day would be spent in New York City. Using all of my rhetorical powers, I managed to convince my mom that the day we should spend in NYC should be the Monday of that week, not the Wednesday, as she'd originally planned... from there, it didn't take too much additional prodding to put a Live RAW at the Manhattan Centre on our itinerary for the day. 

So that's how I ended up attending my first live RAW with a very strange collection of moms, brothers, aunts, and uncles. I, obviously, was the one most into the show, and I also got something very memorable for my troubles: a Shawn Michaels/Marty Jannetty IC Title match that ended up getting more than a few votes for Match of the Year in 1993. I still consider that one of the three best matches I've ever witnessed live and in person, and it's the highlight of that entire night.

Also at those tapings, we got a very good Bret Hart/Bam Bam Bigelow match (which, when it aired a week later, wasn't nearly as impressive, since the broadcast version spent more time on Jerry Lawler taunting Bret's parents in the mezzanine, instead of on the in-ring action), a fun angle with Doink the Clown (still at his heelish best) and Macho Man Savage, and (ugh) the RAW debut of "Men on a Mission" (featuring a rather portly fellow named Mabel who is currently befouling WWE rings as Viscera). And those tapings actually ended up being the last ones at the Manhattan Centre (the birthplace of RAW), up until a one-night "homecoming" of sorts when the WWF did a live 2-hour broadcast from there to help usher in the "RAW is WAR" era in 1997. 

[In an illustrative object lesson: when RAW was allowed to expand to 2 hours in 1997, it was scoring some of its lowest ratings ever. But the support of the USA Network, and the faith they had in Vince McMahon to effectively compete with this thing known as "Nitro," meant that RAW still got the extra weekly hour to sink or to swim. Of course, less than a year later, the ratings tables had turned, and USA's trust in the WWF to build a better mousetrap had been proven justifiable. That's a level of support that I know WWE never felt during their 5 years away from USA...]

My favorite Live RAW Memories aside, my favorite TV RAW Memories are probably a kinda-short list. Again, just because of how, over time, I've become more resistant to letting TV Memories sink in the same way Real Memories do... a few key ones would be:(1) the 1-2-3 Kid beating Razor Ramon during RAW's first few months, as that set the stage for the notion that anything really could happen on a live edition of RAW.... (2) the Shawn Michaels "collapse" episode of RAW, which fooled EVERYbody (trust me, I was on the internet in 1995, and we were "had" for at least 24 hours), and which also featured a very sweet Kevin Nash "shoot" promo... (3) Mike Tyson's first RAW appearance and shoving match with Steve Austin, which got played on SportsCenter and which pretty much set the stage for RAW's ratings comeback and eventual quashing of Nitro.... (4) The Owen Hart Memorial RAW, which is one of VERY few RAWs that graduated to "Video Keeper" status for me, albeit for very sad reasons.... (5) the first ECW "invasion" RAW, which was the aforementioned "return to the Manhattan Centre" episode of the show, and which is one of the few other episodes of RAW to be dedicated to VHS in my collection.

I don't know what it says about me that the most recent Ultra-Fond Memory I have of RAW is about 8 years old and from WWE's first run on the USA Network. I mean, I guess I got a kick out of beer trucks and zambonis and whatnot... but those aren't things that I, as a wrestling fan, save and go back and watch. They are cheap stunts that brighten the spirits of fans, and give you something to smile about and cheer for for a few minutes. For me, a significant wrestling memory is something that gets people talking, that gets them so intrigued that they tune in the next week. With the exception of the Owen Episode (which is on my list for different reasons), each of the other four episodes I named had that direct an impact on wrestling fans: each got fans talking, and in each case, you could see a direct correlation to the NEXT week's ratings, as more people tuned in to see what happened next.
That's the sort of significance, the sort of impact, that no number of Vehicular Stunts or Vince-peeing-himself or over-long This-is-Your-Life segments really accomplishes for me. Sure, those things (depending on your sense of humor) were possibly a lot of fun in the moment... but are they really things that get to the core of what makes you excited about watching wrestling? I think not.

Maybe, then, it's not so shocking that all the items on my list are from back when the WWF was still on USA... although WCW survived for almost 2 years after the WWF jumped to SpikeTV, the truth is that the battle was over by then. The past five years, the WWF/E haven't felt the heat of competition, and thus, haven't really been inspired to deliver those kinds of get-people-talking moments.

It's either that, or I've just become incredibly jaded in my old age. And I really just don't see myself as that jaded, no matter how often I try to present myself as a curmudgeonly cynical asshole. The mere fact that I am as excited as I am about RAW's Homecoming proves I still have that Sense of Wonder in me... the fact that truly memorable RAW Milestones simply are few and far between the last five years, then, proves that it ain't me whose been off my game during the span.

But tomorrow, it's back to USA, and it's a loaded line-up, and it could well end up being one of those enormous shows that ends up as a Video Keeper. Only in this case, that means a DVR Keeper... assuming I decide I can afford to invest 3 hours of disk space, that is. Maybe I'll finally have to delete the Angle/Lesnar IronMan match from 2 years ago (which is the only wrestling I've deemed worthy of saving in the entire time since I discovered the Magic of DVR)?

And this is also as good a segue as I'm gonna get in terms of moving from talking about RAW's history to RAW's present... "Homecoming" is, in all significant aspects, being presented as a pay-per-view caliber event. Pay close attention to the hype, and it's not even really "RAW," it's an entirely different event that is titled "Homecoming." And like the biggest joint brand PPVs, SmackDown! is even invited to participate.

With RAW on a little break from PPVs -- and with their next event as the semi-random Taboo Tuesday -- they have the freedom to present a huge free-per-view event. They can blow us away tonight, and then still have a month to get things in place for Taboo Tuesday. To that end, Homecoming's top two matches are intertwined, and tell the story of the WWE Title Situation.

In The Best Reason To Watch RAW, Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels will face off in a 30-minute Iron Man Match. Although not officially a #1 Contenders' Match, the outcome will weigh heavily in the determination of the next WWE Title challenger, according to Mr. McMahon. Obviously, the likely scenario has Angle taking more shots at John Cena, but there are a lot of ways to get to that outcome that don't necessarily require Angle to win. More importantly, this is actually the rubber match between Michaels and Angle. The two had the Match of the Year (to date) at WM21, won by Angle; Michaels paid him back a few months later. In an IronMan match, the two will settle the score once and for all.

I don't know what else to say to get you fired up for this one. If the prospect of Angle and Michaels (probably the company's two best all-around performers at the present time) competing in a match like this doesn't butter your corncob, then I don't know what would. I just hope they keep it relatively "clean" and don't overbook things to get schmozzy (since there are other areas on the Homecoming card where that'll fit better). My "dream booking" for the match would be doing a microcosm of their feud, to date: Angle takes a fall early, Michaels rallies to tie it up late. Then, before they can get the "rubber fall," time expires, sending us into Sudden Death. And I'd let them go another 10-15 minutes in Overtime, just because I bet it'd be awesome. Then, no matter who "wins," the real victors are the fans...

Of course, the other part of this WWE Title equation is Homecoming's Crazy Uncle We'd Rather Keep Locked In The Attic.... because, for reasons unclear, John Cena will defend the WWE Title against RAW GM Eric Bischoff. Last week, Vince McMahon pep talked Bischoff, and seemed to score some points with a riff about "friends" who could have Bischoff's back. Kurt Angle, however, appeared to be Bischoff's only "friend" last week.... and given that John Cena is apparently Superman as far as WWE bookers are concerned, I'm not sure that's enough to seriously contemplate a title change. All I'm really hoping for out of this one is that it's short and that Cena keeps his displays of wiggerosity to a minimum and doesn't turn the crowd against him. Cena should win quickly and easily, and then get back to the business of dropping the strap to Kurt Angle, like he should have at the last PPV.

A third huge Homecoming match puts us back on the right track, as it's the nights OTHER Best Reason To Watch. Edge will face Matt Hardy in a Ladder Match. The winner not only gets the "Money In The Bank" Title Shot, but gets to keep his job. The loser? Has to leave RAW.

Now, we've covered all the storyline scenarios here on OO in the past 2 weeks. We've covered how Edge going to SD! seems to have a lot of interesting possibilities, but also how WWE advance bookings seem to hint that Edge is staying on RAW. But all that will be out the window once the bell rings, because I flat-out expect Edge and Hardy to bring the house, and do everything they can to not get overshadowed by those talented bastards, Angle and HBK. If we all put our heads together, I'm sure we'd still not be able to calculate how many times Edge and Hardy have been in ladder matches together.... and I KNOW we'd be unable to calculate the number of precious Stars given to those matches by wrestling "journalists" who lack an ability to use adjectives to explain how good/bad a match was. So even though this is the first time they'll be Ladder Matching in a one-on-one setting, I think it's safe to expect a lot of gOOdness. Given what's on the line, I think the fans will be way into this, too, possibly even in a way that they WON'T be into the IronMan Match... that intangible factor often times weighs on how memorable a match ends up being.

A gigantic X Factor at Homecoming is the SmackDown! Bonus Match. Teddy Long will be bringing six men to RAW tonight, but has yet to reveal exactly what kind of match they'll be having... he really couldn't have picked six better ones, though: Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio, Batista, Eddie Guerrero, Christian, and JBL.... well, five out of six ain't bad. I can only assume that the match won't be the straight six-man tag that you could draw up along heel/face lines, otherwise, there'd be no reason for Teddy to keep that a secret from fans. I'm guessing something a bit zanier, maybe a guantlet style match, or something... at the far end of the Zany Continuum, I guess you'd put an Elimination Chamber, right? But I'd guess something in between "six man tag" and "Elimination Chamber" would be the more realistic expectation.

My best guess might be a sort of 3-way tag match, where Benoit/Rey and JBL/Christian form up the expected teams, but then Batista/Eddie is your Odd Couple. It would play into the current "Eddie and Batista are Friends" gimmick on SD!, which is a necessary story to tell, considering that SD! has a PPV headlined by those two coming up in six days. And considering that I doubt anybody will really give a shit about a SD! PPV after a kick-ass free Homecoming show... at least, unless they REALLY give us a reason to care. Somehow, I figure the SD! Bonus Match will have to have a heavy emphasis on the Batista/Eddie dynamic. The other SD! PPV pairings are Benoit/Christian and JBL/Rey, but I don't see those as being quite as important in terms of selling a few more PPVs.

A final announced match for tonight will be a litmus test of sorts as to just how "un-handcuffed" WWE is on USA... the ever-popular Bra And Panties Match returns to RAW, as Trish Stratus and Diva Search Ashley will take on the threesome of Victoria, Torrie Wilson, and Candice Michelle. Spike's TV-G level of titillation rendered most T&A segments in RAW's recent past quite lame... maybe USA will at least go TV-PG and allow for some thongs? I dunno... I'm just looking for a hook here, people, because a week after Trish and Victoria reminded us what a women's wrestling match looked like, this is a return to pointless fluffery. So I guess I'm just hoping for ass-tastic fluffery. My official prediction: the winners will be the team that DOESN'T come to the ring obviously wearing stockings or other elaborate lingerie.

In addition to the five announced matches, there are also a slew of legends who'll be in attendance.

Leading the way will be a live edition of Piper's Pit, with special guest Mick Foley. Since Foley's slated to return to WWE as a weekly character (and sometimes wrestler), this is more than just a one-off deal... this could very well be the start of Mick's new M.O. to stick around on RAW. Piper's an ideal catalyst in situations like that, and I'd estimate the possibilities are pretty much endless in terms of who might crash the party or how things'll go down on the Pit. The over/under on how long the segment lasts before Mick says "Dallas"? Is 2 minutes. And I'm still betting the under.
Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin are also both in the house at Homecoming... during a joint appearance on an MSNBC talk show last week, Hogan hinted at a match with Austin being one of the last items not yet checked off his career's To-Do List. And Vince has a well-publicized hard-on for just that match-up, too, going back a couple of WrestleManias. I don't know if that'll necessarily come into play on RAW, but given that neither guy really has anything concrete to do on the show, and that neither guy really projects out to be a regular recurring character just now, putting them together in some one-off skit/segment to test the waters might be worth trying.

The RAW Return of Triple H is a whole other bird. Like Foley, he's returning to TV as a regular, but unlike Foley, he's returning as a full-time wrestler. That means instantly finding himself a storyline and somebody to feud with. I figure it's a bit of a no-brainer: in HHH's absence, Ric Flair has become a de facto babyface. HHH, by being absent for so long, is likely to get the babyface "respect" pop from the crowd when he returns. But Flair and HHH won't both stay babyfaces long. Nothing would more decisively return HHH to the heel status he needs than turning on his mentor, Flair. WWE has craved a Flair/HHH match for several months, and I can't imagine that plan has changed.

And going back two weeks, remember that The Rick has a bonus prediction about HHH's return, too: HHH will offer to team up with Flair against the team of Carlito and Chris F. Masters.... only to turn against Flair in that match. And just like that, you MIGHT have yourselves the makings of a New Evolution. All part of my plan to "hide" Masters as a third-stringer while he figures out how not to suck....

Then there's a few other "legends" who'll be in attendance, too. But with five matches (at least one of which is guaranteed to go 30 minutes and two others that should go 15-20), a Piper's Pit, a Big Ass Triple H Promo/Angle, and finding room for both Austin and Hogan, I don't see any of them really getting more than cameos. But still, fans of Hacksaw Duggan or Greg Valentine, gather round the Idiot Box Tonight, for you WILL get at least a glimpse of your old favorites.

It's a loaded show, one that should make great use of the special 3 hour timeslot. I'm excited as hell to see how it goes down... but that's an excitement that is tempered once I realize: one week of massive Stunt Casting doesn't solve WWE's core problems. If anything, it ILLUMINATES those problems, when you consider that WWE's just six days away from asking us to pay for a far inferior show. This is a concern that is shared by others....

PyroFalkon says...
It's really kind of reassuring to see the show back on USA, and I'm not sure why. I don't know, I guess there's the intangible thing of anything being "back home" that just makes things feel more comfortable. I'm an optimist, and maybe even if it SHOULDN'T be this way, perhaps the move to USA will spawn something in the RAW creative team to get their heads out of their asses and finally deliver a product that more resembles 1997, instead of 1987.
Erin Anderson says...
I haven't been watching
RAW much lately, and the only Smackdown! I've seen in the last few months was the time when I offered to recap the show. When I have bothered to watch RAW, I haven't paid much attention. This Monday will be different, and I will be watching with more anticipation than I have any pay-per-view since Wrestlemania or One Night Stand. Michaels and Angle are wrestling, Stone Cold and Foley will be there... hell, I'm even looking forward to seeing Triple H again. Of course I'm excited for all of that. But I'm also excited because a small piece of me is clinging to hope that WWE will give me a reason to care again, to make me look forward to Monday nights. I badly need to be reminded why I fell in love with wrestling in the first place.

I think that says it all... even among fairly loyal wrestling fans, Homecoming represents more a "Get Out of Jail Free" card. Something you can play once, and then it's gone. For WWE, this means two things: (1) they really do need to hit a home run with Homecoming, and (2) they need to hit the kind of home run that gives us all a little bit of faith that there's more like it coming next week.

Erin really took the words out of my fingers: I have only honestly been excited about wrestling three times this year.... WrestleMania, One Night Stand, and now, Homecoming. WM, to me, didn't quite live up to expectations on the whole (despite some quality matches, the show fizzled in the final third or so); One Night Stand, however, was exactly what I'd hoped it would be. So Angle and Michaels aren't the only ones having a "rubber match" tonight... WWE's also gotta step up and see if they can go 2-1 against High Expectations.

I, for one, hope that they do it. And that it inspires some confidence in them to do the kind of weekly shows that engender High Expectations, and then do their best to live up to them. For too long, now, I get the distinct impression that WWE's gameplan is to underwhelm... to drag things out, to "not give too much away," to do as little as possible while still retaining some semblance of an audience. And while that might be a function of the brand split drastically gutting the overall roster strength of two shows, or of the increased PPV schedule, or what, it simply is NOT what made RAW an instant hit 12 years ago, and it's sure as hell not what put RAW ahead of Nitro once and for all 7 years ago.

On a night when RAW comes "home," here's hoping that this is the start of something significant, not just a one night ratings stunt. Because I don't think I need to be reminded why I became a wrestling fan... but I'd sure as hell love to be reminded what it felt like to be excited every single Monday night when 9pm rolled around. That's a phenomenon that RAW invented, that Nitro improved upon, and that the WWF came back to perfect; and it's something that's been sorely missing for quite some time.

One night kick-ass show, or start of a new Golden Era of WWE on USA, it does not matter... I fully expect to be entertained by RAW, and I guaran-damn-tee that you'll be entertained tomorrow when you stop by for the OO RAW Recap. Which is only the finest RAW Recap in all the land. Enjoy "Homecoming," and I'll see to it that those of you who miss out can at least enjoy OO's coverage of the show....

Other TV Thoughts and Monday Newsbites 

  • To finish up the column today, I'm gonna quickly discuss the weekend's Wrestling Shows, starting with SmackDown...
    It was a tolerable enough show, but then again, I have the benefit of being able to FF when I want... and also: "tolerable" doesn't sell PPVs.
    The Batista/Eddie thing continues to be about the only real highlight of the show. It's nice to have two characters behaving like "themselves," if that makes sense... it's stuff like this that makes the writers evaporate, and lets you just enjoy the performance aspect. Even the silly backstage skit they did with Batista bogarting Eddie's dinner was entertaining, as a result. And obviously, the in-ring stuff (with Eddie scoring a cheap chairshot on Batista and then successfully blaming it on either M or N) was spot-on, too.
    I like the idea of Benoit vs. Christian vs. Booker vs. Orlando Jordan for the US Title, but honestly: this reeked more of "eh, we've got nothing else for these guys to do, so let's throw them together" than of the logical climax of a really well-told story. I don't know: I guess it does make sense and fit together a bit better than I'm giving it credit for, but it's just... it seems like a bit more effort, and you could have had a killer one-on-one US Title feud for Benoit at this point, instead of this messy four-way stuff.
    Ortons vs. Taker still leaves me bored.... and Animal/Heidenreich vs. MNM leaves me even more so. And am I to assume that the only reason Bob Holly materialized for no good reason to team with Rey against JBL and Ken Kennedy (kennedy) is so that Holly can get a token PPV appearance jobbing for Kennedy in six days? I mean, that's fine with me, but it didn't exactly make for the most thrilling of TV.
    Speaking of Rey/JBL: I half-expect it to be about as good a JBL match as he's capable of having, partly because he only has to be a prop for Rey, but also just because it seems like there'll actually be some heat on this one (Rey's just that popular). Anybody else catching onto JBL's constant references (3 weeks in a row, now, I think) about Mexicans entering America "wearing masks"? I mean, it fits for Rey, but it seems an odd thing to keep harping on... my guess: Rey/JBL is here for the long-haul, and it probably builds to a Mask vs. Something Of JBL's match. I'm not saying this is a good thing necessarily, but using my "WWE Think" Filter, it's my guess for where things are going...
    Oh, and Rey: ditch the new music. Seriously.
    I think that's about all I thought of while scanning through the show. For a more detailed account of this weekend's SD!, I suggest you check out the Hosehead's SmackDown! Recap.
  • And then? There's TNA's debut show on SpikeTV... in the Saturday night timeslot vacated by Velocity, "Impact" hit the airwaves this weekend.
    And although my intent is to bring Impact into my Monday Night Viewing Schedule (when I'm more in a wrestling mood), this weekend, I let my curiousity get the better of me, and I DVR'ed Impact and watched it on Sunday afternoon.
    My impressions, in one word: underwhelming.
    I have to assume that even TNA fans recognize that that was not really the company's best foot forward, and I'd suspect that any casual wrestling fan who didn't know that WWE was being replaced by TNA would not exactly have been wowed by the show that TNA presented.
    I mean, right out of the gates, the supposed "franchise" for TNA, AJ Styles, is presented as Mr. Super Bad-Ass, but then has a 3 minute match. No kidding: 3 minutes. That, my friends, is EXACTLY what Velocity Viewers are accustomed to: talented wrestlers in matches too short to be even remotely exciting. If AJ is the guy TNA wants to push as their signature star, this was not exactly the way to accomplish the mission.
    Then: Monty Brown. *PLONK* pretty much sums up my feelings about Monty, whose ceiling is "Ahmed Johnson, Circa 1996" (which is not unimpressive), but who is just a few sloppy matches away from being "Ahmed Johnson, Circa 1997." It's positively asinine the way that the announcers put over Monty's finishing move; I mean, the move itself is pretty asinine, and I've thought that for a year now.... but the sell job they did of it just underscores the fact. Just as I shall not call Chris F. Master's full nelson by any "brand name," I also think that wrestling fans should join me in not referring to Monty's shoulderblock by any other name. Some moves just are not meant to be finishers.
    Things got better for the three-way cruiserweight match, and they at least had some time to concoct a reasonably entertaining spotfest. I think that one must have been 8-10 minutes, and though nothing stuck with you afterwards, you'd have a hard time looking way given the pace. Also: the sell-job on Monty's finish becomes STILL MORE LAME when you compare it to something like Petey Williams' flip-piledriver.
    Jeff Hardy vs. Rhino was another 3-4 minute dealy. Too short to stand on its own as anything particularly good, and mostly just meant as an excuse to do run-ins by Sabu and Abyss to hype their upcoming four-way PPV match. Which is fine with me. What's not fine: the constant mentioning of how all four men would be "locked in a room without food, water, or light for 24 hours before their PPV match." The fuck? Even WWE would blush at trying to sell fans a bill of goods that retarded. Me: if I'm gonna be paying to see guys fight on a PPV, I'd rather have then rested, fed, and at the very least, hydrated so that I know I'll be getting their best efforts. Can someone (anyone) please explain to me who in the blue hell thought this sell-job would get even one single additional PPV buy?
    But the one unequivocal "win" for Impact was in the "main event." Which wasn't really a main event, it was just some footage of Jeff Jarrett winning the NWA Title, and then running his mouth about it. This led up to 3 Live Kru coming out to confront Jarrett and AMW, but then, Team Canada showed up to back the heels. And in a six-on-three brawl, who you gonna call?
    The former Dudley Boyz and Kevin Nash, apparently. Points to TNA for finding somebody to do a reasonable facsimile of the Duds WWE theme music, too. After the predictable (and red-hot) house-cleaning by the three recognizable ex-WWE stars, there was a bit of mic work to establish that (a) Nash would face Jarrett for the NWA Title at the next TNA PPV, and (b) the Former Dudleys (who wore "Team 3-D" t-shirts, and were not referred to by name otherwise) would face AMW next week in what Mike Tenay insisted on calling a fans' Dream Match (despite the fact that, no matter how good AMW are, I don't think most fans are familiar enough with them to be mentally booking them into Dream Matches).
    The way the fans responded, I can only hope Vince was watching at home pulling his hair out. Or better yet: pulling the plug on Johnny Ace's Reign of Douchebaggery. This was the only segment of the show that had a real Big Time Feel to it, and it was -- without a doubt -- because of the Dudleys. Even Nash was clearly less over (then again, he cut his promo in his patented "TNA Voice," which is the same as his WWE Voice would be, except only about 35% as interested in what he's saying).
    Up until those final 5 minutes, the first Impact on SpikeTV seemed just like every other Impact I'd ever seen. Short, pointless matches, no storytelling, no really lactch-on-to-able personalities or characters... given what Velocity was serving up by the end, I could almost see TNA being able to match those ratings. But in terms of convincing fans that this is Destination TV, or winning over casual WWE viewers? A show like this just is not gonna do it.
    I know it might be counter-intuitive, but getting FEWER guys on TV each week, and letting the ones who DO get on do more might be what TNA needs. Because I readily admit that there's things AJ Styles can do that WWE fans haven't seen before and that they'd appreciate. But he can't really do them in 3 minutes. TNA would be wise to look into the old ECW Syndicated Show format, which usually included 2 good, long matches and one major promo/angle. Then everybody else? Crammed into a Pulp Fiction segment, if they got on TV at all. This format would mean it'd take longer for TNA to introduce all its stars to the Spike audience.... but at least it'd mean that the audience would stick around to be introduced. As it stands after one week, sticking to THAT format of a show will have fans wondering what all the fuss was about.
    Three other observations that didn't really fit in anywhere else about Impact: (1) get rid of the Fricking Laser Beams, dammit (I was told they were gone, actually, but they were back this weekend, ensuring a nice mid-80s vibe all night long)... (2) get rid of Don West (I say this all the time, but it's as true now as it has been for the past 3 years; he's obnoxious).... and (3) TNA should really spring for a new NWA Title Belt, one that doesn't look like something the retarded brother from "Something About Mary" might have made in shop class.
    Of course, these are just my free form ramblings about the SpikeTV Debut of Impact.... for a more detail account of what actually happened, I implore you to check out Jason Longshore's Impact Recap. Interestingly, Jason includes some of the feedback he got from friends and patrons at his Local Soccer Pub on Saturday night, and a lot of it diverges 180 degrees from my feelings. Well, except for the part where I agreed with Erin about AJ Styles weenie-riffic little act with his hoodie. It's a curious little experiment to get non-wrestling-fan viewpoints, though, and it shows that there are Valid Opinions To Be Had out there that aren't The Rick's, I guess.
    For my part? I'll chalk up the difference of opinion to the fact that (with all due respect), I've never really hung out with people who thought putting Kahlua in whiskey sounded like a good idea! It's like there's a whole other world out there I know nothing about! Don't understand what the hell I'm talking about? Just check Jason's TNA Recap, and all will be made clear....
  • The preliminary rating for Friday's SD! was an impressive 3.7. But again, that only counts markets in which SD! aired in its normal timeslot, and is a number that will come down once rescheduled airings of the show are factored in from some major markets (including, I believe, NYC and Boston).
    Even if SD! can hold in the upper 2's (which would be a good guess, given how final ratings have compared to prelim ones the past few weeks), that's still just about the best ratings news WWE will have gotten since June. As outlined last week, SD!'s been hurt by preemptions, while RAW just flat-out suffered its worth ratings month in over a year in September...
  • Ratings for Impact won't be available till Tuesday, but we'll cover all that in the mid-week OO.
    Basically, if Impact can match a 0.6, that'll put them at roughly Velocity's recent average. But it's also necessary to note that on FSN, Impact was having a hard time scrounging to a 0.2 rating towards the end of its run. So I honestly don't know what to expect.... there are so many different factors at play here (TNA's pre-existing, but tiny, audience; the "built-in" audience who just tuned in on Saturday not knowing Velocity was gone; the possibility that Spike's excellent promotion of TNA would create new viewers) to really make an educated guess.
    And plus: whatever rating TNA scores in its debut isn't NEARLY as important as the rating it'll score THIS weekend... whether or not viewers liked what they saw enough to come back for more is the REAL test.
  • Speaking of Velocity... the WWE b-shows had their "debut weekend" of "airing" on WWE.com.
    I mention it only because it turns out my ranting and raving last week wound up being surprisingly prescient. Just as I advocated, WWE *is* offering up both Velocity and Heat on an "a la carte" basis. Meaning you can pick which match(es) you want to watch from each show without sitting through the whole show. Nice.
    Not only did I advocate this as a Convenience Feature for fans who might not have 45 minutes to sit in front of a computer, I also thought it might be a useful metric to WWE to see how many times each match is downloaded, and use that to measure relative popularity of various up and coming stars.
    Of course, when I was doing my ranting, the example I used was that I bet Tajiri could get billions of downloads for a good match, but The Lovely Miss Tomko would get maybe 17 for anything he does. To spite me? WWE goes and does a Tajiri vs. Tomko match for Heat this past week.... ugh.
    And the Cubs Fan isn't letting Heat and Velocity escape his clutches, just because they are off broadcast TV... he's done the detective work to put the matches in the intended order, and recapped both shows for you fine readers.
  • WWE actually returned to USA on Sunday night for a special counting down the 10 most memorable RAW moments.
    I, obviously, would have gripes about how some of the things were prioritized... the biggest things were the over-estimation of the McMahon family's importance to RAW storylines over the past half-decade. Honestly, other than Vince vs. Austin and the night Shane appeared on Nitro, can you think of any RAW Moments involving the McMahon family that were so sterling that they justified an entire 6 minute segment on a "best of RAW" retrospective? Nah, didn't think so.... and yes, this extends to HHH, who got to have his return appearance from Quad Surgery on the list. The hell? Just because *he* remembers that night doesn't me that *we* do...
    I was also not too keen on how much of RAW's past Suck was held up and deified. I'm talking Mae Young giving birth to a hand. The funny thing is that some of the stars interviewed called it outright awful (and not in a good way), but it was left in and edited in such a way that you're supposed to think they meant "so awful it was funny." Which it wasn't.
    There was, of course, a lot of really cool stuff from RAW's past served up, too. It's an entertaining enough hour, and it'll be replayed again on USA tonight right after RAW, if you want to check it out.
    Two noteworthy appearances: (1) this is the first fresh footage of Bret Hart that I can recall being shown on WWE TV, as he was included for some comments about the Owen Hart Incident. No real fanfare or anything, just all of a sudden, BAM, there's Bret. And (2) Chris Jericho is all over the place, and again, it's all fresh footage, since The Broad has me trained to notice things like Jericho sporting a new haircut since we last saw him on TV. It was a pretty good night of work for a guy who is supposedly fired.
  • I think that's about enough for today. There are a few other newsbites I could throw in, but I think for most wrestling fans, all roads lead to Homecoming at this point. Anything else I'd mention would just get lost in the shuffle.
    If any of it still seems important on Wednesday, you know you'll hear about it then, so don't fret. Enjoy Homecoming, Go Yankees, and I'll see you folks soon....

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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