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TNA's Primetime Special and Fall-Out,
Plus Bret, Austin, Foley, and Lots More News 
November 4, 2005

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


I like irony a lot better when it happens to other people, dammit.

For it was last night that I took pleasure in the pain of another man. When Shaq went down with a twisted ankle, I was sure that meant certain victory for My Indiana Pacers over the Hated Miami Heat. Turns out, there was still plenty of drama to go, but it did, indeed, turn out to be a victory for the good guys. God bless Shaq's frail ankle, I thought! Who knows how differently

things might have worked out had he still be able to play down the stretch?

Then after the game, I get home around 11. Halfway between my truck and my door, I roll *my* right ankle and proceed to spend the rest of the night in mild agony. Fucking walnut tree in my front yard usually drops all its bigger-than-golf-ball-sized nut-pods (or whatever you want to call them) into the street or the base of my driveway. But a few always manage to take odd bounces and end up where I might step on them. Usually, I'm vigilant, and keep them kicked or swept out of the way. But last night it was dark, I kinda thought we were about two weeks past the peak of the "falling nut-pod" season, I wasn't paying attention, and I managed to step on one just wrong.

It's OK, though. I tended to the injury as best I could, and I don't think it's too bad. If nothing else, it didn't feel worse this morning than it did last night, which is always a good sign. Much like Shaq, I believe I can be listed as "day-to-day." Stupid irony.

Luckily for me, you don't need your ankle to booze it up like a champion. And luckily for you, I also don't need it to half-ass my way through a column here before the Weekend Festivities beginulate. Here goes:

  • Top news item of the day probably goes to TNA, even if only by default. Doesn't look like WWE's gonna play along and try to trick us into caring about something like Jerry Jarrett bringing them some Russian actor to sign to a contract, anyway. So a Slow News Friday it is!
    TNA, though, gives us a little something to talk about. They presented their first two-hour primetime special last night, and I'll gladly say it was a more entertaining 2 hours than RAW. Of course, this week, that's kind of like saying, "I preferred it to the option of sticking a rusty railroad spike in my eyehole," but hey: if TNA out-delivers WWE, they oughta get credit for it.
    The limited feedback I've gotten seems to agree, too, that TNA had a good show last night, although not the home run many had hoped for. I think what grates on a few nerves is that even with some of the things TNA did right with the show, they still ended on a frustrating note, as Jeff Jarrett regained the NWA Title. In that way, maybe the primetime Impact special bests RAW, but can be directly correlated to Taboo Tuesday? Shows that seemed OK, but which ended with the wrong guy holding the big gold?
    Eh, I'm probably stretching there, aren't I?
    And in fact, my analysis of the show might run totally counter to what a lot of your typical TNA/workrate/jack-off type of fans thought about the show. Cuz I'm gonna have to make a bold statement:
    The only (ONLY!) time that last night's Impact felt like it was big or important was during the Jarrett/Rhino main event.
    The main event was the only match where it seemed like you had a reason to care about what happened and who won, where it seemed like things MATTERED. And this, my friends, is at the core of what makes it easy for me to be as dismissive of TNA as I tend to be.
    A lot of TNA fans say that storylines and characters don't matter, and that they don't care that TNA pretty much sucks in this regard. Well: sad to say, but most fans do care about that stuff. One Workrate Bonanza Match per show might seem special and fun; but just throwing guys out in the ring to wrestle their asses off in EVERY match gets old. It's why I gave up on trading for tapes from Japan and cancelled my subscription to the Wrestling Observer after about 18 months, even though it's what everybody else on the internet was into at the time. I decided I was more interested in being entertained than I was with fitting in with that crowd of obsessed weirdos... to this day, I think that tends to place me a lot closer to the mainstream than a lot of what is available on the internet in terms of wrestling content.
    And that's why I feel OK saying that TNA needs a LOT more focus on creating characters and stories that'll hook fans into caring about what happens next. A few people will take that as me crapping on their beloved indie wrestling, but it's something I offer up as an honest analysis of what TNA needs to do before they'll really explode in popularity and significance.
    If it helps: I'm NOT talking about hiring Hollywood Writers and screwing things up as badly as WWE often screws things up. But I am talking about doing basic things like, oh I dunno, ACTUALLY HAVING HEELS AND FACES. It blows my mind that characters in TNA are so ill-defined that it's nearly impossible to generate any genuine friction. Without that tension, every match boils down to a Respectful Sporting Contest where May The Best Man Win, which just gets old.
    Some of this goes back to my comments a week or so ago about Idiot TNA Fans, with their songbooks and their groupthink and their apparent interest in BEING the show instead of WATCHING the show. Even when TNA tries to have a heel faction like Team Canada (not American? check. visually-unappealing manager who at least seems to talk a decent game? check. signature foreign object? check.), TNA fans (at least, the assclowns in Orlando) cannot bring themselves to boo; even against the Dudleys, Team Canada were cheered just about equally. Probably because in their minds, their precious TNA is so special that everybody on the roster is super-talented and if we boo them, then the fans watching at home won't know that we're Internet-Reading Smart Fans Who Totally Respect Workrate. What a bunch of twits. Without realizing it, you are not just making me pity and loathe you (for reasons well-explained last week, and related to what a bunch of obnoxious dorks insular uber-fans always seem like), you are actually hurting the TNA product that you profess to love.
    Seriously: there was not a single heel on that entire show last night until Jeff Jarrett stepped into the ring. At least once he came out, there was friction, tension, and a reason to think that the outcome of a match actually mattered. You finally had a reason to care, one way or the other.
    It's fashionable to rip on Jarrett-on-top as being stale. And it's fashionable because it really probably is stale. But christ almighty, if he's gonna be the only guy who can push the buttons of TNA fans, I say let him keep pushing them. 
    Something people have to realize is that if the Internet was allowed to create and book an entire wrestling federation, they'd probably come up with something that I wouldn't watch, and by extension, that most mainstream/casual fans wouldn't watch. They'd hire a bunch of good workers with limited personality and ill-defined characters who'd all be too talented to boo, but would have nonstop high-flying matches. Contrast that with how, no matter how much I hate Randy Orton (which is a lot), I didn't spend last summer campaigning for him to be fired; no, I spent last summer explaining how it was retarded to book him as a babyface and went to great lengths to "fantasy book" scenarios which would capitalize on his innate douchebaggery. I also don't go around HHHating on Triple H out of principle; I'll point out when he's being an overblown windbag and all, but I'm also quick to remind everybody that as long as you're booing him, he's got a lot of value to the company. It's the same sort of deal with Jarrett in TNA, too.
    Nowhere was this sense of "it can't possibly matter what happens" more pronounced than in the six-man tag match where Chris Daniels and Samoa Joe were placed on the same team (with some other guy). Daniels passes for a heel in TNA (but is, of course, cheered by just about everybody), and Joe passes for a face. And yet, without so much as a backstage vignette or explanation as to their partnership, here they are on the same team. I swear: when pairings are that random and perplexing, it's hard to care who wins. 
    Some would say "Well, the story of the match is that Joe and Daniels didn't get along, so shut up, Scaia, they did TOO address it." But that's bullshit. For the friction at the end of the match to matter, for anyone to care about it, you set it up with some sort of promo or skit explaining why they're together to begin with. If you don't know why they're together, you aren't gonna care about why they broke up. And it really would have been as simple as a 90 second backstage skit where Daniels did all the talking and said "I don't like you, and you don't like me, but this is TNA's primetime debut on SpikeTV, and this match is our chance to show the world who's the best in the X Division. So let's get along, at least for one night." Easy as pie. And that way, when Daniels either stabs Joe in the back or tries to steal Joe's spotlight, it resonates with fans because THAT ASSHOLE DANIELS LIED ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER, AND DID IT RIGHT TO LOVABLE LUG SAMOA JOE'S FACE. See: actual tension and drama. Not writer-y and Hollywood-style, but just simple, compelling characters behaving in a way that inspires fans to actually care about what happens next.
    A few other observations about the show, essentially in chronological order:
    The opening six man (Sabu/Hardy/Hoyt vs. Diamond/Skipper/Young) didn't turn out so well. Sabu got hurt during the closing sequence, apparently forcing them to improvise, for one. And for two, it was a Foregone Conclusion Match, with three guys with distinct personalities against three jobbers. And for proof positive that the ability to criminally misutilize talent is NOT limited to WWE, I refer you to the case of Elix Skipper. He's an exceptionally talented cruiser who I STILL don't know why WWE didn't keep him around after buying up WCW... but he's stuck under the tutelage of Simon Diamond, and is essential presented as the equal of a guy whose greatest career accomplishment was the night he got to sit down to a nice dinner with not one, but two OO personalities. Well, actually, if I remember the anecdote correctly, the dinner didn't turn out to be so nice, but I'm sure the company was dandy. But that's not the point. The point is that this match didn't really click, and that seeing Skipper in this role makes me sad.
    I don't get Monty Brown. Be it an interview facing off with Jeff Jarrett or in the ring. I just don't get him. But he's obviously being positioned as the next challenger to JJ's title. Note about TNA Fans: if you were actually paying attention to and responding to what was happening in the ring, you would have chanted "You Fucked Up" after the first "pounce," instead of what you did. An already shitty finishing move, and Monty sure delivered it extra-poorly. Delivering it properly two subsequent times does nothing to enhance my opinion of Monty's credibility or entertainment value.
    Cognitive Dissonance Theatre: anybody else's head almost explode as Jeff Jarrett talked about the NWA Title being the most prestigious in all of wrestling, while Shane Douglas stood nearby lapping it up with a spoon? Oh, the incongruity!
    The X-Division six-man was, despite the huge storytelling shortcoming mentioned above, a good match. On workrate alone, probably the best of the night (although, as outlined above, far behind Jarrett/Rhino in terms of overall entertainment). And anybody seeing TNA for the first time were treated to AJ Styles getting the Superman Booking Treatment, which is probably not a bad thing if the company is still banking on the guy one day developing a personality and being the centerpiece of the promotion.
    Your big prime time special, and Raven only gets a 10 second cameo? That sucks.
    Team Canada vs. the Dudleys struck me as the "most WWE" match of the night. I mean that in a good way. Despite the anomalous crowd reactions, this was an effective execution of a standard tag match formula. On a show with all the flippy-high-flying and lack of psychology, something like this is an enjoyable change of pace. But again: at its heart, this was another Foregone Conclusion Match, and it's kinda hard to give a crap about the Dudleys taking on Team Canada's second stringers.
    The Ultimate X Match avoided all technical difficulties, but couldn't avoid being essentially a series of loosely connected spots. It wasn't really till the end where the pace picked up and the guys started trading finishers and Traci and Scott D'Amore got involved that you really had enough action to distract you from the spottiness. But the last 2-3 minutes were very exciting. Note to TNA: if you're intent on Traci dressing like a pretty little girly-girl, ditch the 1980's Wrestling Valet gimmick of always dressing like it's the prom; it's not what I'd vote for, but if you must, then at least look towards Gail Kim for a primer on how to dress girly, but still be smoking hot in a 2005 kind of way. 
    And lastly, as referenced more than once already, the Jarrett/Rhino main event was probably my favorite part of the show. I already knew who won, but they still did a great job building it up so that I couldn't wait to see how. I'm probably no bigger fan of Jarrett regaining the title than any of you, but I thought that his win came at the end of the most exciting match of the night. There were other moments on the show that seemed to lead towards PPV matches, but this was the only part of the show that I think succeeded in actually making one of those PPV matches more marketable. Jarrett/AMW vs. the Dudleys/Rhino got a really nice boost because of this.
    With that, I've said more than enough, I think. Since I said it all without actually delivering much in the way of details about exactly who won and how, I'll also encourage you to check out Jason Longshore's Impact Recap.
  • Something I did not notice, as recording Impact while doing the basketball game thing meant I had the magical power to FF through commercials...
    Apparently, they were running ads for the next PPV throughout the show. The ads all proclaimed Jeff Jarrett was the NWA Champion. But Jarrett did not win the title until the final segment of the show. D'oh. Suddenly, I don't feel bad at all about my unintentional spoilering of last week.
    Something that's probably bad news for TNA, though: I only got three e-mails from people about this. Which might mean that maybe the prime time special won't turn out to be the ratings success story many are hoping/expecting, I know if WWE had fucked something up this badly, I'd have had a zillion mails...
  • Staying on the TNA theme for a second longer: they've finally gotten around to officially announcing that they've signed Jackie Gayda to a contract. Yippee?
    Chances are that Jackie will by the mystery woman that everybody's saying is messing with Raven's mind. Nope, it doesn't make a lick of logical sense, but I guess with Gail Kim on the roster, TNA's fulfilled their Asian Babe quota, so we aren't gonna be treated to the more-sensible return of Kimona Wannalaya as Raven's mystery broad.  
  • Also: even before ratings for last night's special are known, TNA has been granted two additional prime time specials in December. One should be a similar deal to last night. The other will be as part of SpikeTV's New Year's Eve programming (December 31 falls on a Saturday this year, and so Spike apparently has ideas for something other than TNA to air in the 11pm-midnight slot; TNA is getting shifted to either 8 or 9pm that night).
    The company's got a lot of faith in TNA, it seems. And why not? TNA's within a few ticks of scoring (late night on Saturday) what UFC primetime Monday block scores. And everybody knows how in-love with UFC TNA is.
  • With that, I think we can finally shift our attention to WWE...
    And my choice for Biggest WWE News of the Day is that Monday's RAW only scored a 3.4 cable rating. That's a drop of a half-point from the week before, and puts WWE squarely back at where they were during they abysmal final month on SpikeTV.
    This rating means that a full one-third of the audience who showed up to watch RAW's homecoming show have decided they don't like what they've been seeing. Who can blame them?
    But as I talked about on Wednesday, WWE won't look at it like that. Why take pride in your product and try to retain your audience, or possibly even grow it by delivering the most entertaining show possible? That's, like, HARD and stuff. It's easier just to look at a 3.4 rating, realize you'll still be two of the top-rated hours on cable TV for the week, and say "That's still double what USA would have scored with Walker Texas Ranger repeats, so they're happy."
    I do not know of any significant competition on Monday to explain the drop (grown-ups all did their Halloween fun on Saturday night, and kids going trick-or-treating on Monday are always home by 8 or so, right?)... that leaves attributing the loss of viewers on viewers not liking what they saw the week before. Considering that what they saw was Vince McMahon pulling stuff out of a mannequin's ass, I think America's TV Viewing Populace might have actually gotten it right, for once.
  • WWE is hyping an appearance by Bret Hart on the 11/16 edition of Byte This. Conveniently enough, his DVD set is released on 11/15. Hmmmm....
    I'd have thought they'd try to get Bret on TV for a special appearance or two to pimp the DVD, but apparently, this is gonna be it. Christ: Animal has a DVD to promote and he holds half of the tag team titles for what felt like 18 fucking years, but when Bret Hart's DVD comes out all he gets is a guest spot on WWE's webcast show? 
  • The Steve Austin/Taboo Tuesday thing has sure turned out to be more of a powder keg than I would have guessed. After my statements on Wednesday about Austin being in the right, I got a shitload of e-mail. Some of it was the gratifying sort of "Damn straight, Scaia! Glad you're calling it like you see it, instead of like all the other jack-offs." But a LOT of it took me to task pretty hard for supporting Austin.
    Citing Austin's track record of throwing hissy fits, plenty of folks think that Stone Cold is in the wrong on this deal, and should have done as he was told at Taboo Tuesday. Huh.
    I even made a quick pass through the OO Forums yesterday, and discovered that there is a huge debate going on over this issue. Obviously, I have my views and will stick to them, but it makes for interesting reading. You should check out this thread.
    One thing I noticed there that I simply have to address here is the notion that this is actually TWO issues, instead of one. People seem to skirt around the issue by saying Austin was wrong, but that WWE was ALSO wrong for asking him to do what they asked him to do. I don't see any need to equivocate like that. If somebody asks you to do something that is demonstrably foolish or wrong, you can't be wrong for refusing to do it. It's sort of like the inverse of the "I was just following orders" defense; and with me, them dogs don't hunt.
    I respect that some folks apparently believe that an employee should always do what his employer asks, and if he doesn't, then he's wrong. God bless you and your black-and-white world, where every answer is an easy one to figure out. But here in real life, I think it's OK to commend an employee for telling his employer to go screw if the employer asks the employee to do something stupid. Or maybe this all just ties back to how I know I could never be in the military because I'd be unable to follow silly, pointless orders being issued to me by some guy with about half my intelligence. I dunno...
    Point is, Austin's actions are defensible in my mind. I'll stop short of calling them noble, but I definitely think the (wrestling) world would be a better place if even more stars exercised a responsible level of civil disobedience. I don't mean that every guy should suddenly refuse to do a job.... but I mean that more guys should feel OK asking the question, "Will following this order be good for business?". If the answer is yes, then you do it, no questions asked. But if the answer is no, they should be allowed to register that opinion and get an explanation or a correction from the creative team/management.
    Contrary to some of the opinion out there, I don't think Austin can be accused of trying to avoid doing a job. I think Austin stands accused of trying to avoid doing something that he knew would be just as bad for WWE as it would be for him. What is gained by Austin jobbing to Coach, Vader, Goldust, and/or Mark Henry, or some combination there of? Nothing. And Austin was right, because when he threw his fit, WWE had no problem plugging Batista in as the guy to squash the trio of not-credible opponents. Steve Austin will do the J-O-B (as it still stands, his legacy will be losing to The Rock in his final match), but Steve Austin will also apparently ask you "Why?" if he doesn't understand what you're trying to accomplish when you ask him to do something.
    If you don't have a good answer for him, hey, I don't blame the guy for being difficult.
    Responsible Civil Disobedience is a very good thing. If WWE's writer monkeys are gonna churn out crap and not plan ahead, the best thing would be to have the performers themselves take a stand and say "This sucks," or "Until you tell me how this is going to end 2 months from now, I'm not doing this." Cuz right now, it's essentially a leap of faith every week a guy (or girl) goes out there and performs whatever they're handed, since the writers themselves seem unable to plan more than one week ahead. Believing that some load of garbage you're asked to perform one week will magically become a compelling bit of drama the next takes a lot of faith....
    I, for one, don't blame a guy like Austin if he doesn't have that trust in the company anymore. They've done nothing in the past 18 months to show they deserve that trust, anymore. And once a guy no longer believes that losing a match today is going to result in bigger ratings tomorrow, I think it's only natural to start asking questions and civilly disobeying if the answers are unsatisfactory.
    And me being the writer-y genius that I am, this all can tie directly back to my thesis about creative being clueless and the talent relations department failing to communicate effectively with the roster. Creative's shortcomings foster that lack of trust; Talent Relations' asshattery means that distrust will only fester and grow. Some guys like Austin have the means to just walk away.... but others need the job, so they'll stick around, and contribute even further to the already abysmal morale. And everybody knows that a miserable and marginalized roster is a productive one. Right? 
    It's like the snake that's eating its own tail, duuuuuude... everything's connected. And apparently, it's such an intimidating and complex problem that WWE will never have the guts to try to fix it.
  • Lastly for today, I'll point you towards a quality Mick Foley interview... I gather it was done before Taboo Tuesday, but in it, Mick actually does address some issues that you folks raised AFTER the PPV.
    Namely, in regards to Mick looking a step slow and not in great ring shape, he admits that this deal came together pretty quickly and isn't at all like his match with Orton in 2004. For that feud, they not only had the time to build up the story, but Mick trained for six months. For the match with Carlito, it's a match that kinda came out of nowhere, and Mick basically admits that he's not in the same kind of shape, but knows that the strength of the personalities involved should still be able to carry the match.
    So there: to those who came down hard on Mick after the PPV, relax. Or maybe go blame WWE for catching Foley off guard and saying "Hey, you're wrestling Carlito on PPV in 3 weeks" instead of working it out a little bit more ahead of time.
    Mick also says a lot of interesting things about creative and announcers and stuff. Some I totally agree with, and Mick and I are definitely of the same mind (especially in regards to announcing issues and how image isn't nearly as important as Vince apparently thinks it is, and how that's the only reason why Kevin Kelly doesn't have Michael Cole's job), and some I disagree with and think might be Mick trying to be more diplomatic than he has to be (especially in regards to the writers, who, no matter how hard they do work -- which is insanely hard according to Mick -- should still be held accountable for the QUALITY of that work).
    You can check out the interview here.
  • That is all. Back on Monday with the start of another wrestling week.... hopefully SD! will give us something happy to talk about.

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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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