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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
RAW, Bad Ratings News is Contagious,
Benoit, Taker/Orton, UPN Special, and More 
November 23, 2005

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

First thing.... I guess I gotta 'fess up about something.

On Monday, in This Very Pre-Ramble, I talked about how I'd blazed a trail of making fun of this TV person, Rita Crosby, because of her tough-to-listen-to voice. And then talked about how, later on that night, Jon Stewart wound up making many of the same kinds of jokes.
  

Well, I guess I lied. Inadvertently. A handful of people wrote in to tell me that Stewart's Crosby riffage came the night BEFORE I made my jokes, and that that made *me* the thief.

That very well may be the case. I do usually like to watch my day's Late Night TV Shows before bed, but sometimes, I will find myself otherwise occupied, and I have

to save them up on DVR till the next night, when I have more time. I know I wound up doing that twice last week.

All I can do is reassure you that no matter what order the dueling Crosby jokes were made, I did not see Jon's version until after I'd made mine. Honest Injun.

And now, let's see if I can squeeze a column out of what sparse news I have in front of me. The wrestling world's kind of on hold (after the Europe tour and giving all the guys a chance to rest till Sunday's PPV), I won't talk about SD! Spoilers (because I don't believe in them), and it is a holiday for us god-fearing Americans. So if things are a bit half-assed, well, I'm on vacation, dammit. As far as you know.

Also, I can always tell you to check out Canadian Bulldog's latest column. Since he's, you know, Canadian, and the metric system means they already had Thanksgiving a few weeks ago, he didn't half-ass it. In fact, his column got here a day early so you can enjoy it over the mini-break... as a bonus, even if you don't dig Bulldog's Survivor Series Preview, there's a link in there to a South Park create-a-character thingie, which will -- if you're like me on Wednesday afternoon, when I should have been doing something more constructive -- lead to you wasted a good 45 minutes of your time.

One way or another, there should be plenty here to tide you over till Friday, when the trOOps assemble for the Best Damned Survivor Series Preview you'll find anywhere. Here's today's news:

  • WWE got back to semi-normal business on Monday night, with an edition of RAW designed to remind fans that there's a PPV coming up, with storylines and everything, and it's just six days away.
     
    By and large, I think you have to give the Fed credit for doing about as well as they could under the circumstances. The Survivor Series card is kind of thin (just six matches signed), but RAW did a good job of making two of them seem a lot more compelling to me than they had been 2 weeks before.
     
    I'm a sucker for the cross-brand stuff, so the way they handled Team RAW vs. Team SD! definitely whet my appetite. I'm not sure what I was expecting (well, OK, I was kinda hoping for Benoit to make the show-closing save), but it wasn't Batista coming out to beat the hell out of RAW. That kind of caught me off-balance, since it throws some doubt onto any pet theories people might have about Batista having been "written out" and how that will impact the World Title Situation. Against all odds, Batista's gonna be going into Survivor Series to hold up what he can in a 5-on-5 match, and he'll be going in as the champ. Despite desperately needing time off to heal.
     
    [You want to talk Pet Theories: if Edge is even remotely healthy, he cashes in his Money In The Bank after Batista heroically wins the 5-on-5 Match for Team SD!. Edge steals the title from a badly-wounded Batista in an impromptu match. Just please: not Randy Orton. Not when there are so many more viable options out there, if only you look for them.]
     
    Anyway, I would have hoped for a little better wrestling match than Michaels/JBL turned out to be... but it definitely made sense for me to have blowhard JBL doing the talking and challenging from the SD! side, so I'm not coming up with a way to take him out of the main event equation. I just would have hoped for more once he was handed miracle-worker Shawn Michaels as an opponent. Didn't quite pan out, but again, in the bigger picture, it was a sufficient excuse to get all 10 guys out in the ring for the show-closing brawl, and Batista's unexpected save. Orton and Masters aside, I'm definitely intrigued to see where they go with this match on Sunday.
     
    [Another Pet Theory: when JBL was, for the second time in 2 months, spending a few precious moments as My Favorite Wrestler due to his verbal thrashing of Chris F. Masters, I was hoping and praying that Masters would show up, and in a counter-point to the Batista angle, Team SD! would just destroy CFM to the point where he'd be unable to compete at Survivor Series. Insert Shelton Benjamin, who had an impressive outing against Kurt Angle, and could demand the chance to prove himself to Eric Bischoff by taking Masters' place. Wouldn't that have been sweet?]
     
    And speaking of Shelton and his match against Angle... that was good stuff, and I cannot overstate how much I dig the dickish gimmick of Kurt getting to have Daivari as his Personal Referee. It not only added an unexpected element to the Kurt/Shelton match (above and beyond just the pure OMG WORKRATE~!), but it makes things for Angle's PPV match against Cena a lot more interesting, too. For the first time since he won the damn thing, I actually buy that Cena might be in a match where he could lose the title. Probably SHOULD lose the title, actually. Creating that sense of uncertainty is something that WWE hasn't been doing lately, not even with its PPV main events. After winning the Big Gold Belts at WM21, it's taken Cena till now to have a legitimate challenge to his title, and it took Batista until he faced Eddie Guerrero before his reign seemed in genuine jeopardy.... that should not have been the case, but at least it looks like WWE's turning it around.
     
    Also, I just like Daivari. He's fricking GOLD with all his over-the-top referee gesturing. In an Angle vs. Cena match on Sunday, my guess is that Daivari will probably be the second-hardest worker and second-most-entertaining man in the ring.
     
    I could probably continue that train of thought into a few more anti-Cena comments, but frankly, the guy had a tough enough week as it was. His backstage stuff was hit-and-miss, and when he gave up on that and counted on the live crowd to give him the "Kurt Sucks" consensus that he was looking for, it sure as hell sounded like half the live audience thought CENA was the one who sucked.
     
    Trust me, I don't like that the issues I started pointing out and discussing 10 months ago have now become so blatantly obvious that even Wade Keller started to recognize the problem a month or so ago... it sucks doubly hard because every single thing you hear about John Cena, The Guy, is that he's one of the Good One and that he's really trying his best to capitalize on this opportunity to be the top dog. It's just that WWE -- 10 months after I started REALLY hammering away on this point, and now about 2-3 months after the majority of live audiences have had audible Anti-Cena contingents -- seems unwilling or incapable of finding the right character tweak so that Cena's well-intentioned efforts don't have him performing the kind of lame material that makes a growing number of (non-teenage-girl) fans want to hate John Cena's on-screen character. That strikes me as an unacceptable state of affairs.
     
    And ceasing my digression... Survivor Series is a 6-match card, but really, it's a 3-match card, in terms of matches that have some real sizzle to them. RAW did a good job with 2 of those three... and did nothing wrong with the third: Flair/HHH both got wins, and HHH got some brief mic work and an angle with Val Venis that drove home (in deliciously succinct fashion) just what he's capable of doing in a match where there will be no rules. They didn't exact re-invent the wheel, or anything, but the final touches managed to keep the pot simmering nicely.

    I can't be as charitable towards the way WWE went about setting up the Trish/Melina match... but that's probably just me with my fetish for something resembling continuity and realism. I mean, one second, Melina's abduction of Trish is top secret, devoid of cameras, and not being seen on TV? And the next, the top-secret abduction has resulted in a match being added to Survivor Series? Give me the chance, and I'd set up some pretty strict rules about "cameras in wrestling".... but since that'll never happen, is it too much to ask for to have WWE at least pick one (1) narrative point-of-view and stick to it for more than 3 minutes at a stretch? 
     
    Additionally, I still have absolutely no clue why I'm supposed to care about Eric Bischoff vs. Teddy Long being a PPV match. RAW did zero on that front for me. But given that there's probably nothing they COULD do to make anybody care, maybe it's a good thing that they invested their energy so wisely on making sure the three top matches got the attention they deserved? Yeah, let's go with that interpretation. It's a happier story that way.

    You can get the full-details about the show in yesterday's OO RAW Recap, which -- much to my chagrin -- turned into an experimental Tag Team Affair when Erin Anderson's cable went out late in the show, and there was no one to turn to for help other than The Rick. Erin cut-and-pasted an AIM Transcript (where I tried my best to do an on-the-fly Rick-caliber Recap of the final 40 or so minutes of RAW) into her recap, with results that seem to have been pretty well received. Well, except for the part where, in her cutting-and-pasting, she missed replacing one instance of my Actual, Private AIM Screen Name with "Rick," and for several hours yesterday, my AIMdentity was published for all to see, before I realized the error. Tsk tsk tsk.
     
    Anyway, check out our Recap. Since it wound up being that the recap of the final 40 minutes of the show was twice as long as Erin's un-Rickfluenced recap of the first hour-twenty-minutes, I think I can safely say this isn't an experiment that'll be reprised with any regularity. Enjoy it while you can.

  • The rating for Monday's show came crashing back down to earth. RAW did a 3.6 cable rating, down basically a full point from the week before's Eddie Rating, and back to the sub-par performance of the couple of weeks prior to that. Despite all the high hopes for the Network Jump, RAW's current performance on USA Network is a third-of-a-point BELOW their average during the first half of 2005 on SpikeTV.
     
    There is no good way to spin those numbers. Well, except to cram your head up your ass, ignore those previous numbers and the causes/implications of the ratings drop, and tell yourself everything's still OK, because even in the mid-3's, RAW's one of the higher-rated shows on cable. And I think we all know that this is WWE's preference at this point.
     
    For whatever it's worth, I still feel very strongly about my "Secondary Audience" theory from last week, and how data now indicates that we are a large enough demographic (representing as much as one-quarter of WWE's overall potential audience) that the E should start taking us and our viewing (or NON-viewing) habits seriously.
     
    Bottom line: there's over a ratings-point worth of fans out there who follow WWE through secondary media, and do so closely enough that they know when to bother showing up to watch RAW or SD!... and I know that the reason for last week's huge rating isn't exactly a happy one. But if you go back just one month prior to that (when RAW did a huge rating for Homecoming), you have all the fricking proof you need that nobody has to die for fans to get interested in checking out the WWE product.
     
    You just have to give the fans something that doesn't seem like it'll suck or be boring as hell.
     
    The tragic part is that there's no reason (other than insecurity or stubbornness) to not start trying to fix things and do what it takes to produce genuinely-compelling and sustainable episodic TV. Making those changes will not in ANY way affect the "primary audience" indicated by the 3.6 rating; they won't be offended or turned off by a better show. And while retaining that lemming-like portion of your audience, you win back the "Secondary Audience." It's win/win, baby. If only you make the effort.
     
  • And bad ratings news is contagious today. This weekend's TNA Impact -- which I whole-heartedly endorse as The Best Impact Ever -- did a SpikeTV-low of 0.6.
     
    As mentioned in past Impact ratings newsbites, Neilsens data collection procedures make minor one-week variations pretty much insignificant. But after a month-straight of basically 0.8 ratings, TNA has had a few rough weeks.... they saw no appreciable audience gain over that 0.8 when given a highly-favorable prime-time slot, and upon returning to Saturday late nights, they've scored a 0.7 and a 0.6. This becomes a case where this isn't a "one week variation," but the possible start of a statistically-significant trend.

    What sucks worst is that TNA's smallest audience came for what was, in my mind, their strongest show so far on the network. Making matters worse, TNA seems to be losing momentum as they gear up for another prime time TV special two weeks from tomorrow (which in turn leads DIRECTLY into that weekend's PPV).
     
    Of course, watch: next week, Impact will be back to a 0.8 or a 0.9, and we'll have to go back to writing the 0.6 off as some sort of statistically anomaly. Or so I hope, anyway...
     
  • The one Survivor Series match I didn't at least briefly mention above is Chris Benoit vs. Booker T. And as it turns out, it will be the start of a Best of Seven series to determine a US Champion.
     
    This is significant for at least one big reason: it means that Chris Benoit will be around long enough to wrestle 7 more TV matches, despite all the doom 'n' gloom predictions about his contractual status.
     
    Now, I don't want to say I told you so, but... well, I kinda did. In my own vague, protect-myself-in-case-I'm-wrong way. Back when this news hit, and everybody was running around like chickens, sans heads, my newsbite included the nugget of information that there were definitely conflicting reports about when Benoit's contract expired. Some people were apparently under the misapprehension that Benoit's contract expired within a matter of weeks.... but I had intelligence that indicated it might not be until January, and wasn't exactly sure what to believe.
     
    Well, this is one where I should stick to my intelligence. Benoit has not yet re-signed for 3 more years with WWE (though negotiations are on-going), but the Best of Seven dealy pretty much proves he'll be around through the end of the calendar year.
     
    And hopefully: beyond. Lord knows SD! needs him.
     
  • Another contractual note: apparently Joey Styles has NOT signed a full-time WWE deal, regardless of what I wrote on Monday. So there: for every one where I parsed the available intelligence and got it right, there's one like there where I got it wrong.
     
    Joey worked Monday's RAW as a one-shot deal, an extension of his "trial period," though both parties are still trying to hammer out a contract that would make Joey the full-time voice of RAW.
     
    I have really enjoyed Joey's work so far, and hope they can get things sorted out. But if something should go south, the underlying truth is that Joey got this trial period because WWE realized that Coach wasn't gonna cut it as the lead announcer. Even if things fall through with Joey, that leaves me to suspect that WWE will pursue other options. Perhaps even exploring the one option that SHOULD be as plain on the nose of their face: re-instating Jim Ross once he is healthy.
     
    No matter what happens, I don't see this ending up with us having to suffer a Coach/King two-man booth. WWE's actions so far have made it clear that not even THEY consider that a viable alternative at this point.
     
  • Cable companies have started getting promotional materials for December's Armageddon PPV... and the currently-hyped main event is Undertaker vs. Randy Orton in a Hell in the Cell Match.
     
    Although there have been huge changes made to the SD! brand in the past 10 days -- a scheduled Orton/Taker Survivor Series match got called off so Orton could become a member of Team SD! -- there's no reason to suspect that that would effect plans for Armageddon. The promotional stuff was obviously produced before all this shuffling, but Taker's still returning at the PPV (just in a now-unclear capacity), and his first target is still going to be Randy Orton.
     
  • WWE and UPN have announced a one-hour prime-time special for next Tuesday night. Originally, people were saying this would be a repeat of last year's Eddie Guerrero TV special, but that's not the case. To be honest, that didn't even really make sense: it's Sweeps Month, people... you don't run repeats in Sweeps Month.
     
    Rather, it will be a first-run show, with cross-brand matches, although possibly with a bit of Eddie Flavor to them. Big Show vs. Rey Mysterio has already been announced, with WWE hyping that Eddie is dedicating the match to Eddie's memory.
     
    Although WWE would have the alternative of running the show live from next Tuesday's TV tapings in Cincinnati, OH, if the special is to be a mix of fresh matches and pre-taped filler, it's more likely that what they need in terms of matches will be taped on Monday. Hopefully, WWE will announce a few more details by the time I speak to you on Monday....
     
  • I think pretty much the last thing I got is a quick word of warning that both Triple H and Big Show will be getting new theme music soon. HHH's will be by Disturbed, and Big Show's, I already forget which collection of tossers are doing his.
     
    I'm all for change and sprucing things up, but does this strike anybody as a particularly good move, or wise investment of WWE's time and energy? Coming up with new ring entrances for guys who already have good ones? Hell, in the case of HHH's, I'd go so far as to say it's the best entrance in all of wrestling, no matter if it is coming up on 6 years old.
     
    In recent months, WWE already broke something that was in absolutely no need of fixing when they replaced Rey Mysterio's entrance theme with a sucky new one... and in an ironic twist, I believe it was also Disturbed who attempted to re-do Steve Austin's entrance theme about 5 years ago or so, and it tanked so badly that Austin was back to his old theme within a matter of months.
     
    This really just doesn't seem like something that will end well. Although maybe, just maybe, losing Motorhead will motivate Trips to do something about that ill-advised Tribute To Lemmy he calls a beard...
     
  • That's all I gots for you today, folks. If you be celebrating it, enjoy the hell out of your Thanksgiving. And I'll see you again on Friday when I quarterback the Team Coverage PPV Preview for Survivor Series. 

    Later on.... 


  
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Bonding Exercises
 
RAW RECAP: The New Guy Blows It
 
PPV RECAP: WWE Night of Champions 2012
 
SMACKDOWN RECAP: 18 Seconds? NO! NO! NO!
 
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
 
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Backfired!
 
RAW RECAP: Bigger IS Better
 
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Hitting with Two Strikes
 
RAW RECAP: Heel, or Tweener?
 
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Destiny Do-Over
 
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
 
SMACKDOWN RECAP: In-BRO-pendence Day
 
RAW RECAP: Crazy Gets What Crazy Wants
 
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RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
 
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28

 
 
E-MAIL RICK SCAIA

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

 

 

 


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