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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
UPN Dead, But SD! Sure to Live On, plus
Taker, Benoit, Heyman, JR, and Lots More 
January 25, 2006

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

Go back and re-read my last 2 PreRambles. Go ahead, seriously. I'll wait. Here's Monday's, and here's Yesterday's.

And then, I'll just have to assume you've all seen last night's "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report," because lord knows that when I actually endorse 1 full hour of the roughly 3000 hours of Programming Choices that are beamed into most well-equipped Cable Households on a daily basis, you should not take that endorsement lightly. Stewart and Colbert should be prioritized in the top five of any Thinking Person's TV Schedule.

There should really be a rule: if you want to watch something as retarded as "Dancing with the Stars" or "Trading Spouses," your TV will only unlock them for you if you can first proved that you've watch the "Daily Show," "Colbert Report," one (1) hour of REAL news per day (i.e. NOT FOXNews or CNBC or any of the other 24-hour punditry channels), "The Office," "Arrested Development," "Deadwood," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Conan, Letterman, and probably a few other shows I could think of if I really tried. Only after you prove that you've saturated your brain with a Rick Enforced 20-hour weekly list of Authorized NonTarded TV will you be allowed to watch shows on the Black List. I figure this will have the effect of keeping idiots at home and out of my way, for the most part, because anybody who'll watch 20 hours of TV in a week just to unlock more hours of Proven Crappy shows probably shouldn't be in circulation.

Maybe as an alternative, if there are truly motivated idiots out there who simply MUST have their crappy TV shows, but don't want to waste the 20 hours, we'll permit them to skip the Authorized Programming and go straight to the Black List. But only if they wear a t-shirt and an ankle bracelet any time they go out in public. The t-shirt would read "I am a Moron." And the ankle bracelet would deliver a debilitating electro-shock anytime the wearer became sexually aroused and attempted to pass his/her genetic material on to a second generation of slack-jawed boobs.

But I digress. My point is that I have become emboldened in my Pre-Rambling Ability, because of something that happened last night.
  

On the Daily Show, Stewart spent a bit skewering "Brokeback Mounting," and managed to bring it all home with a photoshopped picture of George W. Bush as a Gay Cowboy. Sound familiar?

Then, on the Colbert Report, Stephen opened the show with a lengthy pre-ramble mocking the silliness of a pseudo-science "report" that claimed

to prove that January 24 is, mathematically, the Most Depressing Day of the Year. Sound familiar?

I'm pointing no fingers. I'm just making an observation that, if nothing else, Great Minds Think Alike When It Comes To Picking What Stupid Things To Mock. And, with freakish similarity, also think identically on How To Mock Them. This sort of thing has been going on for almost 2 years, now, and leaves me to theorize that if minds operate on specific wave lengths and are periodically capable of sharing braincells, then I've some pretty damn fine company on MY wavelength. 

Meantime, Keller's sharing wavelengths with Leno, and Meltzer is so obviously Tucker Carlson, and I could probably continue with the comedic comparisons of internet wrestling people to talk-show hosts, but I really am kind of short on time and energy. Stupid me is working on about 5 hours sleep. That's what I get for deciding to stay up to watch a Martina Hingis match last night. One that was SUPPOSED to start around 11, but which ended up not actually starting till 1:30am. Hey, what can I say? I've always had a fondness for Martina, dating back to her peak and my final days in college and first days as a civilian, where I started to develop my twisted fetish for women who are talented at something other than looking hot. In Kournikova's face! And it's not like Hingis is un-hot; she's certain aged VERY nicely, and there's a lot to be said for girls who aren't just good at something, but who'll also end up being hotter at age 30 than they were at age 16. Neee haw!

So anyway, I'd been semi-following Martina's heroic comeback, and finally decided it was time I see a match. And once I get an idea in my head, I'm not gonna let it go: delay, delay, delay, and even though I could have just recorded it and watched it at a more reasonable time, I didn't do that. At least in part because recording live sports events strikes me as a stupid and anti-climactic way to watch something where half the fun is supposed to be drama and excitement of the moment. So I end up staying awake till damned near 4am. And then Martina lost. Great.

So I'm on 5 hours, I'm wasting time on an over-long pre-ramble, but I'm doing it because if the past two days prove nothing else, they prove that I am one damned fine entertaining and clever man. At least as entertaining as two of TV's most outstanding personalities. Bask in my glory, people.

Bask.

We ride:

  • I think we need to start with a big-sounding (but not really THAT big) story.
     
    Namely: UPN is going out of business, effective this autumn. UPN is, as you all know, the home to WWE's SmackDown (and also to one imminently-watchable Teen Drama, and then a whole load of other crap, most of which would probably end up on my Black List, if my little Pre-Ramble Fantasy were ever to come to pass).
     
    This, on the surface, might sound like horrible news for WWE and wrestling fans. But it isn't, really. For one: WWE's current contract with UPN expires before UPN is set to go out of business.
     
    And secondly (and MUCH more importantly): UPN might be going out of business, but what's really happening is that the vast majority of their structure is merging with an engulfing the WB Network (which is also going out of business), to create an all new network, which will be co-owned by CBS and Warner Brothers. It'll be called "The CW," which is pretty dumb as names go, but whatever.
     
    While historically, the WB has had a few more hits than UPN, the tide has turned in recent years, and UPN is the stronger network (albeit by a relatively slim margin). When the merger takes place, however, this means that key decision makers for the new network will come from the UPN side, while a lot of the WB's top executives will be gone.
     
    Most important among the personnel moves is the fact that current UPN President Dawn Ostroff will be the president of the new CW. And before the merger, she'd already been extensively quoted as saying that UPN had decided to aggressively pursue keeping SmackDown! on Friday nights. After a shaky start, the network was VERY pleased with SD!'s ability to retain most of its audience on a new night. Friday nights are a tough sell, TV-wise, unless you're CBS and promote tepid dramas designed to appeal to the middle aged married couples who watch most of TV on the weekends. SD! has been a god-send for UPN, scoring at least 50% better on a weekly basis than anything else UPN had ever tried on Fridays (and also easily smoking anything served up by the WB).
     
    It is a stone-cold lock that the new merged network will retain UPN's interest in pursuing a renewal with WWE. In fact, in the corporate press release issued yesterday, there were only a half-dozen shows specifically mentioned by name as the signatures shows of UPN and the WB, respectively, and thus mentioned as the tentpoles of a new merged network. "SmackDown" was one of the ones mentioned. The way press releases and press conferences like this work, a corporation doesn't make a mention of something like that without a reason.
     
    Kind of like how when the Reds new owner held a press conference last week, and had votes of confidence for a lot of Reds' personnel, but didn't say a single word about the Reds' General Manager. And then 3 days later, fired said General Manager. In that case, the exclusion was a dead give away of management's intent. In The CW's case, the INCLUSION of SD! on that list is the telling thing.
     
    [Since I gave Erin Anderson a heart attack last night by not issuing the same disclaimer I did at the top of this bullet point about UPN's demise NOT being as big a story as it might sound like, I will also confirm, at this point, that critical (and OO) darling "Veronica Mars" is also safe by this logic. You may rest easy, America. Also in the clear will be "Smallville," "Everybody Hates Chris," "America's Top Model," and "The Gilmore Girls." Anything else that you people watch from those two networks? Well, half them shows will have to go. At least half... you might brace yourself if you're a huge fan of.... umm.... you know what? I can't even name you a single other show that I know for sure is on the WB or UPN other than the ones already listed.]
     
    I'd go so far as to say that the only thing that'd keep SmackDown! off of the CW this fall would be if WWE shopped the show around and found a better outlet for it. While the CW will have coverage greater than either UPN or the WB had separately (the CW will reach an impressive 95% of the country), it's always possible that WWE would consider going back to a cable network (and only 85% coverage) if they have a desire to broadcast on a different night other than Friday. But I don't know if that's something WWE is concerned about or not; I know I find the Friday slot a bit of an annoyance from a trying-to-cover-the-show, especially on PPV weekends, but WWE might be perfectly content with Fridays, as long as they can continue to draw 3.0-and-better ratings.
     
    So yes, the Death of UPN sounds like a big story. But really, all that's happening is that 75% of UPN's current infrastructure is going into a new network. And as far as wrestling fans are concerned, the only thing that matters is that SD! is almost assuredly included in that 75%. Sounds like a big story, but it's a non-issue, at least in so far as a wrestling site goes. SmackDown! will be just fine, even if its current network sleeps with the fishes.
     
  • Even after Friday's SmackDown!, it appears there will be 3 slots left open for the Royal Rumble match. Comically, 2 of them will be on the RAW side, where Coachman and Jerry Lawler were ostensibly fighting over the "last" spot.
     
    Immediately, the mind wanders to the possibility that if Vince McMahon is dead-set on spending his wealth on "turning back the clock" and screwing Shawn Michaels, one or both of those slots could be being held back for some sort of Hired Goons.
     
    As tends to be the case, when you start thinking about "surprise entrants" (even if they would seem to fit into a storyline where Vince really would hire relatively big names to screw HBK), it's best to NOT get all nutso on predicting major stars showing up.
     
    And there will be one opening on the SD! side.... that would almost certainly be a perfect spot for the Undertaker, who has not been mentioned on TV at all in the last month, and could be being held back as a cheap-pop-garnering surprise.
     
    From the known 27 (well, 25 if you're not into Spoilers, but two more Velocitastic guys will win their way in on Friday's SD!), there are really only a small handful of potential winners. Triple H is the only RAW guy I can see winning; Michaels might be on the short list, but it does seem to be his destiny to get screwed. On the SD! side, there are only 3 potential winners: Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit, and maybe Randy Orton. Nobody else would really feel right heading into WM as a main eventer.
     
    If Taker does end up being in, I guess he'd make 5 total potential winners. Is it just me, or is that one of the shorter short-lists we've had in a while? But I guess what WWE lacks in a longer-list of credible potential winners, they make up for with the fact that I honestly don't have a goddamned clue who off that short-list is the favorite. Not a clue.
     
  • Speaking of Taker... he's positively LIVID at Cowboy Bob Orton, which is the reason why you've not seen Orton on TV since last month.
     
    I'd originally just been told it was some indeterminate health issue that Orton was dealing with, but now there's some people saying that the "issue" is hepatitis that Orton's had for years, but conveniently forgot to tell WWE about before he'd gone out on TV in the Randy/Taker feud and bladed. That, my friends, is a big no-no, because if a wrestler wants to get an STD, he wants to get it the old-fashioned way: by boning a skank. NOT because he's in the ring with a guy who's gushing infected blood all over the place.
     
    The story goes that Taker found out about Orton's condition and flipped out. Orton claimed he just "forgot," but it didn't matter if he was putting others at risk. For once: Taker and his "Lockerroom General" routine result in a bit of backstage drama that I could not possibly endorse or agree with any more strongly.
     
    If these details are accurate, what Orton did is inexcusable. Not just in the retarded "Wrestling Fraternity Think," but by all patently obvious rules of Common Sense. 
     
  • Chris Benoit either has signed or will sign soon a contract extension to stay with WWE for 3 more years. Yay! Finally Johnny Ace gets one right!
     
    In other contract news:
     
    Still no clarification on Paul Heyman's status, though he's still producing OVW TV. He may be doing so just on a short-term extension until he and WWE can figure out exactly what duties (and what money figure) to assign him in a new long-term contract. If nothing else, both sides a pretty aware that they need to have SOME sort of relationship in order to protect the legacy of ECW.
     
    And Jim Ross' contract is apparently up within the next few months... and from the buzzing, it seems WWE *is* interested in keeping JR around, at least in an some kind of advisory capacity, and possibly with the option of returning to an on-screen role.
     
  • TNA did a 0.9 rating for their show over the weekend. The show wasn't necessarily the strongest, in my opinion, but the ratings continue to indicate a rock-solid fan base with periodic ticks of upward mobility.
     
    Also of note: I completely whiffed on this (because I've long since stopped asking about the TNA Monday Night replay rating, since it's usually pretty abysmal), but 9 days ago, Impact on Monday night at midnight did a 0.9 rating. That means the replay was seen by more fans than the original Saturday night airing that week.
     
    The irony: it was a pre-PPV episode, basically hard-selling the Final Resolution PPV. Which happened on Sunday. Which means the audience on Monday night saw a watered-down infomercial for a PPV that had already happened. D'oh.
     
    And the reason for the sudden anomalous bump in Replay Viewers? Last Monday night was one of Spike's periodic live UFC specials, which did a strong rating and provided an ideal lead-in to the Impact replay. Spike's not stupid, and has certainly identified the tie-in between UFC and wrestling, but this is the first time that TNA got any appreciable bump because of it. Dating back 2 years, WWE would provide the strong lead-in for lower-rated UFC programming and actually helped put "The Ultimate Fighter" on the map.... it's nice that today, UFC is paying wrestling back by providing a bit of a bump for a wrestling show in need.
     
    Once, UFC's audience on Spike was a subset of the larger WWE audience on Spike. Now, data indicates that wrestling's audience on Spike is a subset of the larger UFC audience on Spike.
     
  • However, Spike TV appears to have softened in their support a little bit over the past month or so. While everybody was happy with TNA's debut rating and how they held onto roughly 900,000 viewers each week, the network clearly hoped that there would be growth from that starting point. They gave TNA a trio of prime time specials late last year, in an attempt to create more interest in TNA... but in all cases, TNA failed to deliver any more viewers in prime time than they did in late night on Saturdays.
     
    Now, talk has gone from Spike considering TNA for a weekly prime time slot to Spike pulling the plug on possible prime time specials. To wit: there had been serious discussions about TNA getting a 2 hour, live Monday night special on February 13. Why that night? Because RAW is pre-empted for the Fricking Dog Show, and it might have been a REAL interesting experiment to see how TNA would do with a Monday Night Wrestling Audience all to itself.
     
    But then, as the story goes, Spike asked TNA to pitch them a line-up/outline of the show, and were underwhelmed, thinking that the show would have a hard time breaking that 0.8/0.9 barrier that TNA seems stuck on. And a sub-1.0 in prime time just wasn't gonna be worth the hassle. So that possibility was pulled off the table.
     
    Also: after getting 3 prime time specials in the final quarter of 2005, there are NO TNA prime time specials on the docket through the rest of the first quarter of 2006. It's possible that a paradigm shift has taken place, and Spike has sort of given up on TNA's upward mobility, and recategorized TNA as valuable, well-performing, late-night niche show.
     
    I don't WANT this to be the case, but when I put the Big Brain on the job of trying to piece together bits and pieces of intel on this issue, it's one definitely plausible conclusion.
     
    In fact, there's even a few people who say that TNA's been told outright by Spike that they need more star power if the network's gonna get behind them. Those sources aren't 100% reliable, and it sort of conflicts with some solid intel I got from the cable side of things in past months (which is that Spike was all excited to "grow" the TNA brand and create new superstars)... but if it is accurate, then it could explain rumors that Jeff Jarrett has had friendly conversations with both Bret Hart and The Rock lately. Obviously, neither is in a position to wrestle for TNA, but even just cameo appearances might be something that Spike would look at as a positive move. TNA and Spike already fell all over themselves last month to create the (misleading) impression that the Rock had some kind of association with the TNA product by intersplicing clips of Jarrett and the Rock making INDEPENDENT appearances at some video game awards show.
     
    We'll see how things go, but hopefully TNA will be able to win back some of the confidence that the networks SEEMS to have lost in them....
     
  • Did some snooping, and the fifth guy I couldn't ID from the "Spirit Squad" on RAW in the recap is named Nick Mitchell, and he was a Tough Enough Loser (in the final iteration of the contest, the one that actually aired as part of SD! a year ago, and which stank to high heaven). 
     
    He's said to be, by far, the greenest of the bunch (but ironically, also the oldest at 33). If he's been any kind of a player on OVW TV, it must only have been in the last 2-3 months or so (since that's about what my time delay has been in getting tapes). So that's why I had no clue who he was on first sight.
     
  • Actually, this is something that I've been forgetting to mention the past 10 days or so... my time delay on OVW is apparently gonna be contracting down to only 2-3 weeks. I was excited to find out that a deal had been struck to get OVW on Dayton TV. Wednesday nights at 11pm, on DATV Cable Access (channel 20 on all systems in the 9-county metroplex, as far as I know).
     
    It slipped my mind last Wednesday (the first week the show was aired, I believe), and so I only caught a snippet, but the show appeared to be roughly 3 weeks old. That's always how it was when I had to rely on Cable Access for my ECW fix back in like 1995, too, and I don't know why... I'd hope that we could lose the time delay entirely, but 3 weeks is better than 3 months.
     
    Anybody in Dayton or outlying regions oughta give it a look. I mostly just scanned my tapes to make sure I was prepared in terms of scouting future WWE talents, but since Heyman took over, there's been a lot less FF'ing, and a lot more just watching the shows for entertainment purposes.
     
  • For the second time in about a month, Samoa Joe is gonna miss some indie bookings. Last time, it was due to an ankle sprain. This time, due to a staph infection.
     
    By all accounts, though, he'll be back at 100% in time for the next TNA PPV, which is what really matters. More than likely, the show will be built around the assumption that Joe and AJ Styles are gonna blow the roof off the dump in Orlando.
     
  • To those who've written in asking, I think I can state with Pontiff-caliber certitude that Chris Jericho won't be a part of this silly new MTV/wrestling/whatever project.
     
    I don't know if a goodly number of you just sort of came up with that on your own, as idle speculation, or if somebody out there is reporting it as fact, but knowing what I know about why Jericho's unlikely to work for TNA without an Act of God, I think you can absolutely disqualify the MTV project as anything he'd bother doing.
     
  • I think that's about all I got today. Well, all I got of any import... and plus, me and my lack of sleep need to get out of here, since I'm due to begin some pre-game drinking in about 45 minutes.
     
    You KNOW things are sad when our largest gathering for a UD game in a while is coming on a Wednesday night against St. Freaking Bonaventure... why the big gathering and festivizing? Because: this is a game we can actually win, baby! A massive two-game winning streak should be ours at the end of the night tonight! And we have to get our kicks in now, because by all sensible projections, we start a brand-new 4-game losing streak on Saturday.
     
    So yeah: gotta be getting on outta here. But you'll see me (and all the trOOps) on Friday when we do the Best Damned Royal Rumble Preview In All The Land. If we can make that undercard sound even remotely interesting, you'll have no choice but to worship us as minor deities!
     
    See you then, kids...


  
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E-MAIL RICK SCAIA

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

 

 

 


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