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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
ECW is Back?, TNA PPV, SD! Loses
Another Star, Ratings, and Lots More... 
April 24, 2006

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

Remember how braggadocios I was about a week ago, talking about how *my* idea for a celebrity/reality TV show had been stolen by Real TV Executives? Well: NBC's Cooking With Celebrities show did such shitty ratings that it was cancelled after just three nights. It's all my fault: I mean, it was *my* idea for a show, and I couldn't be bothered to watch. Chalk it up to my long standing policy of not polluting my brain with anything that involves Alan Thicke.
  

Hey: I didn't say it was a GOOD idea, I just said it was an idea I had that I thought made a lot of sense based on the other tripe that makes it to TV. Guess I don't know the minds of the useless Reality-TV-Watching pustules of America as well as I thought, eh?

That's OK. I'll just revert back to loving the fact that Steven

Colbert also rips me off with great frequency, and to much better effect. He did an opening segment early last week that was so Ricktastic that I actually got about a half-dozen unsolicited e-mails from people saying, "OK, I officially predict you're going to take credit for last night's Colbert Report in the pre-ramble of your next column." You win, OO Nation.

And topping this weekend's list of things that did NOT come out of my brain: the announcement of the revival of the "Star Trek" franchise. From the sounds of things, they might as well just subtitle Star Trek 11 "When Desperation Converges with Suck." Paramount is so clueless as to how to get the most out of the franchise that they're giving it to JJ Abrams? That'll learn me to have ever publicly opined about Rick Berman and his cosmic incompetence. Things have now officially gone from Bad to "Lost." As a reformed/lapsed Star Trek fan, this news still stings. Why not just let the franchise go off into the sunset, remembered for the generally-tolerable uninspired blandness that was "Enterprise," instead of exploding everything that is "Star Trek" with a teen-targeted Starfleet Academy movie helmed by the guy who is widely regarded within the industry as Hollywood's luckiest 100%-bullshit-spewing dimwit who everybody keeps expecting to tank but has somehow avoided that fate so far? Well, Paramount, thanks to you, maybe the summer of 2008 is the date we can pencil in for the revelation that JJ Abrams is little more than a poopmonger with a gift for patter.

And on that note, I'll mention that we never intentionally monger poop here at OO, and that any WWE-supplied turds that do end up on display have been lovingly polished to a glossy (and unstinky) sheen by The Me. Like Christian says, "That's just how I prefer to operate."

If you can find a better segue from Star Trek to wrestling than the one above, you should buy it. In the meantime, you're here, so let's get on with the show:

  • It looks like Extreme Championship Wrestling is coming back as a near-full-time entity. At least, negotiations with some former ECW talents would seem to indicate that WWE has decided to give it a try, and if they didn't give it a go for a full year (starting this June), they'd basically be throwing their money away.
     
    In details that have been reported elsewhere but which I can't personally confirm, the Sandman and a handful of others have actually been offered 3-year contracts valued roughly the same as a lower-card RAW/SD! worker's contract. But as is the case with all WWE contracts, only the first year is guaranteed and then a series of roll-over clauses go into effect which give the Fed the chance to cut you loose.
     
    The belief is that the contracts go into effect in June, in time for promotion of the One Night Stand PPV, and then coming out of that, there will be time to tell the necessary stories and do the necessary promotion so that ECW would be off and running on its own come September-ish. Which, perhaps not coincidentally, marks the start of the new TV season.
     
    With a new late-night replay of the Saturday morning "A.M. RAW" nearly doubling the rating of the original morning telecast (and easily topping TNA's average ratings), I'd say it might not be too wacky if WWE took their extra hour of USA Network time, positioned it in late night, and did a down and dirty Extreme wrestling show. It's either that or a webcast, right?
     
    Paul Heyman and Tommy Dreamer would run the new ECW, so no worries there. Now: filling out the roster? That's a bit dodgier of an issue. A lot of ECW alumni have other jobs in TNA, and ALL ECW alumni are 10 years older than they were at ECW's peak. If you're trying to create a promotion that is based on hardcore, action-packed wrestling matches, I'm not sure a thinned-out, aging talent roster is the ideal one for performing this task night in and night out.
     
    Of course, I say that, and ironically enough one of the more interesting tidbits about "casting" involves that loon, Sabu. (1) The guy is working the TNA PPV tonight with a broken arm suffered less than a week ago. And (2) it sounds like he IS available to WWE/ECW as he doesn't have a full-time TNA contract. That's apparently one man who doesn't give a shit about being 10 years older and more broken down... 
     
    At this point, any other roster speculation would be a mix of the blatantly obvious (guys already under WWE contract) and the utterly unsubstantiated. So let's take a pass on that for now....
     
    With WWE on tour in Europe and a little bit less-communicado than normal, there's no real sense yet for what those guys know or suspect about the new ECW... but utilizing what resources I have, I can tell you for sure that there's a lot of speculation about just what this means for everybody down in OVW.
     
    For the past 8 months, Heyman has been running OVW (on the TV production/booking side) to very good effect. Even I'm checking out the TV shows nearly every week, and you know my stance on indie-wankery. Obviously, Heyman will have other things on his plate starting almost immediately, and this will have a huge impact on OVW's operations.
     
    In fact, one guy I talked to said that if some of the guesses he was making were right, you might as well write off OVW entirely, as Heyman and ECW would be the new top tier developmental territory for WWE. 
     
    That got us to talking about precisely what shape a new ECW would take, and (again, this was all just speculation, so take with a whole shaker of salt) what we agreed upon was that there's simply no way to do a "full-time" ECW that would be entirely based on established ECW workers. You can pepper in a Sandman and a Sabu and a Dreamer to lend the brand some authenticity, but ultimately, you don't want to be running a gimmicky reunion promotion on a weekly basis, so you need more horses. And instead of being a recreation of ECW from 10 years ago, you focus on creating a 2006 version that is true to the SPIRIT of ECW.
     
    Consider the number of guys who passed through ECW, and you realize that Heyman and ECW brought a lot of eventually-successful talents to the attention of wrestling fans. And to wrestling executives. WCW's raids of ECW talent included Benoit, Eddie, Rey Mysterio, and practically the whole damned cruiserweight division. The WWF plucked Steve Austin, Mick Foley, and the Dudleys away from ECW.
     
    Purists might scoff at the notion, but at least one of the legacies of ECW is that it was an unofficial developmental territory for the Big Two back in the latter half of the 90s. A very rich and verdant one, as it turned out. With WWE's "star-making" ability seemingly on the wane in recent years, what would be better than having ECW back as a jacked-up developmental league, churning out ready-for-TV performers who would also have the benefit of being already familiar to a sizable percentage of your audience? Or a place where you can park some of your own under-utilized talents and see if Heyman can "fix" them (a la Al Snow)?
     
    See? It's a function ECW has already served in the past, whether you like to admit it or not... and it almost seems like the way for ECW to be a relevant brand here again in 2006, it's a function it SHOULD serve again, I say. Some fans' knee-jerk reactions might be disappointment if the only "authentically ECW" elements of a one-hour show are an appearance by the Sandman and lots of shots of Francine's narrow ass, and the rest is kinda like an episode of OVW, except with production values and a northeast crowd.
     
    But hey, would that really be so bad? Heyman's pet projects over the past 8 months have included Ken Kennedy and the Spirit Squad, and it's not like WWE doesn't have a few other promising guys hanging out in Louisville. This could be a chance to get known BEFORE debuting on WWE TV, which would be huge. If ECW's successful enough, it's also a place where a prospect could hang out and improve for a bit longer before getting the call-up to WWE (something that would greatly benefit a few members of the Spirit Squad). And remember: if Heyman's not sold on what a guy can bring to the ECW brand, WWE still has the lower-tier developmental program in Georgia where a guy can get run ragged by Hugh Morrus until he's got the tools Heyman wants.
     
    All this sprang out of a discussion about the fate of OVW, and like I said, it's mostly speculative. But details about exactly what the new ECW means for OVW aside, I think these are issues fans should take under serious advisement. Instead of worrying about ECW and OVW, I think a level-headed assessment of what ECW means to *WWE* is where the conversational beef is, here.
     
    And that's how we arrive at this notion that a best case scenario for ECW isn't as a gimmicky reunion home for every Justin Credible or Steve Corino who has ECW ties... but rather as a place where only ECW's more memorable or beloved performers supply the flavor and credibility, and where a year after launching, maybe make up as little as 50% of the full-time ECW roster (having been slowly phased out to make room for WWE developmental workers in need of Heyman's magic touch).
     
    I should also note that this is all based on a specific notion of what "full-time" means when it comes to ECW.... and I'm basing this speculation on the fact that the rumored value of contracts being offered is on par with RAW/SD! contracts. Which would -- to me -- indicate "full-time" means working at least 2 or 3 nights a week and having TV exposure (or at least, a weekly webcast), as well as a certain level of independence from the WWE brand.
     
    If those assumptions are wrong, and all WWE intends to do is run a few "ECW" matches at RAW/SD! tapings and then use those as the basis for a webcast or throwaway TV show, well... then you can also toss out all the speculation about creating a need for ECW to have any sort of institutional value, and get by with nothing but a couple dozen ECW alumni.
     
    I guess this is just one of those deals where Time Will Tell. The story, for now, is that WWE clearly intends to do SOMEthing pretty big with the ECW brand, even if we don't know precisely what.
     
  • Who knows? TNA could be enjoying its last six months of being the undisputed #2 wrestling promotion in America... but that'll also be a Time Will Tell deal, now, won't it?
     
    For now, I'm just quickly gonna plug in this bullet point about last night's TNA Lockdown PPV, though.
     
    No real surprises. Probably the biggest shock would be the debut of Christy Hemme. Well, not "shock," but t'wasn't anything anybody had been expecting. Her role is wide open at this point, though she did show up seemingly affiliated with TNA's "New Management" as part of that angle. I'll never be able to work up a crippling fondness for Spaz due to the revelation of her all-encompassing stupidity (during an appearance on Howard Stern), but the girl's got spunk and a desire to improve in the ring. It wouldn't surprise me if, in time, she developed into TNA's Trish. The Trish who is stumped if you ask her for the square-root of 16 or to name the American Vice President, but you get the idea....
     
    Also showing up in the "New Management" angle was Raven. So out of the mix of confusing (and often contradictory) reports about some personal/health issues or his contractual/creative issues with TNA, we now know that Raven's with the company for the long haul (and isn't a likely candidate for the new ECW).
     
    Side bar: so is the implication going to be that Spaz is Raven's mystery woman? Or are we just forgetting that dangling storyline? For the record, I'd be against that: Spaz is at her best when she's being spazzy and peppy (being Eugene's cheerleader was dead-on perfect for her), not brooding. I still like my idea that you get Nidia to pair up with Raven. Mostly on the grounds that she has proven quite expert at rocking the flannel and cut-off jean shorts (which are sort of the Raven Uniform).
     
    And Chris Daniels mystery opponent? His former partner, Low-ki (wrestling as "Senshe" for reasons that are as yet unexplained). No surprise there, really. Most people seemed to be under the impression TNA had it narrowed down to two choices, and they went with the one that was "Not Jeff Hardy." 
     
    Everything else seemed to go pretty much according to plan. Christian and Samoa Joe retained their titles, as expected. Sting's team won the Not WarGames Match, which certainly seemed inevitable to me. And on a show where every match was a cage match, there were loads of wacky highspots that sound like you had to see them to believe them.
     
    You can get the full details in Jason's TNA Lockdown Recap.
     
  • The rating for Thursday's pre-PPV edition of Impact was a 0.9. That is a slight drop from the week before, but still a notch or so better than what TNA averaged on Saturday nights.
     
    However, as I've been saying for a couple weeks now, the REAL test (as far as Spike TV management is concerned) is how well TNA holds onto the UFC audience as part of their Thursday Fight Night block. And by *that* metric, there's bad news for TNA this week. 
     
    The Ultimate Fighter lead-in to TNA actually bounced back up to normal levels (a 1.8, I believe), while Impact dropped two-tenths of a point. Instead of retaining 85% of its lead-in (like the week before), TNA was down to a 50% retention level, which is... well, we don't know for sure what's considered "unacceptable" by Spike, but I think we can call it a "disappointment, at least compared to the week before."
     
  • I can also confirm that little rumor from last week about TNA running a house show at the ECW Arena the same weekend as the ECW One Night Stand PPV in NYC. It's been dubbed "TNA Hardcore Wars" and tickets go on sale this coming Saturday.
     
    This is actually gonna be another deal where TNA is just going partners with another indie promoter. The promotion, whose name I forget, is run by some NASCAR twit, and has worked with TNA a few times already. So we know the basic deal is that the promotion does all the work, and TNA just packs up a truck to make sure the goofy six-sided ring gets there.
     
    Which I mention because the promotion wants to do a webcast of the event on their website, which raises the interesting issue of whether or not TNA would bother helping them with any of the production-side elements. It's a weird little formula for house shows that TNA's worked up; on one hand, it's very low-risk to them. But on the other, you risk having any sense of continuity if all you do is send the ring, and then have the Insane Clown Posse's promotion running things one week and some NASCAR guy's the next. I know local promoters are a staple of the wrestling industry (even for WWE), but the trick is making everything look seamless, as part of one cohesive product.
     
    Anyway, when tickets go on sale, they'll be selling them largely based on the IDEA of the show (and as I pointed out last week, on the coattails of the WWE-scantioned ECW event)... not based on an announced card. All they've announced so far is that there'll be yet another chapter in the Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles vs. Chris Daniels feud at the event.
     
  • ECW? Check. TNA? Check. I guess we can finally move on and talk about that OTHER promotion, now...
     
    We'll start with a quick bit of SmackDown! talk... the show did a 2.5 rating, which would be a gain of 0.1 from the week before, but which would also still suck. Which is probably par for the course on a show that seems perpetually stuck in cruise control, lacking the spark to ever have any of RAW's highs (or its lows)...
     
    Perfect microcosm of that was the fact that the show opened with a 20-minute Booker/Matt Hardy match. Did it suck? Nope. But did it need 20 minutes? Nope, it needed a light touch with the Fast Forward button, instead. The guys did everything right, but they were put in a bad position: no back-story and lame 80s-style short insert-promos right before the match is NOT how you create an atmosphere where the crowd is stoked for the cataclysmic final 20-minute showdown between two adversaries.
     
    Throw in the fact that they ended the show with a Main Event Promo which basically amounted to "OK, so this is a pretty lame way to finish things off, but LOOK AT WHAT WE'RE GIVING YOU NEXT WEEK!" It started off as a predictably-effective JBL promo; they seem set on re-establishing him as the brand's top heel, which is kinda too bad (I thought the best way to keep JBL from running out of steam with audiences was to keep him at the midcard level, where he could HonkeyTonk the US Title to VERY good effect), but also probably necessary. But then that gave way to a Kurt Angle/Rey Mysterio sparring session that served as an advertisement for what should be a PPV-caliber match next week.
     
    I think that once again, my favorite part of the show may have been the on-going besmirchment of William Regal. Anybody else love the irony that Regal was acting all indignant when Burchill's final costume was essentially a recreation of things Regal wore WILLINGLY back in his WCW days? Regal's gold, I tells ya... nobody goes from oozing credibility to oozing hilarity quite like him. Well: Kurt can do it, too. But it's a rare gift, indeed.
     
    For details about the rest of the show, I turn you over to Jeff Snider's SmackDown! Recap.
     
  • Even with SD!'s ratings in the crapper, RAW's chugging along very well on that front. Last week's show did a 4.3, and steadily gained viewers throughout the 2 hours for one of the bigger Hour One/Hour Two differentials in a long time (4.0 building to a 4.6).
     
    Which of course means WWE's production monkeys are going to feel justified wasting my fucking time with all those "Earlier Tonight" video packages if they're inching up on having a million new viewers in the second hour who don't know what happened in the first. Great. 
     
    It now looks like even after "24" is done for the season, I will keep my RAW time shift at a full 60 minutes (instead of the more standard 35-40 minutes). Fast-forwarding isn't just for commercials and Chris Masters' ring entrance anymore!
     
  • As mentioned above, WWE's over in Europe, but they're light one SD! superstar. Well, one semi-star. Well, one Palmer Cannon.
     
    Cannon -- real name Brian Black, I think -- flew himself home after the second day overseas, telling officials that he was quitting. At present, nobody's quite clear on whether WWE will just grant the guy his release or if there will be an attempt at cooler heads prevailing.
     
    The reason for the sudden departure involves an altercation (or series of altercations) with JBL. No word on whether it also involved JBL's trusty bar of soap. And thus, I go to war with myself: will my bafflement and pity over the frat-like maturity level of certain elements of the wrestling mindset win? Or will my utter apathy towards Palmer Cannon reign supreme?
     
    Eh, let's go with the latter, this time. In the macro, I can't see missing Palmer Cannon on my TV shows. In the micro, it might even be a good thing that he picked now to pitch his fit, because his skits with The Miz have me deeply annoyed and terrified. Because by putting Cannon and Miz at odds, the implication was that WWE apparently thinks The Miz is a babyface. Which is a huge mistake. Outside of the dimwitted fangirl demographic, Miz will inspire either the desire to Fast Forward, or the desire to slap him in the face until he quits acting like such a self-amused, petulant little toolbox.
     
    Sound familiar? It's getting to the point where I wonder if WWE's doing this on purpose, or if the existence of this Cena Effect really just represents the fact that nobody at WWE has a grasp on what young adult males aged 18-34 think is cool and entertaining. And that, my friends, is WWE's demographic (well, it's the demo that EVERYbody covets, but what I mean is that it's WWE's meat-and-potatoes).
     
    I'm getting off topic.... point was that Carson Palmer is done for now (and possibly for good) with WWE.
     
  • The Europe tour was the reason for last week's Supershow Taping on Monday, and thus, becomes the reason for there being no fresh content taped for Heat and Velocity. But those ARE actual television shows in other countries, even if they are just webcasts here, so WWE has to produce something...
     
    And this week, they made some interesting choices. Instead of just recap shows, they made Heat a money-themed episode to play off the Money In The Bank gimmick (so lots of Ted DiBiase and Irwin R. Shyster and also a a gift, last year's MitB match from WM21). And Velocity was a royalty-themed episode to play up the return of the King of the Ring tourney.
     
    From the looks of the Cubs Fan's recap, it looks like they clipped the Bret Hart/Bam Bam Bigelow match from KotR '93 down to nothing. Including taking out the Luna Vachon run-in. Which is too bad, because KotR '93 was held in Dayton, and I was seventh row right on the aisle, and the only screen time I got was during Luna's run-in. Those bastards, always holding me down and taking away my TV time....
     
  • I guess I could close with a quick RAW Preview, especially since this column will be posted either Sunday night or early Monday morning, and such a preview would be relevant for upwards of 18 hours!
     
    But like I said: WWE's in Europe, and as it turns out, that means they've already taped both tonight's RAW and Friday's SD!, and I always feel stupid "previewing" a show that's already happened.
     
    I opt to stay away from spoilers as much as possible, so I can't do a spot-on accurate "spoiler-free" version of a preview (and even if I could, I wouldn't, since such a document would possess all the intrigue and relevance of the WWE.com preview; or the on-screen cable guide teaser blurb, for that matter; and no thinking person would want to read that more than I'd want to write it).
     
    And then I feel really weird if I try to do one of my USUAL previews, loaded with speculation and projections straight out of my own brain. Because I end up being wrong (well, I vote I am right and it's WWE who gets it wrong, but you know what I mean) often enough when RAW is live.... so what would be the point to hand-crafting all my thoughts, only to have upwards of half of you nosy spoiler-readers out there know that I'm 100% wrong before the show ever happens?
     
    So: you watched RAW last week (or at least, you read about it) and this ain't rocket science. Come up with your own little RAW Previews in your own heads. And then, if said inner-monologue is accompanied by a shitty soundtrack, mentions of May 19, and can suddenly be heard by others, well.... then you're probably more what WWE is looking for in a writer than I am, so congratulate yourself on a job well done!
     
    I'll just content myself to make the standard exhortation that you all simply need come on back here tomorrow, where I will once again dutifully serve up the finest RAW Recap in all the land, no matter how very much it hurts me. 
     
    Tis my cross to bear: WWE's weak-ass material is the sand that goes into my vagina, the kick-ass RAW Recap is the shiny pearl that results after roughly 2 hours of intense irritation. Week after week, month after month, without a break, until I've strung together enough pearls so that if I wanted I could make a Cena-esque Pearl Necklace joke here.
     
    Luckily for you, I don't. Till tomorrow, folks...


  
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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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