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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
RAW and ECW Ratings/Analysis, Major
TNA Angle Set, SNME, Dreamer, and MORE! 
July 13, 2006

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

Well, the world could be about to blow up, and a responsible, intelligent citizen should probably be putting some time into reading up on all the drama involving Israel and North Korea/Japan (and how that's pissing off Russia and China) and so forth....
  

So of course, here I am doing some quick afternoon news catch-up, and 10 minutes ago, I find out the Cincinnati Reds have traded Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez away to the Washington Expos in exchange for five guys I've never heard of. (Well, OK, four guys I've never heard of and Royce Clayton, whose name I'd have preferred not to hear associated with the Reds.)

 
Without a doubt, this is the most vital development in global current events all week! Who are these mysterious five players? Three of 'em are pitchers, but can they help our atrocious bullpen? And why does it just feel wrong to trade away two of our everyday starters for four anonymous prospects and one aging bench player? 

Screw the horrifying breakdowns in International Diplomacy... I must dedicate my online research time to finding the answers to these questions about the Reds' recent personnel moves! *This* is what is truly important.

In deference to you fine readers, however, I'll restrain myself from digging into this project until I can supply you all with your big ol' Thursday Rasslin' News Update:

  • Monday's RAW did a 3.9 rating. That's a gain of about 0.4 from the week before (when Forth of July festivities resulted in some of the lowest levels of TV Viewership in history), which is good. But it's still almost a third-of-a-point shy of RAW 10-week moving average, which is not so good.
     
    Considering that my personal opinion is that RAW had its third sub-par outing in a row on Monday, and simply isn't doing the same kinds of things they did during mostly-entertaining months of May and June (when ratings averaged about a 4.2), I feel there's some sort of karmic justice if RAW ratings slip a bit. Maybe the American TV Viewing Public actually ARE capable of sniffing out a turd? Given the recent surge in poop-related humor, RAW's not exactly making itself tough to label that way, either.
     
    What's too bad is that this might have to mean the end of Edge's claim to be the most-watched champion in the past 5 years. But perhaps that's just heel bluster, and he's not actually maintaining a spreadsheet to check his overall averages? Or perhaps he can still make that claim, as long as it's with an asterisk indicated that he's referencing his first title reign? But this time around, his title win came last week on RAW's lowest rated show of 2006-to-date, and follows that up with RAW first non-holiday-related dip below 4.0 in about 2 months.
     
    For shits and giggles (and because it's super easy when you are a dork like me who does have a spreadsheet with all this data): I can tell you that 2006's three previous WWE Championship reigns break down as such. Edge's first reign averaged a 4.4 RAW rating. Cena's lengthy run averaged a 4.1. RVD's reign averaged a 4.2... so if Edge wants to keep it so that Cena is still mathematically and scientifically the shittiest champion WWE's had all year, he better step it the hell up! 
     
    Of course, I don't think any blame can be placed on Edge for Monday's rating: he wasn't given the opportunity to be a draw, and the show -- if we're honest -- had about the least marketable "main event" in recent memory. They tried to do a little cutesy thing where the "real"/unspoken main event would be a special appearance by DX, but I think they miscalculated pretty badly one just how much cache such an appearance has with fans. Plus, said appearance was ultra-lame as compared to past weeks where DX -- you know? -- actually DID STUFF (even if some of it was pretty gay).
     
    In the absence of any pre-announced/sensible "anchor" wrestling matches, and with the vibe of "fluffy hype show for Saturday Night's Main Event" being tangible, I think RAW made its own bed, ratings-wise, on Monday. It was, if you think back on it, segment-by-segment, an exceptionally "flip-away-from-able" two hours... it wasn't "sticky" at all, and even the things that turned out to be good (Edge's little skits, Foley's promo, the Trish/Melina/Carlito/Nitro match and angle) weren't the sorts of things that cause a viewer to go "Oh, cool, I can't miss that, I'm not flipping away!".
     
    I know I usually make the case for ratings being a bit more "reflexive" because Nielsen's data collection methods makes minor fluctuations from week to week pretty much statistically insignificant (and makes certain other websites obsession with quarter hour ratings calculated out to 2 decimal places pretty much silly). Where ratings have value is in the big picture where you can get a handle on major trends and average audience sizes over time, and how a poor rating usually has more to do with the overall "health" of the show than it does the quality of the program that specific week. Well: this is the week I go back a bit on my usual theory and admit that I think the way WWE laid out Monday's show caused the low rating.
     
    No marketable main event plus a complete absence of "stickiness" could easily be the culprits for RAW's rating coming in a statistically significant third-of-a-point below recent averages. They were practically inviting a certain number of "fringe" fans to flip away or zone out entirely.
     
    You can get the full report on Monday's show in the OO RAW Recap, which I promise you will *not* make it easy for you to click away. It's one damned compelling document! Or your money back!
     
  • Tuesday's ECW on Sci-Fi bounced all the way back up to a 2.4 rating, which is actually a little bit surprising to me, and a HUGE bounceback from July 4's 1.4 rating. In fact, it's ECW's second-best rating to date.
     
    For as much as I'm dying over here, wishing that WWE would grow the scrotes to create a genuinely unique "alternative" ECW product, it's weeks like this that vindicate WWE's mindset of treating ECW like a third hour of RAW. Simply put: the Foley/Flair/Heyman/Big Show segment was the highest rated portion of RAW, and it also turned into an advertisement for the next night's Flair/Big Show ECW Title Match. That is, much as it pains me to say, a textbook example of effective cross-promotion.
     
    Which isn't to say there aren't other ways in which I could envision ECW easily drawing a similar sized audience with a different promotional scheme (cuz there are), but as long as Vince McMahon is too insecure to let something as unique and alien as "genuine ECW" overtake his own creations (much less overtake them while he's financing it), it's probably what we're stuck with. I mean, for two of its weeks, ECW has had a larger audience than SD!... and it'd be humiliating and unthinkable for a Paul Heyman Creation to out-draw a Vince McMahon Creation! But as long as ECW-on-Sci-Fi is Vince's third hour of RAW, it's perfectly OK if more fans want to watch ECW than SD!... they're all Vince's babies, and he won't play favorites!
     
    I'm only about 15%-joking on this, too. Vince's track record of failing to effectively promote "outside" stars is well known, and even if its only a subconscious thing where Vince only gives his all to his homegrown talents, there's gotta be reasons why Ric Flair's just about the only guy since the establishment of the "WrestleMania Era" who truly made himself in another promotion and who retained that status through a lengthy association with WWF/E (all while the Goldbergs, Lex Lugers, Scott Steiners, and the like were pretty much flops; and while a guy like Booker T may not have "flopped," but is still trading on 5 WCW titles instead of having forged anything resembling a WWE legacy for himself). Obviously, the biggest example of this was how Vince managed to completely botch the WCW inVasion, simply because he was too insecure to book the storyline in a way that would have let WCW be viewed as a credible competitor to the WWF of the day: back in 2001, months of groundwork for promoting WCW as a separate brand with its own shows and everything had to be scrapped because of the boneheadedness. It looks like Vince's pussified insecurities might be the same ones here in 2006, but at least he's found an effective business model so that it looks like all the groundwork done to promote "ECW" shows won't end up being for naught.
     
    But I digress...
     
    Tuesday's ECW was probably the second strongest top-to-bottom effort they've had yet (behind the ECW TV special the week before One Night Stand), and it was propped up by Ric Flair and Big Show's excellent ECW Title Match. All the same Guilt Factor was there as when Flair and Edge had a TLC Match on RAW back in January, but man alive: if Flair wants to bring it, and do things like flopping face first into thumbtacks, I've got no choice but to stand back and be perversely entertained.
     
    And seriously: front-first, Naitch? Holy shit. I'm guessing thumbtacks don't feel good no matter where you'd stick 'em, but for my money, I got too many of my favorite parts on my front, and I can't think of any excuse to put any of them in danger of being punctured. Still: the match was exciting as hell, and even though Big Show won, it was Flair whose music was playing and who was getting a standing ovation as ECW went off the air. 
     
    It'll be interesting to see if they sort of shift the Foley/Flair feud over to ECW... Flair did reference Foley (and did so in more comprehensible fashion than he did in his pointless rambling on RAW) during his Tuesday night promo, and certainly the "talking point" of the match was how effectively Flair adapted to "ECW Rules." If Flair/Foley does become an ECW storyline (or the most cross-over-y of the RAW/ECW storylines), Vince can even promote it as one of ECW's contributions to the Cross Promotional Three Brand Extravaganza That Is SummerSlam! Even though neither guy, technically, has any particular allegiance to ECW! But that doesn't matter because unlike Sabu and Sandman and all those other losers, Vince knows he can count on his trusty WWE Superstars to draw a buyrate!
     
    I'm digressing again...
     
    The superlative main event was counter-balanced by a very strong opening promo from Paul Heyman. While Vince brought the comedy to "Blasphemy in Wrestling" Month back in May, Heyman hit some of the same notes but in a deadly serious and possibly delusional way. It all boils down to Heyman sacrificing his friendship with RVD to try to heel the sins of all mankind (since we're the guilty ones who drove RVD to a reckless in-ring style and an even more reckless title defense schedule that was ruining him)... and in the Big Finish, Heyman said that even if you can't see the stigmata on his hands, he WILL be our savior, and he will make whatever sacrifices and decisions he has to.... not to benefit himself, not to benefit any other single man, woman, or child.... but to benefit E, C, W.
     
    That certainly sets up a very interesting dynamic, and could even be the foundation-laying for the exact kind of storyline I talked about in Monday's column.... Heyman can be presented as a guy who sold out to Vince McMahon's vision, a guy who sold out by bringing Big Show in to be his champion when it became apparent Rob Van Dam wasn't part of Vince's vision, and a guy who HONESTLY BELIEVES that he's making these decisions to benefit ECW because if he dared to go against Vince's vision, there would be no ECW. Selling out was the only way to benefit ECW, in Heyman's mind.
     
    His brief confrontation with Dreamer obviously could be the start of the backlash... Dreamer and other genuine ECW personalities could oppose Heyman, try to get him to stand up and be a rebel again, or they could even get so fed up that they'd rather kill Paul E's "ECW" than be a part of something that's such a sham.
     
    I could, of course, be reading way too much into things, and giving WWE too much credit for having the balls to do a storyline that includes an element of "we fucked up, and these losers from ECW are the beloved babyfaces who are gonna fix it".... but I do think it's a storyline that would easily distract and entertain a core audience of wrestling fans and lapsed ECW fans for several months, all while ancillary issues about ECW's roster and stuff get sorted out in the background (so fans are too busy to get pissed off by things like Mike Knox being shoe-horned onto TV for no discernable reason).
     
    Dreamer as the aggressive, bad-ass leader of that contingent of *LOYAL* ECW stars would be perfect, and I think his match on Tuesday against Test goes a long way towards showing that they're planning on Dreamer's profile being on the rise: it was a competitive contest, and Test (who's perfect as a sell-out/Heyman crony, since he's clearly a "WWE Guy") had to cheat to win. 
     
    I'm flashing back to the past couple weeks of "Deadwood," and thinking that's how you tell the story, here: Paul Heyman's the once visionary leader of this camp full of hard-nosed misfits, but now he's gone pussy on us, and has been intimidated by this wealthy outsider, Vince McMahon, coming onto his turf and acting like he owns the joint.  This causes Dreamer -- his slightly-doughy top lieutenant (who cares way too much about his boss and about his boss' enterprise to see it wasting away like this) -- to try and talk sense to Heyman. But when Heyman continues to act like a scared little cunt, Dreamer has to nut up and take care of business on his own. You wouldn't think Dreamer'd have much of a chance taking out the Big Show on the thoroughfare, now would you? But you'd have massively underestimated just what a bad-ass he can be when motivated... all of a sudden, with Dreamer's upset victory, Heyman realizes that Vince's men can be beaten, and that Vince ain't so intimidating. Not when Heyman's surrounded by loyal ass-kickers who genuinely care about doing what's right for the camp. Um: I mean, for the brand.
     
    I'm digressing yet again, aren't I? Well, tell me the analogy doesn't fit pretty damned well, you cocksuckers! Don't make me belabor the point by going all Hocking/Lord-of-the-Rings-Satire on you with an extended "Deadwood"/wrestling crossover parody column! 
     
    Besides the main event and the Heyman promo and subsequent confrontation with Dreamer leading to Dreamer's match, just about the only notable development was that Sabu wrestled and got disqualified for using a table. Because the match wasn't "ECW Rules." Which is, again, a fucking retarded thing for WWE to be doing if they have any desire to let ECW be a distinctive brand (in "ECW" it stands to reason that ALL mathces would be under 'ECW rules," no?), but my guess is that in this case, it's a set-up for Sabu to get a rematch against Justin Credible on Saturday Night's Main Event where it WILL be "ECW Rules." Which means Sabu can get his win back, and Justin can go back to being the nice polite jobber that he is, and it'll be an action-packed spotfest the likes of which will seem strangely out of place on NBC.
     
    You also had Sandman caning the hell out of Mike Knox (so maybe that's the end of that, and Kelly can find herself suddenly attracted to a beer-swilling asshole who will probably support her Expeditionist Tendencies because he's also a horny old pervert?), and Mordecai the Vampire Guy showing up with Shelley the Tarot Card Chick, and that was about it.  Admittedly, that means things were a bit spotty during the middle third of the show, but I do feel like the three main segments all delivered strongly.
     
    And that adds up to a relatively non-sucky hour of TV. You can get all the details in the ECW Recap.
     
  • Speaking of Saturday Night's Main Event, I'm thinking it might not be too horrible a show... I mean, let's all just assume that the Hogan/Orton stuff will be a waste of time and the bikini-whatever-it-is-contest will be pointless-but-short.
     
    Beyond that, though, you've got a chance for DX and the Spirit Squad to do the kind of over-booked "Sports Entertainment Segment" that they DIDN'T do at the PPV (and which I still believe could be very entertaining)... Edge and John Cena's match won't be anything we haven't seen before from them, but they've usually worked pretty well together, so that's not a bad thing... the SD! main event with all six of their top guys has plenty of talent on each side to make the contest fun (even if it'll lack Star Power when compared to what RAW brings to the table)... there's no excuse for the mixed tag not to kick ass... and like I said: Sabu and Extreme Rules are a good pairing, too.
     
    Something you will want to be aware of: if you're going to be using DVR/TiVo to record SNME (and I can only assume many of you will be), you're gonna have to set TWO (2) manual recordings, because NBC is listing the show as two separate one hour shows.
     
    The Cubs Fan actually brought that to my attention, and confirms that TiVo brand's on-screen guide lists it this way, and that sent me scurrying to check what my Time Warner DVR guide said: and it listed it the same way. So be aware of that, and then join me in saying a hearty "Thank You" to TCF for the heads-up.
     
  • While we're talking about this weekend's wrestling shows, I'll quickly mention that TNA does have a major angle planned for tonight's "Impact," and it's something that I'll be curious to see how it goes over with the different classes of fans.
     
    SPOILER (if you want to avoid this, skip to the next bullet point): Basically Rhino's gonna set something that is allegedly his ECW Title Belt on fire (but you'll never actually see it, for legal reasons) and claim that ECW is dead and TNA's the place to be.
     
    I fully expect TNA's loyal fanbase of roughly 1 million weekly viewers to eat it up. But it's among fringe fans and non-fans where the reaction will matter. Just getting the attention of the 3.0 ratings points worth of fans who make up the difference between TNA's audience size and WWE's would be a bonus... get 'em talking, and there's really no such thing as bad publicity. Although I am especially curious about that "fringe fan" factor of people who do have some TNA awareness but aren't weekly viewers: whether this moves turns them on more to TNA or turns them off more will be very interesting. Is this "ballsy" or is it "bush league" to them? If they're only nominally interested in TNA, will they even care about Rhino's past as the last champion of a different minor league company?
     
    For me, I'll just say that I don't expect this to create a whole lot of a splash outside of TNA's existing fans... but as one of those weekly viewers, I also think that maybe TNA missed the boat, timing-wise on this. They had to wait this long, I guess, cuz they couldn't do it till after Rhino signed his contract extension, but I think it'd have been more fun and impactful if Rhino had pitched his fit before WWE had reasonably-well re-established the ECW Title... before the title was brought back or even the first week after Heyman sort of handed the ECW Title over to Van Dam, and Rhino's claim to the ECW Championship would have had so much more sizzle to it. Waiting till after the belt has been defended in a bunch of good matches (and even changed hands once)? Well, it's still a pretty gutsy move, but the longer TNA waited, the less it became a fun, fist-pumping, "You tell 'em, Rhino" sort of idea, and more a case of one wrestling company trying to get into a dick-waving contest with another.
     
    I fully expect this to get me hate mail from TNA fans who think I'm inventing reasons to criticize TNA's biggest and bestest angle ever, but whatever... fact is, I do think it's an interesting idea for an angle, I just think TNA sprung it too late for it to have maximum effect with fans outside their existing core.
     
  • Back to non-spoiler-ness: TNA does have a PPV this weekend, as three talented wrestlers (and also Scott Steiner) will headline in a 4-way #1 Contender's match. I guess I'd been making the same mistake many others had been, and originally thought that the winner of Sting/Christian/Samoa Joe/Steiner would face Jeff Jarrett later in the show, but that's not the case. Jarrett gets the night off, and defends at the next PPV.
     
    Which actually makes sense if this was Jim Cornette's idea for how to screw Jarrett over (letting him wrestle an already-tired opponent would be more like giving him a free pass).

    Anyway, keep an eye out for Jason Longshore's PPV Preview (which will include a recaplet of Impact's big angle and other final developments heading into the show)... that'll be posted at some point this weekend.
     
  • And I guess if I've mini-previewed the wrestling that's on TV Thursday and what's on Saturday, I might as well quickly mention that Friday's SmackDown! is an interesting looking show that'll feature a few surprises heading into SNME. It might not be an awful week to at least give 'er a look.
     
  • Where's Kane at lately? He's been overseas doing promotion for his movie as it is released in other countries. Don't you fret: he'll be back on TV very soon. 
     
    WWE has also announced a late November release date for the DVD of "See No Evil," which strikes me as retarded. It's not like Kane's little movie is gonna stand out amidst the swarm of things released for the Holiday Gifting Season, so why not release it a month earlier when you COULD stand out as a creepy slasher flick perfect for Halloween? 
     
  • Kurt Angle's being advertised for some ECW shows starting in August... optimistic prognosis, or out-of-date line-ups? YOU make the call...
     
  • I don't know if this is true or not, but word trickled down from tapings this week that the pills found in Sabu's possession when he and RVD were pulled over weren't painkillers at all: they were anti-estrogen pills that he takes because he's got them man-boobs and this keeps them under control. [You might remember that The Rock actually had surgery to remove his man-boobies back in 1999. I guess Sabu can't afford that sort of elective surgery?]
     
    If that's true, it'd certainly add to the reason why his punishment from WWE was so much less severe than RVD's.
     
  • Last thing is something that just created a mini-flood in my mailbox the last couple hours or so: WWE.com has launched a new feature where they ask various superstars your standard "favorite such-and-such" questions.
     
    The reason why so many people mailed in to me about it? Because Tommy Dreamer, when asked what is his favorite beer, responded, "Corona with lime." And you ALL should remember why the hell that's exactly the wrong response to give.
     
    And to think, I wasted a whole paragraph above comparing Tommy to whiskey-swilling, eyeball-gouging, no-beer-fruiting bad-ass Dan Dority.... you disappoint me, Tommy.
     
    Then again, Tommy and Corona with Lime coming three days after Edge spent a segment on RAW sipping on Mimosas? Could this be some sort of a conspiracy among WWE's handful of card-carrying members of The The Rick Fan Club? Yeah, it's gotta be: there's no way Dreamer fruits his beer. I refuse to believe it!
     
    You can check out the entire WWE.com feature (which also asks questions of Edge, Heyman, Kennedy, and a few others). Please note that after reading Candice Michelle's answers, I redouble my opinion that if you are capable of being sexually attracted to her, then you are simply wired much, much differently than I am.
     
  • That's all for today. It's a pretty big weekend for us wrestling fans, no? Impact tonight, SD! tomorrow, SNME, a TNA PPV on Sunday... then it keeps on rolling with Monday's RAW and Tuesday's ECW....
     
    Hell, if you get the MSG Network and watched the old MSG Classic House shows last night, this could be the mid-point of NINE CONSECUTIVE NIGHTS of TV wrestling. That's pretty crazy.
     
    Don't anybody out there OD on me, and I'll see you again with a Monday column. But don't be a stranger over the weekend, either, as we'll do the TNA PPV Preview, a SD! Recap, and Bulldog's got something pretty awesome that I'll be throwing up on the front page tomorrow, too.
     
    Later on, all...


  
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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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