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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
Finally Some Good Roster News, plus
Ratings, TNA, Benoit, Trish, and MORE
August 4, 2006

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

You should, technically, have gotten this column yesterday... but the weather gods conspired against me (well, actually, it was the gods of alternating current, since they stopped sending electricity to my house late yesterday afternoon, and the power company didn't get things fixed till hours later), and you've had to wait an extra day.
 

I figure if storms moving through the area was enough to cause Greg Maddux to puss out on finishing up a no hitter against the Reds in Cincinnati, then it's a good enough excuse for me to have slacked off, too. Right?

And I guess it's finally OK for me to talk about baseball again, too. For a while 

there, I simply avoided the topic, lest I jinx the Reds. But all seems to be returning to normalcy now, with or without my karmic interference.

The Yankees are leading their division and have the second best record in baseball, and if the season ended today, the Reds would NOT be in the playoffs. This is normal. This is sane. And it only took until the first week of August for it to get sorted out. I may now commence to following the final 7 weeks of the regular season without any of that pesky cognitive dissonance that would have gone with the Reds seriously trying to make playoffs. [Prove me wrong, boys; prove me wrong. But my guess is that with a 2-and-a-half-man starting rotation, you won't.]

So anyway: sorry if I'm a day late with this. Promise I won't be a dollar short. There's a goodly amount of ground to cover today, and I'll be covering it with my usual wit and aplomb. We ride:

  • After a rash of wellness-related suspensions, the big news of this week is WWE getting rosters boosts in the forms of fresh signings and clean medical tests.
     
    The one semi-unexpected move was just announced today, actually, as Jeff Hardy's return to WWE was confirmed on the company's website. I think we'd talked about the two sides opening a dialogue back about a month/month-and-a-half ago, but obviously WWE wanted to do some due diligence with Jeff because of his track record of (ahem) Personal Demons, and also his general flakiness (up to and including his last run in TNA, which ended with Jeff no-showing a PPV).
     
    But I guess WWE heard/saw what they needed to hear from Jeff, and earlier this week offered him a contract to return to the company. I know the talk a month ago was about putting Jeff and Matt back together as a tag team, but ironically enough, it's now MATT who is at home for 30 days dealing with a Wellness Issue, so if that's the plan, it's gonna have to wait about a month.
     
    If re-united, the Hardys would be a boon to the almost non-existent SD! tag scene (although many have suggested they should go to ECW; but to be honest, if ECW's getting the Bashams, then they've got four established tag teams and don't need the Hardys half as badly as SD! does)... scooping up Jeff before another brand does would also fit in with a new storyline in which GM Teddy Long is actively seeking out fresh talent for his brand.
     
    I'm not so sure this wouldn't feel like a step backwards for Matt, but the combination of his own performance and WWE's weak booking have left his singles career stalled... a lot of fans still cheer for the guy, but it sort of feels like his solo credibility has peaked at "mid-card". A way to unstall it might be to go ahead and team up with his brother again. Because, not trying to be too big a dick, Matt will INSTANTLY start to look better by comparison the longer he's standing next to his ridiculously-attired and comically-flamboyant younger brother. 
     
    But no matter how ludicrous Jeff is in appearance, if he's coming back healthy and focused, that should mean a return to his 2000 form when he'd be all jumping off of high places and not blowing spots all the time. Which is nothing to sneeze at.
     
    We'll have to see how this works out.
     
  • The other roster news for WWE this week is that Bobby Lashley, the Great Khali, and Tatanka were all medically cleared after initially being placed on precautionary leaves.
     
    Sadly, for us fans, this means will now be subjected to the Grand Finale of Taker vs. Khali, afterall. The two will do some kind of gimmick match at SummerSlam, which I can only assume will serve the purpose ORIGINALLY intended to be served by their match at the Bash PPV. Whee?
     
    Tatanka? Meh, can't say that affects SD! much one way or the other. But I'm glad he's well. If problems would have persisted for him, my first instinct would be to check if he wasn't somehow OD'ing on something cuz of that super-size Breathe Right Strip he's wearing all of a sudden....
     
    But Lashley's an interesting case, because last week, SD! (I thought) clearly positioned Finlay as a babyface (in a fun match against William Regal), no doubt looking to fill the void left by Lashley on the upper-mid-card. But with Lashley now cleared for an immediate return, you pretty much have to plug him back into his old spot, even if Finlay did seem to succeed in getting over with the fans. [I'm telling you people: everything's better with midgets! When will you start trusting me on this?] 
     
    Of the "liver enzyme" guys, I think this leaves only Super Crazy as not being cleared after an additional round of testing. Though I'm not a doctor (nor do I play one on TV), the consensus seems to be that the quickly-normalized enzyme test results are proof that there is no serious pandemic (like hepatitis) involved, and more than likely the test results were caused by a specific training supplement or something along those lines.
     
    Also still on leave: Matt Hardy (for what his webmaster says is a lingering staph infection) and Kid Kash (for disciplinary reasons). Rob Van Dam's 30 day suspension is technically over (and he could return to ECW house shows this weekend), but my guess is he doesn't come back till Tuesday's TV tapings.
     
  • After a scary year, healthwise, Bob Holly returned to action in a dark match at this week's TV tapings. He'll be another boost to the SD! roster, I'd guess. At least, that's where he was before he got hurt and then got the staph infection scare.
     
  • The final way WWE is bolstering its roster? Will make you die a little bit inside when I tell you.
     
    So far, 3 women have been eliminated from the 2006 Diva Search. Well, this week, WWE offered two the losers developmental assignments. Christ. At least in past years, they maintained SOME sense of decorum by waiting until the contest had a winner before handing out contracts to the losers, but this...
     
    Well, let's just say that if any of you out there have somehow ignored/avoided The Gospel According to Rick the past several years as I try to encourage you all to be better people who are not vapidly attracted to any shiny lights emanating from the Idiot Box as long as it's "Reality TV," then WWE -- as a corporate entity -- just dropped its pants and stuck its bare ass out the window at you as it drove past. That's pretty much what this amounts to. Anybody who's empty-headed enough to actually be vested in the Diva Search or giving a crap about it just got mooned by WWE. "Neener neener neener: not only is our contest STOOPID, but it also doesn't even matter who wins because we'll just hire whoever we want, anyway. But you're still watching it. TARD~!"
     
  • Let's do some ratings/TV round-up....
     
    We'll actually start with TNA, since I haven't had a chance to talk about last week's episode yet, and since last night's show (well, the 50 minutes or so of it that got DVR'ed once my power came back on, I guess) is still fresh in my skull.
     
    First: I didn't really think last night compared to last week's show at all. Last week, with the short-but-effective Joe/Rhino match (which may have been a let down from a "free-per-view" perspective, but served it's purpose for setting up the Joe/Rhino/Monty angle), had a truly big finish. Last night limped home with a Cornette promo that only served to hoist a few anvils at us; if you're only gonna announce crap that people already have figured out, just throw it out there at the top of the show, don't hold it back, hype it up, and try to turn it into a main event promo.
     
    Also: last week had Kevin Nash. Last night did not. Advantage: last week. They're wasting our time trying to do this "Bobby Roode: Free Agent Extraordinaire" gimmick (you know things are bad when they're dusting off Simon Diamond as a prospective manager even though the only two guys he's ever managed were put on hiatus by the company) which will inevitably end with him pulling the Macho Man by dissing all established managers in favor of Traci, who is no Miss Elizabeth, but is certainly welcomed back on my TV screen any time she wants to rock the tight jeans. But no Nash. Harumph!, says I! To me, they really need to be building up the death-defying Madagascar Plunge to the point where fans actually think Nash might do a move off the ropes. And then, when he pins Sabin following a forearm sledge across the back, it'd be doubly funny. [At this point, nobody has any business ending Nash's reign of X Division Terror, because it's so totally a job for Eric Young!]
     
    Random observation: was that really a fricking ROSARY Christian was wearing? And if so: why? I thought Jarrett wearing a Christ Nail as jewelry was jarring and incongruous.... perhaps TNA is just the Colorado Rockies of wrestling? [Look it up: there are players on both sides of the fence -- some who campaign to go to Colorado, others who openly state they want nothing to do with the Rockies' organization -- because of the Clubhouse Atmosphere.]
     
    Anyway, I did like last week's episode. But last night's? Not so much. As of this writing, Jason's recap from last night isn't here, but I'm sure you'll be able to find the link on the main page if you want the full details on what was mostly just a paint-by-numbers "set-up the PPV line-up" episode of TNA.
     
  • FYI: the rating for last week was once again a 0.8, which continues the trend of TNA under-performing versus where they were a month or two ago by more than 20%. But as stated last week: I don't think it's all TNA's fault. Spike mishandled things from a scheduling perspective, and left TNA with an almost non-existent lead-in (whereas up until last month, TNA had ALWAYS had a strong UFC lead-in helping to create a cross-over audience for them).
     
    By all accounts, the hour of lead-in to TNA on Spike is one of the worst hours on television, and Spike is scrambling to figure something out, because neither 30 minute show is expected to be renewed past the original six episodes (which I think run out in 2 weeks). My guess: say hello to UFC reruns. Retroactively, I still think the best move would have been to bump TNA up to the 10pm timeslot vacated by UFC's reality show, but obviously, Spike didn't realize how awful their new programs were, and hung TNA out to dry.
     
    Then again: the 0.8 is illustrative, in a way, since it's the number TNA averaged in their Saturday night timeslot (with UFC reruns as their lead-in), and is also the rating they scored for one of their prime time Spike specials. I think that argues strongly that a 0.8 rating is probably TNA's "stand-alone" ceiling in terms of viewership. For fans wondering why there has not yet been any serious movement on the "expanding TNA to 2 hours" front, well, there you go: TNA as a stand-alone prime-time entity has yet to prove it can top a 1.0. And even with the help of UFC's lead-in, the show's audience peaked at less-than-half of ECW's weekly audience; it'll be hard for Spike to look at numbers like those and think that TNA can be a true Franchise for them in a marketplace that WWE has pretty-well flooded right now.
     
  • While I'm thinking of it: Spike replayed that "Women of Spike" special at 4am one night last weekend, and I so happened to get home and be in the sort of mood where I was not able to easily flip away from said special. And I'd just like to report that as dickish as it might be to assign wildly different hotness scores to women who are all, objectively-speaking, quite attractive, said special managed to perfectly encapsulate why Gail Kim is so insanely bone-able it should be illegal, while Red Headed Spaz isn't, really. And Spaz didn't even have to space out on being able to name the sitting US Vice President like she did during a wang-shrivelingly vapid appearance on the Howard Stern show.
     
    Also: I did not recognize even a single other "Woman of Spike" outside of the TNA girls, which says a lot about the caliber and watchability of Spike's programming.
     
  • SD! last week did an anemic 2.2 broadcast rating, despite featuring pretty much an entire show full of PPV rematches from the Great American Bash. Preemptions continue to hamstring SD! to some extent, but a decided lack of sizzle and star power aren't helping.
     
    Hopefully, with Booker vs. Batista set to take over as the top storyline, the creative team will handle it well and the result SHOULD be SD!'s first sellable title feud since.... well, since right after the creative team started seriously fucking with Rey Mysterio's #1 Contendership after the Royal Rumble.
     
    If those two guys can nail down the main event picture (and if Taker can figure out some way to not suck with Khali), then that essentially frees up Rey/Chavo and Finlay/Lashley to flesh out the mid-card (instead of being forced into main event roles they aren't quite capable of filling), and SD! might start to seem a bit balanced again, finally. We'll see.
     
  • RAW on Monday night did a 4.0 cable rating, which is a few ticks up, and the first time RAW's hit the 4 barrier in over a month. That's still a few notches off the pace of May and June, but at least things are moving in the right direction.
     
    Well, moving in the right direction, ratings-wise. I thought Monday's show was actually another pretty tepid effort. Largely predictable and underwhelming, with everybody going through the motions they need to go through to get to SummerSlam, but doing it without any real vigor or enthusiasm. The exceptions, I thought, were a strong Foley/Flair segment and the well-executed main event match.
     
    You can get the full report in the OO RAW Recap.
     
  • Which brings us to Tuesday's ECW show...
     
    It did a 2.4 rating, which is right on its usual pace, as the "Hour Three of RAW" marketing philosophy seems to be paying off. Though to be fair: the combination of the vocal "genuine ECW" crowd at the Hammerstein Ballroom and the content of the show meant that up until the main event, this week's show might be the closest we've seen to a distinctive ECW brand on Sci-Fi.
     
    You had a reasonably amusing garbage brawl to start. You had further advancement on the "Heyman being shunned by All Things Genuine ECW, and going a step further by screwing with Sabu" story. You had CM Punk's debut in front of an audience of people who actually knew who he was. And you had a little match/skit re-establishing Kurt Angle as a mega-bad-ass. Not a horrible little 40 minutes of TV there.
     
    [Note to TNA: you had your chance to have Christopher Daniels start going around headbutting people at random... but you didn't listen to me and Jason, and now look what's happened: Kurt Angle's decided HE will heed our sound advice and go all Zidane on people when he gets pissed off. SOMEbody in wrestling had to make use of it...]
     
    Of course, then the Batista/Big Show match sorta sucked, though the fans did their best to make things amusing with "Change the Channel" and "You Both Suck" chants. Good times. Still: three-quarters of a solid show, and tagging on the Sabu run-in "saved" the main event, as it reminds us that this little nagging issue with Sabu and Heyman is actually kinda interesting.
     
    You can get full details in the ECW on Sci-Fi Recap.
     
  • ECW was live from the Hammerstein Ballroom because of Monday's joint RAW/SD! Supershow Taping... and you might be surprised to find out that Vince and Co. weren't that upset with the way the fans reacted to the main event.
     
    Because, in a rare moment of clarity, it seems that Vince and his sycophantic lapdogs decided to open their eyes and ears and realize that whatever "damage" was done in the main event was more than offset by the ECW fans single-handedly "making" the first three-quarters of the show with their enthusiasm.
     
    Bottom line: if CM Punk makes his debut in front of a SD! audience and wrestles that exact same match, there are no chants and there is no sense of historical significance. There's just 8000 SD! fans going "That's it? What's the big fricking deal about this guy?"...
     
    Apparently, WWE is starting to recognize the value of that trade-off, and may make a push for giving ECW its own bi-weekly TV tapings (likely on non-PPV Sunday nights) so as to get that more enthusiastic fanbase on TV to help "sell" the product to viewers in a way that mostly-silent SD! crowds don't.
     
    [Then again: if this tidbit of info gets you excited, you should also know that Vince McMahon was very open in his praise of Justin Credible the past two weeks. Yes, including for that snooze-inducing borefest against Balls Mahoney last week. So maybe there's still a big time chasm between the "McMahon Vision" and "Actually Exciting TV."] 
     
     
  • Chris Benoit, whose sabbatical from WWE was largely influenced by his desire to be with his wife while she dealt with health issues, has also been seeing to his own well-being and reportedly has had successful hernia surgery. Assuming the best case scenarios for both Benoit and his wife, there's talk that Benoit could be back in a WWE ring before Survivor Series.
     
  • On the downside, it's sounding like more and more of a mortal lock that Trish Stratus will be going bye-bye this fall. Her contract's coming up, she was already intending to take time off to get married and to be well and thoroughly honeymooned as a woman of her caliber deserves... but apparently, the hope that she'll come back after that brief vacation is waning. Not gone. But waning.
     
    There is also the ubiquitous low-level murmurs about Shawn Michaels and Rey Mysterio needing time off. Mysterio will almost certainly need a break before too long to get his knee cleaned out, while Michaels' recent one-month break (also knee related) has bought him some time but didn't fully address his issues.
     
    Sucks for us fans, but being healthy and happy is the important thing, here.... 
     
  • I think the last thing I want to touch on today are a few tidbits related to last week's "Vince McMahon: Star Maker, Star Breaker" Feature.
     
    Tons of feedback for it, which obviously I was hoping for; and most of it quite interesting and varied (from outright ass-kissery to people accusing me of unfairly representing Vince in a bad light).
     
    Just a general retort, first, to the people who thought I had an anti-Vince agenda: I thought I went out of my way to explain Vince's "Star Maker" resume and provide ample data and evidence to support that claim of his. I also said I wasn't looking to un-do that claim, but rather to add on another promotional characteristic of Vince's (one, admittedly, that was less flattering). My closing statement was along the lines of saying that BOTH the Making and the Breaking seemed fitting legacies for Vince, and it was up to the individual to do some pondering and decide which legacy (if either) was more important or more relevant. I'm a bit peeved that a goodly percentage of people dismissed that element to my thesis, and just wanted to un-do the Star Breaker theory entirely. Oh well....
     
    To people who argued that many of the incoming Former World Champions were kind of sucky (and that including ECW/AWA champs further skewed the data to make Vince look bad, since he couldn't be expected to push "minor league" champs) were also kind of missing my intended point. I stated upfront that not all "legacies" are created equal.... Ric Flair started at a different point when he came to the WWF than where Justin Credible started. At no point did I say the "Vince McMahon Legacy Multiplier" was based on Vince pushing any former champion as his own top star.... I just invented the metric to compare what Vince did with a guy based on the Actual Legitimate Value he brought to the table. Did I give a low score to Vince on Rick Martel because I thought Rick Martel should have been WWF World Champion? Hell no; I gave a low score because as good as Martel was, he could have been a solid secondary champion and mid-card heel, but was mostly used as a tag wrestler and then given a shitty gimmick that renders memories of him a bit comical in nature.
     
    To people who said that Superstar Billy Graham (after winning the WWF Title) had a run in NWA/WCW: Bzzzt. Check the time table I established (post-1985). Graham's last run with the NWA started in '83 or '84. He doesn't count.
     
    To people who said that the Iron Sheik (after winning the WWF Title) had a brief run in NWA/WCW in the late '80s: whoops. I guess. I don't remember it, and I checked and can't find any record of it, but enough people wrote in to say the Sheik was around the NWA for about 2 months in '89-ish that I tend to believe it, and am sorry he was omitted from my data.
     
    To those who thought they caught me in an error because I only listed Bob Backlund as a one-time WWF Champ: Bzzzt. Again, check the time-table. Backlund had one (1) reign after 1985.
     
    To those who swear Barry Windham was an NWA Champ: Bzzt. I'm 99% positive you're thinking of the "WCW International Title" which was sort of the NWA Title (at a time after the WCW Title had been established as its own entity), but which didn't count towards my computations. The NWA Title ceased to be a meaningful World Title in September 1991 (when Flair left WCW while still technically recognized as the NWA Champ, but not the WCW Champ, which was a big stupid mess) and the case could be made that it has yet to recover that status (even after it finally got back on TV thanks to TNA). The post-1991 "NWA" or "WCW International" Titles were excluded by me, same as the "WCW" Title (as defended for 4 months on WWF TV in 2001; including Booker's vaunted fifth "WCW" Title reign) and the current "ECW" Title. Arbitrary? Not quite; I think I have good reasons. But if you gots to disagree with me: well, re-work the numbers however it pleases you.
     
    And to anybody who thought they caught a mistake that has suddenly disappeared and been re-written in a factual accurate manner? Well, you got me, and that matter related to the Undertaker was such a monumental brainfart by me that I felt the need to save face by doing some revisionist history. IT NEVER HAPPENED~!
     
    I think those are most of the gripes/attempted-corrections I can remember fielding... I'm game to hear more if you spot other things you'd like me to address, though, and I'm glad that the piece -- if nothing else -- has got some of you folks thinking and debating these issues about Vince's promotional tendencies.
     
  • That's all for me this week. Should see you again on Monday, if there be enough news. Till then, there's plenty of material here 'round OO to keep you occupied. I especially recommend OO Forums' Regular Nikki "ConcreteTG" Heyman's new feature about her experiences attending 100 wrestling events over the past several years.
     
    It's one part travelogue, one part helpful advice for any fans out there who want to meet wrestlers and make the most of their live show experiences, and one part hilarious photos of bad-ass Sabu in business casual sipping a latte. Wuss! And if you doubt Nikki's status as a genuine road dog: she got a speeding ticket in the exact same speed trap BEFORE the show where RVD and Sabu got pulled over AFTER the show. If only Paul Heyman's quasi-legitimate part-neice-three-times-removed had been able to bump into Rob that night to warn him....
     
    Enjoy your weekends, and I'll see you when I see you, folks....


  
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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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