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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
Bad Week for Ratings, ECW TV Contract,
WWE Financials, and Jericho is a Tool! 
August 31, 2006

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

I have got to stop being such a gullible rube.... the Cincinnati Reds? Playing meaningful baseball games in the final week of August? Only a SUCKER would believe that....
 

And yet, here I am, the suckertastic victim of my own naivete. Which would be cute and harmless, if only the Reds weren't toying with me while also in the midst of a west coast road trip. You know: where the games don't start until 10pm (eastern). And in rare cases can turn into 16 inning marathons that end in heartbreaking Reds' losses at around 3:15am.

 
Talk about putting the kibosh on my productivity. I wish I could just cut bait and stop believing: even if the Reds are back in respectable time zones for the rest of the year starting next week, these are still 2-3 hours a day I wouldn't mind having back. And yet, even if the standings say 1.5 back in the Wild Card and 3.5 back from the division title, the schedule still says "12 of final 28 games against the Cubs or the Pirates." Which is like a license to print a Slightly Over .500 Record! Which is also all it should take to get into the playoffs in the NL this year!

Curse my ability to hope. 

But at least I can always do that thing that pisses off 90% of you, and revert to being a fervent Yankees fan come October... Reds or no Reds, Playoff Baseball will matter to me. Just like it has for -- what? -- 11 years in a row, now. Neener neener neener.

On with the shoe:

  • Monday's RAW did a 3.3 rating in its live airing on Sci-Fi. That's roughly in line with what WWE was expecting, internally, given the slightly lower household penetration of Sci-Fi versus USA (that alone could be responsible for as much as one-third of the 20% ratings drop) and the fact that some casual fans simply may not have known enough to follow RAW to another network. 
     
    Also: it's unclear to me exactly how Sci-Fi handled the RAW telecast on its west coast feed (if it aired as a live event at 6pm Pacific, as some fans were hoping/thinking it would, that surely would have resulted in a different size audience than if it had aired in a primetime slot).
     
    The USA Network replay of RAW (which started 90 minutes late, at 12:30am eastern time, which also meant that USA planned regular timeslot for RAW on its west coast feed was delayed by a half-hour) did a 0.7 rating.
     
    Assuming all the crap with the west coast feeds cancels itself out somehow, and assuming RAW didn't do a whole lot of "repeat" viewers, you can essentially add those two numbers up, I figure. And that gets you to a 4.0. Which is about what RAW's averaging lately. I daresay WWE should be pleased.
     
    The show certainly didn't seem like one that was "sticky" the way the previous week's was... there were just way too many instances of time wastage and blandness. Perhaps using the tease of "mystery opponents" for DX really did work in terms of keeping people hooked? But if so, how many of them would be satisfied by the "surprise"? Probably not many.
     
    Then again, the post-match attack by Big Show and Vince McMahon was clearly designed to help wash that taste out of people's mouths. Decidedly bloody and brutal, it's the first time in almost a month that DX got bested by Vince. And throw in the announcement of a Hell in the Cell match at the next PPV, and you've probably placated a few folks.
     
    As I jested in the RAW Recap, the presence of both a TLC Match and a HitC Match on the same PPV is surprising and quite noteworthy. In my mind, these are WWE's two most bankable gimmick matches (or at least, the ones fans "believe in" the most as bankable), and for the first time ever, we'll get both on the same show.
     
    That's either a lucky break for us fans, or something resembling a desperate grab for eyeballs by WWE. Or it could just be an accident or fluke of poor planning. I dunno. But I guess I won't complain too much as long as there's none of the stupid backstage dick-waving that requires one of the two matches to throttle down so the other one can steal the show... I say just let everybody go full speed ahead, and let the fans decide. I say that mostly because if there *is* petty dick-waving, you know the match with 2 McMahons and a McMahon-in-law is gonna win out, which I think would be unwise and unfair.
     
    Preceding the main event and post-match stuff was a hugely mixed bag. The best of it would definitely be the Hardy/Orton match, which took a while to get started but ramped up to about as good a final 5 minutes as you'll see in a Free TV Special these days. The worst of it? Probably has to go to Melina and Nitro's overly-circuitous attempt at a Mission Statement Promo.
     
    Speaking of those two segments: I somehow completely whiffed on the fact that Hardy's win over Orton was for a shot at Nitro's IC Title. I'm sure they announced it during the match, but me missing it says a lot about how zoned out I was during a fairly bland show (and about how I fast-forward the most obnoxious ring entrances, such as Orton's). Where I'll pass some of the buck back to WWE is that they didn't address it in Nitro/Melina's promo (instead focusing that segment entirely on Mick Foley, with no forward-looking statements). Cuz I'm sure I would have caught it there.
     
    Anyway, that's about all the add-on I got for my RAWnalysis.... for all the rest of the results, the highs, and the lows, I just do what I always do: refer you to the OO RAW Recap. Which enjoyed another week where feedback was significantly more voluminous and positive than usual, so even if I couldn't tell the difference versus other weeks it seems like OO Nation can. And they liked it. So if they've spoken, who are you to not read my latest Sheer Genius?
     
  • That leads directly to talk of Tuesday's ECW on Sci-Fi.... which didn't quite match the previous week's outing, in my opinion, but which probably amused me on the whole more than RAW did. Yeah: not saying much, but remember... Tuesday was the night of the 3:00am, 16 inning Reds loss, so I might -- retroactively -- be romanticizing whatever shreds of nonawfulness I could cull from earlier in the night.
     
    The show was centered largely on the Big Show, which is fine, since he's -- you know -- the champion and stuff. Not only was the main event ("officially" Sabu vs. Paul Heyman, but since it was Extreme Rules, it turned into Big Show vs. Sabu for 80% of the match) built around him, but Show also issued a challenge for DX to come to ECW next week. Huh. Now *there* is something that just seems tough to wrap my brain around.... then again, a part of my brain still has the 1998-ish notion of the Real ECW intact. I guess in today's ECW, it's not quite as bizarre.
     
    For whatever it's worth, I'm a big fan of Heyman's "win" over Sabu, too. I wish they'd given him more promo time to do a fuller/expanded version of the killer material they included in the WWE.com preview of the show, but I think they got the point across, and maybe Heyman can recycle some of those notes in a victory promo as I'm sure he uses this as an excuse to bump Sabu down the ladder and fuck with him some more. Anything that paints Sabu as ECW's #1 cheer-for-able underdog babyface will work for me. 
     
    I also liked the main event itself. It was overbooked to precisely the right level. The vast majority of the match is Show (with a bit of help from the SWAT Team) killing Sabu while Heyman stands around. When it looked like Sabu might rally, here comes Bob Holly. Which in turn brings out RVD for a nice big finish where you are POSITIVE that Sabu's gonna win. But you're wrong. Because everybody forgot about Big Show, who does a nice spot saving Heyman from being tabled, and finishes Sabu off so Heyman can drape an arm across his shoul.... well, actually he draped it across Sabu's crotch, which I found mildly disturbing, but whatever: it still sets up plenty of future goodness.
     
    RVD and Sabu are kind of tied together in this now, which makes for a few interesting tag match scenarios (against Show/Holly, or against the Bashams should they ever lose the SWAT Team helmets)... it also introduces the possibility (and good golly would I love to see this) that RVD and Sabu become lightly allied with DX due to their mutual hatred of Big Show. Imagine RVD and Sabu as uninvited guests in a HitC setting. Just imagine. [And taking the crossbrand storyline further, if it's me, I at least CONTEMPLATE doing a Heyman/Vince Asshole Boss Tandem... Heyman hates RVD/Sabu, Vince hates DX... Heyman has Big Show as his monster, Vince has Umaga as his... you could probably milk that long enough to get to a Vince/Shane/Heyman/Show/Umaga vs. DX/RVD/Sabu handicap match, no?]
     
    Other than that? The onomatopoeia "meh" will mostly suffice. I guess I got a kick out of Matt Striker's masterful manipulation of the crowd, which will now render him quite the effective sacrificial lamb for Sandman. But whatever I enjoyed there was canceled out a bit by the RVD/Bob Holly opener, which stands out as a fine example for why this whole "Extreme Rules" designation is crap....
     
    In short: it's crap because it gives the Writer Monkeys an insanely lazy new "formula" to use, one which is already officially getting old after only 2 months. Hated Rivals have to start with non-extreme matches; "ECW original" either loses the match because he can't work "extreme" or loses his cool and gets DQ'ed because it's not "extreme"; lather, rinse, and repeat as needed. Then a few weeks after anybody stopped giving a shit, you do an Extreme Rules match, and the babyface "ECW Original" wins. Does anybody out there really care that RVD lost by DQ to Bob Holly? Nope. Because we all know already that when the two have a REAL match (read: "ECW Rules" Match), RVD will be just fine.
     
    The "ECW Rules" designation doesn't make the extreme matches more special; it makes the "regular" matches less special, nearly meaningless.
     
    Look, I know there are people out there who think having the different "rules" for different matches in ECW is a good thing, because it creates variation and makes the rare extreme match special because it's a unique alternative to the standard product. I also know, with certainty, that these people wear their asses as hats.
     
    Look, for one: quite simply, ECW -- in its entirety -- IS the "alternative." At least, if it's gonna thrive, it will be. In its current form, ECW is one out of five hours of first-run TV that WWE produces each week. If you can look me in the face and tell me that you can't be "alternative" and "extreme" for 20% of the time, and have that 20% retain its uniqueness and specialness, fine. But I say you're wrong. And further, I'll theorize that ECW having to limit itself to one "ECW Rules" match per week (out of 3 or sometimes 4 matches) isn't being done for the betterment of the ECW brand, it's being done to protect the rights of the RAW and SD! brands to dole out gimmick matches (like TLC and HitC) without having fans compare those special matches to what they can see every week on ECW.
     
    Additionally, contesting every ECW match under its eponymous rules isn't an automatic guarantee of three blood baths with barbed wire and tables and whatnot per week. Ten years ago, there were perfectly clean matches in ECW, there were squashes, there were all kinds of matches. It's just that you knew going in that anything COULD go, even if it didn't necessarily come down to that. You also knew you'd always get a decisive finish. Which I think is another backroom reason why WWE insists on making "ECW Rules" matches rare: because if all ECW matches were "ECW Rules," the decidedly uncreative Creative Team would actually have to think of new and clever ways to do a decisive finish that still advances a storyline/feud. Instead of the "babyface loses standard match cheaply, wins when Extreme Rules are applied" formula that we now seemed destined to endure.
     
    And another thing: creating "ECW Rules" as a pure "anything goes" type of match, you actually reduce some of the drama-building things you could do if "ECW Rules" were just an unstated sort of thing that apply in every match. Back 10 years ago in ECW, "ECW Rules" still meant you COULD be disqualified, it's just that the refs allowed for a much wider range of transgressions. So under those "ECW Rules," you still get a five-count on a rope break, and you still have to honor that. Because you COULD be DQ'ed, even if it was unlikely that you would be. Today's "ECW Rules" mean that you've eliminated that possibility of having an "extreme" match where the standard rules of drama also still apply at all times. There's no five count and no rope breaks in today's "ECW Rules" matches; they're just glorified "No DQ" matches, which isn't what the point of the original ECW Style was.
     
    Anyway, the whole issue annoys the piss out of me. Not because I want every match to be a 10 minutes schmozzfest of garbage wrestling, but because every week that passes with this distinction between "ECW Rules" and "Normal Matches" is another week where I spot a reason why it's hamstringing the ECW brand. To bottom line it: there's no reason to create an "alternative" product within what is already your 20%/niche Alternative Product, and there's ABSOLUTELY no reason to give the writers another lazy "formula" to foist upon us repeatedly (especially one that's destined to not really work all that well).
     
    You can get the full details on Tuesday's show in Jeff's ECW Recap.
     
  • ECW this week was the first time that I can remember when the show featured no direct RAW or SD! crossover (for the sake of this discussion, let's pretend that soul-crushing 5-minute hype job of Cena's stupid movie doesn't count).
     
    Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, the rating for Tuesday night was a 1.9. Discounting the Forth of July, that's ECW's lowest rating to date by a statistically significant margin, and a drop of four-tenths from the week before. Off the top of my head, I can't think of anything that could be used as an excuse for the drop. Well, except for "Fewer people felt like watching this week."
     
    If the ratings rebound next week, I fully expect Vince McMahon to give the credit to DX's guest appearance, which can only lead to bad things. By which I mean: more pointless cameo crossovers that go nowhere and just distract ECW from producing its own cohesive stories.
     
  • Ironically enough, on the heels of ECW's worst performance, WWE and NBC/Universal have officially reached their agreement to extend ECW's run on Sci-Fi. I don't know a whole lot about the deal, but I heard last night that it was finalized, that it keeps ECW on Tuesday nights at 10pm, and that it's a 15-month contract (through 2007). 
     
    I know some people were saying there was haggling over Sci-Fi adding a replay to their schedule, but I think that may have been overstated. The replay is also part of the deal, but I don't think WWE was really trying to use that as a way to milk a few more bucks out of the network. Plus: both parties were extremely confident that ECW on Sci-Fi would continue even though this week's show had been the last contractually obligated one. Any haggling would have been minor, as the deal has been considered essentially done for a few weeks, now.
     
    So: this means that ECW will continue to exist in some form for at least another 15 months. No matter what happens on the PPV or house show front, no matter how many crossover cameos it takes, WWE is committed to making this last now. I pretty much figured it'd work out (even if not in exactly the form I might have wished), but I know the smark underground was rife with pundit who gave the new ECW 6 months or less to live.... I hope you're all enjoying eating the insect of your choice.
     
  • A quick mention of WWE's latest financials for the "Fiscal Quarter ended July 31." I believe WWE is changing its Fiscal Year this time through the calendar, so that's why this isn't labeled as "Q1 FY2007." Instead of sticking to the Fiscal Year model that roughly corresponded to the "Booking Year" (the WWE Fiscal Year always ended in April, right after WrestleMania), WWE will be going to a standard model where the first quarter of 2007 is the ACTUAL first quarter of 2007, not some figment of an accountant's imagination.
     
    Anyway: WWE's financials for the quarter exceeded forecasts, which has resulted in the stock price getting a nice bump up to nearly $18. But it's not like they set the world on fire: they just did better than what a bunch of eggheads thought they would do. Looking at the actual numbers, WWE performed slightly worse than the same period last year in almost all key areas.
     
    The two areas where WWE experienced enough success to render the overall numbers almost a wash versus last year were in home video and digital media (both of which saw revenues double). Money's money, and if you're a publicly traded company, the investors don't care where it comes from, but the part of me that cares about being an entertained wrestling fan can't help but note that these are ancillary revenue streams that say nothing about the health of the core product. If anything: the massive growth of the home video division continues to show that fans will lap up repackaged material from the past. You know? Back when wrestling was FUN. 
     
    But indicators of the health of CURRENT business? Those are the ones that are flat or down versus last year, which I tend to believe speaks to the quality of the product. TV ratings are one key metric. And WWE's weekly audience, as a whole, is about 15% smaller than it was at this time last year. [Or you can break that down differently, and say that RAW's audience is roughly the same as it was for this quarter last year, while SD!'s ratings have declined by nearly 30%. Either way, it's not a totally happy story.]
     
    House shows? WWE plays a little numbers game by putting ECW events into their own catagory, which allows them to claim that WWE branded shows experienced slight growth in terms of average attendance versus last year. However, per show revenues were down, because of a dearth of overseas tours this quarter.
     
    And PPVs.... ahh, PPVs.... even with a price increase of $5 per event and the standard kvetching about how "comparisons between this quarter and the same quarter last year are skewed because there was one more PPV event held in last year's quarter," there's no good stories for WWE on the PPV front this quarter. The already anemic buys for Judgment Day and Great American Bash dropped further still in 2006, and even Vengeance had fewer buys this year than last. Oddly, One Night Stand 2 actually gained a small number of buys versus 2005's show (d'oh, so more people bought the "WWECW" show than the one that was more genuinely ECW).
     
    Like I said, though: continued unimpressive performance in what I consider the "core metrics" is offset by continued gains in other areas, so WWE continues to satisfy investors. If only I thought they were as concerned with satisfying fans.... 
     
  • Although many wrote in to castigate me back in May when Kane's movie made about $15 million which they said meant the movie turned a profit, no matter how much I made fun of it, I'd like to report: I was right, you were wrong.
     
    A footnote to WWE's financials is that they left a line open for revenues from WWE Films, but they list $0. And explain that although the movie recouped production costs, WWE itself will see no money until the film also recoups its marketing and distribution costs. Which it hasn't. Just like I said it hadn't. Maybe it will if DVD sales are strong. 
     
  • Appropriately enough, ECW focused more on the release of Kurt Angle than RAW did, going so far as to have a video package ready for him and heartfelt best wishes from Tazz and Joey.
     
    But that still didn't stop the company from eliminating all signs of Kurt elsewhere on the show. In the opening montage, it appeared that all of Kurt's appearances were replaced by shots of CM Punk. 
     
  • So with a touch of goading from a friend, I flipped past "Celebrity Duets" at about 9:55pm on Tuesday night. Just in time to watch Chris Jericho get eliminated so that none of us has any further reason to watch, think about, or talk about this stupid show.
     
    Seeing as how I don't let VH-1 poop into my brain, I honestly haven't seen Jericho in a year now, and I'd just like to say: come on back, pal. Because it breaks my heart to see you aspiring to be a vapid douchebag. 
     
    Going on TV and smiling pretty and being heroically uninteresting worked just fine for Stacy on "Dancing with the Stars" because that's who she really is. But seeing Jericho on TV smiling that kind of fake smile that never comes close to reaching the eyes, then offering up bland pleasantries about just being honored to have been on the show, all with an unfortunate pussbag makeover? That's not him. Or at least, it shouldn't be.
     
    Anybody want to form a crack commando unit to get Jericho the fuck out of LA before that town can turn him into any more of toolbox? No more acting coaches and personal stylists for you, junior...
     
    This also allows me to crack wise that now, there will only be one Jericho on TV this fall. Wednesday nights, at 8pm, only on CBS! Don't miss it!
     
  • I think that's about all that's relevant in the wrestling world today. I will say that it sounds like SD! will be noteworthy this week, and also remind you that tonight's TNA features a Thumbtacks Match between Spike Dudley and Abyss.
     
    Circumstances allowing, I should have recaps of both shows up over the weekend, and then be back at you on Monday. 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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