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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
Randy Orton: "Born Dumber Then You!"...
Plus: TV/Ratings, Developmental Stuff, More 
September 15, 2006

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

OK, so for the past week, people have been feigning outrage that Matt Striker made a stingray/Crocodile Hunter joke on ECW TV.
 

Hell, Vince McMahon even had to go on WWE's website and issue a corporate apology, lest anybody doubt the sensitivity and good judgment of a man whose company is the current worldwide leader in Cock Jokes.

Which brings me directly to my point for today's preramble, because the FORMER worldwide leader in 

Cock Jokes was Norm MacDonald. Or at least, he was back in 1999 when he was a guest on that Dennis Miller HBO special. Good times.

And Norm just so happened to be on the Daily Show last night, and spend a good 2 minutes making stingray/Crocodile Hunter jokes. Funny ones. I mean INSANELY funny ones. If you are a self-important douche who is instinctively drawn towards the PC stance because it's important to you that everybody know how good and decent you are, perhaps stay away. But everybody else? You need to click here now to enjoy the proof that for the past week, I've been right on this issue, and Vince McMahon has been wrong.

Not that that doesn't happen all the time. But this is an exciting, new way for it to be happening.

And though it was hilarious, I'd also like to add that Norm's guest spot does NOT un-do the travesty from earlier in the week when -- not 8 hours after I warned Toby Keith to never show up unannounced on my TV screen again in Tuesday's RAW Recap -- he (Toby Keith) showed up as the guest on the Colbert Report. AAARRRRRRRGGGGHHHH!

Anyway, we got some newsy-news for you here at the end of the week, so let's just get to that for now. Then, at some point early Saturday afternoon (before the Michigan/ND game, anyway), you'll get another OO Update with both the TNA/SD! Recaps, and also with the big, bad, comprehensive Team Coverage Unforgiven PPV Preview. Possibly featuring 40% more drunken teaminess.... you won't know unless you come back and check it out.

For now, however, the wrestling world has other current events you need to read about:

  • It's a move I'm kinda surprised took till now to be made... and now that it's been made I'm sure there will be some critics. But: WWE has changed its Code of Conduct so that when a wrestler is suspended he (or she, I guess) is still obligated to perform on TV tapings as requested by the company, but without pay.
     
    They do not work house shows, and they do receive a per diem (or whatever you want to call it) to cover travel expenses to the TV tapings, but no actual compensation for the performance. The upshot is that WWE can keep you in planned storylines for some or all of your suspension, without torpedoing the onscreen product. 
     
    In other words, a particularly dim-witted guy can't get suspended again 2 weeks before a big PPV match and force WWE to figure out something else for Carlito to do at Unforgiven. Instead, the dimwit will still show up for the PPV, perform, not get paid, and whatever happens to him after that for the duration of the suspension won't be nearly as big of a headache to deal with.
     
    Yes, kids, that's right: Randy Orton, depending on which version you believe, is either the first major star to be sanctioned under these new rules or his behavior was the impetus for creating the new rules. The "work for free" clause went into effect about 2 weeks ago. I believe Balls Mahoney is currently working under a similar situation.
     
    I'm sure some labor-types might be disgusted that WWE could institute such a policy, but hey, that's why wrestling doesn't have a union, baby. And it's not like this new loophole would result in WWE suddenly throwing certain aspects of the Wellness Policy out the window (genuine health concerns, such as the Liver Enzymes Issues of last month, still result in the vacation time, but without the obligation of putting yourself at risk by working TV tapings before you are medically cleared).... this only applies to guys who'd be safely able to compete, and who merely got caught imbibing or doing something stupid.
     
    What's curious to me is that there's no indication yet of the length of Randall's suspension. It's his second one in six months, the first coming right after WrestleMania (for what WWE Magazine so boldly reported was nothing more than smoking one marijuana cigarette; HA~!). And disciplinary actions are supposed to be escalating (even if the violations aren't for the same thing, each subsequent violation brings a stiffer penalty). 
     
    I figure we'll have a better idea what the deal is with Orton following the PPV. If he loses the match and fades into the woodwork without much fanfare over the next week or so, it may well be a month or two before we see him again. Afterall, the "work for free" clause should be a way for WWE to save storylines from sudden shake-ups.... not a way to "save a spot" on the roster/on TV for a guy who is obviously a colossal fuck-up (or at the very least: a repeat offender) just so he doesn't lose any momentum during a time when he's SUPPOSED to be getting punished.
     
    I'm not saying I'm taking joy in the misery of others... but I will say this couldn't be happening to a better guy. Every shred of information out there about Orton and his life seems to indicate his has the maturity and responsibility levels of a 14-year-old. Which, when combined with a sense of entitlement, creates the fabled Douchebaggus Americanus. Sense should have been slapped into this tool a lot sooner in his life, but it's never too late to try, which I hope is what WWE's handling of him this past year or so amounts to.
     
    The only other offshoot of this new policy that I'll mention is that now -- since WWE isn't obligated to instantly take performers off TV -- there probably will be a week or two delay, now, between when somebody gets sanctioned and when fans start to hear about it. Or in other words: it's a nice way for WWE to be able to keep these things a bit more mysterious and under-wraps than they did during those flurries of suspensions in July. 
     
     
  • WWE is experimenting with another new policy, too: they're bringing in a bunch of older veterans who will work partly in the developmental territories and also in utility roles on WWE TV.
     
    Brad Armstrong, Marty Jannetty, and Mark "Henry O. Godwinn" Canterbury have all been brought on board, with the idea being that the younger performers can learn by working both with and against experienced, proven hands like these guys. 
     
    Actually, I believe Godwinn's already done spotwork in OVW at points this year. Meantime, you obviously could do worse than have Marty Jannetty take over Hacksaw Duggan's role as a bi-monthly cameo guy on RAW (and if he looks as good as he did during his last ill-timed RAW run, using him as the mentor to a younger star could create a very viable tag team). And there's already been talk of Armstrong (who was mostly a WCW cruiserweight jobber, under a variety of different identities) going to ECW as a full-time wrestler. [FYI: Armstrong is the brother of TNA's Jesse James, and already did a rip-off of his brother's gimmick once.... but now, WWE actually owns the name "Road Dogg," which could get funny in a kind of bWo sort of way.]
     
     
  • Another shake-up that will effect how WWE is developing younger talent came earlier in the week when Greg Gagne was released from his duties as the head booker of OVW (and also of Deep South, though his duties there were supposedly more figure-head-y in nature due to squabbles with the promotion's owner, Jody Hamilton).
     
    WWE management was apparently not impressed with the quality of the OVW product since Gagne took it over from the Heyman/Dreamer duo, and considered it too old school. No word on who will be assigned as a full-time replacement to craft the TV shows for the developmentals, but in the past, Al Snow has helped out in OVW, and since Mike "Simon Dean" Bucci has taken over Dreamer's job, and Dreamer's job included covering for Heyman sometimes, one might assume he'd be in on it, too.
     
    It's also entirely possible that WWE could end up halving their headaches on this front at the first contractual opportunity... Deep South is supposedly just a huge mess, and WWE could definitely pull their people out of there (trainer Hugh Morrus and about two dozen prospects) and place them elsewhere (especially since the Fed has re-opened an agreement with UPW in California -- which is where John Cena came from, and which is the facility that trained Jack Black for Nacho Libre -- and has designs on a northeastern developmental affiliate as well). I mean: the friction between Gagne and DSW owner Hamilton is because Gagne wasn't old school enough for Hamilton.... and Gagne got released by WWE because he was TOO old school? Oh yeah, that's a recipe for a real healthy long term relationship.....
     
  • Another possible incoming veteran is Mike Rotundo, who wouldn't be coming in in an in-ring capacity, but rather as a (*cough*) "producer." He was at MSG on Monday, and interviewed for the Gig Formerly Known As "Road Agent."
     
    If I'm not mistaken, there's been some talk of Barry Windham being under consideration for a similar job. Twenty years later, and they can't shake each other. Remembering one of the most traumatizing moments of my elementary school days, I'd just hope they've learned their lessons about going near lit cigars.....
     
     
  • Some ratings....
     
    I lied, and Nielsen finally did scrap together a rating for last week's SD! (they just didn't have enough data to compile the prelim numbers that are what's available for the first few days). The news? SD! did a 1.0 broadcast rating (for a show that featured a World Title Match).
     
    Things'll be just as bad for tonight's/this weekend's show, too, with even a few more UPN affiliates bailing out on UPN programming (due to next week's launch of The CW Network) and plenty of preemptions, to boot. Then next Friday, the first SD! on the CW, and we'll see just how healthy SmackDown! really is. There should be significantly fewer preemptions, and market penetration should be slightly higher than what it was on UPN (although in some -- mostly smaller -- markets, the CW will still only be available to those who have a digital cable subscription).
     
    Monday's RAW did another 3.6 rating. That's the exact same number as the week before. Thing is: the week before, WWE's internal excuse for a 15% ratings drop from recent averages was "It was Memorial Day." So matching that number is nothing to be proud of. The new excuse, however, is that RAW was up against Monday Night Football.
     
    The truth, however, is that the two MNF games on ESPN did ratings about 30% lower than what MNF debuts on ABC have done in recent years, so the impact on RAW should have been substantially less. But nope. And it should also be noted that RAW's rating peaked in the fifth quarter hour (for the six-man tag match), and they didn't bounce back up for the Vince/HHH main event (which scored below the show's average, which is very rare for RAW over-runs).
     
    And Tuesday's ECW did a 1.9 rating. That's down 0.3 from the previous week, and matches the rating from 2 weeks ago (which was the non-holiday series-low for ECW). What did this week's show have in common with 2 weeks ago? No RAW/SD! crossovers. Which means if you're Vince McMahon, you once again have plenty of ammo for continuing to shove crossovers down our throats at the expense of Paul Heyman being able to build up any significant momentum on ECW-centric storylines.
     
    In fact, next week is SD!'s turn to get a guest spot on ECW. Although in that case, it could be argued that it's ECW (with roughly a 2.2 average rating in the last 2 months) that is helping SD! (which is averaging below a 2.0 lately) with the crossover....
     
     
  • I guess I can't escape with only mentioning Norm MacDonald as a late night TV guest this week.... the Rock also made the rounds, promoting "The Gridiron Gang" (which looks to be the Rock's first foray into the reasonable-entertaining since "The Rundown").
     
    But the day is coming when there will be absolutely no point to including the Rock here in a wrestling column. He's going on 2 years of distancing himself from wrestling, and this time around, he was being billed as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in an attempt to get out from under his nickname (which still nets WWE some pittance as long as he uses it).
     
    Per usual, Rock was likeable-but-bland on Letterman, but was really "on" and funny with Conan. I should have mentioned this earlier in the week, eh? But in this case, I can remind you all that the Conan episode WILL be replayed next Thursday night/Friday morning at 3-4am in most markets (lots of NBC affiliates run the week-old late night shows in SUPER late night), so keep an eye out if you're truly obsessed with the Rock.
     
     
  • Many have sent along what they thought was a funny bit about Vince McMahon telling stockholders that "WWE.com sucks." But it's not really that funny, because it's all just part of a deal where the website is adding a bunch of new stuff next month (to tie in with the interactive "Cyber Sunday" PPV).... but the upgrade will still mean WWE.com sucks the same way it does now, just in bigger and better ways.
     
    I know I'm not explaining that well, but basically: take everything WWE.com is now, put it on steroids, and that's the makeover it'll be getting. There is no philosophy change in the works. Just more shorking and wooting. And I stand by my policy that until WWE gets back to delivering 4 (well, now 5) hours per week of compelling, must-see TV, I just don't understand how I'm supposed to give a shit about browsing a website that does little more than act as a b-level extension of the TV product.
     
    Then again (and I don't *think* I'm alone on this), I'm the kind of guy who rarely, if ever, finds the "official" website of anything to be worth my time. Think about it: how many Officially Sanctioned Websites of your favorite bands or TV shows are actually the single best, most-informative, most-useful websites about those things? Other than ColbertNation.com, I'm not coming up with any off the top of my brain...
     
    And that's basically the same thing I feel anytime I pollute my brain with WWE.com: I'm not getting an experience that *I* want as part of my Second-Level Wrestling Fandom (the level that's different from how I am when I'm sitting on my couch, lazing and just being entertained; TV shoots its Dumb Rays at me, and I just catch them; but if I'm pro-actively going out onto the internet and seeking something out? it had by gawd better be intelligent, accurate, thought-provoking, or otherwise relevant for me to make use of it).... I'm getting just another safe/corporate viewing experience. I know that's fine for some people, but c'mon... I can't be the only one who recognizes that the best websites about certain things are the ones that operate outside of the entity in question and thus are free to approach the subject however they want. And not just in the accepted corporate way.
     
    Ah well....
     
  • And if I didn't just serve up a restaurant quality segue, my name's not The Rick. Because guess who got out from under the Corporate Umbrella and is doing a little something on his own.... Jim Ross.
     
    He's launched a new website -- mostly to sell BBQ-related products -- and is following the Jericho Model of just doing it on his own without WWE assistance. And while the BBQ stuff is still in development, I'll go ahead and declare that JR has already re-launched one of the few must-read wrestling columns in the explored universe. He's doing a blog with regular entries on all things BBQ, football, and whatnot. But the last two times I've checked, there were also extensive off-the-cuff thoughts about wrestling.
     
    The most recent one contains the greatest line since Edge wrote a column telling Christian to give Trish Stratus her jeans back.... on the issue of Ohio St. Linebacker James Laurinaitis, he wrote: "Man, James’ Mom must have been one helluva athlete. (Only kidding, or am I and this is the covert message of the week sponsored by Oliver Stone??)". Tee hee.
     
    There are also some rather biting comments made about WWE diva hiring standards and about TNA's creative direction. None of which I can envision being sanctioned in a WWE.com version of The Ross Report.
     
    And while I'll mostly just encourage you to go check out JR's website and read the whole thing for yourself, I first want to address the issue of "Extreme Rules Matches." JR wants less of them, and as you know, I've argued hard that the distinction needs to be eliminated entirely and ALL ECW matches are "extreme rules." But the thing is, if you read both JR's side and my full thoughts, I think we're arguing for the same ends, just wanting to get there by different means.
     
    JR's thought is that by always having one ECW Rules match per week, you're training the fans to expect one match per week with 5 table spots and blood and thumbtacks and all that, which is bound to shorten careers. But my thought is that if ALL ECW matches were inherently "extreme," then you eliminate that expectation factor for the one crazy match per week, and in its place create an anticipation factor that ANY match will be allowed to achieve its own appropriate level of extremity.
     
    Think about it: if "Extreme Rules" is taken for granted, instead of hyped as something special for one match per week, Big Show and Sabu don't have to kill themselves just to live up to some randomly-generated label. They'll still have the longest and most action-packed match on the card, but that'll be because it's the main event, not because a label obligates them to stick to a certain type of match. 
     
    And then lower on the card? Hell, all of a sudden you might actually have Balls Mahoney being taken seriously against opponents higher up the foodchain than Justin Credible.... face it: Balls is a jobber under "standard" rules, but if there's just the legal opportunity for him to grab his trusty steel chair, he suddenly MIGHT win a match or two. Doesn't mean he will (hell, it doesn't even mean he'll get to swing said chair), but it means he'll be able to create that moment of uncertainty and drama in an otherwise pointless match.
     
    So to clarify: I'm not arguing for the universality of Extreme Rules bringing about a one-hour, non-stop block of blood and barbed wire. I'm arguing against the LABEL of "Extreme Rules" and its application in the new ECW.
     
    It's actually a really interesting topic of discussion (there's even a HUGE thread -- with some excellent and lengthy theses -- in the OO Forums), and it's interesting to have JR weighing in with part of his thoughts on the issue.
     
    And it's not the only thought he's weighing in with, either, so you have my full enthusiastic endorsement of JR's new website and blog. Check it out, or I'll know the reason why not!

     
  • I think that's about all I got time for here today... a little pressed for time, I am, but you got all the good bits (and I got to make myself feel better by reveling in the misfortunes of Randall Orton; ahhhh, Schadenfreuede, my old friend).
     
    And it's not like I won't be right back here, doubling your Weekend Dose of OO, tomorrow afternoon with the ginormous Team Coverage Unforgiven PPV Preview. We'll have the whole crew together, trying to figure out what the hell to expect on Sunday. There's always the matter of trying to guess "the smart way" vs. "the WWE way".... and for extra confusion and confounding, this month, we're throwing in the bizarroworld crowd in Toronto.
     
    This'll be one tough-ass PPV to wrap our brains around, but I promise you we'll be giving it a better go than any other website out there. So come on back for the preview this weekend, and then PPV results on Sunday, and all the news/fall-out/etc. next week.
     
    Later on, 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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