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PPV Philosophy Change Leads to HOMEWORK!
Plus 3 Deaths, Ratings, Molly, and More... 
March 16, 2007

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


So earlier this week, I was half-watching the ESPN (pretty much the only way to watch that dreck these days), and I perked up from noodling on guitar when I heard the word "Dayton."

I shouldn't have, I mean, I know we get that retarded play-in game here every year on the grounds that (a) apparently us Daytonians have nothing better to do, and (b) it really, sincerely is a pretty kick-ass and well-run facility by ANY standards.

And yet, the Dayton mention wasn't even about the lame play- in game. It was even

lamer... it was about the women's tournament (which I guess is also being held here as part of our on-going quest to suck up to the NCAA by hosting whatever pointless nonsense they throw our way, so long as we keep getting men's NCAA tourney games here once every 3-4 years).

Anyway, according to ESPN: "It's pretty clear to everybody that Dayton is far and away the toughest region. For girls." SUCK ON THAT, EVERYBODY~! Dayton, OH: winning awards the equivalent of "World's Tallest Midget" since 1908!

Enough geo-centric rambling. We have work to do today, kids. And this time, by "we," I really do mean "we," because we start off with a little homework assignment from Professor The Rick:

  • At first, I was going to cover this week's most intriguing news item by doing a full-blown OOpinionated Editorial about How Vince Has Completely Lost His Touch. It's been a good 8 months or so since I got down and dirty with a feature piece like that, and frankly, this latest news blurb is as good an excuse as any to delve into how Vince McMahon is currently running his company with all the logic, calm, and smoothness of a heroin junkie going on 36 hours sober. The guy is clearly jonsing for SOMEthing these days, and when he keeps getting flat ratings and declining buyrates instead, he just gets all jittery, angry, and potentially dangerous.
    But then yesterday, I decided something: I'm not gonna do that whole big feature analysis. Yet. 
    I'm going to let YOU do it. 
    I figure it's one thing for me to ascend to my pulpit once again and insist that I, and I alone, am the smartest man in the wrestling universe. I figure it's another entirely if I give you kids the Raw Materials and Data you need, and you come back with your own insights and observations as to what's wrong, when things went wrong, and where you need to look to really fix them. Not only could it be fun and interesting to get a wide range of views, but it's a flat-out hoot to think that just among OO Nation, we've probably got more common sense and observational power than an entire corporate office building full of report-generating, jargon-spewing, outside-the-box thinking corporate tools. The same ones Vince McMahon surrounds himself with to make him feel more like a Real Businessman, the same way his daughter surrounds herself with Failed Hollywood Writers to make herself feel more like.... ummm.... Tina Fey when she was the head writer on SNL, maybe.
    So, attention up here, class, here's the quick rundown of your assignment.
    The news item of the week is this: "WWE has announced the end of the brand split with regards to pay-per-view events." RAW, SD!, and ECW will continue to run as independently as possible in their own timeslots, but after WrestleMania, all PPV events will feature the stars of all three brands. In the press release, WWE put on a happy face and spun this as "giving our fans more of what they want."
    Background to this development: WWE pay-per-view buys have been largely underwhelming for the past 3 years, and Vince McMahon has been desperately trying to address the problem. Last summer/autumn, he instituted a new policy of promoting PPVs using just one or two major tentpole matches, and then filling up the rest of the undercard at the last second, because that's how UFC does things. When the December to Dismember PPV became the least-viewed WWE PPV in over a decade, this policy came under scrutiny, and eventually led to this week's decision to go 180 degrees in the other direction, and try to stock PPV line-ups top-to-bottom with the best, most marketable talent possible.
    My question(s) to you, Class:
    Has WWE successfully identified a Core Problem with their business and creative models? If you believe so, please elaborate by telling us whether you believe this change to PPV formatting effectively addresses and solves those problems (or if it creates new ones). If you believe not, please elaborate by discussing the true roots of WWE's recent failures on PPV, and suggest other ways of getting to the heart of the matter.
    To assist you, I have prepared three Study Sheets. 
    (1) Detailed WWE PPV Buyrate Information for the past 4 years (with general year-end aggregate data going back to the year 2000). Should be self-explanatory. RAW-only PPVs are red, SD! are blue, ECW are purple, and black means a PPV is co-branded. All specific PPV buy figures are taken directly from WWE's quarterly financial reports, and the 2000-2002 aggregate figures are estimated based on data in their Annual Reports. (Click Here to View/Download)
    (2) Detailed month-by-month TV ratings averages from 2000 to the present, for both RAW and SD!. Again, self-explanatory, with RAW in red and SD! in blue. (Click Here to View/Download)
    (3) A very general overview of key events affecting WWE business as well as points of reference to timing of elevating new stars, and whatnot. Dates back to 2000. (Click Here to View/Download) [Accidentally omitted from this overview are SD!'s move to Friday nights in September 2005, which clearly impacted ratings, and the shift to the CW Network in September 2006 which was preceded by tons of trouble with clearances on old UPN affiliates. Please pencil those in as you're considering things.]
    While addressing the main question(s) posited above, some angles and avenues you might want to explore include: the correlation between TV ratings and PPV buyrates... the true causes and effects of WWE's various major declines, and what may have helped spur slight rebounds in 2005 and 2006.... the possible effect of joint-brand PPVs on talent development and depth, as there will (logically) be fewer PPV spots open to lower card performers....  and the irony of WWE returning to a "Brand Split/Joint PPV" Model that very much resembles what was in place between May of 2002 and May of 2003 (perhaps the time frame of WWE's single biggest audience losses over the past 6 years).
    Of course, you are also encouraged to be creative and find your own stories here within the available data. The truly brown-nosey student could even do extra research to augment his/her presentation. There is no length requirement: if you just notice a few things and want to bullet point them in an e-mail, fine... if you actually do write up something a little longer: plain txt, rtf, and html are my preferred formats, but I can make most anything work.
    It'll be at least a week before I get around to assembling my own lengthy ramble on this subject, so take your time. Let's say the Due Date is March 26. The best or most interesting comments will certainly be included on OO, either as talking points in my feature-y column, or as stand-alone guest columns if the circumstances warrant. Knock yourselves out, Class!
  • As we get caught up on a week or so worth of news, I'm sad to report the next main topic we gotta cover is kind of a bummer...
    Three bona fide wrestling legends have all passed away, all of natural causes.
    Allen Coage (best known for a 2 year stint as "Bad News Brown" in the late 80s WWF) may actually have been Vince McMahon's first Olympic Medalist.... but unlike Kurt Angle's later boasting, Coage's 1976 judo medal came in the color "bronze" and little was ever made of it by the WWF.

    After successfully pursuing his judo dreams, Coage became a late starter in pro wrestling. Already in his 30s, he was trained primarily in Japan for a while, before debuting in 1978. His hard hitting, bad-ass style got him noticed fast, and soon the New York City native became a staple in Japan, as well as an up and coming act in Stu Hart's Calgary territory (where Coage spent a lot of time finishing his training and polishing his skills).
    He won several minor titles on the international and indie circuit, most all of them under the simple monicker "Bad News Allen." When the WWF came calling in 1987, they promised a huge push for the 40-something bad-ass brawler, so he gladly changed to "Bad News Brown." He quickly established himself, as I can't imagine a fan of my age (plus or minus a year or two) not vividly remembering Brown's heinous turn on Bret Hart at WM4 (which turned Bret babyface and helped launch what eventually became a successful solo career). Brown also got runs at the top against both Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage when each was champion.
    Coage was gone from the WWF inside of 2 years or so, mostly because he and Vince McMahon didn't really get along. But he certainly left his mark, and in a lot of ways, he was "Stone Cold" before Stone Cold was cool.
    After leaving the WWF, Coage competed sporadically, but his knees and other injuries hampered him. Until very recently, he'd still pop up in other capacities for indie promotions in and around his adopted home in Canada, however, and frequently threatened to start up a company of his own, some day.
    That never quite came to pass, but Allen Coage left behind plenty of other memories for us fans to enjoy. He was 63 years old.
  • Then you've got a pair of already-installed WWE Hall of Fame members, both of whom, unfortunately, were retired and long gone by the time I got anywhere near watching wrestling...
    "The Big Cat" Ernie Ladd was a Pro Bowl caliber lineman in football, who just decided to take up wrestling on a lark in the 50s and 60s. Pretty soon, his off-season hobby became his career, and he was a money-making charismatic heel, and a legitimate giant (6'9", 360 lbs) who could come in and dominate a territory for a while before moving on.
    When Andre the Giant came along, the two clashed, and Ladd had his biggest paydays working with Andre. Since retiring from competition in the late 70s or early 80s, I think Ladd's only wrestling-related appearance that any of us might remember would have been at the WM2 Battle Royal (unless I'm imagining that). Instead, Ladd spent his time on motivational speeches and trying to inspire kids to reach their potential. 
    Ladd's stature and charisma earned him one of the very earliest spots in the WWE Hall of Fame when it was created in the mid-90s. He was 68 years old.
    And lastly: Arnold Skaaland. A wrestler-turned-manager who I was always told had sort of a dubious "Hall of Fame" resume, Skaaland's importance to the WWWF was because of his status as a top lieutenant of Vince McMahon Sr. throughout the 70s and early 80s. In fact, when Vince Senior's health started to fade, and he decided to go ahead and sell his wrestling promotion, he only gave his son 50%.... the other biggest chunks went to just 2 men: Gorilla Monsoon and Skaaland. Both had to be bought out by Vince before he could remake the company in his image.
    Though Monsoon maintained a higher profile, Skaaland had his moments, too. He was integral to the Iron Sheik's WWF Title win over Bob Backlund in 1983. Skaaland "threw in the towel" for Backlund, essentially saying his man submit to the Camel Clutch. To this day, Backlund says he didn't know that was coming, and he was booked to beat the Sheik that night. The legend goes that Vince wanted Bob Backlund to turn heel and drop the title to this new Hulk Hogan guy, but Backlund refused.... so he used Skaaland to "screw" Backlund out of the belt. Less than 2 months later, the Sheik dropped the belt to -- you guessed it -- Hulk Hogan, lending further credence to the idea. Who knows? But it does make for a hell of a story....
    Skaaland was 84 years old.
  • Quick ratings for last week (week of March 5)....
    RAW did a 4.1 (down from the week before). WSX wasn't on. ECW bumped up to a 1.7 on the promise of Steve Austin's appearance. TNA did a rock-steady 1.0. And SD! dropped off a bit from recent highs with a 2.8.
  • And ratings for this week (so far)....
    This past Monday's RAW did another 4.1. Pretty decent show, maybe a bit fluffy and "water-tread-y" compared to other recent outings, but I got a kick out of Austin finally seeming like Austin (instead of lame and scripted like he did on ECW) in the main event segment, and the whole idea of "WrestleMania Reversal Week" is quite fascinating, too. So even if it was a "meh" show on its own, it still left me ready and willing to get tuned in next week.
    On Tuesday, ECW dropped a tick to a 1.6. Still better than where they'd been for the month previous to Austin's Stunt Casting....
    Obviously, no numbers yet for last night's Impact. We'll get that and SD!'s number to you next week. Promise.
  • WSX, WSX.... oh, what a pain in mine butt you are, WSX. It's the show that can't decide if it's cancelled or not. A week ago, it kinda was cancelled. Then, it was gonna be brought back for two weeks, including one marathon session to make sure all the episodes got aired. Now, with just the big Season Finale left, supposedly it's cancelled again.
    Who the fuck knows? Who the fuck cares?
    A 2-and-a-half hour marathon of WSX's unaired episodes started this Tuesday at 11pm, and did respectably for an hour before starting to slide. Overall, the block averaged a 0.4 (after starting at a 0.6 for the first half-hour show).
    This was supposed to prepare fans for the big WSX Season Finale, which would then air in prime time next Tuesday. But as of today, WSX has been removed from the MTV schedule for next week. No make-up date has been announced, and one may not be planned.
    Like I said, though: Who knows? Who cares?
  • What this *does* mean, though, is that when WSX's contracts with talent expire in the next month or so, they'll almost certainly all be free to pursue/accept other offers. TNA may have an interest in some of the higher-flying WSX stars, while rumors abound that Teddy Hart has been in contact with WWE and may be offered a contract. 
    With Harry Smith, TJ Wilson, and Nattie Neidhart all already under the WWE banner, adding Hart would just increase the buzz surrounding a possible "Next Gen" Hart Foundation. It's all predicated on Teddy managing not to act batshit stupid for upwards of a few months at a stretch... cuz lord knows if there's anybody who makes Randy Orton look mature and undouchey, it's Teddy Hart. Or at least: it has been, historically. 
  • To follow up on my mention of TNA "losing" the NWA label from last week...
    Turns out, it's actually a mutually negotiated end to the pact between TNA and whatever passes for the NWA these days. They had originally agreed to be partners for 10 years, but TNA was increasingly disinterested in going through all the hassle of meeting NWA's requirements when it comes to title changes and house show touring (which TNA wants to start ramping up), especially since at this point, the NWA label brings nothing to the table. So the two parties will simply quit doing business together.
    Everybody suspects that the decision has been made in the NWA Board of Director's Mom's Basement (a/k/a "NWA World Headquarters") to put the NWA Title on Bryan Danielson, which then opens up all kinds of wanker speculation about the NWA allying with ROH. Oh me oh my, when the group with upwards of 130 fans per show joins forces with the one that has nearly 800 per show, surely it will be the greatest thing ever! EVER~!
    I keed, I keed... point is, what the NWA wants to do isn't really a secret at this point. TNA's exit strategy, however, is still unknown. They could do some retarded big fat hairy deal with "throwing down" the belt and instituting a new one. But I still say that's making a mountain out of a molehill, and you'd only confuse the vast majority of the fans as to why the group that runs middle school cafeterias gets their belt back and the group with 1.5 million weekly viewers can't just keep on calling Christian champion. I definitely vote for a "quietly phase out the NWA name and don't mention anything on TV about this" approach. Same with the tag belts.
  • Embiggened by box office success so far in St. Louis (for the Lockdown PPV next month), TNA is deadset on doing June's Slammiversary PPV away from Orlando, too. Preferably in Nashville, which is where TNA started and where they still have offices.
    Assuming that also goes well, I gather the Ultimate Dream is to keep on running about half the PPVs for the rest of 2007 outside of Orlando. TNA's eyeballing Atlanta, knows they can do well in Detroit, and might even be interested in doing a show from the northeast.
  • Kurt Angle finally issued a response to the Sports Illustrated story that implicated him, along with tons of other sports stars, in a steroid ring.
    In essence, Kurt said: "I have a legitimate neck injury. Everybody knows that. So lay off." Ummm, nobody's doubting the reality of your neck condition, Kurt. But none of us are doctors, so we don't quite understand the treatment of said condition. So it just seems to all of us that it's rather odd that your own physician(s), the one(s) that treat you on a regular basis, aren't prescribing these things for you. Instead, shady mail-order pharmacies that just got busted by the Feds are where you did your shopping.
    Still, it's not too far off from the response I expected. And it does nothing to address any of the issues/concerns that I raised when this story broke last week.
  • The Rock's pre-taped cameo on Monday's RAW was probably Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad, at best... on one hand, it *is* the Rock, and if (after a 3 year hiatus by the guy) you can't get a little tingly at that, you're probably no fun. But on the other: man alive, it sure didn't take Dwayne very long to resort back to half-ass junior high joke lines, did it? Dude went from zero-to-monkey-penis in 2 minutes flat...
    Don't look for Rock to show up in the arena any time soon, but I gather it's not out of the question that they'll have more of these pre-taped bits with him. Not only does WWE have the money to burn, what with not having to pay Hogan this year, but Rock seems like the kinda guy who would take an interest in helping out his fourth cousin (eight times removed) or whatever Umaga is to him....
  • Edge probably won't wrestle again until the WM23 Money in the Bank match. He's nursing a wounded jaw. So if you're wondering why he's been letting Young Randall do *waaayyyyy* too much of the talking lately, and what's behind the new gimmick of finding ludicrous things about the towns he's in to protest against, well, there you go....
    Now the other rumors about RVD being responsible, and this putting him even further into the Dog House and being the Final Nail In His Coffin Because Everybody Hates Him? That stuff, you gotta sort it out at your own risk, folks, cuz I ain't gonna say Word One that could possibly be construed as me giving credence to the Retarded Gospel of Johnny Ace.
  • Lastly, a deeply painful and personal note from The Me...
    Molly Holly is officially off my list. Why? Because, like they said in the one episode of "Seinfeld": she's Too Good. Any relationship (even an imaginary one based on your Man Crush on a fictional TV personality) is predicated on a steady supply of high-quality filthy thoughts. And you just can't go thinking about executing those filthy thoughts with somebody who's way closer to Mother Theresa than anyone has any business being.

    WWE was on tour in Central America last week, and according to the company website, was visited in Guatemala by Molly. Who just happened to be in the area, working on a 6 month missionary trip with her church. Huh. 
    A girl who goes to Mass on Sunday? Fine, just gives me an extra hour to roll out of bed and make cooking preparations for the Festival of Eggs and Meats and Cheeses that is to follow once she returns. But going to Guatemala for six months to tell impoverished villagers stories about The Jesus? That's more than I can handle. That's the kind of MegaGood that makes it impossible to just bask in the reflected goodness; because the reflected goodness burns, it BURNS my evil and self-absorbed skin. Forget what I'd said earlier: I'd gladly befoul the corpse of Mother Theresa, if only I could get this damned reflected goodness off of me. IT BURNS~! AAIIIIEEEEEYYYYYIIEEEE!
    It appears the only mild sin Molly has ever committed in her life is going through that phase of wearing tight jeans and being a totally delectable bitch towards Lita, and thus, making a play at a Rick Lifetime Infatuation Award. But the truth has come out, now, hasn't it.... so sad. So very, very sad. 
    Also: I've worked long and hard to be the world's leading authority on Molly's strengths, assets, and Best Possible Uses, and I gotta say, in all my contemplation of the matter, the one thing I never really saw her in was a Missionary Position.
    *rimshot* Thanks folks, I'm here all week. And I'll also be more than happy to see you all in hell!
  • Alright, I think that's about all I got that's important for today. Do some homework, stay safe on St. Patty's Day, and sweet christ do I ever hope your NCAA tourney brackets are looking healthier than mine.
    Till next week, kids.....

SMACKDOWN RECAP: Bonding Exercises
RAW RECAP: The New Guy Blows It
PPV RECAP: WWE Night of Champions 2012
RAW RECAP: The Show Must Go On
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Boot Gets the Boot
RAW RECAP: Heyman Lands an Expansion Franchise
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Losing is the new Winning
RAW RECAP: Say My Name
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Deja Vu All Over Again
RAW RECAP: Dignity Before Gold?
PPV RECAP: SummerSlam 2012
RAW RECAP: Bigger IS Better
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Hitting with Two Strikes
RAW RECAP: Heel, or Tweener?
RAW RECAP: CM Punk is Not a Fan of Dwayne
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Returnening
RAW RECAP: Countdown to 1000
PPV RECAP: WWE Money in the Bank 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Friday Night ZackDown
RAW RECAP: Closure's a Bitch
RAW RECAP: Crazy Gets What Crazy Wants
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Five Surprising MitB Deposits
RAW RECAP: Weeeellll, It's a Big MitB
RAW RECAP: Johnny B. Gone
PPV RECAP: WWE No Way Out 2012
RAW RECAP: Crazy Go Nuts
RAW RECAP: Be a Star, My Ass
RAW RECAP: You Can't See Him
RAW RECAP: Big Johnny Still in Charge
PPV RECAP: WWE Over the Limit 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: One Gullible Fella
RAW RECAP: Anvil, or Red Herring?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Everybody Hates Berto
RAW RECAP: Look Who's Back
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Care to go Best of Five?
RAW RECAP: An Ace Up His Sleeve
PPV RECAP: WWE Extreme Rules 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Sh-Sh-Sheamus and the nOObs
RAW RECAP: Edge, the Motivational Speaker?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: AJ is Angry, Jilted
RAW RECAP: Maybe Cena DOES Suck?
RAW RECAP: Brock's a Jerk
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28



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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