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Taker Injured, Orton Update, New PPV Entry,
plus TONS of Ratings/Financials, and MORE! 
May 4, 2007

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Ahhhh, Derby Weekend....

The thunder of the hooves. The dander of the equine. The gripping excitement of watching what amounts to one lap of Amish NASCAR. And this year, as an added bonus: the Test of Character to see how long I can go without bursting out in pitying laughter when NBC launches into what is guaranteed to be no less than 90 minutes of Tributes to Barbaro that are so slickly 

produced and crammed full of eyeball-roll-inducing emotion that confused on-lookers from a foreign country would be left with no choice but to deduce that somehow the silly Americans must have elected a horse as President.

Christ. It's a good thing it's also an excuse to drink a small bucket's worth of Mint Juleps.  

Mmmmmm, mint juleps. I vote we cut the chit-chat and move directly to the wrestling portion of the column. The sooner begun, the sooner done, and the sooner Derby Weekend may commence inside a well-chilled silver cup:

  • Although WWE is publicly playing up the shoulder injury of Bobby Lashley, the real story this week was kept a bit more on the down-low.
    The current World Champ, the Undertaker, has suffered a torn biceps tendon, and will be requiring surgery followed by a lengthy rehab.
    Originally, Taker and Batista were scheduled to headline the next WWE Armaunforjudgmalash PPV in 3 weeks, finally given the opportunity to main event after back-to-back months of playing second fiddle to the RAW title match. And back-to-back months of stealing the show out of sheer spite, because of getting passed over. 
    Though this is an injury that Taker could work through if he were crazy brave and willing to suffer permanent impairment to his arm, it appears that a compromise has been reached: Taker will only delay his surgery by about one more week, at which time WWE will have made arrangements for him to drop the World Title... though I'm normally loathe to pass along "spoilers," let's just say that the May 11 edition of SmackDown! will feature Undertaker vs. Batista in a cage match.
    [Sidebar: is anybody else having nightmare visions of Mark Henry returning and out of sheer nincompoopery, jobbing to a locked cage door on his first night back? Or wait: are those nightmares or flashbacks?]
    In addition to having Taker drop the title in a match, this also gives WWE the opportunity to do an angle to explain Taker's injury/absence. It sure as hell felt like the summer months should bring us a much-needed Batista Heel Turn, and that's something WWE could do next week to set up Taker's injury angle. The lone downside to that idea is that without Taker, WWE may think SD! needs a babyface Batista; but pragmatically speaking, brand exclusivity has officially been flushed down the toilet, so there's no reason to think in the micro like that. You can just bring in babyfaces from RAW, as needed.
    Still, it seems likeliest that WWE will back off the Batista heel turn, leaving us to ponder other options for the Heel Who Does In Taker. I honestly do dread the role going to Mark Henry. Hell, I dread the guy just being given a chance to befoul my TV screen again in anything other than a curtain jerking role. I think the best idea would be to give the "honor" to Ken Kennedy. Back on Monday, he claimed that he wouldn't be cashing in his "Money in the Bank" until WrestleMania 24. But considering one night before at the Backlash PPV, he all but promised to cash it in before the PPV was over, and he didn't, I think it's safe to say that Kennedy is a damned dirty liar. And what better lie than one that has everybody relaxing because they don't have anything to worry about for 10 more months, and then BAM, he shows up to take advantage of the Undertaker after he's just won a grueling cage match against Batista?
    Kennedy's first big title, fueled by months of bragging about both his ingenious ruse and his sidelining the Dead Man, sounds like a plan to me. 
    Once Undertaker is written out and has surgery, he'll be looking at months on the disabled list. A best case scenario would get him back in action in time for November's Survivor Series... a worst case scenario, and you're talking about a slim possibility that Taker has to miss WM next year.
    The timing is really unfortunate. Taker has -- over the last decade or so -- had more than his share of lengthy vacations to rest and heal accumulated aches and pains, but in those cases, he was generally able to work through until he was no longer needed on TV. In this case, Taker wasn't just the champion, wasn't just on the brink of headlining the next PPV; he was in the middle of his first genuine, extended full-time run for the company in a long while, as a way of propping up the ailing SD! brand. After a decade of injury vacations and becoming a part-time "special attraction," Taker was making all the rounds and doing his damnedest to put the company on his back since getting into the title hunt back in January.
    Now, a fluke injury will derail what was designed to be a lengthy title reign, and remove Taker from our TV screens for at least six months. Kinda sucks.
  • One idea that's already shown up in my in-box is that SD! could use the "King of the Ring" tournament again this year to help boost somebody up to the top of the card and partially fill the void left by Taker.
    I like the idea, though we'd probably have to wait 2 months to get it going, since it'd be only fair to make sure Booker T got a chance to "defend" his crown, seeing as how awesome the "King Booker" gimmick has been. Though that leads to another notion, which is that if the "King" gimmick goes to somebody else, it opens the door for Booker to execute a face turn, return to his old self, and possibly try his hand at filling Taker's main event face slot.
    I like the KotR idea even more if it's used to rehabilitate the reputation of Chris Benoit. If you're going to have guys like Batista and Kennedy (and ugh, Mark Henry) populating the main event scene, then it becomes imperative that WWE supply them with somebody who can -- you know? -- ACTUALLY WRESTLE. Guys like Batista and Kennedy are certainly carriable, but have shown an inability to put on good shows against less talents. If Benoit's job is now officially "Make Other People Look Good," I'd rather see him doing so for somebody a little higher up the foodchain than MVP.
  • While WWE was passing through Birmingham, AL, last week, and Taker was getting his bad news, the company also made a big whoop-de-doo over Bobby Lashley's visit to see Dr. James Andrews.
    Unlike Taker, Lashley didn't suffer any specific injury, he was just being nagged by an achy shoulder, and wanted to get it checked out. Lashley won't be requiring any surgery, but you probably will see him throttled back a bit, so that he's no longer plastered all over 3 TV shows per week.
  • Following up on last week's hilarious news item: it looks like Randy Orton isn't being suspended for his phenomenal dickheadedness, afterall. Instead, WWE has decided that they'll just fine him an amount equal to the damage he did to the hotel room over in Europe 2 weeks ago.
    I don't know how this is even possible, but this could supposedly cost Orton at least a full month's worth of pay, as people are saying he did upwards of $50,000 damage. Jesus. Leave it to Randy Orton to walk into a sparsely adorned single room, designed for little more than allowing you a night's worth of sleep, pitch his little drunken hissy fit, and magically cause damage equal in amount to the price of a small house. I know the dollar is weak-as-hell versus the Euro these days, but man alive does it sound like Orton had to go out of his way to be this big of an ass...
    Am I willing to grant that maybe the $50,000 is inflated by rumor-mongers looking to sensationalize this story even further? Eh, probably. But you also know me: I'm not going to let unsubstantiated rumors get in the way of making Orton look like an even bigger douchebag than he already is.
    For whatever it's worth, I have officially lost faith in WWE ever doing the right thing with regards to Orton. Last year, a combination of Orton's drug use and all-around fucktardery got him "suspended" twice. But the first time, he was brought back to TV early, because WWE really wanted to use him for the One Night Stand PPV. And the second time, they re-wrote the rules of "being suspended" in order to facilitate Orton staying on TV while serving his sentence. This year, Orton's first notable outburst of drunken idiocy and they're not even going to bother with the charade of suspending him: just a slap on the wrist, a fine he can easily afford, and let's get you back on TV, there, Junior!
    If anybody can tell me how in the hell that makes any sense, I'm listening.
    And before you try to get all clever and write in to say "But Rick, didn't you just write a whole big column about how WWE should be more forgiving of bad behavior?", let me cut you off. Because in that column, the "bad behavior" we were talking about was of a different sort. Carlito's only "crime" was accurately pointing out the inadequacies and stupidity of some of his co-workers and bosses. And to me, it's unfathomable that you could sanction somebody for the crime of Being Right. In Orton's case, his "crime" was the SAME THING THAT GOT RHYNO FREAKING FIRED, except on steroids and with a significantly larger cleaning bill.
    But does Randy The Wonderdouche get fired? Nope. He doesn't even get a faux "suspension" this time. He just gets a slap on the wrist and gets put back on TV, once again learning the valuable lesson that it's possible to be the biggest jackass in the explored universe and still have everything handed to you on a silver platter.
    And look, I might be less confused and more forgiving about WWE's pathological desire to accommodate Orton's baffling behavior if only he was -- you know? -- talented. But he isn't, really. He's the poster boy for Utter Mediocrity and Mere Adequacy. He's been the beneficiary of nearly five years of a concerted push and marketing effort, and there's still nothing notably remarkable or memorable about the guy. Not in the ring. Not on the mic (well, other than possessing the sort of face-slappable dismissibility that is the defining feature of your dime-a-dozen toolboxes). Nothing. And it's been that way for years without any noticeable improvement or progress.
    It is no exaggeration to say that WWE currently employs DOZENS of body-waxed metrosexual mantards down in the developmentals who could have accomplished the exact same lack of success, given the same five years of effort by WWE. There is nothing special about Orton, nothing he does that can't be done equally as well by countless other performers. And yet, he's the one guy WWE is willing to bend over backwards for, time after time, no matter how big of an ass he is.
    But I guess maybe I shouldn't be surprised. If I'm theorizing that part of the reason that Carlito has such "heat" on him is because WWE is institutionally frightened by actual talent and ability, then it stands to reason that the converse is also true: they are institutionally comfortable with borderline competence. Orton is their man, baby! Let's browbeat Carlito and threaten to fire him for being talented and right! And let's do whatever it takes to keep Young Randall happy, because he'll never intimidate his coworkers or bosses with remarkable skill or displays of wit and intelligence! He's the perfect employee, and WWE can't afford to lose him!
    I wish I were just joking or being a smart-ass when I say that. But it doesn't feel like I am. In fact, it feels like I'm pretty much passing along the only possible explanation for why WWE is handling this situation the way they are. And it sucks. Doing it this way means that they, as a company, get to continue dealing with a problem employee. It means we, as fans, get to continue dealing with the poster boy for unremarkable mediocrity. And it means that Young Randall Orton -- the man who was barely able to graduate high school, the man who had no prospects so he tried the military and immediately went AWOL from basic training because he decided it was too hard, and the man who finally gave up and got a job but only because his daddy was able to call in a few favors -- continues to learn nothing about being a Grown Up and still has the maturity level of a 15-year-old.
    I honestly can't even wrap my brain around how demonstrably wrong this whole deal is. It's like a perfect storm of Raging Suck that is soul-crushing to the point that the only way to deal with it is to laugh about it.
    Haha? Nope, that doesn't make me feel any better...
  • In a development that I'm sure is getting blown way out of proportion on other sites, OMG THERE'S GOING TO BE A NEW PPV WRESTLING COMPANY STARTING THIS SUMMER~!~!~!~!~!~!~!~!~!
    Sort of. 
    What's happening is that Ring of Honor will have taped 2-hour specials on PPV six times per year. Which is fine and dandy and a good thing, but which is also only the most incremental of moves towards relevance for ROH.
    Look: the ROH product is what it is. It's a niche product. If wrestling were porn, WWE would dominate because everybody pretty much agrees that "Sac-Draining Co-ed Nymphomaniacs 47" is the sort of thing that'll get you where you need to go, while ROH is the sort of deal where you'd have to slink your way to the Weirdo Fetish Aisle to find "Naturally Hairy Teens: The Inappropriate Insertions Edition."
    But that said: ROH has created a financially viable model for marketing to the Workrate Fetishists, and supplying them with their shameful needs. What I don't see is how this particular PPV venture is going to make the ROH product any more accessible or popular to the mainstream. An event taped six weeks prior to broadcast and chopped up to fit a 2-hour slot? Not a whole lot of sizzle, there. It comes off as just another one of those countless $9.95 bush league wrestling specials that seem to show up on PPV every now and again, and which invariably get universally ignored by 99.9% of fans.... 
    I also wonder if existing ROH loyalists are all that impressed by this deal. Why shell out for a 2-hour version of one of ROH's big shows when you know you can just wait another week or two and add the full-length DVD of the show to your voluminous video collection?
    It's certain a step in the right direction, but beware anybody who tries to blow this out of proportion into a major news story.
  • Speaking of blowing things out of proportion, ROH's announcement has officially set TNA off on a temper tantrum. Christ: ROH and TNA in a death match over talent? That's as compelling and epic as watching two 7-year-old girls having a Cootie Battle.
    Anyway, the deal is that TNA has forbidden any of their wrestlers from appearing on any ROH shows (ANY shows, not just ones to air on PPV or be distributed via DVD), effective immediately. Since TNA had already started encouraging their talents to ditch out on ROH if they expected to get a full-sized push in TNA, this doesn't really affect many guys. I think Homicide and Austin Starr (who is actually currently under suspension from TNA) are the only two with significant ROH bookings.
    Also: while TNA is spazzing out in an attempt to "exclusify" their talent roster, ROH is also shoring things up by signing about a dozen of their regulars to actual 1-year contracts. One year, by the way, being the length of the PPV deal (six shows over the course of one year, starting in July).
  • Ready to die just a little bit inside? Good...
    Because WWE has officially announced Yet Another Diva Search. Based on the press release, it looks like you can expect to meet the finalists on Monday Night, July 23, and then spend the next month or two getting furiously angry at WWE for wasting your time.
    Adding to the spirit-sapping stupidity of it all, the press release also all-but says "And it doesn't even matter if you win, because we'll be hiring a ton of the losers, too." Ugh. If Vince McMahon feels the need to overcompensate for the fact that nothing pleases him more than leafing through bodybuilding magazines for hours at a stretch, then put out the cattle call for annoying bimbos, conduct your Useless Diva Casting Calls behind closed doors, hire as many as you need to stand around and look vapidly pretty, and don't insult us by trying to dress it up as a legitimate contest.
    And c'mon, this is the fourth one of these, right? The first three sure did do a great job of launching new diva careers, didn't they? You got Red Headed Spaz plying her trade for another company. You got Diva Search Ashley re-injured again for about the eighth time after one of the screws in her surgically repaired ankle came loose last month. And you got.... ummm.... well, I'm sure somebody must have won the contest last year, but I couldn't tell you who, and I couldn't tell you a single worthwhile contribution she's made to my TV Viewing.
    Yet: we're doing it again in 2007. Joy.
  • Something we won't be doing again in 2007 is having a "December to Dismember" PPV. WWE has cancelled it, noting (quite correctly) that the crunch of 3 PPV events during a 5 week span in November and December is just "too much."
    And the vagaries of the Joint Brand PPV Era strike again. WWE's PPV calendar has, for a few years, had those stretches where there might be only 2 weeks between PPVs, but it was do-able because one would be RAW-flavored, and the other SD!... now, those stretches become a lot more difficult to deal with, because you'll be asking fans to pay for something one week, and then two weeks later, asking them to pay for pretty much the same thing again.
    WWE has gotten itself up to 16 PPV events per year. The loss of D2D brings us back down to 15, which is a start. If this Joint Brand PPV thing is here to stay, there's really no reason for there to be more than 12 shows per year. Though I doubt WWE sees it the same way. Why try to fix things so you're running 12 PPVs a year that average 450,000 buys (a number WWE last accomplished in 2002) when you can make almost as much money by gouging a smaller audience of your most loyal 300,000 fans (which is what WWE averaged per PPV in 2006) 16 times per year?
  • Last weekend's "super indie" show in Memphis was reportedly an amusing affair. Not necessarily "good," but entertaining, and the kind of show designed to please the old-timey "true believer" type of fans who have been following Memphis wrestling for decades.
    In other words: to enjoy the show, you'd definitely have to leave your Internet Smark Membership Card at the door. Along with at least 3 teeth and your personal hygiene. ZING~!
    The Hulk Hogan vs. Paul "Big Show" Wight main event was about 10 minutes, and massively crowd-pleasing, with Hogan over as the 100% babyface. 'Twas precisely what you would expect: Hogan gets beat down, hulks up, hits the WM3 Tribute BodySlam, leg drop o' doom and Hogan wins.
    The undercard? Wrestling-wise, the 3 reports I got all agreed that the best it got was a Grand Master Sexay vs. Buff Bagwell match, which is all you need to know about that. But also, with matches involving Abdullah the Butcher, Greg Valentine, Ko Ko B. Ware, and Brutus Beefcake, you know there was gonna be some goofy nostalgia-driven fun.
    By all accounts, that's precisely what was had by the assembled 5000 or so paying fans: fun. Probably not quite the same thing as if Hogan and Show had laced 'em up on the WrestleMania 23 Stage (as originally planned), but still a decent way to spend a night at the matches.
  • After being bumped from the schedule in February, Saturday Night's Main Event is tentatively schedule to return to NBC on June 2. After the current TV season wraps up, and the ratings damage it will do will be minimized.
    Your guess is as good as mine in terms of what WWE will bust out to try to make SNME seem like a big deal... all I know at this time is that the show will be taped four days earlier (SNME and SD! will both be taped on Tuesday that week, with ECW tapings being shifted over to Monday's RAW taping), and any semblance of treating SNME as something special seems to have faded.
  • A quick Ratings Round-Up...
    The latest TNA did a 1.0 rating, which is a statistically insignificant drop of 0.1, and basically represents business as usual for the company.
    Last weekend's SmackDown! continued its nosedive, pulling a 2.3 rating. Following a 3.1 average for the month of February, SD! saw its April average plummet to a 2.5.
    RAW took another tiny step down, dropping to a 3.6 on Monday night. Since the middle of March, when WWE ratings started this current free-fall, that means RAW is averaging a 3.8 (a 3.7 if you discount the one anomalously high post-WM rating) after having posted a 4.1 average for the first 10 weeks of the year.
    I've yet to get info on Tuesday's ECW, but I feel quite confident stating that it was a "1-point-something," and that the show continues to be the red-headed stepchild of WWE.
  • WWE has released its financial data for the first quarter of 2007, and on the strength of a 13% increase in revenues versus the same quarter last year, they've got a pretty good story to tell.
    I say "pretty good," because the truth is that I'm a fan, not an investor, and to me, the "health" of the company is dictated by the health of the "Live and Televised Events" revenue stream. And that stream was flat versus the previous year, while WWE benefited from HUGE gains in the "Consumer Products" stream. But investors don't care about how entertaining the Core Product is, they just care that WWE's making money, and more of it than last year.
    WWE's gains were driven by a nominal increase in home video sales and a large increase in "licensing revenues" (this covers WWE's relationships with videogame and toy manufacturers).
    Meantime, the numbers that get to the heart of Core Product weren't so happy. Minor upswings in the house show business were more than offset by losses in the PPV department. Each of the 3 PPVs (NYR, Rumble, NWO) produced this quarter had fewer buys in 2007 than in 2006 (a total shortfall of about 150,000 buys for the quarter versus last year). Also, RAW averaged a 4.0 rating for the first quarter of 2007 (down from a 4.3 in the same quarter last year), while SD! averaged a 2.9 (identical to its performance in 2006).
    But again: Wall Street doesn't give a damn about where the money's coming from, as long as it's there. On the strength of WWE selling a crap load of videogames and dolls, the company's stock hit a 52-week high yesterday when the financial data was released. In fact, it was trading at near a 5-year high, matching results from the same week last year, when WWE was able to release similarly happy quarterly financial data.
  • Although WrestleMania 23 is not a part of the first quarter (which ended on March 31), all WWE press releases about financials made a special point to shoehorn in the information that WM23 is projected to be the biggest-selling PPV in company history, with 1.2 million buys.
    What the didn't bother to point out is that that number is bolstered mostly by massive expansion of WWE's international PPV business (up until very recently, PPVs might air on a tape delay basis, or for free on a special cable tier, or possibly not at all if you were overseas). Domestic PPV buys? Not nearly as impressive once you stop to consider that nearly 40% of these 1.2 million buys came from outside the United States.
  • Last thing: Steve Austin's movie "The Condemned" absolutely tanked at the box office, generating $3.8 million in its first weekend, and finishing ninth. 
    Though most readers who saw the movie said it was a pretty solid action flick, the movie was SAVAGED by critics. Sadly, it was savaged for the most retarded of reasons. Let's just say I checked out about a half-dozen reviews last weekend, and ALL BUT ONE contained the phrase "Virginia Tech" for some reason. So I'm guessing Austin was the victim of movie reviews that weren't even movie reviews. They were just thinly veiled excuses for douchey, self-righteous sermons about violence in the media.
    Good for you, movie critics! Clearly, as a group, you are the most upstanding, responsible, beneficent, and moral people on the planet! Oh but to merely bask in your reflected decency and to some day learn to emulate your indignant moral outrage!
    Anyway, yes, "The Condemned" is ultra-violent and R-rated. But to the best of my knowledge, it didn't kill 33 people, so perhaps it should be measured on its merits as a testosterone-fueled Guy Movie. Just a thought.
    But whatever the reason, if measured by box office receipts, "The Condemned" is a failure at this point. Even by modest WWE Films standards, it's a failure. As comparisons: John Cena, with the benefit of a much-more-accessible PG-13 rating, opened "The Marine" to the tune of $7.2 million (eventually grossing a total of $18,8 million). And Kane (also saddled with an R-rating as well as half-as-many theaters as either Austin or Cena, on top of WAY stiffer competition than either Austin or Cena faced) opened "See No Evil" at $4.6 million (en route to a total of $15.1 million).
    It's odd, but WWE's three films has been increasingly less-successful, even though the star power of each movie has gotten progressively greater. Kane's film recouped production costs and was a mild financial success; Cena's still waiting to find out if DVD sales will nudge "The Marine" into the black; and now, Austin will fall short of the $10 million mark and there may not be enough DVDs on earth to turn his movie into a money-maker.
  • I think that's all I got for today, kids. It should be plenty to tide you over for the weekend. Bring on the juleps! 

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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