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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
Congress Gets Involved, plus SummerSlam
Shake-Ups, Surgery Updates, and MORE! 
July 27. 2007

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

It should be no secret to anybody who knows me, or who has even been paying halfway close attention to my tastes over the years I've been maintaining this public persona, that I'm basically a Child of Grunge. Or of "alternative rock" or whatever you want to call the thing that started getting big in 1991 and saved me from a life of listening to classic rock and adult contemporary.
 

Seriously: my record collection in 1991 (actually, probably records and tapes; I don't think I got my first CD player till '92) was all Paul Simon, the Traveling Wilburys, and Weird Al Yankovic. OK: and some Duran Duran. But I'm not proud of that.

But before this intended preramble gets all ranting and out of control, I assure you I have a

point. In this case, it's that the 90s were so awesome, in my young and impressionable mind, that while I was loving Nirvana and Mudhoney and Alice in Chains like I'd never loved music before, there were perfectly decent bands I didn't pay much attention to because of the sheer sensory overload. [And I even had so much on my plate that I could afford to briefly lose my affinity for Tom Petty, and to spend about a decade being annoyed at U2, though I'm glad to say both those situations have since been rectified.]

It's not that I disliked Smashing Pumpkins or Stone Temple Pilots or countless others... it's just that if you had so much of Exactly What You Loved, you didn't have time in your life to dedicate to things that were 10 degrees off center. So there were a ton of solid 90s bands who ended up as little more than background music in the Soundtrack Of My Life. I'm just glad I was lucky enough (starting about 6-7 years ago) to go back and rediscover/re-appreciate some of those bands in hindsight. 

What makes me think to mention all this? Simple:

Tonight in Dayton, OH, three "Lost Bands of the 90s" are uniting for a special show. And hilariously, they somehow manage to be the antithesis of everything I just mentioned above. I whiffed on them in the 90s, and I still couldn't possibly give a shit about them now. Especially not for $45 a ticket. Maybe not even for free if somebody put this schlock together at the county fair.

Counting Crows. Collective Soul. Live. That's the line-up tonight. They're playing the local minor league ballpark (capacity: 8000, and not surprisingly Plenty Of Good Seats Are Still Available).

Holy christ. You dust off the Spin Doctors and Offspring, and you've got yourself a veritable Who's Who of Alt Rock That Didn't Rock in the 90s.

The funniest part is: the people of roughly my age who hold a torch for bands like Live are probably people who I might recognize vaguely from around town 10 years ago, sporting their flannels and whatnot... but who now have decent haircuts and a $3000 per month Starbucks habit. Checking out the show might be, if nothing else, an interesting experiment in terms of this sociological theory of mine.

On second thought: nah, I don't think so. It's supposed to rain and storm here all night tonight. Where's your messiah now, Live!!!???????!???? I've got enough problems without adding pneumonia to the list. I'll have to take a pass on 4000 one-time grunge rock posers comfortably spread out in an 8000 seat ballpark, swaying gently, drinking wine, and checking in with their babysitters via cellphone once every hour. Losers.

Instead, I'll spend a quick moment or three scribing some wrestling stuff for you fine folks:

  • Some potentially big news today, as the House Committee on Oversight and Governmental Reform sent a letter to WWE politely "requesting" all documentation regarding their Wellness Program, drug tests, and test results over the past 18 months.
     
    This is not a subpeona, and it's not a binding request. But it indicates that Congress is -- against all common sense -- going to waste their time and our taxpayer dollars trying to investigate WWE. And for as stupid and reactionary I feel this makes Congress look, the fact is: if WWE has been at all serious and diligent about its testing in the last 18 months, they HAVE to comply, now, and let us see facts and figures, instead of just hearing the lip service.
     
    The full text of the letter/request is already a matter of record on several newswire reports, so I'll trust if you really care, you can find it elsewhere on ESPN or Yahoo or whatever. The gist of it, however, is that the Benoit tragedy has opened Congress' eyes, and subsequent claims by former wrestlers about widespread drug use have spurred them to this action so that they may determine what (if any) problems exist in the wrestling industry, and what (if anything) is being done to solve those problems.
     
    As you should all well know, I do not deny that a lot of wrestlers have made seemingly asinine personal decisions, often with fatal results. This does not please me. But as a rational, thinking person, it also does not drive me to place the blame on anybody other than the individual who makes the decisions.
     
    If you start wanting to legislate intelligence and discretion, you end up banging your head against a wall, because it just can't be done. And if you wanted to start doing this? It's like I said once before: don't start with wrestling. Start with the industry of untalented stupid whores whose fame is manufactured and who end up getting all wasted/slutty/arrested (or all three) the first opportunity they get. Just because Lindsay Lohan isn't dead doesn't mean she couldn't be three times over. And even in that worst case scenario, do you think this statistically significant number of dumb bitches acting irresponsibly would be grounds for a congressional investigation of Los Angeles? I doubt it...
     
    Complicating matters to no end is the fact that a lot of what has driven public opinion (and thus, the PR-minded, reactionary congressmen) are comments from former members of the wrestling industry. Two key phrases there: (1) "former" and (2) "wrestling industry." 
     
    "Former" indicates possibly dated knowledge, especially as it pertains to WWE's attempts at self-policing since instituting the Wellness Policy a mere 18 months ago. And you're a freaking idiot if you think "wrestling industry" equals "WWE." In terms of viewers and revenue and -- sad to say, TNA fans, but it's true -- historical relevance, sure, WWE is the pinnacle of the wrestling business. But all these people going on TV with lists of 278 wrestlers who've died before the age of 50 in the last 15 years or whatever, guess what? Hardly any of them were in the employ of WWE at the time. Most of them NEVER were. [Actually, the number of WWE deaths in the last 15 years is just five. And Charlie Haas' brother Russ died of a congenital heart condition that was diagnosed improperly, while Owen Hart... well, you know what happened to Owen, and that ain't the fault of the sensationalized "culture of wrestling."]
     
    What happened with Benoit is significant, because it's the first of these deaths to happen while WWE was claiming to have a testing program in place. Perhaps they should be put to the test on their claims. But is congress really necessary? I know I can think of about a billion things I'd rather have them worried about than this.
     
    So, anyway: we have congress possibly framing an investigation of the "wrestling industry" in terms of only investigating WWE, which is just ignorant. On top of that, we have yet to hear anybody clearly indicate precisely what is being investigated.
     
    In the letter to WWE today, things seemed very much tilted towards investigating steroids and performance enhancing drugs.
     
    In the media the past month, the debate has been more general, related to a "culture" of wrestling in which bad behavior and substance abuse are common, if not inevitable. This issue is, itself, two different issues, too, further clouding the waters of what is being discussed/investigated. There is (1) the issue of "therapeutic" drug abuse because of the rigors of the business, needing painkillers to work, needing drugs to get to sleep, others to wake up in the morning. And (2) the issue of just plain dumbass behavior, where guys can't go have a few drinks and hang out while bored and on the road, and instead, end up drinking 12 beers, getting coked up, and coaxing two under-aged ring-rats to their hotel rooms every single night because That's What Wrestlers Do.
     
    So not only does Congress clearly not have any real clue as to who they are investigating, they aren't even sure which of these three prongs they're investigating. Like I said: waste of money, waste of energy. If somebody wants to do some research, maybe consult me for about what the key issues really are, and then conduct a meaningful investigation instead of a PR Ploy, you'd have something... but as it stands: I just don't see it.
     
    The steroids/performance enhancing drugs prong doesn't hold much water because wrestling isn't real. Baseball *is* real, and what Barry Bonds is about to do was not scripted by C-level fine arts school grads, so you do want to know what's going on there. But no number of steroids will help you win a pro wrestling match. If they did, Chris F. Masters would be more over than Edge. And he isn't. He isn't even close.
     
    I grant that wrestling would be a lot more fun if Noted Male Physique Lover Vince McMahon would finally realize this and stop tacitly facilitating the Culture Of Big, but again: how you can say it's Congress' place to do so is beyond me.
     
    Of the other two prongs: you can't police adult men living on the road, so "investigating" WWE for having guys (many of them single) who like to enjoy themselves is not gonna get you anywhere. It's the other one that any serious investigator should focus on: any sort of pervasive trend towards irresponsible self-medication in the wrestling industry (and how that might exist as well in WWE).
     
    Nobody will deny that wrestling's a hard business, with bumps and bruises galore. If the injuries LEGITIMATELY get to the point where the only way a guy can get into the ring is with a half bottle of Vicodin in him, that's bad, and it's also something that can and SHOULD be changed. Because in this scenario, if a responsible employer stops asking his worker to get in the ring, you can instantly shift the focus of accountability. If the worker really was only doing something to get by, to keep working, then some sort of proper oversight on injuries and so forth would send that person home to rest and recover. And if they keep on abusing painkillers and muscle relaxers (and sleep aids, and pep pills), then they're exposed as liars and hypocrites who don't need such things to "get by." They just need an excuse to keep doing them.
     
    We'll see how this whole thing goes down. If I had to wager, I'd say WWE should turn up the documentation Congress wants, it basically reveals "Granted, we didn't do a whole lot before February 2006, but we're making a good faith effort now," and then common sense prevails and somebody realizes there is nothing nearly so insidious or unique here that it requires Congress' special attention.
     
    It won't mean the wrestling industry is "clean." But it will mean that people are convinced WWE is at least trying in their corner of said industry, and that even so, they can't be expected to babysit and coddle a roster full of grown-ups to make sure they're all doing the right thing.
     
    Think about it this way: if you're like me, you're vastly annoyed at Michael Vick right now. Mostly because HE WON'T FUCKING GET OFF MY TV SCREEN EVEN THOUGH I DON'T GIVE A SHIT. But also because he's dimwitted and probably of poor character if he gets off on jacked-up cockfighting (hell, his utter inability to turn his physical gifts into being a reliable quarterback also speak to some fundamental shortcomings on the mental/leadership side). Yet, no matter how pissed off you are, you're not blaming the Falcons for him doing what he did, even if they gave him the money and the means to do it.
     
    Oh, wait, I got a better one. Forget Vick and the Falcons.... LET'S CONGRESSIONALLY INVESTIGATE DISNEY~! Lohan got famous by doing remakes of ancient Disney movies like "Freaky Friday." And Britney's first job in show biz was as a Mousekateer. Clearly, something's fishy at the Magic Kingdom. This is all Michael Eisner's fault! Come on, Congress: let's hop to it.
     
    Anyway: let's all just hope I'm right, and this turns out to be a non-story once all is said and done. WWE can't police former employees and seems to be making at least a good faith effort with regards to their current ones. Which is more than you can say for most of the entertainment industry.
     
  • WWE's SummerSlam line-up is taking shape.... and contrary to what I wrote late last week, it looks like the card WON'T include the cast of "Jackass."
     
    Originally, it was slated to be a gimmicky sort of deal with Umaga squashing "Jackass," en masse. But last week (after posters/commercials/etc had already been sent out to cable/PPV distributors), the two sides came to an impasse.
     
    Concerned about bad publicity following the Benoit thing, Johnny Knoxville opted out. Several of his underlings would have been willing to go forward, but without Knoxville, WWE decided it wasn't worth it, and they, too, opted out. In a way, I guess that makes it a semi-mutual thing, but... well, at the root of it, the fact is that a guy whose made a career out of being a moron decided he'd look bad if he was associated with WWE. And that says a lot, folks. It says a lot.
     
    Now, you can look for an Umaga vs. Jeff Hardy gimmick match, instead, at SummerSlam. Is it too soon to make a joke about how I never thought something good would come out of Chris Benoit murdering his family? It is? OK, then, I go to Plan B, which is to joke that I never thought Johnny Knoxville's good taste and discretion would have a positive bearing on me.
     
    Also at SummerSlam: RAW's main event will be John Cena vs. Randy Orton, which is just the sort of thing WWE pulls out when they want dare me to stop watching. SD!'s main event will be Khali vs. Batista, which is -- if possible -- even less appealing.
     
    Triple H's return is also promised, though it's still unclear if it'll be for a match, or in some other capacity. It's obvious that he'll be plugged immediately into a feud with Current RAW MVP King Booker (who has been almost criminally awesome the past two weeks. But as hot as Booker is right now, and as hot as HHH will be upon his return, there's no reason to rush things. Letting Booker bide his time by smiting the pretender, King Lawler (and possibly other "royalty" figures from WWE's past, if you want to REALLY have some fun) while slow-burning the HHH/Booker match until September would certainly be do-able. As good as the Booker/HHH promos could be, that's another excuse to milk it.
     
    The wildcard as to SummerSlam: ECW. Johnny "Morrison" Nitro introduced a new "Fifteen Minutes of Fame" gimmick this week, in which anybody who can last 15 minutes in the ring with him will earn an ECW Title Shot. Needless to say, he squashed some hometown jobber in 15 seconds. But this new gimmick, combined with Morrison's new "Greatest ECW Champ Ever" shtick, creates some interesting possibilities, both long and short term.
     
    Long term, I'd love to see the bridges repaired, the negotiations done in good faith, and Rob Van Dam back in an ECW ring around January to start a WrestleMania run at "the best ECW champ ever." Short term, I got just two words for you: Mick Foley. For some reason, Mick seems to have a bug up his ass for "making" Nitro, and this would be as good a chance as any. Especially since WWE is doing TV tapings (including an SNME) in New York City in 2 weeks. Which is essentially as close to Foley's "hometown" as you can get.
     
    Just an idea....
     
  • WWE's TV ratings are not getting any better.
     
    This past Monday, they did a 3.4 cable rating for the third RAW in a row. If that doesn't pick up substantially next week, that means July 2007 will be the worst ratings month for RAW since September 2004 (which was "The Month of Orton").
     
    It may finally be time to ponder whether or not there really is something substantial going on with regards to "fringe" fan perception of WWE following the Benoit events. Monday's show was -- aside from the main event push for Orton -- actually a pretty solidly amusing one. But it might not matter if there are a few people on the edges of fandom who USED TO stop and watch if they flipped past wrestling, and who now see wrestling and keep on going because of the Benoit tragedy. Who knows? 
     
    Tuesday's ECW did another 1.3 rating, another relatively dreadful performance for the show. Making matters worse: ECW's dismal July ratings have come with a VERY strong lead-in from an original Sci-Fi Network show, which returned with new episodes a few weeks ago, and has been scoring ratings around 1.8-2.0. That's way stronger than previous ECW lead-ins, and yet, ECW's ratings have declined precipitously since the show (I think it's "Eureka"?) returned.  
     
    Last week's Impact did a 1.1, back up a tick after a week at 1.0. Word continues to be strong that it's inevitable that TNA will have 2 hours of TV time this fall, and it's looking more and more like it'll be 2 hours on Thursday nights on Spike, as Spike has announced plans to move all UFC programming to Wednesdays. Previously, Spike considered UFC/TNA to be complimentary products, and showed them together when possibly on Thursdays. Shifting UFC/Ultimate Fighter stuff to Wednesdays opens up the 10pm hour for more TNA on Thursdays.
     
    With the jump to 2 hours imminent, there is also a lot of buzz about roster expansions that TNA will make. For one, they intend to build up a women's division to help fill up 5-10 minutes per week. And as far as free agents go, a lot of people think it's a "when?" and not an "if?" in regards to bringing back Sabu.
     
    Finally, last Friday's SD! did a 2.6 rating, which ain't no great shakes, but it's holding ground better than either RAW or ECW. Considering last week's show was heavily hyped and known to involve a World Title change, the number still has to be considered a bit of a disappointment, though.
     
  • TNA's signature October PPV, Bound For Glory, is slated to take place in Atlanta, after initial plans to hold the event in Chicago fell through. The arena they are running is the Gwinnett Center, which WWE has sometimes used in recent years and which has a capacity of like 12,000 people. Either TNA is feeling mighty industrious, or they'll be figuring out a way to scale the building for more like 5000-6000 fans, which would be on par with what they've shown they can draw for PPVs in markets like Detroit and St. Louis.
     
  • A couple surgery updates:
     
    Edge did end up having surgery to repair his pectoral muscle/tendon late last week in Birmingham, AL. The damage was even more severe than originally thought, but the time table for recovery remains 4-5 months. In other words: right around the New Year.
     
    And Konnan had a successful kidney transplant earlier this week, and is on the road to recovery. Next up for him: a legal battle with TNA over who owes who money (since TNA believes they should be repaid for surgery Konnan had while on their payroll, as TNA footed the bill with some sort of understanding that they'd be allowed to garnishee his wages; of course, you can't garnishee the wages of somebody who quit the company).
     
  • WWE has released Rene Dupree. Dupree had been projected as a big part of the new ECW last summer, but he's been something of a backstage problem child, with wellness issues and more. I didn't mind the guy's work, and at the very least, thought he was a no-brainer for use in the tag division, doing various iterations of "La Resistance." But it seems WWE's finally had enough of the guy. 
     
    I think they guy's only like 23, so that leaves him plenty of time, if so motivated, to get his act together, improve his game, and come on back when he's better prepared to take advantage of the opportunity.
     
    WWE has also officially announced the signing of Ted DiBiase Jr. He's reporting to FCW in Florida for training, and unlike some of these other young bucks (Dupree included) who get signed very young, he's supposed a good kid and won't amaze you with flamboyant douchebaggery like your Ortons, Teddy Harts, or even (to a lesser extent) your Cody Rhodeses.
     
  • WWE has announced plans for SmackDown! to go High Definition in January 2008. The move is going to be a slight rush job, as WWE's internal plans were to roll out their HD production in April 2008 (commensurate with WrestleMania).
     
    However, the CW network has made a big to-do over their entire fall schedule being hi-def. With that one glaring exception of SD!... so to split the difference, WWE will take SD! hi-def about 4 months early. If nothing else, it gives them that time to address and fix any problems before going HD with PPVs and their flagship RAW brand.
     
    On a personal note: if you care deeply and passionately about this newsbite, we cannot be friends. Seriously: who in their right mind gives a shit about the difference between hi-def and regular-def? I'm not saying "doesn't notice".... I'm saying "gives a shit." It's fricking TV. If I want to see individual blades of grass in scintillating clarity, I'm not gonna watch a football game in HD... I'll just go mow my fucking lawn. Some people, it seems, really have too much time on their hands if these are the things that plumpen their wangs.
     
    To help you have some perspective about this news, I will also add the following three words. Snitsky. In. Hi-def.
     
    Blargh.
     
  • I think that'll do it for today. Yes, I know I promised John Cena Championship Domination Statistics in this column, but guess what? I just kept compiling and compiling, and some interesting things came up, and now I think the discussion of Superman Cena's 28 month reign of one-sidedness will be best handled as a stand-alone feature, instead of as a throw-away bullet point.
     
    So don't go forgetting that Cena has been champion for 100 of the past 117 weeks, and that nobody (not even HHH at his worst) is anywhere NEAR matching that since Hogan held the belt for 4 straight years in the mid-80s. Keep rolling it around in your brain, pondering its significance.
     
    And at some point in the next week or so, I'll drop some mad science on your ass.
     
    Till then, be well, 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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