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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
Four Brands Assessed, WM24 Stuff, Comings,
Goings, TV News, and Orton Tops Himself! 
January 10, 2008

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

So. How's everybody been the past month? I trust the holidays treated you well, and that we're all now as ready as we can be to ride into wrestling's 2008 together.
 

I was pondering the little break we took; specifically, the issue of the best or most memorable thing to happen whilst I was away (or at least the one thing that I most missed not having a chance to write about during the orgy of family and festivities and so forth)... what I realized is this:

The best thing in wrestling during the last month was the

RAW 15th Anniversary Special.

Which means WWE has now sunk to the same sort of creative depths as The Simpsons. Because it sure seems like week in and week out, nobody's bothering to have any particularly compelling ideas, but there's still that one time per year when the stars align, and things are as good and as fun as they ever were. In the case of the Simpsons, that's the annual Halloween episode. In the case of WWE, it's RAW's anniversary.

And what's sad about that is that in neither case do the shows really "count." In one case, Willie can die three times and everything's back to normal the next week; in the other case, Steph and HHH can be cutesy about their real life relationship and half the segments can be "winkwink nudgenudge" tributes to past storylines and characters, but none of it matters. It's not "canon."

But it sure as hell was entertaining. That entertainment was both refreshing and a little bit sad. I know I was just non-stop grinning for three hours at the reminder of how much fun I've had watching wrestling over the years; but it didn't take long afterwards for the melancholy realization to set in that we'd probably not be getting another show like that for a long, long time (at least a year, by definition).

So anyway: I'm sort of sorry I didn't get a chance to do a better job showcasing one of WWE's rare hands-down, kick-ass performances before things settled down for a few weeks of holiday distractions, water-treading shows, special recap broadcasts, TNA's continually exploring new ways to shoot itself in the foot, and so forth. But here we are, now, in 2008, and it's time to get caught up and oriented for what lies ahead.

Here goes:

  • If there's one fairly noteworthy story from the second half of December, it's the fact that Edge is once again the World Heavyweight Champion on SmackDown!... 
     
    He accomplished this by winning a three-way match over Batista and the Undertaker at Armageddon. Along the way, he required the services of two dudes dressed identically to him. Formerly the Major Brothers, they have continued their Edge-homagery and do his bidding. They have also gotten gimmick make-overs, as they have admitted they are not brothers, and are going by their "real" names. Which are not their real names at all, but new gimmick names that force one to believe that both were born to parents in the early 80s who owned the book "Gender-Neutral Baby Names For Upper Class Parents Who Want Their Child To Grow Up To Be Either an Obnoxious Bitch or a Horrifying Douchebag."
     
    Making the new "real" names doubly stupid: the PROPER move with these two is to have them adopt new names to impress Edge. I vote they should be known as Verge and Fringe, and be done with it.
     
    Edge is also relying on "the love of his life," Vickie Guerrero, to help him duck his most serious opposition. As SD! General Manager, Vickie has pulled strings here and there, and as a result, Edge has yet to face the Undertaker in a legit one-on-one match. Because -- duh -- that's the one they are saving for WrestleMania. In the meantime, Rey Mysterio has stepped in as Edge's temporary #1 Contender at the Royal Rumble, for a match that has no reason not to be really good, but which also has that all-too-common stink of inevitability on it. And honestly: who among us likes it when there's really only one possible outcome?
     
    Other than that, SD!'s been even less "must-see-able" than usual, lately, due mostly to the loss of their bankable #2 storyline between MVP and Matt Hardy. It's unclear when that will resume, as Hardy's emergency appendectomy is a way scarier thing than 99% of you out there realize. My brother had the same basic thing happen to him (appendix went explodey while still inside him), and he was hospitalized for weeks and not back to full power for months. I believe Matt was even REhospitalized a week after he was sent home to be pumped full of another emergency batch of antibiotics, so....
     
    While this has stalled MVP's slow rise up the Credibility Continuum (it's been about a year now, and he's finally JBL'ing his way into being taken seriously, after the fact), it's been cool to see Jamie Noble step in and provide the show's Heel Entertainment, as he tries (with increasing success) to lure Michelle McCool away from Chuck Palumbo. But seriously, that's about the only non-Edge-related thing on SD! worth investing your time into.
     
    Ratings for SD! have been... well, they've been pretty much exactly what they've been for months now: fluctuating within a narrow (and barely statistically significant) range between 2.6 and 2.9. Which ain't any great shakes, but for the CW and on Fridays, nobody's gonna complain. Especially now as networks are running out of first-run material due to the writer's strike.
     
  • RAW's situation mirrors SD!'s, at least on top. They are currently toying with a cute little temporary title feud that will have absolutely zero bearing on WrestleMania (where there are only three men under consideration for the RAW headliner spot: Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista; and yes, you may now die a little bit on the inside pondering that factoid).
     
    What's kind of surprising is that Jeff Hardy is making a serious go of his little #1 Contender run. I mean: to the point of him being at least as credible a choice for champion as Mantard Randy Orton. Jeff benefited first from the nicely-handled and understated story where he won the #1 Contendership from Triple H, and he's now melding that with more spot-on performances (including a "holy shit" no-looking Whisper in the Wind off the top of a steel cage onto Umaga this week).
     
    In his career, Jeff's been a one-dimensional high-spot artists, a personal demon fighter, and a half-assed and undermotivated TNA star. Many (myself included) assumed that if either of the Hardys hit it big, it'd be Matt. Well: guess again. The prancing, fingernail-polish-wearing, shitty-poetry-writing fruitcake is healthy, motivated, and hugely over with audiences. Jeff Hardy, I daresay, has Gravitas for the first time in his career.
     
    [In fact, I'll go so far as to say that if somebody handed me the reigns of WWE today, the only way I could see to squeeze any lemonade out of the bushel of rancid citrus they call a roster in time for WrestleMania would be to use Triple H vs. Jeff Hardy as the WWE Title Match, continuing the logical and slow-burning storyline of HHH's growing respect for Jeff's abilities and growing annoyance that Jeff's abilities are resulting in no title shots for Hunter. And it has the added bonus of being able to use both Shawn Michaels and Matt Hardy on the side and in post-WM stories: DX vs. Hardys? Matt supporting Jeff, but becoming annoyed after (or at?) WM that Jeff didn't do the same for Matt in Matt's feud with MVP? Cool stuff, and all with the added benefit of none of it asking fans to pretend to give a shit about the Black Hole of Compelling that is Randy Orton.]
     
    Anyway: Hardy vs. Orton at the Rumble, and sadly, it, too, reeks of inevitability.
     
    After the similarities on the top line, RAW becomes quite different from SD! underneath, even if just because of roster depth and the live "sizzle factor." You've got reasonable compelling second-tier issues involving Triple H and Ric Flair (and recently, William Regal has gotten into that same mix), as Vince McMahon is trying to keep HHH from the title and trying to retire Flair. When GM Regal tried to influence things by attacking HHH (thus keeping him out of the Rumble, but allowing Flair's career to continue), he only served to upset Vince, who is basically acting batshit insane every week. Sometimes, this works. Sometimes, it doesn't.
     
    I'm still trying to decide how I feel about Jericho vs. JBL. On one hand, the two have already provided one lengthy clinic in how to construct a promo (and no doubt have it in them to repeat this feat). On the other hand: the feud short-circuited Jericho's chances for main event relevance by side-tracking him into a feud with a fricking announcer. Worse: the "storytelling" that set up the Jericho/JBL feud was one of the worst examples of WWE's writer monkeys being a bunch of retards who have no concept about the importance of having characters behave consistently and in a fashion that normal, thinking people can relate to. JBL doing what he did wasn't consistent, it wasn't relateable, it wasn't sensical, it was just a case of lazy writers letting their work scream "THIS IS THE PRODUCT OF A WRITTEN SCRIPT, NOT EVEN A VERY GOOD ONE, AND BEARS NO RESEMBLANCE TO REALITY." I hate that.
     
    Luckily, they saved it a bit with the follow-up promo, which was gold. If WWE are smart (HA!), this feud should -- in all future video packages -- cease to be about JBL's puppet-like random interference in Jericho's match, and instead be about that promo where Jericho infuriated JBL by pointing out his basic irrelevance. On Jericho's side, he's "saving us" from an insecure bully (oh, how I'd love to see a soap-raping reference worked into one of the promos). On JBL's side, he's trying to prove (to himself, if no one else) that he's not irrelevant and is, in fact, still a Wrestling God. We'll see how it goes. Adding to my uncertainty: it's not like JBL exactly has a track record of having good matches... other than some gimmicky brawls and one or two surprising showings against Kurt Angle, JBL's lucky to approximate adequacy. And I still marvel at how hard he had to work to have sucky matches against Benoit.
     
    So there you have it: SD! has one major issue that commands a 15-plus minute segment every week. RAW has 3 or 4 of them (they do seem to be "resting" the Flair/retirement angle every other week, which is probably a good idea). And that's without even moving down the card to see what Santino Marella is up to (which, lately, is a tag team with Carlito, which works for me, especially the sooner it spells the end of Bob F. Holly being half of the tag champs). Or checking in on the women's division (which remains delightfully Candice-free, though she's now recovered and poised to once again befoul our TV screens in time for the Super Bowl; thanks for nothing, GoDaddy). Or enjoying various midget-related antics (which sometimes suck, but which also sometimes involve Mick Foley and Finlay, both of whom I enjoy very much; a Finlay/Regal tag team could also be an interesting side effect of Regal running afoul of Vince).
     
    On the ratings front, RAW continues to be the only wrestling show with any real volatility in its numbers. After several consecutive weeks right at or around 3.5, RAW dropped to a 3.2 on December 3, but bounced up HUGE for the 15th Anniversary show on December 10 (doing a 4.4 rating in its usual 2-hour slot, its largest audience in years; counting the lower-rating Bonus Hour, it was a 4.1 for the three-hour telecast). But as indicated in the PreRamble, it was pretty easy to tell that the pure awesomeness of the anniversary show was not to be duplicated, so things were back to a 3.5 the next week.
     
    Shows on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve did 2.5 and 2.6, respectively, which aren't really useful or illustrative numbers (though, if anything, they're slightly higher than I might have guessed). What is illustrative is the fact that this week's RAW only bounced back to a paltry 3.2, despite the fact that the BCS Title game was a blow-out (and down substantially in the ratings versus last year). January has been a strong ratings month for WWE that past few years, but they aren't exactly kicking off 2008 in style...

    I continue to blame Randy Orton. And if you've been following along, you know I have the numbers to back me up.
     
  • Let's see... feels like I'm kind of doing a brand-by-brand fly-by, here, catching you folks up on my thoughts and key developments regarding the different TV shows. So: how's about ECW?
     
    You know, a month or so ago, I would have made a snippy joke and moved on without saying a word about the cesspool that is WWE's D-show. But there be signs of life here!
     
    With only one hour of TV time per week and limited opportunities to fill out PPV cards, ECW doesn't need depth to entertain. They just need to give champ CM Punk something interesting to do, and try not to have the rest of the show suck.
     
    Regarding CM Punk, here are two things that have happened in the last month that should make any relatively discriminating wrestling fan perk up:
     
    (1) Shelton Benjamin was traded to ECW, and has adopted a new attitude in which he is an unstoppable wrestling machine. A little bit less jumpy and flippy, and a little bit more punish-your-opponent, but it works. As Shelton's career rehab takes effect, he is CM Punk's long-term nemesis, and the guy who can reasonably take the title from Punk and have a series of outstanding matches with Punk.
     
    (2) Chavo Guerrero has returned from suspension/injury/contract issues, and decided to insert himself as CM Punks SHORT term nemesis. This is also promising from an in-ring perspective, and has the added benefit of Chavo's mic skills to keep things crackling.
     
    The less said about the rest of the show, the better. But if this is what's on CM Punk's plate, ECW will be worth observing for the foreseeable future. Which is a far cry from the painfully awful stretch where fricking VISCERA was their #1 heel. I still say that was such a mind-bogglingly moronic idea that it could only have been a demented revenge plot by Vince McMahon. At King of the Ring 1995, Vince did the unfathomable and made immobile fat rapper guy Mabel the "King." The live crowd in Philadelphia shat all over this, and once it became clear that Mabel was winning, entertained themselves by chanting "ECW, ECW, ECW" over top of the WWF's KotR Final. Twelve years later, Mabel is now Viscera (well, he's actually "Big Daddy V"), and Vince is shoving it in all your stupid faces: "You want to chant E-C-Dub during a Viscera match? Well, be my guest, losers! MUWHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHA!".
     
    ECW's not as bad as it has been, but ratings don't really reflect that. Barely-significant fluctuations between 1.2 and 1.4 are what you can count on every week...
     
  • Which brings us to TNA, which by virtue of never deviating from either a 1.1 or a 1.0 can continue to tell itself within striking distance of ECW. Actually, two (maybe three?) weeks ago, depending on your sources and temperament, TNA did a rating that some chose to round up to a 1.2. ECW, luckily for them, did a 1.3 that week.
     
    So: what's happened in TNA in the past month since I gave a fairly glowing review of their top storylines? Not a whole lot. Which is kind of a problem, since it leaves me feeling annoyed that TNA's wasted so much of my time with what amounts to "nothing interesting."
     
    If I didn't know better, I'd say that TNA is absolutely clueless as to why some of the things they do work. I think they know WHEN some of the things they do work. But then, like an attention-starved 4-year-old, instead of contemplating the "why" in order to arrive at useful information, they just repeat the exact same thing (often in even more flamboyant fashion, just in case anybody would dare to get bored with this tried and true act) until nobody could possibly give a crap.
     
    By the way: the one thing that really needs to stop in TNA is the shittily-produced remote pre-tapes. As if it wasn't already obnoxious enough that TNA basically re-shot the exact same script from their Thanksgiving show for their Christmas show (right down to convoluted and under-whelming main event that ends with AJ Styles wearing silly costume), they even recreated the pitiable awfulness of the Thanksgiving show's remote shoot at "Kurt Angle's house." They also did the exact same thing with "New Year's at AJ Style's Grandparents' house."
     
    The formula for these things seems to be: (1) schedule the skits for no fewer than 12 different segments over the course of the show. (2) have only 3 actually-good jokes/gags. (3) supplement with 9 bits that no self-respecting 12-year-old would laugh at. And (4) hand the raw footage over to a mentally-enfeebled editor whose sole experience is in Cable Access TV so that the final product has all the High Quality Sound And Smooth Edits of a baboon splicing the video together with scissors and scotch tape. I mean, TNA's editing is pretty shitty on a weekly basis, but on these remotes? Christ almighty....
     
    Other than that, TNA's biggest crimes in the "doing the same things that somehow amounts to doing nothing" kind of involve Samoa Joe and AJ Styles, in my opinion. In the case of the former, there just seem to be opportunities upon opportunities for TNA to do SOMEthing with Joe, and those opportunities pass, and water is treaded until the next time TNA falls ass-backwards into a chance to do something with Joe. In this latest case, Scott Hall's unreliability meant backing into a new edge for Joe's character that has promptly gone stale in a grand total of six weeks because TNA didn't cash in on it promptly. On last night's show, they maybe seemed to tweak things in a direction I'd like, as Kevin Nash verbally undressed Joe and basically told him "You can keep whining like a brat, or you can listen to my advice and be a star." And then, a patented Nash Moment so spot-on that I seriously doubt it was written by one of TNA's monkeys, as he handed Joe a bat, turned his back, and when Joe said "I could fucking kill you," Nash just kept walking out the door, smirking, and says, "Yeah, but you won't." And Joe didn't. In my mind, you have a clear plan in place, and this could develop into a more serious version of the "Coach Nash" gimmick that played so well last year... in TNA's mind, I suspect they're making it up as they go along, will gauge reactions to the bit, and then, if people like it, they'll just keep doing the same fucking thing instead of taking a chance with moving forward to the NEXT logical thing.
     
    Which is exactly what's happened with AJ Styles, whose dynamic with Christian/Tomko/Angle I declared to be "gold" just last month. But in that time, it's lost luster, and I think it's because of how well it worked, and TNA deciding "Shit, we stumbled upon something cool. We better milk it and milk it and milk it for as long as we can, because if we move forward, we'll probably just fuck it up." I mean, there's letting a story play out slowly and over time, and then there's just going out of your way to have nothing happen. Or maybe I'm just salty over that cosmically-terrible "AJ Styles hiding at his grandparents'" thing. I dunno. But I do think that what was working in this dynamic was the little things, the subtle things; and when you're playing it that way (a casual backstage conversation here, a long-suffering eyeball roll from Tomko there, Karen Angle being the MILFiest little tart on TV the other), THAT's when the slow-burn works. But the past month, TNA's done big-ass fireworks involving Styles/Angle/Christian on TV and PPV that still end up putting us basically back where we started. And that just doesn't feel right. That feels like I'm getting jerked around.
     
    And it doesn't help matters that I've got this feeling that in so far as TNA actually has any ideas for where to go next, they involve AJ Styles dropping the borderline-retarded naive goofball vibe to suddenly morph into "His Own Man," complete with deadly serious title aspirations and indepedent attitude that just clash violently with his low-gravitas demeanor/accent/etc.... it's a character shift that CAN be made and certainly should be on the table as a long term consideration, but I have this deep-seated fear that TNA thinks they can just flip a switch, have Styles stand up to both Angle and Christian, and suddenly, the stuttering southern-fried goof is supposed to be every bit as bad ass as Triple H. No sale.
     
    What else is new in TNA? Ummm: Petey Williams is back on TV, albeit with a new look that makes him 20% less mobile in the ring and 100% less likely to be able to pass a Wellness Test should he ever want a job in WWE.... the New Age Outlaws are back to having prickly heat, which can only mean we are 17 months away from resolution to this storyline (3 Live Kru, anybody?) and one month past the point of anybody giving a shit.... the X Division has become a trainwreck (is proximity to the Dudleys coincidence, or cause and effect?)... the tag division, on the other hand, is shaping up nicely, and the women's division is kicking ass (TNA's recipe for success: hire trained wrestlers, instead of vapid models, including cherry-picking the best of WWE's cast-offs)... and somebody, somewhere, apparently thinks Booker T came to TNA in order to "make" Robert Roode; as such, Booker has become irrelevant a mere 2 months into his TNA career. Yee haw.
     
    I think that's about it. Thus endeth the Four Brand Month-Long Mop-Up....
     
  • As we move onto individual backstage news items rather than general discussions of each brand's direction, I guess we can start with some comings and goings....
     
    In terms of TNA, it's mostly "goings." Last month, both Ron Killings and Senshi got their releases from the company. It was basically a deal where TNA tried to address their on-going morale problems by saying "if you don't want to be here, then we'll let you walk." Both have had less-than-stellar opinions of TNA, both have walked or threatened to walk before, and both got out of dodge when the opportunity presented itself.
     
    In Killings' case, he was last lured back to TNA because (a) Vince Russo likes him and thought he could finagle a push for Killings and (b) there was the chance of being in the middle of the high profile Pacman Jones storyline before Pacman flaked out. Killiings was back to having nothing to do and no particular faith in the company to change that. Upon his departure, he made veiled website/myspace references that led some of his fans to suspect Killings will return to WWE.
     
    In Senshi's case, he's just wrestling's biggest humorless twat (tm, The Rick). This is about the fourth time he's left TNA, and for all we know, he'll come back again later this year for a few months before once again getting all indignant that he is not being properly respected as the true master of his craft that he is. This time around, Senshi "did business" on the way out. working that week's TV tapings, jobbing his ass off, and at least partially helping to fix the "Reunion of Triple X" storyline that he exploded by deciding to leave.
     
    Additionally, Chris Harris' TNA contract either has expired or will expire next week, and has given people the impression he's already locked into a WWE deal. Huh. Good for him, I guess. Problem is, as good as America's Most Wanted were as a team, James Storm has clearly made himself the Shawn Michaels of the pair, and Harris is the Marty Jannetty. I have no idea what Harris brings to the table on his own (especially in WWE, where he has no history), and would have wagered a good amount WWE wouldn't pursue him, and that he'd realize his value is in TNA, where fans know him and where an AMW reunion is always just a random booking decision away. We shall have to see how this one turns out....
     
  • In the case of WWE, our discussion is mostly of "comings" (get your heads out of the gutters, perverts!), and specifically, returns from injury.
     
    Diva Search Ashley returned on Monday from her ankle issues (and her stint on "Survivor"). Yippee? It only gets better, as Candice Michelle is also gonna be back by the end of the month, and since WWE hasn't exactly done anything to create compelling storylines/feuds in the women's division the past 2 months, I'd guess she'll walk right back into a title match against Beth Phoenix. Ugh.
     
    Bobby Lashley is basically cleared to return, and it's now just a matter of figuring out what to do with him. When he left, he was on RAW. Returning to RAW for the logical feud with Kennedy seems to make sense, but there is talk that Lashley's may be used elsewhere to bolster one of the other rosters.
     
    John Cena got some good news in his last examination: he's ahead of schedule on his shoulder rehab. There's still no way he's back by WrestleMania, but it shouldn't be too far into the summer before he's back. Which beats the pants off of him being out till October.
     
    I guess we should also address a couple other "possible comings" that are more just rumors stemming from the 15th Anniversary RAW....
     
    First, Tammy "Sunny" Sytch impressed many (including my wang) with her appearance on the show, and has done a few interviews since (including with WWE.com) stating that it is now her mission to get back with WWE and properly finish out what started off as such a promising career. I'm all for it; you can never have too many chicks who are good at stuff other than looking good hanging around.
     
    And secondly, the shocker of the night at the anniversary show was Rob Van Dam showing up to wrestle. It was kept ultra-secret, it was a killer "whoa! holy shit" moment on a night where more laid back "comfort" moments were the norm, and it got people talking about possible implications. Well, in reality, it doesn't seem like a whole lot has changed since RVD left in May: Johnny Ace remains an insecure, incompetent buttmonkey, but others in WWE would LOVE to have RVD back on board. What happened at the anniversary show was those others in the front office reaching out to RVD, RVD deciding to accept, and not much more. I guess you could characterize it as "lines of cummunication remaining open," if you wanted to be optimistic. It also (to me, anyway) solidifies the feeling that RVD is following in Jericho's footsteps in terms of not really considering TNA as an option. He knows where his legacy is, and he knows the size of the stage he deserves to perform upon. And until he decides of a comeback is a good idea, a friendly relationship with WWE (and perhaps these sporadic brief cameos) won't hurt a damned thing.
     
  • One "going" for WWE, while I'm thinking of it: if you're wondering why Trevor Murdoch teamed with Charlie Haas (and his new Blue-Blazer-esque "putting a mask on and pretending to be somebody else" shtick) on Monday, it's because Lance Cade suffered a shoulder injury last week.
     
    Cade's probably gonna miss on the order of 2 months, which gums up what passes for the tag division on RAW... Bob Holly and Cody Rhodes pretty much blow, but the best option (London and Kendrick) are fellow babyfaces. Thus, you see why I mentioned above that I'm a fan of Carlito and Santino getting together. If we can patch things up so that it's Sanlito vs. Londrick in time for WrestleMania, that'd be OK by me.
     
  • Speaking of WrestleMania, we're pretty much on the Road to There. The fabled "Rumble-to-Mania" corridor is upon us... with WWE axing both the December to Dismember and New Year's Revolution PPVs, we're in the middle of an unusual 6-week stretch without a PPV, and at some level, that results in even MY appetite being whet for the Best Part of the Wrestling Year.
     
    The problem is, whatever part of me does have that interest in the Royal Rumble, I can't help but look ahead to WrestleMania 24 and wonder what in the blue hell I'm supposed to get excited about. I mean, normally, there's something to really hang your hat on, something that's long building, something that's not been done before, something that's deserving of the grandest stage of all. But this year: yeah, Taker and Edge should tear shit up, but they'll be doing it second from the top, and there's a 95% likelihood that Randy Orton's going to be involved in the headliner.
     
    That's not to say I haven't done my usual thing of spending a few late nights around the holidays scheming up Fantasy Booking Ideas for WM... but it does mean that, moreso than in any past year, the ideas I have are utterly divergent from Current WWE Think and would be considered not-feasible under thair current paradigm. That sucks the fun out of it.
     
    Why do anything cool when you can have Orton in the main event? When you can put your best match on second-to-last just to underscore how bad Orton is? When you can fill half the Money in the Bank match up with dead-weight, guys who aren't over, and really only 1 or 2 options to win? And so forth...
     
    You want a quick taste of what I'd do? No? Well, takei it anyway! My four anchor matches:
     
    (1) Taker vs. Edge goes on as the headliner. Duh. "The Streak" is as important as the title; the convergence of those two things and Edge's ability to talk smack should make this pure gold.
     
    (2) Triple H vs. Jeff Hardy (WWE Title). Hardy wins the title from Orton at the Rumble, and everybody is stunned. Orton is dispatched after one obligatory rematch, and HHH saunters into the picture playing a tweener all the way to WM. He can play off the idea that he and Jeff respect each other one minute, and give off the vibe that he thinks Jeff and his little title reign are cute and inconsequential the next. As mentioned above, Michaels and Matt can exist on the fringes, and although I expect the "hardcore" crowd of fans at WM to treat Trips like a conquering bad-ass babyface, he'll be pure tweener and all options will be open for his heel/face standing coming out of the show. Instead of the WWE Title match sucking the air out of the room (as it would with Orton), this one would actually stand a chance of stealing the show from Taker/Edge, which only pushes them that much harder to top it. 
     
    (3) VERY SPECIAL MONEY IN THE BANK JERICHO INVITATIONAL~! On the Monday after the Rumble, the "Highlight Reel" returns, and Jericho announces that the distraction from JBL has sidetracked him from his REAL goal, which is to win the WWE Title. When he should have been following up on his victory over the WWE Champ, he toyed with JBL instead of getting rematches or entering the Rumble match. So, to get back on track, Jericho announces the return of the very match he created three years ago: The Money In The Bank Ladder Match. Except this ain't your daddy's MitB Match. This is Jericho v2.0, this is 2008, baby, and everything's bigger and better. As such, Jericho announces a special stipulation for this year's MitB Match: it is open exclusively to men who have held a recognized World Title (at this point, he should mug for the camera and mutter "Sorry, Christian" HA~!). If you're a former world champ, if you aren't otherwise wrestling at WM24, all you have to do is announce your desire, and you're in. This will result in a drawn out process of entries (some more surprising than others, and with ample opportunities to do "joke" entires like Bob Backlund or David Arquette), but all from guys who will either be massively over or credible potential winners. No dead weight. No anvils. Just 100% drama and action.
     
    My ideal line-up: Jericho. JBL (to keep Jericho/JBL simmering, and also to give us at least one pure heel in the mix). Shawn Michaels (can be hyped as his first WM Ladder Match since THE Ladder Match). Rey Mysterio. Bobby Lashley (TNA doesn't count, but ECW does). Randy Orton (he's gotta work somewhere on the card, here, his suck is masked by others). Ken Kennedy (his pairing with Lashley adds an extra layer, and he can talk his way into the match by saying he is a former MitB Winner, who didn't get a chance at a World Title because the MitB title shot was stolen from him). And the coup de grace: I pay Rob Van Dam a princely sum of money to come in and be a surprise entrant who steals the whole f'n show. Best Money in the Bank Ever! EVER~!
     
    (4) Ric Flair vs. Sting. You read that right. Sting. The "vince retiring Flair" angle plays through to WM, with Vince doing a gimmick where he finds ways to force Flair's best friends to fight him and try to retire him. It already started with Triple H. Maybe it continues on with Batista (where it could jump-start a much needed heel turn). But it doesn't work, and Vince starts going increasingly into Flair's past. Dust off Terry Funk for a one-week throwaway. Ricky Steamboat's backstage every week: use him. A deal with Arn Anderson could go over huge. In no cases do the matches need to be epic (or even 3 minutes long), but they're good for cheap pops and they set the stage for Vince bringing in Sting. On the exact 20th anniversary of the night Flair "made" Sting's career (in a killer 45 minute match at the first Clash of the Champions,  head-to-head with WrestleMania 4), Sting will try to end Flair's.  It could work, it really could (although I admit this is also my one "take all my fantasy wanker implausible ideas and cram them all into one match/feud so if it doesn't happen you could still have a viable WM card" match).
     
    Rounding out the card: Matt Hardy vs. MVP (US Title, and again with the subtext of Matt FINALLY getting his sweet sweet vengeance on MVP, only to be overshadowed by his little brother)...  Batista (over to RAW as part of the Flair story) vs. Umaga in the finals of an InterContinental Title Tournament (to fill the title vacated by WWE Champ Jeff Hardy).... CM Punk vs. Shelton Benjamin (ECW Title, Hardcore Rules).... Vince/Shane McMahon vs. Finlay/Hornswoggle (finally putting an end to that nonsense, once and for all)...  Beth Phoenix vs. Maria (Women's Title, with Special Referee Santino, who has since broken up with Maria as a result of "Playboy"; more on that below).... Morrison/Miz vs. Jesse/Festus vs. Noble/Wang vs. Verge/Fringe (the Edgeheads) for the SD! Tag Titles... and the Rick-Patented "Every Non-Wrestling Diva in a Swimsuit/Lingerie/Wet-T-Shirt/Bowl-of-Pudding/Whatever" filler match.
     
    I'd take that show. If only WWE gave me the chance. But I won't. Instead of a show packed with goodness and with a few purposely-designed "holes" to allow for some silliness or to "rest the crowd," I look ahead to WM expecting a show full of holes with only sporadic reasons to get excited.
     
    Oh well: none of that affected ticket sales. Tickets went on sale a few weeks ago, and in the first day, the vast majority of seats were gone. I think WWE moved about 50,000 tickets that day. The configuration of the Orange Bowl is still up in the air, so it's unknown exactly how many seats there will be (probably between 55,000 and 70,000), though this puts WWE well on the way to a certain sell-out. Even without an announced card. Or even without prospects for a good one.
     
  • A couple of things that play into my above Fantasy Booking: 
     
    First, the WrestleMania tradition of having a WWE Diva in Playboy during March will continue, and apparently, it will be Maria this year. Mmmmm. Granted, I've not been a big fan of what Playboy does to perfectly attractive women (the exception might be the Torrie Wilson year, but only because several of her pictures were in a shower, and I do admit to liking my women moist)... but this is the first time WWE has pimped out a non-plastic diva to Hef, so maybe Maria will get slightly different treatment and slightly more wang-plumpening results?
     
    I know this much: when the issue comes out and you fine readers send me the pictures without me having to pay for them, I will look.
     
    In addition to having an interest in the pictorial, the part of me that isn't my wang is kinda excited about this for another reason. His name: Santino Marella. If ever there was a character (and a performer) custom made for the "controlling, jealous boyfriend," it's him. Maria is also dead-on perfect as the innocent, naive sweetheart/dimwit who doesn't understand what the big deal is with everybody getting to see her naked. It could be perfect, and if it leads to Santino getting into a an hilarious relationship with Beth Phoenix (in which Santino totally believes he's wearing the pants, but that ain't how it really is), well bonus. I think the statute of limitations is up on the Eddie/Chyna thing, right?
     
    So on the whole: I guess this is just about the most exciting news in the category of "divas removing their clothes" that I can imagine. Well: not exactly. But I'm pretty sure the one with Molly Holly in my bedroom ain't ever gonna happen, so after years of pretending to care about your Ashleys and Candices in Playboy, I'll settle for this news.
     
  • And then there's the matter of Sting. Two things have happened on that front in the last month. (1) Sting's contract with TNA expired, and no renewal has yet been signed. And (2) WWE announced they they will produce a 3-disc DVD retrospective on Sting to be released in the 4th quarter of 2008.
     
    It becomes a simple matter, then, to speculate if the two are connected. Sting is highly respected in the business, and it's unlikely WWE has any desire to do an Ultimate Warrior-style smear-job on him by producing a DVD without his participation. [Note: on the other hand, a DVD set about Randy Savage is also forthcoming this year, and IS expected to be at least part smear job.] On TNA's side, they actually want Sting back, but if he's decided the career is just about over, he may have decided 2008 is the year he starts cementing his legacy. And WWE owns that legacy.
     
    Obviously, what I did was take the next logical step and go from "Sting works with WWE to produce his DVDs" to "Sting may be willing to work a special attraction match here or there en route to getting the proper send-off that TNA could never give him." But it's not something that's as implausible as you might have thought a month or two ago...
     
  • A little wrinkle WWE is adding on the Road to WrestleMania this year: an Elimination Chamber match at the February No Way Out PPV. Advance advertising seems to suggest that -- like the Rumble match -- this will be to determine a #1 Contender for WrestleMania. 
     
    Looking at the proposed 6-man line-up for the match (which is heavy on RAW, but does include Batista), my guess is Taker wins the Rumble, and the Chamber is used to solidify RAW's WM main event. But who knows? Sometimes advance advertising lies. Or rather: sometimes, WWE changes its mind.
     
  • As officially announced Monday night, WWE is going HD in 2 weeks. Originally, they planned to roll out hi-def for WrestleMania, but pressure from the CW Network pushed the schedule up, and now they're ready to go this month.
     
    In the immortal words of Bob Pollard, "I wish I could give a shit, just a little bit." But I don't. I am more than capable of detecting the difference between HD and Regular D, but as stated multiple times in the past, I cannot fathom a reason to get all hard and tingly about said difference. If you be a member of the videophile subculture, and this butters your corncob, well: yay for you, I guess. I could probably suggest numerous alternate hobbies you could explore to give your life more meaning than your plasmatron TV does, but I don't want to ruin your fun.
     
    Just remember: when you're dealing with Snitsky in hi-def, IT ISN'T MY FAULT!
     
  • With the on-going writers' strike, WWE contacted NBC/Universal about doing more primetime specials for NBC. NBC declined. Considering the ratings WWE has supplied in NBC specials so far, I can only imagine they declined while choking back laughter.
     
    Though there is a very real dearth of original programming out there, it's unlikely that WWE would ever be viewed as a real option by NBC after what happened in two primetime runs in 2006. Plus: so far, NBC is weathering the storm with a successful slate of new rearlity-based offerings. Including, I shit you not, the new American Gladiators (with Hulk Hogan).
     
    In fact, Gladiators is an unmitigated hit for NBC, drawing the best debut rating for any new show since "Heroes" and scoring really awesome young male demographics. The 2-hour premiere this past Sunday was the 11th most-watched show on TV for the week ended January 6.
     
    Just remember, folks: I called for a remake of Gladiators one year ago. One year ago. NBC picked up the option on the show six months ago. Now they have a hit. Proving that TV executives can, sometimes, have decent ideas. But only six months after I already had them and wrote about them on OO.
     
    For whatever it's worth: the new show is pretty good, too. They scrapped original plans to have the contenders live and train together in an uber-reality-show setting, and it's just the same format as it was back when we were enjoying the spectacle when we were in grade school and high school. And the new Eliminator? Awesome. Just brutal. Nobody can stand once they are done with it. And it made one of the female contenders bleed. We were talking crimson mask.
     
    It's on at 8pm on Mondays, so not only can you check it out, but it makes for a decent companion piece/lead-in to RAW, as we struggle to find Monday night viewing materials in this sadly "24-less" world.
     
  • Not able to confirm this as of yet, but I got a note that USA has told WWE that they won't pre-empt RAW for the goddamned dog show this year. Granted, it's not a huge deal, but it's just one of those mildly annoying things that's always vexed me. And now: I may not have to waste my energy on vex.
     
  • Something kinda sad to pass along: late last month, Bobby "the Brain" Heenan had a very serious surgical procedure in which bone from his leg/hip was used to craft a new jawbone. Heenan's mouth and jaw deteriorated rapidly as a result of the chemo and therapy done to get rid of his throat cancer in recent years.
     
    The procedure required (purposely) putting Heenan in a coma, and from what I've heard, he remains hospitalized, and follow-up surgeries are still on-going. Ouch.
     
    I'm sure I'm not the only one wishing the best for the Brain... it ain't gonna feel like WrestleMania without you, Weasel.
     
  • And just to cheer ourselves up, our final item today is a mind bogglingly ridiculous interview with Randy Orton conducted by an Australian newspaper...
     
    First I will provide a few quotes, offered without commentary: 
     
    "Being a babyface sucks. Maybe it's because I'm not good at it, or I'm a d---head in real life. It's easy for me to go out there and be a pr-ck on the show because it's me times 10. And even though you probably don't like me anyway, give me five minutes, and I'll make you not like me more."
     
    "I'm young, I'm good at what I do. Hopefully, me being young and good at what I do opens the door for other people in this business who are at a young age and accelerating at a high rate."
     
    "There aren't a lot of people in the industry who know what they're doing. I think there are only 10 people, myself included, who truly know what they're doing out there. I feel sorry for people who spend money to learn how to wrestle. I didn't have to to do that."
     
    "I would like to take the game away from the guys in the over 40 club -Triple H, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. It's at the point where their bodies are so broken down, they can't really hang with the younger guys."
     
    There's even more, which you can read by clicking here.
     
    And now, I shall commentate:
     
    Randy Orton done lost his mind.
     
    Either that, or Randy Orton is a highly-intelligent evil genius who purposely just said the most demonstrably ludicrous things he could think of in an attempt to get a rise out of people because they are the fabled "shoot comments that weren't meant to be shoot comments." Or something like that. Triple reverse psychology, and all that....
     
    Let's see: Randy admits he's "not very good" (at being a babyface, anyway) and promises that if you give him five minutes, he can make you hate him even more. Umm, Randall, when you hit one of your five minute chinlocks, that ain't hatred you're feeling. It's palpable apathy, dude. You should be used to it. You've yet to ever really exhibit that "I'll pay to see that guy get beat up" heel heat on a consistent basis; you're 100% about the "this guy would be forgettable and worthless even if I just bumped into him at a bar; hopefully he will be off my TV soon replaced by somebody possessing at least one interesting quality" heat.
     
    Also: he's young and good at what he does? That's more than debatable. And further, he wants the other young and talented guys to look up to him and follow him? Wow. I feel sorry for anybody who actually enlists in Randy's Army. Doing so would be every bit as bafflingly stupid a move as Stephen Hawking signing up to learn about the origins of the universe from Mike Huckabee.
     
    Additionally: I would KILL to find out who the other 9 people in the business are who Randy feels are as talented as he is. I can only hope he'd represent for his boyz, Mark Jindrak and Chris Masters. I'm also glad to know that Orton didn't have to pay to learn how to wrestle. And apparently, he didn't have to learn how to wrestle, either. What an ass.
     
    Lastly: bad-mouthing HHH and Shawn Michaels? Either he *is* "working" or he's the dumbest man alive for bad-mouthing men infinitely more politically powerful than him and (more importantly) men who were, are, and will continue to be infinitely more talented than him at this job. Stunning.
     
    Randy Orton, Demonstrably Horrible as a Person, Demonstrably Mediocre as a Performer, Demonstrably Worthless as a Ratings Draw, but a God Among Men In His Own Mind. That's why we love you, dipshit. Keep up the fine work!
     
  • Ahhhhhhh... nothing quite lambasting Randy Orton to make it fun and easy to get back on the columnizing horse. And now that I'm back, I promise not to be a stranger.
     
    Heading into 2008, Priority #1 is publishing the backlog of material submitted by Matt, Pyro, and Adam in the past month. Not just to complete their archives, but because it is good stuff and needs to be read.
     
    Priority #2 is continuing to keep their stuff published in a timely fashion as we get back to the standard 3 updates per week to the OO main page.
     
    Priority #3: My Big-Ass Year In Review, which is part done, but which is also harder work this year than any other. Why? I'll give you one word: Benoit. That story was so huge that -- when combined with the stagnation of the on-screen wrestling product -- you just can't get a handle on 2007 without all roads leading back to him. It's draining (but necessary) work.
     
    And then #4 on my list is making sure that when there is news of import or ideas in my brain worth sharing or even just an urge to be a damned fine clever bastard and wordsmith, I'll keep the supply of OO columns rolling as best I can.
     
    So please, WWE and the Wrestling World: give me something I can use this year, you jerks!
     
    Go Flyers....


  
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PPV RECAP: WWE Night of Champions 2012
 
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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
 
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Backfired!
 
RAW RECAP: Bigger IS Better
 
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Hitting with Two Strikes
 
RAW RECAP: Heel, or Tweener?
 
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Destiny Do-Over
 
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
 
SMACKDOWN RECAP: In-BRO-pendence Day
 
RAW RECAP: Crazy Gets What Crazy Wants
 
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PPV RECAP: WWE No Way Out 2012
 
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SMACKDOWN RECAP: You're Welcome
 
RAW RECAP: Be a Star, My Ass
 
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Needs More Kane?
 
RAW RECAP: You Can't See Him
 
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Lady Power
 
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?
 
SMACKDOWN RECAP: No! No! No!
 
RAW RECAP: Brock's a Jerk
 
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
 
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
 
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28

 
 
E-MAIL RICK SCAIA

BROWSE THE OO ARCHIVES

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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