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A Matter of Time: A Bunch of News and Views from Jeff Hardy to RAW's Booking to TNA's Contracts and a Whole Lot MORE~! 
September 19, 2008

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OOWrestling.com


I think we'll try something a little different today, kids....

Obviously, our standard format is just a "catch as catch can" assemblage of bullet points covering the relevant news of the day in tasty bite sized blurbs that incorporate just enough analysis and expert punditry to make it worth your while to wait for me to put the news together in one place for you, rather than subjecting yourself

to the context-free, analysis-lacking, 8th-grade-caliber "I am SO a wrestling JOURNALIST" form writing stylings of Meltzer and Co. 

Then, when I get a real bug up my ass, and when I have an overriding "theme" I want to drive home, I just go ahead with one big-ass contiguous "OOpinion" piece. Usually 8000 words, and no waiting: you dig in and get ready to watch me wordsmith my ass off.

But today: we'll keep the bullet points and the newsbites... however, we'll also be giving the column a continuous thread; a touchstone we'll keep coming back to, and which will loosely tie everything together. If our standard format is like an anthology series, and the "OOpinion" format is in in-depth, tightly woven mini-series, then maybe today's format will be like those Halloween episodes of the Simpsons, where they break things down into 3 separate stories, although they're always best when viewed together as a set.

Yeah, that's just about right.

And since you almost certainly came here via the main page, you know what our gossamer-like "thread" is already. Well, unless this is months or years in the future, and you got here from the OO Archives, I guess. So just to be clear: the thread that ties most of today's bullet points together, and which you will no doubt be rewarded for noticing and dwelling upon is:


It may not be "everything" (as the cliche spouts), but it's certainly something, and it's as vitally important to good wrestling as anything else I can think of. Timing covers a lot of ground: temporal causality (putting things in the right order so as to have logic and continuity), pacing (putting events the right distance apart so as to generate maximum impact), sizzle (noticing emerging trends quickly so as to take advantage of transient opportunities; "striking while the iron is hot"), and closure/climax (knowing when enough is enough and ending things on a high note). It's all part of TIMING, and you can ill afford to screw up any aspect of it too badly.

And the reason this is on the tip of my brain this afternoon? Timing in the wrestling world seems a bit off. More than a bit off. I can't tell if it's an accident/series of coincidences or if it might just be yet another manifestation of incompetence. But it's there, as I think you'll agree after getting caught up on this weekend's big-ass load of news: 

  • It's far from the most newsworthy item of the day, but in its way, its relatively tepid nature just might underscore the concept of comically bad timing as well as anything, so let's lead off with:
    Maybe not.
    What actually happened: late Wednesday afternoon, word started going around that Jeff Hardy had trouble getting home from SD! tapings. Apparently, he wasn't allowed on his flight on Wednesday morning. By the time this became a Hot Topic Issue, the administrative offices at the Nashville Airport were closed, and no answers could be gotten from there. WWE's support staff (including their crack staff of PR people) had gone home for the night. As it turned out, there was no arrest record or police report, because the police never got involved.
    But: the "wrestling journalists" had to do something (goddammit, a great opportunity for a paragraph long slamfest, and I already used up my once weekly rant on the asshattedness of the idea that "wrestling journalism" exists), so they peppered their ad-infested, spyware-ridden, nearly-unnavigable websites with vague claims of "Incident at Nashville Airport, Jeff Hardy Involved" while promising to have quintuple sourced confirmation of what was clearly implied to be a big ugly major confrontation and mess in the near future, if only you keep on clicking those linkies.
    In another example of crap timing, most of those vague teaser blurbs went up late Wednesday, and were only of use in luring the clicking fingers of the truly obsessed and/or sleep deprived. Of which there clearly are at least some, since I believe every single one of them jumped to the same basic conclusion: drugs, major conflict at airport, Jeff Hardy in big big trouble, and did we mention drugs? For about 12 hours, MORE bad timing had folks going nuts on message boards and my email inbox with such confident rhetoric that you wouldn't believe.
    Then the sun rose on Thursday morning, the Tennessee media (you know, the JOURNALISTS) had done their jobs, and it was clear to most this wasn't a huge deal. Doubly clear to me, since I used to be HUGE in Knoxville, and managed to get the "not a big deal" story pretty much concurrent with getting the "OMG DRUGS AND DRAMA" story... I guess the confusion lingered for a bit, but by Thursday afternoon, here's what it boiled down to:
    Jeff Hardy showed up at his gate on Wednesday morning, planning to fly home. The ticket checker person thought he seemed inebriated, and determined that Jeff should not board the plane. Jeff was taken to an office (without any incident, and seen walking and talking on his cellphone even as he was being escorted around the airport), "detained" for a few hours, and flown home on a later flight.
    So: not only were there reasons why details were scarce on Wednesday night when people finally started making cursory phone calls about the "incident at Nashville Airport" (Reason #1: there wasn't much of an incident; Reason #2: certainly not enough of an incident for administrative phone jockeys and PR people to pull overtime answering questions about it), but by the time the first hint of this hit the intarwebs, Jeff Hardy was already home, safe and sound.
    All that said about websites and fans making a mountain out of a molehill, here, there's still yet another Timing Issue that one just can't ignore. Namely:
    How stupid can you be, Jeff Hardy?!?!??
    I mean, OK, so if we're taking sides and exposing our Personal Value Systems to the world: I don't really give a shit if you show up at the airport with the dum-dum-smoke glazed over eyes and stinking of rum. Couldn't care less. You're not smuggling drugs, you're not freaking out on PCP, you're not adding to a sad pathetic resume like Jake Roberts and Scott Hall's (which are so embarrassing and self-destructive I've lost all desire to "report" on them), and you're not really doing society any harm here. BUT A MAN IN YOUR SITUATION ISN'T INITIALLY ACCOUNTABLE TO SOCIETY AT THIS POINT!!!
    You work for a company that is hypersensitive about bad press AND you're currently working your highest profile storyline ever and it involves you being an irresponsible borderline-addicted flake with "two strikes" against you. So showing up wasted to a plane ride at 11 freaking AM in the morning is NOT on the Smart Things To Do List. Quite the opposite: it puts your employer in a bind and almost dares them to do something in response to what would normally be the most minor of transgressions.
    See: it's not that Jeff did something monumentally stupid or destructive here, he just picked a hell of a stupid time to do it. 
    So if there is a story here, it becomes not the act itself, but what WWE feels compelled to do about it. Jeff is slated to headline the upcoming No Mercy PPV against Triple H; his first headlining spot ever. His "incident" at the airport did at least make a minor splash in the "legit" media, and in keeping with company policy, Jeff's past transgressions are also well known (it doesn't even matter that they are being referenced on TV every week for the past 2 months by MVP and HHH). The "letter of the law" of the wellness policy requires WWE to do nothing here (alcohol and even marijuana are handled completely differently from all other substances; and the situation is even further marginalized by the simple fact that there was no "incident" that WWE can't point to any arrest record or documented evidence -- other than the belief of a ticket clerk -- that Jeff was even in a significantly altered state, unlike what happened 2 years ago to RVD and Sabu). But the desire for a squeaky clean public image may still move WWE to do SOMEthing in response to this.
    I'm torn on how to feel about it: on one hand, Jeff would have brought this upon himself and is ultimately responsible. But on the other, I cannot overstate how annoyed I would be to see some flimsy self-serving "spirit of the law" crackdown on Jeff when the law itself has been rewritten in the past to accommodate dipshits even greater than he. Yes, I speak of Randall Orton, and no, I don't care if you're sick of him being the "thread" that ties my entire website (rather than a mere single column) together... everything I speak is true, and its nauseating that so much effort has been made to ret-con approximately four "strikes" against him down to two (and possibly only one, depending on how WWE's counting these days), while it's entirely possible that Jeff Hardy could get some jacked-up PR-conscious version of the Wellness Program that turns his third NON-strike into the death knell of his WWE career.
    I mean, Jeff's not really a guy I see as a full time headliner and signature star or anything, but he brings a lot to the table (especially in the past 10  months or so since he found his "gravitas," or something resembling it), so most of me wants to see this swept under the rug so we can get a full-strength, undilluted Hardy/HHH feud. Something fresh, something I'm kind of curious to see play out. Afterall: Randy Orton is, indisputably, a man who possesses no unique talents or any spark of marketability that couldn't be replicated with 90% of WWE's cookie-cutter borderline-competent developmental wrestlers if you give them the same inputs (i.e. 5 years of the biggest push in the entire company for any one man not named "Cena"), and they bend over backwards to help him out of Wellness and Suspension issues.... so honestly, as fans, can't we hope for the same level of accommodation when there's actually something/someone unique and compelling at risk?
    I think so. But we'll see how it goes. Obviously the "incident" happened following the tapings for the SmackDown! that airs this weekend, so no sanctioning will be seen in terms of Hardy's on-air treatment till at least next week (by which point, WWE should have had time to "investigate" and announce what off-air sanctions will or won't be levied)... but it's worth noting that *if* WWE decides it wants an out to the Hardy/HHH feud, they have one after the events of this week's show. And I think I can safely say (without overly spoiling anything for tonight's SD!) that it's name is Vladimir Kozlov.
  • Now, how's about a look at the bad timing being exhibited by WWE... or at least, by the folks primarily in charge of plotting RAW's direction on a weekly basis?
    Because coming out of the Unforgiven PPV, I thought it'd be almost impossible to screw up the top level storytelling on the show. So many possiblitieis.... all you had to do was order them properly, portion them out smartly, and you'd have that holiest of grails: Sustainable Episodic Television.
    It's been a while since I've busted that one out, but it really is my favorite thing: Sustainable Episodic Television. "Episodic" refers to the idea that every installment has value either as paying off as being gratifying in and of itself, or by making you incredibly excited to tune in next time to find out what happens next. "Sustainable" refers to the idea of doing this week-in and week-out without resorting to stunt casting or nonsensical Crash TV swerves that only serve to boost ratings for one week and remind fringe fans of how "sucky" the show is the rest of the time.
    It's unclear if WWE embraces this general concept or not; I know that the late 90s wrestling boom was built on nothing but Crash TV. Which worked for a while. Then things settled down, and I think most people agree that 1999-2002 or so was something of a "golden era" for the WWF, and I'd argue it's at least in part due to the balance (between twists and continuity, between drama and athleticism) that would be earmarks of S.E.T.... but more recently, we've had the Steph Make-over of the creative team and the influx of Writer Monkeys, and a professed desire to eschew some elements of continuity and depth in favor of "accessibility." The idea espoused more than once by Vince or other top WWE types is that if you lapse as a fan, and they get you to come back even for just one week, you should be able to "get it" and stick around for more than just that one week.
    The unstated part of that vision: we realize, more and more, that we have a lot of lapsed fans, and we'll resort to Stunt Booking and Dumbing Down as ways of trying to lure them back. Certainly, the presence of stupid ass-backwards shit like the Million Dollar Giveaways this summer (where Vince essentially made the Mission Statement: "Hey, I'll pay you to watch my show. So sign up and give me your marketing information. Oh, and go tell all your friends who USED to watch to sign up, too, and we'll so totally trick them into watching again." Note: this did not happen) lends credence to my interpretation of things, too. 
    And now: so does the unfathomably ham-handed way WWE has taken all the goodwill and promise of MONTHS of Sustainable Episodic Television coming out of Unforgiven, and turned it into 2 straight weeks of wasteful and poorly-constructed (and low-rated) RAWs, tinged ever so slightly with something that is either desperation or incompetence.
    The only other excuse for this rapid-fire disposal of Chris Jericho's top contenders is even more horrifying to consider: namely, that he's even more of a "transitional" champ than CM Punk, and WWE's known it all along, so they're just rushing through every combination feasible between now and whenever John Cena can come back and take over the reigns of the show for his big-ass feud with Batista. Which is coming sooner rather than later. 
    Think about it: Unforgiven planted a ton of seeds. CM Punk had the best beef of all, being taken out of his World Title Defense after one boot to the head. Batista had the next best, seemingly wrapping up a title win in the Scramble match until Jericho's last ditch cheap stroke of ingenuity. Shawn Michaels has been beating the hell out of Jericho in every match they've had (including earlier the very night Jericho stole the title), and needs to be considered as a very compelling opponent. Kane, Rey, and JBL all exist on the fringe of this, not really "screwed" in the same sense as the other guys, but still put in an unexpected spot when Jericho filled in for Punk.
    Going back to my opening, simple attention to timing (in this case, the "causality" -- proper order -- and "pacing" elements are the two key things) should have turned this into MONTHS of no-brainer S.E.T.... you could have PPVs that pay-off gratifyingly with big matches (Punk, Batista, Punk/Batista in a 3-way, and eventually HBK is back), still with enough filler material (yes, Kane and JBL must be there; but tell me you wouldn't moisten your man panties for the return of Jericho vs. Rey) to make the week-to-week chockful of "can't wait to see what happens next" so as to keep the gears lubed up, and all leading up to.... well, to the end of Jericho's reign; I may have my highfalutin ideas and be a little more fond of Jericho than a heterosexual male should, but let's face it: WWE works a certain way, and we need to accept that that Way involves Cena/Batista for the title by the time WrestleMania roles around.
    That said, there's no reason that ending to this chapter in Jericho's career need end in November, or end anticlimactically after a rushed and poorly-conceived 2 months of TV. Yet: that's where we're headed, it seems. It's only been 2 weeks since Unforgiven, and we're already to the point we shouldn't have gotten to for 2 months (Batista marginalized, and CM Punk's outstanding one-on-one-gimmick rematch loss given away on free TV to eliminate him from further contention). In 2 more weeks, we'll be at where we SHOULD have been in 4 months (blowing off the sweet, sweet slow-burning Jericho/Michaels angle with another PPV gimmick match that might top all their rest).
    Past that, it's November, and Jericho's out of shit to do (well, out of INTERESTING shit to do that makes sense based on past events), and we might as well just go ahead with making Randy Orton's Douchelution group the top heels in the company, while simultaneously going back to the Cena/Batista pairing. It's so goddamned frustrating to consider, not just because I consider Jericho to be kind of bulletproof in terms of entertainment value, but because -- no matter WHAT your personal tastes are, even if you love Randy Orton -- the best thing for the company is ALWAYS to have the maximum number of compelling things going on at once. Not to be giving them pre-assigned shelf lives...
    I mean, do Jericho and his challengers right, and it flows through till maybe the Rumble PPV... and trickling down, that gives you time to have Cena return as an ally to Batista (and also Punk) against Orton and Co..... and how much better are Generation Douche's chances of catching fire and developing an organic connection with fans if they're doing it as in the #2 Attraction slot, rather than being shoved down our throats too soon as the lead heels on RAW?
    Like I said, there's enough there that you would NEVER get the sense of things moving too slowly; instead, you could have spent this fall and winter exploring one of the most potential-laden "Roads to WrestleMania" in recent memory... one which melds the faster-paced-by-necessity monthly PPV model with the days of yore when there were only 4 PPVs and maybe sometimes things did drag a bit. You could have ordered and paced it just right so that it's impossible to lose interest, but there's still all kinds of time to explore every nook and cranny of weekly TV goodness while crafting about six PPV line-ups that are both pay-offs AND leading somewhere meaningful (rather than being the monthly disposable reset buttons they so often seem to be lately).
    As an added bonus: order and pace everything right, and you increase the chances that everybody comes out of these respective feuds and storylines stronger for it (rather than as collateral damage, as may already be the case with Punk). That's because each match would have been better built, and in the process of that building, each guy would get that much more TV time to establish his motivation and his character, and that would mean that upon jettisoning from World Title Relevance, each guy would have that much more to fall back upon to reboot his storyline.
    Think about it.... here's how bad WWE's timing and presentation was. Coming out of Unforgiven, with a deliciously flukey champion and three guys with HUGE beefs that they deserve to be champ, here's what happened: 
    Jericho cuts a great 5-plus minute promo hitting the necessary notes regarding Shawn Michaels. Not exactly what I advocated in my last column, but remarkably close, tone-wise. I dug it. One-third of the way to doing this thing right, then, Mike Adamle showed up and proclaimed, "Oh, and also Batista and CM Punk, too." Batista got a match that very same night, Punk got his the next week. Thanks, Mike. Plus 10 for making the GM Character seem "prepared" in an epically incompetent sort of way. But minus several million for violating Common Sense Rule Of Booking #1: "If a wrestler CAN deliver a threat, challenge, or piece of information, then the wrestler should. Because it will help flesh out their character without it seeming like such pointless exposition."
    Not only did NEITHER of Batista or Punk get a chance to make anything resembling a case for themselves (which, as I said, strengthens the bond with fans if they understand more clearly precisely where their characters are coming from), their randomly assigned Adamle Matches ended with losses. Granted Batista's got a bit screwy with JBL involved, too, but still: another "L" for the Animal, and he's got to be on thinnish ice just because his entire gimmick the past year has been charging hard for titles and then coming up just short... Punk's loss was totally clean, and furthermore, was a potential PPV caliber match (a 20 minute cage match) that was stupidly thrown out on TV as an opener, which could only telegraph the fact that Punk stood no chance of winning and that WWE had other, bigger fish to fry in the "main event."
    Which in this case, turned out to be the revelation that Shawn Michaels is re-inserting himself back into things at least a month sooner than absolutely necessary to complete the Rush Job on Jericho's reign with a challenge for a Ladder Match at the No Mercy PPV. I am being dead-serious when I say I have never wished harder for a "bait and switch" of some kind than I am right now, because it just ain't time for a Jericho/Michaels Ladder match. The storyline doesn't need it yet, and if you're in a spot where you can given HBK extra time to heal that triceps up real good before asking him to get back to show-stealin', you do it. I want to get to that Ladder Match the same as anybody. But why now? After only one month?
    How much cooler would it have been if last week's RAW (right after the PPV), started us down a different path? Instead of what we got, it goes roughly like this:
    JERICHO: "Stuff about Michaels and being a hypocrite and exposing him and HA HA HA HA you beat me in a meaningless match but I'm the champ."
    BATISTA: "Interrupts and says, uhhh, nancy, you could barely walk, I had that title won, and in the end, you only pinned the guy that I'd already knocked out for you. Me wanty title."
    CM PUNK: "Interrupts and says, ZIP IT musclehead, and talks about how at least Batista was in the ring and had a chance to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT while Jericho was thieving the title. Punk wasn't even allowed to leave the dressing room; only his World Title did. And that is so fricking unfair it boggles the mind. So he wanty title, too."
    MICHAELS: [As outlined last column and above, he's absent, and should be presented as a tortured soul, who's at home with his family actually letting the "hypocrite"  talk get under his skin and fester. In later weeks, he'll return wanting his rematch and Jericho will set up roadblocks for him while he deals with the other guys.]
    JERICHO: "You both make great cases, but -- OUCH -- boy I hurt after last night, so maybe sort this out between yourselves, and I'll see you next week." 
    MIKE ADAMLE: "Jericho is right, he's hurt and he gets the night off. CM Punk is right and should get a shot to regain his title, but he's also still hurt so I'm promising him he'll get his at some point in the future, but for now, he gets the night off, too. And Batista, Punk was right about something else: at least you were in the ring when Jericho 'stole' the title. And so were three other guys. So tell you what: tonight's main event, Batista vs. Kane vs. Rey vs. JBL, and the winner will face Jericho at No Mercy."
    Michaels is effectively back-burnered till when we need him. Batista is fast-tracked for the first meaningful title shot against Jericho (while milking the last shreds of main event credibility out of Kane/Rey/JBL). Punk and Jericho's respective injury statusses are handled WAY more realistically than they were (WWE oversold Punk's injuries to the point of being ludicrous, and I think undersold Jericho's coming out of the PPV), and in fact, their "parallels" in that regard can be underscored and woven into the fabric of their slower-burning feud. I think hving Punk and Jericho as dueling guest commentators for the Batista/Kane/Rey/JBL #1 Contender Match also goes a long way to (a) letting them speak and lay a foundation for their rivalry in an entertaining fashion while (b) giving fans a second layer of context to latch onto to make up for the fact that the outcome of the match is pretty foregone-conclusiony.
    Thus, in Week #1, instead of already blowing through on contender, all we do is establish the first #1 Contender. Batista wins. And as an added bonus, Punk and Jericho's commentary not only establishes their feud as something to look forward to, but their aside comments about the various guys in the match could lead to the fun/episodic "filler" kind of content we need to make tag and single matches on a week to week basis.
    PPV #1 (No Mercy) then features the first real title defense by Jericho (rather than the too-soon blow-off to the HBK feud), where he beats Batista, following a few weeks of solid promos and fun-but-meaningless matches like Punk/Batista vs. Jericho/Cade (or Punk/Batista/Rey vs. Jericho/Cade/Kane) where friction among the babyfaces can exist, and provide the sub-context for Batista starting to be distracted by other things and allowing Jericho to beat him in the PPV title match.
    RAW filler and lead-up to PPV #2 (Cyber Sunday) can focus on getting Punk his title shot, and letting him connect with the fans a bit by promo dueling with Jericho and maybe even getting the better of Jericho in brawls or tag matches. Then, adding in the fact that Cyber Sunday is the "fan vote" PPV, Punk's title shot can come with the added attraction of fans picking the stipulation so that anybody who has doubts about Punk's credibility will still be won over a bit because the match ends up being Punk and Stipulation vs. Jericho in a handicap match. Plus: among fans who aren't so easily swayed by Punk getting a favorable stip (like, oh, a cage match), they'll probably be the type of wanker fans who'll suddenly perk up just because they know both Punk and Jericho have that precious Workrate, and if you give them a stipulation match, it'll be at least four-stars. Needless to say: Punk does lose, but because of the strength of the build-up, the quality of the match, and all other mitigating factors, he comes out of it as strong as ever. Or at least: stronger than he does when his title rematch is a show-opening throw-away.
    Like I said, two MONTHS removed, and in MY vision, we've only just now delivered the match WWE spastically delivered in WEEK number two.
    RAW week-to-week leading into PPV #3 (Survivor Series), can see the return of Shawn Michaels to TV, but with Jericho dodging him and claiming to have bigger fish to fry. Survivor Series would actually be a great PPV to not even have a title match, as it's a show that has historical ties to "team vs. team" matches, and lately has marked the start of "brand vs. brand" hostilities that tend to keep swirling about through WrestleMania. Jericho, as champ, could reasonably be expected to take charge of a RAW Brand Team or otherwise be central to a RAW vs. SD! (vs. ECW?) feud. I think this would be the perfect month to play up the Jericho vs. Rey stuff, as Rey wants to prove himself worthy as a member of Jericho's team, but Jericho considers that hilarious. The matches Rey and Jericho might have wouldn't quite be what they did in WCW 10 years ago, but the promos and chemistry would be there in spades. Then, as an added twist, Jericho could find himself not only forced to accept Rey's application, but to turn to other unexpected partners (because you'd have Punk and Batista -- and maybe Cena -- presumably turning Jericho down in order to have their own team match against the returning Randy Orton and his Miracle Douche Connection). And here's where Michaels/Jericho can get it's jumpstart: Michaels offers to put Brand Ahead of Personal Hatred and join Jericho's team. Of course, Michaels will again turn out to be a lying hypocrite who beats the piss out of Team Captain Jericho as soon as their Survivor Series Match starts... in so doing, he hamstrings Team RAW, which does not ingratiate him to Jericho. Or to GM Adamle.
    Thus, the week-to-week episodic-ness heading into PPV #4 (Armageddon) isn't the straight build to a Jericho/Michaels match that you might expect. Both Jericho AND the GM are pissed at Michaels, who now has another obstacle course put in front of him. Michaels can even be under mild attack from guys who were on Team RAW (like Rey), who felt he put his own interests ahead of the team's. You could make it feel like Michaels has no chance in hell of overcoming all the adversity to get a title shot. But, of course, in the name of Good Business, Adamle will still leave the door open just a sliver: at Armageddon, the #1 Contender to the World Title will be determined in a star-studded Six Man Mini-Royal Rumble: Michaels vs. Rey (who is in by virtue of his prickly head with Michaels) vs. Cena vs. Batista (who are now back in each other's faces a little bit after both declaring their newfound interests in being World Champ) vs. CM Punk (squeeze another title-related match out of him) vs. Randy Orton (ugh, but hey, he'll be back on TV, and he'll waste no time wanting to show his douchemates how proper Title Chasing is done). At the PPV itself, Jericho gets a night off, but does guest commentary for the six-man main event, and of course, will interfere in the end. But still, somehow: Michaels will win.
    And thus, four months into the process, we'll FINALLY have set up the basis for Jericho vs. Michaels trying to top themselves in a PPV one-on-one match. That's four MONTHS, not WEEKS. And never with a dull moment along the way.
    RAW stuff during this next month and build to PPV #5 (the Royal Rumble) doesn't have to be complicated. Partly because WWE always punts one or two shows around the holidays just because no one is watching, but also because Jericho/Michaels (and lets keep that Ladder Match Stip) and the Rumble Match itself are the types of things that just sell themselves. You can do some token gestures towards Jericho weaseling out of the title match (he can try to play to Michaels' ego, maybe, suggesting HBK drop the one-on-one title shot, and enter the Rumble match, so he can have his "grand title victory" at WrestleMania like the superstar he is), but of course it won't work. You'll also be spending time adding layers to Cena/Batista and making sure that Randy Orton is making good use of his cronies to position himself as a singles heel threat to the title. And then here's where my specific visions of outcomes and results break down and are replaced by nebulous ideas and all new fresh possiblities. Because I don't know what you do with the Michaels/Jericho match; thematically, it would seem to be the "proper" payoff to let Michaels get the win, but the contrary part of my personality would love it if Michaels won EVERY SINGLE MATCH between the two UNTIL this one. The one that mattered most. And then Jericho wins.
    Either way, neither of the two would be long for the title. No Way Out, PPV #6 in our progression, was the "All Elimination Chamber Matches" PPV last year, which allowed them a lot of freedom in terms of shaking up Champ/#1 Contender status between the Rumble and WrestleMania, and there's no reason they can't do the same again. Between Chamber matches and the auto-shot for the winner of the Rumble, RAW can still EASILY head towards Cena vs. Batista at WM24 for the title, even if one of Jericho or Michaels is the champ coming out of the Rumble. [SD! will be a bit more static, since I don't see HHH losing the title between now and WM; they could still go with either HHH/Edge or HHH/Taker for their title match, but they'll need less chicanery and swerveyness to get there, which allows RAW to get away with being a bit more spastically booked during February and March, I think, without it coming across as Stunt Bookingish.]
    And voila! We've arrived at PPV #7, dropping us off roughly where you know WWE wants us to be (Cena vs. Batista for the RAW title)... it's just that I did it while making the ride there as fun as possible, and without shortchanging any of the guys and story possibilities that could make the journey more than half the fun:
    - Jericho and Michaels' epic feud gets a more suitably epic pacing and climax (even if the ladder match in a few weeks isn't the end of it for them, it's still rushed and unnecessary at this point). Depending on what WWE would want to do, their Rumble match need not even be their swan song, and they could go ONE LAST TIME at WM24 (maybe that's where Michaels gets the feel good win, instead of with the title on the line at the Rumble?)... or, given some other options that'll open up, they could easily both be on to their next big thing for WM, a show where new and fresh can sometimes be as good as End Of A Year Long Feud.
    - Cena and Batista can slow roll it a bit, instead of being ham handedly thrown back together the second Cena returns to TV. It allows for the rivalry to build more organically, and maybe the NEXT time they fight, it actually will have one-tenth the historical significance Cena tried to pretend it did in his shit-ass promos leading into SummerSlam that were about as tied to reality as anything Scott Steiner has spewed in the past 10 years. Cena and Batista can team, Cena and Batista can get on each others nerves, Cena and Batista can brawl, Cena and Batista can be in multi-way matches, but they should NOT have a one-on-one match till WM, and that means going slllllllloooooowwwwwww.
    - Same with Randy Orton. They are "re-booting" him, and they are doing something wise by giving Mr. Generic a group of sycophants (Orton himself is a black hole of interesting, but when surrounded by others -- like in Evolution or by Edge in Rated RKO -- he can at least give off the reflection of whatever lingering brilliance might be possessed by his partners).... but he's still (for now) the lowest rated champion of the past decade-plus, and needs to NOT be rushed as a main eventer lest those problems duplicate. Again. For the fourth time. I figure having Orton talking about the title by January, getting him in the mix with the other top guys for the February chamber matches, and then figuring out some way for him to contribute positively at WM would leave him positioned well at the end of this hypothetical set of story arcs we're crafting.
    - And you'll note ALL THIS WAS DONE WITHOUT A SINGLE REAL MENTION OF THE UNDERCARD. This was all just an outline of what to do with RAW at the top levels: the title holder, the top contender, and those jockeying to be contenders. I thought it quite compelling and "busy" enough to be interesting all on its own, in terms of setting up ample TV and PPV matches. Which is ironic, since the one thing that HAS felt right the past few weeks on RAW are the throw-away under-card bits... good decision making, good pacing, good everything. Charlie Haas has been fun. Santino's Honk-a-Meter is not only hilarious, but by its very nature it SCREAMS for this "proper pacing" aspect, since he might not reach 64 weeks, but he'll have to get at least a goodly part of the way there for this ordeal to end up being worthwhile. Evan Bourne showing up for no good reason to high fly his way into our hearts has been alright with me. ALL this stuff is also in play for further development in addition to the basic outline above, and could only have made RAW that much better if it'd been handled as well in parallel with the main event stuff. [And hey, maybe the twain could even meet. How fun might it have been if Jericho's Survivor Series Woes -- where he's trying to build a team to represent his brand -- leaves him resigning himself not just to Blood Foes like Michaels, but also to perceived "lesser lights" like Santino and Haas. Santino and his Active 15-week Honk-a-Meter streak talking his way onto Team RAW could be gold in and of itself.]
    - Did I mention it's all about the TIMING TIMING TIMING? Good, because unless I'm missing something WWE has really screwed the pooch on this stuff, and they've done it in a matter of two weeks. BRILLIANT~!
    Anyway, that's my rant on RAW. There's just something really wrong when I get genuinely excited about wrestling (as I did coming out of Unforgiven), and what follows is so mind-bendingly unrelated to what got me excited that I have to contemplate what levels and sorts of incompetence we're dealing with. And as noted above: it's even MORE wrong that things are so screwed up and off-kilter that I hope this talk of Jericho/Michaels in a ladder match is actually a bait and switch to something different, and MAYBE we can salvage some worthwhile these next few months. [Hey, slowing down on Jericho/Michaels would be the start. Changing things around so Batista/Jericho is the next PPV match -- yeah, it's down 75% on the Sizzle Quotient at this point, but as long as HHH/Hardy is half-as-exciting as it SHOULD be, this can be a month where RAW rides shotgun, instead of driving the PPV truck -- would be the next step. Then figuring out some way to rehab CM Punk quickly and efficiently is the last stage; best I got is giving Punk a mic and letting him really rant hard against the illogic of his circumstances to the point of a semi-shoot, something that's half-storyline, half-very compelling, and half a backhanded apology to fans for creative fucking it all up; something like "people may say I lost my one rematch inside that cage on last Monday, but how can you call it my REmatch when I wasn't even in the ORIGINAL match where somebody stole my title?" would be a good start.]
    Well.... that turned out way longer than I expected. But I think it gets my point across quite nicely. I just hope that -- timing-wise -- you've budgeted at least 20 minutes to reading this column, otherwise, I may have just screwed you. D'oh.
  • And how about Chris Jericho's timing.... though I'm not entirely sure ANY of this is up to him.....
    I remember last year, in November, when Jericho returned to save us all, I quipped that his timing was ideal. He waited till that previous summer to re-open talks with Vince, letting enough time to pass that the PERCEPTION of Jericho was at least as big as anything he could provide in reality. Result: Jericho probably waited till the perfect time to fleece the best possible contract out of a star-hungry Vince. And then: even after agreeing to return, there was the matter of picking his spot, which in this case, turned out to be 4-6 months of waiting and time-biding... time-biding that not only allowed Jericho time to train and establish the cock-tease of the "SAVE_US" thing, but which allowed him to return to TV at a time when things were at the absolute worst for WWE.
    My theory was that RAW had endured a perfect storm in the 2-3 months leading up to Jericho's return: all morbid curiosity following the Benoit Thing faded and some fans decided maybe if that's what wrestling was about, they'd bail. Then Cena got hurt. Then Orton was installed as champ (Lowest Rated Champ in a Decade!). Then there was Monday Night Football, too, which came out of the gates strong but was maybe coming back to earth a bit (they purposely schedule appealing match-ups early, because they can guess at what storylines will make for good games; but later in the season, it's harder to guess what teams and match-ups will be relevant). Jericho shows up in late November to a situation where he can literally do nothing be raise the ratings.
    And he did. For about two weeks. But, in my head, it was still a genius stroke to put yourself back on TV in a spot where you can lay claim to responsibility to any ratings gains, and it's a virtual impossibility that you'll be pegged as the fall guy for ratings shortcomings. It didn't quite work out for Jericho on that front (the last time RAW was above 4.0 was the RAW 15th Anniversary last December, and 2008's best ratings have been 3.9's earned on "Stunt Booking"nights, everything else has been relatively flat and stagnant).
    And now, 10 months later, Jericho's one grab at Perfect Timing may have given way to Crappy Timing falling in his lap. Forget claiming ratings glory: Jericho might (if he's allowed to stay as champ long enough for it to count in my record books, that is) become and even bigger ratings goat than Orton.
    This Monday's RAW: a 2.6 rating. About three-quarters of a point off recent averages, a little over a half-point off of where Orton had driven the ship by the end of his reign, and over a FULL POINT below the rating for Jericho's return last November.
    What's going on? Well, yes, Monday featured a HUGE Monday Night Football game. It wasn't just the highest rated MNF in years (and almost 40% higher than standard ratings at the end of MNF on ABC that "forced" the shift to cable), it was the highest rated thing EVER SHOWN ON ESPN EVER. EVER. That's a not insignificant consideration.
    Timing wise, you can also very easily blame WWE's decision to put Jericho/Punk's cage match on FIRST. Not only does that telegraph a certain meaninglessness (for a match that SHOULD have been treated as free-per-view worthy), but it means the match is going on just 20-30 minutes after kick-off of aforementioned highly-rated MNF game (instead of being strategically held back for halftime, when marginal/incremental eyeballs might be flipping past RAW). Even if you just take the lost football viewers as a sunk cost, most RAW watchers are trained a certain way, and expect their carrot at the end of the stick; instead, WWE timed things THIS way, and late comers expecting to tune in to see the "good parts" of RAW find out the good parts already happened. Oy. There's a lot to said for competition, yes, but there's also a lot more to be said for asinine show construction behind RAW's abysmal rating.
    And more likely, there's probably the MOST to be said for a simple, steady decline in momentum being behind Monday's 2.6. RAW temporarily broke out of its doldrums with the Draft and in the month or so that followed. The show, however, had lost a goodly amount of its newfound charms in the final weeks heading into SummerSlam, and was back to giving off a sense of Cruise Control. That sense became amplified right after SummerSlam, when OTHER circumstances kicked in (RAW was pre-empted over to Sci-Fi one week, and was "competing" with Labor Day the next)... fair or not, fans could look at the sub-par efforts and wonder if RAW was punting them on purpose since ratings would be down due to those external factors.  Fans worried about a show purposely taking weeks off, then, may not be in such a rush to return to their normal viewing habits.... and sure enough, even after the pre-emption and the holiday (where ratings were down), RAW only rebounded to a 3.1 the next week, a figure distressing not just because there shouldn't have been any other mitigating factors, but because it was also the first "post-Cena injury" week for RAW and thus, had that extra bit of significance. Also distressing about the 3.1: it's about a third of a point lower than recent averages, and it came THE NIGHT AFTER AN EVENTFUL PPV, when usually there is some kind of mild ratings bump.
    Instead: nothing. If anything, that "bounceback" to a 3.1 may have been more distressing than the high 2's RAW scored during the two Mitigating Factor Weeks.
    And then this week: it gets worse. A 2.6. Actually LOWER than either of the two Mitigating Factor Weeks. And by my own standards of meting out responsibility, it's Chris Jericho who is currently helming this ship. Perfect timing, my ass.
    WWE has already started its predictable kneejerk rationalizing (BLAME MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL~!) for how it's not their problem, while (I can only assume) simultaneously gearing up for some kind of idiotic Vince-Inspired bit of Stunt Booking to "fix things." Oh, the incongruity: "Hey, it's not our fault. But let's still try to fix it by us doing something stupid straight from the mind of Vince!"..... good times.
    And see, this goes back to my advocacy for Sustainable Episodic Television... you get people hooked on the notion that their shows will either pay-off or get them all geared up for next week, and suddenly, it doesn't matter if the Cowboys and whoever are having a Blooper Reel of a first half and a drama-laden second half on ESPN.... your viewers will still care enough to find a way to include you in their night's viewing, since they know if they miss a week, they'll miss something good.
    They obviously didn't feel that way this week. And that's bad.
  • As bad as things are for RAW, they're actually looking pretty good for SD!... as noted last column, they're still scoring strong ratings for the CW, leading to a TON of angst over how big a ratings hit that network will take when SD! jumps over to a surging MyNetworkTV. The timing? Couldn't be better.
    As an added bonus: SD! can lay claim to being the current most watched wrestling brand on TV. Chances are good they'll score well enough this weekend that they'll be able to maintain that claim. Who'da thunk it. Oh wait: I did. In a column. From 2 or 3 months ago. God, I'm good.
    Anyway: what's working on SD!? Well, most things, really... I've said my piece about how strong HHH/Jeff is and how strong I think it can be heading forward (this need not be a one-and-done for Jeffrey). My "inner wanker" delights in seeing stuff like the emergence of THE Brian Kendrick and the weekly focus on US Champ Shelton Benjamin (and MVP, who is nicely fitting into his current mid-card heel niche). The pacing and presentation of the show is being slightly tweaked, it seems, with the emphasis on slightly longer wrestling matches remaining, but with JR/Tazz's commentary lending a different flavor/significance to them than SD!'s recent commentary duos. [Also: there's a bit more playful backstage/entertainment stuff, a la RAW, and while it's hit and miss, how hilarious has the relaxed, shit-stirring Triple H been lately? Last week's 5 different HHH segments were all freaking gold, I thought.]
    And to further distance myself from any "wanker" label (as if praising the existence and quality of 5 HHH segments in one week wasn't enough), I'll also suggest that Vladimir Kozlov is being handled almost perfectly, and it's showing. One of the big intellectual shortcomings of "pundits" who try to "analyze" wrestling using their "years of expertise" is that they tend to over-simplify things down to too small a number of archetypes, and assume that the same basic inputs into a character will always yield the exact same results. They often look foolish (my favorites of recent time: idiots at the Torch, who -- with a straight face -- said that WWE was booking guys like Umaga and the Great Khali "perfectly" and in accordence with proven "monster heel" tactics; in reality, Umaga didn't become a significant contributor until WWE made a few changes to their presentation of his character -- ones suggested by, oh, ME, since it actually hurt him to be treading water pointlessly with a MANAGER who was, at the time, way more over than him, while the Great Khali still hasn't sold a single ticket or PPV on this continent, despite being booked "perfectly"). There are always more inputs and more variables to the system than most "pundits" bother trying to figure out, and each case -- though sometimes illuminatable by past experiences -- needs to be handled individually. 
    I think that's where they've had success with Kozlov. Nothing was rushed, and nothing was forced. Here, I am not talking just about timing, I'm talking about presentationally, with the bill of goods they try to sell us. Yes, he's been booked on this long winning streak, but always against the right level of opposition for where he was at, and never booked over his head in a way that would leave him trying to "JBL" his way back to even ground six months after he was over-pushed as a main eventer. Music was added at the right time. Then speaking was added at the right time. Now, getting frustrated and wanting to move up the card by beating the shit out of Jeff Hardy is coming at the right time...
    And it's working; fans are responding. That's always a lot more fun to watch than when you can actually feel entire audiences giving off the vibe of "Really? REALLY???!???? You're joking, right?" like they do with Khali and some others. I don't know what Kozlov's ceiling is, but I could actually see him having a reasonably effective match or two with HHH (after Hardy, but before Edge or Taker kicks in this winter) that actually delivers in execution what they hoped -- in theory -- might happen with HHH vs. Khali. Then, coming out of that, it's probably up to Kozlov if he sinks back down the card or if he stays viable up near the top. There's no doubting his "It" Factor, I don't think... two years ago, when he showed up on TV doing the "I love double-double-E" gimmick from the front row, he made it work to the extent that he was probably more over than half of the active wrestlers on shows he appeared on. But if you'll recall, at that exact same time, I was filling you in on why they ultimately had to torpedo that incarnation of Kozlov and keep him off TV for an extra 18 months, and it's because of his utter incompetence and lack of a head for pro wrestling. All the MMA and shoot-fighting credentials they give for Kozlov are essentially legit, so he's an athlete who can and should make ass-kicking look good. The "double-double-E" stuff and his more recent vocal outbursts shows he's got a little something else in terms of watchability.... but his track record for understanding how pro wrestling works and what to do inside a ring is almost unparelleled in recent history in terms of how bad he was. One has to give him credit enough for improving to the point where they finally let him on TV, but to advance to a true contributor, he'll have to take more giant leaps and take advantage of any high profile matches he gets against the likes of Hardy and HHH to learn and mature as a fake pro wrestler. So far, he's shown some promise, but he's also done it as nothing more than as a Squasher Of Man.
    Hell, I'll even go one MORE step down the "why wankers hate me" staircase, and admit that -- pragmatically speaking -- R-Truth is sure as hell working out nicely for SD!. In all the incomprehensible backwardness of WWE's "kid friendly" paradigm shift, they're getting it spot-on with R-Truth. Myself, I think it's a little much, a little cheesy, and seeing as how I'm as color-blind as Stephen Colbert, I don't understand how Ron Killings' dance moves are "cool" and Brian Kendrick's are "lame" (I just see a grown man dancing, and it makes me giggle, almost regardless of circumstance; obligatory slow-dancing at weddings is OK; anything else, and I'm taking you about as seriously as a male figure skater; girls are allowed to dance on the grounds that it may be kinda sexy, or possibly even genuinely graceful or beautiful; but if you're a guy who takes his dancing seriously enough to bust moves in public, then I can't help but suspect problems). But that's my problem to deal with, eh? What matters is that it sure seems to be working for R-Truth, who is making a (ahem) killing with the younger fans.
    I would also like to start a rumor that R-Truth and R-Truth alone is responsible for the Dudleys re-signing with TNA, since he's effectively stolen "Whazzup?" from their potential "Return to WWE Playbook." Note that this rumor is false, but who cares? 
    Last thing SD! has got going for it: STUNT BOOKING~! But in this case, hey, jumping to a new network with visibility problems is as good a grounds for doing so as I can imagine, so Stunt Book away, WWE... in this case, we're talking about the October 3 MNTV debut of SD! featuring a Champion vs. Champion vs. Champion Match (HHH vs. Jericho vs. Matt Hardy, presumably, though we have a PPV to get through first).
    Should be a good one!
  • The deed is done. Mick Foley has appeared on TNA TV, making a vaguely-anti-Kurt Angle ImpactTron appearance last night.
    And I do mean vague. Apparently, what aired was a little different from what actually was shown in the arena, and tapings on Tuesday had Foley taping a bunch of different versions of stuff that apparently got edited into what we saw. [You really should have been able to tell even without being specifically told; Jarrett's promo seemed especially hacked to pieces even by TNA's cable access editing standards, while Foley's Tron bit didn't exactly have a ton of natural "flow" to it. Christ, how does WWE make entire botched spots go away almost seamlessly, but TNA can't edit dialogue without it seeming like they've hired primates whose lone editing equipment is scissors and scotch tape?]
    Live, in the arena, there was a much more direct implication that Jeff Jarrett was passing on a challenge from Kurt Angle, and that Mick Foley was accepting it, leading to Angle vs. Foley at the next PPV.
    Whoa: talk about timing issues! And I say that as a man who has spent the last month calling the potential for Angle vs. Foley to be one of the few really GOOD things that can come of Mick in TNA.... I just wasn't sure if TNA (or Mick or Angle) would see it quite the same way as I did in terms of those two being a "Lost Dream Match" of the WWE Golden Era, and if they DID see it that way, I didn't think they'd move so fast with it. Then again: if Mick's PR people are going around making it clear that his TNA contract is a "short term" one for starters, maybe TNA knows something important about how they need to use Mick while they can, which we're not privy to?
    Then again, like I said: the as-aired version was a bit different and significantly more vague about whether Mick was showing up to challenge Angle to a match, much less one as soon as next month's Bound For Glory. Additional spoilers for next week's show add further vagueness, as Foley was NOT present for that day's tapings, and the focus was shifted back to Angle vs. Jarrett, with Foley being promised as an in-arena guest the next week (shows to be taped September 29 and 30).
    I think -- with me unsold on Sting's heart being in a heel turn, Russo's ability to script a believable heel turn for Sting, and Jarrett's natural status as a heel anywhere outside of Tennessee -- I'd like to see Foley held back. Then for Bound For Glory, you go with a pair of complimentary "wrestler vs. special attraction" matches with Joe vs. Sting for the TNA Title and Angle vs. Jarrett to take the current story to the next level. Obvious tag pairings heading into or coming out of the PPV would be Jarrett/Joe and Sting/Angle, but that's where I vote for a flip-flop switcheroo. It's probably farther reaching than just those four guys, but Jarrett and Sting can be "properly" aligned as heel and face, respectively, while Foley then slides in as Joe's new confidant and pal, which facilitates the slower-burning build-up to Foley vs. Angle.
    As good as Jarrett's promo was last night (and it was really good, I thought; intense/realistic delivery and pressing just the right buttons to get the desired responses out of the fans in Orlando), Foley's just a more natural and believable choice to be a "legend" who'd defect over to the "whippersnapper" side in this big-ass feud. Yes, Jarrett was cheered strongly, and deserved it, last night, but I mean it: his ultimate nature is as a heel, and every shred of work he's done outside the old USWA proves it. And more importantly, the true nature of the ImpactZone Wankers is as... well, as wankers. Jarrett did gloss over just enough facts that a group of fans like this one will turn on him just as quickly as they turned TO him. "Hey, he's talking about the success of TNA, and we like to pretend we're the reason for TNA's success, so YAY!" will go to nit-picking in about 2 weeks flat if they aren't careful. And having Jarrett making dubious blanket statements about TNA starting out as a "young man's promotion" and still being a "young man's promotion" even as AJ Styles and Samoa Joe pass into their 30s and as Jarrett unironically introduces Mick Foley as his next up-and-coming star is NOT being careful.
    Something to keep an eye on, at the very least, I do believe.
  • Timing was a bitch for Booker T this past weekend. He was supposed to be part of the four-way TNA Title match, but was unable to make it due to his hometown of Houston being pretty much broken by Hurricane Ike. [Note: I have a few other OO'ers from here in Ohio, and they've brought it up, so yes, I'll admit that Ike was a pain in the ass here, and on Sunday, roughly 80% of the entire state was without power, and here in Dayton, they STILL haven't restored electricity to over 15% of the DP&L customer base as of Friday. But I'll also admit that as long as I have a brother who lives in Houston, I have no freaking business ranting and raving about how bad we've had it the past 5 days. Stay strong, Texas, you ornery bastards.]
    Booker made it out in time to get to TV tapings, though, where (much like I discussed above with Punk and Batista) I figured there was a certain "no-brainer" factor to letting Booker use those prodigious verbal skills and wonky new half-king/half-pimp gimmick to bitch mightily about being screwed out of his shot at the title to the exclusion of all other topics. 
    But nope: just done done and onto the next one, as Booker seemed to move into some meaningless drivel with Jay Lethal (himself the victim of horrifically awful pacing, as he now seems to have FINALLY wrapped up a 3-Live-Kru-esque 47-month-long storyline that should have been done in 2). Oh well. Sorry 'bout yer damned luck, Book.
  • With TNA turning October's annual Bound For Glory PPV into their "WrestleMania," they've usually tried to score a huge surprise or debuting star for that show each of the past 5 years or so.
    Which has worked out nicely, and in some cases has also corresponded nicely to their free-TV moves (first to FSN and then to SpikeTV).
    But timing wise, it also means contracts coming due all at the same part of the year.... this year, as we've discussed in recent columns, the mix of 1-year and 3-year contracts have kind of all come to a bigger-than-usual head this month, with the structure of TNA's roster VERY much in a state of flux.
    Well, that's starting to clear up a bit now, as we get towards crunchtime.
    For starters: the Dudleys never were seriously courted by WWE (though a lot of indications point to them at least wanting to hear an offer), and have resigned with TNA. Probably for the best, since I really think TNA's mindset allows them to be more valuable contributors than they'd be in WWE (WWE getting away from regular gimmick matches and ultra-violence vs. TNA under criticism for unnecessary levels of pointless garbage brawls which are precisely what the Duds are awesome at). Granted, they'll probably be underappreciated by TNA fans while they are contributing this important niche element, but c'est la vie.
    Also: Kevin Nash did have serious talks with WWE, but in the end, WWE couldn't offer the same mix of money and doing-nothing that TNA could. Nash would be in for one storyline (Michaels/Jericho) that would put him on the road 4 days a week and require him to -- you know -- WORK, and then be a scarcely-seen, low-paid live-at-home legend for WWE. Meantime, TNA will always find something for him to do, and Nash can fulfill his duties by making the short drive to Orlando twice a month (and six flights per year to TNA"s outside-Orlando PPVs). The consensus is -- though Nash was missing from the PPV and this week's TV tapings -- that the final calculus (a complex triple regression of remarkable laziness regressing back towards the bank account) will lead Nash to re-up with TNA for one more year.
    Same expectation now for Sting.
    At the other end of the spectrum, the Gail Kim Saga probably ends with her NOT getting the storybook last second contract offer from TNA. WWE's offer is strong, and though Dixie Carter herself got involved on Gail's behalf after TNA's front line negotiation monkeys low-balled her, there's just too much of a chasm to make up, money-wise. To make it worth Gail's while to stay in TNA, either Gail's "while" (whatever that is) would have to come dirt-cheap, or TNA would have to completely break the payscale to compensate her. From TNA's perspective, you can see why they wouldn't want to get caught up in a bidding war situation where they wouldn't just set a new precedent for how they compensate the women on the roster, but actually for how they compensate EVERYbody.  
    [Remember when I said the heft of WWE's offer to Gail indicated to me they also already had an idea for her? Well, despite my dreams of those ideas involving Jericho's faction, it's looking more likely that WWE sees Gail as a counterpart to a new Asian wrestler or faction. The past month or 2, they've been trying out a bunch of Japanese wrestlers, especially, as they get ready to plunge into that market the same way they've used Khali to get into India... they've had varying levels of success -- usually the more talented the wrestler, the less WWE likes them because they look less like Vince's idea of of a wrestler, but give them an Asian with a decent physique and less ability, and there are developmental contracts being handed out -- but they know with confidence what they get with Gail. Even if it's terribly ethnocentric of WWE to think that just throwing a Canadian in as a counterpart to a Japanese stable is a good idea just because she is of Korean descent.]
    And then lastly, on TNA's autumnal contract cavalcade of whimsy is Christian... and he's still as free agenty as a free agent can be. He wasn't asked to take the fall in the main event at Sunday's PPV (Angle did that), so TNA is clearly pandering to him a bit. But is it too little too late? Maybe so; some people think that if WWE comes up with a contract offer that is even just slightly better than the one Christian turned down 3 years ago to jump to TNA, he'd take it this time, in part because of frustration at TNA but also in part because he'll be able to symbolically lay claim to being the first guy that left WWE for TNA, then came back and got MORE money.
  • Let's see.... other TNA news? Well I guess there's Kurt Angle, who kind of serves as a counter-balance to Jeff Hardy here today.
    Because, you see, Hardy didn't really do anything we can point to as wrong, but may face repercussions anyway. Meantime, all signs point to Angle actually doing the "wrong" thing, but being exonerated fully in the eyes of the law. 
    His court date for DUI charges was last week, and Kurt had them all dismissed. Of note: his lawyers didn't even really bother to claim Kurt didn't do it.... they just said, neener neener neener, our justice system places the burden of proof on YOU, and you can't prove jack, so just clear this mean of all charges.
    The short version: a vehicle matching the description of Kurt's was seen driving erratically upon leaving a bar Kurt was known to frequent one fateful night in 2007. When authorities were notified, a vehicle matching the description of Kurt's was safely parked at Kurt's residence. And though Kurt answered the door sloshed as a fiddler's bitch, and apparently washing down pills with light beer, how the hell can you prove jackshit about the vehicle, the driver, or Kurt's itinerary for the night when he was involve in no accidents and cops didn't catch up with him till his SUV was parked safely back at his house? You can't. 
    So the man gets off scot-free. And I guess putting my "Angle cynicism" of the past 2-3 years aside, I figure that's a good thing. I'd rather a legal system where you actually have to do a crime to get in trouble rather than one where being found in a state that suggests you might be capable of having committed a crime is enough to convict you. [And yes, we could devolve into a semantic discussion about when the particular crime of "drunk driving" happens, but I'm a noted dickhead, and since I believe "crimes" have "victims," I tend towards a more lenient school of non-preventative thought where the crime doesn't happen when the drunk successfully navigates home, but only when something bad actually happens. I'll field your dissenting opinions, but I probably won't change my mind.]
    Then, since the watchword of the day is "timing," Angle promptly celebrated his court victory by filing divorce papers. Odd. If true. It's not like his marriage to Karen has been without plenty of past issues (including near-divorces prevented only by perfectly timed conceptions of new babies who deserved both a mommy and a daddy, and by Kurt's promises to take advantage of TNA's lighter schedule to clean himself up), but now, an event in Kurt's life where he could symbolically say "That's it. That's the corner I needed to turn and the break I needed to really focus on being a better person and better husband and father," and instead, he goes directly to the county registrar and files for divorce from his wife?
    Like I said: odd timing. If true. Certainly, one could wonder when the "source" of this hardcore news reporting is Bubba the Love Sponge, and it comes at a time when a small circle within TNA are known to be trying to aid Kurt in creating a public image as a shitty husband and non-responsive father in order to help sell a reality show (and in order to sell Angle's current gimmick in TNA, for that matter).
    But just as certainly, it could all be very real, and Kurt could just be taking a page out of the Hulk Hogan playbook by using Bubba the Love Sponge as his conduit to the truly discerning fan of interesting news and compelling radio. [Note to Kurt: there was a time when a wrestler looking to expand or extend his relevance in the wrestling world would have been well served to take a few notes from the Hulkster. That time ended 12 years ago. Now, Hogan and his family are a pitiable joke, and anyone with half a brain or a desire to attract the attention of remotely-well-adjusted and self-respecting wrestling fans should do the OPPOSITE of Hogan, no questions asked. Love: Rick.]
    Karen Angle was at TV tapings this week, coexisting peacefully with Kurt, but like I said: I doubt we'll really know for sure how serious all this is for a while, much less whether or not TNA would continue to employ a Karen who is no longer Angle's wife.
  • Speaking of divorces, we might as well at least quickly acknowledge that Ric Flair's likely headed for another one. That's right: the smoking hot half-his-age blonde that he spent WM Weekend kissing up to has already had enough, and I guess it's just a matter of the state of North Carolina having some silly law about not being allowed to file for divorce until one full year after the marriage. 
    But once that passes, it sounds like retirement and free agency haven't done a thing to slow down The Naitch, and he's gonna have yet another alimony payment to make. Ugh. On one hand, yeah, that just makes it all the more likely that Flair will remain in the extended WWE family; but on the other, a man's got to grow the hell up at some point, no? 
    Flair was also recently involved in an altercation at his daughter Ashley's apartment, where he faced no charges nor pressed any (after what appeared to be a fight with Ashley's 20-something boyfriend).... but where Ashley was the one who ended up getting arrested for obstructing and resisting the officers who reported to the scene.
    Oy. Again: less mimicking the Hogan family's comical demise into trainwreckery, people. What is wrong with you?
  • One could say JBL is in a crappy spot, timing-wise. His body hasn't held up well in his in-ring comeback, and it's gotten to the point that -- within wrestling -- his value is the lowest its been since the APA were still the Acolytes. And outside of wrestling, he's some kind of "financial genius"? Well, I think we all know how that's going lately.
    So I was recently pointed to a link that MIGHT be JBL attempting to rehab his public image by humanizing himself and connecting with the audience. Problem is: the link is on "twitter." You know, the social networking website designed for people so mentally-retarded and shallow that full-length blogs (or, I daresay, complete sentences) are far too much effort. In other words: a medium designed for the exclusive use of 14-year-old girls or those who don't mind being mistaken for 14-year-old girls.
    So it might not be on the level. I mean, JBL is a lot of things, but a 14 year old girl is none of them. I don't think your average chick even STARTS to think about violating her submissive male partner in the shower until she's at least in her mid-30s and completely jaded by the quality and quantity of sex she's gotten in her life up to that point. At 14, it's still all holding hands and junk. JBL: cougar, maybe; 14 year old girl, nah.
    Plus, you don't see too many 14-year-old girls who'd admit to a morning routine that requires using a Sharpie to draw a bowl-cut and a Hitler-stache on their cocks. Which is something that has happened on JBL's twitter. So with no particular claims of legitimacy or veracity implied, I'll still say you might get a kick out of this link to JBL's twitter.
    Twitter. Mheh heh heh heh heh.
  • Time, did somebody say "time"? Or possibly repeat it constantly and harp on it non-stop for the past  5000 words? 
    Well, how about a bullet point where there's no theoretical or artistic element to "time" or "timing," there's just the literal cut and dry fact of what time it is... because as reference in a column 2-3 months ago, WWE and Sci-Fi have agreed to move ECW's timeslot.
    Starting week after next (September 30), ECW will air earlier in the evening at 9pm, and in making the move, all WWE programming (save PPVs) will be rated TV-PG as part of the new "kid-friendly initiative." [Go into the archives and read my column from mid-August if you want the full scoop/rant on that. It was a pretty good one, if I do say so myself.]
    Kid-friendly ECW: surely now I have seen it all.... well, "seen" is a strong word. To be honest, "fast-forwarded through" tends to be more accurate when it comes to ECW. Still: give 'em credit. Maybe if we can keep on focusing on the good and losing some of the bad (looking at you, Mark Henry), my interest level will continue to rise, regardless of "rating."
    For whatever it's worth, the good stuff on Tuesdays seems to include the unexpected very-good-ness of Striker and Grisham as a commentary duo (gee, per our recent discussions here in OO related to what drove Mick Foley away from WWE, I wonder if Vince agrees they're doing well/). Miz and Morrison are almost pitch-perfect together (which can only mean somebody will get the bright idea that they need to be broken apart into singles, where they'll once again underwhelm and annoy me). And ECW's role as a de facto "developmental territory" got another boost, as they've followed up on the early success of Evan Bourne (already crossing over onto RAW) with the debut of Jack Swagger. His real name: Jake Hager. His real credentials: stand-out wrestler and football player at Oklahoma who didn't take a whole lot of recruiting by Jim Ross to sign with WWE. His gimmick: over-the-top goofy "All American" kind of like Angle or Bob Backlund. His look and hook: having that goofiness of two smaller WWE amateur stars, but looking a hell of a lot more like Brock Lesnar in terms of size and bad-assery. [He's looked really impressive in squashes already, though a word of warning: his devastating in-ring appearance isn't by accident and has sometimes been due to simple sloppiness that has genuinely dinged up a few opponents. That'll have to stop.]
    Timing-wise, I picked a crap week to stop and mention ECW (and in a good light, no less), but I figure I went on for so long about TNA bits, that I should at least approximate equal time for ECW.
  • A few emails tell me that Batista was an actual for-real celebrity judge on the episode of "Iron Chef" that was making the rounds this week (special ingredient: snails?).
    I know why this missed my radar (I don't watch cooking shows that feature shit I'd never eat, and though I've seen a few edible "secret ingredients" on Iron Chef, the chefs usually end up over-doing it and making some fancy-schmancy horsecrap that'd rather be "original" than "tasty"; in all honesty -- and I know I'll catch hell for this -- "edible food" on the Food Network is almost limited exclusively to the universally despised Rachel Ray; and sometimes Emeril, though he's not as much fun to think about pantsless). But given the Alternate RAWniverse's running gag, how has Matt Hocking not caught wind of this and slam-dunked it home?
  • Last column, I admitted I kind of ended in a rush, and that if I'd accidentally forgotten anything, I'd be sure to include it in my next column. Well: I did omit an item of potential interest, so here it is...
    A movie called simply "The Wrestler" was heavily awarded at film festivals in Venice and Canada two weeks ago. And while the title is true, and it is very much about A Wrestler, it bears stating that it's also about as much about the wrestling as "Rocky" was about boxing. It's a simple little piece about the wrestLER, not something that gets all caught up in wrestLING. So though you should be made aware of it, I by no means believe this movie will appeal to wrestling fans automatically.
    I originally got the script for this about a year ago (at that time, Nicolas Cage was signed to star in it, but he backed out to make "Bangkok Dangerous" and was replaced by Mikie Rourke). At the time, I thought the movie could break either way: really good, or really bad. The praise won at the festivals seems to indicate "good." But you know me: I'm a tough sell, so I remain unsure.
    Things in the movie's favor: the switch from Cage to Rourke. Nic seems like a swell guy and all, but he's been proximate to too much crap in his day to be sure to deliver in a movie like this one. Rourke, on the other hand, seems like he might be a miserable ass, but almost lived this role for real in his life, and thus I suspect him very capable of nailing it and and living up to all the hype (and awards talk) that his performance has already generated. Also a good sign: Bruce Springsteen saw a rough cut of the movie and agreed to supply an original theme song for it. The Boss tends not to associate himself with TOTAL crap, so....
    Working against the movie (to me): Not a fan of the director am I. Aronofsky is one of those walking weenie boy, liberal arts graduate, "arteestic" cliches. Form, yes. Originality, god yes! Making something that's actually any good, who cares! I'm a smart guy who enjoys clever things and all, but there's a huge difference between clever and masturbatory, and Aronofsky has been on both sides of that line in his career. Sometimes in the very same movie (here I speak of "Pi" which was a cool idea, and a very enthralling opening 30 minutes before turning into dense wankery nonsense). Reading the script calls for a lighter touch and a simpler approach, and if the dude managed to restrain himself, all this praise might be well deserved. If he didn't? Well, I'm more than happy to also entertain the notion that all this praise is just a case of the head-up-the-ass "cinema aficionados" who'd actually go to a film festival celebrating one of their own.
    Compounding my lack of certainty about "The Wrestler": Ernest Miller is the film's antagonist and will likely get #3 billing. Is that good or is that bad? I dunno. I can't decide. It's either a horrifying notion, or one of the most awesome things I've ever heard. There will be no middle ground.
    The movie, which had trouble raising funds and distribution after Cage pulled out, has been picked up by a FOX subsidiary after it's film festival success. It'll be released in the last week of December in order to qualify for the Oscars. Yes folks, a tangentially-wrestling-related movie with legit Oscar Buzz. "Ready to Rumble" this ain't.
  • No major rush job to finish today, so I think I had plenty of time to do right by you folks without skipping on anything important. Enjoy with my compliments, and I'm already looking forward to seeing you...
    .... next TIME~!

SMACKDOWN RECAP: Bonding Exercises
RAW RECAP: The New Guy Blows It
PPV RECAP: WWE Night of Champions 2012
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RAW RECAP: Heyman Lands an Expansion Franchise
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Losing is the new Winning
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PPV RECAP: SummerSlam 2012
RAW RECAP: Bigger IS Better
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PPV RECAP: WWE Money in the Bank 2012
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PPV RECAP: WWE No Way Out 2012
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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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