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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
Shaq = Ratings, Kendrick = Fired, TNA = T&A, And Tons of Other Equivocations!
July 31, 2009

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OOWrestling.com

 

Under normal circumstances, I consider those who insist upon talking about the weather to be the most boring, uninteresting, time-wasting, socially-retarded wang-nozzles of all times...
 
But after listening to Local TV Wang Nozzles the last few nights and doing my own research, I feel compelled to underscore something I offhand-mentioned in my last column. Even if only to make others among you jealous.
 

To wit: this has been the most screwed up July I can ever remember. Not counting today (the 31st), it has gotten over 80 degrees here in southwest Ohio exactly 8 times all month. That may or may not become 9 times today; it's gonna be close. 
 
Regardless, though: that's a minimum of 22 days in FREAKING JULY where it was 80 or below. And in a month where the historical average high is 87 on any given July day, the hottest it got here in the past 30 days is 85. Once. With only 7 other 80s mixed in. And 3 days in the 60s. For a 2009 July average high of 77. Wow. Seriously, once I'd heard how crazy a statistical outlier this month had been, I checked the databanks rather than relying upon my own anecdotal memory of "lotsa nice days lately," and I found this link. To repeat: July's been messed up, man. And I loved every chilly-open-windows-and-huddle-underneath-blankets-at-night second of it.
 
I'd start pre-fearing August, except maybe this is merely make-up for that stupid stretch back in June where it was 86-95 for 12 days straight, and I was making my own gravy. In that case, just do your normal routine, August; I'll cope. I'll still be secretly waiting for the Greatest Month of The Year (October) to finally get here, but I'll cope.
 
As a peace offering to you for coping with my talking-about-the-weather, here's a quick/smallish news update for you to enjoy this weekend:

  • As monumentally UNinteresting as it is to examine the TV ratings for most wrestling shows (as they fail to fluctuate more than 0.1 or 0.2 points per week, which is actually less than the statistical Margin of Error that exists for Neilsen's estimates), looking at RAW's ratings is starting to give me a goddamned headache just because of how unpredictable they are.
     
    This week, after backsliding to consecutive 3.5 ratings (below the year-to-date average by a couple tenths, and more in line with the craptacular ratings Orton has averaged since his return to the headliner spot in early May), RAW suddenly did a 4.0 rating on Monday.
     
    That's only the 2nd time all 2009 RAW has touched 4, and just like the previous time (the commercial-free 4.5 rating), you pretty much have to attribute it to something "stunt-y," since there's sure as hell no built-in internal reason for the sudden boost in viewership. Monday was a cut-and-dry case of "the same performers doing the same stories," and represented no significant Sustainably Episodic TV Upgrade over what fans had collectively decided NOT to watch as ratings declined over the month of July.
     
    So: we're left with two choices. (1) Fans showed up to see what happened at the prior night's PPV, or (2) Fans showed up to see Shaq.
     
    Given that the "post-PPV bump" theory has been largely debunked in the last few years (fans who care enough to find out what happens at a PPV, but not enough to pay for it, generally use this new-fangled Internet Thingie to scratch their itch well before Monday night at 9pm), and that nothing good/interesting even happened at Night of Champions to spur fan interest in RAW once fans DID know what happened at the PPV, I guess that leaves Shaq to thank.
     
    Or to blame, since Monday was a pretty brutal show, overall. And now WWE's gonna think THAT is what we like to see.
     
    I mean: plus 10 for Shaq actually being a convinvingly athletic celebrity who can connect with those of us in the 18-35 demographic (even though WWE can't decide if they prize the highly-desirable 18-35s more than the 11-17s, or not). And maybe plus another 2 or 3 for milking the Circus Act of Shaq and Big Show butting heads at the end of the night.
     
    But minus several million for the rest of the night, where WWE clearly decided that (in direct opposition to all documented evidence and data) we're all dying for Yet Another Cena/Orton main event. Sweet Fancy Moses, are you shitting me, monkeys? Also minus points for such abominations as: Mark Henry "wrestling" in the LONGEST FRICKING MATCH OF THE NIGHT, and having that happen on the same night where he also gives back his middle initial ("F.") to its original owner, the returning-and-still-sucky Chris F. Masters, who crushinated MVP with his CrappyLock. Oy.
     
    There were even a few significantly more minor Logic Hole Offenses, too. Like: nobody even TRYING to explain the retardation of the previous night's Orton/Cena/HHH finish, which has to rate among the dumbest things WWE's done all year. Or: delving into exactly what Cryme Tyme were doing over on RAW, other than reinforcing the notion that Brothers only hang out with Other Brothers (hasn't the Beer Summit tought us anything, America?). And lastly: HHH's Orton-caliber awful promo where he rambled incoherently about how a dog dies when you cut off its tail and somehow tried to use that as a metaphor for Legacy. I'd ask who's writing this crap, except the REAL question becomes: Who is proof-reading it and still allowing it to air on TV? Double Oy.
     
    Anyway, my point is that Monday night was not the template I want to see WWE following, regardless of its rating. Sure, maybe nothing was as insta-horrible as ZZ Top's night as Guest Hosts, but this was still 2 hours of below-average-ness. It should not have been rewarded with RAW's second-highest rating of the year. Not in a world where Vince is all extra-spazzy and extra-disconnected-from-common-sense, and will arrive at all the wrong conclusions based on that rating.
     
    So please, please, please, I'm beggin' ya: just give credit for this one to Shaq and move on. I'm pretty sure it's because of him. I mean, look at the breakdowns: a huge (way larger than normal, anyway) audience showed up RIGHT AT THE START of the show, and the ratings held steady for 2 hours straight. This is as opposed to RAW's more usual pattern on high-rated nights, where the audience starts at Point A and steadily builds up to Point B (usually three-quarters or more of a point higher).
     
    On Monday, RAW's first hour did a 3.9, and the second did a 4.0. People who showed up intrigued by Shaq liked enough of what they saw to stick around to see him "ref" in the main event. But people who just flipped by weren't so enthralled by WWE's usual flamboyantly subpar creative efforts to stick around and create the "snowball effect" we see on more genuinely entertaining nights. So the audience at the end was the same as the one at the start. Simple, straight forward, clear cut. Blame Shaq. Or credit him, if that's your preference. His appearance even got WWE some token coverage on ESPN and everything. So this is all because of him. It was Stunt Booking. It was not a vindication of RAW's overall direction the past 2 months.
     
    Not even close.
     
    I hope.
     
    Anyway, lets cross our fingers and hope things get back on track again next week. Jeremy Piven is the guest GM on Monday, and may not be quite the no-brainer cross-over star that Shaq was among sports-minded young-males, but could certainly be entertaining. And he's even gonna be there hawking a new movie (and not "Entourage," which is a good thing, as I explained in my last column). He's basically a kinda-less-funny Seth Green. But: he's also not a midget like Seth Green. So it could be a coin flip as to whether or not it turns out as well as Seth Green Week did (which has, so far, been the apex of the Guest GM Concept from an entertainment-value perspective). Like I said: fingers crossed.
     
  • On Thursday, WWE announced they'd fired Brian Kendrick, wishing him well in all his future yadda yadda yaddas...
     
    This comes only 9 months after Kendrick was an "Interim WWE Champion" in the first-ever SD Championship Scramble Match (yes, you remember that: The Brian Kendrick is kinda/sorta an ex-WWE World Champ!), and only 2 months after he was drafted over to RAW and began a seemingly-promising storyline searching for the "perfect" partner with whom he'd duplicate his record tag team title run from SmackDown (where he and Paul London had been champs for about a full calendar year 2 years ago).
     
    In addition to these professional highlights in VERY recent memory, Kendrick was also a favorite of all us Internet Wanker Types, so you can imagine that there's been some indignant hand-wringing about this in the past 24 hours.
     
    Well: I'm not gonna jump in on that. Not entirely, anyway. I mean, I'm disappointed and all, as Kendrick is no doubt objectively more in-ring talented than 80% of WWE's roster and his charisma/persona have even been upgraded substantially since he broke up with London. I'll miss having that reliable touchstone of gOOdnes on my TV every week, even if it was only ever gonna be in 5 minutes worth of throw-away content.
     
    That said: I'll not get too weepy over this, simply because you know Kendrick was never gonna be any more than that 5-minutes-per-week guy in WWE's body-builder-fetishist Vince-o-Vision. And also: not to be too dickishly blunt, Kendrick probably made WWE's decision on this pretty easy, as he's a guy who has repeatedly and systematically, ummmm, "utilized a loophole" in the WWE Wellness Policy when it comes to marijuana being "bad" but not "a sanctionable offense like everything else." He had Zero Strikes against him, but that doesn't mean he was exactly spending every waking moment learning at the feet of CM Punk, if you catch my drift.
     
    Being undersized and a not-exactly-model-employee is a double whammy. Kendrick couldn't do a thing about the former, but he willfully persisted about continuing to be the latter. He made his bed, he had to know there would/could be consequences. So while I'll miss the guy on my TV and I'll remain unclear on exactly how well-constructed WWE's Policy is given this easy loop-holing, I also can't turn Kendrick into any kind of sympathetic martyr for the cause of Workrate or WWE's Dumbass Roster Management or whatever. He could have adjusted his behavior and probably managed to hang onto a job (even in the Big Man's WWE) by virtue of ability, but opted to do things his way and make himself a disposable asset in WWE Think.
     
    Oh well. Most people expect Ken Kennedy, Umaga, and Elijah Burke to all show up in TNA soon, even though they'll need complete gimmick make-overs and new names. Kendrick, if nothing else, is really named "Brian Kendrick," and could follow them without requiring such mind-numbing nonsense. Who knows? There's always ROH and Japan for a guy as skilled as Kendrick, too...
     
  • Many are obsessing over the fact that Shawn Michaels is all over promotional materials/posters for SummerSlam. Ummm, people: how many times have we seen an entire marketing scheme for a PPV be focused on one single "returning star," only to have that guy not show up till a month or two later? It's happened at least a handful of times in the past 5 years, so c'mon...
     
    But then again: taking the Reliable Harbinger Of Well-Researched News Reporting that is "posters" out of the equation, it does seem like Michaels return at SummerSlam fits into storylines quite nicely. If we're not heading towards a Legacy vs. DX mini-feud, anyway, I'll eat my trusty bug.
     
    HBK returning for that one-off pairing with HHH makes all kinds of sense. Sure, it's pretty obvious and underwhelming, but it's also a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, so why not do it? Then, Michaels can be off on whatever his Actual Agenda is gonna be, now that he'll have put his kids back into school for the fall and he's rested and healthy and ready to be back on TV every week. Given RAW's stale main event scene, having Michaels back as an Actual Babyface (in opposition to the Wanker-HHHated Triple H and Mixed Reaction Cena) can only be a good thing.
     
    Then again, part of me really wishes Michaels would open himself up to working on Tuesday nights for a stint on SD... with Hardy leaving, babyface depth is gonna be an issue, and it might be interesting (in a car-wreck-y kind of way) to see what might come of putting an Evangelical Jesus Guy up against an Evangelical StraightEdge Guy for a quick feud. The matches would probably rule, too. And once Punk/HBK is done, Michaels on SD also leaves him right in the path of the also-returning-this-fall Undertaker. Given what those two old men did at WrestleMania 25, I doubt anything bad would come of that.
     
    Maybe you could even make Total Logical Sense out of HBK on SD by doing a DX vs. Jericho/Show brand-hopping Unified Tag Title feud, to boot. Facilitating as many genuinely entertaining performers being on as many different shows as possible is a VERY good thing, and would give Shawn the chance to freshen things up by dancing with some less-familiar Friday night partners for the first time since his return in 2002...
     
    But I'm getting ahead of myself. And I'm also engaging in pointless fantasy booking, since Michaels is well known to prefer working on Mondays to facilitate his personal/family schedule, so.... yeah. I don't care, though. Just getting a guy that awesome back on TV is good, no matter what night he ends up working.
     
  • Still no real information on the deal in TNA where there's purported Backstage Drama between Kurt Angle and Jeff Jarrett, other than to say we're still EXACTLY where we were when I mentioned it in last week's update... which is to say: some people figure anything this dumb has to be a work and others who figure it's actually real aren't sure how/why it should matter to TNA's daily business.
     
    Regardless, Jarrett was absent from the last PPV and TV Tapings, and if it matters to you, it sounds to me like Taz (now with 50% less "Z"!) sorta took over a few backstage duties and lent hands all over the place as a producer/agent-type to fill in for the absent owner.
     
    This could have been the plan all along (since Taz genuinely can't work matches due to his neck condition), to allow Taz to contribute and "multi-task" in ways other than just being a manager/advisor to Samoa Joe. I dunno. If that's the case, though, Don F. West should breathe a mighty sigh of relief, since it means Taz doesn't have to instantly move to the commentary desk in order to earn his paycheck.
     
    Which is too bad, since TNA would honestly become about 30% more watchable if only they got rid of that wheezing hyperbolic windbag and replaced him with somebody as good as Taz. We'll see.
     
  • One good thing TNA has recently done: they negotiated a deal to pimp out their women to Playboy, now that WWE has gone all "G-rated" and created a bOObie Vacuum when it comes to naked wrestling babes.
     
    Allow me to vent: GODDAMMIT GAIL KIM WHY DIDN'T YOU ACCEPT TNA'S LOW-BALL CONTRACT OFFER LAST YEAR, YOU SPITEFUL MINX?!!!???!!! GET YER ASS BACK THERE IMMEDIATELY, AND THEN PLEASE BARE IT IN THE PAGES OF PLAYBOY!!!!!
     
    Ahhhh... I feel better. And I also can't really complain about Gail's contributions to universal wangcare. I'll always have those pictures from that Japanese Cell Phone Company that uses tits to sell wireless service to remind me of just how incredbily capable Gail Kim is of supplying me with Full Bars. In My Pants~!
     
    Also: she is good at wrestling.
     
    Traci Brooks has already done her shoot for Playboy (why do I fear Playboy made her leave her glasses at home, dammit?), and Christy Hemme is already a lock to follow with her second shoot for the magazine (the first coming during her WWE tenure). So Cal Val is presumed to be up for this as well. Whether Playboy saves up the shoots for a mixed "Women of TNA" feature, or spaces the women out individually over the course of time is unclear, but hey: no matter what, it looks like wrestling fans can get excited for a return of nudity after a 2-plus-year hiatus. Yay?
     
    Sure: Yay. Why not.
     
  • The lone remaining WWE woman who once appeared in Playboy will be absent from TV for a while: Maryse had knee surgery this week to address a patella issue, and will be out of action for 3-4 months.
     
    This had been a nagging condition which Maryse struggled with and battle through for several months, and when WWE decided to put the Diva Title on Mickie James, she decided it was finally time to quit treating the injury with physical therapy and vicodins and just get the damned surgery to fix the thing for real.
     
    You'll note that Beth Phoenix returned after a lengthy absense on Monday to fill the heel slot vacated by Maryse. She'd been held off TV for a while partly because "Summer Skin Bikini Showdowns" and "ZZ Top Legsliminator Matches" aren't exactly in keeping with Beth's image as a, you know?, actual athlete... but also, the absense allowed memories of her babyfacish pairing with Santino to fade so that she could re-emerge as the top heel among RAW's women.
     
    I guess I can't complain if we get another round of Mickie/Beth... but there's still part of me that honestly wants to make use of Gail in a more significant fashion. If I said I sensed a hint of dissension between Gail and Mickie on Monday, would you agree with me and think this is something worth exploring? Or would you accuse me of watching a special alternate edition of RAW that apparently was only broadcast directly into my brain?
     
  • I think that's all the news that Actually Matters for today, kids. Hey: I told you this would be quick and shortish up in the pre-ramble, didn't I? And plus, it's not like I haven't also supplied you with another news column AND a full-length PPV Recap within the past week, too! I'm busting my ass for you ungrateful parasites! You have no right to complain!
     
    Or, you COULD complain, but first, I'll have to insist upon you being grateful in the form of a Donation To The Future Of OO (PayPal is our donation-taker, but they don't require you to have an account, and you may simply use their credit-card/checking-account options, if you prefer). Then, once you are part of the 1% of loyal readers bankrolling this website for the other 99% of leeches, you can get Ragingly Indignant at me any time you feel I'm short-changing you, and I'll have no choice but to beg your forgiveness.
     
    So c'mon: help keep OO in the black. You know you want to. And if you don't? Well, that's why I'm wrapping up this column 2000 words sooner than usual to get on with what I can only hope will be both an unseasonably AND unreasonably cool weekend. Nee haw.
     
    Happy August, everybody, and I'll see you again next week...


  
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PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28

 
 
E-MAIL RICK SCAIA

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Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.

 

 


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