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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
Guest Hosting Futurescape, WWE Financials, Ratings, and Lots More News...
August 7, 2009

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OOWrestling.com

 

OK, so you remember a month ago when I ranted about the pitiable behavior exhibited in some media coverage of Michael Jackson's death ("It's just like the day Kennedy was assassinated," said some guy born years after Kennedy was assassinated!)?
 
Well, I'm going to do the same thing today, after reading about The Great Twitter Outage of 2009, and being filled by some combination of Horrible Sadness, Murderous Rage, and Nonstop Laughter. Why?
 

Because, in the Yahoo Tech article about the Twitter snafu, a lady who works at an NYC marketing firm lamented at some length that she didn't know how to go on without her Twitter. She didn't know what to do with herself. And furthermore, she gets her news from Twitter, so she didn't even know what the problem was until she broke down and Googled.
 
Oh, you sad, pathetic woman! Either you honestly believe Twitter is that vital to your existence, or you hyperbolized to the wrong reporter hoping to be the Voice of the Common (wo)Man on this All Important Life-Changing Event. Either you honeslty think Twitter is "news" (it isn't: it's advertising linking you to the news, which requires paragraphs and insight and intelligence and an attention span) or you just had to be quoted in the news. In either case: not good. I do not know whether to laugh or cry.
 
Or be angry that she was probably far from the only one who was lost and confused and adrift -- rudderless -- in dark murky waters without the ability to both read and receive 140-letter missives of fluff.
 
Saving me from going completely insane due to the comically overblown importance being foisted upon this Twoutage is the final paragraph of said Yahoo story. In it, a guy who goes around NYC selling baked goods said the outage wasn't that big a deal, and that anybody who relies on Twitter for everything is probably kinda stupid. And this is a guy WHO ACTUALLY USES TWITTER FOR SOMETHING TANGIBLY CONSTRUCTIVE! ["Want a cupcake? I'll be at the corner of 72nd and Lexington at 2pm!"] And HE's the one with the sensible world view and proper priorities.
 
That's just messed up. I wouldn't have thought it possible, but I honestly think humanity is getting stupider. Either that, or people are -- on average -- exactly as stupid as they've always been, and the ease of access to low-content media means that a much higher percentage of them are now comfortable broadcasting their stupidity via an inherently stupid medium. Thus creating the ILLUSION of increased stupidity.
 
I think I liked it better when stupid people were intimidated by technology and mostly knew enough to keep quiet and not expose their stupidity, instead of tormenting me with their all-encompassing omni-present virtual awfulness. Viva la 21st Century?
 
Perhaps someday, just as a Show of Skill, I'll present an entire OO column of 140-letter bullet points. You know just to prove that I *could* do it. Afterall: I can haiku my ass off, and what are haiku if not Ancient Asian Tweets? But that day is not today. Here's your handcrafted, expertly wordsmithed wrestling news o' the day:

  • Upfront, let's do the Ratings Thing again... because once again, RAW manages to be the one show that fluctuates in a statistically significant fashion, and this week, it fluctuated way down, which tells us something about last week's anomalous rating.
     
    Monday's Piven-flavored RAW did a 3.6, back to being a notch below the year-to-date average, and much more in line with the general suckitude that's been in place since the start of May. This came after a huge 4.0 for Shaq's episode.
     
    I think this does vindicate my theory about the Shaq rating: that it really was all due to Shaq. That somehow, he just drew more eyeballs to start the show, and folks stuck around to see him "referee" in the main event. Last week's viewership levels were pretty steady (usually, the way RAW gets its bigger ratings is via a "snowball" effect as viewers aggregate over the course of two hours), which is a testament to getting fans to show up promptly at 9pm for once. And since nothing about the week-to-week storylines or roster of stars changed, the only reason for that sudden change in viewing habits HAD to be Shaq. Or so I posited.
     
    I'm looking good now that RAW's opening audience this week was back down to where it had been. Whatever Shaq had, Jeremy Piven lacked, and fans were back to basing their to-view-or-not-to-view decision on the week-to-week storylines and roster of stars. The rating from Monday reflects their general disinterest.
     
    And who can blame them? Another go 'round of Cena/Orton is the big story, and it's NEVER clicked with fans at any point since the two started sharing RAW's headlining roster spots. It's not quite as stale as HHH/Orton, but it's close. Then on the undercard, things are just spastic and counter-productive: one week Evan Bourne's a surprise winner over blue-chipper Jack Swagger, and the next, he's squashed? C'mon. And isn't the secondary title (the US Title, in this case) supposed to be an anchor for the undercard? And if so, why do I have to think extra hard to even remember who the champ is, seeing as how HE's getting squashed, too?
     
    Monday's RAW pretty much only scored points with me for the start of the DX-Reunion-Tease, and for Jericho's fantastically dickish promo and commentary. And I guess I have to admit I really did love the idea of using a Guest Host to "turn heel" over the course of a night (or even having a celeb show up and just, for no good reason, BE A HEEL from the start)... but the idea is different from the execution here, and in Piven's case, he forgot to start out being a babyface. He was calling SummerSlam "SummerFest" and dressing like a metrosexual douchebag and parading around with an Asian Male Companion Possessing Negative Entertainment Value... I mean, fans tolerated him at the outset, because he's famous and deigned to appear on a wrestling show, but honestly: there was zero real sizzle or visceral response to his heel "turn" at the end, because nobody had gotten vested in caring about him as a face. Bleh.
     
    Perhaps somebody in the future will have more fun with the possiblities opened up by Playing The Heel, to more entertaining results than Piven got out of it.
     
  • For whatever it's worth, the Guest Host gimmick got a ringing endorsement from Stephanie McMahon this past week, who compared it to Saturday Night Live's guest hosts in terms of getting to flavor each show to fit the guest, and also in terms of allowing the guest to show off or promote new projects.
     
    The new-movie-pimping and what-not? I'm not so keen on; especially when it's handled as ham-handedly as it was on Monday.
     
    But the rest of the comparison to SNL? I kinda like that, and hope WWE really takes it to heart, rather than just spouting it off to the media in order to make themselves look more like a Real Entertainment Company, rather than A Wrestling Company.
     
    Think about it: if you take the SNL comp to the hilt, that means having the Guest Host show up days early. To pitch ideas, to figure out how to fit in, and most of all, TO PREPARE AND PRACTICE some zany new skills before going out on live TV to show them off to America. That's the level of commitment SNL requires; WWE should do the same. Only operate with Guest Hosts willing enough to participate in this unique genre of pro wrestling. Do NOT operate with celebs who just want to pop in to go through the promotional motions of an unwatchable Carson-Daly-esque kiss-ass-a-thon.
     
    And it goes without saying that you also do not operate with celebs who simply lack the skill set to perform compellingly in this genre and in front of a live audience. ZZ Top: I'm looking at you!
     
    So yeah: if Steph really meant it (and wasn't just trying to reposition WWE in the marketplacew with her business lingo), then let's SNL it up! Let's take this thing seriously, let's choose wisely, and let's make sure that (for the sake of entertainment) WWE "uses" the celebrities as much as they are letting the celebrities "use" them. Quid pro quo, and all that.
     
    [A second way I think the SNL Comparison fits would make poor Steph cry, but it's also very apt: many times, SNL has gone through lengthy phases of Utter Suck, where no Guest Host -- not even Steve Martin or Alec Baldwin -- could rise about the awfulness of the material generated by the week-in, week-out writers and regulars. Then Lorne Michaels would step in for one of his patented Thorough Housecleaings, hire a new batch of genuinely capable/clever people, and even mediocre hosts could become memorably amusing thanks to the quality of the week-in/week-out employees. Take that example over to RAW, and you suddenly realize you MUST keep the focus on my beloved Sustainable Episodic Television, and only view these guests as a Tool To Be Used Once And Then Discarded... and NOT view them as the reason why one particular week should be substantially better or worse than any other week. In other words: when the show still sucks regardless of Guest Host, don't blame ZZ Top. Maybe think about the problem being internal. And call up Lorne to instigate some OMG MONKEY GENOCIDE~! up at Titan Tower, if you get my drift...]
     
    Then again... in the same article where Steph boasts that RAW is just like SNL, she also revealed three already-booked upcoming Guest Hosts: Freddie Prinze Jr., Rev. Al Sharpton, and Bob Barker. Oy.
     
    Throw in Sgt. Slaughter (who is hosting Monday's RAW), and that line-up struggles to even be called "D-list." Although I guess Young Freddie (late of the WWE Writing Crew) is hoping for a career renaissance soon due to a starring role in the next season of "24." But Sharpton is an actual SNL Hosting Alum from a phase where the show sucked, and he only ADDED to the suck. And my guess is they lined up Bob Barker because Regis finally shot down Vince's offer; so yay for WWE having a Plan B?
     
    As an aside, there is also an unconfired rumor that the cast of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" have been approached to guest host an upcoming show. Which is probably more kinda in the vein of more "hip" than "cool" (like Piven/Entourage), if you take my meaning, except I think those dudes could actually latch on with an audience way better than Piven. Also: I think WWE should get Larry David, if they're going this route. And let him just be the Curb-version of Larry David, and play a pure jerkface heel from the get-go, and watch fans eat it up, even if they don't know who he is. Some guys just got that "it," and some don't. Piven proved himself an "acquired taste" this week, but the IASiP guys and David (who, as a bonus, is a master improvisationer) could stand a better chance of getting thrown to the wolves and thriving by sheer virtue of inbred interestingness.
     
    We'll see how it goes... if the best WWE can do is Al fricking Sharpton, I'd almost rather see them use more of the "in-house" options, like Ted DiBiase or Sgt. Slaughter. Or slightly out-of-house options from among the vast expanse of unaffiliated ex-WWE stars. And I won't re-mention The Rock here, because I'm not even talking about mega-stars like that... there'd be tons of guys who have essentially the same standing as Sarge to choose from (in fact, why the hell take All American GI Joe Sgt. Slaughter to CALGARY on Monday? Does that make any sense? I mean, I'm sure Bret would turn down the offer, but you're telling me Jim Neidhart wouldn't be a better fit, AND willing to take the payday?). You pick and choose good fits for capable ex-wrestlers, who at least won't humiliate themselves like ZZ Top or Al Sharpton, and then take advantage of celebs who are B-list or better, only. I figure that'd strengthen the overall concept, substantially.
     
    Or maybe I'm just saying that because, if WWE's gonna press on with this, the least they can do for me is one week of Guest General Manager Trish Stratus.

     
  • WWE released a fresh round of financial information this week, and I believe it can be summed up thusly:
     
    WWE made a ton more money in the 2nd quarter of 2009 than they did in the 2nd quarter of 2008, but it was only because WrestleMania was in the 1st quarter in 2008 and in the 2nd quarter in 2009.
     
    Take out WM's impact on the numbers, and obviously, business is down for WWE. Although not any more down than you'd expect given the economy. In fact, WWE aggressive cost-cutting has them remaining quite profitable, even if not quite as profitable as in the past.
     
    Normally, when I look at WWE's financials, my stance is that the "Core Product" (event attendence and PPV buys) is the important thing, and WWE's ability to make money in ancillary ways (t-shirts, games, DVDs, etc.) says nothing about the long-term health of the company. Because you can't sell t-shirt of non-existent Superstars, and can't sell DVDs from a Video Library that fans didn't even want to look at the first time around. And the reason I focus on that is because normally, the ancillary revenues have gone steadily up even Core Product revenues have dwindled... so I've wanted to underscore that difference, and make sure we understand that "profitability" is often seperate from a "quality core product."
     
    This time, once you take out the WM Effect, it's a little different: revenues are down EVERYwhere, both Core and Ancillary. And the most notable business segment is the Home Video division, which has become one of WWE's most reliable cash cows. This quarter, however, Home Video revenues plunged by over 60% (from almost $19m last quarter to about $8m this quarter). Even as PPV buys and event attendence went down, it seemed there was always a market for "back when wrestling was good," but even DVDs of those heady days of non-suckiness aren't selling the same any more. [Despite increases in market penetration, revenues from WWE's video-on-demand service also dropped.]
     
    I think this could be one area where WWE's cost-cutting is actually hamstringing them: they've cut back on the actual full-length documentary type DVDs (and the same on how they package "WWE Classics on Demand"), and gone with lame pure-compilation sets with brief segues provided by Todd Grisham standing in front of a green screen. As exciting as it originally sounded that we were getting our Macho Man Randy Savage DVD set, it turned out there was no real fresh content/context/interviews, just a bunch of his matches thrown together. Boo on that. And no wonder if fewer fans thought that was worth it the same way some incredible sets from the past -- with full 2-plus hour documentaries BEFORE the compiled bonus materials -- were.
     
    If WWE's gonna go the quick-and-cheap route producing these things, they may also make the mistake of producing more titles to offset the fact that each title sells less. It'd be a double mistake, too: you run the risk of exhausting your own past too fast, for one. And for two, as a fan I'd be upset if you threw together cheap ass compilations now, and then at some point later said, "OK, business is better now, so we're back to spending money again... and here's the Randy Savage DVD that doesn't suck, after you already paid for the one that did." I say do 'em up right, and this is one area where the increased expenses can be counted on to "pay for themselves." Instead, I believe the "Rise and Fall of WCW" DVD set is the only one slated for a 2009 release with the full on docu-treatment... the rest will be the straight-up comps. Lame.
     
    Let's see.... anything else interesting from the financials? Domestic attendence was mostly flat (but with revenue slightly down due to decreased ticket prices), but international attendence (also once a cash cow) was WAAYY down, causing WWE to admit that it will rethink its touring strategy to possibly send more b-show line-ups over to milk the loyal audience rather than sending full a-list supershows to play to smaller crowds. Interesting; a larger number of localized b-shows in foreign markets is something I would have foreseen coming out of the (now-shelved, I guess) idea of WWE opening up "satellite circuits" in Europe, Mexico, and Japan (where each place would have a unique product, and which would then be supplemented by the Core American WWE Product)... I wonder if something along the lines of those "localized" shows is what this little revelation means, or if they're just flat-out saying they'll cut costs by sending smaller shows overseas, which would then ALSO eliminate overseas TV tapings, which are also a huge expense? 
     
    And I guess we might as well quickly mention the PPV buys, too, although it's pretty much what you'd expect: Backlash did 180,000 buys (down 20,000 from last year), Judgment Day did 230,000 (down 20,000), Extreme Rules did 220,000 (up 20,000), and The Bash did 170,000 (down 30,000). So discounting WM, a net loss of 50,000 buys, which is about $1.5 million loss for WWE (after cable companies/distributors take their cut).
     
    Per usual, WWE tried to spin this by blaming internet streams and suggesting more fans, overall, may be watching even with fewer buys, because they are watching in groups. Uhhh, data, please? And not just a vague notion that maybe (hopefully) people are actually planning parties around your events? Because based on MY data, none of my friends give a shit about wrestling any more (after there used to be at least 8 or 10 of us watching even for the off-month PPVs). And I don't like asking my friends to join me for something they hate AND to chip in to pay for it, as well. So I doubt very seriously that somehow wrestling has become a social event and greater excuse for group-viewings than it ever was before... if anything, alienating such large chunks of your former audience probably causes a greater percentage of lonely losers watching your PPVs by themselves.
     
    Probably on a free internet stream, since there's no way the experience is worth a full $50 price tag. See how that works? Fix the Core Product, and then fans come back, and then people do want to get together and split the cost of PPVs, and then there's less reason for fans to sit alone in a dark room stealing free streams, and everybody's happy. But the Infinite Feedback Loop Of Lost Revenue only ends when you stop the suck and Fix The Core Product, WWE. Why not get on that? It's not like you haven't had 7 years to be thinking about how...
     
  • Ric Flair has completed all his commitments to Ring of Honor following an appearance in Canada last week, and it's doubtful that he'll be signing up for any more given the way the whole situation turned out. [Also, for folks out there who remember me mentioning changes to ROH's business plan and ominous cancellations and stuff: ROH is set to go for a new round of TV tapings next week, and everything -- at least regarding their weekly HDNet show -- is going just dandy.]
     
    And yet, Flair's status with WWE is still up in the air, and if you're to believe any damned stupid rumor (and with Vince setting new personal bests on a weekly basis in the 500 Meter Being-Batshit-On-Tilt, you might as well believe it), the reason why WWE hasn't yet brought Flair back into the fold is because....
     
    Because...
     
    Because...
     
    Because Flair signed on to be a spokesman for the North Carolina Lottery, and WWE is concerned about their public image if they are associated with what amounts to gambling. The hell?
     
    If this is in any way real (and not just some smokescreen covering up other underlying reasons why WWE might not want to pay Flair his market value), then I'm hereby officially awaiting the day Vince announces he's going to Pete Rose Flair out of the WWE Hall of Fame.
     
  • Lilian Garcia has announced her final date in WWE will be the August 24 edition of RAW. Which, coincidentally enough, will be exactly 10 years and 1 day after her WWE debut. Then, she's off to get married and have herself a normal life. Here's hoping she gets a send-off a little classier than ones handed out to Bobby Heenan and Eric Bischoff in the past...
     
  • Whatever's real and whatever's fake in the purported "Jarrett vs. Angle Power Struggle" in TNA is still unclear... but out on the fringes of the issue, some things are happening that actually do appear to weaken Jarrett's position.
     
    Last week, after Jarrett had gone home and skipped a PPV and 2 TV tapings, TNA management informed Dutch Mantel and Savio Vega (both agents/producers, and with Mantel as one of the top writers) they were being let go. Both are "Jarrett Allies," with Mantel especially acting as Jarrett's right-hand-man and as Jarrett's voice on the writing team.
     
    As mentioned last week, in Jarrett's absence, Taz actually stepped in at TV tapings, lending a hand in an agenty/producery type of way, and is now expected to keep filling those shoes with Mantel and Savio gone. Taz would certainly be an "Angle Ally," if one had to assign him a label. So it gets curiouser and curiouser.
     
    More than a few have written in and asked if this could ACTUALLY be the set up for a different type of power shake-up, with Angle merely wanting Lockerroom Leadership but NOT any creative power... because Paul Heyman (himself a huge Angle Ally, not to mention a Taz Ally and a Dudley Ally and whatnot) is secretly being courted by TNA to take over booking (which is something Jarrett wouldn't much approve of). I dunno about that; TNA would have to offer Heyman the job on his terms (meaning almost unlimited creative control, which they may be uncomfortable doing), and at a more basic level, Heyman would have to want the job (and why would he?).
     
    Still: it's interesting to think about, I guess. More interesting than most of what TNA's puts on their TV show, anyway...
     
  • Lastly, I'd probably be remiss if I didn't mention tonight's edition of SmackDown, which will feature a Free-Per-View Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk World Title Match.
     
    I know (just from looking at ratings) that most of you don't watch SD, and probably aren't planning on changing that tonight... but I also figure I'll let you know that you're missing out on what is, week-in and week-out, the best wrestling show on TV, and one that'll be bringing the goods (even if only during a 25 minute main event) once again tonight.
     
    Remember: you don't HAVE to spend your Friday night searching for "MyNetworkTV." SD is now available for free on hulu.com (along with a shitload of other shows and movies), so you can watch it any time you want when you have a spare moment over the weekend. Why not check it out? While you're there, check out some other recent SDs; like last week's kick-ass Hardy vs. Morrison main event, for instance.
     
    Oh, and to address a bunch of folks who wrote in after taking me up on my previous Hulu SmackDown Challenge: those odd "From the Vault" segments are NOT on the US broadcast version of the show on Fridays. For some reason, hulu uses the international version of SD, which is padded out with filler because of lesser advertising in overseas markets. Luckily, hulu does let you skip around and avoid entire segments if you don't want to watch them (provided you still sit through the adjacent 30 second ad break before the next segment starts, anyway). So by no means should that be a deterrent to anybody using the Hulu Option.
     
  • Pyro's SD Recap will be added here tomorrow for those preferring THAT option, as well. And I'm sure it'll be business as usual next week with Satires, Recaps, OOld Tymeyness, and another dose of The Me chiming in on all the pertinent news of the day.
     
    So enjoy the weekend, and I'll see you soon enough. And if you like what you get here at OO, we are always taking donations to keep things running. Pitch in, leechers!


  
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E-MAIL RICK SCAIA

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

 

 


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