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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
Total Nonstop (Backstage) Action in TNA, plus Ratings, Guest Hosts, and SummerSlam
August 20, 2009

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OOWrestling.com

 

So, last time around I used this space to vent about reaction to the "Twitter Outage," and how it just might prove people are getting stupider.
 
Well, a particularly enterprising reader digested my theory and then produced a counter-thesis: that society as a whole is the smartest it's ever been thanks to technology (and the ability to do everything from pinpoint historical dates like a professor to self-diagnosing serious illnesses like a doctor, all thanks to the interwebs), but it's at the cost of each individual person being much, much dumber (due to a lack of necessity to learn and retain knowledge when it's out there in the aether).

 
I liked that; it explains a lot. People have decided to turn the Game Of Life into the ultimate of middle-school cop-outs: the Open Book Test. Which is something that's fine for one afternoon in fifth grade where a teacher just really, really needs all her kids to prove they can name the state capital of South Dakota, or calculate the hypoteneuse of a triangle without actually memorizing a simple fricking equation.
 
But it's not so fine when you're living your entire life that way. It might even be why there's been such an upswing in vapid bitches and shallow douchebags in the last several years: no longer must one absorb and synthesize information and theories and literature in order to create Areas Of Expertise and Compelling Conversational Skills and Something Resembling A Genuine And Unique Personality. Instead, one can keeps one's mind unfettered by this sort of Old School Knowledge Collection, and fill that now-empty space up with pointless drivel and glossy pop culture tidbits and the Sincere Belief that instead of being forced to accept inputs from books and teachers and your own personal research, you are entitled to only put into your brain what you want to, when you want to. It's the ultimate in laziness, selfishness, and hedonism, but in a world where some kids/parents are ACTUALLY TRYING TO FIRE teachers who hand out "F's" to kids turning in papers written in "net speak" (claiming that "OMG WTF?" is a valid language, and we shouldn't be stifling Young Jimmy's unique sort of intelligence), I also believe it's the ultimate in truth.
 
It all fits together: iPods so you can listen to only what you want instead of what radio tells you to. Cable news channels so you can stay up on current events, but only told to you by pundits who believe the same dogmatic horseshit YOU believe, thus filtering the news so you can continue living in your own little bubble. And of course, all manner of tweets and wikis so that you never have to actually learn and mature and become a fully-formed human being with interests and depth of character, and can just dial up the entirety of mankind's wisdom on-demand the once or twice per week you're inspired to do so.
 
And in the end, the person who actually knows stuff becomes marginalized; the person who knows how to look stuff up becomes celebrated. Society: smarter than ever. Individuals: dumber than ever. I wish it didn't make so much sense, but it really does.
 
On that note, I have made myself sad enough for a Thursday morning. Perhaps a couple thousand words of Rasslin' Talk will distract me, and then it'll only be a hop, skip, and a jump to the weekend. Here goes:
  • Fans of crazy-go-nuts backstage developments are having a field day with TNA this last couple of weeks. They may not be delivering the "Nonstop Action" in the ring quite like they could be every Thursday night, but things behind-the-scenes really are totally nonstop.
     
    And we'll get to all of that in a moment.
     
    For now, THIS bullet point is about how the one area where there's been NO movement or action is, ironically enough, the one area where some sort of action may have been wisest and most necessary. You see, with all the shake-ups, comings, goings, and whatnot, TNA has done zero with regards to Kurt Angle. He retained his TNA Title on Sunday night, and subsequent TV tapings did not introduce any plot device that might relieve him of said title at any point in the near future. Instead, it seems as though the plan is to just march on, with Angle dabbling in a few mini-feuds until such time as his cataclysmic showdown with Bobby Lashley can be arranged.
     
    It's kind of frustrating, though not entirely surprising. I half-warned that TNA might do this when I was updating the OO NewsFlash regarding Angle's arrest and detention. [BTW, for those not up to speed on exactly what Angle did to get arrested and jailed, well: that "OO NewsFlash" in red is a link, Einstein. Click it.]
     
    Since my last update to that page, the only significant developments have been:
     
    (1) The aforementioned LACK of developments in terms of TNA acknowledging or dealing with the situation.
    (2) The rescheduling of Angle's first court date to the middle of September, which means even less reason for TNA to address the situation since now Angle's free and clear to appear at all tapings
    (3) Angle doing an interview claiming complete innocence, and going so far as to suggest he'll file a counter-suit against Rhaka Khan (real name: Trenesha Biggers) for Defaming His Character with both her groundless initial restraining order and her later entrapping/framing Angle
     
    I think you know basically where I stand on (1) at this point, and my feeling that TNA should be a bit more proactive in examining not only this specific situation, but also Angle's past history and track record, bleeds into my feelings on (2). Essentially, those feelings are that I don't care one bit about the legal gamesmanship and bartering and loophole-finding and whatever will go on in a courtroom with Angle's highly paid attorneys. Angle convicted/innocent doesn't make a lick of difference to me. What DOES matter to me is that somebody's looking at the pattern of behavior here, and shows as much concern for "Kurt Angle, The Man" as they are going to be paid to serve "Kurt Angle, The Defedent." There's a pretty huge difference between the two, and it just might be in "the client's best interests" to somehow end up accountable for his actions, rather than to end up getting some kind of cheaply-won acquittal/plea bargain.
     
    We'll have to see how that goes.
     
    As for (3)? There are already wildly varying opinions on Angle's interview and it's level of credibility/honesty; most of the variance seems directly related to people's pre-existing biases about Angle. If you'd like to check it out and see if you can't form an UNbiased opinion: here's the link (it's about a 15 minute video, all told).
     
    My best attempt at being not-too-biased? It's clear that Angle seems genuinely remorseful, and perhaps even ashamed to have gotten caught up in this mess. But the source of that shame could be a lot of things. It could be an honest "this is screwed up, and I wonder if I couldn't have handled it better" deal. The tears could be caused by "ah, shit, look what I've done and now my career is teetering on the brink and getting caught makes me sad." Or it could just be a case of a master manipulator knowing that he has to say and do the right things in order to spin some sympathy in his favor; I mean, look at Michael Vick. Who knows if he really feels any remorse over the way he treated dogs? But the dude wants to keep on participating in society, so he'll do as many interviews as you want making the right noises in order to convince you that -- no matter what he did in the past -- he's got too much of a self-preservation instinct to do anything that stupid again in the future.
     
    So I don't honestly know which of those three options I'd go with. I just know there's enough history here to make all three roughly equally probable. Angle's track record of hyperbole, self-contradiction, and saying-any-damned-thing-and-apparently-believing-it's-true (even though it's objectively false) in countless past interviews does not serve him well here in THIS interview. Obviously, the difference is huge between addressing a day in jail and appearing on Bubba The Love Sponge to stir shit up and outright lie about circumstances surrounding your WWE departure and whatnot... one's serious business and the other is (maybe) just-for-fun.
     
    The flip side of that is: if Angle's so obsessed with working the cute little marks "just for fun," then what'd stop him from putting on a little show in an inteview of significantly greater import? Not much that I can think of. He clearly framed the interview the way he wanted (flipping the whole stalking/abuse matter so as to be Biggers' fault, acting very remorseful about it, and magically never really being grilled on why he had drugs and syringes in his vehicle), if nothing else. And on a lighter note: it may be fluffery, but you can't tell me that Angle wasn't magically clean-shaven (for the first time in 3 months) on Sunday for any reason OTHER than the beard being evil-looking and clean-cut being a way to trick people into thinking he's a Swell Fella.
     
    I'm not saying that IS the case here. I'm just saying that -- unless you personally know Angle or have specific first-hand knowledge of last weekend's events in Pittsburgh -- you have to filter Angle's current actions/words though the prism of his past actions and words. Which means considering ALL the alternatives.
     
    Or at least, that's what it means to me.
     
    Since TNA's clearly not gonna do anything to Kurt regarding this situation, there's probably no further wrestling-significance to this story (in terms of on-screen impact), which means I may not have much more to say on the issue. If TNA has decided to keep on banking on Kurt's ability to at least pull himself together to perform at an elite level 3-4 nights per month, then so be it. I'll go back to turning a blind eye and applying the Scott Hall Principle when it comes to what is now, essentially, a personal matter for Kurt Angle.
     
    One that I hope is addressed in a satisfactory manner, but one which I probably won't have reason to mention again until his first round of court proceedings and we find out how those may or may not affect TNA's decision making.
     
  • And now, onto the crapload of other TNA developments over the past week...
     
    First, the word on the street is that TNA has reached an agreement with Jeff Jarrett to buy out his remaining ownership stake in the company (he'd still controlled about 30% interest). This comes on the heels of rumors about Angle trying to oust Jarrett from a position of power, and the firing of several backstage Jarrett Allies.
     
    Now, Jarrett is poised to return to the company, but in the role of a Mere Wrestler. Zero backstage clout. It's been almost exactly 7 years since the then-named Panda Energy was brought in to bail out Jeff and Jerry Jarrett's fledgling wrestling company (which was out of money and on the ropes after just 2 months of shows), and roughly 4 years since TNA squeezed Jerry Jarrett out and took over majority ownership. Now: they apparently own the whole shootin' match.
     
    The times, they are a-changin', and though it's hard to fathom that this SEEMS to have stemmed from a power struggle between Angle and Jarrett where TNA WILLINGLY SIDED WITH ANGLE (only to have that faith at least partially undermined last weekend), you also can't deny that this is the most stable TNA has been at any point in 7 years. Profitability ebbs and flows and there are still some morale issues, but they're now run like a real business and have the resources and oversight to weather a few storms here and there and keep on trucking.

    The transformation from cute little Rasslin' Promotion to Sports Entertainment Corporation is complete; now to see if anything comes of it...
     
  • One thing has already come of it. Well, not "of it," but it came shortly after the purported ownership arrangement was made, and it does speak even further to the future stability of TNA...
     
    To wit: TNA and Spike TV agreed to a new 3-year contract this week, which will assure TNA is on Spike through September 2012.
     
    In addition to retaining Impact on Thursday nights, the contract explicity calls for 10 additional 1-hour specials to be produced featuring archival footage, and implicitly leaves open the possibility of additional programming being added over time.
     
    The one thing I heard is that the 1-hour specials are a limited attempt to duplicate what Spike does with UFC programming leading into UFC PPVs... for TNA's bigger events, they'll try out 1-hour hype specials the week leading up to the PPV, either focusing on the history of the single event or on the career(s) of one or two of the top main eventers on the card. I'm not sure what real affect this would have on buyrates for TNA (promoting UFC-style really is way different from promoting pro-wrestling style; when a guy fights twice a year, you can hype it as an Event; when the same guys fight once per month -- and more for free on Thursdays -- you gotta be more about the sustainable storytelling than about insultingly fake levels of hype), but I guess this can't hurt.
     
    As for the open door for OTHER new programming, TNA has already pitched ideas for weekly 1-hour shows, including an All-X-Division show, and moving their weekly webcast over to Spike as kind of a B-show.
     
    Anyway: everybody on both sides was really happy to get this deal done with plenty of time to spare before the expiration of TNA's current deal in 2 months. TNA gets 3 years of guanteed TV time, and (even though TNA only gets about the same ratings as ECW) Spike retains what has turned out to be their highest rated weekly program.
     
  • That weekly program will have a new look, effective tonight, too.
     
    Don West has been ousted from his duties as color commentator, and has been replaced by Taz.
     
    A lot of people kind of half-expected the move to come eventually, but only after some kind of logical conclusion to the Taz/Joe story arc. I, uhhhh, guess not? I dunno... we'll see, but since TNA's hasn't done anything right by Joe in the better part of 2 years, I don't see why they'd start now by -- you know? -- following through on a storyline to its finish.

    For West's part, he's still employed by the company, and will take the experience from his Day Job (he is/was a hired shill for QVC and infomercials) to spice up TNA's marketing department. Also, it's expected that he'd be tapped for hosting any of those 1-hour specials/hype shows, in the role of TNA's Mean Gene, and that he'd be first in line to resume commentary duties should TNA secure any other weekly shows on Spike.
     
    Though I've never been a fan of West's work -- it's always seemed 3 parts Schiavone, lately with a heelish 1 part of Zbyszko, and always with a dash of ear-drum grating asthma -- but it is kinda cool that even while TNA upgraded at color commentary, they still kept the guy around. He's been a loyal soldier and is one of the few TNA "lifers" whose been a part of the show since Day One.
     
  • And I think with that, we've probably covered all the really important stuff out of TNA. I could probably do a bit of summarizing of comings and goings -- how TNA's recent moves include adding Bobby Lashley and Elijah Burke ("D'Angelo Dinero"), with Kennedy and possibly Umaga still to come; and how they're setting up for the story of Sting's departure/retirement in October -- but honestly, that's stuff you can watch play out on TV for your own self, if you're so inclined to check out TNA.
     
    So I think we'll leave it at that, for now. Afterall, this has already got to be my single biggest Cavalcade of TNA News in over a year. Best not to have it overstay its welcome...
     
  • So back in the realm of WWE...
     
    Monday's Prinze-flavored RAW did a 3.8 rating, the same as the previous week's Slaughter episode. That's a bounceback from the Piven episode, and right back to the year-to-date average.
     
    Unlike the obvious impact of Shaq on ratings, you gotta look at the last few week's and wonder if Sgt. Slaughter's really more marketable than Jeremy Piven, or is neither is big enough for a fan to use them as his "decision hueristic," and there are other factors in play. Myself -- though I'm sure it'll make many of you smarks out there vomit in horror -- I wouldn't be surprised if RAW got a few extra ticks the past 2 weeks because of DX.
     
    I'm sure they WILL eventually re-wear-out their welcome again, but that's not gonna be for a bit, and the truth is: the regular fans are digging them for now. Just because YOU sit around saying DX wore out their welcome in 1998 doesn't make it so.
     
    Then again, it could just be quirks of Nielsen's margin of error or something like that explaining the 0.2 deviations. It's not enough for me to take a gigantic stand or type 8 paragraphs about.
     
  • You can add Lebron James and Nancy O'Dell (who? why?) to the list of Confirmed Guest Hosts in RAW's near future. Lebron should be a huge "get" for WWE in terms of ratings; he ought to be able to match the bump they got from Shaq (and hell, since King James and Shaq are now teammates, why not double-the-fun on Lebron's night, and have Shaq show up to reprise his "feud" with Big Show? I bet Show vs. Shaq/Lebron would be ALL OVER Sportscenter).
     
    Entertainment Weekly has also published a new list of "celebrities" said to be in talks for future guest host spots. It's a mix of pure C-listers (a few of whom, like Woody Harrelson, might do a good job even if they won't be a draw in and of themselves), and some genuinely bigger stars who either Would Demonstably Suck At The Job (hi, Ashlee Simpson!) or who are just completely removed from WWE's demographic and thus not be a draw with young males (like Regis and Rachael Ray).
     
    I actually already talked about Regis here (and how I thought he'd do a good job), but I thought he'd shot down the offer, which is why Vince went to Plan B and got Bob Barker (who will hopefully make sure Randy Orton gets spayed or nuetered). And if you want to trek over to the OO Forums, I've even said my piece about how the other Morning Talk Show Host, Rachael Ray, could be a surprisingly fun addition to the show. I won't repeat it here, because it's dirrrty. And will require the one-night return of Val Venis.
     
    But other than that, there's really not a whole lot on this Guest Hosting front that really gets me excited. I hereby re-assert my belief that if WWE can't do better than Al Sharpton or Pete Wentz, then they should scrap the "celebrity" for that week and go with an "in-house" option from their vast reserves of Available Legends.
     
  • WWE issued a press release stating that Linda McMahon is officially considering a run for Connecticut's US Senate seat in 2010. The press release seemed targeted at investors, as it prepared them for the news that -- if successful -- Linda would vacate her job as WWE CEO, and Vince would take over those duties.
     
    Luckily, I'm quite certain it'll never come to that. Linda seems a fine, upstanding woman, but I don't want to live in a country where a batshit dictator like Vince has unlimited access to a US Senator. No ma'am. Slick Willy upstaging Hillary with his acts of heroic diplomacy would look like piddling small change compared to Linda having to be accountable for Vince's various acts of insanity.
     
  • Since last we spoke, kids, WWE has released two stars. One is Ricky Ortiz, and nary a tear was shed. The other is Eugene, who I'd sorta hoped would stick around and do more than just one match before getting fired.
     
    Actually, in Eugene's case, his was primarily brought back to assist in training younger wrestlers. Despite his on-screen gimmick as The Wrestling Retard, Nick Dinsmore is a genuinely talented performer who knows wrestling inside and out.
     
    Despite his past Personal Demons (the ones that got him fired 3 years ago), Dinsmore apparently wasn't fired for anything wellness-related, which leads to lots of wildly varying rumors and speculation. One theory is that he just turned out to not be a very good teacher, despite being talented in his own right. [I can sympathize with this; I was section leader in my high school band for two years, and my teaching method was "Here, see what I'm doing? Now you do it"; it goes without saying I didn't help out many struggling underclassmen.] Another theory is that when Vince saw Eugene on RAW, he thought he was disgustingly fat, and fired him on the spot. Why Vince would give a shit about a mostly-trainer and only-part-time-wrestler's cosmetic appearance (especially when the guy is demostrably healthier now than he was in his last WWE run) is beyond me. 
     
    But then again, unlike Vince, I don't keep a stack of male bodybuilding magazines in my desk drawer to help me get through the day.
     
    So Eugene will simply continue to exist as a wrestling footnote as "The Worst-Sounding Idea In Theory That Worked Out Really Well And Eventually Turned Into The Most Under-Utilized Character Ever." Oh well.
     
  • Lastly, we'd be remiss if we didn't spend at least a little bit of time discussing this weekend's SummerSlam PPV. It is, afterall, the alleged second-biggest event of the year for WWE.
     
    However, I can't quite shake the notion that maybe some of the magic is missing this year. Maybe it's partly the fact that I'm more intrigued by this rumored SummerFest PPV that all the kids are talking about. Or maybe it's the fact that the PPV line-up features exactly one (1) match I give a damn about.
     
    Granted, it's a really promising match that should deliver killer results, and the damn I give about it is a large damn... but it's still one (1) match on a card that's supposed to be the 2nd best one of the year. Not good, WWE.
     
    Here's the confirmed line-up (as of Thursday):
     
    Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk (World Title Tables Ladders and Chairs Match). Yeah, so this is that one (1) match worth caring about. No fan should need more than "Jeff Hardy" and "TLC" to perk up and get VERY excited for a match. Here, as an added bonus, we get the ultra-capable Punk and his incredible displays of prickishness upping the ante. The action should be intense, but because of Punk's character work, the heat and drama should also be off the charts. WWE and Hardy have done a nice job muddying the waters regarding Jeff's contract status and desire for a vacation, too, so you'll be able to at least PARTIALLY suspend disbelief here. I'd probably still be putting my money on Punk, but who really knows?
     
    Randy Orton vs. John Cena (WWE Title). Do. Not. Care. Match will be paint-by-numbers mediocrity, and the outcome will not infuse my soul with any joy. Orton's an abject failure as champ, and Cena-as-champ is really only as good/fun as the level of his opposition. Which, looking at the RAW heel roster, isn't looking too good. He's already squashed Miz. Maybe Swagger could work. But who are we kidding? Even if Cena wins, Orton gets 17 months worth of rematches, first! Bleh.
     
    Degeneration X vs. Legacy. DX has politely given Legacy enough the past month to at least create a video package making Legacy appear credible. But let's face it: like their douchemaster supreme, Rhodes and DiBiase are still severely lacking in gravitas. If this exists for any reason other than to be a happy funtime crowd pleasing DX win, it'd be a huge miscalculation by WWE.
     
    Chris Jericho/Big Show vs. Cryme Tyme (Unified Tag Title Match). Also a bit of a foregone conclusion in my book, and the inverse of the DX/Legacy match... here, the match exists to antagonize the crowd by having JeriShow win and look super strong. Then, just do the mental gymnastics, and it shouldn't take you long to realize "Oh, DX vs. Jericho/Show as a brand-hopping feud could be pretty sweet." And you'd be right. And then, you could even go one step further and have DX take the titles and start feuding with a faction full of Harts by the end of the year. It'd be 1997 all over again.
     
    Christian vs. William Regal (ECW Title Match). This actually oughta be a pretty solid contest, but it's not like anybody believe Regal will really win, and it's not like fans-at-large will look at an ECW Title match as anything more than a latter day European Title match. In fact, for all my whiskey-addled brain can remember, Christian vs. Regal probably WAS a Euro Title feud back in the day...
     
    Rey Mysterio vs. Dolph Ziggler (IC Title Match). It's widely assumed WWE wants the IC belt on Ziggler (do not ask me why), but Rey's been a bit of a li'l bitch backstage since the end of his feud with Jericho. So he angled for a 3-week vacation, which he took AFTER he angled for retaining the IC title at the last PPV, and now I guess his political wants have been satiated, so he may be back to being a good little soldier. Rey, afterall, doesn't need a title to be over; although, Ziggler can't just expect to use a title to get himself over, either, so... yeah, I'm not exactly fired up for this one. The outcome's likely to suck, and the match itself will probably be Vintage Ziggler (i.e. three minutes of action wrapped up in a 12 minute box).
     
    Khali vs. Kane. Do. Not. Care. Urge. To. Kill. Rising. RISING. Fading. RISING~!
     
    MVP vs. Jack Swagger. Do. Not. Care. It'd be fine if this was just put-Swagger-over-and-be-done-with-it, but who the hell knows what dipshittery WWE will come up with. Given recent events with MVP, there's even a chance we'll have to watch this anti-compelling crapfest while worrying about being on Chris F. Masters ThreatCon Orange. D'oh.
     
    That's the as-announced card at this point. Without spoiling this weekend's SmackDown, I can assure you they won't be adding any more matches. Though if you watched RAW and are wondering, "Huh, why isn't US Champ Kofi Kingston on the PPV?" you would not be alone. It's conceivable they could do a hotshot angle with Miz on Sunday to set up a match, but it seemed more like they were establishing a slow-burn for Miz chasing Kofi...
     
    So perhaps it's just been determined by the Highly Paid Professionals Who Write This Shit that wrestling fans are clammoring for Kofi and his allegedly-prestigious title to stay far the fuck away from their TVs so that they can enjoy Khali vs. Kane, instead... I dunno.
     
    However it plays out, you know OO will be your huckleberry... I'll check out the show and write up an immediate post-PPV recap for all of you who care enough to find out what happened, but don't care enough to invest $50 or 3 hours in order to do so.
     
    So c'mon on back here on Sunday night, and I should have SummerSlam results for you at some point around midnight or in the very wee small hours of Monday morning.
     
  • On that note, I am outta here. Why not show me how much you appreciate the work we do here by Donating To Keep OO Alive (PayPal is our processor, but all credit cards are accepted). Even just a few bucks puts you among a very noble minority who keeps this place running for the vast majority of no-account leechers! Drop some cabbage if you can.
     
    Later on, kids...


  
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E-MAIL RICK SCAIA

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

 

 


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