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OO BATTLE OF THE BRANDS  
RAW vs. SmackDown!:  Who Wins? 
Week Ending July 25, 2003

Featuring Many Current and Past OO Columnists
Ratings Compiled by Jeb Lund

 

OOficial Brand of the Week:
SmackDown!
RAW: 3.41 --/-- SD!: 3.49

RATING SYSTEM:
Rather than go with a tried-and-true 1-10 scale, we thought we'd mix things up a bit. Each show is evaluated on a scale of 0.0-5.0. Instead of just random numbers, those numbers reflect what sort of Nielsen rating we think the show deserves. Granted, we're operating on the assumption that 5.0 is about the best the WWE can hope for right now. But if someone goes for a 5.0, then that means it's time to celebrate at Titan. If someone picks 2.2, it's time to celebrate if you're putting on a Nitro in April 2000.


RAW (7/21/03) vs. SMACKDOWN! (7/24/03)
OOFICIAL RATINGS

Erin Anderson
RAW: 3.0

I panned Raw upon first viewing, but I was a little harsh at first. I'm torn on the new Kane: on the one hand, I love the fact that he's acting like a complete psycho, and anyone who tombstones Linda McMahon is cool in my book. I think that involving the police doesn't work with this angle, though. The "he's under house arrest but can still come to work" bit insults my intelligence, especially when he's nearly killing the CEO of the company he works for. Leave the police out of it, and just let Kane go on the rampage. Bringing in realistic elements just won't fly with this type of storyline.

The opening bit with Austin, Bischoff, and Linda came off just fine (Linda still has the worst music in the history of WWE, though), and the fate of Austin gives us a reason to watch next week. The women's match was fine until Gail blew a few spots (invoking the memory of Jeff Hardy), but it accomplished what it needed to: it gives her a reason to fight with Trish. The more I watch Gail, the more I'm convinced that she's not ready to hold the title. Molly deserves a medal for saving that match.

We got a nice set-up for HHH/Goldberg at Summerslam, and Randy Orton continues his push as a "Legend Killer." Fine by me, and I have to admit, Evolution's new t-shirt is pretty cool. HHH's "stop, drop, and roll" commentary during Randy's match was hilarious. Booker v. Test was just OK, and things really didn't kick into high gear until Stacy showed up. I've got to admit, WWE actually has me caring about this whole Steiner/Stacy/Test thing, which is pretty admirable.

And, of course, the reason I watched in the first place: Y2J v. HBK. Jericho's short backstage segment was gold, and the match itself was solid and one of the better TV matches we'll see all year. I had originally set my expectations too high after seeing them go at 'Mania, but looking back on it, they both put in a good effort. Orton's interference doesn't bother me all that much, but I think that bringing Flair to ringside was completely unnecessary. In the end, it's a victory for Jericho, which I'll take any way I can get.

Smackdown!: 3.9
A much better effort than last week. I pretty much touch on everything in my column, so I'll just try and condense it here:
Stephanie's opening promo: Fine, until Cena smacked her ass. As a chick, I even thought Cena's raps were kind of cute. The sheer weirdness of the spanking left a bad taste in my mouth, though.
Stephanie attacking Sable: Eh. Stephanie's screaming frightens me.
Mysterio/Kidman v. Hardy/Moore: Awesome stuff here, and the crowd was HOT. Fantastic, fast-paced match, and great work by all men involved.
Jamie Noble v. Billy Gunn and the APA v. FBI: Both were short enough not to offend me. The stipulation added to the Noble/Gunn match for Vengeance is incredibly stupid.
Cena's rap while standing in a flaming pentagram: Outstanding. When he's not pissing on a tombstone, this guy always delivers.
APA hyping their barroom brawl: A waste of time, but at least it didn't use too much of it.
Eddie/Benoit promo: Gold, even though the crowd didn't seem to bite re: Eddie's "heel turn." Benoit even sounded good on the mic, which is even better.
Eddie v. Rhyno: Again, great matches. See, what'd I tell you? Just let the wrestlers get in the ring and GO.
6-Man Tag Match: I didn't like Zach being taken out of the match, but whatever. Great work here. The World's Greatest Tag Team looks better every time they step in the ring, and I couldn't believe the deafening reaction that Lesnar got. Amazing.

Three great matches, two good promos, very little Vince, and a hot crowd = a high rating from me.

Erin's year-to-date averages: RAW (3.2), SD! (3.3).


The Cubs Fan
RAW: 2.7
I'm trying, 3 days later, to remember something worthwhile from RAW besides the shock ending and the HBK/Y2J match. I did miss the first 20 minutes, but I don't think the opening bit would've done it for me.

In isolation, that was a great bit to end it. In context... there are lots of questions that come up, and I don't think I'll really get explanations for most of them at this point. It's better than last week, at least fake wrestling moves > fake burnings. I can't hate it for where it seems to be going, because that has nothing to do with this show. I'll save that for later.

I didn't hate the HBK/Y2J match... but for HBK and Y2J and 20+ minutes, I would've thought I got a more. Disappointing, which seems unfair but right. Weird that we're talking about "finally, [the heel] got his win!"

Coach and Lawler do not work as a team. They have similar glaring weaknesses. They desperately need to add someone anyone who knows the names of moves, for one. And the ability to play referee and focus the other two on whatever storyline they're talking over. I like Al Snow on Heat, and I think he'd fit here, but it's not as important that it's him than that it's someone. They can't repeat what they did Monday ever again.

Of course, this would be easier if they just Tombstoned Lawler to oblivion instead of Linda. Everything else was probably enough to nudge it back to 3, but the announcing killed the show at points.

Smackdown!: 3.4
Maybe this says something about me more than the show, but I enjoyed the V1/Rey/Kidman tag as much as the HBK/Y2J match. And I enjoyed Eddie's "always second" speech more than just about anything on RAW.

Rhyno/Eddie was good, as well as John Cena's bits (though what was the point of him hitting on Stephanie? That went nowhere, at least tonight.) I appreciated that they kept the APA stuff short, given what they were doing with it. The main-event stuff still isn't clicking for me.

Nice that they managed to give out good matches despite the usual PPV dictate of sacrificing all for a last hype of matches. But it's odd that neither Cena/Undertaker nor Kidman/Rey/Haas/Benjamin have dealt with each other in the ring that much leading to their matches on the PPV.

The Cubs Fan's year-to-date averages: RAW (3.0), SD! (3.5).


Fonzo
RAW: 4.0
I can't remember when was the last time fans were so polarized on an episode of RAW. Folks either loved the intense spectacle of the Kane storyline, or hated its gigantic storyline holes. I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed the Kane storyline this week and thought it was WWE's best effort to date in getting him over as a monster. That said, I agree that some aspects of the storyline were absurd and reeked of laziness by writers. Why would Linda McMahon welcome back to work the guy who tried to murder her lead announcer the previous week? She was more outraged at Austin for bullying around wrestlers. Just ridiculous. However, if WWE were to play it out with complete realism, then Kane would have been fired and locked up in jail for 20 years, and that would be the end. Not much of a wrestling angle. I'm sure there is a happy medium somewhere that would have allowed Kane back on TV and not completely defied all logic, but I have to admit that a lot of my complaints surfaced after I watched the show and went back and analyzed it. During the actual viewing period I was mostly entertained. I think the storyline should be judged on its own merits, and not compared to any kind of fantasy booking scenario. Could it have been better? Sure. Was the sight of Kane brought to the ring in handcuffs and shackles and tombstoning Linda McMahon super neat? Absolutely.

Let's not forget about the two other big news events coming out of the show. Chris Jericho again showed why he is the RAW MVP by giving another show-stealing performance in the ring. Similarly, Shawn Michaels continues to prove how absurd it is that he is not in the Observer Hall of Fame. If he were an Olympic Gymnast, he would stick the landing every time. You don't see moves any crisper or more graceful than Michaels'. As for the Triple H-Goldberg segment I could see WWE wanting to have the big money match at SummerSlam, especially after spending such big money on Goldberg. But WWE should just cut its losses. Goldberg flopped, as many fans expected he would. Just add him to the list of WWE's failures in handling "foolproof" angles in the last several years. I can't believe I'd say this, but here's hoping Triple H retains the title. As much as Triple H is hated by the hardcore fans, I'd much rather have the World Title on an actual wrestler than a phony like Goldberg.

Smackdown!: 2.7
The riskiest move of the night came not from the cruiserweights, but from whoever thought to have Stephanie McMahon open the show. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone watching the God-awful John Cena-Stephanie angle, which was just written to make her feel pretty. The six-man main event was strong, as was the angle between Eddie and Benoit, but the rest of the show ranged from awful to mediocre. That goes for the APA junk. I'm all for including comedy in wrestling programs, but the cardinal rule with comedy is to make it funny for the audience, not for the person who wrote it. In the earliest days of the split-brand PPV era, RAW clearly takes the lead in the hype department. I couldn't care less about Vengeance this Sunday.

Fonzo's year-to-date averages: RAW (3.6), SD! (3.4).


Matt Hocking
RAW:  4.2
JC:  I'm in the hot seat here with the King! It's time to RATE RAW!!
JL:  Is that you, Jesus?
HHH:  No, I'm over here, that's Coach.
JL:  Ewww.... Here's our guest, Chris Tian.
CT:  What's up, Peeps?
JL:  Can I share something with you, Chris? I'm starting to like new Kane.  You always know when he's out, there will be violence, and that's better than puppies.
CT:  Huh. Yeah, and plus he almost killed Linda. But I miss my on-going feud with Booker T.
JC:  RAW was great, I can only imagine that RAW will be great again, Monday Night Live! 9/8c only on the NEW TNN!!
JL:  This makes me miss Howler Monkey. Say something, Chris Tian.
CT:  Obviously Chris Tian cameos equal ratings, though, King.
JL:  Hmm... Jericho/Michaels was great!  Plus, PUPPIES! PUP-PIES!! 5.0!!
HHH:  I knew he was going to fall apart eventually.
CT:  I guess. 4.2, straight up for all my peeps. It deserved the rating it got.
JC:  I'm go...
HHH:  You don't get to rate, Coach.
JC:  But... but... but....
HHH:  Shut up. Back in the box you go.

Smackdown!: 3.4
MC:  Another great week!  Another great Smackdown!
TZ:  You know... we have a PPV coming up... and... one PPV-ready match.
MC:  Sable v. Stephanie?
TZ:  Uh... Brock/Angle/Big Show. Eddie/Benoit will be rocketbustas for sure, but it's got one week of real build up. Plus, Eddie is one of our more over faces on the rosta. I guess Taker/Cena will be rocketbustas too.  Here's our guest! Eddie Guererro.
EG:  Hey, esse!
MC:  EDDIE!! You're a HEEL!
EG:  I guess....
TZ:  What ever happened to that?
EG:  It's my gimmick. I lie, I cheat, I steal! My gimmick as a face is to be a heel. So now that I'm a heel, I'm even more over as a face.
MC:  Huh?
UD:  He's DRAGONRIFFIC!
TZ:  Shut up, Hunter! Anyway, it was nice to see SOME continuity between RAW and Smackdown. Good main event too!
EG:  Plus, Torrie Wilson, Stephanie, Sable... mamacita!!
MC:  Jerry Lawler, is that you?
UD:  Needs more Dragon.
MC:  I'll rate first!  A+... er... 5.0.
TZ:  RAW had much better story this week, which is funny because we're the ones with the PPV coming up. Good show though, 3.7.
EG:  I can't concentrate, holmes. Ultimo Dragon is stealing my lowrider, man!
UD:  HHHeat, here I come!

Matt Hocking's year-to-date averages: RAW (3.7), SD! (3.6).


Jeb Tennyson Lund
RAW: 3.5
Ah, Shawn Michaels, you passive-aggressively proselytizing Jesuitical ass. You look like a flamboyant sequined drag queen crossed with a Christian mobile and thrown bodily into a goth club. You're sending more sexual mixed messages than French Stewart hitting on Anne Heche. But, after a year of being in the WWE, you finally managed to put over someone not named Triple H. Granted, you made sure to do it in a compromising way. You crawled the entire length of the ring while in a "devastating submission hold." Nice job. You remind me of that quote from Saint Augustine, "God, grant me chastity and continence... but not yet." Although, in your case, I think the operative term would be humility.

Still, regarding Raw, Michaels-Jericho was the best thing going. Although Michaels wandering the ring while in the Walls of Jericho was annoying, it ultimately led to him tapping out. Thank God. Jericho's finishers had become so de-legitimized and seemingly weak that this goes a long way to restoring their credibility. Also, I don't think the interference here really hurt Jericho. Sure, Michaels got a low-blow from Jericho and a finisher from Orton, but Jericho also got clocked in the head with a chair. The finisher and the chairshot pretty much cancel each other out, and you're left with Jericho doing a heel move and having his finisher work. That's good stuff.

Other good stuff: Kane v. RVD was entertaining, and I like the Tombstone on Linda. Also, it was good to see Austin and Bischoff get tossed off the show. Orton even seemed worthy of paying attention to this week. But the bad on the show was pretty bad. I now consider Gail Kim an evil bitch for two reasons: one blown spot, then another. Also, every minute when she has the belt is a minute that Molly doesn't, and Molly is easily the most talented and most underrated female wrestler in the WWE. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with her ass.

Coachman and Lawler must go. I know that Coach sold his soul to get where he is, because he doesn't have any. Really, the man is giving Lawler a run for his money on the Whiteness Scale. And, as amusing as it was to hear Lawler nettle Coach for his inconsistencies and ignorance, I couldn't help but know that Lawler himself would be humiliated and crumble under similar scrutiny. Glass houses, you pervert. Glass houses.

Smackdown!: 3.2
The good stuff: Rey, Kidman, Hardy and the other guy put on a good match; Eddie, Benoit and Rhyno all delivered, and the main-event was okay. Most importantly, Eddie and Benoit did great mic work. Benoit actually seemed pretty intense and compelling, and Eddie managed to sell this match as something different from the 40 times these two met in the past. Two nights ago, I knew this match would be good, but I didn't care about it. I still know it's good, but they managed to make it seem important, different and more must-see than I could have imagined.

The bad: everything else.
Steph: get bent. Thanks for opening the show and sucking the excitement out of it. I'm tired of watching you and wondering if your ego has swollen larger than your ever-expanding melon or your augmented chest. I mean, really: what does it say about you and the show you present that I (and countless others) spend a great deal of time ignoring it in order to speculate on whether you're taking steroids?
Why does Bradshaw look like Billy Gunn's homosexual cousin? Oh, and I don't care about your barroom brawl, buddy. I hope the Brooklyn Brawler beats the ever-loving shit out of you and goes on a four-month rampage of jobbing to nobody.
Jamie Noble: hey, man, you're trying. You really are. No one cares.
John Cena: no one else believes it, but I think you're going to win this Sunday.

Jeb Tennyson Lund's year-to-date averages: RAW (3.1), SD! (3.2).

Big Danny T.
RAW: 3.6
I'll forgoe my usual breakdown and simply pull a number out of a hat based on my impressions of the show. Allow me to join up with people in saying that Raw could have been great, but JUUUUUUST didn't make it. I'm likeing where Kane is going, and I hope that he and RVD get a chance to tear it up for 10+ minutes somewhere down the line. I give Raw a 3.6.

SmackDown!: 3.8
As I said in my recap, good show, with the bad being outweighed by the good. Set up the PPV nicely. 3.8.

Danny's year-to-date averages: RAW (3.7), SD! (3.7).

Rick Scaia
RAW: 2.9
Nothing stank outright, but this was a show that I had exceptionally high expectations for... and for the most part, they weren't quite met.  Michaels/Jericho was very good, the easy match of the week, and I think the mid-show arc with Orton/Evolution was very nicely crafted.  But I continue to have misgivings about the direction of Kane's character; when that angle was presented as the main event of the show, it wound up flavoring my opinion of the overall broadcast.  I won't get into the whole Kane thing again here: suffice to say there are some intriguing possibilities, but that, as presented on Monday, I was not really digging things that much.  On top of that, I think they shortchanged some segments (like Booker/Test) by not properly hyping them earlier in the show; stuff seemed tossed in, making it less must-see. Also, the announcing was awful, with King harping on total nonsense even more than usual, and Coach just being... well, Coach.  Not a bad show, but in the end, not much above average, either.

SmackDown!: 4.0
Superb final effort heading into the PPV.  Three very good wrestling matches, and storyline-wise, they focused on the right things (translated: "not so much on the McMahons").  I just got done writing my Vengeance preview, and at this point, I feel like I'd be repeating myself if I said anymore, so... well, just go read my column for today if you want to know more about what I thought about SD!.

Rick's year-to-date averages: RAW (3.4), SD! (3.9).


FINAL OO RATINGS, WEEK ENDING 7/25/03

RAW average: 3.41 
Actual Nielsen Rating: 3.5 (converted to broadcast rating)
RAW UNDERdelivers (very slightly) versus actual rating this week.

Smackdown! average: 3.49
Actual Nielsen Rating:  3.4 
SD! OVERdelivers (very slightly ) versus final rating this week.

YEAR TO DATE TALLIES

Average OO Rating for RAW:  3.24
Average Nielsen Rating for RAW: 3.21
RAW is barely OVERdelivering, on average, versus actual ratings so far in 2003.

Average OO Rating for SD: 3.43
Average Nielsen Rating for SD:  3.35
SD! is OVERdelivering, on average, versus actual ratings so far in 2003.

Rounds Won by RAW: 2
Rounds Won by SD!: 6
Current Streak: 5 by SD! (Since 6/27/03)
Longest Streak: 5 by SD! (6/27-7/25)

BROWSE PAST WEEK'S BATTLES OF THE BRANDS
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