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RAW/Rating, SD! is CANCELLED~!, Plus:
ECW PPV, Importance of Maturity, and More!
January 26, 2005

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Wow, I just can't win... 
On Monday, I railed against Jimmy Buffett loving cheeseballs. And then I railed against rednecks. And neither of 'em really liked it. But I also don't think either of them must have actually read the whole columns. Cuz in quite a few e-mails, I had these Buffett weenies (sorry, folks, but "parrothead" is SUCH a retarded thing to call oneself that I even refuse

to use that name on you; trust me, it's for your own good) mailing me, telling me to quit being such a sports-loving, whiskey drinking redneck. And then, most of the rednecks I'd alienated took the time to remind me I'm from Ohio, which ain't exactly a metropolitan wonderland, but a few told me to shut up, because good, regular folk like NASCAR and country music, and if I can't do that, I should just go back to the yacht club to hang out with my rich, white, tosser friends.  [Note: I've yet to meet a true Buffett fanatic is not a rich, white tosser. I'm sure others exist -- perhaps in the filthy hippie underbelly of the Buffett world? --  but for the most part, I bet this stereotype holds true.]

So I've got the rich, white tossers calling me a redneck, and I've got the the rednecks calling me a rich, white tosser. Wow. Just who is Rick Scaia, anyway? I don't fit in ANYwhere! I'd call myself a charismatic enigma, but that'd only make me burst out in laughter at myself. [For the uninitiated, which I'm guessing is 90% of you, "Charismatic Enigma" is Jeff Hardy's oh-so-retarded nickname in TNA.]

Anyway, I thought it was quite amazing that I managed to mock two polarly opposite subcultures in one column, and in the doing, somehow managed to get members of each one to accuse me of being a member of the other. I'd tell you dum dums to read more closely, but I actually think this is pretty damned funny. Viva la poor reading comprehension skills!

And with that, we ride:

  • Monday's RAW was a study in two halves. 
    The opening hour of the show was chockful of goodness, starting with a kick-ass 20 minute six-man tag match, and ending with some of Batista's absolute best backstage skits yet, culminating in the perfect handicap match squash of Evolution. And in the middle? Hell, I even kinda liked how "Jim Ross Day" played out. 
    But then the second half of the show? Really slowed down. Hassan/Venis? Bleh; this week, they didn't have Hassan do anything truly dickish, they just reduced him down to working a Heat caliber match, while relegating him to being just a one-dimensional stereotype again (with Daivari doing the running Farsi commentary on the house mic; because people who talk differently from us are EVIL).  Kane/Snitsky/Maven? Unnecessary personified; everything that wasn't Maven's mic work threatened to put me to sleep.  A ton of backstage filler and PPV hype, too, slowed the pace of the show in the final half-hour.
    I will say this: I thought the Orton/Flair main event was very effective. Although it plodded at times, the final 2 or 3 minutes were SO perfectly constructed that by the end of the match, Orton was hearing his only thundering cheers of the night. Which his few supporters might take and shove in my face as proof that Orton deserves to be in main events.... but really, I'd just counter by pointing to HHH vs. TAKA Michinoku back about 5 years ago, and how thunderous the cheers for TAKA were by the end of that match. And nobody'd make the case for TAKA Michinoku, World Champ, would they? Use your head... it's all in the intramatch story/psychology, and as long as you have a strong enough heel (in this case, the heel really was HHH again, not Flair, since he was the one most integral to the final minutes), anybody can execute such a perfect gameplan on the babyface side.
    But ribbing on Orton aside (I'll do more of that later!), it was still a very exciting finish to the show. I appreciate that. I even appreciate the little things, like how Batista did NOT show up once the ref(s) were knocked out to help. Was he just following the rules, or was that a little "fuck you" to HHH for getting him tossed out earlier? Who knows, but you are encouraged to fill in the blanks, since it makes everything more fun. And plus, Orton winning here, by Conventional Pre-PPV Wisdom, means he's much less likely to beat HHH on Sunday, and really, isn't that what we're all concerned about?
    And speaking of the Batista/HHH stuff: just awesome this week. The look(s) on Batista face as HHH and Flair regaled him with the tale of how they just beat up an announcer, an old man, and a girl was perfect... and then Batista's explanation for accepting the Rumble qualifying match? His best bit of logical reasoning to date. He used HHH's own words against him to show how he wasn't being selfish, but instead, protecting Evolution's best interests by getting himself into the match. [HHH's later ploy to enter Flair into the Rumble was also interesting as a counterpoint to the previous skit, and it obviously sets the stage for Batista and Flair to have some kind of confrontation in the Rumble Match; I even think you could book them as the last two in the ring, but it's more likely to be a mid-match thing like what happened during the most recent RAW Battle Royale.] The bit in which Batista confronted La Resistance and was more than happy to face them in a handicap match was spot-on, too. He's just a guy who knows he kicks ass, and would rather show you than tell you about it in some big blustery interview. Perfect. 
    The match with La Resistance was also exactly what it needed to be. People can bitch and moan about how it castrates the tag division, but christ... the tag division had half-a-nut left, at best, anyway. The damage done to the tag division is nominal; the good it did for Batista is enormous. Simple equation: this was a great call. Only thing I might have done differently: I think Batista should have grabbed the flagpole at the end of the match, teased that he was going to Claim This Ass For Quebec, but then just shake his head, chuckle, and throw the flagpole down. I mean, it was kinda funny, but it was also a pretty unconvincing visual (you could tell that Conway was basically propping the pole up between his thighs; which sounds dirty, but you know what I mean); at this point, unconvincing comedy isn't good for Batista. Just TEASING that he was gonna do it, and then realizing "This is silly" would have been far more in keeping with Batista's character, while still getting the same point across and getting the same reaction from fans. But a VERY minor thing, since it seemed like everybody else liked it better than me, and that's the important thing...
    Before interacting with Batista, HHH and Flair had other business, which was interrupting "Jim Ross Day." Including Danny Hodge and the video package got the message across well enough: a special day for JR. Got it, and before it could overstay its welcome, enter the assholes. HHH did what he does best: just be a ginormous douchebag for about 2 minutes on the mic. This wasn't intensely evil heel HHH, this was comedically cocky heel HHH. For this part of the show, HHH wasn't "in character" in his normal way, he was, for his own amusement, being a caricature of himself, if that makes sense. And it worked, because at no time did he really give a shit about JR or Danny Hodge or about getting a kiss from Stacy Keibler... they were collateral damage that HHH could have fun with before achieving his ultimate goal of getting under Randy Orton's skin.
    And in the end, it worked out. JR and Hodge were dispatched, and Stacy became the prop used to bait Orton out. I think it's VERY telling that Orton is HHH's current archnemesis and Stacy is apparently his current girlfriend, but there was not a SINGLE "Orton" or "Randy" chant while HHH was doing his evil things. The crowd had to know that Orton'd be the guy to make the save, but they just didn't care enough for the inevitable to chant for it. On this night, not only was Orton pretty much trumped, Crowd Response-wise by, all three guys in the opening match, Batista, and Kane... this segment also showed that Orton was behind Jim Ross on the List of People Fans Care About. D'oh.
    But the finish was effective enough: Orton FINALLY ran out to save his girlfriend (he didn't care about the part where HHH was beating on announcers and old men? and he didn't even sense Stacy might be in harms way sooner? perhaps he really IS dense), HHH said, "Here, have her," and left taunting Randy with "She wants a MAN, and you're just a BOY." By running away, it's just enough of a chickenshit move, but it's also another week where HHH shows he's the Cerebral Assassin, and Orton's just a clueless dumb kid. [BTW, I'm not sold on exactly what WWE intends to do with the Orton/Stacy relationship, but here's my vote: let the two pretty cardboard cut-outs get together, and then come Draft Lottery Time, move Orton to SD!, and have him beg and plead to get Stacy traded over with him. There, she can have lingerie pillow fights to her hearts content with Torrie and Dawn and the rest. And make it a package deal: all of Stacy's Useless Diva Brigade is thrown in for free. The ring-capable women on RAW are plenty good-looking enough to handle the periodic T&A, and doing this would make the brand distinction a little more.... ummm.... distinct. Sorry, my words have failed me.]
    Color me "intrigued" over the possibilities for Regal and Tajiri. I was REALLY on the verge of breaking something when WWE picked Tajiri to be the lamb for Viscera, but then they immediately salvaged it by turning it into the start of something that COULD be very cool. Regal and Tajiri have worked some magic in the past (during Regal's Commissionership, and Tajiri's run as his "houseboy"), and I think this could be the perfect pairing that allows WWE to find a comedic context for Regal (which is the only way they ever seem interested in pushing him). Plus, you get a babyface tag team that fans will warm to. And I think ahead, and I even like the possibilities for once Eugene returns. As an added bonus, Regal spoke for all of us when he called Maria the Mic Stand a "silly tart" and got away with it. Nice.
    I think I've pretty well addressed the rest of the show... just about the only other thing I'd say is that I wish they'd done more to boost up Benoit before the Rumble. RAW could really have turned Benoit into a convincing potential Rumble winner with a proper showcase and announcer-ass-kissing. But I guess that opening tag match was good enough that I don't really care. For whatever it's worth, I loved the ending spot of the tag match as much as I liked the end of the Orton/Flair match; usually, I can spot those kind of highly choreographed spots coming a mile a way, but that one surprised even me. You can also put this down as the best match ever, in all of time and space, to have Tyson Tomko involved.
    If you haven't read it already, and if you would like more specific details about what went down on RAW, this is the part where I tell you that you can check out Erin Anderson's OO RAW Recap. Or the bRAWd Recap, if you will.
  • The rating for Monday's RAW: a 3.8 cable rating, which is exactly the same as the previous two weeks. So on the list of things that apparently aren't a big enough draw to increase the rating, I think you can include Randy Orton vs. Ric Flair, and promises of Steve Austin, since those were the only two selling points of RAW heading into the show.
    Actually: about Austin...  the one thing Erin didn't mention in the recap is that, as dumb and useless as the primary vignette was, there were a few subtle things that made it seem like WWE is pretty much telegraphing a return to RAW by Austin. One was how they drew the parallel between "Stone Cold is going Hollywood, and as everybody knows, this year, WrestleMania's going Hollywood, too." And the other was how they KEPT FUCKING REPLAYING (sometimes even slo-mo'ing it) the same 3 second clip of Austin getting a huge ovation for his middle finger salute, and then shooting the skunk eye to Vince McMahon, who didn't look pleased. Maybe nothing, maybe something.
  • Next news item sounds major, and it's something I might turn into a deceptive front page headline when I mock that up in a bit... but it's not really that huge.
    SmackDown! has been OMG CANCELLED~!
    But not until the fall of 2006. So don't go throwing yourselves off the roofs yet, wrestling fans.
    Speaking last week at a TV Critics' Somethingorother (basically, all the networks get together and do parties/presentations to try to get TV critics to view their shows in a positive light), Viacom head honcho Les Moonves made off-hand mention of how UPN is going to be re-branded... actually, in their case, that would be "branded," since the network is roundly held up as an example of a network with no distinctive personality (they pander to sci fi dorks one night, black America another, reality TV fans, wrestling fans, and so on and so forth).
    Although most articles covering the event only care about Moonves' comments about the much-more-heavily watched CBS (also owned by Viacom), a few of the UPN comments sneak in, and Moonves makes it clear that SD! may be their best drawing showing, but it's also not gonna fit in with the new programming strategy of the network. Moonves is a smart guy, and he's probably right: in the name of ratings, past head honchos have let SD! turn UPN's Thursday into kind of an orphan night that doesn't fit in with anything, and which can't really help to promote any of UPN's other shows.
    But again: unless they can un-do the renewal that they gave WWE back about a year ago, UPN will carry SD! through the 2005-'06 season. Which is plenty of time to figure things out...
    And here's another thing: both sides might even negotiate an early out effective THIS fall. Because already WWE is shopping around all its other TV shows, since all the SpikeTV programs are up for renewal THIS fall. Spike would like to have them back, but Vince McMahon holds an irrational dislike of the network and blames them for ratings losses suffered after WWE jumped from USA Network (which is simply not where WWE should place the blame).  So WWE is aggressively pursuing other options for the other five hours of their weekly TV, and could very easily start looking for a new home for SD! at the same time. Viacom might want to let them out early, and WWE might want to get away from Viacom sooner, who knows?
    The way this gets a little stick is if WWE doesn't find an adequate deal out there for RAW and the other shows... if the Universal networks (which include USA, which is a known goal of WWE's), FOX networks (FX might not be a bad fit, since when they're not showing one of their handful of actual quality in-house dramas, they CONSTANTLY repeat the same 8 movies clearly targeting males; "Diehard," "Predator," you all know what I mean; some wrestling might fit right in and take some of those movies out of heavy rotation; it might also be a way for WWE to leverage TNA out of their national TV deal), or Time Warner networks (TNT or TBS, though those are longshots since they decided in 2001 to get out of the wrestling game, and might be staying out) don't come through, then WWE's stuck with SpikeTV and Viacom... which means when UPN cancels SD! in 2006, they'd pretty much have to ask Spike for 2 more hours a week, and who knows if Viacom would be willing to do that?
    I mean, I realize FOX does two nights a week of "American Idol" in primetime, but they don't do it all 52 weeks a year... they might view it as a bad idea to bet fully 2/7ths of their prime time schedule on wrestling.
    So, long story short: SmackDown! is cancelled, but you almost certainly shouldn't give a shit. WWE has PLENTY of time to work this out, and actually has more hurdles to clear with regards to RAW before they even have to start worrying about SD!...
  • OK, folks, so we're gonna do a couple bullet points in a row that make me look like a fucking genius. Not that I'm the kinda guy who says "I told you so."
    First, a week ago, I had a WWE PPV schedule that had been forwarded my way from cable industry sources...  it was no more than a few weeks old.  In discussing the rumored ECW PPV, and how there was just no room for it on the presumed June 5 date, I said this: "I could fix this pretty easily, if I wanted to engage in idle speculation...  how about we eliminate Vengeance, move Bad Blood to 6/26, and turn that 6/12 PPV date into the ECW PPV?"
    And that is now what it appears has happened.

    WWE itself has released it's updated PPV schedule for 2005 on its website, and what they've done is eliminate Bad Blood on 6/12, and turned Vengeance into a RAW-brand PPV on 6/26. And all of a sudden, the 6/12 PPV date? It's "To Be Announced" with no brand attached to the date.

    I figure that pretty much means you can pencil it in as the rumored ECW PPV, afterall.  Even though they don't have a brand listed, they do have a location listed, and it's gonna be in New York City, which has a couple good-sized venues that were basically ECW's homes-away-from home. Obviously, you can't blame WWE for not wanting to run a PPV at the old Bingo Hall.  ECW didn't even bring PPV back to the bingo hall after the first one...
    The only other remote possibility for that date that I could come up with is that you use it for a Joint Brand return of "King of the Ring." But I think at this point, all the rumors and backstory, and all current available information pretty much point to this being the ECW PPV date. Should be interesting...
  • And here's another story along the same lines...
    Two weeks ago, I addressed WWE's blurring of Cena's hat on SD!, and I said this: "I cannot fathom why anybody would feel the need to censor "Ruck Fules," because unless UPN has decided to start censoring stupidity, there's nothing objectionable about "Ruck Fules." Best I can figure is maybe WWE blurred it themselves, to try to make it SEEM like Cena was wearing something cool and edgy, when in fact, he was wearing a hat that no self-respecting third-grader would find cool.  You know, kind of like a double reverse psychology thing."
    And guess what? I'm right again. A few readers tipped me off to new ad copy on WWE's shopzone website, and pretty much all the "Ruck Fules" family of merchandise is being sold as "Too Hot for TV."

    Where do I even begin explaining to you how retarded this is? Maybe I don't, cuz at this point, if you don't know the many ways that John Cena has become a total fucking joke, it can only mean (a) you're not watching SD!, and (b) this is your first visit to OO.

    WWE has this guy pandering to fans in a fashion that actually makes me embarrassed for the guy, they've turned him into the "thug" that it's OK for kids to idolize and whose idea of naughty is poop jokes, and now, to try to give him an edge, they give him the gayest catchphrase of all times, and blur it out themselves to trick people into thinking Cena's hardcore? Awful. And also a fine indication of exactly how out-of-whack WWE's priorities are: instead of MAKING CENA COOL, they are wasting their energy trying to fool people into thinking that's the case.  Ruck you, WWE!
  • Something I forgot to mention on Monday... there's a new house show segment making the rounds that I'm gonna INSIST see the light of day on RAW soon.
    I don't want to spoil it for you, but let's just say that it involves Red Headed Spaz vs. Molly in a Bikini Contest, Coach as a Crooked Judge, and Molly wearing a dead sexy outfit: an oversized nightshirt-y thing that has a drawing of a Stacy-sized body in a bikini on the front. HA!
    You want a marketing idea for the ShopZone, WWE: there you go. Have Molly become the dominant force in bikini contests on RAW (since lord knows, you have no interest in letting her wrestle), and design a version of this you can sell as a nightshirt. You can even have Molly's dominance extend over to Lingerie Match superiority: and thus, a second, alternative nightshirt is needed.  And for different occasions, maybe Molly would prefer something lacy... but on others, something more practical. The possibilities are endless.
    It's a license to print money! Or not! But I bet you one billion dollars that they'd sell as many of these as they've sold of those soul-crushing "RandyWear" nighttime ensembles (which was something else a reader who shares my sense of the absurd tipped me off to a month ago)... honestly, what kind of vapid moron just adores Randall Orton SOOOOOO much that she NEEDS to wear delightful pink panties and matching halter top with Randy's name on it to bed. It's just like snuggling with Randy himself~! I think there was also a nightshirt in the "RandyWear" collection, actually... and this is right there with "Ruck Fules" as one of WWE's absolutely dumbest recent merchandise ideas. Or maybe it just shows that they've done the research and realize where Orton's limited appeal is centralized, and this is the only way to wring money out of it? I dunno....
    But screw the marketing considerations of nightshirts: I mostly just think this new house show skit sounds funny, and figure it might be something that gives Molly a cool hook. Or at least, would get her on TV. For one week. Which is good.
  • A few people mailed in asking about Kurt Angle and if he's also pulling double duty at the Rumble (the title match, and then the Rumble match)... since I had the week off from RAW duty, I wasn't paying super-close attention like I usually do, but I guess Edge included Angle's name in a list of people he'd eliminate from the Rumble, and that's what's caused the confusion.
    The answer is a simple: No, Angle's not wrestling in the Rumble match. Nothing happened at tapings last night to indicate otherwise, either. Edge just made a little boo-boo, and you caught him on it. Clever you.
  • And you people also caught me with MY pants down. I wondered out loud when and where Tough Enough Toolbox Daniel Puder qualified for the Rumble match back on Monday...
    And you swarmed.
    Apparently, at some point during the TE contest itself, the Rumble entry was thrown in as an added prize. And silly me, I FF'ed all that crap, so I must have missed it. But that's the explanation. He won the Rumble spot when he won Tough Enough.
    You know, in my mind, there is a science to assembling your Rumble Roster every year. You don't necessarily need the biggest stars, but you need role players (this is why I don't mind somebody like Viscera in the mix, since he'll mostly be there to be sedentary and to eventually make somebody else look good), and most of all: you should make a conscious effort to include 30 men that you KNOW will get at least a "Hey, it's XXX!" pop when they enter the match. 
    Basically: you want to limit the number of groans from fans when somebody nobody gives a shit about comes to the ring. It's not a question of fans believing all 30 men can win; it's a matter of including 30 men that all fans will recognize and care about. When you get down to the last 5 or so spots, I swear, the heuristic should be "Which theme music is most distinctive and will goose the crowd into caring."  You want that recognition pop for all 30 guys; you want to limit the dead silence after the buzzer goes off.
    My point: this Tough Enough assclown has not done one single entertaining thing on TV, yet (he has, in fact, been quite awful in any skits of his I've watched since Tough Enough), and fans have no reason to care about him. When the buzzer sounds and his music that nobody's ever heard plays, the live crowd and every viewer at home will go "Huh?"... and he'll deserve it. And WWE will deserve it for including him. 
    I'm not saying there aren't a handful of other "Huh?" inducing guys on the Rumble roster this year, but Puder's the one that just really baffles me...  seriously: SD! should have just given 3 or 4 of their spots over to RAW. I mean, I love Paul London as much as the next smark, but he's another of those "Huh?" guys... and yet recognizable personalities with known/distinctive entrances like Maven, Tajiri, and Rhyno are sitting out on RAW.
    For whatever it's worth: Coach is the perfect example of my little theory... for the Rumble, he's a perfect guy. People will react strongly to his entrance, and in the ring, he'll play an awesome whipping boy role. I know you'll all get together in a Smark Jack-off Conclave and revoke my internet privileges for saying that, but I don't care. I'm right: for the Rumble match, Coach honestly has more value than your precious Paul London. Deal.
  • I think I'm gonna close today with something I briefly mentioned last week...  kind of my own "What's wrong with Randy Orton?" riff.
    I realize that this might seem like unnecessary piling on after Erin just did her own version of the same thing yesterday, but two things make today the right time to do it. (1) In a way, you can probably take Erin's dead-on analysis of one way Orton's so off-putting and have it fit in, quite nicely, as a logical result of my broader thesis, which makes for a little dovetail effect doing them back-to-back.. And (2) Triple H screaming "She wants a MAN and you're just a BOY" at Orton this week on RAW is just too perfect.
    Because in my mind, this all boils down to maturity. And HHH making that very distinction on Monday was kinda vindicating (since I've had this notion in my head for a few weeks, now). Although I also think HHH is wrong in one regard: I'm pretty sure Stacy is the kind of girl who DOES want a boy, not a man. She seems like she might be the type who doesn't care so much about stimulating conversation, and who's idea of a good time would be a soul-crushing mix of body glitter, dance clubs, shitty music, and "shooters" that require flavored vodkas to make and are probably named after parts of the female anatomy. Not something actually fun like -- oh, I don't know, just picking something completely at random here -- shooting some pool and having good tunes on the jukebox.  But I digress...
    This is about Randall and his maturity, and specifically, how his lack of it kinda makes it hard to find him likeable. I look at life this way: there's a few plateaus in our maturation where we stop, hang out for a few years, and have the experiences that make it possible for us to make our next quantum leap. I honestly don't think it's a smooth, even maturation, but rather relatively brief transition phases, followed by relatively lengthy plateau phases. I mean, you should ALWAYS be learning, but there are just these major leaps that I think every person (well, at least all High Quality People) make every 4-5 years.
    Eschewing childhood, I think that first real step up happens like around sophomore year of high school: you've found new friends, you're gonna be getting a driver's license and might have friends that already do, and you start to have an existence that is not defined by your parents. You still take the free room and board, but you're able to start checking things out for yourself. And you hang there for maybe 3-4 years, until you go to college: you rapidly outgrow the homesickness, you meet people from all over the place who might think and talk differently than you, and you learn not just how to interact with them but how they might have some ideas you want to adopt. You experiment with a few new things, and maybe find a few you enjoy. And mostly, you start to learn how to discipline yourself without your parents involved, since otherwise, you'll flunk out. And then you get done and once you hit 23 or 24, you make another jump: you're out in the real world, and you have to figure out how to expand that self-discipline so you can mesh some of the social things you picked up in college, with some of the learning you did while there to get yourself a job and be self-dependent, but to also still have fun. And you pretty much stay there until you hit the phase of your life when you get married and have kids and have to change again, but I can't speak to that, since I've not gotten there just yet.
    My point is, Randy Orton keeps spouting off his age (24), and I keep thinking "this should be a guy who's had a compelling mix of experience in his life, both victories and failures, and he should have learned a lot from them, and be totally comfortable with what he's doing in life and comfortable with himself."  And I don't actually see that; I don't think anyone sees it. If anything, I really think Orton's still trapped in that first phase: the 17 year old kid who is just starting to figure some stuff out and just cares about abusing that freedom without stopping to realize that he's still ultimately dependent on somebody else for his subsistence.
    And dammit, here is where I admit that I don't know if I'm talking about Randy Orton the Character, or Randy Orton the Man. I think a case can honestly be made for the latter, though, and Orton really hasn't had the kind of experiences that turn a boy into a man, yet. He was a high school jock, and he is quite pretty; I'm sure life was real easy for the kid. But then: Randall's not the intellectually curious type, so no college for him, and he eventually figured he'd try the military. But as soon as that got too hard for the kid, he went AWOL instead of toughing it out or confronting the problem head on. So he goes back home, and he asks dad to make a few phone calls for him, and ends up with a developmental contract. And although he did the work asked for him there, I'm sure the family name helped when it came time to pick a few new guys to get called up to the main roster, which is how Randall, at age 22 and with less than 2 years experience in the business, wound up on WWE TV. Where he has remained. A few injuries might count as his only real hardships, but mostly, he's been the beneficiary of a massive promotional effort by those around him, one that I'm sure he appreciates, but also one that I'm not entirely sure he's equipped to make the most of. Successful wrestlers have to put a part of themselves into their on-screen persona: I'm not positive that Randy has really gone through enough to have anything inside him to give. Or at least, nothing we'd find interesting. [He almost seems like the kind of guy who still sits around telling high school stories like they were the greatest time of his life; maybe that's a little bit off, since there's probably some pretty cool stories that go with celebrity... but just in the abstract, he seems like a person who'd reminisce about high school in a way most people who just used it as a learning process before moving on to better things wouldn't. Just while back at my 10 year reunion, it was REALLY funny to isolate the people I knew who felt that way from my high school class, and how they were often the ones who everybody looked up to as "cool" back then, but who rapidly became the boring, uninteresting losers of the reunion for not growing the fuck up. Us grown ups got better things to do than deal with immature brats.]
    And again, I'm saying upfront that Orton's one of the guys I've never met, so I don't know what he's really like. I'm sure, if nothing else, that he's a decent enough guy and he wants to do his best. But to be put in the position he was put in, you have to really have something inside you that people can connect to. With Randy, there just doesn't seem to be anything substantial to grab on to. Even if you discount these comments about Orton the Man (which is fine), you gotta grant that Orton the Character has basically the same problem: the guy has not really "earned" anything in the fans' eyes. A rise to greatness that doesn't include some compelling hardships along the way is non-existent in the real world, and people KNOW that at a gut level. Which is why Randy's first push to the World Title never took off. And then, even when HHH upended him, it might have counted as Orton's first hurdle, but that's when fans might have subconsciously started to realize "Orton, at 24, the student, he's claiming to be better than HHH, who we might not LIKE but who has been so good for so long that we at least respect him. I call bullshit on that." Instead of the hardship making us care about Randy, it exposed his character's weakness even further, and compounded the problem.  
    Orton the Character is simply an immature punk who's lucked his way into everythng he's accomplished, and ADMITS it, because he keeps talking about "destiny" instead of how hard he's worked or how good he is or anything like that. [And even if he said those things, fans wouldn't believe them, because we CAN see with our own two eyes how things have gone with Randy in the last 3 years.] Orton's onscreen immaturity manifests itself in other ways, too, from his bumbling ways of public speaking (not just the line-fumbling, but the rather limited vocabulary and reasoning ability) all the way to the rather unlikable frat boy manner he exhibits towards the ladies (his idea of charming is Leon Phelps, and that's because THAT is what he's seen on TV, instead of going out and figuring it out for himself; and don't even get me started again on the message sent the night of Randall's Impromptu Lingerie Fashion Show). 
    The last few weeks, they haven't helped matters much, since HHH has, for 2 weeks running, made a rather major point out of how Orton's "a kid" playing in a man's world. And hey, I don't know about you: but most kids in high school are kind of obnoxious, and I don't like 'em. *I* was obnoxious in high school. Cuz I didn't know any better; you're too busy rebelling against nothing and trying to define yourself that you just turn into a douchebag for a while. But you turn it around eventually...  the problem with Orton's character is that he's still that unlikable punk. He hasn't made that transition to self-awareness, yet. He's just all "Blah, blah, blah and GIMME WHAT'S MINE."  Nobody cares about that. Or if you do care, it's in a negative way. Which is something that anybody with half a brain should have known back last summer, but WWE tried the face turn anyway.
    And again, just so people know that I'm not NECESSARILY out to get Randy Orton, it's not anything he's specifically done wrong: but I do think WWE exercised terrible judgment in asking Orton to do something he might not have the experience to pull off.
    Actually, I'd warn that WWE should be more aware of this Maturity Gap then they seem to be. I will NEVER, in a million years, condone Bob Holly beating the shit out of Rene Dupree in that match late last year... but if you stop to think about it: Dupree got his WWE contract BEFORE HE EVEN FINISHED HIGH SCHOOL (or it was agreed upon before, but he couldn't/didn't officially sign it till immediately after his graduation, but you get the idea), and at age 21 is suddenly a multi-time champion on TV? I guarantee you that there might be a good person lurking inside Rene Dupree, but he's probably a guy who is that obnoxious high school punk personified. If Bob Holly wanted to slap him around, it might have been for a good reason. But he still shouldn't have done it. Or at least, not the chickenshit way he did it.
    This new guy Chris Masters is, I think, 22, which is an age at which you probably should have your shit sorted out and be reasonably mature, but he's another guy who I think skipped college, cared more about his deltoids than his brain muscle, and without much actual life experience is finding his way onto TV after a relatively short developmental process (while multi-year veterans are still left to rot in OVW). This sends up warning flags with me, now that I've isolated the Maturity Issue.
    I can understand how WWE is in a bit of a tough bind here. It was actually some interactions between Batista (who is 36) and Orton that set this whole there off in my head. Batista's a man, Orton's a boy. Which one is gonna  be able to get the job done better?  The man. [Stacy Keibler was exempted from this vote.] But in "WWE Think" there's a huge problem with Batista, and it's that he's a man. For as much as his maturity make it easy for Batista to project an aura of "Hey, I've been around, and I know I can take care of this " that Orton can't, he's also got a shelf life 12 years LESS than Orton.
    Guys like Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Steve Austin, Kevin Nash, and now Batista: they didn't become stars until their mid-30s, which WWE looks at and considers lost time. They FAIL to realize that they became stars at that age because THAT is when they had matured enough to be able to truly connect with an audience. So sure, they'll squeeze maybe 5 or 6 more "peak" years out of Batista... but WWE has this hard-on for over-pushing guys who are 21-24, who have twenty peak years ahead of them. To them, it's just math: if they can pay a guy X dollars to make the company Y dollars in revenue for 20 years, they'll want to focus on that instead of the guy who can only do it for 5.
    The problem is that if a kid gets called up and overpushed because he's just not equipped to do what WWE asks of him, the money he'll generate won't be that much. A guy like Batista might be able to generate 5 times as much revenue as some kid; and all of a sudden, if Batista does that for 5 years, he's making WWE more money than the kid who has 4 times longer to draw money. For as much as I can't deny there is a certain logic to WWE's concerted effort to get guys on TV sooner so that they can milk them for as long as possible before they get worn out and broken down, I hope you see my point about how the hit rate will be significantly less with these kids than if you started scouting with an emphasis on Quality People with the maturity to bring a little something of themselves to the character. Maybe not just college grads (but that's always a plus in terms of figuring out if somebody's got something interesting going on upstairs), but people who've got some life experience, and who can still make it onto TV by age 26 or so. Just look at a guy like Shelton Benjamin, and tell me he doesn't have just a little something extra that you NEVER see from Orton, and that'd be my summation on this point.
    Christ, from talking about Randall Orton being unlikable because he's an immature little punk to questioning WWE's entire scouting process...  *that* part I didn't plan for.  It just kinda came gushing out from my fingertips on the fly.  Hope it makes sense to you, though.  All of it: the Orton part AND the hiring part. How mature a person is is just a HUGE part of what they bring to the table in ALL walks of life, from relationships to their jobs. And if your job is "wrestler," it's doubly important since part of that job is connecting with a majority of the audience. Which is something no immature punk is really gonna be able to pull off. No sirree.
  • And on that note, I am most certainly done for the day. Friday, the trOOps will amass, and we'll have the best damned Royal Rumble PPV Preview anywhere for you.
    I'll even make sure to include a refresher on the rules to me and my friends' patented Royal Rumble Game, so you can play at home, if you want. See you then....

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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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