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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
RAW, Ratings Woes, Another Diva
Loser Hired, WWE/NBC Tie-Ins, MORE! 
September 28, 2005

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

Man alive this is getting good.... three teams, two playoff spots. And I'm telling you people: what I wrote in my column Monday still stands. For the good of Wrestling, you should all be cheering hard against the Cleveland Indians and/or the Boston Red Sox. 
  
For that is the only way to guarantee there will be no single-game playoffs mucking things up next Monday night when we're all trying to juggle RAW's Homecoming, "Arrested Development," UFC, and TNA's first show on SpikeTV. Or at least, while *I* am juggling those things... but even y'all should have an interest in there

not being too much extraneous competition for eyeballs next Monday. Last fall, the baseball playoffs single-handedly torpedoed the ratings for at least one week of RAW and also drastically reduced the number of buys for the Taboo Tuesday PPV.

Next Monday should be Wrestling's Night To Shine. So I know I can count on all of you to come together with me and use our Mind Bullets to shoot holes in the post-season hopes of either the BoSox or the Injuns. Concentrate really hard, people! And in five days, you can go back to expending your mental energies on.... well, if all goes well, on a Big Night of Wrestling.

But before we get to that Big Night, we've gotta trudge through a Contractual Obligation Midweek Column, which will be a little on the light side, from the looks of things. I think you'll be amply amused, and you just might manage to learn a thing or two along the way. Because that is, in fact, the manner in which I prefer to roll:

  • The last RAW on SpikeTV will be remembered for roughly one thing: the infantile dick waving contest between WWE and Spike over the letters "U," "S," and "A."
     
    Other than that, the show was almost entirely forgettable on its own merits, and outside of the above-average main event brawl, seemed to exist only to bludgeon us over the head with the Loaded Line-Up for next Monday's Homecoming.
     
    Of course, constantly hearing about that line-up only reminded us of how sadly-lacking THIS week's line-up was. Who can get fired up for Rob Conway matches when every third word out the the announcers' mouths is either "Hogan" or "Austin" or "Foley" or "IronMan" or "Ladder Match"? The answer, of course, is no one.
     
    Other than the main event (which was a fun brawl that, thanks to the tables stip, was a notch or two more fast-paced and intense than what we're used to in our free TV matches), I'll also give free passes to the opening promo (which featured my two favorite wrestlers and Vince McMahon ordering a match between them for next week) and the women's match (which was no gem, but which reminded me of how you could give the women 6-8 minutes every week and they'd be way more entertaining than some of RAW's recent Heat-caliber crap, if only you had more than 2 women capable of pulling it off on the roster).
     
    Everything else ranged from boring-but-tolerable (like the Big Show match, which at least had a satisfying ending) to boring-and-sucky (like Conway/Eugene or the inanely-booked non-title tag match). None of the other promos/skits even really clicked (and let us not forget the incomprehensible douchebaggery of John Cena, who -- I am told by an OO Reader who was live in Waco at the taping -- got more than his fair share of Manly Low-Pitched Boos to go along with all his girlish squeals).
     
    And I cannot overstate enough how WWE's spirit-sapping oversell of next week annoyed me. Who do they think they are "selling" to? By the 30 minute mark of last night's show, even most higher forms of house plants were fully aware of the line-up for Homecoming and the new channel. We get it; now shut up about how you'll entertain me next week and entertain me TONIGHT, OK?
     
    Or, as I said in the RAW Recap, and was so proud of that I'll reprint it here, where it'll be seen by roughly one-third more readers: "I mean, WWE wants to emulate Hollywood, right? Well, somebody refresh my memory.... where were the three dozen scenes in "The Godfather" where Al Pacino stopped acting and telling the story so he could assure us, "Hey, we still have a lot of good movie here tonight, but be sure to come back in 3 years when we release Godfather Part 2, people! It'll be even better!"? Oh, that's right, those scenes never happened.... and yet, I do believe "Godfather 2" still did pretty well for itself. Because the first one was so damned good that people were happy to come back for more."
     
    Less hype, fewer video packages, more CONTENT. That is how you'll inspire fans to tune in. Just my pet theory, anyway.
     
    And about the pissing match between Vince and Spike? Well, Spike blinked first and quit trying to censor the mentions of USA Network almost exactly half-way through the show. Good for them. Simple fact #1: 95% of wrestling fans know WWE is moving to USA, so WWE didn't have to be such cocksuckers about getting those mentions on the air (they really must have only been doing it to poke Spike in the ribs on the way out). Simple fact #2: wrestling fans are WRESTLING fans, so Spike isn't going to magically trick them into watching UFC next week (or CSI reruns the weeks after that, or whatever else will be Spike usual Monday night filler) simply by not letting WWE tell fans what network they are moving to.
     
    Synthesis of Simple Facts: so both sides had nothing to gain by behaving as they did on Monday. Literally nothing. If I could invent a couple parallel universes, I bet I could prove that whatever happens -- ratings-wise -- next Monday would be almost exactly the same in our current universe as it would be if WWE mentioned USA and Spike never censored it, if WWE mentioned Spike and Spike censored ALL of it, or if WWE never mentioned Spike at all. If there are gains/losses to be had here, they are marginal at best, and likely statistically insignificant.
     
    And yet, we were treated to the remarkable spectacle of two multi-million dollar media companies acting like 3 year-olds. I know *that* is what I'll remember from WWE's last night on Spike. And I don't really think that should be the case.
     
    At least it sure as hell seems like next week will kick ass, hopefully launching us into a new era of regular weekly ass-kickings. Whatever shortcomings Monday's RAW had as a self-contained two hour program, that does nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for the Homecoming. 
     
    Sadly, I bet WWE considers this admission of mine a "moral victory," and they feel like they accomplished exactly what the wanted to. Which, if true, only further underscores how mind-bogglingly misplaced WWE's priorities are.
     
    Anyway, for a more detailed rundown of Monday show, I again refer you to yesterday's OO RAW Recap, which is celebrating at least 15 weeks straight or so of being head-and-shoulders better than RAW itself. Hopefully that streak will end next week. And if it doesn't: Hey, Vince, I know I'm not Nitro, but I don't have to do this 82 weeks in a row before you get your head out of your ass, now do I?
     
  • The ratings for Monday reveal that I'm not exactly talking out of my ass...
     
    RAW did a 3.2 cable rating. This "tops" two weeks ago as the lowest non-holiday rating for RAW of 2005. That means that since the Labor Day rating of 3.6 (which was a significant drop from the week before), RAW has done Non-Holiday ratings of 3.3, 3.6, and now, 3.2. That means September's average rating for RAW is a 3.4.
     
    Even with wrestling already pretty well in the crapper when the year started, that marks the lowest monthly average for RAW all year, and by a significant margin. Take a look at these monthly averages: 
     
    JAN. '05 -- 3.7 
    FEB. '05 -- 3.9
    MARCH '05 -- 3.9
    APRIL '05 -- 4.0
    MAY '05 -- 3.8 
    JUNE '05 -- 4.0
    JULY '05 -- 3.6 (includes low July 4 rating)
    AUG. '05 -- 3.8
     
    And then, here comes September.... BAM, with a 3.4. And the holiday rating for the month tied for RAW's best performance. Not good, no matter how you slice it. The last month this bad for RAW was last August (when we were in the midst of Project Orton, and fans finally started reacting to the nosedive that RAW had started back in June of '04), which also averaged a 3.4 before rebounding in September.
     
    By the way: last September's rebound? Means that you can't blame THIS September's problems on Monday Night Football or anything else. Deal with it: for at least the past few years, MNF has simply not shown a statistical correlation to RAW's ratings performance.
     
    So what do you blame this on? I don't know... maybe on an overall crappy product? Maybe on purposely sandbagging it, to save up the "good stuff" for the return to USA Network? Maybe you do to John Cena what was done to Eddie Guerrero last summer, and blame it on the champ? Or better yet: maybe blame it on Chris F. Masters' first month working main event slots?
     
    Whatever you blame it on, you blame it on something internal, not on any outside mitigating factors. And to me, it comes down to Building An Inferior Mousetrap.
     
    Look, I know that there ARE some outside factors (like the cyclical vagaries of pop culture) that will keep RAW from ever getting back to 1999-2000's weekly 6.0's and 7.0's. There was a bit of "lightning in a bottle" back then... but even after wrestling was done as a mainstream phenomenon, even after ratings had come back down to earth, even after WCW was dead and WWE was the only game in town, RAW was capable of regularly performing in the high 4's for a year or so. To me, that year's average ratings represents the Available Fan Base for WWE today. The people who WOULD watch wrestling, if only it was, you know, GOOD.
     
    After enjoying one of it's strongest sustained ratings runs in a while from the WrestleMania-to-Draft-Lottery corridor this year (flirting with 4.0's every week, and periodically topping that barrier), WWE has abruptly changed directions. Instead of taking those 4.0's and inching upwards, they've hemmoraged all that away, and have found themselves mired in the worst month-long ratings slump they've had in over a year. Things like that don't happen by accident, they are not the fault of any outside factors or flukes of nature. They happen because you simply aren't giving the fans what they want to watch.
     
    I do get a fairly constant low-level chatter directed my way in e-mail telling me that I should shut up and quit bitching because WWE knows what it's doing, and they're still making money, so who is The Rick to tell them their business. Well, you annoying, mediocrity-embracing, lemming-like, battered-fan WWE Apologists: it's not just ME telling them their business. It's approximately 15% of the fans they had back during the draft lottery who have ALSO sent WWE a message loud and clear by simply tuning out.
     
    My stance is this: two hours of entertaining, sustainable, episodic TV should not be hard to write every week. It's one part creativity, one part intelligence, and one part understanding the psychology of fans and what will play with a wrestling audience. I won't cast aspersions on WWE's Writer Monkeys' creativity and intelligence, simply because I don't know them, and I even have a general idea that some of them might be fairly well handcuffed into writing uncreative and unintelligent things. But WWE's willful decision to keep on ignoring the fans wishes is something that I will point to as a huge problem. 
     
    And it's why WWE makes what should be a simple (if not enjoyable) task of coming up with two hours of TV a week look like it's an even task than finding Osama bin Laden. And it's also why, even if next week is a one-week blip on the radar, I'm not entirely sure WWE is in position to change their ratings fortunes (or their critical fortunes) on a dime in October.
     
    As always, though, I'll stand by openly wishing to be proven wrong.
     
  • More on WWE's hilariously misplaced priorities...
     
    They really did post "uncensored" video of Monday's RAW on their website, as if anybody with half-a-brain would actually flock to hear the words "USA Network."
     
    Along with the video, they had an article quoting Vince McMahon.... in it, he paints Spike as a vile dictator, and claims that he opposes All Forms Of Censorship.
     
    Oh, good lord.... this coming from the insecure dictator who won't let fans hold up signs that say bad things about babyfaces or which might mention non-WWE wrestling companies. From a man who gets upset any time his talents might do an unsanctioned non-WWE interview and say things that might border on the Awful Truth. From a man who has a history of "sweetening the sound" (i.e. inserting cheers, dubbing over boos) on taped shows to ensure the live fans' voices are not heard.
     
    I call "bullshit" on Vince McMahon. I call it good naturedly, and with all due respect, but I call it anyway. And I call "fucking retard" on anybody who reads that and believes a single word of it. And that's with no due respect and with all offense well fucking intended.
     
  • WWE.com has also confirmed that Diva Search Elisabeth has been signed to a contract.
     
    That now means that the 3 diva contestants I took a shine to at the very start of the competition are now the only three to be under WWE contract. Like I said on Monday, I consider this to be proof positive that my taste in women is as good as it is in wrestling, whiskey, and rock 'n' roll.
     
    Actually, all joking aside, given how ridiculously picky I am and how 15-degrees-off-center my tastes seem to run -- be it in real life or in my picks for favorite Celebrity Babes -- I'm as baffled as anybody how and why my choices for the 3 most-tolerable Diva Search girls are also the ones hired by WWE. 
     
    I think a strong case could be made that WWE actually *did* do a better job during the casting/selection process this year than last... this year, it really only seemed like there were 2 girls who blatantly had no business in a WWE ring and had no interest in developing the skills to earn that spot (that's not to say that the other 6 seemed TV-Ready, or anything, it's just to say they at least seemed aware of what would be asked of them and also seemed physically capable of improving over time). Compare that to last year where only 1-in-10 of the contestants really seemed that way (Michelle McCool).
     
    The signing of Elisabeth now means that we might eventually see the thrilling conclusion of the Elisabeth/Kristal feud that was one of the few highlights of the soul-crushing Diva Search segments. As you recall, those two seemed to go into business for themselves, cutting the kind of snarky promos that seemed hostile but which seemed to have the purpose of putting each other over enough so that fans would want to see more. Of course, in my mind's eye, I don't see this feud making it to TV much before 2007, since I want it to be good, but still.... the two already seemed about as comfortable/smooth in front of a camera as they'll ever be, and also were the two who showed the best grasp on Wrestling Promo Psychology, so at least THAT part of the battle is already won.
     
    While Kristal will be doing her training in Atlanta at the DSW facility, Elisabeth is going straight to OVW, which is more the "Advanced Class," I gather. Given the athletic ability she displayed, I guess that makes sense...
     
    And WWE? You're done hiring Diva Search losers for now, OK? You got the right three... now go spend your money on the Dudle.... ahhhhh SHIT! 
     
  • Actually, there's one Diva Search Loser who may not even be needing a WWE contract. Diva Search Alexis (who drank beer, quoted Ric Flair, and was trying to be the "heel" of the contest) was spotted by eagle-eyed OO Readers, handing out t-shirts and doing other ringside duties at last night's TNA TV tapings. I gather TNA's budget, as yet, does not include a T-Shirt Gun...
     
    Diva Search Alexis would more accurately be called "Diva Search Leilene," except that WWE already had a "Leyla" in the contest, so thus the name change. Without knowing a single thing about how or why she was at ringside, the biggest question in my mind is, "If she is actually going to be getting called back and on TNA regularly in the future, which name would we call her?"....
     
  • The TNA tapings went off smoothly, and established the NWA Title main event for the Bound For Glory PPV. That match-up will be made abundantly clear in huge show-closing angle on this weekend's debut edition of "Impact."
     
    More than that? I will not say. For I don't believe in spoilers.
     
    But because there have been more than a few TNA loyalists out there who just won't get off my jock about how TNA would hit a home run on their first night and prove me wrong, and how they hope that TNA steals Chris Jericho right out from under WWE's nose, I just have to say:
     
    No Jericho, losers. Y2J's fans can rest assured that if they can just wait a few months, they can get back to enjoying Jericho on the wrestling show they actually watch! ZING~!
     
    Actually: that's not fair. Until Impact debuts and we see what the show looks like and see if they've upgraded the storytelling/entertainment side of things to a non-cable-access level, I say all serious TNA Mockery is on hold. I may have my doubts, but I know every single person in positions of authority at TNA have nothing but the best of intentions, and if you combine that with a few more resources courtesy of the Spike deal, the results just might be surprising....
     
  • More than a handful of Vigilant Readers have been mailing in with RAW house show line-ups that feature Edge (vs. Big Show) but no Matt Hardy after next Monday night.
     
    That's a pretty good "tell" that Edge will be retaining the Money In The Bank and his job on RAW, if you ask me. Also, a few other birdies told me that new Edge merchandise currently in the works features plenty of Lita emphasis, which would make the idea of shuttling Edge over to SD! unlikely from a second perspective.
     
    I still like my idea of Edge going to SD! (where he'd be an instant #2 heel; a much-needed heel, too, if SD!'s gonna continue to misuse Christian and Orton's gonna refuse to take that last step towards displaying main event legitimacy), while Matt and Lita stay on RAW, but it's looking less and less likely to happen. 
     
    I guess with Hassan gone, instead of returning to RAW, that un-gums-up the works a little bit in terms of Edge's upward mobility on RAW, too. Still, for all you Armchair Bookers out there who've sent in variations on a similar theme: count me AGAINST the idea of Bischoff stealing a win from Cena and then having Edge use his Money in the Bank to destroy an exhausted Bischoff to win the WWE Title next Monday night.
     
    I mean.... I dunno, I'm just against the idea of Bischoff even touching the title for any reason. Unless WWE wants even MORE comparisons to the dying days of WCW and the David Arquette title reign. And secondly: do you know how many shows since WrestleMania have ended with Cena (and before him, Batista) exhausted (sometimes even bloodied and beaten)? And none of those times has Edge stepped up and said "Ummm, NOW." Even though he technically could have. I just feel like if they haven't blown that wad already, it's because they will use the Money in the Bank gimmick to build to a match, not to pull a match out of nowhere. Just a gut feel, for better or for worse, on "WWE Think."
     
  • The "Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior" DVD was officially released yesterday, despite having been on shelves in some stores for upwards of a week.
     
    Although some painted it as a total hatchet job on Warrior, A Reviewer I Trust says it's actually a pretty fair assessment of what Warrior was good at (being charismatic, connecting with an audience) and what he wasn't good at (conducting business, dealing with co-workers, performing wrestling moves). As my associate points out, if people feel like it's a hatchet job, it's only because Warrior was 80% marketing creation of WWE, and 20% performer/performance. Which means that once WWE decides (for whatever reason) to quit marketing Warrior as a superhero, what you have left is the other 20%. Which, when assessed fairly, starts showing warts and imperfections that WWE's marketing effectively masked while Warrior was working for them.
     
    Now, with all that said, I gather the "controversy" over the DVD might actually be generating more press than the DVD itself... that's because WWE.com invited Warrior to appear on Byte This if he wanted to tell an alternate side of the story. And instead, Warrior fired off a lengthy missive on his website. Which I tried to read. But I only got about three-quarters done before I could take no more. Christ, and people think *I* come off as pompous and deluded....
     
    After reading what I did, though, OO's OOfficial Stance is this: if we all just stop paying attention to the Ultimate Warrior, he'll go away. In the words of Paul Anka from a Halloween Episode of The Simpsons: "Just don't look, just don't look." You'll preserve brain cells if you don't get caught up in this, trust me. OO will do right by you by ignoring all further developments in this "story."
     
  • I caught the Big Show last night on Conan. Pretty funny, as always. And I don't know what it is, but both Conan and Show were openly lusting for Martha Stewart (who was the first guest on the show), and for some reason, I completely understood why. Has something happened to me that I can sudden find a woman significantly older than my mom to be kinda handsome? Or is it just that she was in prison, and I *do* tend towards the heels now, don't I? Strange, cuz the way I roll, I've pretty much always been the proverbial Older Man. I mean, not Michael Douglas/Catherine Zeta-Jones "Older Man," but usually by a few years, anyway.....
     
    I digress. I'm just trying to find some rational explanation for why two normal guys like Show and Conan started saying things I would have considered insanity a year ago, and suddenly I couldn't help but agree. 
     
    Show, of course, was there with the intent of promoting the return of RAW to USA. But that really only came into play at the very end of the segment. The other stuff (besides Martha Stewart lusting) was his usual mix of comedic tales from the rasslin' world. This time, that included the truth about his WM21 Sumo Thong and the revelation that his very first wrestling action figure could alternately be used as a vibrator.
     
    Of course, there was also the requisite Show/Conan staredown, quickly followed up by the requisite Conan-pleading-for-forgiveness. Which is always funny. If you want to catch it, it's replayed tonight on MSNBC (I think at 7pm, but check your listings to be sure). Also, it'll be replayed in super-late-night next Tuesday night/Wednesday morning in most markets's NBC affiliates (like at around 3am or 4am), if you miss the MSNBC one and want to set a tape.
     
    Also of note from NBC last night is the fact that RAW commercials were in rotation all night long. In addition to a few during Conan (logical, given Big Show's segment), I also spotted one earlier in the night during "The Office." Those are the only 2 NBC shows I watched last night, but I might assume that maybe RAW was getting as much as one slot every hour during primetime, which is pretty huge. 
     
    Or I guess it'd be huge. I really don't know what else NBC has on Tuesday nights, but since I don't know what's on any other channel, either, I would tend to think NBC's ratings for the night are pretty solid. Oh, wait: "House" on FOX is Tuesday's requisite pretty-lame-show-that-lots-of-people-watch-
    because-they-have-too-much-free-time, isn't it? So maybe no one was watching "The Office" or any of NBC's other shows....
     
    Still: if NBC's gonna have RAW ads in rotation for the next 6 days, they'll be reaching some eyeballs that haven't thought about wrestling in years (if ever). That's good. And it wouldn't surprise me if NBC KEPT RAW ads in rotation even after the USA Homecoming... that's because WWE is getting quarterly NBC specials (reportedly in the Saturday Night Live timeslot), and so the network has an interest in helping to build the brand.
     
  • And I think on that note, I'm pretty much spent.
     
    Oh, wait, one more thing... because talking about my TV viewing last night, I have a question. I was flipping around at some point after "The Office," and spotted the first two hours of the old PBS mini-series "Cosmos" on the Science Channel. I have amazingly fond memories of the show, which I remember seeing during its 10th Anniversary Run on PBS when I was in 8th grade or so. It helped spark my overall intellectual curiosity because of how amazingly smoothly it wove together humanistic subjects like history with pretty hard science. It was the first time I remember hearing/watching an explanation of how things in our world came to be and how they work and how they fit together that I could actually believe in.
     
    Anyway, based on that experience, I do pretty much think that "Cosmos" should be required viewing in all schools at some point during junior high. It's simple enough that kids at that age should understand it, which is the beauty of the show (unlike, say, Stephen Hawking's books, which I own two of, have read one of, and have understood about 0.75 of)... and yet, it's fascinating and deep enough that I'd wager 95% of adults would watch it and learn something. Frankly, every single one of you should find it on your cable system, if you haven't seen it before. Or at least go find the book, which has tons of pictures and is essentially a fluffy "coffee table book" that just so happens to still be dense enough to blow your mind.
     
    OK, advocacy over. My question: did somebody give "Cosmos" a make-over? Like the "Star Wars Special Edition" treatment? Because I sure as hell don't remember the effects being that good back in 8th grade, and I even think I could tell some spots last night where you could see the blatant difference between the 1980 special effects and the 2005 special effects... 
     
    I ask because for as fondly as I remember "Cosmos" and as big a Carl Sagan fan as I am, I'd have thought I'd have heard about it if somebody was giving the mini-series a 25th Anniversary Make-Over. And yet, I was shocked by what I saw last night...
     
    Either way, even if you don't believe me, believe in the fact that a science mini-series made 25 years ago apparently is still deemed relevant enough today that SOMEbody put a ton of money into updating it so that it looks fresh for a whole new generation of viewers. That's pretty cool.
     
    If you do want to check it out, again, it was on The Science Channel (which is up in the 100's for me, so unless you have digital cable, you're probably screwed), and the first two hours were on last night. The way the Science Channel is, I have to assume there will be ample replays in the coming week before they do more hours.
     
    Or if you don't want to check it out, no skin off my nose. Keep on holding up "Lost" as Mankind's Greatest Achievement, and keep on wallowing in your small-minded ignorance! And I say that with no offense intended, because I also have to close by saying you should keep on coming back to OO to read my stuff! I'll see you again either on Friday or Monday; depends on how things go, news-wise, the next few days.
     
    Later on, kids....


  
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RAW RECAP: Countdown to 1000
 
PPV RECAP: WWE Money in the Bank 2012
 
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PPV RECAP: WWE Over the Limit 2012
 
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RAW RECAP: Anvil, or Red Herring?
 
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PPV RECAP: WWE Extreme Rules 2012
 
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RAW RECAP: Maybe Cena DOES Suck?
 
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RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
 
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28

 
 
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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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