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Won Notes July 1st...
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Old 25 Jun 2008, 06:22 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Won Notes July 1st...

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Vince McMahon wasn’t killed this year, but instead the Raw set collapsed on him and they did an attempted murder angle to end the 2008 draft show on 6/23 in San Antonio.

They made sure to go off the air noting he was breathing, but indicating his legs couldn’t move as parts of the stage collapsed, although it was clear nothing actually landed on him. It was, besides a new cliffhanger to attempt to build ratings, the end of the McMahons Millions angle after three weeks. Even though giving away the money didn’t move the ratings to the level they liked, using the lure of a $500,000 payoff at the end of the show to both finish the idea and use it to, at least in theory, get the maximum number of eyes watching the company’s next big angle at least made business sense. The fact that the payoff structure was changed the day before the show to building the $500,000 payoff instead of doing 12 smaller payoffs indicates the final decision to end it was only made a few days before the show, even though the plan of how to end it was said to be worked on ever since the ratings came back badly for the first week.

The idea was this angle is designed to shake up the business and improve ratings and web site hits like the McMahon death angle did last year. But it overshadowed the draft, which with major moves like Batista, HHH, Jeff Hardy, Jim Ross and Rey Mysterio, should have been left to stand on their own.

It was one year to the week of last year’s angle being scrapped due to Chris Benoit, on a three-hour special designed to be McMahon’s mock funeral. There was almost a weird apropos of that anniversary. One year ago, management swerved the wrestlers by not letting them know that Benoit had almost surely murdered his wife and son, and then doing the show, once again management kept everyone in the dark regarding the draft.

Presumably the angle will build to the payoff of “Who tried to kill Mr. McMahon,” the play-off of the 80s “Who shot J.R. (and because, no doubt, J.R. will likely be discussed as a payoff)”

This also came two weeks after the real-life death of Kevin Sinex after the TNA Slammiversary show when scaffolding he was on while taking down the lights collapsed shortly after the show ended. I’d like to think it was coincidental and that the group that not only came up with this, but green lighted it through, didn’t do it in this way because they just heard what had happened and were playing off it. But the best case scenario when it comes to class that you can come up with is pretty weak even bending over backwards. The death of Sinex came on 6/8, after the rating came out for week of the giveaway, which was the 6/2 show in Oakland. If during that week, they came up with this scenario, which meant it wasn’t a copycat, but simply a coincidence, it also meant that everyone key person in decision making would have been aware, because how could they not be when something so close happened, and in the end, Vince decided to do it anyway. I can buy an argument that one person like Vince could be so insulated to not make the connection, but not a team, and not on a decision that was made weeks ago. Again, the worst case scenario is that they heard about it, and thought it was a clever way to kill two birds with one stone and were directly playing off it.

Either way, only time will tell if shooting an angle that in many ways resembles last years angle will move people enough to increase interest in the product as a whole. And even though there was some early ratings bump last year for the McMahon death, there was no indication that curiosity bump was going to have any effect on actual business. It’s simply the company mentality that both WWE and TNA live with which is everything is focused on the Raw and Impact rating. In UFC, ratings never seem to be anywhere near the priority, as the office mood goes up and down the week after a big show when the buy rate comes in. Within the WWE office, buy rates are rarely discussed unless it’s Wrestlemania, SummerSlam or Rumble, as compared to the Monday night rating, and in TNA, with the exception of the Joe-Angle match that did well, the subject never comes up, while they live and do with a .1 variation in the weekly rating.

HHH, as WWE champion, moved to Smackdown. Batista moved to Raw. They did an announcers flip-flop with Jim Ross joining Mick Foley on Smackdown, and Michael Cole moving to Raw to work with Jerry Lawler.

The other changes were Rey Mysterio moving from Smackdown, where he has been his entire WWE career, to Raw. Jeff Hardy, another Raw lifer, moved to Smackdown. C.M. Punk and his Money in the Bank briefcase moved to Raw, but his stipulation theoretically is that he can still challenge for any of the three titles at anytime, and with ECW moving to Mondays soon, they still may use that to pay off because it’s hard to believe Punk would be getting the Raw title at this point. Matt Hardy, as U.S. champion, moved to ECW from Smackdown. Umaga, the one person that everyone expected to move to Smackdown, did so. ECW champion Kane moved to Raw. But for this draft to mean anything, he shouldn’t be working both Raw and ECW, which either means the ECW title moves to Raw, which is silly and confusing, or he drops it soon. The problem is, his two built-up contenders, Big Show and Mark Henry, are both Smackdown wrestlers who in theory wouldn’t even be appearing on ECW TV within a few weeks because of the move to Monday. Mr. Kennedy also moves back to Smackdown.

But while this was made out to be a big deal, the next night, fans must have been confused since on ECW, Punk and Kane, both drafted to Raw, worked on television and they didn’t even bother to make an explanation as to why.

The draft was done based on a series of interpromotional matches. It opened with HHH (Raw) vs. Mark Henry (Smackdown), and when HHH won, that meant Raw would get one wrestler from Smackdown, which turned out to be Mysterio.

With the exception of HHH and Umaga (who likely wasn’t told directly but everyone had known for months), it’s doubtful anyone except possibly Batista had any inclination they were moving. It’s possible Batista because of his level of stardom, may have been given a heads up, although he did an interview just days earlier saying he didn’t want to move and if he’d have been told in advance, it’s more likely he would have said that it was a company decision and he’s happy either way but would prefer to stay. Mysterio had been in Mexico doing promotional work for the company when he was given a late call that he needed to get to San Antonio for Raw. Since he’s been out with an injury although he’s only a few weeks from returning, they wouldn’t have been so adamant that he needed to get to San Antonio unless they were going to move him, but when he got there and people figured that out, he was still in the dark and hadn’t put that together.

A lot of the switches are intriguing because of the championship ramifications, which should make the Night of Champions into a show with far more curiosity than most “B” shows. HHH still defends the WWE title against John Cena, but if he retains, he takes the title with him to Smackdown. Batista challenges Edge for the world title, and if Batista wins, he takes the title with him to Raw. Kane also takes his ECW title to Raw in theory, although Big Show could always win it at the Dallas PPV. But Show winning the ECW belt would make things difficult because as a Smackdown roster player, he’d likely have to drop the title quick, before ECW moves to Monday nights and is taped before Raw. U.S. champ Matt Hardy defends against Chavo Guerrero, also an ECW guy, means that it appears that belt may still in ECW. But with the talent level of ECW, that company hardly needs two singles titles when Smackdown would only have one. Additionally, the Smackdown tag champs, The Miz & John Morrison, would also be moving to Mondays unless they lost the titles, which if it’s this week would mean Hornswoggle & Finlay are going to be tag champs. The U.S. championship, unless it goes to someone other than Guerrero, unless Guerrero is moved from ECW to Smackdown (which actually makes sense to happen) would also move to Mondays. So there are endless possibilities of what comes out of Night of Champions. When NOC was announced as having the HHH vs. Cena match that most figured was the SummerSlam main event, there was a lot of figuring that it meant Cena was going back to Smackdown, as even though the reasons later came out, nobody was thinking HHH would move to Smackdown.

It was theorized that part of the reason for HHH accepting the move, putting him as a Smackdown regular for the first time since the brand split, is that it’s actually more convenient for him after wife Stephanie gives birth to her second child. He’d work a Saturday through Tuesday loop where he’d only be away from his family (Stephanie will bring a nanny and her children on the road with her every week after recovering from giving birth) on Saturday and Sunday, because Smackdown rarely books Monday night house shows. He’d get to go home on the corporate plane with his wife and children every week. Plus, going in, the main focus of the draft was to strengthen Smackdown. While this seems implausible for a number of reasons, most notably the whole idea MyNetwork would spend the money it did for Smackdown to use it to build its network around, would then lead to the show moving to a different network. The company’s goal is that they would go on MyNetwork, draw big ratings (very iffy) and because MyNetwork is owned by FOX, use that to get the Friday night slot on FOX, which would make Smackdown on its most powerful outlet to date.

That would be close to impossible except if MyNetwork goes out of business, which isn’t that much of a longshot. But even that were to happen, FOX picking up the show would be an incredible longshot because it would be easily the lowest revenue generating show on the big four networks. But from a WWE standpoint, thinking years down the line and the chances of MyNetwork failing which are good, and based on who showed interest when CW dumped them, you’re talking either turn around the show or you’re on WGN cable. But if anyone thinks for a second that relates to the announcing team, they’re swallowing some major kool-aid.

According to information from the writers meetings before the show, the draft was a very hot political topic over the final few days. Michael Hayes had just started back and apparently he had a lot of influence in some late changes that were made. Brian Gewirtz did not have McMahon’s ear as much, and the decline in Raw ratings have made it so McMahon is not soliciting Gewirtz as much and the producers have been critical of Gewirtz for writing shows with so much backstage. The funny thing is ratings of all three brands are basically at all-time modern era lows. Smackdown was lower at the end on UPN when there were tons of pre-emptions, and from a political standpoint. If there was a silver lining, Hayes was very lucky his suspension came right at the time every show started declines so he lost no credibility and confidence when others did.

As of Thursday, the Batista move was strongly considered and HHH discussed at meetings a Batista heel turn to build for Cena vs. Batista at Wrestlemania 25. That match at one point was discussed for Mania 24 and when it didn’t happen, because a kinda sorta plan for next year. Bam Neely and Kofi Kingston were both talked about as switching to Raw, but neither happened. From the announcing standpoint, the idea of switching Mick Foley and Jerry Lawler instead of Cole and Ross came up and Vince was negative toward it. Kevin Dunn brought up what would be Ross’ reaction to doing it the way it ended up being done, and that amused Vince to no end and it was done. The decision was made already by that point that the women wouldn’t be touched.

With the exception of Umaga, Mysterio’s move was the closest to a sure thing. The decision was made while Hayes was gone, and Hayes did want to keep him but he had to give up on him to get Jeff Hardy, and Hayes has always been tight with the Hardys. He lost Matt, because the decision was made if they were both on the same brand, that would have to be a tag team, and even if they are super over as a tag team, Vince doesn’t believe in pushing tag teams and those two have to be pushed. Confused yet? So Matt had to go, and with ECW losing Kane and C.M. Punk, they needed someone. Another change talked about that didn’t happen was a Trevor Murdoch move to Smackdown. It is possible some of the mid-carder moves talked about could happen in a supplemental draft that may take place after press time.

One of the big focuses right now is to make Lance Cade a main event heel, linking him with Chris Jericho. There has been a lot of talk about how to repackage him.

Gewirtz had an idea where Ted DiBiase would buy a draft pick somehow, but that was shot down.

HHH for Batista is, in the WWE pecking order, a positive for Smackdown since internally HHH, Undertaker and Cena are regarded as the company’s big three, with Batista and Shawn Michaels right behind them. This also means the end of DX as an occasional gimmick. Jeff Hardy is currently hotter than Mysterio, but because of the ethnic make-up of the Smackdown audience, Mysterio is far more valuable to that show. A major part of the decline in ratings overall is the huge decline in Hispanic ratings (down 29%) on the show since his injury and there is nobody to replace him on the show. There is substantial reason to believe he’s actually the No. 1 ratings draw in the company because of how much his presence as a regular character and his storylines mean to that demographic. Whether that demographic would follow him to USA is an unknown, but it’s certainly possible.

But for new matches, it’s a good move in that both haven’t been regulars on the other show (well, Jeff hasn’t been since Raw and Smackdown were split) and there are new marriages for each. Mr. Kennedy for Matt Hardy is basically a wash. At first, I thought it was a good move for Jeff Hardy, figuring they could move Miz & Morrison to Smackdown and they could move the tag belts from prelim fodder to genuine second from the top level status. Because the Hardys individually are bigger stars than they’ve ever been, as a team, they could be the strongest regular tag team the company has had in many years, and Miz & Morrison are almost the perfect heel team against them to elevate the division. Then, after one match together, they sent Matt to ECW, and literally the reaction you saw was the real reaction because neither Matt nor Jeff had any idea of either switch until, in Jeff’s case, just before it happened, and in Matt’s case, the moment it happened. Plus, as a single, Jeff would have only been behind Undertaker, who is a semi-regular. But with HHH moving, Jeff is essentially in the same position as before, because he’s never going to go get past HHH or Undertaker so No. 3 is as high as he can go. Of course, when it comes to the new roles of any of these guys, as several noted after, they have absolutely no idea of what any of this means, nor have been told anything, nor have been given any explanation of anything.

Jim Ross for Michael Cole is on paper a plus for Smackdown, but there are real questions now as to the longevity of Ross in the company, as Ross publicly stated he contemplated quitting on Monday because of how it was handled and not going to Houston for his first Smackdown taping. He said he was on the phone with his wife until 6 a.m., and she and him decided to stay with the company for now.

More than anyone, he was taking the move harder and more personally, like it was a slap in the face, even though he was told it was not.

“I can’t predict how long my Smackdown tenure will be, but I can promise that no matter how long or short it is, that I will do my utmost best while sitting at ringside. I am not the kind of man who will phone in a damn thing.”

It’s no secret of the strange McMahon/Ross relationship that has its ups and downs, but Vince loves to humiliate Ross. Several in the company who contacted us after the show were hardly talking about this as a business move, but essentially, Vince getting to humiliate Ross on TV because Ross made it so clear he didn’t want to move brands. Ross has about a year-and-a-half left on his contract. It’s also become a running joke because McMahon has taken Ross off Raw probably a half-dozen times, always as a permanent move, and then always gets frustrated with the replacement and brings him back. But the company has always been about youth and faces, and with Lawler at 58 and Ross at 56, well, it’s a lot easier to blame the ages of the announcers on a product being stale than years of ignoring developmental and cutting off every rising star, and then blaming them for not getting over.

There were already people joking that in a few months, McMahon will change his mind when ratings keep falling, and then want Ross back on Raw and probably book another double-switch at next year’s draft. In fact, the running joke is the last few times McMahon has replaced Ross on Raw, that the only people who believed he really did were McMahon and Ross, as everyone else that knew McMahon knew he’d end up hating the replacements and calling Ross back. Still, the recent Mike Adamle hire was to replace Ross, but that turned into a complete disaster, and there was talk one year ago about Michael Cole doing both Raw and Smackdown and phasing Ross out after his Hall of Fame speech in 2007. That talk ended in Chicago when Ross was announced for the Hall of Fame, and the reaction, while expected to be big, stunned literally everyone involved, and at that point, all talk of taking Ross of Raw stopped in its tracks until the past few weeks.

Later on 6/24, after a meeting with management, Ross’ mood changed, saying he’s move to Smackdown with a positive attitude and “I’m going to do all I can to make Smackdown the best program the WWE produces,” and then praised the idea of working with Foley. He said he most likely responded in a non-professional way in the eyes of some fans, and that he owes it to the business to man up and kick ass on Smackdown.

The announcers were all aware of what could happen, but until Lilian Garcia announced before the Victoria & Natalya vs. Melina & Mickie James match that the announcers would be changed pending the results, nobody knew. That was a real eerie few minutes to watch, because it appeared they all immediately sensed it were uncomfortable, particularly since Ross had gone so public on his web site about saying it would be a bad idea for a change. You could tell it took the heart right out of him, and as that short match went on, none of the announcers were comfortable. While several of the wrestlers were unhappy about their moves, because it changes their work schedule and they lose their friends and traveling partners, Ross was the only one to show it publicly when his face flashed on the screen.

Two former major insiders with the company who worked closely with both, but more directly with Vince, contacted us immediately saying that Ross should have understood how Vince’s mind operated and that by publicly saying he wanted to stay on Raw, it was almost a guarantee, because of how Vince loves to humiliate him, that he’d make the move in the manner he did.

There reportedly was an exchange after the show when Ross turned down the invitation to fly on the corporate plane from San Antonio to Houston for Smackdown, which he was suddenly broadcasting, and where McMahon told him that he (Vince) risked his life on the show and how he ruined his son-in-laws life (a line that everyone was laughing about because it took people all of five minutes to figure out how the move greatly benefitted HHH’s personal life) for the company.

Another key reason why this could fall apart is the nature of Raw and Smackdown. Raw goes live and that’s it. Smackdown is taped on Tuesday, but then, on Wednesday, Cole & Foley go into the studio and “clean up” the show’s soundtrack and insert new things that may have been decided. It’s no problem because both live in the New York area, which is why the Smackdown color commentator (Tazz, JBL and now Foley) has always been New York based. With Ross living in Oklahoma, and having a major outside business running a restaurant and about to open a second restaurant, the extra day on the road every week and the idea of flying from the Smackdown city to New York immediately after (which would have to be on the corporate plane) and then back to Oklahoma is a major change, although the wrestlers still all have tougher schedules. In fact, Ross publicly on his web site, said he absolutely wouldn’t do it.

“As far as going to Connecticut each week to do Smackdown post production, that’s not going to happen. Either Mick Foley can handle it or the WWE can install a DSL line in my phone to facilitate the work.”

Presumably the WWE agreed to the latter, although that wasn’t confirmed at press time.

There is also the issue that Ross and Mike Adamle are both believed to be making essentially the same money (in the $300,000 per year range; and far less than WWE offered Mike Goldberg to jump from UFC to Raw in 2005), even though Ross has been announcing since the 70s and has been regarded as the best in the business on-and-off for more than two decades. Of course Adamle, coming from the real sports world including a lengthy tenure as an NFL announcer for NBC, it was going to take considerable money to get him to work in pro wrestling, while Ross gladly works in the business with no qualms, even putting up with the way he’s treated because of his lifetime ties to wrestling. But this is guaranteed to add salt to the wound for Ross in what he clearly sees as a demotion from being the company’s announcing face on the lead show.

Ross publicly making it clear on his web site that he wasn’t happy at first was going to do him no favors. You don’t need to know that the name Carlito starts with a C or hear a year’s worth of big pops for Matt Hardy before they’d let him get out of prelims to know about people who go public with their unhappiness.

Ross said, “I should have detected something with the demeanor of certain individuals (the writing team and a few of the top brass, which did know) either through their plastic, poker faces or the perceived smirk that I thought I might have seen on some of their faces during the day.”

The timing is also notable since the 6/30 Raw is from Oklahoma City, and Ross was the point man for all of the local promotion of the event. The reaction to Cole that night, and possibly at least for the short haul, unfortunately, will be terrible, although his coming out takes place before the show goes on the air.

The other switch, Umaga for Kane, may seem even in star power, but Kane was beyond stale on Smackdown and had essentially been an ECW regular. Umaga was told months ago he was moving and at one point Undertaker vs. Umaga was scheduled for SummerSlam, although the last we heard, Undertaker was scheduled against Edge now for that card.

The show did a 3.40 rating, although over the usual two hours it was a 3.71. Last year, without giving away $1 million, the show did a 3.79 overall number, which at the time was considered a disappointment, and 4.17 in the traditional two hours, so it was a decline of 10% over what was considered a bad number last year. But it was still the best number for Raw since the day after Wrestlemania. The 2002 draft did a 5.41 rating and the 2004 draft did a 4.53, but even though 2004 was during a period where WWE overall business had declined greatly, it was still a lot stronger four years ago as a television property. WWE sent out a press release the next day, noting how successful the McMahons Millions promotion was, crediting it for the rating, without actually noting the rating in the release, only saying the audience was up 25% over the two-hours from the start of the promotion (the 6/2 show in Oakland which did a rock bottom 3.03 rating).

When dropping the Million Dollar Mania promotion after four weeks, the company sent out a press release saying it increased web site traffic 28% over the prior month. Of course, that’s largely the people who signed up. It will be interesting to note what kind of an increase that led to in purchasing on the web. In April, total web purchases were $1.35 million. It’s also likely the traffic will decline by the similar amount it rose during July, rendering the short-term boost as essentially meaningless. Company stock closed at press time at $15.25 per share, and remain well below what it has been most of the past year. WWE stock price increases and decreases are more tied to the market in general than ups and downs in its own business


Yep.
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Old 25 Jun 2008, 07:01 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Thanks for posting. Interesting read.
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Old 25 Jun 2008, 08:31 PM   #3 (permalink)
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"it’s a lot easier to blame the ages of the announcers on a product being stale than years of ignoring developmental and cutting off every rising star, and then blaming them for not getting over."

That is a brilliant summary of wrestling over the last few years. Whilst entertaining at times that statement is so true.
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Old 26 Jun 2008, 02:31 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Some good insight there and I agree on the Quote Doom highlighted...
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Old 26 Jun 2008, 02:56 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I for one hope Kennedy/Edge would be going at it in a title feud on SD. The heat is already there because of the briefcase last year..And Kennedy is very over as a face now..And extremely marketable to Vince..(It would seem that way at least, as he does more PR for the company than anyone, except maybe Cena and Trips.)
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Old 26 Jun 2008, 03:18 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I'm scared, If they put Kennedy anywhere near Edge, he (Edge) might end up injured or suspended for 6 months. Or Kennedy might break his back or get suspended again, anyway you look at it, The Kennedy Curse will strike.
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Old 26 Jun 2008, 03:19 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Yeah..Kennedy/Regal would have been a HUGE feud for RAW..God Damn Regal. I just don't see Kennedy even coming close to touching the gold with UT,HHH, and Edge on his show.
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Old 26 Jun 2008, 03:31 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I'm going to watch Smackdown for the first time in YEARS.

I guess that's what they wanted.
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Old 26 Jun 2008, 03:35 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Tr(uth)iple H is fat like a planet.Tr(uth)iple H is fat like a planet.Tr(uth)iple H is fat like a planet.Tr(uth)iple H is fat like a planet.Tr(uth)iple H is fat like a planet.Tr(uth)iple H is fat like a planet.Tr(uth)iple H is fat like a planet.Tr(uth)iple H is fat like a planet.Tr(uth)iple H is fat like a planet.Tr(uth)iple H is fat like a planet.Tr(uth)iple H is fat like a planet.
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I see him getting a quick transitional run. I think he might be the bridge to set up a feud with one of the top 3 guys in Edge, HHH, and Taker. If you want to get the title off of HHH and get it on Taker, without having Taker/HHH job to one another, you use Kennedy to beat one by a fluke, and than lose it to the other guy.
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