THE MIDWEEK NEWS

Thanks to everyone who applied for the writing vacancies here at TSM. Dames and I looked over plenty of potential writers, and the select few who made the cut will be debuting shortly. Those who already have will be pimped when the time is right. Even the n00bs deserve to benefit from the millions –- OK, hundreds of thousands -– of hits this article generates every week.

Welcome back, kids, to the best damn rasslin’ news report on the whole wide internet. This past weekend was the Divisional Playoff round in the NFL, and it wasn’t a really eventful week in wrestling news. In other words, the football content will be about equal to the grappling content again this week. This weekend is the Conference Championship weekend, followed by the Super Bowl on the 26th. After that ... I won’t have football to talk about anymore! NOOOOOOOOOO!

Christ, I might have to start following hockey again, provided the rest of the teams don't go bankrupt. Either that, or get into basketball. Hmm, maybe I’ll just wait for baseball season. Gah, when’s next season’s kickoff weekend?

Before I depress myself too much over the lack of football in the coming months, let’s dive into the Divisional Weekend.

Let’s Talk About Football~!

Tennessee d. Pittsburgh: Another game best known for questionable refereeing. After missing a 31-yard field goal attempt (following a successful attempt negated because the Steelers called a time out a whisker before the snap), Titans kicker Joe Nedney was clearly run into by charging Steelers DS Dewayne Washington. There were no two steps taken by the kicker, nor was the blitzer crawling across the ground, so I have NO idea which game Bill Cowher was watching. After his dreadful miss from 31, Nedney won the game from 26.

The fact is, Pittsburgh was in the game because the Titans couldn’t protect the ball. Two Eddie George fumbles, and two interceptions (on ill-advised deep throws into the wind) from Steve McNair handed Pittsburgh a good chunk of their points. McNair played well the rest of the time, though, as the Titans basically abandoned the run after George’s injury and spread the field with their passing game. Tennessee was getting the short end of the stick coming into this game, despite being 10-1 since their awful 1-4 start. They brought the physicality right with the Steelers, and won on the field, not because of the officiating Cowher was carping about after the field. Next time, Bill, shake the other coach’s hand. Jeff Fisher doesn’t deserve the cold shoulder because you want to act like a child.

I’m going to go off on a rant here: what’s with the sudden belief that “officials shouldn’t decide the game?” Coaches and players seem to believe that flags should not be thrown in key situations, videlicet the Pittsburgh-Tennessee overtime period, and the Miami-Ohio State overtime period in the Fiesta Bowl. Let’s be perfectly clear on one thing: Dewayne Washington ran into Joe Nedney. He charged for the ball, didn’t get it, and plowed into the kicker’s legs. That’s called running into the kicker, and it’s clearly illegal in the rule book. It’s just as illegal in overtime of the division championship round as it is in the first quarter of the first exhibition game of the season. Why, then, should the play not be flagged? Hello? Can anyone explain this to me? The officials should not ignore penalties because the game is in its decisive moments. Basically, if Bill Cowher doesn’t want a flag to be thrown, he should coach his fucking players not to run into the fucking kicker when the fucking game is on the line. It just doesn’t get any simpler than that. As for the Miami situation, three words, ‘Canes fans: fourth and fourteen. If your defense doesn’t resemble Swiss cheese on a 4th-and-freaking-14 play, that controversial call (which was defensive holding, IMO) never happens. Stop shifting the blame, coaches, players, and fans.

Bill Cowher should just admit that he got outcoached. Pittsburgh lives and dies with the run, yet, despite featuring two very good running backs, the Steelers handed the ball off only 20 times. Contrast that with the 42 passes they threw. The Titans, meanwhile, don’t have Pittsburgh’s dominating ground game, yet they still ran the ball 36 times. They didn’t get a bundle of yards, but they DID keep the defense honest, which opened up their passing game. In fact, Pittsburgh obstinately passed the ball late in the game, when they were on the Titans’ 40 with just over two minutes left. RUN THE DAMN BALL. Even if you rush six times for 15 total yards, you’re 15 yards closer for your field goal try, and you’ve probably killed the bulk of the clock. Face it, Bill: you done got beat by dat dere man across the field, and no amount of childish actions or unfounded, blame-shifting tirades will change that.

Ok, rant over.

Philadelphia d. Atlanta: Donovan McNabb was Michael Vick when Mike Vick was still Michael Vick. Playing in his first game back from a fractured ankle, McNabb led the Eagles offense down the field against the Atlanta D. His counterpart struggled against the speed and blitzing schemes of the hard-hitting, stingy Eagles D. Vick, contained only by Tampa Bay this year, was effectively bottled up by the Eagles. He did break a nice touchdown run – only to have it negated by a holding penalty. Vick is still the most exciting athlete in professional sports today, and when he actually learns how to play his position in the NFL, he’ll be really scary.

Tampa Bay d. San Francisco: This game was over at halftime, and everyone watching should have known it. With the ball on their own 41-yard line, 40 seconds on the clock, two timeouts left, and trailing 28-6, Steve Mariucci decided to let the clock run out and take his team into the locker room. Terrell Owens was visibly upset at this, and with good reason. There’s a word for decisions like Mariucci’s: GUTLESS. Teams respond to the signals their coaches send. There was plenty of time to get a touchdown and make the score 28-13. They’re still trailing, but it’s a two-score game at that point, and the 49ers have some momentum going into the locker room. Instead, Mariucci decided to “regroup” his team, thus cementing his status as a big fucking PUSSY by being too cowardly to admit his own lack of spine. The 49ers never got it going in the second half, as Tampa Bay kept up the pressure with their defense. That the game wasn’t any bigger a blowout simply because Tampa realized they didn’t need to score anymore. Frisco also failed to go for it on 4th-and-9 with 12 minutes on the clock, down by 25. If the team didn’t pack it in at halftime, any player who still held a glimmer of hope had those candles doused with a fire hose. For his team’s sake, I hope this is Mariucci’s swan song in San Fran. As a player, I would have a problem sharing a locker room with such a coward.

Oakland d. NY Jets: Chad Pennington, welcome to Earth. And watch that landing. The Raiders relentlessly went after Pennington, and he looked rattled even when they weren’t blitzing. Missing wide-open receivers – which Pennington did on several occasions – is the sign of a shaken QB. He and his team had a hell of a run, though, and all a body needed to do was watch the postgame news conference to realize that Young Chad will be just fine. The Raiders showed off their multiple offensive weapons, and confused the Jets’ secondary with many varied formations. Bunching receivers, clever use of motion, and extra offensive linemen all confounded the Jets’ D and let MVP Rich Gannon march the Raiders down the field. Oakland won with both the run and the pass, and pounded the ball at the Jets in the fourth quarter to make sure their two-touchdown lead stood up. Great game from the Raiders.

This weekend’s conference championships will be covered in a full article Saturday, when several TSM staffers and I give our predictions for who gets to fly to San Diego.

Raw: The Cliff Notes

Exceedingly brief Cliff Notes again this week, as I didn’t bother watching my tape of the show. I flipped channels to it a few times, and it didn’t look impressive. Seeing Shane-O Mac again was pretty nifty, but it remains to be seen where that angle is going. Anyway, JHawk trudged his way thru another shitty Monday night, so go read the fruits of his labors before he takes up drinking again.

Details Of A Decade: Dullness

Raw’s had some great moments over the last ten years, but unfortunately, they were in short supply on last night’s Raw X Special. The top 10 Raw moments of the last ten years were counted down, and awards were given out for performers of the decade in various categories. Here’s a rundown in case you missed it (and you didn’t miss much if you did):

Diva Of The Decade: Trish Stratus. One word: BULLSHIT. Don’t get me wrong here: I think Trish is great, and the improvements she’s made in all facets of her on-camera performance since coming to the then-WWF is commendable. But there’s no way she should get the nod over Sable, and especially not Sunny. Sunny drew more money than any other woman in the company’s history and looked damn good while doing it. It’s a shame when politics invade an awards show, but this is WWE, so what else should we really expect.

Don’t Try This At Home: Kurt Angle’s (missed) moonsault off the cage. The problem with this award is that the really big bumps are saved for the PPVs, leaving Raw with rather forgettable bumps like this. I guess this was the best of a bad lot, but that’s really not saying much. Angle’s moonsault was picture-perfect, by the way, even though Chris Benoit rolled out of the way at the end.

Tell Me I Didn’t Just See That: The “Three Faces of Foley” segment walks away with this one. Nothing here was really spectacular (Bart Gunn and the Brawl for All, Kane’s pyrotechnic “powers,” etc), so again, this was likely the best of a bad lot. Of course, Foley’s not there to accept the award, since he had a big falling out with WWE and basically thinks Vince McMahon is a mentally disturbed egomaniac. More politics, and another award that’s basically a bowtie on a dog turd.

Gimme The Mic: The Rock (live via satellite) wins this one, without any competition announced by presenter Chris Jericho. He’s definitely the best choice, but it’s not like he’s the only good promo guy in the company. Austin, Foley, Heyman, and Angle could have been nominated here, and even Undertaker is damn good when he’s “on.” Anyway, the fans at the World basically savage Rock, booing him constantly, shouting “Boring!” and “Turn it off!” toward the end. I guess the fans’ animosity toward Rock for abandoning them to go and be a movie star hasn’t worn off yet.

Shut Up And Kiss Me: HHH and Stephanie win this one, and proceed to get naked and screw on stage in front of everyone. Well, not really, but the ass slap was probably some kind of foreplay. Notice they walked backstage together, and neither was seen for a while. Just saying.

Network Difficulties: Mae Young giving birth to a hand wins this one. Why they would choose something so abysmally, mind-numbingly STUPID over something that’s actually controversial escapes me. I’m surprised HHH fucking a corpse wasn’t nominated. The Austin-Pillman gun angle was nominated, and was clearly the best choice (since it came damn close to getting Raw yanked off USA). I guess WWE doesn’t want to trade on the late Brian Pillman, but they’ll keep milking the Owen Hart Raw special for all it’s worth. Fuck that.

Superstar Of The Decade: And the nominees are: Foley, Rock (crowd: “Booo!”), Steve Austin, Bret Hart, HHH, and Undertaker. Austin is your winner, and the breaking glass brings ... Vince McMahon to the stage. That’s a significant letdown. Basically, Vince tells us Austin isn’t at the show because he wasn’t invited, extending a middle finger to anyone who was looking forward to Austin being there. I think the “snub” would be a good launching point for Austin’s return, but whether they’ll use a shitty anniversary show in an angle remains to be seen.

Match Of The Decade: TLC IV, or whatever number it was, from Vegas. Bullshit choice again, but none of the matches nominated (the Taker-Jeff Hardy ladder match? WTF?) really deserved to win. My choice would have been Benoit/Jericho vs. Austin/HHH from May 2001, but I’m sure that was scuttled because they didn’t want to remind HHH of the night he tore his quad and went from being great in the ring to chugging the cock. A shame, because that was definitely a ****1/2 match, and clearly better than anything on the list.

Top Ten Raw Moments:
#10: This is your life, Rocky.
#9: Austin’s monster truck smashes Rock’s Lincoln. Wasn’t that a rental?
#8: The Raw/Nitro simulcast the night the disastrous Invasion began.
#7: The debut of Mr. Socko, and the subsequent Austin hospital attack on Vince.
#6: DX’s Nation parody.
#5: The first encounter of Austin and Mike Tyson. Uber-huge at the time.
#4: DX invades WCW. Again, huge, though it always seemed a touch desperate to me.
#3: Rock and Hogan stare it down before Mania.
#2: Raw Is Owen. FUCK YOU, WWE, for putting this on the ballot, then naming such a self-serving moment as the second most important of the decade.
#1: Austin hoses down the Corporation with a beer hose, from his beer truck. It’s a great Austin moment, and another awesome moment in Austin vs. McMahon, but the best Raw moment of all time? Questionable.

That’s basically it. The show was a train wreck from top to bottom, as a lot of the stars people were hoping to see weren’t there. In most cases, they weren’t even called, as this was something WWE put together at the last minute. It’s a shame when the paper napkin booking concept takes over an anniversary show. Since that approach has worked SO well for Raw of late, it’s obviously good enough for an awards show, right? Right?

Not Necessarily The News

Since I’ve had three rather hellacious days at work (made even moreso by the fact that my days are normally easy), the rest of the news will have to be in short form. Sue me.

-- Eric Bischoff has an open-ended contract with WWE, so what will become of him if he gets “fired” as Raw GM is unknown. Many people believe Bischoff has done a good job with the TV role (which he has), so he’ll probably be used somewhere else in the company (after the inevitable angle where he aligns with Shane is over). Credit goes to the 1bob folks.

-- Nathan Jones has started working for WWE, though when he will make his TV debut is still unknown. He’s expected to end up on Smackdown to keep him separate from Batista. Another reason is so he can work with Brock Lesnar, since there seems to be some legit heat between the two men. Credit goes to the Observer Newsletter.

-- Just in case you always wondered what your favorite midcarder makes, the Observer Newsletter reports that an average midcarder, without a strong downside guarantee, makes about $10,000 per month. That includes PPV bonuses, is before taxes, and doesn’t factor in the wrestlers having to cover a lot of their own expenses while traveling.

-- Raw earned its highest rating since last August, pulling in a 3.9 Monday night. Obviously, we need more McMahons on TV, which I’m sure is how some people will see it. Ratings provided by Nielsen Media Research.

-- A Stamford newspaper was reporting over the weekend that HHH and Stephanie McMahon had relocated to Splitsville. The rumor has been denounced as false by 1bob’s WWE sources.

-- The chap who’s supposed to be construction worker who’s supposed to be a multi-millionaire on Joe Millionaire is a pro wrestler. Evan Marriott graduated from the Ultimate Pro Wrestling school in California, which also produced Victoria and John Cena. The school itself took credit for this one. Now it’s even harder to believe that a guy who’s trained in so much heavy equipment only makes $19,000 a year.

-- It’s known that Undertaker will be returning at the Royal Rumble. What’s not known is how. Ads on TV have led many to believe that Taker will be returning to the Dead Man/Phenom gimmick he used to have. Those ads were pooh-poohed as showing his character’s evolution. Others speculate that he’ll return as the American Badass. His hometown on WWE.com has been changed from Houston, TX to Death Valley, so read into it what you will. Credit goes to the Observer Newsletter.

-- The Observer Newsletter also reports that the rumors of Eric Bischoff gaining some measure of creative control over Raw are false.

Pimping Ain’t Easy, But It Is Brief

Say hello to new TSM staffer Jeremy Wall, who has contributed right out of blocks, with a look at the upcoming Royal Rumble, and a review of Jake Roberts’ Coliseum video.

OR Polk returns to the DVD review scene with Hookers At The Point.

Speaking of DVDs, Jay Spree returns with the DVD news of the week.

Peter Ramon takes a break from Heat to look at the crappy year that was.

Brandon Truitt recaps a shoot interview with tag team legend Bobby Eaton.

That’s all for me this week. Look for Dames’ TNA Diatribe tomorrow, and a Royal Rumble preview edition of the Crossface Friday or Saturday. I’ll be back with Smackdown tomorrow, and will opine on the Rumble to come in the aforementioned Crossface. Ave atque vale.

Dr. Tom
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