June 21, 2003
TJ Eyes have it
By TJ MADIGAN
Canadian viewership stayed solid for the WWE this week but there was even better news for shareholders south of the border. Last week\'s Smackdown pulled in a 3.7 broadcast rating, according to Nielsen Media research, which is the highest number the show has drawn in 2003. Monday\'s Raw continued the trend, bringing in a 4.1 rating, which is roughly a 15% increase from the previous show. Of course, the numbers often make short-term jumps for bigger angles and major events but this particular upward trend seems to be the real thing: A gradual word-of-mouth reaction to the better booking we\'ve been seeing over the past few weeks.
On the Raw side of things, it was great to see Randy Orton get a chance to hold his own in a main-event slot and Mick Foley -- who looks like he\'ll be headlining Summerslam against Triple H -- has been on fire since he came back into the fold.
The Kane vs. HHH match for next week has been built so well I\'m actually looking forward to seeing it, even though a month ago I would have come down hard on these two being in a central angle at the expense of younger talent.
An unmasked Kane (and, from what I understand, that is the plan) has a ton of potential to be a fresh twist on an established character and I like that the WWE is also capitalizing on Ivory\'s and Maven\'s natural appeal by not limiting them to jobber status anymore. Hey, I\'m even cool with the different approach they\'re taking with Lance Storm, provided it\'s used to give his gimmick a well-deserved kick-start instead of burying him as a mid-card punchline.
Of course, there\'s still a load of negatives -- La Resistance, Rico and the misuse of RVD spring to mind -- but with a better product than we\'ve seen in a long time and the TV-viewing public seemingly agreeing with that sentiment, let\'s count our blessings instead of focusing on the few bad apples in the booking batch.
Over on Smackdown, I can\'t emphasize how good a decision it was to promote Rey Mysterio\'s cruiserweight win as the main event of the June 5 show, even more so when it drew a strong rating. Last week\'s finish with the imploding ring was another great segment, which will probably go down as one of the most impressive visual stunts in the history of the business.
I\'ll be the first to admit Smackdown hasn\'t been truly great since Paul Heyman left the helm but it\'s good to see the smaller guys finally getting a shot and the established names being used in the right way.
Even some of the wrestlers I\'m not usually so high on (Hulk Hogan, Billy Gunn and I\'ll grudgingly include Sable on this list) are now being used in roles that really highlight their strengths instead of their weaknesses.
CLARIFICATION: Some corrections from last week\'s article.
The New York legislation that passed last year does not specifically require a wrestling promotion to test their athletes for illegal substances. Instead, the program is designed to educate and offer help to wrestlers with drug problems by pushing promoters to have an anti-drug plan in place.
Testing is obviously an option but isn\'t mandatory.
As mentioned last week, the WWE already has its own internal procedures in place and has been quick to offer moral and financial support to any wrestlers with substance problems who are willing to enter a rehabilitation program.
Since the WWE already adheres to the state\'s policy, the law won\'t have any effect on the company\'s New York operations, Wrestlemania, or next week\'s Raw and Smackdown in Madison Square Garden.
In closing, there is no solid proof any WWE wrestler would fail a drug test.
Last week\'s column was intended to reference the known drug problems in the wrestling business as a whole rather than directly suggest a percentage of the current WWE roster would fail a test, if required.
Apologies for any confusion.