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  Oct 27, 2001



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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

Step inside familiar ring
By T.J. MADIGAN -- Calgary Sun
 It was hoped last Sunday's No Mercy pay-per-view would be the big turnaround show that would reverse the WWF's plummeting ratings.

 From an in-ring standpoint, it really delivered.

 From a storyline standpoint, it tanked.

 A Y2J heel turn, a Vince McMahon swerve and a big surprise in the main event were all anticipated but never came to be.

 Instead, the show was solid and by-the-numbers.

 It would've been a huge success in 1996 but sadly it came at a time when the WWF desperately needs a little something extra to recapture the imagination of its dwindling audience.

 Last Monday's Raw drew a 3.9 -- the show's lowest TV rating in more than three years. It's now widely accepted, even within WWF circles, the product is stale.

 Title changes are meaningless. The Invasion angle is dead. The McMahon family soap opera is way past its sell-by date.

 In fact, every major storyline seems to be recycled from the Federation's heyday -- the near-perfect executions of the recent Rock/Jericho and Edge/Christian feuds are notable exceptions.

 Outside of the main-event picture, the rest of the card is treated as an afterthought.

 It's no secret the WWF is booking on a week-to-week basis -- a hit-or-miss scripting style they call 'hot-shotting.'

 They once had a six-to-12 month advance plan. These days, most wrestlers find out their opponents just hours before a TV taping.

 Perhaps the biggest turnoff for viewers was the botching of the most anxiously awaited angle in pro-wrestling history.

 When Vince McMahon bought out WCW after more than a decade of ruthless competition between the two, insiders revelled at the dream match scenarios, not to mention the potential of seeing wrestling's biggest real-life feud get storyline treatment.

 However, the WWF refused to purchase the contracts of the big WCW stars and killed off the few guys they did sign by having them lose on a weekly basis.

 The Invasion angle drew one big PPV buy-rate before cheesy backstage skits began evoking laughs instead of heat. It wasn't a war -- it was comedy.

 And if wrestling fans wanted to watch comedy on Monday night, they'd flip over to Everybody Loves Raymond.

 Come to think of it, that's exactly what they did.

 When McMahon appeared on Raw this week and stated, "I've had enough of this Alliance crap," he wasn't just trying to sell the storyline.

 He meant it.

 The WWF needs a radical new direction and luckily that's one of Vince's specialties.

 He took wrestling from its seedy roots and launched it into the mainstream family market in the '80s.

 When that image stagnated, he pulled the company from the verge of bankruptcy with the creation of Stone Cold Steve Austin and the more mature WWF attitude.

 Now, with the ratings seemingly heading for rock bottom (no pun intended) once again, he'll have to pull something fresh from up his sleeve.

 The next few weeks are among the most important in the history of sports entertainment.

 The flagging Invasion angle is scheduled to wrap up at the Survivor Series and the WWF will soon dictate the genre's new direction.

 Among the angles being considered as a means to reverse the downwards ratings spiral are the return of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, a shakeup of the McMahon hierarchy, a bad-guy Chris Jericho or even a new heel stable like DX or the NWO.

 With little being given away on TV this week, the future direction is still up in the air.

 If this all sounds familiar, it's because we've been here before ... with the WCW.

 Let's just hope Vince learned from the mistakes that destroyed his rivals.

 Because sadly, there's no one left to buy him out if he fails.

 RATTLESNAKE shaken: Rob Van Dam seems to have softened his ring style, as he didn't hurt either Kurt Angle or Steve Austin in their Triple Threat match at No Mercy.

 The only legitimate blood spilt at the show was from Austin.

 A Vince McMahon chair-shot sliced the back of the Rattlesnake's head instead of hitting it flat, causing a massive gash which bled throughout the match and required 12 staples to patch up backstage.

 GET 'EM EARLY: WrestleMania tickets for Toronto will now be available on Friday in a "one-day pre-sale."

 This is presumably so they can announce massive first-day bookings for the official on-sale date, Nov. 3.

 Seats are priced between $25 and $275.

 Ringside tickets will cost $600, though you do get to keep your seat as part of the package.


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