A number of wrestling fans were left scratching their collective heads when Raw abruptly went off the air last Monday night.
With announcers Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler still calling the action, the screen went dark, then went to the opening of "Law and Order," which follows Raw on Monday nights on the USA network.
While many viewers were confused and perturbed by the sudden ending, the finish ignited plenty of water-cooler conversation the next day. Some compared it to the infamous "Sopranos" fade-to-black finale, while others complained that it was a cheap, gimmicky way to spoil a quality main event.
The angle was that William Regal, the recently crowned King of the Ring winner and Raw's storyline general manager, felt disrespected by fans, so he simply pulled the plug on what had been an entertaining WWE title rematch between new champ Triple H (who Regal amusingly refers to as "Triple Haitch") and former champ Randy Orton.
The unconventional ending served the purpose of putting heat on Regal, one of wrestling's most underrated performers, and getting people to talk, which is something the company thrives on. It also adds an air of uncertainty to a show that routinely is scripted to the exact second.
More importantly, Regal's pronouncement of being the most powerful entity in WWE appears to be setting up a potential feud with WWE owner Vince McMahon, which would be Regal's highest-profile program since re-joining the company in 2000.
For longtime wrestling fans who followed the business back in the territorial days, such a finish to the weekly TV show was a fairly commonplace occurrence. Mid-Atlantic announcer David Crockett was noted for screaming, "Oh no, Tony (Schiavone), we're out of time, we've got to go," as the main event neared a conclusion. Back then, it was just a fact of life for wrestling fans, but WWE needs to be careful to avoid overusing such tactics or risk alienating its audience.
The company pulled a similar stunt the following night on its ECW show when announcers Tazz and the much-maligned Mike Adamle walked off the set prior to the main event. Unlike the previous night, however, the angle flopped and very few fans seemed to care.
WWE played up the incident on its Web site the following morning when it teased hints of dissension within the announcing ranks. Claiming that both Tazz and Adamle and Tazz marched straight to the parking lot and left without returning calls or texts, the Web report stated, "It has been no secret that our traditional ECW fans have not been satisfied with Adamle's lackluster commentary. Speculation is this could have led to the play-by-play and color commentator walking off during a WWE broadcast. Did Adamle and Tazz leave of their own volition or were they asked to leave?"
Adamle, surprisingly enough, has shown some signs of improvement the past two weeks following his memorable, error-plagued debut. But, then again, how could he not?
The 58-year-old Adamle, apparently handpicked by McMahon to be the next lead announcer on the company's flagship show, has unfortunately become the focus of an angle due to his "lackluster" performance.
Former ECW star Lance Storm (Lance Evers) blasted the broadcaster on a recent blog entry.
"Adamle is obviously not a wrestling fan, has no knowledge of our sport, and is completely unfamiliar with the WWE product. This is completely inexcusable. Even if he had never watched a wrestling match in his entire life, the day he accepted the job with WWE it became his job to familiarize himself with the product and prepare for the job he was being paid for."
"I just don't understand how someone can care so little about their job performance, and show up so unprepared," added Storm. "Mike Adamle has been employed by WWE for four months and is still struggling with the most basic wrestling terms not to mention the names of the guys on the show. This should be completely unacceptable."
Storm suggested making Adamle study wrestling and pass a wrestling quiz "before allowing him back or sending him another paycheck."
--The announcing changes at WWE continue with the recent addition of Mick Foley to the Smackdown crew. The WWE Hall of Famer joins Michael Cole in the broadcast booth, with Jonathan Coachman the odd man out.
--WWE performer Santino Marella (John Anthony Carelli) was arrested and charged with DUI early Thursday in Tampa. He was released on $500 bail.
Marella's blood alcohol level reportedly was 0.06 — below the 0.08 legal limit. Since he was tested nearly two hours after being taken into custody, however, he can still be prosecuted.
Marella was pulled over after his car appeared to be drifting back and forth on the road. Officers said Marella, who failed a pair of field sobriety tests, had "bloodshot, watery and glassy eyes." Marella reportedly had been out drinking with WWE performers Kevin Thorn, Vladimir Kozlov and Katie Lea, and several developmental talents. Marella claimed he had three Miller Lights and one Kamikaze.
--WWE's Ron Simmons was named Thursday to the 2008 College Football Hall of Fame. Simmons, one of 13 players selected, was a two-time consensus first-team All-America selection in 1979 and 1980 when he played nose guard at Florida State.
"This has to be one of the greatest honors that I have ever received and I can't tell you how thrilled I am," the Marietta, Ga., resident told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "When I look at all of the great players who are in the Hall of Fame, I can't believe I'm on that list. This a tribute that I share with all of those guys who got things started at Florida State."
Simmons, who turns 50 on May 15, was one of the first big-time recruits signed by Bobby Bowden at FSU. Bowden, who turns 79 on Nov. 8, is set to begin his 33rd season in Tallahassee as college football's all-time winner (373 victories) in Division I-A.
"Back then it wasn't a popular choice to go to Florida State but coach Bowden sold us on the dream," Simmons said. "I grew up in central Georgia and that was Bulldog country. It was not a popular choice around my house."