Special to Page 2
Much has been made about Monday Night Football's move to cable, largely because of the Tony Kornheiser experiment. It's a pretty big deal, especially to the people who sign my checks.
But no one's talking about the person most affected by this -- Vince McMahon.
McMahon, the chairman of World Wrasslin' Entertainment, has owned Monday nights on cable for most of the last two decades. There was a brief spell when the WWE's "Monday Night Raw" lagged behind WCW's "Monday Nitro," but the WWE recovered and, eventually, put WCW out of business.
How did McMahon do it? A significant part of the turnaround was improving the quality of televised shows. But just as important was making the WWE's story lines -- which historically were steeped in racism, vulgarity and the objectification of women -- more tawdry and tasteless than they already were.
Well, it seems Vince may have to go back into his old bag of tricks. Preseason games, which are even less suspenseful and consequential than staged wrasslin' matches, have gotten higher ratings than "Raw" this August. Maybe that's what McMahon had in mind when he scheduled a "Back to School Paddle on a Pole" match between Torrie Wilson and Candice Michelle (of godaddy.com fame) that, in a tidy coincidence, started right at halftime of the Bengals-Packers contest on Aug. 28.
"Vince is in trouble now," says Fred Batiste, both a wrasslin' aficionado and sports columnist at The Daily Star (Hammond, La.).
The imaginative investigative team at Page 2 has received the WWE's tentative plans for the fall. Let's see how Vince & Co. plan to combat the Monday Night Football schedule.
Week 1 (Vikings-Redskins; Chargers/Raiders)
Vince sees creative potential in last year's Minnesota Maritime Misadventures.
The gimmick: Trish Stratus versus tag team champs Kenny and Mikey in a rare bra and panties "handicap match." On a boat. No confirmation on whether Daunte Culpepper will serve as guest referee.
Week 2 (Steelers-Jaguars)
With doom and gloom in mind, Vince remembers the "Billionaire Ted" character he created to mock his chief competition, WCW chief Ted Turner.
The gimmick: New announcer Neurotic Morry. Expect to hear him refer to the fans as "two-bit weasels" at least 17 times during the first hour of "Raw."
Week 3 (Falcons-Saints)
Tough sell for Vince. If it's not enough that this is the first game in the Superdome since Katrina, some have billed this game as the PlayStation Bowl because of the collective presence of Michael Vick and Reggie Bush.
The gimmick: Not even the WWE would make jokes about Katrina.
As we speak, Vince and Co. are looking for a gigantic wind machine and the biggest, strongest woman they can find. Three guesses on what her name will be.
Week 4 (Packers-Eagles)
Vince knows what football fans want to see.
The gimmick: Surprise competitor Terrell Owens will don the tights for the first time. While standing in the center of the ring with his arms extended after dropping John Cena with a side suplex, TO will be drilled in the back with a sledgehammer by McMahon's son-in-law, superstar Triple H.
(And you know damn well the folks in Philly would be willing to drop pay-per-view dough for that one.)
Week 5 (Ravens-Broncos)
Seeing how successful the "ripped from the headlines" spiel has been for "Law and Order," the WWE puts its own spin on the slogan.
The gimmick: In a recent story line, Samoan wrassler Umaga and his manager, Armando Alejandro Estrada, allied with McMahon to take down Kane. Kane will return under a new identity, La Migre. La Migre will bring Umaga and Estrada to the center of the ring and demand they show their "paperwork." Estrada and Umaga will be unable to produce green cards. Then nets will fall on them while the crowd goes wild.
Week 6 (Bears-Cardinals)
With the least sexy matchup of the MNF schedule on tap this week, the WWE can afford to take the easy joke.
The gimmick: Neurotic Morry, Theodore Long and Shane McMahon will be scheduled for a most unlikely Triple Threat Match. Once all three of them are in the ring, McMahon will take the mike and tell "black man, white man, Jew man" jokes for the next half hour.
Week 7 (Giants-Cowboys)
Up against a marquee matchup, it's time to poke a little more fun at the competition.
The gimmick: Morry and his partner, former wrassler Jerry "The King" Lawler, will begin discussing their affection for the comedic stylings of Andy Kaufman. But things turn bad when they disagree on a couple of lyrics in R.E.M.'s "Man on the Moon." Next thing you know, Morry threatens to hit Lawler with a Mack truck. A tussle ensues. The broadcast ends with Morry being rushed to the ER.
Week 8 (Patriots-Vikings)
It's the day before Halloween. Remembering a classic commercial featuring Minnesota icon Kevin Garnett, the WWE plans a provocative costume party.
The gimmick: All nude. Tastefully done. But definitely all nude.
(Just the ladies, though. Definitely just the ladies.)
Week 9 (Raiders-Seahawks)
On the eve of Election Day, Mr. McMahon throws in a political angle.
The gimmick: Two years in advance, Mr. McMahon will announce another run for president. His running mate? La Migre. And just to show he means business, La Migre will ask Canadian superstar Edge to show his "paperwork." The rest will be fairly predictable.
Week 10 (Buccaneers-Panthers)
The top two teams in one of the league's top divisions will square off. Vince is nervous.
The gimmick: To combat Charlotte's favorite team, Vince enlists Charlotte's favorite son -- Ric Flair. The Nature Boy and Hulk Hogan will have the WWE's first walker match.
Week 11 (Giants-Jaguars)
Things might look really bad for the WWE by Week 11. With an eye toward the songs MNF's producers will choose for their second trip to Jacksonville, Vince will sink mighty low.
The gimmick: Remembering how MNF likes to play "Freebird" during Jaguars games -- Lynyrd Skynyrd hails from Jacksonville -- "Raw" will pull on heartstrings by saying Rob Conway and the McAllister brothers were seriously injured in a plane crash. Former superstar and "Celebrity Duets" competitor Chris Jericho will then sing "Tuesday's Gone" with Brian McKnight accompanying him on piano.
Week 12 (Packers-Seahawks)
Running low on ideas, Vince goes to the tried and true.
The gimmick: Torrie Wilson and Victoria will engage in a little mud wrestling. Not wrasslin'. Good ol' fashioned T&A bouncin' wrestling. Someone will be naked by 9 p.m.
Week 13 (Panthers-Eagles)
From the headlines, the WWE pulls a cheap shot.
The gimmick: Knowing what steroids may have done for the Panthers, the WWE will have its first on-air steroids test. Crater-faced superstars enter the ring with vials bulging in their tights to hear results of their screenings. All will pass. And all will chuckle when they hear the news.
Week 14 (Bears-Rams)
Bears running back Cedric Benson idolized Ricky Williams. That got Vince thinking
The gimmick: One time only -- Ricky Williams will wrassle! Entering the ring to some Lenny Kravitz song that sounds like a Prince song (or a Beatles song, or a Hendrix song, or ), Ricky will square off against Jeff Hardy. But the match will be called off when Williams is caught with a bag of pot planted in his locker by Hardy. The broadcast will end when a downtrodden Williams returns to the locker room, shuts the door and, shall we say, fumigates the place.
Week 15 (Bengals-Colts)
By Week 15, it might be now or never for the WWE. There's no room left for dignity.
The gimmick: Vince debuts a mentally challenged superstar. Wonder how long it'll take him to realize he's already tried that one.
Week 16 (Jets-Dolphins)
Nothing goes together like Christmas and "Raw."
The gimmick: Dressed in a Santa suit, former superstar and wrasslin' pimp The Godfather returns to action with a few helpers. Ho, ho, ho(es)!
Bomani Jones is a frequent contributor to Page 2. Tell him how you feel at firstname.lastname@example.org.