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Volume 68, Issue 155, Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Arts & Entertainment

'Raw' in charisma dilemma

Wrestling Unmasked

Ed De La Garza

My God. Kane is hideous without a mask. He's an abomination that should never show his face in public. He's horribly disfigured. He looks like, he looks like, like ... a bald guy.

After more than five years of hiding behind a mask because he was badly disfigured in a fire (caused by the Undertaker), Kane threw caution to the wind, let the sweet air touch his naked skin on the June 23 Raw. It should be noted that it was the announcers who said Kane was horribly disfigured. They speculated. But now that he's been unmasked, that whole abomination thing has kind of worn off. Not being handsome doesn't equate with disfigurement. At least his face isn't made out of leather like Hulk Hogan.

Raw vs. Smackdown

World Wrestling Entertainment is dedicated to seeing its split roster work. You'll notice the constant moves between the two shows has eased up in the past few months. WWE follows last month's Raw-only Bad Blood pay-per-view with the Smackdown-only Vengeance on July 27. Wrestlemania, Summerslam, Survivor Series and the Royal Rumble will likely remain joint ventures.

Since each show has its own roster and own monthly PPVs, it's billed as real competition. But they don't go head-to-head and they're not competing for the same audience. You're not likely to find fans picking one show over the other. The only thing the two shows are competing for is quality.

Smackdown is a consistently better written show. Some of its appeal has to do with the fact that none of the main participants on Raw can match Kurt Angle's charisma. He can hold an audience. His return to the active roster made the June 6 Smackdown must-see TV.

The WWE created a major flaw when it split its roster in two. While Raw initially got the more established stars, Smackdown got all the stars with charisma. Aside from Booker T., Jericho and possibly Goldberg, Raw can't compete with Angle, Rey Mysterio, Edge, Eddie Guerrero and Brock Lesnar.

If recent Internet reporting is true, Vince McMahon isn't in too big of a rush to change things. He's under the old idea that wrestling's popularity is cyclical a concept that used to work when the WWE competed against World Championship Wrestling. It's like the Houston Chronicle: without competition, it's gotten lazy and complacent.

But without stars who can draw attention and without good wrestling writers, fans will turn away from Raw. Some may turn to Smackdown as their only source of sports entertainment, but the WWE needs the added revenue from two successful shows.

History has demonstrated that wrestling is cyclical, but it's also shown that once a company loses fans, it's more than difficult to get them back.

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