Mike Flaherty cheers for bestselling author Mick Foley and that towering Midwestern governor on ''RAW''

By Mike Flaherty
Updated June 06, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Jesse Ventura: WWF

WWE Raw Is War

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Superstars return to the WWF

It’s no secret in grappling circles that ratings for the WWF have been depressed for nearly two months now. Ticket sales are lagging as well. One telling indicator: A late June ”Smackdown!” taping at the WWF’s home away from home, Madison Square Garden, is still not sold out. Even the league’s recent absorption of longtime competitor the WCW has done nothing to goose the numbers.

A few compelling theories for the apparent funk suggest themselves. First, the apathy coincides almost exactly with ”Wrestlemania 17,” which aired on April 1. The annual extravaganza normally signals the peak of interest in all things wrestling, so some drop-off is to be expected.

Much more telling is the loss, on the following night’s ”RAW,” of The Rock. Having superceded Steve Austin as the promotion’s biggest star in 1999-2000, and since left to concentrate on his movie career, his crowd-pleasing charisma and inimitable mic skills have been sorely missed.

Lastly (and most worrisome for McMahon and Co.), we could be witnessing another of wrestling’s cyclical eclipses; having loomed especially large in the zeitgeist for the past three or four years, history would suggest that it’s time for wrestling to recede into the pop-culture shadows where it’s spent most of its existence.

All this may sound like bad news, but only for casually interested, fair-weather fans. In fact, it’s been a boon for wrestling marks, since the WWF’s (largely successful) attempt to regain some heat over the past three weeks has resulted in a renewed emphasis on grappling excellence (e.g., the ascent of Benoit and Jericho), longer matches, and, as demonstrated on this week’s ”RAW Is WAR” (Mondays, TNN, 9 p.m.), the return of some well-loved legends of the biz.

Despite topping the New York Times bestseller list for two weeks running, Mick Foley will always be the wrestling fan’s wrestler. Having him open this week’s show, which took place in Minneapolis’ Target Center, immediately promised a sort of comic vengeance, since he’s the perfect foil not only for McMahon, but for Austin, Edge & Christian, Kurt Angle, and, of course, Commissioner Regal.

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That would have been reward enough, but when Foley introduced Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, and the two of them proceeded to stymie the evil McMahon (in his efforts to keep heavyweight champ Austin from defending the belt), it was pure gold. That was a creative brainstorm savvy enough to make EVERYONE happy.

WWE Raw Is War

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