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Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Free Agent Market

So everyone has their panties in a bunch about the Ayatollah of Rock N' Rollah. Well, with good reason. Inevitably however, Chris Jericho will once again blend into the WWE scenery, and then what do we have to look forward to?

It is my position that no one man is going to "save" the WWE from their current predicament. Obviously just the returns of Shawn Michaels, Ken Kennedy, and Umaga will have a solid impact. The return of Hardcore Holly will have significantly less of an impact. I mean seriously, what hasn't WWE tried to get us to care about this guy over the last 15 years. Pay attention WWE. It's not working…

Recently, one of the world's premier wrestling publications, Pro Wrestling Illustrated unleashed their latest edition of the PWI 500, rating superstars on a criteria that I am sure only Stu Saks and company fully understand.

What does this year's list tell us about professional wrestling's next batch of free agents? As you read this, I want you to keep a few things in mind. Who fits into the WWE umbrella? Who would fit better in TNA? If you ran a promotion that competed with both, who would you use?

First and foremost, the highest ranked non-WWE talent was Mistico. Mistico came in at a very impressive number three. Some fans will recognize the name, as WWE seemed to be targeting the luchadore not too many months ago. Is he the next Rey Mysterio? Only time will tell, but I can bet he will remain on WWE's radar as they look to add more star power in the future.

Would-be NWA Champion Brian Danielson makes a formidable showing at number 17. The American Dragon has already amassed quite a following, not unlike current ECW World Heavyweight Champion CM Punk did before him. Could he turn his indy success into a lucrative WWE run? Many ROH fans hope so. Then again, many ROH fans do not.

I would be interested to know how many WCW fans remember Yuji Nagata and his Nagata-Lock from his brief run in the mid-to-late nineties. Nagata returned to his home country and found an incredible amount of success. Could Nagata be interested in returning to America, and if so, would his success be able to transfer with him? America doesn't have an impressive history of embracing Japanese wrestlers. It might be interesting.

One of the most talked about free agents is former WWE and ECW World Heavyweight Champion Rob Van Dam. RVD messed up when he got caught speeding and weeding a few years ago. From there, it was a downhill slide. Still, RVD has always been able to capture the imagination of the fans based on his in-ring abilities. RVD has recently stated that any decision to return would likely come down to the money and exposure of the WWE vs. the lighter schedule offered by TNA.

One of the most successful Japanese wrestlers in America was Jushin Liger. While Liger is a good bit older than he was when he tore up WCW with "Flyin" Brian Pillman, he is obviously no slouch, as his number 34 ranking illustrates. Liger survived a freakin' brain tumor and he is still a force to be reckoned with. Hopefully before he hangs up the boots, he will take them on one last tour of America.

Right behind Liger is the 7 foot tall 500 pound Big Show. Paul Wight is now most visible on Hogan knows best, but it is likely that any major American promotion would love to have him. Often hated by smarts, I think that the Big Show gets a bad wrap. When he is booked correctly, this guy is a big draw.

To those who don't trade for Puroresu tapes, Hiroshi Tanahashi might be most familiar to American fans as the IWGP champion that never seems to make it past the first stage of G4's Ninja Warrior. I strongly suggest to those who haven't seen Ninja Warrior, that they check the show out. In fact, I could care less about seeing Tanahashi in America, I just wanted to shout out Ninja Warrior. Also, Olivia Munn from G4's Attack of the Show may just be the most attractive television host ever.

What would it take for number 49 Chris Hero to break through the glass ceiling? If WWE wants to send a message that steroids and bodybuilder-physiques are not what makes a superstar, I can't think of a better choice for a new talent than Chris Hero. Hero can put on a great match, and that's what it should be about.

Has number 58 Sabu worn out his welcome in every major American promotion? Neither TNA nor WWE really seems to want to do business with him, but both have. Why? Because Sabu is an attraction. Years ago, people suggested Sabu couldn't even walk. In that time, Sabu has worked his style in every major American promotion. Jim Ross recently stated that Sabu may not have the resume to make it into the WWE Hall of Fame. Regardless, Sabu is something special when booked correctly.

The most recent release is likely to be one of the most controversial free agents. Monty "Marquis Cor Von" Brown may have burnt his bridges in TNA, but I would not be surprised if WWE doesn't come back knocking sooner than later. My understanding is that his release was a mutual decision based on Cor Von's family issues. I think that TNA made a bigger mistake not putting the belt on this guy than they did with Samoa Joe. He deserves to be something.

One of the hottest indy wrestlers out there right now is number 63 Brent Albright. WWE fans may remember his short-lived stint as Gunner Scott on the Smackdown brand. Albright was lacking charisma, but had all the other tools to be a star. In that way he reminded many of the man that he was paired with, Chris Benoit. In time, Albright should have the opportunity to really shine in a major wrestling promotion.

Claudio Castagnoli is other wrestler making quite a name for himself on the indies. There was a long time where that didn't seem to mean much, but with the recent pushes of Joe in TNA and Punk in ECW, it's seeming that a strong indy following may mean more now than it did ten years ago when Christopher Daniels, Michael Modest, Reckless Youth and other can't miss indy prospects couldn't break through.

Don't be confused by number 68, L.A. Park. Park is the original La Parka, no matter who the other guy is using his name. The "chairman" of WCW could likely have success in the WWE as well, as Parka is a bit of a pro-wrestling cult classic. The main problem is, he doesn't have domain over his name. It's still likely with that dance and unorthodox style that he could be a very popular addition to any wrestling roster.

ROH's Briscoe Brothers could be a nice shot in the arm for either of WWE's struggling tag team divisions. Their style may not be cut out for Raw or Smackdown, but the money they would receive would be more than enough to make them change. I think they could be successful in the WWE system, and what's even better is that they are AN ACTUAL Tag Team, rather than two dudes stuck together.

Austin Starr was an exciting part of the TNA X Division, but a rumored bad attitude put a stop to those plans. Well, he's not the first or last pro-wrestler to suffer from that. I think in Vince's hands, this guy would be nothing but dollar signs.

Number 105 Giant Bernard is more recognizable to American fans as WWE's A-Train. Train had a series of great matches with Chris Benoit before leaving the WWE. Not that it's saying too much to have great matches with Benoit. Still, Train was a versatile big man with more of a moveset than most. His look was downright horrible, but also a source of great heat. With Big Show gone, Train could be a great addition if Khali were to leave.

Number 109 is Essa "Mr. Aguila" Rios. Could WWE's Lightheavyweight mainstay return and reignite the division? Most likely not, but the Cruiserweights definetely need something to get excited about. It would be nice to see WWE investing more into this group than they currently are.

Vampiro's last major run in America saw him capture the WSX title. I guess it could be argued if that's a major run or not. One of the most popular stars in the dying days of WCW, could he reignite a feud with Sting in TNA, or be something special in the WWE? I wouldn't mind seeing either.

Since I have recently spoke of attitude problems and reigniting the cruiserweight divisions, it's appropriate that I come to Juventud Guerrera and Sean "X Pac" Waltman. Both of these men have burned their share of bridges, but you can never say never in professional wrestling. I would predict seeing number 144 or 145 in a major American promotion again before the better-behaved number 146 Taka Michinoku.

Teddy Hart, Harry Smith, and TJ Wilson all are in WWE developmental territories working, but their buddy Jack Evans isn't. Evans had some of the more entertaining WSX matches. He would certainly need to learn some psychology before being picked up by a real company (and yes, that is me saying WSX wasn't a real company).

Number 150 is Andrew "Test" Martin. Dude is roided up, and neither WWE nor TNA want him as the government looks further into performance enhancers in pro wrestling. Still, at times, both companies have seemed to look at this guy as a potential major star. It's likely at some point he will get another try.

Number 151 Kaz Hayashi is a poor man's Taka Michinoku, but it would be a mistake to have a chance to mention that he bought Glacier's stuff and not take it. If I had the rights to the Glacier gimmick, I'd sign the dude just for my own personal amusement.

MNM is so dead. Melina is propositioning Hornswaggle and Johnny Nitro is John Morrison. Still, a clean Joey Mercury can be a huge asset to any wrestling company. Can he stay clean though? That's up to him.

It's sad that I went from really digging Doug Basham to really not even giving a damn about looking up whether or not TNA released him. I am pretty sure they did. Too bad. Both he and Damaja have been misused in both the WWE and TNA. Both of them could be World Championship contenders. Hopefully one day they get a chance to shine as individuals.

Aaron "Idol" Stevens was recently released for being too boring. He has a great look though. I don't know if that will do a lot for him in the long run, but perhaps he can find his niche somewhere.

WWE has recently released the Sandman. This confused many, because the dude was undoubtedly over with fans. Sandman appears to want another shot with Vince and company. If I were any major promotion, I would give the guy the chance to be a midcard guy. Jim Duggan still has a job for pretty much the same reasons Sandman should.

Steve Corino is like the super indy guy. With title reigns in the NWA, AWA, and Japan, there is not much left for him to do outside of a major promotion. It's unlikely he will get his chance, and that's a true shame. I think he could be a very interesting piece of any major promotion. I guess it just goes to show tommorow's young workers. Be really careful when you blade. No major promotion wants roast beef forehead.

Fans will have a lot to say about how to get the most usefulness out of Eugene. Recently I read he will be working as Ugene Dinsmore. The comedy gimmick works, and it's likely to be most recognizable to the casual fan. The more hardcore fan will want to see Mr. Wrestling Nick Dinsmore. Either way you package him, he can have some value, but he is another who has to stay clean.

Cryme Tyme's Shad Gaspard and JTG were recently released for their actions on a house show right at the height of their popularity. Without doubt, they still have a great deal of value. Will they make a quick return to the WWE like the Boogeyman, or find greener pastures elsewhere?

Is there any appeal left for Spike "Brother Runt" Dudley? Is he worth anything without his brothers in the same promotion? I don't know if he'll have another major run, but stranger things have happened. What you ask? Well, there was the Gobbledygooker.

Danny Doring just strikes me as that dude that could never catch a break. I thought the new ECW would really give Doring a chance to shine. Instead, he caught a fairly quick release. It would be nice to see him capture a bit more success on a larger stage.

I dunno if Ultimo Dragon will ever work in the US again, but man did WWE ever misuse him. Ultimo was freaking amazing in WCW. I would have liked to see the WWE cruiserweight division built around him at least for a time. Vince just wanted him to be another Mysterio. I prefer him being Ultimo Dragon.

Do I prefer Michael Shane to Matt Bentley? Actually yes. Too bad those damn Gymini dudes had to put the kabash on that. Still, Bentley is reminiscent of a young Shawn Michaels. Is that too much pressure to put on the guy? That's up to him. I would like to see WWE sign him up and quick.

If anyone is not familiar with number 219, the Human Tornado, get familiar. I first came across his video on Myspace about two or three years ago. His gimmick is gold and his style is even better. He doesn't have the traditional look of a superstar, but isn't now the time to let a guy like him shine?

I alluded to the Gymini just a minute ago. Whether they are Jake and Jesse or the Shane Twins or even the dicks, they are two big dudes that can work a pretty exciting match when the spirit moves them. They are way more intriguing than the Harris Twins. I am not sure their reasons for parting with TNA or WWE, but I do know that I am just cool with pretty much any tag team being added to the WWE roster right now.

Speaking of tag teams, apparantely The Naturals screwed up by announcing their WWE tryout on their Myspace. Granted, their look is pretty similar to the Major Brothers, but I actually dig Chase Stevens and Andy Douglas. WWE, pay attention. You need tag teams.

Remember when WWE wanted us to believe we cared about Kurt Angle vs. Sylvester Terkay. Well, TNA, you can try to make us care too. Terkay was the most overhyped dude in recent memory, but I never really personally got a chance to see what he could do. Perhaps he could be an asset. Perhaps TNA could book the Angle/Terkay showdown.

Back to tag teams. Hmm, I am smelling a theme in who is being released right now. What about La Resistance. Ok, I am not throwing Conway in, because he never should have been there anyways. Dupree and Grenier though? Give them a freaking job. They are an established team. God forbid we have any of those.

And that brings me to number 275, Rob Conway. All I heard about Conway before he got to the WWE was how good he was. Then he gets thrown into La Resistance, and then he gets his conman gimmick with that ridiculous gay stripper look and stupid Randy Newman music. I still think Conway should be a star, and it is nuts to me that he just isn't under contract anywhere.

WWE in their infinite wisdom decided to put a dress on Vito. He was far removed from the tough bastard with the stickball bat that I liked so much in WCW. Either way, he has gotten whatever he was asked to do over. I like a guy with that sort of ability. I like Big Vito.

Orlando Jordan might have had all the personality of a rice cake, but he had a great look. When he initially came out as a babyface, I actually found myself rooting for him. It seemed he had some potential before Bobby Lashley came and just stole the spotlight entirely. I would give him a chance in an atmosphere where he didn't have that type of competition.

Another dude I like. CW Anderson. This guy never got the chance to really do anything in the new ECW, but his Extreme Horsemen group with Corino has a lot of entertainment potential. I like watching the guy work too.

All the way back at 298 is Too Cold Scorpio. This guy got resigned after having great matches and looking in the best shape of his life. Then he got released before he could really do anything. I think the 450 splash will always be an attraction, and this guy was the first I ever saw do it, and his was prettier than Juventud's.

Speaking of Juventud, his former Mexicool partner Psicosis comes in at 302. I am not sure the status of the guy's legal problems, but he can be an asset to an X, Cruiserweight, or Tag division if his head's on straight.

One guy that I felt never reached his potential in the WWE is Justin Credible. His TNA runs are largely unimpressive also. I am not sure why. ECW made me care a lot about this guy. Could anyone get him back to that role of being a true impact player?

Dan Rodman was Stephanie McMahon's pet project. He had undeniable charisma during the Tough Enough competition. Can he work? I have no idea. It was said that he was going to join Rated-RKO last year at this time. He might have an upside. Who knows?

As tired as I am of the whole Scotty 2 Hotty thing, it stayed over for ten years in the WWE. Fans for whatever reason still wanted to see the worm. Scott Taylor is a good worker with a good attitude, and I am happy he was able to have such a long healthy WWE run. Does he deserve another?

Other notable wrestlers making the list are "The Donald" Ace Steel, "Mr. 630" Jerrelle Clark, The Heartthrobs, Joey Mercury's former partner Christian York, The Stro, Pierre-Carl Ouellet, and "One Legged Wonder" Zach Gowen. All of these guys could possibily have some value.

Not included are perennial Indy main eventers like Chris Hamrick, Buff Bagwell, Lex Luger, Sid, and New Jack.

So rather than tell you what to think, I am going to let you decide. Are there guys I am looking over? Where is the best place for some of these guys to end up? Who deserves to have a big contract somewhere?

And the big question: If you had an unlimited cash flow, and you could make a 30 person roster based on these free agents, who would you use to compete with WWE and TNA?

You can have your feedback here next week, just like John Reid. Last week Reid wrote in about WWE's Wellness Policy, and how their emphasis on muscular builds has affected his viewing habits.
Vince knows that with many of the suspensions already taking place and fans still turning in droves to watch, their thought is "If it isn't broke don't fix it?" Perhaps it will take the death of some of the more "muscular" grapplers to make the WWE realize that this is not the way to go, as sad as it is to say. Maybe they look at Guerrero's and Benoit's deaths as isolated incidents and not their responsibility as a whole. Making sure there are less blows to the head will help, but I'm just not confident that Vince will change what he feels has worked all these years.
What's even more amazing about all of this is if you go back to the height of sports entertainment (the Attitude Era) many of the top stars were pushed on not only on their mic skills but the ability to carry a match. These days you can count on one hand the number of stars in the WWE who can do both convincingly.
I no longer support the E and only view TNA (which has issues of their own, I know) and ROH because they don't have to rely on roided up freaks to put in main event pushes.


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