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Friday, November 30, 2007

Why Does Tag Team Wrestling Suck Now, When It was So Good Then?

As the independent scene boomed with the corresponding wrestling boom of the late 1990s, a popular trend on the indy scene emerged – two guys would travel together. They probably had a tag team name and were an acceptable tag team that needed seasoning. However, on one show they would team, and on another show across town, they would be embroiled in a blood feud.

What?

See, in the thrifty world of independent wrestling, promoters would be willing to bring in two guys to fight each other, expecting them to have a god match because “they know each other, and have probably wrestled before”. While this certainly allows individuals to improve because they get another chance to be in front of a crowd, it does not make them any better in the long run because they do not get a chance to test themselves against wrestlers from other areas. Two wrestlers traveling up and down the road together and who have each other well scouted and know each other’s weaknesses and strengths are more likely to fight each other than team up.

In my opinion, tag team wrestling is currently at its lowest point since its inception, and there does not appear to be an end in sight. I think the current lackluster field of tag teams (and thus tag team matches) stems from a number of factors.

The 1990s saw an ending of fresh teams that had existed since the territory days. Tag team divisions were filled out with two guys under contract to the company being paired together to form teams. The end of territory wrestling saw the end of teams establishing themselves as a team (and not establishing themselves as individuals), and gaining experience going from territory to territory as a unit. Instead, teams consisted of brothers, or two established singles wrestlers with a gimmick and name to make them seem like a seasoned team. When promoters looked for new talent, on the independent circuit – there were none to be found.

In the days of the territory, tag team wrestling dominated the landscape. Every territory promoted some form of a “national” singles champion (be it United States, North American, National, etc.), but NWA bylaws prohibited them from promoting a “World Champion” in the singles divisions.

No such rule existed however for tag team divisions. Every territory seemed to have a United States Champion, a Television Champion, and a pair of World Tag Team Champions.

The 1970’s saw such teams as The Anderson’s (Gene & Lars, and later Ole & Gene), Mr. Wrestling #1 & #2, The Fargos, The Von Baruners, The Samoans, The Grahams (Dr. Jerry, Eddie, Luke, & Billy), the Bastein Brothers, Goliath & Black Gordman, Crusher & Bruiser, the Blackjacks, and many more. Every territory was stacked full of teams comprised of brothers, or fellows of the same nationality or ethnicity. There were many championship teams comprised of a wily veteran and a plucky young up-and-comer.

While a promoter in the 1970’s could not bring in the NWA World Heavyweight Champion for all of his shows, or even for all of the big ones, a promoter could have a show headlined by the World Tag Team Champions at any time. And, unlike the prestigious world singles championship, the multitude of world tag team championships recognized by all of the different promoters switched hands often. In the Memphis territory, titles would change hands on a nearly weekly basis.

Teams like the Assassins would have a reign of terror over a territory for years at a time, while teams of fan favorites would try to pluck the titles (and masks) away from the dastardly duo for good.

As the 1980s dawned and wrestling suddenly had a national audience, more teams came into view and made a name for themselves. The Hart Foundation, the Road Warriors, the Fabulous Freebirds, the Midnight Express, the Rock n Roll Express. The British Bulldogs, Arn & Ole Anderson, Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard, Ivan & Nikita Koloff, Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff, the Midnight Rockers, The Moondogs, Chris Adams & Gino Hernandez, the Killer Bees, the Fantastics, and many, many more.

In the 80s, bigger was suddenly better. It was more important to look like a champ than to actually wrestle like one. This led to the world champion, and the main event level singles wrestlers requiring “a look”, rather than an off the hook workrate. At the same time, the territories were falling to the wayside and it was now possible to book a singles champion on every show. While the era of the big man was under way, the smaller talented technicians began to strut their stuff in the tag team ranks. While the tag team championships were brought down from their status as a main event level championship, they became a bastion of psychology, workrate, and action. Solid singles wrestlers like Magnum TA, Tito Santana, Rick Martel, Arn Anderson, Barry Windham, Greg Valentine, and countless others found themselves solidifying cards as tag team wrestlers – often stealing the show.

Then, the 1990’s hit. There were two major wrestling promotions for most of that time period – WWF and WCW. The World Wrestling Federation’s ranks of tag teams consisted of teams such as The Smoking Gunns, The Bodydonnas, The Godwinns, Men on a Mission, and many championship teams of two singles wrestlers thrown together, such as Kevin Nash & Shawn Michaels, Bob Holly & X-Pac, Owen Hart & Davey Smith, and others. WCW at least had a consistent roster of legitimate teams, such as the Steiner Brothers, Doom, the Nasty Boys, Harlem Heat, Sting & Luger, the Outsiders, as well as other tag teams made from stables such as the NWO, the Four Horsemen, the Dangerous Alliance, and more.

As the 1990s came to a close, tag team wrestling looked to be gaining momentum again, thanks to teams like The APA, Hardy Boys, the Dudley Boyz, the Impact Players, the Eliminators, Edge & Christian, Rey Misterio & Billy Kidman, Dean Malenko & Chris Benoit, Rob Van Dam & Sabu, and a few others.

But, just as the “bigger is better” mentality caused a make-over of the prototype for a singles wrestler in the late 1970s and 1980s, the blueprint for too many promoters when looking for a tag team became teams like the Road Warriors, Demolition, and the Steiner Brothers. Promoters were suddenly looking for two big men who could overpower and dominate smaller opponents. Too often promoters would find two big men, and throw them together as a team, and immediately start putting them in title matches at the top of the division. Teams quickly went stale, because after short stints of teaming, promoters would decide to showcase one (or both) in singles competition, rather than as a tag team. Often, promoters saw easy money in having a team split up just to have the former teammates fight each other.

The differences between each generation’s tag teams are easy to see. In the 1970s, teams consisted of two men with some kind of bond. They were brothers, or countrymen, or two cowboys. They were two individuals who had a long history together that moved from territory to territory together. Or, they were two guys that stayed anchored to a territory, and defended the titles against challengers from other areas. The 1980s saw teams composed of two individuals from the same territory who were able to catch a break in another territory as a team – and then stuck with a successful team.

Sure, when the indy boom started you had teams like Cueball Carmichael & Jimmy Cicero, or Ace Darling & Devon Storm, or Joey Matthews & Christian York that found reasonable success as a duo, but for every team like that there were probably 1000 teams that consisted of two guys thrown together – if there was even a tag team match on an independent show.

So, how do we fix the problem of the current tag team wrestling scene?
In my opinion, it starts first and foremost with the wrestlers themselves. If two guys make a good team and want to focus on success in that area, then they need to only seek bookings as a team. At the very least, they need to accept bookings only if they are not fighting their partner. There is a literal drought of established quality tag teams on the independent circuit, and that leads to weak tag team divisions everywhere else. Although the problem might not be as bad in Japan due to the matchmaking style there, tag team wrestling is in almost as sorry a state in Mexico and abroad as it is in the US.

You would think then, that the law of supply and demand would then cause a correction of the market, and that the indy scene would be bursting with tag teams traveling and trying to get noticed. Yet, there is not.

The beauty of a tag team championship is that, from a booking standpoint, it should be your most flexible title. If you have the right team, it can main event your events. If you have the right team, it can open up the show. What that means is that you can feature rookies wrestling seasoned veterans in tag team matches, and it doesn’t have to be a lopsided match.

It worked in the territory days. Why wouldn’t it work now? Has something fundamentally changed that it makes no sense for two guys who know each other and wrestle complimentary styles to team up, to gain a higher position (and they more money) on the cards?

No, crappy attitudes of wrestlers, and poor matchmaking ability of promoters/bookers/matchmakers has led to a stagnant tag team division almost everywhere you look. Until the wrestlers and the people running wrestling shows put a focus on tag team wrestling again, the great tag teams we remember from the old days will continue to be near extinct.
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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Initialed Enemies?

When speaking of Triple H, I frequently bring up the year that he destroyed Rob Van Dam, Kane, and Booker T. I just feel that it's a footnote in The Game's resume that can't be overlooked. 9 times out of 10, when Triple H has had the chance to make a new superstar, he's balked.

Recently the UK's Power Slam magazine had a chance to ask RVD about HHH. His answers were very interesting:



UKS: Is it true you had problems with Triple H when you worked for WWE?

RVD: Problems? I had problems liking him. I had problems feeling compatible with him on any other level other than the fact that we're both wrestlers. He would be one of the last guys you would see sharing a car with me. If we weren't both wrestlers, I doubt I'd have anything in common with him.

UKS: There were a few occasions -- Unforgiven 2002 springs to mind -- when it seemed like the perfect time for you to defeat Triple H. After he attacked and beat you down on the September 16, 2002 Raw, you sought revenge in a singles bout at Unforgiven six days later. A win there would have been a tremendous boon for you. Meanwhile, a loss for HHH would have done his status no harm at all. As it turned out, HHH won by pinfall. It seemed like he cut you off.

RVD: Well, I don't disagree with you. And that's why I'm glad my career is caught on videotape and DVD, so the fans can watch what happened in my career and say it all for me, like you just did.

UKS: You've nothing further to add about HHH?

RVD: When you're watching RVD TV (his online TV show), don't look for HHH to be in Rob Van Dam's house.

You can't blame Rob for feeling the way he does, as Triple H is solely responsible for the fact that Rob is not looked at as a legit main eventer, but instead a second tier guy. However, with this interview, old Robbie V may have just signed a verbal contract never to return to the WWE again.

Below is a stop motion animation I found that pretty much sums up every encounter these two have ever had:



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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Armchair Booking The ECW World Title Picture

Are you the kind of person that watches something on WWE or TNA and think you could do it better? Yeah, that's the kind of person I am. The reality is that 90% of us probably couldn't. What makes me think I'm any different? Nothing really. I do have 7 1/2 years experience in the wrestling business as a worker, but very little experience booking (just one show really.) I have contributed ideas for matches, angles, and feuds that have worked out pretty well, so I'd like to think that I have a good mind for booking.

Alot of people were surprised that ECW retained its timeslot for another year, especially given the ratings they have drawn. It is one of the highest rated (if not THE highest rated) program on Sci Fi, but it doesn't compare to the ratings pulled in by Raw or Smackdown. With the same roster as Smackdown basically, there's no reason why ECW shouldn't be able to pull in the same ratings as it's Friday Night Counterpart, especially since Tuesday night is a more convenient night of the week to be watching wrestling (assuming the average wrestling fan has something to do on a Friday night.)

As of last night's ECW/Smackdown tapings, there is no ECW angle leading into the Armageddon PPV that is almost 2 weeks away (yes, it is in Pittsburgh, and no I won't be going unless someone surprises me with tickets as a birthday present.) My take at armchair booking makes things pretty interesting, and carries all the way through Wrestlemania. What I want you to do is read this article now and read it again in April after Wrestlemania is in the books. I want feedback at that time to see if you were happy with the job the WWE has done at that point, or if this is the booking you would have much rather enjoyed. Let's also examine at that time if the ratings have remained steady or have increased, and if you think this fake booking would have made a difference in the numbers.

Next week on ECW, the show begins with CM Punk cutting a promo about not having a challenger lined up for an ECW Title Match at Armageddon. He invites to the ring Tommy Dreamer. He puts over Dreamer for initially winning the Chase to the Title series a few months back and remind us all that he never recieved a title shot for his efforts. Tonight, CM Punk is going to make Tommy's dreams come true and give him what (I think, but could be wrong) would be his first ECW Title shot since the brand relaunched last year. Dreamer accepts. Later in the Main Event, Smackdown Tag Champs John Morrison and Miz are on commentary for the match and get involved at the end, causing the match to end in a no contest.

On Smackdown that Friday (or even ECW next week since I believe they tape Smackdown before ECW airs live) Punk and Dreamer return the favor, involving themselves in a non-title match with Miz & Morrison against any random pair of babyfaces (why not Finlay & Hornswoggle for shits and giggle?) To protect Morrison here, Miz takes the pin. As a result of this, a Tag Team Title Match is set for Armageddon.

At Armageddon, Morrison and Miz retain the Tag Team Titles against Punk and Dreamer. Morrison gets the pin on Punk in this match, and the following week on ECW TV, Morrison gloats about pinning the Champion and uses that to get another rematch for the title. This rematch happens the following week on December 27th. Why December 27th? It's the week of Christmas and ECW airs on Thursday head to head with Impact. One would think they should stack this show up to beat them in the ratings, but I think it would be more beneficial to rely on one match to carry the show, literally.

What I am proposing here is Punk vs Morrison in a 60 Minute Iron Man Match. One match to take place during the entire 60 minute broadcast. I think this would be a good idea to do regardless, and with the Smackdown merger, some ECW talent can just wrestle on the Friday Night broadcast. A match like this is just what the ECW Title needs to build a little prestigue and to be deemed more important than the US or Intercontinental Title. Plus, they'll have a week to advertise the match. I'm sure TNA will be trying to put on a strong show and a strong main event to compete with this, but even fans that are flipping back and forth will most likely want to tune into the last 10 minutes of this to see things really heat up. Now in my booking, Miz gets involved toward the end, followed by Dreamer saving, but both of them staying at ringside for the final few minutes. In the end, Punk retains, and Dreamer helps him celebrate, only to turn on him.

Somewhere before the end of the year finally have Mahoney/Kelly vs Miz/Layla so that feud can finally be blown off. Just please keep the Women's Wrestling to a bare minimum and DO NOT have Kelly attempt another Circus Panda in the corner...

The next week, Dreamer explains his actions via heel promo, basically venting his frustrations about his role in WWECW and saying that he cares more about becoming ECW Champion and challenges Punk to a match. Enter Punk, brawl ensues, and they meet at New Years Revolution with Punk retaining. They have a rematch again at the Royal Rumble, this time in an Extreme Rules Match.

Does the ECW Title feel a little more important yet?

To build for Wrestlemania, Bobby Lashley makes his return in time for the Rumble, but comes up short. Let's say for the sake of argument that a member of the RAW Roster wins the Rumble match itself, leaving the heavily rumored Elimination Chamber match at No Way Out where the winner gets a shot at the other World Title… on Smackdown. Lashley returns to the Blue Brand in an attempt to again become a World Champion, and turning heel in frustration of not winning the Rumble match. While this is all happening, Punk is having a great series of matches with Shelton Benjamin, who has been built up as a credible challenger for the last couple of months. Lashley comes up short yet again and turns to his last option to have a World Title Match for the Granddaddy of them all, targeting CM Punk.

One problem is the ECW brand is built up with a strong assortment of heels that can be Main Eventers, while they still only have one Main Event face in CM Punk. Let's just say that the fans accept Dreamer back as a babyface after his match with Punk at the Rumble, and Elijah Burke has a falling out with Shelton Benjamin that leads to a face turn and a match at Wrestlemania. I don't see ECW getting another match on that show, so let's put them both in the Money In the Bank Ladder Match.

At Wrestlemania, Punk's reign is ended by the only other member of the ECW Roster not named John Morrison who could make a believable Champion for that brand in Bobby Lashley. From there, the summer months can be spent feuding the two together, maybe even switching the title a couple times if needed (ala Angle vs Lesnar.)

There you have it. Will it make the ECW Title feel as important as Big Gold or The Spinner belt? Will it help ECW's ratings go up a whole point? Will it make the ECW Brand as a whole seem like it's not the read headed stepchild of the WWE? Those are all debatable, but tell me come Monday, March 31st if this would have been a better idea.

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DiBiase; IC Title Match

Mike DiBiase, the son of former WWE agent and WWF star Ted DiBiase passed along the following to me:

December 8 in Charlotte,NC I will be facing Damien Wayne for the NWA North American Heavyweight Title. If you know the history, my father held this title before it became what we know now as the WWE Intercontinental Title. It originated out of Stu Harts Stampede. Bret Hart held this Title as well. Basically there is a ton of history with the NWA and my family, Terry Funk being my God father held the NWA World title numerous times as well as Harley Race who trained me and is a close family friend was an 8 Time NWA World Champ. As a 3rd generation wrestler this is huge as history is beginining to repeat itself and get better....it may be destiny to hold the prestigious NWA North American Title...maybe even the NWA World title....we will see!

Just thought you all may be interested in this story!

Thanks, Mike DiBiase

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Save_Us.TNA

Solve the following analogy. If Raw is Jericho, then Impact is ______.

Multiple adjectives can describe TNA right now. The one that came to my mind personally is terrible. Oh, here come the smarks. “How can a 411 writer say TNA is bad?”

I am not the type of fan to forgive an entire wrestling company just because they throw out a decent match now and then. Especially when every decent match ends in some type of screwjob bullcrap ending.

I talked two weeks ago about the possibility of TNA getting an outlet on CBS in leiu of the Hollywood writers strike. I am hearing rumblings of that being more and more plausible. My concern is that the company is nowhere near ready for that type of audience. There are a number of reasons I find TNA hard to watch. Here they are, in no particular order.Teaser

Abyss: Abyss should be a major part of TNA. He has flirted with that role many times since the inception of TNA, and has proven himself as one of the best working big men in the business. So when will his feud with Jim Mitchell’s never-ending parade of wrestling misfits finally be over?

Kurt Angle: Without doubt, Kurt Angle is a great in-ring competitor. However, without the WWE handcuffs on him, he has somehow gotten worse. The storylines run continuously teasing tension between him, his wife, and Kevin Nash were ridiculous to follow. The break up to make up to break up to make up storyline was far from interesting. Angle is interesting in that he is the only WWE reject in TNA that actually would have benefitted from getting a chance to be put under on the way out. There is something about Angle that seperates him from guys like Booker T, Christian Cage, and Jeff Jarrett. Angle might actually be a bit too big of a star for TNA, as the list of truly believable contenders is very short.

Black Reign: Black Reign has been more than dissapointing to me. Each and everytime Goldust is released from the WWE, I get upset. I never understand why. He is typically over and works had to put on a good midcard match. Obviously he is more valuable than Hardcore Holly, and to be honest, he would make a much more interesting component in that Cody Rhodes respect storyline as well. Everytime Runnels gets out from the WWE umbrella, he ends up doing something lame. I would much rather have seen the rumored Platinum character than Black Reign. Black Reign is lame.

The Dudley Boyz: You ever notice that no matter how long Billy Gunn and the Dudleys are in TNA, people still refer to them as Billy Gunn and the Dudley Boys. The proposed Deadly Brothers of Brother Ray and D-Von Deadly was much more interesting to me. Brother Ray tried to do comedy wanting ding dongs last week on Impact, but like every other promo on Impact, it came off terrible. Why can’t these guys talk anymore? The whole X Division angle is retread, and there is really no interesting payoff for it.

Christian Cage: Cage is stuck in the same rut he was in the WWE. After a few successful title reigns, new additions to the TNA roster have him stuck in limbo. Everyone recognizes that the guy is talented, but he somehow manages to position himself right in the middle. Cage and Booker really both have a responsibility to one another to steal the show and make each other if either want to be viewed as a legitimate contender to Angle.

Christopher Daniels: Well, that stupid eye paint didn’t do a whole lot for his career, now did it? Daniels is stuck between a rock and a hard place. He will never break through the TNA glass ceiling. For those that argue the X division title is enough to elevate stars to the next level, look no further than Daniels as proof that you are an idiot. He could hold the belt for 20 years, and it won’t do shit for him in the 21st. Daniels is too good to be in Triple X, but not even considered to compete with the real TNA main eventers. A shame really.

Chris Harris: How did TNA miss the ball with this guy? Oh, the same way they did with Monty Brown? Take note Samoa Joe, because this is the road you are most likely headed down. Wrestling fans are fickle, and they can forget you quick. There was a time when the TNA faithful really wanted to see this guy break out. Now he is stuck in the worthless TNA midcard after being responsible for many of the companies best matches and feuds. His gimmick is that he’s a whiny bitch? What will that do for him? Like so many others, TNA missed the boat on making this guy into a star that people would want to see.

Havok: Who gives a crap about Havok?

Sonjay Dutt: Who gives a crap about Sonjay Dutt?

Lance Hoyt: Who gives a crap about Lance Hoyt?

Jimmy Rave: Who gives a crap about Jimmy Rave?

Shark Boy: Who gives a crap about Shark Boy?

Elix Skipper: Who gives a crap about Elix Skipper?

LAX: At one time the hottest tag team in all of wrestling, what are they now? Glorified job squad. Why are these guys getting beat by Lance Hoyt and Jimmy Rave? They should have the belts until there is a better team. Quite frankly, there isn’t. However, an LAX/Motorcity Machine Guns feud would be fun to watch. Can’t have that though can we?

VKM: These two frankly shouldn’t have jobs. I wanted a New Age Outlaws reunion as much as anyone, and these guys couldn’t have done more to make it any lamer. First The Outlaw changes his name so he can be some kind of butt buddy brother of ol’ BG, then they obsess over their past glory for year, and are made to look like total assholes. Are they heels or faces? I don’t know and I don’t care. They have no upside without the whole New Age Outlaws schtick. I’d rather here Road Dogg sing “With my baby tonight”

Kazarian: I’m all for elevating new guys, but Kaz? Seriously? Kaz? Kaz? I’m sorry, but I just can’t believe this. The dude leaves TNA for WWE, then leaves WWE cause he doesn’t want to cut his hair or some dumb shit like that. He’s in a weak-ass Raven stable, but then his character is so “strong” that he breaks out. Then he wins that pointless fight for your right tournament, and loses to Angle in the Impact Main Event. Did any of the fans pop for him? Did anyone really care when he lost? Would anyone honestly want Kaz as their World Champion? The guy has no personality, his character isn’t developed at all, and somehow he leapfrogs Christopher Daniels to this role. Frankly, TNA didn’t make a new star when they did all this for Kazarian. It was too much, too soon, for the wrong guy. Fans will continue to be underwhelmed by Kaz’s lame-o character, regardless of the fact that he can put out a decent match. Being “this close” to beating Kurt Angle on Impact for Kazarian is as good as being “this close” in horseshoes. It didn’t do half of what Shelton Benjamin’s wins over Triple H did for him years ago, and look where Shelton is now. This time next year, Kazarian will either be gone from TNA or in a shitty X Division tag team. You read it here first. People wanted to see Daniels, Joe, and Monty Brown break the glass ceiling. People didn’t want to see Kazarian do it.

Ron Killings: Every time this dude gets a rebirth, someone pulls the rug out from under him. He’s relatively worthless now that Booker T has arrived back in the Booker T character. I worry about Booker T, because frankly something smells racist down in TNA. Monty Brown should have held a World Title there, and Ron Killings should have kept his momentum as a main eventer. Makes me think Booker T will be wrestling Shark Boy on Xplosion in a year.

Kevin Nash and Scott Hall: No one likes to mark out for these guys more than me, but it’s a bit hard when Nash looks older than my grandpa, and Scott Hall is looking all bloated in his lame ICP t-shirt. Nash never seems to give a damn about TNA, and the same goes for many of the people that TNA brings in. Did Junior Fatu care? Enough to compare the company to WWE, and then call Robert Roode “Ravishing Rick Rude” and a Jabroni. Nash treats the most serious aspects of the show as though they were a joke. Die your hair and give a damn, or give up your spot. You were fine as backstage comic relief, but you are back as a main event wrestler now. Stomp making faces at the camera and act like it.

Raven: What left is there for Raven in TNA honestly? More contrived gimmick matches with Abyss and Rhino? He most certainly shouldn’t be a World Champion again. I think it’s time that Raven either resigns himself to being strictly a manager or just calls it a day. The same tired rehash of the dark characters storyline is really testing my patience. Rather than have a flock that follows Raven, Raven needs to serve as a true guide to someone with a half decent dark gimmick, and Raven has to teach him the ways of the dark.

Rellik: Cool mask, cool tights, cool that he jobbed on his first night. Oh wait, that last part is not cool. I am not trying to say that Johnny the Bull was going to make a ton of money in this role, but he sure had his legs cut out from under him. Teaming with Black Reign he can’t even beat Abyss. That sure gives you something to be excited about for the future. This is a huge problem in TNA. Right at the most critical points to give new talent wins, they job them out. It’s like they have the right idea right up until the finish. Hell, it’s amazing that Rellik had a chance to job on TNA without 50 dudes running in.

Rhino: Ah, that midcard slot is beginning to feel more comfortable isn’t it? There are many more familiar faces in it. TNA Rhino is a lame version of WWE Rhino is a lame version of ECW Rhino. This dude is just a shell of any former self and anything interesting. They keep magically finding stuff for him to do, but I actually kind of wish they’d stop.

Robert Roode: Here’s a guy they can’t find anything for. Roode has no title that he actually can contend for, so he is stuck in feud limbo. There are other guys with him. Chris Harris and James Storm for instance. Roode is not even considered for a spot in TNA main events, although fucking Kaz is. Roode is above the X title, so what can he do? Feud with his valet. Pathetic waste of talent. I’d love to see this dude show up on Raw and take the IC title right out of Jeff Hardy’s rainbow-stained hands.

Petey Williams: This one trick pony is tricked out. Every since turning babyface, it’s been all downhill for Mr. Williams. Too bad Team Canada isn’t still together to give you some purpose, eh Petey?

Eric Young: Pudgy Eric Young somehow made himself the most over babyface in the company, but TNA did a good job of teaming him with Shark Boy and putting a stop to all that. Way to go bookers.

Knockouts: Frankly there are two women in TNA that anyone cares about Traci Brooks because she is hot, and Awesome Kong because she is, well, awesome.Gail Kim may be a fantastic women’s wrestler, but she is boring. The rest of the Knockouts aren’t even really worth mentioning, unless I want to mention how beautiful Talia Madison (Velvet Sky) is. The problem with the division is that despite the fact that they are outwrestling the WWE divas by leaps and bounds, no one cares about the participants, because they all came in at once with no character development. There are fans who hate Melina and Beth Phoenix and love Maria and Mickie James. Maria can’t wrestle worth a lick, but she is probably a more valuable asset right now, unfortunately. TNA, if you are trying to push the division, push the components of it, not the division in its entirety.

Jeremy Borash, Don West, Mike Tenay: All three of you are terrible in your respective roles. Period.

TNA is supposed to serve as an alternative to the WWE, but it’s greatest miscue is that it’s the same damn show. You might as well call it fourth brand.So what is a wrestling company to do?

First off, trim the fat. A wrestling company with a 2 hour show once a week has no reason to have that large of a roster. Point blank Black Reign, Sonjay Dutt, Havok, Lance Hoyt, B.G. James, Kip James, Jimmy Rave, Raven, Rellik, Rhino, Shark Boy, Elix Skipper, Petey Williams, and Eric Young add nothing to your company at the moment. Most of them show little to no upside value either. Set them free.

A few weeks back I talked about wrestling’s current crop of free agents. TNA should be looking currently to get their hands on the following guys:

Mistico: Mexico’s biggest star could do good to get away from his home country. The overexposure of Mistico was brought to my attention by my colleauge Nikita Allenov. The guy is like a bigger Rey Mysterio, and he has some moves that are more impressive than old Rey Rey.

Rob Van Dam: The only legit main eventer that TNA can probably afford, because I know Big Show is gonna expect a giant paycheck. RVD chose to leave the WWE. If he is in the market for a lighter schedule when he decides to return, it would be a huge feather in TNA’s cap.

Giant Bernard: Say what you will, I was a huge mark for Doc and Gordy, and Tomko and Bernard are the closest we have to it now. I wouldn’t mind seeing Tomko turn on AJ, AJ become a babyface again, and team with Christopher Daniels against the monster IWGP tag team champions. It books itself, and I bet the matches would be awesome.
Vampiro: If they want to insist on running the same damn storyline with Sting, Abyss, Raven, and whoever else, bring this guy in to do it. Make Vampiro so dark that he kills off the lesser characters involved, until only he, Sting, and Abyss remain.

Bring back the Bashams. For the love of God, you think Hoyt and Rave are better than Doug Basham? I will apparantely have to go to my grave insisting that these two guys were better than anything they ever got from any promotion other than OVW. Release Hoyt, Rave, and Hemme, and let these two tear up in tag matches with LAX. It’s a simple formula.

The Sandman: Novelty character? Sure. But Sandman was over when he was released from WWE, and TNA should milk everything they can get out of that. Keep the same cuffs on the Sandman that the WWE had on him, but give him a cover of Enter Sandman as his music, and you have an insanely over midcarder.

Cryme Tyme: Here we go. The hate mail cometh. How dare I say bad things about Kaz and put over these two? Well, easy. These two got over. The Cryme Tyme name was retarded, so these are two guys that TNA can actually look good by signing, because instead of a crappy rehash, they can do better. TNA is the only place where tag team wrestling lives, so let it live. TNA wants to be an alternative? How about Shad and JTG cut shoot-style promos about how they were forced by racists to portray a negative stereotype.

As long as we are talking tag teams, what if La Resistance returned as a three-man stable. Dupree and Grenier as the tag team, Conway as the singles wrestler. What if they feuded with a revamped LAX, with Homicide and Senshi as the tag team, and Hernandez as the break out singles star? Hmmm…

While we are on the subject of revamping TNA, get rid of the X division. This is controversial, I know. Months ago, I was arguing for them to keep it. Why? It is what gave them an identity as being separate from the WWE. Now, it is just the same as the WWE cruiserweight division. You still have Daniels, Lethal, Homicide, Senshi, AJ, and others who can work the X style; you just don’t need a specific belt for them. All the dudes we cared about have moved past it: Daniels, Styles, Sabin, Shelley… Who is left? Dutt, Shark Boy…

Keep Black Machismo under contract, but make him compete at a higher level. Why? Because you have Robert Roode, Chris Harris, James Storm, Rhino, Ron Killings, Kazarian, Christian, and others with nothing to do while guys like Angle and Sting keep the World Title warm.

Roode, Daniels, Harris, and others have not been able to be properly elevated because of the lack of a secondary title. Remember how Bret Hart, Mr. Perfect, and Shawn Michaels were elevated through the Intercontinental title. Frankly, this would be more valuable to TNA right now than an X division title belt. Former champions can then move into the main event and be accepted properly. Guys like Roode need some type of purpose, other than getting into pointless feud after pointless feud forever and ever.

Another thing: Stop booking change for the sake of change. Heel LAX, AMW, and Team Canada were the best things you ever did to make new stars. Now the Team Canada guys are all floundering. Notice how WWE split the Spirit Squad and kept the one stand out? You needed to break Roode off from the group, and leave the rest in tact. You also shouldn’t have cut the legs out of LAX and jobbed them out each week, as they were the hottest stars in your company that weren’t from the old WCW or WWE. AMW might have run its course, but there is no point breaking them up if you are not going to push either member. They put on a fantastic feud with one another, and get rewarded by having nothing left to do afterwards. Since you decided to break them up, at least one of them should be better off now than they were then.

Just because TNA sneaks in one good match in between hours and hours of total bullcrap, don’t let yourself be convinced that it’s this awesome alternative product. The storylines are nonsensical, the promos are self-serving, and most of the characters are floating in purgatory with nothing to do.

Here’s some mail on Last Week’s Article:

Jadd Naamani offered the following on a Legends of Wrestling game:
Just wanted to commend you on your legends list for a hypothetical Smackdown Vs Raw 2008 roster. I actually posted a message on one of the SvR 08 message boards talking about how they should make a game full of legends (better than Legends of Wrestling that came out before – that franchise sucked), and we named a lot of the same legends to appear. Here’s the post I had:

I've been pretty happy with the Legends in the last 2 SvR games, but I was thinking...it'd be SICK if someone created a game with old school wrestlers (and yes I know they had Legends of Wrestling 1&2, but they both sucked and you know it).

But put in other wrestlers than the usual Hogan/Rock/Austin/Foley deal.

How bout Arn Anderson, the surfer Sting, Vader, Ron Simmons, Magnum TA, Ted DiBiase, IRS, OWEN HART, British Bulldog, Yokozuna, Lex Luger, Barry Windham, Psycho Sid, Diesel, Razor, The Rockers, LOD, Tracey Smothers and that dude he teamed with, The Fabulous Freebirds, Tully Blanchard, Warrior, Rock n Roll Express, Ricky Steamboat, Dustin Rhodes (before Golddust/Reign), BRIAN PILLMAN (or the Hollywood Blondes)

I'm talking wrestlers from back in the hay-day of wrestling. The old school people we loved to watch and loved to hate -- now THAT'S a game I would TOTALLY buy.
Just found it remotely cool that I thought of a list that was similar to a 411 writer.


Jeremy Addison clarified the Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 Roster

Yo dude,

A good column as always. Just wanted to give you a few facts on SVR 2008. I picked it up last night.

Your dream roster?
1. Shelton Benjamin-NO
2. Lance Cade-NO
3. Carlito-YES
4. Charlie Haas-NO
5. Jeff Hardy-YES
6. Brian Kendrick-NO
7. Mr. Kennedy-YES
8. Santino Marella-NO
9. Paul London-NO
10. Shawn Michael-YES
11. Trevor Murdoch-NO
12. Randy Orton-YES
13. Cody Rhodes-NO
14. Snitsky-YES
15. Triple H-YES
16. Umaga-YES
17. Chris Jericho (Unlockable)-NO
18. John Cena-YES
19. Bobby Lashley-YES
20. DH Smith-NO
21. Val Venis -NO
22. Batista-YES
23. Deuce-NO
24. Domino-NO
25. Kenny Dykstra-YES
26. Finlay-YES
27. The Great Khali-YES
28. Matt Hardy-YES
29. Mark Henry -YES
30. Kane-YES
31. Rey Mysterio-YES
32. Jamie Noble-NO
33. Chuck Palumbo-NO
34. MVP-YES
35. The Undertaker-YES
36. Jimmy Wang Yang-NO
37. Edge-YES
38. Ric Flair-YES
39. Chavo Guerrero-YES
40. Gregory Helms -YES
41. Big Daddy V-NO
42. Elijah Burke-YES
43. CM Punk-YES
44. Tommy Dreamer-YES
45. John Morrison-YES but he is still Johnny Nitro
46. The Miz-NO
47. The Boogeyman-SORRY CAN’T REMEMBER
48. Stevie Richards-NO
49. Matt Striker-NO
50. Kevin Thorn -NO

Notable New Legends:
Terry Funk
Sabu

Hope this doesn’t dissuade you from buying the game. The graphics are top notch and there are several new interesting features. My only initial disappointment was that during the career mode there are only 19 selectable wrestlers you can use.
Peace


It doesn’t dissuade me at all Jeremy. I didn’t expect what I wrote to be on the game. I just thought it would be a sweet roster.

Watch the Bashams on Velocity:



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Monday, November 26, 2007

For Lack of a More Creative Title: My Thoughts on Survivor Series

I went to a local sports bar last Sunday to check out Survivor Series. This was the first Pay Per View I had actually watched since Wrestlemania, not counting a couple of post-WM PPVs that they showed on WWE 24/7. My expectations going into the show were pretty low and there wasn't really one match that I felt that I was really watching the PPV for (the last time that happened was the advertised Punk/Benoit match, and we all know how THAT turned out.) Regardless, I was looking forward to it because it was Survivor Series, and because it was one of the "Big Four" Events of the year.

Three hours later, I would be very surprised at how much I enjoyed it, considering how disappointed I was with some of the previous PPVs I saw. As the show opened, I groaned at the fact that the ECW Title match was starting off the show… again. However, by the time it had ended I was more appreciative of the match that just took place, and even more appreciative of the decision to have it start the show. I was reminded at that time of a booking philosophy that a good friend of mine had... put the best match on paper (with the babyface going over) as the opener, regardless of its importance, to get the crowd hot and set the tone for the rest of the show. It certainly worked here, especially since a lot of people were expecting Punk to drop the belt back to Morrison. On a side note, with Punk surviving this match, the ECW/SD merger, and Morrison/Miz now Smackdown's Tag Champs, this should be a great opportunity for Punk to start a fresh new title program with someone from the Smackdown brand. My initial thought of a perfect candidate for this was Finlay, but later in the night those thoughts would seem to be fizzled out…

Next up was the Womens tag match. I won't complain because this was actually one match I had on my Survivor Series wishlist. Not because I was interested in seeing eye candy or because I thought it would be a blockbuster match, but because it made more sense booking-wise at this event than a Singles Match for the Womens Title. I don't think they could have done a better job with this (again, booking-wise) as each girl got to do their thing, it helped put over Mickie on her way to challenging Beth Phoenix for the Womens Title, and it didn't hurt Phoenix's credibility as Champion. It didn't drag out too long and it wasn't too short to lose it's meaning. I should mention, however, that Melina falling off of the ring apron during her entrance caused the bar to explode for their 2nd biggest pop of the night.

*Note* Apparently there was a nip slip courtesy of Michelle McCool in this match that I totally missed. Damnit...

The Tag Team Title Match was what it was. I would have rather seen Cade and Murdoch vs London and Kendrick, but this was something fresh that they hadn't put on a PPV already. The match was fine, but I don't Trevor Murdoch's version of the Code Red should be done by someone the size of Trevor Murdoch. I'm sorry, but it just doesn't look right. Trevor, either please go back to your trusty old Bulldog or just let Cade do his sweet sitout spinebuster (Note: I'm totally stealling that move.)

If anything, this is what I was anticipating the most… the Traditional Survivor Series Match. Why they couldn't give some other deserving babyface a PPV Payday by subbing them in place of Matt Hardy was beyond me. The match was pretty entertaining overall and I was actually quite surprised by the outcome. Perhaps this is the first step towards pushing Jeff Hardy as a legitimate Main Eventer and World Title Contender. Triple H's save for Hardy the next night on Raw helped solidify the fact that they're taking a step in the right direction by having one of the top stars giving a younger guy the rub.

I wasn't expecting much with Hornswoggle/The Great Khali, as I knew it was going to be a throwaway match. I actually found it pretty entertaining, and was rather surprised by the Finlay run in/save. I must admit, I think Finlay would make a pretty badass babyface. If anyone can carry Khali to a good match, it just might be him. I'm interested to see how this one develops.

Orton/Michaels was terrific. They told a great story with the stipulations, and the bar I was in ERUPTED when Michaels locked on that Crippler Crossface. I'm not sure if enough time has passed in the WWE's eyes, but maybe this will be the start of not trying to rewrite history by not mentioning He Who Shall Not Be Named.

Undertaker/Batista was good, but by that time I was burned out from sitting through a 3 hour Football game and 3 hour Wrestling show, and I just didn't care. The booking of the finish was pretty nice, with Edge getting involved, although I found it kind of odd that he singled out the Undertaker and NOT Batista. Perhaps laying them both out and letting the match go to a non-finish would have been the best thing to do given the match that's booked for Smackdown this week, but then again, what MORE could he have done to Batista at that point?

Now a week out of the PPV, there are several interesting storylines developed to carry us over until the Royal Rumble when the push for Wrestlemania really begins. On Raw there's the Hardy/HHH relationship and Y2J/Orton to look forward to. On Smackdown, there's the continued push of Jaime Noble and an interesting Main Event scene involving Batista, Edge, and The Undertaker. In the land of Extreme, you have the newly drafted Shelton Benjamin and repackaged Kevin Thorn as possible feuds for CM Punk. Things are starting to look positive for WWE, as they're freshening up their product a bit and making things appealing again.
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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Time to Play the Game

I've been playing a lot of Smackdown vs. Raw 2007 lately. I run raw in General Manager mode. One of my struggles is to keep my roster up-to-date with WWE's current offering. I don't go through the trouble of creating guys that aren't there, but I do release guys that the WWE has actually released. The reason that this is a struggle is because anyone who is not on your brand is not yours to release and make unavailable. I have done a pretty good job however. Currently the only active wrestler on the game who has been released in real life is the recently released Chris Masters.

I assume that when WrestleMania occurs for the umpteenth time, I can acquire him and send him back to whence he came. I just completed another Royal Rumble. The Great Khali picked up the victory, but rather than beating 29 other men, he defeated 26. Why? Well, with WWE releasing so many guys in the past year, There just aren't enough guys to fill out the Rumble.

Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 came out yesterday, and as of this writing, I do not own it. The only thing I know for sure is that in the time between the last game and this one, WWE has gotten rid of a number of their SvR 2007 roster members. Aren't these guys supposed to be the cream of WWE's crop?

Well, if that's true, WWE should be in a lot worse shape than they are now. After all, these aren't just the scrubs that are no longer there. Former World Champions like Big Show, Booker T, Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle, and Rob Van Dam are among those who have departed since the last edition of the popular game. I would add JBL and Mick Foley to those names. JBL is no longer an active wrestler, and while I question Foley's addition as a regular roster member last year, it is without doubt that he hasn't stepped in the ring for a match anytime recently.

William Regal is another superstar who like JBL has strong WWE ties, but no longer serves a regular active in-ring role.

After these guys the biggest releases come from the Women's division. It's nothing impressive to be a former Women's Champion. Almost every WWE diva can lay claim to that title. Not every diva can claim to be Trish Stratus or Lita however. These two women revolutionized WWE women's wrestling.

The rest of the releases are made up of a lot of guys who frankly never really would have meant much. The only member of the list that I could have ever imagined with a World Title reign would have been Chris Masters. Unfortunately, he was unable to deal with the pressures of his gimmick in relation to the WWE Wellness Policy.

The other guys who have left WWE television include Daivari, Joey Mercury, Kid Kash, Paul Burchill, Psicosis, and Vito.

With rumors that Carlito may be the next on his way out the door, the prospects of me filling a Royal Rumble ring on SvR 2007 looks even bleaker.

The outlook for SvR 2008 isn't much better. Chris Masters, King Booker, JTG, Marquis Cor Von, The Sandman, Shad and Sabu have already been released and the game just came out. Again, William Regal is serving in a non-wrestling role. Who knows who will still be around by the 2009 edition? By the time I pick it up for Christmas, I may already be unable to have a true Royal Rumble.

That's ok with me though. I have a ways to go with Smackdown vs. Raw 07. After all, my video game is about the only place in wrestling that can boast a hot tag team division. DX, The Brothers of Destruction, Finlay and Regal, and Cade and Murdoch aren't too shabby. Add occasional appearances from Rated-RKO, Umaga and the Great Khali, and John Cena and Batista, and you'd swear it was 1989 when it comes to the depth of tag teams who are actually over.

For those who are curious, my full roster currently consists of Batista, Edge, Finlay, Khali, Cena, Nitro and Melina, Kane, Ken Kennedy, Lance Cade, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Shelton Benjamin, Trevor Murdoch, Triple H, Umaga, The Undertaker, and William Regal. Yeah, I know. I'm stacked!

So if the World were perfect and WWE released Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 tommorow, who should be on the active roster?

Last years game included 44 active wrestlers. Assuming that the game is continually getting better, let's add six.

1. Shelton Benjamin
2. Lance Cade
3. Carlito
4. Charlie Haas
5. Jeff Hardy
6. Brian Kendrick
7. Mr. Kennedy
8. Santino Marella
9. Paul London
10. Shawn Michaels
11. Trevor Murdoch
12. Randy Orton
13. Cody Rhodes
14. Snitsky
15. Triple H
16. Umaga
17. Chris Jericho (Unlockable)
18. John Cena
19. Bobby Lashley
20. DH Smith
21. Val Venis
22. Batista
23. Deuce
24. Domino
25. Kenny Dykstra
26. Finlay
27. The Great Khali
28. Matt Hardy
29. Mark Henry
30. Kane
31. Rey Mysterio
32. Jamie Noble
33. Chuck Palumbo
34. MVP
35. The Undertaker
36. Jimmy Wang Yang
37. Edge
38. Ric Flair
39. Chavo Guerrero
40. Gregory Helms
41. Big Daddy V
42. Elijah Burke
43. CM Punk
44. Tommy Dreamer
45. John Morrison
46. The Miz
47. The Boogeyman
48. Stevie Richards
49. Matt Striker
50. Kevin Thorn

The last game included seven divas. If we can get the number up to ten, WWE should include:

1. Jillian Hall
2. Mickie James
3. Maria
4. Melina
5. Beth Phoenix
6. Candice Michelle
7. Michelle McCool
8. Victoria
9. Torrie Wilson
10. Kelly Kelly

The last game included 16 legends. Let's bump to 20:

1. Hulk Hogan
2. Randy Savage
3. Bret Hart
4. Steve Austin
5. The Rock
6. Arn Anderson
7. Ricky Steamboat
8. Ted Dibiase
9. Barry Windham
10. Andre the Giant
11. The Ultimate Warrior
12. Jake "The Snake" Roberts
13. Vader
14. Yokozuna
15. Mr. Perfect
16. Ax
17. Smash
18. Sid
19. Owen Hart
20. Razor Ramon












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Monday, November 19, 2007

Exclusive Video of the Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla!

Chris Jericho returns to the WWE tonight, and we have rare footage of the Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla!





P.S. This is the greatest video ever!

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Time is Now

There is a newsfeed on our blog that keeps me up to date on the latest happenings in professional wrestling. One interesting article I came across speculated on the effect that the Hollywood writers strike would have on the WWE.

The writer speculated that the NBC network might turn to the WWE for additional programming to make up for the loss of The Tonight Show, Saturday Night Live, and others.

At the same time I thought that if this model proved successful, CBS might look into their affiliate network Spike TV about TNA programming.



If the strike lasts as long as projected, the WWE and TNA may receive major outlets for their programming. The question of whether or not the negative stigma related to the Chris Benoit murders and the related steroid probes will prevent networks and advertisers from looking towards professional wrestling is valid.

Let's assume however that the WWE actually does have the opportunity to benefit from added television time. Can WWE bring the goods?

Over the summer, Linda McMahon stated during a conference call that professional wrestling was about to hit another boom period. Since that announcement, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Rey Mysterio, and Ken Kennedy have returned from injuries.

Also since that time, Rob Van Dam and Booker T have left the company, and Bobby Lashley and John Cena have gone down to injury. So the question is, is the WWE in better or worse position than they were six months ago?

The answer is better, and the reason for that all looms on the horizon. If WWE is able to get three slots of network television time, they have three major events guaranteed to occur. The eagerly anticipated returns of Edge, Ric Flair, and Chris Jericho are all slated to occur sometime in the near future, and the timing could not be more perfect.

An interesting proposition would see classic wrestling as an option during this time. This is an interesting concept, indeed. The suggestion of the very best of Raw from the 1990's being available may overshadow today's product, or it could alternatively light a fire under WWE creative and remind the casual fan of what they enjoyed so much in the past.

I must admit I am not always the biggest "Stone Cold" Steve Austin fan. I think he was a better worker before he adopted the Stone Cold persona, and at times his act has grown tired to me. Still, during his confrontation with Santino Marella on Monday Night, all I could feel was magic, and I wished to myself that Austin had the ability to wrestle again.

Some critics are suggesting that Santino Marella's fantastic mic work over the past several weeks was all for naught because of the Austin confrontation. I couldn't disagree more.

Santino Marella has established himself as one of the most entertaining characters on Raw. A beer-spraying hose cannot wash that away. Just the opportunity for Santino to work with Austin elevates him. So what if Austin got a kick-wham-stunner on him. Who hasn't Austin done that too? The point is, Marella got under Austin's skin enough to bring Austin back to a WWE ring to confront him, and when Austin stood face to face with him, he was true to his convictions and never backed down.

Now Marella is positioned fantastically as the perfect antagonist to a returning Chris Jericho, and fans understand that the potential for classic mic work is outstanding. Marella doesn't have the character to be a main event caliber wrestler yet. However, as the green wears off and his comedy runs its course, he is going to be a very hot commodity as a serious title contender.

All Santino's program with Austin did was elevate him to bigger and better things. What if next week Santino was fuming about being embarrassed by Austin the week before? In a fit of rage, Marella announces that he is issuing and open challenge to anyone under a WWE contract for a match at the Survivor Series. All of the sudden, the countdown is on!

Another can't miss storylines for fans old enough to remember the good old days involves the return of "Nature Boy" Ric Flair. Since his WWE wrestling debut, fans have clamored for the storyline that sees Flair donning the big gold belt one more time.

While Flair currently seems far from the title picture on any brand, it will not take long to convince fans that Flair is ready and able for one last hurrah. Flair's return should see him gain convincing victories over major superstars and at the same time reestablish the figure-four leglock.

For those worried about Flair going over younger talent who are the future of the company, I would first suggest remembering how many guys Flair has attempted to help put over (although attempts with Kenny Dykstra and Carlito weren't all that successful). In professional wrestling, losing to Ric Flair is certainly not the type of thing that a wrestler will be unable to overcome in the future. If done right, A Flair for the Gold will convince anyone that Flair has the ability simply because of how bad he wants his final day in the sun.

How would I suggest they position Flair for his title shot? The same way they positioned him for the title during his first WWE run. Imagine the underdog Flair defeating 29 younger superstars at the Royal Rumble and choosing his own destiny at WrestleMania.

The current World Heavyweight Title picture is irrelevant, as WrestleMania is months away. Say the Undertaker defeats Batista at the Survivor Series and is positioned for a World Title Match with Edge at the Rumble. This is the perfect time for Batista to cost the Undertaker the belt and turn heel, as his babyface character has grown tired to many anyways. The Rumble can come down to Batista and Flair, who have a hell of a back-story of their own, and Taker can return the favor. Now you have two hot Smackdown main event matches. Perhaps and interesting twist would see Edge recruit his own pseudo-horsemen in the months leading up to WrestleMania. Arn Anderson would insist on helping Flair in his battles, but Flair would insist that this time he has to do it alone, and Arn would be left to struggle with respecting Flair's wishes and being the enforcer. He would reconcile those differences when he meets Flair in the ring to hug him and celebrate his title victory.

Flair would drop the belt the next month, most likely in a return match with Edge, but a unique and incredible WrestleMania moment was made, and Flair can retire with his legacy in tact.

The main problem I see is that outside of these returns, there is not a lot in the immediate future to look forward to on Raw. The Triple H-Umaga program has pretty much run its course twice now, yet it is still going on. The Randy Orton-Shawn Michaels program has no happy ending, as Michaels should not be regaining the belt right now, but he certainly needs to get his heat back from Orton kicking a field goal with his face and putting him out of action. So how does the Raw brand create exciting television outside of the return of Chris Jericho?

Well, one interesting prospect would involve the return of another major attitude-era superstar. If the WWE is looking to recapture the casual fan from the late 1990's, who better to bring back than The Rock. Now I know this seems a bit of a stretch, but with a major writer's strike in Hollywood, Rock's Saturday Night Live appearance has already been cancelled, and plans for any major movies he might have done could be on hold.

I would not suggest that Dwayne Johnson return in an active wrestling role for many reasons. He is not in wrestling shape. The risk of injury is high and unnecessary for him to take. Still, the Rock appearing and electrifying live crowds in a general manager role, bantering with Chris Jericho, Santino Marella, William Regal, Ron Simmons, and others is the recipe for good WWE television. I would think it a lot more doubtful had not the Rock appeared prior to WrestleMania to suggest that Umaga is Samoan for shriveled-up monkey penis.

To follow the momentum of events like Ric Flair, Edge, Chris Jericho, or even the Rock's return, you need to really establish your current and future guys as stars. That means having Cody Rhodes serving as Hardcore Holly's bitch is not going to cut it. That means having Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas jobbing to a makeshift tag team that no one cares about like Super Crazy and Jim Duggan is not going to cut it. That means having Snitsky, as a featured part of Raw, defeating jobbers in 30 seconds with a stupid pumphandle slam is simply not going to cut it.

For the love of God, if the WWE does get this opportunity and intends to take advantage of it CM Punk, Jeff Hardy, Mr. Kennedy, Umaga, Finlay, Matt Hardy, and MVP better come out the other side as huge stars.

If I had it my way, Shelton Benjamin, Lance Cade, Santino Marella, Val Venis, Jamie Noble, Elijah Burke, Beth Phoenix, and Victoria would be right there with them. What is it going to take for the WWE to write some good TV for these guys? With their look, charisma, and ability, it should be easy to get them over. Hell, the fact that they aren't over is blasphemous. Here is an analogy: If I was ever going to get an F in elementary school, I was going to have to try for it. Just showing up writing my name on the paper and taking the test would likely get me a C, even if I hadn't done any work prior. When it comes to these talents, WWE creative is getting an F… in elementary school… because you have to be trying to do THAT badly.

At any hot point in professional wrestling, you have great storylines in the main event and a hot exciting midcard full of guys you can see one day wearing the heavyweight title. Just because John Cena is sitting at home rehabbing a pectoral muscle doesn't mean that his theme music has no resonance in today's WWE landscape. If you work in the WWE offices, give a listen. Your time is up. The time is now!

If done correctly, this could be a hot as hell ECW World Title Match at WrestleMania 24:



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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Jericho Debuts... In My Mailbox

Today when I opened my mailbox, the biggest angle of 2007 layed inside. I wouldn't call it a spoiler, because it only confirmed what we already knew. Chris Jericho has returned to the WWE.

In the magazine he cites John Cena and Shawn Michaels as reasons he wanted to return. He also mentions wrestling at Lance Storm's Academy to shake off the ring rust, as well as having a new finisher which did not debut in my mailbox.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Weight Classes Could Help Drug Problem in Wrestling

When you turn on the television to watch wrestling, what do you see? Big beefy bodies usually. Tall, muscular heavyweight wrestlers are the rule of thumb in wrestling, for a variety of reasons.

I do not think the average person understands how difficult it is for a person to weigh in over 200 lbs. on a six foot frame and have a low body fat percentage. There is a reason that people that have body types like that are on the covers of magazines and can make good money with such a physique - it is not common. And, while having the talent to become a WWE star is not common either, proficiency at a sport does not necessarily require the physique of a Greek god.

Look at the sport of football. Big beefy offensive linemen are often promoted as being complete pigs because of their physique. Hell, football players like Mike Golic have even made careers after their playing days on the idea that linemen are eating machines. I’m sure everyone has heard a story about a local pro, college, or even high school team’s linemen going to some kind of buffet and being asked to leave after eating plate upon plate of food. In the NFL, these guys are athletes of the highest magnitude, and weigh an average of 285 lbs.

I ask you to take a look at your favorite NFL team next Sunday. How many of those players look as “ripped” as the WWE wrestlers? How many of them are built like bodybuilders? These guys are of the same height and weight as required by the WWE and are some of the highest paid athletes on the planet. They are required to be in the best possible physical condition to compete at the highest level of their sport.
Not to look like they are in the top condition to compete at the highest level.

According to people that I have spoken to that have been to places like OVW, or that have been scouted by Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., the only major wrestling promotion in the United States is not interested in any wrestlers who are under 250 pounds, and under 6’2” tall. In addition to those minimum requirements, they expect their wrestlers to have “the look”. “The Look” is a catch-all term meaning “the look of a bodybuilder”.

Chris Masters is a great example of this. This is a guy that, from the outside looking in, was not a great wrestler. The WWE even promoted him as having the body of a Greek god – thus he was branded “The Masterpiece”. Outside pressures (such as wrestlers dying and/or murdering their families) forced the WWE to start testing its competitors for steroids and other performance enhancing drugs and illegal narcotics such as marijuana. Suddenly, Masters found himself suspended. Then, he was ridiculed on television for losing weight while not taking the banned substances. It should be no surprise then that he failed another test, and was suspended again shortly after gaining most of his muscle mass back.

Last week, Masters was suspended yet again, and then released. No where did we hear any reports about McMahon or the WWE putting Masters into a drug counseling program, or the FBI or ATF questioning him about where he was getting these substances. This kid was chewed up and spit out by the WWE machine simply because he had “the look” and they required him to maintain this look. Afterall, wrestling skill was not important.

I am willing to bet that there are about 25 wrestlers who had a fair amount of publicity and reputation that, if they had debuted in the WWE in 2005, could have gained a fan following and drawn more money for the company than Masters. But, they were not winners of amateur bodybuilding contests like Masters. Nor were they all over six feet tall.

Simply put, the WWE does not hire the best wrestlers in the world; they hire people who look like models. Alex Rodriguez is poised to become the highest paid athlete in the planet, and I guarantee that not one team that is thinking of signing him has debated whether or not he has “the look” of a baseball player. No, A-Rod can prove all he needs to with a look at his stats. If he looks nice in his underwear, maybe he can pick up modeling work endorsing… underwear. Charles Barkley was always known as the “Round Mound of Rebound” because he was pudgy. Barkley also was a multiple time all-star and is on his way to the hall of fame because he could play basketball. Not because he had six pack abs.

So, why is having “the look” so important in wrestling? A look that, simply put, is not natural.

According to the American Heart Lung and Blood Institute, a person who is 6’2” and 250 lbs is obese. A person of that size would have a Body Mass Index of 32.1 – 2.1 points over the obesity threshold. While the ignorant masses watching RAW every Monday may look at stars such as John Cena and think that this is what an athlete is supposed to look like, it is actually the exact opposite. Looking like what the WWE wants is unhealthy.

I think there is a simple solution to all of this: weight classes.

The hottest fighting sport in the world right now is the Ultimate Fighting Championships. UFC is destroying the WWE when it comes to pay-per-view. UFC PPV events average about 400,000 buys – and they now take place on a monthly basis. While they may not generate the television revenue that WWE does, UFC sells nearly double what WWE does on PPV. When you ask people to name UFC stars they will often name Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Quinton Jackson, Rich Franklin, and Ken Shamrock. Except for Couture, none of those men fight as heavyweights for UFC. And Couture has fought most of his career as both a heavyweight, and a light heavyweight.

So, if no one wants to see average size people fight, why is UFC destroying WWE at the PPV box office? While there are a variety of factors why UFC may be a booming business, my argument is that the size of the competitor is not one of them.

Vince McMahon and people of his same train of thought will tell you that people will not pay to see “small” wrestlers because they want to be entertained by “larger than life characters”. That mentality comes from the fact that for years, the most prestigious title in all of sports was the Heavyweight Champion of the World. In Boxing. Why was it prestigious? Because the heavyweight division had characters like John L. Sullivan, Jack Johnson, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, and many, many more. These were all first class athletes, sure. They also were first class personalities. Guys like Jerry Cooney may have been good fighters, but they had no personality, so they were not stars. Roy Jones, Ray Leonard, Shane Mosley, Oscar de la Hoya – these guys are stars too because they had personality – despite not being heavyweights.

The WWE machine is about creating and branding a “personality”, rather than letting an athlete’s real personality shine thru. The territory days and the studio style of promo have gone away in favor of the WWE telling someone what their personality is. The WWE does not sign the best personalities it can find, they go for the bodies that define what wrestling should be to Vince McMahon.

What UFC has done is find a formula for promoting the personalities of their fighters in a way the WWE no longer does. UFC has press conferences, interviews with legitimate media outlets, and lets their fighters be themselves on their television shows such as “The Ultimate Fighter”. UFC has promoted their heavyweights as hard hitting and their smaller fighters as quick and exciting. Guys weighing in at 170lbs and standing 6’5” is not as uncommon as you might think. Heavyweights weighing in at 265 lbs and not having ripped six pack abs are the norm. Hell, guys like Chuck Liddell even get over with the fans because their bodies are more like a “working man”. UFC shows the monster eight hour workouts that guys like Tito Ortiz put themselves thru – and you see that Ortiz isn’t as ripped as Chris Masters. Ortiz trains to fight. Vince McMahon seems to have forgotten that is what is supposed to be going on in the ring – a fight.

“Weight Class” is a dirty phrase in wrestling. Everyone wants to be heavyweight champ, not a “junior” champ. Well, at least in the United States. Other than when WCW promoted the Cruiserweight Division in the late 1990’s, no major promotion in the US has given non-heavyweights a forum to get over a different style of ring work. In Japan, maybe you could debate if it was more prestigious to be the IWGP Heavyweight or Junior Heavyweight Champion in New Japan. In Mexico, the most prestigious championships are the CMLL and NWA Light Heavyweight Championships. In UFC, the division where the big money marquee matches are is the Light Heavyweight. Two guys under 200 lbs. fighting for a title can draw 20,000 paying fans to an arena in Japan, Mexico, and the US – but not for the WWE. Or so says Vince McMahon.

Currently, the WWE has three different heavyweight championships. They have zero singles championships for non-heavyweights (or did you not notice that the Cruiserweight Championship disappeared after Hornswaggle won it?). Is it even at all possible to conceive that there are not enough wrestlers out there less than 200 lbs. for the largest wrestling company in the world to put together a division for them, but they have so many good heavyweights that they put together three different divisions for them?

Maybe the WWE product would become less stale, fewer wrestlers would die, and ratings and buyrates would increase if the WWE actually promoted wrestling by athletes instead of crappy acting by bodybuilders.
Here is what the WWE could do:

  • Hold a tournament to merge the Raw, Smackdown and ECW Heavyweight titles, as well as the US and Intercontinental titles. The winner would be the only heavyweight holding a singles title in the WWE. Plenty of room in this division for guys like HHH, Batista, Undertaker, Mark Henry, Khali, Randy Orton, Bobby Lashley, Ken Kennedy, John Cena, and others.
  • Hold a sixteen man cruiserweight tournament, with the winner getting the revived Cruiserweight Championship. This would only be for wrestlers who weigh less than 200 lbs., such as Super Crazzy, Matt Hardy, Shawn Michaels, Carlito Colon, Cody Rhodes, Chavito Guerrero, Montel Porter, Greg Helms, Elijah Burke, Stevie Richards, and Edge.
  • Introduce a “Welterweight” Championship for wrestlers weighing less than 175lbsWrestlers such as Shannon Moore, Rey Misterio, Jr., Jimmy Yang, Jeff Hardy, Spanky Kendick, Paul London, CM Punk, The Miz, and John Morrison could compete in this division.

    I’m not even going to get into tag teams, as that could be another topic completely (Hmmm… next week’s blog topic?!?), but you cannot tell me that the prospect of a card with three big title matches consisting of Batista/Undertaker, Hardy/MVP and Morrison/Punk would draw worse then anything they do now – because that is the same damn thing they are pushing now.

    The difference is that by introducing titles for different weight classes, you keep wrestlers healthy, and you have to bring something to that weight class to get a shot in the first place. Bigger isn’t always better.

    Just ask Chris Masters.


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  • Don't Miss CNN's Death Grip

    Tonight I plan on watching the presentation from CNN Special Investigations Unit, "Death Grip - Inside Pro Wrestling."

    Death Grip is a look at the professional wrestling industry and what has become of it. Analysis of the increase in deaths by various causes is what they will focus on.

    This is a replay of the event, tonight (Saturday, November 10th). A good friend of mine caught this show when it originally aired on Tuesday night and he highly recommended it.

    Check out the rundown of the show at this link. Looks like the McMahons have quite a bit to say on the topic. Come back to the Pundit and let us know what you think after you watch the show.

    -NAPALM-

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    Chyna Changes her Name, Challenges Vince

    Joanie Laurer, former WWE wrestler turned porn star, turned train wreck, has legally changed her name and is now looking to change Vince McMahon's face.

    The lady who at one time was the women's champion of the WWE, has also challenged Vince McMahon to a one-time match.

    She claims the challenge has to do with the way she has been treated by Vince the last 8 years, although I could not find any reports of mistreatment towards her on Vince's part.

    I hope this move turns out to be a positive thing for Chyna, now that she can legally call herself that without worry of legal pressure from Vince. Since her departure from the WWE, it has been a consistent down slide featuring drug abuse, bad relationships and desperate attempts for attention. This is truly just her latest attempt for that attention she seems to deserve, but hopefully, it will be enough of an internal victory that she can begin to move on and continue to rebuild her livelihood.

    Check out the interview on TMZ.com, Here.

    -NAPALM-

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    Friday, November 09, 2007

    ECWA Super 8 Injury; Surprise Entrant?

    The ECWA site is reporting that "MDOGG" Matt Cross suffered an injury that will leave him unable to compete in the annual Super 8 tournament in Newark, Delaware scheduled for November 10.

    Cross is now officially being replaced by TNA's Sonjay Dutt, who will join Jerry Lynn, Rob Conway, Billy Bax, Rob Eckos, Matt Logan, Human Tornado, and Brian Fury in the tournament.

    Whoever wins Super 8 stands to get a lot of exposure, as past Super 8 competitors has read like a "Who's Who" of up and coming stars over the years, including: Simon Diamond, Devon Storm, Reckless Youth, Scott "2 Hotty" Taylor, Mike Quackenbush, Matt and Jeff Hardy, Christian York, Christopher Daniels, Low Ki (Senshi), Bryan Danielson, Brian Kendrick, Paul London, A.J. Styles, Robert Roode, Matt Stryker, Frank Kazarian, Chris Sabin, Roderick Strong, Psichosis, Austin Aries, Daivari, Petey Williams, Alex Shelley, and Charlie Haas.

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    Monday, November 05, 2007

    Jericho Returning to WWE? Not So Fast...

    I know that many wrestling fans are interested in learning of the plans for Chris Jericho in the WWE, so I couldn’t wait to make this post on the Pro Wrestling Pundit.

    If the “Save Us” promos are indeed something having to do with the return of Chris Jericho, then we may be seeing them for quite some time.

    Last week, Jericho appeared on the Sirius Satellite Radio Channel Howard 101 with Bubba the Love Sponge. On the show, Bubba was grilling him pretty heavily on if and when he would be returning to the WWE. Chris danced around the question quite a bit, but he did say something like, “The only thing I can tell you for sure is that I am promoting my book for the next month.”

    In other words, Jericho is probably not going to be making appearance on WWE TV for a while, and when / if he does, he may start out promoting his book, similar to how Mick Foley has done in the past.

    Speaking of the book, Jericho highlighted in the interview that following the Chris Benoit tragedy, he had to go back include a foreword to the book. From what Jericho said, throughout the book, he discusses his early career, friendship and other experiences with Chris Benoit, written in a very positive light. He had to go back and indicate that his writings were about the Chris Benoit he knew, or that he thought he knew.

    Some other interesting points that were brought up included an altercation Jericho had with Bill Goldberg, regarding how disappointing their feud angle had become. They had words backstage and eventually Goldberg reached out and grabbed Jericho by the throat. Jericho told Bubba that instead of saying something witty or beating Jericho up, all Goldberg did was growl at him. Jericho then said he wasn’t intimidated and due to his experience as a mat wrestler in high school was able to get Goldberg to the ground and leverage him into a submission maneuver that he had seen done in an MMA fight.

    Jericho also eluded to the political moves Scott Hall and Kevin Nash tried to pull when the NWO angle was brought to WWE. Solidifying their reputation for poor business skills, Jericho said Scott Hall constantly wanted to cut promos in the ring as opposed to developing angles on TV by wrestling. There was also a time when Hall, Nash, and Hogan had Jericho in a room trying to convince him to do their angle the way they wanted to do it, but Jericho said he refused. He made his points that he felt the way he wanted to do it was best for business, and eventually they all agreed to let it go down the way Jericho wanted. Hogan would later approach him and applauded his standing up for himself and the good business sense that he had.

    -NAPALM-

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    Sunday, November 04, 2007

    Remembering Moolah

    Lillian Ellison, better known by her alias, The Fabulous Moolah passed away over this weekend. A true legend, Moolah is given credit by Beth Phoenix, Tammy Sytch, Victoria, and many others as being the reason that they have had such successful careers in the world of professional wrestling.

    The first woman to hold both the NWA and WWF women's championships, Moolah grew up idolizing another legend in Mildred Burke. Ellison debuted as Slave Girl Moolah, but later went on to become dominant under her more well-known Fabulous name. Her first World title reign begin in the mid 1950's, and she would hold the Women's world title on and off all the way until the 1980's. Revisionist WWE history suggests she never lost the title during that 30 year period, and while that's not true, the amount of time she didn't hold the belt was a period of weeks.

    The first real professional wrestling "screwjob" occured when Moolah regained her title by beating Wendi Richter. She would dominate for two more years. Moolah dissapeared as the Women's championship lost steam in the U.S. In 1995 she became the first woman in the WWE Hall of Fame.

    Moolah began making semi-regular WWE appearances in 1999, and actually captured the World title again at the age of 76. Moolah wrestled her last televised WWE match against Victoria on her 80th birthday. After defeating my favorite diva, she received an RKO from Legend Killer Randy Orton.

    WWE had the following to say about Moolah:

    "WWE is saddened by the passing of Lillian Ellison, who was known to sports-entertainment fans as Hall of Famer Fabulous Moolah. She passed away last night in Columbia, S.C.

    In the world of women’s wrestling, there will always be one irrefutable legend that stands head and shoulders above the rest: The Fabulous Moolah. She was the longest reigning champion in the history of her chosen sport, or any sport for that matter. And with more than 50 years in the business to her credit, she established a legacy that will never be forgotten, making her name synonymous with female wrestling."
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    Saturday, November 03, 2007

    Way to Go, Roid-O

    Like father, like son? DH Smith is living up to his name. After all, it's presumed that most Major League Baseball designated hitters are abusing steriods, and now it's presumed that old Designated Hitter Smith is too.

    Smith's past comments on the issue suggested that he had learned all that he needed to from his father, and would not touch the stuff. If I want to take Smith as a man of his word, I have to assume that he is abusing an alternate substance.

    Smith will be serving a 30 day wellness policy violation. Chris Masters on the other hand will be serving a 60 day suspension, meaning that after one more, he is out of the WWE.

    There is some confusion as this appears to be Masters' third. Masters first trip to rehab predates the current version of the Wellness policy. Fans will remember that Masters returned looking "leaner and meaner." The sole lost PWP article suggested he looked more like a weiner.

    Triple H decided to poke fun at Masters' muscle loss on WWE TV, sending the message that the Masterpiece is nothing without his overboard physique. Hopefully both Masters and Smith can get past the demons that are currently haunting them and make a great deal of money in the wrestling business.

    For the first time, WWE is publicly releasing violators names. Both Smith and Masters stories have been picked up by Sports Illustrated.
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    Thursday, November 01, 2007

    CMLL Pays For Overexposure of Mistico

    The scenario sounds familiar. In fact, it has happened a number of times to a number of different wrestling companies. Now, it is happening again. Although the landscape is different, very different in fact, one of the most talent rich wrestling promotions in the world could be on the verge of a serious collapse. Tough times could be ahead.

    In 1996, WCW hit the jackpot with the NWO. The promotion that brought together the stars of the 1980s, the top WWF stars of the 1990s, plus some of the best young wrestlers in the US, Mexico and Japan helped ignite the wrestling business to another “boom period”. The spark that started the fire was the NWO. In fact, WCW’s take on the UWF-New Japan wars of the early 1990s got over so much that they expanded it to the point that nearly everything in the promotion revolved around the NWO. WCW’s big draw was the NWO, but when it came time to start pushing the next big thing to prevent the product from becoming stale, they balked. Instead, they stayed with the NOW as their ace in the hole, thinking that having those three letters on top would keep them the number one promotion in the US forever. Instead, the company’s business went down the tubes.

    At the same time the NWO was hot and drawing huge money for WCW, the WWF was getting murdered. However, they also had something people were drawn to almost as much as the NWO - Steve Austin. Eventually the WWF did the same thing as WCW, and their promotion became centered on Austin and his war with Vince McMahon. However, in contrast to WCW, the WWF also found a way to build up Foley, HHH, the Rock and others, so that when Austin was put on the shelf and the focus of the promotion was forced to change, the WWF was able to surge and show staying power.

    There are books and websites and tons of material discussing at what point WCW actually started their demise. I always thought the point where WCW screwed up was the debacle of Starrcade 97. Although WCW did good business after that, they were never full able to recover from the matchmaking and promotional blunders that took place on that card – a card with the highest buyrate ever at that point in time.

    The same thing is currently happening in CMLL. Right now. Instead of the promotion being built around a hot group like the NWO, it is built around Mistico. The story behind Mistico is that he was a poor orphan living on the streets of Mexico City, who was taken into an orphanage, where it was somehow discovered that he had an amazing ability for wrestling. The famous wrestling priest Fray Tormenta, whom the movie “Nacho Libre” was loosely inspired by, took Mistico under his wing and trained him to be a great wrestler.

    Mistico was special not only because he was a wholesome religious lad, but because he his amazing athletic ability was the work of God himself – who personally guided Mistico to victory after victory. Mistico debuted in the CMLL midcard and started getting pins over guys more experienced and higher on the card than him – thanks to God. It was almost like Goldberg in WCW.

    The thing was, Mistico appealed to everyone that attended shows in CMLL’s arenas. He was like a taller leaner Rey Misterio Jr. in the ring. Before too long, everything in CMLL was revolving around Mistico. Rudos were lining up to challenge him, since it was guaranteed to be a sell out man event facing off with Mistico in a singles match. Helping him greatly was the fact that two of the most popular wrestlers in Mexico, Hijo del Santo and Dr. Wagner Jr. took Mistico under their wing and teamed with him on a regular basis against said rudos.

    Much like the NWO in WCW however, CMLL had so thoroughly integrated Mistico into their cards, their matchmaking, and their promotion, he soon became overexposed. And, since God was helping Mistico win all of his matches, the “smart” fans in Arena Mexico started to turn on the company’s biggest star.

    The first hint of this was when Black Warrior turned on Mistico - people cheered him because they were tired of Mistico. “Rudo Fans”, which are a group made up of mostly men who attend CMLL shows, backed Warrior as they understood why he turned on the glory hound Mistico.

    Kids and women continued to cheer “El Principe de Plata y Oro” however. Warrior was an impressive veteran rudo who took full advantage of the spotlight a feud with Mistco provided; Warrior exposed the chink in the Mistico armor. Mistico’s rivals should have then been exploiting that, and promoted as on the same par as Mistico. Instead, Warrior was downplayed, and for most of the summer of 2007, he was not even booked on major CMLL cards.

    Dr. Wagner Jr., a rudo-style wrestler, became one of the most popular fan favorites in all of Mexico after the passing of his legendary father a few years ago. In 2005, Wagner was the fan favorite all the rudos were lining up to wrestle, because that was where the money was. In fact, CMLL still attempted to promote and push Wagner as a rudo against other popular fan favorites such as Atlantis and LA Park, only to have fans turn against them and side with Wagner.

    During this past summer, Wagner was once again put in this position by CMLL – only this time against Mistico. Anyone with half a brain could see what CMLL was thinking here – Wagner is a rudo in style, and him as a rudo against Mistico would do huge business. In reality, many fans were already lukewarm towards Mistico, who was being shoved down their throats to no end. Sure, he still had his fans amongst children and women, but most of the men populating Arena Mexico were going to cheer anyone facing off with Mistico. Anyone with half a brain could see that Wagner facing off with Mistico was only going to take more away from Mistico’s fanbase.

    Wagner befriended his enemies and did what he had to do to get matches against Mistico – just to prove that he was the better wrestler. Finally the match was made, and when the two faced off last July in their first ever one-on-one encounter in Arena Mexico, it was one of the biggest matches of the year.

    However, this match could possibly have been CMLL’s version of Starrcade 97. Wagner had Mistico defeated, powerbombing him on the hard wooden floor outside the ring. Then, that rudo that Wagner befriended, Ultimo Guerrero, interfered and laid out Wagner. Mistico slid back into the ring and got the pinfall, at which point a full scale riot ensued. 18000 fans in Arena Mexico came to see Wagner win. Wagner should have won. What they did not want to see was Mistico get a bullshit win over Wagner that he didn’t deserve.

    The situation still could have been salvaged however. After the match, Wagner and Guerrero were laying out challenges as fans littered the ring with trash; it made sense that CMLL would heavily push a feud between Wagner and Guerrero which should have made a lot of money, afterall, it was the number one fan favorite against the top rudo. Instead, CMLL deemphasized Wagner, and a public battle began that saw Wagner leave the company.

    You can’t shove a something down the throat of people if they do not want it - but CMLL has nothing else. If the feud progressed to that point, Wagner vs. Guerrero for masks could be the type of match that draws and does the type of business that Atlantis vs. Villano III did for CMLL in 2000. Maybe even Rayo de Jalisco Jr. vs. Cien Caras type money. The big feud that followed the Wagner debacle was Blue Panther and Lizmark Jr. – and attendance quickly dropped as Mistico sat on the sidelines healing up injuries. Just as how WCW could not part with the NWO, CMLL won’t halt Mistico's push, because they have nothing to follow it. Mistico working semi-main events or lower on the card doesn’t seem like an option to CMLL - for whatever reason.

    The boos and the trash pelting the ring showed that the fans are behind Wagner – just as the WCW fans were behind Sting. Just like Sting in 97, Wagner was screwed out of his place atop the hottest wrestling company in the world. There is nothing wrong with the guy that was your top draw being put on the back burner. That is how you keep a guy fresh for when the next moneymaking program comes along.

    The only thing to point the blame at is CMLL’s matchmakers and promoters. Mistico is their Hulk Hogan. While Hogan was always a draw when he had a top-notch opponent that was a threat to him, when he had no Piper or Andre, or Sting, or Savage, he was not the same draw. Plus, when Hogan was on top of the WWF and even WCW, there were other draws in the company. Warriors, Rude, Luger, Flair, etc. With the talent roster CMLL has, they should be having spectacular cards and making fistfuls of cash with Mistico anywhere on the card – even at the top. However, Mistico is the only guy that CMLL pushes as a star. In the mind of the fans, that makes everyone else second-class.

    Perrito Aguayo is a star that should be pushed as an equal to Mistico. But, no one is allowed to expose those chinks in the armor, because that might hurt the draw. Will little kids come to cheer for their hero if he is left battered and bloody by the Guerreros every week?

    Wrestlers like Averno, Mephisto, Volador Jr., Stuka Jr, Sombre, Valiente Jr. – are the future of CMLL. None of these guys get to face Mistico, because they might outshine him. Perrito, Guerrero, Wagner, Warrior, and a handful of others should be promoted as Mistico’s equals or more – not as guys a half step behind. There is no reason Mistico needs to hold four of CMLL’s championships at once. CMLL is guilty of a lot of dumb decisions recently.

    CMLL brought back the well past their prime and out of shape Villanos. Supposedly the Villaos are close to retirement, and are looking for a hot feud to put up their masks before they wind their carriers down. Villano IV however, blew out his knee shortly after debuting. After the injury, CMLL kept III & V around – and they had a series of terrible matches they seemed to be randomly thrown in that didn’t draw a lick.

    In smart circles, it is known that Mistico is under a long-term contract to CMLL, which underpays him. Recently CMLL and Hijo del Santo had a very negative falling out (similar to Wagner) due to CMLL not wanting to pay Santo what he was getting from other promoters around Mexico and the US. While it is never a good idea to screw up your entire roster's payroll for one guy, CMLL no longer can bring in Santo to spike attendance like they used to do.

    In Mexico, heavyweights are not generally the focus of the company as they are in the US. A legitimate heavyweight that they use regularly is Marco Corleone, aka Mark Jindrak. Instead of pushing him as a huge gringo threat to the heavyweight title, he is booked as a babyface pretty boy… in a group with Shocker, who no shows more often than not. Corleone is by no means straight out of the 1990's All Japan, but he could bring something to a heavyweight division if they booked one. Instead he is just a big pretty American they have on cards.

    A great tag team in Perrito Aguayo and Hector Garza is not even used as such. Instead, Perrito is mildly pushed as a singles wrestler (getting pushed against Mistico in main events on occasion), and Garza works the second tier arenas. And their group, the Perros del mal, is a huge draw for the ladies. A feud with Negro Casas & Mistico over the CMLL Tag Titles would probably draw money.

    The wildly popular Mascarita Sagrada II jumped from AAA to CMLL, and was promptly remarketed as Mascarita Dorido, and booked to debut outside of Arena Mexico on a secondary show to no fanfare. This was after CMLL made a huge deal about signing him away from AAA.

    Finally, Wagner leaving CMLL. Wagner not only was a ridiculously popular wrestler who drew money, but he also booked big independent shows, and trained a lot of CMLL talent. While supposedly Santo is looking to start his own promotion, Wagner has enough talent and venues to actually start a group that could have some success, if he desired.Wagner has said repeatedly he has no interest in going to AAA.

    So, time will tell. CMLL will never go out of business, as they own their own arenas and are on solid financial ground – after all they have been around 75 years. The wrestling business has been hot in Mexico for about five years now – as hot as it was in the US at the height of the Monday Night Wars. AAA is still doing great business – although with a smaller roster and less shows. Will CMLL continue to do less than 10000 fans at Arena Mexico for big shows with the way they are booking, or will things get even worse?

    Much like the demise of WCW, only time will tell how it all will unfold.
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