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September 27, 2008

Smackdown quietly ends run on CW

There’s not a whole lot to say about last night’s Smackdown, which was the final episode of the show on the CW network before next week’s move to MyNetworkTV.

It was mostly a straight-forward wrestling program except for a show-long angle in which Chavo Guerrero, Vickie Guerrero and The Big Show readied themselves for an attack by The Undertaker. It concluded with Undertaker delivering a Tombstone piledriver to Vickie Guerrero. Time to dust off the neck brace and wheelchair, I guess.

I was a little surprised that Undertaker actually got his hands on Vickie before the No Mercy pay-per-view a week from tomorrow. I figured that would happen down the line after more buildup. Perhaps this is a prelude to the return of Edge. It would make sense to bring him back for the show’s big debut on the new network next week.

The other noteworthy development saw Carlito and Primo Colon win the WWE tag team title from Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder. The crowd was into the Colons and there was a good pop for the title change. Hawkins and Ryder were not over at all as champions, so it’s a good call to take the belts off them. I keep hoping Jesse and Festus get a title run at some point.

Other thoughts on last night’s show:

The Undertaker’s facial expressions during his attack on Vickie were tremendous. …

The tag match, in which Triple H and Jeff Hardy defeated MVP and The Brian Kendrick, had a lot of action and was a good way to kick off the show. The hot crowd added to the excitement of the match. …

Vladimir Kozloz continues to get a push, which I’m fine with, but it seems odd to take the focus off Hardy so close to his WWE title shot at No Mercy. …

Fortunately, the Kozlov-Great Khali match was kept short. They weren’t out there long enough for anything too embarrassing to happen. …

I understand that WWE is trying to get the Brie Bella angle over, but it still seems wrong to have Natalya and Victoria jobbing to Bella and Maria. …

I’m looking forward to the next Shelton Benjamin/R-Truth match. R-Truth is getting over primarily because of his entertaining entrance, but he has shown that he also has some slick moves after the music stops. …

Jimmy Wang Yang, who had a good match with Chavo Guerrero, is a very underrated performer. It’s unfortunate that Yang doesn’t have a better spot on the card. He’d be better off on ECW’s roster.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 3:00 PM | | Comments (14)
        

September 26, 2008

Is art imitating life for Christian Cage?

While watching last night’s Impact, my initial reaction was to criticize TNA for using a plot device that it has done to death. But I can’t follow through, because I am legitimately interested to see how this one turns out.

In the past, TNA devoted a lot of TV time and built pay-per-view shows around which side Tomko and A.J. Styles were on in the Kurt Angle-Christian Cage feud. It all seemed like such a waste of time and the booking became convoluted. Now, the question being posed is: Which side is Cage on? Is he with the big-name veterans or the young TNA stars?

I’m a big fan of Cage as a performer, so anything that puts the focus on him is fine with me. This angle is compelling because, as Cage explained during an interview with Karen Angle last night, he has become a big star, yet he is not that far removed from being one of the young guys who was kept down by veterans.

It’s also interesting how this story line about having to choose sides mirrors Cage’s current situation in real life. It’s no secret that his contract is expiring soon and that he will have to make a decision whether to re-sign with the upstart TNA or return to the established WWE.

As far as the story line, while Cage might be better as a heel, I’m hoping he doesn’t turn again. Cage hasn’t even been with the company three years and he already has turned twice. The frequent turns only weaken characters and confuse casual viewers.

Other thoughts on last night’s show:

For the second straight week, Kurt Angle, Jeff Jarrett and Sting were very good on the mic. Angle’s line to Jarrett about telling his kids that their father was a quitter was reminiscent of the recent Shawn Michaels-Chris Jericho promos. I also liked Sting’s slide show, and he did seem a little more heelish this week. …

The one thing I didn’t like about Sting’s promo was how he kept “pulling back the curtain,” basically admitting that the business is a work. We all know that, but I thought the point is that we’re supposed to suspend our disbelief. He and Ric Flair were “confidants and brothers?” I thought they were sworn enemies for most of their careers. Jarrett called Sting and asked him to come to TNA? I thought Jarrett wanted no part of Sting when he arrived on the scene. …

Why do people keep saying that Samoa Joe and Styles have been with the company since the beginning? Styles has, but Joe has only been in TNA since 2005 (the company was formed in 2002). Speaking of Joe, he said that he wasn’t going to yell and scream anymore. That’s a good thing. …

The sound of airplanes crashing was absent from Sheik Abdul Bashir’s ring entrance. It’s great to see that someone in TNA came to their senses. …

Nothing against Hector Guerrero personally, but I think LAX is better off without him. He just didn’t fit in with two street thugs and it seemed like he was trying too hard to imitate his late brother, Eddie. LAX’s act was diminished at first without Konnan, but now I think Homicide and Hernandez can stand on their own. …

I’m guessing that a lot of younger viewers had no idea that Sonjay Dutt and SoCal Val’s “love-in” was a spoof of something John Lennon and Yoko Ono did nearly 40 years ago. Heck, I’ll bet most young viewers don’t even remember Julian Lennon. Or Sonny Onoo, for that matter. …

SoCal Val said that she didn’t owe anyone an explanation as to why she turned on Jay Lethal. I originally thought that was the TNA creative team’s way of saying that they couldn’t come up with one. It then was made clear, however, that Val is under the impression that Dutt comes from a wealthy family, so she’s a gold-digger. …

Except for the Dutt-Val segment, there wasn’t anything too silly on the show this week (in other words, no Prince Justice Brotherhood). There was one very funny line. When Booker T. said that “the ratings went through the roof” after he came to TNA, I laughed so hard that I nearly fell off my Baltimore Ravens recliner.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 3:34 PM | | Comments (7)
        

September 25, 2008

A matter of factions

Ric Flair is a free agent making personal appearances throughout the country and Mick Foley is working for TNA, but both are on a WWE program that has been running this month. Before each departed from WWE, the two legendary stars participated in a roundtable discussion with Tazz, Jim Ross and Gene Okerlund about wrestling factions on WWE 24/7’s Legends of Wrestling show.

In addition to the novelty of seeing Flair and Foley in one of their final appearances with the company (not to mention the novelty of seeing them seated next to each other given their past real-life heat), the show is worth watching because Flair holds nothing back. He had some interesting things to say about the nWo, Shane Douglas and some former members of the Four Horsemen.

Speaking of the Horsemen, they received a lot of love on the show – and rightfully so. It was kind of funny, though, how everyone – especially Tazz – gushed about the Horsemen with Flair sitting there. Flair wasn’t shy about putting himself over, either. When asked to name the top three factions of all-time, he named the two that he was in – the Horsemen and Evolution.

Here are my picks for the top five factions:

1. The Four Horsemen: As much as I would like to be a rebel and make a controversial selection for the top spot, I have to be honest, and that means joining the Horsemen lovefest. There were numerous Horsemen combinations over the years, but there were two that stood far above the others. And neither involves Paul Roma or Steve McMichael. I really liked the original lineup of Flair, Tully Blanchard and Ole and Arn Anderson. All four guys could wrestle, cut great promos and get under the fans’ skin. The best lineup as far as wrestling ability and star power, however, was Flair, Blanchard, Arn Anderson and Barry Windham. Windham wasn’t close to Ole Anderson on the mic, but he was significantly better in the ring and was nearly 20 years younger. Both of these versions of the Horsemen were money draws and had classic feuds with NWA stars such as Dusty Rhodes, The Road Warriors, Magnum T.A., Sting, The Rock and Roll Express, Nikita Koloff and Lex Luger.

2. The nWo: The nWo storyline was one of the most successful and influential angles of all time and a big reason for WCW’s 83-week winning streak in the Monday night ratings war with WWE. To me, the nWo was Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, although it was still a red-hot angle at the time when Syxx (Sean Waltman) and The Giant (Paul Wight) joined the group. As more and more members joined, however, the nWo began losing its luster.

3. The Fabulous Freebirds: Whether they were heels or babyfaces, Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts drew money wherever they went. The Badstreet boys had their most successful run in Texas, where they had a legendary feud with the Von Erichs. Each man brought something different to the group: Hayes was the charismatic mouthpiece, Gordy was the big man and the best worker and Roberts was the grizzled veteran. Jimmy Garvin later became a Freebird, but he wasn’t there during the glory days.

4. DX: Along with Steve Austin, DX helped usher in WWE’s incredibly successful “Attitude” era. When Shawn Michaels dropped his babyface act, Triple H abandoned his Greenwich, Conn., snob gimmick and the two real-life friends turned the volume up on their smart-aleck personalities to form DX (along with Chyna), it was must-see TV. Considered an nWo rip-off at first, DX eventually became the cooler of the two factions. After Michaels departed due to a back injury, DX – led by Triple H, who was joined in the group by Chyna, X-Pac (Waltman) and The New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg and Billy Gunn) – became a hugely popular babyface act.

5. The Dangerous Alliance: The stable of manager Paul E. Dangerously (Paul Heyman) did not have the longevity or impact of the others on this list, but it was a talented ensemble. The group, which consisted of Steve Austin (when he was “Stunning” and not yet “Stone Cold”), Rick Rude, Arn Anderson, Larry Zbyszko, Bobby Eaton and Madusa, had a good run in WCW in the early ’90s. All of the guys were established stars and good workers and most of them were proficient talkers – although none were better on the mic than Dangerously. Rude was the centerpiece of the Alliance and had memorable feuds with Ricky Steamboat and Sting.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 4:26 AM | | Comments (30)
        

September 23, 2008

The kids are alright on Raw

Before getting into last night’s Raw, I want to apologize for the later-than-usual post. I was tied up with some of my other duties at The Baltimore Sun (including writing a piece on why the Orioles shouldn’t trade Brian Roberts, which you can read at baltimoresun.com/faceoff starting Wednesday morning). I just hate it when real work gets in the way of blogging.

Now onto the show. I thought the first two segments (the multi-person promo and the CM Punk-Cody Rhodes match) were good – and they also made a statement about the current direction and future of Raw. In addition to Punk and Rhodes, four other wrestlers in those segments — Randy Orton, Ted DiBiase Jr., Manu and Kofi Kingston — are all in their twenties. Considering that six more guys on the show last night are also under the age of 30 — Lance Cade, John Morrison, The Miz Evan Bourne and Cryme Tyme — WWE has an impressive group of wrestlers who are still years away from their primes.

Orton already is one of the top stars in the business, and Punk is getting there. I wouldn’t be surprised if several others from this list also became major players, specifically DiBiase, Morrison and Bourne. There are always growing pains with a youth movement, but the future looks bright.

Other thoughts on last night’s show:

To commemorate the 800th episode of Raw, the announcers told us it was the 800th episode about 800 times. ...

Chris Jericho cut another good promo and has really become a guy the fans love to hate. Orton was good, as well. I like him in the role of a heel who doesn’t like anybody, even fellow heels. ...

It’s always nice to see Shane McMahon on television. After all these years, that little shuffle that he does still cracks me up. Let’s see a show of hands: How many people were hoping that Shane-O-Mac was coming out to fire Raw general manager Mike Adamle? I’m guessing there are a lot of hands up right now. ...

I’m glad that McMahon’s past with Kane was acknowledged, but Shane forget to mention that in addition to Kane giving his mother a tombstone piledriver and electrocuting McMahon’s testicles, McMahon pushed Kane into a flaming dumpster and crashed a car with Kane inside. And they’re all still alive and no one is in jail. I think that segment, which had Adamle standing there oblivious to the Kane-Shane story line, was mainly done as a spoof on Adamle’s complete lack of knowledge about the product. ...

Speaking of wrestlers who have a history, why was it not even hinted that Shawn Michaels and Batista — who were tag-team partners last night — were rivals several months ago? ...

I think the jury is still out as to whether Cade can become a star, but having him make the winning pin on Michaels in the main event might be an indication that WWE is going to make an attempt at making him one. ...

I hope no one thinks that Bourne’s loss to Kane means that he is being buried. Bourne got in a decent amount of offense, and, honestly, he shouldn’t be defeating Kane at this point. Kane has a match with Rey Mysterio at the No Mercy pay-per-view on Oct. 5, and with Bourne being established as a friend of Mysterio’s, the result made perfect sense. ...

The crowd in Cincinnati was pretty hot for most of the night. I guess the people in Cincy are starved for some sports entertainment. They certainly aren’t getting any from the Bengals or Reds. ...

I’m confused as to why WWE would have Kelly Kelly defeat Beth Phoenix again before Phoenix’s WWE women’s title defense against Candice Michelle at No Mercy. I don’t think anyone should pin the champ before a big match unless it’s the challenger in a non-title or tag match. With two wins over the champ, Kelly should be in line to face the winner of that match. Speaking of Michelle, was she even on the show last night? Did I miss her while I was switching to Monday Night Football during commercials? ...

Michael Cole asked Jerry Lawler if he has ever seen a diva as powerful as Phoenix. “Absolutely not,” Lawler replied. Well, what was he going to say? “Yes -- Chyna” probably wouldn’t sit too well ...

Charlie Haas’ Mr. Perfect impersonation was good for a laugh. The best part was when he introduced himself at the beginning of the clip and paused for the audience to cheer. He got zero reaction (which was the idea) and then said, “Thank you.” ...

If those clips of Cryme Tyme’s and Miz and Morrison’s wwe.com shows were supposed to be the best of, I don’t think I’m missing much. ...

I loved the Happy Days reference when Santino Marella called Deuce “Fonzie.” I suppose that makes Marella “Potsie.” I think it would be cool if Deuce’s catch phrase became “Sit on it.” Yes, I’m old.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 9:29 PM | | Comments (25)
        

September 22, 2008

Q&A with Diamond Dallas Page

Diamond Dallas Page is a three-time WCW world heavyweight champion and was one of the biggest stars of the wrestling boom from a decade ago. Since his wrestling career ended a few years ago, he has become an actor and a motivational speaker. And now he has added “fitness guru” to his resume.

Page is the architect of YRG (Yoga For Regular Guys), and his hybrid of traditional yoga, calisthenics and isometric exercises has resulted in some amazing transformations. YRG’s most dramatic success story is Arthur Boorman of Brooklyn (Md.), who went from 340 pounds to 156 pounds by doing YRG and following an eating plan designed by Page.

I spoke to DDP over the phone recently about YRG and, of course, wrestling.

paige2.jpg It’s been well documented that Kimberly, who was your wife at the time, got you into yoga, and that helped you in your wrestling career …

I wouldn’t say helped. I had three doctors tell me my career was over.

OK, maybe helped is understating it.

Yeah (laughs). My three-year multi-million dollar deal was going to go away. I started doing yoga, which I quickly started to change and adapt. Within the first month, I was already modifying a lot of the workout and doing it on my own. That’s when I threw in old-school calisthenics – pushups, squats, crunches – doing a slow-burn movement. And then you add in isometrics. That’s what jacks your heart rate up and gets you in a fat-burning zone.

The most amazing success story of YRG is Arthur Boorman. What goes through your mind when you see something that dramatic occurring because of YRG?

Two words: Anything’s possible. Anybody that buys the [YRG] DVDs gets an e-mail from me. Arthur was one of the people who really needed some help, so I wanted to know more about him. And that’s when I found out that he was a disabled veteran, he has three kids and he works 70 hours a week as a special educator teaching kids and adults how to read. I grew up with ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder] and dyslexia. I was reading at a third-grade level until the age of 30 before I made the decision that I was going to learn how to read. Now I’m helping a guy that could have helped me learn how to read. How weird is that?

When he sent me his first two pictures, I was like, “Oh, my God. How do I help him?” I’m looking at a picture of him right now wearing his size 48-inch pants, and now he has a 30-inch waist. I sent him the eating plan, and I knew it was going to take a lot of discipline. He sent me back four powerful words. He didn’t say “I’ll give it a try.” He didn’t say “I think I can do it. He said “I can do this.” That’s all he sent me. I sent him back an e-mail saying, “Send me your phone number.” And what I ended up doing is calling him up and basically telling him, “Dude, at this rate, going the way you’re going, you ain’t going to live that much longer.” And he knew it.

He had gone to a yoga studio and said, “Is there a class you have that I can taker?” You know what they told him? They said, “We can’t. We’re not geared to help someone like you.” Now he teaches YRG in a yoga studio – at the hardcore level, too. This guy works 70 hours a week. So when people tell me “I can’t,” “I don’t have time,” “I’m too beat up,” I just go, “Oh, really?” (laughs) I do a little YRG segment at my speaking [engagements] where I show where my flexibility is today and I pull my foot over my head while I’m standing there talking to them. I say, “And I’m 52 years old, so you can’t tell me that you’re too beat up or you’re too old.” Then I show Arthur, who is the hero of my inspirational speaking talk.

Tell me about the mental aspect of YRG.

I had to help Arthur reprogram the way he thinks. With every DVD comes the Own Your Life audio book. The concept is that 10 percent of life is what happens to you, and 90 percent is how you react to it. These are all things that I applied when I became a wrestler at 35; tore my rotator cuff at 36. Everyone told me I would never get my job back and that I was never going to make it. I came back at 37. At 40 I went through the roof. It’s that tenacity not to take no for an answer. It’s a belief that all that hard work is going to pay off. Most people stumble and fall and they go, “Oh God, I can’t do this.” You’re right, you can’t. Unless you get the [heck] back up and do it again.

I know you are usually involved in several projects at once. What’s going on with your acting career and the motivational speaking?

I spoke recently in Tucson, Ariz., to a corporation called Click Automotive, which owns 15 car dealerships. I not only spoke to them about my concept of living life at 90 percent, but on top of that I took them through my breakout YRG presentation, where I’ll talk about the YRG benefits for about 20 minutes to a half an hour, and then take them through a workout. Within that same month, I did an independent movie in Detroit called Red and Blue Marbles. I filmed four episodes for John Schneider of Dukes of Hazzard and Smallville fame – he has his own show called Twentysixmiles. I play a recurring character in the show.

How much, if at all, are you involved with wrestling at this point? Are you doing any independent shows?

No. They call me all the time. I really can’t take the chance of getting hurt. I’m in too good of shape. I don’t want the chance of anything stupid happening. I mean, you see John Cena going to armdrag somebody and he tears his biceps. You know, I’m 52 years old; he’s 26, or whatever he is [laughs].

I think he’s 30 [actually 31].

He’s 22 years younger than me. I don’t need to prove anything in that ring anymore. I’ve done all that.

Are you still watching wrestling at all?

I watch it occasionally.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the business?

I think it’s going through a transition. Everybody wants to say it’s not what it was, blah, blah, blah. Well right now a lot of these new fans that come on, they don’t really know who these new guys are because there are so many new guys. But there are a lot of talented kids out there. I think Edge has come into his own; he’s a phenomenal performer. The thing that I love the most about Edge is that he was that kid at WrestleMania who wanted to be a wrestler more than anything. I love that he’s rising to the top. I was the first top name that he ever went over on. Of course, Vince [McMahon] wanted it like that. To me, I was like, “Hey dude. I’m happy to do you the favor. Plenty of guys did it for me.” I like Batista because he’s very charismatic and he doesn’t have to raise his voice. He’s got that smile and he’s got that swagger, and he’s all jacked up. I like Randy Orton a lot, too.

I remember a conversation I had with you about five years ago when you mentioned that you had a tryout with WWE in 1990 to be a color commentator, and that you might be interested in returning to wrestling at some point to do color. I thought about that about nine months ago or so when JBL vacated his seat at the announce table on Smackdown. I thought you were one of the guys who could have filled that role. Do you still have interest in doing that?

Not today. At some point? Absolutely. [WWE executive producer] Kevin Dunn said I was the next Jesse Ventura. Kevin Dunn is great at what he does. I really consider it an honor coming from him because he has seen them all. When I did do color [in WCW], I know what the [heck] I’m talking about. And I’m not going to get overly excited about something that’s not exciting. But if it is, I’m going to make you feel it through the TV. Back when I didn’t know what the [heck] I was saying, I was [somewhat] interesting to listen to, without having the pedigree of being a three-time world champion. Bradshaw came be as annoying as [anything] to listen to, but he’s a really good heel. His character is not a real stretch for him [laughs]. He’s a guy that I actually really like to watch now. He’s a heel in an old-school way.

I don’t think I’ll ever be out of wrestling, because I was that kid at 8 years old that dreamed of being a world champion. At some point I see myself doing something; I just don’t know when. And I’ve thought about doing color. Right now it’s not in my sights because of all the [stuff] I’ve got going. If YRG turns into what I believe it’s going to, it’s going to dwarf what I did in wrestling.

Any final thoughts?

If you want to see where Diamond Dallas Page is today, just go to my Web site, diamonddallaspage.com. It [ticks] me off how the media says, “After these guys get done wrestling, look at this death, and this death, and this guy lost everything.” That’s not the way it is all the way around. There are a lot of guys that are very successful. Go to diamonddallaspage.com and look at my Web site. What you see is what you get with me. There’s no smoke and mirrors on any of my [stuff].


Editor's note: To read Kevin Eck's story on Diamond Dallas Page's "Yoga For Regular Guys" workout program, click here.

Handout photo

Posted by Kevin Eck at 3:38 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Q&As
        

September 21, 2008

Kevin Nash’s new deal

Kevin Nash, who had been telling anyone who would listen that he was planning on signing with WWE after his TNA contract expired next month, reportedly has re-signed with TNA.

I can’t really say that I’m surprised that Nash apparently is staying with TNA. Say what you want about him, but there is no denying that Nash is a master when it comes to the business side of wrestling. When an industry source told me a few weeks ago that Nash intended to have one last run in WWE, my immediate thought was whether WWE really had any interest in him or if Nash was just putting it out there as a negotiating ploy.

I know one thing: I would never play poker with the man. Nash has made getting large sums of money for doing as little as possible an art form. It’s not necessarily an admirable quality, and if I were running a wrestling company I’m not sure I would want him on my roster, but wrestling is a cutthroat business and Nash has never hidden the fact that he does what’s best for Nash, not whatever company he’s working for. As long as there are companies willing to offer Nash lucrative contracts, who can blame him for accepting them?

Nash is 49 and has undergone numerous surgeries over the years,so the lighter schedule in TNA certainly benefits him. Nash remaining with TNA also allows his long-running angle with Samoa Joe – which appeared to have an anti-climactic ending due to Nash’s uncertain future with the company – to have a payoff after all.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 3:50 AM | | Comments (5)
        

September 20, 2008

Thoughts on the Jake Roberts videos

By now, I’m sure most people have either seen or heard about the YouTube videos of a disoriented Jake Roberts stumbling his way through a match – if it can even be called a match – at an independent show last week in Cleveland, and then getting into a verbal altercation with his opponent outside the venue. There also have been reports that he exposed himself while in the ring.

I’m almost at a loss for words when it comes to this incident and Roberts, whose history of addiction to drugs and alcohol is well documented. In an interview with thesportsinterview.com, he said that he did consume alcohol the morning of the show and the last thing he remembers is eating at McDonald’s before the show. Roberts said he does not have any memory of anything else until he woke up the next morning in his hotel room.

On Roberts’ official MySpace page, his assistant claims that someone drugged his soft drink at the show. She also stated that the promoter in Cleveland said Roberts was wandering back and forth to the bar that night. I certainly have no idea whether Roberts was indeed drugged or if he simply fell off the wagon (which he admitted to in the interview), but either way, those YouTube videos are incredibly disturbing and sad.

The way the whole thing played out, it almost seemed like a “worked shoot.” Roberts’ opponent, JT Lightning, clearly called an audible and pinned Roberts against his will after Roberts tripped and fell on his face. Lightning then grabbed the mic and cut a promo on Roberts.

During the verbal altercation after the show, someone – perhaps the promoter – said, “This better end up on YouTube.” This would go down as one of the most tasteless publicity stunts of all time if it was all a work. Unfortunately, I don’t think it was staged at all.

Over the years, there have been numerous reports – as well as some videos – of a seemingly intoxicated Roberts slurring his words in public, staggering and just acting bizarrely, so this is certainly nothing new and it shouldn’t surprise anyone.

I will say, however, that Roberts did seem sober and sincere about overcoming his addictions when I interviewed him at an independent show in Parkville three months ago. Last year when Vince McMahon offered to pay for the drug rehabilitation of any performer who had ever been under contract to WWE, Roberts took him up on the offer.

“Vince McMahon saved my life,” Roberts told me, adding that his children were his motivation for seeking help.

The story that hasn’t been told is that Roberts nearly was not permitted to wrestle that night in Parkville, but it had nothing to do with drugs or alcohol.

Every wrestler, referee and valet/manager who performs on a show in Maryland is required to undergo a routine physical with a representative from the state athletic commission. I was backstage at the show when the news came that Roberts had failed his physical because his gait did not pass muster.

Roberts was livid that he had traveled from Florida to Maryland and would not be allowed to wrestle. Beyond being angry, however, he was worried. When I spoke to him, he said he knew if it got out that the athletic commission deemed him unfit to wrestle, everyone would assume it was because of drugs or alcohol no matter what the truth was, and it could prevent him from getting future bookings.

Roberts was adamant that he was physically able to get in the ring. To prove his point, he was out in the parking lot behind the building with myself and several wrestlers on the card, walking in a straight line and even moving laterally. It was kind of surreal to see the once-great Jake Roberts showing off his fancy footwork in a parking lot on Putty Hill Ave.

I don’t know the details of how it was resolved, but Roberts did wrestle that night. After the show, I had heard some of the boys asked Roberts if he wanted to go out and that he declined. The person who had been with him all day told me later that he drove Roberts right back to his hotel after the show.

That night in Parkville gave me reason to believe that Roberts, who said he was thinking about putting together his autobiography, just might have a happy ending to his story after all.

It will be a difficult, daily struggle, but that still is possible. Whether or not it happens is entirely up to Jake Roberts.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 5:03 PM | | Comments (11)
        

Kozlov is one mad Russian

One week after attacking Jeff Hardy, Vladimir Kozlov laid out both Triple H and Hardy – the WWE champion and the No. 1 contender, respectively – last night on Smackdown.

After bringing Kozlov along slowly, WWE has pulled the trigger on elevating him to top-tier status. It seems obvious that he is somehow going to be involved in the Triple H-Hardy match at the No Mercy pay-per-view on Oct. 5.

It’s never a bad idea to get fresh faces into the mix – and what a face that is on Kozlov. The man doesn’t have a wide range of expressions, but that sure is one heck of a scowl he has there.

It’s hard to believe the robotic, seemingly indestructible Kozlov is same guy who a little less than two years ago played a happy-go-lucky character (using the same name) who was seated at ringside every week proclaiming to “love Double Double E.” He ended up being sent back to developmental before ever getting in the ring on television, reportedly because he was nowhere near ready to be on the main roster.

He still might not be a great worker, but he has been booked brilliantly – winning one squash match after another. The real test will be how he fares when he has to wrestle a give-and-take match with top stars.

Other thoughts on last night’s show:

Given the events of this past Wednesday, Hardy’s promo (which was taped Tuesday night) took on a whole new meaning. He talked about his career in WWE, saying that “the journey hasn’t always been smooth.” The Brian Kendrick then came out and made a reference to Hardy’s “extracurricular activities.” Hardy showed a lot of fire and his delivery was good. …

Since Hardy is main-eventing the pay-per-view, of course he had to defeat Kendrick, but I sure would like to see Kendrick start winning matches again soon. …

Like Hardy beating Kendrick, there was no doubt that Triple H would defeat MVP. However, MVP pretty much dominated the match before losing, so I can’t say he was buried in any way this time. …

The crowd popped for R-Truth’s non-title victory over U.S. champion Shelton Benjamin. While R-Truth was doing his “What’s Up?” thing before the match, the look on Benjamin’s face was pure gold (no pun intended). …

Some might have found it corny, but I liked the backstage vignette with Chavo Guerrero and The Undertaker. The way Guerrero turned around and faced the camera as Undertaker’s hand appeared out of nowhere to grab him by the throat reminded me of Barnabas Collins goozling Willie Loomis on Dark Shadows. How’s that for a non-wrestling, dated, obscure reference? …

I think The Big Show was guilty of gimmick infringement when he said that he was going to make The Undertaker humble. Everyone knows that’s The Iron Sheik’s catch phrase. Next thing you know, Sheik will be cutting a promo on Show on YouTube. Probably something like this:

“The Big Show is a low-life, piece of [expletive], no-good [expletive]. He is a big jabroni [expletive] just like the Brian Blair and the Hulk Hogan. Next time I see Big Show, I’m gonna break his back, make him humble, and then [expletive] him in the [expletive]. [Expletive] The Big Show.” …

Was it just me or were Carlito and Primo Colon dying out there at the beginning of Carlito’s Cabana? It did get better when Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder arrived. Surprisingly, the WWE tag team champs showed some personality, as did Primo (Carlito, of course, always does). Festus stole the show when he chased Hawkins and Ryder up the ramp while carrying a fake palm tree. …

It was good to see Gregory “Shane” Helms (he was referred to as Hurricane Helms last night) back on TV after a long absence. He has been out since undergoing neck surgery in May of last year. Sort of like a pop-up video, Helms’ face appeared in a bubble during two matches. In each, he made a wisecrack about the heel and then said, “I’m just sayin.” This gimmick could be a lot of fun, and Helms in real-life has that smart-aleck personality (and I mean that as a compliment) that could make it work. I wouldn’t be surprised if he came up with the idea. …

Scotty Goldman’s attempt at comedy before his match against The Great Khali was as bad as anything I have ever seen on TNA Impact. It was so lame that I was rooting for Khali to squash him. …

I’m guessing just about everyone had already figured out the Bre Bella under-the-ring mystery, but last night WWE pretty much gave it away. As Christian Cage would say, “If you don’t know, now you know.”

Posted by Kevin Eck at 6:47 AM | | Comments (13)
        

September 19, 2008

Good news, bad news for Jeff Hardy

WWE will not take any disciplinary action against Jeff Hardy stemming from the incident at the airport in Nashville, Tenn., according to a report on pwinsider.com this afternoon.

The Web site said that WWE considers it a non-issue. Hardy was denied boading a flight to North Carolina Wednesday because a Southwest employee said that he appeared intoxicated, according to tennessean.com.

The fact that Hardy will not be fined or suspended is certainly positive news for him. However, as I wrote yesterday, even though this incident did not lead to Hardy being disclipined, it might make WWE officials leery of putting the WWE title on him or even pushing him as a main-eventer. As a fan, I hope that isn't the case.


Posted by Kevin Eck at 9:44 PM | | Comments (18)
        

Hanging on every word of Impact

If you prefer more wrestling and less talking on wrestling programs, you probably hated last night’s TNA Impact. However, if strong promos are more your thing, then you probably really liked the show.

The highlight was a great promo by the returning Jeff Jarrett. Kurt Angle, Sting, Samoa Joe and Jay Lethal also were very good on the mic. Plus, Mick Foley made his much-anticipated TNA debut in a cameo role at the end of the show.

With all the talking and just four matches, the show never dragged for me. The absence of any lame comedy skits also was appreciated.

A few years ago, Jarrett was heavily criticized by TNA fans who knew he had a stake in ownership of the company and were tired of seeing him book himself as the top guy. On last night’s show, however, the fans at the Impact Zone enthusiastically welcomed him back.

Jarrett cut perhaps the best promo of his career. The only Jarrett promo that I can remember that was even remotely close to this one was in 1997, when he cut a “shoot” promo about Eric Bischoff on Raw right after leaving WCW.

Last night, an emotional Jarrett made references to his wife, Jill, who died of breast cancer last year, and also talked about founding the company, which for years was never acknowledged on television. He called out Sting and told him that young guys such as Samoa Joe and A.J. Styles carried TNA and always showed him respect. He said all that Sting, Angle and Booker T. want to do is “take, take, take” from the company. Jarrett said that attitude took down WCW, but he’s not going to let it happen in TNA.

Angle eventually came down to confront Jarrett, and they had a compelling exchange. Earlier in the show, Samoa Joe and Sting also cut good promos about their upcoming match at the Bound for Glory pay-per-view on Oct. 12. And Lethal, in a backstage interview, delivered an intense promo about being betrayed by SoCal Val and Sonjay Dutt. It might have been the best promos that I have ever seen from Joe and Lethal.

Sting, while still not behaving like a true heel, finally got some boos from the crowd. I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but this angle would be so much better if Sting just went all the way bad.

Other thoughts on last night’s show:

Oh, no. There is dissension between Christian Cage and Styles. They’ve been friends, enemies, friends and now look like they might be on their way to becoming enemies again. And this has all been within the past eight months. I know that Cage is a good heel, but I really don’t want to see him turn on Styles. Part of the reason viewers can’t get fully invested in these characters is because of the way-too-frequent turns. …

How about the shiners on Joe and Styles? Joe’s looked especially bad. …

I enjoyed Lethal versus Booker T., as well as the tag-team match between Cage/Styles and The Motor City Machine Guns. …

I wasn’t as impressed with the six-man tag match that pitted the Prince Justice Brotherhood against Petey Williams, Johnny Devine and Jimmy Rave. It wasn’t a terrible match, but I’m just not excited about any of these characters. However, I would much rather watch a PJB match than have to endure one of their backstage segments. I was more entertained by the post-match angle, in which referee Shane Sewell cleaned house again. The butt-kicking ref bit is something different, and Sewell is doing a good job with it. …

Petey Williams apparently is a babyface now. I wonder what the means for him when Scott Steiner returns. I think Williams would be a lot better off by shedding the “Little Petey Pump” gimmick. …

Velvet Sky was wearing a shirt that said: “My boyfriend is cuter than yours.” That had to be a gift from my old pal Gregory “Shane” Helms. …

There wasn’t much depth to the “Rough Cuts” segment on Roxxi, but it was good to see TNA putting her over after the way she has put her body on the line. Hopefully, future “Rough Cuts” featuring Roxxi will be better. …

That deal with Matt Morgan’s DNA being sent to a space station is just bizarre. By the way, why was Don West standing there during the “press conference” about Morgan? Is there any chance that West can be sent to a space station for an indefinite stay?

Posted by Kevin Eck at 11:52 AM | | Comments (7)
        

Details on Jeff Hardy’s airport incident

Tennessean.com is reporting that a Southwest Airline spokesman said that Jeff Hardy was denied boarding a flight to North Carolina Wednesday because he appeared intoxicated. The spokesman went on to say that Hardy “was very cooperative” and was not arrested.

WWE has previously stated that it was investigating the incident and would take disciplinary action if needed. The worst case scenario for Hardy, if he truly was intoxicated, would be if any illegal drugs were involved. A third violation of WWE’s Wellness Policy would result in his automatic termination.

Even if Hardy wasn’t intoxicated and this is all just a big misunderstanding, just the fact that he was singled out at the airport is damaging to his already shaky reputation. Hardy cannot afford to be anything but a model employee at this point. He has made enough mistakes over the years that WWE would likely already have cut ties with him if he were a lesser talent or not as popular as he is.

Because of that talent and popularity, WWE probably will continue to give him the benefit of the doubt for just about anything but another drug policy violation. However, the one thing that WWE might not do is put the WWE title around Hardy’s waist. Hardy has to prove to WWE that he is dependable enough to handle the responsibility of being a world champion.

Hardy’s current story line on Smackdown is about how glory repeatedly just barely eludes his grasp. Unfortunately, it’s more than a plot device the WWE creative team has come up with. Two weeks before WrestleMania XXIV – when Hardy was likely going to win the Money in the Bank ladder match and get a title run before the end of the year – he was suspended for 60 days due to his second drug policy violation. Now, less than three weeks before his WWE title match against Triple H at the No Mercy pay-per-view, the airport incident takes place.

I have interviewed Hardy a couple times, but I don’t really know him. As a wrestling fan, however, I do like him and I hope he can keep it together and get that title run that he deserves. It would be a real shame if Hardy were to fail to realize his full potential due to making bad decisions out of the ring.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 1:35 AM | | Comments (8)
        

September 18, 2008

Jeff Hardy update

A WWE spokesman issued a statement to The UK Sun about Jeff Hardy being involved in an incident at the airport in Nashiville, Tenn., yesterday.

“WWE has been informed of an alleged incident involving Jeff Hardy,” the spokesman said. “We are currently investigating the situation and will take appropriate actions if needed.”

As I wrote last night, the nature of the incident and what if any disciplinary action is taken by WWE could have a significant effect on Hardy’s career and the No Mercy pay-per-view main event between Hardy and WWE champion Triple H on Oct. 5.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 1:17 PM | | Comments (21)
        

September 17, 2008

More trouble for Jeff Hardy?

There is a report on pwinsider.com that there was an issue involving Jeff Hardy at the airport in Nashville, Tenn., earlier today. There are no further details.

It would be inappropriate at this juncture to speculate, but it would be quite a blow to Hardy’s career and to WWE if this turns out to be something serious.

Hardy, as most know, is scheduled to face Triple H for the WWE title at the No Mercy pay-per-view on Oct. 5. The story line appears to be building to an eventual title run for Hardy.

Hardy returned to action in May after serving a 60-day suspension for his second violation of WWE’s Wellness Policy. A third violation would result in his termination.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 10:11 PM | | Comments (6)
        

September 16, 2008

Raw gets blitzed by NFL

You know those “Did you know” graphics that WWE was running coming out of commercial breaks about Raw having higher ratings than Monday Night Football during the preseason? Well, don’t expect to see how the show fared against the NFL last night being trumpeted on next week’s Raw.

Raw’s rating fell to an alarmingly low 2.6, according to pwinsider.com. The Dallas Cowboys-Philadelphia Eagles game did a 13.3, the highest rating in the history of cable television.

There’s no doubt that the NFL game cut into Raw’s numbers. The question is how much. The Cowboys are probably the NFL’s biggest draw, and the Eagles also are a high-profile team. And Raw’s ratings traditionally take a hit during football season. Still, dropping this low has to send shockwaves through Titan Towers. It will be very interesting to see if next Monday’s game – the New York Jets vs. the San Diego Chargers – has a similar effect. New York is a big market and Bret Favre playing for a new team also has appeal.

The disturbing thing for WWE is that, in my opinion, Monday’s show was pretty good. The Shawn Michaels-Chris Jericho story line has been especially well received by wrestling fans, but apparently casual viewers don’t find it compelling enough to become more than casual viewers. I’m sure there are some people behind the scenes in WWE who will claim that the ratings indicate Jericho’s world heavyweight title reign is a flop, but I think that would be oversimplifying things.

I have seen some wrestling pundits state that the declining ratings should be a wake-up call to Vince McMahon that his creative process is flawed. Obviously, fewer people are watching the product, but is that really a reflection that the content isn’t good? Again, I think that is an oversimplification, especially because I feel the content is good. Some will argue that it’s a copout to say that the wrestling business is cyclical and it’s just in a downturn, but I do think there is something to that.

I also believe the audience has been splintered due to the fact that viewers have so many options on TV now. Plus, let’s face it, wrestling is not the “cool thing” like it was a decade ago. The growing popularity of UFC has impacted wrestling, too. I have no idea what the actual percentage is of wrestling fans who have abandoned the genre for mixed martial arts, but I do have friends and acquaintances who have done exactly that.

I think another big factor is the lack of a larger-than-life superstar. During the boom in the 1980s, Hulk Hogan was that guy. Everyone knew who he was. In the late ’90s and early part of this decade, it was Steve Austin and The Rock who crossed over into the mainstream. No disrespect to any of the current talent, but there is no one at that level right now. The closest one is John Cena.

When ratings have dipped in the past, WWE has taken drastic measures to shake things up. I’m just not sure that another “Who killed Vince McMahon”-type story line or publicity stunts such as McMahon’s Million Dollar Mania are the answer. Recent history shows that going that route spikes ratings in the short term, but it’s not a long-term solution. Unfortunately, I don’t know what the solution is or even if there is one.

And as I have said in the past, it’s important to keep in mind that ratings are but one aspect of the wrestling business. WWE’s bottom line is quite healthy. It was just six months ago that more than 74,000 people attended WrestleMania XXIV and the show did 1.2 million pay-per-view buys.

A few more thoughts on last night’s Raw:

I forgot to mention the debut of Dolph Ziggler in this morning’s post. The new character is being played by Nick Nemeth, who formerly was Spirit Squad member Nicky. Now sporting longer, bleached-blonde hair, he looks like a cross between a young Chic Donovan (longtime fans probably remember him as a jobber to the stars in Georgia Championship Wrestling a couple decades ago) and a Dynamic Dudes-era Shane Douglas.

Ziggler ––whose character might be a takeoff on Dirk Diggler from Boogie Nights –– appeared in a few scenes, as he went up to various people backstage and shook their hand. I’m not sure what the point was, but I’m speculating that it might be a spoof of locker room etiquette. It is customary for people that are new to introduce themselves to everyone and shake hands, and those who fail to do so will have major heat On wwe.com, there is a video of Ziggler introducing himself to JBL during a commercial break while JBL was on his sit-down strike in the ring. The look on JBL’s face when Ziggler offered his hand was priceless. …

Candice Michelle has been getting a lot of criticism from fans for her subpar in-ring performances since returning from injury. I agree that she hasn’t looked good, but I will cut her some slack for now. She did suffer a broken clavicle and then had a setback during her recovery, so there is bound to be some ring rust. Before getting hurt, she had improved a lot from when she started.

I also saw where some are unhappy that Michelle’s push has come at the expense of Mickie James. I like James as much as anyone, but I don’t see it that way. Michelle versus Beth Phoenix is a natural feud considering the fact that Michelle suffered her injury against Phoenix. And I don’t think James is going to continue to be an afterthought. James and Phoenix had wrestled a bunch of times and it was time for some fresh matchups.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 9:35 PM | | Comments (34)
        

Jericho, Michaels to take feud to higher level

When the main event steel cage match for the world heavyweight title between Chris Jericho and CM Punk opened the show, you knew the final segment was going to be a big announcement of some sort. Sure enough, Shawn Michaels returned to TV after a one-week absence and revealed that he was facing Jericho in a ladder match for the title at the No Mercy pay-per-view on Oct. 5.

Michaels and Jericho are engaged in the hottest feud in some time, and a ladder match between these two has the potential to be a classic. I’m guessing that the match at No Mercy – their fourth meeting on pay-per-view this year – will not be their last. This is one program that I just don’t want to see end.

With this match and Triple H versus Jeff Hardy for the WWE title headlining the card, No Mercy is shaping up nicely.

Other thoughts on last night’s show:

The Jericho-Punk cage match was very good. There were some nice false finishes, the best one being when Punk nearly got out of the cage while trapped in the Walls of Jericho. The match told a story, as Punk looked strong in defeat, and Jericho stole another victory (he has taken over Edge’s role as the ultimate opportunist). Jericho is getting “fluke” wins, but his character is a weasel, so that’s what should happen. The fact that he keeps taking a beating and finding ways to get the last laugh against the likes of Batista and Punk, however, shows that he is tough as well as cunning.

As for Punk, the two-month title reign was successful in elevating him, and not having the belt anymore hasn’t hurt him. I think he will end up being a multi-time world champion. …

I liked the interaction backstage between Jericho and JBL and the fact that they aren’t suddenly friends just because they are both heels. Jericho, JBL and Randy Orton all have heat with one another, which is the way it should be. There is no honor among thieves when chasing the world title. …

There were some great lines during the verbal exchanges between Batista, Orton, JBL, Santino Marella and Beth Phoenix. Among the highlights: JBL referred to Glamarella as “Mr. and Mr. Phoenix,” and he told Orton to “take the bass out of your eyeballs;” Marella said to Orton, “You are always injury, just like your dad;” Marella said his father was always healthy, then added, “Well, he did have the herpes, but he managed it well;” after Batista basically called Phoenix a pig, Marella said, “Just because she squeals sometimes doesn’t mean she’s a pig.”

It was a fun segment, and Batista was good as the babyface who put the heels in their places. He appears way more comfortable on the stick than he used to be. …

Someone who did not appear comfortable speaking was Mike Adamle. One week after I wrote that he wasn’t embarrassing himself as Raw general manager, Adamle stumbled over his words several times during the final segment. If he can’t string together several decent performances in a row over the next couple months, WWE should cut its losses and move someone else into the role. …

Speaking of Adamle, why he is talking to Kelly Kelly backstage every week? Is there an angle in the works? If Adamle gets Kelly Kelly as a love interest there is no justice in the WWE Universe. …

Kane’s delivery on his promo was good, but the explanation for his attack on Rey Mysterio was a stretch. Something about Mysterio hiding behind a mask just like all the fans who figuratively wear masks, pretending to be good people when they really aren’t. Kane’s rationale for turning heel – that he’s a monster and people stare at him and make fun of him – was exactly the same as it was for his heel turn of several years ago. Plus, he said that Mysterio didn’t have the guts to unmask, but a lot of fans know that Mysterio wrestled for a couple years without his mask in WCW. I guess WWE’s answer to the gaps in logic could be that Kane is a lunatic, so nothing he says has to make any sense. …

It’s nice to see Evan Bourne on Raw for the second straight week, but he came off like a geek when he confronted Kane. Bourne ended up backing away with a frightened look on his face as Kane laughed maniacally. Maybe the story will be that Bourne is afraid of monsters, and his pal Mysterio encourages him to face his fears. Suddenly, a new character known as Super Evan will appear under a mask. Nah, that would be too silly. …

Speaking of silly – although this is a good kind of silly – Charlie Haas’ impersonation gimmick is starting to get over. Good Ol’ Jim Haas was funny, although Charlie Haas Layfield is still my favorite. I got a chuckle out of seeing Haas (as Ross) pimp J.R.’s barbecue sauce. On Ross’ blog last week, he sarcastically complained that JBL’s Mamajuana energy drink gets plenty of free advertising, “so what about spreading the wealth with a little BBQ media stretch?”

Haas’ shtick will run its course eventually, but he can keep it going for a quite a while. We still haven’t seen The Haas-break Kid, Bret “The Hitman” Haas, Hunter Haas Helmsley, Hollywood Haas Hogan, Haas-tista, The Charlie Haas or Haas-swoggle. …

The six-man match with Haas, Jerry Lawler and Kofi Kingston against Ted DiBiase Jr., Cody Rhodes and Manu was pretty entertaining. I was so happy to see Haas come out as Lawler and Kingston’s partner instead of Hacksaw Jim Duggan. …

I wonder if Paul Burchill does impersonations. He better do something, because he couldn’t be more buried. Losing to Jamie Noble in about a minute? Ouch. …

Layla, who is now with William Regal, told Noble that it was over. Did it ever begin? …

Since the show was in Memphis, I was hoping that The Honky Tonk Man would make a cameo and confront Marella. It was curious that Marella did not mention the Honk-O-Meter this week. …

There was no Honky Tonk Man, but we did get the next best thing – Jillian Hall singing Elvis. I have a feeling I’m in the minority on this, but I love Hall’s bad-singing gimmick. You at least have to admit that it’s better than “the mole.”

Posted by Kevin Eck at 3:54 AM | | Comments (24)
        

September 15, 2008

They don’t call it TNA for nothing

We can’t blame this one on Vince Russo.

For those of you who ordered TNA’s No Surrender pay-per-view (you know who you are), you may have gotten a little surprise while watching Sunday’s show. Whether it was a pleasant one or not depends on what you consider inappropriate or offensive.

On some cable systems, the screen abruptly went black during the Frank Trigg-A.J. Styles match before a scene from a softcore porn movie suddenly appeared. The image of two topless women in a compromising position was on for about 10 seconds, according to reports. Judging by the feedback that I’ve read, it was the highlight of the match.

While Russo has a well-deserved reputation for pushing the envelope in WWE, WCW and TNA – I have always believed that it was his idea to name the company TNA – I think this was a technical glitch that was beyond TNA’s control.

The big news coming out of the pay-per-view is that Sting will challenge Samoa Joe for the TNA world title at next month’s Bound For Glory pay-per-view, which is TNA’s version of WrestleMania. If Sting would just do a real heel turn and abandon this convoluted tweener role that he has been playing, there could be a lot of anticipation for this match.

Other developments on the show:

SoCal Val finally turned heel and hooked up with Sonjay Dutt, who apparently had one heck of a ladder match with Jay Lethal. It’s too bad that they were saddled with such a lame program. On the surface, Val turning on Lethal makes no sense. Was Val deceiving Lethal all along? Did she fall for Dutt after he ruined her wedding? I hope TNA has a logical explanation for Val’s actions over the past several months. Yeah, right.

How long have Matt Morgan and Abyss been teaming? Long enough to be arguing with each other. That’s fast even by TNA standards.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 7:13 PM | | Comments (8)
        

September 13, 2008

The Game Show edition of Smackdown

If you are a Triple H fan, you probably loved last night’s episode of Smackdown. “The Game” opened the show with a promo – which was interrupted by Jeff Hardy – and went on to appear in three more segments.

One by one, Triple H confronted the participants in last night’s fatal four-way, which determined the challenger for his WWE title at next month’s No Mercy pay-per-view. The idea was that Triple H, with his condescending tone and smart aleck remarks, was trying to get into the head of his potential challengers.

The question is: Were the four participants – Hardy, Shelton Benjamin, The Brian Kendrick and MVP – buried in these segments, or did they get a “rub” by interacting with Triple H?

You certainly could make a strong case for either side. Being somewhat cynical by nature, my initial instinct tells me it is the former, but I’m going to try to take a less pessimistic view.

Let’s look at the opening segment, in which Triple H had a verbal confrontation with Hardy. This was a good back-and-forth exchange, and Hardy had the fans on his side at the end. There were two key lines of dialogue that made Hardy look good.

One was when Hardy insinuated that Triple H was in such a prominent position because of his political and family connections. To the best of my knowledge, that was the first time that Triple H had ever allowed someone to pull the “married to the boss’ daughter” card. The other was when Triple H basically said that, all kidding aside, he did respect Hardy.

To a lesser extent, Benjamin also held his own. He did not appear at all intimidated by Triple H. With his standout performances in the ring, the way Jim Ross puts him over in commentary and his somewhat-improving mic skills, Benjamin is starting to look like a legitimate world title contender.

Kendrick, on the other hand, has not looked nearly as strong as Benjamin. He was pinned four times in the Championship Scramble last Sunday at Unforgiven, and then did the job in last night’s four-way (well, somebody had to). To add insult to injury, Triple H called Kendrick the “biggest loser” of all the losers in the Scramble.

That sure seems like a burial to me, but perhaps I’m not taking the big picture into account. Kendrick’s momentum might have stalled, but where was Kendrick a few months ago? Not challenging for world titles in pay-per-view main events, that’s for sure.

And that brings us to MVP. I’m not even going to try to argue that he hasn’t been buried the past couple weeks. Triple H contributed to it last night when he pointed out that everyone but MVP had something to brag about coming out of the Scramble (Hardy lost by just one second; Benjamin was never pinned; and Kendrick theoretically was “champion” the longest during the match).

Before 2008 began, I fully expected MVP to win a world title sometime this year, but that is extremely doubtful at this point. Hopefully, he will be able to get back on track in the near future.

As for Triple H and all his sarcasm, I think it would be easier for his detractors to take if there was some form of retribution. I would like to see Benjamin, Kendrick and MVP form an alliance of convenience and attack Triple H. Not only would it be a receipt for Triple H’s demeaning comments, but it at also could lead to a compelling story line for the upcoming Triple H-Hardy title match.

I envision a scenario in which Triple H is wrestling Benjamin, and then MVP, Kendrick and Ezekiel all run in for a four-on-one beat-down of Triple H. Hardy comes out to make the save. Triple H recovers and grabs his sledgehammer, and he and Hardy clear the ring. Then Triple H shakes Hardy’s hand, but when Hardy turns his back, Triple H clobbers him with the sledgehammer and brutalizes him.

Ric Flair turned on Dusty Rhodes in a similar manner on more than one occasion, and it would generate a lot of heat for Triple H versus Hardy. I’ve said many times that I like Triple H better as a babyface, but he’s probably turning heel at some point, and this would be a great way to do it.

Other thoughts on last night’s show:

The fatal four-way was good, although it did drag a little at times. The big story – besides Hardy winning – was Kozlov attacking Hardy after the match. With Kozlov now in the mix, there is no shortage of challengers to the WWE title. And you know at some point that Edge, The Undertaker and Big Show are also going to be in the title picture. …

Speaking of the title picture, I wouldn’t be surprised to see R-Truth involved down the line. …

Kendrick had the funniest line of the night when he said that he was the longest-reigning champion in the history of the Championship Scrambles. …

It was good to see Carlito (and his afro) back on TV. I think teaming with his brother Primo benefits both of them, but there was an inexcusable lack of attention to detail here. The last time we saw Carlito, he was a heel; and the last time we saw his brother Primo, he was on Raw bad-mouthing Carlito. Now they are a babyface tag team on Smackdown.

Since WWE’s creative team gave no explanation for this turn of events, I’ll just make it up myself: Carlito heard what Primo said about him on Raw, and he came to the realization that he has been a jerk and he wants to patch things up with his brother. He tells Primo he wants to team with him. Primo is convinced that Carlito is sincere, so he asks Raw general manager Mike Adamle to release him from his contract so that he can team with his brother on Smackdown. There, was that so hard? …

It looks like Chavo Guerrero and Bam Neely are headed for a split. That seemed to come out of nowhere. Has there even been a hint of dissension between them before their physical confrontation last night? This is not a feud I am very excited about. …

That was a weird segment when Jesse and Festus came out dressed as movers, taped up Kenny Dykstra and wheeled him away. Jesse and Festus were wearing jumpsuits that had “MyMoving Co.” written on the back, so I guess this was WWE’s subtle way of reminding viewers that Smackdown is moving to MyNetworkTV next month. …

Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder have potential, but they just aren’t connecting with the audience right now.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 4:46 PM | | Comments (15)
        

September 12, 2008

Comedy is not pretty on Impact

Before I get into my thoughts on last night’s TNA Impact, I want to make it clear that I am a big fan of The Beautiful People. Angelina Love and Velvet Sky do a great job in their roles as the snobby pretty girls you love to hate.

TNA, however, doesn’t seem to grasp the concept of less is more. The Beautiful People got so much time on last night’s show that by their final segment, I really didn’t care to see them anymore. It didn’t help that they weren’t given the greatest material to work with, or that The Prince Justice Brotherhood was in all of the segments.

Sometimes attempts at silly, sophomoric humor can be funny – ODB in the bathroom, Santino Marella’s antics – but the beauty pageant skits just didn’t do it for me. But that’s just my opinion. Humor, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, and I won’t be surprised if these segments did well in the ratings.

It did seem odd, though, to devote so much TV time to these skits on the go-home show for Sunday’s No Surrender pay-per-view.

Other thoughts on last night’s show:

I’m looking forward to seeing Jeff Jarrett back after such a long absence. After his return had been teased for weeks, he made a quick cameo at the very end of last night’s show. One could argue that Jarrett shouldn’t have appeared on camera at all until the pay-per-view, but I thought this was fine. TNA wisely did not let him cut a promo on free TV. …

The Sting angle would be so much better if he was a full-fledged heel. To me, he isn’t even a subtle heel at this point. He was still slapping hands with fans on his way to the ring last night. I don’t know this to be the case, but if Steve Borden refused to go all the way with a heel turn, then TNA should have just scrapped the idea and come up with something else for Sting. …

At the beginning of the show, Samoa Joe said that he was going to rough up Kevin Nash. Before the end of the show, they were hugging and Nash was kissing him on the head. And they wonder why no one cares about this angle that has seemingly been going on forever. If rumors of Nash leaving TNA turn out to be true, then the story line won’t have a payoff after all the time that was invested in it. ...

The word going around about Tomko, who returned on last night’s show as one of Samoa Joe’s three opponents in a gauntlet match, is that he is going to appear on a semi-regular basis with TNA. Tomko and TNA reportedly had mutually agreed to part ways a couple months ago. …

Christian Cage cut a good promo about his participation in Sunday’s main event, which takes place not far from where he grew up in Ontario. …

I have no idea how good Frank Trigg will be at doing worked matches, but he is already at a high level when it comes to talking and projecting a heel persona. …

Roxxi is one tough woman. She takes some painful-looking bumps, and last night she bled heavily after being struck in the head by a chair that was thrown at her by Awesome Kong. I hope people in the company are appreciative of her sacrificing her body to make Kong and others look strong. …

For the talent competition in the beauty pageant, Taylor Wilde played the drums. She wasn’t bad, but she was no Peter Criss. Love, on the other hand, gave an “oral presentation.” Oh, that witty Vince Russo. The funniest part of the whole pageant was the shot of a fan sitting in the audience with a paper bag over their head and Kip James’ picture on it.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 3:20 PM | | Comments (7)
        

September 10, 2008

Q&A with Tammy “Sunny” Sytch

Tammy Sytch is considered by many to be the original WWE Diva. As Sunny, she was the top woman in wrestling during the mid-1990s. Since her release from WWE a decade ago, however, she has been one of the industry’s more controversial figures. After brief stints in ECW and WCW following her departure from WWE, Sytch has been a fixture on the independent circuit for the past eight years.

Sunny

She appeared on Raw’s 15th anniversary show last December, which sparked rumors that she was going to be offered a WWE contract. Later, the buzz on the Internet was that TNA was going to bring her in to play Kurt Angle’s love interest. A job never materialized with either company.

I spoke with Sytch in a phone interview recently to discuss her career.

How often are you appearing at independent shows these days, and who are some of the promotions that you’ve worked for recently?

I work for the smallest little indies all the way up to Ring of Honor; I work overseas; I work in Germany a lot. Every single weekend I’m somewhere – at least one show per weekend, sometimes up to three. Business is actually very good right now. One big trip I’m looking forward to is going to France in November. I also did a Star Wars convention recently in Niagara Falls. They’re always interesting. You get these weirdos walking around dressed up like Darth Vader (laughs).

They make us wrestling fans look normal by comparison, right?

Oh, absolutely. The Stars Wars fans are so much creepier than wrestling fans. You get all these girls walking around like Princess Leia wearing the little bikini – and they really shouldn’t be wearing that little bikini. But whoever wants to hire me to sign my name and smile, I’ll go (laughs).

Are you enjoying getting out there and meeting the fans?

Oh yeah. There were a few fans that showed up to see Stars Wars who had no idea that I was going to be there and spent more time talking to me than they did the original Darth Vader. It’s cool. I really like doing conventions and signings. It’s a lot easier than doing anything in the ring or even ringside. I like keeping my face out there.

You appeared at the Raw 15th anniversary show back in December, which sparked rumors that you might be headed back to WWE. Is there still a chance of that happening?

There’s always a chance. Anything can happen in this crazy business. That was a really awesome night. They called me three weeks ahead of time and told me that they were thinking of having me on the show, but it wasn’t definite yet and they would let me know. Then about a week before, I got the phone call back and they said, “We definitely want you there. I was like, “Awesome.” I was so excited and all pumped up. I dieted my butt off. I worked out like a madwoman in the gym. I’m in the car on the way to Bridgeport, Conn., and my boyfriend’s driving and we’re about 10 minutes away from the building, and I started physically shaking. He looked at me and he goes, “What is the matter? Are you nervous?” I said, “I’m so nervous. You have no idea.” He said, “Why are you nervous? You’ve been doing this for 18 years.” I said, "No, you don’t understand. Hearing my music, walking down the ramp and doing my thing in the ring, that’s not what I’m nervous about. That’s old hat for me. I can do that with my eyes closed. What I’m nervous about is walking into that locker room and seeing all these people I haven’t seen for years and seeing people I don’t know.”

I’d heard from people who have been in that company since I was there that the locker room was completely changed. We were all friends when I was there. It was kind of like a family on the road. And what I had heard was that the past few years there was just a bunch of back-stabbers [and] nobody likes each other in the locker room. So I was actually very nervous about how the whole locker room scene was going to be, seeing people that I had history with – good and bad. It was nerve-wracking. But as soon as I walked in that back door everybody who saw me came right over, gave me hugs and kisses and was so happy to see me that every bit of nervousness exited my body immediately. I was shocked because here I am, ready to walk into the female locker room after hearing all these horror stories from people like Dawn Marie, who told me how all the girls hated each other, and every single girl in that locker room kissed my butt (laughs). They were awesome. They paid me so much respect, and the girls that I thought I would not like at all, like the girls from the Diva Search like Maria, she was one of the nicest ones there.

I’m not a big fan of the Diva Search thing. I was raised old school in this business. To bring girls in off the street that know nothing about this business and giving them a job when there are so many girls that really respect this business and have learned their craft that can’t get a job, I think that’s the wrong way to go about hiring girls. I was thinking that I definitely was not going to like these girls, but Maria came right over to me; she got me a bottle of water when I was thirsty and couldn’t find anything to drink; she was great. Melina – I didn’t like her character, so I guess she was doing her job really well because I bought into it – she was great. Now we keep in touch all the time. We talk on the phone, we e-mail, we text. She’s awesome. Every girl was just so nice. I was like, “Wait a minute. This is not the locker room that Dawn Marie was warning me about.” It was completely different from what I expected. It was a really fun night. I didn’t want to leave. Around 11:30 everybody’s starting to pull their bags out and go home and go to their hotels, and I wanted the night to keep going because I was having such a good time.


There also were rumors that you were going to be brought into TNA to play Kurt Angle’s love interest. What happened with that?

I heard that, too, but the only place I ever heard that was on the Internet. I was never contacted. Nobody ever said anything to me about any kind of idea. After 18 years in the business, I’ve learned that you don’t believe anything until you have your name on paper and money in your hand. You can’t believe rumors; you can’t believe that somebody has an idea for you unless it’s actually happening. I’ve been heartbroken many times when I thought ideas that were going to happen didn’t happen, so I don’t get my hopes up for anything. So all of a sudden, all these people are saying, “Oh, what happened? How did you screw up your deal?” I’m like, “There was no deal. It was an Internet rumor.” I’ve even contacted a couple of my friends that are producers and writers in TNA after I heard the rumors, and I was like, “What is going on?” And they were like, “We have no idea. We never heard anything like that.” So as far as I’m concerned, it was just an Internet rumor.

Do you want to work full-time again with one of the two companies?

Never say never. I kind of like how my life is right now. I work every weekend. I’m comfortable with money. And I like playing the housewife role during the week. Monday through Thursday, I clean the house, I cook dinner, and I take care of the landscaping. It’s kind of fun and it’s something I’ve never done before. It’s a nice, calm, normal life. I go the gym, I go to the tanning salon and I come home and take care of the house and my boyfriend. And then on the weekends I go and play (laughs). But never say never. I do love being on the road, and being on the road is where I’ve always been most comfortable – in hotels and rental cars and airplanes. A lot of people wouldn’t be able to fathom being away so much, but I kind of enjoy it. I’m kind of a gypsy at heart.

It would really have to be worth it. I definitely wouldn’t get in the ring and do anything physical. I’ve got some herniated disks in my lower back that I need surgery on and it’s just not worth it to me to go in there and have to get the surgery any sooner than I have to. I’m trying to put it off as long as possible. I’ve never been a wrestler; I’ve never said I was any good at it, because I’m not, even the couple times that I have been in the ring. If anybody wanted to hire me and have me in the ring, I think they’re foolish because why have me do something I’m not good at. Put me on the microphone, let me be a manager or a broadcaster or host a TV show – that’s what I’m good at. Don’t put me in the ring, because I suck (laughs).

We’ll see. If something comes about and there’s an offer made or an idea, I’ll definitely consider it. The night I was there for Raw, I got a lot of good vibes from people like Johnny Ace and Stephanie McMahon, and you never know. See, they’re the kind of company that they’re not going to hire you just to hire you and then figure out something to do with you. They’ll wait until they have an idea and see who is going to fit in the role for that idea, and then they’ll give you a call. They’re never going to hire somebody and then try to think of what to do with them. So if something happens down the road, great. But they better get a move on because I’m not getting any younger (laughs).

You mentioned broadcasting. I actually threw your name out there a while back when JBL left his job as color commentator on Smackdown. I thought you would be a good choice because it would be different to have a woman, and the fans are familiar with you and you’re a student of the business.

Well, I had the experience of doing commentary for Shotgun Saturday Night with Vince [McMahon] every week. That was so much fun. I had a blast. A lot of people have always been intimidated by Vince, but I don’t get intimidated very easily. I think the only person in this business who has ever intimidated me was Hulk Hogan. Vince doesn’t intimidate me. He was kind of like a father figure to me. He was very good to me. A lot of people, every time they have to work with Vince they totally blow it because they’re just so nervous to be around him. I used to play off of him. I used to grab him and make him dance with me on tables. The goofier I got with him, the better it was. It made it fun and took those nerves out. I got that history doing that kind of thing, so you never know.

You’ve talked in the past about problems that you’ve had with drugs …

All right, back up a second. I’ve never had a problem with drugs. I’ve never used any kind of recreational drug in my life.

What about prescription drugs?

Prescription drugs that were prescribed by my doctors, yes. I’ve never smoked pot. I’ve never even touched it. I’ve never done any kind of recreational drug in my life. I’ve never smoked anything; never snorted anything; never did anything like that. When I say the word “drugs,” that’s what I think of – recreational drugs. Prescription medication I don’t consider drugs. You’re not taking that to get a buzz; you’re taking a painkiller because you have pain, or you’re taking a Xanax because you need to go to sleep. It’s a totally different thing.

You did talk about having a problem with prescription drugs during an interview with Paul Heyman on the old ECW, right?

(Sighs) Can I tell you how scripted that was? That wasn’t even me. He wrote down everything he wanted me to say. He said, “We want to make it like a True Hollywood Story thing, but I’m going to script it out so we can try to get sympathy from the viewers.” Every single thing I said on there was basically written out on paper by him. So, a lot of it was truthful, like when we were talking about my dad or my niece, but there was a lot that weren’t – it was straight out of Paul Heyman’s head. Come on, it’s wrestling. You think this is all real? (laughs)

Obviously not. But I thought that interview was presented as a shoot.

Of course. And everybody believed it was, but it really wasn’t (laughs).

Well, the reason I brought the subject up is because I wanted to ask what your thoughts are on WWE’s Wellness Policy.

It’s something that should have been there a long time ago. When I was there, we had random drug testing, but it was so obvious that whoever they needed to pass the tests always passed the tests. I knew of a lot of people – and I’m not going to name anybody – that were doing a lot of stuff that they shouldn’t have been doing, and they passed every single time. And then there were some guys who would go out and party just a little bit and they would get popped on their tests because they weren’t necessary in the business. It was just to prove a point, or if they needed a way to get rid of you and they couldn’t just release you, you’d get popped on a test. But if they needed you for your angle and you weren’t expendable, you passed every single time. So it wasn’t as serious as it is now, but it should have been because maybe we’d have a lot of guys around that have passed away. I think it’s a good thing, but I do think they test for things they really shouldn’t.

See, I’m not one of those people who say, “Oh, steroids are bad.” Let me tell you, steroids are in every professional sport. You can’t avoid it. Yes, it does enhance your performance. But in a lot of ways, some of these guys do need that enhancement. You can’t go out there if you’re 5-foot-5, 145 pounds soaking wet and be a contender for the heavyweight championship. You’re going to need some kind of enhancement to even be taken seriously. So, I’m not an advocate of it, but I’m not the kind of person who says, “Oh, steroids are bad. Don’t do them.” So in that sense, I really don’t think they should be so hard on that. But as far as all the recreational drug use and abuse, absolutely, because like I said, maybe we’d have more guys around now.

I want to ask you about a well-documented incident that took place when you were in WCW. I was actually backstage the night that Kimberly Page supposedly found some drug paraphernalia in the women’s bathroom and told management that it was yours. I heard that you took a drug test after that and you passed, so why were you let go?

I volunteered [to take the drug test]. I said, “It’s not mine. I’ll go pee in a cup right now.” They said, “We’ll send you tomorrow when we get to the next town.” I said, “OK, fine. Send me.” So a week after I took the test, I went to [Eric] Bischoff and I said, “Do you have my results yet?” “Uh, no, we can’t seem to locate results.” He was beating around the bush the whole time. Three weeks later, after bugging him like every single day for my results, he said, “Well, we finally got a hold of your results and you passed – you’re negative.” I said, “I [freakin’] told you,” and I went off on him. See, I’m not the kind of person that will keep my mouth shut and go with the flow; I’ll speak my mind. I guess he didn’t like the fact that I told him off and that he was wrong and had to admit it. He couldn’t live with himself, and like two weeks later I got a phone call from Terry Taylor who said, “The angle doesn’t seem to be working out, so we’re going to have to release you.”

At that point, I was like, “I don’t even want to be in this [expletive] company. For you to accuse me of something, have me pass the test and then not be able to face up to the fact that you were wrong and let’s just go on with work – I didn’t even want to work in a company like that. It was pathetic. But that night when it all happened, Scott Steiner chased Kimberly Page out of the building and she never came back (laughs). I’ve always been friends with Scott since I was 18 years old. When he heard about what happened – you know, he snaps. You know Scott. He chased her out of the building and she never came back, so at least I got a little bit of my payback that way (laughs).

Moving on to a happier topic: What is your favorite memory from your days as Sunny in WWE?

I don’t know if I have a No. 1 favorite because there was just so many, but one of my favorite things to do – and people are shocked when I say it – is that I loved getting slopped [by the Godwins]. It was so much fun. First of all, it got me on magazine covers and so much TV time. How can you not like getting all that press? And it was just a lot of fun. I got to throw it in the crowd. People who hated me at that time got faces of slop. It was all over me and it was on the floor, so I would pretend I was slipping on it and grab handfuls and – boom – hit people in the front row (laughs). So that was my little revenge on them for spitting on me or cursing me out or whatever. But it was a blast. I did it every night on the road for like three nights. It was one of the highlights of my career, and people are always like, “Really?” I’m like, “Yeah.” You couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing a replay of me getting slopped. Of course, managing The Legion of Doom was awesome. That was really, really cool. I loved hosting all the TV shows because it was basically my show – I was on the whole show for the whole hour. There’s so much stuff. I had a lot of fun years there.

It’s public knowledge that you have a history with Shawn Michaels. What was it like seeing him at the Raw 15th anniversary show after all these years?

That was one of the things I was very nervous about, because I haven’t seen him since I left that company. I didn’t know what to expect. I was in catering and all of a sudden someone taps me on my shoulder, I turn around and it’s him. Of course, I was like a deer in the headlights (laughs). And he hugs me, kisses me on the cheek, said how great I looked. I tried to say the same thing about him without lying too much because he aged quite a bit since I saw him last (laughs). I was like, “Oh, you look the same.” And I’m thinking to myself, “No you don’t.” (laughs) But he was very cool. He showed me pictures of his kids. He was in great spirits that night and he was a sweetheart. That’s probably what I was most nervous about going in there that night, and he totally made it easy.

Shawn had a reputation for being a prima donna in the ’90s. Do you think he is a different person today?

He seems a lot more centered and at ease with himself than he did in the past. Yeah, he was a prima donna; he was a [jerk] to just about everybody except for his very close friends, and me for about nine months. In December, he did seem like he had a different attitude. He seemed like a happier, more content person. Back in the ’90s, he was so good, he was the best that we had in the company, but he was still very insecure about himself. And that’s why he thought he had to be a [jerk] to everybody, to kind of uphold his image. I do believe he’s changed over time. I think it did a lot of good for him to settle down, get married and have kids.

You talked a little bit about the Diva Search girls earlier. What is your overall impression of the current women’s wrestling scene in WWE and TNA?

First of all, I think if you have more than five girls at one time it’s way too much. It takes all the specialness out of it. When I was [in WWE], there were three of us, and every time you saw one of us it meant something. Now, there’s a girl in practically every single segment on the show. To have a women’s match on every show I think is just too much. I’m not a fan of women’s wrestling. Just leave that part to the guys. When you’ve got 19-20 girls on the roster, it’s redundant and it’s not a special thing. To be honest with you, a lot of girls that came from the Diva Search, I can’t tell one from the next. I don’t know what their names are; all I know is that they came from the Diva Search at some point.

As far as TNA girls go, I think they do have a crop of girls that have a lot more talent than the WWE girls because they have been schooled in the business. They either went to wrestling schools or they studied the business before they got into it, and they actually have respect for it and they want to be in the business because they like wrestling. The Divas want to be in the business because they want the quick paycheck. You have to remember, at the very first Diva Search, there wasn’t one girl who knew who Kamala was. How do you not know Kamala? I watched that and I swear I couldn’t watch another Diva Search segment because I was so [ticked] off.

Is there one guy in either company that you would like to manage if you came back?

The one person I always said I wanted to manage before I was completely done was Ric Flair, and I don’t think that’s going to happen now. Who knows if he’s ever going to get in the ring again. He’ll probably end up being like Terry Funk and have eight retirements and eight comebacks and wrestle until he’s 70 (laughs). That remains to be seen, but I’d like to do that just so I can say I walked the aisle with the “Nature Boy.” As far as anybody else, I love Randy Orton. I’m a big fan of his, and I was from the first time I saw him. I would like to work with him.

Have you thought at all about writing a book?

I have actually started writing one. It’s probably going to take about a year because I’ve got 18 years of stuff to write about. I’m probably going to have two volumes – nine years in Volume I and nine years in Volume II. It would be too hard to condense 18 years of stories into a 300-page book. So I have started writing, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. To try to recall everything from like 1991 and 1994, it’s insane. But it’s definitely going to be a good one. It’s not going to be the kind of book that bashes people or tries to ruin marriages or break up families or anything like that. It’s going to be a fun book. I’m telling road stories and funny ribs that happened. There are so many Davey Boy and Owen Hart stories that it’s ridiculous. I traveled on the road with them so much, and with all the ribs that they pulled on me, that I pulled on them and that we all pulled on other people, that’s like a book in itself (laughs).

For the latest news on Tammy Sytch, visit www.tammysytchonline.com and www.myspace.com/tammysytch.

Photo credit: Bob Mulrenin

Posted by Kevin Eck at 4:19 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Q&As
        

September 9, 2008

A star is Bourne on Raw?

Last night’s episode of Raw was, for the most part, uneventful. There were no cliffhanger endings, classic main events or big angles.

But there was one potentially significant development – and it occurred in a mid-card tag team match. Evan Bourne, who teamed with Rey Mysterio against John Morrison and The Miz, made an outstanding first impression in his debut on WWE’s flagship show.

Bourne has been on ECW for a few months now, but Raw obviously has a much larger viewing audience. A fair amount of people in the crowd probably had no idea who Bourne was, but he got himself over with his acrobatic moves. Bourne is so fluid and quick that he actually made Mysterio look slow in comparison.

My wife, who is not a wrestling fan (but is frequently in the room when it is on television), actually looked up from the book she was reading to watch Bourne. She said that the match reminded her of the cruiserweight action in WCW back in the day. I assume she was referencing when the like of Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, Ultimo Dragon, Juventud Guerrera and others would kick off Nitro with breathtaking matches, not when Oklahoma and Madusa feuded over the cruiserweight title.

If Bourne can develop a persona that is even half as entertaining as his ring work, he has star potential. He has a ways to go in that regard, as he has been less than impressive when given a few brief opportunities to speak in WWE. It wouldn’t be the first time, however, that a guy eventually became as proficient on the stick as he was at executing fantastic high-risk maneuvers. I remember seeing a young guy about 12 years ago who had a good look and could really go in the ring, but his lack of promo skills were holding him back.

That young guy was named Chris Jericho.

Other thoughts on last night’s show:

Speaking of Jericho, he opened the program with a good promo coming off his surprising world heavyweight title win at the Unforgiven pay-per-view on Sunday. The main event last night, which pitted Jericho and JBL against Batista in a handicap match, wasn’t much of a match, but it served a purpose as far as portraying Jericho as a weasel. It should be interesting to see what happens when he defends the title against former champion CM Punk in a steel cage next week on Raw. …

Randy Orton also turned in some good mic work, as his story line with Ted DiBiase Jr., Cody Rhodes and Manu continued to develop. If this stable of young heels with good bloodlines is ever given a name, my suggestion would be to call them The Greatest Generation. Hey, Generation Next has already been used…

With John Cena, Shawn Michaels and Punk not on the show, Raw was definitely lacking in star power on the babyface side. …

Kane has vowed to explain his actions regarding Mysterio next week. Hopefully, it’s not too contrived. Kane said last night that it had something to do with his old red and black mask. I’m starting to think that the plan all along was for Kane’s mask to have been in the bag he was carrying around, but once fans figured it out, WWE decided to swerve everyone. I’m guessing the creative team’s thought process was: “Let’s just put Mysterio’s mask in the bag and we’ll figure out a story line later.” …

Mike Adamle is not embarrassing himself as general manager, but I won’t go so far as to say that he is doing a good job. It looks as if he is supposed to be a tweener at this point rather than a full-fledged heel. I think it would be more entertaining if Adamle’s character was portrayed as a total buffoon. …

Charlie Haas was very funny doing his JBL impersonation. I’m starting to look forward to Haas’ segments every week. Did I really just write that?

Posted by Kevin Eck at 11:57 AM | | Comments (26)
        

September 8, 2008

Unforgiven thoughts

Sometimes, being wrong is better than being right. And I was wrong a lot yesterday.

Before heading out to M&T Bank Stadium to watch my beloved Ravens play the Cincinnati Bengals, I predicted a lopsided loss for the home team. The Ravens, however, pleasantly surprised me with a 17-10 victory.

Then, last night, I sat in front of my TV to watch WWE’s Unforgiven pay-per-view convinced that Triple H would be the only champion to lose his title in a Championship Scramble match. I expected Jeff Hardy to walk out with Triple H's WWE title belt.

As it turned out, Triple H was the only one of the three champions not to lose his title. A Hardy did win a title, but it was Matt Hardy winning the ECW Championship Scramble.

The finish to the Championship Scramble for the WWE title – Jeff Hardy was the champion until Triple H made the winning pin with one second left – furthered the story line of Hardy’s quest for the championship. In retrospect, having Hardy win the title in a Scramble at this point would not be nearly as dramatic as him defeating Triple H for the title in a one-on-one match after chasing him for a few more months – which I fully expect to happen.

The biggest surprise of the night was Chris Jericho winning the Championship Scramble for the world heavyweight title. Jericho, who earlier in the night was battered by Shawn Michaels in an extraordinary match, was a last-minute substitute for CM Punk, who was unable to compete after being attacked by Randy Orton (and his entourage) backstage prior to the match.

I was pretty sure going in that Punk was going to retain the title, but, again, I think the way WWE booked this match was better for a couple reasons. For one, Jericho being the champion adds a new wrinkle to his ongoing feud with Michaels. It also sets up a program between Punk and Orton when the latter returns from injury. Moreover, Punk comes out of all this as a sympathetic figure, as he lost the title without even competing in the match.

Overall, I liked the Scramble concept and I hope WWE makes it an annual event like the Royal Rumble and the Money in the Bank ladder match.

The highlight of the show – as expected – was the non-sanctioned match between Michaels and Jericho. These two right now are just performing on a different level – in all facets of the genre – than everybody else.

The other big angle saw The Big Show turn heel, as he attacked The Undertaker and saved Vickie Guerrero. From the moment Big Show came out for the segment, it was obvious what was going to happen, and it became especially obvious when Big Show oversold his glee in anticipation of Guerrero getting what was coming to her. The turn makes sense, as Show wasn’t exactly thriving as a babyface, and Undertaker needs a fresh opponent.

Here’s a match-by-match look at last night’s show:

Shawn Michaels defeated Chris Jericho: Based on the incredible buildup to this match, an intense, emotional brawl was expected, and that’s exactly what was delivered. Michaels, wrestling with a slightly torn triceps, put on yet another amazing performance. Not only was the action believable and physical – the highlight was Michaels hitting a flying elbow off the top rope onto Jericho and Lance Cade, who were stacked on top of each other on the announce table – but the psychology was off the charts. Michaels’ acting and facial expressions were awesome, as he portrayed a man who was driven by hatred to go places he wasn’t sure he was capable of going. There is no one better than Michaels at making you suspend your disbelief enough to get caught up in the emotion of the story line.

Michaels brutalized Jericho during the final seven minutes of the 27-minute match, and the referee eventually stopped it after Michaels hammered a defenseless Jericho with repeated blows to the head. Michaels continued the assault after the match before finally backing off. At that point, Michaels broke down and seemed to be praying for forgiveness, while an unconscious Jericho was being tended to by the trainers. I would love to have heard Jim Ross call this match, but Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler did a good job, as they questioned whether Michaels will be able to live with himself after what he did to Jericho.

Jericho won the world heavyweight title Championship Scramble: Because the show was running long, the competitors came in every four minutes instead of five, so the match was really 16 minutes and not 20. The action was fine, but there really wasn’t any drama until the final few minutes. Kane had pinned JBL at about the seven-minute mark, and there wasn’t another fall until the final minute. But everyone knew Kane wasn’t going to win, and neither was JBL or Rey Mysterio. It would have been interesting to see how the match would have been laid out had John Cena not gotten hurt.

All along, I figured CM Punk would make a dramatic entrance at the end and somehow pull out the victory. Instead, Jericho, still selling the beating he took from Shawn Michaels, limped out. He quickly was speared by Batista and rolled out of the ring. Batista pinned Kane with 37 seconds left, but as he and Mysterio went at it, Jericho – who was barely in the match – snuck in and pinned Kane with seven seconds remaining. By the time Batista turned around, it was too late. Batista has become the ultimate hard luck loser, while Jericho got his heat back by gaining the last laugh after seemingly getting his comeuppance earlier in the show.

Triple H won the WWE title Championship Scramble: This was the best of the three Scramble matches, which isn’t a surprise considering it had the best lineup of workers. Kendrick ended up getting pinned four times – which I thought was unnecessary – but he put on a good performance. He was the champion for about six minutes, until Triple H pinned him with four minutes remaining. In the final three minutes, Hardy and Triple H each scored two pins. It looked like Hardy was going to win, but Triple H hit the Pedigree on MVP and pinned him with one second remaining. Neither Triple H nor Hardy scored a win over the other, and they shook hands after the match. As an aside, Benjamin did not factor in any of the falls, while MVP was pinned twice without gaining a fall.

Matt Hardy won the ECW title Championship Scramble: A good match to open the show, although it would have been even better if John Morrison had been involved. It’s worth noting that every competitor but The Miz scored at least one pinfall (Hardy was the only person to score two). The story of the match is that Henry lost the title without losing a single fall, which likely sets up a title match between Hardy and Henry.

World tag team champions Ted DiBiase Jr. and Cody Rhodes defeated Cryme Tyme: It was nice to see WWE actually gave this one some time (approximately 12 minutes) rather than making them rush through it. The match was decent, although not outstanding. After the champs retained, Manu, the son of Afa The Wild Samoan, joined DiBiase and Rhodes in a beat-down of Cryme Tyme. Later in the show, the trio helped Randy Orton attack CM Punk, so it looks as if the Orton-led heel stable of second- and third-generations stars is going to happen.

Divas champion Michelle McCool defeated Maryse: They both tried hard and the match wasn’t bad, but the crowd had zero interest. It’s obvious that McCool is not as over as she should be in relation to her push.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 4:09 AM | | Comments (23)
        

September 7, 2008

Unforgiven preview

Predictions for tonight’s WWE pay-per-view:

Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels: This might not be the “official” main event, but it is it the eyes of a lot of fans. The wild card in this highly anticipated match is how much Michaels’ performance will be affected by his slightly torn triceps. I fully expect Michaels to rise to the occasion, as it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that he stole the show while suffering from an injury. Because the rivalry likely isn’t ending with this match, coupled by the fact that Michaels might need a little time off to heal, I think Jericho is coming out on top.

World heavyweight title Championship Scramble: I definitely don’t see Kane, Rey Mysterio or JBL winning. Batista getting the victory is a possibility, but I expect Punk to retain, as his underdog story line continues.

WWE title Championship Scramble: I think this is the most intriguing of the three Scramble matches. When the participants for this one were first announced, I figured it was a perfect opportunity to elevate MVP. Then he reportedly got himself in the doghouse, so we can scrap that idea. I still don’t think Triple H is coming out of the match with the title. As a way for Triple H to remain strong, I look for him to make at least one pin (likely over the eventual winner), while not losing any falls himself. It’s way too early for The Brian Kendrick to be world champion, so that leaves Shelton Benjamin or Jeff Hardy.

Benjamin has been gaining momentum as of late, and reportedly his recent performances have impressed some key people in management. WWE could surprise everyone by pulling the trigger here and putting the belt on him. On the other hand, there has been some tension lately between Hardy and Triple H, and I could see Hardy winning the title to set up a program with him as champion and Triple H as challenger. I keep going back and forth between Benjamin and Hardy, but I’ll go with the bigger star and pick Hardy. Of course, I’ll probably end up being completely wrong and Triple H will walk out still the champion.

ECW title Championship Scramble: If The Miz wins, I riot. Actually, I don’t think Miz, Chavo Guerrero or Finlay have a shot. It would be quite the feel good story to have Matt Hardy win the title on the same night that his brother wins the WWE title, but I think Henry retains.

World tag team champions Ted DiBiase Jr. and Cody Rhodes vs. Cryme Tyme: Have to go with the champs here. DiBiase and Rhodes should be in line for a lengthy reign, and Cryme Tyme isn’t ready for prime time.

Divas champion Michelle McCool vs. Maryse: I think Maryse would make an entertaining heel champion, but it’s not going to happen. McCool wins with the Brazilian Heel Hook.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 12:34 AM | | Comments (6)
        

September 6, 2008

At last, evil Vickie Guerrero is back

“Excuse me!”

I’ve been waiting for weeks to hear those two glorious words spoken with vitriol as as only Vickie Guerrero can. Goodbye whimpering, apologetic Vickie. Welcome back scowling queen of mean.

I’m so glad that WWE has resisted the temptation to turn Smackdown’s wickedly entertaining general manager babyface (reportedly that was to be the original ending of her story line with Edge). It was great to see her morph back into the woman viewers love to hate last night on Smackdown. I’m not sure even Chris Jericho has generated as much heat from the crowd as Guerrero did while she was cutting her promo last night.

After The Undertaker said earlier in the show that – I’m paraphrasing here – he was going to choke her, stuff her in a coffin, set it on fire and send her to hell at the Unforgiven pay-per-view tomorrow, Guerrero retorted that the only thing The Undertaker was going to do at the show is apologize to her.

Obviously, she has something up her sleeve, and I’m looking forward to seeing what it is.

Other thoughts on last night’s show:

I like Triple H’s character – a babyface who has some heel qualities – but I’m not sure I agree with how he was portrayed last night. In the opening segment, his condescending promo pretty much made Shelton Benjamin and MVP look as if they weren’t in his league. Later, when he was asked what his biggest concern was heading into the Championship Scramble, he sarcastically said global warming and the economy. Then he added that tomorrow’s match was “just another day at the office.”

I know that Triple H is supposed to be brash, but if the match is no big deal, why should anyone pay $40 to see it. The only way any of this makes sense is if the story line ends up being that Triple H’s overconfidence costs him the WWE title tomorrow. …

An interesting subplot with Triple H and Jeff Hardy is developing. First, Triple H brought up the fact that Hardy has two strikes against him (an obvious reference to Hardy’s two suspensions for violating WWE’s drug policy). Then at the end of the show, Hardy hit a Twist of Fate on Triple H after Triple H’s win over The Great Khali. The crowd seemed confused as to how to act to an uncharacteristic cheap shot by Hardy, but I like that he showed some attitude. …

WWE is trying hard to get fans to take Brian Kendrick seriously as a threat to the WWE title after they’ve watched him be a mid-card tag-team wrestler for years. Having Kendrick defeat Hardy last night gives Kendrick credibility and it doesn’t hurt Hardy. Jim Ross also stressed in commentary that having Ezekiel in his corner makes Kendrick dangerous. By the way, Ezekiel’s no-sell of the chair shot reminded me of Big Bubba Rogers in the ’80s. …

You don’t see too many heel vs. heel matches, so I liked the idea of a Benjamin-MVP match. However, I thought the match was too short and I was really surprised that Benjamin won clean. Perhaps that result has something to do with reports that MVP has heat with management for his recent actions backstage. …

If Ryan Braddock can’t even beat Super Crazy, I don’t have real high hopes for his future. …

The Maryse-Maria match wasn’t bad. I like Maryse as a heel and she is improving in the ring. Her character is WWE’s version of Angelina Love and Velvet Sky.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 3:51 PM | | Comments (12)
        

September 5, 2008

The PWI 500 and The Ring Posts 20

You have to give credit to the people who work for Pro Wrestling Illustrated. In the era of insider Web sites and newsletters, the mostly kayfabe magazine is still around and still relevant.

A subscriber to several of the family of magazines that came to be known as “Apter mags” (named after famous wrestling writer Bill Apter) when I was a teenager, I still get the PWI Wrestling Almanac and Book of Facts every year, as well as the PWI 500 and year-end awards issues.

The PWI 500, which is out on newsstands, is always fun to read. For the uninitiated, the magazine ranks the top 500 stars in wrestling. The rankings are based on how wrestlers fared over the past year (basically last summer to this summer).

Randy Orton beat out Kurt Angle for the top spot in the 500. Rounding out the top 10 are Triple H, Samoa Joe, Edge, The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Nigel McGuinness (Ring of Honor), John Cena and Shinsuke Nakamura (New Japan Pro Wrestling).

In the spirit of the PWI 500, I decided to come up with my own rankings. Of course, I wouldn’t dream of attempting to compile a list as comprehensive as PWI’s. The best I can muster is a top 20.

I based my list on the same criteria used by PWI: overall accomplishments during the past year, titles won, quality of opposition, quantity and quality of promotions worked, overall talent and spot on the card (in addition, PWI said it also took into consideration “other factors,” but there were no specifics). I also took durability into account.

You will notice that my list is comprised entirely of WWE and TNA talent. That’s where “quality of opposition” and “quality of promotion” come into play. There is a clear pecking order in wrestling: WWE is No. 1, TNA is No. 2 and Ring of Honor is No. 3. So in my estimation, ranking ROH champion McGuinness ahead of Cena is ludicrous. Like previous ROH champions Samoa Joe and CM Punk, McGuinness might end up being a star in a big promotion someday, but right now he isn’t even on the radar of casual fans. I didn’t consider Japanese or Mexican promotions because I don’t really watch tapes of international promotions.

Just so everyone is clear, this is a kayfabe list, meaning that the rankings are based on wins and losses as if wrestling was legitimate competition and not scripted entertainment.

Here is The Ring Posts 20 (let the arguments begin):

1. TRIPLE H
2. THE UNDERTAKER
3. RANDY ORTON
4. EDGE
5. BATISTA

6. JOHN CENA
7. SHAWN MICHAELS
8. SAMOA JOE
9. KURT ANGLE
10. JEFF HARDY

11. CHRIS JERICHO
12. JBL
13. CHRISTIAN CAGE
14. BOOKER T.
15. TOMKO

16. A.J. STYLES
17. STING
18. CM PUNK
19. KANE
20. UMAGA

Posted by Kevin Eck at 1:03 PM | | Comments (16)
        

Face it: Sting’s no heel

Watching TNA Impact last week, I wasn’t sure if Sting just wasn’t very good at cutting a heel promo, or if he wasn’t really trying to cut a heel promo. After seeing last night’s show, I think it’s the latter, but I can’t say that with any certainty.

I think a dumbfounded Kevin Nash spoke for all us when he said, “What the hell is going on here?” right before the show went off the air.

For the second week in a row, the final segment of the program was a Sting promo. The first thing Sting said was that he was pleasantly surprised the fans didn’t boo him last week. He thanked the people and said there would be no Sting without them.

Before long, grumpy Samoa Joe came out to interrupt the lovefest. TNA’s supposed top babyface was greeted with mild boos. After some smack talk and Sting offering Joe a free shot with his bat, Nash showed up to play peacemaker. Oh, by the way, Nash and Joe weren’t getting along this week.

Suddenly, Sting hit Joe with the bat and landed the Scorpion Deathdrop. That makes two weeks in a row that Sting has cheap-shotted a top babyface. That seems like a pretty heelish thing to do, except the fans are cheering him (which he encouraged this week) and booing the faces.

It’s looking more and more like the plan is not for Sting to do a full heel turn. As I said last week, the story line could be that he is trying to toughen up the current generation of babyfaces and teach them about respect. A key point is that there is no real evidence that Sting has aligned himself with any of the heels.

I’ll continue to take a wait-and-see attitude with the angle, but right now it doesn’t seem to be benefiting Joe and A.J. Styles. Perhaps when Jeff Jarrett arrives on the scene, things will become clearer. Or more confusing.

Other thoughts on last night’s show:

I’m not sure, but I think TNA has a videogame coming out soon. …

Anti-American heels have been around forever in wrestling, and most of the time I don’t find the characters offensive. With Sheik Abdul Bashir, however, I think TNA crossed the line (no pun intended). Specifically, it’s his entrance that I have a problem with. Right before his music starts, there is the sound of airplanes descending. Whoever came up with that idea should be ashamed of themselves, and whoever signed off on it should be fired. Next Thursday is 9/11. I hope TNA has the decency and common sense to keep Bashir off the show. …

I did like the angle with Bashir and referee Shane Sewell. I’m guessing that the majority of fans had no idea that Sewell has been wrestling for years (as Glamour Boy Shane in Puerto Rico), so when he took off his shirt and fought back against Bashir, he got a big pop from the crowd. …

Styles and Christian Cage had a good match, but what else would you expect with these two? Frank Trigg’s interference cost Styles the match, setting up the inevitable showdown between them. I’m looking forward to seeing what Trigg can do in the ring. …

Styles showed a lot of fire when cutting a promo on Sting, but when he started talking about having a wife and kids, I got confused. You mean he didn’t really have a schoolboy crush on Karen Angle? …

Here’s something else I’m confused by: Why are Booker T. and Sharmell so chummy with Kurt Angle? Didn’t Angle try to force himself on her a few years ago? I guess since it occurred in WWE it’s OK to pretend it never happened, but I seem to remember it being referenced in TNA when Booker and Sharmell first arrived. Oh well, forgive and forget, I always say. …

So I’m enjoying a promo by Beer Money Inc. and then the Prince Justice Brotherhood goes and interrupts them. Talk about a buzzkill. …

I know it was juvenile, but the skit with ODB doing her business in the men’s bathroom made me laugh. The best part was a horrified Lauren telling ODB that she didn't wash her hands. ...

It sure did take Awesome Kong a long time to make the save for Raisha Saed. Maybe Kong ate some of the same beans that did in ODB. …

The Awesome Bomb on a chair that Roxxi took sure couldn’t have felt too good. …

By the way, did you know that TNA has a videogame coming out soon?

Posted by Kevin Eck at 4:44 AM | | Comments (12)
        

September 4, 2008

Kevin Nash returning to WWE?

Several people have asked me if there is any truth to the rumor that Kevin Nash is heading back to WWE after his contract with TNA expires in October. I don’t know how much interest WWE has in him, but Nash has said privately that he is planning to go to WWE and wrestle for another year or two before retiring, according to an industry source.

It is no secret that Nash is close friends with Triple H and Shawn Michaels, and he has always been on good terms with Vince McMahon, regardless of whether he was working for WWE or the competition. Nash reportedly was backstage at WrestleMania XXIV last March in Orlando, Fla., even though WWE had banned its talent from fraternizing with TNA talent that weekend. At the time, Jim Ross wrote on his blog that “Kev is still a part of the WWE family and, in my eyes, always will be.”

If he does return to WWE, the 49-year-old Nash, who has undergone numerous surgeries (including procedures on his knees and neck) over the years, almost certainly would be unable to work anywhere near a full schedule. During his last run in WWE (2002 to 2004), Nash spent more time on the injured list than he did in the ring.

The easier schedule in TNA is one of the main reasons that the company has been a good fit for Nash. When I asked him about his physical condition during a backstage interview before an Impact taping in March, he said: “The schedule is light enough where, even though after three days I feel like hell, I’ve usually got like 13 or 14 days to get my body back. If I was working house shows, I couldn’t do it.”

There has been speculation that Nash could return as Michaels’ bodyguard, which was his original role in WWE in 1993. I don’t see that happening, though, as babyfaces usually don’t have bodyguards, and it’s highly unlikely that Michaels would turn heel. Hey, if the rumors of Sid Vicious coming to WWE are true, perhaps we could revisit the epic Diesel-Psycho Sid feud. Or not.

At this point in Nash’s career, I actually think he would be more valuable to WWE outside the ring than in it. Funny and articulate, Nash would probably make a good color commentator. He also has worked on the creative side in the past, so I could see him eventually transitioning into a job as a writer or producer.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 7:15 PM | | Comments (17)
        

September 3, 2008

The good news on Shawn Michaels

I'm sure everyone in WWE is breathing a sigh of relief after a magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed that Shawn Michaels' triceps injury is not as serious as first believed.

Michaels suffered a small tear of his left triceps and is medically cleared for his match against Chris Jericho at the Unforgiven pay-per-view Sunday. Michaels had said that he was doing the match regardless of the severity of the injury.

Had the triceps been fully torn, Michaels was looking at surgery and missing four to six months. Now, his time away should be minimal.

WWE has had a run of bad luck with injuries to top stars over the past year and a half, so it's nice to see that the most recent ones have not been as bad as they could have been. Last week, John Cena underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk and is expected back in two to four months. Had he required neck fusion surgery, which was a possibility, he would have been out for about a year.

The manner in which Michaels' injury occurred was especially frustrating. He still wrestles a high-risk style at 43, yet it was a freak accident (he slipped out of the ring lunging at Jericho) that caused the injury.

Other notes:

A statement announcing that Mick Foley has signed with TNA is expected to be released shortly. As I have said before, I think this is a good move by TNA, especially in the short term.

I thought last night's ECW was a mixed bag. I liked the eight-man tag match, which was highlighted by an unbelievable shooting star press by Evan Bourne. The Dirt Sheet fell flat for me again, however. The bit in which John Morrison and The Miz portrayed Finlay's brothers was almost as bad as the Prince Justice Brotherhood skits on TNA Impact. Almost.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 4:50 PM | | Comments (14)
        

September 2, 2008

A bittersweet episode of Raw

At first glance, last night’s Raw was a good show. There was an awesome final segment, a major star made a special appearance and the program never dragged.

But the episode also accentuated the depressing reality of the injury situation on Raw.

On the go-home show for Sunday’s Unforgiven pay-per-view, Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho closed the program by signing the contract for their match. We’ve all seen these contract signing segments many times before, but the intense performances of Michaels and Jericho put this one at another level. The entire time that they sat across the table from one another, Michaels started intently at Jericho, while Jericho never looked directly at Michaels until right at the end.

The verbal confrontation briefly turned physical, as Michaels thwarted a sneak attack by Lance Cade. While Jericho stood outside the ring, Michaels lunged at him and landed awkwardly on the floor. Obviously, that was how Michaels suffered a torn triceps.

That one slip by Michaels in the closing seconds of what has been a tremendous build-up has put Sunday’s match in jeopardy and could put Michaels out of action for four to six months. We should know more about Michaels’ prognosis soon, although Michaels reportedly is vowing that he will wrestle at Unforgiven.

At the beginning of the show, Randy Orton, who is out of action with a broken collarbone, made an appearance. It was great to see Orton back on television and he cut a good promo, but he is not expected to be healthy enough to get back in the ring for at least a couple months.

To further illustrate how Raw’s star power has been diminished by injuries, there was a tease that John Cena was going to be on the show. It turned out to be Charlie Haas doing a Cena impersonation. Cena, who underwent surgery last week to repair a herniated disk, is a quick healer, but not that quick.

With Cena, Orton and now Michaels on the sideline, it will be up to guys such as CM Punk, Batista, Jericho and others to carry the show until they come back.

Other thoughts on last night’s show:

It almost seemed at first as if Orton was cutting a babyface promo. He was cheered for ripping Beth Phoenix, Santino Marella and the team of Ted DiBiase Jr. and Cody Rhodes. The cheers quickly turned to jeers, however, when Orton began bad-mouthing Punk.

Punk, who now is getting a superstar-level reaction from the crowd, more than held his own in the verbal confrontation with Orton. The segment successfully planted the seed for a future program between the two. …

There also seemed to be a foreshadowing of an alliance between Orton and DiBiase and Rhodes. As I have said in the past, I think it would be a good fit. …

Haas is still a loser, but at least he is an entertaining loser now. I can’t wait to see who he impersonates next. Hopefully, he will expand his repertoire to include some WWE Hall of Famers. …

What is the only thing worse than seeing The Miz on Raw? Seeing The Miz on Raw in two segments. …

I understand the reasons behind Candice Michelle pinning Phoenix in a tag team match. WWE wanted to play up Michelle’s return and set up a program between her and Phoenix. That’s fine, but then why have Phoenix get pinned last week by Kelly Kelly? The women’s champ shouldn’t lose back-to-back matches. And shouldn’t Kelly’s win last week have earned her a shot at the title? …

William Regal deserves better than to be jobbing to Jamie Noble. I know that Noble is a good worker, but Regal should be a little higher on the card. And I’m just not that interested in Noble’s story line with Layla. …

You have to love Santino Marella’s Honk-O-Meter. Maybe The Honky Tonk Man will show up on Raw at some point and smash a guitar over Marella’s head. At the very least, Haas could dress up as Honky and confront Marella.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 11:37 AM | | Comments (18)
        

September 1, 2008

Shawn Michaels' injury

It's starting to get crowded again on the shelf in WWE.

Shawn Michaels, who suffered a torn triceps during an angle with Chris Jericho last night at the Raw taping, joins John Cena (herniated disk) and Randy Orton (broken collarbone) on the list of injured Raw stars.

Michaels, who was scheduled to be examined by a doctor yesterday, said last night that he still was going to wrestle Jericho at the Unforgiven pay-per-view on Sunday, according to The Wrestling Observer's Dave Meltzer. The Undertaker (last year) and Rey Mysterio (last February) both wrestled one match after suffering torn biceps .

It would be a devastating blow for WWE if Michaels were to miss Sunday's show and be out for an extended period of time. Not only because it is another significant hit to the Raw roster, but because the Michaels-Jericho program has had such an excellent buildup.

On the Smackdown side, Edge reportedly is taking a few weeks off because he is banged up, and Mr. Kennedy is out with a dislocated shoulder.

WWE had an even worse outbreak of injuries to main-event level stars last year. At one point, six wrestlers were sidelined, including Michaels, Triple H and The Undertaker. Then, just as the roster was beginning to get back to full strength, Edge and Cena suffered injuries that kept them out for months.

WWE does such a good job of branding itself that the company is bigger than any star, but its resiliency will once again be put to the test.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 6:12 PM | | Comments (12)
        
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