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October 31, 2009

Smackdown: Jericho wins! Jericho wins! Jericho wins!

These days, any time Chris Jericho isn’t flat on his back staring up at the lights is cause for celebration, so imagine my delight when Jericho actually won a match to earn a spot in a pay-per-view world title bout.

By virtue of Jericho’s victory over Kane Friday on Smackdown, the world heavyweight title match between The Undertaker and The Big Show at the Survivor Series pay-per-view on Nov. 22 is now a triple threat.

Despite Jericho’s less-than-stellar won-loss record as of late, I actually was pretty confident that he was going to beat Kane as soon as the match was announced at the start of the show. There’s no way WWE was going to do a triple threat with a hobbled Undertaker and two big men. Jericho obviously is being inserted into the Survivor Series match to save us, I mean, it.

The world heavyweight title match now has the same scenario as the WWE title match between John Cena, Triple H and Shawn Michaels – a champion defending against members of a tag team.

Other thoughts on Friday’s show:

The Jericho-Kane match was OK, but it was below Jericho’s usual level. …

A large part of the show was built around Batista’s heel turn. He and Rey Mysterio both did a good job in their verbal confrontation, especially Batista, whose babyface character had gotten stale. With his size, steely glare and deliberate speech, Batista is an intimidating heel presence. …

It was a nice move to have Batista sneak attack Matt Hardy from behind in their backstage segment rather having him take out Hardy face to face, as he easily could have. Fans are going to want to cheer a cool, powerful heel, so Batista is going to have to do things such as this to get heat. …

I was surprised that Dolph Ziggler only beat Intercontinental champion John Morrison by count-out in their non-title match. Doesn’t the top challenger usually pin the champ in these contests to set up a title match? Ziggler really needed a pinfall victory to regain some credibility after losing so many IC title matches. …

It didn’t make sense to me that CM Punk was happy when Vince McMahon booked him in a match with referee Scott Armstrong after denying him a world title shot. I get it that Punk wanted revenge because he blamed Armstrong for costing him his title match last week against The Undertaker, but shouldn’t he have been more disappointed that he wasn’t getting another crack at the championship? …

It was interesting that Armstrong was treated as just another referee, with no mention of the fact that he was a wrestler or that he comes from a wrestling family. I’m not sure what, if anything, this is leading to. Perhaps Armstrong’s brother – Road Dogg Jesse James – is coming in to feud with Punk. Probably not, but with James’ well-documented problems outside the ring, Punk’s promos would write themselves. …

I like what WWE is doing with Drew McIntyre. Just as he did against R-Truth, McIntyre laid out Finlay before the match could even get started. That gets even more heat on McIntyre than if he would have defeated Finlay. …

Beth Phoenix looked like the Glamazon of old with her squash victory over enhancement talent Jenny Brooks. …

The costume contest with the divas was predictable and a waste of time. Plus, as much as I like Mickie James, Layla should have won with her entertaining Michael Jackson impersonation.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 12:29 PM | | Comments (31)
        

October 30, 2009

Hulkamania runs wild on TNA Impact

We didn’t see much of Hulk Hogan on TNA Impact Thursday night, but we sure did hear a lot about him. At the end of the program, a brief clip was shown of Hogan announcing at Tuesday’s news conference that he was “partnering” with TNA, but announcers Mike Tenay and Taz made repeated mentions of Hogan’s move to TNA throughout the show.

The constant references to Hogan almost made it seem as if everything – and everyone – else on the show was secondary. For example, newcomer Desmond Wolfe faced Kurt Angle in a street fight and “injured” him to the point that Angle had to be taken out on a stretcher. To me, that’s how the show should have ended – with concern for Angle and a lot of heat on Wolfe. Instead, we went from that to the light-hearted Hogan news conference.

In all fairness to TNA, however, I suppose if you’re going to bring in a star the magnitude of Hogan, you have to hype it as much as you can. I just hope Hogan overshadowing Wolfe on this episode is not a sign of things to come.

Other thoughts on Thursday’s show:

My first thought about Angle wrestling Wolfe was that it should have been held off until the Turning Point pay-per-view on Nov. 15, but after seeing how the match turned out, I at least understand the reasoning behind it. Wolfe has been established as a major player in just two appearances. He even popped right up after receiving three German suplexes and then KO’d Angle with a lariat. ...

There were a couple references made about someone possibly sending Wolfe to take out Angle. My money’s on it being either Jeff Jarrett or Karen Angle – or both. ...

During his news conference, Hogan referred to Madison Square Garden as “The House that Hogan built.” He must be thinking of some other house, because when it comes to pro wrestling, MSG without question is “The House that Bruno Sammartino built.” ...

Matt Morgan looked good in scoring a decisive win over Rhino. Morgan is getting a huge babyface reaction from the crowd at the Impact Zone. I had better not see Hogan dropping a leg on Morgan for a 1-2-3 in the near future. ...

Could it have been any more obvious that Mick Foley was going to “swerve” us and hit Dr. Stevie with the kendo stick instead of Abyss? So I guess Foley is a babyface again. For those keeping score, that means that in Foley’s first year with TNA, he has gone from babyface to heel, to babyface, to heel, to babyface. Tenay tried to explain Foley’s behavior by saying that he’s “unpredictable.” Unfortunately, his turns are anything but. ...

Speaking of turns, it sure looks as if Team 3D is going heel again. They’ll likely be joining forces with Rhino soon as a faction of disgruntled veterans. Rhino’s contention that the young guys are trying to take out the veterans, not just defeat them, is the exact same thing that Sting said about the young guys when he joined the Main Event Mafia. Couldn’t the creative team have come up with something new? ...

That was a scary-looking bump that Chris Sabin took on the Uranage Driver from Brother Ray during the Motor City Machine Guns-Team 3D match. Sabin reportedly suffered a stinger and was not seriously injured. According to Internet reports, Kevin Nash blasted TNA officials backstage for not stopping the match when it was obvious that Sabin was hurt. Nash also criticized the company over the incident while cutting a promo on The World Elite, but that part of his promo was edited out of Thursday’s broadcast. ...

Samoa Joe did some really good mic work during his backstage confrontations with A.J. Styles and Daniels. The soft-spoken approach works much better for Joe than yelling. It was a nice touch when Daniels punched a picture of Joe on the wall after Joe walked away. ...

Scott Steiner’s promo before Bobby Lashley’s match against Legends champion Eric Young was a giveaway that Steiner was going to interfere and cost Lashley the title. The airbrushed picture of Kristal Lashley on Steiner’s shirt was funny. It reminded me of when “Ravishing” Rick Rude airbrushed the likeness of Jake Roberts’ wife on the back of his tights 20 years ago. ...

I like the Young character more every week. I think it’s great that someone finally out-smarted Nash and then told him it was “just business.” Young said he was changing the name of the Legends title to the Global title, and that he would not defend it on American soil or against any American. I’m hoping that the part about the name change is true. I think “Legends title” sounds like a championship for big-name wrestlers who are past their prime. Speaking of which, I think Tenay and Taz just mentioned again that Hogan was coming to TNA. ...

I was looking forward to the Tara-Alissa Flash match, but it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. And Tara needs better hair extensions. ...

It’s not often that Lacey Von Erich and the word “ugly” are used in the same sentence, but she delivered the ugliest-looking choke-slam I have ever seen. The WWE Divas get a lot of criticism, but there’s no female wrestler in WWE less-skilled than LVE.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 8:45 PM | | Comments (20)
        

More of Jim Ross interview

It’s taken a lot longer than I intended, but I have finally transcribed the rest of the interview I conducted with Jim Ross earlier this month. The interview took place prior to Ross’ health issues.

On the need to build new stars: I think the business is at a place where it’s imperative that we build new stars and get guys at-bats. Some are going to find out they’re not cleanup hitters. But they can find their role and maybe they hit eighth or ninth. They can still make a good living and they contribute to the team. But it’s imperative to the business to find new stars. Older stars are holding on and doing the best they can, and are trying to reinvent themselves at times, change their matches up, and work hard through injuries and soreness and wear and tear – which I deeply admire. But the business has got to accelerate the process of moving guys into the upper echelon mix, at least to give them a chance of seeing if they can stick. And if they stick, you got a winner. If they don’t stick, then, unfortunately, you take them out of the lineup and put somebody else in. The replacement players have got to be young guys. And sooner or later, you’re going to find your next nucleus.

On where the next generation of WWE wrestlers will come from: It’s just a matter focusing on recruiting and finding world class athletes and encouraging them to have the aptitude and desire – and maybe more importantly, be fans of the product – to try this profession. It’s imperative. The scouting and the whole process has to be accelerated and maintained and improved upon every single day. As long as they have that mind-set, they’re going to continue to find good young guys that have potential. And then about one or two out of 10 will make it. It’s going to be an interesting future, but I don’t perceive it to be bleak whatsoever.

On fellow Oklahoman Jack Swagger: Swagger’s got a blessing and a curse. He has the blessing of having so much God-given physical ability as a natural 6-5 or 6-6 kid that’s 260, so he has good size. He has an amazing athletic background. He’s been wrestling since he was in elementary school. He wrestled in a Division I program [at Oklahoma] with good success. But he’s one of those guys that is so good that he can put it in a little above neutral and be better than most. What he has to find is the fire inside him that’s going to drive him internally to get to the next level and the next level after that. The Rock had the amazing athletic abilities that few people are gifted with, but he also had the burning desire to be the best, and none of that can be denied. Stone Cold [Steve Austin] comes in with certainly better-than-average athleticism, a hard-nosed old football player. But he had almost an obsession to be the best. Somewhere along the way the light has to go off internally with Jack Swagger, where it starts burning brighter and brighter, and then he can use that to elevate up. That’s what I see that he needs to do. It’s not a company mandate and I’m not speaking for WWE. I’m just saying from my observations that I know how good the kid can be, but he’s at the point now to where it’s largely going to be up to him to continue to turn heads. Every time he gets an outing, whether it’s in the middle of Raw, or the end of Raw, or the beginning of Raw, or on Superstars, or wherever it is, he has to go out and play like it’s the NCAA finals. And those back-to-back-to-back-type performances are what gets you noticed and what gives people confidence that, “OK, this kid’s getting it. Now let’s roll with him.”

On other up-and-coming wrestlers and what it takes to be a top star: John Morrison’s going to be very good. Dolph Ziggler’s going to be very good. They just have to have time. And then they have to make sure that they don’t get a comfort level. “Hey look, I’m the Intercontinental champion” or “Hey look, I’m on a pay-per-view” or whatever. Are you in main events on pay-per-views? Have you headlined WrestleMania yet? “Well, no.” OK, so when you headline WrestleMania, you come back and see me about where you are in your comfort zone. And then I’m going to tell you when you headline one WrestleMania, why don’t you come back and talk to me a little bit more at length when you do your second one. That’s what you’re looking for. It’s those guys that demand to either be in the main event at a premier pay-per-view or go on that pay-per-view and steal the show – like Undertaker and Shawn [Michaels] did last year. They didn’t go on last. They didn’t go on next to last. But they stole the show. And that was because of their passion and their willingness to give the fans the match of their lifetime, and that’s what they delivered.

At a certain point once a guy gets his foot in the door and he starts getting some time on TV, then they really have more ownership than the general public understands. The more-educated fans would rather blame creative. Sometimes they just don’t know what else went on and they don’t know a guy’s attitude and they don’t know who phoned something in or who thinks, “Hey, I don’t really even want to get any higher than this.” You have to understand that some guys get on a semi-main event level, and they don’t know that they can handle the pressure of carrying the show. That’s not for everybody. It takes a very unique individual to be a star, and a main event star. The business is so good now financially that guys who aren’t main-eventers can still earn a great living and prepare for life after wrestling.

It’s just a matter if seeing who wants it when you get to a certain level. It doesn’t matter if you have a six-minute match on Superstars, go out and steal the show. Go have a great, solid match. Somebody’s going to say, “Who cares about Superstars? Nobody watches it. And it’s only six minutes.” That’s the wrong attitude. That’s a loser’s attitude, and that’s what I’ve told dozens of talents. I don’t give a damn if the show’s airing in Zimbabwe at midnight. This is being taped before all the decision makers, and all your peers and all the crew, so I don’t want to hear about the stage. The stage is that ring. The ring didn’t change. It’s an 18-foot square. The bell rings and there you go. What did you do for me between bell to bell? And more importantly, what did you do for yourself?

On WWE’s in-ring product becoming more family friendly: I guess some wrestling fans think that other wrestling fans enjoy getting bled on. If I’m sitting at ringside with my family or my buddies, I don’t want somebody’s blood all over me. I don’t want to get close to it. People say, “Why isn’t there more blood?” Well, do you read the paper? Have you heard about Hepatitis C and AIDS? Who knows who has what? Yeah, they’re all medically tested, but do you want to take that chance? I don’t. I don’t see that being a big issue. I think the shows can be extremely entertaining and exciting without it, but for fans who lived through generations of that sort of presentation, they’re always going to be challenged to accept what they see now as being as good – in that respect only – as the old product.

On his future: I’m looking forward to many more years in the business. I think I’ve got a lot to offer. Whether I stay on the air on a weekly basis or I don’t, that’s not my call. But I’ve had such a blessed career that if it ended tomorrow, I’ve got nothing to complain about.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 3:02 PM | | Comments (8)
        

Quick hits on WWE Superstars

• Thursday night’s WWE Superstars was one of those episodes that was somewhat entertaining if you caught it, but it really wasn’t worth going out of your way to see. The main event was a six-man tag match in which R-Truth and Cryme Tyme defeated The Hart Dynasty and Mike Knox. The match was decent. While I really didn’t need to see Cryme Tyme and THD in the ring against each other again, I’m always happy to see R-Truth win a match. He came off looking like the biggest star of the six competitors.

• Jack Swagger looked good in his victory over Primo. Swagger’s winning streak gimmick basically gives away the result of his matches, but I’m not complaining. I’m glad that Swagger is getting a push.

• The Alicia Fox-Kelly Kelly match was a little sloppy, but they are two of my favorite divas, so I forgive them.

• Zack Ryder and Tyler Reks are both young, athletic guys and competent workers, but their match illustrated that one of them (Ryder) has the “it” factor, while the other (Reks) seems to be missing something. Perhaps a gimmick makeover would benefit Reks.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 1:48 PM | | Comments (5)
        

October 28, 2009

Quick hits on ECW

• It seems that every time I do an ECW review, I write the following phrase: “Christian had a good match with [fill in the blank].” On Tuesday night’s episode, it was with Yoshi Tatsu in an ECW title match. Once again, Christian successfully defended his title and elevated his opponent at the same time.

• You just knew that William Regal and his henchmen were going to do a post-match beat-down on Christian and Tatsu. It got a lot of heat because it ruined a feel-good moment for the fans, who clearly enjoyed the hard-fought, exciting match between two babyfaces.

• I usually enjoy Regal’s work, but I thought his rage over being denied an ECW title match was a little too over the top.

• The Sheamus-Shelton Benjamin match was good, but it made Benjamin look bad to lose clean, basically proving the Raw-bound Sheamus right about him being an underachiever.

• When asked by Abraham Washington about ECW not making an impact at Sunday’s Bragging Rights pay-per-view, Tiffany replied that ECW made a big impact because stars such as Kofi Kingston and John Morrison got their starts on ECW. The WWE creative team set up Tiffany to look ridiculous on that exchange.

• Byron Saxton did an adequate job in his debut as a commentator. He replaced Matt Striker, who is taking over for Jim Ross on Smackdown while Ross deals with his health issues.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 10:23 PM | | Comments (18)
        

Hulk Hogan’s appearance on Larry King Live

Judging by Hulk Hogan’s appearance on “Larry King Live” Tuesday night, his move to TNA is much bigger news to wrestling fans and people in the industry than it is to him.

Hogan’s main reason for appearing on the show was to promote his new book, so it’s understandable that the majority of the discussion was devoted to that subject. However, you’d think that perhaps the biggest star in the history of wrestling signing with a company other than WWE would have warranted more than just a passing remark.

Near the end of the interview, King brought up TNA. Here’s the excerpt from CNN’s transcript:

King: Hulk has just joined TNA Wrestling that stands for Total Nonstop Action. You going back in the ring?

Hogan: Well I’m heading over to Australia to wrestle at the end of the November. I’m going to check out the Hulk Hogan sea legs. It’s been a great career and the fans have stuck behind me through thick and thin and they have been loyal and I just decided you know I had to get busy living or get busy dying, Larry. And I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do, but I’m going to contribute as much as I can. I’m going to try to take this business to a whole another level.

King: You will wrestle in Australia?

Hogan: Yes, I’m wrestling at the end of November in Australia.

And that was it. It sure seemed like Hogan was more interested in promoting his Australian tour than TNA. He mentioned taking the business to another level – whatever that means – but he never mentioned TNA specifically. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but if I were TNA president Dixie Carter, I wouldn’t be too pleased that Hogan didn’t take advantage of an opportunity to put the company over to a large viewing audience.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 4:33 PM | | Comments (22)
        

October 27, 2009

Video: Stacy Keibler-Cal Ripken Smackdown makes TBS

Here's a clip of Cal Ripken on the baseball post-game show on TBS last week being ribbed about losing to former WWE diva Stacy Keibler in baltimoresun.com's Baltimore Celebrity Smackdown.

 
Posted by Kevin Eck at 9:33 PM | | Comments (8)
        

Kofi Kingston soars to new heights on Raw

Kofi Kingston had a very good night on Monday’s episode of Raw.

The high-flyer took a giant leap up the totem pole by first defeating Chris Jericho, and then working an angle with WWE’s top heel, Randy Orton. In the latter, Kingston demonstrated that he has the ability to speak well and project intensity. I see now why WWE had him drop the Jamaican accent.

Judging by Monday’s show, which saw Kingston destroy a new NASCAR car with Orton’s likeness on it that had been given to Orton by Ted DiBiase Jr. and Cody Rhodes, it appears as if Kingston will be wrestling Orton at the Survivor Series pay-per-view in Washington next month.

WWE desperately needs to get new faces in the mix at the top of the card, and Kingston is a great choice. He is easily is the most popular and charismatic of the mid-carders. If Kingston ends up becoming a bona fide main-eventer, this show will be remembered as a turning point in his career.

Other thoughts on Monday’s show:

It’s a shame that on the night Kingston made a name for himself, one of the Raw guest hosts couldn’t even get Kingston’s name right. NASCAR’s Kyle Busch referred to Kingston as “Kofi Johnston, uh, Kingston.” Ugh. Right before his flub, Busch actually said he was “a huge WWE fan.” Maybe all that driving around in circles made him so dizzy that he couldn’t remember his lines.

As far as guest hosts go, Busch and his pal Joey Lawrence, uh, Logano (I didn’t know 12-year-olds were allowed to have a driver’s license much less compete in NASCAR) were about as entertaining as a “Best of Vladimir Kozlov” DVD. These goobers were so devoid of charisma that they make Lance Storm look like The Rock by comparison.

I think Busch was supposed to be a heel and Joey a babyface, but it was hard to tell since they were so wooden. I almost did a spit-take when Busch said “I’m a man’s man” in his nerdy, monotone voice. He and Joey are the exact type of guys that the late, great Fred Blassie would refer to as pencil-neck geeks.

The next time WWE wants to use an auto racing driver as guest host, I vote for Danica Patrick. ...

The Big Show revealed that the reason he double-crossed Team Raw at the Bragging Rights pay-per-view Sunday was because he cut a deal with Smackdown general manager Teddy Long in which he would get a world heavyweight title shot with The Undertaker if Team Smackdown won. So now we have an Undertaker-Big Show match at next month’s Survivor Series pay-per-view. I have a couple problems with this. First, doesn’t it defeat the purpose of separate brands to have a Raw wrestler challenging for a title that’s exclusive to Smackdown? The explanation that Big Show and Jericho can wrestle anyone they want because they are allowed to appear on all three shows by virtue of being unified tag team champions just doesn’t wash. The original idea was that the tag champs would defend the title against teams from all three shows, not that they as individuals could appear on any show whenever they feel like it. The other issue is that Undertaker-Big Show is yet another recycled match-up. They wrestled each other on three consecutive pay-per-views last year. In all fairness to WWE, however, with CM Punk out of the title picture for now and Batista likely facing Rey Mysterio at Survivor Series, its options for challengers were limited. ...

The WWE title match at Survivor Series will be a triple threat between champion John Cena, Triple H and Shawn Michaels. While there are no fresh faces in the match, it is compelling – to me at least – because the two members of DX will be opponents. This could be the start of a program that culminates in a Triple H vs. Michaels match at WrestleMania. ...

If two NASCAR guys having the power to choose the opponents for a WWE title match at one of WWE’s biggest pay-per-views wasn’t bad enough, WWE had to get Hornswoggle involved in the decision-making process. Note to creative team: Keep all leprechauns away from anything pertaining to a pay-per-view main event. ...

Kingston showed a lot of fire in his match against Jericho. It’s too bad that Jericho has done so many jobs of late, because it somewhat diminished what was supposed to be a big win for Kingston. At this point, it almost makes a guy on Kingston’s level look bad if he doesn’t beat Jericho. ...

I’m surprised that Sheamus was promoted to Raw. If WWE wanted to move a heel from ECW to Raw, Paul Burchill would have been a better choice. So much for that Sheamus-Shelton Benjamin feud. ...

The fans had zero interest in Sheamus’ match against Jamie Noble. It was funny to hear the announcers say that Sheamus had been “running roughshod” over the competition on ECW. Really? Didn’t he lose a few times to Goldust? ...

MVP and Mark Henry defeating DiBiase and Rhodes was a surprise. The fact that it was unexpected goes to show that DiBiase and Rhodes have gotten over. ...

It was nice to see Evan Bourne win a match (over The Miz), even if it was a fluke count-out decision. Bourne got big pop for doing his Shooting Star Press on The Big Show during the lumberjack match between Big Show and Triple H. ...

I’m not sure if Melina botched her Last Call finisher during the tag match pitting her and Santino Marella against Chavo Guerrero and Jillian Hall, or if Hall just didn’t take it correctly. Either way, it looked bad. ...

That Cobra-thing that Marella does with his hand is pretty funny. ...

I think it’s hilarious that The Bellas’ sole function is to be arm pieces for the guest hosts. ...

I can’t wait for next week’s show with Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne as guest hosts. There has to be some interaction between Ozzy and Fozzy frontman Jericho.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 8:28 PM | | Comments (50)
        

Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff sign with TNA

There’s no denying that TNA will be a different company now that it has signed Hulk Hogan and partnered with Eric Bischoff. Only time will tell, however, if TNA will be better off.

The shocking news that Hogan and Bischoff are going into business with TNA, which was announced today at a news conference in New York, raises questions about what their specific roles will be and what it all means for the creative direction of TNA moving forward.

Even though Hogan’s name doesn’t mean what it used to, just having him on the roster instantly raises TNA’s profile, and he’ll likely be able to open doors for the company that otherwise couldn’t be opened.

However, Hogan’s presence could alienate the segment of the TNA fan base that is seeking an edgy alternative to WWE. They’re not going to be too thrilled if TNA becomes a Hulkamania nostalgia show.

The best way to use Hogan from a creative standpoint would be as an on-air character who wrestles a few times a year in big angles. Hopefully, Hogan, who’s 56 and hobbled, doesn’t have his sights set on being world champion again.

TNA’s mission as of late has been to push younger talent such as A.J. Styles, Matt Morgan, Hernandez, Eric Young and others. The worst thing TNA could do as far as growing the company is abandon the youth movement. My fear is that – just as he did when he joined WCW 15 years ago – Hogan will get jobs for his cronies and we’ll have The Nasty Boys as TNA tag team champions and Brutus Beefcake as the TNA Legends champ.

It will be interesting to say the least to see how long Hogan and Bischoff can co-exist with TNA creative leader Vince Russo. Let’s just say that they’re not big fans of Vinny-Ru.

According to a report on pwinsider.com, Bischoff will not be involved in the day-to-day creative process. His focus will be on creating new television entities for TNA and securing deals for them. The report also said that he could end up having a role on TV at some point, which would be great because I always thought that he was a talented performer.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 6:07 PM | | Comments (50)
        

October 26, 2009

Comment of the Week

The featured Ring Posts comment of the past week goes to Breakfast at Pekinese, who wrote the following last Friday in response to the entry “Desmond Wolfe: Impact Player.”

In that post, I remarked how ridiculous it looked during the Matt Morgan-Scott Steiner match on TNA Impact that referee Earl Hebner had his back turned to the action on the floor – where Steiner and Bobby Lashley were brawling – for so long. Hebner obviously wasn’t supposed to see Lashley’s interference, so he engaged in a conversation with Morgan. I posed the question: What in the world could they have been talking about all that time?

Here’s the comment:

Heb - Listen, it looks like Steiner's going to be out of the ring for a while, so as long as we got a moment I gotta ask you something, does this ref outfit make me look fat?
Mork - Ah, jeez, man, I dunno.
Heb - Aw, c'mon, tell me. I trust your judgement.
Mork - Really? Even after all that stuff with Angle constantly playing me for a fool?
Heb - Yeah, man, we all make mistakes and I know that wasn't a true reflection of your mental acuity.
Mork - Cool, man, thanks, I was worried people would hold that against me. It does look like Steiner's going to be out of the ring for a while so, you know, I wouldn't normally have a conversation like this in the middle of a match, but, yeah, Heb, all the respect in the world for you, but stripes just aren't your friend.
Heb - Aw, damn. Are you sure? Maybe I should turn around so you can get a look at the back?
Mork - NO! NO! Ah, no, I mean neither of us needs to see what's going on back there...

Good lord, if my mind was able to make sense of that I've been watching too much Russo!

P.S. “This is your brain on TNA.”

Posted by Kevin Eck at 5:49 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Comment of the week
        

Stacy Keibler clobbers Cal Ripken, now faces Michael Phelps

Former WWE diva and Rosedale native Stacy Keibler disposed of one Baltimore sports icon and now will go up against another in baltimoresun.com’s Baltimore Celebrity Smackdown, a tournament to determine Baltimore’s biggest celebrity based on online voting.

In the second round, Keibler defeated Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken by a margin of 78.4 percent to 21.6 percent to advance to the Sweet 16. Nearly 32,000 votes were cast. Next up for Keibler is record-setting Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps.

Will Keibler’s run in the tournament continue to have legs, or will Phelps make a big splash?

To place your vote, click here. The Keibler-Phelps matchup is located at the bottom of the bracket on the left side. Voting is open through Sunday night.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 4:34 PM | | Comments (11)
        

Bragging Rights thoughts

While many fans – myself included – have been saying that they’re tired of the John Cena-Randy Orton feud and want to see each man in fresh programs, the fact is that Cena and Orton put on two compelling pay-per-view matches in a row heading into Sunday night’s Bragging Rights show.

That’s where I figured their streak would end. I really didn’t care to see these two wrestle each other again, much less for a whole hour in an Iron Man Match. Quite frankly, I just didn’t think they could hold my interest for that long.

I’m happy to say that they proved me wrong. Cena and Orton took the audience on a 60-minute roller coaster ride that ended with Cena regaining the WWE title in what was billed as the rivals’ final encounter.

You’d think I would have learned by now not to doubt Cena and Orton. Yes, their program lasted longer than it should have, but there’s no denying that they have great chemistry in the ring.

In the other world title match, The Undertaker retained his championship in a fatal four-way against Batista, Rey Mysterio and CM Punk, but the bigger story is that Batista turned heel by attacking Mysterio after the match.

Overall, Bragging Rights was a decent show, but the Cena-Orton match was the only one that really stood out.

Here is a match-by-match look at the show:

John Cena defeated WWE champion Randy Orton in a 60-Minute Iron Man Match to win the title: As with all of the Cena-Orton battles, they told a good story in this match. Knowing that they couldn’t do a Shawn Michaels/Bret Hart- or Brock Lesnar/Kurt Angle-style Iron Man match, Cena and Orton took full advantage of the anything-goes stipulation. They fought on the floor and in the crowd, and used tables, chairs, steps and other objects as weapons. There was outside interference (from Legacy), a ref bump and even blood. Oh, and Orton also tried to blow up Cena with pyrotechnics. It all added up to a very entertaining match that – at least for me – never dragged. A good portion of the match consisted of Orton destroying Cena, and Cena continually coming back and finding ways to keep pace with pinfalls. Blading is forbidden in WWE, but Cena bled hard-way early on after taking stiff shots to the head from a TV monitor and a microphone. Having some of Cena’s blood smeared on Orton’s face made for a great visual. The biggest spot in the match saw Orton place a weakened Cena on the stage and then shoot off some pyro, but Cena rolled out of harm’s way at the last second.

The first fall occurred just under four minutes into the match, as Orton quickly tapped out to an STF. It was explained that Orton would rather concede a fall than stay in the STF for a prolonged period. With Orton leading five falls to four with about 20 minutes left, he went on the defensive and tried to hang on. Cena pulled even with 9 minutes, 16 seconds remaining, however, after an Attitude Adjustment off the ring steps onto the announce table. Orton hit an RKO with 2:30 left after a ref bump. About 15 seconds went by before a second referee hit the ring and counted the pin, but Cena kicked out at two. Orton’s facial expressions were tremendous throughout the match, but his look of sheer evil and madness with less than 90 seconds to go was off the charts. Orton set up for a punt to the head, but he whiffed and Cena caught him in the STF with under a minute remaining. Orton held on for as long as he could before finally tapping out with five seconds left, giving Cena a 6-5 win. After the match, Cena did a great job of selling the emotion of surviving a war and outlasting his sworn enemy. There was no hint of dissension between Orton, Ted DiBiase Jr. and Cody Rhodes, as the two young members of Legacy interfered on Orton’s behalf during the match. With this feud finally put to rest – for a while at least – it will be interesting to see what’s next for Cena and Orton. Cena-Triple H and Orton-DiBiase programs are on the horizon, but they may not happen right away.

World heavyweight champion The Undertaker defeated Batista, Rey Mysterio and CM Punk in a fatal four-way match: This was a solid match, although it marked the third consecutive pay-per-view that the world heavyweight title bout went 8-10 minutes. The Undertaker, who was involved in all of those matches, reportedly is hurting badly, so that probably explains it. The action was good while it lasted. There were a bunch of near falls that were broken up by one of the other competitors. The tension between Batista and Mysterio first surfaced when Mysterio made the save during Batista’s pin attempt on The Undertaker after a Batista Bomb. Batista pie-faced Mysterio. A few minutes later, Batista threw Mysterio over the top rope onto Punk, who was standing outside the ring. When Batista turned around, Undertaker caught him with a Tombstone Piledriver for the win. With all of the frequent title changes this year, I was glad to see the champion retain.

After the match, Josh Matthews got in the ring to get a few words with Batista and Mysterio, which gave away that the turn was coming. Batista did a nice very job of morphing into a heel. He said he was tired of always coming up just short and tired of his best friend stabbing him in the back. “You think I’m playing” he asked Mysterio. “I’m not playing. I’m going to rip your head off.” And then he delivered a vicious clothesline and beat-down. A good number of fans cheered Batista. I was surprised that Batista’s turn wasn’t held off for a little bit longer, but his character definitely needed a change, as he hasn’t been a heel since early 2005. The turn makes sense from a story line standpoint, as it can be explained that the frustration from all of Batista’s near-misses in title matches and his untimely injuries finally caused him to snap. He can also say that being the warm and fuzzy “Animal” who is BFF’s with Mysterio has made him soft and prevented him from achieving his goals. The question now is whether Batista will be The Undertaker’s next challenger or if he does a program with Mysterio first. And where does all of this leave Punk?

Team Smackdown (Chris Jericho, Kane, Finlay, Matt Hardy, The Hart Dynasty and R-Truth) defeated Team Raw (DX, The Big Show, Mark Henry, Kofi Kingston, Cody Rhodes and Jack Swagger): As I expected, The Big Show turned on his Raw teammates. He choke-slammed Kingston, which allowed Jericho to make the winning pin. As Triple H tried to make the save, Big Show knocked him out with a right hand. The action was good, but, as I have previously written, the brand vs. brand premise just didn’t excite me. It was nice, however, to see guys such as R-Truth, Swagger and The Hart Dynasty getting a chance to mix it up with the big boys and not coming off as inferior. There were a few interesting match-ups, too. At one point, Michaels was in against Hardy, and it struck me that I couldn’t recall the two veterans ever working against each other before. It also was cool seeing The Hart Dynasty deliver The Hart Attack to Michaels, Bret Hart’s archrival. Early in the match, Big Show got a near fall on Kane, which in retrospect doesn’t make sense if Big Show double-crossing his team was pre-meditated. It was weird after the match how babyfaces R-Truth, Hardy and Finlay celebrated a tainted victory. By the way, how come Michaels and Triple H were the only guys in the match not wearing their brand’s t-shirt? Michaels, at least, had his tied around his waist.

The Miz defeated John Morrison: The former tag team partners opened the show with a good match. The finish was a surprise, as Miz scored the clean pin after he knocked Morrison off the ropes as he was setting up for Starship Pain. Who did Morrison tick off? There’s no way he should be losing to Miz, especially without outside interference or some other form of chicanery.

Smackdown Divas (Michelle McCool, Natalya and Beth Phoenix) defeated Raw Divas (Kelly Kelly, Gail Kim and Melina): This wasn’t a bad match. Phoenix scored the win for her team after hitting The Glam Slam on Melina. There was no dissension among the babyfaces, but there was some tension between heels McCool and Phoenix. McCool, by the way, came out to the ring wearing a hooded jacket. So not only has she stolen A.J. Styles’ finisher, but his look as well.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 1:08 PM | | Comments (31)
        

October 25, 2009

Bragging Rights preview

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

WWE champion Randy Orton vs. John Cena in a 60-minute Iron Match: The real question here is if Orton and Cena can prove the critics wrong and keep the audience interested for a whole hour. It will be a challenge. As for who is going to win, I feel confident that it’ll be Cena. The stipulation is that he has to leave Raw if he loses, and I don’t see him going to Smackdown at this time. I expect Ted DiBiase Jr. to get involved and cost Orton the title.

World heavyweight champion The Undertaker vs. Batista vs. Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk in a fatal four-way match: This match presents the perfect opportunity to get the title off The Undertaker without him having to do a job, and that’s what I think is going to happen. I don’t see Mysterio winning the title, so that leaves either Batista or Punk. I’d love to see Punk regain the championship, but my guess is that Batista is going to win. Batista certainly seems on his way to a heel turn, although it probably won’t happen tonight.

Team Raw (DX, The Big Show, Mark Henry, Kofi Kingston, Cody Rhodes and Jack Swagger) vs. Team Smackdown (Chris Jericho, Kane, Finlay, Matt Hardy, The Hart Dynasty and R-Truth): I agree with those who believe The Big Show is going to double-cross his team and help Team Smackdown win, which will then lead to a tag team title program between Big Show and Jericho and DX. It will be interesting to see how strongly guys such as Kingston, Swagger, Rhodes, The Hart Dynasty and R-Truth are booked in this match.

The Miz vs. John Morrison: This match between former tag team partners should be really good. Morrison has more upside, so I’m going with him.

Raw Divas (Kelly Kelly, Gail Kim and Melina) vs. Smackdown Divas (Michelle McCool, Natalya and Beth Phoenix): I think the Smackdown heels will beat the Raw babyfaces. I have a feeling Kim is going to figure in the decision in some way, either by doing the job or perhaps by turning on her teammates.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 3:59 AM | | Comments (18)
        

October 24, 2009

Did concussions play a part in WWE not signing Nigel McGuinness?

One possible reason WWE backed off on signing Nigel McGuinness (now known as Desmond Wolfe in TNA) after having agreed to a verbal deal last month is his history of concussions, Alex Marvez wrote in his syndicated wrestling column a couple days ago.

Several wrestling Web sites reported earlier this week that McGuinness had failed WWE’s pre-screening medical exam, although there were no specifics. McGuinness, however, has gone on record as saying that the deal with WWE fell through because the company made a business decision.

“I had a clean bill of health from my orthopedic guy and my local doctor, so it’s not about that,” McGuiness told The Daily Star (U.K). “I don’t hold anything against [WWE]. It was a business decision, and they were only doing what they think is best for them.”

Marvez wrote that McGuinness told him in a telephone interview earlier this year that he had suffered at least “two or three” concussions, but he wasn’t certain of the exact number.

“I'm not making fun of it, but I do forget a lot of times,” McGuinness told Marvez in January. “I remember sometimes earlier in my career where I would get into a car at night and see bright lights in the sky. After one match with [Austin] Aries, I had to take the next night off and for a good week or so I couldn’t walk without stumbling. ... The weird thing is you don't know how many you can take before you suffer serious, permanent damage. ...

“It's something I need to worry about. Unfortunately in this business, there's only so much you can do.”

TNA does not test for concussions, according to Marvez.

In addition to his concussions, McGuinness suffered a torn biceps in 2007 and an arm injury last March. In regard to the latter, McGuinness opted to take time off rather than undergo surgery.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 6:46 PM | | Comments (7)
        

Team gets a makeover on Smackdown

Goodbye Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, Eric Escobar and Cryme Tyme. Hello Matt Hardy, R-Truth, Finlay and The Hart Dynasty.

The Smackdown team led by Chris Jericho and Kane got what most would consider an upgrade on Smackdown Friday night, as the latter five defeated the original team members in a five-on-four match (Shad Gaspard of Cryme Tyme was ill and did not wrestle).

It’s unfortunate that Ziggler will not participate in the Raw vs. Smackdown match at Sunday’s Bragging Rights pay-per-view, and it’s also a tough break for McIntyre and Escobar, who could have used the rub. However, I am glad that R-Truth and The Hart Dynasty are in the match, and the popular Matt Hardy, of course, deserves to be on the team. As for Finlay, I’d certainly rather have Ziggler.

It’s interesting to say the least that WWE decided to change the lineup the week of the pay-per-view. I have a hard time believing this is what they intended to do from the start, and it now makes those qualifying matches seem like a complete waste of time. If WWE came to the conclusion that newcomers McIntyre and Escobar made the Smackdown team look weak going up against a Raw squad consisting of DX, The Big Show, Mark Henry, Kofi Kingston, Jack Swagger and Cody Rhodes, why didn’t they realize that when they put the team together?

The whole concept of a brand vs. brand match is flawed anyway because there is nothing really at stake. Pride in their respective brands is the best WWE has come up with for the wrestlers’ motivation, but that’s weak since the wrestlers go back and forth between the shows so frequently that they couldn’t possibly feel any sense of loyalty.

Other thoughts on Friday’s show:

The Undertaker-CM Punk Submission Match for the world heavyweight title was somewhat compelling. I knew there was very little chance that The Undertaker would lose, but since the “fix was in,” I was interested to see how Undertaker would overcome the deck being stacked against him. The way it played out was pretty clever. After The Undertaker choke-slammed crooked referee Scott Armstrong, Punk caught “The Dead Man” in the Anaconda Vice. By the time a second referee had made it into the ring, however, Undertaker had escaped and secured Hell’s Gate on Punk, who quickly tapped. ...

It is now obvious – if it wasn’t already – that Vince McMahon was behind the plot to screw The Undertaker, and general manager Teddy Long was merely an unwilling accomplice. I’m not sure where this is leading, but I hope it’s not to an Undertaker-McMahon feud. That’s already been done. ...

Armstrong’s acting was really good when he was faced with the dilemma of doing what was right or saving his job and doing what was best for his family. It was a nice touch when McMahon insinuated that a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame for Armstrong’s father, “Bullet” Bob Armstrong, was at stake. ...

It was really weird seeing The Hart Dynasty hugging Hardy, R-Truth and Finlay after their victory. I know that they’re on the same side for now, but the hugging was a little much. A cautious handshake would have sufficed. ...

The tag team match in which Batista and Rey Mysterio defeated Jericho and Kane was good. I thought I was seeing things when Kane did the job instead of Jericho. ...

I almost fell out of my chair laughing when Jericho said, “Every time I step in the ring, I win.” His best line was when he referred to the fans as “germ incubators.” ...

It was a good night for Mickie James. She scored a victory over Layla in a decent match, and also handled herself well in a backstage confrontation with Michelle McCool. ...

And speaking of backstage confrontations with McCool, I marked out when everyone’s favorite octogenarian Mae Young slapped McCool across the face.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 4:35 PM | | Comments (22)
        

October 23, 2009

Desmond Wolfe: Impact player

Nigel McGuinness, or Desmond Wolfe as he is now known, could not have been put over any stronger in his TNA debut than he was on Impact Thursday night.

The former Ring of Honor champion, who recently signed with TNA after having agreed to a verbal deal with WWE last month, attacked TNA’s top star, Kurt Angle, in two separate segments (including taking out Angle at the end of the show), and he’ll probably be wrestling Angle at the Turning Point pay-per-view on Nov. 15.

There are conflicting reports as to why Wolfe ended up in TNA – he said that it was a business decision on WWE’s part, while sources have said that he failed WWE’s pre-screening test due to a medical issue – but regardless of what the real reason is, as far as getting an immediate push, Wolfe is in the right place. Had he signed with WWE, I can’t imagine Wolfe laying out John Cena, or Triple H or The Undertaker on his first night with the company.

In addition to Wolfe’s debut, another strong episode of Impact featured two entertaining gimmick matches – an Ultimate X match between The Motor City Machine Guns and Lethal Consequences (won by TMCMG), and a Six Sides of Steel Match for the TNA tag team title between The British Invasion and Beer Money (won by disqualification by Beer Money).

Other thoughts on Thursday’s show:

Angle, who appears to be a full-fledged babyface, cut a good promo in which he put over younger guys such as A.J. Styles, Matt Morgan and Eric Young. Angle is a terrific heel, but he can be an effective babyface as well, and it probably was time for a change.

I cringed when Angle, who has a well-documented history of neck problems, took the Tower of London (an RKO off the top rope) from Wolfe. ..

Rhino cut another great promo when he confronted Angle. His intensity was tremendous and very realistic. Rhino and Young are the two hottest heels in the company, and who would have ever believed that? ...

After Rhino generated so much heat with his promo, I hated to see him get pinned by Hernandez in a match that only lasted a few minutes. What made it even worse was that Hernandez also got the better of Rhino in the post-match angle. I know Hernandez is getting a push, but I think some sort of disqualification would have helped Rhino without hurting Hernandez. ...

I sure hope Team 3D preventing Hernandez from hitting the Border Toss on Rhino, as well as Rhino’s attempt to get Team 3D to see his point about veterans being pushed aside, is not going to result in Team 3D turning heel and TNA doing yet another young-vs.-old feud. Been there, done that. ...

A three-way TNA world title match between Styles, Samoa Joe and Daniels at Turning Point will be good and all, but what have Joe and Daniels done – in the context of the story line – to earn title shots. Since Bobby Lashley just defeated Joe, shouldn’t he get a shot before him? ...

Having Daniels job to Kevin Nash in a tag team match is not the best way to build up Daniels for his title match. It was done to create dissension between Daniels and Styles, but the whole feuding partners thing is overdone. Why not just have Daniels and Styles agree to put their friendship aside for the match rather than having them at odds? ...

I’m guessing that it will be implied that it was Daniels – and not Joe – who attacked Styles in the parking lot. ...

Did James Storm really say to Doug Williams, “Take your tampon out and grow yourself a set?” That’s what I thought he said. ...

Scott Steiner’s promo before his match with Morgan was funny. He didn’t know if Morgan’s first name was Matt or Mike. “It doesn’t matter. I’ll beat them both up,” he said.

With Morgan getting a major push, I would like to have seen him defeat Steiner clean instead of Lashley’s interference setting up the pin. However, TNA is booking a program between Steiner and Lashley, so I suppose it makes sense from that standpoint. ...

It looked absolutely ridiculous that referee Earl Hebner had to keep his back to the action on the floor – where Lashley and Steiner were going at – for so long. Mike Tenay tried to play off Hebner not calling for a DQ by saying it was the referee’s discretion. The way Hebner positioned himself in the ring, however, sure made it appear that he wasn’t supposed to see Lashley interfering. What in the world could Hebner have been talking to Morgan about all that time?

Kristal Lashley was shown on camera at the Bound for Glory pay-per-view and she was involved in an angle with Steiner on Impact, so it looks as if the former WWE diva might become on on-air character. Bobby Lashley, by the way, did not seem as enraged as he should have been when he attacked Steiner after Steiner put his hands on his wife. ...

I don’t think we’re going to see Raisha Saeed anymore after she was power-bombed off the ramp by Awesome Kong and taken out on a stretcher. The good news is we’ll probably see more of Alissa Flash. ...

The Homicide-Amazing Red match was good. The Gringo Killa on Red looked dangerous.

The Meanest Girls reality show segments with The Beautiful People have potential, but the first one, which featured a food fight in catering, wasn’t anything special. ...

Was it just me, or was Lauren in just about every segment? As long as she’s not trying to act, I’m not complaining. ...

It felt strange not having Mick Foley – who usually is all over the show – not on at all. I’m not complaining about that, either. I love Mick, but you never want a character to become over-exposed. ...

I thought the graphics, featuring the wrestlers’ height, weight, experience and finishing maneuver, were a nice addition.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 9:12 PM | | Comments (19)
        

Quick hits on WWE Superstars

• When Gail Kim was on top in TNA, the notion that she be in WWE doing jobs to Kelly Kelly less than two years later would have been ludicrous. Now, it doesn’t surprise me in the least. In fact, I fully expected it when Kelly Kelly defeated Kim on Thursday’s episode of WWE Superstars. I’m wondering if Kim’s less-than-stellar won-loss record is going to result in a heel turn and a push. I wouldn’t bet it on it happening. Kim looks tentative in the ring and seems to have suffered a loss of confidence. The match actually was decent, and Kelly Kelly looked good (I’m talking about from a wrestling perspective).

• Kim appeared to land badly on a failed huracanrana attempt from the top rope, but she got right up and continued the match.

• A result that did surprise me was Goldust and Tommy Dreamer defeating Vladimir Kozlov and Ezekiel Jackson, although Kozlov and Jackson immediately got their heat back with a post-match beat-down. I like the idea of having upsets every now and then. It sends a message to fans that a match in which the winner seems obvious still is worth watching because anything is possible.

• The main event in which Drew McIntyre and Eric Escobar defeated Matt Hardy and R-Truth wasn’t bad. The newcomers had to win this match to give them some credibility since they are participating in the Smackdown vs. Raw match at Sunday’s Bragging Rights pay-per-view. I haven’t been overly impressed thus far with Escobar, but I still need to see more of him to form a strong opinion.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 4:17 PM | | Comments (8)
        

October 22, 2009

The Ring Posts Female 20

In the spirit of Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Female 50 – a feature in last month’s issue of PWI that ranks the top women wrestlers over the past year – I’ve come up with my own list, although I limited mine to 20.

The rankings are based on championships won, won-loss records, marketability, overall athletic ability and activity between Sept. 1, 2008 and Aug. 31, 2009.

Before getting to the list, please keep the above criteria in mind, as this is not a list of the top 20 workers. Also, only wrestlers under contract to WWE and TNA were considered, since I have not seen enough of women on the independent circuit to accurately judge them. Finally, let me reiterate that activity during the aforementioned period is a key factor. Therefore, wrestlers who missed significant time or did not make their debuts until later in the grading period (such as Sarita and Alissa Flash) did not make it.

1. MARYSE
2. AWESOME KONG
3. MELINA
4. MICHELLE MCCOOL
5. ANGELINA LOVE

6. MICKIE JAMES
7. BETH PHOENIX
8. ODB
9. TARA
10. TAYLOR WILDE

11. KELLY KELLY
12. GAIL KIM
13. MARIA
14. NATALYA
15. EVE

16. VELVET SKY
17. ALICIA FOX
18. DAFFNEY
19. SOJOURNER BOLT
20. ROXXI

Posted by Kevin Eck at 9:00 PM | | Comments (23)
        

Quick hits on ECW

• We all know that Chris Jericho can appear on any WWE show by virtue of him being a member of the unified WWE tag team champions, but I don’t think many people expected to ever see him on ECW, so it was a pleasant surprise when he showed up on Tuesday night’s episode. It was even better that he wrestled his old tag team partner/rival Christian in the main event. Here’s the one problem I had with it: Jericho’s surprise appearance shouldn’t have been a surprise. It astounds me that WWE didn’t announce on Raw that Jericho was intending to be on ECW. I think it’s safe to say that WWE cost themselves some viewers.

• As expected, the Jericho-Christian match was quite good. Yes, Jericho did another clean job, but this one I completely agree with. There’s no way the ECW champion should lose on ECW to a wrestler from another brand.

• Jericho leering at Rosa Mendes and unbuttoning the top couple buttons on his shirt when talking to Tiffany was funny. Speaking of Tiffany, I like that WWE is portraying her character as a smart, decisive general manager who is always one step ahead of the heels.

• It was great to see two up-and-coming young guys – Yoshi Tatsu and Zack Ryder – wrestling each other in a No. 1 contender’s match. I wasn’t surprised that Tatsu won, but the finish caught me off guard. I thought for sure that Ryder was going to kick out after Tatsu hit a splash over the top rope.

• The angle with The Hurricane doppelganger and Paul Burchill was well done. Nice attention to detail with the impostor having the Green Lantern tattoo on his arm.

• Paul Burchill’s promo wasn’t spectacular by any means, but it was good to see him getting some mic time.

• Shelton Benjamin showed a lot of fire when he attacked Sheamus. I’d like to see Benjamin get the better end of this feud and then move on to an ECW title program, but I’m not holding my breath.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 1:28 AM | | Comments (12)
        

October 21, 2009

Why Nigel McGuinness didn’t sign with WWE

According to reports, the reason Nigel McGuinness ended up signing with TNA instead of WWE is because WWE withdrew its contract offer after he failed the company’s pre-screening test. This does not mean that McGuinness, who was believed to be WWE-bound last month, failed a drug test. The speculation is that it was a medical issue that caused the deal to fall through.

Whether TNA knew about McGuinness’ test failure is unknown, and apparently the company does not have a pre-screening test. Hopefully, McGuinness is not putting his health at risk by wrestling.

The former Ring of Honor champion makes his TNA debut on Thursday’s episode of Impact under the name of Desmond Wolf.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 11:31 PM | | Comments (9)
        

Bruno Sammartino’s thoughts on Capt. Lou Albano

I spoke recently with pro wrestling great Bruno Sammartino about legendary manager Capt. Lou Albano, who died last week at 76. Sammartino and Albano were portrayed as bitter rivals for years in the WWWF, but behind the scenes, Sammartino played an instrumental role in Albano making the transition from journeyman wrestler to top-level manager.

What is your opinion of Lou as a manager?

As a manager, I don’t know anybody who could argue the fact that he was the best. And I say that sincerely; he was absolutely the best. I was the one responsible for him becoming a manager. As a wrestler, he was mediocre. Lou was not the best by any means and he wasn’t making much of an impact. He was just a regular preliminary guy on the card. Later, he and Tony Altimore became The Sicilians. I’m not going to tell you they became the hottest tag team in the world, because they did not, but they made a bit of an impact with the Mafia-style outfits that they wore. They got some main events, not in a major arena like Madison Square Garden, Boston Garden or Baltimore Civic Center, but in what we called the secondary clubs. They were just at a certain plateau and that was it. But I took notice of Lou every time he had a chance to do an interview – he was more the spokesperson rather than Tony Altimore. The Sicilians eventually had to break up because somebody didn’t think it them being The Sicilians was too funny, and they got a threatening little message [laughs], and it was decided they better quit that.

Every Thursday we had live TV out of Washington, D.C., and Vince McMahon Sr. had an office there in Washington. He would take me sometimes in a private room and ask me what I though about certain talents who wanted to come in. At one of those meetings I said, “Vince, you have to take Albano and try to make him a manager. As a wrestler he ain’t going nowhere, especially now that The Sicilians are over with. He’s just going to be a preliminary guy barely making a living. As a manager, this guy is such a terrific mouthpiece that he can really help make some wrestlers who couldn’t make it on their own really rise .” By that, I mean that they may have been very talented in the ring, but they were duds on the microphone – and the microphone plays a big role in getting you over. Vince thought about it and said, “What have we got to lose? Let’s give him a try.” With that, they put him with a guy named Crusher Verdu, a Spaniard who didn’t speak very good English. If you put a microphone in front of him, forget about it, he just couldn’t talk. Lou was his mouthpiece, and he could be so obnoxious that he not only could get you mad at him, but whoever he was managing. In that respect, he helped a lot of guys get to the top. He was the best at it. He was so hated by the audiences that he would sell out arenas – I wrestled him at The Boston Garden and the Civic Center there in Baltimore – because people wanted to see him get the heck beat out of him. He had that ability to really create that kind of situation with the fans.

During that era when the business was much more protected than it is today, people really believed that Lou was this crazy, loose cannon. Away from the ring, was he anything like the guy the fans saw?

No question about it, that was him. That’s why he was so good at what he did, because he brought himself in front of that mic every day. Most people wouldn’t believe it, but the way he was in the ring was mostly the way he was outside the ring. That was Lou 24 hours a day. Lou was a pretty fearless guy. A lot of times he would go a little over the edge, and if any [fans] attacked him, he’d fight. He was just that type of a guy. One time on an interview, he said, “This Sammartino is such a disgrace. I’m embarrassed to be an Italian if he’s Italian. From now on I’m changing my name from Lou Albano to Lou Alban.” Can you imagine how much that angered some people? But that was Lou. He would say and do things where he would literally put himself at risk. Believe me, there were many times when he had to fight his way from the ring back to the dressing room, but that never put any fear into him. He continued to be what he was. Now since Lou passed I’ve heard some people say that Bobby Heenan might have been the best manager, or Gary Hart, or Fred Blassie, or Ernie Roth (The Grand Wizard). No. I’ll tell you why Lou Albano was No. 1 and nobody could question that fact.

None of those other guys could create that kind of a situation that people were even interested in seeing them wrestle somebody. They wanted Lou to get in the ring. They wanted him to challenge me or challenge Pedro Morales or someone else. They wanted that because they so hated him because of the way he was on camera and on the mic. Nobody generated that kind of a situation. I never remember Ernie Roth, Bobby Heenan or Blassie literally attacked by the fans like Lou would be. That tells the whole story as to who the hottest manager was. I’m not saying it because Lou has passed on now. I’ve said that any time the question came up. What I’m telling you now I said 30 years ago. If there was any question about that it was never from the wrestlers, if was from the outsiders that think that they know this or that. The wrestlers all agreed that nobody was hotter than Lou. Lou would jump in the ring and take a shot at you. You’d pick him up and slam him and he’d run out like a coward, and people would resent him even more for that. Heenan was very good – I would never take anything away from Bobby Heenan. I’m just telling you that you could not put any of these guys with Lou.

You have any good stories about Lou – one that you can tell?

Boy, I’d have to think about that, because Lou, my God, he was in a class all by himself. Here’s one that just came to me. Lou was a spokesperson for MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and they were having a big fundraiser here in Pittsburgh. That night, Lou is at the hotel, and he has to catch a plane the next day. He’s hearing loud noises from the next room. He was getting more and more irritated because it was like 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning. So Lou being the hot-tempered guy that he was, pounded on the wall and used a few choice words in telling them to knock off the noise. The voices on the other side hollered back, “What are you going to do about it?” Lou being Lou said, “Step into the hallway you S.O.B.” Well when he opened the door and stepped out, Lou saw Mike Tyson and his entourage. Here was Lou standing in the hallway in his underwear. Tyson was a big wrestling fan, and he looked at him and said, “Lou?” And Lou looked at Tyson and said, “Mike?” Next thing you know, from this war that was going to take place, they hugged and it was like, “Oh, nice to see you again,” because they had met before. But I’ll tell you something about Lou. When he said step out, he didn’t know who he was talking to, nor would he care. I assure you if it wasn’t Tyson – or even if it was Tyson and he didn’t know him – it wouldn’t have made a difference.

Lou talked in his book about Vince McMahon Sr. firing him several times. With Lou’s personality, was he a pain in the butt for Vince Sr. and Vince Jr.?

He could be. Lou was outspoken, and sometimes he did things that he shouldn’t have done. Lou used to like to have a drink [laughs], and that would rile him up even more. It was easy for Lou to get himself in predicaments, let’s put it that way [laughs]. Yeah, he was fired a few times. A couple times I felt that it was not justified, and I stepped in and fixed things up to pull him back in. Sometimes he was wrong and I would tell him, “Lou, you can’t do that. What’s the matter with you?” But a couple times I thought he was right and I stood up for him. The thing about him that a lot of people don’t know is that they saw this crazy guy, but Lou was a good man. He was a very decent man. He was a very good father. He had five children and, my God, he loved those kids. He was as good a dad as you could be. He was married like 55 years to the same woman. All Lou would talk about was his wonderful wife and how blessed he was that God had him meet such a wonderful person, because Lou wasn’t always the easiest guy in the world, you know. When he got himself involved in MS, he did a lot of charity work for that. So he was a hothead guy and crazy in some ways, but at the same time he was a very, very good man.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 2:55 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Q&As
        

October 20, 2009

Daffney’s injury

In case anyone missed it, Daffney suffered a broken arm at TNA’s Bound for Glory pay-per-view Sunday when Abyss choke-slammed her over the top rope and through a table wrapped in barbed wire on the floor, wrestlingobserver.com reported.

Daffney’s willingness to take bumps on thumb tacks and barbed wire is one of the things that have set her apart from other women in TNA. Hopefully, she’ll have a speedy recovery.


Posted by Kevin Eck at 9:43 PM | | Comments (8)
        

Nigel McGuinness headed to TNA instead of WWE

Former Ring of Honor champion Nigel McGuinness, who was believed to have signed with WWE in early September, has instead signed with TNA and is in Orlando today for the Impact tapings, prowrestling.net reported.

Various Internet reports last month had McGuinness – and fellow ROH star Bryan Danielson – going to WWE. I had believed for a while that it was just a matter of time before WWE or TNA acquired McGuinness, but I always thought he was better-suited for TNA.

After the reports surfaced that he was going to WWE, I wrote: “He works a European style that, on the surface, doesn’t seem like a great fit for WWE. In TNA, I think McGuinness would have become the big star that former ROH champion Samoa Joe was projected to be, but who ultimately fell short of expectations.”

McGuinness, a talented worker and decent talker who played a British heel in ROH, would fit in perfectly with the World Elite heel faction, which includes British Invasion members Brutus Magnus and Doug Williams.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 4:54 PM | | Comments (11)
        

Jim Ross suffers Bell’s Palsy attack

Jim Ross wrote on his blog that he suffered a Bell’s Palsy attack Monday night while on a flight from Oklahoma City to Atlanta.

This is Ross’ third attack of Bell’s Palsy – a paralysis of the facial nerve that causes an inability to control facial muscles on the affected side – in the past 11 years.

Ross said that he will not work at the Smackdown tapings tonight and may have to miss the Bragging Rights pay-per-view on Sunday.

“Life is about facing the challenges we encounter, so I am going to do all I can to get better and back at the announce desk ASAP,” he wrote. “I wish I had more answers but I simply don't at this time.”

Here’s hoping that Ross gets better soon.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 4:31 PM | | Comments (13)
        

Baltimore Celebrity Smackdown: Stacy Keibler vs. Cal Ripken

Former WWE diva and Rosedale native Stacy Keibler advanced to the Round of 32 in baltimoresun.com’s Baltimore Celebrity Smackdown, a tournament to determine Baltimore’s biggest celebrity based on online voting.

In the first round, Keibler trounced Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon by a margin of 90.1 percent to 9.9 percent.

Keiber faces a heavy hitter in the second round – Orioles Hall of Famer and Baltimore icon Cal Ripken.

To place your vote, click here. The Keibler-Ripken matchup is located at the bottom of the bracket on the left side. Voting is open through Sunday night.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 4:10 PM | | Comments (11)
        

Comment of the Week

The featured Ring Posts comment of the past week goes to theorangechimp, who wrote the following last Friday in response to the entry "Shane McMahon leaves WWE.”

But who is going to beat up Legacy now?

I will select the Ring Posts Comment of the Week every Monday (or Tuesday).

Posted by Kevin Eck at 3:48 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Comment of the week
        

Raw: Shawn Michaels-Chris Jericho match just a tease

When my clock said 11 p.m. and the advertised Shawn Michaels-Chris Jericho match hadn’t started yet on Monday night's episode of Raw, I got a bad feeling.

With the Bragging Rights pay-per-view coming up on Sunday, it had been announced at the top of the show that old rivals Michaels and Jericho would meet in a battle of Raw and Smackdown team captains. As guest host Snoop Dogg ran down the lineup for Monday’s show, the Michaels-Jericho match drew a bigger crowd reaction than the John Cena-Triple H and Randy Orton-Ted DiBiase Jr. matches.

It’s understandable. Michaels and Jericho, who are two of my all-time favorite performers, have had some classic encounters. I think they're incapable of having a bad match together. Unfortunately, they never even locked up Monday, as WWE pulled a bait and switch.

I fully expected the Michaels-Jericho match to end in a schmaz with all 14 of the Raw and Smackdown team members going at it, but instead of giving us a nice 15-minute match first, WWE just went right to the brawl.

That left a bad taste in my mouth on what was otherwise a good episode of Raw.

Snoop Dogg made for an entertaining host on a show that had a 20-minute, pay-per-view quality match between Cena and Triple H, an intense angle between Orton and DiBiase Jr., and some funny segments.

Oh, and former Rocker Marty Jannetty made a surprise appearance and wrestled The Miz, so now we know why there were all those Jannetty references on Smackdown Friday. What were the odds that an ex-Rocker would compete on Raw and it wouldn’t be Michaels?

Other thoughts on Monday’s show:

Triple H scored a clean victory over Cena, which could be an indication of where the story lines are headed on Raw after Sunday. Since Triple H beat Cena, that means if Cena wins the WWE title from Orton at Bragging Rights, Triple H would be the logical No. 1 contender. So instead of a fresh match-up on top, we’d get yet another rehashed program. We’ve already seen Orton-Triple H and Orton-Cena this year, so I guess Cena-Triple H has to be next.

The post-match scene after Cena lost really made it seem as if it was his last appearance on Raw (he has to leave the show if he doesn’t beat Orton). Triple H shook his hand and the crowd gave Cena a nice ovation as he made his way up the ramp with a sad look on his face. Of course, that pretty much guarantees that he’s regaining the title Sunday. …

At first it seemed like the crowd didn’t know exactly what to make of the match between Orton and DiBiase. Backstage before the match, Orton told DiBiase that he had better not fight back or else “it will be a mistake that you’ll regret for the rest of your life.” At the beginning of the match, DiBiase had a conflicted look on his face, as if he was carefully weighing his options. When the match started, Orton methodically punched and kicked DiBiase, who was getting angrier and angrier, but didn’t fight back. Finally, DiBiase shoved Orton down and the crowd popped. With the fans chanting his name, DiBiase looked as if he was about to go off on Orton, but he backed down, and Orton hit an RKO for the win. Both guys did a great job of telling a story, although I’m not quite sure I totally buy the fact that DiBiase wouldn’t go after Orton. …

WWE put together a nice, classy tribute video for the late Capt. Lou Albano. I was disappointed that something like that didn’t air on Smackdown Friday, but I suppose with Albano dying on Wednesday and Smackdown having already been taped on Tuesday, it wasn’t possible to insert it into the show. …

DX had some good lines during the opening segment. The best one came after Michaels informed Triple H that Smackdown newcomer Eric Escobar was sleeping with Vickie Guerrero. “If you’re going to sleep your way to the top, at least do it with someone who weighs less than you do,” Triple H said. “You would know,” Michaels replied. Michaels later referred to Jack Swagger as an “An All-American American American … American.” And when Kofi Kingston cut a promo, Triple H pointed out that he wasn’t speaking with a Jamaican accent. Triple H took the words right out of my mouth. I’m still not sure why WWE is suddenly acknowledging the fact that Kingston isn’t really Jamaican. …

Triple H dismissed Smackdown team members Escobar and Drew McIntyre as a couple of guys he had never heard of. Michaels interrupted and said that McIntyre had been endorsed by Vince McMahon as a future champion. Michaels also said that Escobar might be “the toughest guy you’ll ever know,” and then he whispered in Triple H’s ear about Escobar and Guerrero. That promoted a spit-take from Triple H. My first reaction to all of this – besides it being funny – was that WWE was foolishly burying guys that it is trying to get over as future stars. However, if McIntyre and Escobar make a good accounting of themselves at Bragging Rights, then they weren’t being buried at all. …

Jannetty’s cameo appearance proved once again that you never say never in pro wrestling. Jannetty has been brought back to WWE a few times in recent years, but in each instance it didn’t take long for him to get himself fired. After cutting ties with Jannetty in 2006, McMahon said that he would never use Jannetty again. …

Snoop’s much-documented love of marijuana was the basis for a joke. I’m not a prude, but I question whether drug humor is appropriate in the family friendly era. It’s too bad CM Punk isn’t on Raw, because a confrontation with Snoop Dogg would have been classic. …

When it appeared that Snoop was about to light one up, (it turned out that he actually was just burning scented candles, with his favorite being the smell of cut grass) the camera cut to a “Technical Difficulties” graphic. What made it was funny was that the graphic featured a smiling Michael Cole hugging Hornswoggle. …

Speaking of the little guy, he actually made me laugh when he was getting down with Eve in the ring. …

It looks like Hornswoggle and Chavo Guerrero are still feuding. It’s never going to end, is it? …

Normally I would be appalled that the lanky Snoop Dogg stood up to a wrestler and got the better of it in a physical confrontation, but since it was Guerrero I think it’s OK. If a leprechaun and an 85-year-old game show host can beat up Guerrero, it makes perfect sense that Snoop could, too. …

Gail Kim has gone from being a serious wrestler and a champion in TNA to just another diva dancing in the ring with Snoop Dogg. As a wrestling journalist, I think it’s a disgrace the way she has been booked in WWE. As a red-blooded male, I think Kim getting her groove on in a little black dress and high heels is must-see TV. …

A Raw vs. Smackdown six-woman tag match has been added to Bragging Rights, and it speaks volumes that Mickie James is not part of it. I suppose there is some validity to all of the Internet reports about James having heat with management. …

Next week’s guest hosts will be Kyle Busch and some other NASCAR guy that I’ve never heard of. First Ben Roethlisberger and now a couple of guys who drive around in circles. Ugh.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 4:06 AM | | Comments (38)
        

October 19, 2009

Bound for Glory thoughts

There seemed to be a changing of the guard at TNA’s signature pay-per-view, Bound for Glory, Sunday night.

With the exception of Kurt Angle, who defeated Matt Morgan in a very good match, all of the other big-name former WWE and WCW stars put over young, up-and-coming guys.

TNA world champion A.J. Styles defeated Sting; Abyss defeated Mick Foley; Eric Young defeated Kevin Nash in a three-way match for the Legends title; and The British Invasion came out of the Full Metal Mayhem match with the TNA tag team title, which had been held by Scott Steiner and Booker T. And even though Morgan lost to Angle, he was a winner in the sense that he came out of the match a bigger star.

The title wins by Young and The British Invasion seem to indicate that the World Elite has replaced The Main Event Mafia as TNA’s top heel faction. In fact, the MEM may be done. This reportedly was Booker T.’s last night in the company, and there has been speculation that Steiner could go as well, although the way he was booked to look good in the FMM match leads me to believe he is staying. Angle, the “Godfather” of the MEM, came out of BFG looking more like a babyface than a heel.

Overall, BFG was an entertaining show. Everyone had their working shoes on and the right people won the key matches.

It was an interesting crowd in that Morgan and Bobby Lashley – more so Lashley – were booed. Heels Angle, Foley and Samoa Joe were cheered, and the crowd also preferred Sting over Styles, although that wasn’t unexpected considering that Sting is a native of California, the site of the event.

Here is a match-by-match look at the show:

TNA world champion A.J. Styles defeated Sting: Despite the result of this match getting out ahead of time when a commercial for next month’s Turning Point pay-per-view inadvertently aired last week, TNA did the right thing and stuck to the original finish. Styles did a really nice job of carrying the match, and Sting seemed motivated. Styles survived the Scorpion Death-drop and the Scorpion Death-lock before hitting a Pele kick followed by a Springboard Splash for the win. After the match, Styles called Sting back to the ring and turned the spotlight over to him. The crowd chanted “You still got it,” “Please don’t go” and “One more year.” Sting said he didn’t know if he was coming back, but all the nice comments he received from people at Fanfest on Saturday make him “want to stay forever.” He said he wasn’t pulling a Brett Favre by being noncommittal, nor was he doing a “kayfabe teaser.” I’m not a big fan of using that word during the show, but I suppose it’s not that big a deal.

Kurt Angle defeated Matt Morgan: Angle did an excellent job of elevating Morgan, who came through with a strong performance in the biggest singles match of his career. The crowd even gave them a “This is awesome” chant. Morgan targeted Angle’s neck and back early, while Angle countered by attacking Morgan’s knees. Morgan got a number of near falls, broke out of the ankle lock several times and kicked out after an Olympic Slam/Frog Splash combination. Angle finally got the win after turning an attempted Electric Chair by Morgan into a Victory Roll. The match told a good story, which was that Morgan has become a breakout star, but he’s not quite there yet as far as beating a guy like Angle. After the match, Angle extended his hand to Morgan and told him that he has earned his respect. The crowd had been pro-Angle during the match, but after Angle’s endorsement of Morgan, the fans gave Morgan a nice ovation. The announcers put over the fact that Morgan had grown up during in the match and become a star.

Bobby Lashley defeated Samoa Joe in a Submission Match: For a guy who is competing in MMA matches and cannot afford to get injured, Lashley did not hold back as far as taking bumps. This was a good, hard-hitting match with both guys using MMA-style submission holds. Joe was in control for the majority of the match, as he worked on Lashley’s injured ribs. Lashley, however, caught Joe in a chokehold, and after a few seconds, referee Earl Hebner called for the bell. It appeared that Joe lost consciousness instead of tapping out.

Abyss defeated Mick Foley in a Monster’s Ball Match: Dr. Stevie was the special referee. This was the only match on the show that was a disappointment. In the hype leading up to the showdown between the two hardcore combatants, Foley said he wanted people to be asking after it was over if it was the best hardcore match ever. I’m going to say it’s a pretty safe bet that no one will be asking that. Foley and Abyss were abusing each other with barbed wire baseball bats and tables, but the intensity just wasn’t there, and Foley didn’t even bleed. When Abyss bladed his head, he did a poor job of concealing it. The thing that really killed the match was Abyss getting his shoulder up way too late on a pin attempt by Foley. The second referee had no choice but to hit the mat three times, and then time just kind of stood still. There was no way Mike Tenay or Taz could even attempt to cover for Abyss’ mistake. After Daffney tried to interfere, Abyss choke-slammed her over the top rope and through a table wrapped in barbed wire on the floor. Abyss finished off Foley after choke-slamming him onto a table wrapped in barbed wire. Abyss dragged over Dr. Stevie, who had been slammed into thumb tacks by Abyss earlier, and took his hand and slapped the mat three times with it.

Eric Young defeated TNA Legends champion Kevin Nash and Hernandez to win the title: It came as no surprise that things did not go as co-conspirators Nash and Young had planned, but I was surprised that Hernandez did not overcome the odds and win the match. Instead, Young turned on Nash and pinned him. As Nash was setting up a Jackknife powerbomb on Hernandez, Young took Hernandez’s head and rammed it into Nash’s groin to set up the pin. I like the decision to put the belt on Young, who has been tremendous in his role as leader of the World Elite. Even though he didn’t win, Hernandez looked strong for more than holding his own in a two-on-one situation.

The British Invasion won the TNA tag team title and Team 3D won the IWGP tag team title in a Full Metal Mayhem match also involving Beer Money and Scott Steiner and Booker T.: The star of this match – which is TNA’s version of a tables, ladders and chairs match – was Steiner, who hit four consecutive belly-to-belly suplexes on both members of Beer Money and The British Invasion. He also hit two top-rope Frankensteiners on Brutus Magnus and Doug Williams and did a belly-to-belly on Robert Roode off the middle rope. Meanwhile, his partner, Booker T., did next to nothing and was taken out on a stretcher during the match with an undisclosed injury. It looks like that’s how he will be written out. At one point, rocker Zakk Wylde, who was seated at ringside, threw a drink into Magnus’ face and then hit him on the back with a chair while Brother Ray held him. In a scary spot, Beer Money executed a double suplex on Magnus off a ladder, and Magnus ended up landing on Roode. After the match, Jeremy Borash wrote on his Twitter account that Roode was “nursing his lower back.” Rhino interfered in the match and attacked Brother Devon, who was on a ladder, but Devon was still able to secure the IWGP title belt. With an assist from the interfering Rob Terry, Williams climbed the ladder and took down the TNA title belt. I expected Team 3D to regain the IWGP title, but I’m surprised The British Invasion captured the TNA title instead of Beer Money.

TNA Knockouts champion ODB defeated Awesome Kong and Tara: In the middle of the match, an unidentified woman in the crowd attacked Tara. It happened so fast that the woman’s face wasn’t shown on camera. Security broke it up, the announcers went silent and the camera cut to the ring, where ODB and Kong stopped wrestling to see what was going on. Tara then went to the back. It was portrayed as a shoot, but this is Vince Russo we’re talking about here, so I didn’t buy it for a second. It wasn’t announced on the show, but the woman was Kim Couture, an MMA fighter (and the ex-wife of MMA fighter Randy Couture) who has been having a war of words with Tara on the Internet. Tara eventually returned to the ring. Kong was about to finish off ODB, but Raisha Saeed came to ringside and slid a chair into the ring for Kong to use. Kong didn’t want it. While Saeed and Kong traded the chair back and forth, ODB recovered and hit a facebuster on Kong on the chair to retain her title. It looks like the Kong-Saeed breakup is imminent, as they will wrestle each other on Impact this week, TNA announced on its Web site.

TNA X Division champion Amazing Red defeated Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin, Daniels, Homicide and Suicide in an Ultimate X Match: It was announced before the match that D’Angelo Dinero had to leave due to a family emergency, so The Motor City Machine Guns were added to the match by virtue of their victory over Lethal Consequences on the pre-show. This was exactly would you would expect – an amazing spotfest. It only took three minutes for the first “This is awesome” chant, which was sparked by Amazing Red hitting a huracanrana on Daniels off the top rope, sending Daniels to the floor, where he landed on the other competitors. At one point, Daniels and Suicide were fighting on the top of the structure. The fans chanted “Please don’t die.” The two eventually took an insane bump off the cable. Daniels landed on his head and it appeared that he could have been seriously injured. After that, Red, who also had been on the top of the structure, knocked both Shelley and Sabin off the cable and grabbed the belt for the victory. According to pwinsider.com, Daniels said at a post-show news conference that he had a slightly separated shoulder and a bruised neck.

TNA Knockouts tag team champions Sarita and Taylor Wilde defeated The Beautiful People: This was OK but way too short (about three minutes). Madison Rayne tries hard, but she just isn’t in Angelina Love’s league. It’s a shame Lacey Von Erich isn’t a better worker, because she has more charisma and more of TBP look than Rayne. LVE was not allowed to sit outside the ring for the match, which disappointed me. She initially convinced referee Jamie Tucker into letting her to stay by making out with him, but Earl Hebner came out, and her charms did not work on him. Yeah, that’s real believable. Note to Maryland Championship Wrestling owner Dan McDevitt: Book Lacey Von Erich as a valet on the next MCW show and let me referee that match.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 6:02 AM | | Comments (50)
        

October 18, 2009

Bound for Glory preview

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

TNA world champion A.J. Styles vs. Sting: Everything points to a win for Styles. I just hope TNA doesn’t feel the need to pull a swerve because everyone “knows” Styles is retaining the title. After winning the championship last month with an assist from Sting and then appearing to be on the verge of tapping out to Kurt Angle when he was saved by the bell Thursday on Impact, Styles needs a clean victory here to legitimize his title reign.

Kurt Angle vs. Matt Morgan: The match billed as “Wrestling’s Best vs. Wrestling’s Future” is obviously the biggest of Morgan’s career. Morgan, who recently signed a five-year deal with TNA, is being groomed to be one of the top stars in the company moving forward. He has gotten over since turning babyface, and an impressive showing against Angle would likely take him to another level. However, I don’t expect Morgan to win this one. I think Morgan pushes Angle to the limit and comes oh-so-close, but Angle finds a way to pull out the victory. That sets up a title program between Styles and Angle, which seems to be the way things are headed.

Abyss vs. Mick Foley in a Monster’s Ball Match: This could turn out to be the most memorable match on a loaded card. It won’t be for the faint of heart, that’s sure. My first instinct was to go with Abyss, as Foley’s role at this point in his career is to elevate younger talent. However, I don’t think this program is ending after one match, so I’m going with Foley to win with an assist from special referee Dr. Stevie. By the way, whatever happened to Lauren on Thursday’s Impact?

Bobby Lashley vs. Samoa Joe: This should be a physical, intense match, but a Lashley victory almost seems like a foregone conclusion.

TNA Legends champion Kevin Nash vs. Hernandez vs. Eric Young: Hernandez has the deck stacked against him since Nash and Young appear to be working together, but my guess is that the heels’ alliance falls apart and Hernandez overcomes the odds to win the title, most likely by pinning Young.

TNA world tag team champions Scott Steiner and Booker T. vs. IWGP tag team champions The British Invasion vs. Beer Money vs. Team 3D in a Full Metal Mayhem Match: This is TNA’s version of a TLC match. The stipulation here is that whichever team grabs the TNA belts win them, and the same goes for the IWGP belts. I see Beer Money coming out with the TNA title, and Team 3D regaining the IWGP title. This reportedly is Booker T.’s last match with the company.

TNA Knockouts champion ODB vs. Awesome Kong vs. Tara: The focus has been on the feud between Kong and Tara, with ODB just along for the ride. I think Tara will have ODB pinned, but at the last second Kong breaks it up and steals the victory, setting up a Kong-Tara title program.

X Division champion Amazing Red vs. Daniels vs. D’Angelo Dinero vs. Homicide vs. Suicide in an Ultimate X Match: I don’t think there’s a doubt in anyone’s mind that these guys will put on a heck of a show. I wouldn’t be surprised if Red retained, and I could see Dinero – a rising star who has the best combination of ring and mic skills of the five competitors – winning as well. My pick, however, is Homicide, who seems to be in line for a bit of a push after turning heel.

TNA Knockouts tag team champions Taylor Wilde and Sarita vs. The Beautiful People: This title likely was created just for The Beautiful People, so I expect Velvet Sky and Madison Rayne to win even though the act is nowhere near as entertaining without Angelina Love. My guess is that interference from Lacey Von Erich figures into the finish.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 1:00 PM | | Comments (4)
        

October 17, 2009

Smackdown: Seeds planted for a Batista heel turn?

After watching Smackdown Friday night, I’d swear that Batista is about to turn heel.

Batista wrestled his little buddy Rey Mysterio in a match that started out friendly but eventually became intense. Mysterio got the win when he pinned Batista, who clearly had his shoulder up before the three count, but the referee didn’t see it.

On last week’s show, Batista suffered a fluke count-out loss to CM Punk. It seems to me that WWE is creating a scenario in which Batista’s frustration boils over and he returns to his heel roots.

Smackdown is a little thin on top-level heels ( I don’t count Chris Jericho because he is a member of a tag team), so it would make sense from that standpoint.

Then again, Batista’s DVD is coming out Tuesday, and you would think WWE would want to keep him as a babyface in the belief that it would sell more DVDs. Perhaps a Batista turn is just wishful thinking on my part. His character could use a change, and a heel Batista also would make a likely feud with The Undertaker seem less like a rerun.

We shall see.

Other thoughts on Friday’s show:

It was nice to see the graphic dedicating the show to the memory of Capt. Lou Albano at the beginning of the program, but I wish WWE would have put together a video tribute. He certainly deserves it. ...

I’m looking forward to the match between John Morrison and The Miz at the Bragging Rights pay-per-view a week from Sunday, but parts of that “Dirt Sheet” segment were painful to watch. ...

I can’t help but feel a little sorry for Marty Jannetty, who was a good worker and had a fine career, but whose name has become a synonym for the weak link of a tag team (Morrison and Miz kept referring to the other as “Jannetty.”) While he never came anywhere close to the success that former partner Shawn Michaels achieved as a singles wrestler, Jannetty was a highly regarded worker and had a fine career in his own right. ...

Jericho had some good lines. First, he referred to the new DX book as a “piece of flotsam and jetsam.” Later, he said he wanted “gypsys, tramps and thieves” on his Smackdown team. Anyone besides me old enough to get that lyrical reference? ...

It was like music to my ears when Vickie Guerrero came out on the stage and said, “Excuse me!” It’s so good to have her back on the show. ...

I have no problem with newcomer Eric Escobar getting a push right from the start, but it’s hard to believe that Matt Hardy – who did the job for Escobar in the latter’s first match on TV – has fallen so far in such a short time. Turning him babyface definitely was a bad move. As for Escobar, it’s hard to assess his performance in the ring in a match that didn’t even last three minutes. ...

It was good to see Ziggler come out as the winner of the triple threat with Finlay and Mike Knox to determine a spot on the Smackdown team at Bragging Rights. I’m surprised that there was no follow-up to Ziggler’s breakup with Maria last week except for a passing reference by the announcers. ...

The Rolling Thunder that Finlay performed on the huge Knox was pretty impressive. ...

When Cryme Tyme came out for their match against unannounced opponents in another Bragging Rights qualifying match, I was certain two things were going to happen: 1. CT’s opponents would be The Hart Dynasty (because these teams seemingly have no one else to face except each other); 2. CT would win (because there needed to be some babyfaces on the Smackdown team). Sometimes I really hate being right. It’s a crime that CT beats THD all the time. ...

Another thing that I was certain of was that Drew McIntyre was going to beat R-Truth. McIntyre definitely is on the fast track, which I’m fine with, but I would love to have seen WWE throw R-Truth a bone by giving him a spot in a high profile match. At least R-Truth lost by countout rather than pinfall...

The back bump R-Truth took on the steel steps looked painful.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 6:38 PM | | Comments (26)
        

Q&A with A.J. Styles

I conducted a phone interview Thursday with TNA world champion A.J. Styles, who will defend the title against Sting in the main event of the Bound for Glory pay-per-view Sunday.

You’ve held the NWA world title several times in the past in TNA, but does being world champion this time feel different to you since TNA has a higher profile now?

Yeah. Just like you said, I’ve held the NWA-TNA title before, but it was NWA. Now, it’s TNA. We’re standing alone, and for me that means a lot more. It’s more prestigious to me and it’s an honor to hold the world title. I’ve been with TNA for seven years and I take a little bit more pride in our product than someone who may have been from somewhere else. So, yeah, it’s kind of a big deal for me to be the world champion.

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Having been with TNA since the beginning, you’ve seen the company go from being on very shaky ground to where it is now – a company that has a cable TV deal and is growing. Were there ever times during the past seven years when you said, “You know, I just don’t think we’re going to make it?”

Well, when we first started, obviously it was super shaky. It seemed like every time I turned around I heard, “Oh, they’re not going to make it another month, they’re not going to make it another week.” I finally got tired of hearing it and just said screw it. If it goes under, I’ll go under with it and there’s no point in worrying about it because I can’t do anything to stop it. All I can do is make sure I go out in the ring and give the fans what they want to see – some wrestling that they’ve never seen before. Just make sure they’re entertained, because if they’re there, that means someone is watching, and who knows what can happen? Obviously, TNA grew from that. Not just me, but a lot of guys went out there and busted their butts to make sure we got to the next level, and I think we have.

You turned down a WWE developmental contract in 2002. Did you ever have second thoughts about that decision when times were tough in TNA? Have you ever wondered what would have happened if you had accepted that offer?

I definitely wondered what would have happened. I’ve got a pretty good idea what would have happened, because I would have went to Cincinnati [where WWE developmental territory Heartland Wrestling Association was based], and they stopped using Cincinnati not long after I was offered the contract. They moved all of their stuff down to Florida. I just don’t think I would have been one of the guys to have been picked up. When I turned them down, I didn’t tell them, “Hey, you guys are idiots. You’re not going to pay me enough money.” I didn’t say anything like that because it wasn’t about the money. It was about the fact that my wife was in college and I couldn’t leave her, or have her move in with her mother or whatever. But I definitely was like, “Oh God, I hope that was a good decision.” Because who knows when that may happen again, where I’ll have the opportunity. But luckily, not too long after that, TNA started up.

I was working for WCW Magazine when you and tag team partner Air Paris were signed in 2001. I think you guys were only there for about a month before the company was purchased by WWE. What was it like to get your big break at age 22 and then have it be gone in the blink of an eye?

I think I wrestled a grand total of five matches – two house shows and three TVs. I can’t tell you how exciting it was for me to be able to say that I made it and got in there with WCW, which I watched more than the other company. To make it and then not be picked up after WCW was bought out was heartbreaking. I got a little depressed, but that didn’t last long. I said, “It’s just a bump in the road,” and I went back to the independents, and here I am with TNA.

Whatever happened to Air Paris, by the way?

(laughs) I’m not sure. I think he does a little promoting, but I’m not sure exactly what he does. We don’t really keep in touch that much.

What does it mean to you to wrestle someone of Sting’s stature in the main event of TNA’s signature pay-per-view?

Sting and I are good friends, but I’m still kind of in awe of Sting. You just remember back when you were watching as a kid and going, “Man, Sting’s so cool,” and now I’m wrestling the guy. It’s breathtaking. I can only imagine how Bound for Glory’s going to be in his home state and how the crowd’s going to respond to him – as they do always, in an uproar.

Having grown up watching Sting, as you said, what is it like now to be accepted as a peer by him?

It just goes to show how cool of a guy he really is. We have a lot in common when it comes to our faith, so I’m sure that helps out a lot. Sting’s kind of quiet. He’s not like a Booker T., who will let everybody know that he has arrived. Sting’s the total opposite. He just walks in just as casual as he can be – just a really nice guy. It’s just one of those things where we kind of hit it off. I remember walking into a Christian bookstore and seeing his face on a magazine and thinking, “That’s so cool. Sting’s a Christian.” So to be his friend and to be his peer, it’s really neat to be able to sit and have a conversation about what we both believe in and just enjoy each other’s company.

Another thing that you and Sting have in common is that you both have been heralded as the face or heart and soul of a company – Sting in WCW, and you in TNA. What are your thoughts when you hear someone refer to you in that way? I’m sure it’s an honor, but do you also feel some pressure because of it?

Yeah, it is a little pressure. I feel like I need to go in there every time and be something bigger than who I am, and sometimes I don’t know if I’m capable of it. I just see myself as a normal guy, but apparently people see me as something different. So that’s a lot of pressure, just trying to figure out, “OK, what do these people like about A.J. Styles? Why am I so different?” In talking to people, I think it’s the fact that I’m real. I’m not trying to be something that I’m not, and I think a lot of people can relate to that. They want something that’s real and I think I give that to them.

Do you ever feel conflicted as far as being a Christian and being on a show that has its share of risqué content?

Well, I remember when we were doing pay-per-views in Tennessee and there was a part where [dancer] Lollipop got her shirt ripped off. I was like, “Oh, we didn’t need that.” There’s no way I can control things like that. It’s not up to me. When I get in the ring, I know that people are going to see it and they’re going to judge me regardless of whether I like it or not, so I have to make sure that what I say and do is positive. There are times when I have to be angry and I have to say stuff that’s – ugh. A borderline word for me is saying “pissed off.” I wonder if people will take that the wrong way. Some may, some may not, but they have to understand that if I were really mad, I may say “pissed off.” Even when I’m mad at home I don’t cuss, but I may say “pissed off.” It’s a fine line, man. It could be a lot worse, that’s for sure. At times I watch the other product and I go, “Well, at least we’re not doing that.”

Has there ever been an instance when TNA came to you with something and you said, “No, I’m not comfortable saying or doing that?”

Maybe once or twice they had a word in there that I wouldn’t really use. I don’t even ask them, I just change it. They don’t really care; it’s not that big of a deal. The only frustrating thing about being a good guy is that it’s changed and evolved over the years to where it’s almost like you have to say, “I kick some a-double-s” to sound cool. So I have to find ways of avoiding that. The good thing about being a bad guy was that I could say “butthole” and “jerk” and “turd,” and the fans thought, “Oh, he’s just stupid.” [laughs]

Despite the fact that you have a high-risk style, you haven’t suffered any major injuries that have required significant time off, correct?

Not yet, but it’s unavoidable. It’s one of those things where you do a leapfrog and there you go, you blow out your knee. You never know if it’s going to happen, but I’m not going to worry about it. If it happens, it happens. I’ll deal with it then. TNA will deal with it. We’ll all deal with it together and hopefully things will work out and I’ll be right back where I was. I’m not going to go out there and mail it in just so I won’t get hurt. I’m just going to do my thing and whatever happens, happens. If you don’t worry about, I think you have less of a chance of getting hurt. It’s when you do worry about it, you hesitate, and that’s when you get hurt.

Are you at a point where you are starting to think of – not mailing it in, as you said – but toning your style down a little and perhaps working a little smarter, as the saying goes?

Sure. It’s definitely about working smarter. Psychology has a lot to do with it. Before it was just move after move after move, and it didn’t make any sense. To build up to a move that everybody wants to see, that’s what it’s all about. That’s where I’m at in my career, and it’s something that I could have been doing from the get-go, but it’s what every young guy goes through. They just do everything in the book and that’s just the way it is.

When you were doing some of the comedic heel stuff a while back such as putting on turkey outfits and things like that, were you concerned that it was going to hurt your career?

You know, I went from a turkey to a reindeer. I think Kaz and I had an awesome match to see who would have to put on a reindeer outfit. Sometimes I’m like, “This is just dumb. This doesn’t make any sense.” But after a while, I was like, “If they want me to be this character, I’m going to be the best and I’m going to have fun with it.” And I did. When Christian and Tomko and I were doing that, I was having so much fun. We were making each other laugh so much. I knew the time would come when I’d go back to the old A.J. Styles that everybody seemed to love. At least they got to know another part of A.J. Styles. He’s not the same old babyface, super good guy; they know he can also be a jerk and an idiot. So I think it just added to the character.

Any final thoughts?

I’ll give you two. One: Although I am a Christian, I am not even close to perfect. If I gave this phone to my wife, she’d keep you on it all day long about how stupid I am. And the other thing is that I would be nothing without the fans, so I appreciate every one of them.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 1:52 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Q&As
        

October 16, 2009

TNA’s Super Impact lives up to its name

Thursday night's special three-hour episode of Impact -- which was dubbed Super Impact -- featured a great match between Kurt Angle and A.J. Styles and did an excellent job of getting over Sunday’s Bound for Glory pay-per-view as a huge event.

Expectations are always high whenever Angle and Styles get in the ring together, and they delivered again. Angle continues to amaze me with his performances despite being so banged up. It’s going to be difficult for anything at BFG to top this match.

Judging by the finish, which saw Styles on the verge of tapping out from an ankle lock when the 20-minute time limit expired (who knew there are still time limits in wrestling?), I’m guessing that a program between Styles and Angle for Styles’ TNA world title will begin after BFG.

Most of the final hour of Impact consisted of “Rough Cuts”-style interviews and video packages pushing the top four matches on the pay-per-view – Styles vs. Sting, Angle vs. Matt Morgan, Mick Foley vs. Abyss, and Bobby Lashley vs. Samoa Joe. While all of the wrestlers were in character, they came across as real people (well, except for Abyss, because that would be impossible) involved in a legitimate athletic competition. TNA president Dixie Carter, Mike Tenay and Taz also offered comments on the matches and participants. Very well done.

Other thoughts on Thursday’s show:

From what I have read, Carter’s comment about having to convince Sting to keep re-signing the past several years was a shoot. ...

One nit-pick on the BFG preview segments: Taz picked Samoa Joe to defeat Lashley “in an upset.” Sure, we all expect Lashley to win, but in the context of the show, it wouldn’t be an upset. Joe is a former TNA world champion and has victories over the likes of Angle, Sting and current champion Styles. ...

When Foley talked about Abyss being a rip-off of his character and showed videos to prove his point, it was hard to argue with him. No wonder the fans seem to be backing Foley more than Abyss in this feud. ...

When Dr. Stevie had a woman who supposedly was Lauren (her back was to the camera) tied up backstage, it was obvious that it was going to be Daffney in disguise. The big question is: Where was Lauren? She never appeared after that segment, and SoCal Val assumed her duties as backstage interviewer. ...

Hernandez was put over strong in his gauntlet match against The British Invasion. However, it sure did make TBI look pretty weak heading into their BFG match against Team 3D, Beer Money and Scott Steiner and Booker T. ...

Don West coming to ringside with Amazing Red as his “promoter” was a surprise. I thought West was treated unfairly when TNA replaced him with Taz on commentary just as West was hitting his stride as a heel announcer, so I'm glad to see him back in an on-air capacity. I think the roles should be reversed, however, with West still the color commentator and Taz as a manager. It is a good idea to give Red a mouthpiece, although West was pretty annoying when cutting Red’s promo for him. West was a lot more entertaining as a heel. When did West turn babyface, anyway? ...

West said that he has always been Red’s biggest supporter, which Tenay said as well. That’s funny, I seem to recall West belittling Red when he was getting squashed by Kevin Nash a few months ago. ...

The brawl in catering between the teams in the Full Metal Mayhem tag match at BFG looked pretty weak. ...

I really liked the Hamada-Alissa Flash falls-count-anywhere match. I actually have more interest in their program than I do the three-way feud between TNA knockouts champion ODB, Tara and Awesome Kong. ...

It looked bad when Tara’s superkick didn’t come anywhere near ODB’s face – it hit her in the upper chest – yet she still was KO’d by it. ...

Perhaps I missed it, but I don’t think Lacey Von Erich was ever tagged in during the six-woman tag match between The Beautiful People and ODB, Tara and Kong. That speaks volumes as to where LVE is as far as her wrestling ability at this point. When it comes to being eye candy, however, she doesn’t have many peers in wrestling. ...

The finish to the Lashley-Rhino stretcher match was weird, as we didn’t even see Lashley putting him in the ambulance. After a replay, Rhino was already in it and then Lashley slammed the door shut. ...

Speaking of Rhino, it’s a shame that he doesn’t have a match at BFG. He’s been a compelling character since turning heel. ...

I’m still not sure I get the Pope D’Angelo Dinero character, but he does cut a nice promo. He has a bright future. ...

So, Homicide was disguised as Suicide. TNA, you’re killing me.

Note: I conducted a phone interview with A.J. Styles Thursday. The Q&A will be posted either later tonight or early Saturday.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 8:31 PM | | Comments (34)
        

Quick hits on WWE Superstars

• A good main event match between CM Punk and John Morrison – with The Miz doing commentary at ringside – highlighted Thursday’s episode of WWE Superstars. My prediction before the match started was that Miz would interfere behind the referee’s back, causing Punk to score a tainted pinfall victory. What actually happened was Miz interfered right in front of the ref, kicking Punk a couple times to get Morrison disqualified. I have always thought that was the dumbest rule in wrestling. Since Miz was clearly trying to screw over Morrison not help him, the ref should have just ruled the match no contest.

• At first, I thought Miz was doing a great job on commentary doing insult jokes at Morrison’s expense. The longer he was out there, however, the more I thought he sounded like a guy doing a parody of a pro wrestling heel.

• Miz’s best line came after Morrison hit Punk with a spin kick: “Note to self. Watch out for stupid spinning kick.”

• Vladimir Kozlov was put over strong against Tommy Dreamer. Dreamer’s swelled elbow made for a great visual, and he did a tremendous job of selling it (perhaps because he really was hurting). Matt Striker also did a good job of calling attention to the injury and getting across how much pain Dreamer was in.

• Ezekiel Jackson hit a Uranage Driver on Dreamer after the match, and then his music started playing. Since Kozlov won the match, shouldn’t it have been his music? Oh well, Jackson’s is better anyway.

• The Mark Henry-Chris Masters match wasn’t bad as far as strongman battles go.

• I thought it was funny during the “Ask the Divas” segment when Michelle McCool, responding to the question of which WWE superstar she would want as her partner in a mixed tag match, said Kane. I would have bet anything that she was going to say The Undertaker.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 5:49 PM | | Comments (4)
        

Shane McMahon leaves WWE

The first thing I did this morning after reading on wwe.com that Shane McMahon had resigned from WWE was check my calendar to make sure it wasn’t April 1.

As surreal as it sounds, McMahon really is leaving the company that has been in his family for more than five decades. McMahon’s resignation from his position as executive vice president of global media takes effect January 1, 2010.

“I have never even considered a future outside the walls of the WWE,” McMahon, 39, said in a statement on wwe.com. “However, sometimes life takes an unexpected turn, and while it is the most difficult decision I have ever made, it is time for me to move on. … This is the opportune time in my career to pursue outside ventures.”

His father, WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon also issued a statement on the Web site: “Even though I am personally saddened by Shane’s decision to leave the company, I am proud of the enormous contributions he has made. He will unquestionably bring passion, commitment and extensive business experience to any endeavor he pursues.”

Obviously, there is a lot more to this story, and I’m sure it won’t be long before information starts leaking out in regard to the specific reasons for McMahon’s departure.

In the ’90s and early part of this decade, it was assumed by most that it was Shane’s birthright to one day be Vince’s successor. However, after Shane’s sister, Stephanie, became the head of creative, the perception was that she wielded more power than her brother and he no longer was a sure thing as the heir apparent. The popular opinion over the past few years has been that either Stephanie or her husband, Triple H, would eventually replace Vince. Shane was no longer even in the discussion.

Perhaps Shane is looking for a new challenge, something he can build and call his own. If he has learned anything from his father it’s the philosophy of nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Shane is the second McMahon to leave WWE in the past month. On Sept. 16, his mother, Linda, resigned as CEO to run for Senate in Connecticut.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 12:49 PM | | Comments (37)
        

October 15, 2009

Stacy Keibler in smackdown with Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon

As part of baltimoresun.com’s Baltimore Celebrity Smackdown – a March Madness-type tournament to determine Baltimore’s biggest celebrity – former WWE diva and Rosedale native Stacy Keibler is matched up against Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon in the first round.

Winners will be determined by online voting. Voting for the first-round is open through Sunday night.

To place your vote, click here. The Keibler-Dixon matchup is located at the bottom of the bracket on the left side.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 1:38 AM | | Comments (7)
        

Quick hits on ECW

• The main event in which Christian and Yoshi Tatsu defeated William Regal and Zack Ryder was decent. I really like the mix of veterans and young talent at the top of the card in ECW. Christian and Regal are the perfect choices to be the brand’s lead babyface and heel, respectively. They are both talented, all-around performers but would likely be lost in the mid-card shuffle on either Raw or Smackdown. Tatsu and Ryder are benefiting from working with them.

• Another seed was planted for a possible babyface turn for Ryder when he and Regal had a falling out as tag team partners.

• The Ezekiel Jackson-Goldust match wasn’t bad. With Ezekiel scoring a decisive win, it looks as if there are no plans to give Goldust a push despite the strong reaction he has been getting from the crowd.

• I enjoyed the Paul Burchill-Hurricane match, but I think they’ve had better. There was no hint of an attraction between Hurricane and Katie Lea Burchill, which is where I thought the story line might be heading.

• Sheamus did all right on his promo, but he seemed to be a little thrown off by the knuckleheads doing the lame “What?” chant every time he paused.

• No Abraham Washington Show two weeks in a row? What’s up with that?

Posted by Kevin Eck at 12:44 AM | | Comments (11)
        

October 14, 2009

Remembering Capt. Lou Albano

He was the maker of champions. The Guiding Light. Often imitated, never duplicated.

He was the greatest professional wrestling manager that I have ever seen.

Capt. Lou Albano, who died this morning at 76, was one of the most recognizable and over-the-top characters in the business during his heyday in the WWWF and WWF in the ’70s and ’80s.

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I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that Albano played a major role in WWE becoming a pop culture staple. As the story goes, Albano met ’80s pop star Cyndi Lauper on an airplane and the two became friends. He played her father in the video for her big hit “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” and he later brought her to the WWF for an angle that led to a match between The Fabulous Moolah (managed by Albano) and Wendi Richter (managed by Lauper) live on MTV. The Rock and Wrestling Connection was born and it wasn’t long before Mr. T came on the scene and Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper became mainstream celebrities.

My first exposure to Albano occurred while watching the WWWF’s syndicated show on a Saturday afternoon in 1973. Being 6 at the time, I found the wild-eyed, boisterous, gravely-voiced, slovenly manager to be a frightening individual. My earliest memories of Albano are of him being interviewed by a young Vince McMahon, and Albano yelling about how his charges were going to destroy the likes of Bruno Sammartino, Chief Jay Strongbow and Pedro Morales.

Albano, who had rubber bands sticking out of his face and usually had his shirt unbuttoned to expose his bulbous belly, was hands down the top heel in the company, and he transferred his heat to the men in his stable as well as any manger ever has. You bought a ticket to see the top babyfaces of the day beat Albano’s men simply because of your intense hatred for Albano.

Of course, it was even better when Albano donned the tights himself and got his comeuppance. Albano, who was a member of a mid-card tag team known as The Sicilians in the ’60s, was far from a great worker, but after he made a name for himself as a manager, his matches were must-see events.

I had the privilege of seeing Albano wrestle on quite a few occasions at The Baltimore Civic Center. From the moment he made his way down to the ring, the heat for the match was off the charts. The atmosphere was electric, as chants of “Albano is a Bum” filled the arena.

Every Albano match was pretty much the same. He would beg off and avoid locking up before the babyface eventually got his hands on him. After being on the receiving end for a bit, Albano would gain the advantage with the aid of a foreign object. The babyface would make a comeback, take the object from Albano and use it against him. Albano would blade – usually in full view of everyone without any attempt to conceal it – and then run to the back, losing via count-out.

Albano was such a despicable figure that even some of the heels didn’t care for him. In the angle that turned Pat Patterson babyface in the early ’80s, The Grand Wizard sold Patterson’s contract to Albano, but Patterson – who was a low-life heel himself – wanted nothing to do with The Capt. because he was “a fat slob.” Albano also was involved in the famous angle in which Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka turned babyface and became the most popular wrestler in the country before being supplanted by Hogan.

Albano’s initial claim to fame was that he was the manager of Ivan Koloff when “The Russian Bear” ended Sammartino’s title reign of nearly eight years in 1971. Albano was best known for being the manager of numerous tag team champions, including The Valiant Brothers, The Wild Samoans, The Blackjacks, The Moondogs and The Executioners.

Even though he was nowhere near as clever or smooth on the mic as managers such as Bobby Heenan or Jim Cornette, Albano cut highly entertaining promos. He would yell and scream and what he said usually was nonsensical. He also used the same phrases over and over, such as saying that if you put (insert babyface here)’s brain into a parakeet it would fly backward. As much as you hated him, you had to laugh sometimes at Albano’s antics.

One frequent target of Albano’s insults was Strongbow, who passed himself off as a Native American but in actuality was a guy named Joe Scarpa, an Italian just like Albano. The first wrestling angle that I remember involved Albano and Strongbow. For months Albano wore a cast on his arm, claiming that Strongbow had attacked him and broken his arm. The Chief always denied it. Finally, during a TV match involving Strongbow, Albano bludgeoned him with the cast and revealed that it had all been a ruse. That set up a series of heated matches between the two.

In the mid-80s, the unthinkable happened, and the man fans loved to hate became the man fans loved. Albano turned babyface, going from a sleazy, maniacal character to your fun-loving, crazy uncle. In typical campy fashion, it was revealed that Albano’s bad behavior all those years was because he had “a calcium deposit on the medulla of his oblongata.” Once doctors performed “surgery,” Albano underwent a transformation and began using his wrestling acumen for good instead of evil, managing the likes of George “The Animal” Steele and The British Bulldogs.

Albano parlayed his celebrity status from the ’80s wrestling boom into an acting career, as he got a part in the 1986 movie “Wiseguys” along with Danny DeVito and Joe Piscopo, and also made appearances on a number of TV shows. In the late ’80s and early ‘90s, he played one of the Mario Brothers on “The Super Mario Bros. Super Show.”

The word on Albano was that he could be as much of a loose cannon off camera as he was on. He had the reputation of being a hard drinker and wrote in his autobiography that Vince McMahon Sr. fired him on a number of occasions but always quickly changed his mind and brought him back. Albano also has said in interviews that he and Vince McMahon Jr. had their ups and downs.

I never really had an opportunity to interact with Albano except for a very brief conversation at the WWF Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Philadelphia in 1995 (Albano was inducted in 1996).

During the ’80s, I attended several tapings for the WWF’s Tuesday Night Titans show when Albano was a guest. For those too young to remember, TNT was wrestling’s version of “The Tonight Show,” and it took place in a small TV studio in Owings Mills, Md., before a live audience. Albano, who was a babyface at that point, would come into the audience during breaks and crack us up with his off-color humor and bad jokes. It was great watching McMahon, who was the host of the show, sitting behind his desk and rolling his eyes at Albano much the same way he would when interviewing Albano back in the day.

Those were good days. Rest in peace, Capt.

Note: A private wake will be held at Balsamo-Cordovano Funeral Home in Carmel, N.Y., from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, according to a release from wrestlersrescue.org. A funeral Mass will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. James the Apostle Church in Carmel.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 9:33 PM | | Comments (40)
        

Capt. Lou Albano dead at 76

Legendary wrestling manager Capt. Lou Albano died this morning, according to a report on wwe.com. He was 76. Albano had been released from a hospital earlier this week and placed under hospice care.

I will have a post up later today with my thoughts on Albano.My condolences go out to his family and friends.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 1:24 PM | | Comments (21)
        

Thoughts on Raw

Shortly after 9 p.m. on Monday night, I sat in a packed arena as pyro went off, crunchy guitars played over the sound system and larger-than-life characters appeared on stage to kick off a two-hour spectacle.

No, I wasn’t in Indianapolis for Raw. I was at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia for the first of back-to-back Kiss concerts – I also saw Gene, Paul and the boys perform the next night at Verizon Center in Washington.

So now you know why my take on Monday’s episode of Raw is so late in getting posted. I may still be able to rock and roll all night, but now it’s more like sleep every day rather than party every day.

Anyway, onto Raw:

• The main story line focused on the dissension within Legacy, as Randy Orton, Ted DiBiase Jr. and Cody Rhodes all had their own agendas. The popular opinion – which I agree with – is that DiBiase is eventually going to turn babyface, probably around the time his direct-to-DVD movie “The Marine 2” comes out.

• I’m a little confused as to why DiBiase and Rhodes would care so much about earning a spot on the Raw team for the Bragging Rights pay-per-view on Oct. 25 that they would be willing to stab each other in the back. And what did DiBiase have to gain by pinning Orton in the tag match that pitted DiBiase and Rhodes against Orton and John Cena?

• The whole concept of having a team of Raw stars facing a team of Smackdown stars at Bragging Rights is flawed. The rosters are shuffled so frequently that the notion that wrestlers have some sort of brand loyalty is absurd. I think it would be more believable if the competitors in the match had a tangible incentive, such as the winning team getting a big monetary bonus.

• Guest hosts Nancy O’Dell and Maria Menounos from “Access Hollywood” were fine. They seemed to enjoy being there and their presence on the show was not intrusive. Menounos didn’t embarrass herself at all when she participated in a six-woman tag match.

• The comedy bits with Triple H interacting with an absent Shawn Michaels via telephone and a life-sized cardboard cutout of Michaels were amusing. The best part was when Triple H’s call to Michaels went to voicemail, and Michaels’ greeting was him singing his “Sexy Boy” song with slightly altered lyrics.

• I’m glad the Chris Jericho-Big Show match was mostly played for laughs and that Big Show only won by count-out. Before the match started, I was certain that Big Show was going to beat Jericho in a squash.

• It definitely was a shock when Jillian Hall won the WWE Divas title from Mickie James. As much as I like James, I was kind of glad to see Hall go over. Hall is a decent worker and has a distinctive character, but she has never gotten a significant push. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that she wasn’t getting one now, either, as Melina – who was part of a divas trade – was given an immediate title shot and made quick work of Hall.

• The divas trade was engineered by O’Dell, so apparently the guest hosts really can do anything they want. I suppose that means that next week’s host, Snoop Dogg, can veto the trade if he likes. My head is hurting from trying to make sense of all this. Either that or it’s hurting from those two Kiss shows.

• I know the announcers have to hype future shows, but when they were talking about next week’s Raw possibly being Cena’s last appearance on the show “forever,” I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Instead of “forever” perhaps they should have said that Cena would be off of Raw until the next draft – or until a Raw guest host puts together a trade to get him back.

• Jack Swagger’s victory over MVP was surprisingly clean and quick. That’s great for Swagger. For MVP, not so much.

• The Kofi Kingston-Evan Bourne match was OK, but it definitely needed to go longer than just a few minutes. The other thing that hurt the match was the lack of drama concerning the outcome. At this point, everyone knows that Bourne is just a glorified enhancement talent.

• Santino Marella had the line of the night. When interacting with former girlfriend Beth Phoenix, he said: “When we were together, I faked every organism.”

• With Snoop Dogg hosting next week, I suppose that’s an indication that WWE does not drug test the guest hosts.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 1:22 PM | | Comments (43)
        

October 12, 2009

Comment of the Week

The featured Ring Posts comment of the past week goes to King of Pants, who wrote the following last Monday in response to the entry "Hell in a Cell thoughts":

My best guess is that CM Punk vociferously disagreed with jobbing to a 44-year-old cripple for no good reason other than to set up a program with Batista. (Because the world was desperately craving another Undertaker/Batista program.) I know that if I were Punk, I'd be like, "fine, just get this bull over with so the ridiculous cartoon character with the oh-so-scary gimmick that everyone's seen a billion times before can hobble around in a last spasm of glory."

If Vince wants to know what's going to kill his business, it's relying on aging hacks like Undertaker -- who has always been not only pretty terrible but downright ridiculous (yes, the undead wrestle) -- to try and prop ratings up.

Punk, move to TNA. It's the only solution.

I will select the Ring Posts Comment of the Week every Monday.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 1:07 PM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Comment of the week
        

October 11, 2009

Smackdown: Four will settle the score

It was announced on Smackdown Friday night that The Undertaker will defend the world heavyweight title in a fatal four-way at the Bragging Rights pay-per-view on Oct. 25 against CM Punk, Batista and Rey Mysterio. That’s probably the best option at this point for The Undertaker’s first title defense.

We already have Randy Orton and John Cena wrestling each other month after month, so I’m glad that there’s not going to be an Undertaker-Punk match for the third consecutive pay-per-view. Undertaker and Batista have had some classic matches in the past, but, again, Cena-Orton and Undertaker-Batista on the same show would scream “been there, done that” to a fan base dying for fresh matchups on top. The only thing that could make an Undertaker-Batista program fresh would be if Batista were to turn heel. An Undertaker-Mysterio match would be something different, but the timing just doesn’t seem right for that program.

In all honesty, anything WWE came up with for the world heavyweight title match at Bragging Rights would be a bit lackluster with the awesome Punk-Jeff Hardy program still fresh in everyone’s minds. Plus, I just don’t find The Undertaker as world champ all that compelling, especially since Punk was doing such a great job as champion and was generating a lot of heel heat.

Other thoughts on Friday’s show:

What exactly has Mysterio done to warrant inclusion in the world title match at Bragging Rights? Let’s review: He lost the Intercontinental title last month to John Morrison before serving a 30-day suspension, and then did the job when teaming with Batista against unified WWE tag team champions Chris Jericho and The Big Show. I think a more logical scenario for Mysterio getting into the pay-per-view main event would have been to have his match against Jericho determine who gets the fourth and final spot. By announcing that Mysterio would be in the world title match before his match against Jericho, it pretty much gave away the result. ...

And speaking of that result, yes, Jericho did yet another clean job. There’s no shame in losing to Mysterio, but it is a shame that Jericho’s winning percentage as of late has been about as bad as the Baltimore Orioles’ was this season. As for the quality of the match, I don’t think Jericho and Mysterio could have a bad match if they tried, but it wasn’t as good as some of their previous encounters. ...

After watching Dolph Ziggler fail to win the Intercontinental title again, I think Jericho has some competition for the title of Biggest Loser. ...

Ziggler’s loss to Morrison did serve as a plot device in the Ziggler-Maria story line, as she inadvertently cost him the match and then he dumped her afterward. My guess is that she turns heel and helps Ziggler win the IC title in an effort to redeem herself. ...

The Punk-Batista match was all right, but the crowd wasn’t all that hot for it. ...

Drew McIntyre looked good in the tag team match in which he and Kane defeated Matt Hardy and R-Truth. I fully expected the heels to win, but I was surprised that Hardy was the one to do the job. ...

The Michelle McCool-Eve match wasn’t bad. McCool is a decent worker, but I get the impression that the crowd just doesn’t really care about her. With the way Eve is improving, I wouldn’t be shocked if a title run was in her future.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 1:09 AM | | Comments (27)
        

October 10, 2009

Quick hits on TNA Global Impact 2

• If you are a wrestling fan and not necessarily a sports entertainment fan, I hope you caught Thursday night’s Global Impact 2, which aired after TNA Impact. Three matches from last January’s New Japan/TNA show at the Tokyo Dome were shown, featuring Kurt Angle, Kevin Nash, Team 3D and The Motor City Machine Guns. There were no backstage comedy sketches or in-ring promos. As with the first Global Impact, which aired last year, TNA really came off looking like a major league company due to the atmosphere and the size of the crowd (40,000).

• The pre- and post-match press conferences made the event seem more like a legitimate sport than a worked exhibition, which made for a nice change of pace.

• The show-stealer was the IWGP junior tag team title match that saw The Motor City Machine Guns defeat No Limit to win the championship. Alex Shelley, who wrestled a good portion of the match bleeding heavily from his nose, and Chris Sabin were definitely in their element performing in front of a crowd that holds strong workers in high esteem. The Guns’ finisher – a Sliced Bread No. 2/powerbomb combination – looked great.

• Shelley might be the most underrated guy in the business. In addition to his in-ring ability, he also is strong on the stick, as he again proved on this show.

• After Shelley took a nasty-looking bump on the back of his head and neck but was able to continue wrestling, Don West, who called the action with Mike Tenay, said that “it just goes to show that it’s not as painful as it looks.” That’s the wrong thing to say, especially because I’m sure it did hurt. It would have been better if West had just put over how resilient Shelley is.

• In an eight-man tag, Angle and Nash teamed with Masahiro Chono and Riki Choshu. Acknowledging that Chono was at one time a member of the nWo along with Nash was a nice touch.

• Angle, Nash, Chono and Choshu defeated a team that included a familiar face to American wrestling fans in Giant Bernard, formerly known as A-Train and Albert in WWE. It looked as if he has gained a few pounds since his WWE days. He did finally shaved his back, though.

• The hardcore match for the IWPG tag team titles that saw Team 3D win the belts from Togi Makabe and Toru Yano was OK, but it really paled in comparison to the MCMG-No Limit match.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 12:27 AM | | Comments (7)
        

October 9, 2009

Bound for Glory build heats up on TNA Impact

TNA has put together a nice card for its Bound for Glory pay-per-view, and Thursday’s night’s episode of TNA Impact did a good job of selling the main matches for the company’s signature show.

I think the Abyss-Mick Foley match is the most compelling one on the card, although I might be in the minority. Foley is so good at telling a story, even one that is flawed, which I think this one is because the program was rushed and Foley’s frequent turns have weakened his character. The crowd at the Impact Zone didn’t seem to be into their verbal confrontation – even though both guys did a great job – and they definitely didn’t buy Abyss as the babyface in this feud.

The fans were into Bobby Lashley, however, as his feud with Samoa Joe – his opponent at BFG – was escalated. Matt Morgan continues to have a lot of fan support, as well, and he gained another feather in his cap when he scored the pinfall on Foley during the tag team match in which he and Abyss defeated Foley and Kurt Angle.

Other thoughts on Thursday’s show:

The look on Foley’s face while Abyss was cutting an intense promo on him was great, as it really got across the fact that Foley was concerned without overdoing it. ...

Speaking of great facial expressions, I also liked the look of depravity on Eric Young’s face after attacking Hernandez. ...

Did I really see Foley do a drop toehold on Abyss during the tag matc? ...

The verbal confrontation between A.J. Styles, Sting and Angle was good, although Sting and Angle are so strong on the mic that they overshadowed Styles. I hope TNA doesn’t try to pull a swerve and have Styles turn on Sting at BFG. ...

So Dr. Stevie can afford to put a $50,000 bounty on Abyss’ head, but Angle – the highest-paid guy in the company – can only afford to put up $30,000 for the bounty on Young? I wonder if Karen pulled a Linda Hogan on Kurt. I had to chuckle when Young said he would double Angle’s offer if Kevin Nash did his bidding. Is Young planning on robbing a bank? ...

Samoa Joe’s flying elbow off a scaffold onto Lashley, who was laid out on the Spanish announce table, was nice, but after we’ve seen all of Jeff Hardy’s crazy stunts, it doesn’t seem all that impressive. ...

I didn’t care for Samoa Joe ruining the segment when The Motor City Machine Guns were showing the video for their new entrance music – which is a big improvement, by the way. Joe’s interruption really didn’t serve any purpose; it just made it seem as if The Guns don’t matter. Speaking of which, why don’t they have a match at BFG? ...

I like the fact that Amazing Red won the X Division title from Joe, but it seemed pretty silly that the referee would allow Lashley to just walk into the ring and fight Joe in the middle of the match. I get it that TNA wanted the X Division title off Joe before he faces Lashley at BFG, and it wouldn’t have made sense for Joe to lose cleanly to Red, but the same result could have been accomplished if they just would have made it a no-disqualification match. That would have made Lashley’s physical involvement in the match less of a stretch. ...

I’m willing to give Lacey Von Erich a chance, but The Beautiful People just aren’t the same without Angelina Love. I still don’t think Madison Rayne is a good fit for the group. ...

I can’t believe Christy Hemme didn’t kick out after Traci Brooks botched a Jawbreaker during the eight-woman tag match. They really should have improvised there, because there’s no way that should have resulted in a pinfall, especially that early in the match. ...

Here’s the exchange of the night between Taz and Mike Tenay, who mentioned that three TNA Knockouts are appearing in Muscle & Fitness magazine:

Taz: Wasn’t Vince in Muscle & Fitness?
Tenay: Russo?

Something tells me Russo is more a fan of Cracked than Muscle & Fitness.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 7:34 PM | | Comments (5)
        

Quick hits on WWE Superstars

• I was really impressed with Ted DiBiase Jr. in his win over Evan Bourne on Thursday's episode of WWE Superstars. He is so fundamentally sound for someone at his age (26) and experience level (three years), and he also is starting to show more personality. It’s just a matter of time before he becomes a singles star.

• Bourne takes a beating as well as anyone I’ve seen – and I mean that as a compliment. The clothesline he took from DiBiase in which he did a 360 looked awesome, and he landed hard on the back of his head when DiBiase hit Dream Street. I thought he was going to be knocked out when DiBiase swung him headfirst into the barrier. It looked devastating in real time, but on the replay you could see that Bourne got his hands up at the last second. Still, I’m sure it didn’t feel good.

• I think The Hart Dynasty has more upside than Cryme Tyme, which is why I hated seeing them do the job. At least THD has beaten them a few times during their program. I think these teams are giving Randy Orton and John Cena a run for their money as far as feuds that seem to have no end in sight.

• The more I see of Natalya, the more I think WWE is not taking full advantage of her talent. Not only is she a good worker, but she is probably the best on the mic of any of the women. I don’t see why she couldn’t get a run with the women’s title and manage THD at the same time.

• The Sheamus-Shelton Benjamin contest wasn’t much of a match, but it served a purpose. It got Sheamus over as a sadistic heel, and Benjamin as a gutsy babyface.


Posted by Kevin Eck at 4:15 PM | | Comments (8)
        

October 8, 2009

Upcoming blog posts

For a variety of reasons, I’ve fallen behind in getting several items up on the blog. In lieu of a blog entry today, I figured I’d let everyone know what I’ve been working on:

• Part II of the Q&A with Jim Ross
• The Ring Posts Female 20, ranking the top 20 women in wrestling
• Thoughts on The Rise and Fall of WCW DVD
• Q&A with former WWE diva Dawn Marie

As soon as I can get these finished, I will post them. The priority, of course, will continue to be posts on the TV shows and topical subjects.


Posted by Kevin Eck at 9:47 PM | | Comments (7)
        

October 7, 2009

Quick hits on ECW

• It was another good night for Yoshi Tatsu on Tuesday night’s episode of ECW. He once again got a pinfall victory over William Regal, who is being pushed as the top heel on the show. Tatsu also was endorsed by ECW champion Christian as the guy who deserved to be the No. 1 contender for his title.

• I don’t think Regal was hurt by the loss to Tatsu. He can point out – and I’m sure he will on next week’s show – that his leg was under the rope when Tatsu pinned him. Plus, he got his heat back at the end of the show when he directed his henchmen, Vladimir Kozlov and Ezekiel Jackson, to lay out Christian and Zack Ryder.

• Christian and Ryder had a good match, although I think their previous encounters were better. I wonder if the attack on Ryder by Regal’s stable—which really needs a name, by the way – means that he is doing a babyface turn. I hope not, because he’s doing a good job as a heel and the timing doesn’t feel right for a turn.

• Christian and Regal were both highly entertaining on the mic during the opening segment. Tatsu showed some personality, as well. I laughed when he and Christian were bowing back forth to each other, and after Christian walked away and looked back, he caught Tatsu bowing one last time.

• The tag team match that saw Kozlov and Jackson defeat Goldust and Tommy Dreamer was a little rough due to the heels’ limitations. Kozlov and Jackson look impressive during squash matches, but they need work when participating in longer, give-and-take matches.

• There was no Abraham Washington Show, but at least we got Tony Atlas doing the laugh.

• It was good to see ECW general manager Tiffany back on the show this week. If she appeared in every segment it would be fine with me.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 8:31 PM | | Comments (20)
        

Looking at the frequent world title changes in WWE

With the WWE and world heavyweight titles both changing hands at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view Sunday night, the trend of having world champions in WWE whose reigns are measured in weeks not months continued.

John Cena had only been WWE champion for three weeks before dropping the title to Randy Orton, while CM Punk had held the world heavyweight title for six weeks – almost an eternity by today’s standards – when he lost to The Undertaker.

WWE really needs to slow things down a bit. So far in 2009, the world heavyweight title has changed hands eight times, while the WWE title has changed hands seven. No one has had a reign last more than three months. To give that some perspective, during WWE’s first 21 years in existence (1963-1984), the title changed hands just nine times.

I understand that it’s a different era now and the days of Bruno Sammartino defending the title for more than seven and a half years straight are over. And I’m not suggesting that something like that would work today. However, I do think world title programs would mean a lot more if the champion held the belt for six months to a year, maybe even two years.

It’s true that the WWE title changed hands a lot during the Attitude Era (12 times in 1999), but the company was just so hot because it was pushing the envelope and had stars such as Steve Austin, The Rock, Mankind, The Undertaker and Triple H – as well as the McMahons – that the frequent title changes did not take away from the product. Those days are over, too.

It stands to reason that if you establish a credible champion who wracks up a number of successful title defenses, then it becomes a big deal when he is dethroned. Wins and losses and titles become more meaningful, thus creating more interest and, theoretically, more pay-per-view buys. When you just keep trading the titles back and forth every few weeks, fans become numb to it. It’s like, “Hey, so-and-so just won the belt, but who really cares? He’ll probably lose it at the next pay-per-view and then get it back again at the one after that. Then the next challenger in line will win it from him.”

These days it seems as if every challenger involved in a world title program ends up winning the championship. To me, the title became more prestigious during Cena’s 13-month title reign in 2006-2007,when he turned back challenges from Shawn Michaels, Umaga, The Great Khali, Bobby Lashley and, in a five-way match, Booker T. and Mick Foley.

Why not give guys such as MVP, Mark Henry, Kofi Kingston, Jack Swagger, John Morrison, R-Truth, Mike Knox and Matt Hardy title shots on pay-per-view? If booked the right way, fans could be convinced that they at least have a chance, and everyone likes to root for the underdog. In the case of potential future champions such as Swagger and Morrison, a good showing in a world title program would elevate them and help prepare them for a title run if and when they’re ready for it.

Another drawback to all the quickie title reigns is that it becomes impossible to build anticipation for a major showdown between an established champion and the guy who is looked at as the potential heir apparent. Here’s how it works: Once you create a buzz around the challenger, you set up roadblocks to keep him away from the champion for as long as possible. When the fans are really dying to see it, you wait a little longer – and then you finally give it to them.

Remember when WCW teased Hulk Hogan versus Sting for a whole year before finally pulling the trigger? Guess what? It resulted in the biggest buy rate in company history. It seems that the decision makers in WWE lack the patience to execute anything like that.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 1:38 AM | | Comments (52)
        

October 6, 2009

Ben Roethlisberger scores for Raw

Going up against the toughest competition that he will face until he stands across from the Baltimore Ravens’ defense on Nov. 29, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger more than held his own.

With Roethlisberger as guest host of Raw Monday night, the show held up remarkably well going head-to-head with the “Monday Night Football” game between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers on ESPN that was the most-watched show in cable television history.

Raw did a 3.3 rating, which was up from the 3.1 rating of last week’s show that was hosted by Rev. Al Sharpton. WWE has to be very happy with that number.

It looks as if Steeler Nation was more interested in seeing their QB ham it up with WWE talent than watching Brett Favre’s grudge match against his former team.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 6:51 PM | | Comments (7)
        

Raw is Roethlisberger

Well, I’ll say this much about Raw guest host Ben Roethlisberger. He was only the second-most obnoxious NFL quarterback on television Monday night.

No one has more go-away heat as far as I’m concerned than Brett Favre, who led the Minnesota Vikings to a win over his former team, the Green Bay Packers, on “Monday Night Football.” What is it about guys named Brett (or Bret) who can’t get over themselves or let go of a grudge?

But I digress. Back to Roethlisberger.

Let me preface my comments by saying that I bleed purple – of the Baltimore Ravens variety, not the Vikings – so it’s hard for me to be objective about anything that involves the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I have always thought that Roethlisberger had an annoying personality, and his appearance on Raw did nothing to change my opinion. With that being said, however, I will grudgingly admit that the Steelers quarterback did an adequate job as host, and he clearly was having fun interacting with WWE talent.

All things considered, his appearance could have been a lot worse. Instead of just bringing his nondescript offensive linemen with him, Roethlisberger could have brought that smiling goof Hines Ward.

Other thoughts on Monday’s show:

It was announced that WWE champion Randy Orton and John Cena will face each other yet again at the Bragging Rights pay-per-view on Oct. 25. Not only that, but it will be an Iron Man Match. So a match-up that people are tired of seeing is guaranteed to go an hour. The good news is that it will be final meeting between Orton and Cena – at least that’s what was said. The Hell in a Cell match at Sunday’s pay-per-view should have been the blow-off match. The problem, of course, is that WWE has done such a bad job of elevating talent on Raw that there are no fresh opponents over enough to face Orton or Cena. …

The stipulation for the Iron Man Match is that if Cena doesn’t win the title, he has to leave Raw. It was made clear that he would not have to leave WWE and he could go to Smackdown or ECW (yeah, right), so I don’t see why having to depart Raw would be a big deal to Cena. Most of the top stars have gone back and forth between Raw and Smackdown anyway. …

Speaking of which, I’m not really buying into the premise of the Bragging Rights pay-per-view, in which stars from Raw will compete against stars from Smackdown. There have been so many roster switches over the years that the notion that wrestlers have any loyalty to a particular brand is a stretch. ...

The main event, which saw DX defeat unified WWE tag team champions Chris Jericho and The Big Show in a nontitle match, was entertaining. It seems unrealistic that DX – particularly Shawn Michaels – would be able to wrestle one night after taking such a beating at Hell in a Cell, but I guess it would have been hard to have a Raw main event if DX, Orton and Cena all took the night off. …

Did I hear Michaels say that he had staples in his head? If so, I guess something must have fallen on his head backstage, because I sure didn’t see him bleeding on the pay-per-view. …

I was right about The Miz winning the U.S. title from Kofi Kingston – I was just 24 hours late. They had a good match. Miz has really come a long way, and he deserves a title run. Kingston dropping the belt might actually mean that he is headed for bigger things. We’ll see. …

How weird was it to hear the “Monday Night Football” theme music on Raw while “Monday Night Football” was on another channel? …

There appeared to be a significant number of Steelers fans in the crowd, but Roethlisberger did get some boos when he first came out. By the way, props to the two Ravens fans who were on camera all night in the front row wearing Ray Lewis and Willis McGahee jerseys. …

There’s probably a joke to be made about Roethlisberger booking a Diva Bowl and doing crotch chops, but I’ll let somebody else do it. …

I never would have believed that I could ever find Mickie James, Kelly Kelly and Maria unattractive, but then I saw them wearing Steelers jerseys. …

James was the star of the Diva Bowl, as she nailed WWE women’s champion Michelle McCool with a DDT and scored the winning pin on Alicia Fox. …

I thought it was funny that after taking a neckbreaker from Layla, Kelly Kelly sold her back instead of her neck. …

During the Diva Bowl, Jerry Lawler morphed into a more PG version of the lecherous character he played (or was it a shoot?) during the Attitude Era. He said that if he were in the ring with all of those divas, he’d be called for holding and illegal use of the hands penalties. I was waiting for him to say something about there being a ring full of tight ends. …

I’m hoping that Jack Swagger’s declaration that he will not lose a match the rest of the year means that he is actually going to be getting a push. …

So after saving Chavo Guerrero saved Hornswoggle from Chris Masters last week, Hornswoggle returned the favor and then promptly began directing crotch chops at Guerrero. Could WWE make Guerrero look any more like a tool? …

Looking ahead to next week’s guest hosts, who in the blue hell are Nancy O’Dell and Maria Menounos?

Posted by Kevin Eck at 3:59 AM | | Comments (72)
        

October 5, 2009

Comment of the Week

Inspired by fellow baltimoresun.com blogger Peter Schmuck, who has a feature on his blog in which he acknowledges the top comment of the day, I will select the best Ring Posts comment of the week, beginning today and running every Monday. By the way, for those outside of Baltimore, yes, Peter Schmuck is his real name.

The first winner is Another Wrestling Mark, and let me tell you, he has set the bar high. On Saturday, he wrote the following in response to the entry "Thoughts on Bret Hart's possible WWE return":

Eck looking down on the world from his throne upon the Sun gave some small thought towards what he may do to bring light into the lives of the misguided marks looming about the invisible boundless wastelands of cyberspace.

His fingers flowed and words were set like the fires of Revolution red at sunrise into the minds of the like-minded and the opposition equally fierce.

And Eck laughed from high up, knowing that he could escape the Promethean chains should any dare to put him to trial. For there is no libel in opinion. No bias in objectivity. No fear from the wrath of Editor...
__

In all seriousness, would any of you stop watching if Bret returned?

Hypocrisy and wrestling go together hand in glove. Everything on TV is a work, so what's the point of losing sleep over it? (That is, if anyone actually is that upset about Montreal.)

Bret and Shawn were good wrestlers. To elevate them as anything more than that is to risk denying their humanity...and they have flaws like everyone else.

(...for what it's worth...Bret>HBK)

Posted by Kevin Eck at 8:34 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Comment of the week
        

Hell in a Cell thoughts

Both world championships changed hands at WWE’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view Sunday night, but the match that went on last and was the most memorable was the one between DX and Legacy.

Even though Shawn Michaels and Triple H got the victory over Ted DiBiase Jr. and Cody Rhodes, the two twenty-somethings still came out of this show having climbed another rung up the ladder.

Not only was their match put in the main event position, but DiBiase and Rhodes out-smarted the babyfaces at the beginning of the contest to gain a two-on-one advantage, and then destroyed Michaels and taunted Triple H for the majority of the match.

They also had a somewhat contentious verbal exchange backstage with their leader, Randy Orton. DiBiase and Rhodes are gradually getting cockier and showing Orton less respect.

Speaking of Orton, he defeated John Cena to regain the WWE title, and in the world heavyweight championship match, The Undertaker won the title from CM Punk.

It was a good show overall, although not seeing blood in Hell in a Cell matches is definitely going to take some getting used to.

Here is a match-by-match look at the show:

HELL IN A CELL MATCHES

The Undertaker defeated CM Punk to win the world heavyweight title: In a big surprise, this match went on first. I thought before the show started that The Undertaker was going to win the title, but the curious placing of the match seemed to suggest that Punk would retain in another screwjob finish. Nope. Undertaker went over clean with the Tombstone in about 10 minutes. The match was competitive while it lasted, and Punk even kicked out of the Last Ride. I don’t agree at all with taking the belt off him, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he got it back in the near future.

Randy Orton defeated John Cena to win the WWE title: Like a lot of fans, I’m more than ready to see Orton and Cena end their feud and face new opponents, but I have to admit that these guys always have good pay-per-view matches together. The finishing sequence made for good drama. After a ref bump, Cena caught Orton in the STF and had him tapping. Cena eventually released the hold to revive the referee, when Orton suddenly hit an RKO out of nowhere and made the cover. The crowd thought it was over, but Cena kicked out at the last possible moment. Orton then tied Cena up in the ropes and began to choke him out. Once Cena appeared to be out cold, Orton let go and the referee untied Cena, who fell face-first to the mat. Orton then delivered a punt to Cena’s head and covered him for the win, which the crowd popped for, at about the 22-minute mark. Orton’s facial expressions and body language toward the latter stages of the match were off the charts. Cena also had a great look on his face after the match that was a combination of disappointment and wooziness as he stared from the ring at a victorious Orton on the ramp. It was nice to see Orton score a decisive win without outside interference, and he even kicked out of the Attitude Adjustment during the match. Cena, meanwhile, got to save face to some extent because he made Orton tap while the referee was incapacitated. After Cena got kicked in the head I figured he would be taking some time off to sell a concussion, but he did not need medical assistance, so that doesn’t appear to be the case. It was explained that the kick wasn’t as powerful as usual because Orton’s knee had been weakened during the match. This felt like the blow-off match to their feud, but I wouldn’t bet on that being the case since there does not seem to be a logical new opponent for either of them.

DX defeated Legacy: Ted DiBiase Jr. and Cody Rhodes jumped Shawn Michaels and Triple H from behind while they were making their entrance. The two teams brawled on the floor for several minutes before Rhodes and DiBiase hit a double DDT on Triple H on the stage, and Rhodes followed by KO’ing Triple H with the Crossroads. With Triple H unconscious, DiBiase and Rhodes threw Michaels inside the cage and locked the door. For about the next 15 minutes, Legacy brutally double-teamed Michaels, but instead of pinning him, they just kept delivering more punishment and taunting him. Triple H finally recovered, but he had no way to get inside the cage. He eventually went backstage and came out several minutes later with bolt cutters. Once inside the cage, he and Michaels went on the offensive. They threw DiBiase out of the cage and locked the door, and now Rhodes was at a two-on-one disadvantage. DX got the win at about the 25-minute mark after Michaels nailed Rhodes with Sweet Chin Music while Triple H smashed Rhodes in the face with a sledgehammer at the same time. The match told a good story, as DiBiase and Rhodes were portrayed as cunning and dangerous, but just a little too cocky for their own good. It also was interesting that for the second consecutive pay-per-view, Triple H was taken out of the match by Legacy and Michaels was left to fight alone against both men for a significant stretch. I wonder if that will play into a future storyline for Triple H and Michaels.

OTHER MATCHES

Unified WWE tag team champions Chris Jericho and The Big Show defeated Batista and Rey Mysterio: This was an entertaining match between four solid pros who worked well together. The huge disparity in size between Big Show and Mysterio was played up, as Mysterio displayed courage by facing Big Show early in the match instead of tagging out to Batista when he had an opportunity. Later, Big Show, who was standing in the ring, reached outside, palmed Mysterio’s head and lifted him back in. In another cool-looking spot, Batista speared Jericho and Big Show simultaneously on the floor. The finish saw Mysterio hit a 619 on Big Show, but when Mysterio went for the springboard splash, Big Show nailed him with the knockout punch in mid-air and pinned him.

Intercontinental champion John Morrison defeated Dolph Ziggler: Morrison and Ziggler were given about 16 minutes, so they did not have to rush and they put together a good match. There was a lot of mat wrestling in the early going. Ziggler controlled the majority of the match, but he couldn’t put Morrison away. The longer the match went on and the more frustrated Ziggler became, the more obvious it was that Morrison was going to pull out the victory, which he did by hitting Starship Pain. That makes Ziggler 0-for-3 in Intercontinental title matches on pay-per-view. Going into the match I thought for sure Ziggler was going to win this time.

U.S. champion Kofi Kingston defeated The Miz and Jack Swagger in a triple threat match: This match was laid out well and all three guys looked good. There were several nice near falls, including one in which Miz appeared to have Kingston pinned for the win before Swagger put Kingston’s foot on the rope at the last second. After Swagger hit a gut-wrench powerbomb on Miz, Kingston nailed Swagger with Trouble in Paradise and then pinned Miz to retain his title. Swagger telegraphed the finish slightly when he cocked his head like he knew the kick was coming before contact was made.

WWE Divas champion Mickie James defeated Alicia Fox: Both women were very aggressive and this was a decent match. Fox has come a long way in a short time. James got the win after hitting a nasty looking DDT. I cringed when Fox appeared to land right on her head in an awkward manner, but apparently she was all right. It was fitting that WWE aired a “Don’t try this at home” video immediately following the match.

Drew McIntyre defeated R-Truth: This followed the Orton-Cena match and the fans never gave it a chance. The “boring” chant started almost immediately after the bell rang. I have very little respect for the fans that were being disrespectful to these guys, because they didn’t deserve it. McIntyre, who seemingly is being put on the fast track, picked up the win in his pay-per-view debut after hitting a double underhook DDT.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 3:34 AM | | Comments (48)
        

October 4, 2009

Hell in a Cell preview

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

HELL IN A CELL MATCHES

World heavyweight champion CM Punk vs. The Undertaker: I think it would be a mistake to take the belt off Punk at this point, but I believe that is what’s going to happen.

WWE champion John Cena vs. Randy Orton: This result of this one will be interesting because neither man has a logical opponent if this indeed is the blow-off match to their program. I’m going to take a wild guess and go with Orton to regain the title, possibly with some help from Legacy.

DX vs. Legacy: Shawn Michaels and Triple H have done a very good job of elevating Ted DiBiase Jr. and Cody Rhodes recently, including putting them over in a Submissions Count Anywhere Match three weeks ago at the Breaking Point pay-per-view. However, I’ll be very surprised if DX doesn’t win this time.

OTHER MATCHES

Undisputed WWE tag team champions Chris Jericho and The Big Show vs. Batista and Rey Mysterio: Jericho and Mysterio have great chemistry as opponents, so hopefully they will be in the ring against each other for a good part of the match. I don’t see Jericho and Big Show losing the title yet.

Intercontinental champion John Morrison vs. Dolph Ziggler: I have high expectations for this one. After some near misses against Rey Mysterio when he was IC champion, Ziggler finally wins the title.

U.S. champion Kofi Kingston vs. The Miz vs. Jack Swagger in a triple threat match: I have a hunch The Miz is going to come out of this match with the title belt. By that I mean that I think he will win the championship, not just steal the belt and run off.

WWE Divas champion Mickie James vs. Alicia Fox: Fox has athleticism and charisma, but she is still a work in progress in the ring. I think James retains the title.

Drew McIntyre vs. R-Truth: This was a late addition to the card. It’s nice to see R-Truth on a pay-per-view for a change, but I don’t like his chances against McIntyre, who looks as if he is going to be getting a big push.

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

October 3, 2009

Hell in a Cell viewing party

Loafers Bar and Grill in Catonsville will be hosting a viewing party Sunday night for WWE's Hell in a Cell pay-per-view.

There is no cover charge. Everyone that comes to Loafers Sunday will receive two free passes for a screening of the new Jamie Foxx movie "Law Abiding Citizen" on Oct. 8 at AMC Theatre in White Marsh.

For more information, call 410-719-2121.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 9:15 PM | | Comments (3)
        

A Decade of Smackdown scores a Perfect 10

Current and former WWE stars gathered to party like it was 1999 on a special episode of Smackdown Friday night to celebrate the show’s 10th year on the air.

A very special guest couldn’t make it to the party at the arena, but he still made his presence felt, as Dwayne Johnson made a taped appearance. Correction: The Rock made a taped appearance, and on this night he once again was the undisputed most electrifying man in sports entertainment.

The Great One took us on a trip down memory lane to the Smackdown Hotel at the corner of Know Your Role Boulevard and Jabroni Drive. He laid the smack down, had us chanting his name and asked us if we smelled what he was cooking. Without a doubt, we all did. Then he put an exclamation point on it by raising his eyebrow as only he can.

There were plenty of raised eyebrows among the viewers, too, when Rock said the words that wrestling fans around the world had been anxiously waiting to hear:

This show will always belong to the jabroni-beating, pie-eating, has no peer, has no flaw, now that he’s tried Smackdown, maybe it’s time that The Rock guests hosts Raw!

The Rock will be the most electrifying host the show has ever seen. The people’s champ The Rock. There’s only one. Get ready!

The Rock’s inspired promo was the highlight of a very entertaining episode that also featured a night of intrabrand matches – including a star-studded eight-man tag in the main event – the return of Vickie Guerrero, cameo appearances by a couple WWE Hall of Famers and some funny sketches from a backstage party commemorating the occasion.

Other thoughts on Friday’s show:

It was a fun main event, as The Undertaker, John Cena, Triple H and Shawn Michaels defeated Randy Orton, CM Punk, Ted DiBiase Jr. and Cody Rhodes. I was surprised that Undertaker scored the winning pin on Orton instead of Punk since he faces Punk for the world heavyweight title at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view on Sunday. ...

I like that there was some tension between Undertaker and Michaels, who haven’t been in the ring with each other – at least on TV anyway – since their classic match at WrestleMania XXV last April. I also liked that DiBiase and Rhodes got another rub by being in a match with all those heavy hitters. Even better is that neither one of them did the job. ...

The backstage festivities reminded me of The Saturday Night’s Main Event days in the ’80s. I’m sure a lot of “serious” fans don’t like that kind of stuff, but I can appreciate sports entertainment and old-school rasslin.’ ...

On the old SNME shows, someone always ended up with either a pie or a cake in their face during parties. I would have bet anything that Michael Cole was going to be wearing the cake by the end of this show, but instead it was Drew McIntyre and R-Truth scuffling into the cake, and it wasn’t played for laughs. ...

Cole was a big hit at the party. That was the most personality he has showed since, well, ever. The “vintage” bit was pretty funny. ...

The creative team must have had a ball writing this show. In one memorable scene, a bombed Cole threw up on Chris Jericho, which then prompted The Big Show to lose his lunch. While that was going on, Tony Atlas was yucking it up as if Abraham Washington had just told a racist joke. Then Joey Styles surveyed the scene and exclaimed, “Oh my God!” Classic. ...

Another funny skit saw longtime rivals Sgt. Slaughter and The Iron Sheik going nose-to-nose. When Sheik was about to do his trademark spitting on the ground to show his contempt for the USA, he choked on a piece of food, and The Hurricane stepped in to deliver the Heimlich maneuver. The food popped out of Sheik’s mouth and flew onto Cole’s table, and Cole ate it. ...

Punk being a killjoy when Theodore Long was about to take a drink of alcohol during Finlay’s toast was good, too. ...

I’m very happy to see the return of Vickie Guerrero. The look on her face when Long kissed her on the cheek was tremendous. It’s a smart move making her the manager of newcomer Eric Escobar. He has instant heel heat right from his first on-camera appearance. ...

The Eddie Guerrero tribute video was a nice touch. The wrestling business definitely misses him. ...

Considering the stardom that Brock Lesnar has achieved in the MMA world, it was pretty amazing to see the clip of Guerrero pinning him to win the WWE title. ...

The Undertaker’s spooky promo was kind of cheesy, but it’s certainly worked for him for going on 20 years. ...

I’m surprised none of the McMahons appeared on the show, not even Vince. Then again, if Shane had shown up, Orton, DiBiase and Rhodes probably would have run out the back door in fear of their lives – and careers. ...

Batista and Kane had a good big man’s match. ...

The Michelle McCool-Melina match was a disappointment considering some of their past matches. ...

What was the point of Jack Swagger sitting at the announce table during the match pitting Dolph Ziggler and The Miz against John Morrison and Kofi Kingston if he wasn’t going to say anything?

Posted by Kevin Eck at 6:09 PM | | Comments (18)
        

TNA Impact: The beginning of a face turn for the Main Event Mafia?

Between the violent dissolution of the alliance between the Main Event Mafia and the World Elite on Thursday’s episode of TNA Impact and the way Kevin Nash has been booked in recent weeks, it almost seems as if the seeds have been planted for a MEM babyface turn.

I’m not saying it will happen or even that it’s likely, but you never know. Strong heel groups such as DX and The Four Horsemen did face turns over the years, and so did the nWo when the faction split into two separate groups.

I don’t think it would take much for the fans to get behind the MEM because of all the big stars in the group. Plus, Eric Young and his World Elite cohorts are not very likable (I mean that as a compliment).

Kurt Angle is a natural heel, but he has shown in the past that he can play the babyface role well. Booker doing his comedy act at the expense of the heels would probably really get over, and Scott Steiner is entertaining in a quirky way. Nash always has a following regardless of what side of the fence he is on. Although officially a heel, Nash has been playing a cool babyface since the start of the Big Sexy World Tour and his feud with Dr. Stevie.

The one big problem with the scenario – and the reason I think it probably won’t happen – is that it would load up the babyface side and there wouldn’t be enough strong heels for them to feud with.

Young is doing a very good job as the leader of the World Elite, but the rest of the group is pretty generic. That would leave Mick Foley and Rhino as the top-level heels. There also is the possibility of Ken “Mr. Kennedy” Anderson and Umaga coming in as heels at some point. I think another intriguing possibility would be to have Jay Lethal start channeling the heel version of Randy Savage and not play the gimmick for laughs as much. There was a hint of going in that direction Thursday when Lethal confronted Amazing Red after Red won a ladder match to determine the No. 1 contender for the X Division title.

Other thoughts on Thursday’s show:

The verbal confrontation with Mick Foley and Abyss was good. Abyss definitely his held his own on the mic with Foley, which was a little surprising. Foley’s explanation for attacking Abyss last week made sense, as he said that Abyss was nothing more than a Foley wannabe who made his name off Foley’s blood, sweat and tears. I just wish the caricature picture of Foley and Jeremy Borash wasn’t a factor in a serious story line. I suppose you could make the argument that it fits Foley’s maniacal character that something as silly as the Tweak and Tweet Connection picture being destroyed could lead to such a violent attack. One thing I definitely don’t like is how frequently Foley is turning. Since signing with TNA a little over a year ago, Foley has gone from babyface to heel to babyface to heel. ...

There sure were a lot of pull-apart brawls on this show. I get it that TNA stands for Total Nonstop Action and the show has a frenetic pace – which I usually don’t mind – but I started to become numb to all the pull-aparts after a while. ...

The MEM-World Elite feud feels a little rushed, although I like that Young and the World Elite are not being treated as inferior to the MEM. Young putting Booker in his place was tremendous. ...

Angle jumping over the rail disguised as an Abyss fan and attacking Matt Morgan was something no one saw coming. The camera showed the fan a few times during the show, but not in such a way that you suspected anything. ...

You knew when the camera lingered on Bobby Lashley at the end of the show that someone was going to attack him. It turned out to be Samoa Joe, so it looks like Lashley versus Joe at the Bound for Glory pay-per-view on Oct. 18. Joe doing the “Undertaker eyes” when he was choking out Lashley was great . ...

I like the story that TNA is trying to tell with A.J. Styles questioning whether Sting still has the fire in his belly, but I didn’t think the sit-down interview they had with Mike Tenay was that good. Between the corny mood music and Styles’ “I love you, man” bit, it came off a little cheesy. ...

It was a nice debut for Lacey Von Erich as the replacement for Angelina Love in The Beautiful People. I love that she does the famous Von Erich Iron Claw. I wonder if she also does the Discus Punch. Hopefully there is a back story explaining how Lacey is able to just walk right in and become the leader of the BP while original member Velvet Sky takes a back seat. And speaking of Sky and back seats, it’s a real shame that she didn’t do her usual entrance this week. ...

Hernandez looked like a star in his match with Angle, who gave Hernandez a lot of offense. I don’t think I have ever seen a wrestler hold his opponent in a vertical suplex as long as Hernandez had Angle up in the air. ...

Amazing Red really stood out in the X Division ladder match. I thought for sure that Lethal was going to win. By the way, what was up with Consequences Creed’s projectile vomiting after taking a hurricanrana from Red? More importantly, why did TNA feel the need to show a replay of it? ...

Awesome Kong doing the Nasty Boys’ old Pity City deal seemed out of character. It would make more sense for ODB to do that “move.” ...

Judging by Tara’s involvement in the Kong-ODB match, it appears that there will be a three-way match for the title at BFG. That should be good. ...

It’s the match that was 12 years in the making: “Big Daddy Cool” Nash versus “Big Stevie Cool” Dr. Stevie. It actually wasn’t much of a match, though. The best thing about it was Daffney standing outside the ring. ...

It seems like a stretch to equate Traci Brooks’ nude spread on Playboy’s Web site with Christy Hemme’s appearance on the cover of Playboy magazine. That’s like saying that being the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns is as prestigious as starting at quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens. ...

The Motor City Machine Guns are finally getting rid of that awful entrance music next week. Talk about long overdue. Here’s what Alex Shelley had to say when I asked him about the Guns’ music during an interview last April: “Without saying anything negative, I can tell you that we had absolutely no hand in creating that music whatsoever. You can draw from this what you will, but there are no fingerprints of ours on that music whatsoever. That music was completely given to us. ... If we could actually pick our music, and hopefully we’ll be able to do something like this, Chris Sabin, Petey Williams and myself have a band with two other guys – we’re called The High Crusade – and we would play our own music. We would go in the studio and figure out something.” Not a bad idea. If you’re curious, check out High Crusade at www.myspace.com/thehighcrusade. ...

Unless I missed it, the announcers never mentioned that former WWE diva Stacy Keibler was hosting "The Ultimate Spike Girl" immediately following Impact. It seems like a missed opportunity. Impact and "Spike Girl" both probably would have gained some viewers if they had been able to get Keibler to make a taped appearance on Impact promoting the show. Borash could have even teased it on his Twitter page: "One of the hottest former WWE divas will appear on Impact!"

Posted by Kevin Eck at 12:32 AM | | Comments (10)
        

October 2, 2009

Quick hits on WWE Superstars

• Thursday’s episode of WWE Superstars was pretty ordinary. Nothing really stood out as being especially good or bad.

• The Kofi Kingston-Miz match told a story that allowed both guys to look strong heading into Sunday’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view. Miz dominated the contest before Kingston scored the win out of nowhere with Trouble in Paradise. You left the match with the impression that Miz is a real threat to the title and that Kingston is very resilient.

• The Shad Gaspard-Tyson Kidd bout was a decent big man versus little man match. The finish was good, as Kidd did a springboard and was caught by Gaspard, who then hit his STO finisher for the win.

• There wasn’t much heat for the Sheamus-Tyler Reks match. Sheamus still isn’t fully connecting with the crowd, and the fans really haven’t been given much reason to get behind Reks. It was kind of sad when Reks tried to get the crowd to cheer him during his comeback and he was met with indifference.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 5:12 PM | | Comments (7)
        

Q&A with Jim Ross

Jim Ross has spent the majority of his time in WWE as the voice of Raw, but the WWE Hall of Famer and current Smackdown announcer also was the play-by-play man for the first episode of Smackdown in 1999.

Tonight on MyNetworkTV, WWE will broadcast a special episode of Smackdown that celebrates the show’s 10th year on the air. I spoke with Ross on Thursday to discuss the evolution of the show, his favorite Smackdown moment, his thoughts on leaving Raw, and John Cena’s well-documented comments about Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson -- who taped a segment for tonight’s show -- not loving the wrestling business.

jimross.jpg

You were not the voice of Smackdown for the majority of the time that the show has been on the air, but you did do the very first Smackdown in August 1999. What were your thoughts at the time about WWE adding a second weekly prime time show to go along with Raw?

I think that all of us thought that long term it was going to be a good thing for the company because it created another two-hour weekly platform to expose the product and establish more stars and build the brand. I think in the short term a lot of people were probably challenged by the fact that we were adding more work to our weekly schedule. It was going to be another day of television taping, which is a major undertaking. So, long term I think most folks had a vision of growing the brand. I thought it was a smart move. I thought in the short term it would just take some adjusting to a change in the schedule. Of course one always wonders when you do more creative how far that can be stretched and how it will affect the other products. In the big picture, though, it was the right move. And since that time it’s kind of settled in very well. Doing the live TV on Monday and now doing the second day of taping has become the norm and everybody’s used to the routine.

Even though you haven’t always worked on Smackdown, I’m sure you’ve seen all the shows. What is your most memorable Smackdown moment?

Even though I wasn’t on the broadcast itself, I was always on site on Tuesdays, because for a lot of the early days of Smackdown and a good time afterward, I was in charge of the talent department, so that necessitated me to be there anyway. When I ceased be the executive vice president of talent relations and was focusing from a TV perspective just on Raw, I would do Monday Night Raw and then go home, but I always watched the program. I think probably the most memorable night for me personally – and it was when I was not on Smackdown on a regular basis – was the Smackdown that followed 9/11. We had done Raw down in Texas – I think it was San Antonio – and then we had driven to Houston, and 9/11 occurred on Tuesday morning. It was such a tragedy and changed everyone’s lives, and on a small scale for us, it postponed the Tuesday night taping for a Thursday night airing, and we went live that Thursday night. I remember being part of that broadcast because of the uniqueness of it; the delicate nature of what we were addressing; the fact that it was one of the first public gathering of folks after the tragedy of 9/11. That to me was probably the most memorable Smackdown that I have been a part of. It was more memorable than the first one, even though the first one was exciting and it was a new venture. Just the nature of the subject matter of the program and what had happened in our country that week was much bigger than a wrestling match.

The first three years or so of Smackdown, Raw and Smackdown were not brand specific. What are your thoughts on the splitting of the roster?

I think very few will argue that the talent rosters within the business in general are dangerously thin. The mantra to develop new main event stars I think should be a business-wide referendum. It certainly is a priority in WWE. The only way that people are going to get their opportunities is to get television time. If you have a set hand of main eventers and they’re on every show, it’s going to preclude others from getting the opportunities that they need to break through and to become stars of their own. So even though the brand separation does have some liabilities, I think that in the long term the brand separation is an absolute necessity for individuals to be able to get face time on television and get ring time on television in a viable way. We’ve seen young guys like John Morrison and Dolph Ziggler that are starting to develop a following and they’re getting name identity and all the things that are important for them to become stars. It would have been more challenging for them to do that if there was one roster because I think their at-bats would be lessened. Their higher-level platform would be more challenging to achieve because there’s 11 segments to Monday Night Raw; 11 segments to Smackdown; and ECW has six segments in their one-hour version. So there’s only so much time and so many chances for people to get on television and to hear them speak. So I think the process of making stars is pretty much what it’s always been: it’s getting systematic exposure on TV; being put in a good light; and then the talent going out and performing at their maximum potential on a regular basis. With the brands separated, it’s given some of the younger guys the opportunity to gain the valuable exposure that they need to hopefully become a star. Just because somebody’s getting exposure and an opportunity doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to become the next big thing that’s going to headline WrestleManias in the future. But if they don’t have those opportunities, it is a certainty that they will never headline WrestleMania.

I always looked to hire talent not to fill a card or hit in their seventh or eighth hole, but that could headline a pay-per-view. I needed to seem in them that they had the ability – at least at the time that I evaluated them – that someday if they continued to improve, with the aptitude they have and their physical gifts, that they could be the main eventer on a pay-per-view. Because the worst that can happen is that you recruit someone and sign them and train them, and they barely miss. And if they barely miss being able to headline a pay-per-view, you still have a real good, solid, reliable, talented performer who can contribute. He or she just isn’t contributing in that main event slot, which is very elusive and very hard to attain. You’re going to recruit and sign many more people that can’t headline a pay-per-view such as WrestleMania than you are going to sign those who can. It’s just like a college recruiter. You’ve always got to sign players that you think will start. But most colleges are recruiting 25 or so players a year, and you’re not going to have 25 new starters a year. Bottom line – I think that the brand separation is a good idea for the big picture and the long term. Short term, it certainly has its critics, and people are seeing that the rosters are thin and that the talent base is not as deep as one would like in a perfect world. But in order to get back to that level, you’ve got to expose more people to the right kind of environment to make them a star.

It’s exciting news for fans that The Rock taped a segment for this Friday’s Smackdown. What are your thoughts about some of the comments that John Cena has made in the past about Rock not loving the business and not giving back to the business?

I think that John Cena at times has been misquoted or what he’s said has been misinterpreted. I can’t speak for John Cena nor will I. I do know that The Rock has always been a fan of the product, and I know that it’s in his blood. You can’t be a third-generation performer and not have the business in your DNA to some degree. I think people get the misperception that any time – and fans are just as guilty as some of us are – someone chooses to do something else for a living and they leave wrestling for whatever reason that their love of the product has completely been eliminated, and I don’t agree with that. I’m sure that there are wrestlers who were famous in their day who have left the business and couldn’t care less about it today, and that’s certainly their prerogative. I don’t think The Rock is that way whatsoever. I think that the promo that he has recorded and that will air Friday night will certainly indicate that he didn’t go through the motions; that he didn’t give the promo any thought; that he wasn’t trying to phone in it and just make an obligatory appearance. He hit a home run. I thought that the promo that Rock did – and of course folks can watch the show and judge for themselves – was one of the highlights of the night, and one of the more significant highlights in recent memory on the broadcast. I don’t think anyone can do what he did and not still have a kinship and a respect for the business. Are we all selfish? Would we all like to see some of the major stars that were so significant in building the brand of WWE return from time to time? Of course we would. It’s just a matter that people move on, and for some reason, and maybe it’s the passion of the fans or the individuals that are in it, some let their emotions overcome what’s logical. For anyone to say that The Rock made a bad decision in pursuing a film career, with the success that film career has garnered, is ill-advised.

I really respect John and he is one of the guys that I helped bring into WWE, and of the reasons was because John is a great fan; he has an undying work ethic, without question; and his passion is one of the things that has gotten him where he is. Sometimes our passion will motivate us to say things that can easily be misunderstood. I’ve only read John’s comments in print. I haven’t heard John say things that have been perceived as controversial. And sometimes, in all due respect to the print media, we can interpret things differently as we read them. Would John Cena like to wrestle The Rock? Of course. Who wouldn’t? I don’t blame John for wanting to wrestle Rock if that’s his goal, but I can tell you this: I talk to John at every TV that I’m at and he’s there. I consider him a friend and we talk about a lot of things – and he knows that I have a good relationship with Rock and I signed Rock and brought him to WWE – and he’s never said one word to me negative about The Rock. It makes for a good story, do doubt, but I don’t think The Rock has lost any of his love for the business. He just happens to be in another field of work right now, and he’s devoting his work ethic that he developed in WWE to his movie career. I defy anybody to tell me that they’d rather be on the road 250 days a year in sports entertainment as opposed to being a major film star and making the money and working the schedule that those people have the opportunity to do.

When you were drafted from Raw to Smackdown over a year ago, you did not hide the fact that you weren’t happy about it, although you quickly came back and said that you are a team player and would put everything you had into it. Now that some time has passed, what are your thoughts about working on Smackdown?

I have no problems with it. I was more concerned about how the news was broken to me than I was the actual move itself. Egocentrically, I felt that I had paid enough dues and has a good enough rapport that I would have been given a clue or a head’s up that, “hey, you may be changing brands” or “don’t be surprised if you are moved over to Smackdown,” and that would have been fine, but that’s not how it went down. I think at the moment it just struck me in a negative way. I’m man enough to say maybe that was my ego getting in the way, that I thought that I was a fixture on Raw, that I’d help build the brand and I thought that [Jerry] Lawler and I were one of the better announcing tandems that had been in the business for a while. But once I got to Smackdown it was just business as usual. It was all the same guys I’d worked with, a lot of the same guys I’d hired, a lot of the same guys that were friends. When the bell rings, you’re going to do your thing. I did have to get used to working with someone other than The King. I think any broadcaster will tell you that one of the things that you love about having a partner that’s been around a long time with you is that you have chemistry, and we had developed chemistry and a friendship, and I was in a routine. Maybe I was in my comfort zone, and I’m not one that’s big on comfort zones; I think they’re dangerous.

I know that WWE was moving Smackdown to MyNetworkTV, which was going to be a challenging proposition because of where they stood with other networks as far as audience delivery. They wanted to make a splash. Triple H went over, and Jeff Hardy was there, and Undertaker was there, and I didn’t feel belittled going to Smackdown. I am an emotional guy. I try to be very honest. I still believe in integrity and character, and I said what was on my mind. I got it out of my system, and I think if anybody looks back on that time, I probably within a few hours of that venting was able to reassess where I was. I decided that, hey look, I’ve always been a team player and I’m going to practice what I preach. I’m going to go on to Smackdown and try to do the very best I can with that broadcast.

In looking at the differences between Raw and Smackdown, it seems to me that Smackdown plays more to your strengths, since Raw has become more of a variety shows – especially with the guest hosts – and there is more of an emphasis on wrestling on Smackdown. Is that the way you see it or am I off base?

I think you’re close. It’s certainly a subjective thing to say Raw fits into this category and Smackdown fits into this other category and so forth. I think the intent of Monday Night Raw is to have more entertainment elements – whether they come in vignettes or backstage confrontations or guest hosts – to make it distinctly different than any other show that WWE produces. I think more often than not that Smackdown will feature more wrestling. I’m an old-school guy that came from a wrestling environment. I look at it like, if I was in the football business, I would be more comfortable doing games than I would the pregame and post-game shows. I like the thrill of the game. I like the bell to bell. I like to be close to the product from that perspective. But even if Smackdown was taking on a different form, my job is not to write or produce the television show; my job is to broadcast. And my role has changed as to how I’m positioned. So, again, you’re either a team player in this world or you’re not. You can’t be a team player today and not a team player tomorrow. As long as I’m accepting the pay and I’m cashing the checks, I’m going to show up and do the very best job I can in whatever role I’m assigned. I always thought it started with the team winning. That’s just me. I think Smackdown’s been winning lately. I think Smackdown has had more good shows than bad shows. And we’re also seeing some young guys get some spotlight and some opportunities, which I think is very, very important.

I got over my ill feelings toward the move within a few hours. Those few hours happened in June of ’08, so I’m long past that piece of business. If they told me next week that I would be moving to ECW, I would have absolutely zero issues. And I know that some people are going to read that and roll their eyes and say that I can’t mean that. Look, I’m getting paid a very handsome sum of money, and my pay doesn’t become effected if I’m on Raw or Smackdown or ECW. I do several functions for the company that people never know about or never see, and I’m very pleased with all those aspects. I like being on Smackdown. I have a business I’m building and I attend football games on the weekend. So for me to be able to travel to a football game away from the Oklahoma Sooners’ stadium and still have plenty of time to get to Smackdown on Tuesday, that’s a real cool deal for me.

Check back next week for more of my interview with Ross, as he talks in greater detail about the need to build new stars, WWE becoming more family friendly and what the future holds for him.

For information about J.R.’s Family Bar-B-Q and to read Jim Ross’ blog, go to jrs.barbq.com.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 1:15 AM | | Comments (17)
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The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Eck blogs about professional wrestling.
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