Hold me now... I really wanna tell you that I'm sorry... for being late, of course, with the Wrath of Tito. OK, that was a terrible Chicago reference, but it's hard to come up with a new one each week. I hope everyone is drinking a few cups of coffee after a long night of election day stuff. I was smart, however, as I stopped watching TV or listening to the radio around 3 pm yesterday and I went to bed around 11 pm. From 3-11, I didn't even look at what was happening and I got a good night's sleep. I did the same thing in 2000 and I was sane the next day. That's as far as I'll go when mentioning politics in this very column...
Tuesdays have been very hectic for yours truly. It's my only legit day off between two jobs recently, and I usually take that day to get a few things done personally. Wednesdays seem better since I have everything done on Tuesday, giving me all morning and afternoon to do whatever. Therefore, if you see no column on Tuesday, look for one on Wednesday... and if nothing on Wednesday, well, I said "fuck it" and took the week off. Sometimes, a pitcher doesn't have his best stuff going from time to time.
-THE BIG NEWS OF THE WEEK are the releases of several WWE superstars, namely ones who have enjoyed past successes. Billy Gunn, Test, and Albert-Train were all staples of the booming 1998-2000 WWE, and for Billy Gunn, he's a man who has been in the company since around 1994 (1993? 1995?), an almost 10 year tenure. I feel bad that these 3 lost their jobs, as I wish nobody to lose their jobs. Billy Gunn has been hit with the injury bug lately, and whenever he comes back, he's just not getting the effective crowd reactions he once commanded as a member of DX. Plus, he wrestling ability is a bit outdated. Test, though, HAS the ability... it's just the other aspects, such as charisma, personality, and speaking ability that hurt him. Sad to see him getting released just shortly after he had his major neck surgery. I bet that will give NWA-TNA some firepower to sign him in a year. A-Train... I'm wondering what happened there. I'm guessing that injuries caught up to him, as well, and the WWE figured they wouldn't get much out of him, outside of strong midcard wrestler for the main eventers to handle.
The problem with all 3 is that each wrestler was shoved down the fans throats when it came to the main event push attempts. Billy Gunn has had numerous attempts at becoming a main eventer and each time has failed. It came to the point where both Rock and Steve Austin REFUSED to work with the guy during 1999, I believe, and the crowd reactions ultimately decided Gunns other stuff. He was a quality tag team wrestler, though, and the WWE should have kept him that way. With Test, the WWE would always start building him up and then they'd give up on him shortly thereafter. This happened many times. I thought he was going to get a big break during the Stephanie-Triple H wedding fiasco, but Triple H quickly squashed him and Test has been midcard fodder ever since. Test is easily the most talented performer out of the 3 releases, but his lack of other aspects, personality, mic skills, and charisma, doomed him at the end. The WWE seriously tried to push Albert as the next big main eventer during his trade to the Smackdown roster in early 2003 or late 2002. He feuded with Edge and Edge was blamed for a bad match. Edge was about to be severely depushed until his neck injury happened. Keep that in mind for those who think Edge is going to get a huge push now. A-Train was a Vince McMahon "Big Man Push", and like most, it failed. However, A-Train was a very effective midcard guy for main eventers to wrestle, and some of his bouts with Brock Lesnar were pretty good.
Sincere best of luck to all 3 performers at finding good work elsewhere.
-Also this week, a bunch of NEW performers debuted, namely on RAW. I honestly don't think Viscera will be around, BUT I think he's going to be on the WWE dialing list. That way, Viscera can continue working his independent dates while getting an occasional call to appear in the WWE. Both can benefit from that deal. The WWE took one of the Diva contestants, Maria, on as their new "Terri Runnels". Not a bad idea and a cheap way to hire someone at that position (in addition to helping to sell calendars). Simon Dean FINALLY debuted in a WWE arena, delivering a nasty promo towards fans before ultimately snapping. The only way this gimmick will work is if the guy behind the gimmick makes it work, much like Eugene or the Hurricane have made their joke gimmicks work and outlive expectations. Then, the WWE is trying to stir up controversy with their Muhammad Hassan and Khosrow Daivari characters.
Hassan is the wrestler, and he was the one asking for fans to not label him and be sympathetic towards his beliefs. A very nice added touch to Hassan was a MANAGER, as the WWE lacks male managers to help out characters. Yeah, I like seeing a beautiful valet, but I also respected the Jim Cornettes, Paul E. Dangerouslys, Gary Harts, Percy Pringles, JJ Dillons, Jimmy Harts, and Bobby Heenans of the world. Daivari speaking Arabic should add to the xenophobia that I'm assuming the WWE is trying for here. Do I have a problem with this gimmick? So far, no. If it goes beyond the boundaries of good taste, such as Lance Storm's Unamerican comments about 9/11, then I'll have a problem with it. But, if the character of Muhammad Hassan doesn't have to resort to cheap heat tactics to get over, then more power to him as a sympathetic character. We'll see how he develops...
I'd be saddened if the WWE was only pushing the guy for the publicity stunt and NOT his actual wrestling ability.
-I think it's wishful thinking that the WWE will bring back War Games. That's a WCW idea, remember, and outside of Great American Bash, I have yet to see the WWE really take a WCW Pay Per View invention and run with it. If the WWE would do War Games, they would ultimately do it THEIR WAY. The WWE doesn't want to put 2 rings, side by side, at an for the War Games match. I guarantee that the WWE would put up the Hell in the Cell cage instead and have the so-called War Games that way. Regardless, the WWE is at least doing some 4 on 4 or 5 on 5 matches this year for Survivor Series, and that's a plus. That could bring back a lot of traditional WWE fans who stopped buying Pay Per Views recently.
While I'm on that subject, the lower buyrates (under 200,000 buys) clearly shows that the WWE is over-saturating the market. It's one thing to have TWO different federations putting on 2 Pay Per Views per month. It's another when one federation is putting on 2 watered down versions of its product. Now, there's great reason to panic if Survivor Series doesn't do 200,000+ buys. I'm sure it will go over 200,000, but if not, it's good reason to finally merge the rosters back. It was a good idea through Wrestlemania 20, but afterward, it's been clearly shown, especially during your last months with Orton and JBL's heavy pushes, that neither roster is capable of having a product worth spending $30 monthly on.
-What's with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature coming after the WWE once again? The REAL WWF claims that there is still confusion in the American marketplace over the initials. Even though the World Wrestling Federation switched to World Wrestling Entertainment, there is still confusion over the initials WWF and WWE. Well, wrestling fans and America had to live with WWF for over 20 years. The "WWE" thing is what, just 2 years old now or so? The fact that the WWE has gone out of their way and changed their initials, albeit to a very clever "WWE", and have blurred out or blocked out any portions of old WWF logos off of their videos should help them in court. I'm assuming that a lot of old inventory is still out there with the WWF logo, and the Wildlife Fund could still be harping about that.
Maybe it's because nobody GIVES A FUCK about the World Wildlife Fund for Nature here in the United States and the real WWF needs a scapegoat for their tears. That's EXACTLY what we're dealing with here and it's wasting the WWE's time and money to appear in court over this. Oh, if only the WWE could go back into time and change their name to something other than "WWF" from the WWWF name they had previously.
-I actually agree with Stephanie/Triple H this time around... the WWE should NOT be doing the Tough Enough segments in the middle of an event. It was embarrassing to see the contestants taking slams from the Big Show and getting back up as if it didn't hurt. This segment totally exposed the business. Now, if this segment would be filmed at a different location and aired for 15 minutes of Smackdown's time, I wouldn't have a problem with it. However, the segment is at the arena that hosts Smackdown AND it exposes the WWE while interrupting the show in front of a live audience. It needs to be shot separately from the arena, that way it doesn't take wind from a live audience. It's one thing to show how the business operates... it's another to show it at the same arena that the show is being conducted at.
-Good to see that Edge has written his own book without a ghostwriter. That could be a good reason to read that book next! I'm slowly getting through the Jerry Lawler book as we speak. It's getting a little better...
-For Smackdown, I caught parts of the Tough Enough segment and parts of Rey Mysterio vs. Kurt Angle. That's about it...
-Man, Independent Wrestling is getting RED HOT in the Ohio Valley. Look, this area doesn't have much. But, there are two indy feds who tour around here regularly that are keeping the local wrestling fans entertained. The WWE rarely comes to Wheeling, WV now and when they do, it's just for a houseshow. Anyway, I caught Xtreme Wrestling Federation Inc.'s show on Sunday night and it was one of their bests. They had an extremely entertaining Divas match, which saw one of my favorite local Indy performers named Jabari dressing up as a Diva named "Oprah Mustafa" (when Jabari was a heel, we chanted "Oprah" at him). Check out the pictures on their webpage I have linked and see for yourself.
The show had strong tag team wrestling throughout the night, making me wonder "where's the tag titles"? In addition, I enjoyed the chaos of the 5 on 5 main event, and it was a lot of fun... but I would have preferred a more Survivor Series format. Just my opinion, as the main event was still very good. If you're ever in the Eastern Ohio area, namely along the Ohio-West Virginia border around Wheeling, WV, check out XWF Inc. They're more of a mix of everything in wrestling, from pure workrate to sports entertainment to some occasional hardcore stuff. I recommend it!
On to the RAW portion of our program.
It's nice to see a show without Triple H... I guarantee the WWE would draw exactly the same amount of crowds with Triple H than they would without Triple H. The fact is that Triple H is NOT a person who puts butts into seats. He was at the right time in 2000 and he didn't draw flies from 2002 and beyond (especially 2003). Hell, Triple H at the top was beginning to lose fans after Wrestlemania 17!
Also backstage, Tajiri hits on the new Terri Runnels, although a bit taller and probably with less silicone. OK, I'm joking here, as I'll pay tribute to Terri. She did a good job in her role as backstage piece of ass and I salute her. Tajiri rips on Triple H a bit, but that prompts Ric Flair and Batista to attack! Evolution BADLY needs a 4th member, especially with Ric Flair in the final days of his wrestling career. I say turn somebody who can wrestle, and that would make me suggest that Shelton Benjamin or even Chris Benoit (yeah, it makes sense... Horsemen connection!) should be turned.
Ric Flair and Batista head out to the ring, reminding everyone that Evolution is still in charge. However, Eric Bischoff takes offense to this, suggesting that Evolution did NOT save him when his head was getting shaved at Taboo Tuesday. GOOD POINT, although Vince McMahon, the supreme ruler, was out there during the haircut. This reason kept Flair out of the Survivor Series 4 on 4 showdown, which will now pit Triple H/Batista/Gene Snitsky/Edge versus Chris Benoit/Chris Jericho/Maven/Randy Orton. Maybe it will turn into a War Games, and I'd do it as I suggested above with the Hell in the Cell. Who knows? Bischoff also books Shelton Benjamin vs. Christian and Trish Stratus vs. Lita during this segment.
The first actual match of the evening was Christian vs. Hurricane. The wind was badly taken out of this match in order for Edge to promote his book. Hey, as long as it's promoting Edge and not two guys who have no chance of making the main event scene. I didn't really pay attention much to the match, for the focus was on Edge. Edge mentioned that Christian was in his book a lot, and it would help Edge greatly if Christian joined him again as a flunky. BETTER YET, why not have BOTH Edge and Christian joining up with Evolution? That would be a fantastic idea. Christian wins, Benjamin responds, and Christian responds back with his new problem solver: Viscera, who lays out Benjamin. I have NO problems with Viscera being used as a part-time thug. He served the role well on Smackdown against the Undertaker, and he's now doing the same on RAW.
Simon Dean finally entered a WWE arena, after months of Simon Dean commercials. Good idea how they said Simon Dean paid for this segment as an advertisement. Funny stuff, with Simon Dean holding nothing back on some crowd members. The lady he ripped on was almost forced to tears! Dean then took a very angry fan to the ring, but warned the guy "I have a background in professional wrestling, so watch out", which was a very nice touch by the WWE writers on the dialogue. That shows that he's a wrestler, and not just a fitness guy who out of no where can wrestle. Eventually, the planted guy snapped at Dean's insults, thereby smashing Dean's table and forcing Dean to snap on his own and throw the plant into a wrestling hold. Very well done job here by the WWE building this character up, and now it's up to Nova to take it from here and make the gimmick work.
Next, it was Edge/Chris Benoit vs. La Resistance. Edge was late on arrival and it was the usual partners can't coexist stuff. Decent tag match, but too predictable. I heard that the name plates on the titles weren't changed. Well, the WWE usually takes a while changing name plates anyway, so I wouldn't look much into that as a "spoiler". Besides, who in their right mind would suggest that Edge and Benoit would retain their tag titles against the former champions? Does anybody, by the way, want to bet how long Edge's push will last before Triple H cuts the legs off of his table? It's well known and documented that HHH is the only heel main eventer on the RAW roster and it's been that way since Shawn Michaels joined the RAW roster in 2002. Anyway, La Resistance won after Edge gave up on the tag match. No one man effort this time by Benoit.
I already said my piece on Muhammad Hassan... moving on.
Next match was Viscera vs. Shelton Benjamin. This is what Viscera should be used for. He put over Benjamin, and it's a credible win because Viscera is a BIG MAN. Seriously, a punch or kick won't hurt Viscera like it would a normal human being. Benjamin won the match and that's that. Viscera can be used for another time when wrestlers need put over or when the bad guys need a thug. That easy, and both the WWE and Viscera can benefit from this relationship.
Trish Stratus was out next and she totally destroyed Lita with footage from her past, as I'm amazed to hear the name Essa Rios on a WWE show again. Man, it's amazing to see how much lighter Lita was just a few years ago. I'm by no means calling her fat, as I'd take her right now if I were single... But she's added a good 20-30 pounds, if not more, of bulk. Trish is truly hitting her stride as a heel, and it's a shame the rest of the Women's division can't hit their strides. An angry Lita comes out to confont but gets her ass handed to her by both Trish Stratus and Gail Kim, who ran down. I like how Trish is the leader and Molly/Gail are the flunkies... it's too bad that the faces on the female side of things aren't as uniformed or aren't as popular. I mean, pushing Stacy Keibler and Lita when Victoria is clearly your best talent...
Funny stuff with the WWE Smackdown the Vote campaign, on the heels of the Election Day. Why? Because it's mostly signing up younger voters, who DID NOT turn out in droves as mainly the Democrat party expected. I guess the Youth of America called P. Diddy's "Vote or Die" campaign as bluff? By the way, South Park had me LAUGHING last week about P. Diddy.
The main event was decent with Ric Flair/Batista against Randy Orton/Chris Jericho/Maven. I'm assuming that Flair and Batista will take issue with Triple H for not being at RAW next week, and cause a possible rift in the group? Maybe, or at least give Ric Flair one last chance to turn face before his career ends. The match was good when Jericho was in, but both Maven and Randy Orton just don't seem ready enough. Both need years of seasoning, but hey, we're the WWE, let's rush everybody to the top and hope we strike gold as we did with Kurt Angle in 2000. The fact is that Kurt Angle is a FREAK, and neither Maven or Orton have an ounce of talent that Angle contains. The WWE played the old prank of dressing up a wrestler, too, during this match, as Tajiri came out as Triple H. Oh har har, they are so original on ideas these days. At least it was consistent, though, with Tajiri bad mouthing Triple H earlier. HHH vs. Tajari, probably happening next week on RAW. Their last encounter, if I remember correctly, was quite good. The faces win, with of course, Randy Orton getting the main spotlight. I bet the WWE was please with Peoria chanting "RKO" before Orton hit the final blow to win the match.
LAST WORD: 3 good shows in a row, overall. However, this one wasn't as good as the last two, as the main event was much weaker and the overall wrestling could have been better. Still, storyline wise, the WWE is finally getting their ducks in a row with this show. It's now a matter of figuring out how to make wrestling fans buy Survivor Series and then go from there. I will note, though, that the WWE is going into dangerous territory by shoving Maven and Randy Orton down our throats. Yeah, they may be the future of the company, but this is the present. Acknowledge the present before you ruin your future. I'll go [ B ] on this week's show and hope to continue a streak of good shows through next week.
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