I, love, reading wrestling books... Trish Stratus for her looks... Batista vs. HHH storylines with a good hook... AND TWINS! Welcome to the Wrath of Tito, the column that's held nothing back for the last 6+ years. This week, we'll review Monday Night RAW, discuss the latest news in pro wrestling, among other things. Simple format that works quite well.

-It's been a dry news week, but the BIG NEWS OF THE WEEK looks to be more on the Rock possibly not appearing at Wrestlemania 21, despite the show being in Los Angeles. The Rock, in the latest issue of Playboy (Debbie Gibson, by the way, looks pretty good nude even though I wanted bush, pan down... quoting Booger from "Revenge of the Nerds"), said he was contractually done with the WWE. It thus confirms that the WWE and the Rock do not have a current deal together, but I'm sure there is some working agreement between Vince and Rock regarding the use of the "Rock" name. Yes, I too heard that the Rock earned ownership rights of the "Rock" name, but who knows how true that story was?

For Wrestlemania 20, the Rock was apparently upset that he was just going to be used in a tag team match with Mick Foley against Evolution. While the match turned out pretty good, the Rock wanted top billing of some sort and to give fans a dream match. Rumors swirled that he wanted to wrestle Sting at Wrestlemania 21, for instance, and it was the Rock who helped convince Bill Goldberg to enter the WWE. In addition, it was the Rock who first fought and put over Goldberg. I'm firm in my beliefs that Rock is one of the few who thinks above the curve regarding what fans might want to see. I would be overjoyed to see Sting vs. Rock at any event and I'd shell out top dollar to see it! Rock knows that would draw interest and it's probably why he suggested it.

BUT, the Rock isn't a guy the WWE can rely on for a full time schedule. In fact, you're lucky to get 3 appearances out of him yearly now. He's doing well in Hollywood and has various movie projects to always keep him busy. Doing both wrestling and acting was burning him out, as he also suggests in Playboy. He made a choice for acting and if the WWE chooses not to use the Rock for just a few appearances a year (which does NOT help the company overall), so be it. The WWE, ever since getting burned with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, has favored hiring wrestlers who can work all of the houseshows, television tapings, and Pay Per Views and the only exception to the rule was Bill Goldberg. That's their preference and the Rock just can't do that any longer. Still, the Rock helped to Wrestlemania on the map during the WWE's prime years with Wrestlemania 15-19, having respected matches in all of those events, so it's safe to say that the WWE SHOULD have him at Wrestlemania 21. I would and the show makes enough money to honor a guy who helped make the WWE into a powerhouse that it remains today with virtually no competition threatening it (NWA-TNA has a long way to go).

I'd argue that without the Rock, who would Austin have as a WRESTLING foil? Triple H wasn't ready until 2000 for the main event spot, and Austin can only wrestle Kane, Undertaker, Foley before those matches become very repetitive in nature (even though the Foley matches were fun to watch). Rock, Austin, and Vince McMahon helped make the WWE what it is today, TOGETHER, even though Foley should get credit for putting over some major stars in Rock, Austin, and later Triple H. The WWE without the Rock during the late 1990's and early 2000's would NOT be as successful as it was. I dare anybody to debate me on that!

-I wonder how long it will take for the anti-smoking ad agencies to notice that Stacy Keibler is smoking in the Basic Instinct parody commercials? The smoke looks as though it was added through CGI, but the point is that it's made to look as though Keibler is smoking. How can you advertise NOT to smoke when Stacy is made to look as though she's cool and sexy smoking? Completely defeats the purpose of Truth.com advertising on WWE's shows...

-The Diva Search contestants, now WWE fillers on the roster, seem to be making a lot of news. Candice Michelle seems to have been making headlines due to her role in GoDaddy.com's Superbowl commercial, getting mentioning on various media outlets and the Lycos search engine reports her name saw a drastic increase of searches for pictures or information. Then, you have Christy Hemme set to pose in Playboy next month. The Jury is out on how well that issue will sell, but considering that Playboy has a large subscription audience (they offer $12 subscription offers to a lot of college students for 12 issues), the WWE will likely fudge the numbers and say "wow, she sold a lot of issues". Then, you have Amy Weber exiting the WWE because she couldn't take the pranks or the ribs backstage. Great stuff that Ben Johnson posted via Snailz/PWInsider that quotes Amy Weber: People would find it interesting that I'm a big prankster. A lot of people think that I am a serious person, but if you get to know me, you'll see that I'm a big goofball! People would also be shocked to realize that I am a bit clumsy. I've been a goofball my entire life. That big goofball just became serious about backstage pranks and left the company because of it!

What's even funnier is that past work of the Divas are coming out. Stuff they've done for stripclubs, softcore porn movies, posing nude, and Christy Hemme using Trimspa... It should be expected. These ladies who entered the WWE's contest were looking for any possible outlet to use their good looks to make a name for themselves. When you have it, why not use it to your advantage? Hopefully, none of the contestants lose their jobs for past work, just as Chastity was fired from WCW for having prior work in Porn. Then again, none of the WWE Diva contestants were having sex on camera... Big difference, even though I still feel that Chastity was wrongfully terminated from WCW back in the day and I will always stand by that.

-Speaking of Chastity, somewhat, I've been watching some old ECW lately... 1997 ECW, where they had Raven, Saturn, and Stevie Richards before the WCW jump and then thereafter when ECW had to elevate the likes of Al Snow, for instance, and Rob Van Dam really got his big push. It just amazes me, and I was a major fan of ECW during 1996-1997, how much in awe ECW fans were of Sandman and Raven back then. Guys like Taz, Shane Douglas, Tommy Dreamer, Sabu, and many others were well liked, but when it came to Raven and Sandman... Sandman was an icon of ECW. He WAS ECW. When you have a guy who wrestles in Zebra pants and t-shirt while smoking and drinking during your entrance to the ring... Oh yeah, he wields a big cane and takes brutal punishment to his body. In addition, you had Raven, who was the ultimate ECW heel and had an incredible cult following as well. The funny thing is that Raven was a nobody outside of ECW back then. Sandman's first fame was in ECW.

It was just a different era back then. I loved the Sandman and I'm probably the most anti-drinking and anti-smoking guy you'll find out there. Sandman just had the connection with fans that he was a regular guy fighting for his life in the ring. I think with Raven, a lot of people who watched the more violent style of wrestling were outcasts... Raven played an outcast. The sad fact is that for as popular as Raven and Sandman were in ECW, they never achieved top popularity status elsewhere. Sandman wasn't quite his old self in WCW and now I guess in NWA-TNA, and Raven wasn't allowed to go above the midcard in WCW and WWE... Maybe he's done better in NWA-TNA, but he was still the man during his days in ECW before 1997. I know this isn't a relevant news mention, but it's something that's been in my mind since watching some ECW lately from the 1997 era.

-Oh, speaking of ECW again, I just bought Rob Van Dam: One of a Kind real cheap from Walmart. I wasn't going to buy it until Eliminators vs. Sabu/Rob Van Dam was on the match listings. That's right, ONE MATCH enticed me to buy the DVD! The matches I saw between them during late 1996 and early 1997 were simply amazing, especially one that probably went on for 30 minutes or so with all kinds of tables and chair spots that impressed me back then.

-In addition for wrestling media purchases, I bought Scott Keith's "Wrestling's One-Ring Circus: The Death of the World Wrestling Federation" from a local bookstore. For his previous two books, "Buzz on Pro Wrestling" and "In this Very Ring...", he had his publisher send me review copies for free to read. So, I more or less felt like I owed him one and bought the book. Plus, I needed something to read... Give me a week or 2, depending on how much work piles up, and I'll review the book for Mr. Keith. I didn't like his first book due to poor editing and for some story flip-flops, but his second book was rather good. Both reviews can be read in my ARCHIVES.

Speaking of archives, I need to update that soon. I have columns in my folder since June 29th, 2004 that I have yet to throw onto my archives. Laziness? Yes, somewhat. After losing the final columns of 2003 and early 2004 due to either a computer restoration or a bad zip disk, I forget which one, the motivation hasn't been there to update the column archives for 2004. HOWEVER, if you need to look up a column from 2004, it should be in the LoP Archives, if I'm not mistaken. Speaking of books, I really wish to write a special Wrath on wrestling books. Speaking of special Wraths, I still have to pen a column on wrestling unions, which I promised I'd do so last year. I still have the notes I took in preparation for that column and it's just a matter of finding time/inspiration to write it.

-I DID watch Smackdown last Thursday. I felt it was an alright show, even though the stuff with JBL and the blown up dinosaur was a sour attempt at comedy, especially in front of a Japanese crowd who might not understand English as a whole? I did, however, see why the WWE hesitates to push Rey Mysterio as a serious contender. For his match with Kurt Angle, Angle sold everything and it was very obvious he was doing that. For a headscissors, you could clearly see that Angle was flipping to make it look good. With smaller wrestlers than Angle, you can hide it better. But who can believe that a 180 pound guy can spin a guy weighing 240 or so? It gets worse with guys larger than Angle... It looks like Angle vs. Cena at No Way Out and HBK will probably strike to start really hyping Wrestlemania 21's dream match.

-For Surreal Life 4, the cast were to present their show ideas to VH1 for possible spinoffs. Chyna had an idea with another female, who looked/acted more like a man than Chyna, about a show called "Maneaters", where they'd pull pranks on men. Ohhh, that would sell... just as Chyna being an actress is a great idea. In addition, Adrienne Curry seems to like to drink with Chyna and Christopher Knight actually confronted her about it. He said that hanging around someone who is self destructive is not good and the rest of the cast seemed to agree. It seems as though everybody on the show knows Chyna is headed down a dangerous road with her behavior, even though Chyna makes it quite obvious. Nothing more to really report on the show other than Chyna is a lush and she's on self-destruct mode. What else is new?

On to RAW.

RAW is TITO

This week's show started off by milking the Superbowl commercial publicity for Candice Michelle during Chris Jericho's Highlight Reel segment, even teasing a wardrobe malfunction and airing the GoDaddy.com commercial. Good for her, although I fear a bad case of Sable or Chyna coming over her with the recent mainstream publicity. And what can the WWE do with the publicity? She was hired only based on looks, so outside of lingerie contests and selling calendars, what else can you do with her once the 15 minutes of fame ends? Simply put, make her a valet for someone. People do NOT realize how popular Miss Elizabeth was in her role back in the day. Anyway, this attempt to milk a few more minutes of fame prompted Muhammed Hassan to come out (by the way, I heard the name "Muhammed Hassan" in the news recently with regards to the Middle East, and it wasn't about the WWE wrestler? Maybe I'm hearing things?). Hassan gave the usual anti-American speech, saying Candice Michelle was a perfect example of dumbing down Americans. Jericho gave his usual repetitive "YOU'RE A JACKASS" reply and homosexual cutdowns and that prompted this week's first match:

Chris Jericho vs. Muhammed Hassan was the first match of the night, as I expected the WWE to have a little more build up for this showdown. OK match at best, as Hassan seems a bit green in the ring against Jericho, whose primary offense is bouncing or jumping off the ropes. The match ended with Hassan's manager distracting the referee and thus enabling Hassan to hit the Flatliner/Downward Spiral (come on WWE, give it a personal name for Hassan!). Well, Jericho just put over Hassan... The WWE seems firm in their beliefs that Hassan's cheapheat drawing ability merits a rise in the card. You could put any character out there and spew off anti-American sentiments and they'll always get heat. I'm all for elevating younger talent, but Hassan hasn't really proved that he deserves the elevation based on his in-ring ability. Just the same ol' cookie-cutter guy from Ohio Valley Wrestling we've been seeing lately from the WWE's developmental site. In addition, what's the use for Chris Jericho on WWE anymore? Ever since he won the unified titles at Armageddon 2001, he's been on a freefall downward. The WWE has made a mockery of his career ever since and it amazes me that Jericho doesn't stick up for himself. Maybe he's going through the motions?

Backstage, Triple H and Ric Flair discuss the rumor about John Bradshaw Layfield showing up on RAW. This was a nice teaser to use on fans for the ultimate set up that HHH was behind the whole scenario to avoid wrestling Batista at Wrestlemania 21.

In addition to the first 5 WWE Hall of Famers, the WWE added Roddy Piper to the list of inductees. Just keep adding and adding, WWE. You know, Major League Baseball has it RIGHT when they only induct a few players a year into their Hall of Fame. It's the most respected Hall of Fame out there. In addition, the Pro Football Hall of Fame is respected, for the most part (Michael Irvin should have been a 1st year guy and Art Monk deserves to get in!), and they induct 5 players every year. 5, some suggest is too much, but it's still respected. The WWE now has 6 inductees for 2005 with more to possibly come, depending on who wants to have good relations with the WWE. If you're going to add legitimacy to a Hall of Fame, don't water it down by having too many inductees every year. Don't let it get above 6 or credibility problems could haunt the Hall of Fame for this year. The lower the number, the better the spotlight for those who get in.

Randy Orton and Stacy Keibler are hooking up for Valentine's Day. Awwwwwww....

Backstage, again, Flair talks with Batista about JBL coming to RAW this week. Batista respects Evolution's wish to get involved, but Batista wants JBL to himself. Batista said he'll make his decision regarding jumping to Smackdown NEXT WEEK on RAW.

Backstage, Shawn Michaels was interviewed by the Coach and the Coach wanted Michaels reaction to Kurt Angle's actions at Royal Rumble and quotes recently in a wrestling magazine. HBK responded that he'll be watching No Way Out...

Next, we had Shelton Benjamin again honoring the open challenge policy for his Intercontinental Title and Gene Snitsky takes the challenge. The match was basically Shelton Benjamin bouncing off of Snitsky, based on Snitsky's still limited wrestling ability. Snitsky thought he had Benjamin beat, forcing him to argue with the referee and grab a chair to clobber Benjamin in the process. Oh joy, a DQ finish made to protect Snitsky and Benjamin, which doesn't protect either, for neither guy is getting elevated from a big victory. Why even make the match in the first place? Waste of time...

The rematch between La Resistance vs. Tajiri/William Regal was up next, as I was thinking La Resistance would win the titles back here. This is given that the WWE hotshots the tag titles often and that La Resistance real sole purpose in the WWE is to be tag champs and often. Short match between the teams, with Tajiri/Regal retaining with a DEVASTATING high knee from Regal on Conway to get the win. By the way, it's been almost 4 years since Tajiri joined the WWE. Many, including myself, were worried how Tajiri would work out in the WWE. 4 years later, he's a co-tag champion and a popular midcard match. It's safe to say he has strong job security, and I applaud him. Usually, wrestlers from Asia don't end up staying for a long time in the WWE, unfortunately.

The next match was Christian vs. Randy Orton, as I figured the WWE would at least build this match up for a few more weeks or so. I guess it's the WWE's way of telling us that Randy Orton hasn't quite been officially demoted to the midcard, yet. I'm still figuring that the WWE or Triple H wants Randy Orton to get in on the Batista vs. HHH match at Wrestlemania, given that a 3 way between those 3 wrestlers is advertised on WWE houseshows. The match was one of Orton's better efforts and fans seemed to be more receptive to him this week. Maybe they'll cheer him in the midcard? Maybe dating Stacy Keibler, in the storylines, is helping out? In the end, having this match so quickly does NOT help Christian's career, as he's further buried in the end, despite giving a former world champion a tough bout. Christian and Tomko should go after the tag titles, or something? Oh, we've been there and that didn't work out either. Christian has only been accepted by the WWE and fans when he was tagging up with Edge.......

Backstage, the usual paranoid Edge spoke to Eric Bischoff about obtaining Batista's spot if Batista decides to jump to Smackdown.

Great in-ring segment between Trish Stratus and Christy Hemme... well, it was more of Trish's doing, for she's one of the best snobby heels I've seen in a long time. Too bad none of the face Divas have the talent to match her. She ripped the hell out of Hemme for posing for Playboy, suggesting that she did it because she's a slut. Hemme said she was proud to be in Playboy and tried the usual face antics of "I give the fans what they want" kind of BS that fans have been conditions to hear for a long time. Hemme said that Trish was the real slut for the way she's slept around in the WWE locker room, ouch, and that prompted Trish to slap the bejesus out of Christy! Hemme's Playboy, although I think she looks great, will provide disappointing sales in comparison to previous WWE Playboy issues. However, if Trish Stratus would ever decide to pose... Good lord, I sincerely believe her sales could top Sable, Chyna, Torrie Wilson, and Torrie/Sable's issues based on her arguably being the best looking in the WWE right now and from her work outside of the WWE in the fitness world.

Next, it was a complete squash between Kane and Simon Dean. Dean's character plays the "pussy" role so well, but there's really not much you can do with him after playing scared too often. Kane, whose potential is also wasted by the WWE, destroyed Simon and even mocked Simon's push-ups at one point. Somewhat funny, but Kane beating up newcomers and guys he doubles in size is just so repetitive at this point.

The main event was Edge vs. Batista... the match was short, as I'm baffled that the WWE has shot the load on giving us Edge vs. HHH and Edge vs. Batista on free television and on back-to-back weeks. It just ruins Edge's drive to the top and by giving him no true result in favor of his character, it just knocks his character down a few more notches. The match ended when the Titantron showed JBL's limo pulling into the parking lot. Batista left his match and Evolution ran outside. Batista tried to tell HHH that it was his fight, and HHH/Flair apparently stayed behind. Batista was looking for JBL in the parking lot when headlights turned on. Just as JBL's limo was going to run Batista over, Triple H made the diving save! Interesting twist and it will add a lot of fuel to the fire once Batista figures out that JBL was NOT in that limo.

LAST WORD: Weak show this week by the WWE, with guys like Chris Jericho, Christian, Simon Dean, Shelton Benjamin, and Edge getting the shaft and further proving that they don't have a legit chance of elevation in the WWE. The only bright spot was the continued build up of Batista vs. Triple H, which will come to a head next week. The discrediting of the other superstars leads me to believe that Batista will lack opponents after Wrestlemania, thus opening the door for many rematches with HHH. Joy. [ D+ ] for poor wrestling, bad finishes, among many other things I mentioned in the column. Some good positives, but more negatives.

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