Welcome fans, friends, and critics to another delightful edition of the Wrath of Tito. In today's edition, you'll see my thoughts on last night's Monday Night RAW, the latest wrestling news and views, a review of a local independent show, and other stuff. What you won't be seeing is a No Way Out review. Why? Because the price of the Pay Per View didn't justify my demand to see it. In addition, No Way Out was in Pittsburgh, PA, which is just an hour and a half away... BUT, the price of tickets, parking, gas, and probably eating somewhere didn't justify my demand to see the show live. So instead, I just paid $10 to sit front row at an indy show and meet a personal favorite wrestler of mine named Sharkboy. More on that in a bit...
-The BIG NEWS OF THE WEEK is that it's very apparent which sibling (and her husband) of Vince McMahon will be running the WWE when Vince McMahon finally retires or unfortunately passes away. Stephanie McMahon, with Vince out with a blown out quad muscle (juicing at a late age will do that to you), has assumed responsibilities as the boss backstage at WWE shows. It seems as though her husband, Triple H, has assumed the role of her right hand man, which was predictable. Is Stephanie more capable than Shane of running the WWE?
That is hard to say, for both Stephanie and Shane didn't work their way up into the professional wrestling business as Vince McMahon Sr. and Vince McMahon Jr. have. Both Shane and Stephanie have more or less inherited the business and didn't have to earn their way in. Both have shown that their egos can get overblown when they have on-air roles, and Stephanie has proven herself to be a very stubborn member of the creative team. Is Stephanie a good member of the creative team? No. Since she joined and began to spearhead it in late 1999 when Vince Russo jumped to WCW, storylines have been a mess and favoritism to her husband, Triple H, has been shown time and time again. Her female touch, too, does not captivate male wrestling fans. It's one thing to have a strong female character and it's another to have one who completely hogs the spotlight in an egotistical manner, as she did mainly during the WWE vs. Alliance feud of 2001 that ruined the WWE for good.
Stephanie and Triple H together, running the WWE? That could possibly work, as I predict the weak Shane McMahon will be muscled out of his position. While Stephanie and Triple H might be jackasses for the way they claim to know the pulse of wrestling fans, both are at least aggressive in wanting the roles in running the WWE. Shane McMahon, on the other hand, shows a tendency to lack balls for the role as the main boss in the WWE. Shane takes more of his mother's side, as Linda McMahon has been shown to be more than forgiven for Vince's many actions, such as cheating on Linda quite often. Stephanie, on the other hand, takes more after her father in being very aggressive in getting what she wants. However, I don't believe she's quite as bright as Vince, for her stubborn ways don't change like Vince. When the Alliance vs. WWE feud was going down the tubes quickly, she kept the same shit going. Vince, on the other hand, would make adjustments, just as he did in 1997 when WCW was kicking his ass on a weekly basis. Instead of working her way up in the business as Vince did, for Vince Jr. had to earn Vince Sr.'s respect before working for the WWWF full time, she was handed her role on a silver platter and is NEVER criticized for her actions. That's understandable, for any father supports what their children will do.
The fact is that Vince McMahon is getting older. Admitted steroid use, I can imagine, has taken a few years off of his life. WWE, even though it's public, still has the majority of it owned by the McMahon family. Stephanie and Shane will inherit the WWE and run it once Vince McMahon steps down or unfortunately passes away. The fact that Stephanie (and Triple H) are in charge now shows that weakling Shane McMahon will get pushed aside. If I were Shane McMahon, I would drop the ego of wanting to become a professional wrestler (even though I admire the bumps he's taken, but he's done more damage than help in his matches) and start focusing on what appeals to fans. Right now, Stephanie and Triple H only cater to themselves and their friends. They care not what the fans think, thanks to the monopoly-like conditions created once WCW folded in 2001. Shane McMahon needs to get his head out of his ass and realize that his father's company might be going into the wrong hands...
-To further the WWE domination comment, Stephanie's creative idea will NOT be tested by rival competition. From what I've read, it seems as though NWA-TNA is slowly deteriorating now. Yeah, they are on FOX and yeah they are putting on regular once a month Pay Per Views. BUT, wrestlers are starting to leave the company, such as Abyss and Frankie Kazarian, and I believe many more will leave as well. Shoving Jeff Jarrett down people's throats, as well as pushing OLD stars who haven't drawn a dime in years is proving to have long term damage on NWA-TNA. Instead of pushing new stars, NWA-TNA is presenting the same old shit that helped to destroy WCW back in the day. Until NWA-TNA can convince me to start watching by presenting a fresh product, I REFUSE to watch their television shows or their Pay Per Views. I actually WANT to watch NWA-TNA, but they aren't pulling me in.
-Congrats to John Bradshaw Layfield on his recent marriage to Meredith Whitney. I wonder if they met from JBL's appearances and work with FOX News? Regardless, best wishes to JBL. My only criticisms of him have been how quick the WWE pushed him to the title and some of the spin the WWE gave to his character, like making him political. He should be playing up the business man even more than he has, and I'd recommend watching the hit television show "Dallas" to get more pointers. I like the idea of the Cabinet, but the overall rushing and weak storylines on Smackdown have hurt JBL's ability to possibly draw more fans as champion to Smackdown. I would say that the WWE did no favors by scapegoating Eddie Guerrero, who has yet to really get a good push since losing to JBL... I've probably watched Smackdown less since Guerrero lost his belt.
-Very dry week on news again... I seriously need to write the Books special column that I keep suggesting I might write. I have Edge's book to review, as well as Scott Keith's book. What I'd like do is to review both of those books and then maybe present a top 20 or so list of the books I've read. I would also plan on putting all of the books that I've read into a nice big stack and take a picture of my library. My wrestling book collection has completely invaded by bookshelf, and then some, and the many other books are in a few piles elsewhere. I'm well caught up on my work lately and there may be time to finally write this column, as well as my wrestling unions one (I'd have to draw a few graphs for that one). I'll try my best to get those up in the future.
-Instead of spending money on No Way Out either through Pay Per View or seeing it live, I opted to spend $10 to see the local indy federation XWF Inc. in Wheeling, WV, which is only a 15 minute drive away from my house. The show was held in the Nelson Jordan Center, which had a terrible parking situation! The wrestlers arrived early and took up most of the parking (bad idea for the fans' sake), and I had to park partially on the road and in the grass. Nice venue, though, as it's an older basketball gymnasium but had nice space and a better look than the convention hall or bar they've held shows in before. My advice would be to solve the parking problem for your next event there, IF there is another event held there.
This indy event was supposed to have UFC legend Dan Severn on the card but he pulled out due to injury. XWF Inc. tends to try to bring in big names, and I'm very thankful to them in meeting several stars that I greatly admire. With Dan Severn unable to attend, XWF Inc. brought in Sharkboy! Sharkboy has been on NWA-TNA, has had several WWE tryouts, and is a popular name on the indy circuit. I saw him wrestle in Pittsburgh, PA before a Smackdown/Velocity taping and I was quite impressed. I also remember his gimmick from the True Life Mtv special on wrestling... It was quite an honor to meet him. I got an autographed picture and took a picture with him. If he's reading this, he can recognize me as the fan who gave him an extra contribution for the autograph/picture out of appreciation. Sharkboy, as most of the outside stars have been that XWF Inc. has brought in, was a total class act. His match with Jason Cage (a good performer in his own right) was very entertaining to watch, and Sharkboy had me laughing when he worked on the arm and was biting on Cage's arm with the shark teeth. Fantastic stuff. Please check out his webpage at http://www.sharkboy.net.
This show was half just there and the other half was very good. The show started off with a guy looking like Shrek taking on a masked man in street clothes. Didn't care for it, as Shrek seemed a bit inexperienced to be in the ring. Somehow, the end of this match turned into a battle royal and it was declared an interpromotional battle royal. Which promotions are wrestling here? Later did I found out that it was Ohio Championship Wrestling (OCW) against XWF Inc., but I had no clue what was going on. A guy named "Dirty the Clown" won and I wondered what the significance of the battle royal was? I later heard that extra wrestlers showed up for the show, and the very generous promoter put them on to his credit. Next, it was "sports entertainment" time with the many figurehead executives XWF Inc. seems to have and they argued about who would win the #1 contender's spot. Then, out of that segment, the 4 way for the #1 contender's match started. There was supposed to be a "surprise wrestler" for the 4th spot in this match against Brian O, Michael Cruz, and Stormtrooper, but no surprise wrestler was delivered as hyped (no offense to the OCW guy who did take the 4th spot). Seemed rushed for a built-up 4 way, but whatever... Stormtrooper won the match and apparently had 5 minutes with one of the figurehead XWF Inc. executives who was giving him shit for the past few events.
Next, it was Kid Cupid/Soul Keeper vs. Stacy Hunter/"Syko" Sean Dahmer. This was an OK match, as it was surprising to me how well Stacy Hunter could actually hang in the ring. She's not only a fantastic heel manager, but she can wrestle too! I had no problems with Dash Bennett vs. Devin Devine... both guys are technically sound. They had a stipulation of "Loser Wears Dress", which I thought was odd because Devine and Bennett weren't feuding at the time. Good excuse for the match, though, was given when Devine accidentally signed the contract for the match when he thought he was signing a "get well" card to a local indy promoter who was hospitalized recently. Nice idea to cover your tracks...
So the 5 minutes with the XWF Inc. executive (Jack Blaze) arrived and Stormtrooper beat his ass, bigtime! He slapped him hard and hurled him out of the ring. That's when things went completely wrong and this incident could lose XWF Inc. its venue. A planned blading spot with a shank (looked like something made from the HBO prison show, Oz) was pulled out by the Stormtrooper and applied Blaze's forehead. I don't know if adrenaline kicked in or if just by accident that it happened, but Blaze suffered an very deep cut on his forehead, or at least a very wide cut from a crudely made shank. He was drug around the ring by Trooper and blood was dripping everywhere. Very surreal to see this. Blaze was then thrown at the wall, leaving blood splattered all over the wall... Blaze was clearly losing blood at a rapid rate, insomuch that a character against him in the storylines ran out to help and call off the 5 minute attack. I've been to a good handful of indy shows. I've seen a lot of blood, oddly enough, as several wrestlers on the indy shows love the more hardcore style. I'm NOT a big fan of those techniques. I'd much rather see a more entertaining show within the ring without the use of weapons. It's NOT something that would stop me from coming to independent shows, as I love live wrestling... but it's something that could potentially hault longterm growth of a fanbase in the long run, as well as losing a venue. Venues in the Ohio Valley are actually hard to come by, especially for professional wrestling. While the incident didn't disgust me, it's not something I care to see and it's shock value from the late 1990's that seems outdated.
After that bloody segment, which took a good 15 minutes to clean up the blood, the rest of the show got insanely good. First, OCW impressed me with a one on one encounter between Jeff Cannon and Robby Starr. Nice technical bout between these two and it impressed me, for I've seen neither guy before in the ring. Next, it was the match of the night between Jabari/VVD vs. Shima Xion/Jason Gory. I'm saying it now... Jabari has "star" written all over him. He has that natural charisma to him that you just can't teach in professional wrestling. He is an indy guy that I'd pay to see anywhere, as indy feds should use him as a potential draw. The WWE and NWA-TNA should give seriously consideration to signing this guy up! Once Jabari was in the ring or had a hot tag, the place erupted in huge face pops. You can check out his website by CLICKING HERE. His opponents, Gory and Xion, brought their A-game all night long, as well as their manager, Stacy Hunter, who was always interfering (including costing Sharkboy his match!).
As I mentioned above, I enjoyed Sharkboy vs. Jason Cage. The main event was Daron Smythe against Stormtrooper, as Stormtrooper won the #1 contender's spot earlier. Daron Smythe is another great wrestler seen in the Ohio Valley, as he's a great worker and he has vast fan appeal. Stormtrooper, from the matches I've seen from him, works mainly a more hardcore style of match. Here, he was forced to wrestle a technical bout and worked well with Smythe. I was impressed, in fact, and it was a nice ending to an event that saw 4 consecutive good to great matches make the show strong. After the match, Stormtrooper turned heel and joined the heel stable, even hugging the guy he viciously cut with the shank earlier. This turn was planned, I assume, so it shows that the extreme shanking was accidental (at least I hope). Overall, it was half great and half so-so. The great outweighed the rest of the show and I'm happy with paying just $10 to get in. Looking at No Way Out's results, I'm even more happy with my decision. You can check out XWF Inc. yourself by CLICKING HERE.
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-I caught Surreal Life 4 late last night... The cast played a dating game in which they were set up with dates for the evening. It gave an excuse for Chyna to drink excessively. But the worst was during the night, when everybody else was asleep. She was at first dribbling a basketball in the house, which disturbed everyone. Then, she was looking for toilet paper. She wrapped toilet paper around her face, like a surgeon, and pumped air into a basketball like it needed medical attention. Jesus, this woman needs MONTHS, maybe even years, of rehab. It's extremely sad to see a former WWE star fall apart before your very eyes.
NEXT WEEK, though, on Surreal Life 4... Sean Waltman stops by the house with roses... Holy shit... He tries to console her or to win her love back, which forces her to cry and make the rest of the cast angry. Waltman mouths off to Chyna AND the Surreal Life cast in what should be a fun trainwreck to watch. Yes, Chyna is messed up and has a lot of problems. But Waltman is NOT perfect, by any means and he could be the last person Chyna needs hanging around her. Hopefully, Christopher Knight, who is a freakin' hoss~!, throws Waltman out on his ass. Neither Waltman or Chyna said a word about their Surreal Life encounter on Howard Stern, as I wonder why. But regardless, it's going to get ugly next week on the Surreal Life! Can't wait!
On to RAW.....
Backstage, Batista has yet to arrive and HHH/Flair worry.
With a Christy Hemme and Trish Stratus confrontation, instead of one with Victoria, looming... I wonder how you can payoff someone LIGHT YEARS behind Trish Stratus in looks, talent, fan support, and respect for the wrestling business. Seriously, Christy Hemme is NOT a wrestler and I seriously doubt she could be trained to become one. Trish has actual talent and a personality that fans love to hate. Christy is a cookie-cutter WWE diva whom the WWE tried to create through a fictional contest. Ohhhh, she's in Playboy! Oh no! From the WWE roster now, only Trish Stratus, Victoria, Stacy Keibler, and Jackie Gayda would spark my interest by being in Playboy. The Diva contestants look so alike and aren't doing much to add any sexual appeal to their characters. It's a good thing my brother suscribes to Playboy or else I probably wouldn't see the Christy Hemme issue. Please note, too, that I've bought all of the other Playboy issues featuring WWE ladies, with the exception of Chyna's second... I'd have to say that Sable's first and Torrie's first issues were the absolute best Playboy spreads... then again, those are two of the best looking WWE females ever (and I rank Miss Elizabeth and Sunny before her personal demons up there).
Backstage, Shawn Michaels talked to Randy Orton about his Ladder Match at Wrestlemania 10, as a ladder was nearby. I have a feeling that this could lead to something on Orton, as I'm very convinced that Orton isn't quite done with the main event scene just yet. Would the WWE hotshot a Ladder match for Orton in hopes of getting him fan support? Noooo, they wouldn't do that... It would be like playing the Mick Foley card. Oh wait, they already did that with Randy Orton and THAT failed.
The next match was Simon Dean vs. Chris Jericho. Dean, before the match, went for VERY cheap heat by ripping on Joe Paterno. OUCH. There should be laws against taking personal shots at Joe Paterno. Chris Jericho then came in and together, Dean and Jericho had a sloppy match. Terrible chemistry between the two, as you can see that Simon Dean is holding back. If you watched Dean's former gimmick of Nova in his ECW career or elsewhere, you'd know that he has somewhat of a vast moveset. In the WWE, he's working the WWE style of punches and kicks as transitional moves and told not to take high risks. Taking high risks was part of Nova's ability, but another part was just fun entertaining moves within the ring. Dean seemed unprepared for Jericho's constant off-the-ropes offense.
Backstage, Teddy Long and Eric Bischoff talk backstage... In the middle of the conversation, Shawn Michaels enters the room and asks Teddy Long for a match against Kurt Angle. You'd figure that the WWE would have HBK get revenge on Kurt Angle by now, maybe costing him his match against Cena (BUT, at least it gave Cena a clean win over Angle heading into Wrestlemania!). Regardless, HBK asked for the match and this will set the wheels in motion for what I believe will win "Match of the Year" for 2005, if given the time. Angle vs. HBK is definitely a dream match of mine and I'd pay the expensive Wrestlemania price just for that one match.
Next, we had Tyson Tomko vs. Kane, as Tomko tried to cut a promo beforehand without making any sense. Lame big man encounter, and Kane would eventually win via chokeslam. This does NOTHING for Tomko, as he didn't give Kane a run for his money in such short time. In addition, Kane has NOTHING going for him heading into Wrestlemania, unless Heidenreich/Snitsky vs. Undertaker/Kane gets restarted (which it may). Kane, ever since his break up with X-Pac as a tag team, has had nothing going for him and remains the most wasted WWE character on the roster. Especially the long term damage of being Triple H's bitch (Necrophilia and being unmasked by HHH, namely) and selling offense for Shane McMahon. Oh yeah, the squash by the Undertaker at Wrestlemania 20 did nothing for him as well.
In the ring, Muhammad Hassan was about to cut another cheapheat promo, but he should have noted that Simon Dean already sucked a lot of cheapheat out of the building already. Oh, by the way, an emailer asked about Hassan's name. No, that was NOT a name of a 9/11 hijacker. The WWE would be in serious water from that. If you Google or Yahoo his name, you'll see it come up in various places. It seems to be a combination of names OR a shortening of names, as I saw in one place where both Muhammad and Hassan were a part of someone's name with 4 words. The WWE would really be feeling the media heat if they decided to use a fanatical Muslim name. Then again, doesn't the WWE want mainstream media attention with this gimmick? Hassan boasts about his undefeated streak and says nobody on RAW can beat him. However, Chris Benoit responds and accepts Hassan's challenge. A brawl ensues and 2 on 1 seems to be bigger odds for even Benoit to handle. Camel Clutch applied on Benoit to end the segment, and a match seems to be made for next week (?). It would be a crime for both Benoit and Jericho to put over a guy who isn't ready in the ring. Yeah, he's getting tremendous heat, but it's cheapheat. It's NOT adding to business in the longrun. I'm all for putting over new superstars, too, but only when they are absolutely ready to take that spot. In addition, Benoit was the World Champion for a healthy chunk of 2004...
Very good tag match between Randy Orton/Shawn Michaels vs. Edge/Christian. The WWE is CRAZY for not putting Christian back together with Edge and pushing both guys together. They were insanely over as heels together back in the day, so why not recognize that fact and use it? The WWE must be content with keeping Christian in the midcard, or Christian is content with being in the midcard. Proof of how effective they can be together was the fans remembering the Conchairto they tried on Michaels. I enjoyed the tag match, as it proves my point with Edge and Christian together. The match ended with the Conchairto missing and Christian eventually getting Superkicked for Orton/HBK to win. Crowd was well into this match as well...
Backstage, Edge jumped HBK. A rematch coming up on RAW??? I guess you have to keep churning out good television matches leading up to Wrestlemania. Remember how I mentioned a ladder match possibility for Randy Orton earlier? What are the odds that Edge vs. Randy Orton in a Ladder Match might happen at Wrestlemania? I'm guessing Edge will wrestle Orton at Wrestlemania, based on the fact that neither guy has a set opponent yet.
Next, it was Chris Masters vs. Stevie Richards. Whenever you see Richards out there on RAW, you KNOW he's going to lose. Why bother to watch? Masters actually looks larger in muscle mass in his promos and looked like a regular wrestler. In fact, in my room, I have a PWI 1996 King of the Ring poster with Steve Austin on it and back then, he was wearing white boots, black knee pads, and black tights. What was Chris Masters wearing? Same thing. Like it makes a difference, but my point is that Masters brings nothing new to the table and using a full nelson as his finisher proves my point. Now, if he were to invert the full nelson like it were a camel clutch, that would be a devastating move. Masters took Richards to his knees, but that was it. Just another victim of what is becoming a poor developmental system at Ohio Valley Wrestling. I don't blame the wrestlers... I blame the system and the WWE officials who tell their wrestlers to work a certain way when the wrestlers aren't capable of changing their style from what they've learned in the past elsewhere.
The final match of the night was Shelton Benjamin vs. Gene Snitsky, the rematch from last week's RAW. This match, though, showed a lot more intensity from Benjamin, as he seemed amped for this match. Very short match, this time, as Shelton gets revenge on Snitsky and returns the favor with a sick chairshot, just like last week. Benjamin had an intense look on his face afterward. I suppose you have to get mean when you're facing a bastard like Snitsky. Could this be Shelton's Wrestlemania match?
Backstage, Triple H admitted to getting the Smackdown footage AND for setting up a white limo to look like JBL's limo. Flair gave him props for being a genius, but then the camera zoomed back to show us that Batista was listening in on HHH/Flair the whole time. Good camera work... Yes, this situation was predictable that HHH was behind the whole thing... But this storyline has been brewing since December and the slow build up of Batista to finally turn on HHH/Flair has been extremely well done. I give the WWE props.
The last segment of the show was the Batista Wrestlemania contract signing. Both Teddy Long and Eric Bischoff were both in the ring by a table and both with contracts in their hands. Batista then came out, with HHH/Flair behind him. Bischoff more or less begged Batista to stay, while Teddy Long presented a nice case to join Smackdown and feud with the likes of John Cena, Kurt Angle, Eddie Guerrero... but then he said "Undertaker". Mentioning the Undertaker would have made me sign the RAW contract immediately! Triple H then got aggressive and tried to talk some sense into Batista by discussing the past. For instance, when HBK was the WWF champion, Degeneration X would have ruled the industry if say Triple H won the WCW title back in 1997 or 1998. Good point. Batista at first hinted that he would sign the Smackdown contract by dropping the RAW one, but fooled HHH/Flair and immediately came after them with an attack! (Nice play of the Orton turn with the thumbs up and then thumbs down by Batista, too) Flair was thrown out of the ring while Triple H was powerbombed through the table! Well done segment and a nice finish to the nicely drawn out face turn for Batista. This is how you SHOULD build up someone to the main event scene and NOT shoving a not ready wrestler down people's throats, as the WWE did with Randy Orton.
LAST WORD: I liked two things on this show... Edge/Christian vs. Orton/HBK and the end stuff with Batista. I could have done without the rest of the show with its so-so wrestling (namely the shortness of matches and odd match-ups) and just nothing noteworthy to build up someone else's Wrestlemania path, outside of HBK, HHH, and Batista. The WWE has more than a month away to hype the show, but the rest of the roster just seems to be without a direction on where to go next. I'll go [ C+ ] based on two items that I liked.
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