I, love, RAW in Japan... Bill Belichick is the man... the next victim of the quadriceps injury is Vince McMahon... AND TWINS! Welcome to the Wrath of Tito, the column that is a dish that's best served cold. I actually read a new Star Trek book lately about Khan (called "The Reign in Hell") and I've been on a Khan high ever since. Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan is my favorite movie of all time and this column is aptly named after that movie. If you haven't seen that movie yet, give it a try and I guarantee that you'd like it. At least not for the Trek cast, but for the fantastic performance of Ricardo Montalban. Anyway, today's column, we'll discuss the latest news in professional wrestling, Monday Night RAW, but NOT Surreal Life 4. It's not that I'm stopping the reviews, but I have yet to see the most recent show. Maybe it wasn't on because of the Superbowl in competition? Regardless, this will be a Chyna-free edition of the Wrath of Tito, for once.
-THE BIG NEWS OF THE WEEK is Brock Lesnar suing the WWE regarding his no-compete clause in his WWE contract. After your contract runs out with the WWE, a 90 day or sometimes a year no-compete clause begins and it states that you cannot wrestle for another wrestling or fighting promotion for that period of time. Brock Lesnar, for instance, can't take an indy date, fight in mixed martial arts, or wrestle for NWA-TNA because his WWE contract and no-compete clause disallow him from legally doing so.
No-compete clauses aren't just in professional wrestling. If you're aware of television markets, news broadcasters often have no-compete clauses within a local market. In my area, we have a NBC affiliate and a CBS affiliate running as our local news broadcasters. One guy tried to make the leap from NBC to CBS, but he had to wait an entire year to make the jump within the same market.
Why are no-compete clauses out there? Because the former employer, you can argue, was instrumental in building up the said talent. Then, that talent jumps over to another network or federation but is recognized for his or her performances at the former employer. This could enact fans, advertisers, or whomever else to switch stations or federations to watch, thus crippling the former employer who was instrumental in building the person up. In the case of Brock Lesnar, outside of amateur wrestling circles, who would know of Lesnar outside of him being a WWE wrestler? If he jumped to NWA-TNA for instance, everyone will remember his WWE successes and NWA-TNA will be getting the rub from his WWE successes. It's like Nash/Hall jumping over to WCW in 1996 directly after their contracts ran out and everybody thought they were still in the WWE and were real outsiders. Same applies to Lex Luger who jumped over to WCW immediately after his contract ran out with the WWE, thus screwing the WWE in return as Luger was a big name from their roster at the time.
Lesnar argues that the no-compete clause hinders his ability to make money as a professional wrestler. It's somewhat like Maurice Clarett saying that the NFL 3 years rule hinders his opportunity to persue an NFL career and make money as a football player. Unless Lesnar takes a deal from the WWE, who believes his market value has diminished due to a failed NFL attempt, he'll be unable to fight or wrestle. What other skills does Lesnar have to make several million dollars per year? Nothing but professional wrestling. I wouldn't doubt that Lesnar will tap the ACLU (whom I believe does more harm than good, but they have won some big cases), and if Lesnar breaks his no-compete clause, it could be a landmark decision for any industry that uses no-compete clauses. NWA-TNA would be frothing at the mouth, too, because they could finally pick off some WWE talent. The compete clause hurts any free agent from using their WWE career as a benefit in another federation.
Where I think Lesnar is screwed, though, was when he signed an agreement to get out of his WWE contract to play NFL football. When he left after Wrestlemania 20, he signed an agreement to further enact the no-compete clause which stated that Lesnar couldn't use his WWE starpower in another wrestling federation if his NFL career fails or busts. Lesnar has no other options right now, at least for another year or so, than to wrestle with the World Wrestling Entertainment. It's hard to say if Lesnar can win this lawsuit because his signature is on both his contract and the extra agreement. It completely indicts him and should enable the WWE to keep Lesnar out of the wrestling market for a while, unless Lesnar comes back to the WWE.
But what good would it be for Lesnar to come back to the WWE? The WWE is currently lowballing him on money offers, thinking his market value isn't worth it based on his NFL failure. The WWE also released his fiance, Sable, ironically after Lesnar made his negative WWE comments during a NFL training camp. Plus, even if Lesnar does take a deal with the WWE, will he be happy? In addition to getting paid less, Lesnar was unhappy with the direction the company was going after Wrestlemania 20. Lesnar was going to feud and completely job to the Undertaker, a guy whom Lesnar has fought many times already. Secondly, Lesnar was upset at the grueling road schedule. Now, he'll come back to a situation that was upset with the way he left, a place he took to court, and a place he badmouthed during a NFL training camp? At this point, Lesnar would be MISERABLE if he returned to the WWE, especially since it's very likely that the WWE wouldn't quite push him to the top (even though based on his look and past portfolio, how could you not?).
Keep an eye on this situation, for Lesnar vs. the WWE could get very interesting. In addition, if the lawsuit favors the WWE, which I think it will, Lesnar's possible WWE return would be very interesting to watch.
-So, Amy Weber handed in her resignation to the WWE? And she is who? **looks at WWE.com profiles to figure out who she is and what roster she's on** Oh shit, Amy is the one who is JBL's image consultant on Smackdown. I actually liked her character and role in that group. Oh well... It just goes to show you that the WWE is making a big mistake by bringing in a bunch of primadonnas from the Diva Contest who have zero respect for the wrestling business. It's unlike someone like say Victoria, who started off as a Godfather Ho but trained for several years down in Ohio Valley Wrestling to become an actual wrestler. It's unlike Trish Stratus who wanted to learn about the wrestling business from day one and was hungry to learn more as each year passed by.
So long, Amy Weber. Then again, Weber could be the latest victim of the WWE's hazing, which can be a severe problem and very tasteless at times for newcomers.
-Congrats to Booker T on his marriage to Sharmell Sullivan, better known to wrestling fans as Paisley in WCW. It's great to this when being on the road can present no personal life for professional wrestlers. Often, wrestlers and female personalities/wrestlers will fall in love and make something of it. For instance, you have HHH and Stephanie McMahon, who are very happily married. How about Billy Kidman and Torrie Wilson? Steve Austin and Debra McMichael for a while, but that went South once Austin walked out of the WWE. Chris Benoit and Nancy Sullivan, even though that broke up another marriage. How about the KISS Demon and Asya? And many, many more that actually work out... My very best wishes go out to Booker T and Paisley.
I know there are a lot of failures with backstage relationships and marriages... but some, as I've listed, have worked out very well.
-I did a double-take when I heard that former Survivor cast member Johnny Fairplay has contacted the WWE for a job in the company. First of all, Survivor WINNERS have a problem extending their 15 minutes of fame, let alone the losers on the show. In addition, Fairplay hasn't exactly struck up interest with his role on NWA-TNA, nor is he that popular outside of Survivor. If he gets a job in the WWE, more power to him. I don't see the worth, however, because he's not setting the world on fire outside of Survivor. While he may be a favorite of hardcore Survivor fans, it's very unlikely that those fans are wrestling fans as well. Fairplay isn't just some oddball cast member trying to get into wrestling. Fairplay has been a longtime wrestling fan and he used to run an audio show, and for a while, LordsofPain.net hosted his show and probably gave him his most internet publicity back in the day. My experience in dealing with him was this: I didn't care for the guy. While he was a good audio show host, his head had a tendency to swell up on occasion (and he wasn't in character acting this way) and that probably led to his demise on LoP. If he gets a WWE job, good for him... however, I'm not sure if it's worth bringing him in or how long he could hold the job.
-The WWE listed their Hall of Fame inductees recently, and they include:
Mr. Wonderful, Paul Orndoff
-The Iron Sheik
-Cowboy Bob Orton
Basically, your hall of fame list comprises of guys who are in good relations with the WWE. I don't believe Orndorf and the WWE have ever had bad blood, even though Orndorf was more or less cut out of the WWE once his feud with Hogan was over. Sheik and Volkoff, I believe, were in the gimmick battle royal during Wrestlemania 17, and haven't had bad relations, with the exception of Sheik's bad drug problems that forced his exit from the company during the 1980's but he later returned in 1990 under the Iraqi gimmick. Volkoff was with the company FOREVER. Cowboy Bob Orton definitely has good relations with the WWE, thanks in part to how they've given his son, Randy Orton, a good position in the company. And finally, Jimmy Hart is a very easy going guy and only went to WCW for all of those years due to his friendship with Hulk Hogan. Hart was a very effective manager in his day.
Any snubs? OF COURSE! Bruno Sammartino doesn't want the spot, even though he deserves it more than anyone. Someone needs to slap some sense into him, even though I do admire him for never associating himself with the WWE after saying so. Still, he's a foundation member of the WWE and was a big player during a more mat based style of wrestling. Hulk Hogan, of course, is snubbed, but his position with the company is based on money. Hogan wants a big contract and return to the ring. In his mind, I believe, is that he'd rather keep wrestling instead of showing up for ONE Hall of Fame appearance. Bret Hart is a big snub, but he'll only be inducted once he officially shows interest in joining the WWE again. I think a DVD release of his best work and photo usage for his book will all change that in the long run. I think you could make strong cases for Jim Duggan (who is STILL in fantastic shape), Ricky Steamboat (if NWA/WCW career is included), Randy Savage, Roddy Piper, Bob Backlund, Haku, Davey Boy Smith, and Ric Flair, once he finally retires. I'm sure there are more names to throw out there...
It is somewhat sad, though, that the Hall of Fame is tarnished by the fact that relations with the company comes into play. Yeah, you might disagree with the company's current direction OR the direction of the company at the time you left, but why let that get in the way of your past accomplishments? The fact that the WWE wants to honor the blood and guts given to them in the past should be respectable enough for say Bruno Sammartino. Plus, you can make money off the honor of being a Hall of Famer, much like many professional players do. Think about it.
To this day, I still laugh that the WWE put in Pete Rose as a Hall of Famer. That's hilarious and a unique move on their part.
Not much else to say...
While Japan crowds seem to be quiet for a lot of wrestling events, and that's a sign of respect, it seems as though the WWE's increased coverage in Japan is starting to, shall I say, Americanize Japanese fans? Some of them were getting loud and many KNEW the American fan maneurisms, such as the "Whoooo" for when somebody gives their opponent a chop. I bet the WWE was happy to do a show in Japan because they could finally turn on all of the lights in the arena to show a sold out house. The WWE hasn't sold out a RAW here in the states for quite some time... The WWE's increased coverage in Japan should be interesting to see how it affects the local feds in that country, like NOAH, New Japan, and All Japan (hopefully, none of those feds are defunct... if one is, sorry for the mishap).
The show started off with Eric Bischoff announcing the matches and the Japanese interpreter was getting boos. That's quite hilarious... And we start the show with the first match...
The first bout of the night was a Submission match between Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho. Pretty solid technical bout between the two, even though I'd suggest that they don't have that great chemistry together that we once saw before Benoit hurt his neck. Odd note that Jim Ross was using the term "clubbing blows" often last night, as that's a Michael Cole phrase. Shows that the front office wanted to make the term an official part of the wrestling language? Chris Benoit FINALLY got a meaningfun win, too, by making Jericho tap to a very sloppy version of the Crossface. Japan fans seemed to really pop for whenever Benoit slapped on that hold.
Backstage, Triple H has second thoughts about sending Batista to Smackdown, but Ric Flair reconvinces Triple H that it's a good idea so that they may "rule the wrestling world". HHH agrees with Flair...
Also backstage, Christian and Tyson Tomko were talking with a Japanese reporter. Funny stuff with Christian declaring his Japanese Peeps as "Jeeps". I about spit out the Sunkist on that one. They approach Stacy Keibler and after a war of words, Christian tells Stacy to tell Orton to meet him in the ring. But it's a match for Tomko, not Christian. GOOD. They already have Orton wrestling in the midcard, where he should be.
I don't know, the "Braveheart/Shrek" parody isn't that funny. Now, the Eugene acting as Forest Gump, that's comedy. But the Braveheart speech went on for too long... And I'm curious, when are the Smackdown guys going to get commercial spots?
The next match was a squasher with Maven vs. Batista. Batista's music just pumps you up before he hits the ring. I even considered buying the recent WWE theme CD just for that theme, but it's not on there. Not that I'm suggesting anything here, but it would be nice if there was a place I could find that song, if you know what I mean... Quick squash here, as Batista finished Maven off with the sitdown Powerbomb (which looks mighty impressive in Gamecube's "Day of Reckoning"). After this match, a segment aired on the Titantron that had the Big Show talking trash on Batista, and it pissed off Batista to the point where he confronted Eric Bischoff about it. Bischoff asked him not to leave RAW and he said he'd get to the bottom of who is airing the videos. Gee, who could it be? Who would tempt Batista to not wrestle Triple H at Wrestlemania? Oh no... could it be? Triple H is setting up these videos? Noo... it couldn't be!
Next, we had William Regal/Tajiri vs. La Resistance. Tajiri was CRAZY OVER with his home crowd and the crowd put great emphasis on the match. Decent tag, as I was surprised to see Tajiri using the chop. I've never seen him use the chop, or even moreso, that often. Nice to see the mist and Jim Ross declaring "shades of the Great Kabuki" (excuse the misspelling, if it happened). Tajiri/Regal won the titles, thus hotshotting the Tag Titles once again. The WWE, this time, didn't reverse the decision. After the match, Tajiri and Regal tried to enter the crowd for a celebration, but rabid Japanese fans immediately mauled them! Funny stuff.
The next match was Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair, which was a pretty good television bout between the two. It's a shame Flair can't use a time machine to make himself 10-20 years younger to wrestle a match against present day Shawn Michaels. Of course, you can see a very young HBK wrestling Ric Flair during the 1992 Royal Rumble for a few moments. Eventually, after the trademark Flair attacks, Michaels finished off Flair easily with the Sweet Chin Music.
Next, it was the "American Fashion Show" between Terri Runnels 2005 (I can't remember her name!), Christy Hemme, and Victoria. Out of those 3 ladies, you can still give me Victoria as my first choice. She looked great in the biker gear, even though Christy was SMOKIN' in her bikini. By the way, I wonder if the WWE is happy about Christy Hemme using Trimspa and that company publicizing before and after pictures? I also have to say that Anna Nicole Smith is getting TOO skinny, as she looked a lot better with a little meat on her bones during her Playboy prime years. Now, she looks sick. Anyway, the contest was about to get underway until Simon Dean came out and began insulting "fat" Japanese fans... until he saw the sumo wrestler ringside and quickly changed his words. Great line delivered by Jerry Lawler during this segment about Victoria being compared to a motorcycle speeding ticket with "fine" written all over it. Simon Dean personally insulted each WWE diva out there and that would eventually prompt Christy to hit Simon in the nuts to end the segment. Simon HAS the mic skills. It's a question of whether the WWE will let him wrestle or not.
Backstage, HHH talks with Batista about going to Smackdown and taking the title. Batista says he'll "think about it".
The next match was Tyson Tomko vs. Randy Orton. They played up the stupid concussion angle for Orton, as he doesn't know when or how to sell it. Tomko actually looked a little more polished this time around, as it's showing that the houseshow circuit is helping the guy out. It's a shame that dumbass ruined his body with all of those ridiculous tattoos, thus forever holding back his character based on looks. Orton, trying to sell like he's braindead (he must have been braindead from the start!), beat Tomko. After the match, Christian jumped Orton and I say "FANTASTIC" because Orton has been officially demoted to the midcard. Thank God, as I know it was a bitter pill for HHH to swallow to put his real life friend and apprentice, Randy Orton, in that position of demotion.
Decent main event between Edge vs. Triple H. I'm still a bit angered that the WWE shot the load on this match already, but the ending of the match might give Edge some extra bitterness. They went back and forth and seemed to work well together, and Edge lost after some well planned interference by Batista. During the match, the chair got involved and Batista took the chair out of the ring. Batista turned his back to contemplate what to do with the chair, and that caused HHH to knock Edge into Batista. Batista, though, thought Edge jumped into him and thus gave Edge the spinebuster to help HHH eventually win the match. Fit will hit the Shan next week when video clips of this plays during a segment... good stuff! After the match, though, Batista stares down HHH in the ring with the title belt. I can't wait until they officially pull the trigger on the face turn for Batista.
LAST WORD: Damn good show by the WWE in front of the Japanese crowd. Good continued storylines and actual good wrestling this week earns this show a grade of an [ A ]. Good stuff, as I ask if the WWE could tour Japan more often? The RAW side looks excellent heading into Wrestlemania, even though I would love to see some kind of Angle/HBK interaction in the very near future. That match could seriously help boom the buyrates.
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