Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears... I come praise wrestling, not to bury it! Welcome to the Wrath of Tito, as we carry on 6+ years of wrestling column excellence! In today's column, we'll discuss Monday Night RAW, wrestling news, and other issues involving professional wrestling. For those who missed it, I finally got around to my Book Special column, in which I reviewed 2 recent wrestling books and discussed a bunch of books that I've read.
Before we get to the wrestling news and views, let me first apologize. I've been rather harsh to NWA-TNA. For a fed that I refuse to regularly watch, I should take the advice of "if you have nothing to say, don't say it at all". In addition, I've screwed up commenting on recent TNA news, such as recent released wrestlers. I apologize to TNA for bad press. I was NOT pressured into apologizing. I had a few good conversations with NWA-TNA fans over e-mail or instant messenger regarding some of the stuff that I've said and simply decided to get my record straight.
For the shows I've watched, I haven't been that impressed. I caught a handful of the first few months worth of shows on FOX Sports as well as watching some of the Pay Per View telecasts. From those shows, the style of spot-after-spot became tiresome to me. When I read results now, I'm troubled when I read the results to see that Jeff Jarrett is still on top of his own promotion. I HATE Jeff Jarrett. I've never been a big fan of his, as I thought he was a dull wrestler back in the 1990's and he wasn't great while he was in WCW. He was a decent worker and I've liked his matches against the likes of Sting and Shawn Michaels, but overall, he bores me. That probably has a slanted bias against the company, as I'll insist that Jarrett has never been a draw. The WWE thought nothing of him back in 1999 and purposely let his contract run out even when he had his best storyline ever: beating up women. He was a failure in WCW and his thirst to be champion often in TNA (3 time champion in a span of 3 years, and has held the title the majority of TNA's tenure) doesn't strike me as something I want to watch. This is in addition to a bunch of old WCW guys still running around and I have no desire to see them wrestle any longer.
TNA, based on the stuff I've read, are NOT creating new superstars that scream "WATCH US". This was unlike ECW, who has guys like Tazz, Tommy Dreamer, Sandman, Raven, the Eliminators, Sabu, Rob Van Dam, Dudley Boys, etc. who were larger than life characters who you could get behind. In addition, they were guys repackaged from past feds or seriously came out of nowhere. TNA, with the exception of AJ Styles, has a bunch of guys, in my opinion, who aren't sticking out within the roster, outside of their in-ring ability. Instead, the majority of the wrestlers are under the thumb of Jeff "I must be champion all of the time" Jarrett and are unable to elevate to the top. People talk about a glass ceiling in the WWE. Is it as bad as Jarrett in TNA, who seems to be good at making a strong midcard in TNA, but nobody getting elevated to the top?
That's my take on TNA. If some of the things come off as slanderous, ignorant, or offensive, then I'm sorry. I'll state this one more time: I WANT TO WATCH NWA-TNA!!!!!!!!!!!. But, I lack a reason to check it out and there are no superstars on the roster, outside of AJ Styles and Diamond Dallas Page out of longtime respect for DDP, that I want to tune in to see. I want to watch TNA, but the current booking climate isn't presenting a 2nd wrestling option to me as of right now. Please make me a fan, TNA! I'm begging you!!!
-Ok, now that my TNA apology is out of the way, it's time for the BIG NEWS OF THE WEEK. Of course, what tops Hogan returning to the WWE for Wrestlemania 21? Nothing... but the battle over Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) reunions is very noteworthy. Shane Douglas, longtime WWE critic ever since "Dean" Douglas fell victim to backstage politics in the WWF, is holding an ECW reunion show on June 10th, 2005 at the ECW arena. A week later, the WWE version of an ECW Pay Per View will be held somewhere in New York. The struggle over ECW talent appears to be the biggest problem. The WWE has a good bit of ECW wrestlers on their roster, like the Dudley Boys, Rob Van Dam (although injured), Tommy Dreamer (retired), Stevie Richards, Tazz (retired/injured), Rhyno, Tajiri, and probably a few others. Meanwhile, Shane Douglas has Bill Alfonzo, Justin Credible, Terry Funk, Sabu, Francine, Johnny Grunge, JT Smith, and Gary Wolfe confirmed for his show.
The WWE has enlisted former ECW great and now road agent Tommy Dreamer to acquire former ECW wrestlers to appear on the WWE filtered Pay Per View. Given how good the ECW DVD has sold, there IS demand from longtime fans to see ECW guys together one more time. Thus, the WWE felt that an ECW Pay Per View would be a great idea. However, key stars won't be showing up. The guys employed by the WWE aren't enough. Many of the wrestlers turned down by the WWE or who were against big corporate feds are highly unlikely to work a WWE-ECW show. I'm sure Justin Credible and Raven are highly bitter about their WWE careers. Speaking of Raven, it's very unlikely that NWA-TNA would lend Raven/Sandman to the WWE for a filtered ECW show. Not happening. Look for both Raven and Sandman to join up with Shane Douglas in the near future.
The WWE version of the ECW show will be an ultimate failure. However, Shane Douglas's reunion show at the ECW arena WILL be a major success. Douglas is likely to have more pieces to the ECW puzzle than the WWE, as well as more fan support. The ECW DVD worked because the WWE, for the most part, stayed out of it and let the former ECW guys talk and the WWE production crew made great use out of the ECW highlights. However, this Pay Per View will fail because it will lack the majority of the talent who made ECW successful. Score a victory for Shane Douglas, as Tommy Dreamer will have a great problem finding former ECW greats who are willing to do a second ECW reunion show in the span of 10 days. It's a sweet victory for those who hate the WWE machine... then again, ECW, the fed, no longer exists and the WWE is making the most money out of that promotion than those wrestlers ever have.
-I wouldn't make much out of the Lita and Matt Hardy stuff about their relationship problems. Maybe it's the WWE trying to protect the business by acting as though they are no longer a couple. Why would Lita and Matt make their dirty laundry so public? Take it from Torrie Wilson and Billy Kidman... about 8 fans out of 10 would be shocked that those two are married in real life.
-Stevie Richards was the unfortunate victim of working with a very green Chris Masters last week. Want proof of that? A broken nose that requires surgery to repair. Richards has been disrespected by the WWE from day one, and this is another example. This time, making Richards a jobber to a very green wrestler has caused a wrestler to be on the sidelines, thus hurting his ability to make money. The Ohio Valley Wrestling system might need a few repairs, as its wrestlers seem more green than ever and are taking a long time to establish themselves in the WWE. Guys like Masters, Tyson Tomko, John Heidenreich, and even Gene Snitsky are showing how NOT ready they are once they hit the WWE ropes. It took several years for Batista to develop and Randy Orton's abilities weren't polished enough once a push came his way. The system, although it has a produced a few gems, needs some retooling of sorts before more wrestlers get injured or more failures happen.
-No Surreal Life 4 this week!!! Damn Vh1 chickening out because of the Academy Awards, as they replayed the first episode. VH1 hasn't aired new episodes during the last Superbowl and Academy Awards... Like those are big events or something? I actually can't wait to see this episode because I have a feeling X-Pac will show his true colors. Yeah, Chyna has a lot of personal demons and a definite drug/alcohol problem, but Sean Waltman isn't anything close to perfect. In fact, he's way off and you'll see that on the next episode.
-I watched chunks of Smackdown this week... ABC had a UFO special, which I found highly disappointing, so I didn't fully watch Smackdown. From what I saw, it wasn't too bad. I'm VERY happy that Linda McMahon kept Teddy Long as the General Manager of Smackdown. Long is great in that role and it's a shame his interactions with Eric Bischoff are over regarding Batista. I'm starting to really like JBL as of late, with the exception of "I'm a wrestling God". Cena vs. JBL, in my mind, has the potential of being a strong feud for Wrestlemania 21. Luther Reigns and Mark Jindrak seem soooo out of place on the Smackdown roster...
-Here's the current or projected Wrestlemania 21 line-up:
-Batista vs. Triple H for RAW title
-Bradshaw vs. John Cena for Smackdown title
-Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels
-Randy Orton vs. Undertaker
-Chris Jericho's 6 way Ladder Match
So far, so good... You also have the Hall of Famers showing up on RAW and Piper's Pit featuring Steve Austin. It's safe to assume that Trish and Christy Hemme will have some sort of bout, even though Hemme isn't being presented as a legit contender against Trish. We'll see if Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero happens, especially for a one on one enounter. The WWE tends to avoid undercard one on one matches since Wrestlemania 15. Overall, though, I'm looking forward to BOTH Championship matches and Angle vs. HBK. Now, if those Tag Titles and Intercontinental Title could be marketed correctly...
On to RAW... before I forget, congrats to wrestling writer Scott Keith on hearing wedding bells recently. Hopefully, there are no hard feelings about my recent review of his book, even though I insist that it was a very honest review.
A total squash, with the match ending with Triple H pedigreeing Hurricane on the steel rampway. Looks like the Hurricane is getting his WWE release soon, as the WWE later showed Hurricane getting pinned by "Mighty" Molly Holly for the Hardcore Title during a Wrestlemania moment. GOOD. Let the WWE release him and for someone, say TNA, to pick up Shane Helms and actually appreciate the talent and charisma he actually has. Being a former WCW guy, Hurricane was never given a chance. He was given the Superhero gimmick as a joke and it actually became popular! Ever since the gimmick took off, he's been the WWE squash guy for over 3 years now.
The first match of the night was Muhammad Hassan vs. Chris Benoit. This match showed how truly green Hassan is. Benoit can carry any wrestler to a good match. Take Sid Vicious... Nobody but Shawn Michaels and Chris Benoit made Sid look good in the ring. Hassan was incapable of working against Benoit, screwing up timing here or there. The most embarrassing spot was Hassan laying on the ground with the bell, as he was leaning away from Benoit as he was using the flying headbutt. Completely missed! Benoit, thankfully, kicked out of the botched spot and Hassan disqualified himself with a lowblow. THANK GOD. I don't know how I'd take Benoit losing to Hassan, at least during this point in time. Hassan is nothing more than shock value with his gimmick. Once he's in the ring, he's just another green Ohio Valley Wrestling guy.
To keep adding inductees to the Hall of Fame, thus further discrediting it, the WWE announced that Hulk Hogan would be added to the list. As I said it before, the reason why the Baseball Hall of Fame is the most respected HoF in the nation is because of how tough it is to get in. In addition, baseball never overdoes it on inductees. You'll NEVER see more than 4 guys getting in, if that. It's usually 1-3 guys getting in every year. With Pro Football, many argue that letting in an automatic 5 inductees every year tarnishes the hall. The WWE should have thought this process through. Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper should be the guys you announce FIRST, not the guys you announce last. Politics and money have come into play on both Piper and Hogan being added when they should have been announced earlier. It cheapens the process to announce 5 guys and then later say "we're adding these guys, too". The WWE should have waited until Wrestlemania 22 to induct Hogan and Piper. Make the Hall of Fame inductions centered around them instead of what's happening now. Poor Orndorf, Volkoff, Hart, Sheik, and Bob Orton, whose inductions now mean nothing and are very overshadowed by Piper and Hogan now being at Wrestlemania. The WWE should have waited one more year for Hogan and Piper... then again, given wrestler fatality rates these days, maybe it's good to induct them now?
The next bout was a finisher to the Gene Snitsky vs. Shelton Benjamin feud. Seemed like a short match and Benjamin beat him cleanly to probably end the feud. Is Snitsky in the WWE doghouse? Given that this was the third match of a feud that involved two very violent endings to the previous matches, the WWE didn't exactly hype this rematch. At least Benjamin gets a credible clean win to further his reign as Intercontinental Champion. I'm all for elevating Shelton Benjamin.
The WWE then announced that Steve Austin will be on Roddy Piper's Piper's Pit for Wrestlemania 21. Didn't Jericho, by the way, slam Piper's Pit a few years ago when first introducing the Highlight Reel? Anyway, that's TWO big rushed announcements regarding Wrestlemania. Both involves two of the biggest WWE wrestlers of all time, with merchandise sales to prove it: Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan. Way to build up these two announcements, WWE! Again, politics and money are getting involved with what should be easy decisions regarding WHO is showing up for Wrestlemania 21. What's next, the Rock will just so happen to be there?
Next, it was Chris Masters beating up on a Ring of Honor guy (as I'm told). A waste of time match, as Masters isn't showing anyone why he's called the "Masterpiece". He just looks uneasy in the ring and he has zero charisma. Ohhhhh, he's muscular!! Big deal, so is the rest of the WWE roster, including Stevie Richards, whom Masters injured last week. Send this guy back to OVW unless the WWE creative team has better ideas how to market this guy OR if someone can instantly teach him how to work a match.
Batista came down to the ring, huge pop and everything. Huge "Batista" chants later on, which was a BIG DIFFERENCE between Batista's push and Orton's push. Nobody was cheering for Orton... After a short while of talking for Batista, Ric Flair and Triple H came down to the ring. Flair entered the ring and took a whooping while the inconsistent heel named Triple H played chicken outside of the ring. Batista pounded the old man greatly, hitting both the spinebuster and sitdown on Flair. That would set up Batista vs. Flair for next week, which is a MAJOR MISTAKE to book that match for RAW in North Carolina. This was the kind of segment that needs to build up HHH vs. Batista and NOT the earlier segment with HHH talking and squashing Hurricane.
Next match was Chris Jericho vs. Maven. Another somewhat short match and Chris Jericho actually wins a match for a change. WOW. At least the WWE has given up on Maven, whose lack of improvement does not merit him a push these days. After the match, Jericho said he had a challenge for 5 other wrestlers to join him at Wrestlemania 21 in a match involving a steel ladder. It's the usual "put a bunch of wrestlers together for a match to get in on the Wrestlemania payoff" kind of deal.
NICE Wrestlemania 21 promo parodying "A Few Good Men", with John Cena constantly asking JBL about Basham/Orlando Jordan interference. Possibly the best one yet, although Eugene's parody was fantastic. The HHH/Flair one was the worst so far, while the Stacy Keibler one was good, but a bit too long and repetitive on the Mae Young joke.
Christy Hemme came out to ZERO POP to unveil her Playboy cover. The WWE fans don't care about her, as the WWE has shoved her down throats long enough. I personally think she looks good, but she's not hot enough for me to pay to see her in Playboy. I'd pay for Stacy Keibler, Jackie Gayda, Trish Stratus, Torrie Wilson, and maybe Dawn Marie... The Diva Contestants look great in their own right, but none of them have that added something that the ones I just suggested have. This segment was thankfully saved by Trish Stratus, who had a mix of heel and face pops. She's easily the best heel in the WWE, but fans are starting to cheer for her because she has no rival on her level. Lita, probably the most popular face women's wrestler, was the only one fans have really been behind lately. The WWE fans HATED the Diva Search contest and Trish's attacks on Christy Hemme are actually welcomed. I was figuring Trish would give Hemme the old "spraypaint to the eyes", but instead, she Trishkicked the bejesus out of Hemme and spraypainted "SLUT" on Hemme's back.
Backstage, as WELL DONE segment featured Superstar Billy Graham and Randy Orton talking backstage. Good to see Graham in good health and in good relations with the WWE. Graham suggested that Orton do something out of the ordinary for Wrestlemania, and Orton suggested he had something in mind. As Orton left the room, he purposely dropped his Smackdown magazine with the Undertaker on the cover. Wow, the WWE is actually going through with Randy Orton being the first to defeat the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. The WWE, and namely Orton's lord and master Triple H, are trying everything in the book to make Orton become a bonified superstar. Now, they'll put him over the Undertaker? Well, ok.... I'm all for Undertaker actually putting over somebody, but Orton needs a lot more in-ring work before he deserves yet another big push. Beating the Undertaker will certainly give Orton a big push, at least in the creative team's minds.
The main event saw Shawn Michaels vs. Edge in a "Street Fight". Nice oldschool throwback here with both Michaels and Edge wrestling in street clothes as opposed to their regular attire. Pretty good one on one television bout and Shawn Michaels sure knows how to blade. I disagree with the Michaels victory, though, as this match just made Edge's Royal Rumble victory over Michaels disappear before our very eyes. In addition, I would have booked Kurt Angle to screw Michaels out of the match. Instead, he attacked afterward. But at least Kurt Angle and Michaels FINALLY interacted in a live fashion after the Royal Rumble. Angle beat the living crap out of Michaels, getting blood all over his suit (pretty sick stuff!). Angle grabbed the mic and said he accepted Michaels's challenge. I'll say it again... Kudos to the WWE for listening to fans and giving us this match.
LAST WORD: Poor wrestling this week, with the exception of the main event. The storylines were hit or miss... Some things with Wrestlemania are being rushed or half-assed, as Wrestlemania should be taken more seriously. I'll go [ C ] on this show, as I suggest that the WWE book better matches for RAW. Chris Masters and Muhammad Hassan need a lot more work...
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