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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Confessions Of A Budding TNA Fan

"You publicly admitted that you like TNA," read the e-mail from Adam, my longtime friend and fellow wrestling fan. "I don't think I can be your friend anymore,” he added. He was joking, of course. I think.

When I first met Adam, he was the only "TNA guy" I had ever known. He was always committed to the promotion, despite its many missteps, pratfalls, and foibles. But like a lot of folks, his faith has wavered a bit over time. I understand what it's like to be let down when expectations run high. These days, I only shell out for a handful of PPV events per year and I won’t go into detail here but some of them were … not very good. Then again, maybe I'm being too diplomatic; the TLC event was pretty awful in my book. So, I guess I can relate.

Nevertheless, despite what seems to be a fashionable trend of second-guessing and criticizing TNA booking, I feel like I have to step up and share a dissenting opinion, come what may. See, I like TNA. I like what they're doing (or, say, what they’re trying to do), I like where things are headed and I am going to proudly stick with it and expect the best from here on out.

What I see from TNA these days is a genuine effort to keep their talent visible and relevant. With so many performers and storylines in the mix, it can be a little hard to stay focused now and again, but the potential is there, for sure. Moreover, from week to week, Impact seems to consistently feature a decent range of wrestling style and skill level.

There’s an old-school vibe about this outfit that offers some of the stuff that we just aren’t seeing from WWE. It’s the “shoot style” promos that sound like they were conjured up in a locker room instead of a screenwriter’s office. It’s the evolution and development of alliances and factions that are laden with schemes and intrigue. It’s physicality and tenacity in every match, no matter how small or simple the stakes might be. That’s today’s TNA.

TNA also deserves credit for recognizing that wrestling fans are among the most nostalgic of fans on the planet. I can’t bring myself to think too badly of TNA for bringing so many of the all-time greats back to the ring. To me, EV 2.0 is exciting.I like seeing these guys stand side by side again as they fight for their legacy, both in the kayfabe sense and in reality. Watching the likes of Tommy Dreamer, Raven, Sabu, The Sandman, Stevie Richards, and Rhino as they stand side by side once again—these battered hardcore heroes who sacrificed the best years of their lives to entertain their fans—is a compelling sight in many respects.

EV 2.0’s rivalry with Flair’s Fortune seems to have great potential. There’s some real history between some of these guys. The ECW “Originals” didn’t always look upon Flair and his generation in the most favorable of respects, and they made it known to anyone and everyone who would listen back in the heyday of “The Extreme.” For his part, Flair reciprocated the disdain more than once in his distinguished career, slinging some mud in the direction of Mick Foley a time or two and publicly trashing The Sandman and others. Sometimes, real-life animosity and acrimony can make for some good stuff when the cameras are rolling. I have to admit that I cracked a broad grin when I saw Foley pounding on the “Nature Boy’s” noggin during the final melee of last week’s Impact show.

Everyone probably agrees on this particular point: TNA is far from perfect. But at the same time, the promotion is doing an admirable job of monitoring the pulse of pro wrestling and adjusting their approach every so often as they try to capture the attention and emotions of an opinionated community of fans. I’m giving credit where it’s due: TNA is pro wrestling, plain and simple.

My name is Mike Bessler and I am a TNA fan.

Mike Bessler
Contributing Writer/PWI

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Vintage Story From Our Archives ...

We're in the process of putting together our annual "Greats Of The Game" special, and I was searching for a "career-defining story" for Bret Hart when I came across this gem. I wish I had remembered having this about four months ago, but what the heck, it's still a fun read.

--Stu Saks/Publisher

From Wrestling Superstars, August 1999:

SUPERSTAR DREAM MATCH: BRET HART vs. VINCE McMAHON

COMPARING THE COMBATANTS

BRET HART

Stands 5'11" and weighs 235 pounds ... Began his pro career in 1976 ... A graduate of his father Stu's Dungeon ... Two-time former WWF Intercontinental champ ... Two-time former co-holder of the WWF tag team title with Jim Neidhart ... Five-time former WWF World champ ... Three-time former WCW U.S. champion ... Claims to have been "screwed" by Vince McMahon at the end of his WWF career.

VINCE McMAHON

Stands 6'3" and weighs 253 pounds ... Bought Capitol Wrestling Corporation from his father in 1982 and thus took over control of the WWF ... Didn't step into the ring as a wrestler until April 1998 ... Hasn't held any major titles, but has undermined the title reigns of several WWF champs, including those of Steve Austin and Bret Hart ... Claims that "Bret screwed Bret."

He called himself "the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be," and to his everlasting credit, it was more than just another wrestling boast.

Once he finally left The Hart Foundation and began to forge a solo career, Bret Hart began to realize his true potential. He captured the WWF Intercontinental title. Then the WWF World heavyweight title. Then another WWF World heavyweight title. Then a third. A fourth. A fifth.

Then he decided to leave the WWF and enter WCW.

Bad move.

It was a decision not made in haste, but one that Bret felt had to be made. In its wake, Vince McMahon decided he had to make sure Bret didn't take the WWF title with him to WCW, so he had referee Earl Hebner call for the bell as soon as Shawn Michaels applied a sharpshooter on him at Survivor Series' 97, even though Bret never submitted. He did this in front of a Canadian crowd. In front of his countrymen.

Bret was outraged. He spat at McMahon from the ring, then punched him after he returned to the dressing room area.

"McMahon screwed me," Bret said.

"Bret screwed Bret," McMahon responded.

Bret left for WCW. But the echoes of the dressing room assault remained ... until now.

WRESTLING WITH SHADOWS

When Bret Hart agreed to participate in the documentary project that ultimately resulted in the film Wrestling With Shadows, he thought it would be a learning experience. He'd always loved film, and as a teenager even harbored some dreams of working behind the camera as a producer or a director.

When events between Hart and McMahon began to unfold during the year-long shoot, the "Hitman" realized that the documentary was going to be more than a learning experience. It was going to be something of an emotional release. By baring his soul and his career on film, Hart would be able to exorcise the demons that hounded him during his last months in the World Wrestling Federation, the very demons that perched on his shoulder and whispered in his ear, "Hit him! Hit that lying scumbucket McMahon!" The very demons that cheered when he did.

When Wrestling With Shadows became as popular as it did, Hart was initially pleased. Then dismayed. The learning experience that had become an emotional release was now becoming an emotional burden. Advertisements for the videotape of the documentary peered back at him from the pages of every wrestling magazine he looked at. The Arts & Entertainment cable television channel seemed to be rerunning the film every week.

Everywhere Hart turned, there was the vivid reminder of what had been ... of the man who screwed him ... of the most humiliating moment of his career.

He was constantly forced to relive the shame and the pain. Yes, he relived the punch, that one sweet moment of physical revenge. But while Hart's shame was played out before a pay-per-view audience, his pleasure took place behind closed doors. At times, it didn't even seem real.

And it was beginning to feel like it wasn't nearly enough.

NOT A HAPPY (Mc)MAHON

WrestleMania XV was not a happy time for Vince McMahon. A new WWF World champion was crowned, and it was the one person McMahon absolutely did not want wearing the belt.

"I'm back, son, so whether you like it or don't like it, deal with it, because I'm the champ, and that's the bottom line," scraped the raspy voice of newly crowned WWF champion Steve Austin.

Austin once again was wearing the WWF World championship belt, and that meant that McMahon and "Stone-Cold" were once again on a collision course. The impact took place at SummerSlam '99, where McMahon once again donned the tights to wrestle Austin, as he had at the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

It was slated to be a cage match, and McMahon felt he had a foolproof way of making sure that Austin lost his belt. He'd rehired Paul Wight, who had since become the most dependable member of Team Corporate, to be the special referee for the match. He paid Mankind, who was still the top free agent in the WWF, to guard the cage to protect against outside interference. And he loaded up Austin's match schedule with five solid weeks of title defenses--35 straight championship matches--against the WWF's top stars, right up to the day before SummerSlam.

Austin entered the match weary and ripe for defeat. McMahon was cocky.

When the bell rang, McMahon wrestled well, even better than he did at the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. For much of the contest, it appeared that he would, indeed, defeat Austin. He scored several two-counts, but Austin was always able to kick out.

Except that ninth two-count. Austin was too exhausted to kick out. What was it that enabled him to avoid the pin? It was like some unseen force from below had ...

Exactly.

McMahon realized it too late. Someone or something under the ring had impacted Austin's body, causing him to avoid the title-losing pinfall. McMahon sneered at the canvas as if something was about to pop up from beneath the ring at any second. Paul Wight stood back, expecting an earthquake to occur.

Suddenly, McMahon felt a blistering impact on the back of his head!

Wham!

Bret Hart had delivered a clothesline from the top of the steel cage that knocked McMahon senseless. Paul Wight was stunned, but he made no moves toward the "Hitman." Mankind watched the events with a wry conspiratorial smile.

Hart pulled a pocket knife out of his boot and sliced the canvas open to reveal some bizarre mechanical device that was designed to punch up into the flooring with enormous impact ... clearly enough impact to simulate a wrestler kicking out.

The "Hitman" smiled.

Then he spat in McMahon's face.

"Never mind the why, Vince, or the how." Bret spewed. "It doesn't matter. Gears, levers, padding, and remote control. Nothing too complicated, except maybe for you."

He spat again in McMahon's face.

"How's it feel to lose a title that was in the palm of your hand, huh, Vince? You like it? Are you enjoying the taste of your own medicine? I hope so, because this is just the beginning!"

Hart left the cage through the door that Mankind opened for him and disappeared into the dressing room area just as McMahon was returning to consciousness. He never knew what hit him.

Until he saw the videotape later that evening.

UNNERVED

McMahon wouldn't admit it, but he was clearly unnerved by Hart's attack. After all, the "Hitman" was in the midst of a major campaign for the WCW World title; that he showed up at SummerSlam the way he did was as shocking as it gets in wrestling, even in these shock-a-day late-'90s.

While on camera, McMahon always seemed to keep one eye to the left or right, just in case Hart would jump at him. While in meetings, he always kept one eye on the door, just in case Hart would come bursting into the room.

Hart did nothing.

For a while, anyway.

He let McMahon simmer and stew in the juices of his own fears, waiting and wondering when the "Hitman" would strike next. But there was no next strike. Not yet, anyway.

Just the letter.

THE LETTER

It came via overnight messenger, one of about a dozen such letters McMahon receives every business day. McMahon wasn't even going to open it at first, until he saw the return address: Calgary, Alberta.

Vince:

Yes, I cost you a title victory. But that was just a small taste of the pain and suffering you cost me and my family. You never earned a title; I was five-time World Wrestling Federation champion. You never had to go home and answer to your children for the way you won or lost a belt. You never understood a thing about pride or honor.

This isn't about a title, or about Steve Austin, or about the Corporation, or about any of that crap. This is about more. Much more.

You and I know each other well, perhaps too well. We both know that this thing is bigger than both of us, and that we both need to put it behind us. I've received a leave of absence from WCW to take care of business I feel needs handling.

Here's how I want to handle it.

One match, to a submission finish. But not inside a WWF ring, and not inside a WCW ring. Not inside a steel cage, either. The only audience I want is one camera man, a documentary filmmaker.

And I want it to happen in my father's basement. In the Dungeon right here in Calgary.

Are you man enough?

The letter was signed and notarized, and copies were forwarded to all wrestling magazines and media outlets.

McMahon threw the letter on his desk, leaned back in his chair, and removed his glasses. As he tried to decide whether Hart was serious, there was a knock on his office door.

Dad, you gotta see what I--"

Shane McMahon, holding the overnight envelope, stopped in mid-sentence when he saw the same letter sitting on his father's desk. "So what are you gonna ..."

Then the phone rang.

"Mr. McMahon," the secretary said, "I have phone messages from Pro Wrestling Illustrated, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, USA Network, and CBS Sportsline, all in the last five minutes, calling to ask about--"

"Quiet!" McMahon barked. "I know what they're calling to ask about. I'll have a statement for them by noon."

THE STATEMENT

"Bret Hart has challenged me to a match," Vince McMahon said to the assembled throng of reporters. "He has stated terms and conditions for the match--location, observers--and has been as arrogant in demanding this match as he was as World Wrestling Federation champion. However, even given the one-sided nature of the challenge, I accept his terms, on one condition."

McMahon, ever the showman, paused for dramatic effect.

"Win or lose, I want sole U.S. television rights to the videotape."

THE "HITMAN" RESPONDS

"Let's do it," Bret said very simply, and his personal lawyer drew up the papers and had them in the mail to McMahon the same day.

The match would take place Sunday, October 31, 1999.

Halloween.

In Stu Hart's Dungeon.

It would be the greatest match nobody would see live.

HALLOWEEN AFTERNOON

"Who the hell ever imagined it would get this cold, even on Halloween?" McMahon asked Gerald Brisco, who joined Shane McMahon to accompany his boss to Calgary for the bout. "This is insane weather! No wonder Hart is such a cold-blooded swine."

Brisco chuckled at his boss' turn of phrase, but he was worried for his boss all the same. In wrestling, the man with the home-ring advantage has a significant edge over his foe. This was more than a home-ring advantage at the Charlotte Coliseum or Madison Square Garden; this was the home-ring advantage--in Hart's parents' house, for goodness' sake!

The video crew met McMahon as he drove onto the Harts' property and began filming the trio--McMahon, McMahon, and Brisco--documentary-style.

"This is gonna make a heck of a video back in the States," Shane said.

Vince glared at his son.

Hart was waiting at the front door.

MI CASA, SU CASA

"Who else is here?" McMahon asked the "Hitman."

"You three, the camera crew, Owen, and my folks. That's it, as agreed."

"Fine. Where are we going?"

"What's your rush, Vince?" Bret asked. "Take all the time you like.

There are no tricks here. This isn't like the last time you and I were in Canada together," Hart said, referring to the infamous Survivor Series double-cross. "This is as honest as Calgary snow: you, me, the ring, and a camera for posterity. Want something to eat?"

McMahon eyed his foe suspiciously. "I'm fine."

"Drink?"

McMahon glanced at Brisco, who pulled a bottle of Gatorade out of a handheld cooler he was carrying.

Hart laughed.

"You don't trust a thing, do you? C'mon, let's check out the Dungeon."

Stu watched his son ... and smiled.

THE DUNGEON

McMahon had seen wrestling rings in homes before, but he'd never seen anything like this. Not that there was anything so unusual in what he saw, but one look and you could sense the history that had been made in the room. The countless stars of the sport whose cries of agony had carried through the house. The innumerable leglocks, headlocks, and maneuvers that had inflicted physical and mental pain on those both fortunate and unfortunate enough to step into this wrestling ring.

History hung in the air like a smoky haze.

And more history was about to be made.

Before Hart disappeared into a side room, he indicated a bathroom where McMahon could get ready. While the combatants prepared themselves, the camera crew loaded up a fresh cartridge of videotape.

Nobody quite knew what to expect. The atmosphere was very matter-of-fact. McMahon was accustomed to large crowds, but he was also accustomed to solo workouts in the gym. Still, this was pure Hart territory. Yet McMahon was confident: No outside interference was possible, and even if he lost, how bad could it be? Sure, McMahon was no youngster, but neither was Hart, 42 at the time of the match. McMahon had four inches and nearly 30 pounds on his opponent, so how bad could it be?

Hart appeared in simple, Steve Austin-style black trunks. McMahon emerged from the bathroom wearing the outfit he'd worn twice against Austin.

The film crew fired up its camera.

The moment of truth was at hand.

HOW BAD IT COULD BE

"Let's do it," Hart said as he stepped into the ring.

McMahon looked around the room. Brisco and his son. The camera crew. Stu Hart. That was it.

"What about a referee?" McMahon asked.

"Don't need no damn referee in the Dungeon," Stu Hart said softly.

Bret smiled.

McMahon entered the ring.

Slowly, Hart and McMahon circled each other. With no crowd cheering, the match was eerie: Each man could hear the other breathe. Every whisper seemed as loud as a scream.

"Come on, you son of a ..." Hart mumbled under his breath, his hands darting out every few seconds.

The "Hitman" lunged at McMahon, taking him down to the canvas with a Russian legsweep. McMahon hit the mat with a sickening thud, and Hart scrambled to hook up Vince's leg. McMahon had fallen close to the corner and reached for the bottom rope just as Hart was about to open the match with a sharpshooter.

Hart was in position for the hold. McMahon held the rope. Bret looked at the camera, then at Stu, who nodded. Bret let go of the hold.

"Don't need no damn referee in the Dungeon," Stu Hart said again softly.

The combatants circled each other again. McMahon, relying on his bodybuilder's experience, went for a test of strength that dropped Bret to his knees and saw Stu's eyebrows raise. Vince followed up with a kick to the midsection, an elbow to the back of Bret's head, and an elbowsmash.

"Go, Dad!" Shane screamed enthusiastically. The match stopped for a beat as everyone in the room looked at him. It was the last comment anyone at ringside would make.

Bret struggled to his feet and began working a wristlock on McMahon, then followed up with a chicken wing. He brought Vince back to the mat and tried working him into position for a bow-and-arrow hold. Vince managed to escape the attempt and catch Bret in a full-nelson.

Bret, still in the full-nelson, struggled to his feet, then scampered up the cornerpost and executed a backflip that, because Vince was locked in the hold as well, flipped McMahon to the canvas. Now it was Bret's turn to enjoy the advantage. He dragged Vince to the center of the ring and applied a figure-four leglock. Hard. McMahon screamed in pain.

Upstairs, in the living room, Helen Hart cringed, the echoes of decades of such screams reverberating in McMahon's cries.

Bret was beginning to enjoy the match.
He released the hold, but kicked McMahon in his dimpled chin, stunning the WWF owner long enough to be able to flip him over into a sharpshooter in the middle of the ring.

In the living room, Helen took the remote control from the television set and raised the volume to drown out the horrible sounds.

"All right! All right! Enough!"

McMahon had cried, "Uncle!" The match, suddenly, was over.

Bret rolled out of the ring and propped himself against a wall, catching his breath, leaving McMahon writhing in pain by himself.

Vince finally began to regain his composure. He glared at Bret, who stared back in silence. "That's it?" Vince asked.

Bret reached into Brisco's cooler, grabbed a Gatorade, took a swig, and wiped his mouth.

"That's it. No Halloween tricks or treats. As straightforward and as honest as it gets. That's what the Dungeon is about. It's wrestling, sure, but it's also about life. I'm getting dressed. As far as I'm concerned, we're done here."

Bret left to take a shower. McMahon headed into the bathroom to change for the ride back to the airport.

"Not bad, Vince," Stu Hart said softly. "Not bad."

AFTERMATH

Vince, Shane, and Brisco returned to Connecticut, where, three days later as Hart had promised, a videotape copy of the match arrived via Federal Express.

"Do it," McMahon said as he handed the tape to his son, who headed straight for the editing room to prepare a five-minute presentation for the next edition of Raw Is War.

The following Monday, five minutes of nothing but McMahon beating up Bret, accompanied by the most propagandistic voiceover commentary by Vince himself, appeared on Raw.

In Calgary, Owen and Bret watched Raw on cable. Bret was stone-faced. Owen was outraged.

"Brother, that's the most unbelievable thing I've ever seen!" Owen screamed at the television. "Bret, Vince went and screwed you again."

The "Hitman" rose from his chair and turned off the television set.

"Nope," he said with a clear conscience that no longer lusted for revenge, "Vince screwed Vince ... again."

Monday, August 16, 2010

An Open Letter to Michael Cole

Michael,

I love you. I really do. You were one of the best bosses I ever worked for, as your no-nonsense approach to things resonates with mine yet you understood the complexities of our job at WWE.com.

You also have been, for the most part, a good announcer. Your journalism background comes in very handy in the storytelling aspect of things.

But bro, I'm begging you, please learn some English. Here's a tip:

vin·tage

–noun
1.the wine from a particular harvest or crop.
2.the annual produce of the grape harvest, esp. with reference to the wine obtained.
3.an exceptionally fine wine from the crop of a good year.
4.the time of gathering grapes, or of winemaking.
5.the act or process of producing wine; winemaking.
6.the class of a dated object with reference to era of production or use: a hat of last year's vintage.

–adjective
7.of or pertaining to wines or winemaking.
8.being of a specified vintage: Vintage wines are usually more expensive than nonvintage wines.
9.representing the high quality of a past time: vintage cars; vintage movies.
10.old-fashioned or obsolete: vintage jokes.
11.being the best of its kind: They praised the play as vintage O'Neill.

When you say something is "vintage Orton" or "vintage Cena," especially when it's a signature move or trait they do or exhibit ALL THE TIME, you sound like a complete idiot.

Cena hitting that belly-to-back suplex isn't vintage; it has nothing to do with wine, isn't the best move in his repertoire, and is definitely not old-fashioned if he does it, you know, every night.

Maybe the word you want is closer to something like "classic," which can mean definitive or adhering to established standards. Maybe it's "textbook," or some other word that connotes the fact that whatever characteristic you're describing is displayed on a consistent basis.

But it's definitely not vintage, and hearing you say that 34 times every Monday night makes me want to jab a pencil in my ear.

Smooches!
-Louie Dee

Saturday, August 14, 2010

RIP Lance Cade

Another sad day for the industry this past week with the passing of Lance Cade.

While I didn't really get to know him as well as many of the other guys who worked in WWE during my time there, he was always cordial and very good with dot-com. We profiled him and Trevor Murdoch quite a bit when they first came up and won the World Tag Team Championship, and both he and Trevor were excellent to work with.

Lance allegedly had some demons that he either couldn't conquer or conquered too late...but 29 is just way too young for someone to lose their life, for any reason.

One writer did a lengthy piece on how this will affect Linda McMahon's Senate bid in a negative light, and I just have to shake my head: Another young talent taken away prematurely and all people want to do is point the finger at a woman who might've been further removed from WWE creative over the last few years than I was.

Sad, really ... both for Lance's family and that writer.

-Louie Dee
Contributing Writer

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Miz' Time Has Arrived

Predicting the outcome of wrestling matches is like predicting the weather. Anything can happen, and the more you bank on one thing, the more likely something else is to happen. Nevertheless, I'm going out on a limb and predicting that The Miz will emerge from SummerSlam as the new WWE champion.

I can't argue that putting the "big belt" on Miz is a good or bad idea. I do, however, feel that with Sheamus being the prototypical "transitional" heel champion, simply having Orton take his title is too predictable for a WWE showcase event such as SummerSlam.

Oh, I think Orton will wrest the strap from Sheamus, but I think Miz will quickly cash in his Money in the Bank title shot against a depleted Orton and defeat him. What better way to cement Miz as a detestable heel main-eventer than to have him take the title off a fan favorite in such a cheap manner?

Also, I would not be surprised if Orton invokes his rematch clause against The Miz to recapture the WWE title the next night on Raw.

Of course, none of this is based on logic or fact, just a hunch. It just feels right to me that Miz would get a well-deserved push into the WWE upper deck at one of WWE's four big pay-per-views.
How do you see it playing out?

Frank Krewda
Editor-in-Chief

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Trish Interview Issue Still Available

We're still getting a lot of requests for the Wrestler/Inside Wrestling issue containing the exclusive 90-minute Q&A interview with Trish Stratus.

Click below to order.






Monday, August 9, 2010

Nothing Extreme About Hardcore Justice

On a night that was touted by at least one person as "an event that would change the pro wrestling landscape forever," not much really happened.

I have to admit, the main reason I ordered the TNA Hardcore Justice pay-per-view was not to see some of my favorite wrestlers of a previous era come back for "one last show." Sadly, I found myself pushing the order button only to see the train wreck that I knew would be coming.

After all the blood, tables, and tears were cleared away, I have to admit that I was proved wrong.

In a sense, the only one who really won on Sunday night (not counting the winners of the matches, of course) was TNA. Surely, the PPV buy rate won't equal that of say a WrestleMania, but it certainly will be better than what some of the company’s most recent pay-per-views have done. Whether people were buying the show to see some heroes of an era long past or, like me, wanting to see some epic implosion that would lead to much criticism for weeks to come, people were still BUYING the show. And for that, TNA has to be applauded.

However, where it can draw some criticism is from the amount of hype that was forced upon us leading up to the PPV. This show was supposed to bring closure to many old angles still left up in the air from the original ECW days, but I walked away with many more questions than answers:

Why couldn't Francine find a babysitter for just one night?

Is The Blue Meanie really so busy that he can no-show TNA?

Honestly, who was the kid who kept picking his nose?

How can you have an ECW "reunion" or final show WITHOUT Shane Douglas?

But my biggest question of the night: Why did the Dudley Bo ... excuse me ... Team 3-D have to hug it out with New Jack and Mustafa after being beaten down?

Look, I get that they all experienced something very special in this business, something that might never be seen again. They helped usher in a whole new era of wrestling and have been reminding people of it for the past 10 years. But, seriously, wait until the end of the show to throw your arms around the guy who just beat you with everything including, quite literally, the kitchen sink.

Yet there were still some moments that stood out for me. The final match between RVD and Sabu was good, not great. The two ex-partners were clearly in the best shape of anyone who performed, and compared to the rest of the card, they nailed it. Tommy Dreamer vs. Raven was okay. It gave the fans the blood they had been chanting for all night, but it didn't give me the closure to the storied feud I felt I was promised.

In between, the matches were a few segments that really worked well. A special "thank you" to Joey Styles was top notch. To hear from all of the people Styles represented with his voice for so many years showed a level of class we’ll most likely never see again.

The thank you to Paul Heyman was also very good, but for me it will be more memorable for who DIDN'T express gratitude. Big names like Rob Van Dam and Team 3-D were noticeably silent in paying homage to the man behind the original ECW.

Lastly, my favorite moment of the night was the return of Joel Gertner. Still sporting a pink neck brace, Gertner laid down a limerick as though he were still working weekly in the old ECW Arena. Absolutely brilliant.

In all, I'm left in an odd state. There wasn't anything great about the show, but there was nothing terrible about it, either. It was just another show, not the landscape-altering event the company president said it would be.

What did you guys think?

Jeff Ruoss
Managing Editor/PWI

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Tale of Two Pay Per Views

This month’s two highly anticipated wrestling pay per views tell you all you need to know about the differences between WWE and TNA, and why TNA continues to struggle to grow its modest fan base.

In this corner you have WWE’s August 14th SummerSlam event – traditionally one of the company’s two or three biggest pay per views of the year. For the 2010 installment, WWE is delivering the pay off of one of the hottest storylines the sport has seen in years – the invasion of the WWE NXT Season 1 rookies. While it has not been without its flaws, it is still one of the most compelling and intricately booked wrestling storylines in a long time.

That feat is particularly impressive considering the fact that the whole angle – and really much of WWE’s business in recent months – has relied on the performances of seven very green and very unproven “rookies.” In fact, it would have seemed downright impossible just a few months ago that the likes of Michael Tarver and Skip Sheffield would be headlining one of the biggest wrestling pay per views of the year.

But WWE has done a tremendous job of establishing the Nexus as a group that is far more than the sum of its parts. Rather, they are a gang of bullies whose strength in numbers makes up for what each member individually lacks in experience and technique. It’s believable that every WWE superstar would be afraid of the Nexus, just as even Brock Lesnar would be afraid of taking on seven first-year mixed martial arts fighters –at the same time.

Still, WWE was presented with a particularly difficult challenge in delivering the inevitable Team WWE vs. Team Nexus match: How do you create an even playing field? Logic dictates that a team of seven of WWE all-stars, including several former world champions, should make easy work of seven “rookies.” But WWE has taken care of those details as well.

It makes sense that John Cena would put aside past differences and reach out to both friends and enemies alike to put together the very best team he could. It makes sense that he would want multiple-time world champions Edge and Chris Jericho on his team, as well as upper-mid card role-players like John Morrison and R-Truth and a powerhouse in the form of Great Khali. And because of the strength of those six members alone, it also makes sense that Cena would extend an invitation to the team’s “weak link,” Bret Hart, who would understandably want his pound of flesh for Nexus’ attack on him several months ago.

But it also makes sense that, despite Cena’s best intentions, the various personalities on his team would clash. And it’s that dissention within Team WWE that makes it vulnerable in a match against a group of wrestlers who would otherwise be no contest against seven established WWE stars.

It all combines to create a main event worthy of one of the most anticipated events of the wrestling year.

More importantly, it continues on WWE’s nearly year-long streak now of creating new top level talent. The notoriety that the Nexus members are receiving from this opportunity will undoubtedly help them in the long run – even long after Nexus one day disbands. What’s more, the popularity of the Nexus storyline could help draw attention to the NXT Season 2 rookies, and even give WWE some momentum in trying to get Season 3 picked up. Now that’s an investment in your future.

And in this corner you have TNA's Hardcore Justice.

Add mine to the list of those people who think Dixie Carter’s latest ECW reunion – a derivative of a derivative of a derivative of an old concept – is a terrible and potentially disastrous idea.

This much I cannot dispute: In the short term, the buzz – even the negative kind - behind this Sunday’s Hardcore Justice pay per view is helping TNA’s business. Last Thursday’s Impact! delivered one of show’s highest ratings of the year. And I expect TNA to sell many more pay per views than it usually does this Sunday. Heck, I’m not about to miss what could be the biggest train wreck since the notorious Heroes of Wrestling pay per view.

But even if the small number of ECW nostalgia-buffs is enough to give TNA’s a short-term bump in business - at what price is that reward coming? TNA is essentially banking that it can make more money promoting a brand it does not own than it can featuring its own talent, writers and storylines.

Having stabilized its ratings on Thursday night after its failed bid to go head to head with Monday Night Raw, it is critical for TNA to keep its momentum going in the right direction. Instead, during an important time in TNA’s growth, Dixie Carter has effectively handed over her company’s monthly pay per view showcase to help get over a WWE brand and a number of aging wrestlers who don’t work for her. Not only does she see nothing wrong with this, she is so proud of her plan that she began hyping it weeks in advance as something that would “change TNA forever.”

Far from true “change,” TNA’s Hardcore Justice experiment embodies all the same deep flaws that have plagued TNA for years. Rather than invest in creating new stars, TNA continues to stake its business on old names and old ideas.

It’s astonishing that in the same month that AJ Styles is announced as the first TNA wrestler ever to top the PWI 500, he will likely be left off one of TNA’s biggest pay per views of the year.

-Al Castle

Pro Wrestling Illustrated Senior Writer

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Monday, August 2, 2010

Where To Send Indy News

Now that we seem to have everybody's attention, this is a good time to remind you that we are always looking for news and storyline items to be included in Al Alven's "Independent Round-Up" column in PWI.

Please send to: Send news items to pwiindyroundup@gmail.com

Also, results and ratings can be sent to pwiresults@yahoo.com. Please keep in mind that due to the volume we receive and limited space, we always give preference to results and ratings that are formatted in our style. 

Examples:

ILLINOIS
OLNEY—IWA Productions at the IWA Productions Training Center:  Scott Parker pinned Damien Thorne Joey O'Riley beat Scotty Hostass by DQ … A.T. Brooks pinned Dante Ember Steven Davis pinned Tony Flood Danny Cannon, Jay Spade, & Donovan Cain beat Alex Castle, Austin Advent, & Christian Rose.
(04-21-10)
—John Bach



FOR RATINGS:


CHIKARA: Champion—Vin Gerard; 1—Hallowicked; 2—Delirious; 3—Fire Ant; 4—Claudio Castagnoli; 5—Mike Quackenbush; 6—Brodie Lee; 7—Eddie Kingston; 8—Lince Dorado; 9—Tim Donst; 10—Hydra.





Thanks!

Stu Saks
Publisher