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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jericho Nears Elimination From DWTS

The end may be near for Chris Jericho.

It was "Guilty Pleasures" night yesterday on Dancing With The Stars, and Chris and Cheryl Burke danced a tango. In my opinion, it was not clean and the lines were not very good. Chris' facial expressions gave a clear indication that he was having trouble.

The judges were very critical of the dance, pointing out that Chris looked very stiff. Chris admitted afterward that he did not have a good feeling about the dance. Jericho and Burke received only 22 points out of 30 points from the judges, the lowest among the seven couples still in contention.

The top score of 28 was shared by the teams of rapper Romeo and Chelsie Hightower and Disney star Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas (who was injured during rehearsal).


Dianne Weber

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wrestling’s Anti-Bully Pulpit

Professional wrestling is a medium in which art frequently imitates life. Its propensity to adapt according to the prevailing “spirit of the times” is what sustains sports entertainment as a cultural phenomenon decade after decade. Through athleticism and high drama, the men and women of the squared circle frequently offer an interesting spin on classic tales of conflict, crises, suffering and redemption.

Recently, North America’s two largest promotions have addressed the real world issues of bullying and hate speech. Through public campaigns and partnerships, as well as on-screen storylines, WWE and TNA are each seeking to spread a new message of tolerance and sensitivity. At first glance, it might seem like an odd fit. Pro wrestling is, after all, a world in which smack-talking frequently leads to protracted violent feuds. But it is, to be sure, a kind of theater. It’s a theater in which valuable lessons can be conveyed to a large audience in short order and promoters are wise to use this forum to its full potential.

Almost two decades ago, the original incarnation of ECW proclaimed itself “politically incorrect and damn proud of it!” Indeed, pushing the proverbial envelope is a time-honored practice of wrestling promotions. But times and attitudes change and as we learn more and grow as a society, and we expect our cultural institutions to evolve as well.

In November 2010, TNA launched its multifaceted “Eliminate The Hate” campaign in an effort to stem the nationwide trend of assaults and suicides associated with teen bullying. In addition to online posts and televised public service announcements, TNA brought its anti-bullying message to wrestling fans through compelling storylines involving the likes of Sarita, Velvet Sky, and Brother Ray.

Brother Ray, recently rechristened as “Bully Ray,” pulls out all the stops to expose bullying in all its ugliness. It’s a violent spectacle, but Bully Ray’s exploits convey the ferocity and cowardice that fuel the fire within every schoolyard punk. In the end, whether it’s at the hands of Brother Devon, AJ Styles, or any of the other titans of the TNA roster, Brother Ray is certain to get his just desserts and fans will undoubtedly get the message that decent folks can only take so much abuse.

WWE also addressed the topic of bullying through backstage and in-ring action, casting Sheamus as a domineering antagonist through his run-ins with Santino Marella, Evan Bourne, and John Morrison. But as well-intentioned as those particular angles were, WWE was compelled to step up its anti-bullying message after controversy erupted regarding the homophobic musings of John Cena on the February 21 and February 28 episodes of Monday Night Raw. Following a storm of public criticism, WWE issued an apology and, shortly thereafter, the company announced a joint initiative with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to combat bullying and hate speech.

Of course, Cena isn’t the only WWE performer to use homophobic language and double entendre against fellow denizens of the WWE Universe. Triple-H is notorious for peppering his promos with gay jokes and comments that question the masculinity and sexual orientation of his rivals. While he often gets the cheap pop for an off-color comment here and there, it’s clear that “The Game” is going to have to retire a lot of material from his longstanding repertoire if he wants to conform to the new company line.

Old habits die hard, though, and at the moment some folks in the wrestling world still seem a bit confused about a way forward. For example, during a recent opening spot on TNA Impact, Mr. Anderson advanced an unusual angle involving his former math professors who, some years ago, started a rumor that Anderson was gay, ostensibly so that the professor could put the moves on a female classmate of Anderson’s. While recounting the story, Anderson noted that he didn’t have a problem with gay people, adding that he had plenty of “gay friends” and all that … A sort of throwback to the old Seinfeld “not that there’s anything wrong with it” routine. But there was something of a twist at the end, as Anderson’s segment punctuated the conversation by cold-cocking the old professor. The assault was apparently payback for the professor’s attempt to steal Anderson’s gal, but the decision to throw a question of sexual orientation into the mix—especially given the message that TNA is purportedly trying to promote these days—was a confusing one, for sure.

WWE is struggling with issues surrounding about hate speech and bullying as well. Hot on the heels of WWE’s new partnership with GLAAD, commentator Michael Cole recently caused a stir via Twitter when he referred to broadcast colleague Josh Mathews with an anti-gay slur. Wrestling fans know all too well of Cole’s propensity to take a mouthful of his own foot now and again, but to the greater public, he’s just proving the point that there’s a longstanding problem in the world of professional wrestling. Given the the controversy regarding Cena’s homophobic promos, the public backlash from Cole’s comments was swift and certain. Although Cole quickly retracted the comment and issued an apology, the uproar served to further underscore the need for a reassessment of pro wrestling’s general attitude towards tolerance and diversity.

GLADD will reportedly offer provide training to Michael Cole following his unfortunate public gaffe. Moreover, in the near future, the organization will team with WWE to shoot some vignettes regarding hate speech and bullying. Hey, let’s hope Maryse gets the memo this time, as she’s now the most recent WWE talent to broadcast anti-gay sentiment via her personal Twitter feed. Could it be that she totally missed the respective brouhahas involving Cena and Cole? Is any one person that oblivious?

To ensure recent and future anti-bullying campaigns of TNA and WWE amount to more than symbolic gestures, the wrestling industry will need to engage in a sustained, collective effort to change longstanding practices and prejudices. In 2009, PWI writer Michael Moore called for an end to xenophobia in pro wrestling through his poignant article “Anti-Americanism Runs Rampant in Wrestling…AND IT’S YOUR FAULT!” In the piece, Moore effectively argued that it’s the responsibility of fans to use their collective power as enthusiasts and consumers to encourage promoters to stop relying on the cheap heat brought about by anti-American and “foreign” bad guys. What’s true for the tired, old plot devices of jingoism and race baiting surely applies to the equally distasteful prevalence of bullying and intolerance. In the ring, on the mike, and behind the curtain, pro wrestling can effectively model the kinds of attitudes and behaviors that will promote lasting and positive change in the real world.

Mike Bessler
PWI Contributing Writer

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Jericho Earns His (Stars And) Stripes

It was "America Night" on last night's Dancing With The Stars, which meant that all the couples had to dance to a song dedicated to our nation. Chris Jericho and Cheryl Burke danced an elegant Viennese waltz to "America The Beautiful." You can tell how much Chris is enjoying himself by his ever-present smile. It's plain to see that his technique and posture have improved since the start of the show.

Chris and Cheryl received a score of 26, with Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli giving them both 9's and Len Goodman (who seems to be warming up to the couple) giving them an 8.

The leading dance team was Hines Ward and Kim Johnson with 27. Romeo and Chelsie Hightower also scored a 26.

Dianne Weber

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Edge Was My "PWI 500" Pick

We're not quite ready to compile our 2011 "PWI 500" just yet, but there has been informal discussion about who--at this point at least--is most deserving of the top spot. Until last night, I was prepared to make a strong argument for Edge. He's has a magnificent year, topped off by a successful World title defense against Alberto Del Rio at WrestleMania that none of our senior staffers was able to predict.

I know that a wrestler's career body of work is not supposed to be a criterion for the "500," but Edge has given so much of himself to this sport that it would have given me great pleasure to see him earn this one final honor. Unfortunately, there is one criterion for the "500" that has to be adhered to: The ranking is only for active wrestlers. Edge no longer qualifies for consideration.

I'm reasonably sure that Edge knew of his condition before taking on the dangerous Del Rio at WrestleMania. Thankfully, unlike Del Rios' title hopes and his Rolls-Royce, Edge escaped unscathed and will have a one more fond memory as he moves into the next phase of his life.

Stu Saks
Publisher

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Sad 'n' Sour Finish

The world of professional wrestling lost a great entertainer today with the passing of “Sweet & Sour” Larry Sweeney at the tender age of 29.

For those who never got a chance to see Sweeney's work, let me put it to you this way: If he had come about a generation earlier, his mike skills could have given Jimmy Hart and Bobby Heenan a run for their money as perhaps the best heel manager of this era.

Larry was never the biggest or most athletic guy in the squared circle, but he was always entertaining.He was gold on the mike, and while he never got a chance in the “big leagues” (outside of playing Nick Hogan in Randy Orton’s “Orton Knows Best” spoof during his 2006 feud with Hulk Hogan), he was a well-respected name on the indy scene in the latter half of the 2000s.

Coming up, Larry spent a lot of time working in CHIKARA, Combat Zone Wrestling, and Pittsburgh’s IWC before getting his big break in Ring of Honor as the leader of Sweet & Sour Inc.,a group that included various former WWE talent and a lot of current top ROH stars as well. As recently six months ago, he was back in CHIKARA, assuming the identity of Vokoder before being unmasked in October.

As a frequent patron of CZW, Chikara, and ROH over the last half-dozen years, I was lucky to see Sweeney work in every capacity – manager, wrestler, interviewer, and color commentator. I also got to know Alex Whybrow the man a little bit in that time and every conversation (mostly about the wrestling of the 1980s both he and I grew up watching) was always pleasant and usually hilarious.

I’m sure those who choose to trash the business will carelessly add Larry’s name to the list of wrestlers who passed away before age 40 (or, sadly, 30 in his case). He had some personal issues as we all do, but instead of simply counting his loss as a statistic, hopefully Larry will be remembered as a man who lived to entertain and was damn good at it.

RIP, Sweet & Sour.  The ICW/ICWA Texarkana television title will never be the same.

Louie Dee
PWI Contributing Writer

Friday, April 8, 2011

K&S WrestleFest: A Chance to Meet Some Personal Heroes

It isn't often that I have an opportunity to be around people who inspire me, but on Saturday, April 9—tomorrow—I will have a chance to meet three men I've come to admire, not only for their stellar wrestling careers, but also for the way they've carried themselves in the face of serious medical illness.
As somebody who has lost several family members to cancer and neuro-cerebral disease, it will be a pleasure and an honor to meet Rick Steamboat, Lex Luger, and Bobby Heenan, all of whom will be on hand at the K&S WrestleFest at the Airport Ramada Inn in Essington, Pennsylvania, from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm., and all of whom have fought severe illness in recent months.
Aside from these three legends, 2011 Hall of Fame inductees Paul Ellering and Road Warrior Animal will be on hand, as will Amber O'Neal and members of her new Arenachicks promotion.
So, even if you have no personal impetus for coming out such as mine, K&S WrestleFest still promises to be a fun event well worth checking out.
For more information, go to http://kandswrestlefest.com/wp/
Frank Krewda
Editor-In-Chief

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

WrestleMania 27: More Bankrupt Than "Money"?

After covering WrestleMania either WWE or PWI for the last seven years, I packed my suitcase and went to Atlanta to be a fan this year.

I can't say I'd trade the five days of debauchery 900 miles from home for anything, but WrestleMania itself almost felt like the low point of the trip. That's not to say I hated the show by any means, or that it was poorly worked. I'd classify five of the eight matches as pretty good, and give Triple-H vs. Undertaker the distinction of "interesting," given their physical limitations.

But I don't know: Was it just me, or did the show feel a little ... flat?

Yes, the matches were good, and half of them had a "big match" feel. But after years of Money in the Bank shenanigans, crazy Undertaker matches, and world title classics, it felt more like just another PPV.

Undertaker's match with Triple-H might have been his least built/anticipated main event match since WrestleMania XIX, the eight-man tag felt like an old Survivor Series "smash three feuds together into one match" special, and as great as the build was for Cole vs. Lawler, the token non-wrestler grudge blowoff spot (which in the last few years has been occupied by Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon, Chris Jericho vs. three Hall of Famers, Floyd Mayweather vs. Big Show, and Bobby Lashley vs. Umaga as a proxy for Vince vs. Donald Trump) was occupied by two announcers.

I think that while any of us could quibble about match results, show order, or other superficial factors, there were three major things that really hurt the show: too few title matches, the lack of brand interaction, and the absence of Money in the Bank.

The first is almost inexcusable. I'm sorry, I know Night of Champions is guaranteed to be one night where all the gold is on the line, but if the titles aren't even important enough to be defended at WrestleMania, then what's the point of having them? And, no, I don't count the fact that the Intercontinental and Tag Team Champions comprised three-quarters of the Corre team. The U.S. title match was bumped to the pre-show, and Divas champion Eve got the most PPV time of them all in a backstage segment with The Rock and Mae Young, but I don't count that as "all the champions being involved."

The second? Well, I know Triple-H is a Raw guy and Undertaker is on Smackdown, so that was technically an inter-brand match. But Hunter pretty much hadn't wrestled in 11 months, Undertaker has been on the shelf for most of the last nine, and the match wasn't even hinted at until six weeks ago, so it's hard to think of the match as inter-brand. If you don't, then brand interaction was limited to Santino Marella taking one spot in an otherwise Smackdown eight-man tag and Lay-Cool teaming with Dolph Ziggler in an inter-gender six-person tag match that featured a retiree and a reality star on the babyface side.

And for the third, yes, I know Money in the Bank has its own event now, but WrestleMania 27 desperately needed something, anything, to get excited about. Outside of Rey Mysterio, the most flying we got was the finish to CM Punk vs. Randy Orton.

Rectifying problems 1 and 3 would have been very easy.

First, instead of having the eight-man tag and having Ziggler and John Morrison tied into what ended up being a five-minute match, they could've had Big Show and Kane destroy Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater for the tag title and swapped in Eve and Vickie for the boys to make a six-Diva tag match. Then, instead of a "traditional" Money in the Bank, they could've had Ziggler, Morrison, Kofi Kingston, Wade Barrett, Ted DiBiase, Drew McIntyre, Evan Bourne, and R-Truth in an eight-man ladder match for the Intercontinental Title. This would've given fans a Money in the Bank-like trainwreck where either Kofi could've regained the title or Barrett could've won it instead of doing so a week earlier on Smackdown.

Boom, easy. All the champions get a slot and you have an extra match added that could've stolen the show. Heck, Sheamus and Daniel Bryan could have even stayed as the pre-show match and still turned into a 20-man battle royal, as long as they did something like at WrestleMania 24 where the pre-show ECW number-one contender battle royal was streamed on WWE.com.

Very disappointing, WWE.

I'll be going to WrestleMania again in 2012 simply because it's in Miami, but I certainly hope the show itself feels more special.

-Louie Dee
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Jericho Dedicates Dance To His Mom

It must have been difficult for Chris Jericho to keep his mind on his performance last night on Dancing With The Stars, having dedicated the dance to his beloved mother, who died six years ago after an auto accident left her a quadriplegic.

Chris said he was coming out of character and would perform as Chris Irvine in honor of his mother, who always encouraged him to dance. Chris and partner Cheryl Burke danced to the rumba, with Chris choosing The Beatles’ “Let It Be,” the song that was played at his mom’s funeral.

In my opinion, the judges where very hard on Chris and Cheryl, noting that he was not moving his hands in the right position. C&C’s score of 21 out of 30 left them in a tie with Kirstie Alley and her partner, Max Chmerkovskiy and Ralph Macchio and his partner, Karina Smirnoff. The high scores of the night, 25, went to Hines Ward and Kym Johnson and Petra Nemcova and Dmitry Chaplin. Tonight we will see if Chris and Cheryl will be able to dance other day.

Dianne Weber
PWI

H(ip), H(ip), H(ooray)

Let me add my applause to those fans at Philips Arena last night who gave Triple-H such a warm ovation one night after his brilliant match against Undertaker at WrestleMania.

Without the physical tools in his arsenal that his buddy Shawn Michaels possessed, his only chance to follow up HBK's two Matches of the Year against UT on Sunday night was to match the "Dead Man's" determination and courage. He did just that.

Triple-H may not have scored the win, but standing in the ring last night and being doused with the fans' respect had to be the highlight of his career. This man has taken a lot of abuse from fans since his marriage to Stephanie McMahon. He has been deemed overrated for so long that he's actually underrated. I thank you, Hunter, for your part in what was by far the best match at WrestleMania. And I thank the fans in Atlanta for what they gave you last night in return.

Stu Saks
Publisher

Friday, April 1, 2011

WrestleMania 27: PWI Staffers' Predictions

With so many outsiders making appearances at WM27, exactly how each bout will turn out is anyone's guess. However, our editors and senior writers think they have a line on who will prevail. Below are match-by-match predictions made by six senior PWI staff members, followed by a few lines of commentary:

The Big Show/Kane & Santino Marella /Vladimir Kozlov vs. Justin Gabriel/Heath Slater & Wade Barrett/Ezekiel Jackson

Al Castle: Gabriel/Slater & Barrett/Jackson
Dan Murphy: Gabriel/Slater & Barrett/Jackson
Dave Lenker: Gabriel/Slater & Barrett/Jackson
Frank Krewda: Show/Kane & Marella/Kozlov
Harry Burkett: Gabriel/Slater & Barrett/Jackson
Stu Saks: Show/Kane & Marella/Kozlov

Commentary: A Corre loss would suggest that WWE has cooled on Barrett, which is unlikely. Just as unlikely: WWE squandering a 'Mania spot to elevate a comedy act like Show/Kane/Marella/Kozlov.

Jerry Lawler vs. Michael Cole (with Jack Swagger); "Stone-Cold" Steve Austin special guest referee

Al Castle: Lawler
Dan Murphy: Lawler
Dave Lenker: Lawler
Frank Krewda: Cole
Harry Burkett: Cole
Stu Saks: Lawler

Commentary: Lawler fans may not get the satisfaction of seeing Cole trounced in the ring, but it's a safe bet he and Swagger will be "Stunnered" into oblivion at some point.

Cody Rhodes vs. Rey Mysterio Jr.
Al Castle: Mysterio
Dan Murphy: Mysterio
Dave Lenker: Rhodes
Frank Krewda: Rhodes
Harry Burkett: Rhodes
Stu Saks: Mysterio

Commentary: Assuming there is a kernel of truth to the rumors of Mysterio seeking his WWE release, WrestleMania would be the perfect place for him to put Rhodes over. After all, Rhodes' Smackdown push hasn't exactly taken off.

Trish Stratus, Snooki, & John Morrison vs. Michelle McCool, Layla, & Dolph Ziggler
Al Castle: Team Snooki
Dan Murphy: Team Snooki
Dave Lenker: Team Snooki
Frank Krewda: Team Snooki
Harry Burkett: Team Snooki
Stu Saks: Team Snooki

Commentary: Special guests like Snooki are rarely booked by wrestling companies to be made to look bad … even if it means two former Divas champs have to take the fall to make her look good.

Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan (U.S. title match)
Al Castle: Sheamus
Dan Murphy: Bryan
Dave Lenker: Bryan
Frank Krewda: Sheamus
Harry Burkett: Sheamus
Stu Saks: Bryan

Commentary: Would Sheamus be buried on Raw for months, only to win the U.S. title, then resume a losing streak at 'Mania? We don't think so. Then again, with his skills, it is hard to ever count Bryan out of any match.

Randy Orton vs. CM Punk
Al Castle: Punk
Dan Murphy: Orton
Dave Lenker: Punk
Frank Krewda: Orton
Harry Burkett: Punk
Stu Saks: Orton

Commentary: Considering the odds Orton overcame to secure a one-on-one match with Punk at WM 27, logic dictates that though Punk may be sitting pretty going into the show. Orton will find a way to win.

The Miz vs. John Cena (WWE championship match)
Al Castle: Cena
Dan Murphy: Miz
Dave Lenker: Miz
Frank Krewda: Cena
Harry Burkett: Miz
Stu Saks: Cena

Commentary: WWE has allowed The Rock, and—to some extent—The Miz, to denigrate its franchise player for several weeks. Cena will get payback at some point. Can there a higher-profile stage on which he can get it? He does and Rock graciously gives him his endorsement afterward.


Edge vs. Alberto Del Rio (World championship match)
Al Castle: Del Rio
Dan Murphy: Del Rio
Dave Lenker: Del Rio
Frank Krewda: Del Rio
Harry Burkett: Del Rio
Stu Saks: Del Rio

Commentary: It is wholly obvious that given Del Rio's spectacular months-long push, that he won't fall short at 'Mania. However, an Edge-Christian feud, which we suspect could kick off at WM 27, will distract from Edge's loss, without detracting from Alberto's win.

The Undertaker vs. Triple-H
Al Castle: Undertaker
Dan Murphy: Undertaker
Dave Lenker: Undertaker
Frank Krewda: Undertaker
Harry Burkett: Undertaker
Stu Saks: Undertaker

Commentary: Just. Not. Time. Yet.

Order PWI Back Issues Online

For the first time, all available back issues of PWI are available at our website, www.pwi-online.com .

Just click on PWI Cover History in the menu at the left side of the home page and use the drop menu at the bottom of the page to view each year. Sorry about all the "sold out" buttons. If you want any of the issues that remain, I suggest you get them soon.

Stu Saks
Publisher