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Friday, December 30, 2011

PWI Awards Issue Ready For Downloading!

The official on-sale date of our 2011 Achievement Awards issue is January 30. But I'm happy to let you know that we reached our goal of making it available in digital format a month earlier.

I'm not going to tell you who won the all awards; that much you can see without even having to buy the issue for $4.99. I will say this: If you voted for CM Punk, your voice has been heard!

Click here to sample PWI's annual Year-End issue.

Stu Saks

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Looking Ahead To The Best Of 2012

As 2011 draws to a close, all of us here on the staff of the Kappa Publishing family of wrestling magazines would like to sincerely thank you for your loyalty and support over this past year. And what a year it’s been.

The Rock made his triumphant return to WWE. CM Punk became the most talked-about superstar in the sport. Homegrown TNA stars Robert Roode and James Storm eclipsed legends like Hulk Hogan and Sting. And ROH took its biggest step to date toward becoming a national force with its sale to Sinclair Broadcasting Group.

In the coming weeks, you’ll find out who you chose as the winners of the PWI Year in Wrestling Awards for 2011. But, looking even further ahead, I thought I’d give you a very early look at who might be in the running when we’re counting ballots this time next year.

I’ll leave out some categories that are particularly difficult to predict, including Comeback of the Year, Inspirational Wrestler of the Year, and Rookie of the Year. And, just please, don’t hold me to any of this. A year ago, I predicted John Morrison could contend for 2011’s Wrestler of the Year award. How could I have known?

2012’s Tag Team of the Year: Unless TNA or WWE radically changes its approach toward tag team wrestling, it’s likely that the crop of candidates for this award will remain slim pickings a year from now. Kofi Kingston & Evan Bourne have a lot going for them—youth, excitement, popularity—but with little competition to speak of, it’s unlikely that Air Boom will be featured in many meaningful tag team matches in 2012. TNA’s best hope for a standout tag team in 2012 will depend on whether Chris Sabin heals from an ACL injury and can reunite with Alex Shelley in The Motor City Machine Guns. With far more visibility than ever before, there’s a strong possibility that a duo out of ROH’s deep tag team roster finally takes home this prize in 2012. And they don’t come any tougher or more polished than the now-seven time ROH tag team champions, Mark & Jay Briscoe.

2012’s Woman of the Year: Although the best women’s wrestling in the U.S. is likely taking place in independent promotions like SHIMMER and Women Superstars Uncensored, the reality is that, with their huge audiences, WWE and TNA will once again dominate voting come next year. WWE’s best hope for winning the award may rest with a returning Diva, such as Layla El or Karma, if she’s feeling up for returning to the ring soon after giving birth to her child. TNA’s women’s division is still head and shoulders above WWE’s, and veterans like Mickie James, Gail Kim and Tara can always be counted on to deliver a quality effort. If TNA or WWE would wise up and hire some of the sport’s most talented ladies, such as Madison Eagles or Mercedes Martinez, they’d all but be guaranteed this award.

2012’s Match of the Year: If one match in particular isn’t at or near the top of the vote tally next year, WWE will have some serious egg on its face. I’m speaking, of course, of The Rock vs. Cena. This generation’s version of Hulk vs. Andre will have a full year of build, a gigantic audience, and a hot Miami crowd undoubtedly cheering on “the Great One.” What’s more, there will have been plenty of time to lay out as perfect a match as possible between the two stars, and also to ensure that both men are healthy and in shape going in. If rumors of Chris Jericho’s return to WWE pan out, he would instantly top the list of WWE wrestlers capable of having a 5-star match, particularly if he’s in the ring with someone along the lines of CM Punk or Daniel Bryan. Speaking of which, Punk and Bryan would be guaranteed to have blockbuster affair if given the proper stage. Similarly, if built up the right way, the next clash between former tag team partners James Storm and Bobby Roode could have the emotion and gravitas to deliver a MOTY contender. And ROH is always good for some incredible matches each year. I’m thinking a Davey Richards vs. Shelton Benjamin heavyweight title bout could be something special.

2012’s Feud of the Year: The most obvious pick for this category would be The Rock vs. John Cena. But given The Rock’s Hollywood commitments, it’s likely that his wrestling return will be short-lived, and won’t include many, if any, rematches with Cena. As I touched on earlier, Chris Jericho has been taking some jabs at CM Punk in recent months, perhaps hinting to a possible feud upon his return. If anyone knows what it takes to inject passion and intensity into a wrestling feud, it’s Jericho—and Punk might be a close second. In TNA, there are still plenty of unsettled issues between Storm and Roode that could take several months, and hopefully several quality matches, to play out. And, even in its third year, there are few wrestling rivalries more volatile than that between Kevin Steen and El Generico. You have to think those two will spill some serious blood in 2012.

2012’s Most Popular Wrestler of the Year: Having been in Madison Square Garden when  he won his latest world title, I must say that I’ve heard few pops louder than the one CM Punk received that night. Punk may not be the kind of wrestler who will expand WWE’s universe of fans, but he is the kind of wrestler who can win over nearly every fan in that universe. And Punk’s booming popularity should only grow in 2012. Fans who only know Daniel Bryan from his WWE body of work may be slow to warm up to him. But he has much the same charisma and talent as Punk, and could similarly win over fans in 2012. Over in TNA, James Storm has been showing the kind of charm and toughness that made Steve Austin one of the biggest stars ever in the sport. He, too, could make a run for Most Popular Wrestler in the New Year.

2012’s Most Hated Wrestler of the Year: One name in particular comes to mind: John Cena. With each year that passes, Cena’s jeering section has overtaken more and more of his cheering section. These days, it’s tough to make out a single, discernable clap among the chorus of boos every time Cena takes the stage. There have been hints dropped about Cena finally making his “turn” official in the coming months (perhaps leading up to or immediately following his WrestleMania match against The Rock.) But even if he doesn’t formally embrace his dark side, there’s a strong chance of Cena earning the top spot in this category next year. Other candidates could include a returning Jericho, for whom heeldome is something of an art form, Bobby Roode, who is off to a good start as a bad guy world champ in TNA, and Kevin Steen, who is officially back in ROH and is about as evil as they come.

2012’s Wrestler of the Year: It’s so hard to predict a year ahead of time who will dominate the sport in 2012. But certainly some wrestlers will be off to better starts than others. At the top of those lists are the sport’s reigning world champions—CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and Bobby Roode. In many ways, all three men exemplify what pro wrestling could, and should be in the modern era. They are relatively young, fresh, charismatic, athletic and passionate about their professions. Much the same could be said for several top contenders for their respective titles, including James Storm, The Miz, and Dolph Ziggler. One thing seems likely: After dominating the top tier for most of the last decade, established acts like John Cena, Randy Orton, Kurt Angle, and Jeff Hardy will become far less relevant in 2012 than they have been in a long, long time.

That’s it for me. On behalf of everyone at Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Wrestler and Inside Wrestling magazines, I’d like to wish everyone reading this a very happy New Year. See you in 2012.

Al Castle
Senior Writer

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Women Of Wrestling Lives Digitally!

I can't begin to tell you how many letters of regret our Customer Service department has had to write to people requesting back issues of our Women of Wrestling specials. Unfortunately, all of these issues sold out years ago.

Well, the rule of magazine publishing is you never go back for a second printing, but now, our new digital capabilities have enabled us to make the Fall 2004 issue available once again. For $4.99 the issue featuring 160 pages and more than 300 color photos of stars, from Stacy Keibler to Trish Stratus, is available by clicking here. Sample a few pages for free and see if you can resist!

Another in-house note: If print magazines is your thing, I urge you to take advantage of the sale we're running at Current issues that would cost $9.95 at the newsstand are on sale for $5.95 plus $2 for postage and handling in the U.S.

Stu Saks

Friday, November 25, 2011

PWI Goes Digital!

I am so pleased to let you all know that the digital edition of Pro Wrestling Illustrated launched at just about the same time that idiot in Los Angeles pepper-sprayed her fellow Black Friday bargain-hunters at Walmart in an effort to get a competitive shopping edge. You can sample PWI Digital from the comfort (and safety) of your own home. Just click here.

I'm very excited about this new direction for PWI. Working in conjunction with Zinio, the world's largest electronic newsstand, we will now be able to deliver PWI weeks faster and at about half the newsstand price for a single issue. A subscription costs only $3.33 an issue, two-thirds off the newsstand price!

What we have for you right now is the February 2012 issue, which won't be on sale in its print format until the third week of December. Along with that are our last three back issues. One of those is the October 2011 "PWI 500" issue, which is fortunate since the print edition is completely sold out. Another is the January 2012 issue, which is also fortunate because we have a major error in the print edition that has been rectified with an updated page 48.

You will be able to see the cover and table of contents of all four issues. You will also see the remaining pages in thumbnail form, with the ability to enlarge three pages of your choosing before deciding if you would like to make your purchase.

This is just the start for PWI Digital. Beginning with our March 2012 year-end awards issue, we plan to add video links. Check it out now, though. I'd be interested to read your comments.

Stu Saks
PWI Publisher

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Indy Scene Through Fresh Eyes

I tried my best at artfully dodging the question. The thing of it was, Trevor Blanchard, one of the top guys at Purely Obsessed Wrestling World Entertainment, was sitting right across from me waiting for an answer. And it was the second time he’d asked me inside of five minutes. It was still pretty early on a Sunday morning and I was still a little leery of Trevor because he and my wife had teamed up to play a practical joke on me while I was still sleeping off the reverie of the night before. It was a good enough justification to play coy, anyway.

"How many indy shows have you been to?” he’d asked. Here was the guy who – on behalf of Chicago-based POWW – had invited me up to the area and, with POWW’s owner, Jim Blaze, given me the VIP treatment so I could go back and spread the word to PWI faithful far and wide. The truth of it was that I hadn’t seen many indy shows at all … in person, anyway. Counting the ROH show I attended late last year and the Memphis and ICW shows I’d attended back in the territory days, I could pretty well count them all on one hand.  But the POWW roster had given it their all the night before at their biggest show of the year, WrestleRage IX. The last thing I wanted to do was to give Trevor and his crew the impression that I, a dedicated fan of professional wrestling for somewhere around three decades, was some kind of newcomer to the scene.

Yes, I am still a newbie when it comes independent wrestling. I certainly have some found memories of the best territory days of the late-'70s and early-'80s, but when it comes to post Monday Night Wars indy stuff, I am pretty wet behind the ears. But that is, in and of itself, not necessarily a bad thing because the more I see of independent wrestling, the more I like it. In fact, my evening with POWW reminded me about so much of the good stuff in wrestling, including why and how I became a fan in the first place. In short: POWW made a believer out of me, that’s for darn sure.

WrestleRage IX brought some former WWE stars back to the squared circle, including  Scotty 2 Hotty, as well as a “one night only” DX reunion featuring Billy Gunn, Road Dogg. and X-Pac. NWA champ Adam Pearce and TNA’s Robbie E were also on hand for scheduled contests and Lanny Poffo made a memorable appearance representing his late brother, Randy “Macho Man” Savage, for his posthumous induction into POWW’s Hall of Fame. Additionally – and a genuine highlight of the night for my money –  “The Franchise” Shane Douglas made a surprise appearance at the show, cutting a blistering promo that ultimately constituted a broad critique of the current state of this country's two biggest organizations, WWE and TNA. In perfect form and with all the tact of a 10-pound sledgehammer, Douglas let everyone within earshot know what needs to change at the highest echelons of the industry if the business is to survive and stay relevant as a pop culture institution. Most importantly, he put an emphatic exclamation point on the implicit theme of the entire WrestleRage event: Today’s indy scene is wrestling’s wave of the future.

“Big” names from WrestleRage aside, the POWW roster is full of men and women who are so dedicated to professional wrestling and  carry themselves with so much pride that, at first glance, one might well be easily persuaded that they’re already big wheels in the business. Indeed, “The Flyin’ Hawaiian” Kanoa and “Ruthless” Ramon Rodriguez tore down the house with a main event TLC contest that would easily have stood up to any WWE or TNA pay-per-view contest. And at the end of it all, fans received the shock of the evening when all-around bad dude Ruff Crossing crashed the match to cash in his chance at the gold, ultimately scaling the tallest ladder in the building to grab the strap. And all of this came at the end of a card packed with high spots and solid mat work from the likes of wrestlers like Soulbrotha #1, “The Gentleman” John Campbell, Braun the Lumberjack, “Bad Boy” Justin James, SHIMMER’s Sassie Stephie, Nikki St. John, and a host of others. It was certainly a night to remember for everyone who was there.

For my part, I was fortunate to spend some time behind the curtain getting to know some of the class acts who put their livelihoods on the line to entertain their fans. Looking around, I was reminded of one of 1989 review for a buzzworthy new band named Nirvana in which the band mates were described as guys who “…wanna rock, who, if they weren't doing this, would be working in a supermarket or lumberyard, or fixing cars.” True enough, for every wrestling fan who complains that he or she isn’t happy with the product offered by the likes of WWE and TNA, there’s a bright-eyed up-and-coming grappler who spends weekends on the road, wrestling in school gymnasiums, meeting halls, and county fairs. In their real lives, they’re laborers, electrical workers, bouncers, and P.E. teachers. And whether they’re from Philly-based ECWA, APW out on the West Coast, or POWW Entertainment, independent wrestlers see a grand vision through all of their worst pain and greatest triumphs: These are the people who want to bring about a new era in the world of professional wrestling. 

Call it a “New Renaissance “of professional wrestling, this fabulous marriage of nostalgia and youthful enthusiasm. This is the era of documentaries like Canvasman and Sadermania, films that unabashedly show the positive side of professional wrestling with tremendous candor and plausibility. It’s the era in which trailblazers like Shane Douglas can speak freely about the need for change in the business and nudge hardcore fans and a confederation of open-minded promoters toward a grassroots movement to reinvent professional wrestling as a powerful and compelling medium that effectively combines athleticism with drama of the highest caliber. It’s the era in which a legion of day laborers and old school veterans compete to earn one of the most coveted of all prizes: respect from peers and fans alike. 

From what I saw at WrestleRage IX, POWW is at the forefront of wrestling’s New Renaissance, that’s for sure.

So Trevor, my friend, if you’re reading this, I suppose it’s time to give you my best answer to your original question: How many indy shows have I been to? Not many at all, but I can now proudly say that’s about to change. Consider me an “indy guy” now.

Mike Bessler
PWI Contributing Writer

Monday, October 31, 2011

Link: PWI Presentation To Madison Eagles

On October 1, I had the opportunity to present Madison Eagles with a plaque to commemorate her earning the top spot of the 2011 "PWI Female 50." Madison was gracious enough, but she had some harsh words for Serena Deeb, which brought the former WWE star out to the ring. Eagles went on to beat Deeb, but she lost the championship to Cheerleader Melissa the following day. As for me, I was just happy I didn't get roughed up the way former Managing Editor Jeff Ruoss was manhandled by Angel Orsini last year ... although being manhandled by Eagles and Deeb is an intriguing prospect.

A youtube link of my presentation just surfaced on youtube, so I thought I'd share the link.

Dan Murphy
PWI Senior Writer

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bound for Glory 2011: PWI Staffers' Predictions

Choosing which match is the true main event of TNA’s Bound for Glory pay-per-view is may depend on how you like your wrestling served up. If you love nothing more than to watch the legends of the sport relive their glory days, then you probably can’t wait to see the epic “fight” between Hulk Hogan and Sting. On the other hand, if you're hungry for something fresh and exciting, then you should be looking forward to seeing TNA’s newest superhero, Bobby Roode, challenge Kurt Angle for the World title.

In fact, whatever your tastes are, there’s a good chance that the loaded lineup for this Sunday’s show—TNA’s biggest of the year—has something for you. Our senior staffers offer their predictions for each match at Bound for Glor, accompanied by some commentary.

World Tag Team Championship: Mexican American (c) vs. Ink Inc.
Frank Ingiosi: Ink Inc.
Al Castle: Ink Inc.
Dan Murphy: Mexican America
Dave Lenker: Ink Inc.
Frank Krewda: Ink Inc.
Harry Burkett: Ink Inc.
Stu Saks: Mexican America

Commentary: TNA’s tag team division isn’t what it used to be just a few months ago, when the likes of The Motor City Machine Guns, Beer Money Inc., and Team 3-D were all in the title mix. Nevertheless, the team of Jesse Neal and Shannon Moore appear to have more of an upside than that of Hernandez and Anarchia. Whoever comes out on top, here’s hoping TNA finds them some fresh opponents.

Knockouts Championship: Winter(c) vs. Mickie James vs. Velvet Sky vs. Madison Rayne
Frank Ingiosi: Madison Rayne
Al Castle: Mickie James
Dan Murphy: Velvet Sky
Dave Lenker: Madison Rayne
Frank Krewda: Velvet Sky
Harry Burkett: Velvet Sky
Stu Saks: Mickie James

Commentary: It’s looking likely that a new Knockouts champion will be crowned in Philly this Sunday. Velvet Sky is the frontrunner to win the title for the first time, but you can never count out Mickie James. She’s hardcore country, and a multiple-time women’s champ. Whatever the case, if given enough time, this could be one of the better women’s matches by a national promotion this year.

X Division Championship: Austin Aries(c) vs. Brian Kendrick
Frank Ingiosi: Brian Kendrick
Al Castle: Austin Aries
Dan Murphy: Austin Aries
Dave Lenker: Austin Aries
Frank Krewda: Austin Aries
Harry Burkett: Austin Aries
Stu Saks: Austin Aries

Commentary: It’s nearly unanimous. A-Double looks to be a lock to retain the X title at Bound for Glory. Our confidence in Aries is no surprise. He’s a two-time ROH heavyweight champ, and has almost singlehandedly resurrected the X division since his arrival in TNA. We’re looking for some big-time athleticism in this one.

I Quit Match: AJ Styles vs. Christopher Daniels
Frank Ingiosi: Christopher Daniels
Al Castle: Christopher Daniels
Dan Murphy: AJ Styles
Dave Lenker: Christopher Daniels
Frank Krewda: AJ Styles
Harry Burkett: AJ Styles
Stu Saks: AJ Styles

Commentary: You can expect wrestling magic every time Styles and Daniels step into the ring. And with the “I Quit” stipulation added, the latest battle in the Daniels-Styles war promises to have its drama level turned up to 11. Styles is the favorite to pick up the victory here, and hopefully along the way remind TNA matchmakers how “phenomenal” he really is.

Falls Count Anywhere: Mr. Anderson vs. Bully Ray
Frank Ingiosi: Bully Ray
Al Castle: Bully Ray
Dan Murphy: Bully Ray
Dave Lenker: Anderson
Frank Krewda: Mr. Anderson
Harry Burkett: Bully Ray
Stu Saks: Bully Ray

Commentary: In a race to fill up a swear jar, it would be a close one. But a falls-count-anywhere match looks to favor Bully Ray, who helped put Team 3-D on the map through wild brawls like this one. What’s more, with Ray impressing fans and observers in recent months, it’s a good bet he’ll move into a World title feud before too long.

Full Metal Mayhem: Rob Van Dam vs. Jerry Lynn
Frank Ingiosi: Rob Van Dam
Al Castle: Ron Van Dam
Dan Murphy: Rob Van Dam
Dave Lenker: Jerry Lynn
Frank Krewda: Rob Van Dam
Harry Burkett: Jerry Lynn
Stu Saks: Draw

Commentary: It’s the latest chapter in an epic saga that began more than a dozen years ago. But this time, the grace and athleticism you can usually count on with Lynn and Van Dam will be accented by some tables, ladders, and chairs. Eight years younger, and infinitely more valuable to TNA, Van Dam looks to be a favorite here, but not by much.

Hulk Hogan vs. Sting in a “fight”:
Frank Ingiosi: Sting
Al Castle: Sting
Dan Murphy: Sting
Dave Lenker: Hulk Hogan
Frank Krewda: Sting
Harry Burkett: Hulk Hogan
Stu Saks: Sting

Commentary: On this much, we can all agree: Don’t look for Hulk Hogan to be dropping the big leg, or doing much of anything that would require leaving his feet. The toughest thing to predict is exactly what shape this “fight” will take, and what kind of smoke and mirrors TNA will employ to disguise the limitations of Sting, 52, and Hogan, 58. We’re expecting Joker Sting to get the last laugh on Hogan… and, possibly, a return of the red and yellow.

TNA World Heavyweight Championship: Bobby Roode vs. (c) Kurt Angle
Frank Ingiosi: Bobby Roode
Al Castle: Bobby Roode
Dan Murphy: Bobby Roode
Dave Lenker: Kurt Angle
Frank Krewda: Robert Roode
Harry Burkett: Kurt Angle
Stu Saks: Bobby Roode

Commentary: If you told us six months ago that Roode would be headlining TNA’s version of WrestleMania, we would have said you were Totally Not Aware of how this promotion operates. But TNA has done a tremendous job of building up Roode as an inspirational underdog challenger to legendary former Olympic gold medalist. We’re counting on Roode pulling out the victory in this one, but even if he doesn’t, he should be proud that the match happened at all. And so should all of TNA.

Friday, September 9, 2011

"Female 50" Issue Available At Special Price!

All it took was a mere tease on the home page of our website to incite all the "experts" out there who want to explain why we should or shouldn't have selected Madison Eagles as the number-one gal in the 2011 "Female 50" rankings. Better yet, some of these "experts" actually speculate on the remainder of the list--numbers 2 through 50--when the entire list hasn't even been published yet!

Want to get the jump on these self-proclaimed pundits? Check out our website, where you can order your copy of the November 2011 "Female 50" issue at the reduced price of $5.95! Not only can you cut through the all the misinformation littering the Web, you can save $4 off the newsstand price while doing it.

Much like our annual "PWI 500" ranking, this year's "Female 50" is sure to inspire some thought (and possibly debate) among readers. Any time our editors put together a list, we have to make some hard decisions that often get people talking. This year's ranking has quite a few newcomers in it. That means we had to drop some familiar faces from the list. To see how the 2011 "Female 50" rounded out, order the  November 2011 issue that appears at right.

Frank Krewda

Thursday, August 25, 2011

PWI Writers on Wrestling Talk Shows

Pro Wrestling Illustrated Senior Writers Dan Murphy & Al Castle have been making the rounds on several pro wrestling radio shows to promote the new PWI 500 issue. Click on the links to listen to them discuss how the list was put together, the debate over choosing The Miz as number one, and some predictions on next year's 500:

Legends Radio
Right After Wrestling
Over The Ropes
Fever Keeps It Real 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Keeping The Dream Alive

One of the things I love the most about writing for Pro Wrestling Illustrated is talking to men and women who truly love their work. Almost every time I chat with an up-and-coming indy star, I hear those wonderful words, “I am living my dream.” It’s a great sentiment, indeed … Especially in troubled economic times like these in which a lot of folks have to scrape and struggle in some rough conditions just to make ends meet.

Along these lines, most of us writer-types have our own “day jobs” in which we punch a clock for eight hours (or more) every day so we can meet our obligations and—hopefully—live comfortably. The end of the day is when we really get busy, though, because that’s when we get to watch, discuss and write about professional wrestling. Most of us love wrestling so much that we write about it wherever and whenever we get the chance. We have blogs, forums, podcasts and all kinds of other stuff going on. But writing for PWI is really and truly the brass ring for many of us.

PWI has earned a really special place in the wrestling industry because the magazine is absolutely enmeshed with the very history of the business. For some good evidence of this, look no further than WWE’s outstanding new DVD set The Greatest Cage Matches Of All Time. In the commentary for the August 9, 1980, match between Bruno Sammartino and Larry Zbyszko, talking encyclopedia of wrestling Matt Stryker touches upon the importance of PWI back in the days when printed media was the most important link between wrestlers and their fans. Josh Matthews, who joins Stryker in play-by-play for the match, acknopwledges this, adding that the Sammartino/Zbyszko was voted Match of the Year by readers of PWI, and that Zbyszko himself earned the dubious distinction of Most Hated wrestler, according to PWI faithful. Indeed, PWI was a lifeline for wrestling fans far and wide as well as an outlet for fan enthusiasm and critique.

In her recent appearance on Colt Cabana’s The Art Of Wrestling podcast, WWE’s Beth Phoenix further articulates the unique connection PWI has enjoyed with wrestling enthusiasts of all ages and origins. Beth recalls that her grandmother, who was of Polish descent, was a passionately dedicated fan of professional wrestling who kept issues of PWI on her living room coffee table, right next to her Polish language magazines.

The very first interview I did for the PWI family of magazines was a story on indy star Ray Alexander. I distinctly remember Ray telling me just how important it was that he’d finally landed in a magzine in the PWI family, as he said, “In the locker room, most of us complain about PWI and all that … But when PWI comes calling, we know it’s a big deal.” I thought about that for a minute and, having written about wrestling here and there on the ’net myself (and doing my own share of ribbing the folks at PWI in the process),  I replied, “Yeah, it’s kind of like that for writers, too.” And that’s the absolute truth of it all. At the end of the day, we really love what we do when we knock out a short blurb, a column, or a feature piece for PWI because we know we’re part of something that’s been so important to readers and wrestlers alike for a very long time. Just like the subjects of our stories, I think it’s safe to say that we’re living our dream, too.

Mike Bessler

PWI Contributing Writer

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"PWI 500": 1-100

1. The Miz
2. Randy Orton
3. John Cena
4. Kane
5. Takaski Seguira
6. Alberto Del Rio
7. Mr. Anderson
8. Rey Mysterio Jr.
9. Eddie Edwards
10. CM Punk
11. Rob Van Dam
12. Sheamus
13. Roderick Strong
14. Suwama
15. Daniel Bryan
16. Jeff Hardy
17. Dolph Ziggler
18. Kurt Angle
19. Wade Barrett
20. Jeff Jarrett
21. Sting
22. Hiroshi Tanahashi
23. Ultimo Dragon
24. AJ Styles
25. Davey Richards
26. Christopher Daniels
27. John Morrison
28. Dr. Wagner Jr.
29. Kofi Kingston
30. Robert Roode
31. Big Show
32. Matt Morgan
33. Christian
34. Kazarian
35. Cody Rhodes
36. Chris Hero
37. James Storm
38. Ricky Banderas
39. Jack Swagger
40. Bully Ray
41. Satoshi Kojima
42. Samoa Joe
43. Sin Cara
44. Claudio Castagnoli
45. Shinsuke Nakamura
46. El Generico
47. Alex Shelley
48. Chris Sabin
49. Adam Pearce
50. El Zorro
51. R-Truth
52. Drew McIntryre
53. Seth Rollins
54. Togi Makabe
55. Hernandez
56.  D’Angelo Dinero
57. Mark Henry
58. Negro Casas
59. Gunner
60. Abyss
61. Justin Gabriel
62. Douglas Williams
63. Brother Devon
64. Go Shiozaki
65. Matt Hardy
66. Heath Slater
67. Robbie E
68. Ted DiBiase Jr.
69. Evan Bourne
70. Naomichi Marufuji
71. Shelton Benjamin
72. Tommy Dreamer
73. Prince Devitt
74. Jay Briscoe
75. Rob Terry
76. Austin Aries
77. Max Buck
78. Ezekiel Jackson
79. Charlie Haas
80. Jushin Liger
81. Mark Briscoe
82. Orlando Jordan
83. Jeremy Buck
84. Jesse Neal
85. Kenny Omega
86. Shingo Takagi
87. Carlito
88. Volador Jr.
89. Crimson
90. BxB Hulk
91. Shannon Moore
92. Vladimir Kozlov
93. Homicide
94. Colt Cabana
95. Yuji Nagata
96. Eric Young
97. David Otunga
98. Yamato
99. Tommasso Ciampa
100. Santino Marella

Monday, August 8, 2011

"PWI 500": 101-200

101. Kenny King
102. Jon Moxley
103. The Sheik
104. Low-Ki
105. Great Khali
106. Alex Riley
107. Brian Kendrick
108. Jimmy Jacobs
109. Rhett Titus
110. Scott Steiner
111. Minoru Suzuki
112. La Parka
113. Tyson Kidd
114. Mike Bennett
115. Adam Cole
116. Johnny Curtis
117. Michael McGilicutty
118. Jay Lethal
119. Mason Ryan
120. Tyson Dux
121. MVP
122. Kevin Steen
123. Minoru Tanaka
124. David Hart Smith
125. Ryota Hama
126. Ultimo Guerrero
127. Hirooki Goto
128. Blue Demon Jr.
129. Husky Harris
130. Giant Bernard
131. La Sombra
132. Michael Tarver
133. Chessman
134. Kaz Hayashi
135. Ryusuke Taguchi
136. Amazing Red
137. Yoshi Tatsu
138. Yoshihiro Takayama
139. Toru Yano
140. Zack Ryder
141. Delirious
142. Takuma Sano
143. Primo Colon
144. Karl Anderson
145. Wataru Inoue
146. L.A. Park
147. Averno
148. Kotaru Suzuki
149. Mohammed Yone
150. Hiram Tua
151. Joe Doering
152. Joe E. Legend
153. JTG
154. Kota Ibushi
155. Takeshi Morishima
156. Mephisto
157. KONO
158. Taiyo Kea
159. Big Daddy Voodoo
160. Rhino
161. Steve Corino
162. Chavo Guerrero Jr.
163. Tyler Reks
164. Magnus
165. Chris Masters
166. Masato Tanaka
167. Anarquia
168. Yoshinobu Kanemaru
169. William Regal
170. Murphy
171. CIMA
172. Trent Barreta
173. KENTA
174. Heavy Metal
175. Curt Hawkins
176. Masakatsu Funaki
177. Paul London
178. Luke Gallows
179. Kensuke Sasaki
180. Ray Gonzalez
181. Akitoshi Saito
182. Atlantis
183. Yoshihiro Tajiri
184. Yujiro Takahashi
185. Brodus Clay
186. Tetsuya Naito
187. Sami Callihan
188. Pac
189. Jimmy Uso
190. Jon Davis
191. Bo Rotundo
192. Jey Uso
193. Jun Akiyama
194. Bison Smith
195. Oliver John
196. Hector Garza
197. Masato Yoshino
198. Kory Chavis
199. Jack Evans
200. Arik Cannon

Tomorrow: 1-101

Friday, August 5, 2011

"PWI 500": 201-300

201. Perro Aguayo Jr.
202. Tim Storm
203. Electroshock
204. Taiji Ishimori
205. Darren Young
206. Richie Steamboat
207. Extreme Tiger
208. Xavier Woods
209. Masahiro Chono
210. Hartley Jackson
211. Brad Allen
212. Naruki Doi
213. Derrick Bateman
214. Johnny Vandal
215. Big E. Langston
216. Eric Escobar
217. Silver King
218. Chris Grey
219. Calvin Raines
220. Brodie Lee
221. Jerry Lawler
222. Tommy Taylor
223. Byron Saxton
224. Glamour Boy Shane
225. Peter Orlov
226. Drake Younger
227. Jado
228. Ultimo Gladiador
229. Michael Elgin
230. Raven
231. Matt Taven
232. Kyle O’Reilly
233. Necro Butcher
234. Chris Angel
235. Rasche Brown
236. Jon Rekon
237. Cibernetico
238. Keiji Muto
239. Sabu
240. Percy Watson
241. Keith Walker
242. Joe Lider
243. Gedo
244. Conor O’Brian
245. Metal Master
246. Martin Stone
247. Cody Hawk
248. Tim Donst
249. Titus O’Neil
250. Octagon
251. Vampiro
252. TJ Cannon
253. Dragon Rojo Jr.
254. Tiger Mask IV
255. Super Crazy
256. Jacob Novak
257. Blue Panther
258. Caylen Croft
259. Bruce Maxwell
260. Lucky Cannon
261. John McChesney
262. Ricky Reyes
263. Tokyo Monster Kahagas
264. Petey Williams
265. Akebono
266. Akuma
267. Cody Deaner
268. Johnny Gargano
269. Shawn Spears
270. Sterling James Keenan
271. Latino
272. Ryan Eagles
273. Mascara Dorado
274. Akira Tozawa
275. Matt Cross
276. Derek Wylde
277. Damien Sandow
278. Joey Ryan
279. “Mr.  450” Hammett
280. Chuck Taylor
281. Jigsaw
282. Icarus
283. Ares
284. Ruckus
285. Jayson Cypress
286. Kazuchika Okada
287. Tito Colon
288. Eddie Kingston
289. Mike Quackenbush
290. Josh Daniels
291. Rocky Romero
292. Mason Beck
293. Sebastian Suave
294. Darin Corbin
295. Joey Mercury
296. Hunico
297. Robbie Heart
298. Rich Swann
299. Matt Riviera
300. Dragon Kid

Monday: 101-200

Thursday, August 4, 2011

"PWI 500": 301-400

301. Jason Bane
302. Dennis Rivera
303. Pepper Parks
304. Lance Bravado
305. Harlem Bravado
306. Dylan Kage
307. Kijimuna
308. Dan Lawrence
309. Matt Cage
310. Silas Young
311. Craig Classic
312. Shane Hollister
313. Brandon Locke
314. Sugar Dunkerton
315. Slyck Wagner Brown
316. Aden Chambers
317. Robert Anthony
318. Robbie McAllister
319. T.J. Perkins
320. Hallowicked
321. Cliff Compton
322. Don Paysan
323. Robbie Gilmore
324. Max Bauer
325. N8 Mattson
326. Brian Milonas
327. Mohamad Ali Vaez
328. Wes Brisco
329. Brandon Espinosa
330. Eli Cottonwood
331. Arick Andrews
332. Desean Bishop
333. Samuel Elias
334. Christopher Rockwell
335. J.D. Maverick
336. Jinder Mahal
337. Donny Marlow
338. Alexander Rusev
339. Ace Hawkins
340. Cole Callway
341. Jerome Hendrix
342. The Blue Meanie
343. Andy Ridge
344. C.J. Esparza
345. Mike Mondo
346. Ophidian
347. Diego Corleone
348. R.D. Evans
349. Amasis
350. Jake O’Reilly
351. Kirby Mack
352. Brett Gakiya
353. Steve Boz
354. Jake Crist
355. Tommy Treznik
356. DJ Hyde
357. Ryan Bisbal
358. TJ Mack
359. Paredyse
360. Vance Nevada
361. Shane Haste
362. Franky the Mobster
363. Lince Dorado
364. Dave Crist
365. Kyle Sebastian
366. Devon Moore
367. Asylum
368. Corey Hollis
369. Mike Sydal
370. Ryan Rush
371. Roman Leakee
372. Matt Burns
373. Russell Walker
374. Kevin Grace
375. Adam Revolver
376. Steven Walters
377. Sam Shields
378. Danny Havoc
379. Mike Rollins
380. Ted McNaler
381. Damien Slater
382. Jake Manning
383. Ryan McBride
384. Sinn Bodhi
385. Josh Alexander
386. Bloody Harker Dirge
387. RJ City
388. Alex Silva
389. Mega
390. Jonny Puma
391. Aaron Epic
392. Adam Windsor
393. Cobian
394. Chase Del Monte
395. Shiima Xion
396. Ricochet
397. Papadon
398. Josef Von Schmidt
399. Pat Buck
400. Dan Maff

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"PWI 500": 401-500

Beginning today, the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Blog will list the 2011 "PWI 500," 100 spots at a time. Tomorrow, we will reveal 301-400, Friday 201-300, Monday 101-200, and Tuesday 1-100.

We welcome your feedback!

401. Jason Static
402. Bazooka Joe
403. Bobby Shields
404. Grizzly Redwood
405. Breaker Morant
406. Scott Zenzen
407. Bobby Dempsey
408. Maifu
409. Kekoa the Flyin’ Hawaiian
410. Kid America
411. Mathieu St-Jacques
412. Saifu
413. Bryan Logan
414. Sylvan Grenier
415. Crazzy Steve
416. Eric Cooper
417. Brandon Aarons
418. Matt Logan
419. Pat Guennette
420. Whipdog Johnson
421. Damian Dragon
422. Jason Jones
423. Cheech
424. Elvis Pridemore
425. Rastakhan
426. Mr.  Fantastic
427. Matt Saigon
428. Player Uno
429.  MASADA
430. Sexxy Eddie
431. Benjamin Kimera
432. Stupified
433. Chris Wylde
434. Shaun Rickers
435. Jake Davis
436. Jimmy Cicero
437. Ernesto Osiris
438. Mike Posey
439. Gee Gee
440. Axl Rotten
441. Joe Gacy
442. C.W. Scott
443. Shorty Smalls
444. Noah Lott
445. Scott Wright
446. Mozart Fontaine
447. Cloudy
448. Jimmy Lee
449. Mike Dell
450. Tim Horner Jr
451. Vincent Vega
452. Leslie Leatherman
453. CUJO the Hellhound
454. Bill Collier
455. American Kickboxer II
456. Chrisifix
457. Scott Tytus
458. Outlaw J. R.  James
459. Kevin Douglas
460. Tommy Mack
461.  Rudy Switchblade
462. Steve Stasiak
463. Don Vega
464. Dennis Allen
465. Chris Cooper
466. Sabian
467. Vince Beach
468. Bodie Williams
469. Nick Fury
470. Brain Damage
471. Fred Flash
472. Biff Slater
473. A.J. Istria
474. Abraham Washington
475. Shockwave the Robot
476. Marc Mandrake
477. Martin Stanley Fuqua
478. Pee Wee
479. Damien Kass
480. Will Calrissian
481. Kwan Chang
482. AHTU
483. Ethan Page
484. Griffen
485. Barry Hardy
486.  Jimmy the Hippy
487. Preston Maxwell
488. Scarry Garry
489. Brandon Bishop
490. Ryot
491. Joey Kings
492. Corey Blaze
493. Ash Walker
494. Justin Sane
495. Brandon Thurston
496.  Milo Beasley
497. Peter B.  Beautiful
498.  Sinister Cross
499. Johnny Adams
500. Gino Martino

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Triple-H As New WWE Head? More Like Triple-F

Just around the same time Internet chatter took off about the 2011 “PWI 500,” Triple-H assumed leadership of WWE’s day-to-day operations.

We can tell you that “Trips” didn’t rank in this year’s “500,” due mainly to the amount of time he spent on the injured reserve list during the evaluation period. However, if we were to analyze and rank Triple-H for his early performance as a wrestling executive, he’d appear much closer to the bottom of the list than the top.

Triple-H’s first few weeks in charge have been unimpressive to say the least. And we dare say that if the past 14 days are any indication of how Triple-H intends to run the company, WWE is in for a very chaotic future.

It’s a good thing Triple-H isn’t a baseball player, because after whiffing on his first three front-office challenges, we’d have already benched him in favor of a more reliable batter:

Strike One: Triple-H’s first blunder actually occurred months ago when he made his first WWE talent acquisition by signing Mexican sensation Sin Cara. Sure, the lucha libre star is a scintillating wrestler capable of whipping out highlight-reel maneuvers on a whim. And, yes, he appeals directly to the Hispanic and children markets WWE so covets. Unfortunately though, Sin Cara is currently on the sidelines, waiting out a 30-day suspension for a violation of the WWE Wellness Policy. Making matters worse, Sin Cara discussed the suspension in the press, which the gang in Stamford, Connecticut, couldn't have appreciated.

Of course, Triple-H didn’t cause Sin Cara’s violation, but he reportedly lobbied very strongly for WWE to do the deal. And now, there’s no way around the fact that Cara’s sins reflect poorly on Triple-H’s judgment.

Strike Two: More recently, Triple-H orchestrated the distasteful spectacle of publicly firing WWE Chairman—and his father-in-law—Vince McMahon on Raw.

Triple-H may have been acting at the behest of the WWE Board of Directors when he “future endeavored” Vince, but it takes some pretty big grapefruits to humiliate somebody who not only gives you a job, and a wife, but also the proverbial keys to the family business.

The incident not only calls Triple-H’s judgment into question yet again, but this time WWE employees are left to wonder if values such as loyalty and gratitude mean anything to “The Game.”

Strike Three: Triple-H squandered an opportunity to demonstrate his leadership ability when he completely mismanaged the WWE heavyweight championship situation on Raw.

In a scenario where then-champion CM Punk and former champion John Cena were expected to be gone from the Raw brand after July 17, WWE enters SummerSlam with both men holding claim to the same title, but no unification or elimination match announced for the PPV as yet.

Triple-H had an opportunity to restore clarity to the heavyweight title scene by making some bold and decisive decisions regarding Punk and Cena. Instead, he ordered a championship tourney on Raw that only muddied the waters further by getting Rey Mysterio involved. Triple-H has only himself to blame for the bungled mess the heavyweight title picture has become.

In fairness to Triple-H, nobody expected the transition from active wrestler to very visible front-office executive to be seamless. But while some mistakes are acceptable, Triple-H would’ve been better served by staying off of Raw and Smackdown until he saw a viable way through all the confusion.

Luckily for him (and us), however, there are some ways Triple-H can fix some of his mistakes. Senior Writer Dave Lenker expounds on them in an upcoming feature article in the November 2011 issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated (on sale September 27). Let us know what you think!

Frank Krewda

"PWI 500" Top 10 List A Fraud!

Please dismiss any "PWI 500" top 10 lists you might find on the Internet. The only people who know at this point are the editors and the pressmen at Kappa Graphics, our printer. The only piece of information that has been released is that The Miz is number one.

I have seen the list that is circulating, and it's not even close!

Stu Saks

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Miz: No. 1 In The "PWI 500"!

The man who held the WWE title for 160 days--and then suffered one of the worst slumps of any headliner in company history--has been named number one in the 21st annual "PWI 500."

The official announcement has not yet been made that The Miz was PWI's selection, but today's update of the PWI home page prominently displays the cover with the news. So I figured, Hell, we may as well get the scoop.

I invite you to visit to check out the cover and read the story that includes Miz' somewhat surprising reaction.

One note: Before anyone jumps down our throats for making Miz number one when he's clearly had a hard time of it since scoring a tainted victory over John Cena at WrestleMania 27, please keep in mind that the evaluation period for the "500" is from June 1, 2010, to May 31, 2011.

Stu Saks

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Punk vs. Cena: As Good As It Gets

The entire Pro Wrestling Illustrated  staff has been hard at work as of late, especially with the production one of the biggest issues of the year—the "PWI 500"—which will be on sale at within a week. And so, it’s been tough to find the time to update this blog. All apologies.

But, speaking at least for myself, I know I would have been remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to sound off on one particular bit of news coming out of the WWE over the last couple days. Simply put, for my money (in the bank), CM Punk vs. John Cena from this past Sunday was, hands down, the best match I’ve seen all year. In fact, it’s one of the very best matches I’ve seen in my 30 years as a wrestling fan.

It’s not that uncommon to see a terrific, four-star-plus Match of the Year contender over the course of a year. But a truly great, five-star wrestling masterpiece can be the rarest of gems in this sport. In the tens of thousands of matches I’ve watched, perhaps only a dozen or so might fall into this category. The majority of them include either Ric Flair or Shawn Michaels. One includes both.

For a match to reach the highest levels of artistry, several variables need to fall into place. Yes, athleticism is important, but it’s not everything.

It needs to have a compelling storyline that gives the bout a “big fight” feeling before the bell even sounds. Punk’s recent reality-based promos, and his looming WWE departure, took care of that.

It needs the right setting. Usually, WrestleMania takes care of that part of the equation, but in this case, 14,000-rabid fans in Punk’s hometown of Chicago did the trick.

It needs to have plenty of time to develop. At 34 minutes, this bout never felt rushed, nor did it ever drag.

And, last but certainly not least, it needs to have a solid finish. There were a lot of ways this match could have ended. But Punk's clean pin of Cena, and the jubilation that ensued, was the best.

On what is a typically an off-month pay-per-view during a lull period between WrestleMania and SummerSlam, Punk and Cena managed to place a check mark on each of the categories above and deliver an unlikely match for the ages. What’s more, they also delivered the best match of their respective careers.

Ultimately, it will be up to you, the PWI readers, to determine what 2011’s Match of the Year will be. I imagine The Undertaker’s epic showdown with Triple-H at WrestleMania 27 may give this past Sunday’s bout some serious competition. But there’s something to be said for Punk and Cena having a match as special as they did without the added boost of the WrestleMania stage. 

That’s not to say that 'Taker-Triple-H wasn’t fantastic in its own right. And so was February’s Smackdown Elimination Chamber bout, with its awesome closing minutes involving Edge and Rey Mysterio.

There's certainly some irony in the fact that, in the year that WWE formally decides to vanquish the word "wrestling," it delivers some of the best wrestling it ever has.

-Al Castle
Pro Wrestling Illustrated Senior Writer

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Thoughts On Austin Aries

I’ve said it so many times now, that I’ve become predictable, but I think it bears repeating: I always want to see the “good guys” succeed. Austin Aries is one of the “good guys.”

Whether his actions in the ring make you want to pat him on the back or smash your chair into his skull—and I’ve seen fans attempt both— “A-Double” is one of the most genuine and honest guys you will ever meet, inside or outside of the ring. That’s why I’m really hoping this new opportunity to wrestle for TNA heading into the Destination X pay-per-view next month will be so much more than a one-time comeback or a final goodbye.

For a long time, Austin has referred to himself as “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived.” He has taken such pride in his body of work as a wrestler and his overall presentation as a performer. He also makes no bones in talking about how wrestlers are almost never paid as much as they should be for the tremendous physical sacrifices they make. Some might call him bitter, but his critics must remember that Aries has spent much of his adult life making those sacrifices.

I’ll never forget the first time I met Aries. It was at a bar after one of the South Philadelphia ROH TV tapings a few years back, and I was there with fellow PRO WRESTLING ILLUSTRATED writer Jeff Ruoss, former NWA champion Adam Pearce (then a high-level ROH executive), and several younger roster members. As we sat around with our beers and talked about the incredible card we had just seen, in walked Austin, replete with elbow-patched “professor” sportcoat, and pipe sticking out of his pocket. He seemed so reserved compared to the man who had been out at ringside only two hours earlier, screaming in the face of some young fan that was making a very un-PG-like hand gesture. And as he walked around the bar, red wine in hand, embracing his colleagues with hugs and introducing himself to those of us he did not know, it struck me so much that here was a man who carried himself like a major star, but never lost his humility.

A few months later, Austin was a guest on my Internet podcast. At the time he spoke of all the opportunities out there for him as his successful tenure with ROH came to a close. At the time, I felt Austin was destined to catch on somewhere—anywhere—in a prominent role, whether as a wrestler each week on WWE or as the face of any number of other television projects. As I listened to the certainty and determination with which he spoke, I just knew Austin Aries was going to be a bigger name some way.

I’m sure that’s why he has been struggling for so long with which path he wants to take. I think in the back of his head, Austin always figured his talent in the ring would land him a spot with WWE someday, in spite of his modest size. When it was announced that WWE was casting independent wrestlers for the return of its Tough Enough program, Aries seemed like such a natural I that I figured it was only a matter of time until we saw it happen. For reasons I can’t really reveal—mostly because I don’t understand them myself—“A-Double” never made it to the show as I’d expected.

With diminishing hope of eventually catching on in WWE, and Austin’s own reluctance to continue beating up his body for little compensation, retirement seemed imminent. I can now look back so proudly on getting to catch up with Austin in the Philadelphia area last April at the ECWA Super 8 tournament for what I thought then might be the last time ever. Other than a few commitments with Dragon-Gate USA and EVOLVE, the tourney was really about all he had left at the time, and it was nice to see Austin Aries the performer bring his career full circle from a 2004 Super 8 event that helped him achieve some notoriety. I also relished sitting and talking with my friend for hours … knowing it could be my last opportunity.

When I got an e-mail the other day telling me Austin would appear on Impact Wrestling, I was elated for him. Aries has been working for so long to better himself that I was left baffled when it seemed there really might not be that happy storybook ending to Austin Aries’ tale.

In TNA, “A-Double” has the chance to remind wrestling fans around the world why he was once considered one of the top men in his profession, and to show the whole locker room just how brilliant of a guy he really is.

Will this stint in TNA result in just a few more matches, and a chance to get to say goodbye on an international stage? Or could it be the beginning of a rebirth that will place him back to the same level as peers such as AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and Christopher Daniels, as I think he deserves? Who knows? I do think that if TNA rewards him for all of the hard work I know he will give, we might actually be in for a new chapter in the Austin Aries story—potentially the best chapter yet.

–Brady Hicks
Contributing Write

Friday, May 20, 2011

Wrestling Loses A True Superstar

The day-to-day goings-on in pro wrestling (or whatever it's called these days) might not be of much interest to the mainstream news outlets, but when Randy Savage tragically died in a car crash after suffering a heart attack today, it was big, big news everywhere.

Most of the people who control the media not only knew of the "Macho Man," they were probably closet wrestling fans during the height of his popularity. I learned of Savage's death on ESPN radio while driving back to the office after lunch, and quickly turned to WFAN, where the discussion was in full swing. Checking the Internet upon my return to the office, Savage's death was the lead story on Even as I'm writing this blog, I was interrupted by reporters from Newsday and Sports Illustrated looking for my take on Savage's career.

Kostya Kennedy of SI (who did some freelance work for us way back when) asked me what it was about Savage that made him stand out as a wrestler. I really didn't know how to answer that. Was it his talent? I guess that's the first thing that gets any wrestler noticed. But there was something about the man that reached out and touched the audience. Whether they wanted to love him or wanted to hate him, they always wanted him. I supposed that's the best explanation of that cliched "It Factor" that has become part of our vernacular.

Randy Savage was a superstar, a term that we at PWI don't throw around loosely. He wasn't always the nicest of men. In fact, he very nearly got violent with our own Bill Apter over a cover headline on PWI. He later called and apologized, blaming his behavior on "the demons" inside his head.

If anything good can come from his tragic death, hopefully those demons died right along with him.

Stu Saks

[Top: Randy Savage cartoon by Jason Conlan]

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The World's Strongest, And Nearly Most-Tenured, Man

In any line of work, you always hope that seniority comes with promotions. The longer you work for a particular employer, the more money you make, and the more you will increase your profile.

But that’s not always the case in WWE. As you witness WWE’s latest attempt to repackage Mark Henry and push him as a “fresh” main event act, consider this: Henry—the perennial staple of WWE’s Superstars weekly program—-is the second-longest tenured full-time wrestler on the entire WWE roster. (Author's note: I originally thought him to be the longest tenured, but was reminded that Kane has a year on him.)

Some of WWE’s other longest-working veterans behind Henry aren’t much higher on the cards.

That may not sound right to some of you, considering how long you’ve seen some of the same faces in WWE. But the reality is that the Undertaker and Triple-H are far from full-time performers these days. Other WWE mainstays like Goldust, Christian, and The Big Show began working for WWE more than a decade ago, but have gaps in their WWE employment of at least a year or more. Edge had 13 years of steady employment as a WWE wrestler until suddenly retiring last month.

So what you’re left with is a roster consisting largely of performers hired over the last five years. That can be a mixed blessing.

On one hand, such turn over can help the WWE product feel young and fresh—certainly more so than in TNA, where up-and-comers must feel frustrated as they watch aging wrestling stars from the 1990s nearly monopolize the upper tier.

On the other hand, veteran wrestlers can be an important ingredient in a healthy locker room. Not only can they provide leadership and direction to younger wrestlers, but they can serve as an example that loyalty can pay off, and that it’s possible to have a very long, steady career in WWE.

And, the truth is, that several WWE stars may be well on their way to becoming just those kind of elder statesmen. Although they've only been around for nine years, it's certainly possible, if not likely, that John Cena and Randy Orton will put in another 10 years or more in WWE.

And, although Henry may seem like an exception, the truth is that WWE's most senior employees are typically rewarded with big spots on the card, as evidenced by the list below. But that only makes sense. If WWE thinks enough of a performer to keep him on the payroll, then odds are he's doing something right. If he's under achieving then, well, just ask Shelton Benjamin what can happen.

Those who aren't headlining shows after a decade or more in WWE, but still manage to keep their jobs, don't necessarily have anything to be ashamed of. Skilled veterans like Henry, William Regal and Chavo Guerrero all play an important role in WWE. They help get over younger stars who, one day, may be the veterans themselves.

All that said, here is a list of Top 10 most-tenured, part-time and full-time WWE talent, whose stints in the company have been uninterrupted. (And no, I won’t count the Brooklyn Brawler.)

1. The Undertaker, debuted on TV in 1990.
2. Triple-H, debuted on TV in April, 1995.
3. Kane, debuted on TV in August, 1995 as Isaac Yankem.
4. Mark Henry, debuted on TV in 1996.
5. William Regal, debuted on TV in 2000.
6. Chavo Guerrero, debuted on TV in 2001.
7. Randy Orton, debuted on TV in April, 2002.
8. John Cena, debuted on TV in June, 2002.
9. Rey Mysterio, debuted on TV in July 2002.
10. John Morrison, debuted on TV in 2004.

Al Castle
PWI Senior Writer

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