The Voice Of Reason News Hour 10.24.03


Chris Pankonin01 (11:04:21 AM): I’m…not…going…to..have …a news report done…please dont’ kill me :-(
Widro (11:20:40 AM): damn you!
Widro (11:20:42 AM): maybe i’ll do it
Chris Pankonin01 (11:20:51 AM): well, I could put one together right now
Chris Pankonin01 (11:20:55 AM): but it wouldn’t be very good
Widro (11:21:01 AM): its cool i’m pretty bored

With Pank’s burgeoning social calendar spilling over yet again on a Friday morning, I figured I would take advantage of my apathy towards programming this morning and put together an old school 411 News Report.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Widro, and along with Ashish, I’m the party host here at Let’s get to some wrestling news!

How The Hogan Turns
No matter what is going on in the world of McMahon, you gotta admire Hulk Hogan’s ability to stay in the news. The latest is that Hogan has come down with such a serious knee injury that he needs surgery right away, postponing NWA:TNA’s proposed PPV on Thanksgiving Sunday. I’m not sure what the real story is, but whatever it is – it’s going to push the Hogan/Jarrett angle into 2004.

Jimmy Hart appeared on TNA’s broadcast on Wednesday, furthering the Hogan/Jarrett storyline, and promised that a Hogan crony would be in Nashville next week to take out Jarrett. With Hart appearing on the PPV, it seems likely that Hogan is still going to work with TNA, but there remains the possibility that he and McMahon can patch things up before WM20. I think the reason TNA originally wanted to rush into the PPV with Hogan next month was to minimize the time Hogan had to back out, and now with the injury, there is plenty of time for more Hogan maneuvering.

But thank goodness Hogan is so good at wrestling politics. As much as I’d love to see NWA:TNA succeed, it seems like they make 3 dumb moves for every 1 good idea they have. Bringing Hogan in for a special program was a great idea – perhaps the only thing that would get TNA a TV deal. But rushing into it with only a month to promote it – has TNA learned nothing about the PPV business? It takes several months to get an advertising and promotional campaign underway – that’s why WWE PPV ads are often outdated or generic. TNA and Hogan can now come up with a longer term gameplan to get non-internet/hardcore wrestling fans interested in buying the supercard.

This is a super important crossroads for TNA because 2004 will probably be the year they either blow up as a legit #2, or fall by the wayside as it appears MLW is about to do. TNA only announced the PPV to their regular viewers and the internet, so postponing it does little or nothing to hurt their credibility. With Goldberg and RVD both possible free agents in 2004, it’s very possible that TNA or another second wrestling company could scoop them up, along with Hogan, Sting and the regular group of non-WWE guys to pose a threat to Vince. Combine those marquee names with the solid base of talent TNA already has under contract, and that could be a potent combo.

Something TNA is going to have to face sooner than later is that their production values are too poor. Apologists say “oh once you watch and get interested in the show, the production values don’t matter” but that is false. They even matter to internet fans who complain about it – imagine a casual fan used to Raw or Nitro? It looks like a bush league operation from the getgo, and it rarely does anything to convince the viewer otherwise. TNA must have near WWE quality production on the supershow for those casual fans to stick with the product.

OK, I’ll get to some WWE.

Raw and Smackdown Notes
Raw was put together pretty well this week, without any of the super offensive stuff that Smarks Like UsTM hate with a passion. With business down and the mainstream colder on WWE than ever, the only real way to evaluate these shows is to see how well WWE is building new stars for the future, and Raw is doing a much better job than Smackdown right now.

Ric Flair, the legend that can still go, is doing a phenomenal job trying to bring Maven to the next level. The subtle hints of Maven respecting and pondering Flair’s cheating antics should lead to some interesting storyline twists. I am excited to see them have a long match on Raw or a PPV coming in the near future.

Bringing back Batista to lay out Goldberg did more to push a new talent on Raw than anything I can think of in months. He stood over Goldberg as if he was a serious contender, and fans will instantly buy him as a World Title threat. In this instance, the creative team did their job – now the pressure is on Batista and Goldberg to deliver in the ring.

Say what you want about La Resistance, but replacing Grenier with Rob Conway was a great move. If La Resistance can overcome this dreadful gimmick, they are a promising young tag team the company obviously as some faith in.

Smackdown is actually doing a far worse job of building new stars right now. Only a few months ago, Smackdown had Matt Hardy, Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero and John Cena as hot up-and-coming stars, but bad booking has sent them all reeling back towards the mid card ever since. Why did Matt job clean to a DOA Zach Gowen? Why did Eddie job to Big Show to move into a feud with Chavo? Why does Cena lose clean in every match with a main eventer on PPV (Brock, Taker, Angle)? It’s all very frustrating.

After skipping Unforgiven, I did buy No Mercy last week, and it wasn’t too bad. The problem I have with WWE is the same thing Ken Anderson pointed out in his special last week – nothing ever changes! How is it possible that Eddie Guerrero finally broke out of his mid card rut, only for WWE to totally crush his momentum in less than 2 months? It wasn’t too long ago that people were buzzing about a possible Kurt Angle/Guerrero program for the World title, but that’s not even a remote possibility right now.

I don’t understand why Vince is totally averse to taking a risk. It is unlikely that business could get much worse than it is right now. Why not take 2 wrestlers on each brand, and “strap a rocket to their ass” similar to the way they pushed Brock Lesnar in 2002? If, say, Orton and Maven were put over some top stars on Raw, and Cena and Guerrero were promoted as equals to Undertaker and Brock, perhaps those 4 guys could be legitimate main event draws. Then Undertaker, Hunter and the other WWE fat cats could have some fresh EXCITING matchups to headline PPVs.

Brand Extension Sidebar
Speaking of Ken Anderson, and the job Raw and Smackdown are doing at building talent, I wanted to talk about the Brand Extension.

Ken suggested that WWE undo the brand extension – but I think that would be a terrible idea. The only reason ANY new talent is getting ANY TV time is that there are two separate shows. Imagine if there were only one brand? Then we’d have McMahons, Hunter, Undertaker and the rest of the super stale top card all over BOTH shows.

The brand extension is the single best idea Vince McMahon has had since he bought WCW, and it might be the only thing that could save the company. Sure, HBK, Nash, Steiner, Goldberg, et al are not going to be around much longer. But if they were all on the same roster, they would simply be swapping feuding partners with each other until retirement, leaving WWE in the same shape WCW was in 2000 – a new group of unproven main eventers with no one to put them over.

Rather than call for the end of the brand extension, we should be calling for Vince to actually do the brand extension right – using the top names to make new main eventers and providing a different experience on both shows. They were on a great path with Raw as angle-driven and Smackdown as wrestling-driven before they randomly dropped that idea. The fact that these brand-specific PPVs are still drawing reasonable buyrates at this, the lowest point in WWE business in years, points to the success of the idea. If WWE got the brand extension working properly, and business picked up again, it would yield incredible dividends for WWE business and fans alike.

I think now would be the best time yet to do a major trade. I’m not talking about a 5 for 5 blockbuster, or any serious readjustments of the rosters. But something like Chris Benoit to Raw in exchange for Booker T to Smackdown could give both guys renewed juice and a quick way of shooting them or other candidates directly to the top card. What if the trade was necessitated by Booker T working out a deal with Heyman for guaranteed title shots? The booking possibilities are endless, and it’s time for WWE to bring back some excitement to the brand extension.

Survivor Series Comes Together
The card for WWE Survivor Series, one of the 5 co-branded PPVs of the year, is beginning to come together. Here is a listing with confirmed matches, probable matches and some educated guesses:

Raw Title – Goldberg (c) vs Triple H – Everyone is talking about this match already – and for good reason. Goldberg has done a decent job as champ, and the bounty angle has worked out great for not only Goldberg, but all of Raw. What I can’t figure out is why everyone thinks it’s a forgone conclusion that Hunter will win. I realize he is “the devil” but it makes no sense for him to win now. He is taking off more time in December and January, and would be unable to work many shows, even if he could get to TV tapings for a while. It seems to make more sense that Evolution will turn on Hunter, costing him the title and cementing his face turn. Then Goldberg would have a crop of young heels to give the rub to, and Hunter has a quest for revenge and the title in 2004 when he returns. Hunter may be great at protecting his spot, but he is a student of the business, and he cant be so blind to think that he needs a win back this soon. He’ll get it back the third time, when it will have even more meaning.

Bischoff’s team vs. Austin’s team – Another good job by the WWE creative staff, getting 10 top names into a match with meaning and a pedigree. The teams aren’t settled yet, but I’ll venture a guess of Jericho/Steiner/Christian/La Resistance vs. Booker T/RVD/Lance Storm/Dudleys and that match has very few weak links in the ring. I’m not nearly as down on Steiner as others, and I think as a heel he could still draw money. I’m also not sure where they are going with this storyline, which is always a plus.

Shane McMahon vs Kane – I’m not sure if it’s official, but it will probably be there. It’s time for WWE to pull the trigger on this Kane push and have him humiliate and destroy Shane. I am surprised that WWE has pussyfooted their push of Kane, who has paid his dues and rarely gets injured. Instead of making him a monster, they have confused the issue by making him sometimes sympathetic and sometimes ultra-vulnerable. It’s time for him to be a monster, take out Dancin’ Shane, and then move to Goldberg and the World Title scene.

Undertaker vs. Vince McMahon – Buried Alive – What a waste of space this match is! It’s bad enough McMahons need to be in the spotlight, but now is not the time to be taking the Undertaker away from his duties to put over new stars. But, because that’s so unlikely, this match might turn out to be a good thing. Unbeatable Vince has already taken Stephanie off the show (in the storyline) and looks to also take out the Undertaker. Then ‘Taker would have about 4 months off to heal up and return for a big match with Kane at WM20.

Team Angle vs. Team Heyman I’m not sure what the top card Survivor Series elimination match will be from the Smackdown side, but based on storylines on Smackdown, I’m going to guess Kurt Angle/Team Angle/Benoit/Cena? vs. Brock/Big Show/Bashams/Atrain or something like that, with Heyman polarizing the top card with his wacky GM antics. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did Brock/Benoit also, but the latest reports have no Smackdown Title match at the PPV.

I’m guessing we’ll also have a Cruiserweight match of some sort, possibly another Survivor Series elimination match with Tajiri/his buddies/Heel Ultimo Dragon? Vs Rey/Kidman/Jamie Noble or something like that. Now I’m just guessing though so I’ll move along

Wrestlemania XX
I cant remember a time where we were this close to Wrestlemania with so few ideas or booking clues as to what the event will look like. Luckily I already have my tickets, even if it sucks, and since I’ve paid my money I can complain! But I won’t. Well some.

Rumors this week have the show headlined by two major inter-brand matchups – Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar and Kane vs. Undertaker (back to his dead man gimmick). I think both could be huge money draws if promoted properly. Goldberg/Brock is among the few “dream matches” WWE has not exhausted or ruined, and if both are kept strong going into the ‘mania, it could be a gigantic main event. It will be interesting to see how Goldberg is booked going into ‘mania, because his contract is up around that time, and his booking could give clues as to whether he is expected to stick around.

Kane has been pushed as a top heel, and a returning Undertaker after 4 months on the sidelines would garner some interest. I’d like to see some younger guys in top spots as well, but we’ll see.

Elsewhere on the Mania
Chris Biscuiti continues to deliver some of 411mania’s best wrestling columns, and this week’s Counterfit Pennies continues his hot streak.

Blake Norton provided us with the internet’s most intense coverage of last week’s major wrestling deaths – He checked in with his interview with Road Warrior Animal, and also check out his Tribute to Stu Hart

411 Music’s resident Rap and Hip Hop expert is Mr. Aaron Cameron, and between his illness and his wife’s pregnancy, he is still writing a ton of great stuff. Today and every Friday, he has the Friday Bootleg. And soon he has an in depth 2Pac special feature, so be on the lookout for that next week or the week after.

Bebito Jackson always delivers the goods in the 411mania Gameszone, and his review of Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg is proof positive that Bebito is still objective even when tackling his heros – Sonic Team.

Both Jay Bower and Grut are drinking my 411mania Kool Aid and have moved their shows to the Movieszone. Check them out and shoot them an email – they have fragile, fragile egos that constantly need attention.

Wrapping It Up
That’s the longest wrestling column I’ve written in a helluva long time. I didn’t have time to prepare too much schtick today, but you’ll just have to take what I gave you. Pank is supposedly coming back next week, but you never know. Enjoy your weekend.

Jonathan Widro is the owner and founder of Inside Pulse. Over a decade ago he burst onto the scene with a pro-WCW reporting style that earned him the nickname WCWidro. Check him out on Twitter for mostly inane non sequiturs