Man I’m starting a trend here. I also think the 411 staff is the only regular readers of this column so far, but what are you gonna do. I have some exciting wrestling news and commentary coming on all your favorite wrestling stories of the week. Plus I have some crazy 411 style features, including fun with Hyatte AND the second ever edition of the Hot Seat.
What am I waiting for? Why nothing at all…
24/7 Rule Officially Over
The man who’s career was defined by being available and ready to defend himself 24 hours per day and 7 days per week passed away yesterday. Mike Lockwood, aka Crash Holly in the WWE was only 34.
I don’t think I can add anything at this point to the discourse concerning deaths in pro wrestling. Whether by accident, lifestyle, work pressures or drug abuse, the facts are clear – a lot of wrestlers die.
What is more disturbing is that WWE has a bad track record of letting guys go as they are spiraling downward. It reeks of the company using these guys until they serve no more purpose, then discarding them. I don’t have the solution by any means, but when a company fosters a lifestyle, by design or not, it creates a responsibility to help remedy the lifestyle if it’s becoming a detriment to the business and its workers.
It’s one thing to complain that McMahon pushes himself over the wrestlers, but to give himself millions of dollars for his work when people like Sean Waltman, Jeff Hardy, Justin Credible, and all the others are languishing, just waiting to be the next wrestling casualty is just negligent.
The sad thing is that there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight. And that’s an even greater tragedy.
Match Made In Heaven
The marriage of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon may be nearly a week old, but there are still some interesting notes coming out of the wedding.
In addition to who WAS there, it is also interesting to discuss who wasn’t there. Not surprising by his absence is Sean Waltman. He was once close with Triple H, but there was definitely a rift, presumably due to Waltman’s relationship with Joanie Lauer, who was also not in attendance.
More surprising by his omission was Scott Hall, who was not at the reception. The Torch reports that the reason was likely that Hall did not want to put himself into a position where he would be tempted to drink.
There were some eyes raised with the inclusion of the Undertaker in Hunter’s wedding party. Apparently they are not known as good friends, but since they are the “respected veteran” on each roster, there was talk that Hunter only included Taker for political reasons. Taker is being called the Hunter of Smackdown by some in the lockerroom as well.
The only real incident at the wedding was Michael Hayes, who apparently got drunk and kept trying to sing on stage with the band, until Linda McMahon finally stepped in.
Credit the Torch with most of that.
The Land Of McMahon
Raw was not too bad this week, but I feel, as a wrestling community, that we are grading these episodes of Raw on a HUGE curve. What might be an above average show in 2003 would not have gotten the same ranking in 1998. But maybe I’m just jaded.
The show itself was pretty good for a 2003 Raw, with continued emphasis on new characters and new storylines. With everything that is going right, one has to wonder why they are going with Batitsta vs. Goldberg this week instead of at the PPV. Who really wants to see Hunter in a main event, he’s barely been on TV this month. It’s tough to defend Hunter when so many examples are glaring here. I will give him a lot of praise, though, if he does another job and/or Evolution turns on him.
The guy I like the most on Raw right now is Maven, who’s subtle heel turn is going beautifully so far. I’m excited to see how it plays out.
Smackdown featured the first real super push of John Cena, as it appears WWE has decided to “strap a rocket to his ass” and shoot him to the top of the card. His match with Kurt Angle, despite losing, was apparently all WWE officials needed to be convinced of Cena’s preparedness for the next level.
Cena defeated Rey Mysterio cleanly, which is a nice win for Cena, but why choose Rey here? I guess you have to put over the rocket-assed guy, but Rey has been damaged so badly lately. Cena was then pushed several other times as a face and came across as a superstar. I have a good feeling that WWE is actually going to follow through on Cena too, and I hope he’s a big time main event draw in 2004.
Totally Washedup Main Eventers
Well that doesn’t add up to TNA, but whatever. I cant really understand what TNA is doing with all of these old retreads. They were building a ton of momentum around their core of homegrown stars and X Division heroics, with some older guys who the fans largely liked anchoring the roster.
Sting put in a decent effort this week, and he is at least undamaged. But Rick Steiner? Hacksaw? LEX LUGER? Ugh.
I also did not enjoy that fat masked X guy coming in and dominating the X division. What a Russo Move. And the worst part is that he is actually JEAN PIERRE LAFITTE.
AMW continues to impress, and Styles showed why he’s the top talent not in WWE. TNA has so much going for it, and then does a few stupid major mistakes that blow the whole wad. It just goes to show that wrestling booking is way harder than you’d think, because it really has to be perfect or near perfect to avoid being criticized.
A final note, Jeff Jarrett ended his promo with “choke on that” which brought a smile to my face. I wonder why he totally dropped the Chosen One gimmick from WCW, which was the only time he was remotely over. I still use it at least, slapnutz.
News Ã¢â‚¬Ëœn Notes
RVD’s contract has been a topic of conversation, and it doesn’t even expire until the Summer next year. WWE is apparently interested in shoring him up now, to avoid any last minute situations. RVD has been vocal with his unhappiness in recent weeks, and these contract talks should prove to be interesting.
No matter how unhappy RVD presumably is with his role in WWE, does he really think that a combo of TNA and Japan would be better for him? Is TNA really that good for a top name? I suspect RVD will end up back with WWE, because he sells too much merch and is actually young enough to be around for a few more years.
Interesting note on Kurt Angle and Vince McMahon. Apparently they are close behind the scenes, often seen talking and planning. However, it is believed that McMahon doesn’t see Angle as a top top tier player, and that’s why there has been little or no talk of his WM match. Sucks to be Angle I guess- break your neck, become the industry’s top in ring worker, be booked like a boob, and then have your boss lose faith in you.
I’m Torch-heavy this week, but you also gotta check out the long interview they’ve been doing with Raven. It’s up to part 10, and they actually put it all online in the pay site, so if you pay you get all ten parts. Check it out and you wont be disappointed. He talks about his whole career, his problems in WWE, and actually praises HHH without coming off as a kiss ass.
Top 5 ClichÃƒÂ© Reasons Why WWE Sucks That Are Actually False
One of the challenges of being a writer for a wrestling website these days is coming up with some original points. You can’t imagine how repetitive the topics are every week – that’s why some really small stories blow up all over the internet, at least it’s something different.
But back to my original point – you see the same arguments over and over again. I’m guilty of it myself. Some of the problems have become so ingrained in the psyche of wrestling writers that they lose sight of which are still actually true, and which have either been fixed or have faded away.
This week I’m going to detail five clichÃƒÂ©d reasons cited by wrestling journalists as reasons for poor WWE business that are actually not that true, or at least not relevant. Then next week I’ll post feedback and post my list of the clichÃƒÂ©s that are actually true.
“House show business is down because too much McMahon/too many non-wrestlers pushed on TV/the production stinks/etc
While the touring business is still a great source of revenue for WWE in the good times, it is actually a curse in the bad times. The costs of running a tour, not to mention the strain on the wrestlers doesn’t seem worth it with attendance figures in the low 1000s. However, during a boom, the ticket sales for house shows will likely go back up as buyrates and ratings do as well.
While crowds might be low right now, that’s also because business in general is low. The way to rebuild attendance at house shows is not by having more TV-style non-wrestling skits or advertising the McMahons. The key is to have sound, long term booking that creates wrestling personalities that people would pay to see live. It’s a pretty simple business in that way. All the “quick fix” ideas for house shows, even putting footage on air or shooting angles, are not going to improve attendance. A few new hot characters and some hot storylines will.
The argument that “fans know nothing will happen of note at house shows” is also suspect, because I knew this in the 80s as a kid, and that’s before the internet. You went to house shows because it was fun to see the superstars live, and live wrestling is a great experience. It’s not great during cold period, and that’s the reason.
“No competition makes McMahon complacent”
While the lack of competition is probably a factor behind McMahon’s fall from grace as a “creative genius”, I think the real reason the lack of competition hurts McMahon is more hidden.
Back in the pre-WWF days, when a star would get stale in one territory, he would simply move to another. By the time he got back to the original territory, he would be fresh and have fresh opponents and storylines. The same became true, to a lesser extent, in the 90s when guys would jump from WWF to WCW, sometimes taking a stop in ECW.
Right now the WWE is the only game in town, and there is no turnover of top level names. Bringing in the top names – like Hogan, Goldberg, Nash, etc was half of the old formula, but the other half – top names taking time away from the promotion, was missing.
With a weak creative staff, it would serve WWE better if top names could disappear for a while, and then upon return get booked properly. Of course “booked properly” is the sticking point with this and all the issues facing WWE. So while the lack of competition is hurting, I don’t get the feeling that Vince McMahon has scaled back his workload or is getting complacent. It’s more the reality of wrestling booking that have caused him problems with no other major promotions.
“Ratings are good indicators of the success of storyline/wrestler/McMahon/etc”
This seems to be more of the WWE management opinion than wrestling columnists, but it’s still false nonetheless. Eric talks about this all the time, and it’s really crazy since I work in TV now too.
Do you realize that only 4000 people determine Nielsen ratings for the whole country? So these MAJOR SHIFTS in ratings are like 5 people’s viewing habits, literally. Think about that as WWE continues to make HUGE decisions based on fickle week to week ratings anomalies and non-patterns.
“The brand extension is the reason WWE business is down”
Please, its probably the reason business is still as strong as it is. Can you imagine what WWE ratings would be if Smackdown was the same as Raw in Fall 2002? Katie Vick on both shows? HHH on both shows? That Smackdown era, with Heyman at the helm built up the wrestling aspect, highlighting Lesnar, Angle, Benoit, TWGTT, and the Guerreros. And now think about which guys are still over on Smackdown now. How many would have gotten sustained pushes without the brand extension.
The brand extension is still an incredible idea that continues to get better. Separate magazines, shows, websites. Vince should really turn creative of one show over completely to someone else, but that doesn’t seem likely.
“Jaded fans have already seen it all”
What a lazy argument. Here is a shocking revelation for all those who use this rationale: we as humans have already seen it all everywhere. The fact that WWE is booking its programs poorly does not mean that as a wrestling fan, I’m just tired of wrestling. If anything, I’m DYING for it to get better.
The corollary arguments to this are “WWE writers have 52 weeks to fill up, some will be worse” and “other TV shows have much shorter spans than WWE”.
What the hell are these excuses? David Letterman has 5 shows every week for like 2/3 of the year! Some shows have shorter spans, but it’s not really fair to compare WWE to network TV. The only remotely relevant example on TV is Law And Order, which employs a rotating cast that is pushed with topical storylines, and new blood is constantly pumped into the show.
I’m jaded and I have seen it all, but I still marked out for Vampiro when he returned to TNA a few weeks ago. And I still enjoyed Cena’s push on Smackdown this week. I am jaded and I HAVE seen it all, so get rid of the old and start legitimately using the new, and suddenly I haven’t seen it all – there would be new major characters and matches that would be fresh.
Wrestlemania Watch: Some Weeks To Go
For all intents and purposes, the Raw after Survivor Series in about 10 days will kick off the Road To Wrestlemania, so I figured I’d get a headstart here in the News Hour.
Let’s rundown some of the rumored matches and storylines heading into WM20 only 4 months away!
The main rumor this week has the Undertaker losing to Vince McMahon at the Survivor Series and then sitting out several months until returning to the “dead man” gimmick and facing Kane in an interpromotional match. Interesting theory, and the staunch denials by Taker in the media recently has me even more skeptical. It’s still a long ways off, but surprisingly, this version of Kane vs. Undertaker is actually interesting to me.
The interpromotional madness would continue with Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar. It’s my guess that neither guy will have the World Title by then, but you never know. If it were me, I would do it non-title, because it’s too early in the brand extension to be messing with the World Titles in that way. In addition, this is a prime example of why the brand extension is still a good idea- it allows WWE to promote matches it normally wouldn’t be able to, to give Wrestlemania that special feeling.
A new rumor, originating in the Torch newsletter, is that Triple H is lobbying for a match against Mick Foley. I could see a situation where Hunter is still a heel by WM, then loses to Foley, and that becomes the impetus behind Evolution turning on him. It will also be interesting to see if Hunter regains the title at Survivor Series or not.
Either way, I’ll be there!
Welcome Back Grutter
Joshua Grutman, known as the Grutter to the 411 staff and his family, finally ended his holdout, returning to the MoviesZone on Wednesday and the WrestlingZone on Thursday.
I don’t think there is any other explanation for his stunning and unexpected return except that I spurned it on by lighting a fire under his ass. Here are some sample emails I received at email@example.com. Thanks again to everyone who participated.
Subject: The email address says it all
Actually I agree with leavin, I love 411, but wrestling sucks.
At least continue to write at fleabag’s site. You are talented and I enjoy
reading. Dont stop for us,
Widro Reponds: Flea is a good man, not a bag. Please have some respect. Plus Grut is still going to be writing plenty here on 411. So relax.
Subject: Good luck
Hey Grutman –
I just wanted to wish you luck with whatever you decide to do with your writing. I think it’s generally accepted that you’ve got loads of talent,so I won’t fellate you too heavily here. But the simple fact is that Ireally appreciate what you do on the net, both at 411 and at ryderfakin. Assomeone who fancies himself a writer, I like seeing your stylisticchoices…both where you have success and where things come up a little short. Since we are close in age (I’m two years your junior) andintelligence (at least, as evidenced by some of your rants with Daniels), the development of your writing roughly mirrors mine. It just makes it all the more interesting for me. Moreover, your “inspired by…” pieces on ryderfakin have also inspired me (there’s a hint of irony somewhere) to a similar exercise for in my own writing. So thanks for that.
However, I understand that this is all contingent on your spare time and desire to gain exposure. So when those dry up, you’ve gotta move on. It makes me a little sad not to be able to read your stuff (whether it’s the loss of Junk News or whether you stop writing for the site entirely). But I can certainly empathize with the problems you are having. In the end, all I can say is that you’ll be missed if your hiatus is permanent. But whether it’s about wrestling or a group of adolescent girls talking about loosing their virginity the last night of summer camp, if you put it out there, I’ll be reading.
Widro Reponds: Well said, Matthew.
Subject: (no subject>
There’s someone named Grutman writing for the site?
Widro Reponds: There’s always a jokester!
Aww, c’mon, return to writing for 411. Many are deeply upset by your absence, most
notably Vince McMahon himself (who I have heard is secretly a huge fan of yours). He
was so upset at the news he fired Lance Storm!
Widro Reponds: I guess there are sometimes 2!
Eh this is getting tiresome. The responses weren’t that funny, I’m sorry everyone. These are the best ones! Anyway, Grut returned to the news pages of 411wrestling, at least temporarily, yesterday in a fabulous edition of Junk News, Huzzah!
If the Grutter was my main concern last week, this week it has to be 411 stalwart Ben Morse, who’s antics in the 411 ComicsZone have lead to some heat between himself and upper 411 management – aka me. Apparently I didn’t link a comics article in either of my previous two columns since my return to the wrestling news report arena.
And he’s right- 411 Comics is the bastard child of 411mania. So with that in mind, I’ll go right into the hot seat:
The HOT Seat
Last week, the Hot Seat debuted to rave reviews across the internet. Daniels, the former Saturday reporter here on the 411 WrestlingZone got a measly 2 answers correct out of 5, and unfortunately that lead to his dismissal from the site. I would like to thank Daniels for all his contributions, which I have listed in Appendix C of this week’s column.
This week, I decided to go to the one man who’s answers we all want to know. That man is 411mania legend Ken Anderson. Let’s get to it.
We always start with geometry – the reflexive property: necessary mathematical formula or pointless waste of time?
If you actually need a mathematical theory to back up your belief that the number 3 is in fact equal to THE NUMBER 3, then I think you’ve got much bigger problems than trying to place the importance of geometry into the proper category. Pointless.
That is correct, what a stupid theory. 1 for 1 out of the gate
Are you really twin brothers with Jay Bower, or are you actually the same person?
This one always amuses me. I’m not sure where the rumor got started, but it’s actually grown into quite the beast. I can assure you though, we’re two entirely different entitities. For starters, I’m much better looking. I’m left handed, Jay’s right handed. I’m a Kings fan, he’s a trendy Lakers fan. I got my start here at 411Wrestling because I thought you were sexy Widro. Jay got started over at the old Smarks site because he’s always had sexual feelings for Keith. I kid you not, one night I walked into his room, only to find him sprawled out naked on his bed, with one hand holding his unmentionables and the other holding the King Lear rant.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that Jay has a slightly rounder face, as well as slightly bigger ears. This fact is inconclusive proof that we’re NOT one in the same.
photo of “Jay”
photo of “Ken”
I guess the photo evidence speaks for itself! 2 out of 2 for Ken
What are the three best Wrestlemanias ever?
You bring me into the Hot Seat, and this is the best you can come up with? The three best Wrestlemanias?
1. Wrestlemania X7 – Hands down, the best Wrestlemania ever. Nearly every match, even Triple H-Taker, is hanging in the ****+ star area, the crowd is huge, and it’s just an incredibly fun show to watch.
2. Wrestlemania VIII – I’m not sure why this show doesn’t get more praise. VIII was just AWESOME with two insanely good matches (Flair/Savage and Hart/Piper) plus the best pure surprise in WM history (Warrior’s return). How could you NOT love this show.
3. Wrestlemania 10 – A horrible show that people just LOVE. Aside from the two classics (Bret/Owen and HBK/Ramon), everything here is just incredibly corny (Bret Hart and Burt Reynolds embracing in mid ring???) and bad. Still though, it just barely squeezes past WM5 because of the two big matches.
Any answer that contained both WM10 AND WM8 was correct. 3 out of 3, uh oh
In 40 words or less, how would you book Eddie Guerrero in a quest to win the Smackdown World Title by WM20?
Trade wins with Albert. Lose an Indian Death Match to Stephanie. Reform Los Guerreros. Reignite feud with Albert. Lose to Taker in a Biker Chain match. Arm wrestle the Big Show. Lose to Vince at the Royal Rumble in a “man’s man” match. Win the title.
This wasn’t meant to be a joke for laughs. This storyline aint drawin’ flies 3 out of 4
Put the following Reese’s products in order of deliciousness, starting with most delicious: Reese’s Fast Break, Reese Sticks, Reese’s PB Cubs, Reese’s Pieces, Nutrageous, Reese’s Inside Out Cups
I’m a little disappointed that you left out Reeses Cereal, but hell, I guess you can’t include everything. Reese Sticks top the list easily, with no other Peanut Butter/Chocolate product even coming close to matching it’s unparelleled goodness. Reese PB Cups come in second, followed by Reeses Pieces, and then you can place all that other generic nonsense wherever you’d like. Anyway candy that OBVIOUSLY syphons heat off of it’s established older brother is just not even worth my time as far as I’m concerned.
This was a trick question. Any answer that bashes Inside Out Reese’s was acceptable! 4 out of 5!
Thank you Widro, even though I was expecting you to bring the controversy a little bit harder.
These were pretty tough questions, Ken, and you did very well. We’ll see how well next week’s unlucky victim is- ASHISH!
Cream of the Crop
Good stuff this week in wrestling:
Dino was my favorite this week, his latest Markin My Territory with a birthday celebration and some cool memories of Survivor Series in the past.
Also check out Poeffel’s new From Outside The Book, which takes an interesting look at the success of wrestlers in other forms of media.
It’s been a huge week for the writers over in the 411 MusicZone, as we kicked off the brand new Essentials series. Each week a 411 Music writer will talk about his or her list of ESSENTIAL music for the proverbial desert isle. We have writers lined up for one per week into March, so if you start reading now you’ll be in on the ground floor.
Speaking of controversy (what?), 411 has put together its OWN list of the Top 100 Guitarists of All Time, and the top ten is posted right here
And don’t forget about my Friday cohort Aaron Cameron. In addition to his always entertaining Friday Bootleg, we’ll have parts 2 and 3 of the 2Pac Feature on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Here are the first two parts Intro and Part 1
Over at 411 Movies, the aforementioned Grutter teamed up with former 411 staffer Daniels for the first ever Grut vs. Daniels for Movies, discussing the Matrix Revolutions, which earned a ridiculous $45 million on its FIRST DAY Wednesday. Incredible to think that they probably spent a fraction in marketing that they did in the spring for Matrix Reloaded, because I barely knew it opened.
This week I also appeared in 411 Games, contributing my mini reviews to the Ratings Drive By.
Finally, check out The Overlord’s Poetry? 411 Comic’s underrated and all around great guy Daron K checks in with The Overlord’s Poetry Corner!
Introducing… 411 Black
I teased it last week, and now I’ll just come out and say it- the next 411mania.com zone is going to launch during Thanksgiving 2003. It’s called 411 Black and it’s unlike any other 411 zone to date! I’ll have more details for you next week!
Thanks to everyone for your feedback so far, and I’d like to hear more!