The Voice Of Reason News Hour 01.16.04

Good lord, has it been a week already? It must be, because I’m Widro and I’m your Friday party host here on the 411 wrestling zone.

It’s been a crazy week in the land of 411, and it’s a good thing my job promotion ended up with less work because boy oh boy has there been a lot of 411 work this week. I’ll touch on all of the site and staff related controversy below the meaty wrestling news and commentary, because when it comes down to it, you’re reading for the wrestling

The Land of McMahon
Smackdown was a pretty lackluster show, built around John Cena and Paul Heyman. Out of everything on Smackdown, WWE continues to do a fantastic job of pushing Chris Benoit and John Cena as top level faces. The show-spanning storyline with Cena, Benoit, Rhyno and Heyman was the highlight of the show, and built well to a long main event.

Cena and Rhyno wouldn’t have been my candidates for a 20 minute main event match, but I think it’s a step in the right direction. Get these younger guys into longer matches to really get their skills up, and then when they are unleashed into the main event scene, they wont be out of place in a PPV main event level match. Plus the payoff was satisfying with Heyman eating soap and Benoit applying the pressure. Did a lot to push Cena to the top while continuning the Heyman/Benoit issue as well. Plus Rhyno, who has been totally MIA recently, looked good and finally seems back in the creative plans.

The Guerrero split continues to be done masterfully, and the inclusion of Chavo Sr. to attack his brother was very well done. I also think Kurt Angle’s role has been done incredibly well, as it is still unclear which side of the fence he is sitting on. I feel like he’ll go heel and feud with Eddie, but they could go in a lot of directions with it as well.

While I understand some of the booking to put partners against one another to earn a shot in the Rumble, I still don’t think it makes for compelling television. Yeah, I get the point, it’s every man for himself in the Rumble. But that’s why I pay to see the Rumble, to see the partners fighting. If I see friends duking it out on Smackdown, it doesn’t have the same impact at the PPV. Eh now I sound too smarky.

Over on Raw, I must say I enjoyed some of this show despite the “burial” of all the up and coming stars we all love. I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt to WWE on some of Raw’s booking. It’s easy to take a show out of context and see all the internet’s favorites were made to look like jobbers, but I feel like each of those storylines were a part of a larger story. I would be surprised if Matt Hardy didn’t have something to say to Austin next Monday, and hopefully this will elevate him in the long run.

Jericho is obviously in the middle of a turn, so jobbing in the middle of the turn isn’t a big deal. When/if he and Trish do get together permanently on the show, he will cement himself as a top face and then we can see how much he jobs in odd situations.

When did the internet backlash against Randy Orton begin? Whoever started it, I’d like to be the first to jump back on the Orton express. The promos are fantastic with their burial of Mick Foley, and Orton is starting to deliver in the ring. He might not be Benoit, but he is working enjoyable matches, and is being pushed nicely, not down our throats. The longer they wait for the Evolution split, the better the resultant feud is sure to be.*

TNA This Week
The big news this week was that TNA has signed Survivor’s “Johnny Fairplay” to appear on the show in some capacity. He is apparently very small and not likely to actually wrestle, so I’d expect him to be some kind of manager or other non-wrestling persona.

As much as TNA needs mainstream attention, is this really the guy to be doing it? He isn’t even the winner of Survivor. I hope for TNA’s sake that some casual fans check out the show to see Fairplay and it gets some extra weekly buys for them. But ask yourself this- if you’re a Survivor fan who either wasn’t a wrestling fan lately or not at all, what about TNA’s product is going to keep you coming back?

Someone who doesn’t like the Johnny Fairplay move but LOVES TNA is 411’s very own Jack Daniels, who has developed a nice little TNA report style each week. Check out this week’s report

News And Notes
I think the biggest news of the week was Brian Kendrick aka Spanky giving notice to WWE. At a recent Smackdown tpaings, WWE officials gave a speech to the wrestlers

It appears like the Chris Benoit to Raw news is close to confirmed, as Meltzer even reported it on his website and he usually saves the best news for the newsletter.

I talked about it last week as a crazy idea, and it has blown up to be legitimate news! Nah, I’m sure I’m not the source but I can be egotistical a bit. It makes a lot of sense in a lot of ways. Raw really needs someone fresh like Benoit, and the advantage of the brand extension is that when he jumps, he seems new and hot like an old school WWF/WCW jump. How WWE handles it remains to be seen, but if you’re gonna make the move and have him headline WM against HHH, it seems silly to job him there instead of take the opportunity to create a new star on the biggest stage of the year.

Couple of notes from the newsletters:

The Rock’s Hollywood buzz has subsided quite a bit. Before the Rundown was released, he was being advised to distance himself from wrestling as he was headed for megastardom. After the disappointing box office for the movie, which is still far from recouping even its budget, Hollywood insiders have apparently soured a bit on the Rock, believing he needs another major star to carry him. He has also been advised to do more wrestling to make sure that the core wrestling audience supports his movies.

It’s amazing how fast things can change – The Rock was the golden boy of Hollywood not even 6 months ago, and now after one lackluster movie which didn’t even look that good outside of his charisma, he is no longer as big a prospect.

There are reports that WWE isn’t high on the remaining wrestlers in the OVW farm system. Well that’s what happens when you call up every prospect in the span of a year! It will take time for the system to replenish, especially with the reduced budget and focus on development.

The HOT Seat
I was running a bit late and didn’t get to grab my prospective guest, so the Hot Seat returns next week

8 Weeks to Wrestlemania
Wrestlemania creeps closer and closer, and the real hard push is likely to happen after the Royal Rumble, which is a little over a week away. I’ll have my preview of the Rumble in next week’s news hour, but this week we’ll take a look at the latest in WM20 news.

As I talked about earlier, the HHH/Benoit match for the Raw title seems to be more and more likely each week. That does leave Brock Lesnar without a clear opponent, unless they are going to push Cena up to that level too. I think it makes more sense to do the Goldberg/Brock match, and keep Cena on the undercard, probably against the Big Show to regain the US Title.

The more I see of the Randy Orton/Mick Foley feud, the less I think it should be in a tag team match. I know they want to get the Rock on the card, and Foley might be nervous to wrestle a singles match, but a singles feud would do so much more to elevate Orton.

After Eddie/Chavo goes down at the Rumble, it seems obvious that WWE is building towards a Kurt Angle/Eddie match for WM20. That would guaranatee at least one superb in ring match, and should have a deep story going in as well. That leaves the WM card like this, if my estimates are correct:

Raw Title
HHH (c) vs. Chris Benoit

Smackdown Title
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Goldberg

US Title
The Big Show (c) vs. John Cena

IC Title
Mick Foley vs. Randy Orton (c)

The Undertaker vs. Kane

Kurt Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero

Plus we could still see Austin in some kind of match with Bischoff or Vince, RVD, Jericho, Booker T, HBK, Flair, and both tag titles. Lot still to be determined even if those matches above are locked in.

Analyzing WWE Pushes
This was a little feature I started last year that I was planning on making into a monthly feature, but then I took a few weeks off, so here it is again! I’d like to slot it each month somewhere between PPVs. Anyway, here we go:

Each low or mid card wrestler in the midst of a push will have their push judged as Strong, Good, Moderate, Lackluster or Poor. Send me your thoughts on this segment!

Raw
Randy Orton:
The push continues, and Orton is improving accordingly. He carries himself like a star, has done a fantastic job on promos, and has some serious production behind him with those awesome anti-Foley vignettes. His in-ring work is decent, and he seems to get better each month that passes. His match with RVD on Raw was well done, and he is starting to get over as a heel.
Overall Status: Strong

Maven:
Maven has disappeared from Raw, and his push was derailed even before this leave of absence for his sick mother. He was doing well and holding his own in a mini feud with Evolution, but he has not done much in a couple months. Hopefully when his personal problems are worked through, he can come back for a high profile role in 2004.
Overall Status:Poor

Jindrack/Cade:
Where did these guys go? I know its tough to get over without a character, but they have been working on the heel turn and have improved nicely in the ring. It appears that WWE has lost some confidence in them, but they still could make an impact in 2004.
Overall Status: Poor

Smackdown
Chris Benoit:
While not really a mid carder, he is in the midst of a long term, sustained push that appears to be headed for a Wrestlemania main event slot. He and Cena are getting huge pushes as faces on Smackdown, and its working well to position them on the top of the card.
Overall Status: Strong

John Cena:
Cena is clearly going to be one of WWE’s top young stars for years to come, as he has “it” on the mic and is improving in the ring. He also has a cool persona as well as the elusive ability to get a catchphrase over. I would like to see Cena add some regular catchphrases that the crowd can sing along with, but not make it overly corny. It’s a fine line, but that could really boost up his pop as well as his merch sales.
Overall Status: Strong

Basham Brothers:
Slowly but surely the Bashams are actually getting over. Their in ring work has been good, and they stand up nicely to the TWGTT to create a young, exciting tag division on Smackdown. They have been kept strong, and although they sometimes feel like afterthoughts in the Guerrero breakup storyline, they still are winning matches and gaining credibility.
Overall Status: Good

That’s a good assortment for this installment, I cant think of any glaring omissions, but point them out if I missed someone very important.

Bring Back Ronny G
As 411’s most public webmaster, it’s a major part of my role here at the site to mediate disputes between writers. Of course you all know the big problems I deal with, but there are problems each and every week.

This week the major problem was actually over on the Forum and the problems continue as we speak!

But the biggest lasting problem is that long-time 411wrestling columnist Ron Gamble feels unappreciated and insulted by yours truly, and that was never my intent. Hell, besides Ashish and myself, he is 411’s most seasoned veteran.

So I would like everyone out there who would like to see Ron back at 411 send him an email to this special email address:

>> bringbackron@411mania.com<<

The best ones will be printed right here next week, and sent to Ron himself to get him back where he belongs!

Cream of the Crop
Josh Nason took his last turn at the Indy report this week, and I wanted to take this time to thank him for his years of doing the indy coverage on 411. Before Josh took the iniatitive, we didn’t really have any independent coverage at all, and he built it into something. I’d like to publically thank Josh for doing the tireless, thankless indy job for so long, and I wish Lance all the best in taking the ball and running with it.

Nason isn’t leaving the site, though, he will be back with more Fight Clubs and some Black stuff as well, presumably some sports commentary!

Zone of the Week: MOVIES
Zeigler and McCarver crank out the reviews, Tim C and Rob T have a couple really good news reports up this week, and Will Helm actually posted an article on his dream for a Grease sequel. Top quality stuff all around this week, so you should check it all out.

Writer of the Week: Jacob Zeigler
It’s not enough for Z to dominate 411 movies with his reviews, but he continues to submit some top notch CD reviews as well. This week Z had a bunch of movies and a big CD reviewed:

Ross Williams is headed into the home stretch! He gave us November in Review this week, and December is coming next week. Shoot him an email already, he needs more emails or he might never finish and be stuck in 2003 year in review pergatory forever!

I don’t have time to find EVERY article Michael Melchor wrote this week, but here is his Latest Double Impact Wrestling as well as his always enjoyable Smackdown Report

This week 411 Black has been counting down to the internet return of Dusty the Fat Bitter Cat so we have been posting some of the highlights of his ScoopThis and 1wrestling careers. Dusty and I spent a long time formatting the columns too, to make sure they looked as close to the originals as possible. I think you’ll be pleased with not only the parody, but also the whole presentation.

Here are links to the whole lot, they are all top notch, and the comic strips in particular are really awesome:

Awards week was a little delayed, but 411 Games is the first with the big feature for their end of year awards celebrations. I was also a part of it, and I am overall happy with some of the selections. The more Mario Kart the better though! Results of 411 Games 2003 Year End Awards are up now!

My Friday counterpart in 411 music is none other than Aaron Cameron, and the Friday Bootleg delivers the good each week, check it out.

Headin’ Home
That wraps up another news hour. The Hot Seat returns next week, as well as Ron Gamble letters, the Royal Rumble preview and lots more. Check out the awards going up all weekend too!

* Paid for by the Friends and Supporters of Randy Orton