Truth or Consequences: Death of a Thousand Cuts

Hello boys and girls and welcome to another edition of Truth or Consequences, the column which has more readers than the WWE has Cruiserweights. Now there’s a left-handed compliment, if ever I heard onhe.

For those of you that haven’t read the news, the WWE has just released another 17 (count ’em) superstars from its roster, thinning out the herd in an effort to reduce costs whilst, at the same time, offering a fresh crop of divas the chance to win a $250,000 contract. Something’s just not right here in McMahonLand.

Anyway, this news has meant a rapid last-minute reshaping of this column, so if I’m not my usual insightful self today, then I ask for your forgiveness. Screw that…if you think this column sucks then go read something else. I don’t care.

However, before I discuss the good and the bad of these roster cuts, let’s see what else has been happening in the world of wrasslin’

Vengeance was one of the better WWE PPVs I’ve seen in a fair while, with a good mix of wrestling styles. Carlito seems comfortable as the Intercontinental champion and I truly believe that there is nowhere for the second-generation superstar to go but up. Christy Hemme has improved again since her match with Trish at WrestleMania and, whilst her bout was no five-star classic, it was better than I was expecting. I feel sorry for Christy – she seems to want to be a wrestling Diva, but there just aren’t enough people to help her develop. Trish and Victoria are two of the very best, but she needs to learn a multitude of styles. A year or so ago she could have been learning her craft at the hands of Jazz, Molly Holly and even – God help me – Jacqueline, but instead she is forced to just tread water like the rest of the women’s division. Kane won his match, which was something of an upset, considering Edge is on the hottest run of his singles career. Angle and Michaels tore the house down again and, in a move that shocked absolutely no-one, HBK took the pin. The Godfather was back! I love little bits like that…don’t make him a recurring character or anything like that, just bring him in for one night only, when you’re in his hometown and give us a bit of a markout moment. The three-way was good, though it was fairly obvious that Cena was retaining at this juncture. Oh, and the HIAC was just brutal – easily the best singles match between HHH and Batista and both men worked hard at it.

What else has gone on these past two weeks? Well, the draft is over and, following some off-screen trading, the final results were as follows…

Raw to SmackDown!
Chris Benoit
Randy Orton
Muhammad Hassan
Daivari
Christian
Batista
William Regal
Candice
Sylvain Grenier
Simon Dean
Steven Richards

SmackDown! to Raw
John Cena
Kurt Angle
Carlito
The Big Show
Rob Van Dam
Mark Jindrak
Rene Dupree
Danny Basham
Kenzo Suzuki
Hiroko
Chavo Guerrero

The common feeling is that SmackDown! got screwed over again but, as the voice of dissent here, I don’t think that’s the case. I mean look at those two lists again and the eleven people involved on each. SmackDown! just got the most dominant babyface since Hogan as its new champion, the best technical wrestler in the country in Benoit, a legitimate shooter in William Regal (finally, I get to see JBL get what’s coming to him), a guy with some serious, if cheap, heat in Hussan, a very good Cruiserweight in Daivari, a third generation superstar in Orton, the hugely entertaining Christian and the reformed bWo. Yes, they’ve lost a few but other than Angle, Cena and Carlito I don’t think there’s any great loss there. RVD was treading water, as was Big Show (a sumo match at WrestleMania 21…that’s the best they could come up with for him?); Jindrak, Suzuki and Hiroko have just been released, Basham was traded just to split the team up, I’m sure and Dupree has done nothing of note for months now. Chavo…sorry, Kirwin…was a bit of a surprise, but I’ll hold off on judging that for now. He’s managed to make it through worse gimmicks than this in his time.

It looks like the initial buyrate proposal of 800,000 for ECW: One Night Stand was a touch on the optimistic side, as official figures released by WWE were less than a third of that, which begs the question – where did that first figure come from?

Shawn Michaels turned heel on Raw by superkicking Hulk Hogan! Well it’s about time. HBK always worked better as a heel, for my money, and this kind of gets him off the hook and excuses him from not feuding with Kurt Angle any more. There have been questions all over the ‘Net about why he’s done this, but the answer to that is very simple. From a storyline perspective, HBK is presumably fed up of Hogan hogging the limelight and taking all the glory for their team when they’ve tagged together, in much the same way that Orndorff was back in the eighties (hey, they could always bring him into this feud, if they needed to). In the ‘real’ world though…this is a guaranteed money match for SummerSlam, which is something that the WWE needs following the draft. Sure, we can have Jericho-Cena, JBL-Batista, Shelton-Carlito-RVD or whatever but as much fun as those matches might be, Michaels-Hogan is one of those dream match-ups that we never thought we’d see. It seems next to certain that they’re saving Hogan-Austin for WM22, so why the hell not? Michaels is talented enough to work around Hogan’s weaknesses and both guys have enough charisma to sink a battleship, which means that SummerSlam should do big, big numbers.

It looks like The Last Big Thing is back, as WWE.com has announced that there are talks going on between Brock Lesnar and the Board of Directors. I’m not sure how I feel about this one. A year ago or six months ago I’d have said, sure…bring him back. But in the middle of 2005, I really don’t think the WWE needs him and I hope to god they got him cheap. If 17 superstars have been released just to free up the money for his contract, then Vince McMahon doesn’t deserve to run a wrestling promotion.

And finally…the Blue Meanie pins JBL on SmackDown! Good for him. And good for Big Stevie Cool for stiffing the shit out of him with a steel chair. There will be people debating whether or not the whole Meanie-JBL thing was a work now, but who cares if we get moments like this.

Now it’s time to check out the mass of e-mail I got for last fortnight’s column on the state of wrestling video games. There were a couple of similar threads running through my electronic postbag this time around, a couple of which I really should have mentioned last time.

Fellow InsidePulse columnist, Gordi Whitelaw recommended a new path of wrestling game enlightenment to me…

“Hi Kevin,

You are missing out! You need to try any of the games in the Fire Pro series. I’d say it’s worth going out and getting a Game Boy Advance SP just to play Fire Pro.

The Audience Mode requires you to wrestle matches in different styles to please different kinds of audiences, and whether you win or lose is often not important in determining how well you do. It’s an awesome simulation!

Yours in Wrestling,

Gordi Whitelaw”

Thanks for the tip, Gordi – you weren’t the only one to recommend the Fire Pro series of wrestling games and I am sorely tempted to go out and pick up a GBA now, just to see what all the fuss is about. It sounds like my kind of caper, thanks.

David Martin had a similar suggestion, but on a different platform…

“Kevin

Great article and it’s good to see someone address wrestling video games for once…

You make some very valid points…I have yet to really see a wrestling video game in the states 100% accurately represent wrestling. I have come closer from Japanese games in all honesty. I might recommend to you the Fire Pro series. You can get a Dreamcast and Fire Pro D with a mod disc for like $60…it’s well worth it and much closer to what you’re looking for.

Just a thought…again, great article!!!

David”

Another recommendation for Fire Pro, but on the Dreamcast. Decisions, decisions. I think I’ll have to check what other kinds of games are available for each console before I make my mind up. I know that the Dreamcast was far ahead of its time when it was released, but I’m also aware that the GBA has a larger catalogue of games available to it. We’ll see…thanks for the suggestion.

David Creighton had this to say…

“Console games treat wrestling as a shoot sport. The only sims that replicate the behind the scenes stuff are for the PC and even then you’re basically reduced to Adam Ryland’s Total Extreme Wrestling these days. I think the SmackDown! series for PS2 addresses a few of the issues you raised (specifically the babyface comeback which is incorporated into the mechanics) but overall you are right, a sports sim is not a wrestling sim. Unless, of course, you choose to adjust your mindset accordingly…

David Creighton”

Well, this is interesting. First of all, I can’t comment on the SmackDown! games apart from SmackDown! and SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role on the original PlayStation (of which more later). I’ve never so much as played on a PS2, so I couldn’t honestly say one way or the other. You talk about adjusting one’s mindset to accept wrestling as a shoot when playing it on the PC but surely that is taking the easy way out? Would you accept a flight simulator (or whatever) that was a completely inaccurate representation of aeronautics on the basis that, hey, you can always pretend that it’s realistic? Of course not. Every single wrestling fan, from the five year old in the Hurricane mask to the eighty five year old grandfather who remembers watching Bruno Sammartino bodyslam Haystacks Calhoun at MSG, they all know, to one degree or another, that wrestling is a work, so why should THQ and the like be allowed to get away with lazy programming?

You also mention Adam Ryland’s Total Extreme Warfare series which, I think, is the pinnacle of wrestling management simulations and, to be fair, this is the only way at present that the true spirit of wrestling is represented. The mechanics of the game are truly amazing, with virtually everything being open to modification, from audience types around the world to the length of matches to the abilities of the wrestlers themselves. The only downside, of course, is that Ryland does not have the rights to any of the real wrestlers’ names or gimmicks, so you either have to make do with the pre-generated grapplers (which aren’t all that bad, to be fair) or you have to spend hours creating ‘real’ wrestlers and sorting out their stats so you can have your favourites on there. The other solution, of course, is to download the last version of Extreme Warfare Revenge, where they’re already included.

George Neocleous bitches about the lack of effort in wrestling games…

“Hi Kevin,

Very interesting article, and something I’ve thought about as well playing video wrestling games. The thing is that no one is even *trying* to make a “Wrestling Simulation”. It’s like the difference between NFL Blitz and Madden. NFL Blitz is about the highlight plays, it’s a glorified Arcade game, whereas Madden tries to actually “simulate” the world of American NFL Football (YMMV on the actual success rate it has).

In Wrestling every game that has come out has been an “NFL Blitz”, trying to make an arcade game. A wrestling “sim” would have stats more reminiscent of Extreme Warfare Revenge, such as selling, stiffness and psychology, and would involve two wrestlers going out there with a predetermined winner and time frame and asked to put on a “good match”. The mechanics could be EXACTLY like a game of SmackDown! (which prior to Here Comes The Pain *DIDN’T* require you to enter a collar and elbow tie up to throw an Arm drag. I still can’t believe supposed wrestling fans think that HCTP actually IMPROVED due to the ridiculous grappling mechanics…) in terms of how moves are performed but rather than “Health” meters or what not the idea would be for the heel and face to work the crowd (in different ways obviously) to build to the best reaction possible before “going home”. Feuds would be about building interest to the payoff match.

There is really nothing stopping someone from making a game like this. Think of it as “Sim Wrestling”. Peter Molyneaux is doing it with his game “The Movies” for Hollywood, and every kind of business known to man from malls to theme parks to restaurants have sim based games…why not wrestling? Frankly I think a game like this, for the PC could be an extremely hot seller, but unfortunately no one takes wrestling fans seriously enough to even try, so they throw half-hearted street fighter clones at us and expect us to keep buying them…and usually we do.

Anyway, look forward to you next article,

George”

Thanks George…some more good points made there. Specifically, the fact that games companies don’t take wrestling fans seriously and also that wrestling fans will buy any damn thing. I’m as guilty as anyone with regards to this, as I said last time, so you can understand why games developers don’t feel the need to push the boat out in terms of wrestling games. What you said about Street Fighter clones interested me, as I remember playing WWF games like Superstars and WrestleFest in the arcades as well as WrestleMania: The Arcade Game and In Your House on the PS1 and these games didn’t even pretend to be simulations and, consequently, I never judged them as such. They were beat ’em ups, pure and simple, where the characters just happened to be professional wrestlers. Hell, on the two PS1 games, you’d have things like the Undertaker shooting bas out of his wrists or Doink the Clown attacking people with a giant hammer, just like the power-moves you got in any kind of beat-em-up and they were fun – pure and simple.

As for the SmackDown! games, I agree that SmackDown! 2 was possibly the finest wrestling game ever devised (although I prefer Legends of Wrestling II for the Xbox, in all honesty). You could perform eight different grapple moves without grappling (if that makes any sense), depending on whether or not your opponent was dazed. You could perform moves that actually sent you opponent out of the ring, such as a press slam or a slingshot, compared to totally unrealistic fashion of today’s games, where you have to tie a guy up in the ropes first, before being able to knock him out of the ring. This is one of those games that I should have mentioned in my original article, as it was fast paced, energetic and, whilst it still treated wrestling as if it were a shoot, you didn’t really mind.

Cyrus Krapf-Altomare, on the other hand, had something to say about Ring of Honor fans…

“I agree with what you said about the ROH fans being pissed that they were worked. I’m sure you’ve seen their message board. They all think they book the damn show. When something unexpected happens, they get pissed because it “doesn’t make sense” or “hurts the company.” Like they all own stock or something. Just enjoy the show. Does anyone actually think that Gabe Sapolsky thought “I know, I’ll have CM Punk win the title and then take it to the WWE with no benefit to myself or anyone else!”? OK, first of all no he would not. Second, if that’s the plan then Vince is in on it and this all runs much deeper then any of us think and I don’t think that’s the case.

Cyrus Krapf-Altomare”

Too true, Cyrus. I didn’t actually get any feedback from ROH fans about my comments regarding the CM Punk situation (who, by the way, still doesn’t have an opponent for his first title defence) so they must all be taking the high road (yeah, right). Either that, or none of them read this shit that I pump out every fortnight. I have no problem with ROH whatsoever, but I do take issue with certain members of its fanbase who think that because it’s “their” company, that the booking team should always follow their wishes. What a pile of crap. You’re all marks, just like every other wrestling fan and, yes, just like me. ROH sells its tickets based on superb in-ring displays, just like the WWE sells its Diva videos on gratuitous T-and-A. You can argue until you’re blue in the face that one is somehow better than the other, but if you’ve ever bought a single piece of wrestling merchandise or a ticket to a show or a PPV or a DVD or whatever, based on what the promotion delivers then you’re a mark…it’s where the word “marketing” comes from.

Live with it – enjoy it – it’s a great way to be.

Back to video games, and Paul Carrig, from my very own sainted isle gives me some spending advice…

“Excellent article man. I was reading your comments on wrestling games and agree on pretty much all you said.

HOWEVER…

You say you can spend £90 a month on Xbox grapplers…for that much, dude, you could buy a Nintendo Gamecube and WWE: Day of Reckoning (which is awesome) for about 80 smackers.

In my opinion one of the best “wrestling sims” is UFC on the Dreamcast, it had the tension from watching real UFC and the fact that a fight could end on one combo was really good.

If you’ve never played it check it out man

Again good read keep it up!

“Fellow Brit” Paul Carrig”

Always good to hear from a reader in good old Blighty. First things first, I’m pretty sure I said that I could frivolously spend £90 a year, not a month. Hell, if I had £90 a month to fritter away on any old crap, you wouldn’t hear me complaining about video games or wrestling. That said, thanks for another suggestion to add to the list of future purchases. It’s easy enough to pick up a cheap Gamecube these days, so I may well give it some serious consideration.

I chose not to mention any of the UFC or Pride games, or any other MMA sims for that matter, in my article, because I really do think that they’re a wholly different kind of beast from the wrestling games that I discussed in that there are legitimate sports and the quick knockouts or submissions are both realistic and necessary. On the hardest difficulty setting UFC: Tapout for the Xbox is an absolute bastard to beat, requiring nerves of steel and lightning quick button-bashing, but it is still a great little game if you can find it anywhere.

Some guy called Ryan sent me in some observations on making life tougher…

“I’ve actually had similar thoughts about wrestling games, and in my research, the best simulation of wrestling was probably in SmackDown! 2 for the original PlayStation. Moves could be hit out of nowhere, the win/loss record took you down different story paths, and finishers weren’t easily reversed, and it featured a HUGE roster.

However, there exists a MASSIVE contingent of fans who claim the WWF: No Mercy for the Nintendo 64 was the BEST wrestling game ever. My problem with this is that there are moves in No Mercy not physically possible, and that you have to grapple before each and every single move, unless it’s a punch or a kick.

The SmackDown! series on PS2 is still the closest to actual wrestling now, but this throng of No Mercy fans have been so vocal that THQ has implemented parts of that game into the series, turning it into a hybrid of the two that isn’t as good. I’d say pick up a copy of SmackDown!: Here Comes the Pain, as the best of the series on the PS2 which boasts the best create-a-wrestler mode yet.

As for simulations, here’s how I play SmackDown! vs. RAW. I turn off all the meters (life, special), set the clock to off, and the difficulty all the way up. Then I work my match. If I’m getting in too much offence, I back off a bit and let my opponent get in some shots to keep it interesting. Then I have no idea when a finisher will bust him open, or when he’ll submit, except to learn from experience. Give that a shot, it makes things a little more fun, for me at least.

Cheers,

Ryan”

Again, some interesting comments on the genre. I think I’ve mentioned enough about SmackDown! 2, but you did mention the roster size. WrestleMania 21has 40 (count ’em) wrestlers on it’s roster, which is certainly larger than any standard beat-em-up, but there are some serious omissions from the list. You get to wrestle as Hurricane, but not Rosey; there’s no sign of the Bashams or La Resistance; they find the time to render non-workers like Stacy Keibler and Miss Jackie, or one’s who had left already like Nidia and Jazz, but they didn’t think to throw in Victoria or Paul London; You get Garrison Cade, for God’s sake, but no William Regal…where is the justice? I’m not an idiot – honest – I realise that there are more space restrictions these days and that the vastly improved graphics and sound, as well as various other options limits the number of wrestlers that can be squeezed onto a DVD but maybe…just maybe…they could have released the game one two DVDs? You know, the Xbox has a hard-drive that is very rarely utilised as anything other than a massive memory card/jukebox. Why not have a second disc full of wrestlers that automatically copies them to the hard-disk of the machine, then you could pop in the first DVD and be able to select from a full-size roster. Just a thought.

I like you ideas for making the game tougher on yourself to keep the interest up and, to be honest, I play Legends of Wrestling II without the meters, but it helps that that has most intuitive combo and reversal system I have yet to come across. Again, however, if you hold back to let the computer get a couple of shots in, then you’re letting the developers get away with shoddy programming.

On of the redeeming features of Showdown: Legends of Wrestling was the classic matches option, whereby you would play through a legendary confrontation from a certain point, where you and your opponent might have vastly different levels of health. For instance (and apologies if I get my facts wrong here, but I’m not at home at the moment and my Xbox is many miles away from me), you play one match as Andy Kaufman, against Jerry “The King” Lawler, where he has just given you a piledriver and, reasonably enough, your energy level is on the floor. Lawler is stronger than you, more rested than you and is better at reversals than you. In real life, Jerry won, but in the game you get to change history. Only one problem…you’re halfway through the match, you’re as good as dead and Lawler is already covering you for the pin. It was different and it made the game feel important somehow.

Michael Sforcina chips in with more praise for Adam Ryland…

“Actually, there is a near perfect Wrestling game. EWR. It ‘gets’ it, since it’s a Championship Manager game, not a combat game.

But point taken.

Bye for now,

Mathew Sforcina”

Got it…played it…loved it.

Thanks.

Christopher Alden gave me his two penn’orth…

“Hey, great column.

Just a few things re: your comments on wrestling games…we are getting closer to what goes on in an actual wrestling match. In fact, some of the things you mention have already made their way into video games.

[Regarding having to grapple before each move] – Wrestlemania XIX and Day of Reckoning both include “light grapples” (which can be executed from a standing position) and “heavy grapples” (which have to be executed from a collar and elbow tie-up). As well, finishers can be executed as either light or heavy grapples (thus Jake would be able to pull the DDT out of nowhere).

[Regarding the babyface comeback] – Again, this is addressed in Day of Reckoning, with momentum shifts. When your life meter’s low and you’re about to be pinned, you can do a special move that will switch your own life meter with your opponent’s, enabling you to get back in the fight, and most likely finish your opponent off quickly.

[Regarding not being able to perform a series of finishers] – Again, Wrestlemania XIX and Day of Reckoning both address this issue, by putting you in a “finisher mode” for a limited amount of time. During this time, you can execute as many finishers as you want. The superlative Fire Pro Wrestling series also addresses this issue, by having finishers executable as normal moves (you just have to wear
your opponent down one hell of a lot to execute them).

[Regarding win loss records] – This issue has also been addressed by the Fire Pro series; the story mode in those games branches in different directions based on wins and losses. A few losses are not going to keep you from going for a championship, generally, and if they do, it’s because they sidetrack your storyline into a feud, the resolution of which brings a close to the story mode. I’m not sure if the story mode has been retained in the GBA instalments of the series (the only ones that have been released stateside), but the story mode in the console versions is superlative.

Are we ever going to have an absolutely perfect simulation of wrestling? Most likely not; the very things that make wrestling exciting often would make a game unfair and frustrating. But many of the issues you pose have already been addressed, in quite effective ways, by varying games. One of the major failings of the various Xbox wrestling games is that they’re so very primitive compared to the PS2 and GC games (and even PS1, Dreamcast, and GBA games).”

Wow – you put some serious thought into that one, man. A common theme to many of these e-mails is that I really should have gone a bought a different console if I wanted to experience better wrestling games. I stick by my decision, but I do say that THQ are lazy sons of bitches when it comes to implementing the sport of kings. Legends of Wrestling II is a great game, with a smooth, realistic (as far as possible) control system, a crowd reaction set-up whereby you not only get rewarded for pleasing the crowd with highspots and bloody brawls, but you also get punished for hitting the same move over and over again. It also has a sort of semi-babyface comeback mode in that you can be down and out, get covered for the pin and, if you manage to break it you instantly get about a quarter of your health meter back. Not a lot, but you can maybe pull out a victory. I like the idea of how this is handled in Day of Reckoning, though…I’m intrigued.

DROCK1779 gave up some information on Vinnie Mac’s tape collection…

“About the tape libraries, I thought Vince got all of the USWA/CWA stuff from his Raw colour commentator, after all the King was the owner of the CWA…now I don’t know how that relates to the WCCW stuff or to be honest the USWA post merger (I believe according to Scott Keith’s first book that Jerry bought out Von Erich so the USWA stuff was also his) but I’d imagine that only the Stampede and UWF items are truly missing from the Titan Tower vaults at this point…I could be wrong though.”

Sadly, you are wrong. I thought the same as you, that Lawler would have sold his Memphis tapes to Vince, but apparently that didn’t happen. You can still catch Classic Memphis on The Wrestling Channel in the UK, hosted by Lawler and Jimmy Hart, so that mustn’t be WWE owned. A bit of further snooping (actually, I just checked the facts on WWE 24-7) shows that Vince McMahon owns the videos libraries of the WWE and all it’s earlier incarnations, as well as WCW, ECW, Jim Crockett Promotions, AWA and SMW. Though it doesn’t own them, I would assume that Vince has a ‘working relationship’ with regard to using OVW’s footage if called upon. In all, that’s over 75,000 hours of wrestling, which you’ve got to admit is a hell of a lot of wrestling.

And finally, I got an e-mail from a pro-wrestler in the making, “The Ethereal” Sean Altly…

“This was the first column of yours that I’ve read and I have to say, it was dead on. I recently started training to be a professional wrestler, and thought I’d add my two cents. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a true, totally non-kayfabed wrestling sim? Just like you said, it’s not about winning. What if being successful at the game required mastering workrate, using different tactics to play to the crowd, knowing when to end a match so the crowd doesn’t get bored, knowing how to avoid and/or properly utilize backstage politics? What if it you made money in the game not by winning, but by being a great performer and earning it by being booked by indy feds, and eventually getting that fat 6-figure paycheck working for a major promotion? And instead of a roster, the game required you to create a wrestler from scratch, from his appearance to his gimmick. There would be tons of possibilities. Instead of some lame “superstar points”, you could have ratings that tracked how over you were with the crowd, and how well liked you were backstage. You could have an interesting dynamic where having a 85% overness rating with the crowd but having a 15% rating on your popularity backstage, along with no backstage support, would cause you to have a career like Christian’s, where the crowd loves you but you may never see that world title. There could be a way to control how stiff you are, which would have effects on your backstage popularity, and you would have to keep track of how dangerous the bumps you’re taking are so you can avoid injuries, or having to cancel bookings. You’d have all these different promoters to impress, and they could all have different personalities. Some might like the big guys, even if they aren’t technically sound (he could be our “Vinny Mac”), and some just want pure athletic talent, and some don’t care what you look like or how you work, as long as you draw. And as a bonus, there could be a mode that’s modeled after regular wrestling games where you just fight as if it’s real, to add some variety. The possibilities are endless. I think a game like this could only be possible on PC, though. I just thought I’d share my ideas. Feel free to comment, if you have the time.

“The Ethereal” Sean Altly”

First of all, thanks for your comments. Secondly, I love this idea – a combination of Total Extreme Warfare, where political and financial considerations affect and limit what a worker can do and an actually wrestling sim. As well as overness with the fans and popularity backstage, you could also have your standing with the office, which could take ages to change. That means you could have someone who isn’t particularly over and is hated by the other wrestlers but because of his office connections gets push after push…sound familiar. When you start off you could have a stream of indy promoters screwing you over and you have to decide whether f*cking with them in return will make them respect you more or just cause them to never hire you again. I imagine this would be very difficult to put together but come on, are there any programmers out there man enough to handle it?

Thanks for the e-mail, Sean, and the very best of luck in your career.

That’s all for this fortnight’s mailbag, but feel free to check out my archive and keep those comments coming.

And now…the column.

Okay, so most people probably saw this one coming a mile away, what with the loss of advertising revenue when Raw changes networks, the $250,000 2005 Raw Diva Search and Brock’s new contract, whatever that might be, but it’s still something of a shock when you see the sort of talent they’ve thrown away. I’m not going to sit here and say that they should or shouldn’t have released any given person as, let’s face it, such talk if futile – they have released them all and no amount of wishing will make it otherwise. These are just my thoughts on the releases and what I would, perhaps, like to have seen Creative try with them instead.

Gangrel
Hmm, good start – I didn’t even know this guy was still under contract. I’d always assumed that when he came back last year to wrestle the Undertaker that it was a one night only kind of deal. Gangrel hasn’t really done much for a good long time, not since his Ministry days – in fact, he’s a regular attraction here in the UK, touring with All Star Wrestling, so I imagine he will go back to that and various American Indy appearances. Okay, so it’s not glamorous, but it pays the bills and helps keep Luna in makeup and tattoos.

Billy Kidman
Now this is one that I never expected to happen, considering Kidman is involved with one of the WWEs hottest Diva properties in Torrie Wilson. There again, I thought the same thing about Test and Stacy Keibler, and they found the time to release him. I truly think that the WWE dropped the ball big time with Kidman’s heel turn. Kidman was acting like a total prick and there was some great emotion and character development going on in his all-too-brief feud with Paul London but it ultimately went nowhere. I think a quick jump to TNA might well be in order for Kidman, as I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing him going against AJ Style and the the rest of the X-Division.

Shannon Moore
Another wasted talent. I’ve scoured the tape traders for loads of footage of Shannon Moore from his pre-WCW days and this guy has been phenomenal almost since day one and it seems criminal that they couldn’t find anything to do with him once he was no longer an MF’er. He’s fast, he’s technically sound, he’s over with the crowd (or, at least, as over as Velocity fodder ever seems to get), so what was the problem? This is another guy who should fit right in to the X-Division as he’s quick on his feet and one hell of a bumper.

Akio
So much for giving the Cruiserweight Division a bit of a push – this is the third one to be released…what will I watch on Velocity now? Seriously, Akio is a truly phenomenal talent and I can’t believe that the WWE is so blind as to not realise that. His battles with Paul London lit up Velocity week after week and, whilst that might not sound like much of an achievement, it’s only Creative who are to blame for not pushing the feud on SmackDown! Whilst I’d like to see Akio in the X-Division, I think he would thrive better in Ring of Honor.

Maven
Well, I can’t really say that I’m surprised. Maven has been in jobber hell for most of his career and his heel turn at the end of 2004 did little to save him. If anything, things have been worse, since he was destroyed by Shelton Benjamin in mere seconds…TWICE…at the New Year’s Revolution PPV. Whilst in the WWE Maven would always have the stigma of being a contest winner, rather than a wrestler who had built himself up from the ground, as it were, and he didn’t have enough charisma to get past that. I can’t think what else I would do with Maven, to be honest…he’s too bland for my liking and there’s nothing worse.

Mark Jindrak
Very sensible…hype up the fact that he’s just been traded to Raw and then fire his ass. Way to keep an eye on the big picture, boys. On the other hand, it does prove my assertion that Narcissist gimmicks never pay off in the end. I have no real feelings about Jindrak – I never thought he was main event material, but I thought he had some talent, like his former running buddy Sean O’Haire. Beyond that, there was little to make him stand out, much like Maven or Garrison Cade. Even now, I’, trying to picture his face and I just can’t (the picture I’m getting is more Rene Dupree than anyone else).

Mordecai
I can’t argue with this one – another abortive effort from the cancerous womb of creative…the Anti-Taker. To be absolutely fair, I enjoyed the gimmick far more than I thought I would and I enjoyed the contrast of black and white, in that the white-clad druid was playing the heel, whilst the sombre Deadman, dressed in black, was the ubiquitous babyface. It gave the angle an eerie kind of resonance that is rare in wrestling. A shame, then, that Kevin Fertig, who played the role, a) looked like an Oompa Loompa; b) couldn’t wrestle; c) couldn’t brawl and d) pissed of Jim Cornette down in OVW. I won’t shed any tears for this cut.

Matt Morgan
Talk about a wasted opportunity. This guy is a huge, well muscled powerhouse who uses the F-5 as a finisher and you get rid of him just as you’re bringing back Brock Lesnar? No matter where they go with the whole Lesnar return angle, Morgan could easily have fitted in with the promotion’s plans. If they want to humiliate Brock to teach him a lesson, then Morgan could beat him clean with the F-5; if they wanted Brock to return as this midcard destroying wrestling machine then annihilating Morgan looks impressive. This was a completely retarded booking decision in my view.

The Dudley Boyz
But not quite as retarded as this one. Straight off the back of the ECW Pay-Per-View and the booking team have no idea of what to do with the Dudley Boyz…if that isn’t indicative of just how out of touch with its fanbase the WWE is, then I don’t know what is. Let’s see what could have been done with them instead…well, Vince has just brought in two three-man stables in the Mexicools and the bWo; both these teams consist of ECW alumni…hmm, maybe there’s something there. We’ve already established that there’s no tag division these days, so why not shake things up and start a 6-man tag division? The Dudleyz, the Mexicools and the bWo to start; all three members of La Resistance, perhaps? Re-hire Johnny Stamboli and team him with Big Vito and Nunzio and have FBI 2005?

Charlie Haas
What another waste. Charlie Haas is an exemplary technical wrestler, who almost seems to have been punished since the World’s Greatest Tag Team was split up. Forced into comedy matches with Rico, then reduced to tagging with perennial midcarder Hardcore Holly, despite the fact that he is at least the equal of Shelton Benjamin when it comes to mat-based wrestling. Again – why can they not think of anything for Charlie to do? Here’s an idea – trade him to Raw and have him tear the f*cking house down against former partner, Shelton Benjamin and former mentor, Kurt Angle. Jesus – this isn’t rocket science, guys.

Jackie Gayda
Okay, so the woman has no appreciable talent in the ring, but neither do most of the Diva Search contestants. Jackie is hot and looks good in a tight and revealing dress…many Divas have gotten by on less. Again, like Maven, Jackie has the stigma of being a former Tough Enough contestant as well as the stigma of having been in one of the worst matches in wrestling history, so I suppose I can see how the WWE might justify kicking her to the kerb. Still…nice wedding present for the happy couple, eh?

Marty Jannetty
It’s a shame to see him go and, again, there are some obvious openings in there. Why not involve Jannetty in the Michaels-Hogan storyline and have a heel version of the Rockers – that’d be pretty cool. Or have Marty call out Shawn and demand to know the reasons for his shocking behaviour, leading to a Michaels-Jannetty showdown, to keep things ticking until SummerSlam. On the other hand, I have heard through the rumour mill that Marty has run into some legal trouble concerning a DUI charge, in which case dropping him from the roster makes perfect sense.

Dawn Marie
My gut reaction here was simply, how can they fire a pregnant woman…blah, blah, blah. But it turns out that, whilst they no longer require her services, they have done the decent thing by here and bought out her contract, so she’s getting all the money she was entitled to, she just doesn’t have a job to come back to. Again, this makes sense, since Dawn would be hard pressed to take an active on-screen role whilst she was up the stick. I still think it’s a bit of a shame as, for my m,oney, Dawn Marie is both hotter and more versatile than these new Divas.

Kenzo Suzuki and Hiroko
Dammit! I know Kenzo was never going to be a main event wrestler, but my God he was funny. I thought his pro-American shtick was awesome and that he deserved to be kept on as a mid-card evil foreigner. I could picture Muhammad Hassan ragging on America, only for Suzuki to inform him that “USA is A-OK”. I hardly think that the midcard will crumble around the void that has been left by Mr. Suzuki, but he was a harmless enough gimmick that brought a smile to my face.

Joy Giovanni
Who gives a flying f*ck – really? Sorry, Joy…I’m sure you’re a lovely person and, no doubt, you were game enough to get loaded into JBLs trunk for the kidnapping angle, but one less Diva isn’t going to break my heart.

So there we have it – for now, at least. I’d like to say to all of these men and women that I hope you find work soon and keep the dream alive, and thanks for the good times you showed us in the WWE. All the very best to you all.

I’ll be back in a fortnight’s time with a new column. In the meantime, feel free to e-mail me at the link below.

Until the next time…farewell.