Saturday Evening Post

Hello again, I’m Flea. Great weekend, The British Open plays early, which
means peace, quite, BBQ and Beer. At 6am! Wall to Wall coverage by ABC and TNT!
I called Eric S the other night to discuss. I’m sure he’ll have more to add re:
Golf. Hopefully in an exclusive column for 1ryderfakin. I’ll probably have some
comments on it as well next week…although the Masters is may favorite event in
Sports (the true last bastion of Bigoted White America…and good scenery –
Tradition!), I love the Brithish Open for it’s history, amazing courses and the
willingness of the R & A to NOT be pricks and "trick" up the
course, ala the USGA and The U.S. Open. Golf the way it should be played. More
on that later…

We are here to discuss wrestling. Well, not really – the discussion this week
is jealousy and business. But it’s all wrapped around wrestling. Just to let you
know – I’m really pulling for Hi-Rate to do something memorable this Monday.
Maybe you’ll get it – probably not. But I’ll tell you this…our discussion /
analysis following the Hardy angle on Monday night was without a doubt the most
"fun" I’ve had talking to the prick in 5 years. Whether that
translates to the written page is up to him…The Summer of Hyatte. Hyuck

C’mon, let’s go…

TOP STORY

Well, it’s going to be about Mr. Bring Back Excitement to a Company that’s
about to go Bankrupt, Matt Hardy, but I need to wait around to get the Ring of
Honor results to add some – we will worry about that when the time comes, capice?
Righto…

While we are waiting, let’s look at 2 Non-Stories of the Week that have
created turmoil, ill feelings and totally out of context jealous / indignant
vibes.

JOHNNY ACE AND THE SUITCASE FULL OF MONEY

In their most recent business filing to the SEC, WWE dropped a
bombshell. John Laurinaitis, aka Johnny Ace, the VP
of talent relations and the scourge of Matt Hardy fans, Jim Cornette and just
about everyone else that used to worship the guy for being a "genius"…

oh yes – it’s was only about 4 years ago when Johnny Ace, in his, at that
time, "agent" position, was genuflected upon for mid-match false
finishes. The "Japan" influence kept you wondering if *that* fall
would be it. Of course, that’s before he worked his way into a position of
power, taking the reigns as the Head of Talent Relations after Jim Ross decided
to step down. With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility, they say. And, if you
believe everything you read, Johnny Ace is fully responsible for making the
"look" of WWE over 6 feet and 250 pounds…driving Jim Cornette crazy
enough to pull a final freakout and get sent packing…firing Matt Hardy for
mouthing off about not being able to hang on to his woman…giving Pink Slips to
Pregnant Women, Married Couples, and Cripples. The list goes on and on…

Basically, he’s to blame for everything that * can’t * be pinned on HHH. Hey,
you have to draw the line somewhere, I guess. Meltzer describes Ace’s mindset as
"there to please Vince and Stephanie." Evidently, he and HHH don’t see
eye to eye, whatever that means. Everyone else in the company is either deathly afraid of him or have
no confidence in him, longing for the days of when Good Ol’ JR was in charge.
Tales of disorganization abound, morale is shaky at best and most people not
"allied with the right people" are afraid the other shoe will drop at
any moment. 

"No matter how hard you work, if it’s time for cost-cutting releases,
your ass is grass if you are the wrong side of Laurinaitis"
– say multiple Unnamed Sources. And, of course, the week after 18 Wrestlers were
given the Heave-Ho in the aforementioned "cost-cutting " purge, WWE
discloses the below, in the Year End 10k filings…

* * * * * 

John Laurinaitis

Title:
 

  • Vice President, Talent Relations

Base Compensation: 

  • $350,000 base
    salary, which will be paid bi-weekly, in the amount of $13,461.54.  You
    will be eligible for a salary increase, based upon your performance evaluation,
    in calendar year 2005.  Our current review date is June 1 st .

Sign-on
Bonus: 

  • $500,000
    less applicable deductions payable on the first pay date following 30 days of
    employment. If you voluntarily terminate employment with WWE or are terminated
    by WWE for cause within one year of your date of hire, you must reimburse WWE
    100% of your sign-on bonus.  Reimbursement is due within 10 days following
    last day of employment.   

Incentive Bonus: 

  • You are eligible to
    participate in the WWE Management Incentive Program. This program is based upon
    your performance evaluation and achievement of fiscal year company/business unit
    financial goals. Currently, the target bonus for your level of position is 20%.
    Bonus payments are made after the close of the fiscal year (May 1 – April 30). 
    You will be eligible for an incentive bonus payment in 2005.

Stock
Options:

  • You
    will be granted options to purchase 20,000 shares of Class A Common Stock of
    World Wrestling  Entertainment, Inc., at an exercise price equal to the
    closing price on June 4, 2004.  Your stock options will vest, or become
    exercisable 25% on the first anniversary and in equal installments thereafter
    each month of your employment over four years.  A copy of the LTIP will be
    provided to you on your start date.

Benefits:
 

  • You will continue to be eligible for full
    company benefits including : Medical, Dental, Life, LTD and 401(k) plan.

Vacation: 

  • Three (3) weeks vacation and three (3) personal days.

Relocation:
WWE, Inc. will provide you with the
following:

  • Temporary housing in a 2 bedroom, fully
    furnished apartment for up to (1) one year
  • Up to Two (2) house hunting trips for
    you and your family from Tampa, Fl.
  • WWE will reimburse you for expenses on
    the purchase of your new home including moving expenses and legal and
    administrative fees.  Excludable items are sales commission and loan
    points.  Where applicable any amounts paid to you will be grossed up to
    offset the impact of taxes.  All expenditures will need to be properly
    documented in keeping with IRS regulations.
  • If you voluntarily terminate employment
    with WWE, Inc. or are terminated by WWE for cause within one year of your
    relocation start date, you must reimburse WWE, Inc. 100% of the relocation costs
    incurred by WWE on your behalf.  Reimbursement is due within 10 days
    following last day of employment.

Severance:

If your employment is terminated by
World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. “without cause”, (“cause” is defined
as (i) engaging in fraud, deceit, misappropriation, embezzlement or theft
against WWE or any of its affiliates; (ii) willfully failing to perform specific
and lawful directives; (iii) being convicted, pleading or entering a plea of
nolo contendere to a felony, you will receive the following:

a. 12 months salary continuation at your
then current rate of base salary;

b. Your stock options will continue to be
exercisable one (1) year from the date of termination as per the LTIP

c. All Medical benefits at terms
and condition no less favorable than as in effect at the time of your
termination for your duration of your salary continuation

d. Expenses associated with the
moving of your household goods back to Florida

Your employment relationship with WWE,
Inc. will be “at will.”  This means that either you or WWE can end your
employment at any time, for any reason.

* * * * * * 

  • The full document can be found HERE

Okay. I read this a few days ago…not
at the same site, but I normally review all the filings and transactions of WWE
and several other companies. If you have been reading me for any length of time,
you know why. I saw this and didn’t even bat and eye, other than it * is *, for
the most part, Johnny Ace’s talent contact, most of these, or at least for names
we know, are rarely seen. Neato, I say. In the back of my mind, I’m thinking –
"You know what? I bet this will make in to one of the IWC sites and be
ripped to shreds." I laughed, didn’t think another thing about it and
scrolled back up to re-read something that interests me: WWE’s continuing denial
that they didn’t step on their dicks dealing the the World Wildlife Fund, thinking that a blatant breach of contract means nothing in a court of lawr.
THAT’S FUNNY. Also, they now *own* the corporate jet. Things like that interest
me. Standard contracts for executives do not.

I’ve seen thousands of those and signed
my fair share. As a matter of fact, the next page after Ace’s is one for a guy
by the name of Thomas Barecca, who is listed as a Senior Vice President of WWE
Enterprises, with a direct report to Linda McMahon. Same kind of deal, a little
less salary and signing bonus and without the moving expenses. According to the
document, the guy already lives (lived) in CT, so it’s not like he was being
uprooted. As I mentioned, standard corporate dealings; an offer is made,
hopefully accepted and everyone gets down to business.

Wouldn’t you know – some wiseguy sent the above to Scherer, who, in his
normal trademark display of tact and
incredulity, posted it as "news" and proceeded  to get on the horn to
his "contacts". Within 3 hours, he follows up with this:

SHOCK RUNS THROUGH WWE EMPLOYEES AT JOHNNY
ACE’S SALARY

Ever since we reported earlier today that John Laurinaitis makes $350,000 a
year and was given a $500,000 sign up bonus, I heard from a number of present
and former WWE employees/wrestlers who just couldn’t believe the amount of his
salary.  To say that they were shocked and thought Laurinaitis was
drastically overpaid, especially at a time when most of the wrestlers won’t
get near that kind of salary (not to mention the recent layoffs), would be an
understatement. 

 – Scherer, today, pwinsider

An "understatement". I take
that to mean he had to talk Spike Dudley off the roof of the Super 8. Well, now
that the cat is out of the bag re: Executive Pay, we might as well deal with it
– hopefully in terms that rational people can understand.

John Laurinaitis is not "a
wrestler". He is an executive in charge of the wrestlers. Therefore, the
comparison to his earning vs. those of (pick a name) is null and void. Ditto
Vince, Linda, Stephanie and a whole bunch of other people like Mr. Barecca
mentioned above. To successfully run a Global Company, you need people in
charge. In turn, those people are compensated in a different way and on a
different level than a "normal" employee. Or an "independent
contractor" for that matter. 

A couple comparisons – one from the real world and one that
"wrestling" fans can understand

First of all – and I’ll use Michael Eisner, former head of Disney, as and
example. People always complain when he walked with an "executive
bonus" at the end of each year…most of which were in the high double
digit million range (20-50 million dollars). "How can he get that kind of
money when his employees make $7 per hour?" Well, how many of those freaks
that take your ticket could run a global corporation? It’s not even like
comparing apples and oranges – the analogy would be more akin to comparing a
piece of brick in a scrap pile, to a beautifully constructed skyscraper. NO ONE
is overpaid. Ever. Personal Judgments aside, that is literally impossible in a
capitalist society. You may *think* that Shaq, or Curt Schilling or Peyton
Manning or Bill Gates or your own Boss doesn’t deserve it, but evidently someone
– someone that’s in the position to PAY – thinks they are. To me, there is no
other way to look at it – and it amazes me that people get bent out of shape
when they find out that someone is making more money than they are, despite the
fact that, if the shoe was on the other foot, it wouldn’t be an issue. It’s
jealousy, pure and simple. And it takes a real prick to fan the flames of these
things, when 1) it’s a non-issue and pure low rent gossip with exploitations of
hard feelings and 2) even on the fringe part of  the business, and someone
who is an "alleged" businessman, making money of these types of
non-stories, reporting emotional outbursts of rage and classifying them as
"understatements" takes the cake. 

The fact that Scherer and his kind make a DIME off of "insider" commentary
is a travesty. But, I don’t begrudge them for doing it – hey, the market is
there to hear "the real story" of Matt Hardy, so if people are suckers
enough to pay, one would be crazy not to take advantage of that. It takes a
common catfish to get berated as a reader or one who asks questions of the
"experts" for "not knowing that Matt Hardy was
working", but apparently people make a living with hot tidbits like that,
so let them. But don’t turn around and complain when Ace, as well as Vince and
Linda, walk with a Lion’s Share of the dough for being in charge. The nature of
the beast, so to speak – If the Vice President in charge of Talent Relations, a
very important position….I’ll go out on a limb and say slightly ahead of 
three or four midcard wrestlers…is getting paid large, why complain? People
have obviously overlooked the "can be fired at will" portion – I would
have never signed that, but Ace took his chances and is making the best of it.

Trust me – when Tommy Dreamer’s salary is disclosed – he is "2nd in
command" behind Ace – the feeling will be much different. After all, he is
"one of us". He "deserves it", of course. 

Okay…hopefully that didn’t bore you to death. I’m just killing time until I
can get ROH notes and write a little about Matt Hardy. None yet, so let’s talk
about something else…

DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY, NEPOTISM WADDLES IN

One of the coolest lines I have heard in a long time was yelled by Johnny
Nitro, of the up and coming Tag Team MNM. "His partner is DEAD!"…Ha
ha ha hawr. THAT’S how you shoot, I think. This all came about when Heidenreich
was getting his ass kicked by MNM…without a friend in sight, when  a
voice from the grave blared through the sound system:

OOOOOOO!!! WHAT A RUUUSHHHHH

We all know what that means. Johnny Ace used his "power" to get his
brother booked! Well, that’s a little cynical. There *is* a DVD on sale, so I
guess this makes sense. Or would have happened anyway. I’m talking of the living
half of the Legendary Tag Team…what are they called? I remember them as The
Road Warriors, who took no-selling to a new level while kicking in the teeth of
every other Tag Team over the course of 20 years. Well, until Vince got hold of
them. Then they turned into clowns. Talking dummies, "Sports
Entertainment" angles…and then a return with a pre cracked out and sexy
as hell Tammy "Sunny" Sytch as their Manager / Valet", putting
over The New Age Outlaws. One final appearance a year or so ago saw the return
to no-selling, as the soon to be dead member of the team made all that work that
Kane did getting over the chokeslam as something special nothing more than a
transition move. Good thing no one was paying attention, I suppose.

Fast forward to last Thursday – the music hits and HERE COMES ANIMAL. Well,
here waddles Animal. Time and Age have not been kind to a once chiseled body,
but that’s not really the point. Animal has been doing a bunch of interviews, in
promotion of the DVD claiming that he is in "great shape" and wouldn’t
mind " a singles run", or "active involvement" re: an
"in ring capacity". Folks, he wants to wrestle. He’s a legend and
still has more to add…teaching people "how to work" and "how to
get over". Before I Puke (haw haw haw…"Puke". Remember him,
GRUT?), I need to remember that Legends do have a place in the business and I
have nothing wrong at all with that. Except for that idiot Piper. 

Speaking of which – who the hell is asking him to show up and why isn’t that
person being tortured with bamboo shoots under the fingernails? The Worst Raw
Ever. I got a Bullshit Trilogy of Piper, Matt Hardy and That Wigger Cena
stinking up my fun night of wrestling. HBK’s beautiful, brilliant promo and
kicking Piper in the face (did you see that dumbf*ck sell Sweet Chin Music?
Looked like a sack of potatoes falling off a truck. Put this guy out to pasture
already) made up for the nightmare a little – but by then the damage was
done.  

Back to Smackdown. So Animal comes out, talks shit to the "pretty boy
punks" MNM, leading to MNM challenging the "Road Warriors / Legion of
Doom", before realizing that that wasn’t really all that feasible, due to
one half of the team being DEAD. dead dead DEAD! Oh man, that was great – a
perfect heel line for a Team they are trying to recreate as The Hollywood
Blondes. Austin and Pillman would have said it – they used to give Flair and Arn
hell all the time for having one foot in the grave, so I don’t think it’s to far
of a stretch to go all the way. Especially when the guy *is* DEAD. "A
travesty and uncalled for" was the judgment by most reviewers, which means
people are taking things a bit to seriously again. 

MNM are smart ass HEELS. Besides, Animal is using the death of Hawk as a
selling point for the DVD in all his interviews, so as far as I’m concerned, it
fair game. Besides (2) – it ain’t like MNM dug up the corpse and tossed it off
the TitanTron. That would have been in bad taste – if only because it hasn’t
been 7 years since that happened the first time. Per Cornette, gimmick theft
inside the "seven year window" is not allowed. But when did Cornette
ever make sense or be taken seriously? DO IT! ON THE PPV. Heidenreich and Animal
wrestling as a team sure won’t be pretty – add a little extra to the match for
my enjoyment. 

So, to review…Monday sucked, but that comment made up for it, balancing out
my week in wrestling. Also, Saturday Night Velocity was shaping up to be real
good – Benoit vs. Regal. I was all over that one…and damned if I didn’t get
kicked in the balls. The match was good, but chopped up with commercial breaks.
Hey Assholes! The selling point of that match was the mat wrestling – that
doesn’t give you carte blanche to cut to advertising when Regal locks in a
chicken wing. Totally ruined the vibe and flow. I’m hoping he full match makes
it to some DVD in the future…without the commentary of the two idiots
that…Romero and Josh? Yep. No one who listens to them should EVER bitch about
Michael Cole or Coach. I was looking forward all week to this, and had a
miserable viewing experience. 

Are we ready for Matt yet? Let’s see….bingo!

Matt Hardy made his Ring of Honor debut tonight and was "put over"
Christopher Daniels. Boy, that is wrong on so many levels…I’ll come back to
that. Reports say the following re: Hardy’s appearance.

In front a crowd – for christsakes – people can’t even get the
"estimated attendance right". 3 reports say "500-600" while
others say "900-1000". I mean, this ain’t like guessing 12-14
THOUSAND. Good lord. Anyway…before a crowd of 824 (why not), Hardy comes out,
runs down Johnny Ace and claims that Vince McMahon could "learn how to book
good shows" by watching ROH DVDs." Yeah – because McMahon has been
such a failure over the years a a promoter. He also tossed out  the
"pander to the smarks" line out about "300 pound muscleheads"
sucking, while the wrestlers in ROH are "what this business is all
about". Tell that to Batista. The match featured Daniels, Indy God, most
likely carrying Hardy to a passable match. Looks like Fallen Angel managed to no
sell a couple Twists of Fate too…good for him. The finish was this:

The ref gets bumped, CM Punk runs in and clocks Daniels with a chain and
Hardy wins via "submission". 100% original and creative booking
indeed. NEVER saw that before! The crowd was supportive of Hardy, which I
thought was a surprise. I guess the mention of ROH on Live TV and subsequent
"Us vs. Them" lemming crap was enough to keep the blinders on people allegedly
smarter than that. Go Figure.

So…after months of sour grapes for being dumped, getting shitcanned for
crying the blues online, a vicarious angle of "lovers", an aborted
wedding, a ridiculous "reality show" video, more stringing along of
teenage girls and message board losers who bought into his crap…and Snitsky –
here we are. Matt Hardy is back and wants revenge.

When I saw the backstage attack, I didn’t mark out. My first reaction is
"that ain’t him". During the in- ring run in, I still wasn’t entirely
convinced…it wasn’t until his mug appeared 100% on screen that I said
"Okay – let’s see where they go with this"…the answer came quick;
straight down the f*cking tubes. It was all over for me as soon as the hillbilly
opened his mouth – how anyone interpreted his moaning and slurring as anything
other than a drunk’s attempt to sing "Louie Louie" at Karaoke is
beyond me. I re-watched it 5 times with the hindsight of KNOWING what he was
saying, plugging ROH, and still couldn’t understand him. Much less the other
"shoot" comments directed at Vince or Johnny Ace. I cared about this
for about 2 seconds, only because I was interested in the "closure"
aspect of his whining and crying and got off on: "boy, anyone who supported
this guy sure looks stupid!"…and that was that. I know a bunch of you are
into this…maybe for the "shoot" aspect, or maybe because you like
Matt Hardy, but all I can think is this…

Matt Hardy sucks. He always has. He’s not a very good wrestler, punches like
a girl, has the in-ring timing of a paraplegic, and can’t cut a coherent promo
with a gun to his head. I’ve been trying to think of ONE good match he has had –
not counting TLC or the like – that was hardly "his" match. I mean a
one on one match, holding up his end of the bargain. People are talking about
this guy like he has done something…tell me what? Version 1? The most fun with
that was reading comical "Matt Facts" during his ring entrance. Then
he goes out and has below par matches with Mysterio. Tell me how THAT is
possible. Hardy was practically off the radar until this whole thing with Edge
and Lita came up…and now he’s God’s Gift to Wrestling and being sacrilegiously
mentioned in the same breath as Brian Pillman.

I’m not even going to start on that one. For anyone who is (was) a fan of
Pillman, that’s like saying any wrestler at all is on the level of HBK, Eddy or
Benoit. You can be a fan of people like AJ Styles, Shelton, Samoa Joe,
Christopher Daniels, Stevie Richards…the list goes on an on. But Jesus…check
yourselves. Comparing Hardy to Pillman is…it just shouldn’t be done. There are
no similarities, at all. None. Next.

So all that’s left is to see how much leeway Matt is given and how bad he
screws it up. This is the "ball" that everyone clamors to get to run
with – it’s all his, and when…not if, when, he drops it, who is he going to
blame? Will it be Johnny Ace’s fault when bad promos and matches wake everyone
up to realize: "Holy Shit – it’s Matt Hardy! No wonder he’s a midcarder for
life!". One would imagine that he gets his revenge against Edge, but then
what? This obviously has Vince’s blessing – the story at this point is Vince
decided, due to the "pro Hardy" chants at the live events, to play
Hardy’s music at the Edge / Lita wedding – and was "amazed" at the
reaction/ "pop". Next thing you know, there is a deal. The whole
things sounds suspiciously planned for much longer than that – but no one doing
commentary on this is committing either way. I think it’s undecided by
"wrestling journalists" which is worse – being worked all along, or
not having the scoop on Hardy’s return, down to the minute, published as a
"spoiler" at 6pm EDT Monday, before RAW. So, as far as I can tell, the
common line is "We knew it was coming…it had too. Smart Smart Work Shoot
Shork Smark and EVERYONE WAS KEPT IN THE DARK! But, in hindsight!!"…yeah,
I hear you – my point of this whole thing is you would have to CARE in the first
place. Which I didn’t. I wrote about Hardy’s firing when it happened, called him
a chump for not being able to hold on to his old lady, being a GIRL about it
online and being a crybaby when he got
fired.        

I repeat – it’s MATT HARDY. The less popular and less talented one. But who
knew he’d be more of a goof than his body painted, strung out Brother. I have to
admit, that’s the part I never saw that coming. But, the "angle" is
here and will be the focal point for the next several weeks. Teenage Girls are
weeping and Indy Promoters around the country are tearing up "coming
soon" posters. The people in TNA counting on Hardy are now left with egg on
their faces and anyone online that buys into "the new age of worked /
shoots" is just a little more jaded. Meaning it’s going to take someone
with REAL TALENT to fool us the next time. It’s too bad what could have been a
brilliant, revolutionary angle and series of revenge matches was wasted on Matt
Hardy and his lack of talent to back it up / make it great.

Thanks for Reading

FLEA – ryderfakin@yahoo.com