Wrestling News, Opinions, Etc., 02.14.06

In Memoriam: Peter Benchley, the man who made us all afraid to get into the water.

In Memoriam II: Gordon Shumway, the man that Alf was named after, and the man who helped make heart transplants a viable procedure. Which of those is more important, I can’t really say.

That pomeranian so blew that hurricaranna on that schnauzer. And what’s up with the Lab retrievers? I guess that’s a sign of zero tolerance. They look like they’ve been packing on the donuts. – Slick Rick, trying to get some mileage out of the preemption in order to get into this column, and succeeding.

Well, no Raw due to the Dog Show, something I haven’t had to deal with in a long time (welcome back to the USA Network, folks). That means some tap-dancing to do to get something for this literary masterpiece. I’m actually starting it at 6:30 AM on Monday; yep, another night of insomnia, and there’s only so many times a man can check cnn.com and Google News, and porn sites for that matter. If I still had my youth, maybe multiple visits to said would be biologically possible.

Let’s see, I do have some comments about what I wrote in the Short Form regarding Vince’s relationship with Death, so maybe a Mailbag is in order. There seem to be a couple of stories in the news that I want to go over, so I can revive the old Wednesday column while I’m bringing back Mailbag. And there was a PPV this weekend, although you wouldn’t know it from lack of Round Table (Brashear says his Net connection went down all weekend…yeah, right). And there’s no snow on the ground here in West Bumf*ck, Kansas, so I don’t care about the rest of the country. And maybe, just maybe, there’s some actual wrestling news to cover depending on what others throw up on their sites. So maybe something’s viable. I know, though, that I won’t discuss Mad Dog shooting a fellow hunter. It’s just too easy, with too many different directions to go, even if the bullet recipient was a big GOP campaign contribtor (and in some respects because he was one). And as for Time printing photos which show that Dubbaya and Jack Abramoff were in the same room at least once, thus putting a lie to the statements coming out of the White House? Hey, I told you this one’s deep, and we’ve got to wait and see if Abramoff squeals. Then we start the impeachment proceedings, especially if Abramoff’s semen stains are found on Dubbaya’s dress. Right now, Bode straddling a gate and getting disqualified from the combined is more controversial than this (and the fact that an American won the event anyway doesn’t mitigate the situation).

Oh, yeah, Memo to the Cartoon Protestors: the drawing you see on KFC signs is a caricature of Colonel Sanders, not Muhammad. So don’t burn KFC down. Instead, protest against the cost of their overpriced fried bird.

Well, let’s get on with it…

THE PIMP SECTION

Lucard attempts to defend Night Trap. Next time, he’ll attempt to defend Daikatana.

Hevia goes into detail about why Kanyon’s “coming out” is a work. Yeah, I said it was a work from the moment the in-ring promo went public. One reason I didn’t include among my rationales that he’s “faking it”, though, was this one: it’s a ploy to get more pussy. For some reason, women go after gay guys more than straight guys.

Vintastic usually publishes after I do (or at the same time as I do), so I’ll take advantage of the delay of me downloading That Phil Collins Song and pimp him up pretty high. He doesn’t get the God Spot, of course, because that’s Lucard’s normal position, and he doesn’t get second because Hevia’s higher on the food chain, but he is a definite #3 guy.

Do Hatton and friends have to get together every Monday night regardless? And why do wrestling matches? I mean, the long program for pairs figure skating was on. I would have loved to see them kibitz that. Or at least try to tell the silver and bronze-winning pairs apart.

Hatton also does his Marvel stuff, and since they’re together like Siamese twins, I have to pimp Stevens here.

Memo to Gloomie: You got lucky. The only state I’ve been nailed twice for speeding in (other than Illinois) has been Iowa, once during the two months when I was living there and once passing through Des Moines. And you know what happened to me when the Damn Vaninator broke down in southern Illinois a few months ago? Yep, I forgot the CDs and radar detector too. Fortunately, I had the station numbers of all classic rock and oldies stations between St. Louis and Chicago memorized, and there are never cops on I-55.

And be glad you didn’t get nailed while you were in a rental car. I did when I was at an interview in North Carolina, attempting to make a flight back to Ohio that eventually got cancelled. What a pain in the ass that was. I had to hire a lawyer to represent me in absentia at the mandatory court appearance.

Another person who I never get to pimp due to schedules is Mathan. His work is so consistently great, though, that it deserves pimping.

Basilo again discusses shows that I’ve never seen one episode of. Of course, that’s normal for the TV section here.

Gubitosi pimps Price’s summary of the Opening Ceremonies but not mine. I hope you’re snowed in until you starve, Jersey Boy.

Everyone needs a little Pusey, especially on Valentine’s Day.

Why did Burnside decide not to spoil who dies in the Rann-Thanagar War Special when all of the other Nexus guys spoiled it last week?

Morrison spoiled his whole column by throwing in a disclaimer.

Eagle asks the hard questions, and no answers are forthcoming.

The Plays With Dolls Section is currently attending their yearly orgy at the Toy Fair. Read their coverage and be amazed.

WHAT DO EAGLE, FERNANDEZ, AND I HAVE TO DO TO PROVE THAT CHICAGOANS AREN’T STUPID?

The saga of the six escapees from Cook County Jail ended early on Monday morning when the last three were caught. They were hiding in an apartment in Cicero and got narced on by a neighbor.

Okay, let me get this straight. You pull off an escape that had some pre-planning behind it. You found a guard alone, pulled a shank on him, forced him to disrobe and took the uniform, got another guard to come and took his uniform, and made your break. And your grand plan to avoid being sent back to said jail was to go a couple of miles straight west and hole up? Now that is truly f*cking moronic. You’ve got every city and county cop in Cook County looking for you, and the safest place you can think of is within three miles of the jail you just broke out of?

So one of you knows some woman who lives there. Why hole up? You go to the apartment and then borrow her car and some money. You then take the car and head for the Indiana state line (don’t use the Skyway, though; you don’t want to chance an alert toll booth operator). Once you’re in Gary, you then steal another car and send a letter to the bitch with the car key in it and a note telling her where it is so she can go pick it up. Then head into Michigan, which you should easily make by the time the person in Gary reports his car stolen (and given the number of cars stolen in Gary, that might actually take a while). Swap plates with some car in Benton Harbor or somewhere, then head off. It’s simple. It’s a no-brainer. Takes no more than four friggin’ hours.

I mean, for f*ck’s sake, look at the guy who chopped up the gay bar and some of the patrons in Massachusetts. He made it to Arkansas before he made the mistake of killing a state trooper. That’s over a thousand miles, and no one would have caught him if he hadn’t been totally batshit. And these three would have had a chance to get away completely. Under my scenario, they’re in Michigan. Well, all you have to do is keep heading down I-94, get to Detroit, then cross the border. No border cop is going to question three guys heading into Windsor on a Sunday. They’ll think booze, pussy, or both, and wave them through without looking very closely, even if they’ve been alerted to three escapees. Voila, you’re in Canada, a country that’s bigger than the US with one-tenth the population. Pretty easy to disappear, huh?

Maybe it’s because we display stupidity like this that WWE tends to play us for stupid. After all, we Chicagoans were expected to meekly stand by while a debuting Jericho got verbally bitch-slapped by Flex. We got force-fed two of the worst Wrestlemanias ever. And now the biggest piece of cynical stupidity, coming on April 1st and 2nd…

NOT IN MY TOWN, BITCH

So, the final act of reconciliation has been scheduled and publicly announced. The dream that so many retarded fans have expressed since November 1997 has come true. Bret Hart will supposedly be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Wrestlemania weekend and will play some part in WM. I say “supposedly” since this was announced during the Canadian live feed of Raw on Monday night. With Vince, you never know whether this was done to work the Canadian audience. But, since it’s up at wwe.com, I guess it’s a fact. More’s the pity.

Everyone knows how I feel about Bret. He’s the most overrated wrestler in recent memory, with a huge weakness in being able to establish match flow except on special occasions, namely when it would make him or a buddy (or a relative) look good. Due to the way he was forcibly retired by Goldberg, his illnesses since that time, and Owen, he’s given a free pass by the IWC for his arrogance and pathetic attitude. If it were up to me, I’d keep him out of the Hall of Fame forever. Hell, I’d consider wiping all of his tapes and holding a huge bonfire for his DVD set.

That being said, if it were up to me, Reggie White wouldn’t have been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame recently, for much the same reasons. I think he was overrated and a repulsive human being to boot. He disgusted me more than Bret ever did, in fact. And he’s also got the martyr thing going for him, having died in the prime of life. However, thirty-nine guys in a hotel conference room in Detroit evaluated his career and tallied his contributions, and declared him worthy to occupy a home in a town that I had the sense to abandon back in 2000. And, truth be told, Bret Hart merits induction in his hall on the same basis. More than a decade in the upper card in the tag and singles scene, some five-snowflake masterpieces on his resume, the introduction of the Ladder Match into WWE (albeit at house shows), Triple Crown winner…yeah, his stats are there. There’s a difference between rejecting someone on merit and rejecting someone on personal opinion. Merit wins that argument every time. Besides, I admitted in an interview recently that my argument here isn’t completely with Bret (although he’s done enough since 1997 to merit my disdain), but with the Bret Fanboys, the imbeciles who put him up on a pedestal and claim that his shit doesn’t stink. It’s just another entry on the laundry list of reasons I hate wrestling fans.

So, now that I’ve plowed through the first four phases of this terminal illness and reached Acceptance, what do I expect will happen? Well, the obvious thing is that he’s going to be at the Hall ceremony, cut a promo, mention Owen to bring everyone to tears, and be a nice boy and not shoot on Vince and Michaels. He’ll be the same boring, uninspired Bret that he was in the ring from, oh, ’92 on. The only people who will be pissed by his appearance at the Hall ceremony will be ROH fans, who will be upset that Bret isn’t attending their little soiree in Chicago Ridge that night. This is pretty much a given.

The real bone of contention will be what part, if any, he will play in Wrestlemania. This is where the shivers now go up one’s spine. They’re Frank N. Furter Shivers for the Bret Fanboys, signs of total fear for me. The events of Raw this week are an indicator that they’re going through with Vince/Michaels at WM, just like everyone’s been speculating for months. Along with those rumors have come the occasional report that if the reconciliation with Bret was to take place, then he’d be the obvious choice for Special Guest Ref for that match. Now, I fear that this is going to come to pass. If so, what we’ll land up with is a match called down the middle, with Michaels winning, and then afterward, Bret beating the shit out of both of them to the cheers of the lemmings. Then, the next night on Raw, Vince and Michaels get the intro promo where they agree that, yes, they deserved that. Thus, we provide suture on that particular eight-and-a-half-year-old wound. And, oh, how the Bret Fanboys will cheer and cheer until they lose their pre-adolescent whiny, squeaky voices. Scooter’s going to go so batshit that he’ll give the Vince/Michaels match four and a half.

Here’s the thing: I don’t want to see that. I want my Montreal as a festering, pustulental, malodorous gaping scar in the side of wrestling. I want Bret alienated and upset. I want a self-righteous Vince. I want Michaels doing his Eichmann-like “I was just following orders” routine. I want Earl Hebner to…well, Earl’s now reffing down in TNA, so he’s already suffering enough. It’s a touchstone moment in the evolution of the business, the one thing you can point to and say, “Here’s the turning point, here’s where kayfabe really died as a core concept and wrestling started to grow up.” I don’t want closure. And I definitely don’t want closure if it involves Bret appearing at Wrestlemania. Montreal has provided us with endless moments of speculation, discussion, conspiracy theory, and argument. Anything that provides critical, even polarizing, points of difference in the IWC is a good thing. We can be happy, we can be mad, but we can’t be apathetic. That’s when wrestling really dies for us. And considering that WWE’s given us nothing except apathy fodder since the Invasion, Montreal is even more important today.

But, it’s going to happen. So let me make you a deal, Bret Fanboys: I’ll tolerate this for now, and I’ll give you a week to talk about WM and its aftermath. But on April 9th, I never want to see or hear the words “Bret Hart” ever again, and I’ll do the same from my end. It’s over. Now shut the f*ck up.

(Oh, by the way, 1bullshit Junior’s reporting that Eddy and FatDust are locks along with Bret for the HoF. Yeah, real big surprise, huh?)

BEFORE REFLECTING ON TNA’S RECENT PAST, LET’S LOOK AHEAD…

1bullshit Junior’s posted the near-term booking plans for TNA, and they are rather…interesting, in a Chinese curse kind of way.

We already know that it’s going to be Christian/Monty at Destination X for the title. That was settled at the PPV. Now this is a match I didn’t want to see. I think we’re all agreed that Monty deserves a title run as a reward for helping to carry TNA for a long time and being consistently entertaining. This isn’t the way to reach that goal. There is no way in hell that they give Christian an abbreviated reign unless they’ve picked up ideas about what’s been done with his former storyline brother. Even so, using Christian as a transitional champ (in the correct meaning of the phrase) to get the strap to Monty is so short-sighted that it’s ridiculous. I want Monty to have a title reign, but I don’t want it at the expense of someone who came in and started busting ass from moment one to get his situation to work. Christian’s not my favorite wrestler around, but there’s no questioning his dedication and workrate, not to mention his popularity, which actually stems from the first two rather than in spite of them (*coughCenacough*).

Remember what I said some weeks ago about Monty being shunted aside in favor of everyone who came in? This match comes across as a sop to Monty, something to dissuade him from making those calls to Stamford. If so, that doesn’t do either guy a service.

In the meantime, what’s Jarrett going to be doing, other than not cashing in his rematch clause? He’ll supposedly be involved in some six-man or eight-man thing at Destination X, probably with AMW, just to make certain that the tag straps aren’t defended again. Big Johnson speculates that this will set up Jarrett/Sting in the cage at Lockdown, and I actually find myself in agreement with that assessment. That booking actually seems logical. How Sting will get involved, though, has to be put in the realm of pure speculation at this point.

The X Division title situation, though, has officially reached stasis. We’ll supposedly be getting Joe/Daniels/Styles in Ultimate X at Destination X and in the cage at Lockdown. Yes, I am complaining about this. I’m complaining under the Lobster’s Great, But Do You Want To Eat It Every Night? Rule. In the unpublished Round Table, I actually gave them a way to avoid this, and it seemed logical enough to base my prediction for their match at That Phil Collins Song on a compelling scenario which I’d hoped they’d think about. I had Styles pinning Daniels to get the strap while Joe was otherwise occupied (perhaps by Shannon Moore, thus setting up Joe’s Destination X match). I also had an Ultimate X title match booked for Destination X, except mine was Styles/Aries/Shelley/Strong (in fact, Ultimate X was the reason I gave the strap to A. J. instead of Daniels; I just think he’d make the other guys look better than Daniels would in that type of match). Joe would get the winner in the cage at Lockdown and get the strap back. Daniels can have a feud with, oh, Chris Sabin and Sonjay Dutt in the meantime. So, what does that give us? Joe’s undefeated streak intact? Check. Shelley, Aries, and Strong getting some elevation and push, along with a chance to show off in Ultimate X? Check. A little uncertainty put back into the X Division title scene, which it needs right now? Check. Break the logjam at the top of the X Division to allow some other guys in who deserve to be there? Check. So what exactly is wrong with this scenario? Why can I think of something like this, but D’Amoron and the rest of the booking committee can’t?

Despite the title change, TNA looks more and more like they’re spinning their wheels in place, positioning the whole fed in order to set up Sting’s return. They can do better than that.

STRANGERS LIKE THEM

And that bring us to That Phil Collins Song, which set that whole mess up. I’m going to make a confession right now which might seem foolish considering that, essentially, I dodged a bullet. Every one of my match predictions in the unpublished Round Table did not happen. None of them. And that includes the pre-show as well. However, as is the case in situations like this one, I must restate the ground rules:

1) I am always right.

2) Everyone else is always wrong.

3) Kneel before Zod.

Therefore, I will be laying into this show for its imbecilic booking and pointing out why my superior brain is easily better than D’Amoron’s lard and Mantell’s copious back hair. It becomes really simple when you have a blueprint to work from.

I’ll skip the pre-show, since it wasn’t part of my download package. Besides, nothing really happened per se.

The opening tag match was quite good. High-quality wrestling, only a slight descent into formula, very good transitions (quite important for a tag match), everyone came out of it looking strong. That being said…now, in the last section, I stated what my particular booking idea was for one of these teams. Yes, I know, I’ve been complaining about the recent demotion of the Naturals, saying that they didn’t deserve this particular treatment after doing so much to carry the tag division through some lean times last year. So it would be a bit hypocritical for me to want them to lose this match. No, not really, because I was looking at the bigger picture here. Truth be told, I fell in love with the idea of the Styles/Generation Next Ultimate X match. But in order to set that up, three things had to happen at That Phil Collins Song:

1) Aries and Strong would have to beat the Naturals
2) Shelley would have to win the Four-Way
3) Styles would have to win the X Division strap

Of course, none of those three happened. But did those really need to happen, you ask? Yes, they did. The last is self-explanatory. Shelley needed the win in the four-way to stake his claim to a title shot. Aries and Strong needed a pinfall over the Naturals, who are still regarded in storyline as being strong and important, in order to bolster their claims. They needed the W in the book, not the moral victory they got here.

As I said, all four guys ended up looking strong. I would not have complained about the Naturals being buried if the match was done as is and the result reversed. But Aries and Strong needed that final little bit of oomph in order to solidify their push and put them on their way to bigger and better things. I know some ROH fanboys are complaining that the guys who made their name in ROH are getting buried ala the WCW guys in WWE after the merger. Oh, bullshit. Look who’s holding the X Division title and look who won the four-way, then complain.

Also, there’s one other thing of note: Mike Tenay didn’t refer to Rudy Charles as “Senior Referee Rudy Charles”. That was a sure sign that Earl Hebner would be involved in this PPV.

Dress like a bitch, get treated like one

Okay, the matching tie and hankerchief was a good touch. But is there really such a color as “metallic peach”?

And so we come to the aforementioned four-way. Oh, boy, you could tell where the wind was blowing from the beginning of this match. With Bentley and Williams in the ring, the Zone Zanies started up a “Let’s Go Lethal, Let’s Go Shelley” chant. Again, this is driving the ROH Fanboys into total despair due to TNA trying to lock up all those guys into exclusive contracts. ROH is becoming to TNA what ECW was to WCW ten years ago: the feeder federation. And Gabe’s doing what Heyman did at that time, namely he keeps restocking and making new stars. And then the cycle repeats. Bryan Danielson will be X Division champion within a year, let me assure you.

But back to this match. You’ve got to feel for Bentley and Williams. Along with Sabin and Dutt, they’re the inhabitants of the No Man’s Land between the Rock of the Joe/Daniels/Styles hammerlock of the title picture and the Hard Push of the Aries/Shelley/Strong/Lethal up-and-comers. They’ve essentially become enhancement talent for either or both, as in this match. As I said, the crowd wanted Lethal and Shelley in there. Is this just a bad time for those guys? Can something be done to alleviate the situation? The scenario that I proposed actually would have done that in a way by introducing a little uncertainty into the picture. It would have given those four some title shots and a little visibility in the two months between this PPV and Lockdown, where Joe would have got the title back. The shots would have been on Impact instead of on PPV, but it at least would have kept them visible and in their element, and not stuck in tag matches against AMW. Of course, that was my fallback plan for Sabin and Dutt, which I’ll discuss when we get to the tag title match.

Again, great performances by everyone involved. My only complaint, again, is that the wrong guy went over. TNA understands the principle of striking while the iron’s hot (see the world title match), so why didn’t they do that with Shelley in this match? Yeah, Lethal’s been jobbing lately, having been Joe’s latest victim on Impact, and he needed this win as a mark of credibility, but it seems to be a breakthrough at too high a level at this point. Shelley’s been positioned for this much better than Lethal, and would have had an easier time following it up in terms of elevation. If Lethal goes back to jobbing after this, or starts participating in matches against jobbers, then this match should be considered a waste of time.

“Hey, Traci, you know sex clubs are legal in my country now?”

The standing or running dropkick has become the X Division’s signature move

Amazing, really. In that recent interview, I was asked to name three people I thought should be turfed out of TNA. One of the names I mentioned was Apolo. This interview was done in the time period between Sonny Siaki getting his WWE contract and the formation of Pain-In-The-Ass Airport. I was mildly embarassed, therefore, when Konnan made him part of his stable. Now Apolo apparently is doing the job himself by no-showing two straight PPVs. Vindication is quite sweet. Just remember the basic principle: I’m always right.

Obviously, I totally ignored the NAO/Pain-In-The-Ass Airport match. Really, this was one to turn your stomach. The dark side of TNA striking while the iron’s hot is the need to incorporate the nostalgia element into that. However, I have to retract a statement from above: I did actually pick NAO to win this match, but, really, that’s not something to be proud of.

I do have to question Konnan’s sartorial choices on a number of levels. First of all, with the inherent pun in the team name, is it appropriate to wear the gear of a team that abandoned Los Angeles? Why the Charles Woodson jersey? As far as I know, he’s not Latin. And isn’t the Raiders gear a little bit cliche for someone attempting to emulate a street gang persona? Please, even I know it’s not street-worthy in 2006.

Honestly, who do you root against?

Okay, I’ve said numerous times that ad-hoc tag teams are a menace to a tag division and shouldn’t be considered for strap-holders (Kane/TBS is living proof of this assertion). So how is it that I wanted Sabin and Dutt to win the tag titles, and predicted they’d do so? Because of one reason and one reason only: AMW holding the straps right now is causing problems in the formerly vibrant TNA tag scene. Who other than the ex-Dudleys are going to be the ones to defeat them (don’t even suggest NAO, you pricks)? And how does transitioning the straps to them solve the basic problem? Sabin and Dutt would be the perfect choices right now to do so. They’d inject a little of the X Division into the tag scene in addition to providing new directions in which to turn. They could also make any team on the Verge look really good. That would include Pain-In-The-Ass Airport and even the Diamonds. Maybe with them holding the straps, TNA could have done something interesting with the tag scene for a while. Instead, they decided to keep the straps on AMW, and now they’ll be in a match with Jarrett at Destination X, thus leaving the tag title scene in limbo again.

The only way I’ll excuse this is if Sabin’s ankle is worse than it looks. Then, sure, no problem. The match was booked and they had to go through with it before Sabin went out for recovery time. But, if not, damn them.

Fortunately, the Flying Sonjay is not on the Endangered Species List

And thus we were led into the Grievous Bodily Harm Division Match. I’ll tell you why I’m getting off on these guys. WWE has provided us with so many vanilla brawls over the last number of years that it’s great to see guys get down and dirty again. It isn’t a freak show like ECW turned out so often to be either. It’s just two guys going at it, trying to hurt each other as much as humanly possible. Even when weapons and barbed wire are used, it seems to be organic to the matches, not there for the sake of spectacle. Of course, that condition is helped by the fact that Raven, Sabu, and Rhiyno made their names in ECW, so we’re used to seeing them with pain-causing implements. These guys get into this, and they take it seriously. Best of all, they’re able to communicate this passion to the audience. You have to admire this.

And we had two of the best in Rhiyno and Abyss. Yeah, this puppy had a heavy Bingo Hall vibe to it. With the tables, the cookie sheets, the baseball bats, and Mitchell and Rhiyno being involved, it couldn’t help but have it. But this match was more than ECW Nostalgia, despite the presence of the New Jack Memorial Staple Gun. The Gore from the balcony through the stacked tables alone deserves credit. The only question is whether these matches are so well-regarded because of their excellence in execution (f*ck you, Bret) or because they’re palate-refreshers. Both, really, but with more emphasis on the former. This match was incredibly well-booked. The ending to an FCA match should not take place in the ring, period, and this one followed that rule. I sense the hand of Dutch Mantell, who supposedly is very good at booking this type of matches thanks to his involvement in such insanity all over the South in his in-ring time. Bravo.

This match makes me glad I’m downloading ECW Blood Sport right now (two complete DVD images, not rips).

You wouldn’t need a trophy that big with Pat’s balls

Gore, past the conveniently-removed breakaway balcony wall, into the tables below. Yeah, I’m with it.

I went into Joe/Daniels/Styles ready to say that you never remember your second f*ck, which is true. And, yes, this wasn’t as mind-blowingly great as the first one. And, yes, that’s called “damning with faint praise”. There are a number of spots that stand out in this match. One of the more interesting was near the beginning of the match. Daniels monkey-flips A. J. right into Joe’s arms, upside-down. For a second, it looked like Joe was going to hit the Styles Clash on him. Damn, was I hoping this would have happened. That would have been the most wonderful use of “turn your opponent’s finisher on him” since, well, Montreal. Instead, Joe drops A. J. right into a Boston Crab, and gets plastered by Daniels. What a missed opportunity. Another had to be the Kama Sutra-like moment of Joe having the Kokina Clutch on A. J. while Daniels had a leg-scissors submission on Joe.

Was this an MOYTC? Yes, of course it was. But it’s going to be the forgotten MOYTC by the time December rolls around. That’s because of their booking plans. If they have these three in Ultimate X and then in the cage at Lockdown, as they have planned, a “normal” match like this is going to get overlooked. And that will be a shame.

So what’s there to complain about? Yes, the booking. I had A. J. pinning Daniels for the title. It’s taken me time to come to terms with this, but, change is inevitable. Long title reigns are a thing of the past. When you have as many PPVs as TNA and WWE do each year, then titles will have to change hands more often. In a sense, a four-month title reign in a once-a-month era is the equivalent of a year-long title reign in a four-PPVs-per-year era. The sheer number of high-caliber matches that a title holder has to go through at that higher frequency requires more frequent changes to keep things fresh. Note that this does not justify what WWE did to Edge. I’m just saying that a longer title reign requires numerous dead spots in the defense of the title. In the past, those dead spots were provided by the gaps between PPVs. Now they can’t be. This is how we end up with Shelton Benjamin holding on to the IC strap for eight months and doing nothing with it.

So, now would have been a good chance to get the strap off of Joe. I elucidated the booking above. Again, it’s striking while the iron is hot when involving Generation Next. Good audience response, good push, let’s get them over once and for all. That’s what could have happened if they’d been involved with A. J. in Ultimate X. But if those future booking plans are real, they’re stuck. One of the real winning elements of this menage has been Joe’s winning streak. A loss here via the way I imagined it would have kept that alive. Yes, they can keep it alive at Destination X and Lockdown in the same manner, but this would have been the place to do it. It would have opened the door for Generation Next to have that Ultimate X match next month, and for the build-up to start with whoever won that versus Joe in the cage at Lockdown (and for some reason, Joe/Styles in a cage is more appealing to me than Joe/Styles/Daniels). It would have provided a spark. Now, it’s a damp squib. Again, it’s the Lobster’s Great, But Do You Want To Eat It Every Night? Rule.

I don’t care if you’re A. J. Fuckin’ Styles, this has got to hurt

Now that would make me shit my pants

Uh, wrong Chris

After this, in order to prevent an anti-climax, the ex-Dudleys and Team Canada would have had to have held a human sacrifice in the ring. But they didn’t. So I didn’t bother. Bleh match anyway, despite the presence of the best pair Team Canada can field.

I’ll bet Buh Buh Ray doesn’t have Showtime on his cable system either

And they call Joe Perry and Steven Tyler the Toxic Twins

As for the culmination, ignore the results. Get your erections down and clean up your spooge about Christian winning the belt. Just concentrate on the match instead. Boring. Typical Jarrett match, despite the atypical result. And since it’s a Jarrett match, there has to be running sideshows going along with it. Gail Kim constantly interfering, turning Earl Hebner’s presence into an annoyance (shame on you, Tenay), Hebner taking two bumps, Slick Johnson doing the Replacement Ref Fandango. Ironically, this is actually less overbooking than normal for a Jarrett match.

And then you have to wonder exactly how much of this was a Fuck You to WWE for what they did to Edge. If there’s any condition under which Jarrett would be willingly surgically separated from his belt, tweaking Vince would be one of them. If the strap is transitioned to Monty next month, this win will be exposed as just that. Remember, it isn’t winning the strap that matters, but what you do with it afterward. The real test won’t be what happens next month with Monty (other than a Monty win), it’s who he faces in the cage at Lockdown. Fortunately, that shouldn’t be Jarrett. But who will he get?

In other words, be patient and start to look for results other than this.

To the victor goes the spoils

So, in summary, good PPV, bad booking. Here’s hoping they do better in that department, because if the right booking decisions can be matched with the level of performance here, TNA will be impossible to beat for 2006’s Fed of the Year.

AND TO CLOSE, A LITTLE MAIL

Yeah, I haven’t done a Mailbag in a while. That’s really because it was the core of my now-departed Wednesday column, when I needed material to work with and the readers were happy to provide me with said. Well, without Raw this week, and despite having a PPV, it seems like a good time to resurrect it. As usual, IP writers get highest priority, and Burnside’s on a little hiatus right now, so he decided to throw me some comments:

Your comments about Vince in that last article are probably quite accurate, but be sure to remember the most likely explanation – he genuinely believes he is doing the right thing. By all accounts Vince liked Eddie a great deal and possibly saw quite a lot of himself in his personality. He probably loved the guy, but Vince’s love is far from pure due to having spent his entire life immersed in wrestling and some forty-odd years trying to run his own promotion. That’s a hell of a lot of kayfabe, a huge pitcher of Kool-Aid, and a spectacular case of Forest & Trees Syndrome. That’s why he’s the sort of man to make out with Trish Stratus in front of his wife, to beat up his son in a Street Fight and to molest his daughter in an I Quit Match, all under the protective, catch-all banner of Good For Business. Now he has convinced himself that it would be Good For Business if Randy Orton and John Cena were forcibly inserted as the major icons of WWE for the next generation. The Cena situation is another, marginally saner, story but as far as Orton is concerned, to Vince all of this Eddie talk is not just effective heel heat but a genuine tribute to the Guerreros as a whole.

The thing is, Iain, Vince’s neuroses have been pretty well-catalogued over the years. He’s a major nutjob in a number of areas. You’re right when you say that he thinks this is good for business. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have had Steph overrule the writers on Orton’s controversial lines. But the seeming obsession with death given such high priority, both in the Orton/Rey-Rey angle and in the Tim White vignettes, is something new, something we’ve never seen from him before. This has to be a new neurotic obsession, and I posited the most logical explanation for it. Vince is getting old, he’s abused his body in the past with chemicals, and it’s eating at him. This tends to happen with successful, self-made men when they reach a certain age (and hitting 60 was definitely the trigger for this). It’s nothing new. Every man reacts differently. Andrew Carnegie went through the same thing, and he started endowing foundations and universities to the tune of tens of billions of today’s dollars. Ted Turner decided to f*ck around on a still-hot Jane Fonda. Vince decided to exploit the death of one of his most popular workers in a rather despicable fashion. Weirdness tends to abound.

I think it would have been beneficial to the wrestling community had Rey gone further and won the belt at WrestleMania in a truly cathartic moment. Throwing in ringside widows, constant lowriders and a permanent armband for Mysterio is of course completely unnecessary. I wonder just how far they can push this until the fans actually start to boo Eddie’s name, not out of disrespect for him but out of contempt for those who, to people with cleaner eyes, sadly do.

Exactly. It’s the nature of the push that makes it truly disturbing. As I said, my bullshit detector is sensitive, and Rey-Rey winning the Rumble alone set it off. But since then, it’s the cynical nature of the exploitation that’s got everyone’s panties in a twist, something that I warned would happen. Vince and Subtlety have never met, after all. What pisses me off about my fellow writers is that everyone was blinded by Rey-Rey winning the Rumble match and in a celebratory mode, saying “What a wonderful thing”, and not looking at the bigger picture. Then again, I’m used to that. Wrestling writers have an annoying habit of doing that. Remember Milord’s blathering about how the Drug Policy was such a wonderful thing without stopping to realize that nothing had been announced? Well, nothing’s still been announced about that, and we’ve already passed the time period when something formal was supposed to come out. Gee, guess I was right again.

You’re right, Iain. There’s going to be a backlash coming soon, and not the PPV after WM. Audiences are going to get sick of this, and the turning point for that might be No Way Out, when Vicki and the kids are going to be sitting ringside as the antagonist to their beloved husband’s/father’s memory is going to take away Rey-Rey’s automatic title shot. It won’t be a visceral reaction to the heel winning out like Vince and Steph think it will, either. It’s going to be audience revolt. And then they’re going to wonder where they went wrong. As usual.

Josh Pearce, who also got some comments in during the World’s Largest Short Form last week, decides to contribute:

…some really funny stuff about the Opening Ceremony, although I doubt that it was completely you. You know the old saying “sometimes the material just writes itself”? i think that the Opening Ceremony had many of those moments. Thanks for getting screen caps up for them; now I can print of that fantastically hilarious picture of the human montage of a skier.

It was just too bizarre to watch. Yes, I know that ski jumpers get down into that haunch when getting ready to take off. It’s just that done on a giant scale, without the ski jump itself as background, and from a side view instead of the usual ones we get from the camera, it was just too…well, submissively giving. It looked like a Super Bowl commercial for a gay ski resort.

Interesting point about Vince’s rationality, its something I never actually put that much thought into, purely because thought put into Vince’s rationale is usually dead thought. Now that you’ve mentioned it however, it makes a fair deal of sense. Vince is probably starting to have a lot of health problems now as well, and is probably pushing Bret Hart to do the run in during his match with Michaels at WM22 just so he can be a part of one last Wrestlemania. Couple his health problems with paranoia that TNA could have it in them to do what WCW did, he’s probably freaking out. He probably thinks that he’s the only one that can keep the WWE alive, and if he dies before he grooms a perfect successor, then his company, his father’s company, will be finished. Vince has gone into panic mode.

Vince’s paranoia isn’t really a factor here at this point. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet that TNA is a threat to him. I don’t think he sees it as direct competition, mainly because of the fact that TNA isn’t competing directly against his programming; he didn’t see WCW as competition until Nitro premiered. He sees Impact as something that Spike scrambled for in order to replace Epilepsy on their Saturday night slate. Impact moving to Thursday? No skin off his nose. It’s not on Monday or Friday. To Vince, the Dudleys were just a business disagreement and Christian is a good guy and good employee, but he doesn’t have the insight that Vince does about his long-term future, so let him leave and he’ll be welcomed back when he sees the light.

And Stephanie, I know there is no way to change the fact that she is a fruitcake, but in her defence, she really has no experience, and is booking the only thing that women raised in rich families generally know better than anyone else: soap opera.

Josh, you’re wrong. The Bitch of the Baskervilles has held the book since November 2000. I was the first person in the IWC to state in an article that Steph holding the book would lead to no good. That was in my first column for the then-Rantsylvania just after SurSer 2000, which was her first booking assignment. It’s one of my predictions that’s not as well-known as “Watch out for Jamie Kellner; he’s going to do something bad regarding WCW programming” and “Steph’s got to be pregnant”, but it’s probably the one that’s proven most true. We’re now more than five years on. Has she learned anything? No. Veterans in the IWC keep stating how Ole Anderson’s one year with the book almost ruined WCW and lay the blame on him, but they say nothing about Steph’s five years and counting and how it’s ruined WWE.

She grew up watching the early 90s WWF, and not only that, probably Days of our Lives as well.

The early-90s WWF stuff was something I figured out just from watching SurSer 2000. I stated that in the article I mentioned above. And in case you’re wondering if I’m bullshitting about saying this, here is a link to that, courtesy of the Wayback Machine. It also provides proof of how long I’ve been on Flex’s ass (and this was before I started calling him “Flex”, for that matter).

And Stephanie knows she has no experience, no knowledge. She panics, and she hires Hollywood writers because in her mind highly qualified writers will be able to cover over her poor ability.

Oh, but she does have experience, namely the last five years. She should have gained knowledge somewhere along the way too. What she’s doing is remaining in a permanent state of denial. In her mind, she’s never made a mistake. She surrounds herself with writing professionals (or at least people who make money by writing for television) because she wants to lead a professional writing squad, thus bolstering her own profile. Here’s the sick part: let’s do a thought experiment in alternate universes. Let’s say the territories didn’t die. Now, imagine all those territories had been passed from father to son. Can you tell me that Greg Gagne, Erik Watts, or Brian Lawler would have done such an incompetent job running AWA, Mid-South, or Memphis as Steph’s done with WWE? They may have sucked as wrestlers, but all of them understand the business. Steph could have done this as well, but didn’t. Whether this is by design or fate can be left up to one’s fancy.

However, like Jim Cornette said in his interview with Bambi, to know how to book wrestling, you need to know what the crowd wants. Stephanie never had that chance to improvise and has probably read from a script every time she’s been on stage.

Believe it or not, Steph’s not to blame for this. The blame goes solely to Vince. Vince is innately conservative, as has been said many times. He’s uncomfortable with new ideas and new concepts, even when they make him boatloads of cash. The most important changes WWE has made since Vince bought out his dad have come either overdue (getting rid of Hogan) or from times of the most ultimate desperation (WWF was weeks away from going under when Vince finally gave into Russo and Shane and pulled the trigger on Attitude). Of course, if something gets changed and becomes successful, it becomes the new status quo in Vince’s mind, and he’ll run it into the ground like he does with everyone else. For proof, just look at how his own character’s been booked. Mister McMahon of 2006 is the same Mister McMahon of 1998, with no real character development on a permanent basis. Even characters in soap operas evolve, change, and gain new facets over eight years.

Paul E may have lost ECW (and a large sum of da benjamins) but you can bet that through all his mistakes, Heyman learned how to book wrestling. All you need to do is look to the Smackdown 6 era.

The thing is, Heyman didn’t need mistakes. Before ECW, he’d been watching how organizations booked for years. He learned a lot from Bill Watts in WCW when both of them were there in the early 90s. He was even able to gain new ideas from watching Watts. Watts, for instance, didn’t know how to book Scott Levy and let him go. Heyman figured out a way, and turned him into the first of a long line of character successes.

Stephanie has no clue. She might find a clue someday, but its not going to be anytime soon. She’s trying to cover up her lack of ability, but it still comes though.

It should have happened by now, don’t you think? The last five years, though, have been a litany of the same mistakes, repeated over and over.

But Vince, in his panic, is giving her the JBL Shove, except backstage. Vince is panicking and putting his daugher into a position that she is not prepared for.

He should have thought of that in 2000, though. And if he’d listened to me, he might have.

And Stephanie is panicking because she can’t handle the responsibilty but doesnt want to disappoint daddy. She’s panicking and doing whatever she thinks will work.

And Vince keeps letting her do it because he’s still getting steady ratings. Never mind that they’re not growing, he’s still making his money and is satisfied with the status quo, just like he always was and always will be.

She’s using Eddie in storylines because he’s cheap heat for Orton. Stephanie is worried that Orton can’t get over by himself, without using dead Eddie references.

And that shows you how desperate they are to get Orton over. Nothing else has worked, so why not cheap heat on the backs of the dead?

And Vince isn’t about to stop it, he wants to make sure that Stephanie is confident in her role, and doesn’t want to stop her suggestions in case it crushes her and makes her leave the position.

That’s because Vince has no choice. He wants to leave his company to his children. Shane was obviously the one he wanted to leave it to, but he’s enjoying his position in the company too much to want to get involved in the backstage snake pit. That left the door open for Steph, who’s an ambitious little cuss at heart. She’s definitely Daddy’s Girl. Even if Vince did “crush” her, she wouldn’t leave. She knows now that it’s her company, especially now that she’s providing an heir by herself instead of having to rely on her nephew and his sibling. And she’s really got the whip hand now, since if she leaves, she takes one of the company’s top draws with her. Between the two of them, they have an incredible power base in wrestling. They could start their own fed, and between them, they could attract a number of top names, from WWE, TNA, and the indies. Or they can buy into TNA. Jarrett knows that he can’t deal with Vince, but he could and would deal with Steph and Trip, especially if there was an estrangement in the McMahon household.

Vince thinks this heat is ‘effective’ because its working, and in his paranoid nature, doesn’t want to change it in case the angle doesn’t work, and somebody else, somebody more important, gets up and leaves for TNA.

And his name is Chris Benoit.

When Sting signed on for 500K, Vince probably didnt think ‘they’re gonna lose a whole lot of money’. he probably thought ‘They have that kind of money? This could be serious trouble’.

No, I don’t think he thought that. Vince knows they have money. This is something Fleabag points out all the time: an energy company is backing TNA. They have literal money to burn. If Dixie gets into Daddy’s ear, they’ve got a blank checkbook that even Bisch would have envied. What Vince thought was, “Okay, let them have Sting and waste their money. We didn’t want him anyway.”

Now he’s signing any possible TNA prospect, because Vince is scared. He’s scared of TNA. He’s scared that his company will fall apart. He’s scared he’s going to die.

I’d give the latter two more weight than the first. Again, it’s a history lesson. Signing away guys to keep them from the other guy is standard operating procedure, even when you dwarf the competition. How many raids did Bisch do on ECW? It wasn’t to keep all those guys away from WWF either. Despite having Bret and Shawn at the top in 1995, Vince never thought about bringing over Eddy, Benoit, and Malenko from ECW. Bisch got them because he needed more workers with Nitro premiering. This kind of thing has been going on since the 1910s, for God’s sake.

And you’re absolutely right. The only reason for all this death stuff is because inside, he’s scared of death.

We all are. The difference is that we don’t show off the phobia in front of four million people every week.

James Lawson expands on this slightly:

Something else we might want to worry about is when Steph does take the reigns. What is to prevent her from turning the WWE into an almost complete “Hollywood” enviroment where she would rarely take the input from the wrestlers?

She doesn’t do that now. If she did, maybe she’d be hearing the bitching and moaning from the boys about the whole Eddy thing. So, nothing will change.

Frequent correspondent Scott Grannell wants the ball now:

As far as Vince realizing Death is close, I agree, but I would add another layer. He has always had greater ambitions than mere wrestling. He so wanted to invent new attractions, and to take a chunk out of the movies. The fact is, he knows that door is closed, deep in his guts. The WWE stars that went Hollywood did so in spite of Vince, and have instead used their success as a means of running away from Vince. Think of it, of the “new Generation of wrestlers” , who is left to be this generation’s superstar? Bret Hart, Goldberg, Brock, yes, even SCSA, and the Rock, none of them has stuck with the WWE. Indeed, it says a lot when the only person you can count on to be your hero is HBK (thus the stupid angle of vince vs HBK that would really have fit someone like the aforementioned people much better.) What’s the point?, the point is, Vince is finally beginning to realize that he has conquered all the worlds there is to conquer. There is no great horizon waiting for him to soar towards, nor even any new wrestler or innovation for him to develop within wrestling itself.

And that’s a time when the normal person assesses his life and his accomplishments. If there’s no horizons left, the normal thing to do is abandon and attempt accomplishments in a new area. Even people younger than this like Sir Richard Branson have done things like that, turning hobbies into preoccupations and businesses. Paul Newman concentrates on his food businesses more than doing movies now that he’s reached his 80s, to cite another example (any coincidence that this started after he won that elusive Oscar?). It would be natural for Vince to give up wrestling to try his hands full-time at, say, movie-making. No one would begrudge him that, and no one would blame him for utilizing his wrestlers in such efforts. But his past failures at turning hobbies into businesses (like the WBF) and attempting to go into different areas (like the XFL) have been failures, and Vince really doesn’t know anything else. Wrestling’s been his sole concern, other than his family, since adolescence. He has no outlet. And he’s not the type to ask for the yacht to be fueled, grab Linda, and head off on a world cruise.

So, because Stephanie and HHH feed his vanity, he grooms them, because he realizes that his only hope of conquering any new territory is to make a legacy.

Which isn’t new territory at all. After all, that’s what he did with Vince Senior. Vince feels he has an obligation. He doesn’t need the ego stroking.

Sad part is, he is blind to the fact that Steph nor HHH have the talent, nor the real inclination, to innovate and expand the idea of wrestling.

Steph doesn’t. She’s proven that. But if Trip can divorce his ego from the process of business and relinquish his hold on validating that ego in the ring, he does have the talent to do so. He’s a lot smarter than people give him credit for. It’s just that it’s been disguised by the fact that he’s been seen more as Michaels’ Butt Boy at the beginning of his career and The Son-In-Law now.

They are people who will only be able to be big fish in a small pond, and their response to talent that could expand the pond is to ruin them, thus, Vince’s legacy is taking wrestling and making it aa phenomenon will go to the dust..until of course, someone takes the wwe and guillotines the artistocrats, as it were. As much as I would like to think this person would be Shane, it will most likely be a corporate type.

It would have to be a corporate type from the outside, though. That’s how things are done in family-run businesses. And outsiders are only allowed in the inner circle when the business is at a very low point and the family and the old guard loyal to them have given up on any other option. That’s what happened with Disney and Eisner.

And one more thing: Memo to Dharma: I get through dry periods the best I can. I find that something always crops up.

Well, it’s now on to the first of what will be a number of Triple Threat Short Forms over the weekend. I’m already downloading the UK feed of Raw in order to get screen caps for it, and Smackdown and Impact will follow. It’s the perfect aperitif for No Way Out. Well, that or rat poison. Until then, keep it simple.

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