Judging by feedback to my last few editions of BDIN, I’d say there’s a fair amount of you who want me to add more opinion-type content to these things. I’ve been hesitant to do that, mostly because we have a lot of other guys here at Inside Pulse who are perfectly capable of handling the opinion side of things. I’m in a good position to bring you wrestling news each week because I have subscriptions to all the major newsletters and the VIP-style clubs that the Torch and Figure Four offer, and because of that I can get you stuff that you haven’t read anywhere else. The actual print newsletters don’t usually hit subscribers until Friday afternoon, and my column goes up on Friday morning at midnight, which means early Inside Pulse readers will get a lot of exclusive stuff from my column that you can’t get anywhere else yet. Outside of the “5 Things I Think I Think” (a concept that I stole from Peter King from Sports Illustrated), I try to stick with just the news and leave the ranting to everyone else. Of course, I slip in a snarky remark from time to time, but it’s mostly in good fun.
But you want more, so here’s what we’re going to do.
Each week, I’m going to open this column with a Top Ten list. It will change from week to week, and some of them will be recurring lists. Making lists is just about the easiest way to generate content available, and it’ll give you some good discussion fodder when you email me to tell me why I’m wrong and why I shouldn’t have ever been let near the Wrestling Editor position here at IP.
We’ll start things off with this week’s edition of The List.
THE LIST:THE TOP TEN IWC PERSONALITIES OF ALL TIME
I’ve been doing this internet wrestling writing gig for over ten years now. That’s not a long time when you compare it to folks like Scott Keith or CRZ (both of whom started back on Usenet), but it makes me a virtual grandfather compared to most everyone else doing it these days. I say “virtual” because it’s not in the sense that Eric Szulczewski is old enough to be your grandfather. Ho ho. Man alive, I kill me.
I’ve been around, and I’ve seen it all, and this week on The List, I give you my personal Top Ten IWC Personalities of All Time. Dave Meltzer isn’t eligible for the list, because he HAS no personality! I got jokes.
1. Scott Keith (RSPW/Rantsylvania/The Smarks/411/Inside Pulse)
Those of you who have been around long enough to remember Rantsylvania and WrestleLine will know what I’m talking about when I say that a Scott Keith Rant was a freaking EVENT. He did them for all major shows and a lot of WWE programming, and when they were posted, they were instantly discussed around the community. I know this because I was the webmaster for Rantsylvania and, along with Scott, created The Smarks, and I saw first-hand how traffic levels surged through the freaking roof whenever Scott had a new rant posted. A lot of people were too cheap to subscribe to the Observer, so people saw Scott as the standard-bearer when it came to match ratings, and it’s that reputation that earned him his first book deal…a deal, I might add, that continues to this day.
2. Al Isaacs (Scoops)
Scoops was the first wrestling news site I ever discovered outside of AOL, and it was an eye-opener for me. You mean to tell me that this guy had connections inside the wrestling world, and they told him all the stuff that happened backstage AND what would happen on WWE television? Wow. I read Scoops every single day, and instantly felt smarter than the rest of my fellow wrestling fans. I’d tell them juicy bits of backstage gossip, and of course they didn’t believe me, but the secret was in the telling; I’d somehow gained access to a world that I didn’t know existed. I became involved in the community in Scoops; it was called The Rage Board, and it’s still alive ten years later. I’d give you the address, but I don’t want to ruin the vibe. Al Isaacs was a working comedian, and I never thought he was very funny, but he gave me my first writing gig (same with Hyatte and others), and I’ll forever be grateful for that.
3. Christopher Robin Zimmerman (WrestleManiacs/WrestleLine/Slash)
When CRZ retired from doing recaps, the IWC lost something they’ll never get back. These days, when you read a show recap, you get a general feeling for what happened on the show. When you read one of CRZ’s recaps, you knew EXACTLY what happened, because CRZ told you. He transcribed all interviews, gave commercial break times, match times, segment times, and everything else you needed to know. If I missed an episode of Raw, there was only one place I would turn, and that was to one of CRZ’s recaps. Nobody else has ever put as much work into their writing as CRZ did, and he did it without overwhelming you with opinion. These days, if you want a perfect record of what happened on an episode of Nitro in 1997, you can go to Slash and find CRZ’s recap, and you’ll instantly be informed. Nobody ever did it any better, and nobody ever will.
4. Mike Samuda (Micasa/WrestleManiacs/WrestleLine)
Mike Samuda had an interesting gig back in the day. Very few people had subscriptions to the Wrestling Observer, which is where all news came from (and still comes from, for the most part). So what Mike did, and this was genius, was take the news from the Observer each week and post it without giving credit to Meltzer. That would never fly today, but back then, it made Samuda seem like he had tons of sources in the wrestling industry. He was the go-to guy for the latest news for a long, long time, but once CBS folded WrestleLine, he vanished from the scene and hasn’t been heard from since. Once Meltzer hit the web, Samuda’s game was up, but he had a good gig going while it lasted.
5. Bryan Alvarez (Wrestling Observer/Figure Four Daily)
As the co-host on the weekly Wrestling Observer radio show, Alvarez has always played second fiddle to Dave Meltzer. When the show started on Eyada, very few people had heard of Bryan, but he’s actually been running a successful print newsletter for roughly ten years. He’s still doing the Observer shows with Dave on SportsByline, but Alvarez has also expanded Figure Four’s print newsletter to include an online empire. For $5 a month, subscribers get access to daily radio shows with Bryan interviewing a variety of guests, online versions of the Figure Four Weekly newsletter, and much, much more. Alvarez makes this list because he’s the funniest guy to EVER run commentary on pro wrestling, and his radio shows are worth paying 5 bucks a month to listen to. I know this sounds like a long plug for Bryan, and perhaps it is; all I know is that Figure Four Weekly Online is a daily visit for me, and there’s not too many of those.
6. Eric Szulczewski (The Shooters/The Smarks/411/Inside Pulse)
7. Chris Hyatte (Scoops/WrestleLine/411/Inside Pulse)
8. Rick Scaia (The News From Dayton/WrestleManiacs/WrestleLine/Online Onslaught)
9. Sean Shannon
10. Zach Arnold
== WWE NOTEBOOK ==
— Sources within the company indicate that the airing of Brooke Hogan’s music video on Raw didn’t come free, if you know what I’m sayin’. You’ll see what I’m talking about when you witness her daddy jobbing to young Randall Orton at WrestleMania next year. One former WWE veteran says of the coming Orton/Brooke angle that “it’s like taking a pedophile and casting him in a movie about raping kids”. Here’s what I say about Brooke Hogan: “she might be the most talentless person to ever disguise herself as a singer and get a record deal. Thank God for her daddy.”
— Shawn Michaels does not like the DX angle, but knows that it had to be done from a logical standpoint. He’s worried about looking like a hypocrite and wants his lifestyle to be honored, so he’s asked to not be put into too many situations that are outlandish. He’s said to be fine with slapstick humor, but is trying to draw the line on anything overtly sexual, which is why Hunter has been bearing the heavy burden of cursing and making penis jokes for the team lately.
— Doink was played by Steve Lombardi, who is the go-to guy whenever they need someone to work under a hood. Lombardi also portrayed Kim Chee on Raw this week.
— Chris Masters will not be rushed back to the road once he serves his punishment for his incident related to the WWE Wellness Program. The company feels internally that Randy Orton might have been rushed back too quickly, and they’re going to
give Masters time to mature socially before bringing him back, if he comes back at all. He’ll look vastly different then he did before he left, and a lot of people internally are wondering what else besides a fantastic build Masters brings to the table.
— The company has tossed around plans to turn Nick Dinsmore (Eugene) heel, and he’s been mentioned as a possible guy that may jump to ECW. The belief among road agents is that Dinsmore has been pigeonholed into the Eugene character so much that hardly anyone will take him serious as a worker, but they believe that could end up working out in their favor.
— Fake Kane (or as I like to call him, Fane) is done. The company called up Freakin’ Deacon from OVW with the intention of having this storyline last until a blow-off at WrestleMania, but then he debuted. He had a Shockmaster-eqsue debut, falling down delivering a chokeslam and ripping his costume while still in the ring. The crowd reaction has been totally dead, which caused Vince to change his mind and end the storyline at Summerslam. At Vengeance, however, the crowd was completely silent yet again, and Vince made the decision to kill the angle. There’s a possibility that the real Kane could end up back under the mask or just wear the mask to the ring and take it off while wrestling. As far as Freakin’ Deacon goes, they’ll find something for him to do, because he’s big and we know how Vince feels about big dudes.
— After Vengeance, Hunter got a bunch of women to flash the camera. Shawn was very uncomfortable with it and stayed away from the whole deal. They showed it all on camera (nudity and all), which is absolutely great when you consider that there were ten year olds at the event.
— Mikey Batts was cut from developmental because he had a horrible attitude, but there’s a ton of complaints against him. He had a horrible attitude, was in poor shape, showed no desire to improve at all, and even told the WWE creative team NO when they asked him to learn a British accent for a new Harry Potter-style gimmick they wanted him to work. Oh, great. I can see it now — Harry Smith debuting with the freaking Potter gimmick. As much as I love the Harry Potter books, I do not want to see Harry Potter wrestle.
— Word out of Madison Square Garden is that if MMA is ever legalized in the state of New York, they’re going to have a very tough time getting into MSG. The WWE stranglehold on the arena may have gotten even tighter with the signing of this new deal, which no one thought was possible. Vince is said to consider UFC his new competition, especially considering the ratings and buyrates they’ve pulled in over the past six months, and has been taking every oppurtunity to badmouth UFC that he gets.
— This is the greatest Randall Orton story ever. “”There was a time when I was in the ring and Batista and Flair were holding Mick Foley for me to punch. Before he had showed me where to hit him to make him bleed – right on the eyebrow. He said ‘If you hit me there hard enough I’ll get some colour’. So, they held him for me and I forgot! In the heat of the moment I just figured that if I punch him hard enough he’ll bleed. So I reared back and hit him, BOOM, almost in the temple. He slumped down and I looked – no blood. I said ‘Mick, shall I hit you again?’. His was swaying from side to side and I thought he said yes, so BOOM, I hit him again. I hit him 6 times in the face. He didn’t bleed once but it swelled up really big and then drained down his face – poor guy. That was pretty brutal – the fact that this guy wanted me to open him up a little bit and I ended up beating the sh’t out of him while he was being held. You could see in the replay that I was really hitting him and that made people say ‘Randy Orton’s really hitting that guy’. That really helped me out a lot – that was the heaviest part of our feud, which led to Backlash.” My favorite part of this story is when young Randall said “Mick, shall I hit you again?”
— Trish Stratus credits her quick comeback from injuries to yoga, which she started practicing last year. In the same vein, a lot of guys believe Rob Van Dam is able to go out and take so much punishment (like getting powerbombed onto the black barricade) every night because he spends at least an hour stretching before every match. Because of the flexibility of his muscles and the care he puts into stretching, he’ll have a longer shelf life than other guys who go out and take the same kinds of bumps.
== ECW NOTEBOOK ==
— Vince McMahon was apparently quite pleased with his booking prowess displayed during the first week of ECW on Sci-Fi, and was quite shocked when the negative fan backlash hit him. Rather than understand that what he’d booked wasn’t what ECW fans (or anyone, for that matter) wanted, he instead blamed the backlash on ECW being a “damaged brand” and said it would take time to fix it. Strangely enough, this is the same excuse he used when the WCW Invasion failed miserably, although he was probably right on that one. Vince had been giving Heyman more booking power with every passing week, but the feeling as of this week is that Vince now has total control of ECW and will be taking it in his direction. That is very unfortunate.
— They’d planned on having Kurt Angle face RVD in the ECW main event for Summerslam, but those plans are out the window due to Angle taking extended time off to heal up. Angle has been hurting badly, and they finally forced him to take time off.
— The hiring and subsequent push of Andrew “Test” Martin wasn’t a decision made by Paul Heyman. Make of that what you will.
— Heyman is still extremely high on C.M. Punk and has been supporting him against naysayers in the company. Punk will likely get a top spot in the fall, perhaps even paired up with RVD or Kurt Angle.
— The guys on the roster are perfectly aware that this product will never be anything remotely like it was during the 90’s, and the understand that it’s going to take a long time before it becomes something that stands apart from Raw on its own. For one thing, Sci-Fi demanded cross-promotion for the duration of the summer contract, but that will likely fall by the wayside if WWE decides to keep the brand going.
— Sabu’s luggage was lost by the airline on Sunday, so he ended up showing up at the building for Vengeance without his gear. He borrowed a pair of boots from a jobber and the on-location seamstress WWE employs sewed him a new pair of trunks.
— As far as Sabu goes, he’s been held in high regard by Vince for his professionalism backstage and his efforts to make the in-ring stuff work despite his limitations.
— Van Dam is said to be honored by the position the company has put him in, and realizes that a large portion of ECW’s future will hinge on his performances this summer as the top guy in the company. He’s determined to have the match of the night on every card he’s booked on.
== TNA NOTEBOOK ==
— When asked about potentially going to WWE, Samoa Joe said that it probably won’t happen because he doesn’t fit the description of the type of wrestler that Vince usually looks for.
— Guys backstage are starting to feel like they’ve got some job stability, which is a feeling that did not exist a year ago. Christopher Daniels and A.J. Styles are considered the locker room leaders because they’re TNA vets without WWE experience, and they’re happy with their push, so it rubs off on everyone else.
— There are people within the company that think Bill Goldberg’s recent claims that he’d need a one-year, six figure contract like Sting and that the company would need to make special concessions for timeslot and production values are laughable. The feeling is that Goldberg is completely used up and has nothing left to offer a promotion, and many feel that his winning streak was the only thing he ever had to offer a business that he now believes he is bigger than.
— Roderick Strong is no longer with TNA. He’d been brought back after serving a 30-day suspension, but was never used outside of one television taping.
— In regards to Jim Cornette’s promos, the TNA creative team (of which he is not a part) gives him a set of bullet points to get over. He takes those bullet points and spends a LOT of time crafting his promos, just as he always has.
— In my Slammiversary Botterm Dollar, I noted that TNA has the worst entrance themes in modern wrestling history and offered my musical services to them. It turns out that the company is aware that they have horribly generic themes. A source from within the company noted TO ME that they have to do the music internally right now but hope to have someone else handling it soon. Matthew Michaels and I wrote a new theme for Jeff Jarrett, and it goes like this:
DOOO DOO DOO DOOO
my name is JARRETTT
DUH DUH DUH DOO DOO DOO
that’s double j to the ladies
king to the men
That’s all we have thus far, but it’s sure to be a winner when we’re done.
== FIVE THINGS I THINK I THINK ==
I THINK THERE’S WAY TOO MUCH WRESTLING ON TV
I used to look forward to Monday nights, because Nitro and Raw were on. It was one night of the week when my buddies and I could get together and watch wrestling, and we’d spend the rest of the week talking about storylines and matches in anticipation of the next week’s television.
That kind of anticipation is gone. There is professional wrestling on the television nearly every night, and in fact we’re in a timespan where there will be some kind of cable wrestling show every night for fifteen straight nights.
Granted, not everyone follows MMA, and an even smaller portion follow lucha libre. But there’s still too much WWE programming on the air. Between Raw, Smackdown, ECW, Saturday Night’s Main Event, and Pay Per View events, fans barely have time to catch their breath, much less enjoy what they’re seeing.
There’s no anticipation. Any buildup that takes place usually happens over the course of a two-hour program.
They can’t keep this up. I can’t keep this up. I have no desire to watch this much wrestling, and I have even less desire to write about this much wrestling every week. I’m perfectly content watching Raw and Smackdown and the occasional TNA show every week.
I THINK THAT WINS AND LOSSES MATTER A LOT MORE THAN YOU THINK THEY DO.
I was having a conversation with someone who was trying to convince me that it didn’t matter that Kurt Angle’s been on a losing streak lately. After all, both of his losses could be explained: he lost to Randall Orton by dubious means, and he lost a hard-fought battle to the current WWE/ECW Champion on ECW television. Besides, it’s a fake sport.
Why in the world would you job out a guy who you just repackaged as a legit shooter? I knew there had to be something more behind Angle’s losses, and it turns out there was.
Angle was jobbed out because he’s taking time off to completely heal up, and they knew he could get his heat back immediately upon returning. But this conversation brings up the whole idea behind wins and losses, and whether or not they truly mean anything.
In the grand scope of the 45 hours of television programming WWE puts out each week, they might not matter a bit. In fact, I don’t think they do, because it’s been so long since WWE put any emphasis on it that it doesn’t even matter.
For a new brand to succeed, though, they have to do something different, and in order to position ECW as a true alternative, something that wrestling fans will actively tune in for, they have to add sporting elements to the matches. They’ve started doing this lately with in-ring introductions for title matches and tales of the tape, but they need to keep track of wins and losses. If you take someone like Kurt Angle and repackage him as a bad-ass shooter, then he shouldn’t lose. I understand the story with Angle and it’s understandable, but this is a mistake WWE needs to caution against in the future.
I THINK I HATE HOUSTON SPORTS FRANCHISES. ALL OF THEM.
First it was Mario Williams over both Vince Young and Reggie Bush. As a Houston sports fan, I didn’t think it could get much lower than that. After all, the Rockets have a history of making semi-decent picks in the draft, and surely they’d be able to use that #8 pick for someone good, right?
They did. They lucked out. They drafted Rudy Gay, a guy who no one figured would drop that low. In fact, Gay was the consensus #1 pick all season long and only recently began to fall a bit lower. Nobody had him going less than #6, which is why it was such a shocker when Houston was able to grab him. I was happy. Very happy. As my hero John Bradshaw Layfield says, it is DAWN in AMERICA again.
And then they trade Gay (and Stromile Swift) to Memphis for Shane Battier. Nothing else in return. Not the 24th pick.
Just Shane Frigging Battier.
I am so frigging depressed. I’m going to file for Fan Free Agency soon. I thought about signing with Dallas because of the Mavericks and the Rangers, but I hate the Cowboys, so that’s out. Maybe I can sign a low-end deal with someone like, say, Charlotte, or someone else with hardly any sports franchises. There’s less chance of heartache that way.
I THINK BRITNEY SPEARS JUST MADE A COMEBACK
I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Britney Spears posed nude for Harper’s Bazaar. Well, she’s not really naked, but that’s not the point. At a point when everyone is talking about her inherent white-trashiness, old Brit comes right out and proves something that not everybody realizes, but should: pregnant women are the most beautiful sight in the world. I don’t mean that in a perverted way, and I’m said that I feel I even need to clarify this.
And no, I’m not giving you links.
I THINK I CAN SUM UP THE EIGHTIES WITH ONE VIDEO
Go watch it. It’s on YouTube, it’s free, and it captures an entire decade in the span of one song.