Hello, sports racers. Sorry about missing last week, but I was without the hot computer action for a few days and couldn’t get anything written, much less posted. I’m trying to make it up to you this week, but there really isn’t a ton of news that you haven’t seen already. Seriously. Most of this stuff is about Mark Henry, and what kind of world do we live in where Mark Henry is the featured attraction of an awesome news column?
Actually, that’s not very nice. I’ve grown quite fond of Mark Henry over the past few weeks, especially when he’s giving promos about killing people, because though he may look just fat and out of shape, you just KNOW that he could pretty much pull your arm out of your shoulder socket and beat you to a bloody, single-armed death with it if he chose to do so.
Not a ton of big stories this week, but there’s a lot of little stuff. I do have some exclusive TNA material and follow-ups on some TNA stories seen elsewhere this week, so stay tuned for that.
THE LIST: TOP FIVE WRESTLING COLOR COMMENTATORS OF ALL TIME
1. Jesse Ventura
2. John Bradshaw Layfield
3. Bobby Heenan
5. Jerry Lawler
== WWE NOTEBOOK ==
— Mark Henry’s contract expires in September, but he’s been in negotiations for a few months and the company wants to resign him. They originally signed him to a ten-year deal out of the Atlanta Games in 1996, but never really grasped the concept of being a wrestler. After realizing that Henry was very much the anti-Kurt, they tried to get him to quit and void his contract by sticking him in stupid angles, hoping that the embarrasment of being the young lover of a 100 year old woman would prove to be too much to handle. Much like Vito is doing now, Henry embraced the stupid angles because he got paid well to do them, and really, where else is he going to make that kind of money?
Recently, Henry has developed a good promo and turned into a good character, and the company wanted to push him to the moon, but his horrible patella injury at Saturday Night’s Main Event obviously derails that. He wants to stay and the company wants to keep him, so he’ll end likely up signing another contract and returning in 2007 when he’s healed. I’m all for that, so long as they let him keep the same entrance theme.
— Prior to Mark Henry’s injury last weekend, the plan for SummerSlam was a Mark Henry/Booker T/Rey Mysterio triple threat match. They’re hoping to hold off the Batista title win until WrestleMania, because the belief is that there is a lot more money in Batista chasing the belt than having him defend it against a diminished Smackdown roster.
— By now you’ve surely heard that Ken Kennedy will be the replacement for Mark Henry at Great American Bash this weekend. A lot of people internally were surprised with this move because creative had been down on Ken lately for not trying to improve his in-ring work, but the thinking is that he’ll be fed to Batista instead of Henry going over as was originally planned.
— Kurt Angle could return to the ECW brand in two weeks, but the belief is that he’ll be held off longer. If they bring him back immediately once his 30 day suspension is up, it gives off the impression that they’re just playing by the books and don’t care about Angle’s health. Given that Kurt was taken off the road to begin with in order to combat a prescription pain medication addiction, it would make sense to keep him off for six months or so in order to heal up as completely as possible.
— The reason floating internally for the impending breakup of the Spirit Squad is that they’re to blame for the low ratings that DX has been getting since day one. Yes, that MUST be it, not the idea that watching two 40 year old men pretending to be 24 pretending to be 14 just isn’t compelling television.
— People in “high” positions in the front office seem to have finally realized that Great Khali has a very short shelf life. No joking, there are people in the company who thinks he makes Giant Gonzalez look like Bret Hart by comparison. This is why the company is behind the times; most of us figured this out months ago.
— The latest candidates for the Diva Search are said to be among the lowest ever in terms of intelligence, as if intelligence is actually a major (or minor) factor in who makes the cut. The willingness to pose nude isn’t playing as big of a part in this contest as it did in the last one.
— The story on Orlando Jordan’s recent firing is that he was repeatedly sneaking an underage boy backstage to shows on the road, and then posted photos on his MySpace account of him embracing the boy from behind. Yes, that last sentence is about the weirdest thing I ever want to type.
— Chris Benoit is said to be feeling fine and doing much better after having the last few months off. He’ll be out the rest of the summer and then return in the fall. Nancy Benoit has been home recovering from neck surgery and having her husband at home has obviously helped her out a lot.
— Spirit Squad Mitch was wearing a long-sleeved shirt on SNME and was eliminated quickly because he’d been involved in a motorcycle accident on Tuesday and had horrid road rash on both of his shoulders and arms. He was in an awful amount of pain all day but gutted through the match.
— Sean Stasiak was backstage at SNME and was hanging out with Edge all day. This probably means he’ll get signed and we’ll see Meat vs. Test in ECW next month.
— Sabu’s recent sloppiness is being blamed on him being extremely paranoid about everything since his recent drug bust. The company, and Vince in particular, is still very high on him and the way he handled what could have been a career-ending situation.
— Glen Jacobs has been in Italy promoting the release of See No Evil.
— Stephanie is still due to give birth at any moment, and Hunter’s presence at house shows in the coming weeks will be greatly scaled back so he can stay home and be with her during the birth. I’m surprised they don’t just make an angle out of it and show the birth live on Raw; it seems like the kind of thing that would amuse Vince McMahon.
— WWE posted the following message last week on WWE.com: “Due to recent events in ECW and on ECW.com, Tommy Dreamer’s Diary of Violence has been suspended until further notice.” It was believed by many (myself included) to be part of the Heyman heel turn angle and a work on the part of Michael Cole, but it turns out that it’s not a work at all and Dreamer is in major-league hot water with the company.
— You’ll soon be able to buy an AWA replica title belt from the WWE Shopzone. It’ll retail for $400, and then YOU TOO can own a piece of wrestling history. I hear that if you buy two of the belts, they’ll throw in Greg Gagne for free.
— The July 16th Smackdown brand house show at the 18,000 seat Toyta Center in Houston was sold out. Yes, you read that correctly: a Smackdown HOUSE SHOW sold 18,000 tickets. Houston has always been a hot WWE town, and it wouldn’t surprise me a bit to see WrestleMania back in Houston within the next three years or so.
— Kevin Von Erich was asked to take part in an angle at Saturday Night’s Main Event where he’d have gotten some mic time, but he turned it down for reasons known only to him.
== TNA NOTEBOOK ==
— Believe it or not, but the company has actually booked all the major storylines through February of next year. There were people on the booking team that felt the company needed to have a direction and pushed to book long-term so that there was no confusion on a week-to-week basis on what was happening and what was coming up.
— The current plan is still to have Samoa Joe beat Jeff Jarrett for the title, which means that Sting won’t be winning the belt at the next PPV. Expect a Christian heel turn on Sting leading into a program with those two, while Joe transitions into the program with Jarrett. There is some talk of having Christian, Steiner and Jarrett booked as a stable, but thus far the idea hasn’t been decided on. A lot of this is completely obvious if you just watch TNA on a weekly basis, as it’s just simple wrestling booking done right.
— Scott Steiner will likely be programmed with Rhino after the Samoa Joe feud ends. Steiner has been a model citizen backstage and has been earning rave reviews from veterans and the young guys alike for his willingness to help get others over.
— A major push is in the works for Latin American Exchange, most notably Homicide. There are a lot of people in the company that had no idea that Homicide was a great worker, and his recent matches have been somewhat of a revelation. Konnan is said to be pushing Homicide hard to everyone and wants him to be as big of a name as Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio and other latin greats.
— America’s Most Wanted will likely be split up before the summer is over. The feeling internally is that they’ve done all they can do as a tag team, at least for now, and they want to get them apart before the crowd totally becomes apathetic to them as singles workers.
— Larry Zbyzsko’s hair was shaved because he’s soon getting hair restoration surgery done. The Medical Hair Restoration site lists Larry, Chavo Guerrero Jr. and Chavo Classic as upcoming surgery patients, and Jimmy Hart is shown with his brand new hair. Larry Legend is also posing with an ECW World Title replica belt, which is hilarious on so many different levels.
— Senshi’s match with Frankie Kazarian at Victory Road was supposed to be a three-way match. The third man in the match was scheduled to be Matt Bentley, but he had flight issues and they switched the match to a regular match once they found out. Bentley and Kazarian will begin teaming starting this week. Yes, this is the very same Frankie Kazarian who quit World Wrestling Entertainment in a tizzy over a haircut, and then he showed up at Victory Road with…a haircut.
— Kevin Nash now endorses ProSource Androtest, a testosterone enhancement product. I will laugh so very hard if Kevin starts including cheap plugs for Androtest in his X-Division promos. You can’t write better comedy than Kevn Nash thanking a testosterone enhancement product for old men for helping him beat dudes like Chris Sabin.
== MMA NOTEBOOK ==
Yes, I’m going to start covering MMA in this column. It’s awesome, I follow it just as closely (if not closer) than I do pro wrestling at this point, so deal with it.
— The brackets for the PRIDE Openweight Tournament finals have been released, and they are absolutely perfect: Josh Barnett vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Wanderlei Silva vs. Mirko Cro Cop. My predictions would be Barnett beating Nogueira and Silva beating Cro Cop in the semis, and then Silva beating Barnett in the finals. I’d rather see Cro Cop vs. Barnett in the finals, because both of those guys are absolute beasts, but Silva seems to have a golden touch lately.
— Regarding the UFC/PRIDE deal, it’s assumed that UFC pretty much can pick whomever they want from the PRIDE roster to appear on UFC events. Nobody really knows the essentials of this deal, buThere is a very good chance that we’ll be seeing Sylvia vs. Fedor for the Heavyweight title booked before the end of this year, which means there is a very good chance that Tim Sylvia will not live past this year. Sylvia is hinting at a fight with Frank Mir, but that’s not going to happen given Mir’s horrid showing at UFC 61, where he was fat, fatter, and fattest. Dana White was said to be extremely upset with Mir and his conditioning, and it’ll be a long time before he ever gets another high profile fight in UFC.
— The official burate for Gracie/Hughes is slightly above 600,000 at this point. Early estimates have Tito/Ken even higher, perhaps even beating out WrestleMania this year, which means Tito and Ken would each recieve million-dollar bonuses. I wonder if Vince McMahon will step back and realize how big UFC is at that point? I’ve got more on this in Five Things below.
— Joe Stevenson and Yves Edwards were both awarded $10,000 win bonuses for having the fight of the night at UFC 61. Stevenson wasn’t worried about catching something from Yves during the ultra-bloody battle because UFC does extensive blood testing, but said he was worried that Yves could slip out of holds. That is one fight you need to see to believe; the amount of blood coming out of that man’s head was simply unreal. It was a .9 on the Muta Scale.
— The Dana White/Tito Ortiz amateur boxing match will happen privately and with very few people observing. Tito had this match written into his contract before he signed, and the story is that Dana, a former boxer, used to pummel Tito when he was managing him in the mid-90’s, and now Tito wants to knock his head off as revenge. It would be the best thing ever if Dana White knocked out Tito Ortiz.
— UFC 61 payoffs are as follows: UFC 61 payoffs: Tito Ortiz ($210,000); Ken Shamrock ($100,000); Tim Sylvia ($60,000 w/$6,000 withheld); Andrei Arlovsky ($90,000 w/$9,000 withheld); Frank Mir ($26,000); Joe Stevenson ($12,000); Jeff Monson ($10,000); Drew Fickett ($6,000); Yves Edwards ($8,000); Josh Neer ($6,000); Dan Christison ($5,000); Josh Burkman ($5,000); Joe Jordan ($4,000); Hermes Franca ($4,000); Chieck Kongo ($3,000 w/$900 withheld); Anthony Perosh ($3,000 with $900 withheld); Gilbert Aldana ($2,000); Kurt Pellegrino ($2,000).
— Payoffs from the June 28th Ultimate Fight Night 5: Jorge Santiago ($4,000) def. Justin Levens ($5,000); Rob MacDonald ($10,000) def. Kristian Rothaermel ($5,000); Jon Fitch ($16,000) def. Thiago Alves ($6,000); Jason Lambert ($14,000) def. Branden Lee Hinkle ($4,000); Josh Koscheck ($14,000) def. Dave Menne ($4,000); Mark Hominick ($8,000) def. Jorge Gurgel ($5,000); Rashad Evans ($24,000) def. Stephan Bonnar ($16,000); Anderson Silva ($36,000) def. Chris Leben ($7,000); Jonathan Goulet ($6,000) def. Luke Cummo ($12,000).
== FIVE THINGS I THINK I THINK ==
1. I think that there’s nobody within the wrestling industry that truly understands just how big MMA has gotten over the course of the past two years. The ascension of UFC on PPV is the biggest pro wrestling story of the year.
There’s an attitude within WWE that UFC is still a minor-league novelty act, while WWE itself is some kind of major American institution and can’t be touched. They’ve had this attitude since UFC debuted and back then it had some crediblity because UFC was a fringe thing that drew a fringe crowd, but it’s different in 2006. UFC events are KILLING WWE’s normal PPV events in terms of buyrates, and the Tito Ortiz/Ken Shamrock PPV will probably end up drawing more buys than WrestleMania this year.
WWE could totally ride the wave UFC has created by giving their matches more of a sporting feel, but they haven’t shown any indication of changing with the times and Vince McMahon is said to be as arrogant about the whole thing as he’s always been. WWE is no longer the #1 attraction for PPV audiences, and they’d better realize it and either make some changes or take advantage of the MMA surge before they get completely left in the dust. It was okay to have this attitude ten years ago because they had the PPV market completely wrapped up, but they’re getting beaten soundly now and it’s time to step back and take a serious look at how mixed martial arts has affected and will effect pro wrestling in the coming three years or so.
2. I think Smackdown, for my money, is just the most entertaining wrestling show out there right now. I would watch this show just for the awesome commentary of John Bradshaw Layfield alone, but there are so many other little things they’re doing right: tag team action with the Pit Bulls and London/Kendrick, Mark Henry’s awesome (and believable) promos where he talks about detaching people’s limbs from their bodies, and the sheer hilariousness that is King Booker, Finlay, William Regal and the leprechaun. I am quite sad, quite sad I tell you, that we will be denied from more Mark Henry promos for the next eight months.
3. I think LAX, right now, is the hottest thing TNA has going for them and should be pushed accordingly. They’ve got a new entrance package that makes them seem edgy as all get out, and they really are what the new DX should have been. Konnan is in the best shape I’ve seen him in over the past ten years, and of course Homicide is so good it hurts. This group is going to surprise a lot of people, including the TNA office, who apparently did not realize that Homicide is, in fact, an awesome worker.
4. I think it’s pointless to even dream about putting Tito vs. Ken on a UFC PPV again. After the fiasco that was the last fight (and the realization that Ken is not going to beat Tito, ever), it would be amazingly dumb to ask your customers to pay money to see the fight again. I want to see the fight again, but I won’t pay for it, so just put it on the next Ultimate Fight Night or on the finale of Ultimater Fighter 4. A free Tito vs. Ken matchup would draw MASSIVE ratings, especially if matched up with the Ultimate Fighter finale show.
5. I think this is the best thing I’ve ever seen.
See you next week, kiddos.
Tags: TNA, WWE