Hola. Over 2,000 words of pure news for you this week, so we’ll jump right into the mix.
== WWE NOTEBOOK ==
— As of press time, it looks like Mistico will be signing a contract with WWE. They’re keeping the news quiet in Mexico, but the current idea is that Mistico will likely face Perro Aguayo Jr in a mask vs. hair match on April 30. If WWE decides they don’t want him to come in with a mask (highly unlikely), then he could lose the mask in this battle before leaving. The strangest part of this news is that CMLL does not own a trademark on the Mistico gimmick (including mask, name and appearance), which means he could theoretically debut in WWE as Mistico should they choose to go that route. It seems absurd to bring him in as anything other than Mistico, since they’re signing him to appeal to the Latin market and the Mistico gimmick is a huge draw in that market.
— Randy Orton will be the last man to win a slot in the Money In The Bank match. He’ll be in a triple threat match with Ric Flair and Carlito this Monday to decide who goes.
— Speaking of Ric Flair and Carlito, I can tell you with absolute certainty that Flair is still pestering the creative team to allow him to turn heel on young Carlito. Flair has told people both privately and publicly that he has one year left in the ring, and he’d like to have a good long run as a top heel before retiring. While the idea sounds good in practice, the belief is that they’re going to have a tough time getting anyone to boo him, but Flair has told people that he can get anyone in the world to hate him if he’s given a shot, so they might do it. The only problem is that Carlito has been begging to turn as well, so it’s up in the air at this point. We’ll know soon enough which direction they decide to go.
— Chris Benoit has been removed from the upcoming Mexico tour. Nobody can explain it except to say that Johnny Ace made the decision to pull him, even though Benoit has always been a huge star in Mexico. He was replaced by Scotty 2 Hotty. Yes, for real. Bob Holly has also been replaced by Marquis Cor Von, Mike Knox has been replaced by the Teacher, CM Punk has been replaced by Sandman, and Rebecca has been replaced by Ariel.
— The promoters in Monterrey are running shows constantly, trying to kill the territory before the WWE tour hits town. This is hilarious and I would love to sit in on the conversation where they decided this was a good idea. Except I don’t speak Spanish.
— More Mexico news: the WWE show in Chihuahua on March 24th is in major trouble. OCESA, who now handle promotions for WWE in Mexico, chose the city because CMLL pulled in the biggest crowd of the year last year in a time when they were a major drawing card everywhere in the country. The reason they drew the crowd, however, is because it took place on the same day as a major annual university commencement, and there were tons of families around for it and CMLL happened to be the only entertainment available that night. Regardless, the WWE show isn’t selling tickets very well.
— “The Marine” has now done $19.39 million in sales/rentals, which surpasses its entire box office run of $18.84 million. By comparison, “Gridiron Gang” with The Rock did $38.43 million at theatres but has only done $18.30 million on DVD despite being out longer than the Cena flick.
— Sinclair Broadcasting, which provides The CW and Fox to most Comcast cable outlets nationwide, is demanding payment for delivery of the channels. They’re expected to go one way or another by March 10th, but if Comcast refuses to pay, there’s a chance that most of you Comcast subscribers won’t be able to get CW or Fox anymore (without rabbit ears), which means no Smackdown for you. It’ll also mean no 24, which is far more important in the grand scheme of things. I don’t see this happening.
== TNA NOTEBOOK ==
— I contacted the TNA office immediately after Sports Illustrated broke the story about Kurt Angle receiving non-prescription steroids from the Palm Beach Rejuvenation Center on Tuesday morning. The official TNA stance is that there is no comment, but Angle has issued a statement through his Web site saying that the allegations against him are untrue and without foundation. Angle was employed by WWE during the time in question. There are two problems with Angle denying the allegations. First is that a publication like Sports Illustrated wouldn’t publish the story in the first place if the facts hadn’t been checked. While it’s one thing for Angle to go on Bubba The Love Sponge and make outlandish claims, it’s entirely another for a respected (well, sort of) publication such as SI to print something that hasn’t been checked with a fine tooth comb. The second problem is that they wouldn’t single Angle out because of his pro wrestling background, because SI is sports-centric. Yes, they occasionally mention pro wrestling, but it’s usually in a joking manner or in an aside. Angle was mentioned because he is a former Olympian.
I don’t expect much to come of this, if anything. It is not illegal to buy steroids, but it IS illegal to use them, and since they have no proof that Angle actually took the steroids (aside from simply looking at his deteriorated body), there’s little chance anything could happen to Angle or World Wrestling Entertainment as a result. I expect that the names of more wrestlers will be released at some point, but I don’t see any heat on Vince McMahon coming since this allegedly happened before they instituted the Wellness Policy. Investigators aren’t looking to send any pro athletes to jail; rather, they’re trying to shut down distribution channels to make it harder for athletes to gain access to this stuff so easily.
The best part of the story wasn’t Kurt Angle, not by a long shot. The best thing I heard, quite possibly in my entire life, was that Evander Holyfield was denying that he’d taken steroids despite the fact that the drugs were delivered to one “Evan Fields” who also had the same address as Holyfield, and when they called the number Mr. Fields had listed, Evander Holyfield answered the phone. He still denies any involvement. Fantastic.
— Also regarding Kurt Angle: the TNA office is supremely upset about him continuing to do off-the-cuff radio interviews without the permission of the company, but he’s got a creative control clause in his contract that also extends to media interviews. One TNA source described Angle’s contract to me as “he can basically do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. If he decides he’s going to do an MMA fight and take ten months off to train without finishing up storylines, he can.”
— Despite Dixie Carter’s recent claims that we should “stay tuned” to see if Big Show, Hulk Hogan or Chris Jericho will debut in TNA, I can tell you with 100% certainty that Hogan and Big Show are not coming in. Show’s lost about 60 pounds the right way, by eating right and doing tons of cardio, and if he comes back it’ll be for a limited schedule and it’ll be for WWE, and even then it will probably only happen if Hogan comes back, as Show is firmly in his corner. Given a recent talk with someone in the TNA office, I don’t expect that Chris Jericho will sign anywhere unless it’s WWE. That’s not to say that Dixie Carter isn’t trying extremely hard to bring him in; she’s offered several big money deals (on par with what Angle makes as the highest paid performer in the company), but all have been rebuffed.
— Christopher Daniels will be coming back with a new gimmick. Vince Russo pitched about 9 different gimmick ideas for him and all were overruled by Jeff Jarrett. I’ll try to find out more about his new gimmick for next week’s report, but no promises.
— It has become apparent that Dixie Carter is madly in love with Vince Russo’s booking, or at least she’s been so blinded by his “success” outside the company that she can’t see the forrest for the trees when it comes to the current situation. There are several people close to the creative team that are starting to see Russo for what he is (hack), but there’s nothing they can do it about it. The dynamic right now is that Russo will bring a gigantic script into tapings, and Dutch Mantel, Jeff Jarrett and Jim Cornette will spend hours trimming stuff and cutting out the absurdity. Creative meetings are also supposed to be funny in that Russo will write stuff for Cornette to do, and Jim will shoot them down one by one.
== UFC NOTEBOOK ==
— Pending a major fallout, it is expected to be announced shortly that UFC 70 (live from Manchester, England in May) will be televised to the United States via HBO. This is a major, major deal that has been in the works for months. The only remaining sticking points are on how much control Zuffa is willing to give up. Dana White is control freak of Vince McMahon proportions, and asking him to give up control of his television broadcast is, in most cases, asking for the door to be slammed in your face before you even start working on the deal. It’s a deal-breaker. In this case, it’s not, because having UFC on HBO is a gigantic deal that will cement UFC’s rising popularity among not just fight fans, but sports fans in general. HBO wants to use its own broadcasters and camera/production crew, and Zuffa is having a hard time ceding that much control, but it’s expected that a deal will be finalized and announced sometime in the next few weeks.
— Dana White got his boxing license on Monday from the NASC, so he’s now cleared to fight Tito Ortiz in a boxing exhibition on the WEC card on March 24th. It’ll be three rounds of three minutes each and there’s no judges or scoring involved. The fight will be aired on UFC.tv as an internet pay-per-view special and might be released on a DVD, with the majority of the proceeds going straight to charity. There had been some concern that the 37-year-old White might be getting in over his head by stepping in the ring with Ortiz, because he’s a promoter and Ortiz is a pro fighter, and there’s usually quite a bit of disparity there when it comes to fighting skill levels. The commissioner of the NASC, Dr. Tony Alamo, watched the tape of White training (he’s been training since July) and actually determined that White was a better boxer than Ortiz, so they approved his license. I don’t see White taking a fall here, but Ortiz is one of his top guys and it would look very, very bad if the promoter of the company kicked the ass of the Huntington Beach Bad Boy in a fight. All that being said, I’m rooting for Dana to win this fight just because it would be great.
— The complete WEC card on 3/24: John Alessio vs. Carlos Condit, Urijah Faber vs. Dominic Cruz, Eddie Wineland vs. Chase Beebe, Joe Riggs vs. Hiromitsu Miura, Brock Larson vs. Eric Apple, Dave Terrel vs. Tiki Ghosen, Cub Swanson vs. Tommy Lee, Alex Serduykov vs. Scott Norton, Micah Miller vs. Jesse Moreng, Brian Stann vs. Steve Cantwell, and Dana White vs. Tito Ortiz in a boxing match.
— The Xyience Center in Las Vegas is being renamed Sprawl.
— Payoffs for UFC (without PPV buyrate bonuses) are as follows: Couture $250,000, Sylvia $100,000, Hughes $150,000, Franklin $42,000, Babalu $21,000, Kampmann $20,000, Lambert $18,000, MacDonald $14,000, Lytle $10,000, McFedries $5,000, Fitch $28,000, Hamill $10,000, Fioravanti $8,000, Varner $6,000, Tibau $6,000, Holman $3,000, Gilliam $3,000, Dent $3,000. It is very likely, given these numbers, that Randy Couture will make at least 1 million dollars for his return fight and possibly a great deal more.
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The previous information came from a combination of my own sources and the Figure Four Weekly newsletter, a subscription to which is worth every penny. Thanks for reading again this week, and be sure to visit the new TWB for all the latest in pro wrestling discussion, and visit my blog for more in-depth UFC commentary and more!