This Week in ‘E – You’re Fired!

WWE cleans out the closet, Batista looks to step away from the company as well while Joey Mercury and Dos Caras look to be gaining traction.

Opening Witty Banter
There was a lot of news that came out of WWE this week; most notably the release of seven talents on Thursday. The releases took me by surprise as I figured they wouldn’t happen until the Draft had occurred.

I had a thought while daydreaming at work yesterday. Most of us reading this column are pretty much “too cool for the room” in regards to pro wrestling these days. We (including yours truly) think we know it all and think we can make it better. It also seems as if most us grew up in the mid to late ‘80s, thus putting us in the era of the Hulkamaniacs and the Four Horsemen. Many of us have been clamoring for a John Cena heel turn for years now, as many find him stale and boring. It’s true that Cena has been playing “Superman” for going on five years straight now and there is a whole new young generation of wrestling fans (and their moms) that look up to him as their hero. That being said, would the Cena heel turn of today that so many of us crave be the Hollywood Hogan heel turn of our day for many of today’s young fans? Discuss amongst yourself below…

Also congrats to The Colony for winning the CHIKARA King of Trios. I figured The Bruderschaft would win as they are the hottest thing going in the company these days. But I am bummed to hear about Skayde screwing over CHIKARA by holding up the company for money. I’ve met Mike Quackenbush and he seems like a nice guy so it’s got to be hard to have his mentor screw him over like that.

Let’s take some ‘E…

The News of the Week
This past week it was announced that they had come to terms on the release of six on-air talents, including Jimmy Wang Yang, Slam Master J, Kung Fu Naki, Shelton Benjamin, Mickie James and Katie Lea Burhill.

The biggest name of the group released was Shelton Benjamin, who had been with the company consistently since 2000. He was originally called up to the main roster in the summer of 2002. He became a part of Kurt Angle’s Team Angle in late 2002 alongside Charlie Haas and the two enjoyed great tag team success. He broke out as a singles star in the spring of 2004 and became a fixture of the company’s mid-card up until that point. Along the way he won the Intercontinental Championship three times and had a lengthy United States Championship reign. He was poised to make the jump to the main event numerous times but for a variety of reasons he never broke through the upper echelon. He went through numerous character changes, alignments, nicknames and looks, but he wasn’t able to find the right formula for success. He should be able to find work in TNA Wrestling once his standard 90-day clause is up. At the very least he will be able to make a solid living on the independent circuit reuniting with his former Team Angle partner Charlie Haas.

Mickie James had been part of WWE since 2005, after making a solid career for herself on the independent circuit and TNA. She immediately made a splash as a rival for Trish Stratus upon her debut, and after Stratus left the company in the fall of 2006 James took over the mantle of the company’s flagship hero of the women’s division. In her past year or so she had come under fire for her apparent (non-existent) weight issues and it was brought into her last rivalry against Michelle McCool. Prior to her release James was also working her debut country music album, which will hit stores in May. Her first single “Are You With Me?” was released to country radio on February 23. According to Wrestling Observer part of her release stemmed from her actions on the recent European tour where she arrived late for the roster’s bus numerous times, thus holding up the company’s travel. This was another strike against James, who had apparently been on the company’s radar since she was sent to the SmackDown roster in October 2009. James has already responded on her Twitter thanking her fans.

Katie Lea Burchill (Katarina Waters) joined WWE in 2006 after an extensive career in her native England. After an extensive run in Ohio Valley Wrestling she made her debut on the main roster in February 2008 as the “brother” of her fellow Brit Paul Burchill. However the brother-sister act as didn’t get the pair very far up the card. Katie Lea had been working solo as an undercard villain on the RAW brand since Burchill’s release in February.

The releases of Kung Fu Naki (Shoichi Funaki), Jimmy Wang Yang (James Yun) and Slam Master J (Ray Gordy) shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as the three were the lowest “good guys” on the SmackDown roster’s totem pole.

Funaki first joined WWE way back in 1998 and had been working on/off for the company since the point. He had primarily only been used as cannon fodder for bigger stars, playing both hero and villain as the situation called for. Throughout his long tenure he did have moments of success, including his initial run as part of the Kaientai stable of Japanese cruiserweights, his run as “SmackDown’s #1 Announcer,” his brief reign as WWE Cruiserweight Champion and his latest incarnation as the comedy character Kung Fu Naki. He had survived numerous cuts like this over the years as he watched the majority of his contemporaries released before him.

As for Jimmy Yang, this was his third run with WWE since his initial signing back when World Championship Wrestling closed in March 2001. He never even made it onto television during his first run. After working in TNA, Japan and the American independents, he was re-signed back in 2003. He was renamed Akio and joined up with Tajiri and Keiji Sakoda to form the Kyo Dio stable of Japanese hitmen. He fell into a low card villain role soon after his return and remained in that spot until his release in July 2005. He worked in Ring of Honor and the independents again before being brought back in the summer of 2006, this time as the Asian redneck cowboy Jimmy Wang Yang, with no reference to his past as Akio. Yang worked primarily as a low card cruiserweight and comedy character. He was a constant contender for the Cruiserweight Championship, but once that belt was retired in the summer of 2008 he became used more and more sparingly. Yang could easily go back to Ring of Honor or head to TNA as a long shot possibility. Yang confirmed the news on his Twitter account as well.

Slam Master J (Ray Gordy) joined WWE in 2005 and worked a variety of gimmicks in Deep South Wrestling before being called up to the SmackDown roster in June 2007. He was rechristened “Jesse” and formed a tag team with Festus in which Jesse acted as the caretaker of his “special” partner. The two were used primarily as low card comedy tag team with middling success. After Festus was sent to the RAW brand during the 2009 supplement draft, Jesse was changed into Slam Master J, an obnoxious white rapper from the ATL. The character wasn’t a big hit and he spent his last months teaming off/on with Jimmy Yang in a losing tag team. The only surprise of his release is that Gordy is the son of the late Terry “Bamm Bamm” Gordy, the former Freebird partner and best friend of Michael “PS” Hayes, who is the current head creative writer of the SmackDown brand.

Then later that day it was announced that Mike Knox was the seventh person released by WWE on April 22.

Mike Knox (Michael Hettinga) began wrestling in 1998 but really made his mark in southern California, working primarily in Ultimate Pro Wrestling and Impact Zone Wrestling.

He signed with WWE in 2005 and was an initial star in the Deep South Wrestling developmental system. He was called up the ECW roster in its infant days as the abusive boyfriend of Kelly Kelly. After that story had run its course at the end of December 2006, Knox faded into the background. He drifted through ECW off/on until October 2008 where he was moved to the RAW brand. After an initial high profile feud against Rey Mysterio he faded into the background once again. Knox was then transferred to SmackDown in the 2009 supplemental draft. While on SmackDown he introduced his knowledge in human anatomy, using that knowledge to properly inflict damage on opponents. He however remained on the low end of the card until his release.

It always sucks to hear when WWE releases their on-air guys. Katie Lea and Jimmy Yang were no surprise at all. I was a little bummed by Knox as the big guy with the biology gimmick grew on me, but WWE’s big guys (hi Snitsky and Heidenreich) see to come and go. I was also sad about Gordy as I figured Michael Hayes would definitely keep him safe and use him well. After Funaki outlasted his fellow long-standing Attitude veterans Val Venis, Hardcore Holly, Billy Gunn and Scotty 2 Hotty I figured nothing would get rid of him. While not a big loss on-screen it’s sad to see him go after a staggering twelve years on the roster. Maria taught us that Divas aren’t sacred and are a dime a dozen so the writing had been on the wall for Mickie for a long time, especially since her CD is also coming out soon. Benjamin was the real surprise of the crew as he had fallen into that great Tito Santana/Rick Martel role of mid-card technician/stepping stone, but there are so many times he can fly off a ladder and then not get pushed up to the main event before it just becomes funny. I know it’s become a running joke that has been beaten into the ground (I mean even Trevor Murdoch got a chance!) but I really do want to see Shelton Benjamin in TNA. Pair him with his old partner Charlie Haas and let them run wild like they have with RVD and The Pope and they’ve got a winner.

The word on the street that Batista’s last night in WWE for a while was at Extreme Rules. He was displeased with Triple H taking the lead role in the film Killing Karma, which was originally slated for Batista. He has not re-signed a new contract so this could be his time to exit. WWE did not want to risk having him in a film while not under contract.

These past few months with Batista as a heel have been the most interested I’ve been with him since 2006. But if he walks away for a while I can’t say I will be sad to see him go.

In news that isn’t really news, apparently Mark Henry got into an altercation at a bar in Belfast at the end of WWE’s tour in Europe. An article in the newspaper Derry Journal states that Henry was arrested after an incident involving an autograph-seeking fan:

“James McClay went to the show with his fiancée and stayed at the Hilton, which is where the Raw crew was billeted. He was collecting autographs to make a birthday card for his son and for his own collection, and said all the wrestlers were co-operative except Henry. He says the World’s Strongest Man signed the autograph, but he was abusive and ignorant in doing so. He goes on to allege that Henry threw a drink at him.

Henry got up and was ready to fight, but was talked down by John Cena and Randy Orton. Chavo Guerrero then started encouraging Henry to carry on, McClay says. “He (Henry) kept saying, `Where I’m from, you do something when someone throws a drink around you. . . He kept calling me a `little punk bitch,'” McClay claims. McClay was then removed from the bar by WWE security.

McClay is planning to head to Atlanta for next year’s WrestleMania and to get married while there.”

Mark Henry was given an “adult caution” for the incident in Belfast.

Chavo then responded on Twitter in regards to the incident:

“why would I egg on the worlds strongest man?I know&u know he would could kill someone.If anything I protected him by getting him thrown out”

“Any other questions? If u don’t believe me, then follow the lying fan,not me! Why would the drunk fan get thrown out& not Henry?C’mon ppl!”

“Thank u to all ppl who believe me!If I could get Henry to kill someone,Why wouldn’t I have him kill the writing team,not a drunk nobody? lol”

I do love that the supposed defendant is so distraught that he’s flying all the way to Atlanta for WrestleMania, thus giving the company a ton of money and then get married there.

Joey Matthews/Mercury officially returned to the company at last Tuesday’s SmackDown taping where he jobbed to Shelton Benjamin in the dark match. He actually re-signed with the company last year but no one noticed.

It looks as if Mercury was the mysterious bald man that interfered in last night’s match between Mysterio and Punk. Here I was hoping it would be Low Ki. That being said Mercury will have tons of firepower for the Straight Edge Society as he had been fired from the company previously for painkiller abuse and this is a great way to re-introduce him.

According to PWInsider, WWE is working on DVD projects for the Elimination Chamber and a RAW Anthology, starting with the full episodes back from 1993.

While the Elimination Chamber one is a logical concept it might be hard watching that many Chamber matches in row. Plus with the gimmick still raging on it won’t be complete. As for the RAW Anthologies, they could be fun for a long time fan like me.

Speaking of new DVDs, here is the full match listing for WWE’s Best of PPV Matches 2009-2010, which is due for release on August 3:
Last Man Standing Match for the World Heavyweight Championship
Edge vs. John Cena
Backlash April 26, 2009

ECW Championship Match
Christian vs. Jack Swagger
Backlash April 26, 2009

World Heavyweight Championship Match
Jeff Hardy vs. Edge
Judgment Day May 17, 2009

Mask vs. Intercontinental Championship Match
Rey Mysterio vs. Chris Jericho
The Bash June 28, 2009

6-Pack Challenge for the United States Championship
Kofi Kingston vs. MVP vs. The Miz vs. Jack Swagger vs. Carlito vs. Primo
Night of Champions July 26, 2009

Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship
John Cena vs. Triple H vs. Randy Orton
Night of Champions July 26, 2009

Intercontinental Championship Match
Dolph Ziggler vs. Rey Mysterio
SummerSlam August 23, 2009

Tables, Ladders & Chairs Match for the World Heavyweight Championship
Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk
SummerSlam August 23, 2009

“I Quit” Match for the WWE Championship
John Cena vs. Randy Orton
Breaking Point September 13, 2009

Tag Team Hell in a Cell Match
D-Generation X vs. Legacy
Hell in a Cell October 4, 2009

Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Big Show, Mark Henry, Cody Rhodes, Jack Swagger & Kofi Kingston vs. Chris Jericho, Kane, Matt Hardy, Finlay, R-Truth, David Hart Smith & Tyson Kidd
Bragging Rights October 25, 2009

Traditional Survivor Series Match
The Miz, Jack Swagger, Sheamus, Drew McIntyre, & Dolph Ziggler Vs. John Morrison, Evan Bourne, Matt Hardy, Finlay, & Shelton Benjamin
Survivor Series November 22, 2009

Ladder Match for the ECW Championship
Christian vs. Shelton Benjamin
WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs December 13, 2009

Women’s Championship Match
Michelle McCool vs. Mickie James
Royal Rumble January 31, 2010

Streak vs. Career
The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
WrestleMania 26 March 28, 2010

Special Features:
John Cena discusses his match from Backlash
Christian discusses his match from Backlash
Rey Mysterio discusses his match from The Bash
Kofi Kingston discusses his match from Night of Champions
Rey Mysterio discusses his match from SummerSlam
John Cena discusses his match from Breaking Point
Cody Rhodes & Ted DiBiase discuss their match from Hell in a Cell
Matt Hardy discusses his match from Bragging Rights
The Miz discusses his match from Survivor Series

Blu-ray Exclusive Content:

Singapore Cane Match
Great Khali vs. Kane
Breaking Point September 13, 2009

Unified Tag Team Championship Match
Chris Jericho & Big Show vs. Batista & Rey Mysterio
Hell in a Cell October 4, 2009

Tables, Ladders & Chairs Match for the Unified Tag Team Championships
D-Generation X vs. Chris Jericho & Big Show
WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs December 13, 2009

World Heavyweight Championship Match
Rey Mysterio vs. The Undertaker
Royal Rumble January 31, 2010

Once again, a good concept in theory, but it won’t be getting my money.

The injured Melina recently talked to The Wrestling Observer about the WWE Women’s Titles.

“Just to make sure everyone understands, I think Eve is an up and coming talent. She has potential like many of our Divas. Like many of our Divas, they deserve a better title moment than that. With a good chase and a good build up. Maybe you need to be a wrestler to know that feeling but, it’s an incredible feeling when you have reached such an honor. Where it took time and you invested so much to reach that moment/ that level. She got cheated out of that. No one understands that. Good for her. Be good to your heels, they make you who you are — As a former heel, I know. Do your thing chica. I still stand by what I say. Back in the Trish/Lita/Jazz era, the women earned the title and fought for it. It meant so much. Women looked at them and wanted to be as great as them. It shouldn’t be about taking turns on who gets to put in on this week. It should be about who earned it and who brings credibility to it. I still wish it could have been Jillian, Katie or Gail to have that opportunity. All I wanted was to start a new era. To make those women proud to see we were keeping it alive.”

To add to that, according to Bryan Alvarez, the WWE women really take these titles seriously and work hard.

It’s great to hear that the ladies take the belts seriously and are constantly improving. It’s not like the company cares after the girls all that much. I am a belt mark myself so I can appreciate when the talent appreciates the belts as much as I do.

Dos Caras, Jr. got rave reviews for his work last week on the overseas tour. He had been working mask-less under the moniker Alberto Banderas down in FCW. He speaks perfect English so he’s got the promo ability so many other luchadores and puro stars lacked while on WWE television. He did not lose the Dos Caras mask in Mexico so his face is kept blurred in magazines in Mexico until he makes his televised debut, at which time, unless the mask returns, he’ll officially lose the chance to make big money by losing said mask in Mexico. He is already seen as a successor to Rey Mysterio.

I’m still quite skeptical in regards to Caras’ future. The company doesn’t do well with foreign talent as they struck lightning with Mysterio and Eddie was so good that he couldn’t not make an impact. Everyone else from Japan or Mexico ended up as a caricature. Personally all I can think of when I see Caras is his failed MMA career in Pride where Mirko Cro Cop kicked him the face to beat him. I don’t know how many times my drunk friends and I watched Cro Cop kick him the face. “What did the five toes say to the face?”

Wrestler of the Week
Week of April 19 – 25: Jack Swagger
Not to sound like a broken record but for the third week in a row I’ve got to give some love to the “All-American American.” It’s hard to believe he was such a non-factor just four weeks ago before WrestleMania as he has just owned in the “new season.” On RAW he went toe-to-toe with Undertaker and looked strong in defeat. Then on SmackDown he quizzically lost to John Morrison but it was a fun match and possibly set up Morrison as his next challenger if Morrison isn’t moved to RAW. Then on Extreme Rules he pinned Randy Orton, which helped to raise the prestige of his title reign. While he only went 1-2 for the week he was definitely the prominent figure of the week.

RAW’s On Tonight!
It’s Draft night tonight on Monday Night RAW. You know what that means? No special guest host! It should be a grand old time, highlighted by about a dozen inter-branded matches to determine the Superstars and Divas fate. I hope they have the show-closing battle royal that has become the norm. But I must say I am going to miss having ECW around as the third brand as the past three years have allowed a lot more unpredictability in regards to where wrestlers will end up and how their careers will change. Now it’s like, well if they are on RAW, they’ll probably go to SmackDown. My guesses are that Orton, Sheamus, Kofi, Christian, Cody Rhodes and let’s say Mark Henry go to SmackDown while let’s say JoMo, Hardy, Ziggler, Kane, McIntyre and Edge come to RAW.

On Last Week’s Episode…
SmackDown

NXT report and thoughts.

RAW report and judicial review.

How They Rated
SmackDown! (4.9.10) –

Superstars (4.15.10) – /75

A.M. RAW (4.18.10) – .39

RAW (4.20.10) – 3.05
Impact (4.20.10) – 1.0

NXT (4.21.10) – .88

This is Boring, What Else is There to Read?
David B. continues to bring the great Smokey Mountain love.

Logan brings the awesome with Monday Night RAW, circa 1995.

Ditch continues to educate me week in and week out about puro.

In Case You Didn’t Spend the $40
PK brings the live coverage for Extreme Rules.

Kofi Kingston pinned Dolph Ziggler in the dark match.

The show opened with what was supposed to be the Street Fight between Sheamus and Triple H, but a Triple H’s music began playing he was shown being attacked by Sheamus backstage with a pipe.
Unified WWE World Tag Team Champions The Miz and The Big Show came out to the bring to brag about no competition. This brought SmackDown General Manager Teddy Long out to book the champions in a gauntlet match.
Miz and Show beat John Morrison & R-Truth by disqualification.
Miz and Show beat MVP & Mark Henry after Show hit MVP with a KO Punch.
The Hart Dynasty (Tyson Kidd & DH Smith) beat Miz and Show with a springboard Hart Attack. Bret “Hit Man” Hart led The Hart Dynasty out to the ring. As a result, The Dynasty earns a future Tag Title shot.
CM Punk beat Rey Mysterio after a mystery man slid a chair in the ring and hit Mysterio with an alley-oop. Punk then pinned Mysterio after hitting him with GTS. As a result Punk did not have to shave his head.
JTG beat Shad Gaspard in a Strap Match.
World Heavyweight Champion Jack Swagger retained his Championship over Randy Orton after he pinned him with a gutwrench powerbomb. After the match as Swagger was leaving Orton hit him with a RKO on the floor.
Sheamus pinned Triple H in a Street Fight after four bicycle pump kicks. Post-match Sheamus hit Triple H with a fifth kick.
Beth Phoenix pinned Michelle McCool in an Extreme Makeover match to win the Women’s Championship.
Edge pinned Chris Jericho in a Steel Cage Match after hitting him with a spear.
WWE Champion John Cena beat Batista in a Last Man Standing after duct taping Batista’s legs around the ring post.

IP Staff Roundtable Results for WWE Extreme Rules
Check out the Extreme Rules roundtable. No one picked JTG to win so that hurt everyone and the Tag Title match wasn’t announced so of course no points awarded there. I’m glad I didn’t participate as I would have also picked Shad to win and probably would have picked Rey to win as well.

The results:
Iain Burnside: 6-1 (151-97)
Raffi Shamir: 6-1 (139-115)
Andrew Wheeler: 6-1 (185-108)
Steven Gepp: 3-4 (43-54)
Widro: 3-4 (78-71)

Check out issue seven of The Wrestling Press, featuring yours truly, among many other talented scribes…

Follow me on Twitter here.

For more relevant, interesting and exciting wrestling information from your truly, check out my gig as the Pro Wrestling Examiner over at Examiner.com.

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