wrestling / Columns

The Custom Made News Report 10.21.07

October 21, 2007 | Posted by Ryan Byers

Welcome, one and all, to the Custom Made News Report. Normally I sit down to write this column Friday evening, and I’m able to do so taking comfort in the fact that generally no major news breaks on either Saturday or Sunday, meaning that everything on write on Friday is not going to become outdated. Well, this week is definitely the exception to the rule, as several major events have occurred throughout the weekend. That means we’ve got a HUGE edition of the report this week, as everything I wrote on Friday has been combined with everything that’s happened since. Thus, I would suggest making sure that you’re comfortable before beginning to read this one . . . at least if you want to finish it in one sitting.

All the Stuff from Stamford

Lesnar Signs with UFC

Literally minutes before I was about to wrap up this column and submit it to 411mania, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) announced that they have signed Brock Lesnar to a deal that would involve him performing in mixed martial arts fights for the company. Lensar and UFC broke this news on the UFC 77 show, which aired live from Cincinnati, Ohio. Obviously the details of the deal between the two parties have not come to light at this early juncture. Lesnar is a bit of an unknown commodity in MMA, as he has only had one fight against a relatively inexperienced opponent. Though Brock looked impressive there, it remains to be seen what he could do against top-level competition in a promotion such as UFC. For more coverage of this story as it happens, be sure to keep coming back to 411’s Wrestling and MMA Zones.

Donald Trump, WWE Involved Again . . .

. . . but this time it’s on Trump’s home turf.

The Apprentice, the reality television show which reestablished Donald Trump as a household name after he disappeared off of the American pop culture radar, is returning to the airwaves soon with a brand new season. According to obnoxiously ubiquitous tabloid website TMZ.com, the cast of the upcoming season will consist entirely of “celebrities,” and at least one name familiar to wrestling fans will be among the contestants.

John Cena

That’s right, injured WWE wrestler John Cena will be taking a spot on the show, in which individuals compete to impress Trump with their business sense. Though I have yet to see word on when the show will be airing, Cena’s fellow cast members have been announced, and they are, in order of notability: Gene Simmons (of KISS), Lennox Lewis (of boxing) Tito Ortiz (of UFC), Marilu Henner (of Taxi), Vincent Pastore (of The Sopranos), Stephen Baldwin (of the Baldwins), Carol Alt (of modeling), and Omarosa Manigault (of The Apprentice season one . . . apparently that somehow qualifies her for “celebrity” status. Don’t ask me.) It’s interesting to note that this is not the first time that WWE has sent Cena in to the reality television arena, as he participated in ABC’s Fast Cars and Superstars, a seven-episode series which aired this June. Cena made it to the final round of the competition on that show, which involved professional stock car drivers attempting to teach celebrities their craft. Unfortunately, Cena will not be able to use The Apprentice to gain a measure of revenge on John Elway, who defeated him in the road race.

Frankly, this is one of the best uses WWE could make of Cena, who is currently being kept out of the ring due to a torn pectoral muscle. The former WWE Champion will not be able to set foot in to the ring for eight solid months. As such, he could use an avenue of keeping his name on fans’ lips, and regular appearances on The Apprentice could be just what the doctor ordered, assuming that he manages to stay on the series for an appreciable amount of time. Furthermore, with Raw ratings sagging, making sure that Cena is featured on the show – even if it is just a recap of his Apprentice appearances – might help to stabilize numbers, and a big interview upon his departure from the reality show could definitely result in at least one spiked rating. This is also a much better choice than WWE’s other recent reality show casting decision, which saw Ashley Massaro sent to CBS’s Survivor. Yes, somebody thought that Massaro, who would probably clock in at ninety pounds if not for her cartoonish breast implants, would be a fine candidate for a series which involves living in the wild without modern conveniences. Others have argued that a relatively fresh face to WWE, such as Kenny Dykstra or Chuck Palumbo should have been placed on to that show in hopes that it would create a new star. Though WWE has once again opted not to do that with the selection of Cena for The Apprentice, it is a definite upgrade from the Massaro selection, for all of the reasons listed above.

Like a Phoenix form the Ashes . . . It’s Tough Enough!

Believe it or not, the Cena/Apprentice deal isn’t the only breaking news from that odd corner of the universe in which WWE and reality television intersect. Figure Four Weekly recently reported that Vince McMahon and company are strongly considered reviving their reality show Tough Enough. For those who missed the original run of the series between 2001 and 2004, it focused on the aspirations of thirteen individuals who trained with WWE wrestlers in hopes of earning a contract with the promotion. The first three seasons aired on MTV, while a fourth “season” (which more closely resembled a male version of the Diva Search than it did a reality show) took place on WWE Smackdown in 2004. Supposedly, Vince McMahon and his lead crony Kevin Dunn are high on the idea of bringing back TE because they feel that WWE needs to do more to capitalize on the popularity of reality television.

In response to this news, I thought that it would be interesting to see what exactly WWE and the wrestling industry as a whole have gained from Tough Enough. As such, I followed up on the wrestling careers of the original thirteen hopefuls from the show’s first season. Their accomplishments are detailed below. If a cast member is not listed, it is because he or she has had no direct involvement in the wrestling industry beyond his/her time on the show.

Contestant Name: Shadrick McGee
Eliminated: Fifth
Status: Inactive
Notes: McGee was one of only two cast members of Tough Enough I to be cut prior to the season finale. Though his time on the series made him look like a rather weak in-ring performer, he did wrestle a handful of independent dates in Arlington, Texas.

Contestant Name: Chris Nifong
Eliminated: Eighth (left voluntarily due to what he perceived as poor performance in the ring)
Status: Unknown
Notes: There is not much information about Nifong’s career in professional wrestling after leaving Tough Enough. However, he did make a few appearances for Ohio Valley Wrestling in 2003, which would have been roughly two years after the filming of the series concluded. While in OVW, he competed against the winners of Tough Enough III, John Hennigan and Matt Cappotelli.

Contestant Name: Paulina
Eliminated: Sixth (left voluntarily to a knee injury)
Status: Inactive
Notes: After being pegged as a sure-fire female winner of Tough Enough I due to her impressive height, Paulina had to drop out of the series due to problems with her legs. Though she claimed during a Tough Enough reunion special in 2002 that she was working out in Ohio Valley, she never signed a developmental contract with WWE. Her only appearance of note in the wrestling industry since the end of TEI was a shot on one of the weekly TNA pay per views, during which she debuted as a bodyguard for the Disco Inferno before vanishing with no explanation.

Contestant Name: Greg Matthews
Eliminated: Seventh (left voluntarily due to a back injury)
Status: Active
Notes: Greg is perhaps the Tough Enough alumni that has spent the most time on the independent circuit without so much as signing a WWE developmental deal. Though he left the show due to back problems, he was in the ring almost immediately after the show concluded. He formed a tag team with indy veteran the Rockin’ Rebel, and the two regularly competed in CZW in addition to making a handful of dark match appearances with Ring of Honor. Matthews has wrestled on independent shows as recently as this year.

Contestant Name: Taylor Matheny
Eliminated: Ninth (season one finalist)
Status: Inactive
Notes: For a brief period of time, it appeared as though Matheny was going to be the TEI reject who was going to make a big name for herself outside of WWE. She continued to train after the series concluded, and, as a native of Washington state, primarily wrestled in the Pacific Northwest. It was during the summer of 2002 that Taylor got her biggest break since Tough Enough, as she was allowed to tour with Japanese women’s wrestling promotion ARSION, alongside fellow American competitors Bionic J and Cheerleader Melissa. Though the tour was a success, Taylor decided in 2004 that she was essentially done with the pro wrestling industry.

Contestant Name: Josh Matthews
Eliminated: Ninth (season one finalist)
Status: WWE Announcer
Notes: Josh Matthews is the only individual from the first season of Tough Enough who is still employed by WWE. After the series concluded, he wrestled on the independent circuit, including participating in the television tapings for Hulk Hogan and Jimmy Hart’s ill-fated XWF promotion. Ultimately, he signed a production contract with WWE and became an announcer, primarily working on Velocity from 2002 until the series concluded. He also had a brief return to the ring on WWE television, as he allied himself with Booker T. during a feud that Booker had with John Bradshaw Leyfield and Orlando Jordan. The angle saw a tag team match between the four men, as well as a singles contest in which Matthews got an upset victory over Jordan. Though Matthews has not been seen by American fans very often since Velocity was done away with, he still periodically hosts international and web-based programming for WWE, as well as having filled in for Todd Grisham on Heat on a handful of occasions.

Contestant Name: Chris Nowinski
Eliminated: Ninth (season one finalist)
Status: Retired due to injury
Notes: Nowinski, who was the only member of the first season cast to come to the show with prior wrestling training, quickly became the number one “heel” of the reality show. Because of this fact, many expected him to sign a WWE developmental deal not long after the series went off the air, and that is in fact what took place. Nowinski debuted with the company in 2002 and immediately entered in to feuds with his former trainer Al Snow and the first Tough Enough male champion, Maven. His last angle in the company saw him teaming with Rodney Mack while being managed by Teddy Long, with Mack repeatedly playing the “race card” as a part of a gimmick and Nowinski claiming that he could sympathize because people discriminated against him due to his above average intelligence. Unfortunately for the Harvard graduate, the angle was cut short by a battle with post concussion syndrome, which ended Nowinski’s career before he could even turn thirty years old. WWE continued to employ him in a public relations capacity until earlier this year, when he was released. Nowinski has recently become one of the foremost experts on concussions in professional sports, participating in a program to examine the brains of several athletes who suffered head injuries, including that of Chris Benoit.

Contestant Name: Nidia Guenard
Eliminated: N/A (season one champion)
Status: Inactive
Notes: Nidia was a WWE employee from 2001 until 2005. Almost one full year passed between Nidia’s victory in the female half of the Tough Enough competition and her debut as a regular member of the company’s roster. Her first full-time role saw her aligned with Jamie Noble as his girlfriend, primarily in a feud with the Hurricane and later against Billy Gunn and Torrie Wilson. Ultimately, the Noble/Nidia pairing was ended when Nidia was blinded by Yoshihiro Tajiri’s black mist, after which Noble began to abuse his storyline girlfriend. The two were separated in the 2004 WWE draft lottery, with Nidia being moved to Monday Night Raw. On that show, she began to wrestle more consistently, though she played second fiddle to more experienced female grapplers. Ultimately, Nidia was let go by the company in 2005, after which she participated in several wrestling tours of Italy. In April of this year, she gave birth to her first child, and rumors persist that TNA has attempted to contact her to become a part of their women’s division.

Contestant Name: Maven Huffman
Eliminated: N/A (season one champion)
Status: Semi-Active
Notes: Maven gained a regular role on WWE television surprisingly quickly after his victory on Tough Enough. In 2001, he had a handful of exhibition matches against Tazz, one of the show’s trainers. However, it was in 2002 that his stock truly began to rise, as he eliminated the Undertaker from the Royal Rumble match in what is one of the most memorable moments of the twenty year history of the event. He followed up this upset with a victory over ‘Taker for the WWE Hardcore Championship, which he defended at Wrestlemania XVIII in his first appearance at wrestling’s biggest event. He continued on as a WWE performer until 2005, though not much of note occurred after his first year with the company. Maven was largely confined to secondary shows like Heat or Velocity, with the exception of a period in late 2004 during which the company attempted to make him in to a main event level face alongside Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, and Randy Orton. Fans unfortunately did not take to Huffman, and a subsequent run as a heel in the Intercontinental Title division proved to be just as unsuccessful. This lead to Maven’s WWE release in 2005, though it did not come before he got to rub elbows with perhaps the biggest star in the history of wrestling, as one of Huffman’s final appearances was in a skit in which he and then tag team partner Simon Dean were roughed up by Stone Cold Steve Austin. After leaving WWE, Maven returned to reality television as a cast member on the sixth season of VH1’s The Surreal Life. He went on to host a jazz series on BET. Huffman still periodically appears on independent wrestling shows, with his most notable appearances being for the UWF, a promotion owned by NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler.

Kristal Kut

Female WWE performer Kristal Marshall has been let go by the company, according to the usual sources. What’s interesting about this story is not so much the details of Marshall’s release but rather the lack of details that we have surrounding Marshall’s release. At this point, nobody seems to know exactly why the former Diva Search contestant was let go by the company, and the move seems to make very little sense given that she was just involved in a major angle on Smackdown in which she was to be married to General Manager Teddy Long, who then “suffered a heart attack.” Many speculated that this angle would result in a new heel persona for both Kristal and Vickie Guerrero, with the idea being that they conspired to poison Teddy and thereby move Vickie in to his position as GM. However, now that Marshall is no longer in the company, whatever role she had in that story will obviously be eliminated. It is also interesting to note that, according to PW Insider WWE has not publically acknowledged the release on their website (as is customary) because of the angle.

My thoughts on the release? If this was a cut made simply because of “house cleaning” concerns or because the creative team “had nothing for her,” then Kristal was a poor choice to target. I had the opportunity to see Kristal wrestle live at an event in Lansing, Michigan not long after she made her in-ring debut, and, even though she had very little experience in the wrestling industry, she moved around the squared circle like a natural that night and continued to do so in her subsequent televised appearances. Given the right amount of seasoning, she could have progressed in to a competent professional wrestler, especially when compared to the low standards of the WWE women’s division. Though the release is certainly warranted if it is for disciplinary and/or wellness policy reasons or if Kristal requested to be let go, her talent combined with her somewhat high profile in the company make this a ridiculous move for virtually any other reason.

Second Generation Stars Continue to Crawl Out of Woodwork

According to SLAM! Wrestling, WWE developmental may soon be seeing yet another second generation star added to its ranks. WWE Hall of Famer and former Intercontinental Champion Don “The Rock” Muraco has reportedly been in contact with WWE talent relations head Johnny Ace about getting a tryout for Kelli, his daughter. Yes, daughter. In what has become an interesting trend, daughters of professional wrestlers are now showing more interest than ever in the sport, with third generation stars Nattie Neidhart and Lacey Von Erich currently competing in the WWE-owned Florida Championship wrestling. Though, to the best of my knowledge, Kelli Muraco’s experience in the ring is virtually nonexistent, I would be glad to see her added to the roster simply because there’s something about second generation wrestlers that, in the majority of cases, allows them to pick up on the intricacies of wrestling far more quickly than individuals who come from other backgrounds.

The Word from Dixieland

Sting’s Future in Question, Jarrett Return Imminent?

The Wrestling Observer Newsletter recently broke news on the potential futures of two top TNA talents. First of all, Sting may no longer be with the company come 2008. The Stinger himself has expressed some interest in retiring at the end of this year, and Jeff Jarrett has also talked about removing him from the roster, citing concerns about the drawing power of the former WCW Champion. Dixie Carter, the president of TNA, has wanted to see Sting continue with the company, though I’m guessing that she’ll get outvoted if Sting himself wants to ride off in to the sunset. Meanwhile, there is also news related to the future of Jarrett’s in-ring career. Though there is not a date set yet for his return to TNA, he will be coming back, and the expectation is that it will be for a match against Kurt Angle. That pairing is a bit ironic given that, as was discussed here in recent weeks, Angle and Jarrett are vying for backstage power in TNA.

Frankly, I’m fine with both of the pieces of news revealed above. As far as Jarrett’s potential feud with Angle is concerned, I have no problem with it in theory. Angle, though he’s not nearly the wrestler he used to be, can still go in the ring, and Jarrett’s wrestling skills are often forgotten by the individuals who lambaste him for his repeated runs at the top of TNA. If the two lock up, it has the potential to be an excellent match, although the quality of the angle leading in to it will always be a question mark so long as the promotion keeps its current creative team in place. On the Sting front, I can’t exactly argue with the man himself over whether it’s the right time for him to retire. Only Sting will know when the time is right for him, and he certainly doesn’t owe anything to fans. Though the booking during most of his run in TNA has been absolutely atrocious, one thing is certain: Sting has give 110% the entire time that he’s been a part of the roster and should be applauded for his efforts. For a fifty year old man to regularly show up in the shape that Sting does and to take the beatings that Sting does is beyond phenomenal, and he definitely has had a “last run” of which he can be proud. Granted, he hasn’t always had the best matches, sometimes due to the booking and sometimes due to the fact that, no matter how hard he tries, physical limitations imposed by age catch up with him. However, anybody who has watched his TNA run and tells you that the effort has not been there is either blind, stupid, lying, or some combination of the three. That effort is something I respect almost as much as I would the ability to consistently put on five star matches.

The only thing the rubs me the wrong way about this entire story is Jarrett’s comments about Sting’s “drawing power.” Though I understand that things of that nature have to be taken in to consideration when potentially resigning a guy who is among the highest paid in your company, nobody in TNA is drawing any more than anybody else. No matter who they’ve had on top, they’ve maintained roughly the same level of PPV buys and roughly the same TV ratings for over a year now. If Jarrett is going to say that somebody isn’t a draw and then use that as a rationale for not allowing that person to continue on in the company, perhaps he should start by looking in the mirror.

Random Video Interlude

Eight days ago, I took in a great live wrestling show as SHIMMER: Women Athletes taped two new editions of their DVD series. Below is a music video featuring great action from the promotion. It aired just before the beginning of last week’s tapings, and it did a great job of kicking the night off right for the live crowd.

Foreign Fanatics

NJPW/TNA War Kicks Off Early

Last week, we discussed the working relationship forged between New Japan Pro Wrestling and TNA Wrestling, which will see many TNA stars sent to NJPW for the latter company’s January 4 show in the Tokyo Dome. However, it appears that TNA and New Japan will be intermingling well before that card takes place.

As a matter of fact, TNA is sending a contingent of four wrestlers to the November 11 NJPW show to do battle with some of the promotion’s finest. In a heavyweight battle, Rhino will wrestle Toru Yano. I can’t say that I’m familiar enough with Yano to comment on this one. Elsewhere on the show, Tiger Mask IV, who has previously made cameo appearances in TNA, will take on Ron “The Truth” Killings, in what may be the biggest clash of styles on the entire lineup. Finally, tag team action will take place with Triple X representatives Christopher Daniels and Low Ki going up against Minoru and Prince Fergal Devitt. To the best of my knowledge, Daniels is the only TNA wrestler heading over for the show that has experience in New Japan. He wrestled there under his masked persona Curry Man several years ago and even managed to have a brief reign as IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion alongside “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson. It is also interesting to note that November 11 is the date set for TNA’s Genesis pay per view, so obviously none of these men will be appearing on that show.

In more TNA/New Japan news, it appears that IWGP Tag Champ Travis Tomko skipped out on a scheduled New Japan show in order to attend the TNA Impact tapings which took place on Monday and Tuesday of this past week. Tomko was supposed to wrestle with partner Giant Bernard in an opening match of NJPW’s annual G1 Tag League tournament. However, his absence forced Bernard to wrestle a handicap match against scheduled opponents Toru Yano and Togi Makabe. Needless to say, Bernard came up on the losing end of the affair. Tomko did make it to Japan in time for the October 20 show, though, and the American duo made up for their earlier loss by defeating Jado and Gedo in another tournament match. Currently Makabe and Yano have an early lead in the tournament rankings, with four points.

Masked Mania

Rumors are swirling that one of the biggest mask vs. mask matches in the history of lucha libre may be occurring in either December of 2007 or January of 2008. Mexican publication Ovaciones has reported that officials for a virtually unknown group named Union Mundial de Lucha Libre are attempting to come to terms with El Hijo del Santo and L.A. Park to go one on one with their hoods on the line. Hijo del Santo is, as the name implies, the son of the original El Santo, which is enough to make him one of lucha’s biggest names. (It doesn’t hurt that he’s a hell of a wrestler in his own right.) L.A. Park is the original La Parka, having been forced to change his name in Mexico due to a trademark dispute with promotion AAA, who claims to own the gimmick. (In fact, they currently use it for one of their own wrestlers.) Particularly interesting is the fact that neither Santo nor Park are currently aligned with AAA or CMLL, the two major wrestling promotions in Mexico. Park has been an independent for quite some time now, while Santo departed CMLL earlier in the year, with many speculating that he was bitter over no longer being pushed as the promotion’s top star. Though Park continues to work regularly across the country, Santo has essentially priced himself out of the market, asking smaller groups to pay him an exorbitant amount of money for his appearances. However, with a mask vs. mask match of this caliber having the potential to do business that is through the roof, it wouldn’t be surprising if this group could finally pony up the money necessary to get Santo on the card.

Brown, Buchanan Come Up Big in NOAH

Though they may not have meant much to the American wrestling scene in the last several years, Bull Buchanan and D-Lo Brown can at least say that they hold a little bit of gold in Japan. Recently, Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Global Honored Crown (GHC) Tag Team Championship was held up, and a round robin tournament was contested in order to determine the new champions. On Tuesday of this week, Buchanan and Brown rolled in to Okayama, Japan before a sold out crowd and defeated the team of Mohammed Yone and former ROH Champion Takeshi Morishima. This made B&B the second pair of U.S. citizens to hold the straps, with the first being Too Cold Scorpio and Vader, who were the inaugural GHC Tag Champs. (Scorpio would go on to repeat as champion with British partner Doug Williams.) Of course, D-Lo and the Bull aren’t the only all-American championship tandem currently in the Orient. As noted many times in this column, Giant Bernard (formerly A-Train) and TNA’s Travis Tomko currently hold the IWGP Tag Team Titles in New Japan Pro Wrestling.

Canadian Wrestlers Hit Milestones

There’s not much to actually report or analyze here, but I wanted to send good thoughts to two Canadian wrestlers who have hit milestones in their lives. First of all, “Killer” Phil Klein, a gentleman who wrestled for Stu Hart many, many years ago recently celebrated his ninetieth birthday. In an industry that has repeatedly been plagued by premature deaths over the last several years, it’s good to see that at least some folks are making it to a ripe old age. Additionally, my thoughts go out to Chi Chi Cruz, who has been working on the Canadian indy scene for as long as I can remember. He will be wrestling in his retirement match this coming Saturday night in Hamilton, Ontario. The bout will be against another veteran of the Canadian indies, Johnny Devine (who currently wrestles in TNA). The two will be attempting to have a one hour iron man match. I wish the best to both of them in attempting to complete that daunting task and the best to Cruz in his post-wrestling endeavors.

300 Word or Less DVD Review

In this segment of the column, I attempt to review wrestling DVDs in three hundred words or less, with the idea being that I enjoy reviewing shows but don’t have the time to make them as long as I otherwise would. The three hundred word limit begins . . . now.

RF Video Shoot Interview with Jeff Hardy (Buy It).

This was conducted in 2003, not long after Jeff was released by WWE but before he wound up in TNA. Actually, it’s being shot the weekend of his infamous appearance in Ring of Honor, in which a live crowd booed him out of the building. We get ninety minutes of Jeff talking before that match and a follow-up with thirty minutes of conversation after the bout.

This may have been the least interesting shoot in recorded history. Jeff does get out a couple of decent stories about his relationships with wrestlers like Rob Van Dam and Perry Saturn, but the majority of what is discussed is an overview of his career’s chronology. As a result, there’s not a lot mentioned that can’t be found in other sources like Hardy Boys’ book released by WWE. When I heard about the interview’s timing, the thing I was most interested in seeing was Jeff’s reaction to his ROH match, but that gets brushed off to the side. He does take responsibility for the crowd’s reaction, but otherwise he spends the half hour of post-match talk repeating stories that he already told earlier on the DVD and ranting about how pissed off he is at an internet fan who made a comment about his deceased mother.

It’s also worth mentioning that the audio quality on this disc was terrible. I don’t expect the world’s greatest video from shoot interviews, but I should at the very least get an audio track that’s not filled with loud static and popping. If you must get a Hardy shoot, I’d suggest the “Ultimate Insiders” series that they did, which covers the same ground for the same price and looks far more professional.

Indy-Sent Headlines

Lex Luger in Health Scare

Lex Luger, who was in San Francisco for part of a large wrestling convention (more on that later) had some health issues earlier this weekend. On Friday, Luger was rushed from his hotel room to a nearby hospital, and there are conflicting reports as to whether he suffered a heart attack or a stroke. He was released from the initial hospital after receiving emergency treatment, though it’s not known where he went afterwards. It could have been back to his hotel, it could have been home, it could have been to another hospital. Nobody really seems to be certain. The hospital would also not confirm exactly what had happened to Luger.

I’m sure I can speak for the rest of the 411 staff in wishing Luger the best in recovering from what ever has befallen him. I recall reading some articles about Luger in the wake of the Benoit tragedy, and he seemed like a man who had his entire life fall apart due to substance abuse. Fortunately for Luger, he seems to have come to the realization that his problems are nobody’s fault but his own, and he also appears to have taken responsibility for taking control of the rest of his life. Of course, sometimes even after individuals come to a realization that their past acts may not have been for the best, they still have to pay the price for them. We don’t know that Luger’s health scare this weekend is a result of his former lifestyle, though it would certainly seem likely given that he is a former professional athlete who is still under the age of fifty. I may never have been a fan of the guy’s work or the way that he allegedly carried himself in the locker room at the height of his popularity, but I respect him for his recent change of heart and would love to see him live out his last few years in the best health possible, assuming that he truly is ready to live his life in a clean and responsible manner.

Card Changes, Sit-Ins Highlight Wrestle Fan Fest

For the last several months, fans and wrestlers alike have been keeping an eye on “Wrestle Fan Fest,” a multi-day convention taking place in San Francisco’s Cow Palace, which, for those not in the know, was one of the true hotbeds of professional wrestling’s territorial days. There have been many “legends” shows like this over the years, some of which go off with out a hitch and some of which turn in to veritable nightmares. Though Wrestle Fan Fest seems to fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, it certainly has produced some interesting stories.

Things started to heat up earlier this week, when, according to PW Insider Scott Hall and Kevin Nash pulled out of their scheduled appearances at the event. Apparently the two had come to an agreement with promoter Chris Cramer which involved a “deposit” being forwarded to them prior to their appearances. Nash and Hall claim that they had not received the deposit at the agreed-upon time and thus did not appear. However, in the promoter’s defense, it should be noted that when Kurt Angle pulled out of the convention due to a stomach virus, Angle and TNA (who handled his booking but not Nash’s) stated in no uncertain terms that the promoter had done everything he was supposed to and that only Angle’s illness was keeping him away from San Francisco.

Things got even more bizarre on Saturday morning, when convention attendee “Rowdy” Roddy Piper attempted to cash a personal check written to him, which reportedly covered part of his attendance fee. Supposedly the check did not clear, though Piper did wind up attending later events at the convention. Perhaps because of the Piper story or perhaps because of unrelated concerns, many wrestlers staged what is being referred to as a “sit-in” at their hotel lobby earlier this morning, refusing to attend any convention activities until they were paid for their services. Among these men was Scott Steiner, who would be the last guy I’d want to owe money. Though it took several hours, word eventually came down that the promoter and his wife came through and delivered the wrestlers’ money. In somewhat of an odd arrangement, the performers were to be paid half in cash and half by check. Some of the individuals who received their cash also told PW Insider that the promoter was showing them documentation indicating that, on Monday, sufficient money would be available in the bank for all checks to clear.

On Friday night, an independent wrestling show was held as part of the convention. It was titled “Malice in the Palace,” and was originally supposed to feature an absolutely stacked card, including the following matches: The Outsiders vs. Sid Vicious & A Mystery Partner, The Great Muta vs. Ultimo Dragon, Steve Corino vs. The Sandman, and The Dudley Boys vs. The Steiner Brothers. Ultimately, the only scheduled match which actually took place was the Dudley/Steiner encounter, which the Steiners won after their super bulldog. Other results on the show were as follows: Gail Kim def. Traci Brooks & Cheerleader Melissa in a three way; Al Snow & The Blue Meanie def. Al Katrazz & Luke Hawx (of WSX fame); Abyss & Shark Boy def. Lance Hoyt & ?; Rikishi, Gangrel, & Black Pearl (a cousin of Rikishi’s) def. Orlando Jordan, Vic Grimes, & ?; The Powers of Pain (Warlord & Barbarian) def. Kamala & The One Man Gang; The Dream Team (Greg Valentine & Brutus Beefcake) def. Koko B. Ware & “Dr. Death” Steve Williams; ? Won a 32 Man Battle Royale; Ultimo Dragon def. Billy Kidman; The Great Muta def. Steve Corino & The Sandman in a three way when Diamond Dallas Page attacked Corino.

Card changes or not, this sounds like one of the most surreal wrestling events in the history of man, and I want to see a tape immediately. Seriously, Great Muta and Sandman in the same ring? This is a thing of beauty. There was supposed to be a mixed martial arts show as a part of the convention on Saturday night, though it was cancelled due to a lack of advance ticket sales. (Running against a UFC event probably wasn’t the smartest idea.) Ring of Honor’s California debut is also set to take place as a part of the convention later today. For more details on that, check out Ari’s Column of Honor.

Yet MORE Talk of Reality Television

I swear that I’m not a reality TV junkie . . . I just wind up having to discuss it extensively because apparently everybody associated with the pro wrestling industry has determined that it’s a new great way to get themselves over.

This time around, I’m talking about Julie Hart, the woman who was married to Bret Hart during the majority of his time as a top star in the WWF and WCW and the mother of the Hitman’s four children. I mentioned a while back that Julie is writing a book about her time as Hart’s wife, and now apparently she wants to do a television show as well. Earlier this week, a press release began circulating which claimed that “development” had begun on Hart Nation, a reality show following her and the Hart brood over a period of time. Not mentioned in the press release was whether any networks had expressed interest in the series or whether shooting has actually begun. All we know is that the project is “in development.”

I’m not sure what to think about this one. From recent interviews that I’ve read with her, Julie Hart comes off as a classy lady with a level head and a good heart (no pun intended). However, I cannot possibly imagine what a reality show about she and the four members of her immediate family would entail. Presumably the target audience would be wrestling fans, but none of the five currently have any direct connection to the wrestling industry, and there is no indication that Bret Hart himself would be involved. The only story that I could imagine having legs would be oldest son Dallas training to become a wrestler, but he recently tried to do just that and quit after only a few days at Lance Storm’s Calgary-based school. Julie also mentioned in a recent interview that she didn’t believe that any of her children could commit to the wrestling industry at this time. So, though I certainly wish Julie and her children luck in whatever projects they attempt to take on, I can’t see this one being a hit.

Following Up

Here are a couple of small updates to stories that I have discussed in previous editions of the report:

~ Teddy Hart’s release from WWE was covered heavily in this column (as well as everywhere else on the site) last week, and it should be noted that his string of unprofessional conduct has continued, as Hart was scheduled to make his return to the indy circuit this week but no-showed. Now this is a man who could make a Hart-based reality show interesting . . . if he shows up.

~ Konnan, whose various health issues have been documented across several editions of this column, was scheduled to make his full-time return to the ring this past Friday. As of this writing, I don’t have any indication of how it went.

~ Speaking of health issues and AAA wrestlers, Ricky Banderas, who plays Judas Mesias in TNA, returned to the ring this weekend in Mexico after being injured in a scary fall from a ladder. There is no word on when he will make his return to TNA, though it will not be on the next episode of Impact, as that show has already been taped.

~ Two weeks ago, I talked about Hornet, a Canadian independent wrestler who got a shot to head over to Dragon Gate in Japan. I’m glad to announce that Hornet did make it over, although he lost in his debut on October 17, dropping the fall in a tag team match with Yasushi Kanda against Ryo Saito and Dragon Kid.

~ About a month ago, I gave my thoughts on the ballot for this year’s Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame induction. It has recently been announced that the three people who received the requisite amount of votes to make it in to the Hall were Evan “Strangler” Lewis (a wrestler from the 1800’s), Tom Packs (a promoter from the St. Louis area), and the Rock. Konnan was the closest person to making it in who missed the cutoff.

Feeding Back & Wrapping Up

As always, I like to let my readers have the last word, so, before we put this puppy to bed, let’s take a look at some e-mails they sent in.

First up is The Fallen Angel (no, not Daniels), who has something to say about TNA’s backstage power struggle between Kurt Angle and Jeff Jarrett:

While I certainly appreciate the fact that Angle was adamant about wanting Lethal to win by a clean win, and being angered by the fact that Lethal was dispatched by Joe (even though TNA has been attempting to make us think that Joe was a mid-card talent kept at the “bad arse” level for a bit now, that is the topic for a different letter all together). I have to disagree with your indoursement for Kurt in the creative department, not that I don’t agree that it definitely needs some serious assistance. I say this simply due to the fact that we have twice in the past seen what happens when you get a wrestler into the creativity department of the company that they are currently working for. The one thing that seems to be fairly consistent in this realm of things is that in the beginning they make incredibly good decisions, and then shortly there after the ego gets involved and we end up having people like Jeff Jarrett, and Paul Levesque whom refused to give up the titles that they seemed to have for 127 times each, and held for decades on end (it is an exaggeration of course, but many times felt like it).

I certainly think that the direction of the companies should be driven by those that are out there “pleasing the fans”, lets face it these are the people that are out there making the fans happy, they are talking to the fans, know what the fans want. Some of them have a lot of talent in working angles, and working on creativity, there really shows that in a history a working creativity that is actively wrestling tends to make ego based decisions that over all harm the story lines. While Angle is showing this current upset attitude how long will it be before it becomes nothing more than another ego fest?

The Angel (not to be confused with the Angle) does raise a few good points, as, throughout history, we have seen numerous individuals make themselves the center of a promotion immediately after getting the book. Ideally, I would also like to see somebody in charge of TNA who is not an active member of the roster. However, the current struggle is between Angle and Jarrett, and my endorsement was simply for one over the other. It was not necessarily a statement that Angle would be the best man for the job over all others.

Now let’s go to Chris J., who wants to talk about WWE’s proposed relaunch of the Jackass angle that was scrapped for Summerslam this year:

Drew Carey was the best celeb in the royal rumble, I think the only so far honestly. I mean he tried to bribe Kane of all people, and took a nice stalling chokeslam sell, well he sold the stall part really well until Raven attacked Kane and Drew eliminated himself, which was smart on his part. Main question, how did Knoxville act to the Benoit situation, I heard it was scrapped because Steve-O was promoting it months before WWE gave word.

There were actually a few reasons that the initial angle was scrapped. From what I recall, at least one of the Jackasses was injured, and they were going to proceed without him. At that point, Knoxville decided that he didn’t want to be associated with wrestling immediately after the Benoit tragedy. WWE determined that Knoxville was the biggest star of the group and that, without him, the angle probably wasn’t worth doing.

In this editorial you conclude that because TNA stars are now working in NJPW and AJPW, and Samoa Joe will be working a NOAH show, that “NJPW, AJPW, and NOAH are now far more cooperative than they ever have been.” While that conclusion may be an accurate statement about NJPW and AJPW, citing Samoa Joe’s appearance in NOAH does not support your conclusion that they too are cooperating with the others. Joe, who was scheduled to wrestle NOAH’s Misawa in ROH before TNA forced him to stop working ROH, booked himself for the NOAH appearance, and will not be representing TNA while appearing in NOAH.

This is what he himself told us at a Jersey indy show last month. If you don’t believe me, ask him yourself!

Regardless of who booked Joe for his NOAH appearance, the fact that he is being permitted to keep the booking is still evidence of a relaxed relationship between the major Japanese promotions. Even though the appearance may not be a result of an agreement between New Japan and NOAH, there was a period of time when a group like NOAH would have refused to book Joe because of his association with TNA, which is in turn associated with New Japan. I was not attempting to imply that there was a formal agreement between NOAH, TNA, and NJPW about the Joe vs. Misawa match. I was simply attempting to convey the fact that political lines are not drawn as sharply as they used to be among the major puro groups, in that all three are currently using talent from the same American promotion (regardless of how the talent got there.)

And that does it for e-mail this week. I’m always interested in what readers have to say, so feel free to write in with whatever thoughts you may have. If you’d rather read some more coverage of the wacky world of pro wrestling, I can help you do that as well. Just visit the following links:

~ As always, I’m covering Planet Jarrett (or is it now Planet Angle?) in the Impact Crater.

~ As mentioned earlier, I had a hell of a time at SHIMMER last weekend. Be sure to read my live report if you haven’t already.

~ Speaking of SHIMMER 411’s Brad Garoon checks in with his review of their tenth DVD.

~ And, as long as I’m plugged people who are not me, be sure to read some TG Corke.

~ Last but not least, don’t forget to check out my MySpace blog, where I periodically post content that just doesn’t fit in on 411mania. I’ve recently started a project there in which I index past edition of this news report, which makes it easy to find my thoughts on a particular topic. Give it a look, and add me as a friend to get updates when I post new content here on the site.

So long, folks!


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Ryan Byers

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