wrestling / Columns

The Custom Made News Report 11.04.07

November 4, 2007 | Posted by Ryan Byers

Remembering Moolah

On Friday, November 2, 2007, The Fabulous Moolah passed away in her Columbia, South Carolina home. She was eighty-four years old. No cause of death is known as of this writing.

In her prime, the Fabulous Moolah mauls an opponent.

Moolah was born Lillian Ellison on July 22, 1923 in the same city in which she passed away. Though finding the exact date on which she made her debut in the professional wrestling industry is virtually impossible, the general consensus is that it occurred in the late 1940’s, with 1949 being the most likely year. Her early career was under the watchful eye of long-time promoter Jack Pfeffer, who dubbed her “Slave Girl Moolah” and made her the valet of the Elephant Boy, a wrestler that history has largely forgotten despite his twenty-five year career. From there, she was placed in the corner of “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers, the man whose legacy includes becoming the first World Wide Wrestling Federation (now WWE) Champion and being the individual to inspire the character of Ric Flair. During her time in these mens’ corners, Ellison was an instrumental part of their success, regularly helping them cheat to win and developing heel tactics that would benefit her throughout her career.

She first put these heel tactics to use in the early 1950’s, when she made the transition from valet to professional wrestler. It did not take long for Moolah to gain success in the squared circle, as in 1956 she won a version of the Women’s World Title in Baltimore, Maryland. The victory came at the conclusion of a thirteen-woman battle royale, in which Moolah triumphed over Judy Grable, who at the time was an eighteen year veteran and considered one of the best female performers in the business. Moolah continued to defend her version of the Women’s Championship throughout the country for several years, and her opportunities expanded in 1964, when long-time NWA Ladies’ Champion June Byers retired undefeated. Though there is some debate over whether Moolah was ever officially recognized as the NWA Ladies’ Champ, it is clear that, after Byers’ retirement, many NWA promoters brought Moolah and her championship in to their territories to help fill the void that June left.

Not only did this increase Moolah’s prominence as a professional wrestler, but it also increased her power in the world of women’s grappling. After a few years of defending the championship that she won in Baltimore, Ellison bought the rights to the title, as well as a version of the Women’s Tag Team Titles, which she held with partner Toni Rose. This essentially meant that Moolah owned the belts and that she made all decisions about who would win them. Around the same time, she began to train female wrestlers. This had two major consequences. First of all, Moolah could guarantee that she perpetually held the most important Women’s Championship in the professional wrestling world. Furthermore, it ensured that the majority of her challengers and anybody who beat her for the title would come from her own troupe of wrestlers based in South Carolina. Thus, the Fabulous Moolah began her stranglehold on the women’s wrestling world that would continue for almost thirty years.

Though some individuals claim that this stranglehold included a title reign that was several decades long, the fact of the matter is that nothing could be further from the truth. Though Ellison held the championship that she owned for the majority of the years between 1956 and 1986, she did periodically lose the title. This included trading the belt with Betty Boucher in 1966, a pair of title changes in Japan in 1968 involving Yukiko Tomoe, and losses in the 1970’s to Sue Green and Evelyn Stevens. The longest uninterrupted reign that Moolah had as champion was not thirty years but rather the ten year period between her initial 1956 championship victory and the 1966 loss to Boucher. (Though, with the title changes listed above going unrecognized in some circles, it is not outside the realm of possibilities that other unreported switches occurred.)

Though she had been a fixture on the professional wrestling scene for thirty years, it was in 1983 that the wheels would be set in motion for the angle that would bring Moolah her greatest degree of notoriety. In that year, with national expansion on his mind, Vince McMahon ended the World Wrestling Federation’s membership in the National Wrestling Alliance. At the same time, he purchased the rights to Ellison’s Women’s Title from her. At this point, Moolah became known as the WWF Women’s Champion, a title that she lost in 1984 to up-and-coming female wrestler Wendi Richter at “The Brawl to End it All,” a special taped for MTV. Richter, with red-hot pop singer Cyndi Lauper in her corner, became one of the most popular acts in the WWF during the same period that saw Hulk Hogan became a major draw in the company. The popularity of the Richter/Lauper connection and its role in drawing viewers to the first Wrestlemania has been downplayed by the WWF in recent years, but many fans from that era will not hesitate to tell you that Richter was perhaps the company’s number two babyface behind Hogan. And who was Richter’s number one rivial? It was Lelani Kai, a wrestler that Moolah trained and managed throughout the feud with Wendi and Cyndi. The rivalry included a bout on the first incarnation of Wrestlemania.

With Kai and Richter quickly becoming the faces of the WWF women’s division, it appeared that Moolah’s time as an active performer was winding down. However, unusual circumstances would lead to her having another title reign. In 1985, the WWF wanted champion Wendi Richter to sign a new contract. When she refused to do so, they sent her in to a match with the “Spider Lady,” a masked wrestler who proceeded to pin Richter’s shoulders to the mat in a finish that Richter was not told about prior to the match. Naturally, the Spider Lady unmasked as Moolah, and the incident would become infamous as a forerunner to 1997’s so-called “Montreal screwjob.” Moolah’s time with the belt was brief, as she quickly traded it with Velvet McIntyre in Australia before dropping it seemingly for the last time to “Sensational” Sherri Marel in 1987. It was after this that Ellison’s career came to its apparent end.

Of course, Lillian Ellison did not completely disappear from the limelight. She continued to train wrestlers, and, in 1995, she became the first female inductee in to the WWF Hall of Fame. Four years later, Moolah, along with long-time friend and fellow wrestler Mae Young, made an appearance with the WWF as part of an angle involving Intercontinental Champion Jeff Jarrett and Chyna. Moolah and Young were instrumental in helping Chyna defeat Jarrett for his title, making Chyna the first woman in WWF history to hold a title historically reserved for male competitors. Around the same time, Moolah began to involve herself in a rivalry with WWF Women’s Champion Ivory, which in October of 1999 saw the then-seventy-six year old competitor earn an eight-day reign with the title that she first won in the 1950’s. Though she was never taken seriously as a wrestler again, Moolah continued to make cameo appearances for the WWF, both performing in comedic skits and periodically being attacked by male wrestlers that the WWF wished to get a little bit more heat.

Though primarily a comedy character in the eyes of many younger fans, the Fabulous Moolah continued to gain accolades in the twenty-first century. In 2002, her (ghostwritten) autobiography was published by the WWF in conjunction with Harper Entertainment, and she was featured in the 2004 documentary Lipstick and Dynamiate, which covered the golden age of women’s wrestling in the United States. In 2003, she was inducted in to the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame in upstate New York. (Though she has yet to be inducted in to a similar hall in Waterloo, Iowa.) In the same year, she wrestled a match against Victoria on Monday Night Raw as a part of her eightieth birthday celebration. This lead to Moolah claiming to be the only wrestler to have matches in six different decades: the 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s, 1990’s, and 2000’s. Throughout her career, Moolah also trained numerous wrestlers, including the aforementioned Richter/Kai duo, as well as Sherri Martel, ECW’s Elektra, Heidi Lee Morgan, “The Patriot” Del Wilkes, and Chris Kanyon.

With that historic career recapped, what exactly will the Fabulous Moolah’s legacy be? She will likely never be remembered as a great in-ring performer. According to most observers, Moolah was never as good of a wrestler as many of her contemporaries. However, most critics are impressed with the manner in which she played a vicious heel character. That, combined with the length and number of her title reigns as well as her close working relationship with the WWF, will probably result in her being remembered as the greatest female wrestler of all time, regardless of actual in-ring ability. She also deserves to be remembered as one of the most savvy and sophisticated businesspeople in the history of professional wrestling. Though the internet often talks about the “political” maneuvering of men like Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, and Triple H, Moolah may have them all beat. She essentially purchased an entire wrestling division and stockpiled it full of her own loyal trainees, guaranteeing that she would constantly be booked throughout the country and that she would be remembered as a legend. Though some competitors who were not a part of Moolah’s group may be bitter about its dominance of women’s wrestling, the business acumen that Ellison displayed in forming and promoting that block cannot be denied.

In short, she was tough, she was intelligent, she was resilient, but, most of all . . . she was fabulous.

All the Stuff from Stamford

WWE Rookie, Experienced Doper Suspended

In the wake of this summer’s Chris Benoit tragedy, WWE announced that several changes in the company’s “wellness policy” would be made, and one of those changes finally went in to effect on November 1. Specifically, WWE will now be making public the names of all individuals who are suspended under the policy. The first of those names were posted on the company’s website yesterday, with Chris Masters and Harry Smith identified as policy violators. It was noted that this was Masters’ second “strike” under the policy, which means that he will be serving a sixty-day suspension, while Smith’s first offense means that he will only be suspended for thirty days. Though the names and lengths of the suspensions were noted, WWE did not make it clear exactly what portions of the policy the two performers violated.

Several individuals have been asking what this means for the careers of Masters and Smith as well as asking what the effect of this new wellness policy provision will be. As far as the individual performers are concerned, I cannot see their careers being affected. WWE has been suspending individuals under this policy for quite some time now, and it’s become clear that, after a suspension is served, the company is more than willing to return performers to the exact position they were in at the time they left. The only potential problem for Masters is the fact that, under the policy as it was originally drafted, three violations were to result in a performer’s termination. As such, he’d better watch himself over the next several months. If the Masterpiece does ultimately wind up being fired, I have to say that I’ll feel bad for the guy. Granted, taking these substances is a choice and he and he alone makes. However, he was hired in large part due to his physique and given a character entirely based on that physique. When he did drop several pounds immediately after the initial institution of the wellness policy, he was mocked on live television and saw his role in the company diminish greatly. The company clearly wants him to maintain the Herculean physique that they hired him for, yet at the same time they’ve punished him for doing what is necessary to maintain that look. I’m not trying to endorse steroid use by making those comments, but this does show just one of many bizarre double standards that exist in the world of professional wrestling.

But what does the policy change itself mean for wrestling? In the long run, I think that it will mean very little. However, I can see one major consequence of having suspended wrestlers named publically. Fans have shown by their continued support for WWE that drug use by wrestlers will do little to affect which stars they enjoy watching. However, these public announcements will certainly make it more difficult for WWE to not dole out appropriate punishments for performers. As previously noted, the last version of the wellness policy to be made available publically clearly stated that first-time violators were to receive a thirty day suspension, second-time violators were to be benched for sixty days, and three-time violators were to be released from the company. With the punishments being announced publically, it will be much more difficult for WWE to, for example, refrain from firing an individual who has committed his or her third infraction. Though it is true that the company could ultimately attempt to hide some punishments while publically announcing others, they have come under such scrutiny from the mainstream media recently that a tactic of that nature could easily blow up in their faces.

Guerrero Geared to Return

In more wellness-related news, F4W Online is reporting that Chavo Guerrero’s sixty day suspension for a second violation of the policy has come to an end. This would leave Guerrero free to return to WWE programming at any time. The ironies of Chavo being suspended twice under the policy that was created in response to his uncle’s untimely death have already gotten plenty of discussion elsewhere, so I’ll pass on that particular issue. However, wellness policy or not, I fear that Guerrero’s days with the company may be numbered. The promotion is letting its cruiserweight division remain dormant after stripping the most recent champion of the belt, and that is the one part of the card in which Chavo was practically guaranteed a role. The one natural rival that he has in the company is Rey Misterio, and that feud has already been done twice within the last year. Frankly, though I’ve enjoyed watching Guerrero as a performer all the way back to his initial run in WCW, I have a hard time seeing where he “fits” in the context of the modern day E. Hopefully the creative and talent relations departments don’t see things the same way.

The Great WWE Countdown

I’m still relatively new to writing this particular column, and it has generated a lot of e-mails from readers wanting to know how I feel about particular mainstream wrestlers. I decided that the best way to simultaneously answer these e-mails and to give new readers an idea of what I like to see in a wrestling ring would be through this five-week feature, which I am dubbing THE GREAT WWE COUNTDOWN~!

As of October 29, 2007, there are seventy-five wrestlers listed on the company’s roster on WWE.com. I have taken these seventy-five names and ranked them in order of what I perceive their wrestling ability to be. For the next five weeks, I will count down those names. For those of you who are bad at math, that means we’ll be featuring fifteen wrestlers a week. I will also provide brief commentary on the names as I see fit. Here are a few of my ground rules to keep in mind as you look over the list:

1.) I am looking solely at the individuals’ ability to put on entertaining matches. Though this does involve a certain kind of charisma, it does not mean that I am taking in to consideration other necessary aspects of being a successful pro wrestler, such a promo ability, look, position on the card, or marketability.

2.) Though I am considering both WWE performances and recent non-WWE performances, I am ranking these individuals based on their ability as I perceive it today. This means that, for example, my ranking for Jim Duggan is reflective of Jim Duggan in 2007, not Jim Duggan in 1987.

3.) Due to the nature of the list, I will not be adding wrestlers who debut in or return to WWE after the ranking took place on October 29. Unless I have accidentally made an omission, the only name not on this list who is an active part of the main WWE roster is Smackdown wrestler Drew McIntyre, who I did not feel comfortable ranking as I have only seen him in one five minute match.

4.) It should be noted that a low ranking does not mean that I have any sort of personal animus towards a particular wrestler or towards that wrestler’s fans. In fact, there are several people low on the list who I find entertaining in some regard. This is just meant to be a list reflecting one fan’s opinion of who he enjoys watching in the ring and should not be taken as anything more.

With that said, let’s get to the first fifteen names!

75.) Ashley Massaro – Checking in at dead last is Ashley Massaro, who I don’t think that I’ve ever seen pull off anything decent in the ring. Of course, I’m not blaming Ashley for that. She legitimately seems to work hard at improving, but she’s never had a substantial period of time to focus solely on training as opposed to combining it with life on the road and other activities in which WWE involves her. Christy Hemme had much the same issue, though things eventually did begin to click for her. Hopefully the same happens for Ms. Massaro.

74.) The Boogeyman – Boogey suffers from much the same problem as Ashley in that the time he was given to learn how to wrestle was far less than what even the most competent of beginners needs to become a wrestler who is ready for prime time. Fortunately, he’s good enough with his gimmick that he can use it to get through short matches. However, in the rare instances that he’s needed to perform as a straight wrestler, things have not been pretty.

73.) The Great Khali – Khali actually reminds me a good deal of the Boogeyman in the ring, which is surprising given that, unlike Boogey, the Punjabi giant was in wrestling for several years before coming to WWE. The reason that Khali edges out the Boogeyman is that Khali actually has shown the ability to be carried to a passable match by people who know what to do with him, such as John Cena and the Undertaker.

72.) Maria Kanellis – Maria hasn’t had that much more of an opportunity to become adept at wrestling than Ashley, though she seems to have taken to it much better. In fact, young Ms. Kanellis has managed to put together a string of matches in her time on Raw that are perfectly acceptable given the standards of the WWE women’s division.

71.) Domino – Domino is the only man that I’ve heard of who has managed to break his own orbital bone while taking a bump. That’s probably the best way that I can explain his position.

70.) Gene Snitsky – When Snitksy was in his first run with WWE as a rival for Kane, he was entertaining in a “so bad it’s good” sort of way. He’s improved since then, and unfortunately his improvement has taken him from “so bad it’s good” to just plain “bad.” Though he hasn’t had to do a lot of long matches since his repackaging, things start to fall apart every time that he has to do more than a couple of moves.

69 & 68.) Brian & Brett Major – The Majors are another example of to “called up too soon” syndrome. However, their inexperience hasn’t lead to them botching a lot of moves or looking out of position in the ring. It’s just resulted in them being bland. Really, horrifically bland. There’s nothing about their wrestling style that separates them from thousands other men that have been in the sport at various points in history.

67.) Deuce – Domino’s tag team partner is a bit more polished in the ring, though that’s not saying a hell of a lot. He is the adopted son of “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka, but apparently the genetic link needs to be there in order for a father to pass wrestling ability to his offspring.

66.) Ron Simmons – In the time surrounding his run as wrestling’s first black World Champion, Simmons was actually “damn” fine professional wrestler. (Pun definitely intended.) Time has not been kind to him, though. Granted, he’s in great shape for a man of his age, but his recent performances in the ring are not nearly as solid as his physique.

65.) Santino Marella – Speaking of Simmons, here’s his most recent rival. Don’t get me wrong, Santino has been GOLD on the microphone ever since he turned heel, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s yet another member of the “needed more time in developmental” club.

64.) Carlito – Okay, forget what I said about a genetic connection allowing fathers to pass wrestling ability to their sons, because Carlito’s status as a second generation star hasn’t helped him much. The second generation member of the Colon family also spent an exceptionally small amount of time in Ohio Valley Wrestling, though at this point he’s been on the WWE roster for several years, so lack of training can’t be the only explanation for his shortcomings. A lot of it seems to be outright laziness, as Ric Flair pointed out in an infamous “worked shoot” promo earlier this year. On top of that, whenever Carlito busts out his wacky attempts at high flying, I fear for his life and the life of whoever he is in the ring with. The man who determined that it was a good idea for Caribbean Cool to attempt a springboard moonsault when he still can barely run the ropes should be FIRED.

63.) Candice Michelle – Prior to her gruesome injury on Monday Night Raw, Candice was making great strides towards becoming a perfectly acceptable female wrestler. Granted, she wasn’t there yet, but she was certainly as good as Trish Stratus was at this early stages of her career. Word on the street is that she works out a good deal with Arn Anderson before shows, and his influence is definitely showing. Hopefully he keeps her off fo the top rope for the foreseeable future, though.

62 & 61.) Robbie & Rory McAllister – The fact that we’ve hit on three regular teams this early in to the countdown just goes to show how dead the tag divisions are on both Raw and Smackdown. However, the Highlanders come in a step above the Greasers and the Major Brothers for a couple of different reasons. Though I can’t stand people who think that moves are the end all and be all of wrestling, they do certainly help, and the Highlanders are capable of busting out a couple of pretty awesome looking double teams without screwing anything up. That puts them well ahead of Deuce and Domino, while the fact that they have some semblance of a personality in the ring puts them light years ahead of the Majors.

The Word from Dixieland

TNA Fans Free at Last

According to a recent edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, the TNA contract of suspended NFL player Adam “Pac-Man” Jones has expired, with the company deciding not to re-sign him. I think we’d be hard pressed to find somebody who disagrees with that decision. Jones was supposed to be a celebrity brought in to garner the company massive mainstream attention. Though the plan seemingly worked for the first two weeks that he spent in TNA, public interest in the man quickly declined and all but vanished after his first match. Even the mainstream exposure utterly failed to do what it was supposed to, as there has been no indication that Jones raised TNA’s television ratings or pay per view buyrates, which remained at their normal levels throughout his stay. Many individuals blame this on the fact that Pac-Man could not wrestle due to legal action by his employers, the Tennessee Titans. However, I’d be amazed if Jones being allowed to do a couple of hiptosses and a bodyslam would have garnered any more viewers than Jones doing leapfrogs and spiking footballs in to mens’ groins.

Part of me wants to say “good riddance” to Pac-Man. However, he managed to play TNA for a bunch of marks and milk them for thousands of dollars while barely having to work, so I can’t knock him too badly. I’d probably do the exact same thing if I could get away with it.

Tomko Lobbies for Japanese TV

As has been discussed here several times, the current plan for New Japan Pro Wrestling’s January 4 show in the Tokyo Dome is to have several TNA wrestlers on hand for an “invasion” angle of sorts. Several of the American company’s wrestlers will be in NJPW for the promotion’s November 11 show, which will no doubt be used to jumpstart the angle for January’s card.

In another interesting note from the Observer, it appears that Travis Tomko, a TNA performer who also regularly works for NJPW, is attempting to convince his bosses in the states to tape the Tokyo Dome show and use the footage for episodes of Impact. I have mixed feelings on this idea. On one hand, airing matches that are booked by New Japan for a Japanese show will virtually guarantee that we’ll get one episode of Impact (if not two episodes) that is drastically better than the normal fare that TNA produces. It should certainly reduce the number of obnoxious run-in finishes and backstage skits. Yet, on the other hand, I can’t see this doing anything positive for TNA’s business, and it may in fact hurt them. The main purpose of Impact is to convince the promotion’s fans to buy their pay per view events, and presumably the matches from the Dome show will be TNA performers wrestling NJPW performers, with the Japanese stars not making follow-up appearances in the United States. As such, if you air the Dome show in the US, you’re essentially doing at least one week of TV that cannot be used to hype your PPV. Besides, a relatively angle-free show with no bullshit finishes to matches might condition TNA fans to expect that sort of thing, and then they’ll be even more disappointed when they continue not to get it.

Random Video Interlude

This week’s very brief clip features an AWESOME spot from mini wrestler Tzuki, who WWF fans may remember from his brief run there as Max Mini.

Foreign Fanatics

Yamamoto Poised to Hit US

New Japan Pro Wrestling has engaged in an interesting angle recently which will result in one of their up an coming wrestlers making his North American debut very soon. The wrestler in question is Naofumi Yamamoto, who debuted in 2002, around the same time as fellow NJPWers Hirooki Goto and Shinsuke Nakamura. While Goto, Nakamura, and others from the same “class” of wrestlers have quickly ascended the card in New Japan and made themselves in to stars, 2006 has seen Yamamoto’s career plagued by numerous crushing defeats. He has amassed so many losses that he has labeled himself a “disgrace” to the promotion. He believes that the only thing that can turn his career around is a “learning excursion” to North America, which is similar to trips that numerous other Japanese wrestlers have made throughout their careers. It is hoped that after Yamamoto re-learns the ropes in the United States, Mexico, and possibly even Canada that he will be able to return to his native country as a productive member of the NJPW roster. It has been announced that Yamamoto’s first U.S. appearances will take place on the Florida indy circuit, though nobody is clear exactly what promotions he’ll be working for. As soon as I find out more information, I’ll pass along word here.

Though angles in which men are booked to be losers typically don’t work out that well in the United States, it should be noted that the “learning excursion” does have a history of preparing Japanese wrestlers to be major stars in their homeland. Before becoming legends in Japan, men like Jushin Liger, Keiji Muto, Masa Chono, and the Giant Baba all spent extensive amounts of time training in the U.S.

Real World Tag League Teams Set

With New Japan’s G1 Tag League recently wrapping up (more on that later), now All Japan Pro Wrestling is ready to pull the trigger on their annual tag team tournament, the Real World Tag League. It’s the story of eight tag teams picked to fight in round robin brackets and find out what happens when wrestlers stop acting polite and start getting real. Several North American wrestlers have been announced as tournament participants, as they will both team with and mix it up against some of Japan’s finest.

Perhaps the biggest foreign involvement in the tourney comes form one Joe Doering. Doering, a Canadian wrestler who was trained by TNA’s Scott D’Amore, has competed in several tours for AJPW and recently scored a big upset victory in singles victory over All Japan wrestler Suwama. Now he attempts to capitalize on that win by teaming with one of the biggest stars in the history of puroresu, Keiji “Great Muta” Muto. Elsewhere in the tournament, U.S. independent wrestler “Hawaiian Lion” John Williams makes his return to AJPW. With five years in the wrestling business under his belt, the Lion is ready to make an impact internationally after competing regularly in California and Arizona. He will be teaming with Taiyo Kea, a Hawaiian-born wrestler who has spent virtually his entire career with AJPW and captured the Triple Crown (the promotion’s world championship) in the past. The third and final North American entrant in the tournament is none other than ABDULLAH THE BUTCHER~! The sixty-plus year old veteran will be paired with former Triple Crown Champion Minoru Suzuki. I can’t possibly imagine Abdullah doing anything of note in the tournament, but a man of his age and his mobility in the ring against modern Japanese wrestlers is always good for some unintentional comedy.

These three teams will do battle with an impressive field that also includes the units of TARU & Zodiac, Satoshi Kojima & Suwama, Nobutaka Araya & Touru Owashi, Osamu Nishimura & Masanobu Fuchi, and (brace yourself for this one) Kensuke Sasaki & Toshiaki Kawada. The matches will occur between November 23 and December 7, with finals taking place on December 9. I will periodically provide updates in this column.

Japanese Invade Ireland

Speaking of “learning excursions,” it appears that Japanese wrestlers are flying all over the place these days, with Dragon Gate wrestlers Keni’chiro Arai and Lupin Matsutani recently completing a tour of Irish Whip Wrestling in (you guessed it) Ireland. Lupin and Arai competed on seven shows in six days, which obviously included a couple of true double shots. (That’s two shows in one day, as opposed the modern indy wrestling version of a “double shot,” which is two shows in a weekend.) As can be expected, the two outside wrestlers lost the majority of their matches, though their performances were said to be solid, and I’m sure they were glad to gain the experience. The two mainly worked with Irish locals, most notably Red Vinny and Bingo Ballance, which may be the single coolest name in the history of independent wrestling. They also had an opportunity to interact with American wrestler Tracy Smothers and Cana-Mexican performer El Generico, who dropped in for some dates on the IWW tour.

There is also a story making the rounds that, after a show on October 23, Arai challenged several Irish wrestlers to a drinking contest and was soundly defeated after three straight hours of imbibing spirits.

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.

Daizee Haze: Flower Power (Disc Two) (Buy It).

Haze vs. MsChif vs. Cheerleader Melissa vs. Mickie Knuckles vs. Sara Del Rey vs. Ariel: Much better than the six way on disc one. Couple of dives early, followed by almost every woman’s finisher. Daizee wins the IWA-MS Women’s Title here, pinning MsChif in the end.

Haze vs. Allison Danger vs. Lacey vs. Traci Brooks: Haze KILLS Danger early with a missile dropkick that connects while Danger is in a camel clutch. Daizee takes home another win after a Yakuza kick on Lacey.

Haze vs. Danger vs. Lacey vs. Cindy Rogers: Roughly the same as the previous match, minus the sick kick.

Haze vs. Danger: Odd match as the two were trying to do something epic, kicking out of each other’s finishers left and right. However, the crowd wasn’t with it because none of them recognized the moves as finishes. Daizee wins with two Cutters and a Mind Trip.

Haze vs. Rain: Way too hard to follow, as it was shot on one handheld cam that was too close to the ring. Haze did retain her IWA-MS Women’s Title, though.

Haze vs. Knuckles: Another solid match between these two, which leaves me wondering why Mickie doesn’t get much work outside of IWA-MS.

Haze/Matt Sydal vs. Mickie James/Julio Dinero: This is from TNA Xplosion. Mainly a match between the men with a token couple of moves by the women. Not the best match to showcase Daizee but probably the one that got her the most exposure.

Overall: Disc two was a little weaker than disc one given that the four-way/tag matches were not meant to be anything special on the cards they came from. However, the two discs together are still solid and well worth the money.

Indy-Sent Headlines

Indy Prevew: WXW Elite 8

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve taken the time to preview an upcoming independent show, and now is as good a time as any to get back in to that game. It’s a good time because there’s what I consider to be a rather interesting card coming up in Coplay, Pennsylvania next week.

World X-Treme Wrestling (WXW) is a promotion founded by Afa the Wild Samoan in conjunction with his wrestling school, the Wild Samoan Training Center. WXW and the training center have both existed for several years, helping to launch the careers of such wrestlers as Dave Batista, Gene Snitsky, and Billy Kidman. However, over the course of the past five years, WXW has also become known as one of the top destinations for female performers, as Afa and the rest of his crew are known for giving lady wrestlers several opportunities to perform against the best in the business. That has largely been accomplished through the WXW Elite 8, an annual women’s wrestling tournament. Past winners have included TNA’s Tracy Brooks and SHIMMER’s Mercedes Martinez, while top indy women Allison Danger, Nikki Roxx, and Gail Kim have all participated in the past.

The sixth annual WXW Elite 8 will be taking place this year, with eight more women ready to prove what they can do in the ring. This year there is an interesting twist on the regular tournament format. Two former winners of the tournament, the aforementioned Mercedes Martinez and Alicia, have becoming embroiled in quite the rivalry. This stems from the two having different outlooks on how women should be used in professional wrestling, with Martinez advocating pure women’s wrestling, while Alicia favors “divas,” known more for their looks than their wrestling skills. To settle the dispute, Alicia and Mercedes have been given the opportunity to put together four-woman teams, with the teams then being entered in to the tournament. Thus, victory in the Elite 8 doesn’t just mean individual glory for the woman who gets the pin in the finals. Overall performance by the teams will also provide either Alicia or Mercedes Martinez with some serious bragging rights.

Though brackets for the tournament have not yet been announced, the members of the two teams have ben revealed, so let’s take a look at them:

The Divas

Becky Bayless – Bayless, who has primarily been seen as an announcer and a valet in Ring of Honor, began training with Homicide in 2001, though an unfortunate injury kept her away from the wrestling industry for several years. She returned to the scene at the beginning of this year, and, though she is still attempting to work off some “ring rust,” she has put on numerous impressive performances, particularly against her team captain Alicia in the east coast-based Women Superstars Unleashed promotion. Those battles have definitely been hardcore and gotten a little bit bloody, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Becky bringing that style of fighting with her WXW, even if she is technically a diva.

Alex Thatcher – Alexa is a young, up and coming performer who has trained primarily in New Jersey, including getting a few lessons from current TNA X Division Champion Jay Lethal. She has made a handful of appearances for Ring of Honor and earlier this year also became a part of the roster for SHIMMER, perhaps the most prominent women’s wrestling promotion in the United States. Though she may have the looks of a model, Thatcher is definitely capable of putting opponents away with her brutal “Heart Kick” finisher, which takes the old school heart punch to a whole new level.

Jana – Jana, who has been a part of the independent wrestling scene for almost four years now, is no stranger to WXW competition. She is the only member of the diva team to have previously been involved in an Elite 8 tournament, competing in last year’s edition. Thought she fell in the first round, Jana has attended training seminars with the likes of Stevie Richards and the Honky Tonk Man, meaning that she has the skills necessary to achieve success in these matches if she can stop focusing on her looks.

Annie Social – I haven’t seen much wrestling out Social, though, from looking at her background, she’s a perfect fit for the diva team. According to one interview, she was “discovered” by her wrestling trainers in a strip club and went on to work for WEW, a promotion known for marketing sex appeal far more than pro wrestling. With a background like that, I’ll be curious to see whether she can actually compete against Martinez’s old school wrestlers, though stranger things have happened in this sport.

The Wrestlers

Cindy Rogers – Rogers may be the most experienced competitor in the entire tournament. She has been appearing sporadically for Ring of Honor since 2004 and has been a member of the SHIMMER roster since its inception. In SHIMMER, she recently scored a series of impressive wins against Allison Danger and is slowly moving herself in to title contention. She is also no stranger to WXW competition, as she was in the 2003 Elite 8 tournament and returned to the tourney in 2005, where she beat Danger and Melissa Coates before losing in the finals to Alicia. The rivalry between those two women continued, and, by the time the 2006 tournament rolled around, Cindy was the WXW Women’s Champion. She defended that title against Alicia in non-tournament action on the last Elite 8 card and managed to beat the diva captain in an intense strap match. That puts the two rivals at 1-1 against each other. Though they won’t be wrestling next week, Rogers will no doubt gain a measure of revenge against Alicia if she is able to eliminate members of her diva team from the tournament.

Hailey Hatred – Twenty-four year old Hailey Hatred knew that she wanted to be a professional wrestler from that time that she saw her first Jushin “Thunder” Liger match at the tender age of five. As a result of that early influence, Hailey has done her best to integrate the Japanese junior heavyweight style in to women’s wrestling and regularly busts out brutal suplexes as well as submission holds such as the Cattle Mutilation. Even if this strong-style competitor doesn’t win any matches, her opponents will definitely walk away from the ring knowing that they were in a match with her. Team captain Mercedes Martinez certainly knows Hatred well, as she eliminated her in the second round of last year’s Elite 8 after Hailey dispatched of Cha Cha in round one.

Monique – Monique is a recent graduate of the Wild Samoan Training Center, and, in this year’s tournament, she’s ready to showcase the skills that she learned from Afa. Equipped with a short, stocky build, Monique is one of the most powerful women active on today’s independent wrestling scene and will have a decided size and strength advantage against any member of the diva team.

Dischord – Not much is known about Dischord, who the press release for the Elite 8 tournament describes as “freaky.” Her unorthodox style of wrestling will no doubt benefit the wrestler team, as very few people are capable of preparing for her. Will Dischord’s unconventional tactics get her a victory over a diva, or will one of her opponents be able to figure out this mystery and score a win? Only time will tell.

In addition to the eight women announced as competitors in the tournament and the two team captains, many more major names will be appearing at the WXW Elite 8, including Tammy “Sunny” Sytch. Sytch, who recently got herself back in to “Sunny Shape” to the cheers of internet geeks everywhere will referee the tournament finals. WXW Women’s Champion Kacee Karlisle will also defend her title against a mystery opponent, while former WOW wrestler and current nutrition/fitness expert Erica “Jungle Grrrl” Porter will be on hand to promote her new book.

From what I understand, tickets for this event are still available. If you’re in the Pennsylvania area, I strongly suggest heading out. It will be taking place on Saturday, November 10 at 7:30 PM EST in Colpay, PA’s Municipal Building. For more information, be sure to check out the tournament’s website.

California Taxes Indies

Here’s an interesting note from F4W Online. Apparently, the California State Athletic Commission wants to begin taxing wrestling events, with the most prominent rumor being that the “tax” will either consist of a $500 flat fee or five percent of whatever the show takes in at the gate. Obviously, independent wrestling shows will be greatly affected by such a tax. The simple fact of the matter is that it’s already difficult to make a profit promoting indy wrestling, and requiring a group to cough up $1,000 if they want to run two shows a month will certainly put a damper on the plans of many individuals who want to hold smaller shows. Hell, with $500 you can pay at least ten low-level independent wrestlers, and, with transportation, it may even be enough to satisfy the booking fee for some members of the TNA roster. With less money available for high-end talent, some promotions may be forced out of business unless they can find a way to avoid the tax.

Following Up

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

~ In a move that surprised me a good deal, the team of Travis Tomko and Giant Bernard won New Japan’s G1 Tag League Tournament earlier this week, defeating IWGP Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi and Koji Kanemoto in the final match. As I correctly predicted, the league standings ended with a four way tie on top, forcing semi-final and then final matches. However, the ultimate winners came as a bit of a shock, since I figured the tournament could be used to set up a new pair of challengers for Tomko and Bernard, who are already the IWPG Tag Champs.

~ Lex Luger, who had some health problems which were recently discussed here, has released an official statement on his condition. Apparently he is still having difficultly moving the lower half of his body, and doctors are still looking for a cause. He also wanted to let all of his fans know that he is happy with his life because, despite his health, he has faith in Christ.

~ Last week I discussed a bad situation in India in which a group of touring wrestlers from Canada were involved in a wild press conference that saw one member of the troupe flip out and throw a table at reporters. I had a couple of links to mainstream news articles on the incident in last week’s column, and here is a third, which provides a few new details not in the last two.

Feeding Back & Wrapping Up

Before we put this baby to bed, let’s take a look at some reader e-mails that I’ve received in the last week. We’ll start with 411’s own T.G. Corke, who wanted to point out a small error in my Cyber Sunday preview:

This is actually the third time Shawn Michaels has been in a ballot. The first time was 2004, where he beat Edge (second place) and Chris Benoit (third place). If he wins again tonight, which seems likely (although I wouldn’t put it past Jeff Hardy to cause an upset), will that make him the first man to have a 100% ballot success rate after three or more ballots? And, if he loses, he’ll be 0-4, which would have to be a record as well surely.

Thanks to T.G. and a couple of others who pointed this one out.

Chris J. (also regularly seen in the feedback section of my Impact Crater) wants some clarification on the results of the Samoa Joe/Mitsuhara Misawa matches from NOAH last week:

Is the emerald frosion the same as emerald fusion? In that case it isn’t so much Joe using the guy’s move on him, since the Island Driver is the same thing, and one of Joe’s indy fed finishers.

Yes, the Emerald Frosion is the same think as the Emerald Fusion. It’s also sometimes listed as the Emerald Frozen. (From what I understand, the multiple spellings are a result of the fact that there is no exact Japanese to English translation for the move’s name.) Joe has used the move on the independent scene in the past, but NOAH fans would likely have no way of knowing that. As such, the storyline in NOAH was Joe beating Misawa with Misawa’s own move, which was part of what made the victory such a big deal.

Last but not least is Nora, who wants some clarification on a point that I raised while discussing Candice Michelle’s injury:

Just reading your column and was interested in what you had to say about concussions. I was unaware that if a person had a suspected concussion they shouldn’t be given water. I’d like to know why that is, it’s gotten me very curious :).

Is it to do with increasing blood pressure causing any internal bleeding/swelling to worsen? I dunno, I await your response.

Actually, I have never heard a reason for why concussion victims should not be given water, and a google search hasn’t returned any adequate explanation. However, it is something that I and many others who covered the Candice Michelle story had heard in relation to sports first aid, and it can be found online in a few different sources discussing the subject.

Do any readers out there have an explanation? If so, please write in. Nora and I are curious. If you need some additional reading material to kill time while you try to remember the answer to our concussion-related question, be sure to check out:

~ My weekly review of Impact.

~ Ari’s Column of Honor. He covers ROH over the weekends so I don’t have to! (Oh, and because he likes it.)

~ New DVD reviewer Robbie Brooksbank, who I’m giving two weeks to change his initials before I dub him “Garrison Brooksbank.” THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE RB~!

~ And, finally, my MySpace blog, where you can read some thoughts on wrestling that don’t quite fit here on 411 as well as adding me as a friend to receive an update every time I post new content on this site.

That’ll do it for the first Custom Made News Report of November. Keep that feedback rolling in, kids!


article topics

Ryan Byers

Comments are closed.