wrestling / Columns

The Custom Made News Report 11.11.07

November 11, 2007 | Posted by Ryan Byers

Welcome, one and all, to the Custom Made News Report. Before we begin, I wanted to take an opportunity to point out that it is Veterans’ Day here in the United States, when we honor the individuals who have served in our armed forces. Though I haven’t always agreed with my country’s foreign policy, the fact of the matter is that our military has done some great things throughout its history, and I want to send my best to any readers who are family members of veterans or who are veterans themselves. Their work certainly makes everything in professional wrestling look incredibly trivial.

All the Stuff from Stamford

CNN Slams Cena

As the vast majority of people reading this already know, cable news powerhouse CNN aired a special program this past Wednesday entitled Death Grip: Inside Pro Wrestling. The purpose of the piece was to investigate drug use in professional wrestling and the effect that it may have on the rash of young deaths that have plagued the industry over the last several years. Though it was initially well-received, the piece has now come under a good deal of scrutiny due to its portrayal of former WWE Champion John Cena, who is currently sidelined with a biceps injury.

John Cena

During the special, the issue of Cena potentially using steroids was discussed. Individuals who viewed the show as it was edited by CNN got a comment from Cena that was both arrogant and foolhardy. “This is a crazy question,” Cena said. “I can’t tell you that I haven’t, but you’ll never be able to prove that I have.” The response made it appear not only that Cena had taken steroids in the past but that he was also flaunting his ability, as a celebrity athlete, to avoid being “busted” for such illegal behavior. The problem is that the footage of Cena uttering these words was not shot when he was asked whether he had ever used steroids. Instead, the footage was shot when Cena was asked about athletes (including himself) being accused of using steroids by individuals in contemporary society. His comment was that people making accusations are often jumping to conclusions, conclusions that they cannot prove. Instead of being used in its appropriate context, the footage was turned around to make Cena look like a drug user (and a cocky one at that). In reality, when Cena was asked point blank about whether he had ever used steroids, his response was “Absolutely not.” This was revealed by unedited interview footage, which was posted over the weekend on WWE.com.

Obviously, if this story makes its way in to the mainstream press (i.e. some place where non-WWE fans are actually capable of seeing it), it will be a black eye for CNN. However, the simple fact of the matter is that, if you think Cena is the first person to fall victim to this kind of manipulation, you’re kidding yourself. Though this sort of tactic is certainly never justified in any circumstance, major media outlets are often just as much in the business of entertainment as they are information, particularly when covering pop culture stories. Many times they head in to production with a story to tell, and their job is to make their information fit that story as opposed to vice versa. This is not, as WWE will likely claim, another step in a witch hunt against a professional wrestlers. It is the sort of manipulation that, for better or for worse, every public figure will have to deal with at some point in their lives. Though the behavior by the news network is problematic, it will persist so long as our news media is concerned about profit first and foremost. Unfortunately, virtually the only way to eliminate that concern would be media controlled by government entities, and that alternative is far more frightening than television stations who make journalistic decisions based on what will generate the most revenue. If wrestling fans take anything from this story, it should not be that CNN or any other news outlet is “out to get wrestling.” What should be taken from the story is that all of us in the United States need to be more discerning consumers of television news, seeking out alternative sources to get the full story as opposed to accepting one entity’s version of a story as the gospel. This applies to all issues in the news, not just those connected to our favorite pastime.

It should also be noted that, though this is a situation in which WWE is clearly in the right and a mainstream media outlet is clearly in the wrong, this incident does not vindicate all of WWE’s mainstream media gaffes over the last several months. Vince McMahon still comes off like the most overly-defensive, paranoid man on the planet every time that he does a television interview. Fit Finlay still came off like a bully live on Nancy Grace, without the help of editing. The doctor in charge of WWE’s drug testing program and the company’s attorney still played silly semantic games and tried to claim that testosterone is not a steroid. Ken Kennedy still repeatedly claimed to have never done steroids while in WWE, only to be proven a liar when he was outed as a client of Signature Pharmacy well in to his run with the promotion.

The short version of this story is that WWE is not a saintly organization and neither is CNN. In their recent “conflict,” both sides have committed errors of judgment and both have done things that are admirable. Instead of picking sides, we should praise them where they do right, chide them where they do wrong, and attempt to remain objective where the two sides will not.

Chyna Makes Desperate Plea for Attention, I Comply

Obnoxiously ubiquitous celebrity stalking website TMZ is reporting that Joanie Laurer, the professional wrestler formerly known as Chyna, is once again known as Chyna. Earlier this week, she legally had her name changed to that of her old pro wrestling character, following in the footsteps of the Ultimate Warrior (now legally known as “Warrior”) and Andrew Martin (now legally known as “Andrew Test Martin”). How this will actually benefit Laurer’s career is beyond me, given that:

A.) The name “Chyna” has not been featured on WWE TV for six years now and has more than likely lost whatever value it may have had.

B.) Even if they’re completely incapable of winning a case, this won’t prevent WWE from pursuing Laurer legally if they want to give her a hard time about the name.

C.) Prior to the name change, Laurer managed to get the phrase “the performer formerly known as Chyna” attached to every project in which she was involved, and WWE seemingly had no problem with that. I don’t know how the proper name would be any more beneficial than the tag line.

The other “news” coming out of this story is that, when she was contacted for comment by TMZ, Laurer stated that she wanted to fight Vince McMahon. Given that she could barely hold her own against Joey Buttafuoco a few years back on FOX’s Celebrity Boxing, I don’t think that is a wise move.

This woman is a wreck.

Wilson of the Non-Torrie Variety Canned

PW Insider recently reported that WWE released developmental talent Ryan Wilson. For those of you who have no clue who Wilson is, you’re not alone. He never made it up to WWE television, although he did have a couple of roles in TNA. He first appeared for them as part of “Red Shirt Security,” a squad of guys who were supposed to be tougher than the traditional TNA security guards (who wore black). They ultimately became a regular tag team, with Wilson’s fellow members Kevin Northcutt and Joe E. Legend holding the NWA Tag Team Titles. After the team was disbanded, Wilson was repackaged as Trytan, a character featured on Impact in the show’s early days. That character only lasted six months, and Wilson found himself on the outs with TNA. He quickly signed a WWE developmental contract and began competing in OVW, first as a rather nondescript character named Titus. Eventually, he became “Jacob Duncan” a character similar to Jason Vorhees. The character’s high point (and perhaps the high point of the Wilson’s career) was an angle involving Beth Phoenix, with the man monster stalking the feisty young Glamazon. Ultimately, Duncan was unmasked and sent packing after a table match with the Boogeyman.

Frankly, I can’t say that I’m sad to see Wilson go. For all I know he’s a perfect nice guy, and I’m not going to revel in anybody losing gainful employment. However, at a certain point in time, it becomes obvious that some people aren’t cut out for professional wrestling on a high level. After having seen bits and pieces of all of Wilson’s personas, I came to the conclusion that he was one of those guys. Everything he did was so bland, so generic, and so mechanical that I had a hard time getting in to it. I wish him the best of luck in whatever his plans for the future are, though I hope they’re in a different industry. Hey, NBC could still be looking for new American Gladiators.

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 about 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 countdown 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 the 1980’s.

3.) Due to the nature of the list, I will not be adding names who debut in or return to WWE after the ranking took place on October 29. Unless I have made a major 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 their 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 on who he enjoys watching in the ring and should not be taken as anything more.

The List So Far

Week 1: 75.) Ashley Massaro; 74.) The Boogeyman; 73.) The Great Khali; 72.) Maria Kanellis; 71.) Domino; 70.) Gene Snitsky; 69.) Brian Major; 68.) Brett Major; 67.) Deuce; 66.) Ron Simmons; 65.) Santino Marella; 64.) Carlito; 63.) Candice Michelle; 62.) Robbie McAllister; 61.) Rory McAllister

This Week’s Names

60.) Mike Knox – Last week, I discussed the Major Brothers and mentioned that, though the majority of the things that they do in the ring are technically fine, their style of wrestling is so generic that I can’t get interested in anything they do. The same is true of Mike Knox, although with Knox I can’t explain his shortcomings by saying that he is a rookie who was put on national television far too soon. Believe it or not, I first saw him wrestling in 2001. If you can’t find something exciting to do in your matches in that period of time, you may want to pack it up.

59.) Kevin Thorn – If I didn’t know any better, I would swear that Kevin Thorn and Mike Knox are the same man. Seriously, watch their matches back to back sometime. Aside from Thorn having a couple of flashier moves, they’re identical in the ring.

58.) Viscera – This is one of the first situations in which we’re dealing with an individual whose matches I sometimes enjoy despite a relatively low ranking on the list. Viscera is pretty clearly a man who, due to problems with stamina and mobility, won’t be putting on any good matches that are over eight minutes long. However, in his sub-eight minute matches, he can be AWESOME. He is agile as all hell for a man of his size and can bust out a couple of outright amazing spots, in addition to being up for just about anything. (As was witnessed in the recent spot in which he allowed Bobby Lashely to bodyslam him, a move that could easily result in Viscera having his neck broken if things went poorly.)

57.) Mark Henry – For roughly eight consecutive years, Mark Henry was one of the worst (if not the worst) wrestlers on the WWF/WWE roster. Then, in 2006, he had some sort of bizarre awakening in which he repeatedly put on matches far better than anybody would expect out of him. Granted, those matches did feature him going up against some of the best wrestlers in the United States at the time, including Rey Misterio and Chris Benoit. However, it wasn’t just a matter of Henry being carried. It looked to me like he was more than holding up his own end of the bargain. Since returning from his recent patella fracture, he hasn’t lived up to the promise that he showed last year. However, the fact that he has demonstrated some ability to work on a high level puts him above eighteen of his contemporaries.

56.) Balls Mahoney – Balls has a reputation as a garbage wrestler, but I’ve seen independent matches from the period in between ECW’s fall and his current WWE run in which the master of the Nutcracker Suite actually busts out some damn fine mat wrestling. Unfortunately, we have yet to see that from him in WWE, so I’m not certain whether it’s because he is no longer capable of doing it or whether he simply hasn’t had an opportunity to showcase those skills on Sci-Fi. As such, I’m willing to rank him above several individuals because he may well still have the ability to put together quality bouts, even if he never receives the opportunity.

55.) Festus Dalton – I have to say that I had very low expectations for Festus when he made his Smackdown debut. After all, his developmental work in Deep South Wrestling got virtually no positive reviews, and he was involved in one of the worst matches of 2006 when he took up the role of “Fake Kane” to wrestle the genuine article at Vengeance. Since debuting with his new gimmick, though, Festus has been a wrestler on the rise. Though, like Viscera, he’s not a guy I want to see in an extended singles match, he’s awesome in his current role of big brawler who takes a hot tag and briefly cleans house. Some of his moves are almost reminiscent of Bruiser Brody, and the sky is the limit for this guy if he can further refine his act.

54.) Mike Mizanin – Maybe it’s just the circles in which I travel, but I’ve seen a lot of Miz love online recently, and I don’t get it. Though he’s periodically capable of looking good in brief matches, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen him go longer than three minutes without screwing something up. On top of that, his recent match with CM Punk at Cyber Sunday revealed that he’s not capable of putting together a match on the fly, as the opening minutes of that contest were basically two guys running wrestling school drills while they tried to figure out where the hell they were going next. That doesn’t bode well for his career.

53.) Ken Kennedy – . . . KENNEDY! Some people think that this man is the future of professional wrestling, and I don’t get it. It’s been widely reported that Kennedy is a big fan of Steve Austin, and, if you watch his matches, it shows. His body language and movement around the squared circle are pretty obviously cribbed of a “Best of Steve Austin: 1998 – 2002” compilation, but the difference between Austin during that period and Kennedy now is that, when he was a star regularly appearing on Monday Night Raw, Austin was a ten year veteran who had worked all around the country. Kennedy is a guy who is still occasionally in the wrong part of the ring for big spots and does goofy flailing during moves that is not necessary and will eventually result in him or an opponent getting hurt.

52.) Chris Masters – Well, he’s not actually a part of WWE anymore, but the list was complied on October 29, so I still have to count him. I do give Masters some credit, as when he first debuted for WWE he was absolutely atrocious in the ring. Through some hard work and repeated matches against top level talent like Shawn Michaels, he improved as quickly as I’ve ever seen any wrestler improve. He never got to the point where I would actually be excited about watching a Chris Masters match, but he went from “godawful” to “tolerable” in a matter of months.

51.) Cody Rhodes – Yes, Cody Rhodes is far from the best wrestler on the roster. However, if you consider the fact that he’s literally been a professional wrestler for eighteen months, he’s AWESOME. There are guys wrestling for years who haven’t been able to put on as many entertaining matches as Cody has. (Hell, several of them are lower down on this list . . . KENNEDY!) It is getting to the point where I want to see him do something other than the “rookie who fights from underneath and knows a lot of rollups” deal, but hopefully his move in to the tag team division with Bob Holly will allow him to grow.

50.) Harry Smith – The son of the British Bulldog, the grandson of Stu Hart, and the nephew of Bret and Owen Hart recently made his WWE debut, but he’s been active in pro wrestling on some level since the age of fifteen. These seven years of experience give him a great edge over most other WWE “rookies,” and they allowed him to look like he fit right in when he recently teamed up with veteran Jeff Hardy. Though his recent suspension may put a damper on his development, let’s hope that it doesn’t hurt things too badly.

49.) Melina Perez – Melina is one of the handful of female WWE performers who got in to the company by training to be a pro wrestler as opposed to working as a model. It shows in her matches, as she’s definitely better than many of the other ladies on the roster, and, at least according to this list, better than twenty-three of the company’s male performers. My only real knock on Melina is that, in her best matches, it looks like she’s unnecessarily stiff with the other women. Whether that is intentional or whether it’s due to nerves, pro wrestling is supposed to be about working with your opponent and not working against your opponent, so it’s a valid reason for downgrading Melina’s rank.

48.) Jillian Hall – Jillian is another example of a woman who came up on the independent circuit before heading in to WWE developmental. I think that Jillian’s biggest strength is her ability to make in experienced opponents look like better wrestlers than they actually are, which she has done in feuds against Ashley Massaro and Stacy Kiebler as well as in periodic matches with Candice Michelle. Though Jillian hasn’t yet gotten an opportunity to be the focal point of the women’s division, I’d love to see that happen soon. At the very least, her hard, quality work has earned her an opportunity to run with the ball.

47.) Tommy Dreamer – Even in the original ECW, when Tommy Dreamer was in his physical prime, he wasn’t that great of a wrestler. However, as has been noted in many places, perhaps Paul Heyman’s greatest strength as a booker was his ability to hide performers’ weaknesses while accentuating their strengths. As such, Dreamer was booked in compelling storylines that were guaranteed to get him crowd reactions despite less than stellar matches. On top of that, he almost always had weapons and multiple partners/opponents to hide his in-ring flaws. Now that he’s in WWE, Dreamer doesn’t have that sort of “protection” anymore. However, his many years of experience have allowed him to become a smarter wrestler, so he is able to hide many of his shortcomings without Heyman’s help. I don’t want him headlining PPVs, but Dreamer is fine for the role in which he’s cast.

46.) Kane – The biggest problem with Kane’s most recent performances may be the quality of his opponents. Though the “Big Red Machine” was capable of being involved in high quality affairs when he was in against some of the best wrestlers in the world (Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, The Undertaker), the majority of his best foes have flown the proverbial coop or have been kept away from Kane in storylines. The result has been a high number of matches featuring Mr. Jacobs against wrestlers far less talented than he, and that is not where Kane is at his best.

That does it for this week’s fifteen entrants on the GREAT WWE COUNTDOWN~! Be sure to tune in next week for numbers 45 through 31, which will include two current champions, the highest ranked woman on the list, and a man who is a veteran of WWE, WCW, and ECW!

The Word from Dixieland

PPV Preview: TNA Genesis

TNA Genesis

– This is the third TNA Genesis pay per view.
– This is the third straight year in which Genesis will emanate from the Impact Zone in Orlando, Florida.
– Last year’s TNA Genesis event was the most successful pay per view in the company’s history, drawing 60,000 buyers, most of whom tuned in to see the first meeting between Kurt Angle and Samoa Joe.
– After last year’s TNA Genesis event, the company was unable to maintain this high number, with PPV buyrates immediately dropping back to their average level, where they have remained to this day.
– There has only been one title change in the history of Genesis, Abyss defeating Sting for the NWA Title by disqualification in 2006.

Abyss vs. Chocolate Reign in a Little Shop of Horrors Match

– TNA has not announced the rules for a Little Shop of Horrors Match, though most assume it is a generic no DQ match.
– If that is the case, it will be the second year that Abyss has been involved in a no DQ match at Genesis.
– The first Abyss no DQ match at Genesis was a 2005 contest against Sabu.
– This will be the fifth gimmick match in the three year history of Genesis.
– This will be Dustin Rhodes’ first appearance at Genesis.
– Abyss’ Genesis record is 2-0.

Jay Lethal (c) vs. Sonjay Dutt for the TNA X Division Championship

– This is the third consecutive year that the X Division Championship has been defended at Genesis.
– The X Division Championship has never changed hands at Genesis.
– On last year’s Genesis show, Jay Lethal and Sonjay Dutt were partners, losing a tag team match to the Naturals.
– This will be the second time that partners on one edition of Genesis have faced each other on the next year’s show.
– The first time that former partners squared off at Genesis was in 2006, when Eric Young defeated Bobby Roode after the two were part of a three-man team with A-1 in 2005.
– This is the first time that either man has been involved in a singles match at Genesis.
– Jay Lethal’s Genesis record is 0-1.
– Sonjay Dutt’s Genesis record is 0-2.

Gail Kim (c) vs. Roxxi LaVeaux vs. Angel Williams vs. ODB for the TNA Women’s Championship

– This is the first time that the TNA Women’s Title has been defended at Genesis.
– In fact, this is the first time that any woman has wrestled on Genesis.
– As such, all four competitors will be making their Genesis debuts.

AJ Styles & Travis Tomko (c) vs. The Steiner Brothers for the TNA Tag Team Championship

– This is the first time that the TNA Tag Team Titles have been defended at Genesis.
– This is Travis Tomko’s first time wrestling at Genesis.
– This is the first time that either Steiner Brother has wrestled at Genesis.
– This will be the second time that AJ Styles has defended a title at Genesis.
– Styles’ first title defense at Genesis resulted in him retaining the X Division Title over Petey Williams.
– AJ Styles’ Genesis record is 1-1.

The Dudley Boys vs. The Murder City Machine Guns

– This will be the first time that the Dudley Boys have appeared on Genesis without wrestling in the main event.
– Of the four men in this match, only Sabin has previously wrestled a singles match at Genesis.
– Chris Sabin’s Genesis record is 0-2.
– Alex Shelley’s Genesis record is 1-1.
– The Dudley Boys’ Genesis record is 1-0.

Samoa Joe vs. Bobby Roode

– It was at last year’s Genesis that Bobby Roode debuted his current gimmick and manager (Traci Brooks).
-Well, sort of. His match was on the pre-show.
– Bobby Roode’s Genesis record 0-2.
– Samoa Joe’s Genesis record is 1-1.
– Samoa Joe’s one Genesis loss was the end of his lengthy TNA undefeated streak.

Frankie Kazarian vs. Christian in a ladder match for a TNA Title shot

– This is the first time that a title shot has been on the line at Genesis.
– This is the first time that a ladder match has been held at Genesis.
– This will be the seventh time that an American and a foreigner have been on opposite sides of the ring at Genesis.
– In the prior US vs. The World matches, the foreign competitor has only won once.
– Frankie Kazarian’s Genesis record is 0-1.
– Christian’s Genesis record is 1-0.

Kurt Angle (c) & Kevin Nash vs. Sting & A Mystery Partner in a tag team match in which the winner of the fall gets the TNA Championship (sigh)

– This will be the first time that the TNA Championship has been defended at Genesis.
– This is the second consecutive year in which Sting is involved in a World Title match at Genesis.
– This is the first time that Kevin Nash has wrestled at Genesis.
– Sting’s Genesis record is 0-1.
– Kurt Angles Genesis record is 1-0.

Cavalcade of New Talent Interested in TNA

TNA may soon be hit with an influx of new talent, at least if a group of wrestlers have their way. In a recent interview with internet radio show Wrestling Weekly, female wrestler Krissy Vaine stated that she and boyfriend Ryan O’ Reilly were interested in joining the TNA roster. A few days later, former WWE talent Shawn Daivari appeared on Figure Four Daily and stated that he would also not mind working for the promotion.

On one hand, I would be happy to see what the three wrestlers could do in Total Nonstop Action wrestling. Vaine, who worked on the independent circuit (including SHIMMER) for many years before signing a WWE developmental deal, is an amazingly skilled female wrestler. She’s got the old southern art of working a crowd down pat, and she’s a far better performer than several of the women that TNA currently has under contract. Daivari also showed flashes of brilliance both on the microphone and in the ring during his WWE tenure, though he wasn’t given much of an opportunity to capitalize on those talents after his initial run alongside Mohammed Hassan. I’m not nearly as familiar with O’ Reilly’s work, but he was receiving fairly good reviews in WWE developmental. Even if he’s only mediocre, I’d be more than willing to take him as part of a package deal with Krissy Vaine, who is his current love interest.

Despite my interest in seeing all of these wrestlers compete on a national level, there’s another part of me that doesn’t want them to come anywhere near TNA. As a guy who reviews it every week, I’ll be the first to admit that there have been some massive improvements on the promotion’s Impact show since it expanded to two hours. One of the main reasons that the show is better is that the bookers are no longer trying to cram a roster of fifty in to forty-two minutes of television time. Yet, with a recent hiring spree that has included several female wrestlers, Rikishi, Scott Hall, Karen Angle, Ricky Banderas, and Sting’s new mystery partner, it seems as though TNA is bound and determined to make sure that, by the end of the year, they’re cramming one hundred wrestlers in to eight-four minutes of television time. The cramped nature of Impact was one of my least favorite parts of the one hour shows, and I sincerely hope that I never have to go through that again. In that regard, the company doesn’t need any new talent, no matter how big of a fan I may be of the wrestlers under consideration.

Oh, and there’s one more guy on his way to TNA. You know, the mystery partner. Stop reading now if you don’t want to know who he is, because we’re going to talk about him a little bit.

According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, the plan is for the partner to be Booker T. (Though, of course, these things are always subject to last minute changes.) Booker, for those of you who missed the story, left WWE last month in large part because he believed that the sixty day suspension he recently received under the company’s wellness policy was unjustified. Obviously, I don’t know enough about Booker’s personal life to know whether he is ingesting any substances that would justify the suspension. However, I do know enough about his recent performances to figure out whether I want to see him in TNA . . .

. . . and the answer to that question is no. That’s not meant as a knock on Booker. I’ve been a fan of his since the early 1990’s, when I first saw Harlem Heat in WCW. I’ve been a big supporter of the guy ever since that time, but I think that it’s time for the Book to call it quits. I feel this way primarily because I doubt that we’ll get to see him do anything new in TNA. I’m not one of the many individuals on the internet who perpetually bellyaches about the promotion pushing “WWE rejects” over “homegrown talent,” but, if former WWE stars are being brought in, I want to see them doing something different than what they were involved with in New York. Unfortunately, TNA has a poor track record of providing us with new scenarios for these old favorites. Though I certainly don’t have a crystal ball with which to see the future, I’d be amazed if Booker didn’t spend the next six months feuding with Kurt Angle, Christian, Kevin Nash, and Sting, all of them being men who I’ve seen him wrestle extensively over the course of the last ten or so years. Though they were all good rivalries at the time, it’s not necessary for me to see them again with everybody involved being significantly older.

Random Video Interlude

This week’s clip is not for all audiences, as it contains a good deal of naughty language. Those of you familiar with my tastes in wrestling will know that I love Jim Cornette, both as a booker and as a manager. Those of you familiar with my tastes in music will know that I’d rather inflict great bodily harm upon myself than listen to the Insane Clown Posse. Thus, I was giddy to see this clip of Cornette shouting down members of the “musical group” at a wrestling convention.

To view videos that have appeared in previous editions of the Custom Made News Report, be sure to check out my new YouTube page.

Foreign Fanatics

Steiners Return to Old Stomping Grounds

As has been discussed here extensively, the relationship between TNA and New Japan Pro Wrestling has greatly grown in recent months, with a small crew of TNA guys appearing on an NJPW show this weekend and a presumably even larger group being sent over for New Japan’s big dome show on January 4. This past week, the first match for that show was announced, and it will feature the reigning IWGP Tag Team Champions Travis Tomko and Giant Bernard defending their straps against a team from TNA that absolutely set New Japan on fire in the 1990’s: The Steiner Brothers.

For those of you not familiar with the Steiners’ history in Japan, it is extensive. They were one of the promotion’s top foreign tag teams for a period of several years. They won the IWPG Tag Titles on two separate occasions, defeating the pairings of Hiroshi Hase & Kensuke Sasaki and Big Van Vader & Bam Bam Bigelow. Rick Steiner also made it to the finals of the 1996 Super Grade Tag League with partner Keiji Mutoh before losing to Shinya Hashimoto and Scott Norton in the finals. In many ways, Tomko and Bernard are the modern version of the Steiners. They have had an IWGP Title reign that has been just as dominant as that of the brothers from Michigan, if not moreso. Additionally, the duo recently won the G1 Tag League, New Japan’s premier tag team tournament. This isn’t just an NJPW vs. TNA match. This is New Japan’s past facing off against New Japan’s present and future, and, though the winning duo is basically a foregone conclusion, it will be interesting to see how well the four men work together. We’ll get a preview of that later tonight, as three quarters of the men involved in the January match will be in the ring together on TNA’s pay per view event.

Kenzo’s New Groove

Hey, remember Kenzo Suzuki? I’m sure we all do. The former WWE Tag Team Champion was trained by New Japan Pro Wrestling in the late 1990’s and competed in Japan for four years before finding his way to the United States and signing a contract with Vince McMahon’s promotion. With limited in-ring skills and a goofy sort of charisma, most observers though that Suzuki was a much better fit for WWE than he was for any of the major Japanese promotions. Though he never came anywhere near the top of the card, Kenzo was a fine bit player in the WWE midcard for roughly one year until he was abruptly terminated. After his run on WWE Smackdown, Suzuki headed back to Japan and made sporadic appearances for the HUSTLE promotion before relocating to Mexico of all places and competing at different points for both AAA and CMLL, the two major lucha libre promotions in the country.

Well, Kenzo is on the move again, as on November 7 in Tokyo, he made his debut for Dragon Gate. DG, which primarily consists of wrestlers who have come out of Ultimo Dragon’s training camps, has risen to prominence in certain circles of both Japanese and American fans for its fast-paced style, which is almost the natural evolution of 1990’s lucha libre. Anybody who has seen one of the numerous Dragon Gate matches held on Ring of Honor cards will no doubt join me in being dumbfounded by the thought of Suzuki trying to plug himself in to any sort of match involving that style of wrestling. However, he’s there for better or for worse, so we’ve just got to hope that he doesn’t muck things up too badly.

For those of you curious to know more about Suzuki’s debut, he was brought in as a surprise member of the heel stable “Muscle Outlawz,” which is headed up by former ROH Tag Team Champion Naruki Doi. Doi immediately inserted Suzuki in to a six man tag team match. He teamed with fellow Outlwaz Yasushi Kanda and Genki Horiguchi against CIMA, Ryo Saito, and Dragon Kid of the rival faction Typhoon. The heel team was disqualified after fifteen minutes of action for attacking the referee. Needless to say, this will not be the last match that Suzuki sees in Dragon Gate. He is already signed for two more bouts, the first being his singles debut on November 18 against Keni’chiro Arai, who is fresh off an excursion to Ireland. After that match, Kenzo will head in to Osaka on November 25 to face Dragon Kid, who the Outlawz assaulted after being disqualified on 11/7. As if Kenzo wrestling in Dragon Gate isn’t bizarre enough, the company is apparently intent on booking him in singles matches during which there aren’t nearly as many individuals hanging around to cover up his shortcomings. I suppose it could be worse. They could have brought in Nathan Jones.

Indy-Sent Headlines

Indy Preview: CHIKARA Season Concludes

Pennsylvania based independent promotion CHIKARA will be putting on three shows next weekend. The trio of cards will be particularly important for the company, as this is the official close of their 2007 “season.” For those not familiar with CHIKARA, they typically only run cards from February to November of each year, giving wrestlers and fans a two months break during which to recharge their batteries. The schedule for the weekend looks a little something like this:

November 16 – 7:30 PM at the Riverside Beneficial Association Building in Reading, PA
November 17 – 7:30 PM at the American Legion Hall in Hellertown, PA
November 18 – 4:00 PM at the New Alahambra Arena (formerly the ECW Arena) in Philadelphia, PA

For most indy shows, this would be the part of the preview in which I run down the full card. However, I certainly don’t have the time or space to hit every match on all three shows. What I will do, though, is discuss a few highlights from each card. For a run-down of all the matches as well as ticket information, check out CHIKARApro.com.

Quality Cameos: In addition to the regular CHIKARA roster (or the CHIKARarmy as some like to all them), numerous guest stars will be making appearances on the weekend’s triple shot. This kicks off on the November 16 card, with young Canadian wrestler Portia Perez coming in to take on CHIKARA’s “resident femme fatale” and SHIMMER Champion Sara Del Rey. Though Portia has wrestled for the group before, this is no doubt her biggest matchup with them to date. Additionally, two Japanese wrestlers are flying in for the weekend. The first is Passion Hasegawa, a trainee of the Ultimo Dragon Gym who these days works predominantly in Michinoku Pro. He’s part of a stable of wrestlers that play in a salsa band on the side, so he’ll definitely be able to meet CHIKARA’s usual wacky quota. Also on the tour will be MIYAWAKI, a trainee of TAKA Michinoku’s Kaientai Dojo who initially endeared himself to CHIKARA fans during the 2006 Tag World Grand Prix tournament. Last but not least is Mexican legend El Pantera, who brings his twenty plus years of lucha libre experience to Pennsylvania. All three of the international male competitors will be on all three shows for the weekend, and they will in fact comprise one side of a six man tag match on November 18, wrestling against Delirious, Cheech, and Cloudy.

Titular Defenses: The two biggest prizes in CHIKARA will both be on the line during the course of the weekend. Just weeks ago, a mysterious masked wrestler named Helios debuted with the company and immediately upset Chuck Taylor, taking away the 2007 Young Lions’ Cup from him. Next weekend, Helios will make his first defense of that Cup, wrestling Hydra on the Reading show. Though many individuals may consider Hydra a pushover, Helios may well have to contend with the sea monster’s Neo Solar Temple stablemates in addition to a jealous Chuck Taylor, making the defense more treacherous than usual. An even larger title bout will occur on November 17 in Hellertown, with newly crowned CHIKARA Campeonatos de Parejas Delirious and Hallowicked putting their titles on the line against Cheech and Cloudy. In order for a team to get a crack at these belts, they have to win three matches in a row, meaning the challengers will almost always have momentum on their side. However, that’s not the only interesting point to consider heading in to the battle. At one point, Cheech and Cloudy donned hoods as “mini” versions of Delirious and Hallowicked for a gag, and, since that time, the men haven grown very close. Different combinations of the four have formed teams for six and eight man tag action over the course of the last several months, meaning that they all know each other intimately and will no doubt need to depart from their regular game plans in order to be successful against wrestlers who are so familiar with them.

Big Blowoffs: Of course, the end of the season wouldn’t be complete without the biggest rivalries in CHIKARA coming to a head, and that is exactly what will happen on November 18 in Philadelphia. The first third of what is being billed as a triple main event will see veteran wrestler Mitch Ryder put his hair on the line against the mask of young luchador Lince Dorado. Ryder has been rather vocal about dislike of Mexican wrestlers, which made the rivalry with Lince a natural. My prediction? With the Golden Lynx only a year in to his career, there’s no way the hood is coming off . . . so expect to see Marvelous Mitch shaved bald. Up next is a falls count anywhere encounter between the “King of Diamonds” Eddie Kingston and Hallowicked. These two men have engaged in a brutal rivalry as of late, though it has primarily consisted of ‘Wicked getting his ass handed to him. Kingston has stomped the former member of the Dark Breed time and time again, even biting the “stem” off of his mask and carrying it around in his mouth like a trophy. However, Hallowicked didn’t build his reputation by being a pushover, so this encounter will likely be much less one-sided than other King/Wicked brawls. Finally, in the main event to end all main events, Chris Hero will go one-on-one with Claudio Castagnoli. These two used to dominate the independent scene as the Kings of Wrestling, but Hero’s ego lead to a bitter hatred developing. Unfortunately for Claudio, he’s spent the majority of the year as a member of the Kings under duress thanks to a stipulation in a prior match between the two. Recently, though, he’s had the opportunity to get back at his oppressors, beating up several members of the KOW during CHIKARA’s recent Torneo Cibernetico match and going on to defeat members Larry Sweeney and Chuck Taylor on subsequent shows. Hero is the final obstacle between Castagnoli and total revenge on the group that has made his life a living hell, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be Chris Hero when these two former partners collide.

All in all, this looks like a hell of a weekend for pro wrestling in Pennsylvania, and I’d definitely be there if I was able. If you’re in the area, check out CHIKARApro.com and get yourself some tickets. Drop me a line about the show(s) if you’re able to attend!

Wrestler Health Updates

Several former professional wrestlers have been dealing with health issues lately, according to the Wrestling Observer. First of all, WWE Hall of Famer Blackjack Mulligan had a stroke in October, which affected his control of the left side of his face and vision in his left eye. Fortunately, those complications were only temporary in nature. Additionally, former AWA Champion Nick Bockwinkel just had triple bypass surgery on Friday morning. Bockwinkel is currently clocking in at 72 years old, so any surgery is fairly serious business, particularly something that major. I haven’t heard anything negative about his recovery from the operation, and I’m assuming that, in this case, no news is good news. Finally, Big Van Vader underwent hip replacement surgery recently and is reportedly bouncing back nicely from that.

All of us here at 411 wish those three men the best in their respective recoveries.

Joe Slopped

I feel guilty for laughing at this story, and I feel even more guilty for reporting on it. However, there’s a sort of bizarre charm here that I just can’t let go. At a recent independent show in New York, Samoa Joe made an appearance and had a group of fans pelt him with sloppy joes as he was making his ring entrance. For those of you who haven’t been on a message board in the past couple of years, “Sloppy Joe” is a derogatory nickname that the Samoan Submission Machine’s detractors use to refer to him. I DO NOT endorse throwing things at the ring during any wrestling show, particularly an independent show at which such actions could cost the promoter future use of the building. Yet, at the same time, I cannot stop laughing at this story because apparently the fans actually put in the time and the effort to prepare and cook meat to make the sandwiches, only to toss them at a pro wrestler. I never want to read about this or anything similar to it happening again, but, as a one-time event, it made me chuckle. For more details about the occurrence and other reactions to it, check out this thread on the 2CW forum.

Following Up

Here are a couple of brief follow-ups to stories that I have discussed in previous editions of the report:

~ Several weeks ago, I mentioned that there was a possibility that Sting would be done with TNA after this year. In his Friday update to the Wrestling Observer website, Dave Meltzer wrote: “Sting hasn’t signed a new contract (or at least hadn’t as of a week ago).” Obviously there is still time for a new deal to be negotiated, but there’s the most recent update.

~ In a follow-up to last week’s story on the passing of the fabulous Moolah, you can now view video footage of her funeral on the website of the South Carolina State. It’s a nice piece.

~ For what it’s worth, Moolah’s death got far more mainstream press than I ever would have expected, as I saw it briefly covered on CNN this week, there was an Associated Press article, and even a mention in Sports Illustrated

~ In more streaming video and women’s wrestling news, a couple of weeks ago I mentioned that SHIMMER was going to be featured on a local news magazine program in Chicago. Well, the footage has hit the internet, and it can be seen here:

~ This has been all over the place recently, but, for the sake of completeness, it’s probably worth mentioning that Chris Masters has been let go by WWE less than a week after it was announced that he was going to be suspended for sixty days. Masters claimed that he failed a drug test because something was left in his system from the last time he used banned substances, i.e. the first time that he was suspended.

Feeding Back & Wrapping Up

Before closing up shop for the week, let’s take a look at a little bit of reader e-mail. We’ll begin with Chris P., who wants to offer up a correction on last week’s Fabulous Moolah biography:

Just a note on the bit where you said that Moolah had the claim to being the only wrestler to have competed in six different decads (50’s – 00’s). First off, if she did indeed debut in the 40’s then that’d be seven different decades. And even then, she wouldn’t have been the only one. Mae Young holds the same feat (30’s-90’s, I don’t recall her having a match after 1999) and during the same decades Lou Thesz pulled the same trick as well, just scraping his last match into 1990. Still, heck of an achievement for all of them.

Well, I’ve got a few different thoughts coming out of this e-mail. First of all, I know that Moolah debuted as a valet in the 1940’s, although I haven’t seen any firm record of her wrestling a match in that decade. I did recall the Thesz match in 1990 (a complete debacle against Masa Chono for those interested in hunting it down), though I’m not certain whether he ever worked against anybody in the 1980’s, which would result in the number of decades he wrestled being large but destroying his claim to competing the most consecutive decades.

As far as Mae young is concerned, I’d completely forgotten about her debut being in 1939, which is accurate. Also, she HAS wrestled at least once this decade, teaming with Moolah in an embarrassingly bad “school girl match” on Smackdown against Torrie Wilson Dawn Marie in 2004. Assuming that she has wrestled in every decade since her debut, that’d put her up to eight and give her the record as far as I know.

If anybody wants to plug in some of the gaps in my knowledge as it relates to this subject, feel free to drop me a line.

Now let’s throw it to Dan F.. Last week, a reader had a question about why individuals who have potentially suffered concussions should not be given water. I wasn’t sure about the answer, but Dan is going to fill us in:

They shouldn’t be given water because concussion can cause nausea. Being strapped to a neck board and vomiting can cause aspiration, or the “rock star” vomit drowning death. Also, it’s never good for a concussion victim to be violently retching or dry heaving. Finally, if the head trauma is severe enough to require surgery you want it to be done on as empty a stomach as possible.

Thanks for the information, Dan.

And, hey, since we’ve already answered some e-mails, why not throw in some links as well?

~ If I’m not writing here, you can usually find me in the Impact Crater.

~ MY BELOVED WSX IS FINALLY OUT ON DVD~! Head honcho Larry Csonka has his reviews of disc one and disc two up, which include my original reviews of the WSXtra web series.

~ I also made a guest appearance in Bayani’s Truth B Told column this week, guest judging his “King of 6 Degrees” tournament.

~ Maggy Donaldson debuts a new concept. Hey, it’s worth a shot.

~ Finally, read my MySpace blog, would ya? Since this time last week, it’s been updated with reader feedback. You can also add me as a friend to get updates every time I add new content to 411.

Also, be sure to keep an eye on the main page, because this is going to be a big week for yours truly on the site. I’ve got numerous DVD review sin the pipe for the Movies Zone, and I’ll be back in the wrestling zone on TUESDAY doing a fill-in for a popular column. Until then, take it easy.


article topics

Ryan Byers

Comments are closed.