wrestling / Columns

The Custom Made News Report 11.18.07

November 18, 2007 | Posted by Ryan Byers

Welcome, one and all, to the Custom Made News Report for November 18. As this will be the last edition of the column prior to Thanksgiving in the United States, I wanted to take the opportunity to wish everybody reading a fine holiday. If you’re traveling, please do it safely.

That said, let’s head in to the wrestling news.

All the Stuff from Stamford

PPV Preview: WWE Survivor Series

WWE Survivor Series

– This is the twenty-first annual Survivor Series event.
– Though the first four Survivor Series events consisted exclusively of team elimination matches, this will be the seventeenth straight show to break from the original format.
– Barring a last minute change in the card, this will be fourth Survivor Series event to only feature one elimination match.
– Only two Survivor Series events in history (1998 and 2002) did not feature any traditional elimination matches.
– The Survivor Series has played host to nineteen title changes.
– Of the nineteen title changes, the Raw Championship has changed hands the most frequently, with nine challengers emerging victorious.

Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch (c) vs. Cody Rhodes & Bob Holly for the Raw Tag Team Championship

– This will be the fourth time that the Raw Tag Team Titles have been defended at the Survivor Series.
– In the prior two defenses of the Raw Tag Team Titles, the belts have changed hands once.
– It is interesting to note that three other sets of Tag Team Titles have also been defended at the Survivor Series: The Smackdown Tag Team Titles, the WCW Tag Team Titles, and the Smoky Mountain Wrestling Tag Team Titles.
– This will be the first time that Cody Rhodes, Trevor Murdoch, and Lance Cade have wrestled at the Survivor Series.
– Despite over ten years of employment with WWE, Bob Holly’s Survivor Series record is only 1-2.
– In an odd bit of trivia, Holly was disqualified to lead to both of his Survivor Series losses.
– Holly is 0-1 in title matches at the Survivor Series.

Honswoggle vs. The Great Khali

– WWE is billing this match as featuring the largest height disparity ever between two wrestlers.
– I’m not taking the time to verify that.
– In the history of the Survivor Series, there have been twenty-one matches featuring competitors billed as being 7′ tall.
– The seven footers have won twelve of these matches and lost nine.
– This will be only the second match at the Survivor Series featuring a midget wrestler, the first being the 1994 elimination match pitting Jerry Lawler, Queasy, Cheesy, and Sleazy against Doink, Dink, Wink, and Pink.
– This will be the first time that either the Great Khali or Hornswoggle has wrestled at the Survivor Series.

Beth Phoenix, Victoria, Jillian Hall, Melina, & Layla El vs. Mickie James, Kelly Kelly, Michelle McCool, Maria Kanellis, & Torrie Wilson in a ten woman tag team match

– This will be the fourth women’s tag team match in Survivor Series history.
– Of the three prior women’s tag team matches, two have been conducted under elimination rules.
– There is no indication that this particular match will be conducted under elimination rules.
– This will be the first time that Victoria, Hall, El, Kelly, McCool, Wilson, and Kanellis have wrestled at the Survivor Series.
– Melina’s Survivor Series record is 0-1.
– Mickie James’ Survivor Series record is 1-0.
– Victoria’s Survivor Series record is 1-0.
– This is the first time that Melina, James, and Victoria have wrestled Survivor Series without participating in a Women’s Title match.

CM Punk (c) vs. Johnny Nitro vs. Mike Mizanin for the ECW Championship

– This is the first time that the ECW Title has been defended at the Survivor Series.
– This will be only the fourth triple threat match in Survivor Series history.
– The three prior Survivor Series triple threat matches have also been for championships.
– Survivor Series triple threat matches have only resulted in one title change (The Big Show defeating Triple H and the Rock for the WWF Title in 1999).
– This will be the second consecutive year that Johnny Nitro and CM Punk are opponents at the Survivor Series.
– Their 2006 encounter was an elimination match in which Punk, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and the Hardy Boys defeated Nitro, Edge, Randy Orton, Gregory Helms, and Mike Knox.
– In that match, Punk eliminated Nitro with the Anaconda Vice.
– This will be the first time that Mike Mizanin has wrestled at the Survivor Series.
– CM Punk’s Survivor Series record is 1-0.
– Johnny Nitro’s Survivor Series record is 1-0.

Triple H, The Hardy Boys, Rey Misterio, & Kane vs. Umaga, Ken Kennedy, Fit Finlay, Montel Vontavious Porter, & Viscera in a Survivor Series elimination match

– This will be the fifty-seventh traditional Survivor Series match.
– Ken Kennedy’s Survivor Series record is 1-0. He has never been in a Survivor Series elimination match.
– Fit Finlay’s Survivor Series record is 0-1. His record in Survivor Series elimination matches is 0-1.
– Montel Porter’s Survivor Series record is 0-1. His record in Survivor Series elimination matches is 0-1.
– Umaga’s Survivor Series record is 0-2. His record in Survivor Series elimination matches is 0-1.
– Rey Misterio’s Survivor Series record is 1-2. His record in Survivor Series elimination matches is 1-0. He has never been a survivor.
– Viscera’s Survivor Series record is 1-3. His record in Survivor Series elimination matches is 1-2. He was a survivor in his only elimination match victory.
– Matt Hardy’s Survivor Series record is 2-2. His record in Survivor Series elimination matches is 2-1. In one of his two elimination match victories, he was a survivor.
– Jeff Hardy’s Survivor Series record is 3-2. His record in Survivor Series elimination matches is 2-1. He was a survivor in both of his elimination match victories. In 2000, he was a sole survivor.
– Kane’s Survivor Series record is 7-3. His record in Survivor Series elimination matches is 2-1. He has never been a survivor.
– Triple H’s Survivor Series record is 2-6-1. His record in Survivor Series elimination matches is 1-3. In his only elimination match victory, he was a survivor.

Randy Orton (c) vs. Shawn Michaels for the Raw Championship in a match in which the superkick is banned and in which the title can change hands on an intentional disqualification

– Not counting the traditional elimination matches, this will be either the seventeenth or eighteenth gimmick match in Survivor Series history (depending on which title match goes on first).
– This will be the tenth time that the Raw Title has been defended at the Survivor Series.
– In the prior nine defenses, the title has changed hands six times.
– Shawn Michaels’ Survivor Series record is 5-8.
– In title matches at the Survivor Series, Michaels is 2-2.
– Randy Orton’s Survivor Series record is 3-1.
– Orton’s record includes an impressive three year streak of being sole survivor in elimination matches.
– That streak was broken last year by a team including Shawn Michaels.

Dave Batista (c) vs. The Undertaker for the Smackdown Championship in a Hell in a Cell match

– Not counting the traditional elimination matches, this will be either the seventeenth or eighteenth gimmick match in Survivor Series history (depending on which title match goes on first).
– This will be the third time that the Smackdown Title has been defended at the Survivor Series.
– In the prior three defenses, the title has changed hands twice.
– This is will be the second consecutive year that Dave Batista is involved in a match for the Smackdown Title at the Survivor Series. Last year, he defeated Booker T. to win the belt.
– Dave Batista’s Survivor Series record is 2-1.
– The Undertaker’s Survivor Series record is 10-4.
– The Undertaker made his debut at the 1990 Survivor Series.
– The Undertaker won his first WWF Title at the 1991 Survivor Series.
– Both men are undefeated in Survivor Series title matches.

Op-Ed Piece: Jericho Return Imminent . . . But What’s Next?

There isn’t much in the way of new news on the subject, but we all know that WWE is ready to bring its long-running “SAVE_US” marketing campaign to a head on Monday night. A few weeks ago I joked that the videos were hyping a repackaged Charlie Haas, though everybody is aware by this point that the angle is most likely (though not definitely) ushering in the return of Chris Jericho. There are numerous fans who are very excited by the prospect of seeing Y2J back in a WWE ring. I don’t mean to rain on anybody’s parade, but I have a hard time getting as excited as the majority of fans.

Why? It’s because, quite frankly, I don’t understand what Chris Jericho will be doing that we haven’t seen him do before. If he is a member of the Monday Night Raw roster, there are few to no fresh matches in which he can compete. We’ve all seen Jericho feud with and wrestle Triple H. We’ve all seen Jericho feud with and wrestle Randy Orton. We’ve all seen Jericho feud with and wrestle John Cena. We’ve all seen Jericho feud with and wrestle Shawn Michaels. There are only two pieces of talent anywhere near the main event with whom Jericho has not feuded extensively, namely Umaga and Ken Kennedy. Of those two individuals, an Umaga rivalry could produce some entertaining matches, though I fail to see what would be remotely enjoyable about a feud with Kennedy, given that he’s so far below Jericho’s level both in the ring and on the microphone. Though I do have faith in the Lionheart’s abilities and believe that he will be in top shape as both an in-ring performer and as a personality, there is very little that he can do on Raw which I wouldn’t consider a “rerun” of his previous performances.

What I would prefer to see is an extended Chris Jericho run on Smackdown. This will never actually happen because Raw is clearly considered WWE’s “a-show,” which means that any major surprise will take place on the Monday night program. However, appearing on the CW on Friday nights would ensure that Jericho has far more fresh opponents with whom he could put on excellent matches. Though the two did interact a bit when Evolution was running roughshod over Raw in 2004, Jericho and Dave Batista have not feuded since Batista became a main event level player. There has not been an angle between Edge and Y2J since Edge evolved from being a generic babyface to the Rated R Superstar. Rey Misterio and Chris Jericho have not feuded since both of them were in the cruiserweight division on WCW Monday Nitro, and it would certainly be interesting to see what the two can do against each other after a decade of developmental as professionals. Smackdown is also home to two veterans with whom Jericho has never feuded extensively, namely the Undertaker and Ric Flair (who is rumored to be returning soon). Smackdown even has an up and coming superstar that Jericho could help to develop, namely MVP, an individual who has far more potential than any of the younger wrestlers currently featured on Raw.

Though chances are good that Jericho’s current run will last long enough for us to see him wrestle against many of the individuals who are currently featured on Smackdown, it looks like we’re going to primarily see him in the ring against the grapplers who he was already working against during the last two years of his wrestling career. Will those feuds be entertaining? Probably. However, I don’t think that they would be nearly as good or as original as what WWE could produce if they were willing to try something a little bit different.

WWE Plays Fast and Loose with Drug Policy

Last week, we discussed CNN manipulating footage in its special on professional wrestling to tell the story that they wanted to tell. Many individuals who staunchly support WWE in what they perceive as a war with the mainstream media were quick to use this as an example of the poor, innocent wrestling promotion being picked on by the dishonest media.

Well, word has come out this week that WWE did something that is at least as dishonest as CNN’s suspect editing. They manipulated their own facts to tell the story that they wanted to tell. According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, the recent thirty day suspension of Harry Smith (known on Raw as “D.H. Smith”) is not exactly what it appears to be. Smith was suspended on November 1, the first such suspension to be announced publically. However, it appears that the drug test he failed leading up to the suspension took place on September 13. Not only is the delay lengthy, but astute readers will realize that he made his Monday Night Raw debut on October 22 and then wrestled one more match on October 29. He won in both of these matches (in addition to a 10/15 dark match that was aired on WWE.com) and was clearly portrayed as a young star on the rise, being slotted in to a tag team encounter with Jeff Hardy, Carlito, and Ken Kennedy in which he was allowed to work as their equal.

So, why did WWE put this man on television for three straight weeks and allow him to win all three of his matches knowing that he had failed a drug test conducted a month earlier? The answer is apparently that they wanted to create the public appearance that they are taking their drug policy seriously. Now, when an individual questions the legitimacy of WWE’s wellness initiative, the company can point to the example of Smith and say, “Hey! We took this guy off of our television and completely disrupted his momentum, all because we take our drug policy is legit!” Most people would probably also accept that answer at face value, not realizing that WWE essentially manufactured this scenario to use as a preemptive P.R. move. The irony is that, in an effort to make it appear as though they’re taking their policy seriously, they’ve made it in to an even bigger joke than it was previously.

Last week, when the CNN story broke, I said that the moral was not to use it as evidence to support one side or the other in an imaginary rivalry. I said that, instead, we should all take it as proof that stories need to be examined beyond their most superficial levels, as there’s so much needless “spin” in the world these days. This story is yet another example of how we all need to not immediately accept things at face value, as there is often more lying beneath the surface.

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

Week 2: 60.) Mike Knox; 59.) Kevin Thorn; 58.) Viscera; 57.) Mark Henry; 56.) Balls Mahoney;
55.) Festus Dalton; 54.) Mike Mizanin; 53.) Ken Kennedy; 52.) Chris Masters; 51.) Cody Rhodes; 50.) Harry Smith; 49.) Melina Perez; 48.) Jillian Hall; 47.) Tommy Dreamer; 46.) Kane

This Week’s Names

45.) Chuck Palumbo – I remember watching Chuck Palumbo’s first match on WCW Saturday Night. Here we are, seven or eight years later, and I have to say that he’s come a long way from being the obnoxious guy in tiger print who finished off opponents with the “Jungle Kick.” He’s evolved from a green as hell rookie who was put on TV too soon (particularly when he was moved to live Nitros) to a perfectly servicable big man. Part of the improvement was due to time, and part of it was due to the fact that, after his first release from WWE, he actively sought out bookings in both Japan and Mexico, where he gained exposure to many different styles of wrestling. Now that he’s back in WWE, he hasn’t had an opportunity to put on a match in which he is able to pull out all of the stops. However, he’s been perfectly competent in what he has done, and that gets him above thirty of his contemporaries.

44.) Kenny Dykstra – The former Ken Doane has been an on again, off again rival for Palumbo, and the youngster has continued to show the promise that he first displayed in the Spirit Squad a little over a year ago. While he was an excellent tag team wrestler, particularly in the gimmick that he was given to work with, things have not gone as well since he’s had to support himself in singles matches (mostly against weak opponents) with virtually no character to speak of. Hopefully he’s given a little bit better role within the next several months, as that’s the only thing standing between Dykstra and his ascension up the card.

43.) Hacksaw Duggan – At age fifty-four, Jim Duggan is one of the oldest members of the WWE roster, though he remains a more entertaining performer than many of his coworkers. Obviously he’s well past his physical prime, but the tricks of the trade that he’s picked up over roughly thirty years in the business allow him to put out short undercard matches that never fail to disappoint. My only hope is that some of the younger performers who consistently work with Hacksaw are able to get some pointers from him because, if they could combine those tips with their natural athleticism, they would be unstoppable.

42.) Jesse Dalton – Though this fact doesn’t get played up much, Jesse is one of many second generation wrestlers currently on the WWE roster. He’s Ray Gordy, the son of former Freebird and Japanese legend Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy. Though the younger Gordy didn’t exactly inherit his father’s gargantuan size, what he did receive was the genes necessary to compete as an athlete on a high level. I’ve seen him wrestle both cruiserweight style matches as well as more heavyweight oriented bouts, and, for a man who is relatively new in the wrestling industry, he excels at both. He will probably need to depart from his current gimmick before he ever gets an opportunity to display everything that he’s capable of doing in WWE ring, but, for the time being, he is a solid opening match wrestler who could most likely remain with the company for years if he wanted to.

41.) Mickie James – Breaking in to the boys club is Mickie James, one of the small handful of female wrestlers in WWE who came in to the company with years of experience. Originally hailing from the Carolinas, the artist formerly known as Alexis Laree traveled all over the country beginning in 2001, including stops in TNA and ROH before she finally began her long stint in Ohio Valley Wrestling in 2003. It was two years before James showed up on WWE programming, and her time in Louisville clearly helped her to become a more well-rounded performer than she was in her early career. Her experience allowed her to be a part of perhaps the most entertaining feud in the history of the WWE women’s division, as for over a year she was involved in an angle with Trish Stratus which produced more entertaining matches and interviews than any other pairing of ladies in recent memory. A character makeover and a lack of quality opponents have resulted in Mickie looking less spectacular in the last year or so, but her talent remains and is just waiting to be tapped.

40.) Shannon Moore – Moving from the Hardy brothers’ OMEGA to WCW to HWA to WWE to TNA to WWE, the self-professed “Prince of Punk” is one of those guys who can legitimately call himself a veteran even though many fans wouldn’t think of him that way. Moore has primarily been used as enhancement talent for the entirety of his WWE run, but that’s a role in which he has excelled, making numerous less skilled wrestlers look far better than they ever should have. He was instrumental to the early success of CM Punk in the revived ECW, and his feud against the likes of Brock Lesnar, Matt Morgan, and Nathan Jones in 2003 is one of my favorite forgotten angles.

39.) Super Crazy – I still remember ECW fans in the late 90’s/early 00’s raving about how awesome Super Crazy was, about how he would be the next lucha libre superstar to have his U.S. career launched by Paul Heyman. Though they were correct about Crazy’s ability to put on an exciting match, their predictions about the heights that his career would reach were not quite as accurate. His talent has allowed him to remain employed in major American promotions for much longer than I ever would have expected, though he’s no longer putting on epic matches against the likes of Tajiri and Ikuto Hidaka. However, this isn’t just a situation in which the quality of Crazy’s opponents has declined. He has also put on a considerable amount of weight over the last year or so, and the added pounds are hampering his ability to pull out the beautiful high flying moves that used to make his matches such treats.

38.) Matt Striker – Striker is primarily being used as a manager these days, but, at least in my opinion, his in-ring abilities far exceed his microphone skills. I had an opportunity to see a fair amount of the man’s independent work and a few of his matches from Japan (you know, the ones that famously got him fired from his job as a teacher), and he did very well in that style of wrestling. He has not taken to the WWE style quite as well, but he is still perfectly capable of a solid five to ten minute ECW match when he’s in there with the right opponent.

37.) Bobby Lashley – Lashley may currently be on the outside of wrestling looking in, but, before his most recent injury, he was definitely a man who was going places. He was not a wrestler who I looked forward to seeing every time he stepped in to the ring, but he was a man who could pull off some cool power moves the likes of which haven’t been seen since Scott Steiner. Also, when wrestling against the right opponent, he was able to bust out a few old moves from his amateur wrestling career, which gave his bouts quite a different flavor than many featured on WWE television. And, if you need one more reason to love Bobby Lashley, he was also willing to take incredible risks, doing some sick bumps from the ring to the floor in his matches against Umaga. Though he’s not yet an elite level performer, Lashley was already capable of putting together something special when a major match was needed, and I’m sure that he will only improve with time if not adversely affected by his injuries.

36.) Hardcore Holly – Holly is another veteran who is winding down his career and, as a result, is not nearly as high on this list as he would have been a few years ago. Though he was always able to put together a solid match, nowadays it seems that much more of Holly’s career is spent coasting by on the respect that his fans and his coworkers have for his lengthy career. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I’d probably do the exact same thing if I were in his shoes. However, it doesn’t translate to a recent body of matches that entertain me, and that’s ultimately what this list is about.

35.) Dave Batista – Speaking of guys of whom my opinion has changed in a relatively short period of time, here’s Batista. I used to dread Batista matches, especially after Triple H was incapable of carrying him to anything beyond mediocre and after his feud with JBL left me wanting to rip my eyes out of their sockets. Something eventually clicked in Big Dave’s head, though, and he’s since been capable of flashes of brilliance. Though he’s not what I would call an entirely consistent performer, he can rise to the occasion when called upon to do so, having put on a legitimately awesome series of matches against the Undertaker and even getting something halfway decent out of the Great Khali in the Punjabi Prison (though to be fair, the gimmick and the spectacular finish helped out a lot). As he’s in his forties, I doubt that he’ll ever go down as one of the great in-ring performers of all time, but at least we know that he has the capacity to periodically perform on the level of a true World Champion.

34.) Beth Phoenix – Phoenix is yet to have the opportunity to wrestle more than a few minutes at a time in WWE, but her outings elsewhere in the country have proven that she’s entirely capable of putting on an entertaining match that flirts with the twenty minute mark. That’s a rare feat indeed for a female wrestler in 2007, and, quite frankly, it’s a rare feat for a lot of the male wrestlers who are lower down on this list. I’ve got my fingers crossed that, sometime soon, we’ll have an opportunity to see the Glamazon do an extended feud with somebody who is on her level, perhaps that rivalry with Mickie James that was teased prior to Beth’s unfortunate broken jaw.

33.) Victoria – At number thirty-three, Victoria clocks in as the highest ranked woman on the list. I gave her the slight edge over Beth Phoenix because, although I have not seen Victoria wrestle in as many good long matches, I’ve seen her do much more with far less experienced talent. The woman has been able to take the most hopeless of models and guide them through matches in which they manage to not kill themselves, and that alone is a testament to her abilities.

32.) Little Guido – I know that a lot of people out there will scoff at the notion of having a what is essentially a “jobber” up so high on a list like this, but the fact of the matter is that the men on the bottom of the card are often some of the more talented in-ring performers in a given promotion. They have to be so that the men perpetually beating them can look like stars. Guido certainly does have that capability, and anybody who bothered to pay attention during his numerous Cruiserweight Title matches or his short-lived run in Ring of Honor knows that he also has the ability to do much more.

31.) Stevie Richards – Richards is in much the same boat as Guido, in that he’s a guy whose talents have primarily been used for the benefit of others over the last several years. Yet, in the rare moments where he’s called upon to shine, he delivers in spades and displays a level of aptitude that, in another time and another place, could have made him in to a main eventer.

That does it for this week’s list. Check back here in just seven days when we’ll unveil numbers thirty through sixteen, a list which includes two tag teams, two former ROH Champions, and four current titleholders!

The Word from Dixieland

Not the Change I Had in Mind

I’ll admit that I’m fairly critical of TNA’s current booking regime and have often said that they need to put some new folks in charge. Well, apparently they’ve finally done that, although the changes are not ones that I would expect to improve the product.

In news from the Pro Wrestling Torch, TNA has added current wrestler Abyss to its booking committee. He joins Mike Tenay and Jeremy Borash as a panel of three individuals who sit in on creative meetings alongside core creative personnel Jeff Jarrett, Dutch Mantel, and Vince Russo. The Torch also claims that – surprise surprise – Abyss has used his influence to make sure that more hardcore matches are booked on the TNA shows. Great. Obviously it’s difficult to trace a particular idea on a show to a particular member of a six-man committee, and it’s even harder to complete that task when the individual doesn’t have a track record of booking in other promotions. Thus, I can’t speak too much about what changes if any Abyss has brought to the table, nor do I really know what he has the potential to put together. However, I will say that if the Torch piece is accurate in stating that he’s a big advocate of hardcore, I wish that he would have stayed as far away from the booking team as possible. The fact of the matter is that, in the 1990’s, wrestling fans saw just about everything that they could see in a hardcore match that would be permitted on cable television. It’s been done, and it’s far too soon for to be fresh again. What TNA needs to focus on are the things that work for wrestling and mixed martial arts companies in 2007, not the things that worked for them in 1998.

Scott Hall Scuttlebutt

In more news from the Torch, TNA apparently does have plans to keep Scott Hall around for the immediate future, in large part due to the fact that they’re crediting him with helping Impact along to its largest audience since moving to two hours. Despite the fact that the company wants to keep him around, they have not yet signed him to a contract. Readers with decent memories will probably recall that TNA recently brought in Rikishi to wrestle for the promotion, and they neglected to sign him to a contract. Because of this, he suddenly vanished in the middle of a tournament and made the promotion look like a bunch of idiots. Though I’m not attempting to imply that Hall might do the same thing, I’m amazed that TNA would allow something like this to happen again so quickly after the Riksihi incident. It’s not as though every time somebody comes in TNA has to get him in to a long-term deal. If they only plan on keeping him around through the next pay per view, it’s entirely possible for the company to get the guy’s signature on a short-term deal that expires after the PPV. That way it’s harder for Hall to up and vanish, and a longer term deal can be negotiated during the next month or so. I’m amazed that what is supposedly a major national entertainment company fails to carefully protect its interests in 2007.

There has also been some talk, apparently, of getting Hall to work as an agent. I have read some discussions of this topic amongst fans on the ‘net, and several of them seem to believe that it’s a poor idea because of Hall’s past problems with substance abuse. I couldn’t disagree with these people more. From my understanding, one of the primary roles of an agent is to help wrestlers put together their matches, and that is not necessarily something that Hall’s drunkenness would impede (assuming that he is, in fact, still drinking). Besides, he is certainly better than many of the other agents that TNA has hired or attempted to hire in the past, as the lineup has included names like Johnny Swinger, Jerry Lynn, and Simon Diamond. Though I like all three of those guys as performers, none of them have decades worth of experience when it comes to putting together matches that captivate fans of a national wrestling promotion. They’re guys who managed to get over with the hardcore fanbase of what was, at the time, the world’s largest indy. Hall, having been through the WWF, the NWA, and the AWA is a far superior choice assuming that he actually does show up to work.

Random Video Interlude

This week’s clip comes to us from CHIKARA pro wrestling, as the Olsen Twins, Jimmy and Colin, take on the Northstar Express of Darin Corbin and Ryan Cruz. Here, Corbin and Jimmy slow things down just a little bit. Though sequences like this originated in Japanese comedy matches, here the crowd takes things to a different level by getting in on the act themselves.

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

TNA/NJPW Relationship Chugs Along

One of the main focuses of this section over the past several weeks has been the working agreement between New Japan Pro Wrestling and TNA. The two are running an angle in Japan, which is building towards NJPW’s big January 4 Tokyo Dome show. Last week, I discussed the first match signed for that show, which is IWGP Tag Team Champions Travis Tomko and Giant Bernard (A-Train) defending their titles against Rick and Scott Steiner. Not only have new matches been signed for this card, but we also have results from the first NJPW vs. TNA clash.

We’ll discuss the results first. On November 11, opposite the TNA Genesis pay per view, a group of American wrestlers from the company headed across the Pacific to face off against some of New Japan’s finest. The first match was embroiled in a bit of controversy, as Ron “The Truth” Killings no-showed for his scheduled contest against Tiger Mask. Tiger was declared the winner by forfeit. Though I have yet to hear a reason for Killings not showing up, New Japan does claim that Jeff Jarrett has issued an apology to them for the incident. Elsewhere on the card, Rhino did show up, and he defeated Toru Yano in a match that was billed as featuring Yano’s spear against Rhino’s gore. Needless to say, the gore is what actually finished the match. Finally, representatives of TNA’s X Division defeated representatives of New Japan’s junior heavyweight division, as the Triple X team of Christopher Daniels and Low Ki beat out Minoru and Prince Fregal Devitt. The two victories clearly established TNA as a force that NJPW will have to be cautious of in the future.

In addition to the previously announced Steiners vs. Bernard/Tomko match, we now have two new interpromotional bouts for the January 4 dome show. First of all, in what promises to be a bizarre clash of styles, Abyss will face off against Manabu Nakanishi. Though I have enjoyed some of Abyss’ work in the United States, I cannot imagine his bizarre hybrid of southern babyface and unstoppable monster playing well against anybody in Japan. Oh well, it should at least be interesting to see when, if at all, the match completely falls apart. In a much more important match on the show, Kurt Angle will face Yuji Nagata with the IWGP Third Generation belt on the line. For those of you not familiar with the saga of the IWGP Third Generation belt, I covered it way back in the first edition of this column. The short version is that, when Brock Lesnar was IWGP Champion, New Japan created a new belt to represent the title. When he was stripped of the championship, Lesnar left with the belt and continued to claim he was the IWGP Champ. Angle then beat him for that belt, which is the prop that fans have seen him carrying around on TNA television for the last several months. In fact, Angle is not the IWGP Champion, as that distinction actually belongs to Hiroshi Tanahashi. However, NJPW still wants to get the physical belt back even though they have their own champion, and Nagata will attempt to be the one to regain the property that New Japan feels was wrongfully taken from them. An additional layer to this match is that the two men were actually tag team partners back on February 18, when Angle made his first appearance in NJPW. In that match, they managed to defeat the aforementioned Tomko/Bernard team.

Though there’s currently nothing in the lineup for the dome show that looks like an absolute must-see match, there are only four bouts announced at this point. I’ll do my best to keep everybody updated in regards to additions to the card, which may wind up being a pretty solid little event by the time that everything is said and done.

NOAH Makes Bizarre Fashion Statement

Here’s a story which comes to us straight from the “I really don’t understand Japanese culture” file. A clothing manufacturer in the Land of the Rising Sun has recently created a series of shirts featuring members of the Pro Wrestling NOAH roster. That sounds perfectly normal, right? Well, there’s more. The shirts take a wrestler and merge him with an animal, with the result being a bizarre anthropomorphic caricature adorning each t-shirt, hoodie, and sweatshirt. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this picture of current NOAH wrestler and former ROH Champion Takeshi Morishima, who is depicted as some kind of morbidly obese mouse:

You can check out the entire line of shirts here. I don’t know about anybody else, but I want WWE to put out a similar line of merchandise as soon as possible. Just imagine the possibilities. I’d personally like to see Randy Orton as a dung beetle or Carlito as a banana slug.

Following Up

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

~ From what I’ve heard, Nick Bockwinkel is recovering well after the heart surgery we discussed last week. He’s apparently out of the hospital and back at home.

~ Word has hit that congressional hearings on the subject of drug use in wrestling may occur once the legislative body reconvenes in early 2008. Given that we’ve already had no follow through on this promise once, I’m not going to bother covering this story in depth until these mythical hearings are imminent.

~ Last week, we previewed this weekend’s three CHIKARA shows, which will be wrapping up their 2007 “season.” As of this writing, results from the Friday show are in, and they are as follows: Worker Ant, Solider Ant, Fire Ant, Mike Quackenbush def. Amasis, Ophidian, Gran Akuma, & Icarus; Chuck Taylor def. Shane Storm; Sara Del Rey def. Portia Perez; Brodie Lee def. Passion Hasegawa (Michinoku Pro); Lince Dorado & El Pantera def. Jimmy & Colin Olsen to earn a shot at Los Campeonatos de Parejas; MIYAWAKI (Kaientai Dojo) def. UltraMantis Black; Larry Sweeney, Mitch Ryder, & Robbie Ellis def. Jigsaw & Los Ice Creams; Claudio Castagnoli & Equinox def. Chris Hero & Shayne Hawke; Helios def. Hydra to retain the Young Lions’ Cup; Tim Donst, Hallowicked, & Delirious def. Eddie Kingston, Joker, & Sabian. Sounds like a fun show overall.

As I’m putting the finishing touches on this column, the Saturday show is ongoing. According to the live results from CHIKARAfans.com thusfar we’ve had: Lance Steel def. Retail Dragon in the pre-show match; Solider Ant def. Shayne Hawke; Shane Storm def. Hydra; Amasis & Ophidian def. Lince Dorado & El Pantera (the loss costs Dorado and Pantera the Tag Title shot they won on Friday); and Chuck Taylor def. Passion Hasegawa.

CHIKARA is running another show tonight (their season finale) at the former ECW Arena in Philadelphia. If you’re in the area and looking for something to do tonight, full details are at CHIKARApro.com.

Feeding Back & Wrapping Up

We’ve got a couple of reader e-mails this week, with the first one being a follow-up from Chris P., who last week engaged me in a conversation about which wrestler has competed in the most consecutive decades.

Just a note on Lou Thesz in the 80’s – the Legends Battle Royal in 1987 which he won and the WWF promoted. I’m not sure whether Mae Young hit every single decade before the 90’s but one would assume it’s entirely possible.

Also, I’m shocked – SHOCKED – that you’d consider the ‘school girl match’ to be anything less than stellar. I’ve never seen it, but I’m guessing **** 1/2.

This answers a question that I had about Thesz. I knew that he had wrestled his last match in the 1990’s and officially “retired” in the 1970’s, but I wasn’t sure if he had a match in the intervening decade. This would seem to give him the record, though Mae Young would also be right up there if she did have a match in every decade between her debut in the 1930’s and her most recent match earlier this decade.

Elsewhere, Coby P. wants to talk about the CNN special:

While you bring up and the WWE has responded to how they made look Cena, I’m also surprised the WWE didn’t bring up the other falsehood during the report, that with WWE’s Wellness Policy, a first offense gets you a warning, a second a thirty day suspension, a third a sixty day suspension, and a fourth offense gets you terminated, which we know is absolutely false.

Though that certainly is an inaccuracy in the piece, I didn’t bother to bring it up because, in comparison to the Cena gaffe, it is insignificant. I didn’t consider a relatively minor factual error like that to be nearly as newsworthy as a situation in which editors seemingly intentionally took an individual’s statements out of context.

Of course, before we go, we’ll get through the now-traditional plugs. However, this week they all relate to ME, ME, ME! This is in part because I’m an egomaniac and in part because I’ve probably had more content published on the site in the last week than I have in any other seven day period of my 411 tenure.

~ First off, I returned to the Movie Zone after a brief hiatus with a review of the third season of Medium.

~ But the DVD reviews don’t end there! I also handled the fifth season of Wings.

~ I normally don’t discuss TV shows that are currently airing, but I made an exception this week for Family Guy, as I have some thoughts up in Cory Lynn Schibler’s, Freakin’ Sweet Forum.

~ There were DVD reviews on the wrestling side of things too, as I took a look at the Best of CHIKARA DVD.

~ Elsewhere, I filled in for Larry Csonka and did the “Raw Ramblings” section of his Your News, My Views report.

~ While I teamed up with Larry, I did battle with Randy Harrison in Fact or Fiction

~ In my favorite column of the week, I began my first of three weeks filling in for Daniel Wilcox in his “Thoughts from the Top Rope” column, which I have turned in to The Ultimate SHIMMER Starter Guide. If you ever wanted to get in to SHIMMER but were afraid to ask how, this is the column for you.

~ All of this bonus content did not lead to me neglecting my regular duties, as I was still able to review TNA Impact. Be sure to check this one out, as it contains a hilariously poor reader e-mail and my response.

And that’ll do it for the news report. I’ll be back on Tuesday with the second part of my look at SHIMMER, and, with a list like the one above, who knows where else I’ll be popping up. To make sure you don’t miss anything, add me as a friend on MySpace to get a notification every time I add a new column.


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Ryan Byers

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