wrestling / Columns

The Custom Made News Report 11.25.07

November 25, 2007 | Posted by Ryan Byers

Welcome, one and all, to the Custom Made News Report. I hope that everybody in the United States had an excellent Thanksgiving and that nobody did anything too stupid during Friday’s shopping madness. Despite the holidays, there’s still plenty to discuss in the world of professional wrestling, so let’s head right in to it.

All the Stuff from Stamford

Op-Ed Piece: SAVE_US.RIC

On the last edition of Monday Night Raw, we all saw the much-hyped debut of one Chris Jericho. WWE did a great job of getting fans talking about this one before it happened, in part due to their so-called “viral” marketing campaign and in part because several current wrestling fans got in to the sport during the late 1990’s, with Jericho’s initial debut being a defining moment of that era. I did enjoy Jericho’s return segment, though I felt that a poor crowd reaction dragged what could have been a legendary segment down to merely being a good segment. There was one thing on Raw, though, that got me twenty times more excited than even a flawlessly executed Jericho return could. I’m talking, of course, about this man . . .

Ric Flair battles one of the many men in WWE who is both half his age and half his talent level

It was announced during Raw that “Nature Boy” Ric Flair would be making his return to World Wrestling Entertainment on the November 26 show, which emanates from Charlotte, North Carolina. Flair has not been seen in a WWE ring since August of this year, which is reportedly due to a small falling out that he had with the company. Many reputable sources, including F4W Online have noted that the problems stemmed from a meeting that the Nature Boy had scheduled with Vince McMahon. Flair brought his attorneys to the meeting, and McMahon, who generally distrusts lawyers, was not pleased at all. Whatever the cause of the problems between WWE and the sixteen-time World Champion, the issues have been ironed out, and the road has been paved for Flair’s latest run on national television. Many individuals are also speculating that this run will be his last, with F4W and other sites stating that the former leader of the Four Horsemen has been leaning towards making 2008 his last year as a full time competitor. There have reportedly been many potential versions of a “Ric Flair retirement tour” storyline being thrown around backstage, including a scenario in which Flair would grow dissatisfied with his career after a string of losses and then claim that he would retire upon dropping another fall. This would then, of course, culminate with a match against a major opponent at Wrestlemania 24. Some backstage are said to oppose this idea as it would require Flair to defeat several top-level WWE wrestlers on his way out the door, which might hurt the credibility of those wrestlers going forward.

Whatever the angle behind Flair’s return is, it looks like the storyline will kick off within the next twenty-four hours. As previously noted, Flair’s return has me far more excited than Chris Jericho’s, and there are several reasons for this. The first is that, unlike many current fans who had Jericho as one of their first idols in the world of professional wrestling, I’ve been at this a little bit longer and count Flair, not the Attitude Era wrestlers, among my childhood heroes. On top of that, I can virtually guarantee that we’re not going to get a replay of Jericho’s return speech from last week, as I can’t recall a crowd in the Carolinas ever giving Flair less than an absolutely spectacular reaction. After all, Flair involved in major angles in his old stomping grounds has generated some of the most memorable moments in pro wrestling’s last ten years. Who could forget the September 1998 promo on Monday Nitro that saw Flair return to WCW and lace in to Eric Bischoff in an excellent tirade the combined fantasy and reality? What wrestling fan didn’t love the November 2001 angle that saw Ric Flair return to the World Wrestling Federation as half owner of the company? And, of course, the May 19, 2003 Raw from Greenville, South Carolina, which featured Flair challenging Triple H for the WWE World Heavyweight Title followed by an emotional, locker room clearing celebration will always be etched in to my memory. Flair in the Carolinas is guaranteed gold, and I see no reason why this Monday’s show should be an exception.

My other reason for looking forward to this week’s angle more than Jericho’s return is that, quite frankly, I believe that the Flair retirement storyline has the potential to be far more entertaining than anything that the company can do with Y2J. I’m sure many of you read my feelings about the Jericho return last week, in which I mentioned that it left me underwhelmed because we don’t have that many potentially fresh matchups involving the Ayatollah of Rock n’ Rollah. Though it is true that Flair has also feuded with many men on the current WWE roster, some versions of the proposed retirement storyline have him traveling across brands during the course of his retirement tour, which would allow him to wrestle literally anybody in the company. This would result in numerous first-time matchups if executed properly, with the most intriguing pairings including Ric Flair vs. Matt Hardy, Ric Flair vs. Montel Porter, Ric Flair vs. CM Punk, Ric Flair vs. Johnny Nitro, Ric Flair vs. Batista, and Ric Flair vs. Rey Misterio. Those would all be fine matches under normal circumstances, and I have to believe that, with Flair attempting to prove something on his way out the door, he would be willing to take them all to the next level.

Of course, I could be wrong. The whole thing could flop, and it could flop hard. However, after having watched Ric Flair perform for my entire life as a professional wrestling fan, I sincerely doubt that this will happen. I think that we should all strap ourselves in and get ready for one more wild ride courtesy of the Nature Boy.

Wooooo! (Sorry, I had to.)

Road to Recovery Rough for Helms

Another wrestler from North Carolina is attempting to recovery from an injury so that he can make his return to World Wrestling Entertainment rings. Unfortunately, he’s having a few difficulties. It was recently reported by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter that Gregory Helms is having problems following neck surgery. Helms cracked two vertebrae in his neck in May of this year, and he almost immediately had the same fusion surgery as fellow wrestlers Rhino, Edge, Lita, and Steve Austin. Generally, wrestlers have taken around one year to recover from this procedure, and Helms received the same prognosis. However, there have been some problems with his recovery, as he is experiencing nerve problems resulting in numbness in one of his arms.

The good news for Helms is that, despite whatever setbacks he is facing, we’re still six months away from his projected return date. The bad news is that numbness in one’s extremities following a neck injury is not something to be taken lightly, as a certain “Enforcer” Arn Anderson would tell us all. My hope is that Helms doesn’t do anything too risky at this critical time and that he is able to make a safe and speedy recovery.

The Great WWE Countdown – The Contest

For the past several weeks, this is the position in which you’ve seen me count down my favorite members of the current WWE roster. Well, we’re going to bump that back a little bit this week, because I’ve decided to make a contest of it and give YOU an opportunity to win a free DVD courtesy of me.

This week, I’ll be unveiling names thirty through sixteen on the list, and next week I’ll go through the top fifteen. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to predict the individuals who I have selected for the top five. All you need to do is e-mail me the five names that you think will be my top five and place them in the order in which you think I will place them. The address for all entries is [email protected].

Entries will receive one point for every name they properly select and a bonus point for every name that they have in the right position. The individual who has the most points will be declared our winner. In the event of a tie, I’ll put the names of the tied entrants in to a hat and do a drawing to select the recipient of the prize.

And what is the prize? It’s a brand new copy of “Revolution,” a DVD from the fine folks at Jersey All Pro Wrestling, which features matches such as Christopher Daniels vs. Jerry Lynn, Roderick Strong vs. Sonjay Dutt, and Teddy Hart vs. Homicide. Number fifty-six on the countdown, Balls Mahoney, even makes a special appearance.

So, get to writing up those entries! Once again, they go to [email protected].

With that said, let’s return to your regularly scheduled countdown.

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

Week 3: 45.) Chuck Palumbo; 44.) Kenny Dykstra; 43.) Hacksaw Duggan; 42.) Jesse Dalton; 41.) Mickie James; 40.) Shannon Moore; 39.) Super Crazy; 38.) Matt Striker; 37.) Bobby Lashley; 36.) Hardcore Holly; 35.) Dave Batista; 34.) Beth Phoenix; 33.) Victoria; 32.) Little Guido; 31.) Stevie Richards

This Week’s Names

30.) Charlie Haas – Haas is one of many talented wrestlers who, for whatever reason, has recently been confined to the WWE undercard. I’m assuming that the main reason for this is the fact that he’s completely devoid of charisma. It’s a shame, really, because there was an era in which guys like this would be put in to a tag team with a guy who had the skill that the other lacked and thus allowed to flourish. At the very least, he’d be given a manager. In the modern era, though, guys like Haas are signed to contracts and given virtually no air time. Change is not always good.

29.) Elijah Burke – After producing an awesome 2002 “graduating class” which included names such as Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, Shelton Benjamin, and John Cena, Ohio Valley Wrestling has really been in a rut lately and not produced many worthwhile prospects. Bruke is the exception to that rule, though, as from the moment he dropped Sylvester Turkay, he’s been one of the more entertaining parts of an ECW show that is basically Velocity with its own title belt. Though he’s not yet at the point where I’m willing to consider him a great wrestler, Burke is a decent one and more than capable of putting on acceptable free television matches. Things have fallen apart a bit when he’s had to go over the ten minute mark, but that ability will hopefully come with time.

28.) Shelton Benjamin – There was a time that many people considered Benjamin to be a future main eventer in WWE, though that was also a period in which he had some of the best possible opponents in professional wrestling, including Ric Flair, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and Chris Benoit. Now that we’ve seen Benjamin paired off against guys who aren’t quite on that level (e.g. Jeff Hardy) and guys who will never be anywhere near that level (e.g. Carlito), it’s become apparent that he’s good but not quite up to the level that his earlier hype put him on.

27.) CM Punk – I’ll admit to being a fan of CM Punk’s work in Ring of Honor and elsewhere on the independent scene, but nothing he has done in WWE has been as good as his prior performances. My theory behind the dropoff in quality is that, in WWE, wrestlers are required to work a very fixed style, whereas in the indies a guy like Punk could get away with doing virtually anything. There’s a certain art to filling time in longer matches, and, while indy guys fill that time by doing a ton of different MOVES~!, WWE wrestlers are expected to do much more with far less. Punk needs to work more on filling those gaps and he’ll be one of the best in the company.

26.) Shoichi Funaki – Yes, that Shoichi Funaki. Some people might question this selection, but let me ask you a question: When was the last time that you saw Funaki have a bad match? When was the last time that you saw him have a match that was anything worse than decent for the amount of time that it was given? This, combined with the fact that he’s been able to put on some very good bouts when he’s actually given time to perform and a role which isn’t that of a complete jobber, allows me to peg Funaki as number twenty-six. If I had any concrete proof that he’s still as good as he was in the mid-1990’s in Michinoku Pro, he’d probably be significantly higher.

25.) Johnny Nitro – Though he certainly has his fans, I think that Johnny Nitro has been a little on the underwhelming side since he made the move to ECW. Granted, his matches against CM Punk have all been perfectly acceptable encounters, but they’re not quite up to the level of the work that he was doing on Monday Night Raw and on Smackdown. When he was on those shows, he displayed the sort of potential that could result in the Tough Enough III winner being among the next class of great world champions. He wasn’t that great when he first arrived on the scene and was largely carried to quality bouts by his tag team partner Joey Matthews, but, by the end of MNM’s first run as a unit, Nitro had improved greatly. Not long after that, he went on to have an absolutely phenomenal series of matches with Jeff Hardy which proved that he had truly come in to his own. My only hope is that he gets off of ECDub sooner rather than later so that he can get back in to some meaningful feuds.

24.) Chavo Guerrero, Jr. – Chavo still hasn’t returned to the ring after his most recent wellness-related suspension, which makes me a little bit sad. Though he constantly gets compared to his uncle Eddy and, as such, is labeled as the less talented or the less charismatic of the younger Guerrero generation, I always found him to be a talented performer in his own right. He may not be able to display the same level of personality in his matches that other, more talented wrestlers can, but, aside from that, I have difficultly finding fault with the guy. I’ve got my fingers crossed that he’s not cut from WWE soon given his recent issues with their drug policy and the apparent lack of a role for him on television.

23.) Trevor Murdoch – When you’re trained by one of the greatest World Champions of all time in the form of Harley Race, you’ve got to be pretty darn inept to walk away from wrestling school as anything less than a decent wrestler. Fortunately, Trevor Murdoch was trained by Harley Race, and, fortunately, he’s nowhere near inept. The result is a young performer who, despite the fact that he doesn’t fit in with WWE’s regular “look” for a wrestler, is one of their more talented up and coming stars. My only real problem with Murdoch is that, despite his character, he still tends to bust out wacky, indy-wrestling style moves that just don’t fit with the rest of his schtick. (Case in point: The Code Red powerbomb that he’s been performing as of late.) Other than that, Murdoch is doing his old teacher proud.

22.) Lance Cade – From a trainee of Harley Race we move along to a trainee of Shawn Michaels. Cade, who cut his teeth at Michaels’ San Antonio-based wrestling academy before moving on to the WWE developmental system, got years of seasoning under a variety of different mentors before he ultimately made his way on to WWE television. The time that he spent in developmental definitely showed, as he was a guy immediately capable of performing on a high level on WWE television as opposed to so many other “hosses” who are called up early and are forced to spend several months floundering on live TV before they ultimately get a clue. Cade quickly progressed form being good for a new guy to being outright excellent, and, though it sounds like a cliche, he seems to get better every time that I see him wrestle. It’s honestly hard for me to understand why he’s in the tag team division, because he has the in-ring skills, the charisma, and the look to legitimately become a main eventer for the promotion if utilized properly. Hopefully that’s where the apparent breakup of his team with Trevor Murdoch is heading.

21.) Montel Porter – When he debuted, Porter was horrendous. His series of matches with Kane stunk up show after show after show, and it didn’t look like there was any hope for him to get better. However, the man transformed himself in to a student of the game, and, from all of the reports I’ve read, he sounds like one of the newer guys in WWE who puts the most work in to actively improving his game. He was rewarded for all of that effort by getting a feud with Chris Benoit, and it was during this time that Porter really started to kick things in to high gear. Though at first it looked like Benoit was carrying him through the bulk of their matches, Porter slowly but surely started to hold up his own end of the deal. By the conclusion of the series, the two looked almost evenly matched, and Porter’s matches with non-Benoit opponents were drastically better than they were prior to the feud. His extended rivalry with Matt Hardy has allowed him more room to improve as a performer, and once again he seems to be taking every opportunity to better himself. Though he’s not what I would call an “elite” wrestling talent yet, I certainly think that Porter has more potential than any other up and comer on the WWE roster today . . . more than Lashley, more than Kennedy, more than CM Punk, and more than Johnny Nitro.

20.) Paul London – Coming in at number twenty is another graduate of the Shawn Michaels Wrestling Academy, one Paul London. Though spending time in WWE has forced him to tone down his style to the point that he no longer receives the “Please don’t die!” chants which followed him in Ring of Honor, I believe that the reduced number of high risk maneuvers was a good thing for London, not a bad one. It’s allowed him to concentrate on becoming a more versatile in-ring performer, one who can rely on smart wrestling just as much as he can rely on breathtaking highspots. His size may prevent him form being anything more than one half of the modern-day Rockers, but his talent will likely allow him to remain under WWE contract for quite some time.

19.) Jimmy Yang – When I first saw Jimmy Yang, it was either 1999 or 2000, and he was a jobber on WCW Saturday Night. If I’m recalling his story correctly, he got that position because, as a teenager, he lived in the same neighborhood as Erich Bischoff and bugged the Bisch until he got the Power Plant’s contact information. Before you knew it, Yang was part of the “Jung Dragons” and having crazy ladder matches against Three Count which, though not as polished as the ladder matches that populated WWE around the same time, were among the few highlights of WCW’s dying days. After a brief stint in WWE’s developmental system, Yang was released and began wrestling regularly in Japan, which is where he improved from “decent wrestler” to “great wrestler.” Now in what is his third WWE run (if you count the time in developmental), Yang may not get the time to awe fans that he got in AJPW or ROH, but he at least has a character that will keep him on the Smackdown roster for an extended period of time.

18.) Brian Kendrick – Here’s our third straight Ring of Honor alum and the third Shawn Michaels trainee that we’ve seen in this installment of the list. I think that what gives Kendrick the edge over his peers London and Cade is that, for a long time now, he has been much better at taking a given character and integrating it in to the story of a match. He was particularly good at this in his early Ring of Honor work, where “Spanky” walked a fine line between being an utter goofball and a man just crazy enough to be dangerous. When he was called up to WWE and asked to overhaul his persona, he did a fine job as the plucky underdog babyface, having an emotional five minute match with Kurt Angle that I still vividly remember today. Though he doesn’t have much of a character to work with anymore, he’s still got his in-ring chops to fall back on, and those are more than sufficient to allow Kendrick to produce entertaining match after entertaining match.

17.) Gregory Helms – Currently sidelined after major neck surgery, the artist formerly known as the Hurricane was having an incredibly hot run of matches before he had to be benched. One of the things that strikes me the most about Helms is his ability to play a variety of different roles and play them well. In WCW, he started off as a cowardly, clueless heel and did a fine job of it. From there he went on to become a “blue chipper” babyface, and he did that just as well. You can say the same for his two most recent characters in wrestling, the slapstick babyface Hurricane and the far more diabolical Gregory Helms. Not only does he play these characters well on the microphone, but he also plays them well in the ring, subtly altering his style of wrestling to better fit every persona that he adopts.

16.) Jamie Noble – With Jamie Noble, we make a transition on the list. We move away from the guys who I think are very good but still have a couple of flaws and on to the guys who I think are outright awesome. There’s a reason that, out of all of the men currently on the Smackdown roster, Noble was recently chosen to act as an agent. It’s because, as the old phrase goes, he’s that damn good. As soon as he joined the WWE’s cruiserweight division, he was its best performer, and it’s stayed that way practically ever since. (Though there were periods during which you could argue Rey Misterio was the better cruiser wrestler.) In addition to working that style well, fans have also recently seen that he can do well as a main eventer (in Ring of Honor) or as an enhancement talent. I’d list all of other things that Jamie Noble is capable of doing, but I don’t want to keep us here all night.

Be sure to come back next week to see the list of what I consider to be the top fifteen wrestlers in WWE today, and don’t forget to e-mail in your contest entries!

The Word from Dixieland

K-Dawg to the Rescue

The Wrestling Observer is reporting that current TNA star Alex Shelley has recently been reaching out to a former member of the promotion’s roster for some career advice. According to the Observer’s Dave Metlzer, Shelley is concerned about being “buried” during his current feud with the Dudley Boys and has sought guidance from none other than Konnan, a man who not only feuded extensively with the Dudleys in TNA but also brings over twenty years of experience in the wrestling industry to the table. Frankly, at least from what I’ve been able to observe on television, Shelley has had very little to be worried about. Though other members of the X Division have come out of their feud with the Dudley Boys looking rather bad (especially poor Jay Lethal), the Murder City Machine Guns of Shelley and Chris Sabin have actually been portrayed as hot up-and-comers recently, as Bubba and D-Von have done very little on the microphone to damage the Guns’ credibility, and the Detroit natives have even been allowed to get two consecutive pinfall victories over members of the Dudley crew. (The first occurring at the Genesis pay per view and the second occurring on this past Thursday’s edition of Impact.) Though there certainly is still time for something to go wrong for Sabin and Shelley, it appears that they’re in the clear for the time being.

Hm, maybe Shelley is speaking with Konnan for other reasons. Maybe he wants to make sure that he’s maintaining his STREET CRED~!

Tomko Injured?

In a very odd situation, it was reported earlier this week by New Japan Pro Wrestling that Travis Tomko, who holds tag team gold in both TNA and NJPW, had to undergo emergency surgery for a torn muscle. New Japan did not report which muscle Tomko tore, and there has been very little in the way of an update since the initial report. Hopefully that changes soon. If for some reason Tomko is kept out of action for an extended period of time, I imagine that we’d hear about it from NJPW before we hear about it from TNA, mainly because the upcoming edition of Impact has already been taped and features Tomko wrestling in the main event in fine condition. Tomko is also currently being advertised as part of the main event for the upcoming Turning Point pay per view, and TNA has a poor track record of making it clear when advertised performers aren’t going to show up, as they once ran three weeks of television promoting a Steiner Brothers vs. Dudley Boys match despite the fact that they knew all along that Scott Steiner would be unable to appear due to an injury. Though Tomko’s next scheduled appearance for NJPW isn’t until December 2, I’d imagine they would announce any inability to appear as soon as possible, as they are much more diligent about this sort of thing.

Random Video Interlude

A lot of folks are always curious to know about “real fights” that may have broken out during professional wrestling matches. Well, one of my favorite examples of just such an incident has finally popped up on YouTube. Behold what happens when British indy wrestler the Dirtbike Kid pisses off the Great Sasuke in a 1999 match for Sasuke’s promotion Michinoku Pro Wrestling. Dirtbike’s career pretty much died after this incident.

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

2007 Holiday Shopping Guide

Two years ago, I was writing a column on 411 called Cheap Wrestling for Cheap People. As a part of that column, I penned a holiday shopping guide for wrestling fans, putting together gift packages related to different styles of wrestling that contained three gifts which, in total, would cost under $30 (U.S.) Since it’s been a couple of years, I’ve decided to revive the idea here in the Custom Made News Report. Thus, from November 25 through December 23, you’ll be able to read about five new cheap gift packages for five different genres of wrestling. Here’s to hoping that this feature helps you shop for the wrestling fan on your Christmas list . . . even if that means that you’re buying things for yourself.

This Week: Gifts for Indy Wrestling Fans

The 2005 Package Contained . . .

– Andy Douglas’ Autographed Bandana for $5 (no longer available)
– Shark Boy or Lash LeRox t-shirts for $12 or $15 (Shark Boy shirts still available here, Lash Leroux shirts no longer available)
– ROH Round Robin Challenge for $6.63 (still available here, albeit with a higher price)

The 2007 Package Contains . . .

Item #1: Autographed Matt Classic Poster
Cost: $6.00
Available At: Colt Cabana’s Website

The mysterious Matt Classic, a grappler who seemingly stepped straight out of the 1950’s, tore things up for Wrestling Society X earlier this year and has made numerous independent appearances since the promotion was axed by MTV literally weeks after its product began airing. Matt Classic has no clue how to use the internet and thus has trouble communicating in the twenty-first century, but he was fortunate enough to meet young Colt Cabana while on the indy circuit, and Cabana has been acting as the middleman between Classic and the modern world. One of Colt’s duties as the antiquated athlete’s agent has been the distribution of Matt Classic merchandise, which he is handling through his official website. For only $6, you can get yourself an 11″ by 17″ poster featuring the Matt Classic logo which has been autographed by the man himself! There may be no better way to simultaneously display your love for old and new school wrestling.

Item #2: Headquarters by Mike Quackenbush
Cost: $12.00
Available At: Quack’s MySpace

There haven’t been a lot of books written about life on the modern independent scene, in part because not that many people have been there long enough to have anything resembling an interesting story. The exception to that rule is Mike Quackenbush, who has been a part of independent wrestling in various areas since 1991. In addition to having that experience, he’s also one of the more intelligent professional wrestlers you’ll ever counter, which is why he was the perfect candidate to chronicle life as a non-mainstream professional wrestler in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. His hefty tome Headquarters clocks in at over four-hundred pages, all of them well worth a read if you’re curious about what runs through the head of a man who does flips from high places and forearms his friends in the face for a living. Plus, at $12, readers get far more bang for their buck than they do from most WWE releases.

Item #3: Pro Wrestling IRON: International Challenge DVD
Cost: $7.67
Available At: Deep Discount

Ring of Honor recently got a lot of press for hosting a couple of wrestling matches featuring Japanese legend Mitsuhara Misawa. However, those bouts certainly weren’t Misawa’s first contests in the United States. In addition for popping up several times in Harley Race’s World League Wrestling, Misawa also hit the west coast several years ago for the now-defunct Pro Wrestling IRON group. Though IRON is long-dead, this small part of their legacy lives on thanks to the magic of DVD, with the “Mat Wars” label giving one of the company’s cards featuring Misawa a limited national release. For the low price of $7.67, wrestling fans can see the founder of Pro Wrestling NOAH team up with Yoshinari Ogawa to defend the GHC Tag Team Titles against the team of Bart Blaxson and current ROH Champion Nigel McGuinness. The rest of the card is also nothing to be sneezed at, with Mike Modest and Donovan Morgan taking on Joel and Jose Maximo, NOAH’s top gaijin heel Bison Smith squaring off against BJ Whitmer, and women’s action featuring Japanese import Sumie Sakai against current SHIMMER Champion Sara Del Rey. It’s a card sure to delight any independent wrestling fan on your Christmas list.

Next week: Gifts for the fan of classic wrestling!

Foreign Fanatics

Big Night for DG’s International Stars

The focus of this section tends to be the international performances of wrestlers who may be familiar to American fans, and, in that regard, there was no bigger card in the past seven days than Dragon Gate’s November 18 show. Wrestlers who have spent considerable amounts of time in the U.S. were given plenty of opportunities to shine in the ring, and many of them even walked away with victories.

This trend began in the show’s opening match, when British wrestler PAC, who has competed for PWG, ROH, and CHIKARA in the states, participated in a six man tag alongside Susumu Yokosuka and Anthony W. Mori. That trio was victorious, as PAC used a shooting star press to finish off the team of Yasushi Kanda, Genki Horiguchi, and Arik Cannon. Cannon, who ate the fall for his team, has been a regular for CHIKARA and IWA Mid-South at various points in his career and was featured as part of the cast of MTV’s Wrestling Society X earlier this year. Not to be outdone by his fellow ROH and PWG roster-mate, Canadian wrestler El Generico got his own win in six man tag action, as his patented brainbuster on to the top turnbuckle secured a win for his team, on which he was joined by YAMATO and Lupin Matsutani. Super Shisa was the unfortunate victim of Generico’s visually stunning move, and, though they couldn’t have been happy to have lost, I’m sure that his partners Don Fuji and Masaaki Mochizuki were relieved that they were not on the receiving end of the maneuver.

Of course, all the Genericos, Cannons, and PACs in world cannot compare to Dragon Gate’s most recent talent acquisition. We talked about his debut with the company recent right here in this very column, and now he’s back for more. That’s right, this card featured current CMLL star, former WWE Tag Team Champion, and all around bad fit for a promotion as fast paced as Dragon Gate KENZO SUZUKI~! Suzuki, who was said to have received poor reviews by fans for his performance (I’m shocked) picked up a victory in his singles match against Keni’chiro Arai, using the dreaded “groin stomp” to secure in the pin in just under thirteen minutes. I don’t know how many of you remember Kenzo’s performances in WWE, but imagining him trying to go thirteen minutes is something that my brain will simply not allow me to do. Surprisingly, despite the fact that the match did not go over well, the crowd got to see Kenzo wrestle a second time.

The way that I understand the story, the scheduled main event of the show was a three-team elimination match featuring all of DG’s top stables. The match came down to three men, CIMA, Shingo Takgai, and Gamma, with each man representing a different faction. Gamma wound up winning the match when both of his opponents were counted out, as CIMA fell off of a rig holding one of the cameras and Takagi was put through a table by Magnitude Kishiwada, a wrestler who had previously been eliminated from the match. The fans apparently hated this finish, so a decision was made on the fly to book a second main event. What did Dragon Gate decide would pacify their angry audience? MORE KENZO~! Suzuki teamed up with Kishiwada, Yasushi Kanda, and Gamma to take on BxB Hulk, Cyber Kong, Yamato, and El Generico. Believe it or not, Kenzo got his second pinfall victory of the night, pinning Hulk in just under six minutes.

Despite his the poor reviews for his stint in Dragon Gate thusfar, Suzuki has at least one more appearance scheduled, as he will be wrestling Dragon Kid in singles action on a November 25 card. I’ll be sure to let everybody know if anything notable happens.

Outlawz Act as Outsiders

Not to be outdone by the outsiders dominating on their own cards, two Dragon Gate wrestlers recently invaded Pro Wrestling NOAH and came up with a huge victory. Naruki Doi and Masato Yoshino, who currently hold DG’s Open the Twin Gate Tag Team Titles and unified those belts with the WAR International Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles, defeated Kotaro Suzuki and Ricky Marvin on November 24 to win NOAH’s GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Titles. Doi and Yoshino had made multiple attempts at winning those straps in the past, and it is no doubt satisfying for them to finally take home the victory. It’s interesting to note that, for the last couple of years, the titles have been ping-ponged back and forth between NOAH regulars and outsiders, as in 2005 champions Yoshinobu Kanemura and Taksashi Sugiura were defeated by Ikuto Hidaka and Wataru Sakata, who are not regular members of the promotion. Kanemura and Sugirua eventually brought the belts back to NOAH, only to be defeated several months later by American imports Jay and Mark Briscoe. Suzuki and Marvin defeated the Briscoes in January, and now they have once again dropped the titles to outsiders.

It’s worth noting that New Japan’s Junior Heavyweight Tag Titles are ALSO under outsider control, with former Kaientai DX members TAKA Michinoku and Dick Togo being the reigning champs. Why is it so hard for these major wrestling promotions to hold on to their junior tag belts, anyway?

Odd Matches on Tap for “Fan Appreciation Day”

Last week, I noted that there are some things I just don’t understand about Japanese culture, namely the fact that somebody can make money off of selling t-shirts that feature NOAH wrestlers fused with animals. Well, the “I don’t get Japan” trend is continuing, as All Japan Pro Wrestling recently announced some matches for its December 16 Fan Appreciation Show.

The card will apparently have more of a lighthearted, comedic flavor with a handful of Japanese celebrities participating. One contest will be a handicap match pitting the team of Keiji Muto and Kannazaki against Kensuke Sasaki and the “Twin Entertainers.” The Entertainers, who as near as I can tell are Japanese comedians, are a pair of short, bulbous men who look like they’d be more comfortable at the local Dunkin’ Donuts than they would in a wrestling ring. Speaking of food, the second announced match is being billed as a THREE KILOMETER CURRY EATING BATTLE~! A tiny female competitive eater named Gal Sone will travel to Tokyo to do battle in this handicap contest with not one but two of AJPW’s largest stomachs. Nobutaka Araya and Nobukazu Hirai will team up in an effort to out-eat the waif-like warrior in what should be quite the indigestion-inducing affair. My only hope is that WWE doesn’t somehow wind up with a tape of this show, because I don’t want to see the Great Khali’s speciality match changed over form the Punjabi Prison to the Curry Eating Battle.

. . . come to think of it, given Khali’s performances in the ring, maybe I do.

Indy-Sent Headlines

Lince Goes Down

Those of you who have been reading this section of the column for the last couple of weeks know that I’ve been closely following the end of the season for indy promotion CHIKARA, who was supposed to wrap up 2007 with a series of three shows on November 16, 17, and 18. I had partial results up last week, but what I didn’t know at press time was that the November 18 show was going to end with what many people who were there live described as the scariest thing they have ever seen.

One of the major feuds in CHIKARA over the last several months has pitted rookie luchador Lince Dorado against veteran southern wrestler Mitch Ryder. The two were set to settle their differences in a hair vs. mask match, which was one third of a triple main event on the company’s “Chapter 11” show. During the course of the match, Lince attempted to hit what most folks describe as a shooting star senton, a move that, when executed properly, looks something like this:

Credit: “Cromulent” on the CHIKARAfans.com forums

Apparently Lince either over-rotated or under-rotated while performing the move, and he wound up smacking his head on the canvas is a brutal scene. When it became apparent that something was wrong, Ryder placed Dorado’s hand on top of him so that the three count could be registered. According to many eye witness accounts, Lince appeared to be convulsing while hte pin was made. There was not a stretcher on hand for the show, so Dorado was carefully transported to the locker room on a nearby table as an ambulance were called. Numerous members of the man’s family were on hand at the show, and one of the things that left so many observers freaked out were the cries of “My baby! My baby!” which came from one woman (presumably Lince’s mother) who had followed the wrestlers back to the dressing room. The show was to have featured one more match, a singles encounter between Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli, which would have blown off the single biggest feud in the promotion. To the fans’ credit, when it was announced that a decision was being made as to whether the final match would go on, several of them immediately began chanting “Stop the show!” It’s great to see a group of wrestling fans who are more concerned about a performer’s health than they are their own entertainment, and it’s great to see that CHIKARA listened to those fans (and common sense) in calling off the rest of the evenings’ festivities. The promotion and its followers also get bonus points for making sure that nobody left the building once the ambulance was on its way so that medical personnel would not have to deal with traffic as they were transporting the fallen luchador. When Dorado arrived at the hospital, it was determined that he had suffered a severe concussion. Though that would be terrible news under most circumstances, many people who witnessed his fall were said to have been highly relieved when they learned that was his only injury.

Since Dorado’s discharge from the medical facility, CHIKARA fans and management have continued to prove that they are both class acts. Many fans e-mailed the promotion and offered to donate money to help defray some of the wrestler’s medical expenses, but the promotion was having none of it, saying that they would feel awful if they took money from fans without giving them anything in return. As such, they have started up two big charity auctions to benefit their rookie sensation. Both Dorado and lucha libre legend El Pantera have handed over the masks that they wore during their most recent CHIKARA appearances, and those hoods are being auctioned off on eBay with all of the proceeds going to cover the cost of Lince’s recent hospital stay. The auctions end on November 28 and can be found here and here. Additionally, because they were unable to deliver on the Chris Hero vs. Claudio Castagnoli match scheduled for November 18, CHIKARA has put together one additional card for 2007 so they can make good on the feud’s conclusion. The show will take place on Decemer 9, and admission will be absolutely FREE. In addition to Hero/Castagnoli, the card also features Mitch Ryder vs. Tim Donst and The Colony vs. The Order of The Neo-Solar Temple in six man tag action. More details on the show are available at CHIKARApro.com.

What happened to Lince Dorado one week ago could have been a terrible thing. In many ways, it was. However, I’m proud to say that the situation wasn’t all bad. Through their reasonable and downright gracious actions, both the company and the company’s fans have proven that there are still some good things left in the wrestling world that many of us see as being so rotten. My hat goes off to everybody who was involved in making sure Lince made it to the hospital safely, everybody who offered to help defray his medical costs, and all of the wrestlers and staff who are working to give fans closure on this season of shows, even though I’m sure that the promotion’s followers would understand if they had to wait until February for Hero/Castagnoli.

Village of the Van Dam-ed?

Power Slam, a magazine in the United Kingdom dedicated to professional wrestling, recently conducted an interview with none other than Rob Van Dam. Though Van Dam touched on many conventional topics in the article, he also had some rather bizarre comments about the gruesome double murder-suicide perpetuated by his former coworker Chris Benoit.

“Honestly, I’m not even convinced that he did it,” Van Dam said. “Many people like myself who knew Chris feel like it wasn’t Chris who did that. That could mean lots of things. It could mean that somebody else actually did it, which I know is kinda hard to make sense out of, with all the investigations that took place. But that’s still believable, if not more believable than believing Chris – that good, respectable person we knew – committed this horrific act. It could mean that some kind of demon or evil spirit somehow entered his body. We can’t scientifically explain something like that, but many of us believe that the body can be possessed. Again, that, as far-fetched as it may sound, is just as believable as thinking that Chris Benoit was capable of [killing his wife & son].”

Wow. Just wow. Far be it from me to criticize how somebody deals with the thought of a former friend a coworker being a murderer, but that’s just a bit too far out there for me to process. I now hope that WWE re-signs Van Dam and completely scraps the ECW brand. They should then use that TV time to document RVD’s quest to hunt down this demon, preferably with a large green van and a talking dog also being involved.

Following Up

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

~ A few weeks ago, we discussed John Cena appearing on the upcoming celebrity edition of the Apprentice reality show with Donald Trump. Despite the fact that early listings from various entertainment websites listed Cena’s name as part of the cast, he was absent when the network released the official lineup earlier this week. I have yet to hear anything about a reason for the change.

~ Kristall Marshall is now claiming that her departure from WWE, which we talked about a little while ago, was a result of the fact that the company wanted her to participate in a storyline with Edge that she considered to be morally questionable. Though she did not specifically state what the storyline was to be, many folks are speculating that Marshall would be the one philandering with the Rated R Superstar instead of Vicki Guerrero.

Feeding Back & Wrapping Up

I don’t know what it was, but last week’s column seemed to generate a fair amount of feedback on all sorts of different topics. We’ll start with a young gentleman calling himself Mega Lix, who’s trying to get me to tip my hand a little bit early:

So, John Cena is gonna be at the top of the list, right? Number 1, yes? This is so ridiculous. I think the whole thing was created just to put over John Cena. You’re a true chain gang soldier, aren’t you?!!

Nice try, Mr. Lix, but you’re not going to get me to reveal number one early. You (and everybody else) will have to wait until next week for the grand unveiling.

Long-time 411 reader Samer wants to tackle a subject that’s a little bit more substantial, namely my thoughts from last week on Chris Jericho’s return:

I always enjoy your news report, and I especially admire those PPV stats at the beginning. It takes a lot of research to do that, and it’s always fun to read even if in the wrestling world it’s insignificant.

However, I have a few comments on your thoughts about Chris Jericho’s return.

Yes, you are right about him having already feuded with the majority of the Raw roster, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be excited (although that’s your own personal opinion and I respect that). But when you think about it, the roster now is so slim that everyone has already worked with everyone, at least on Raw. I mean haven’t we seen an HHH-Orton feud? (rumored WM 24 main event), HBK-Cena, HHH-Cena, Y2J-HBK, Y2J-HHH. It goes on and on. You can’t always have fresh matches, but that’s not a bad thing. I mean from my part, I’d love to see another Jericho-Micheals match or a Jericho-Cena match. And I realize you’re not as high on Kennedy as most people are (and rightfully so), but a feud with Jericho will help him, in the ring and on the mic. I will say that he’s better on the mic than you’re giving him credit, but working with Jericho might give Kennedy’s promos another dimension, instead of just yelling his name twice. Something tells me Kennedy’s going to be Jericho’s first feud.

What I do agree on is that the idea of Jericho on Smackdown is much more exciting… Working with Rey or Edge as you pointed out is something to look forward to. And if Edge can carry Batista to good matches, I’m sure Y2J can as well. However it’s even more exciting with the new Smackdown/ECW talent trade, as i’d love to see a Jericho vs CM Punk match, or a Jericho vs Morrison match. Both Punk and Morrison need to work with someone this good, especially Punk, who has yet to have a match with someone as technically sound as Jericho since arriving to the WWE.

Yes an Undertaker-Y2J one on one match has never happened, but you’re wrong about Ric Flair. Because he and Jericho had a long (and boring) feud in the summer of 2002, resulting in some dreadful matches by both men’s standards. It was even a blood feud so they didn’t give them promo time which is criminal.

Samer does raise a fair point about there not being many new Raw matchups in general, and I suppose that at least with Jericho introduced in to the mix you’ve got a guy who is slightly more fresh than the majority of the folks surrounding him. However, I’d still rather see the position being given to somebody who either is new to WWE or at least new to Raw. Moving MVP over and strapping a rocket to his backside could have filled the void just as well, particularly given that the majority of the guys on the roster are experienced enough to cover whatever shortcomings he may still have in the ring.

However, we do have Jericho on Raw now, and, from this point forward, it’s probably better for me to assess his performance based on how he does in the position in which WWE has placed him as opposed to bemoaning what might have been.

Lynx (not to be confused with Lix, the guy from the first e-mail) wants some clarification on a story from the Wrestling Observer that I discussed last week:

A quick question regarding the Harry Smith situation: First off, was that the date he was tested, or the date that WWE got the results? and if it was the date he was tested, how long is it between the sample taken and WWE getting the results? The reason I ask is that for some tests it does take time to process. I am not trying to defend WWE or anything, but if it was the date he was tested it could be plausable that it took that time for whatever he was busted for to be processed and the results sent to WWE. On the other hand, if it was the date WWE got the results, then yeah, glass house, stones thrown, you know 😉

That is a very good, fair question. The original story reported that Smith’s test took place on September 13. I do not recall the story listing the specific date on which results were returned, but it definitely made the point that there was an intentional choice made to hold off on the suspension until after November 1 when they could publicly announce it.

We’ll close out this week’s feedback with Chris S., who wants to fantasy book a fantasy booking team:

If TNA was smart they would make sure Scott was sober and then put him IN CHARGE of the booking committee. Think about one of the biggest angles in recent history.

1. Turning Hulk Hogan
2. The NWO
3. “The Crow” Sting

Know what they have in common…Scott Hall. Heck the crow gimmick was his idea.

If I had a billion dollars my booking committee would be: Dusty Rhodes, Paul Heyman, Jake Roberts, Scott Hall, Mick Foley, and Vince McMahon.

Well, that committee certainly would take a billion dollars to put together . . . both because it would require paying the guys more than they’re making off of their current projects and because I’m pretty sure significant sums of money would be necessary in order to prevent them from killing each other during a production meeting. At the end of the day, though, I don’t think that any dream booking team could do anything worse than what TNA is currently producing.

Before we head out, here’s your link-age. I’m not nearly as heavily featured on 411 this week as I was last, but that’s for the best when one takes my mental well-being in to account.

~ I did manage to get in one Movie Zone crossover, with a review of the Andy Dick vehicle Danny Roane: First Time Director.

~ Matt Sforcina tells us what he’s thankful for.

~ Also, I wrote part two of the Ultimate SHIMMER Starter Guide, listing more reasons why I love my favorite wrestling promotion.

~ I’m not the only one talking SHIMMER this week, as Mike Campbell has posted a review of Volume 1.

~ And, to top it all off, I reviewed what I have now determined was the worst episode of Impact in 2007.

And that’s officially a wrap. As always, head over to the MySpace and add me as a friend to receive notifications every time I publish a new article here on 411. I’ll be back on Tuesday to wrap up the SHIMMER Starter Guide, and in just seven days you can join me for this lil’ old news report, which will feature a TNA Turning Point preview, the continuation of the holiday shopping guide, the FINAL installment of the Great WWE Countdown, and much more.


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Ryan Byers

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