wrestling / Columns

The Custom Made News Report 12.02.07

December 2, 2007 | Posted by Ryan Byers

Welcome, one and all, to the first Custom Made News Report of December 2007. Typically people think of the “holiday season” as being relatively light on news, both in the real world and in the zany sport of professional wrestling. However, I’m making a commitment right now to making sure that you still have plenty to read over the next four weeks, scouring the globe for the biggest headlines both in the United States and abroad.

All the Stuff from Stamford

Developmental Developments

PW Insider had some interesting news this week about changes in the structure of WWE’s developmental leagues and some speculation about what this may mean for the future of WWE’s farm leagues. For those of you not aware of the structure of the developmental system, the leagues to which WWE has sent its up and coming talent have always featured a mix of wrestlers, some of whom are under developmental deals with the promotion and some of whom are not contracted to WWE but work with the developmental groups anyway. However, WWE has recently reduced the number of wrestlers with developmental deals in Ohio Valley Wrestling, a Kentucky-based company that has been a developmental territory for several years. Whereas OVW at one point played host to over thirty competitors with developmental deals, they now have fifteen at the most and twelve at the least. The PWI news bit went on to speculate that this was a result of WWE trying to move the bulk of its developmental talent to Florida Championship Wrestling, a new territory opened by WWE earlier this year. If true, this does certainly not look good for the future of the relationship between WWE and OVW.

Steve Keirn, the man behind WWE’s Florida Championship Wrestling territory

Though there is certainly no guarantee that PW Insider’s speculation about OVW being phased out is accurate, I have to say that I would not be surprised if it is the case. Ohio Valley was founded in 1998 by Jim Cornette and Danny Davis and was owned and operated completely independently of WWE for two years. In 2000, Cornette and Davis were approached by World Wrestling Entertainment about the possibility of entering in to a working relationship. Surprisingly, WWE worked with OVW for seven years without owning it in any way, shape, or form. It was only this year that Vince and company acquired any stake in the promotion, as they purchased not only the video library of the company but also Jim Cornette’s ownership interest. Prior to the purchase, the relationship between the two groups was not always harmonious, as Cornette (who was the head booker) grew frustrated with WWE booking talent in such a way that his OVW storylines were negatively impacted. WWE, meanwhile, was no fan of Cornette’s temper, at one point suspending him after he blew up at a group of students and ultimately releasing him after an incident in which he slapped a trainee (who went on to become Santino Marella). Incidents like this, combined with the fact that the promotion has a history of not wanting to work with outside groups unless they have complete control, lead to me being rather surprised that they didn’t simply invest the money necessary to building their own developmental territory from the ground up. Now that Florida Championship Wrestling exists, appears to have been successful thusfar, and is 100% WWE owned, OVW may no longer be necessary in the eyes of the E.

Frankly, if the relationship does end and OVW is able to remain in business without WWE’s financial support, this may be the best situation for all parties involved. The majority of the training in OVW is done by Danny Davis, a journeyman grappler from the south, and he has proven time and time again that he can produce great professional wrestlers. Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, John Cena, Dave Batista, Shelton Benjamin, and many more have trained under Davis’ eye and have gone on to become successful competitors. However, the more recent group of individuals to come out of OVW have not done nearly as well as the wrestlers who were produced several years ago. (Ken Kennedy, Carlito, and the Greasers, for example, are all well below the talent level of early Ohio Valley prospects.) The dropoff in talent, though, cannot be blamed on Davis and OVW. The dropoff can be directly attributed to the fact that WWE is no longer allowing wrestlers to remain in developmental for as long as they used to. Whereas an individual used to spend years in the minors honing his craft, nowadays there are certain wrestlers appearing on Monday Night Raw after only limited independent exposure and six months of seasoning in OVW. It is impossible to prepare most individuals to perform at a high level in such a small time frame. Should the relationship between OVW and WWE come to an end, OVW may be able to go back to producing talented wrestlers, as trainees will once again be allowed years in their system instead of being snatched away to immediately compete on television. WWE, meanwhile, could continue to use FCW to produce talent as quickly as they want in produced, and they could periodically supplement their roster with better OVW prospects despite a formal agreement.

There is no indication that the OVW/WWE relationship will change imminently. This is definitely a situation to watch, though, and we’ll be sure to pass along any updates as they occur.

Ted DiBiase Gets the Book

Okay, he’s not getting THE book, but he’s getting A book. Mike Johnson reported that DiBiase, one of the World Wrestling Federation’s top heels throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, will have an autobiography published by the company, with a tentative release date of June 8, 2008. The book will be ghostwritten by Tom Caiazzo and will differ greatly from DiBiase’s 1998 book Everybody Has a Price, which mainly focused on the former Million Dollar Man discovering Christianity at the end of his wrestling career. Frankly, if WWE is going to publish more books by the legends of wrestling, DiBiase is one of the better choices that they could have made. From listening to recent interviews with the gentleman, he has a very sharp memory of everything that happened his career, and he is articulate enough to make sure that any ghostwriter has a very real sense of what went on in his life. It’s also interesting to note that, for many years, DiBiase was one of the top stars of Mid-South Wrestling, one of the major pro wrestling territories that existed prior to the WWF’s national expansion eliminating numerous regional companies. WWE has never published a book by an individual who was such an integral part of that promotion, and even the biographies on their DVD series have never plunged in-depth in to the organization’s history. For that reason alone, DiBiase’s book will be worth checking out if Mid-South is covered to the extent that it should be.

The Great WWE Countdown – The Contest

Those of you who read the column last week are aware that I announced a contest in conjunction with the “Great WWE Countdown,” the feature that I’ve been running over the last several weeks in which I count down my favorite performers in WWE today. The winner of the contest was to be the individual who came the closest to predicting the top five on my list, and I’m happy to announce that the winner is reader Chris Roberts. For his winning entry, Chris will receive a copy of “Revolution,” a DVD from the fine folks at Jersey All Pro Wrestling. Chris, if you’re reading again, I’ll be in contact with you soon about sending out the DVD.

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

Week 4: 30.) Charlie Haas; 29.) Elijah Burke; 28.) Shelton Benjamin; 27.) CM Punk; 26.) Shoichi Funaki; 25.) Johnny Nitro; 24.) Chavo Guerrero, Jr.; 23.) Trevor Murdoch; 22.) Lance Cade; 21.) Montel Porter; 20.) Paul London; 19.) Jimmy Yang; 18.) Brian Kendrick; 17.) Gregory Helms; 16.) Jamie Noble

This Week’s Names

15.) Val Venis – When Mike “Simon Dean” Bucci was recently fired by WWE, he was the head of the company’s developmental system. Many names were thrown around as a possible replacement for Bucci, and one of them was Val Venis. That alone should tell everybody the extent to which Venis is skilled and respected for those skills. I’ve enjoyed watching the guy in the ring ever since his WWF debut in the late 1990’s, and he’s steadily improved since that time, becoming one of the more talented members of the roster. Though most of his work throughout the last several years has come as a so-called “enhancement talent,” the guys who lose the most in professional wrestling are often the most talented, as I’ve noted throughout this column. They need to be, as making your opponent look good as he defeats you is an art that not many can master. Venis manages to throw in flashes of brilliance during those squashes as well, periodically busting out some offense rarely seen in WWE, most of which suggests that he was a fan of All Japan Pro Wrestling in the mid-1990’s.

14.) Matt Hardy – I’ve never been as in to the Matt Hardy character as many people on the internet are (particularly during his infamous feud with Edge), but I can’t deny that he’s a great performer in the ring. For a guy who was initially known as a highspot artist, everything that he does in the ring now is so smooth and so polished, with a logical flow in to most moves and great transitions between his offense and that of his opponent. My only request is that he stops doing that damn Side Effect, because it looks like it should hurt him just as much as it does his opponent.

13.) Dave Taylor – You know, maybe I’m just too big of a mark for the OLD SCHOOL~!, but I can’t help but get excited when I see Squire David Taylor pop up on my television screen. Though he’s lost a step or two over the last decade, he’s still awesome when it comes to executing the little things that are necessary to transform a professional wrestling match from a staged fight to a piece of theater that almost appears real. One of these days, get yourself a good ten minute Dave Taylor match and focus on nothing but his face for the duration of the bout. In the five inches between his eyes and his mouth, he’ll tell you everything that you need to know about the story of the contest.

12.) William Regal – Though he hasn’t logged that much time in the ring over the last couple of years, the fact remains that Regal is one of the better wrestlers in WWE. Certain individuals accuse him of being “too slow,” but that’s more a function of the style that he wrestles than anything wrong with Regal himself. If you evaluate him within the style that he chooses to wrestle as opposed to the style employed by the majority of WWE wrestlers or by individuals on the independent scene, Regal is a master. He’s a throwback to a bygone era, an era of British wrestling that, unfortunately, will probably die along with him.

11.) Jeff Hardy – I’d be willing to bet that, if the majority of my readers compiled similar lists, the lion’s share would have Matt Hardy ranked above of his younger brother Jeff. However, I’m going to have to disagree there. Jeff has certainly had a few years in which personal issues have negatively affected his in-ring performance. However, when those issues are cleared up and he’s allowed to wrestle uninhibited, I’d watch him over Matt any day of the week. I think that the difference lies in how the two time their comebacks when working as faces, as Matt has a tendency to, completely out the blue, bust out a sequence in which he and his opponent are trading major nearfalls. Jeff, meanwhile, makes his comebacks much more gradually, and I find that style of wrestling to be more dramatic.

10.) Ric Flair – After my editorial in last week’s column in which I heaped a good deal of praise on the Nature Boy, many people who entered the contest guessed that I would have him pegged at number one. If this column were written ten years ago and included wrestlers from across the globe, those people probably would have been correct. At the end of the day, though, even I have to admit that Flair’s age has started to catch up with him and reduced the quality of his once-stellar matches. That being said, after several decades in professional wrestling, the sixteen-time world champion has learned enough little tricks that he doesn’t need all of the athletic ability that he used to possess in order to entertain a crowd. Flair at 50% of his physical capabilities still puts on a more entertaining match than many younger wrestlers who are at 100% of their physical capabilities, which is why he’s number ten.

9.) Randy Orton – Let me make one thing perfectly clear. I can’t STAND Randy Orton on the microphone. He’s dull to the point that I immediately stop watching Raw whenever he picks up the stick, which is a rarity given the level of lousy wrestling programming I put up with in a given week. (Thank you, TNA.) That being said, the list is about in-ring performance and not promos, and Orton is one of the world’s more entertaining performers when it comes to putting on WWE-style main events. He comes across as a guy who legitimately wants to kill his most hated opponents, and the fact that he is able to get that across while using offense like the Garvin stomp and the chinlock is damned impressive.

8.) Umaga – There’s a tendency among certain individuals online to put Umaga down as being a poor professional wrestler just because he’s a big guy doing a gimmick that many lousy wrestlers have had in the past. If you’re one of these people, let me pose a question to you: How many truly bad Umaga matches have you seen? I mean, really? I can honestly not think of one match Umaga put on since his repackaging that I would classify as being bad, the vast majority of them have been good, and several have been excellent. His matches against Lashley were the best that the former amateur wrestler has ever had, his series against Jeff Hardy was a great David and Goliath style feud, and his encounters with John Cena are still considered match of the year candidates by many despite the fact that they took place all the way back in January. If Umaga only had good matches against one opponent, you might be able to argue that he’s been “carried,” but the fact that he’s had awesome matches with a variety of different wrestles proves that Umaga himself is an in-ring performer to be reckoned with.

7.) John Cena – I have a feeling that I’ll get a ton of feedback telling me that I’m an idiot for ranking Cena this high and a ton of feedback telling me that the positioning is dead on. For my money, though, Cena is one of the best going in WWE today. People can argue that they don’t like his being booked as a dominant champion, but the fact of the matter is that you’re not going to see a man whose in 2007 matches have a better combination of suspense, action, and drama. He may not be going out there and doing the most eye-popping offense in the world, but, when it comes to putting on a good match, offense is a distant second to telling a good story. Cena does the latter more often than not.

6.) Edge – In a wrestling world dominated by guys who got in to it because they had to get out of other sports, Edge is one of the few lifelong fans who has managed to make himself in to a main eventer. The fact that he is a lifelong fan shows in his in-ring performances, as he continually comes up with unique takes on classic in-ring sequences, the mark of an individual who has watched enough wrestling to come up with “fantasy” scenarios in which something that he has seen on television is tweaked ever so slightly. Edge, unlike a lot of fans, has the look and the athletic ability necessary to make sure that those fantasies are seen somewhere other than in his own head.

5.) Fit Finlay – He’s in his fifties and he can’t feel half of one of his legs, but, despite those limitations, Finlay can still go out there and have an entertianing match with just about any opponent. Like Flair, Taylor, and other old-timers recently on the list, Finlay relies more on tricks of the trade these days than he does anything overly athletic, but the fact that he’s more mobile than a lot of wrestlers the same age is what gives him the edge.

4.) Triple H – I’m tired of his character and have been for quite some time, but I can’t deny the fact that Trips still delivers at a high level in the ring. I figured that after he returned from his most recent quad tear he’d have to slow things down and would be nowhere near the wrestler he was when he left, but I was proven wrong almost immediately. He’s been on a real hot streak since his return, with his matches against Orton and Umaga all being insanely good, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can pull off against Jeff Hardy.

3.) Rey Misterio – One of the reasons that I respect Misterio so much is his ability to adapt. When he first burst on to the United States wrestling scene a little over ten years ago, he was an individual who primarily got his reactions in matches by doing all sorts of spectacular moves that mainstream wrestling fans had not seen before. Now that he’s had numerous knee surgeries and has put on a significant amount of weight, he’s not capable of the same array of spectacular flips and dives. What he is still capable of, though, is moving around the ring more quickly than many of his peers and selling in such a way that he garners unparalleled sympathy from fans.

2.) The Undertaker – If it were five years ago, there is no way that I would’ve put the Undertaker this high on the list. At that point in history, the man’s body was plagued by numerous injuries, and his mobility was virtually nonexistent. However, after getting some time off and after a couple of years of working a much more limited schedule, the forty-plus Taker is once again in the condition necessary to put together some absolutely classic matches, which he has done with regularity. Even more impressive is the fact that he put on these classic matches with less than stellar opponents, carrying Dave Batista to the best contests of the Animal’s career and even putting on a couple of watchable matches with the Great Khali.

1.) Shawn Michaels – And here we have it. Michaels tops the list because he has the distinction of saving WWE this year . . . not once, but twice. When HHH went down with his torn quad in January, it looked like the company was screwed heading in to Wrestlemania, with its title match plans being absolutely thrown out of the window. Enter Shawn Michaels, who was made the number one contender for the Raw title and singlehandedly propped up the brand for three months thanks to an epic series of matches teaming with and wrestling against John Cena. Fast forward to the tail end of 2007, and an injury-plagued Raw once again needed Michaels to save the brand. Despite the fact that he was coming back months early from knee surgery and had limited mobility, HBK continued to tell great stories in the ring against Randy Orton, making Raw a watchable show during a several week period in which it should’ve been dull as all hell. This is a man who deserves all of the accolades that have been heaped upon him over the years, period.

The Word from Dixieland

PPV Preview: TNA Turning Point

TNA Turning Point

– This will be the fourth TNA Turning Point pay per view.
– This will be the fourth consecutive year that TNA Turning Point as emanated from the Impact Zone in Orlando, Florida.
– This year’s Turning Point features the lowest number of title matches in the history of the show, with only one defense.
– However, in the history of Turning Point, only one show has featured a World Title match in the main event (2005).
– In total, there have been six title defenses on the previous three Turning Point shows.
– In those six defenses, titles have only changed hands twice.

Talia Madison & Angel Williams vs. ODB & Roxxi LaVeaux

– Assuming that this match occurs prior to the Women’s Title match, it will be the first time that women have wrestled on Turning Point.
– Well, unless you want to count the 2006 bikini contest that pitted Traci Brooks against Eric Young.
– Jackie Moore also made a guest appearance on the first Turning Point, refereeing a tag match featuring her old WCW rival Glenn “Disco Inferno” Gilberti.
– Needless to say, this will be the Turning Point debut of all four competitors.

“Feast or Fired” Battle Royale

– This match will be the first of its kind, as four boxes will be positioned in the ring. Three boxes contain title shots and one box contains a pink slip. Wrestlers will fight for the title shots.
– This is the first battle royale in Turning Point history.
– Fifteen men will participate in this match, with Scott Steiner being the only announced competitor.
– Based on the other matches on the card the following men are likely participants in the battle royale: The Road Dogg, Chris Harris, Chris Daniels, Elix Skipper, Homicide, Hernandez, Billy Gunn, Lance Hoyt, Jimmy Rave, Petey Williams, Raven, Rick Steiner, Ron Killings, Low Ki, Shark Boy, and Sonjay Dutt

Eric Young vs. James Storm

– This is the first time that either Eric Young or James Storm will be involved in a singles match at Turning Point.
– All of the men’s previous encounters have been in tag team bouts.
– This will be the first time that Storm has NOT been in a gimmick match at Turning Point.
– In the past, he has competed in a cage match, a tables match, and a flag match on the show.
– Eric Young’s record at Turning Point is 2-0.
– James Storm’s record at Turning Point is 1-2.

Gail Kim (c) vs. The Amazing Kong for the TNA Women’s Title

– This will be the first time that the TNA Women’s Title has been defended at Turning Point.
– This will be the first time that any female competitor has had a singles match at Turning Point.

Abyss & Rhino vs. Dustin Rhodes & Johnny Stamboli in a thumbtack match

– This will be the fourth consecutive year that Turning Point has featured some sort of tag team match with an additional stipulation.
– This will be the Turning Point debut of both Johnny Stamboli and Dustin Rhodes.
– Rhino’s Turning Point record is 0-2.
– Abyss’ Turning Point record is 1-2.
– This will be the third Turning Point show that features Abyss in a no disqualification gimmick match.
– Abyss’ record in no disqualification gimmick matches at Turning Point is 0-2.
– One of those losses, ironically enough, came after Abyss was slammed in to thumbtacks by Monty Brown.

The Dudley Boys & Johnny Devine vs. The Murder City Machine Guns & Jay Lethal in a tables match

– This will be the second table match in Turning Point history.
– Turning Point’s first table match occurred in 2005 and featured the Dudley Boys defeating Chris Harris and James Storm.
– That match was the Dudley Boys’ only Turning Point appearance, meaning that they have a record of 1-0 at the event.
– This will be Johnny Devine’s first appearance on the pay per view portion of Turning Point, though he did appear in a dark match at last year’s event.
– Jay Lethal’s Turning Point record is 0-1.
– Chris Sabin’s Turning Point record is 1-2.
– Alex Shelley’s Turning Point record is 0-2.
– Though they are partners this year, Lethal and Shelley were opponents at last year’s Turning Point show, facing each other in a five-way match which was won by Low Ki.

Booker T. & Frankie Kazarian vs. Christian & Bobby Roode

– This will be Booker T.’s Turning Point debut.
– Frankie Kazarian’s Turning Point record is 0-1.
– Christian’s Turning Point record is 1-1.
– Bobby Roode’s Turning Point record is 2-0.
– Both of Bobby Roode’s prior Turning Point victories have come in tag team matches.

Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, & Samoa Joe vs. Kurt Angle, Travis Tomko, & AJ Styles

– Assuming that it is preceded on the card by the tables match, this will be the fifth six man tag team match in Turning Point’s four year history.
– A six man tag match was one of the main attractions on the first Turning Point show in 2005.
– The 2005 match also featured Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, who teamed with Jeff Jarrett in a losing effort against the odd team of Jeff Hardy, AJ Styles, and Randy Savage.
– This will be Travis Tomko’s first time wrestling at Turning Point.
– Kurt Angle, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash have Turning Point records of 0-1.
– Samoa Joe’s Turning Point record is 2-0.
– AJ Styles’ Turning Point record is 2-1.
– This will be the second time that Styles and Joe have been opponents at Turning Point.
– At the 2005 version of the event, Samoa Joe defeated AJ Styles by knockout to win the X Division Title.

Random Video Interlude

As long as we’re talking about TNA’s pay per view, we may as well keep the theme alive for this week’s video interlude. Here we have the mixed martial arts debut of the Amazing Kong, which took place on an August 2006 show in Japan. She faces a former sumo wrestler, and, though both women land good hits on each other, Kong pulls it out in the end.

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 put together 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 find five new cheap gift packages for five different genres of wrestling.

This Week: Gifts for Classic Wrestling Fans

The 2005 Package Contained . . .

– Jimmy Garvin’s homemade jam for $5 (no longer available)
– Baron Von Raschke shot glass for $10 (still available here)
– Mike Graham’s The Best of Classic Championship Wrestling for $9.99 (still available here with the price reduced to $4.99)

Item #1: Jimmy Valiant’s “Boogie Wrestling Camp” Keychain
Cost: $3.00
Available At: JimmyValiant.com

If there’s one thing that former professional wrestlers are good at, it’s opening up pro wrestling schools. WWE Hall of Famer “Boogie Woogie Man” Jimmy Valiant is no different. However, he’s taken it a step further by not just opening the Boogey Wrestling Camp but also creating an entire line of products associated with it. Picking up the key chain not only gives you a cheap gift but also helps advertise for Valiant. You’d like to help him out, wouldn’t you? He’s a perfectly nice gentleman from what I understand.

Item #2: Original Spoiler Poster
Cost: $15.00
Available At: The Spoiler’s Website

No, I’m not talking about a poster that will give you the results for the next three weeks of TNA Impact. I’m talking about the wrestler known as the Spoiler, Don Jardine. Jardine, also known as the Super Destroyer, had a wrestling career that spanned several decades. The poster that he sells through his website is a unique collage of event posters, programs, and news clippings that document the career of the world’s most vicious masked man.

Item #3: WFP Night of Superstars 4 DVD
Cost: $9.99
Available At: Highspots

It’s difficult to find classic wrestling footage at a low price. A cheaper alternative is to find footage of recent shows featuring classic wrestlers. That’s exactly what we’re dealing with when we talking about WFP Night of Superstars 4, a show from Virginia featuring numerous old favorites. Jerry Lawler takes on Bill Dundee in a reprisal of their classic feud from Memphis, while Dusty Rhode faces old rival Bob Orton, Jr., and “Grappler” Len Denton tangles with George South. Other old school names involved on the card are Tony Atlas, Ivan Koloff, and Roddy Piper. Plus, if you want a little bit more modern wrestling action mixed in with your historic fare, men like Maven, Al Snow, Billy Gunn, and Sonjay Dutt all make appearances.

Foreign Fanatics

Muta Comes Home

We’ve talked a lot in this column about New Japan Pro Wrestling’s massive January 4 Tokyo Dome show, which, in addition to featuring a big defense of the IWGP Heavyweight Title by champion Hiroshi Tanahashi, will also include appearances by TNA wrestlers Kurt Angle, Abyss, and the Steiner Brothers. As if that wasn’t enough to make the card a must-see, New Japan recently dropped another huge bomb, as they revealed that THE GREAT MUTA will be making a one-night only return to NJPW’s ring for the show.

For those who do not know much about the history of Japanese wrestling, the Great Muta (a.k.a. Keiji Mutoh) began his career in New Japan in 1984 and remained a loyal employee of the company for eighteen years. He was also one of the single biggest stars in the promotion, holding its IWGP Heavyweight Title on three occasions and the IWGP Tag Team Titles six different times. Mutoh’s name was practically synonymous with the promotion when, in January of 2002, he shocked the wrestling world by walking out on NJPW and jumping ship to the rival All Japan Pro Wrestling alongside two successful younger wrestlers. Since that time, Mutoh has not only become the top star of AJPW but also a key figure behind the scenes, taking over the majority of the company’s operations from the widow of its founder the Giant Baba. Mutoh has not wrestled for New Japan since his jump, but that will all change in just one month’s time. NJPW did not name an opponent for the legendary wrestler, though Mutoh commented that, because things had changed a good deal in New Japan since his departure almost six years ago, he would like to have a fresh match. Though it’s probably a longshot, my personal dream match for this card would be TNA sending over another piece of talent so that we can get one last match featuring the Great Muta vs. Sting, which was one of my favorite rivalries as a kid.

Titles and Hair Lost as Year Wraps Up in Mexico

The two major Mexican wrestling promotions, AAA and CMLL, both held major shows this week as they work towards wrapping up their schedules for the year. CMLL, as they do every week, ran a few shows at Arena Mexico. What distinguished this week from most was the fact that two big title changes took place. Though championships normally don’t mean nearly as much in lucha libre as they do in American wrestling, they can periodically be used to establish wrestlers as being important or to further feuds, and that appears to be exactly what happened here. The first change was on Tuesday night’s show, and it saw up and coming wrestler La Sombra defeat Hajime Ohara for the NWA Welterweight Title. Sombra is considered to be a rising star by many within the lucha libre world, which we discussed in this column back on August 19. This victory, which gives La Sombra his first singles title in CMLL, only confirms that earlier speculation.

The other CMLL title change occurred on Friday, though it is being used to set up a major match as opposed to establishing a new star. Averno pinned Mistico, the promotion’s top star, to win the NWA World Middleweight Title. (Averno was already the CMLL Middleweight Champion, though the two belts have not been unified.) This was the third consecutive week in which Averno had come out victorious against Mistico, which would have been impossible to believe during the early part of the year, when Mistico literally NEVER lost, let alone lost clean. The belief of many spectators is that the purpose of Averno’s numerous victories is to set up an eventual luchas de apuestes match between the two rivals.

Elsewhere, AAA held their “Guerra de Titanes” year-ending PPV this weekend, which featured numerous big matches. The main event saw Mesias (Ricky Banderas, a.k.a. Judas Mesias in TNA) retain his AAA Heavyweight Title in a three way match over Zorro and Cibernetico. Elsewhere, the father/daughter duo of Gran Apache and Mari Apache won a four corners match for the AAA Mixed Tag Team Titles, defeating a field of teams that included familial rivals Billy Boy and Fabi Apache. Also featured on the card was one of the wacky Mexican cage matches in which a bunch of guys start in the ring and try to escape with the final two having a singles match with either their masks or their hair on the line. Super Calo, Zumbido, Decnnis, and Intocable all escaped the cage, leaving Scorpio, Jr. and Alan Stone to fight it out. Ultimately, Stone triumphed and forced Scorpio (no relation to the U.S. Scorpio) to be shaved bald. Numerous names familiar to U.S. fans were also featured on the show, with the unlikely duo of Sabu and Teddy Hart losing in a four-way tag team ladder match and Kenzo Suzuki coming off his tour of Dragon Gate to lose a tag team match which saw him pair with Electroshock against the AAA version of La Parka and Octagon.

Indy-Sent Headlines

Dave Sheldon Passes Away

I’ve been surprised and somewhat disappointed to find very little discussion of this story on the internet, but professional wrestler “Angel of Death” Dave Sheldon passed away earlier this week according SLAM! Wrestling. Not much is known about his death at this time, and, according to Dave Meltzer, many details have not been released because authorities are not willing to do so until the locate Sheldon’s next of kin, which has proven difficult. The Angel of Death wrestled in most of the large wrestling promotions of the early 1980’s, including World Class Championship Wrestling and Jim Crockett Promotions. It was in Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling that he gained his greatest level of popularity, as he was an unofficial member of the Fabulous Freebirds for a period of several months. He was also one of many individuals to appear for WCW under a mask as the Black Scorpion in the infamous 1990 angle, though ultimately Ric Flair was used in the role in the angle’s conclusion. Sheldon, who was 43 at the time of his death, continued to wrestle throughout the 1990’s before retiring in the year 2000. All of us here at 411 send our best to his friends and family.

A-1 Retires?

Former member of TNA’s Team Canada A-1 (also known as Alastair Ralphs) may have called it quits. The headline of Ralphs’ MySpace page currently reads “Dear Wrestling fans I have decided to retire thanks for your support over the years.” (All grammatical errors in the quote are his, not mine.) I find this news a little bit suspect given the means in which the “announcement” was made, and, even if the story is legitimate, it seems a little bit unusual. Ralphs had only been in the wrestling business for six years after being trained by Scott D’Amore and heavily featured in D’Amore’s Border City Wrestling independent promotion. Though A-1’s time in TNA was certainly far from memorable, he did have the sort of body that WWE salivates over, meaning that he probably would have gotten a developmental deal with them had he just waited a little bit longer and/or moved to Louisville, Kentucky on his own dime to work out with Ohio Valley Wrestling. However, at the end of the day, I can’t say that I know what is best for anybody else’s personal or professional life. As such, to steal a phrase, I wish A-1 all the best in his future endeavors.

Bizarre Promotional Tactics

Here’s a story from WrestlingObserver.com that just struck me as odd. A Michigan independent promotion called AWWL Big Time Wrestling was scheduled to run a show on December 1 in Brich Run, MI. The promotion also seems to have a little bit more money than your average indy group, as they were able to buy local television ads to promote the 12/1 card. The weird thing about these ads was that they featured a video clip of Road Warrior Hawk cutting a promo. For those of you who may have forgotten, Hawk passed away in 2003. Reports from those who saw the commercials indicate that, although there was a small graphic briefly on the screen which referred to him as “the late Road Warrior Hawk,” it was such a small mention that people probably could have been left with the impression that Hawk was going to appear on the card if they didn’t know any better. This may hit a new low as far as misleading advertising is concerned.

One of the reasons that I found this story so interesting was that, for those of you who may not know, I used to live in Michigan. While I was there, I caught a couple of 2004 shows on local television stations which were promoted by AWWL. I believe that the group was owned and/or operated by relatives of the original Sheik, so they were able to get Sabu in fairly regularly and put together some decent cards. However, during their televised shows, they would always run a promo for a compilation of tape of AWWL matches that they sold, and do you know what their big selling point for the video was? They billed it as featuring “THE LAST MATCH OF ROAD WARRIOR HAWK.” How much money are they going to try to pump out of this poor dead man before they finally let him rest in peace?

Following Up

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

~ According to several sources, Harry Smith’s recent suspension under the WWE wellness policy ends today, and he is scheduled to go back on the road with the company immediately.

~ Word from Dave Meltzer is that Travis Tomko has let TNA know that he is in perfect health and will be able to wrestle at tonight’s pay per view. We’d previously noted in this column that, according to New Japan Pro Wrestling, Tomko had to have emergency surgery for a muscle tear last week.

Feeding Back & Wrapping Up

Our one notable piece of feedback this week came from Jim, who wrote in through the good ole’ MySpace:

The DBK vs. Sasuke clip was interesting… what inspired Sasuke to shoot? Was it DBK just doing high spot after high spot and giving Sasuke no offense at all? I did find it weird that DBK got to control the match for so long at the beginning.

Just curious, LOVE your take on everything!

Jim is referencing last week’s “Random Video Interlude” in which I posted a match from 1999 between the Great Sasuke and UK indy wrestler the Dirtbike Kid in which Sasuke broke the Kid’s ribs with some hard kicks and then legitimately choked him out for the finish. As far as Sasuke’s motivation is concerned, I’ve heard many different stories to the point that I’m not entirely certain which one is true. The most popular tale is that Kid was a jerk for the entirety of the tour leading up to this particular show, acting like far bigger of a star than he really was and generally being disrespectful. The other popular explanation is that the mask that you can see the Kid ripping off of his face at the beginning of the match was specifically designed by Sasuke and given to him for the purpose of competing in the “masked man” tournament from which the match comes to us. That also may have pissed off Sasuke to the point of brutalizing the youngster. For what it’s worth, Dirtbike has claimed in subsequent interviews that he had no clue what Sasuke’s problem was.

You know what’s less painful than having your ribs kicked in by the Great Sasuke? Reading more of my work on 411~!

~ My movie zone appearance for the week was a review of the first DVD release for the classic television series Love, American Style.

~ I popped up in Hidden Highlights this week, guest hosting with my weekend new update tag team partner JP Prag and discussing the little things that helped along Raw and Impact.

~ A decidedly more cynical look at TNA is, as always, available in my weekly Impact Crater.

~ And, last but certainly not least, I wrapped up my three week look at women’s wrestling in the Ultimate SHIMMER Starter Guide.

Also, for those of you who had me as a friend on MySpace, I had some technical difficulties this week that required the creation of a new profile. If you’re interested in getting a bulletin notification every time I post a new column here on 411 (which, as you can see above, happens rather frequently), add me as a friend.

That’s a wrap for this week. I’ll be back in seven days with more from pro wrestling’s most notable headlines.


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Ryan Byers

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