PWI UPDATE ARCHIVES: July 2006

IMPACT IMPLICATIONS (July 28, 2006)
MAYHEM MADE SIMPLE (July 26, 2006)
THE TUESDAY MORNING TURN (July 25, 2006)
IMPACT IMPLICATIONS (July 20, 2006)
MAYHEM MADE SIMPLE (July 19, 2006)
THE TUESDAY MORNING TURN (July 18, 2006)
STING’S THE MAN AT TNA’S VICTORY ROAD (July 16, 2006)
WWE COMES UP SHORT ON SNME (July 16, 2006)
IMPACT IMPLICATIONS (July 14, 2006)
MAYHEM MADE SIMPLE (July 12, 2006)
THE TUESDAY MORNING TURN (July 11, 2006)
IMPACT IMPLICATIONS (July 7, 2006)
MAYHEM MADE SIMPLE (July 5, 2006)
THE TUESDAY MORNING TURN (July 4, 2006)


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IMPACT IMPLICATIONS (July 28, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

Shame on me for expecting too much.

That’s right—I’ll take all the blame. Well, not all the blame, but some of it. See, when I demanded that TNA expand Impact into a two-hour program (which, apparently, could become a reality), I figured they would continue to expand angles and develop watchable, entertaining feuds in the process. Well, to use a technical, legal phrase: my bad.

At a time where TNA seems to be doing everything right administratively, for the first time since its debut on Spike the promotion is slacking from a creative standpoint. Where at one point TNA appeared to be the schoolyard underdog with a chip on his shoulder, it now is starting to resemble that weird kid who ate hummus at lunch and spun in a circle. You know, that kid.

TNA is running the risk of losing what always made it an interesting alternative—its sustainable, and downright exciting, creative programming. So, let me take my earlier “demand” back; TNA needs to tighten up its foundation before expanding. I’d rather see one excellent hour of programming per week than two mediocre segments.

* * *

Following His Giant Heart
Do you think Abyss was what Team 3D had in mind when they wished Brother Runt well and sent him off to conquer the X division? Me neither.

Still, Runt—who’s heart has always been bigger than, well, the rest of his body—set his sights on “The Monster” Abyss for his first solo feud since joining TNA. Now, for those of you that don’t live within driving distance of 7th and Ritner streets in South Philadelphia, please allow me to take you back to the beginning of June, earlier this summer. Runt and Abyss met at TNA’s Hardcore War that evening with Abyss beating Runt so profoundly that I believe blood actually flew past my head (I was in the fifth row).

This cannot end well for Runt, who, given his career experience, could be the cagey veteran of the X division. Plus, with all due respect, what does this say about Abyss? I’ve called into question over the past few weeks the direction that “The Monster’s” career path has taken. Sure, based on last night’s Impact, it appears that an Abyss-Raven conflict is potentially on the horizon (Raven scouted Abyss), but, c’mon, Runt? Come to think of it, this may not end well for either wrestler.

* * *

Wrestler Of The Week: Petey Williams
Petey Williams is a great heavyweight trapped in the body of an X division wrestler. If I could nominate anyone to be TNA’s answer to Rey-Rey up north, it would be Williams.

* * *

On With The Show
So, let me just get this out in the open while I’m thinking about it. Team Canada breaks up and each member apparently goes his own way to cut his own path in TNA. Of all of the jettisoned members, Eric Young—the bug-eyed, paranoid member of the group—appears to have caught on with the fans so much that he will be part of a running, weekly angle where he attempts to keep his job. Clever, and a nice use (finally) of “Showtime.”

Naturally, when a wrestler becomes part of a major angle, it only makes sense to hitch him to some of the bigger stars in the promotion. Enter … The James Gang. A curious choice (at best) by TNA, but not entirely without merit.

Young works well as part of an upper-mid-card angle and the Jameses seem to have that spot all but locked up at this point in their TNA careers. It should bring some much-needed face time to Young as well as likeability to the Jameses.

* * *

Something drastic must happen with the budding Sting-Christian Cage feud, or it’s going to get real boring even before they square off. There may be no better time than right now to have Stinger capture the strap and turn against all things good.

* * *

Milk For Free
How excited is everyone at the possibility of a Samoa Joe, Rhino, and Monty Brown three-way feud?

With Brown’s interference in the Joe-Rhino slugfest last night, all signs are pointing toward something going down between the three behemoths at TNA’s Hard Justice pay-per-view in August.

Still not impressed with the potential of this feud? All right, consider this for a second: The outcome of the battle may determine where Monty Brown’s paychecks come from this time next year.

 

MAYHEM MADE SIMPLE (July 26, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

07.25.06
Life’s just not fair sometimes when it comes to wrestling. As soon as a wrestler looks to be getting a huge, career-building push, he/she almost always suffers an injury of some sort (see Phoenix, Beth). Or, there’s the always popular situation where a younger guy gets rolled over by a wrestler well past his prime if only to placate the massive ego of the returning legend (do I even have to put a name here?).

Along those same lines, when a promotion that builds itself up as the monolith of all sports entertainment attempts a venture, the natural grace period that should accompany it seems to be much smaller. In the case of ECW, there never really was that window. The third brand of WWE was expected to win the world over from the first minute it was broadcast on the Sci-Fi Network.

Was that fair? Is it fair for a hungry, yet very demanding, fan base to expect ECW to be that good, that quick? In a word: yes. People like me have been taking the easy shots at ECW over the past two months, and the promotion has fired back with lackluster programming reeking of the stench of pre-packaged WWE garbage. When we all expected a Singapore cane shot to the head, the company’s response was little more than a gym sock to the gullet.

* * *

Is This Thing On?
Take one guy weak on the mike and combine him with another guy weak on the mike and—ta da—you have the duo of Mike Knox and Test, the most impressive tag team in a promotion almost entirely devoid of tag teams! Their goal—to win the non-existent ECW tag team title; their strategy—put their opponents into a coma-like state with their promos before gaining the easy pinfall victory.

That’s right, in a promotion with less than 20 active competitors, two of them are being set together as a team. This means that, on a weekly basis, Knox and Test will be taking on any two of the three members of The F.B.I. or a team pieced together with other singles wrestlers such as Mahoney and Danny Doring, or perhaps other teams, such as Doring and Mahoney.

Lost in the shuffle of this newly created anomaly is poor Kelly Kelly, who, as of last night, has gone a whole week without attempting to strip in front of a crowd of parents taken off-guard and their salivating pre-pubescent kids.

* * *

Oh, It Sucks All Right
Finally! All the teasing is over! The fans of ECW are at last going to see the wrestler they’ve been pining for since it was announced that the promotion was being restarted. Here he is! It’s … that vampire guy.

Yep, I can call him that seeing as how they never gave his name during the broadcast. Rumor has it that he’s going by the name Fertig, although you’d never know that by actually watching ECW.

For those of you that may have missed it, think Gangrel without the puffy shirt à la Seinfeld. Remember that episode? That was the one with the “low talker” that got Jerry to wear a puffy pirate shirt on The Today Show. C’mon, let’s channel surf for a bit, see if we can find it right now. Go ahead, you won’t miss anything. Check TBS—it’s always on there.

The saving grace to what can only be a bad idea is the inclusion of Ariel—once know by OVW fans as Shelly Martinez. Ariel is the scantily clad, tarot card-reading valet of the vampire, and officially brings the ECW total to: Sexy women—2, championships—1. Is there something wrong with that?

* * *

Anyone else wonder if Shannon Moore passes a mirror and starts to weep uncontrollably when he catches a glimpse of his reflection? Don’t get me wrong—he’ seems like a good guy. But, seriously dude, you’re pushing 30.

* * *

Who the hell did Credible piss off to become the weekly jobber on ECW? Isn’t he a former tag and World champ? The only offense I’ve seen him muster during his first few appearances have been slobbering on a guy and maybe causing minor swelling in Kurt Angle’s good slapping hand, but that’s about it.

* * *

I’m Thinking—Re-write?
Remember when Rob Van Dam was the champion of everything for a few minutes earlier this summer? Does anyone recall what his angle was as champion? It’s okay if you don’t recall off-hand—a lot has happened since then. Please allow me to refresh your collective memory: RVD was being pushed as a “fighting champion” and stretched to his limits by competing on a fairly regular basis.

Today, new ECW champion The Big Show is being pushed as a “fighting champion” and stretched to his limits by competing on a fairly regular basis. Make sense? Not really. But in the absence of Van Dam, I suppose it will have to do for now.

Still, I feel compelled to offer my expert opinion to ECW. Here’s a tip on how to quell the crazy schedule the ECW champs have had to deal with over the past six weeks: Don’t have them show up on WWE programming. Yes, I’m well-aware that this is a crazy idea, but if the ECW champion is restricted to competing only on ECW programming, then, possibly, the schedule wouldn’t be as daunting. Of course, ECW, you can take that if you like it—if you don’t, just send it right on back.

Impressively, Show fought through the bumps and bruises sustained during the past few weeks of his title run to put on a surprisingly impressive hardcore match with WWE’s Kane. While I still come from the school of thought that Kane has absolutely zero place in an ECW ring, it wasn’t a terrible hardcore match by WWE standards.

* * *

Lines Of The Night
A few nuggets of entertainment actually can be found throughout the rest of the garbage that has been ECW these past two months. Most notably, there are usually a few lines uttered during the course of the hour that are either so clever—or inadvertent—that they warrant recognition on a Web column of this magnitude.

Here are a few lines from last night that are worthy of such a lofty distinction as “Lines Of The Night.”

Bronze: “Kelly, you’re not allowed to take your clothes off in public ever again.”—Mike Knox to his meal ticket, Kelly Kelly

Silver: “Justin Credible splits his own uprights.”—Joey Styles after Justin Credible was crotched on the ringpost

Gold: “You’re too emotional right now.”—Paul Heyman to a bug-eyed and twitchy Sabu

* * *

What Did We Learn?
07.26.06

Once again ECW did not impart much wit or wisdom on the audience at large. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where I can break down the complexity that is ECW into simple sentences. Enjoy—we’ll talk again next week.

1. One week until C.M. Punk can finally begin the long trek to Raw
2. Kane is “the most extreme” wrestler, according to Joey Styles and Tazz
3. Ariel is the most voluptuous she-vampire since Lily Munster

THE TUESDAY MORNING TURN (July 25, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

So … there I was, lying quietly in my bedroom as Matt Brock and Liz Hunter stood at the foot of my bed arguing the finer points of what led to the demise of the AWA. Liz, in her quaint, Southern twang, believed that it was simply a matter of wrestlers wanting fame and fortune elsewhere, which then led to her rant of how her second cousin who used to run an ostrich farm reminded her of Verne Gagne. Propped up against the dresser, Brock, reeking of what seemed to be a combination of vermouth and rubbing alcohol, swore it was the McMahon dynasty that was responsible.

And I, lightheaded from all the experience before me, just stared.

It wasn’t because I found either combatant’s argument to be particularly compelling, but more so the fact that we were all finally in the same room. See, for the longest time, I had this inkling that these folks may not be, well, real. Sure you’ve heard the rumors and read the garbage on the Internet about Liz and Matt, but I’m here to assure you that these two folks are indeed very real, very boisterous, and very much the characters you imagine them to be.

Of course, there was a slow gas leak in my apartment over the weekend that made me both nauseous and dizzy, but I’m certain it was Brock and Hunter. So sure that, after giving me a thorough exam, Dr. Sydney M. Basil—who kept insisting that he wasn’t that kind of doctor—assured me that everything was probably all right. Whew.

Now, on with “The Turn”—where brain cells are at a premium.

* * *

Jim Ross finally broke down and referred to The Highlanders as “Bushwhacker-like.” Which, had he not been facilitating the birth of yet another billionaire spawn, Vince McMahon may have had a coronary after hearing.

It’s fine when shlubs like me point out that WWE is recycling old gimmicks, but when the company is doing it on its own in a weak attempt at diffusing a pathetic situation, well, that’s just sad.

* * *

Will They, Won’t They?
The Ric Flair-Mick Foley pseudo-feud took center stage yet again last night, leaving me to actually question whether there will indeed be a match between them at some point in the near future.

It seems as if, at this point, the only way to have this match go down would be for Flair to turn rulebreaker for the record billionth time and do something so terrible as to finally goad Foley out of his cushy spot in WWE studios. But, if that’s the route this goes, what then happens to Flair after the feud? Is there anybody out there that believes he can still be sustainable rulebreaker on his own? Not me.

Oh, and it may just have been my mind playing tricks on me, but did Edge point at Lita when he said “you’re looking at ‘The Man’ right here” when he interrupted Flair’s promo in the ring?

* * *

Carlito and Shelton Benjamin wrestled, yet again, for the number-one contender status to the Intercontinental title after WWE officials—get this—reviewed the tape of last week’s match and determined that Carlito won unfairly.

As we speak, Warrior Warrior, Esq. is diligently preparing documents (in crayon) to have his I-C title loss to “Ravishing” Rick Rude re-examined as part of a mass conspiracy. More on that as it develops.

* * *

The Legend Shiller
In the end, there may be no match at SummerSlam that gets more hype, and disappoints so much, as the Randy Orton-Hulk Hogan contest, and it’s not because of the ridiculously slow pace it will likely have (think chinlocks and bodyslams).

No, my fear is that the finish of this match is all but a foregone conclusion. Think about it: Is there any way humanly possible that Orton could come out on top? The self-proclaimed “Legend Killer” hasn’t fared particularly well with slaying legends as of late. Does he really have a shot at killing, arguably, the biggest legend of all?

Initially, I thought that Brooke Hogan would play a greater role in this feud than some may believe. I went so far as to actually imply that the budding pop-starlet would actually turn against her old man, giving Orton the victory. While reports continue to surface that her record company is less than thrilled at her involvement in wrestling, it seems less likely she will be a part of SummerSlam. Still, I’ll hold out to see what happens in August, as pretty much anything is possible in wrestling.

Just wondering: Do they have to keep recapping what happened on SNME because no one watched it?

 

* * *

Your Spellcheck Is Useless
Here is my assessment of the Mickie James-Candice Michelle match from last night, written word-for-word as I attempted to ignore the match as best I could:

The Candice Michelle-Mickie James match for the womens title was some of the worst wrestling since, well, Viscera’s last match. Yet,, I couldn’t devert myeeyes from the screen. In fact, I typed these two sentences hile I was wathching the match, so please excuse the mistakes. Many thanks?

* * *

Not A Bad Way To End Things
In a pair of thrown-together co-main events, Shawn Michaels—who brought his own brand of family friendly DX to the program in the absence of father-to-be Triple-H—defeated Jonathan Coachman by disqualification after The Spirit Squad and Umaga interfered. This will likely set up something between the “Samoan Bulldozer” and Michaels at SummerSlam, which could signal the end of DX-lite.

Somewhat less confusing was the actual main event of the evening that saw John Cena and Ric Flair take on Edge and Johnny Nitro. The match made sense, and appeared to be well-paced, despite the presence of Flair, who basically has been reduced to chopping and desperately trying to lock on the figure-four. In the end, and in spite of yet another “five-knuckle shuffle,” this match capped off a relatively entertaining night.

Come to think of it, did anyone else notice that with the McMahons all busy elsewhere, we had a night of actual professional wrestling almost entirely devoid of a promo segment over three minutes long? It was like Smackdown with viewers!

* * *

And finally, congratulations to Stephanie McMahon and her mystery husband on the birth of their first child, Aurora Rose McMahon-Helmsley Levesque H.

IMPACT IMPLICATIONS (July 20, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

Victory Road has come and gone and, somehow, the NWA World title picture seems more confusing than ever. Sting is now the number-one contender; although he swears that his motivation is only to make sure Jeff Jarrett is not champion. Meanwhile, former champion Christian Cage is slowly showing signs that maybe he wasn’t the clean-cut, goody-goody he was portrayed as following his jump to TNA back in November.

What does this all mean? Well, basically TNA is left with three very viable options for the NWA World title … okay two and Jarrett. This should, in theory, make for some very compelling television over the next few weeks as the rumors abound regarding a possible second hour being added to Impact. If—and that’s a big if—TNA can sustain a high-profile world title feud, on top of the X division, it could justify adding a second hour very quickly and take yet another step in the direction of legitimacy.

* * *

Tag Team Turmoil
Thankfully, for me at least, I live in the Northeast, where there is an abundance of great, independent promotions that have seemingly mastered the art of putting together a wrestling card. Sure, some places specialize in multi-man matches; some just put on hardcore singles battles. But, whatever you’re looking for, generally, there’s an indy promotion near you that can fill the need.

I say this because I’m starting to see something in TNA that is making me wonder just how closely it keeps an eye on the competition up north. Follow me for a second: When WWE was not utilizing its cruiserweights, TNA built up the X division like it was the greatest assembly of talent since the damn Justice League of America; now, with WWE lacking on the tag team front, TNA seems to have a boatload of tandems popping up, making that portion of the roster the most entertaining right now.

Case in point: Arguably TNA’s top two X division wrestlers are currently the NWA World tag team champs. Now, I dig A.J. Styles and Christopher Daniels together, but can I ask why it’s necessary? With The Naturals, The James Gang, America’s Most Wanted, and now Frankie Kazarian and Matt Bentley in the mix, it seems like the division is overstocked with legitimate, matching-outfitted teams.

This could just be a shift in emphasis for TNA, which figured it was time to stop relying on the X division and showcase other talent. I love tag team wrestling, but it’s getting to the point where even I question whether too much is a good thing.

* * *

When TNA reconsiders what it names its pay-per-views in the future, Hard Justice—next month’s $30 edition of Impact—should be the first one changed for so many reasons that it’s not even worth getting into here.

* * *

Intriguing Developments
A couple of things happened on Impact last night that don’t warrant a tremendous amount of analysis, but still seem to be foreshadowing some interesting things in the future. Come with me, won’t you, as we ponder what the future holds for these teased angles:

1. Team 3D is apparently going their separate ways to “figure things out.” This didn’t work once before, and there’s a good chance it won’t work again. Plus, tossing Brother Runt to the X division wolves doesn’t seem like a positive move for the guy that apparently shunned big WWE money to stay with TNA.

2. Samoa Joe and Rhino will be going head-to-head at Hard Justice in one of the most highly anticipated secondary feuds in TNA. If there ever was a need for a six-sided ring, it’s in this feud. These two behemoths squaring off have to be careful or else it will steal the spotlight from the NWA World title hunt.

3. Konnan’s LAX has decided to leave the Spanish announce booth to begin a feud with NWA World champs Styles and Daniels. In fact, the challengers went so far as to sign their contracts in Daniels’ blood, which, in technical terms, was freakin’ awesome. This could get good assuming K-Dogg allows his protégés to do the fighting for him.

* * *

Jay Lethal blew a perfect chance to take a shot at Senshi and the X title by using his guaranteed title shot on Jeff Jarrett and the NWA World title. Sure, being ambitious is a great thing, but did Lethal really think he had a shot at the World title? Has he not seen any of Jarrett’s matches for the last, oh I don’t know, 20 years?

Rein it in a bit, Jay. Your time will come eventually.

MAYHEM MADE SIMPLE (July 19, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

07.18.06
I’m sure someone’s brought up by now the comparisons between WWE and the cheesy Michael Keaton movie Multiplicity, right? You remember that one: A guy finds that he’s so overextended in his daily life that he has copies of himself made so that he can handle his crazy, wacky life. Naturally, hijinx ensues when the guy starts to realize that copies, when made from other copies, lose a little something in the translation. The resulting clone was a little rougher around the edges, or just plain whacked.

Okay … there’s the setup. Now follow this as I go biblical on you:

WWE begot Raw; Raw begot Smackdown; Smackdown begot ECW

ECW, by my (and Michael Keaton’s) math, is technically a copy of a copy of a copy of the original, which explains a lot to me at least. I’ve had drinks at a Montreal strip club that were less watered down than this product. And by “I,” of course I mean “someone I know that isn’t me.”

* * *

He Can Wrassle, Too?
Maybe it was the vicious electrical storm that pummeled the Northeast on Tuesday night, or perhaps it was the heat. Either way, I could have sworn that I saw The Sandman actually wrestle a match against Mike Knox rather than cane a WWE-inspired character. Regaining my bearings, I realized that all the heat-induced confusion was, in fact, reality.

How does one recover so quickly? Well, my brief moment of lucidity is all thanks to Kelly Kelly and her wonderfully uncomfortable “Exposé” segment. The poor girl tries so damn hard to be sexy, but comes off more like one of those wide-eyed and jittery teacup Chihuahuas carried by (insert overexposed celebrity name here) at a movie premiere.

Still, it’s nice to see The Sandman step into the ring with the intention of actually having a match for once. Sure, we all know it will end up with someone getting caned (this time it was poor, defenseless Kelly), but it’s still nice to pretend.

* * *

Being as plugged into both the world of professional wrestling as well as the mainstream media as I am, I will often will get requests from celebrities and world figures. This morning, an actual extremist e-mailed me objecting to WWE referring to the ECW wrestlers as “extremists.”

Oh, it’s not because it offends them per se—c’mon, they are terrorists. It’s just that they find it just as lame as the rest of the wrestling community does. In fact, they’re so put off by it that they’ve actually started referring to themselves as “Superstars.”

Ironic—no?

* * *

And … He’s Lost It
Can anyone blame Paul Heyman for going bat crap loco? My guess is that he saw this whole ECW thing shaking out completely differently than it has thus far, which is understandable. Hence, the guy goes a little nuts, screws his buddy out of his promotion’s heavyweight title, and loses the ball cap, which, next to growing a mustache that curls at the ends, is the traditional sign for any villain. I’m okay with all of that.

Now, what confuses me—as both a fan of Paul Heyman and The Godfather—is why Heyman apparently adopted the “kiss of death” made famous by Michael Corleone on his poor, dim-witted brother Fredo. For those of you who missed it, Heyman planted one square on the lips of Tommy Dreamer just prior to ECW legend, and Canadian folk hero, Test, making his way to the ring to destroy the former champ.

Guys kissing guys—that’s extreme! Right?

* * *

Why is the most extreme member of the ECW roster not wrestling in “Extreme Rules” matches, but every special guest star from WWE seems to be on a weekly basis?

* * *

Nothing Great About It
I was trying to come up with an appropriate, and relatively family-friendly, way to get across my thoughts on the main event of last night’s ECW broadcast. I found myself using words that not only could not be written here, but also a few that, to the best of my knowledge, don’t exists as part of the English language as I know it. At points, I blurted out a virtual cacophony of irate sounds and grunts, as the capacity to form actual words to show my anger had escaped me.

At other times, I found myself combining expletives to create new, all encompassing super-expletives to describe my disgust with a Big Show-Undertaker main event that saw a run-in by The Great Khali.

Yet, my disgust as a mere fan could not possibly compare to the weekly soul evisceration Joey Styles must go through. The man who once stood up on WWE’s flagship program and dressed-down the company and all things sports entertainment was pimping Smackdown’s Great American Bash as ECW went off the air. For shame, my friend, for shame.

* * *

What Did We Learn?
07.19.06

Last night’s episode of ECW taught me a very valuable lesson:

I was completely wrong when I urged fans to be patient and allow ECW to develop over time. The brand has owned an hour of programming for over one month now, and it is essentially still serving as a mop-up hour for Raw and Smackdown. Anything deemed not important enough for those shows apparently spills over as the main event for ECW. To say this is stunting the growth of the C-brand would be an understatement.

The show is slowly taking on a “so bad, it’s funny” vibe, which is not exactly how I think they hoped it would be.

THE TUESDAY MORNING TURN (July 18, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

You’d figure that, after yet another disappointing Saturday Night’s Main Event, WWE would either take one of two expected approaches to the subsequent first live broadcast following the debacle. One option would have been to come out like a shamed puppy, complete with its tail between its legs, thus taking a mulligan on Raw and starting fresh with next week’s episode. But, when has WWE ever done that?! No, WWE would never do that—right?

Another option would have been for WWE to learn from SNME and move forward, possibly even try harder on Raw to impress those who may have actually tuned in to see what the ramifications were following the NBC special. In this way, WWE would be turning what was initially a low point for the company into a potential windfall of promise and opportunity matched only by wrestling’s late-1990s heyday!

Instead, SNME was recapped … oh, and by “recapped” I mean there was a three-minute video of the DX-Spirit Squad match set to ominous music, which was then followed up by a 10-minute segment involving the McMahons and the degenerates. Way to grab the bull by the horns and then pummel it to death with a steel chair. And, alas, a third option was born that I had not anticipated.

Who among us could possibly benefit from programming this bad? Why … me, of course. They keep regurgitating the same old garbage, and I’ll be here to do the same … wait … that’s probably not right. Anyway, enjoy “The Turn.”

* * *

Not That Cool
Call me old-fashioned, but I’m from the school of thought that believes your match is doomed from the start when the announcer belts out the wrong championship that is being competed for. It may just be me—I’ve been known to knit-pick in the past—but, at that point, the air is kinda sucked out of the room.

After the match between Carlito Caribbean Cool and Shelton Benjamin was announced to be for the number-one contender status for the cruiserweight (Smackdown) title, I chuckled figuring that the verbose Mr. Caribbean Cool was merely being set up to go off on one of his choppy diatribes. When that wasn’t the case, and it was clear that backup ring announcer Todd Grisham had blown it, I figured at least that the match itself, between these two tremendously gifted athletes, would more than make up for such a silly blunder.

Ahh, no.

Once again, the mischievous Carlito won by using the ropes for leverage, and the annual Benjamin free-fall had officially begun a little earlier than usual this year. Same stuff, different match. This was without a doubt the most disappointing match on last night’s card—and yes, I recall that Eugene was in action.

* * *

The Most I’ll Ever Write About A Divas Match
It’s almost a given that, if you are a fan of wrestling and the phrase “Divas tag team match” is uttered, you then have about three to five minutes to scour the airwaves, check sports scores, or make a delicious sandwich of your choosing. In short, these matches are generally little more than WWE taking the chance to show stunningly beautiful women in their underpants rolling around, which, in its own way, is awesome, but somehow feels out of place and creepy.

It’s kind of like when your buddies are over, and your friend is flipping through the TV stations, and he comes across some cable porn—and stops. Remember that really weird feeling that overwhelms you when you realize that you’re in a room with like three other guys watching Cinemax’s finest in adult programming together in silence? Yeah, that’s the feeling I get when they flash to a kid in the stands immediately before or after a Divas wet T-shirt contest or catfight.

Yet, much to my surprise, this was a good match. From the start, I had a feeling that this could actually be a serviceable match, thanks to Trish, Mickie, and Victoria, so long neither Candice nor Torrie was much of a factor. Fortunately, that’s exactly how it turned out. No complaints here—which is rare, I know.

Also, let’s hope the contest opened up some eyes (and the wallet) of WWE management. Last night’s match showed that WWE’s women’s division can survive without either Victoria or Trish (as both are rumored to be on their way out), but not without both.

* * *

Did I just see The Highlanders beat up on two unknowns on Raw? Is it just me, or is the flagship WWE program using an awful lot of developmental talent on Raw as of late?

Brand extension still works why?

* * *

It was nice to see Randy Orton compete last night, only hours after the announcement that his grandfather, and wrestling legend, Bob Orton Sr. had passed away earlier in the day. In a fitting tribute, Orton pointed to the sky following the match … but only after insulting Hulk Hogan and insinuating that, despite his words, he would indeed like to take advantage of the legend’s 18-year-old daughter.

Hey, what do you want? This is a huge step for Orton. But, just to be safe, WWE has suspended him for the 30 days following SummerSlam for creeping out Brooke Hogan.

* * *

A Streak With Teeth
Umaga Joe’s less-than impressive winning streak actually gained some credibility last night with a shocking—albeit flawed—defeat of John Cena. It appeared that Umaga had finally met a challenge in Cena, prior to Raw World champion Edge’s interference, which ultimately cost the former champ the match.

Watching this match made me wonder two things, and two things only:

1. To paraphrase the great Norm MacDonald—when did Umaga become so freakin’ important? I mean, the former member of Three Minute Warning spent roughly that much time as part of the WWE roster during his last stint here, yet now he’s knocking off world champions (Cena and Flair). At first I thought this was just a cheap, ill-conceived shot at Samoa Joe and TNA—but now I really think WWE is buying into Umaga for a serious run at the strap.

2. Where does one procure gold-plated teeth in Samoa? I really liked the grill Umaga was sporting and was wondering where in the islands can a fella come across something like that. A buddy of mine is getting married and headed off to some island for his honeymoon, and I’d really like for him to pick me up a set of them—so if there’s anyone from WWE (or Samoa) reading, please e-mail me at pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com to let me know where I can land me some island teeth.

Way to really sell that character, WWE.

* * *

The first of the Diva search contestants was officially eliminated last night, and, immediately after hearing her name, we were all treated to an uncomfortable moment where you could actually see the tears well up in her eyes as she flung thongs into the crowd.

Not the most graceful of exits, but still you have to feel for the girl. I haven’t seen a stripper that upset since I forgot to warm up the dollar coin in Montreal.

* * *

Same Ol’ Stuff, Different Night
Is it a bad thing when a specific match or segment becomes almost as expected as closing credits on a regular television program?

Yet again, Raw ended with DeGeneration X staring down any combination of: the McMahons, The Spirit Squad, and/or both together. And, while DX has had its moments of levity and wit, for the most part the proverbial well seems to have officially run dry. It was as if there were six, maybe seven, jokes written for DX from the outset, and Trips and HBK were given the unenviable task of stretching it out for months on end.

Still, I find it interesting that the company that once bashed TNA for not making its world title the focus of its promotion (the X title was arguably the cornerstone for quite a while) is doing the same. Now, please, try not to view this as a defense of what TNA is doing with their product (there’s plenty of issues I could tear up in Orlando), but, rather, try and look at it objectively. The major storyline on the primary WWE show involves the boss (again) fighting two guys, neither of whom are the brand’s world champion, who, last night, interfered in a mid-card fight.

Am I wrong here?

* * *

For once, I’m going to have to side with Mick Foley over my main man, Ric Flair. No one—and I’m including both Carolinas—wants to see a rematch between these two.

Now, Flair is pushing for a hardcore match for what reason I have no clue. We’ve all seen him bleed, and there’s only so many times you can watch an old man fall down before it stops being funny—right?

On second thought, take the match, Mick!

STING’S THE MAN AT TNA’S VICTORY ROAD (Universal Studios, Orlando, FL, July 16, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

The biggest thing to come out of TNA’s Victory Road pay-per-view last night did not happen in the ring. With the announcement that the promotion would be holding its October pay-per-view—Bound For Glory—in Detroit, TNA took yet another wobbly, albeit very calculated, baby-step toward becoming a legitimate national promotion.

Detroit appears to be a good choice for TNA’s first pay show outside of the Impact Zone for various reasons, the primary of which being that the promotion did well there during its run of house shows earlier this year. Couple that with the fact that Detroit is a mere 20 minutes from Windsor, Ontario—the home base of Scott D’Amore’s Border City Wrestling promotion—and Detroit seems like a natural fit for TNA.

The move to a new venue couldn’t come at a better time for the promotion, who’s pay-per-views still leave much to be desired for their $30 asking price. Hopefully, the move will lead to future off-site events as well as encourage TNA to put more emphasis on the value of production (the Impact Zone is getting pretty stale at this point) as well as create an atmosphere of success throughout management.

In the end, the Detroit experience could be a huge turning point for TNA—or a harsh reminder of how far back in the race the promotion truly is.

* * *

Still Can’t Shake The Image
The new, allegedly nastier Naturals were impressive in their victory over perennial curtain-jerkers The Diamonds in the Rough last night in the opening contest of Victory Road. The former NWA World tag team champs looked crisp and have apparently taken well to the tutelage of Shane Douglas.

Still, until The Naturals do something truly heel-worthy, it’s going to be very difficult to view them as a new, edgier version of their former boy band selves. Getting their hair trimmed doesn’t actually qualify them for instant rulebreaker status. Although, I had my hair trimmed a few weeks back and then felt like picking on an old lady, so maybe there’s something to it.

* * *

Technical Wrestlers Need Not Apply
Okay, now I know you’re out there, sitting in your mom’s basement catching up on TiVoed episodes of Smallville and wondering just how in the world a feud between two guys whose biggest move is running into their opponent at a high level of speed could be even the least bit interesting.

Alas, my friend, you miss the big picture.

It would be silly to expect any “wrestling” to come out of a Rhino-Monty Brown feud. If one goes into it expecting nearly 100 percent brawling, then they won’t be disappointed. Last night’s no-contest should serve as an indicator to everyone that this will simply be a rehash of the Rhino-Abyss debacle, with Brown playing the more demonstrative rulebreaker.

Really, nothing new or sexy about this matchup. Still, I’d put my money on Rhino right now. To have him come out on the losing end of this feud would render all the hype surrounding him calling out ECW completely moot, and TNA doesn’t have much a reputation for pointless angles … yet.

* * *

I saw on CNN late last night that, in a stunning turn of events, illegal immigrants were actually sneaking back into their home countries to avoid watching another lame-ass LAX promo.

President Bush is calling a meeting of the entire Latin American Xchange (Machete included) to discuss border control policy as well as what Konnan was thinking with that Max Moon gimmick in the mid-’90s.

More on this as it develops.

* * *

Hit The Bricks, Eh
Team Canada milked its “last” five minutes of airtime out of TNA last night when Coach Scott D’Amore officially disbanded the group, with each man shunning Eric Young, the perceived catalyst for the faction’s demise.

The aloof Young is beloved by TNA fans right now, so it shouldn’t come as a shock when he begins to venture out on his own and regains the form he once had. And, of course, Bobby Roode and Petey Williams seem as if they could fit in fine in any situation. In fact, D’Amore figured on both men being part of the World and X title chases almost immediately.

The man who should be least thrilled with the demise of TC is the behemoth A1, who, as far as I can see, does not fit in anywhere in TNA. He seems too big for the X division, and yet too small and unpolished for a legit world title run. In fact, it appeared as if D’Amore himself had no clue as to what the future held for A1, referring to him only as the “muscle” of TNA.

It may not be long before it’s A1, and not the exiled Eric Young, that’s clamoring for a Team Canada reunion.

* * *

WHEW—That Was Close!
Franking Kazarian turned out to be X champion Senshi’s mystery opponent last night, returning to TNA after a tumultuous split a few year’s back. Reportedly, Kazarian will be joining the company full-time as part of the X division.

I have to applaud TNA on this move. I mean the X division was really running thin on wrestlers. For a minute there, following the defection of Joe to the World title ranks, the X division may have dropped below 70 wrestlers.

Still, TNA should be careful—the SEC may have to investigate the promotion, as it seems to be creating a monopoly on barely mid-card level cruiserweights.

* * *

Larry Zbyszko lost his “Hair vs. Hair” match to Raven and was shaved bald. Anyone without the last name of Zbyszko who gives a crap, please feel free to shoot me an e-mail (pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com) and let me know why I, or anyone, should devote any more ink to this.

Raven deserves better than a feud with a washed-up “legend,” and TNA should steer the boat as far away from anymore in-ring conflicts with management for as long as possible. It doesn’t work anymore with WWE, and it sure as hell isn’t scoring big points with TNA.

* * *

A Tale Of Two Matches
A common knock against TNA—one that I’m guilty of furthering—is that TNA relies too much on multi-man matches to showcase all of their talent due to time restrictions. Many times these matches have no implications to any angle, or, if they do, they’re so pointless that they hurt the storyline altogether.

Try and pick out which of these two matches did less to advance their current angles (it’s a toughie):

A) Chris Sabin and Jay Lethal defeated Alex Shelley and Kevin Nash in a surprisingly well-wrestled contest that saw both Johnny Devine and Jerry Lynn intervene. Yeah … Jerry Lynn.

B) The James Gang and former NWA World title contender Abyss defeated Team 3D in a brutal six-man tag match that saw a poster stapled to “The Monster’s” head.

C) Both.

Answer Key: If you answered “C” you would be correct. I don’t think even TNA has a clue where to go with the Kevin Nash-X division angle at this point, and The James Gang-Team 3D feud is probably only good for a few more weeks before it truly becomes pointless (arguing over who is the better tag champion while neither group has the belts doesn’t quite make sense).

If you answered only “A” or only “B” you should have you head examined. Seriously—we’re all worried about you.

* * *

Riding Off Into The Sunset
It appears that with their loss last night, America’s Most Wanted is officially out of the NWA World tag team title hunt. While this is no doubt subject to change, it is interesting that the former champs were given only one rematch, whereas the current titleholders seemingly had multiple bites at the apple.

While no one expects AMW to be out of contention for long (c’mon, this is wrestling), few can argue that this is a smart move by TNA to prevent a very marketable tag team from becoming stale. AMW, when on its game, is the best tag team in TNA, bar none (yes, I’m including you, Team 3D). As fan favorites, the team draws great support; but, as rulebreakers, they’ve become great.

Yet, with AMW apparently out of the picture for the time being, it seems that the title run of A.J. Styles and Christopher Daniels could last for quite some time. While the rest of the division is busy pummeling each other on a weekly basis, Daniels and Styles can sit back, wrestle the occasional match, and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Oh, and the angry soccer mom that is accompanying the champs to the ring is now going by the name “Sirelda,” which, loosely translated, means “Seriously … you’re sticking with this angle”?

* * *

The Old Man Stands Alone
Well, it took six months, but the matchup that fans wanted so see circa 2000 appears poised to take place in one month, live, and only on pay-per-view, as Sting beat the odds and won the four-way number-one contender’s match last night for a shot at Jeff Jarrett and the NWA World title.

Still, the old man looked good, returning from having gasoline sprayed in his eyes—no, you didn’t read that wrong—to gain the pinfall victory and thus a title shot against the man that sprayed him, Jeff Jarrett.

While many diehard fans of TNA may be disappointed to see the World title picture play out as such, it really was a only a matter of time until Sting was main-eventing a pay-per-view with championship implications. I’m here to tell you, my fellow fans, that it’s okay—this is not necessarily a bad thing.

In fact, it could be a good thing. With Christian Cage’s growing disdain for all things Sting-related, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to see “Captain Charisma” turn against his good friend, thus costing him the NWA World strap, which would be, in a word, brilliant.

Oh, and I only feel compelled to bring this up because TNA is now pushing it with Cage: When a competitor in any sport enters a competition and does not come out victorious, he is defeated. For example, if say, oh, I don’t know, a wrestler goes into a match as champion and comes out minus the same 10 pounds of gold with which he entered, he lost.

I know these are obscure terms, so I’ll try to be patient. Just for the record—Samoa Joe lost the X title, as did Christian Cage with the NWA World strap. It happens, it’s not the end of the world, and life—as those of us not on planet “Head-In-The-Sand” know it—will go on.

Drop the “undefeated” talk for the sake of all those involved. It just does not work.

WWE COMES UP SHORT ON SNME (July 16, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

The WWE’s unofficial trip down memory lane may be reaching a point where even the company itself has realized that the reliance on nostalgia is not working as well as it had previously hoped.

Following the first installment of Saturday Night’s Main Event 2006 (deemed by critics—and, to some extent, WWE itself—as an unexpected disappointment), the plan for the second installment of the revamped NBC special seemed clear. For WWE to succeed in Dallas where it failed in Detroit this past March, it needed more star power to placate the non-wrestling fan, as well as greater in-ring implications to satisfy the wrestling fan with nothing better to do on a Saturday night.

Unfortunately, Hulk and Brooke Hogan, coupled with a pseudo-screwjob ending to the Raw World championship match, weren’t quite enough to fill both of those needs.

As I sit here typing, the early ratings numbers are in—and if the first SNME was a disappointment, the second must be cause for sheer panic. As of Sunday, the early numbers had SNME coming in with a Nielsen rating of 2.65, compared to 3.1 for the March show.

Missing the mark seems to be the philosophy du jour with the number-one promotion in the world (of which we’re constantly reminded) as of late. From the widespread perception of the mishandling of ECW, to this second SNME debacle, WWE appears to have lost touch with the mainstream, which may be directly influencing its over-reliance on “safe” angles that have worked for it in the past (see “X, DeGeneration”).

Regardless of the rationale, WWE has to view the general lack of interest in a prime time wrestling special as a wakeup call of sorts. The optimistic fan inside me hopes that WWE won’t view this past Saturday night as yet another mulligan, but rather a sign that not only is professional wrestling not as much a part of mainstream pop culture as much as it believes, but even hardcore fans are beginning to not care, thus forcing some sort of fresh, creative change to happen.

Unfortunately, the realist in me is now expecting to see hardcore legend The Undertaker on ECW this Tuesday night.

Still, there’s a lot to get to, so enough of my posturing—on with the show.

* * *

This Can’t End Well … Yet Again
Randy Orton will meet Hulk Hogan in a match that has been clamored for by fans everywhere for, oh, let’s say about a week or so. I’m not saying there was insufficient buildup for this angle, but I’ve seen Diva catfights with more intrigue.

I have to say that in some ways, to me at least, this is the worst angle WWE has gone with in a long, long time. And yes, I’m well-aware that prior to tearing his triceps, Batista was being accused of raping Melina, but somehow this takes the cake. See, it’s not distasteful or overtly offensive, as was the Batista-Melina angle. No, this is far more insulting to the general wrestling fan.

Angles such as this one that are merely thrown together to benefit the returning party (Hogan’s daughter fashions herself quite the pop star), as well give a quick bump to the company are generally not bad things. Hell, I’ll admit that I still get goosebumps when The Rock makes his occasional promotional appearance on WWE television. But in this case, it’s pure and blatant pandering, with absolutely no promise of anything big coming out of it.

It’s one thing for this type of programming tactic to be used sporadically, but it appears as if WWE is relying on it to carry their flagship programming. The angles come, and the angles go, and no one is better for it. Basically, Raw is being reduced to two large angles (Cena/Edge and DX/McMahon/Spirit Squad), coupled with everything else.

Oh, is there anyone out there that doesn’t think Brooke will turn against her pop at some point? No one? Good.

* * *

Isn’t It Ironic?
The “Welcome Back, Batista” tour rolled into Dallas on Saturday night as it quickly became obvious that the entire reason for having a six-man tag team match with wrestlers from Smackdown on the card was to placate the fans who have been pining for six months while “The Animal” was on the shelf.

As contrived and downright predictable as the conclusion of this match was (Batista—surprise—getting the pinfall victory), I really can’t complain. The fans were stoked to see him, and Smackdown is far more watchable with Batista on top. Yet, the most intriguing thing to come out of this match may also have been its most unfortunate occurrence.

Current number-one contender and WWE insurance carrier nightmare Mark Henry appeared to seriously injure his knee, which, in some sick way, is probably poetic justice seeing as how his sloppy work has taken down wrestler after wrestler. Still, I never like to see a wrestler go down with an injury, so here’s hoping he’s back on his feet and nearly crippling co-workers sooner rather than later.

* * *

Nothing Lost, Even Less Gained
There was really nothing worthwhile or spectacular about the mixed gender tag match in which Melina and Johnny Nitro faced off with Trish Stratus and Carlito, and, if history has taught us anything, that’s exactly how an Intercontinental title feud should look.

Essentially, the I-C strap has become a way of keeping two future Raw World title contenders on TV for the time being, while also giving the fans a weekly title match of some sort. The championship was once viewed as a steppingstone to the promotion’s world title, which is how it appears to be seen now, and I’m fine with that.

On a side note: The rumor mill has it that Stratus will be taking a Keibler-esque leave of absence once her contract runs out in August. While that is unconfirmed as of right now, a dead-end feud with Melina doesn’t seem to bode well for the future of Stratus, who appears to be getting gradually phased out of the women’s division. As much of a loss that the Keibler mainstream defection was, losing Trish could signal the death knell for women’s wrestling in WWE for the time being.

* * *

Remember when being involved in a storyline with any combination of Shawn Michaels, Triple-H, or any one of the McMahons generally catapulted a young wrestler into the promotion’s upper echelon?

My new prediction: Only two—maybe three—of the five Squaders will be up with the big brand this time next year. Those of you who really watch closely can probably pick those three out. Here’s a hint: Look for the guys that are taller than the ring ropes.

* * *

Like A Kid On Christmas Eve
Just when I thought I couldn’t want to see the Great Khali-Undertaker feud end any sooner, there now exists the potential for an even bigger train wreck right around the bend.

With an apparent Khali-Big Show battle—which I’m tentatively titling “The Rumble ’Tween The Mumbles”—seemingly mere weeks away, I find myself practically salivating over the debacle that will undoubtedly occur between two men so physically imposing that actual wrestling training was never much of a consideration. See, when you’re that big, you don’t have to focus on the fundamentals—kind of like Shaq and free throws.

Still, I feel it necessary to admit that I like The Big Show. The guy is charismatic, funny, and still relatively imposing. Yet, when Show is forced to be the mouthpiece for a feud, WWE has problems; when the same man is considered to be the most technically proficient wrestler in said feud, I’ve got material.

Thanks, WWE. Your muffin basket is in the mail.

* * *

No one should blame Sabu and Stevie Richards for the quality (or lack thereof) of their match on SNME. In all reality, the match was at a bad spot on the card, plus just how “extreme” can one get on network television?

Still, someone up there in Stamford needs to pull Sabu aside and give him a hug and make sure he knows that it’s not his fault that ECW sucks, à la Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting.

Hell, I’ll do it: It’s not your fault, Sabu … it’s not your fault.

* * *

Plenty Of Bull, Not So Much Riding
Following the Divas bull-riding challenge, I just had a few words of advice for WWE regarding gratuitous female sexual innuendo, from a man who actually minored in it in college:

• It works on the USA Network because there you have greater leeway as to what you can show as well as insinuate. And, while I think it can stop a card dead in its tracks, it’s apparently a vital and necessary part of WWE programming.

• Conversely, on network television during prime time, it’s even more pointless and lacks the certain, oh, I don’t know, subtle exploitation of a typical episode of Raw. All it did was confuse the kids watching, and disappoint the perverts.

* * *

Not A Bad Way To Go
The Raw World championship match between the bad-ass Boy Scout John Cena and Edge may have been the best part of the evening, regardless of what my peers in the industry may think. The match was relatively well done, and the ridiculous finish made for legitimately compelling television, which is a rarity in wrestling these days.

By having Cena appear to win the Raw World title, only to find out he did so by disqualification (thus, no title change) was very clever and well done by WWE. It provided a legitimate hook for the casual fan to check out Raw on Monday night to see what the aftermath is, plus it kept the strap on Edge, where it belongs for now.

From a television standpoint, this worked, and from a wrestling perspective, it didn’t hurt the angle at all. This how the rest of the show should have looked.

IMPACT IMPLICATIONS (July 14, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

I’m going to steal a page from the storied history of PWI. I’ve noticed, through my extensive and somewhat maddening search through our archive of past stories that we tend to “demand” things of wrestlers and/or promotions. For example: The first magazine I worked on when I started here involved us demanding that the U.S. Olympic Committee force the International Olympic Committee to strip Kurt Angle—who at that point hated America—of his gold medal. Apparently, the stuffed shirts at the IOC aren’t big PWI readers, seeing as Angle still parades around whatever brand he’s assigned to, proudly displaying his medal.

But that is just one example of how we at PWI will stand behind our convictions and shine a light on some aspect of the industry that we feel needs addressing. With that being the case, I’m going to start lobbing my own demands at the good people down south in TNA land. Nothing drastic—at first—but just something that should seriously be considered.

My demand is that TNA must (we love using “must”) expand Impact to two hours—now. Sound like a broken record? Perhaps. But, if one thinks about it, now may be the perfect time to do so. With ECW on a slippery slope, Smackdown somewhere in television limbo, and Raw becoming more repetitive by the week, the time may never be better for TNA to make that long-awaited leap from “also-ran” to legitimate contender. Of course, for this to happen, TNA must demand the time from Spike TV, which could be as big a waste of time as our demand to have Angle stripped of his medal.

My reasons for making my virgin demand are numerous; in fact, they are too numerous to go into great detail here. Yet, the crux of my demand is simple: The window of opportunity to make a legitimate impact on the televised wrestling market is closing quicker than TNA thinks. The good will of the frustrated fans is wearing thin; the grace period is coming to a close. Make this move—and soon.

* * *

Team 3D alluded to it, and last night Rhino flat out said it—TNA is calling out ECW. While this isn’t exactly a fair fight (TNA can’t compete financially with WWE, but ECW is already down, making it considerably easier to kick), it is a battle that fans should be excited to see.

TNA fired the first couple of shots, but last night’s scathing segment with Rhino was the first true act of war. Who better than “The War Machine” to kick off this feud.

The floor is yours, Mr. McMahon.

* * *

A Frighteningly Appropriate Name
While watching Abyss decimate Norman Smiley—who’s big wiggle is about the most uncomfortable thing to watch on all of television—it occurred to me just how far “The Monster” has fallen.

As recently as a few weeks ago, Abyss was one of the top contenders to the NWA World title. And, while his fall hasn’t been as drastic or head-scratching as, say, Mony Brown’s, it is somewhat perplexing as to why he’s still not mentioned in the same breath as those chasing the title. And, while being placed in a tag team feud with the James Gang and Team 3D isn’t exactly wrestling oblivion, it’s still not exactly the place where Abyss has the most opportunity to grow as a competitor.

Sure, Abyss came up short in his feud with then-champion Christian Cage, but, if Jeff Jarrett has taught us anything, you can have as many bites at the apple as you like so long as you’re completely devoid of charisma. Doesn’t a man who communicates in obscure hand motions and grunting, yet can actually wrestle, fit that description?

* * *

Not Very Impressive, Grasshoppa
Senshi has competed and trained with some of the greatest wrestling talent in the industry. He has prided himself on blending the skills he learned while studying under some of Japan’s finest wrestlers with the skills he acquired in the U.S.

Yet, the current X champion finishes off his opponents by jumping onto their chest feet first.

Not very Shinobi of him, if you ask me.

Actually, it kind of seems more like a highly skilled ninja throwing a rock at their foe. Hell, I can step on someone, and I’ve never even been to Japan.

* * *

Is it just me, or is the “neutralizer” that accompanies A.J. Styles and Christopher Daniels to the ring simply a tall woman.

* * *

Woe Canada
In honor of Team Canada’s demise, I thought it would be appropriate to examine where each member will go now that they are without their Canuck running mates, à la the end of Animal House and every subsequent movie that stole from it.

Scott D’Amore: Distraught at the fact that no one will live in fear of his incessant, whiny rants, D’Amore will immediately look to take someone else under his wing. When that doesn’t happen, he’ll open a Tim Hortons right outside of Windsor, Ontario, and live the out the rest of his days knee-deep in bear claws.

Petey Williams: Three words—best … move … ever! While all of the members of Team Canada appear to have a future ahead of them, the demise of the group will undoubtedly most benefit Williams, as he is the one member that was being held back the most.

A1: Remember Non from Superman II. You know, that big guy from Krypton that couldn’t really speak outside of grunts and whimpers. Okay, that’s basically what A1 has been during his tenure with Team Canada. Where he goes from here is hard to tell—but it can’t be any worse than where he was.

Bobby Roode: Next to Williams, Roode stands to benefit the most from the demise of Team Canada. He will likely be part of the NWA World title picture within the next year, and could conceivably do a run as a fan favorite at some point.

Johnny Devine: Hey, it’s just nice to see this guy back in the ring. Next step: Ditch Alex Shelley.

Eric Young: Actually, by order of Jim Cornette and TNA management, Young will have to be tethered to D’Amore via one of those elastic leashes that parents use on their kids at the mall. So I guess, technically, Team Canada will live on, and conjoined hilarity will ensue.

MAYHEM MADE SIMPLE (July 12, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

07.11.06
Much has been said about the train wreck known as ECW thus far. In between putting together the magazine, hazing my co-workers, and making life generally difficult for our publisher, Stu Saks, my days also consist of scouring the Web, looking for tidbits of info, and nuggets of wrestling goodness. Unfortunately, when it comes to EC-dub, many of you have responded as any frustrated customer would—with anger and disgust.

Do I blame you? No. Am I going to preach patience as I did when the program first started? Not a chance. So, that kind of leaves us who follow the industry for a living in a precarious spot—what do we do with ECW?

Now, not watching it is an option, but what’s the fun in that? It’s like tying your buddy’s shoelaces together while he’s napping on the couch, and turning your head once he goes to get up. We’ve been through the setup, and most of us have a good idea where this promotion is heading—so why not sit back and enjoy just how bad ECW is?

The simple truth is that, if ECW stays around long enough, it may actually become a fun and watchable brand for WWE. With the marketing monster of Stamford behind it, and fans packing bingo halls from coast to coast, there’s no reason this should fail—but it might.

So, I say, let’s soak up this neo-XFL, tax write-off waiting to happen while it lasts before it goes the way of the NWO—not the good one, but rather the Booker T and Jeff Jarrett versions. Yeah, those.

* * *

Paul E.’s Got Some Splainin’ To Do
Paul Heyman took the easy route and blamed the fans for the downfall of Rob Van Dam. Referring to himself as the fans’ “savior” and “Messiah” (possible start to yet another WWE “God complex” angle), Heyman pointed out that costing RVD the title and suspending him was an act of mercy on ECW, and that he only made the decision because it was best for the promotion.

Taking it a step further, Heyman indicated that not only are we the reason he’s not champion, but it’s our fault, apparently, that he was suspended (which, curiously, has not been explained as of yet). It was our insatiable lust for seeing RVD fight every night that forced him to burn himself out while defending the straps on a nightly basis.

This is, in a nutshell, the most telling sign that the new ECW is under a WWE regime. The old ECW would have readily acknowledged its champion getting pinched for allegedly possessing some no-no tobacco, but here—in the new ECW—it’s “the fans’ fault,” because the powers that be at WWE only know one way to turn a guy heel—have him insult the fans. This is an ancient tactic that WWE still uses today, and, to me at least, the first true sign that ECW is no longer in good hands.

* * *

Failing The Test
It was hardcore legend versus hardcore legend when Tommy Dreamer met the hardcoriest hardcorer—Test, a man who is so hardcore he once accidentally bit his tongue while eating a backbacon (he’s a Canuck) and egg sandwich. To be fair, reports have it that the bite was indeed “hardcore” and that Test had one of those sore bumps on the inside of his mouth for like a week. You know—the kind that hurts even when you run your tongue over it. That’s hardcore!

On a related note, Tommy Dreamer was set on fire … numerous times … as part of his job.

In the end, Test actually needed leverage from the ropes to finish off Dreamer. Seriously? As much as I disagree with Test being anywhere near an ECW ring, I suppose I can accept the fact that WWE is going push the hell out of him. He is big and relatively devoid of pure wrestling ability, which is pretty much par for the course.

Still, to have Test roll over Al Snow last week and then struggle against an unprepared, chronically injured man five years his elder is just pointless.

* * *

Such A Tease
ECW’s best move thus far may be the fact that it teases talent that will be making their respective debuts with the brand in the upcoming weeks. The obvious benefit is that with the show being live, fans will likely tune in weekly so as not to miss someone they’re interested in seeing wrestle. The detriment: Tease a few potential clunkers and fans may lose interest sooner than later.

Here’s the crop of upcoming debuts to look for:

Fertig the Vampire & Ariel. That vampire thing has to stop. Seriously … it’s not mysterious, scary, or God only knows what WWE wants it to be. It’s just dumb.
Interest level: Low

Mahoney. Hey, at least he was once in ECW. That’s a start right? Plus, what’s ECW without at least one “Chair Swinging Freak.”
Interest level: Moderate

C.M. Punk. The success of this guy could make or break the brand. It may seem like a lot to put on a guy’s shoulders, but if anyone can handle it, it’s Punk.
Interest level: Very High

Shannon Moore. There was actually a point where Moore was the talk of professional wrestling, when he ditched TNA for WWE—a company that treated him crappily (it’s a legal term) at one point in his career.
Interest level: This dude quit TNA for this? Seriously? Does ECW even have a “jobber-weight” division? Zero interest.

* * *

Here’s a brief recap of Kelly Kelly’s highly touted exhibitionist duet with Candice Michelle:

• Kelly Kelly stood with a very distinct “deer in the headlights” look on her face there while Candice solidified her place as the sexiest pseudo-lesbian in wrestling.

• Enter Mike Knox, towel in hand.

• Enter Sandman to cane Knox into oblivion.

Oh, wait … can I say “Enter Sandman,” or should I just replace it something more “cheesy, intern-created techno-rock, worthier of a Casio keyboard demo than entrance music” type of phrase?

* * *

EC-F’N-WHAT?
Please … just let me get this out of my system.

We get an “Extreme Rules” match between Ric Flair and The Big Show—two men who have absolutely zero right stepping into a hardcore promotion, let alone being the main event of said card. Yet, when it comes to Justin Credible and Sabu—two former ECW World champions and legitimate hardcore icons, the contest ends in a disqualification because it was not held under “Extreme Rules”?

What in Messiah Heyman’s name are they thinking?! Sabu and Credible are two of the only ECW alum actually allowed to appear on ECW programming, and yet we’re given a garbage “straight wrestling” match? That’s not even stupid—it’s insulting.

* * *

Respect Thine Elders
The buildup to the ECW title match last night may be a tad confusing, so follow along, my minions:

Flair cut a promo on Foley, who, in case you’re losing track, once wrestled in ECW but is currently with Raw. Flair, who is also part of Raw, did this while on ECW as he prepared to wrestle The Big Show, formerly of Raw, now champion of ECW.

Got that? Good.

While that may be confusing to wrap your mind around, it’s not nearly as befuddling as trying to figure out why in the blue hell Flair is intent on killing his legacy? The 16-time world champion continues his own personal vendetta against his legend by engaging in angles that besmirch not only Flair, but also all he’s done for the sport. Yes, for those of you wondering, I was one of the people that felt Michael Jordan returning hurt his legacy regardless of the stats.

Flair’s offense consisted primarily of kicking the champion in his Big Shows numerous times, as well as utilizing some of the more traditional weapons of ECW lore, such as a barbed wire baseball bat, trash cans, steel chairs, and thumb tacks. Show won with his new pet finisher—a modified cobra clutch backbreaker.

Something interesting to note: If I’m correct, this may be the first time that both men bled during a match. That’s right, ECW fans—the first hardcore blood you get in the new ECW comes from Ric Flair and The Big Show. Hmm … kind of stings a bit.

* * *

What Did We Learn?

07.12.06
In the end, we learned not much, although this week was more entertaining than the last few, which works for me at this point. Still, the show is slipping into TNA territory, which is something I know would kill Paul E. were he to read this. Basically, the promotion only gets an hour of programming devoted to it each week (well … most of an hour, anyway) and is trying to make the most out of it. A byproduct of that type of booking is that angles are rushed, questions don’t get answered, and, often times, the spotlight is shone where it shouldn’t be.

In other words, it’s the classic “the food is awful and the portions are small” analogy. ECW needs more airtime (of its own) to develop angles and storylines, even though the product has all the intrigue of a duck pooping on a park bench right now. Maybe with a little more programming—and a lot of changes—this thing could start back on the long road to respectability.

Well, ECW-respectability at least.

 

THE TUESDAY MORNING TURN (July 11, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

With the second installment of Saturday Night’s Main Event a mere five days away, last night’s Raw figured to be the typical “last show before the PPV” type of evening. In all honesty, I don’t mind those shows; in fact, in today’s buy-rate driven industry, shows such as that are a necessary evil.

Still, there was something amiss with last night’s episode, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on until my drive into the office this morning. Now, maybe it was just me (and, given my advancing age and declining senses, that’s entirely possible), but didn’t the entire episode of Raw seem rushed? It appeared—and again, this may just be my perception—that there was so much random information that WWE felt needed to be put out there prior to SNME that the show itself suffered because of it.

For example, the Hulk and Brooke Hogan-Randy Orton angle—which will undoubtedly be the biggest draw for SNME—was reduced to a rambling promo by “The Legend Killer” coupled with a brief commercial building up Hogan’s return. Yet, there was still plenty of airtime to devote to showing the McMahons taunting Eugene—the man without a storyline.

In all honesty, I didn’t have much of a problem with the show as a whole last night. In fact, it appeared to me that WWE is possibly trying some different things, and showcasing more of its talent, which is a nice step in a new direction. I’m willing to give them credit—as well as my patience—for the time being.

So sit back, send the kiddies off to day camp, and enjoy “The Turn”—info for the kinder, gentler wrestling fan.

* * *

Poor Shelton—We Knew Him Well
The John Cena-Shelton Benjamin opener was not only extremely long, it served little purpose other than to officially bury Benjamin even deeper in obscurity. With the victory, Cena is still the number-one contender for the Raw World title, whereas the loss leaves Benjamin … well … no one’s quite sure where.

After dropping the I-C strap to Johnny Nitro, Benjamin hasn’t rebounded the way a former champion should. Unless this was a permanent move to now have him as part of the world title hunt, the “Tim Duncan Of The WWE” (a quiet, business-like, and relatively non-threatening champion) will likely be moved to the Smackdown brand in the near future.

* * *

Hulk & Brooke Hogan will make a special appearance on SNME … ugh. Sure it’s part of an angle with Randy Orton, but doesn’t it kind of feel shameless knowing that this whole, contrived storyline is being done to promote Brooke’s music career?

* * *

Our Weekly Catfight
Now, anyone with half a brain needed all of about 30 seconds to realize that Carlito would become part of the Trish vs. Melina match as he, the two Divas, and Johnny Nitro are all scheduled to compete this Saturday at SNME. And, true to form, Carlito did just that, making the save for Trish following the match.

On the bright side for the women’s division, Melina didn’t look terrible in the ring, although the Orton-esque chinlocks and slow-down moves aren’t really tremendously appealing to the fans. The most nimble valet on the planet was able to have a serviceable match against a much more talented wrestler—while utilizing no real wrestling moves—and get the win.

If Melina chooses—or is chosen—to become a full-time member of the Raw women’s division, it will be a solid addition to a gradually deteriorating title picture, and a necessity should Trish choose to go the way of the Keibler.

* * *

Edge and Lita made an appearance during the first match of the night and then left the arena to celebrate. Naturally, a WWE cameraman followed them back to their hotel where the couple sat at the bar and apparently got hammered off of Mimosas.

Funny—I would’ve pegged Lita as a “warm Pabst from a semi-clean ash tray” type of lady.

* * *

Tag Team Turmoil
From the “I Never Thought I’d Say This” department: Rob Conway and Matt Stryker will part ways as a tag team at some point, as “our teacher” keeps ditching the ambiguously gay “Conman.” This is actually a shame as they are two serviceable wrestlers who, separately, are god-awful on the mike, and even more boring in the ring. Yet, together, they could actually be a very nice, rulebreaking tag team at a time where Raw desperately needs well-pieced tandems.

As for The Highlanders: They’re not bad, only about 15 years too late.

* * *

Is anyone else annoyed by the new “Family Matters will return in a minute”-style voiceover WWE is using prior to each commercial break? With two able-bodied announcers, more than willing to flap their gums, why would WWE resort to such a cheesy tactic?

* * *

Hardcore No More
At first I was disappointed to see that Ric Flair would be arguing with a pre-taped segment done by Mick Foley. Not that this doesn’t happen regularly in WWE, but it still would’ve been nice to see these two legends trade verbal assaults.

And then Foley called Flair a “used-up hack.”

Sure, it’s not exactly “straight from the hip” and completely unexpected, but, still, a statement like that has to cut deep for the “Nature Boy.” Add in the fact that everyone knows this feud is more personal hatred than storyline fodder, and we have a surprisingly interesting angle. Naturally, WWE saw it fit to work ECW into it, which officially signaled the end of any credibility Flair has left in WWE.

A few signs that don’t bode well for ECW:

• Lawler says “I watch ECW every week, whether I like it or not,” which was meant to obviously get across his disdain for the hardcore brand, but actually inadvertently speaks volumes about the product.
• Flair going to ECW for a title match tomorrow night, and for those of you wondering, I felt the floor and, no, hell did not freeze over. Flair—the wrestler of choice in my youth—has officially become the old man that will do anything for a buck. Were my heart not a “stone,” as fellow editor Lisa Rocchi points out, I would cry.
• Paul Heyman, who came out to an ice-cold crowd reception, looked completely defeated. That maniacal spark in his eye—like he knows something everyone else doesn’t—is officially gone.

* * *

Get The Money Up Front, Ladies
Hey, WWE. We get it—they’re hot. Okay, really, really hot. But nothing—and I mean nothing—kills the show more than the “Quarter Of A Million Dollars” Diva Search.

Still, last night I made the conscious decision that I’m going to finally give in and enjoy the Diva Search. In fact, I’ve decided to actually handicap the contest and give the odds as to which hopeful will walk away with the contract. Ready? My choice to win is … the playfully vapid one with the fake boobs—ta-da! And here I thought TNA was on Thursday nights … eh? … get it? Ahh, I’m so witty.

Seriously, though, the introduction of the Diva Search to the Raw audience made me realize two things: 1. The Miz isn’t a bad guy, he’s just doing the terrible job assigned him. 2. There are eight dads out there that have to go to work tomorrow and explain to his co-workers that it wasn’t his daughter on Raw last night, as he sneaks mouthfuls of Jim Beam from his thermos and gently weeps to himself in the break room. Have fun, girls!

* * *

Just seeing a preview for ECW pisses me off.

* * *

Glad You Could Join Us, DX
Naturally, with a vile, rulebreaking champion holding the promotion’s top title, last night’s main event was originally scheduled to be—and I kid you not—Vince and Shane McMahon vs. Eugene.

No, I’m not kidding.

Unfortunately for the oft-criticized Eugene, the match ended up being a squash when The Spirit Squad was added to the mix, making it a seven-on-one battle. Fortunately, after Eugene nearly had the last remnants of Dinsmore beat out of him, DeGeneration X appeared at the top of the entrance ramp and distracted McMahon just long enough for Eugene to steal the victory.

To say this was a less-than-fulfilling conclusion to Raw would be an understatement; to say that both Eugene and DX should be shelved makes far too much sense to be heeded.

IMPACT IMPLICATIONS (July 7, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

It’s an interesting statement on the status of things in the wrestling industry when the general consensus around the PWI office is that TNA programming is generally the best on television right now—and it’s pre-taped! Consider this: how far has WWE programming fallen in the past few months that a show whose results are posted on-line days (weeks sometimes) before it airs seems to be more compelling?

The trick for Impact at this point seems to be not falling into a trap that sees them attempt to fight WWE at its own game. For example, it has to let go—for the time being—of calling out ECW through Team 3D. Right now, TNA should be focusing on taking advantage of the discontent focused on WWE’s mishandling of the ECW product by creating some of its best programming possible, not pointing out the flaws of the competition. That’s so WCW.

My advice to TNA (because I’m sure they’re wondering) is to just keep plugging away and producing topnotch entertainment. Try to become more visible in any way it can, even if that means going outside of the industry. It’s imperative for the good of the business that TNA starts to become a competitor in earnest—and sooner rather than later.

* * *

Seriously—Kenny King?
Two months ago, Monty Brown was a main-eventer poised for a long and intense feud with then-NWA World champion Christian Cage.

Last night, he beat Kenny King and, while it was in relatively convincing fashion, it just goes to show how far from grace “The Alpha Male” must have fallen in the eyes of TNA management. Once considered to be the heir apparent to the NWA World strap, Brown is a mid-carder on a one-hour show that boasts only two individual titles.

Think about that for a second—either you’re competing for the NWA World title, the X division title, or languishing in wrestling purgatory. He’s officially in Rhino territory where the criterion seems to be having tremendous talent with no real hope of advancement, which is a shame. It’s gotten to the point where the only way Brown can get his name mentioned as part of the main event is to cut promos against men in matches in which he’s not even participating.

* * *

Batting .500 For The Night
Of the four segments on last night’s Impact, roughly half of them (that would be two for the mathematically impaired) did so little to advance their storylines that each could be cited as potentially hurting TNA rather than helping it.

Plus, with only an hour of original programming per week, it seems odd to use it this way but, hey, what do I know? You decide for yourselves:

Situation #1: Sonjay Dutt beat Homicide by disqualification when Konnan and Hernandez interfered, which prompted Slick Johnson to come down to the ring and tell the referee what happened. This brought on an argument between Zbyszko and Johnson who, with Eric Young, handed out copies of a picture of Zbyszko bald, playing up his “Hair vs. Hair” match at the Victory Road pay-per-view.

Situation #2: Kevin Nash, Alex Shelley, and new addition to Paparazzi Productions Johnny Devine come to the ring with a stuffed body bag in a shopping cart claiming they had “caught Osama Bin Laden.” It ends up being Chris Sabin in the bag, who fights off the foes with the assistance of Jay Lethal.

Mind you, during all of this Don West is having an aneurysm at the announce table as if he’s watching Bruno Sammartino take on, and defeat, Bigfoot in a match refereed by John F. Kennedy.

* * *

Well, it finally happened! I’ll be a man and admit it openly—I’m afraid of Samoa Joe.

During a taped segment, Joe had his first—and God-willing only—Mike Tyson “I’m gonna eat his children” moment last night when he promised he would hurt Scott Steiner and “make his children cry.” Now, I have no children, and I’m not a particularly big fan of Steiner, but that terrified even me. Nice work!

* * *

As The Hero Turns
Is there anyone out there that doesn’t see Christian Cage’s inevitable heel turn coming? With each passing week, it appears that Cage’s former infatuation with his friend Sting is quickly coming to an end (come to think of it—exactly where did that friendship develop seeing as how Sting was in WCW when Cage started with WWE … hmm).

Regardless of when the eventual turn occurs—and it will—it could be the best thing in the world for TNA as well as Cage. As most recall, Mr. Cage used to work at another high-profile company as, for the most part, a sarcastic rulebreaker who overvalued his own worth to the company and, with apologies to Jeff Jarrett, a wrestler with that attitude would be perfect in TNA right now.

Of course, Sting could always beat him to the punch.

MAYHEM MADE SIMPLE (July 5, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

07.04.06
Now, despite what some may think, I’m not naïve enough to assume that there will ever be actual separation between ECW and WWE. It’s become blatantly clear that the new ECW is, well, just that—new. This isn’t ECW as we remember it, but rather ECW as the McMahons would have envisioned it—just risqué enough to push the proverbial envelope, but not spicy enough to get the company in real trouble.

Basically, it’s Raw with kendo sticks.

Still, would there ever be any better setting for the new ECW to declare some form of independence than in Philadelphia on July 4? The answer is undoubtedly no, there would be no better place to reconnect with the ECW faithful than South Philly—although not having the event at the arena ECW made famous is something of a bad start.

My early feeling is that tonight will be an opportunity lost—but that may just be the bitter, Philadelphia realist in me.

* * *

Knox Blocker
Before decimating Little Guido (formerly Nunzio when he was jobbing for Smackdown; back to Guido now that he’s back jobbing for ECW), Mike Knox once again covered up the lovely Kelly during her required weekly strip tease which, sadly, has become the best part of ECW.

For those of you who may have tuned out—or simply don’t care—Mike Knox is the hybrid Gene Snitsky-Mark Mero of the newly bastardized ECW.

* * *

Quote Of The Night
Holy crap—was that just Test? They weren’t kidding—they really brought back Test. Wow. I mean, I saw the commercials and all, but still. No way this can work.”
—My actual words after seeing Test make his return to WWE television

* * *

Caning The Shark
Sandman beat the ass of a guy who pretended to be a priest, hopped the rail, and bashed ECW and the fans on the mike. No, he wasn’t arrested and taken from the arena, but placed back in the front row.

I don’t think he was really a fan … I think he may have been planted there! I’ll look into that, seeing as how the ECW I remember wouldn’t resort to a crappy gimmick like that. Right?

Have they actually run out of stuff for The Sandman?

* * *

ECW Gets Punk’d
C.M. Punk—or, as I like to call him, “The Lone Bright Spot For The Future Of ECW”—cut a brief promo introducing himself to the fans. What was encouraging about it was that it appears Punk will be able to maintain his persona in ECW, which makes him one of the most compelling wrestlers on the roster for the time being.

Still, don’t be shocked if a few more of OVW’s finest are called up to form an “extreme” group of male cheerleaders.

Go ahead, snicker now—we could all be crying later.

* * *

In Paul We Trust
Whether you love him, hate him, or just flat out don’t think he belongs on the Tuesday night brand (of which I fall into the last category), one has to admit that The Big Show hasn’t looked all that bad during his first few extreme weeks. Sure, his backbreaker couldn’t bend a flexi-straw, and his new grappling style looks more unnatural than Michael Jackson at a strip club, but, on the whole, Show doesn’t look terrible.

That being the case—in addition to Kurt Angle taking time off to heal and pending legal action against RVD and Sabu for allegedly possessing marijuana during a traffic stop—it makes it somewhat more palatable for Show to take the ECW title off of Van Dam last night, with the assistance of Paul Heyman.

Actually, on second thought—no.

Putting the strap on a WWE wrestler—any WWE wrestler—and having Paul Heyman turn against ECW’s top fan favorite in the same program, only one month into the promotion’s rebirth is not only confusing, but flat-out wrong. ECW is not at a point where it can alienate its fan base in this manner. Six months, maybe a year down the line this makes sense—just not yet. Regardless of backstage turmoil or legal issues, this could be cited as the “beginning of the end” if the ECW experiment fails.

My only hope—and I may just be kidding myself at this point—is that Paul E. has something up his sleeve and this will all work itself out. If there is anyone in professional wrestling who has proved he can take trash and turn it into gold, it’s Heyman. Let’s just hope the “Evil Genius” has some kind of plan.

* * *

What Did We Learn?
07.05.06

Last night was not without drama, although ECW turned in its fourth consecutive awful week of programming. A mere 96 hours ago, Rob Van Dam was the golden boy of WWE; as of this morning, he’s just the guy that dropped the ECW title—after Paul Heyman turned against him—only one night after losing the Raw World strap. He had the wrestling world in the palm of his hand on Saturday, and by Wednesday he was apparently out of a job (Heyman suspended RVD for 30 days following ECW last night).

This abrupt losing streak undoubtedly has a fair deal to do with the drug charges pending against RVD and running buddy Sabu, on which I won’t comment until all the facts are in. However, it is interesting that RVD has been—for all intents and purposes—stripped of two promotions’ titles in consecutive nights after the allegations of drug possession emerged. Wasn’t this the gimmick WWE wanted to push for Van Dam? Weren’t all the drug references raised prior to (and since) One Night Stand done to reinforce RVD’s stoner persona? And now, WWE wants to feign anger because—and here’s a shocker—one of its wrestler’s actual lifestyle is similar to his on-screen persona.

At first I was with WWE on this. I figured that it would send the right message to kids—who still make up a ton of the fan base—that drug use is wrong, and should not be tolerated. And then I was reminded of the awful, awful simulated sex segment with Triple-H and Candice on Raw this past Monday night, which made me realize that this wasn’t about sending a message to the fans, but rather the rest of the WWE roster. Essentially, if one gets caught with drugs, you will lose your spot on the roster—for a little while. Let’s see what happens to RVD when his suspension is up. My guess—assuming there still is an ECW to come home to—is that he’ll be right back at the top of the championship heap, none the wiser.

THE TUESDAY MORNING TURN (July 4, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

The WWE traveling circus rolled into Philadelphia last night bringing with it intrigue, comedy, and potential. With both Raw and Smackdown being taped on the same night, followed by ECW airing live the next evening, WWE seemed poised to capitalize on a great situation. The fan base in Philly has always been loyal, regardless of how many times the object of their affection had hurt them (see: Any Philadelphia pro sports team). Generally, WWE gets the same treatment here, as fans will fill up every available seat regardless of the venue, when the big promotion from the North rolls into town.

Unfortunately for Philly, WWE ran into some trouble when its champion was busted for drug possession over the weekend. Initially, I thought the trouble would lie in how the situation was presented to the fans, and what the paying customers’ response would be. Boy, was I way off.

The biggest issue to arise from the weekend’s alleged events was that WWE apparently had to alter its plans for Raw on the fly—or, at the last minute, despite the fact that the alleged incident occurred well prior to taping. WWE appeared to be taken off-guard by the whole thing, and it more than showed in the result. Last night’s Raw was one of—if not the—most disappointing episodes to date. As a wrestling fan, I’m annoyed; as a Philadelphia-area native, I’m pissed. The loyalty of the local fans was rewarded with a bland, pre-taped segment based show that did little from a storyline perspective. In a word, Raw was boring.

Now, that doesn’t mean I didn’t make fun of it. Oh, no—I thrive off of crappy shows like last night, which are a great cure for writer’s block. So sit back, stew with me, and enjoy “The Turn”—now with only 60 percent recycled material.

* * *

Well, That Was Quick
Why couldn’t they just have dropped feces on someone, like any decent human being would have done?

It’s official: The DeGeneration X experiment has—for me at least—run its course. Maybe it was somewhere between Vince McMahon’s microphone troubles and Triple-H and Candice Michelle apparently enjoying the perks of two DX groupies that I realized that not only am I too old for this, but both Trips and HBK are, too. I’ve said it before, and it now works here—it’s like watching your dad try to be cool.

Not only that, but this incarnation of DX doesn’t feel the same. Michaels has made it known that he won’t participate in angles that Jesus tells him he’s uncomfortable with, which really hurts the gimmick. It was funny the first couple of times that HBK would exit when the material got questionable (okay, him chasing down Mr. Fuji last night was clever), but now it’s just weird. He’s less of a degenerate and more of a troublemaker, which doesn’t quite work.

It was fun—and no doubt profitable—for a bit, but hopefully WWE is actually constructing some sort of exit strategy as I write this. The fans should be more than happy to ride this out until SummerSlam, but much further and it will get stale—I’m talking NWO stale.

* * *

I saw Torrie Wilson in the Philadelphia International Airport once. In person, she’s so attractive that if you look at her for too long she will actually burn your retinas, à la a solar eclipse. But—and I write this with nothing but love—the woman can’t wrestle for the life of her.

What’s more frightening, is that part-time wrestler/full-time skank Lita looked even worse. At a point where WWE’s women’s division is losing wrestlers by the day (isn’t Stacy Keibler still technically under contract?), the company could really use a healthy Lita.

* * *

Pay Per View Of The Damned
Now, I don’t know if there’s an afterlife.

I apologize for going all Vince Russo on you here, but this match actually got me thinking. I mean, I’m sure that something happens when you die—but what that is, no one knows for sure.

What I am sure of, though, is that if there is a hell—meant for people who lived lives of sin not worthy of the glories of a heaven—this match is likely what its version of the Survivor Series looks like. Seriously … The Spirit Squad competing against Snitsky, Jim Duggan, Eugene, Viscera, Val Venis?

Weren’t the male cheerleaders just headlining a pay-per-view?

* * *

Which One Is Cousin Luke?
The Highlanders—proof that WWE has officially run out of gimmicks and is now resorting to repackaging characters from the 1980s—defeated the tandem of Rob Conway and Matt Striker in a lackluster debut Monday night.

As a service to my fellow fans who may not have the fine eye for detail required of a professional wrestling analyst, here’s an easy method that I use to tell who’s who of the neo-Bushwhackers:

Rory = bald
Robbie = functionally retarded

Hope that clears things up a bit for you. Next week, a retread of The Killer Bees (that resemble one of those little pill-bugs that curl up and play dead when you swat at them … you know what I’m talking about) will be taking on “The Irish Terriers,” who are nothing at all like The British Bulldogs.

* * *

I-C Something Wrong Here
Does anyone else get the feeling that WWE is not entirely sold on either Johnny Nitro or Carlito Caribbean Cool just yet as legitimate Superstars? Sure, both have held gold and are currently feuding over the Intercontinental title, which makes it curious as to why WWE would feel the need to include Melina and Trish Stratus in the feud.

Now, don’t get me wrong, a Melina-Trish Stratus slapping contest is definitely something I could dig, but this tandem of eye-candy appears to be a smokescreen to what could be a solid I-C title battle between two entertaining wrestlers. Both feuds make sense, just not together.

* * *

The WWE Diva Search is underway on Raw and the similarities to another U.S. television phenomenon—American Idol—are stunning.

It’s chock full of no talent competitors, willing to do whatever it takes to make the voting public love them, and the only editions worth watching are the first few.

Word of advice to my friends at WWE: Less talky-talky and more jumpy-jumpy. No one—and I mean absolutely no one—cares about the goals and aspirations of this year’s crop of future Mr. McMahon gropees.

* * *

Joe’s Gon-na Kill You
From the “steal TNA’s gimmick” front: Umaga is now wearing beads and a scarf (resembling a patterned towel) when he comes to the ring. Rumor has it that next week he’s going to carry around the newly formed “Y division” title, defeat someone with the “Samoa Clutch” and have the announcers boast of his undefeated streak ad nauseam.

Hey, WWE Creative—we get it, already! You’re trying to show that you can take TNA’s greatest homegrown (with apologies to ROH and PWG) talent and make him little more than a glorified midcarder that destroys developmental talent.

Message received—now how about some original programming?

* * *

NEWSFLASH: Randy Orton—as well as every other heterosexual male in the world—likes 18-year-old blonde women! More on this story as it develops. Wait … no … that’s it. Nothing more.

Apparently, it’s looking like the next legend slated for killing by Orton will be “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan, as “The Legend Killer” has targeted the former world champion’s daughter as the object of his lust.

Is there any way Orton can come out of this looking good? If the 25-year-old loses to a man some 30 years his senior, it will weaken him in the eyes of fans. If Orton were to beat Hogan then … wait … “complete creative control”? … oh well. Best of luck, Randy.

* * *

A Crisis Of Conscience
Stage one of the de-push of RVD is complete. The man that was being touted as a legitimate “feel good” story in WWE has gone from being on top of the wrestling world back to being Rob Van Dam.

When news broke that RVD and buddy Sabu were busted with a scant amount of marijuana, my first thought was, So? At no point did it occur to me that WWE would bury its champion nearly as quickly as it did. By 11:06 last night, Rob Van Dam was 10-pounds lighter—and that ECW title doesn’t appear to be too securely fastened around his waist at this point, either.

In some ways it’s sad to see the start of the freefall RVD appears to be headed into. At the same time, resident transitional champion Edge begins his second Raw World title reign of 2006, which should equal big ratings numbers, and even bigger T-shirt sales for WWE, which is always a good thing. Plus, Edge could be a great—and fun—champion were he given the opportunity to hold the strap for say, oh, a month this time.

So, basically I’m torn. No one wants to see RVD plummet from what is arguably the pinnacle of his career, yet, at the same time, it’s nice to see Edge back on top. Either way this should be an interesting time for WWE—and one that will undoubtedly go a long way in defining the careers of these two wrestlers.

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