PWI UPDATE ARCHIVES: January-June 2007


THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of June 22-28, 2007
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of June 15-21, 2007
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of June 9-15, 2007
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of June 1-8, 2007
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 25-31, 2007
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 18-24, 2007
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 11-17, 2007
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 4-10, 2007
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of April 27-May 3, 2007
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of April 20-26, 2007
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of April 13-19, 2007
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of April 6-12, 2007
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 30–April 5, 2007
WrestleMania 23: What a Long, Strange Trip It Was
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 23-March 29, 2007
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 16-March 22, 2007
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 9-March 15, 2007
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 1-March 8, 2007
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of February 23-March 1, 2007
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of February 2-8, 2007
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 26-February 1, 2007
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 19-25, 2007
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 12-18, 2007
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 5-11, 2007
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 29, 2006-January 4, 2007

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THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of June 22-28, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

With one word, WWE chairman Vince McMahon spoke volumes. One simple, two-syllable word solidified—at least to me—that a company so often maligned for its stunning lack of social consciousness had finally approached a tragic situation in a manner more befitting an industry leader.

That word: mister.

The events following the horrific tragedy involving the Benoit family, although still very fresh in public discourse, seem hazy at this point. Conflicting reports, scurrilous rumors, and wildly inappropriate theories abound. Yet the one organization I’ve come to expect the worst from actually surprised me the most with its candor and overall approach to the situation. That entity, surprisingly, was WWE.

Of course, hindsight being what it is, WWE may have jumped the gun by lauding Benoit on Monday night’s special edition of Raw. Hell, let’s just say it—they absolutely did. The mysterious circumstances surrounding the Benoit tragedy should have raised a red flag that maybe—just maybe—the company would want to hold out until the story developed before it aired a tribute show. As an outsider, I realize that’s far easier written here than done. To those involved, it was a horrific tragedy that no one could have ever foreseen. They believed they were honoring a man, a friend, and a wrestling icon.

As the facts became known and the unfathomable reality of the situation began to sink in, WWE quickly began the process of damage control. If the situation was truly as bizarre and tragic as authorities believed, WWE was stuck in a no-win situation where it had just honored an accused double murderer, who, unfortunately, happened to be one of the most respected members of its locker room.

The company responded quickly. Benoit’s merchandise was pulled from the company’s website, which was being constantly updated with information regarding the Fayette County Police Department’s investigation. Official press releases were issued offering sympathy to those affected by this tragedy, and judgment was reserved while the facts were being discovered. Like never before in its history, WWE tiptoed the line between acknowledging a tragedy and distancing itself from controversy, and actually came off as sympathetic.

WWE’s biggest move came Tuesday night when its chairman issued what was tantamount to a retraction and clarification of the previous evening’s tribute. In the words of the chairman, the company was honoring the in-ring legacy of Chris Benoit and not at all condoning or defending what he allegedly did. It was then, without wavering, that Vince McMahon said that one word that officially announced to the world that the man apparently responsible for these heinous acts was not only not the person they knew and loved, but his legacy was not something WWE was willing to keep. He referred to Chris Benoit as “Mr. Benoit” only 24 hours after referring to him as “one of the greatest superstars in WWE history.” With one word it was made abundantly clear that it was not the man you saw weekly on WWE programming that may have committed these awful crimes, but someone—or something—else entirely.

Personally, I’m not here to take a position on this situation aside from my steadfast belief that this is truly one of the most emotionally devastating tragedies I have ever seen at any level of reporting. My heart breaks every time new information surfaces, and I pray for the souls of the departed. Yet, I think that given the extremity of the situation and the reaction it evokes worldwide, I find it appropriate to acknowledge the way WWE handled matters.

Was it perfect? No—far from it. But, given the circumstances and the emotions involved, I do actually feel that the company should not be hammered (for once) for the way it covered the events of this past weekend.

Now, let’s pray they, and us, never, ever, have to experience something like this again.

The week in televised wrestling:

This week’s edition will be abbreviated to only include the results and implications of the matches that were featured. Our regularly scheduled hilarity (hey, if it makes me and legendary publisher Stu Saks laugh, that’s good enough for me) will return next week.

Smackdown (6/22)

Cruiserweight champion Chavo Guerrero Jr. & Jamie Noble defeated Jimmy Wang Yang & Shannon Moore … Mark Henry beat Funaki … Matt Hardy got the victory over Finlay … Batista & Ric Flair defeated Edge & MVP … Chris Masters beat Danny Shanley.

Raw (6/25)

The entire three-hour episode was a retrospective of the career of Chris Benoit.

ECW (6/26)

John Cena beat Johnny Nitro … C.M. Punk defeated Elijah Burke two-out-of-three falls to become the number-one contender to the ECW title.

Impact (6/28)

Basham & Damaja beat Voodoo Kin Mafia … TNA champion Kurt Angle defeated Rhino and Christian Cage in a three-way match to retain the gold.

 

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of June 15-21, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

The McMahon fallout is at an all-time high despite a lackluster week of programming to move the angle along. Another impediment to the progression of the blown-up billionaire appears to be my fellow Pennsylvanians up north in the Wilkes-Barre area who, as of earlier this week, had inundated their local media and public safety outlets with so many inquiries as to the condition of Mr. McMahon that legitimate news reports had to be issued to reassure the forlorn.

Somewhere (let’s call it “Connecticut”) Mr. McMahon is smiling that sinister smile of his and loving every minute of this.

But—and I apologize for the weakness of this transition—there was a stunning, legitimate loss experienced by the wrestling community this week with the untimely death of Sherri Martel at age 49. Woefully under-covered, Martel’s death should ring home with fans reared on the wrestling of the 1980s (such as myself) as more than yet another tragic passing.

Sensational Sherri was one of the first truly nasty, win-at-all-costs female managers (after her very successful in-ring career, of course) that I can recall despising on a weekly basis. Her bloodcurdling voice perfectly matched the overdone makeup and gaudy—oftentimes revealing—outfits. Regardless of whoever was her charge, be it Randy Savage, Ted DiBiase, or a young and not so folically challenged Shawn Michaels, fans of the “good guys” knew that their idol didn’t have a chance at winning cleanly once Sherri was at ringside.

If anything can be taken from Sherri’s death, at the very least, the focus of the wrestling world should move to the difficulties facing former stars once they are no longer part of the current product. Too often stories such as this surface and are eventually written off as just another wrestler’s death. It’s the hope of everyone here at PWI that finally—before any other legends have to die—the industry looks at the issues facing its former talent once they leave the ring and takes proactive steps toward offering assistance where it’s needed.

Sure, the door is always open, but sometimes folks need just a little push. No one has made me hate their clientele more than Sherri, and that’s the highest compliment I think I could pay. She will be missed.

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (6/15)
Wasting precious time making it known that he intends to be a major player at the blue brand, newly drafted Ric Flair battled Edge in a non-title main event last Friday night. Naturally, despite the bout being non-title, it still ended in a disqualification when MVP attempted to assist the Smackdown World champ, giving the “Nature Boy” the tainted victory. Picking up where Chris Benoit left off, Flair appears poised to become the next fan favorite to compete mainly for the U.S. title currently held by MVP. So, let’s get this straight: He chases the Intercontinental title on Raw and now the U.S. strap on Smackdown? Essentially, a 16-time world champion is now competing to be the second-best champion on WWE’s top two brands? Actually, that’s not too bad for a 134-year-old.

Raw (6/18)
The investigator from the Federal Investigation Commission (an organization so clandestine that you’ve likely never heard of them) scoured the Raw roster looking for clues as to the party (or parties) responsible for blowing up Mr. McMahon. Now, it appears that David Beck—the government suit heading up the investigation—has a back story of his own that is being fleshed out on WWE.com, complete with action shots of him intensely questioning talent. You know, because federal investigators love having their identities known and, of course, the more pictures the better! Seriously, we here at “The Turn” are fine with the angle, but WWE is very quickly tiptoeing into the range of insulting our collective intelligence. Why not have the investigator come from an even more secret group called Federal Assumed Knowledge Embassy and just be done with it?

ECW (6/19)
With the ECW title vacant since Bobby Lashley’s move to Raw courtesy of the draft, the top two contenders to the strap, Chris Benoit and C.M. Punk, will square off at Vengeance this Sunday night for richest—okay, only—prize in all of Sci Fi Channel wrestling. That’s right, WWE’s most bankable future commodity taking on one of the most technically skilled legends of the modern era for the right to be crowned champion of a brand that features a vampire. Do us a favor and check out one of the old, grainy tapings of the original ECW and pick out the vampire or the dance routine. We’re sure this is exactly how Benoit foresaw the twilight of his career.

Impact (6/21)
Samoa Joe may have taken a brief step backward in the hopes of finally making the huge leap to finally becoming TNA World champion. Last night Joe won the X division championship for a record 64th time. Fine, we made that up, but it feels that way, no? Still, with Joe’s most recent X division title reign, he’s now eligible for the “Match Of Champions” at Victory Road announced by Jim Cornette last night. There, the TNA World champion and X division titleholder will square off against the TNA tag champs with the man gaining the pinfall walking away with the title of the opponent he covered for the victory. Just another gimmick match from TNA, you say? Well, yes … yes it is. Although it’s not a terrible idea by and large, it just seems odd to do it at Victory Road, especially on the heels of WWE’s “Night Of Champions” this Sunday night at Vengeance. It comes off as second-rate and—sorry to say—a bit hacky.

That’s all for this week. It was “suggested” I end with something witty or, at the very least, charming; however we’re spent. It’s been a long week filled with confusing angles and, frankly, we’re late for an appointment. So, let’s just leave you with a quote from the great American legislator Jesse Ventura, who once said, “Wrestling is ballet with violence.”

Take it easy, enjoy the weekend, and get out for goodness sake.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of June 9-15, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

Well, it took nearly 30 years but WWE finally did it. The company that was always on the cutting edge of good taste and risqué programming has outdone itself for once when it blew up its chairman on Monday night.

That’s right, “blew up.” And, guess what: It worked.

Coming on the heels (no doubt intentionally) of the series finale of cable television powerhouse The Sopranos, which garnered mostly negative reactions amongst loyal viewers, the apparent murder of Mr. McMahon actually stole some of the limelight. Mainstream media outlets across America covered the shocking turn of events that cost the WWE chairman his existence in a very tongue-in-cheek manner.

It wasn’t the manner in which it was covered, but, rather, the mere fact that the company was getting mainstream airtime that makes this angle a winning move for the surviving McMahons. Unfortunately, the first steps the company took—now sans a chairman—felt the inevitable loss of excitement.

The first televised WWE program following the limousine explosion was ECW, less than 24 hours later. Would WWE use the events of only one night before to elevate the hardcore brand to a status it has yet to enjoy thus far into its rebirth? Could the company finally parlay the mainstream attention it had received from a clever and controversial angle into a creative boon across all its brands?

In a word, no.

ECW fell flat on its face, feeling choppy at its best points and mentally draining during the rest of the evening. The explosion angle naturally permeated the night’s program, yet nothing ever really progressed what could end up being the biggest attention-getting angle since Montreal 1997 (yeah, that big).

History will judge how this angle pans out in the long run; however, the first few steps—such as ECW and the ridiculous website coverage including a report by the uber-clandestine Federal Investigation Center (which is so well hidden that no one has ever heard of it)—don’t bode well.

WWE, you have the world’s attention. Impress us.

The week in televised wrestling:

Smackdown (6/8)
Every so often a program takes a week off. I mean, yes, technically it’s still on the air, but, really, is anyone watching? Last Friday night, Smackdown had its first bona fide clunker of a night in quite some time, and it wasn’t because of the wrestling. Not only were fans treated to an MVP-Batista, non-title match, but also an Edge-Chris Benoit bout with the same stipulation. Still, the whole night just had a feeling of the pre-renaissance Smackdown days, where the energy level was slightly above Heat and not too far from Velocity. Likely, this was just a one-time occurrence, because it would be a shame to see the brand that has come so far in the race for credibility slide back into the doldrums of its past.

Raw (6/11)
Not surprisingly, the big winners of the “random” draft on Monday night was WWE’s flagship brand, Raw. Picking up names such as King Booker, Ken Kennedy, Bobby Lashley, and Snitsky were all great additions to the Raw roster, but Monday nights may have actually benefited from its losses. Former Raw talent The Great Khali, Ric Flair, Torrie Wilson, and Chris Masters—all who have brought increasingly less to the program than was expected—have left for the bluer pastures of Smackdown, thus bringing the “randomness” of the process into question just a wee bit.

ECW (6/12)
As we mentioned earlier, WWE didn’t exactly keep the adrenaline rush that came form blowing up its chairman, and, in fact, ECW seemed to slide even further back into obscurity with a night of lackluster matches. What’s worse is that the highly discerning Philadelphia fans’ general malaise with the whole evening came across on television and actually sapped the energy out of my living room. Still, although it couldn’t be considered one of the all-time great ECW battles, the Tommy Dreamer-Mahoney hardcore match to start the night was relatively entertaining. Here are two guys that have absolutely no chance of holding ECW gold anytime soon (and by “anytime soon,” I mean until the end of creation as we know it), yet they put on the best bout of an evening that was chock full of (again a translation: “chock full of” = three) lackluster matches. Leave it to the Originals to school the brand’s youth in what it means to be part of ECW, even in its current form.

Impact (6/14)
We here at “The Turn” never believed that we’d be as excited as we were to see Abyss return to the six-sided ring after an abbreviated absence, but last night made us damn near giddy. For those of you who may have missed it (I know the Wizard World comic book convention is in town), Abyss returned to take on Christian Cage in a “King Of The Mountain” match qualifier at Slammiversary and virtually decimated the two-time former World champion. Of course, the crafty Cage walked away with the victory after Abyss snapped (there’s a shock) and got himself disqualified. Still, it was great to see the big man back and this time getting cheers from the Orlando crowd. His title reign was not only brief, but far too soon. Abyss now seems like a very viable competitor worthy of the new TNA title. Sure, he’ll have to start speaking if his persona is going to be able to stand alone, but just the fact that Abyss is back in the picture makes TNA’s heavyweight division all the more interesting (and crowded).

 

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of June 1-8, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

Mr. McMahon has lost it again and now appears to hate anyone with an ounce of gold to their name in WWE.

Sound familiar? It probably should. Hell, it was only a few months ago that McMahon seemingly lost his mind and became a “broken man” after DeGeneration X had forced him into partial insanity with their pranks and occasional beatings. Fortunately for all involved, the WWE chairman recovered nicely and set his sights on Donald Trump and that fiasco (that came off much better in-arena than I’m told it did on television).

Now the bossman’s Midas complex seems to be an end-result of losing a championship to which he really had no rightful claim—the ECW title. My first instinct was that the current stroke of madness is being used as a logical breaking point between the McMahon-Lashley feud, thus allowing a smoother transition into an angle with another star (possibly John Cena). However, upon further review, I think there was a very specific byproduct of McMahon’s psychosis that was designed to draw more attention to the hardcore brand.

By showing how the loss of the ECW title destroyed McMahon’s monstrous ego—and we’re talking about an ego that once held the WWE World title and bought out nearly every other competitor in the industry—actually makes, in some strange way, that championship seem more important than it truly is in the overall hierarchy of WWE gold. While early numbers don’t indicate the type of jump in viewership that WWE was hoping for, the fact is that, if (arguably) the most important person in the company is lamenting over the lost opportunity that comes from dropping the ECW title, there must be something to it that makes that strap important.

Well, it’s either that or the boss enjoyed the power he wielded over those who were stunned and hurt by his championship reign. Either way, I’m not buying that Mr. McMahon is broken nor is he nearly as crazy as he comes off. All of this is a power play intended to get him back to the top of the Raw roster regardless of who he needs to step over to get there. And, you know something? I’m perfectly fine with that.

The week in televised wrestling:

Smackdown (6/1)
It’s as if the powers behind the blue brand are so desperate to make something from nearly-400-pounds-of-wrestling-nothing every time I see the “new and improved” Mark Henry step between the ropes. While I stand by my previous assessment that it’s actually good to see the big man recover so nicely from a devastating knee injury, I’ll also stick with my even earlier belief that he should not be in a wrestling ring, nor should he be considered amongst the top talent of the promotion. Case in point, Henry once again plodded through another victory over a mid-level wrestler on his way to eventually getting yet another shot at main event status. And, “why” you might ask? Well, he’s big, and they owe him money. Really, that’s all I can figure at this point. Oh, and the self-proclaimed “Silverback” moniker … I’m not even touching that. He is, and forever will be considered, the latest in a long string of “World’s Strongest” men.

Raw (6/4)
Sure, they were once again wildly popular Raw World tag team champions, but why keep the Hardys together at this point in their careers? I mean, with Matt being able to chase around the cruiserweight strap as he has in months past and Jeff never quite getting back in the Intercontinental title race since dropping the strap to Umaga back in February, it seems only logical to have the duo part ways after dropping the tag title to Cade and Murdoch last Monday night. Actually, let’s focus on the newly crowned Raw World tag champs, who looked every bit like the lurking, sneaky rulebreakers we all knew they were hiding deep down inside their dark souls. Okay, that may be overstating it a bit, but how great was it to see that their politeness was simply a ruse in order to win over the friendship of the Hardys only to wack them in the back of their heads with the gold. Excellent turn. Now, if there were any other viable tag teams this could get exciting.

ECW (6/5)
Bobby Lashley returned to true form once again by making mincemeat of a gaggle of ECW Originals after struggling to get past the trio of the McMahons and Umaga. I have no problem with Lashley once again being the top guy in ECW; I am not part of the Lashley-hater contingent. What gets me is that “The Dominator” barely broker a sweat in obliterating three of the biggest names in ECW history—Sandman, Mahoney, and Tommy Dreamer—in an “Extreme” handicap match. Is there anything about this that just seems odd? Sure, Lashley is the much more physically imposing specimen with the full support of the marketing empire behind him, but shouldn’t some dap be given to the godfathers of hardcore? At least let them hold their own to some extent or, at the very least, turn against each other. This was a squash match that saw the Originals get a few good shots in before all being strewn about the ring. We get it; WWE is not hot on the Originals, but, still, I’m thinking they deserve a bit more than this.

Impact (6/7)
This has to be a record for “The Turn,” but two Tomko references in the TNA section in consecutive weeks? Well, that’s just insane, but madness such as this is what my fellow fans have come to expect from this humble weekly column. As for TNA’s tattooed big man, is anyone else getting the feeling that both Tomko and Christian Cage spent a little too much time around James Mitchell and Abyss during the foursome’s uncomfortable alliance heading into Lockdown? It’s as if Cage is now stealing his personality management techniques from the former “Sinister Minister.” As evidence, check out the mother-esque guilt trip he slapped on Tomko, who seemed ready to brain Cage for costing him a shot during the “King Of The Mountain” match at Slammiversary. After reminding Tomko of his sordid and troubled past, Cage smoothed things over with the big man and avoided the inevitable beating we all know he’ll be receiving.

 

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 25-31, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

Last night, as I watched LeBron James absolutely douse any hope of my beloved Detroit Pistons making it back to the NBA Finals with a performance that can only be described as “legendary,” I plopped into bed distraught, confused, and in desperate need of some cheering up.

After scouring the channels and finding that not only did I have a natural predilection toward sports news (which was all bad last night as far as I was concerned) and that late-night programming certainly doesn’t live up to the hype my hops and barley fueled collegiate memories recount, I went to the one place that always seems to have something that will take my mind off of reality at least for a few fleeting cheesy minutes.

No, not porn … you kiss your mothers with that mouth? Of course, I was talking about my beloved WWE 24/7 subscription, which I’ve neglected as of late. Last night I chose an ancient episode of WCW from 1985 (yes, it was actually called World Championship Wrestling then, despite being more of a territory show) if only to catch a classic Flair promo and once again try to understand what the big appeal was of Magnum T.A. (of which I still have no clue).

The funny thing was that my first inclination when watching the opening match between Buddy Landell and some guy that looked like my dad in the mid-’80s (which I’ve been assured it was not) was how much that old WCW reminded me of TNA. Sure, TNA has more explosions, rabid fans, and overall production value, but the fact is it is shot from one angle with a handful of fans much like the old WCW. Also, the announcers are positioned relatively close to the action and the promos have a very old-school combative feel. Guys aren’t out there progressing their angle as much as they’re telling the opponent du jour just how badly they’ll hurt them.

Again, TNA is much flashier and produced in a way that makes it viable in an era where television’s pseudo-hypnotic effects are very real and certainly documented (thank you, Al Gore), but the mere fact that, in its simplicity, today’s product can stir up memories of the past and times where wrestling was more sport and less entertainment has to absolutely play a part in the promotion’s mass appeal.

That … and the fact that Christy Hemme has basically reduced her wardrobe to old headbands and anything fishnet.

Enjoy “The Turn”—kickin’ it old school, assuming 2006 is actually a long time ago to you.

The week in televised wrestling:

Smackdown (5/25)
All right, here’s where I start to cash in some of the credibility that Smackdown has built with me over the past few months. Arguably WWE’s most consistently well-paced program for at least the past six weeks, Smackdown has taken the leap we were all expecting it to and named Vickie Guerrero assistant general manager as part of the Teddy Long/Kristal angle. Now, since Smackdown has been good, I’m willing to see this recent move through (that no doubt ends up with Teddy being made out to be the fool), but I can’t say it’s tremendously intriguing. I’ve always walked that very, very fine line between the competing axioms of whether or not it’s good to see Vickie carry on in the family business following Eddie’s tragic death or if they’re just setting her up to fail. I’m starting to believe it’s the latter.

Raw (5/28)
Thank you, “Shane-O.” Oh, thank you very, very much. Sure, it was probably a decision behind the scenes to shuffle the proverbial deck and resurrect the draft. However, if it’s acceptable to “shoot the messenger,” it’s just as well that I laud one when he delivers good news such as this. For the first time ever (of course that’s only because ECW is relatively new), we will be treated to a “tri-brand” draft of talent that will hopefully—at the very least—infuse some fresh angles and personas into some of the more stagnant parts of WWE. Plus, what’s more fun than a draft? Okay, besides a tournament that of late has kind of lost its luster. Hell, even if you read spoilers and know who’s moving where, it’s still exciting. This is a good move for WWE from both an interest and business perspective, as it should spice up summer viewing, which is traditionally lower than the rest of the year.

ECW (5/29)
Generally, the old me would balk at the sight of a Randy Orton on ECW. However, I’ve been taking an experimental medication that kills off the part of my brain that cares about the legacy of ECW, so that’s actually helped me enjoy the current angle between Rob Van Dam and “The Legend Killer.” Although, and this may just be me (and millions of others like me who tend to over-think things), doesn’t it seem odd that Orton has only focused on guys who either are known to have nagging injuries (HBK) or are nearing the end of a contract (RVD and Tommy Dreamer) to put out of action (or, more importantly, off television) for extended periods of time? Still, I’m going to enjoy this angle for as long as possible, which, in WWE time, equates to roughly a week.

Impact (5/31)
In some respects, it’s a bit interesting that it took this long for Tomko to realize that aligning himself with the chronically insecure Christian Cage could be detrimental to his career. Last night, Cage prevented Tomko—or at least appeared to prevent Tomko—from leveling his “King Of The Mountain” match qualifier opponent A.J. Styles with a steel chair, which allowed “The Phenomenal One” to roll up his massive opponent for the surprise victory. Naturally, Tomko was none too pleased following the contest and lumbered after the two-time former World champion. While Tomko could conceivably stand on his own in TNA, would that necessarily be wise? To me, it seems that a guy with his look and size would’ve caught on big at some point in his career if he were capable. With Cage pulling the strings and acting as the mouthpiece, Tomko seemed poised to make a Batista-like transition to main-event status. Now, with that seeming like a distinct possibility, I’m not entirely sold on a Cage-less Tomko, and I don’t know if I ever will be.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 18-24, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

So, the other day I was thinking that despite staring down the barrel of 30 in a mere two years, I’m relatively still fun. Sure, I don’t do anything nearly as exciting as I did in my youth, but I’m still fun.

Okay, so the mere thought of actually hopping in the car for an impromptu road trip is something that actually makes me lazier, but tastes change, right? And, yes, it’s Memorial Day weekend, and I’m going to avoid the shore because of the crowds, but that’s just sound planning, no?

Well, no.

See, I think it was about 6:00 a.m. yesterday that I realized that not only was I turning into an old 28-year-old, but that the old 28-year-old I’ve become is just boring. Case in point: My fiancée is away for the next five days at a work conference, thus giving me a level of independence I have not had in years.

What do I choose to do with my newly found—albeit abbreviated—bachelorhood? Should I call up my friends and go on the trusty 120-hour bender? Nah. How about a road trip to a ballpark I’ve yet to visit? Nope. See, were I to do any of that, then I wouldn’t be able to get through the entire Ric Flair And The Four Horsemen, which I’ve been looking forward to for weeks. That’s right—five days of “Whoos” and chopping the chest of anyone who dares show up to my apartment. (I’m looking in your direction, old lady upstairs who never sleeps.)

Now I know I’ve touched on this before, but it bears repeating. If I can prevent one reader from turning into a dork like myself, then this is time well spent. If not, well, I still get paid, so deal with it, nerd! Get some sun, for God’s sake.

Enjoy “The Turn”—always there for you when a social life is not.

The week in televised wrestling:

Smackdown (5/18)
All right, I’ll bite. Despite my criticisms of the past, and in the spirit of the sweet-ass four-day weekend I’m looking ahead to, I’d like to offer the proverbial wrestling olive branch to one Mark Henry. It’s good to see the big man recover so nicely from major knee surgery and return right back to his one-dimensional, really-no-shot-at-being-champion existence at Smackdown. Wait, this is supposed to be good. Keep it cool, Frank. Okay, let me rephrase: It’s great to see Mark Henry—a slightly less crazy McMahonian investment than the XFL—back stealing time from my life. Crap … that didn’t work either. One last shot: Mark, please don’t hurt anyone. Whew—that was tougher than I thought.

Raw (5/21)
What does one do when every fan favorite not named Cena is crumpled by injury and the cold hand of “Father Time”? That’s right—have a good, old-fashioned, nightlong series of bouts constituting a show-spanning gauntlet match with a top guy from another brand. Presto—no more dilemma. Bobby Lashley’s run through all of the roadblocks Team McMahon threw at him was not only impressive, but potentially the defining point of the former soldier’s young career. WWE’s biggest audience has now gotten a taste of the awesome capability of a man that’s being touted as part of the future of WWE. He’s out there now, and the WWE machine is squarely behind him, so it seems as if the next move belongs to “The Dominator.” By SummerSlam, we could be dealing with the future of WWE or yet another could-have-been.

ECW (5/22)
Of all the people for WWE to bounce from ECW, the Stamford goliath has recently expelled one of my favorites. That’s right, the most watchable part of ECW over the past few months—someone who’s given fans around the world more memorable moments than anyone in the recreated brand—is gone and will be expunged from our memories as soon as possible. I mean, we’re talking about a person whose body was put on the line each and every night—right there in the middle of the ring—all for our enjoyment, and this is what happens? Of course, for those who haven’t caught on yet, I’m speaking of ECW legend (assuming you’ve been in a coma and awoke circa July 2006) Ariel. Ye will be missed; the way you hung from the top rope and flaunted everything you had was a work of art. Wait, who did you think I was talking about?

Impact (5/24)
Good lord, did anyone see the phenomenal beating LAX put on two-time former World champion Christian Cage during their tag match last night? Sure, seeing a freshly unwrapped Steiner Brothers reunion may have stole the show for a nostalgia freak and honorary Michigander like myself, but perhaps the most telling portion of last night’s hour featured Cage being flat-out manhandled by Hernandez of LAX. I’ve always been a proponent of LAX, despite their less-than-valiant tactics. However, showings like that (of course the beatdown of Hector Guerrero doesn’t help my cause) are what reassure me that, with the right tweaking, we could have two budding superstars on our hands.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 11-17, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

Just when you thought WWE’s cruiserweight championship division was the least interesting chase for gold on all of televised wrestling, enter the increasingly baffling Intercontinental championship feud between Santino Marella and Chris Masters.

Rumors have surfaced that anyone with basic cable, two working eyes, and a couple of free hours each Monday night can attest to—Raw is somehow dangerously short of main event quality competitors. Aside from the big four (now three) of John Cena, Shawn Michaels, Randy Orton, and the recently departed Edge, Raw’s main television roster seems to be made up more mid-card slated—though quite talented—wrestlers. Guys like the Hardys and Carlito who seem to have all the tools to make the leap to the late-10 o’clock hour appear to be firmly affixed in the mid-card with little hope of reaching their full marketing potential.

Because of that, WWE’s top-rated televised program is currently spotlighting a feud between a the Roberto Begnini of professional wrestling (go ahead, look him up … yeah, that guy) and a guy who actually makes the full-nelson appear even more boring than it currently is. Enthralled yet? Me either.

Now, I’m not going to bash Marella or Masters here. It’s just that, in this situation, the feud appears to be a classic case of two personas that don’t mesh well. Or, perhaps, it’s the ennui at the fact that this appears to be a rehash of the same feud between Masters and Carlito, only with Marella playing the loveable rapscallion.

I suppose my gripe with the whole situation is that, to me at least, the Intercontinental champion has traditionally been considered the next guy in line to make the leap to main event status. Do either Marella or Masters appear poised for that type of promotion anytime soon, if ever? Possibly, but neither—at this phase of their careers—give off that “it” quality that makes a wrestler go from champion to legend.

Time will tell, I suppose, although I don’t think even Aquaman could hold his breath long enough to see this one through.

The week in televised wrestling:

Smackdown (5/11)
While Edge clearly stole the show by capturing the Smackdown World title after cashing in his guaranteed “Money In The Bank” title shot and pinning a bloody and beaten Undertaker, it was the surprisingly impressive cage match between the now former champ and Batista that was truly the night’s top event. Both ’Taker and Batista truly stepped up their games for the match that will go down as arguably the best of their feud. Now, with Edge picking up where an injured ’Taker has left off, the World title picture takes on a new dimension and one that appears from the onset to favor “The Animal.”

Raw (5/14)
So, Carlito appears to be headed in the right direction since turning his back on the most decorated U.S. wrestler to ever take an interest in his career and one of the most stunningly attractive women to ever appear in a WWE ring. Of course, that’s only if you consider a mid-card, tainted victory over Val Venis (yes, he actually does still wrestle) on Monday night to be a move in the “right direction.” Carlito as a rulebreaker works for me and has since the moment he first spit an apple. Still, even if the former Intercontinental champion doesn’t agree with Flair’s methods of late, is there anyone better than the “Dirtiest Player In The Game” to guide you through the finer points of pissing off a crowd?

ECW (5/15)
Anyone else think that Snitsky may have been better served had he been told sooner that by simply shaving off all visible body hair he would suddenly become invincible? At the very least he could have ditched his former toe-sucking ways and stayed a part of the Raw roster rather than being jettisoned off into obscurity only to land in the wrestling purgatory that is ECW. With rumors circulating that Snitsky has his eyes focused on returning to WWE’s top-tier program, the massive Pennsylvanian doesn’t appear to be curtailing his psychotic winning streak anytime soon after viciously pummeling Rob Van Dam, who is, coincidently, another grappler who may be in the market for a deal on a U-Haul truck.

Impact (5/17)
The road to Slammiversary began last night with a ray of Louisville light being shed on the TNA World title situation and the official kick-off of the “King Of The Mountain” qualifiers. After the confusion stemming from the finish of the three-way World title battle at Sacrifice that saw Christian Cage, Kurt Angle, and Sting pretty much lose at some point, Jim Cornette cleared things up as much as made the waters a bit murkier. The TNA World strap is apparently vacant for the time being as a result and will be the top prize at Slammiversary's “King Of The Mountain” match of which Angle will be a participant after defeating Rhino last night. I can safely say right now, with Angle being the only member of the match, he is my rock-solid, stone-cold lock to win the match. Of course, that may change after more people are added.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 4-10, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

The Rob Van Dam farewell tour is in full swing after the former heart-and-soul of the ECW resurgence (I say “former” because I’m fairly certain the new product has neither heart nor soul at this point) was defeated handily Tuesday night in a three-on-one grudge match also involving Umaga, Vince, and Shane McMahon.

There’s no hiding the fact that Van Dam basically is perceived to have one foot out the WWE door as reports have surfaced—to no refutation—that the former WWE Raw World and ECW champion’s contract with the company is set to expire at some point this summer. Early word was mid-June, however new reports have the RVD train pulling out of Stamford station in August. Regardless of the timeframe, the result appears imminent: Rob Van Dam will likely be one of the hottest free agents on the market this summer.

So, now what?

The easy pick is assuming that he’ll waste little time (depending on the veracity of whether a no-compete clause exists or not) in making the long jump down to Orlando to become a part of TNA. Sure, that makes sense and would likely afford RVD the ability to finally be one of the top stars with a firmly entrenched spot in the roster (unlike having to look over his back in WWE). But, with his given indiscretions of the past year, TNA really needs to question whether “The Whole Damn Show” is worth the possible trouble. Plus, RVD may not even be interested in starting over yet again.

 

Of course, another possibility could be that RVD roams the land, making indy appearances along with the occasional (or more frequent) match for a Japanese or Mexican promotion. While this may not be as financially appealing to a wrestler of Van Dam’s stature, it should provide him with the type of freedom he appears to miss.

Then again, he just may be playing hardball with WWE and intends to re-sign a new deal at some point this summer where he feels he has the most financial leverage. Right?

Whatever Van Dam chooses to do, for the fans, this should be a fun time. Very rarely can wrestling be as closely compared to mainstream sports as when a big-name free agent hits the market. Keep an eye on RVD, root for or against him, and let’s see how this works out.

The week in televised wrestling:

Smackdown (5/4)
As of April 2, Ken Kennedy appeared to be headed for the breakthrough year everyone has been expecting him to have. The “Money In The Bank” winner had a guaranteed title shot in his back pocket, a groundswell of support, and the backbone to win the whole damn thing at any given moment. Last Friday night, he lost a seemingly innocuous singles match to a very well prepared Matt Hardy. Who knew it was the beginning of the end? Read on, this one’s a rarity that’s worth a few mentions.

Raw (5/7)
Too often in wrestling, the mouth of a boastful grappler will get him into a situation that even his tremendous ring ability can not get him out of. Ever since making mention of his intentions to cash in his “Money In The Bank” title shot at WrestleMania 24 in Orlando, Ken Kennedy has had the target affixed firmly to his back. Well, turns out that as smart an opportunist as Kennedy thought he was, there just happened to be one better by the name of Edge. The “Rated R Superstar” took Kennedy behind J.R.’s proverbial woodshed and brutally separated the Smackdown star from his guaranteed title shot contract on Monday night, leaving everyone to wonder just where this was going. Wonder what Tuesday would look like?

ECW (5/8)
Some news is just too big to be broken by a source other than the one responsible for making it. That was apparently the rationale behind WWE spoiling the results for its own program when it announced during Tuesday’s broadcast of ECW that, during the earlier tapings of Smackdown, newly crowned “Money In The Bank” contract-holder Edge shocked the world—again—by winning a world title after cashing in his title shot. The show wouldn’t air until Friday, but WWE felt the news was far too juicy to let those on the Internet scoop them. Now, a brief recap: Kennedy—out; Edge—Smackdown World champion; Undertaker—injured; Batista—confused like the rest of us.

Impact (5/10)
I feel like doing something I haven’t done in a while, and that is handicap the NWA World title match this weekend between the incumbent Christian Cage and TNA’s two other huge acquisitions, Kurt Angle and Sting, so here goes. With Sting’s attention focused on men such as Abyss and—if rumors hold true—a certain “Fallen Angel” in the near future, I can’t see the painted one walking out of Sacrifice with the gold. Between Angle and Cage, it’s really no contest as far as I’m concerned. Angle should walk away with the strap, however I’ve learned to never underestimate the former “Canadian Rage.” Here are my odds:

Angle: 3 to 1
Cage: 4 to 1
Sting: 10 to 1

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of April 27-May 3, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

The winner and new ECW champion … Vince McMahon!

That’s right, folks. Your new king of extreme is none other than a head-shaved 61-year-old billionaire. No, not Ric Flair; he doesn’t quite fit the description. It was one Vincent Kennedy McMahon that walked out of the Philips Arena in Atlanta with ECW championship gold wrapped awkwardly around his waist.

Shocking? Not quite. Disturbing? You betcha. And I’m talking Mae Young giving birth on Raw disturbing here, not Mick Foley tooth-through-the-sinus passages disturbing. For those fans of ECW that still believe the current incarnation is anything akin to the original product, seeing Mr. McMahon’s tainted victory over Bobby Lashley at Backlash was a travesty. For other 99 percent of us, it was merely another chapter in the strange and confusing tale of ECW.

Personally, I have no anger left for the new ECW, as I’ve come to grips with the fact that it’s just not now—nor will ever be—the old promotion, and I’m not entirely sure that’s a bad thing. Trying to relive the past never works out the way it’s expected to. Think about every ex-girlfriend you thought about giving a call to a few years after things ended. You only focus on the good times, right? Conveniently, you forget about the time she “accidentally” put your favorite Four Horsemen T-shirt in with the other clothes you were giving to Goodwill, or the other time where she fought with you outside of the house about how she hated your friends while Hollywood Hogan and Sting were finally battling at Starrcade ’97. What was she thinking?!

Wait … where was I? Oh, yeah, ECW.

Today’s ECW is merely a televised developmental program that allows WWE to give exposure and training to some of its lesser-known wrestlers in order to pull them up to the big shows when the time is right. Or, conversely, if something doesn’t catch on at the ECW level, WWE then knows that it may be time to retool a guy before either promoting him or sending him on his way. The brand is what it is. What it isn’t is the old days of ECW, and the sooner we all accept that, the better things will seem.

The week in televised wrestling:

Smackdown (4/27)
Teddy Long is blinded by love and he doesn’t care who knows. Okay, fine, love may be too strong a word in professional wrestling, so let’s just call it lust. Oddly enough, and it took me 28 years of cognizant life to realize this, but if you combine both words you get the very apt result of one being “lost,” but I digress. Whatever the emotion is that’s driving Smackdown’s general manager to care less about his product and more about—aww hell, I’ll take the high road here—his well-being, the lovely, and treacherous, Krystal is responsible. Blinded by “lost,” Teddy made the comment last Friday night that he could step aside and let someone else run the blue brand for a while. Refresh my memory, but weren’t Vickie Guererro and Krystal relatively civil a while back?

Raw (4/30)
Suddenly, one-by-one, all of the top contenders to John Cena’s Raw World title were being found in the locker room area beaten unconscious by some unforeseen force hell-bent on eliminating the competition. Obviously someone so devious and brutal should be worthy of a legitimate shot at the Raw World title and taking his place—perhaps rightfully—amongst the greats of the sport. The man responsible for such carnage, with the ability to subdue whomever he wants, whenever he chooses, is none other than … The Great Khali? Okay, okay, we get it; he’s huge and mysterious, primarily because he massacres the English language. But a legitimate title contender those factors do not make. Sure, it’s becoming a little tedious to have the same four guys chasing World title gold, but Khali doesn’t seem to be either a long- nor short-term fix.

ECW (5/1)
Something about ECW on Tuesday night had me flashing back between every old Western movie I’ve ever seen and the puppet master-theater I was watching on the screen. It was as if the black hat-wearing villain (or, in this case, a do-rag) was firing bullets at the feet of the good guys and making them dance for his amusement. For those of you who missed it—or simply gave up all hope when Vince McMahon “won” the brand’s championship last weekend—said newly crowned titleholder forced the ECW Originals to battle to determine which of the four would be named number-one contender to the strap. Shockingly—for so many reasons I couldn’t possibly list them here—Rob Van Dam was victorious and will have his shot at restoring some semblance of respect back to the hardcore brand. Let me set the line right now at 10-1 that RVD recaptures ECW gold … oh … he turned down the latest contract offer? Make that 1,000,000-1.

Impact (5/3)
Still loving Jeff Jarrett. Yes, my world still doesn’t make sense, however every Thursday night I can safely say that I will quietly root for “Double J” from the comfort of my palatial living apartment without knowing why. It’s become a reflex at this point; I can’t explain it. When the country singer-turned-villain-turned-promoter-turned penitent anti-hero walks down that aisle, I instinctively am intrigued. Couple my Pavlovian response to the fact that “The King Of The Mountain” is taking a secondary … hell, tertiary … position at Sacrifice by teaching Robert Roode a lesson rather than imposing himself on the NWA World title picture and I couldn’t be happier with the return of Jarrett.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of April 20-26, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

I’m off today.

Yes, when you’re a child, the prospect of becoming an adult and being able to take a day off and get paid for it seems like the greatest thing in the world and, in some ways, it is. I was able to sleep in (instead of getting up at 5:45 a.m., I made it all the way to 7:00 a.m.), I don’t have to wear a tie, and cookies still pass for nutritious breakfast fare.

In short, yes, there are some advantages to being all grown up and able to take a day off every once in a while. But, alas, now I’m bored. It’s funny: When I realized I had put in for a vacation day today, all sorts of great and exciting ways to spend my newly freed up eight hours quickly ran through my head. Maybe a quick round of golf before hours of Playstation and a much-deserved nap. Sounds good, right?

It’s raining, and I’m suddenly feeling very lazy. So, I’ve made the decision to throw on my best rain gear, head down to the nearest video store, and pick up my very own copy of the Ric Flair And The Four Horsemen DVD to follow up my viewing of Roddy Piper’s Born To Controversy. Throw in a few adult sodas and Chinese food delivery, and I believe I have just salvaged my vacation day.

Shower?! No time for a shower! I need to know how Roddy Piper got into wrestling, and I need to know that now. Sure, I’ve watched the DVD numerous times, but let’s keep that between us. Besides, if I pretend I’ve never seen it before maybe, just maybe, I could get the girlfriend to watch it with me when she comes home for lunch. That, my friends, is the couch potato hat trick.

Enjoy your weekends. I’m already there.

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (4/20)
Allow me a moment to eulogize the spectacular championship reign of Paul London and Brian Kendrick, which was senselessly cut short last week at the hands of Deuce and Domino. Okay, “cut short” is a bit of an overstatement seeing as how the duo held the straps for a Smackdown-record 331 days, but somehow I still feel cheated. The team was doomed by a sudden lack of competition in a once-overpopulated tag team division. Deuce and Domino were given shot after shot at the gold and, both being very talented competitors, it was only a matter of time before they got the best of the champs. As disappointing as the change may be, I urge my fellow fans to focus not on the loss, but rather the team’s time on top. It was a great run and, given the state of the industry, something that may not be matched for quite some time.

Raw (4/23)
The best thing Randy Orton could have done for the fans was get himself sent home early. It was revealed earlier this week that Orton was sent home by WWE for, what the company deemed “unprofessional conduct.” How did the Raw brand respond? By giving fans a 57-minute, impromptu non-title pseudo-“Ironman” match between Shawn Michaels and John Cena that put the last few WrestleMania cards to shame. I actually DVRed Raw on Monday night; however, every time I flipped by the USA Network, I caught an amazing spot or dramatic moment. After reviewing the tape, I’m confident in saying that Cena may never wrestle a better match in his career. Let’s hope he does, but I’ve got a feeling this was his opus. Hang this one up there with the Chris Benoit-MVP match from Smackdown last week as two early Match of the Year contenders.

ECW (4/24)
When you break it down, ECW is essentially two angles at this point: Bobby Lashley taking on Umaga and the McMahons, and the Originals fending off the New Breed. In between these two growingly predictable segments (Lashley warded off Umaga this week and C.M. Punk appears to have ended his brief association with the New Breed), the brand sometimes actually squeezes in other battles. And, in the interest of fairness, here’s what you missed: Snitsky destroyed Mahoney. Yep, that’s it. Hey, at least their names are in print, right? You want more? Fine. Snitsky kicked Mahoney in the face for the victory. How’s that? C’mon … the match was all of two minutes! More?! All right. Snitsky, in the right light kind of resembles my Aunt Rita, who, ironically, kicked me in the face once. Okay, that last part never happened—hell, I don’t even have an Aunt Rita—but ECW is suddenly more intriguing now, no?

Impact (4/26)
The true colors of one Kurt Angle may finally be coming to the forefront, and, predictably, they’re not exactly red, white, and blue. For Angle’s fan base—of which I consider myself a part—the current direction in which our “Olympic Hero” is headed is nothing new. Last night, Angle appeared to “accidentally” get Sting disqualified in his impromptu NWA World title match with Christian Cage, only to feel the wrath of the painted-one for his efforts. And, while a Sting-Angle feud is intriguing, I think we all know how it could pan out, notably with Angle coming out as the rulebreaker and invariably being made to look like a fool. I’m just going to throw this out there to the good folks in TNA. If they like it, they can take it. If not, just send it on back. How interesting would it be to see eponymous fan favorite Sting take a cue from Angle and just lose it? I’m talking a flat out, hurt everyone around him, crazy-eyes freak out that makes Angle shiver in his unitard. Sure, it’ll never happen, but a guy can hope.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of April 13-19, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

Oh, woe is me! I … I just don’t know what to think anymore. Up is down, in is out, Jeff Jarrett is one of the most welcome figures on televised wrestling … and I’m okay with it.

What is this world coming to?

That’s right, the man I’ve buried since my first day at PWI is now one of my favorite wrestlers. Will this change anytime soon? Who knows? A fan favorite Jarrett is an easy guy to support. His angle right now as a man seeking the redemption of the fans through atoning for his past indiscretions could be good despite the fact that it appears he’s completed two-thirds of his tasks (helping Team Angle and then Sting were the top two on his list).

Personally, I’ve never had a problem with Jarrett. Hell, if it wasn’t for him, there wouldn’t be a TNA. And, if there were no TNA, what would we watch on Thursday nights? Of course, if Thursday nights were taken away from us by some strange act of God, this would all be a moot point.

Where the hell was I going with this? See what a world with a fan favorite Jarrett does to me? I’m all crazy talk and circular logic. Oh, now I remember.

Jarrett has always been a talented wrestler with an unfortunate knack for awful personas. Sure, it was fun for us all to hate Jarrett the obnoxious country singer, but once fans grew tired of it, he never seemed to totally drop the angle, making fans indifferent to him (which is worse than hating the guy). It makes no sense for him to carry a guitar—a symbol of past bad heat—in today’s TNA, but I digress.

Again, I’m not here to bury Jarrett anymore, but to praise him for his current course of action. And, you know something? I’m not alone. What’s even better is that I know you’re just as rooked in as I am. I’ve received e-mails from fans both defending Jarrett and lambasting me for my past hammering of the guy as well as potential future gripes. Let me take this moment to assure you all that I’m just as big a sucker as anyone and, for now, Jarrett is on my good list.

For now.

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown
There are few matches on WWE weekly programming that really grab hold of the viewer and make them feel not only that they’re being treated to a pay-per-view quality battle, but also that they’re witnessing something special. For fans of Smackdown, I really don’t have to go any further. For the millions of others out there who have a social life (myself not included), let me take you back to last Friday night where MVP beat U.S. champion Chris Benoit in a phenomenal, show-stealing, non-title match that we should’ve gotten two weeks ago at ’Mania. Both men poured everything they had into this battle and were I in the business of handing out awards for effort, they’d both get one. For Benoit, it’s yet another great match added to his impressive list; for MVP, it’s instant credibility, in my eyes at least. Still, the unitard has to go. For the children.

Raw
Ciao, i miei amici. A rather stunning turn of events in Italy, wouldn’t you say? Sometimes fans at WWE events get to go home with their ringside chair. Italian fan Santino Morella went home with the Intercontinental title belt. Morella had accepted an open challenge issued Vince McMahon to take on Umaga after Vince, Shane McMahon, and Umaga attacked and injured Bobby Lashley, the scheduled challenger. Watching the match from ringside, Lashley felt sympathy for Morella. He pummeled Umaga with a chair and plopped the Italian fan on top of the thoroughly deflated Samoan for the three-count. What are the odds of a guy having such luck in the ring? It’s like he may have wrestled somewhere before, probably in the deep south of Italy before reaching the valley region. Just a guess.

ECW
First I’m praising Jeff Jarrett and now this. Okay, let me get it out before I change my mind: ECW was really quite enjoyable this week. Whew—that hurt less than I expected. The C.M. Punk-New Breed relationship was naturally the primary focus of the evening, and for good cause, as it appears that there may already be dissention in the ranks. The new addition to ECW’s rogue faction appears to be going through a bit of a personality clash with self-appointed leader Elijah Burke. Is Punk’s enthusiasm for change misguided or is he secretly killing the group slowly from the inside out? Compelling stuff, no? See, that’s what I’m saying. Check out ECW next week because, if history’s any indicator, the company will screw this up somehow and fast.

Impact
Team 3D finally reached the pinnacle of their promotion by capturing the NWA World tag team title at TNA’s Lockdown this past Sunday. Not wasting any time, last night the duo defended the straps against a formidable team in Christian Cage and Abyss, despite the ringside presence of the men they took the gold from—LAX. I thought I’d be more excited for Team 3D following their championship victory at Lockdown, but, to my surprise, I’m not. LAX is by far a more compelling team right now in a division filled with … well … LAX and Team 3D. I honestly don’t know where this feud needs to go and, unfortunately, I’m getting the feeling I’m not alone in that thought.

 

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of April 6-12, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

All right, despite hating clichés (thank you, Mr. Saks), I have to throw one out for the purposes of this blurb. I’m well aware that there’s “more than one way to skin a cat” (an awful cliché in so many ways) especially when it comes to setting up a four-way match in professional wrestling. Still, was anyone else perturbed by the apparent “confusion” caused by the end of the Shawn Michaels-Randy Orton match? Did it seem like a stretch along the lines of WWE’s attempt to convince audiences that The Great Khali can wrestle?

To say this was a weak setup to what was pretty much a foregone conclusion for anyone who’s watched even an hour of professional wrestling in his/her lifetime would be an understatement. For those who may have missed it, let’s recap: The match between HBK and Orton for the number-one contendership to the Raw World title ended with two referees apparently seeing two different results. Following sweet chin music, Orton fell flat on his back and Michaels fell down on top of him, also on his back.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

Michaels, technically, is covering Orton for the pinfall victory. He is clearly on top of Orton whose shoulders, even more clearly, are flat to the canvas. Done deal, right? Well, no. See, Michaels’ shoulders were also flat to the mat and, despite Orton not being in any sort of position of pinning—that’s right, not an arm, not a finger, nothing above Michaels—the refs (there were two as one got injured early on) declared each man the winner.

Ah … huh?

Now, I’m well aware there is no rulebook when it comes to sports entertainment; however, shouldn’t at least one portion of Orton’s body have to be covering a portion of HBK’s? How does the mere fact that Michaels’ shoulders were on the mat—while draped atop Orton—make this decision unclear? Would this same confusion take place if Orton and Michaels were laying side-by-side and only HBK’s foot was on top of Orton’s leg, but both of their shoulders were flat to the mat? Me thinks not.

C’mon, WWE. This wasn’t Bret Hart and Lex Luger’s feet hitting at the same time in 1994 Royal Rumble. Hell, this wasn’t even The Rock-Big Show simultaneous tumble in 2000. And, frankly, this wasn’t even in the ballpark of the dueling Hebners-fiasco of the ’80s. This was weak and certainly could’ve been done better. I’m still looking forward to the main event at Backlash, but I realize that sometimes creativity doesn’t involve “reinventing the wheel” (there’s another one for you, Mr. Saks).

The week in televised wrestling:

Smackdown
There are many variations of saying that one would be wise to not date within the workplace. The same holds true when it comes to wrestling and wives. Think about it—has it ever ended well when a guy and his wife were working for the same promotion? Think Mongo McMichael and Debra. Randy and Elizabeth. Steve Austin and, well, Debra. Sable and Marc Mero. You get the picture. But, does King Booker? It finally looks like Sharmell has had enough with her man’s recent string of bad luck. Add to his marital woes a debilitating injury thanks to a “Tombstone” from the new Smackdown World champion, The Undertaker, and the good King is the undisputed winner of the world’s biggest headache for this past week.

Raw
Do me a favor and jump over to WWE’s website right now to check out the pictures of what happened after Raw went off the air the other night. Go ahead, I’ll wait, but make sure to come back. Okay, now that we’ve all seen Vince McMahon—complete with creepy guy from Poltergeist hat—donning the ECW title belt around his waist, I can now guarantee that my delight is absolutely not what you expected. Sure, I could be angry, but why fight it anymore? This isn’t ECW as it once was, so why not have the McMahons chase the title and spat on the “history” (assuming a year’s worth of garbage qualifies as history) that comes with it. No beef with this at all. If you’re a fan of the “boss vs. fan favorite champion” angle we’ve seen dozens of times, enjoy. If not, sorry, this could be a long one.

ECW
C.M. Punk has forsaken you, my dear fellow fans. That’s right—the man once deemed to be the future of WWE (via ECW) has apparently aligned himself with Elijah Burke’s New Breed faction (basically, Team OVW plus Monty Brown Cor Von), thus ending an all-too-brief flirtation with being a solid fan favorite. For those of us who have followed Punk’s career, we’re well aware how good Punk can be as a fan favorite and how great he is as a rulebreaker. Let’s hope this one sticks for a bit because it might … might … make ECW watchable. Did I say might?

Impact
Jeffrey Leonard Jarrett. Three words that should still send a shiver up the collective spines of wrestling fans everywhere, yet there may be no more beloved man in TNA right now. Oh, it’s true … it’s true. Making his first television appearance in over six months, Jarrett returned last night to join Team Angle for their battle with Team Cage at TNA’s Lockdown pay-per-view coming up on Sunday. Once jeered as a supernova of bad heat, Jarrett’s return is a welcome sight to an increasingly stagnant TNA heavyweight division. In a related story, let’s preview next week’s blurb: Dear God, will someone get rid of Jeff Jarrett?

 

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 30-April 5, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

The first week following WrestleMania 23 makes me dizzy. There’s really no other, cleverer way to describe it other than just “dizzy.” It probably didn’t help that I got roughly two hours of sleep after the event before hopping the PWI private jet back to Philadelphia only to rush off to Citizens Bank Park for tailgating, sub-par baseball, and general buffoonery.

Yeah, I know, poor Frank. Let me clarify my earlier statement before I’m bombarded with “At least you got to go” e-mails from anonymous rapscallions.

My weariness comes not from the hectic schedule that comes with being a PWI-con, but rather what I’ve been watching on television this week since wading through the throngs of Michigeese and Michiganders (only funny to those who live there—myself included) on Sunday night.

The following night on Raw was basically a throwaway night, which I’m okay with. Jim Ross could barely speak and the only wrestlers that were anywhere close to fresh were thrown into two, 10-team gauntlet matches designed to separate John Cena and Shawn Michaels from the Raw World tag straps (which happened).

Smackdown, The Undertaker’s first with the “big gold belt,” should be interesting; however, since it hasn’t aired yet, it gets a pass as well.

ECW, on the other hand, really bugged me. Nay, I’m pissed. For anyone who caught my special column on Monday following ’Mania (if not, stop reading, go back and check that out, and return to this spot), you’re well aware how disappointed I was with the ECW offering to the card. It was an eight-man tag match pitting the New Breed against the ECW Originals that was not conducted under extreme rules.

Ever see The Sandman wrestle a regular match? Multiply that by eight, as all the men seemed restricted and dulled down for the event.

We, the paying customers that either forged our way out to “Motown” or bought the show on pay-per-view, were cheated when two nights later the same match was put on, except this time under extreme rules, as the Good Lord intended. And, guess what: It was damn good, which leads me to question why it was done this way. The excitement was palpable at Ford Field last Sunday night, and the match we saw on Tuesday would’ve only added to the mystique of the event.

So thanks, WWE. I didn’t think I could get my thoughts clear enough to be angry at something this week, but you came through with flying colors on this one.

The week in televised wrestling:

Smackdown
Maybe it’s just hindsight doing what it does so well, but did anyone else notice that Batista appeared to give off the impression—through body language and stumbling promos—that he knew his time was drawing to a close? Airing two full days prior to WrestleMania 23 (and taped five prior), the Batista I saw on Smackdown was one I had yet to see during his rise to dominance in WWE. He was intimidated by “The Dead Man,” and something leads me to think it wasn’t because of his intimidating stature as much as it was his legacy.

Raw
Despite rumors circulating that WWE was not—I repeat not—interested in reuniting Matt and Jeff Hardy as a full-time tag team, the duo captured its sixth WWE tag team championship (this time the Raw World straps) by outlasting Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch in a 10-team gauntlet match. The team could simply be a placeholder for the straps for the time being, as it seemed obvious that HBK and Cena could not co-exist as champions. However, I’m willing to guess that the Hardys have far too much integrity to let this most current run end abruptly. They may not hold the straps for long, but rest assured, they will entertain the hell out of us while they do.

ECW
Listen, I’m so steamed about this that I feel the need to once again point out my disdain for the ECW Originals-New Breed rematch that completely overshadowed the exact same bout at ’Mania. I don’t know if it was done to ensure the bigger show was more family friendly (laughable) or possibly to wield power over some of the wrestlers due to their reputed troubles with the powers-that-be (which hurts the fans more than the talent), but it’s garbage like this that makes people not enjoy ECW as a brand, and makes guys like me resent the fact that I even have to web space to it.

Impact
The fourth member of Team Angle was finally revealed last night to be none other than Sting, who assisted his new teammates at the end of Impact after Team Cage had attacked them. That brings the roster of the white hat-wearing group to: Angle, Rhino, Samoa Joe, and now Sting, which leaves the group one member shy of a full roster. A problem, you say? Well … yes. It seems as if we’re all out of big name, heavyweight contending good guys, right? Oh, yeah, that pit in your stomach is the thought of a Kevin Nash inclusion. Should be an interesting reveal next Thursday night.

WrestleMania 23: What a long, Strange Trip It Was

By Frank Ingiosi

All of the following facts are true and actually occurred during my own personal road to WrestleMania. I’m relatively creative but, hell, even I couldn’t make this stuff up.

My original plan was to call this special ’Mania column “Putting The ‘Old’ Back In Gold,” but, unfortunately, as nearly everyone knows by now, Shawn Michaels tapped-out to the STFU and suddenly the whole theme of my weekend was thrown into a tailspin.

Or was it?

While discussing the long term implications of the night’s results (which are briefly recounted below) would be the easy way out, I find that it’s not nearly as fun as looking back at the normal fan’s—namely, myself—journey from the comforts of home to being one of 80,103 screaming maniacs jam-packed into a massive arena over 600 from home.

Saturday, March 31:
9:30 – 11:00 AM:

The plane ride out was an intriguing combination of terror and lots of terror. The tiny, express jet carried a mere 52 people and one spiteful flight attendant. You know the type—sort of like the lunch lady in high school that would offer you extra sloppy joe just as quickly as she’d whack you with a soup ladle for looking at her funny. Top all of that off with me scoring a seat within arm’s length—complete with audio backup—of the bathroom and you have an interesting start to a great weekend.

12:08 PM:
My brother and I were a bit concerned as two police officers—noticeably younger than our 28 and 26 years—glanced over at us in a manner that begged for assistance. They were searching the front of a car that was abandoned on the side of I-94, the main east-west road through Michigan. I’m not quite sure whether they were perturbed more by the disgusting condition of the car, or the dead body slumped back in the driver’s seat.

Welcome to Motown, boys. Population: one less.

6:00 PM – Midnight:
The rest of my day included a nap, dinner, and a tour of my family’s old neighborhood north of the city. Nothing tremendously exciting, yet the feel of WrestleMania was palpable. The event was the big story in a city filled with big stories. Radio stations were holding ticket events, legitimate news broadcasts were seriously discussing the magnitude of “The Battle Of The Billionaires,” and women—actual, attractive women—were extremely excited at the prospect of heading downtown for the show.

For anyone with faith in wrestling’s viability—myself included—just being in the state of Michigan this weekend was a much-needed shot in the arm. To celebrate the anticipation of the next day, my brother and I split a half case of Canada’s finest lager, had a few celebratory cigars, and readied ourselves for the experience that was WrestleMania 23.

Sunday, April 1:
I woke to the smell of stale, cheap cigars and warm beer, but I wasn’t phased. No, nothing could make me lose focus on my sole purpose for returning to Michigan. Today was all about oily, grown men in tights punching each other in the face. Jealous? You should be.

11:00 AM – 4:00 PM:
The early portion of my day consisted of a hearty breakfast of the remaining beef jerky and a lukewarm Molson floating in the sink. From there, with my brother as my chauffer, it was off to see my beloved Detroit Pistons take on the hated Miami Heat.

Even there we were inundated with WrestleMania discussion. The talk of the hallways centered on who’s head would be shaved and whether or not The Undertaker would finally succumb to a ’Mania opponent. A brief scuffle between two of the players on the court only added to the speculation—and my excitement—for the evening. It was time to make my way from the lofty heights of Auburn Hills and down to the heart of “The Motor City” for the “Granddaddy Of Them All” (in wrestling terms, of course).

5:00 PM – 6:50 PM:
Despite our hotel being only 30 minutes from Ford Field, we found ourselves mired in the amazingly long quagmire that was I-75. For as far as my eyes could see, there were cars funneling—or at least attempting to funnel—into one lane, the one lane that led to the stadium.

With time of the essence and our morale at an all-time low, we shunned all societal niceties and unwritten rules (okay, mostly written) of the road. Jumping out of line, speeding to the front, and cutting off the lead car may not have been my finest moment, but this was Wrestle-freakin’-Mania, and we weren’t missing a second of it.

7:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Finally, 10 minutes and a $35-dollar parking space later, my brother and I were wading through our fellow stragglers to our club level seats, smack-dab in the middle of a very long, very filled-with-obese-people, row. As we made our way to our final destination, our hands and hips bumped into things crevices and lumps that I’m fairly certain belonged to human bodies, although it was so dark in there that it could’ve actually been a bag filled with ground beef wearing that “Austin 3:16” T-shirt.

It didn’t matter, because there I was. As my eyes struggled to take in all 80,102 of my fellow fans that packed Ford Field it, suddenly dawned on me just how appropriate this year’s theme was. As much as WWE professed that WrestleMania was “All Grown Up,” I couldn’t help feeling as if I had just lost 20 years of my life and was but a wide-eyed eight-year-old getting his first glance of the squared circle. Sure, the card was weak, but the experience is something everyone must go through. It was amazing.

11:30 PM—2:00 AM:
Four hours and a brief trip to the souvenir stand later, we forged our way through 80,000-plus fans on our way back to the hotel and, for all intents and purposes, the end of the adventure. Of course, that was after the obligatory trip to White Castle, which made me feel only slightly less ill than watching the Kane-Great Khali slugfest only a few hours ago.

WrestleMania 23 weekend ended in a blaze of gastronomical glory coupled with the creeping realization that the majority of this column was sketched on various napkins and assorted flat surfaces, meaning there would be plenty of work waiting for me today when I landed back in Philadelphia. Still, I wouldn’t trade a minute of the experience for anything.

There’s something special about the quest—and with whom you take it—that makes the end result so satisfying. In the grand scheme of things, WrestleMania 23 will likely not reach the level of all-time greatness, but, in the mind of this fan, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

* * *

’Mania at a Glance:

As I mentioned, WrestleMania 23 likely will not be looked upon as one of the quintessential installments of the event. While the matches and angles were relatively strong (at least in the higher-profile events), the show felt choppy and stalled at points due to the arrangement of the card itself. It seemed as if each good match was followed by a space-filling, uneventful snooze-fest that killed whatever momentum was built only moments ago.

For spot-junkies (which basically make up most of the population), Mr. Kennedy’s victory in the “Money In The Bank” ladder match was only trumped by Jeff Hardy’s amazing leap onto a supine Edge, who was laid across a ladder outside the ring. The nostalgia fans were satisfied by The Undertaker’s Smackdown World title victory, the purists saw Chris Benoit handily retain the U.S. title in his bout with MVP, and the newer generation was able to simultaneously boo and cheer John Cena as he defended the Raw World title in a riveting match with Shawn Michaels. And, of course, the mainstreamers absolutely loved seeing Donald Trump, et al. shave Vince McMahon’s billion-dollar scalp prior to receiving his very own “Stone-Cold Stunner.”

Of course, the night was not without its bathroom break matches, most notably The Great Khali-Kane bout and the amazingly pointless “Lumberjill” match for the women’s title. Still, I feel the need to take issue with the lone ECW entry into ’Mania—the Originals squaring off with the New Breed. To say this was the worst match of the night may be a slight overstatement; however, to call the treatment of those who participated in the contest completely distasteful would not entirely encompass the anger I felt on Sunday night.

With rumors running rampant on the eventual demise (and release) of many—if not all—the ECW Originals, I was quite disappointed to see that, as the Originals celebrated their sloppy, non-extreme victory in the ring, WWE quickly cut to a pre-taped segment on the Titantron and lowered the house lights on the ring, leaving Sandman, Sabu, Rob Van Dam, and Tommy Dreamer looking visibly befuddled.

Perhaps WWE was seeking to avoid another Clique-esque sendoff moment, or maybe it was simply meant to convey a message that the old-ECW era was officially over, but, whatever the case, I have to say I was surprisingly disappointed with the way it was handled. And, while it will likely be overlooked in the near future and damn near forgotten in the years to come, this truly was the most disappointing point of the night and will stick with me as the final blow to the failed experiment that was the revival of ECW.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 23-March 29, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

So, here it is! The time is upon us.

This same time last year—probably in this very column—I trumpeted the fact that, to me, WrestleMania signified the official beginning of the new wrestling year, and the end of all things prior. Yes, once again we appear poised to enter into a brave new beginning, filled with new and exciting feuds, possible moves between promotions, and God only knows what else. Right?

Well, yes … and very likely no.

For the most part, the year between ’Mania 22 and now has been, at best, mediocre. Sure, there were a few notable events that seemed to stir up some interest (for example, the rise of TNA through the addition of names like Kurt Angle), but others didn’t quite live up to the hype (ECW).

Now, in no way am I here to hammer the events of the year gone by. Once again, I prefer to be forward-looking. While ’Mania 23 doesn’t appear (on paper) to pose any threat to the legacy of some of the great cards of the past, it should be an exciting event nevertheless. Or, at the very least, it will put to bed a year’s worth of your disappointment in only four hours.

My recommendation is to take this weekend the same way one approaches the big football game at the end of the NFL season. Even if it’s not your team competing, or if you don’t particularly care about the outcome, sit back and enjoy the event as a wrestling fan. It’s only a matter of time before your team (or wrestler, or taste, or angle) gets to that point, so enjoy the pageantry and the hope that at some point down the line, it will mean more to you. For those of you psyched just to be there or catch it on TV, the weekend is yours.

Along those lines, check back in on New Wrestling Year’s Day—or, Monday to the rest of the world—to take a look at my travel log from the weekend. I will be venturing out to Detroit for ’Mania and will report on everything WWE the next day in a very special, heartfelt edition of “The Turn” entitled “WrestleMania Detroit: At Least I Didn’t Get Shot.”

The week in televised wrestling, special WrestleMania buildup edition:

Smackdown
Who am I supposed to hate going into the Undertaker-Batista battle at WrestleMania? Sure, it would be nice to see the ol’ “Dead Man” get one last run at the top, but Batista actually concerns me if I’m a ’Taker fan. His stock is white hot right now, he’s a dominant champion, and will likely be around full-time longer than The Undertaker. For wrestling purists, this may not be their top choice of main events. However, for industry analysts such as myself, this one is the biggie.

Raw
I can’t remember seeing a bigger will they/won’t they storyline that wasn’t part of “Must See TV.” Finally … finally … Shawn Michaels kicked John Cena in the damn face, ending weeks of speculation as to where the two partners stood heading into their match at WrestleMania. I still think that there is no chance of “HBK” walking out of Ford Field with the Raw World title in hand, but this should actually be a hell of a match. Sure, he probably won’t be victorious, but anyone who’s familiar with his history knows that Michaels will be at his all-time best in this match. From a wrestling standpoint, this could be the most entertaining moment of the night, and it could leave the fans spent prior to the main event.

ECW
The indestructible, undisputed, monster of a man Bobby Lashley—who I still believe could be great someday—suffered his most humiliating defeat Monday night after losing to Vince McMahon. Of course, this was after every spare wrestler in the Raw locker room emerged to pummel the ECW champ, allowing the chairman to get the easy three-count. Still, heading into the “Battle Of The Billionaires” at ’Mania, it’s funny to think that the actual match itself has become barely secondary—nay, tertiary (how often can one use that word?)—to the ego battle between Vince and Donald Trump. Once the bell rings, we’re still left with an Umaga-Lashley non-title battle. Not so sexy now, eh?

Impact
It’s only fitting that we top off the WrestleMania buildup edition of “The Turn” by focusing on TNA’s top feud right now, which is, ironically, led by two former WWE grapplers, Kurt Angle, and Christian Cage. With TNA’s Lockdown pay-per-view in only two weeks, last night’s events proved to be something of a mystery. Neither Team Angle nor Team Cage’s rosters are filled just yet, however one the most prized free agent pickups was revealed to be … Tomko (who ended up on Team Cage). Now, I know—know—that I’ve watched Tomko before, but I think last night was the first time I ever heard him speak, and he’s coveted? Wow. Somewhere Lance Hoyt should be firing his agent.

 

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 16-March 22, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

I need to vent a bit this morning. Yes, I know, shocking, but hear me out. I read something the other day that actually made me not only angry, but disappointed in the laziness that has become the published word. Sure, it was a relatively innocuous, easily overlooked blurb in a magazine, yet it was an affront not only to fans of professional wrestling, but also to the simple act of fact checking.

While reading one of the 10 or so random magazines that show up on the doorstep of my luxury apartment each month, I came across a mention of the pending battle (legal, not physical) between WWE and rapper The Game over, well, the nickname “The Game.” Obviously, this is one of the monikers that Triple-H has christened himself with, but it also is the industry name of performer Jayceon Terrell Taylor, who hopes to—and I kid you not—fight Helmsley if he ever confronts him.

But I digress. Back to my magazine reading.

I was thumbing through the current issue of Blender magazine—oh yeah, we’re naming names here—in the hopes of coming off far cooler than I actually am, as well as gain a modicum of street cred due to the fact that the cover story was a look back on the life of The Notorious B.I.G. It was there that I came across said blurb regarding the pending legal wrangling between, and—this is how it was written—The Game and “WWF wrestler The Game.”

Not only does a goof like this show a complete and utter lack of controls when it comes to the simple and mindless task of fact checking, but it also indicates just how little the editors there think of wrestling in general to not even have a working knowledge of WWE and one of its biggest names. Hell, I don’t think I’ve ever heard one of The Game’s songs, but I at least knew who he was. Not knowing that the wrestler known as “The Game” was Triple-H is somewhat excusable; not realizing that a multibillion-dollar company had changed its name five years ago is simply lazy.

We at PWI will make the occasional mistake. Hell, every magazine does. But to give off the impression that something passed off as a news blurb is really little more than one of your copy editor’s best recollections of something he heard between bong hits and gordita runs is pathetic. Still, I suppose the only good thing to come from all of this is that I now have a monthly supply of cat box liner delivered directly to my doorstep each month. Thanks, Blender.

Let’s throw this past week into a blender and see what we come up with:

Smackdown
Which old head did Ken Kennedy look at the wrong way backstage? You know, anytime reports surface that someone under the age of 50 disagrees with anyone above said benchmark, they’re obviously insubordinate and need to “learn some respect.” Suddenly, and without warning, said pest falls into a nasty slump with no apparent hope for victory anytime soon. Last Friday night, Kennedy lost cleanly to Matt Hardy. Let me rephrase: Kennedy—the man who looked poised to stay at or near main-event status on Smackdown—lost cleanly to Matt “If 13-year-olds Stop Watching Wrestling I’m Screwed” Hardy.

Raw
Was it just me, or did the Melina-Candice Michelle bra-and-panties match feature far too much wrestling to be considered your average, run-of-the-mill bra-and-panties match? Frankly, it made me sick. Listen, either you’re only eye candy or you’re a wrestler with some credibility who also happens to be eye candy. Don’t go tricking us into thinking this will be the same gratuitous filth we’ve come to know and love and then put on something close to a wrestling match! For shame, ladies … for shame.

ECW
This week’s silver lining on yet another less-than-spectacular edition of ECW is entirely self-serving, vainglorious, and long overdue. For the nine of you that watched along with me as WWE took the opportunity to announce the induction of The Sheik into its Hall of Fame, you may have noticed that many of the still shots were credited to none other than Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Not only that, but the disembodied voice-over was good enough to mention that PWI readers voted The Sheik “Most Hated Wrestler Of The Year” for 1972. That’s right—we got the shout out on ECW. I’m not going to nitpick over the fact that the award was actually presented by a now-defunct magazine called Wrestling Annual For 1973 and that PWI didn’t even come along until 1979. WWE knew this, but they also knew it would be counter-productive to them and us to reference a magazine that no longer exists.

Wrestling Society X
This week on WSX, Chantal and Jacob have encountered some trouble from their respective families due to the announcement of their pending nuptials. Sure, Jacob’s family is excited, but Chantal’s nearest and dearest aren’t so sure. Of course this leads to two questions: 1. How in the world will this all play out at the pay-per-view; 2. Who the hell are Jacob an Chantal? Oh … not WSX, you say? Ahh, ’k … apparently WSX is dead, and I was watching a particularly melodramatic episode of Engaged & Underage. I guess that explains the shocking lack of explosions or Vampiros.

Impact
I realized what bothers me about TNA while watching Impact last night—it’s the skits. That’s right, something I generally don’t mind if done well and flat out love if it’s the least bit clever simply doesn’t work for me when done by TNA. Last night’s program featured some excellent matches (I was particularly pleased by the Team Angle-Team Cage battle to open the show). However, my interest completely waned during the ridiculous Serotonin skit. Please, stop. It’s actually taking away from a solid product.

 

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 9-March 15, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

For those of you out there new to “The Turn,” please let me clear up some of your confusion surrounding my perceived overall bitterness toward the wrestling industry and, well, sports in general. To everyone else who has heard this song and dance in the past, my apologies. In fact, stop reading now, and I’ll let you know where to pick it back up.

All right, newbies, back to my bitterness. See, I’m not here to make excuses. However, if I had to pick out any reason as to why I’m bitter at the sports world in general, it could be summed up by the admission that I’m a Philadelphia sports fan. We are some of the most pretentious, self-absorbed, “every move a team makes is wrong” fans in the world. Add to that the fact that we’re going through one of the worst times in recent history, with both the Flyers and Sixers playing terribly, and you can imagine our ire.

Okay … c’mon back, oldies.

I bring up Philadelphia sports and our current teams’ struggles to illustrate a point about WWE and WrestleMania 23. With both the Flyers and Sixers being flat out awful at this point, fans such as me are actually reaping a few benefits of our beloved clubs’ struggles. In an effort to keep us shelling out our hard-earned coin to support the dregs of their respective leagues, both organizations are bombarding what remaining fans are left with special prices for admission, fancier giveaway items, and legends from the past.

While it’s obvious to anyone with half a brain that the teams are doing this to remind fans that their clubs are still relevant, to me it’s also a sign that the higher ups are acknowledging that the current product they’re offering is garbage.

Anyone else catch The Rock’s amazingly electrifying, yet strangely out of place, cameo the other night on Raw? That’s right, the man who has gone on the record as saying that his wrestling days are well behind him, popped up to pimp the “Battle Of The Billionaires” match at WrestleMania 23.

Do I have a problem with this? Absolutely not. The Rock truly is one of the all-time greats of modern WWE history, and any appearance he makes should be appreciated for what it is. What makes me a little nervous—as an attendee of the event in two weeks—is that, all along, I’ve gotten the feeling that WWE is not entirely excited about the lineup it’s putting forth at Ford Field, and to see The Rock goaded out of retirement to make a pre-taped message about the show just reinforces the idea that the company will be relying on smoke and mirrors rather than history-making performances to sell the card to fans, which rarely ever works. Right?

I’ll let you know after I sell out and go to the show. Hey, “The Turn” is definitely not a “do as we do” type of column.

The week that was televised wrestling:

Smackdown
I’ve been tough on the guy as of late, so I’m going to try to approach my latest criticism of Smackdown World champion Batista a little more constructively than usual. Last Friday night, to show his WrestleMania 23 opponent, The Undertaker, that he’s gunning for him, Batista stumbled through a match with Kane. In my humble opinion, with only two weeks until the big showdown in Motown looming, Batista should take it easy and focus on hyping his title defense rather than wrestling. It’s only hurting his cause at this point.

Raw
Not since Samuel Morse has there been a more effective method of telegraphing than the faux-head fake WWE is giving us regarding the breakup of Rated RKO. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that at some point during the “Money In The Bank” match at ’Mania, Edge and Orton will work together and then turn against each other. Shocking, no? Oh, and how’s that for showing off our knowledge? We here at “The Turn” believe in teaching while we’re griping.

ECW
The rumor mill is rife with “reports” that one of the least popular people in the ECW locker room is none other than the visibly uncomfortable Kelly Kelly, who continues to perform her weekly, amazingly awkward expose. The mere fact that she is penciled in by the brilliant minds of WWE Creative to do this on a weekly basis may seem as if they’re just trying to find something for her to do while still under contract or, possibly, they’re doing their damndest to break her of her alleged poor attitude toward the product. Funny, we get the impression that the word “fans” could be interchanged with Kelly in this case.

WSX
In an ominous sign for MTV’s entry into the wrasslin’ world, Tuesday saw the remaining taped episodes for season one of WSX aired in succession (at least in the Philadelphia market). This is the quintessential case of good news/bad news for WSX. On the negative side, it appears that the promotion is being shelved before it was even given any serious backing and a legitimate chance at survival. The silver lining: 6-Pac is now freed up to return to his true passion: making sex tapes with pseudo-shemales.

Impact
A.J. Styles vs. Rhino is not-too-quietly becoming the top feud in TNA right now with the NWA World title chase being something of a melting pot of talent and the X division quickly becoming too silly for our liking. While the jury was out for quite some time on Styles as a rulebreaker (although he’s done it before), the former World champion is certainly filling the role admirably. Keep an eye on this one.

 

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 1-March 8, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

Mania Musings
My own personal road to WrestleMania 23 has taken yet another strange twist with the announcement of ECW’s latest offering to the event in the form of an eight-man tag team match pitting Elijah Burke’s New Breed faction (a great idea anywhere else) against whatever is left of the ECW Originals in a battle to determine once and for all which group is truly the most dominant of all the irrelevant factions.

As easy as it would be to simply hammer this idea as well as the entire card, I’m not going to. WrestleMania is WrestleMania, and the experience in and of itself is worth the price of admission (yes, even WrestleMania XV). Hell, people would tune in to catch an Arizona Cardinals-Buffalo Bills big-football-game-at-the-end-of-the-season-in-some exotic-locale (c’mon, even we at “The Turn” aren’t immune from the far-reaching, icy cold grasp of the NFL’s legal restrictions). We’re fans of the sport and, regardless of the participants, there will always be a great majority of us that will shell out the coin to be as close to the action as possible. No, my gripe isn’t with yet another mid-card match that few people actually want to see being added to a night filled with redundancies. What I do take issue with is the appearance that as went Triple-H —someone I, frankly, don’t mind—so went WrestleMania 23.

Whether or not WWE intended it to look this way, it seemed as if everything went to hell only minutes after Hunter tore the only other natural quad the Good Lord gave him. As a fan, I started to get the sick feeling that if WWE could push back, or simply sleep through their collective alarms on April 1, it would.

Part of me feels cheated, assuming that Hunter was such a big part of the ’Mania planning that his injury sent the WWE world into a tailspin. All parties involved should know the sport well enough to have a contingency plan for something as common as an injury, which leads me to believe that this was just going to be a down year regardless of the lineup.

I’m willing to take the second approach to the whole show, at least at this point. Of course, that’s assuming that we’re not treated to a Hacksaw Duggan vs. … well … anyone match. I know I’m not mailing it in, and I expect the same from WWE.

Ego Trip
Yesterday afternoon during my train ride home from work on one of Philadelphia’s opulent chariots of public transportation, I heard something on the radio that reassured me that not only was PWI still the best publication covering the industry, but also that at least 30 percent of our fan base can read (keep reaching for the stars, you guys).

I was listening to the KiddChris Show—a popular radio show host in Philadelphia, as well as a very big supporter of the sport and a friend of PWI. The talk turned to wrestling, as it tends to often do.

Nothing sexy there, right? Well, it was what happened next that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. One of the fans who had called into the show began reciting—as if it was fact—that Paul Heyman would be leading a faction of former WWE/ECW wrestlers into TNA in the not too distant future. Sound familiar? It should, true believers, because it’s the cover story on the current issue of Inside Wrestling/The Wrestler Special (the story is yours for the clicking from our home page).

So, for anyone out there that doubts the influence PWI and all of its sister publications still has on the industry, rest assured that there are still plenty of folks—fine, at least one—that still takes what we say as scripture, which is nice.

Smackdown
As of right now—the morning that you’re reading this—Chris Benoit is not a part of WrestleMania 23 in Detroit. Again, that is as of right now. Things could change at any moment. Still, how disappointing is it that Benoit—wildly popular throughout his native Canada—is not a bigger (or any) part of his employer’s biggest event that is occurring a mere 15-minute car ride away from Canuck soil. I’m not sure what constitutes a travesty, but this has to be damn close.

Raw
The special guest referee for the “Battle Of The Billionaires” at WrestleMania 23 was announced to be none other than “Stone Cold” Steve Austin—one of (depending on which set of figures you believe) the biggest draws in wrestling history. Sure, Austin’s only back to pimp his venture into leading man status in WWE’ Films’ The Condemned, but who cares? It was a very well-done pseudo-surprise and something that should pocket WWE a few more buys for the pay show. Nice job.

ECW
Get-well wishes go out to Gene Snitsky, who obviously is suffering from some form of illness that keeps him pasty, completely bald, and almost entirely unwatchable. Wait … that’s his angle now? Oh … ummhmm. That, uh, really works for him, doesn’t it? Nothing’s more terrifying than a completely shorn former foot fetishist with an axe to grind, right? Yikes.

Wrestling Society X
Didn’t air. MTV promises it will air again sometime in the very near future.

Tick … tock … tick … tock.

Impact

Raven’s latest faction Seratonin (formerly Matt Bentley, Frankie Kazarian, and Jonny Devine) suffered yet another loss, this time to The James Gang. Making matters worse for the group that, if history is any indicator, will eventually turn against Raven one-by-one, the members were caned by their leader following the loss. Hell, even Perry Saturn hasn’t taken too many shots to the skull to realize we’ve seen this angle before and it goes absolutely nowhere.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of February 23-March 1, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

My apologies once again to both of you out there who actually look forward to sitting down at your desk, or after your bath in the library sink, to read the hard-hitting, incisive incisiveness that is “The Turn.” I have failed you both, yet again.

After another unexpected hiatus, we at “The Turn” have returned with yet another format, a renewed excitement for the sport, and the prospect of heading out to the heart of Michigan for a little event known as WrestleMania 23 in just four short weeks in the back of our collective minds.

Oh, that’s right, there was some wheeling and/or dealing during our time apart. For those of you not as proficient at negotiation as someone so legally astute as I, here’s a quick lesson in the age-old art of getting what you want. Yep, only the sweetest of sweet talk will secure you the type of perks that such a highly respected part of the PWI team—like myself—could score.

Fast forward a bit: After I was told by legendary publisher Stu Saks that not only was PWI not going to cover the lavish, all expenses paid, luxury trip to Detroit (complete with personal travel masseuse and gold-plated rental car), but also that openly weeping like a toddler with a skinned knee would not help my cause, I ventured out on my own. Gathering together all of my hard earned PWI cash (oh, and trust me, the future wife loves when you substitute actual wedding gifts for trips to wrestling events), I’m headed off to Detroit in a mere four weeks for my second live WrestleMania.

I bring all of this up primarily because I wanted to get into what excites me the most about the 23rd installment of WWE’s biggest pay event. In what is shaping up to be, at best, a mediocre card with little of the fantastic pageantry we’ve all come to expect from the spring classic, I find myself drawn to what could be the weakest of the weakest: the Donald Trump-Vince McMahon “Battle Of The Billionaires.”

Oooh, I just get the goosepimples every time I think about it, don’t you? Just think of it—a show lacking the compelling angles and mainstream star power of past years somehow grabs a hold of the lead in the race to the bottom of WrestleMania history by having two tremendously wealthy—and equally egomaniacal—men manage wrestlers of their choosing in a battle that will determine which will have their head shaved.

Yeah … hmm … what the hell?

Seriously, think about this for a second. It’s a “Hair vs. Hair” match (which really hasn’t been big this side of Mexico in about 25 years) between two guys who aren’t actually wrestling. Plus, is there any real chance that Donald “My guy is Bobby Lindsay” Trump (yes, he’s gotten the name of the “invincible” ECW champion Bobby Lashley wrong in televised interviews) is going to have his head shaved? I didn’t think so either. I haven’t seen a match so decisively one-sided from the get-go that didn’t have a Helmsley in it.

So, if we remove both Trump and McMahon from the equation, we’re left with an Umaga-Lashley battle at WrestleMania, with neither the ECW title nor the Intercontinental strap on the line (as of now). That’s it. Now, I don’t mean to disrespect either wrestler, but who’s going to pay to see that? Hell, who’s going to traverse half the country to head out to it, leaving the love of his life in his wake?

Oh, that’s right. Awkward, no?

In other news from the week in televised wrestling:

Smackdown
Now, I’m all for bite-sized wrestlers in strange and overly complicated gimmicks battling it out with their wee fists o’ fury. Yet, I have to admit that I’m not feeling the usage of Hornswoggle (formerly Little Bastard) and Lil’ Boogey to spice up the Finlay-Boogeyman feud. Sure, both juniors are more compelling than their larger counterparts, however I’m getting the distinct “laughing at you not with you” feeling from the whole thing, which kind of makes me ill.

Raw
Congratulations are in order for Jerry Lawler, the most recently announced member of the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2007. Lawler, who any wrestling fan can tell you made his bones as part of the old southern territories and not WWF/WWE, is absolutely worthy of being enshrined in such an esteemed paragon of respect as a hall of fame honoring only the greatest that the industry has to offer. Maybe they’ll put his plaque next to Pete Rose or the space reserved for the Gobbledygooker.

ECW
I think we all had the same thought when we saw the once-highly touted C.M. Punk take on Stevie Richards on Tuesday night. That’s right, Stevie Richards is still alive. Oh, what a joyous day! In all seriousness, it was good to see the former BWO member back in a WWE ring.

Wrestling Society X
The cockles of my heart were warmed a bit when I caught the promo by one Arik Cannon—2006 winner of the CHIKARA Young Lion’s Cup—where he beat the hell out of one of his “friends” to show just how vicious he could then be to his enemies. It’s nice to see Cannon get some facetime. Every time I feel like WSX is garbage, they give some airtime to a good, deserving indy wrestler, thus making me want it to survive.

Impact
I have to admit that the Scott Steiner-Kurt Angle feud intrigues me just a bit. When he’s only focused a fraction as much as in his earlier days, Steiner is still good. Sure, it hasn’t happened in years, but here’s to holding out hope. My best guess is that Angle will come out on top in this battle and actually humble Steiner in the process, bringing about a long overdue personal epiphany and a run as a fan favorite. Oh, and in a related story, Steiner was arrested and charged with the murder the English language, which is a felony in wrestling. He was also stuck with a misdemeanor charge of torturing sarcasm, which will now need years of therapy to get back to “Turn”-worthy level. Sad. So sad.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of February 2-8, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

Did you ever go through one of those times where everyone at your office/company/shift at Pep Boys was sick at the same time? It’s as if the building was hit by its own mini-pandemic and no one is immune. That’s what I’m going through as we speak. People around me are dropping like flies. Sick, contagious, flies. And yet, here I remain. Alone and not particularly virulent.

I’m a trooper. I’m Mick Foley during his “Hell In A Cell” massacre against The Undertaker. I’m Hulk Hogan in any match he’s ever had. See, I could be at home, laid up, watching old wrasslin’ tapes or playing videogames or doing God only knows what else a sickie does.

Actually, now that I think about it, I’m feeling a bit feverish myself.

Enjoy “The Turn”—suddenly very woozy ever since it found out that it could catch the early train home.

Smackdown (2/2)
First, Snickers, now this?

That’s right, in a world thrown into a tizzy over the implications of a candy commercial in which two men are featured freaking out over accidentally kissing while sharing a candy bar, we now have Mr. Kennedy beating the hell out of Vito and tearing off his ever present sun dress all because, in his opinion, it’s not masculine enough for wrestling.

Kennedy, now officially a top guy (for the time being) on Smackdown, was merely venting his frustrations with the way his title match with Batista went at The Royal Rumble. Yet, oddly enough, no “advocate” (and I use that term loosely) in the world has raised a stink about the angle—as has been done in the past—as of today.

So, Kudos to Snickers and their parent company, MasterFoods, for being my Jackass of the Week. I couldn’t care less what their commercials are like, but when anyone does something that takes away the national focus of publicity-seeking television advocates, thus giving wrestling carte blanche to do whatever the hell it pleases, that’s all right in my book.

In other Smackdown news:
The main event for No Way Out was set last Friday night when none other than the chairman himself, Mr. McMahon, decreed that it would be John Cena and Shawn Michaels (who apparently fancies himself as a championship contender for whatever reason) against Batista and The Undertaker. Ironically, three days later, these men would round out the double main event for WrestleMania 23 (more on that later). I’m fine with this, to be honest. All four men have abilities that make up for the shortcomings of the other guys in the match. Sure, a tag match main event for a pay show seems a bit off, but, with these four, it will likely end up with everyone turning against each other with no clear winner emerging.

I’m slowly coming around on Deuce and Domino. I was unsure at this point last week, however I’m really enjoying the intensity and solid teamwork with which the duo competes. They’ll be champs by, or immediately following, WrestleMania 23. Write that down in ink.

King Booker was slated to receive, as part of WWE’s return last week to his hometown of Houston, the key to the city. Of course, this being WWE, that wasn’t going to happen as planned, as evidenced by Kane’s attack on his royal highness, who suddenly lost his British accent. Still, you know what I’d like to see at this point: a King Booker-Umaga battle at ’Mania. Sure, why not? Let’s see WWE’s two forgotten sons go head-to-head. But, come to think of it, if a match happens, and no one cares, does it ever really take place?

Raw (2/5)
Not wanting to draw attention to anything not on Monday night, WWE had Royal Rumble winner and Smackdown employee The Undertaker make his announcement on whom he will be facing at WrestleMania 23 on Raw, thus further hammering home the inclination that papa Vince loves his oldest child the most, and I’m not talking about Shane.

With all three brand champions in the ring, ’Taker made his choice by giving Smackdown World champ Batista a symbolic throat slash gesture, prior to the obligatory offshoot angles beginning. The end result is a double main event for WrestleMania 23 in my sister city of Detroit: ’Taker will face Batista, and John Cena will face Shawn Michaels (who won a three-way match later in the evening to be crowned the number-one contender).

While neither main event evokes feelings that we’re going to be privy to a classic match, neither should disappoint. Actually, yeah, the Batista-’Taker match should be a mess. Actually, just thinking about it gives me chills of the bad variety.

In other Raw news:
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: God bless Ric Flair. No, not for continuing to compete at the ripe old age of 250, but for doing what every fan of Carlito’s has wanted to do for months now by tearing into him for wasting his potential, as done during a backstage segment on Raw.

Boy, was I wrong on Johnny Nitro. I, like many, expected huge things from him after he was promoted to Raw. Monday night he lost yet another match, this time to Super Crazy. Wow. I was thinking a young Shawn Michaels, but Nitro is panning out to be more … well … Johnny Nitro. That’s not going to do it.

The de-pushification of Umaga continued Monday night as he was sent out to basically destroy Mahoney for no apparent reason other than the fact that he’s a big guy who is apparently indestructible to all wrestlers without the last name Cena. Listen, I stick by my original assertion that Umaga is just a crude bastardization of Samoa Joe, but this fall even bothers me. Umaga is just as unqualified to be champion as some of the guys holding gold right.

ECW (2/6)
We’re going to do it a bit differently this week to reflect the new and groundbreaking way ECW handled its program on Tuesday night. Never before in the history of this great Earth have we seen an angle so fresh and clever that simply watching it with your unprotected eyes for too long would result in your body melting similar to the villains at the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

Are you ready for this angle? It’s pretty innovative stuff. Here goes: Old ECW guys vs. New ECW guys. Whoo! Bask in the creative glory of Dusty Rhodes!

Of course, I’m laying it on pretty thick here. Not only has this angle been done over and over and over and over in various forms forever, but, in this case, it reeks so much of desperation so as to actually make me angry. Not just disinterested, but flat out pissed.

Here’s a rundown of the equation of the latest installment of Old vs. New:

—Pick the side that will be depressed (here, the Old) and skew the rules to disfavor them
—Allow the other side (here, the New) to run roughshod over them
—Make the announce team show disgust

That’s it. That’s all you need to do to push this angle along. Again, I’m so disappointed with this angle, here’s yet another rundown, only this is of the entire show:
—(New) Kevin Thorn beat (Old) Tommy Dreamer with the help of guest referee (New) Matt Striker
—(New) Bobby Lashley beat (Neither) Bob Holly, but was then attacked by (New) Gene Snitsky
—(New) Marcus Cor Von defeated (Old) Mahoney with the help of guest timekeeper (New) Matt Striker
(New) Elijah Burke beat (Old) Rob Van Dam with the help of guest ring announcer (New) Matt Striker

Hell, if they’re not going to try, I’ll stick by my past policies and give them bullet points.

Wrestling Society X (2/6)
Huge in Mexico, kinda creepy in the States, Vamprio is officially the first ever WSX champion after defeating 6-Pac (apparently, that’s how you avoid trademark infringement) in a match featuring explosions, bleeding, and ample confusion. In a related story, the Los Angeles Galaxy is still the first ever, and only, champion of the XFL, which went on to enjoy a rich and prosperous history … right?

In other WSX news:
Two of Pro Wrestling Guerilla’s top guys were in action for WSX on Tuesday night, and both walked out victorious of whatever sound stage the show was shot. The Human Tornado got the best of Luke Hawx and Joey Ryan (one-half of That 70s Team with The Disco Machine) and had a successful tag debut. While both were impressive, neither were given enough time (given the half-hour format) to truly showcase their talents, hence, for the time being, they will likely remain part of the WSX crowd, which is a shame.

Teddy Hart will be in action next week as part of a team known as The Filth and The Fury. Keep an eye on Hart if you’re able to catch the show, as there’s a good chance he could either: A) Be on the move at some point in the not-too-distant future, or, B) Say something batcrap crazy. That, my friends, is win-win.

Impact (2/8)
Team 3D and LAX will be squaring off at this Sunday’s Against All Odds pay-per-view in the first (at least to my recollection) “Little Italy Street Fight” match. Now, generally, with gimmick matches, you can figure out pretty easily from the title as to what exactly will be featured in the match. A “Hair vs. Hair” match will result in someone being bald, a ladder match involves … well … a ladder. See, that’s why those matches are named as such. It’s easy, it’s descriptive, and it hooks the fans in by giving them the expectation that at the very least there is an outside possibility that something cool will happen.

So, once again, I wonder what a “Little Italy Streefight” will look like. As a person of Italian descent, I’m secretly hoping that it’s chock-full of classic Italian stereotypes (i.e., sausages hanging in storefronts and someone dressed like that chef on the front of a pizza box would be perfect). Oooh, it would also be great if they made it out to look like Little Italy and had rows of knockoff luxury items sold by folks of questionable sales repute.

Realistically, this will probably just be your classic “Streetfight”-type match, with guys in acid-washed jeans and work boots (because somehow wrestling gear is more restrictive?).

In other TNA news:
After weeks of speculation, it was revealed last night that Scott Steiner has been the secret advisor of Christian Cage. That’s right, Scott “I Could Get Confused Cutting A Promo About What I Had For Breakfast This Morning” Steiner is advising the NWA World champion. Not since Rocky took Tommy Gunn under his wing has the word adviser been so blatantly misused. (That’s from Rocky V—you probably didn’t see it either.)

I’m looking very much forward to the “Prison Yard” match between Sting and Abyss on Sunday if only because I’m a mark for both men. Journaltainment integrity aside, this is an angle I’ve really enjoyed over the past few months. However, even for me, this feud lost a great deal of luster when the gold was removed, didn’t it? Something about the whole thing feels very, I don’t know, Shawn Michaels.

Hey, another X division multi-man tag match. That’s … something. Remember when words like “innovative” and “unique” were used to describe the X division? Hopefully, Jerry Lynn’s reintroduction to the group will steer the whole damn division back on the path it was originally headed.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 26-February 1, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

Finally, after months of speculation and promise, MTV’s foray into the 21st century of professional wrestling debuted on Tuesday night as Wrestling Society X was unleashed on dozens of confused fans who apparently wandered into the wrong studio while looking for whatever Real World/Road Rules reunion show they were expecting. Still, despite the initial cringe factor that comes with anything MTV, I wasn’t as disappointed with the half-hour as I should have been.

Some of the high points …
--The program is shot in such a way to give off the feel of the old-school ECW days.
--The wrestling, by and large, is entertaining, assuming you like high-flyers and cruiserweights.
--Zakk Wylde of Black Label Society was the in-house musician for the night, which was awesome, albeit brief.
Sean Waltman showed up, which is always a plus.

… and the lows:
--The ring announcer has to go. Flat out awful.
--Two matches (Matt Sydal vs. Jack Evans, and multi-man ladder match) per program will never suffice.
--They showed crowd reactions way too much for a 30-minute program.
--Sean Waltman showed up, which is always a liability.

All in all, this show will likely serve as an audition tape for its wrestlers to make the move to either WWE or TNA. But, for the time being, as long as MTV airs it, we here at “The Turn” will cover it (beginning next week) because, well, it’s what we do. Briefly, to run down the results of this week’s debut: Jack Evans defeated Matt Sydal, and Syxx-Pac and Vampiro won a ladder-match to become the top two contenders for the WSX title.

Enjoy “The Turn”—with more angst than Jackass but not quite as much as My Super Sweet 16 (hey, those amazingly spoiled millionaire kids have it tough).

Smackdown (1/26)
The Undertaker began what ended up being a historic weekend by winning Smackdown’s “Over The Top Rope Challenge,” which served as a precursor to his “Royal Rumble” match victory on Sunday. Despite the fact that some will view ’Taker’s new spot at the top of the Smackdown ladder as more of the same old thing, I actually applaud the current WWE publicity machine pushing “The Dead Man” back into the limelight.

I’ve often wondered why ’Taker was not a perennial world title competitor and, after much thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that … well, nothing, really. I still have no clue why ’Taker is only now being brought back into the world title picture in earnest. Sure, his sabbaticals away from the ring are well-known throughout the industry, but isn’t a little bit of a legend far more valuable than a whole lot of mid-carders?

In other Smackdown news:
Smackdown World champion Batista went toe-to-toe with Gregory Helms last week in a bout that could only be described as confusing. Sure, I’ve said that before, but when was the last time a dominant world champion had a non-title match with a cruiserweight? Me thinks the clock is ticking on Mr. Batista’s reign atop Smackdown.

Watching Kane and his opponent from the “Inferno” match at Armageddon, MVP, fight to yet another dissatisfying finish on Friday night actually made me want to set myself ablaze. Fortunately for me, I was too lazy to do so and just continued on my Cheezits.

Apparently, I’m unlike nearly every other wrestling analyst in the world in that I’m not frothing at the mouth over the ridiculous gimmick of Deuce and Domino. I may warm up to it in time, but, for now, it’s just a bit too 1986 for me.

Remember when King Booker was Smackdown World champion? Anyone else see him chase a leprechaun on Friday night? Quite regal, no? So this is what champions look like when they’re put out to pasture.

Raw (1/29)

Doesn’t it seem a bit odd that Umaga has been built up over the past few months as an unstoppable force of nature, hellbent on becoming the next Raw World champion. Leaving a Goldbergian-path of destruction behind him, Umaga finally got his chance at glory, falling to John Cena at both New Year’s Revolution and The Royal Rumble.

Still, the giant Samoan had made the big time, right? Who needs gold when you’re as bankable as this monster, no?

Monday night saw Umaga defeat Val Venis, a wrestler who’s prime was not only short lived, but about six years ago.

Welcome back to the mid-card, Umaga, or should we just start calling you Jamal?

In other Raw news:
John Cena and Shawn Michaels are the new Raw World tag team champions after defeating Rated RKO on Monday night to capture the straps. Their contentious pairing nearly came to a violent culmination when “HBK” nearly leveled his partner with a superkick. Teammates that hate each other are nothing new in wrestling. However, this tandem intrigues me more than most. Throw in the fact that The Undertaker may be a third member of the battle, and this could legitimately be good (he appeared at the end of the program to give off the impression that he’ll be challenging Cena for the strap at WrestleMania 23—this will be a running theme).

Stolen joke of the week comes from reader Andy Cain of the U.K. who sent me an e-mail regarding the Vince McMahon-Donald Trump segment where money fell from the arena ceiling: “Was the moment on Raw when Donald Trump made money rain from the ceiling the ultimate metaphor for Vince literally throwing money away on this completely pointless angle?” Couldn’t have said it better myself … so I didn’t.

I can’t decide which segment of Raw I like more, though I know I really should disdain: Charlie Haas’ cornrows or Super Crazy’s super craziness. Shoot me an e-mail and let me know what you all think of these two ridiculous gimmicks that I’m afraid to admit I dig.

Apparently, The Great Khali was substituted into the angle that was originally set up for Umaga. The full-time giant/part-time murderer of the English language defeated Jeff Hardy via countout in Khali’s first ever Intercontinental title match, leaving him with yet another victory and zero gold. Point of future reference: When a wrestler is signed to a nice deal, yet is extremely one-dimensional, WWE will make him out to be concerned only with “destroying people” and not winning championships. Brilliant!

ECW (1/30)
It’s been said that if you want something done right, do it yourself. However, in the world of professional wrestling, that maxim only seems to hold true if your last name is McMahon and by “right” you mean “the way you want it to be.”

The much-heralded visit of the always gracious Mr. McMahon to the paltry world that is ECW took place on Tuesday, with the chairman running down everything classic-ECW and pumping up the man that should be the face of the new product—Elijah Burke.

Umm … what the hell?

Now, I’m a fan of Burke’s. Time and again I’ve admitted that I like Burke and wish he had a bigger role in WWE, yet I’m thinking that being the captain of the proverbial Titanic of professional wrestling is not what he had in mind.

In other ECW news:
I’ve never seen a doghouse with two floors. However, the kennel into which Rob Van Dam and C.M. Punk are being forced may be the first such structure. With Internet rumors circulating over both men’s discrepancies with management, it’s somewhat perplexing that the two wrestlers WWE had built up to the moon only months ago are now both getting beat on a regular basis.

Watching Lashley and Test battle for any sort of championship is akin to watching powerlifters play leap frog. It’s sloppy, disjointed, and fairly easy to predict that someone will be getting popped in the breadbasket at some point. The only saving grace was a “surprise” appearance by The Undertaker following the match, which was done in the hopes of actually having fans believe that he may use his Royal Rumble title shot on pursuing the ECW strap.

Impact (2/1)
Being the standup guy I am, here’s a major mea culpa when it comes to the X division. Anyone else recall the time we at PWI—yes, myself included—were ready to crown Chris Sabin as the savior of the X division? Yeah, well, a big freakin’ oops on our part there.

Allow me a defensive moment, if you will. You can’t really blame us for hoping and predicting that Sabin would carry the division during 2007. His momentum was huge at the end of 2006, a time when the rest of the division was faltering under the specter of a Kevin Nash involvement. The choice of Sabin was gold. Gold, I tell ya—gold!

Thursday night, he showed up in Depends adult diapers in order to play headgames with Jerry Lynn.

Again, oops.

In other TNA news:
Just the other day I was thinking that TNA doesn’t have enough gimmick matches. I mean sure, they have an entire pay show of cage matches to complement the “King Of The Mountain,” “Monster’s Ball,” “Ultimate X,” “World X Cup,” and whatever the hell other zany matches I’m missing. For those of you not fluent in sarcasm, what I’m saying here is that the newly revealed “Prison Yard” match between Sting and Abyss reeks of there not being a logical end to their angle, nay?

Christy Hemme will be wrestling at the pay-per-view. Of course, by “wrestling,” let’s hope they mean “standing there with a microphone and allowing the fans to ogle her.”

Apparently, weirdness is contagious, as was evidenced by Eric Young’s insane tirade following Robert Roode’s match with Petey Williams. Young, who entered the ring and attacked everyone, somehow walked away with Ms. Brooks much to the confusion of everyone not only in the ring, but also in attendance. Still, guys, take notice—all that creepiness you’ve been giving away for free could actually be scoring you women.

Sure, it was merely a match meant to set up their current respective feuds, but didn’t watching a Samoa Joe/A.J. Styles match without Christopher Daniels feel a bit off?

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 19-25, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

Thank you for all of your suggestions to my quandary last week over whether or not I need theme music and, if so, which song I should go with. To briefly answer all of your e-mails:

—Anything by AC/DC or Metallica absolutely works.
—I don’t think modifying a currently used song would be right … or legal for that matter.
—Finally, once again, I don’t think my mom would really be interested, nor am I sure she knows exactly how to perform the “Ol’ Kentucky Handshake.” But thanks for the offer. I’m sure she’d be flattered.

To be honest, I have yet to come up with my Shaft-like entrance music that instills fear into my enemies and excitement into all others. Hence, for now, I walk silently.

Oh well. Enjoy “The Turn”—still roaming the frozen tundra in utter silence.

Smackdown (1/19)
How old do I feel? A quick glimpse down the WWE roster—as well as those inked to contracts by the company—is starting to resemble an adult day care for the children of the wrestlers I grew up watching.

Most recently, Smackdown fans were treated to the debut of Deuce Shade (Jimmy Snuka Jr.) and Dice Domino as the blue brand’s newest tag team, while the hot rumor currently making the rounds is that there may end up being a Hart Foundation reunion in the future now that Harry Smith and Nattie Neidhart are officially working for the McMahons.

Shade and Domino—most recently of OVW—have a relatively interesting, 1950s greaser gimmick that fans will absolutely abhor in the short term, which is perfect for the rulebreaking tandem. Still, how many of us will be pining for a quick change of heart for Shade and a reversion to his old man’s former ways? Okay, probably not many, but that still doesn’t change the fact that, in wrestling years, I’m damn near elderly.

In other Smackdown news:
It doesn’t happen often, but I’d like to throw a little respect the way of Mike Mizanin, who now appears to have incurred the wrath of Kane. I can’t remember the last time I saw a wrestler get his ass kicked by as many top-flight competitors as “The Miz” has over the past few months. Sure, I’m still not likely to pull for him anytime soon, but at least it appears as if he’s paying his dues, which is a nice change of pace for WWE.

My pick for the Skoal Tobaccy Wrassler of the Week: Ken Kennedy. The mouthy number-one contender to the Smackdown World title mercifully saved the fans from yet another gimmicky title match when he defeated The Undertaker last Friday night, thus preventing “The Dead Man” from being added to his bout with Batista at The Royal Rumble, as per Teddy Long’s stipulation. How is this for a huge vote of confidence in Kennedy, as now he will be relied upon to carry a World title match at one of WWE’s major pay shows. Oh, don’t expect him to win the strap, but it would be fair to anticipate an entertaining—and relatively botch-free—match.

Raw (1/22)
Indulge me for a moment here, won’t you?

A little over a year ago, we at PWI had commissioned the immensely talented Lash LeRoux to illustrate for us the cover of one of our sister publications. The image was to be the then-Raw World champion Edge engaged in a tug-of-war over the strap with a then-Smackdown World champion Kurt Angle.

At the last minute—quite literally—that cover, and all of LeRoux’s hard work, had to be scrapped and changed because John Cena recaptured the strap from Edge days before the cover was to go to press. We did it, the cover was changed, and fans were none the wiser (until now).

I bring this up because when circumstances change so drastically, sometimes you have to change with it despite the original plans, or else you look dated and silly.

The point in all of this, Mr. McMaon, is that no one … no one … cares about the Rosie O’Donnell-Donald Trump feud anymore, except for you. Scrap this now—I don’t care what your original plans were for this awful, awful angle. Change the cover!

In other Raw news:
The only break Joey Mercury can catch as of late came when his cherubic face was slammed into a ladder during his tag match at New Year’s Revolution. The former Smackdown tag team champion lost to his second Hardy in a week (he fell to Matt on Smackdown last Friday in a largely uneventful match that didn’t even make this column). I’m starting to get the impression that he may not be entirely thrilled with his decision to return to WWE after a brief hiatus.

Shawn Michaels and Edge went toe-to-toe in a brutal “Streetfight” on Monday night that saw both men busted open and bloody by its conclusion. Even more disturbing: their Bugle Boy jeans tucked into boots. Awful, just bloody awful.

Sure he may be “super” and, yes, he is indeed “crazy,” but when Super Crazy defeated Chris Masters on Monday night after—in essence—escaping the dreaded, and ridiculous, “Masterlock,” it absolutely became time to retire the finisher for good. Hell, maybe even Masters should consider a new line of work at this point. No offense to Mr. Crazy, but this latest loss should prove that Masters is already past his WWE prime, which, I believe, lasted about eight minutes.

John Cena injured his spleen on Raw after being viciously attacked by The Great Khali, Umaga, and half of the Monday night brand’s tag division. How much would you like to wager that he’s going to have his ribs taped—to protect his spleen, mind you—at The Royal Rumble? That one of the beauties of wrestling—regardless of the injury, an Ace bandage around the midsection should cure it. Love it.

Candice Michelle’s new nose debuted last Monday night during a tag match with partner Mickie James and opponents Melina and Victoria. As expected, the nose not only fared well, but also exhibited more wrestling ability than the rest of Candice’s body, prompting John Laurinaitis to quickly sign it to a developmental deal.

Just a few weeks ago, Kenny Dykstra stirred up memories of a young Rock or Randy Orton. Yes, the man had that much upside to his game. On Monday night, he defeated Carlito in the match to determine which excellent talent was being wasted more blatantly. The best move for Dykstra—assuming he doesn’t want to be relegated to the “shoulda beens” pile—will be to quickly end this feud and pick on someone with clout.

ECW (1/23)
Apparently in an effort to disavow himself of his rich French heritage, “The Alpha Male,” Marquis Cor Von, has changed his name after only one appearance for ECW going with the much more “Freedom Fry”-friendly Marcus Cor Von.

Is it a good sign that the man whose birth certificate reads some variation of Monty Brown has been relegated to the vast wasteland that is OVECW (my apologies to OVW) and now is already having his persona tweaked, albeit slightly? Probably not. Is it a bad sign that Cor Von makes Renee Dupree appear hardcore? You betcha.

You know what I want to see come from Cor Von’s WWE career, regardless of how long it lasts? I want to see him square off with Lawrence Taylor at WrestleMania. That’s right—two former football players battling to determine which is the greatest overachieving gimmick in the history of professional wrestling. L.T. has a ’Mania main event to his credit against the recently deceased Bam Bam Bigelow and Cor Von has … well … a leopard ring robe.

Hell, let’s make this happen this year in Detroit at WrestleMania 23. It can’t get much worse for the former future of TNA.

In other ECW news:
I try to have an open mind to most things—despite the way it may appear—and see the value in the stuff that WWE puts on television. With that in mind, can anyone explain to me what in the hell was the purpose—aside from there being The Royal Rumble later this month—with ECW having an over-the-top-rope challenge? Of the five men in the match, two of the most talented—Sabu and Rob Van Dam—are known for being high-flyers, whereas the other three—Sandman, Kevin Thorn, and Tommy Dreamer—are not such great ring technicians as to make this match worthwhile. Wow, this one was a mess and, if nothing else, it absolutely proved to me that there is no direction for ECW at this point.

Someone needs to initiate a criminal investigation into Kelly Kelly and how she gets away with stealing money from WWE each week as well as precious moments of my life. I have a couple hundred cable channels that I pay a small fortune for. If I want to see vapid, semi-attractive women without a shred of acting ability feign sexuality, I would just flip to Cinemax.

I don’t care what the rumors are regarding C.M. Punk’s backstage attitude right now. If this guy is still part of ECW after WrestleMania, he should really reevaluate whether WWE is the right place for him. His opponent on Tuesday night, Elijah Burke, may want to do the same in the none-too-distant future.

I know it’s only January, but I’m going to go out on a limb and make the following announcement. I dare anyone to prove me wrong over the next 11 months, but the Bobby Lashley-Test ECW title match at The Royal Rumble will be the least intriguing “major” (and I use that loosely) championship feud of the year. Unless one of these men spontaneously combusts during the match, this will flat out be a clunker, as was their preview battle on Tuesday night.

Impact (1/25)
My intrigue with the Sting-Abyss angle is actually increasing weekly, which I would imagine was the intention of TNA all along. Frankly, I’m surprised that I’ve become as interested in this as I have. Usually, based on my viewing experience, these things never really end well, which has led me to lose interest in an angle as soon as I hear the phrase “What happened in your past?”

For those of you that missed the Wednesday night special edition of Impact, Sting Borden revealed that Abyss had shot his father in the back of the head three times and went to prison for his actions, leading to a myriad questions about the man-monster’s past.

Pretty compelling stuff. Should actually stay that way so long as an impostor Abyss isn’t introduced and no one has sex with the corpse of someone’s long dead prom date. Those tactics never work.

In other TNA news:
I’ve been pretty skeptical of a rulebreaking A.J. Styles, however I’m finding myself coming around a little more each week and finally accepting the snarky former NWA World champion as a jerk. If TNA plays this right, and Styles is allowed to be more of a cocky, rebellious rulebreaker, this could pay off dividends in the end.

It’s rare when you have a low-key wrestler whose best days, arguably, are way behind him reinvigorating a division filled with competitors half his age, but that’s exactly what Jerry Lynn is doing for the X division. It’s nice to see TNA move away from the downward spiral in which the division appeared to be mired and back to a culture of competition and skill. Still, the clock’s ticking on this angle.

Am I alone in thinking that the Samoa Joe-Kurt Angle side feud doesn’t need any gimmicky bits like an “anger management coach,” as is the case now? My thoughts are that it’s so damn good on its own, any stipulations just dilute it. It’s like breading a filet mignon in crushed potato chips.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 12-18, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

Once again, I want entrance music.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it yet again. And, if I had to guess, many of you would love the same.

Think of it—the clock strikes eight (or whatever time you’re needed at Circuit City) and you step through the door only to here the blare of some familiar, pulse-pounding music as you confidently stride—hell, maybe you even slap hands with some of the customers and co-workers that happen to line your entrance—on your way back to the room where your smock and/or polo shirt is hanging.

When seeing a live wrestling event, there may be no better moment than when the first few notes of your favorite wrestler’s entrance music starts and the grandiose pageantry associated with a mere 100-foot walk begins. Yeah, now take that feeling and imagine what it would have been like this morning when you clocked in at the White Castle while your own theme rallied your co-workers into a frenzy.

Ahh, hell. I want me some entrance music. Make this happen, people.

Enjoy “The Turn”——“Grabbin’ Dem Cakes” since 2006.

Smackdown (1/12)
When Ken Kennedy looked at the evening’s card last week and saw that two of the last three matches that could potentially prevent him from going to the Royal Rumble as the number-one contender were MVP squaring off with Vito and Finlay taking on Matt Hardy, he no doubt breathed a bit easier.

Unfortunately, there was also the little matter of The Undertaker battling with reality show veteran (and, ironically, the least realistic wrestler on the roster) Mike Mizanin. But, alas, the gods smiled on Kennedy last Friday night, as ’Taker was unable to “Beat The Clock” allowing the Green Bay native to move on to the Rumble and finally get his shot at superstardom.

Now, is there any chance Batista walks out of the AT&T Center without the strap? In all honesty, given how bad “The Animal” has looked in the ring of late, it’s a distinct, and very real, possibility.

In other Smackdown news:
How’s this for focus? Despite keeping one eye on the results of the “Beat The Clock” matches, Ken Kennedy was able to steal a non-title victory over U.S. champion Chris Benoit after Chavo Guerrero interfered. Now, going back a few months, would this mean that, in this case, Benoit would be Rey Mysterio Jr., Chavo would still be Chavo, and Kennedy would’ve been Randy Orton? I’m just trying to figure out who’s names were whited-out and replaced.

Paul London and Brian Kendrick—two of the most entertaining wrestlers in WWE—once again defended the Smackdown World tag straps, defeating William Regal and Dave Taylor. Has Smackdown run out of options for the surprisingly dominant champs? Consider this—both Regal (38 years old) and Taylor (231 years young or so) debuted in professional wrestling right around the times London and Kendrick were born.

Raw (1/15)
Imagine that you’re angry with something your best friend did to you and, to get back at him, you beat up his kindly old neighbor whom he knows but really has little connection to other than living next door. Okay, now substitute that neighbor with Jim Duggan and your best friends for Rated RKO and you get one of the most confusing “messages” ever sent in wrestling.

In order to send a message to the locker room prior to their handicap match with Shawn Michaels on Monday night, the duo of Randy Orton and Edge dragged a seemingly unconscious Duggan out from the back so that others could see what their future held if they got the idea in their head that they could help “HBK.”

Now, if your first instinct was to question, somewhat loudly and with ample profanity, “Huh? Duggan? The guy with the board and flag?” you would be in the right. Sure this made no sense, but it also got no point across. This is what I call “lose-lose.”

In other Raw news:
You’d think John Cena would be wise to the fact that any and all contract signing events—such as his and Umaga’s on Monday night—always ends in a fight. Oddly, when I signed my contract with PWI, thus giving over the rights to anything remotely clever (and even the crap that isn’t so witty) that would sneak out of my mouth, the process ended with Publisher Stu Saks throwing me into ringsteps (which seemed oddly out of place in an office building) and giving me the “FU.”

It’s only a matter of time before Donald Trump—to whom Mr. McMahon believes he is an equal—appears on Raw to square off, at least verbally, with the owner of WWE. In a related story, scientists moved the hands on the “Doomsday Clock”—the unofficial measuring device of a major, man-made catastrophic event. Coincidence?

It’s official—I’ve finally mastered the ability to tune out the men in a mixed tag match, such as the one between the team of Jeff Hardy and Maria and their opponents, Johnny Nitro and Melina. Try it next time. It actually makes these messes quite entertaining.

My assumption is that one of these angles will have something big happen soon, or else they will disappear from the face of the planet. Here are my sleeper picks for an angle that must go from basement to penthouse:
1. Ric Flair and Kenny Dykstra: Either Flair becomes impressed by the youngster and takes him under his wing as his protégé, or else the 16-time former world champ has reached full blown senility and continues to think that each week is the first time they met up.
2. Mickie James and Victoria: Victoria had a list that she couldn’t complete and, apparently, Mickie is being set up as the next great women’s champ. Paging Miss Phoenix.
3. The Masterlock Challenge: I was relatively certain this was dead when Masters returned from his hiatus looking more like a child’s scribbling on the back of a Denny’s than a masterpiece. Then I was certain it was over when JBL assisted a U.S. Serviceman in breaking the hold. Apparently, I was wrong, as this one-trick pony continues to move along. Come to think of it, maybe this one needs to die, and soon.

ECW (1/16)
Now that colleges are back in session across the States, let me help you get back in an academic mindset by offering up an SAT-style question. Here goes:

Watching ECW the other night was to a comfortable viewing experience as:
A. Fingernails on a chalkboard are to classical music;
B. Slim Jims are to gourmet cuisine;
C. The Great Khali is to catch-as-catch-can wrestling.
D. Somehow worse.

I’ve been just as guilty as anyone of both bashing and urging patience with the new ECW, but Tuesday night was just one of those hours that really made me wonder if it’s even worth holding out hope anymore. For those of you who watched, as I did, let’s relive the horror a bit more; to anyone who didn’t see it, I’m not making any of these things up.

In other ECW news:
Kelly Kelly made her triumphant return to ECW Tuesday night and immediately incurred the intellectual wrath of Matt Striker, who called her out on her “boyhood crush,” C.M. Punk. Yes, that’s right—a man whose persona is built around being the brains of WWE either thinks Kelly had a sex change at some point in her life (mind you, the greatest sex change in the history of surgical procedure) or he misspoke during one of his increasingly deteriorating promos.

Remember when I raved about Elijah Burke and Sylvester Terkay? Sure you do, it was last week, or the week before. Well, looks like Terkay has been given the pink slip by WWE and thus my accolades were for nothing. Still, if I have the power to kill off things with my adoration, maybe I can put it to some good use. Let’s try: Boy, I really, really love ECW. Love it! Please don’t ever take it away from me! Ever!

“The Alpha Male” Marquis Cor Von (formerly known to the world as Monty Brown) made his surprise debut with the ECW brand on Tuesday night defeating fellow former TNA-er and new ECW acquisition Cassidy Riley. That’s right, a man once poised to be a main-eventer at TNA, and a potential threat to any sitting NWA World champion, is now mired in the mid-card on ECW. For everyone who pretends that WWE doesn’t recognize the existence of the sovereign nation of TNA, think again. If this wasn’t WWE telling TNA that even their best wasn’t good enough for real face time on WWE programming, I don’t know what is.

A great man once said that there’s no such thing as a bad three-way. Okay, no one said that and, if someone did, there’s hardly a chance of him being a “great man.” Still, it’s easy to assume that, if these words were uttered, it was prior to the three-way ECW title match the other night in which Bobby Lashley retained the strap in a sloppy, uneventful match. Now, I’m still a fan of Lashley’s potential, but I’m starting to buy into the fact that he shouldn’t be the top guy of any brand—let alone ECW—just yet.

Impact (1/18)
Despite the fact that Abyss is once again squarely in the midst of an angle that hearkens back to the old days of Kane and Mankind (a mysterious, perhaps criminal past that explains his violent present), I’m actually enjoying the direction of things.

Here’s my complaint, which is, in fact, my only complaint with this situation: This angle should not overshadow the main event, as it did last night, especially when that bout is Kurt Angle and A.J. “I’ve Got Long Tights On Now So I’m A Bad Guy” Styles. This pay-per-view-quality bout (that probably best served TNA as a television match) was excellent and seemingly a nice way to end the program. Right?

Wrong. TNA went with a brief, five-minute segment where Steve Borden confronted Abyss in the ring to question his past (in prison) that tied up nothing and basically set up the continuation of the angle for next week. It was a fine, relatively innocuous segment. However, after the main event, it felt kind of like washing down a five-course meal with a warm Pabst Blue Ribbon.

In other TNA news:
Anyone else getting a sickening, Marty Jannetty feel from James Storm, singles wrestler? Me, too, and that’s a shame, because I’m getting the feeling he could be a solid, homegrown main-eventer for TNA, given the right direction.

Spanish announce-table fixture Jack Melendez made the assist last night by interfering on behalf of LAX and helping them retain the NWA World tag team championship in the duo’s match with Team 3D. Again, as much as I admire LAX’s talent, without Konnan—and I never thought I’d say this—the team is not as interesting. My ample gut is telling me that by the end of the night at Against All Odds in February—if not sooner—the straps will rest upon a new pair of even more ample midsections.

My piece of friendly advice for TNA: The Fabulous Moolah … Trish Stratus … Wendi Richter … Sherri Martel. These are names with which a promotion starts a viable women’s division. Not Christy Hemme. Oh, we’ll still love her; we just won’t care.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 5-11, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

As much as things seem to change the more it appears they have stayed the same.

The first WWE pay-per-view of 2007 is behind us and, despite the promises made, nothing really feels different, leading me to question the point of even having a second pay show (along with the Royal Rumble) in January. With fans having spent a good deal of their pre-holiday funds on the important stuff, such as a few gifts for their family and the entire WrestleMania DVD collection for themselves, money is a bit tight.

Sure, last year’s edition of New Year’s Revolution was rife with surprise and excitement. The shocked reaction on people’s faces alone after being informed that Edge—a man not in the main event “Elimination Chamber” match—left the Pepsi Arena in Albany with the Raw World championship, was well worth the $35.95. This year … not so much (although the Jeff Hardy-Johnny Nitro cage match and the DX-Rated RKO bloodbath were nice touches).

Still, I kind of feel played a bit, as if WWE was relying on that memory of last year in order for folks to pony up the $39.95 (yes, sports entertainment is apparently subject to inflation) for a half warmed-over monthly show.

Enjoy “The Turn”—where every week is so half-assed that anything more would just be overkill.

Smackdown (1/5)
Ken Kennedy is the man to beat as Smackdown kicked off its “Beat The Clock” battle to see who will gain shot at Batista and the brand’s World championship at The Royal Rumble pay-per-view later this month. The structure of the makeshift tournament is such that whomever defeats his opponent in a BTG-sanctioned match in the shortest amount of time will be the man to take on “The Animal.”

Another excellent move by Smackdown (I don’t think I ever wrote that before). This gives the fans what they want—a lot of fast action—and ties in a tournament structure, which I personally believe always works.

As for Kennedy, if his five-plus minutes stand up, he will finally start to gain the recognition many believe he deserves. The next few weeks should be interesting.

In other Smackdown news:
MVP returned to Smackdown for the first time since being set ablaze by Kane during their “Inferno” match at Armageddon and lamented as to how all the pain and suffering he went through was nothing compared to losing out on a shot at the Smackdown World title. Sooo, add “not fireproof” to the growing lists of reasons why MVP should change that god-awful ring attire.

For those looking for the most drama occurring anywhere on WWE programming right now, take a gander over at the Diva situation on Smackdown. In classic, soap opera fashion, here’s a recap: Jealous of all the attention her nemesis has been receiving, Jillian secretly (I mean, not to the audience) hopes to disfigure Ashley, who will be featured on the cover of Playboy this April. But, as if from nowhere, former Diva Search contestant and current murderer of the English language, Maryse may be entering the blue brand fray.
Ugh … just wrassle.

Raw (1/8)
So the hot rumor circulating this very web is that Vince McMahon and WWE are actively courting mainstream publicity this beginning of 2007 in an effort to widen the spotlight on the company and maybe draw back in throngs of fans who haven’t given wrestling a second glance since the “Monday Night War” era.

Last week on Raw, this marketing strategy was put in place by having Kevin Federline’s much-anticipated debut match against John Cena; a contest in which the former backup dancer won, mind you.

This week, in a move that can only be described as shameless pandering, we were treated to two awful impersonators of Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump staging a match that lasted close to 10 minutes. Ten awful, mind-numbing, “Damn, please let this be interrupted by The Gobbledygooker” minutes.

Getting past the amazingly offensive references to O’Donnell’s weight and sexual preference (sophomoric even by WWE standards), this was just as disgusting from a sport and/or entertainment standpoint, as there was very little of either. As I sat there, beer in hand, staring blankly at the television, it occurred to me just how bad this truly was. Hell, I’m not a hard person to please on a comedic level; in fact, I had just watched the sequel to Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and laughed my ass off. So, that should indicate to anyone who missed this atrocity on Raw as to just how horrible it truly was.

Vinnie, leave the ha-has up to people who actually know a thing or two about humor. As soon as we here at “The Turn” figure out just who those people are, we’ll be happy to let you know.

In other Raw news:
What do you do with a guy who is barely mobile, can’t speak English, and has failed on your two other programs? Why, you promote The Great Khali to the flagship show and push him right into the main event with John Cena (won by the champ via disqualification). Oh, let me handle this—what the hell?! This is a joke, right?

Until the Carlito-Chris Masters feud goes anywhere … and I mean anywhere … this will be the last I write of it. I’d rather use the space on something worthwhile, like a cookie recipe or a recap of the instructions for the proper use of shampoo.

Anyone else notice that it seems Jeff Hardy, who puts his body through 10-15 minutes of hell the night before, is the only wrestler that actually wrestled a real match on the Raw after a pay-per-view?

I’m sorry, I know it was addressed earlier, but I feel the need to go back to the Rosie-Donald battle of twits on Monday night. Here are a few things I would rather watch than ever have to revisit said idiocy:

A) A sex change surgery performed while the patient was awake.
B) The Great Khali and Vladimir Kozlov reciting the collective works of Edgar Allan Poe.
C) An actual episode of The View or The Apprentice.
Thanks for letting me get that off my chest … I feel much better.

What she may lacking in wrestling acumen, Maria Kanellis more than makes up for in charisma and effort. She’s less of a liability in the ring than most would expect, and the fact that she’s blindingly beautiful doesn’t hurt either. While she’ll likely never be mentioned in the same breath as Trish Stratus from a wrestling standpoint, Maria is certainly worth the airtime she receives.

The torn quad muscle Triple-H sustained at New Year’s Revolution could spell the end of DeGeneration X, at least for the time being. Now, if only someone could have torn either Rosie’s or Donald’s quad muscle, my life would be 10 minutes more meaningful. I mean, c’mon … this really friggin’ sucked. I was chanting “TNA” in my living room, for God’s sake. Okay, I’m done. Enough with that.

ECW (1/9)
First Umaga, now this?

C.M. Punk’s ECW undefeated streak officially came to an end Tuesday night at the hands of Bob Holly in what amounted to a decisive victory for the former “Sparky Plug” (never can live down those early personas).

As I said with Umaga—or at least how I hoped Umaga’s situation would turn out—I’m glad that Punk has finally been made to look human. Now, unlike Umaga, WWE does not have to tread that lightly with Punk. He’s a draw regardless of what his win-loss record looks like, plus he may be on the move sooner than you think now that Raw is looking for big names to fill some of the voids.

In other ECW news:
An Elijah Burke-Sandman feud intrigues me more than it should. Burke is quite clearly the more refined, showman-style wrestler that WWE loves, whereas The Sandman is … well … Sandman. What terrifies me about this is that Burke has far more to lose at this point than the human smoke machine, meaning that, if he somehow comes out on the losing end of the battle, he could be mired in ECW (yes, it’s gotten to that point) forever.

Despite being signed by the Raw brand, The Great Khali honored his final scheduled appearance with ECW Tuesday night, prompting fans in attendance to actually skip their scheduled bathroom break to send the big man off with a flurry of boos and crippling indifference.

Watching the Kevin Thorn-Shannon Moore match was like watching the two, “misunderstood” Fine Arts majors in college have a slap fight. Note to ECW—you’ve lost the Sci Fi crowd, so this can go away now.

Surprise, surprise—Test, the whiniest giant in all of Canada, disrupted the Bobby Lashley-Rob Van Dam ECW title match, forcing a no-decision and adding even more fuel to the speculation that Test will soon become a viable contender for the ECW strap. That’s right … Test. Once again, in the grand tradition of men like Taz, Justin Credible, Tommy Dreamer, The Sandman, and Sabu, I now give you potential ECW champion Test. Ever have one of those nightmares where you’re actually telling yourself to wake up?

Impact (1/11)
Let’s start out this week’s assessment of Impact by congratulating Team 3D for finally … finally … figuring out that the quickest way between two points is a straight line. The two points in question here: obscurity and the NWA World tag team title.

After attacking Konnan in response to LAX’s pummeling of Brother Runt, Team 3D effectively decided to amend their earlier proclamation of “winning their way to the top” of the TNA tag division by simply setting their sights on the current NWA World tag team champions.

As much as I like LAX—and I do—with Konnan on the shelf with a serious kidney ailment, Team 3D is the perfect follow-up to carry the title. Hopefully, they’ll step things up a bit this weekend and finally take that last step toward immortality.

In other TNA news:
Watching last night’s match between Abyss and Tomko felt, once again, like a blur. Because Impact is only given an hour a week, the week leading into a pay show (such as Final Resolution this Sunday) is generally a cluster mess of lead-ins to the big event. Last night we were treated to a Samoa Joe-Kurt Angle redux, Abyss-Tomko-Christian Cage battle, and a rare Sting appearance (to which Abyss took exception) all within a 10-minute span. Please … please … get a second hour and string these things out a bit. I’m getting nauseous.

Two things in TNA that probably should be re-examined are:
1. A.J. Styles as rulebreaker. Seriously? I’m just not buying the nastiness from the guy. He’s the consummate fan favorite and probably would better serve TNA in that capacity.
2. Raven’s newest conglomerate. It’s not interesting nor is it cutting edge anymore to have a group of pseudo-misfits under the control of Raven. Last night, Matt Bentley was booted from the group, which, under normal circumstances, would hurt someone’s career. This time, not so much.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 29, 2006-January 4, 2007

By Frank Ingiosi

Welcome, my friends, to a new year filled with promise, hope, and some other good quality that evades me right now. That’s right 2007—absolutely nothing like 2006 … right? Right?!

Well, based on the first week’s worth of programming, it appears as if very little (or in wrestling terms, “nothing”) has changed. That’s right, despite your 2006 Wrestling Fact of the Day calendar indicating otherwise, all four of the major U.S. brands have made a virtually seamless transition from most of the silly, aimless angles of ’06 into the silly, aimless angles of early ’07.

Of course, I’m well aware that the mere passing of a calendar year does not signify the end of a wrestling year. However, it seemed as if now was as logical a time as any to shift gears and retool. Last year at this time, both WWE brands were in the midst of major title changes (Edge and Angle became the top guys) and TNA was introducing Sting as we watched the very fan favoritey Christian Cage’s ascent to the NWA World title.

Monday night, you had John Cena lose to a former backup dancer.Enjoy “The Turn”—slightly more skeptical than that creepy guy you knew in college that believed everything was a government conspiracy.

Smackdown (12/29)
Not much to report from last week’s Smackdown, as fans were treated to the program’s “Best of” episode that recapped the major happenings in 2006. Once again, I can’t fault WWE for doing this, as not only was the show put together well, but really painted an entertaining picture of things to come in 2007.

Well done, WWE, and best of luck to Smackdown in 2007.

Raw (1/1)
Sure, I didn’t have much doubt in my mind that Kevin Federline would somehow defeat John Cena—that’s Raw World champion John Cena—in their non-title, no disqualification match on Monday night. As satisfying as it would have been to see Federline get whipped from post to post, in reality, there was no way that Cena could have come out on top given the stipulations of the match and general need for the angle to come off as a success (which is still up in the air).

In reality, I don’t have much of a problem with the way this shook out, despite my earlier reservations, so long as we’ve seen the last of “K-Fed” in a WWE ring. It was a nice little ratings ploy for a night (January 1) that Raw was going up against some of its toughest competition. This was truly a one-night stand: It served a purpose; let’s move on and pretend as if nothing ever happened.

In other Raw news:
Eight man tag team matches don’t work in Orlando and they most certainly do not work for WWE. Monday night’s eight-man battle between The Highlanders and Cryme Tyme taking on Cade and Murdoch with The World’s Greatest Tag Team had the distinct feeling of simply being filler, which is a shame because all involved are far too good to be used in such a manner.

Did anyone else already think Rob Conway was fired from WWE well before his ceremonious dismissal by Vince McMahon on Monday night?

For as much as DeGeneration X professes its respect for Ric Flair, you would think they’d hang out a bit more now that the 16-time former World champion has been getting bloodied on a damn near weekly basis by Rated RKO. This week, upset that Edge and Randy Orton had not showed up, DX left the arena after cutting yet another promo about respecting Flair and how if the World tag champs go after him one more time, they’d be sorry. Guess which 57-year-old former champ ended up on the business end of a conchairto? Something’s up here.

Is anyone clamoring for a return to the Carlito-Chris Masters feud from last year? Hell, I think at this point even the two of them are sick of each other.

Maria Kanellis and Melina battled in a hard-fought Divas match that involved more scratching and hair-pulling than most matches. However, it was not the most awkward part of that segment. Personally, I’m a fan of current wacakdoo and former women’s champion Victoria, but her color commentary during this match the other night was painful at best. Keep her away from the microphone unless she is using it to smack someone in the head. She’s far more valuable in the ring than at the announce table.

ECW (1/2)
In light of the death of James Brown, it occurred to me that the moniker “Hardest Working Man In (fill in the industry)” title must now be up for grabs. That’s how it works, right?

Allow me to nominate a personal favorite of mine, Mr. Tommy Dreamer, to carry the distinction of being the “Hardest Working Man In ECW.” Sure, that title may not hold the type of weight it once did, but still anyone that is forced to go from working with Test to The Great Khali deserves at least that.

Godspeed, Mr. Dreamer … you’re going to need it.

In other ECW news:
A fabulous prize* to the first person who gives the correct answer to this question: When was the last time Sabu actually won an important match? Or, more importantly, from which company will Sabu be cashing his paychecks at this time next year?

* “fabulous prize” = nothing at all, you greedy bastards

I’m loving Elijah Burke and Sylvester Terkay. Loving them. Now, if they could take a third of Burke’s charisma and somehow infuse it into Terkay, WWE would have the ideal big man. As for now, ECW would be wise to keep them together, and the folks at Smackdown should be kicking themselves for letting the tandem go.

Remember when part-time announcer and ECW legend Brad Armstrong’s huge contribution to the brand was drawing a cult following to the dingy old bingo hall in South Philly and providing the industry with some of the most brutal hardcore wrestling it had ever seen on the American shores? Me either, because it didn’t happen. Quite the slap in the face to Tazz, who is rumored to be in the midst of a contract negotiation with the company.

Finally! The vampire of ECW, Kevin Thorn, spilled someone’s blood during a match. Unfortunately for Mahoney, it came via a Thorn elbow to the former’s jaw, which resulted in a yet to be determined injury and a few broken teeth.

Impact (1/4)
I think I’ve been relatively good about criticizing The Voodoo Kin Mafia’s one-sided battle with WWE. Really, what more can be said about it at this point? It’s a ridiculous, twice-baked gimmick that absolutely reeks of Vince Russo. Still, it’s getting coverage across the Web and putting the James boys back on the road to TNA relevance. In that respect, it’s a smart move for TNA. If big brother isn’t going to pay attention to you otherwise, take the first swing and make it a good one.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this works for me for various reasons, the primary of which is that it’s just the same old regurgitated junk we’ve seen in the past. Plus, it’s now doing for DeGeneration X what Team 3D and Rhino’s gripe with ECW did for WWE’s bastardization of that product. TNA is now giving airtime, on its flagship program, to some of WWE’s more popular angles, and that can’t be good for business.

In other TNA news:
I like Robert Roode, I really do. However, if the voluptuous Ms. Brooks can’t even make you interesting, it may be time to reexamine how you’re doing things. Oh, and embarrassing her in public, thus driving a wedge between the two of you—brilliant move, my friend.

Team 3D “Win The Title The Right Way” update: Since announcing that they would pursue the NWA World tag team title by defeating everyone in front of them, Team 3D has taken a path more akin to nomads than a tandem with a goal. Last night, they took the always important step of … saving Brother Runt and possibly reuniting as a trio. Wait but aren’t there only two belts? Oh well.

Now, I’ve been watching Impact fairly religiously for quite some time, yet for the life of me I can’t figure out how Sting fit in to last night’s main event match between Christian Cage and Kurt Angle. For those who missed it, Angle was attacked by Cage and his enforcer Tomko when Sting appeared out of the darkness. That’s right, the same Sting who was just last week working an angle with Abyss. Think TNA was dared to see how many eggs they could fit in one basket?

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