PWI UPDATE ARCHIVES: Nov.-Dec. 2006

THE TURN’S SUPER DUPER YEAR- END SPECTACULAR: Skewering The Year Of 2006
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 15-21
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 8-14
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 1-7
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of November 17-23
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of November 3-9
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 27-November 2


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THE TURN’S SUPER DUPER YEAR- END SPECTACULAR: Skewering The Year Of 2006

By Frank Ingiosi

Here we are at the end of yet another wrestling year. WWE still dominates the industry, the indies continue to enjoy growth in attendance and popularity (for the most part), and TNA finally appears to have taken steps toward a legitimate head-to-head battle with the McMahon empire. Yes, 2006 was a hell of a year—far better than I, for one, thought it would be at this time last year.

With 2007 a mere three days away, it’s time to look back at the year that was, as well as where the sport is headed in the days to come. What better way to do this? How about the easiest possible method available, which just happens to be—in my humble opinion—the most deplorable of all column styles?

That’s right, here at “The Turn” we’re selling out and bringing you a list of the top five moments—for better or worse—for each brand in 2006, plus where you, the readers, and I see the brand headed in 2007.

Also, for those of you who might have missed this week in wrestling due to the holidays, there’s an abridged recap of the events of the past eight days following the year-end review. Damn, I’m way too good to you.

Enjoy “The Turn”—nearly a year older and actually, somehow, less wise.

SMACKDOWN
The past year was somewhat turbulent for the Smackdown brand. After the tragic death of Eddie Guerrero in November 2005, the blue brand searched for an identity throughout the first half of the year, finally settling on an array of solid angles and emerging stars to carry it to critical acclaim it had not enjoyed in years.

While still viewed as the platform for up-and-coming stars who are not quite ready for Raw, yet too seasoned for the developmental circuit, Smackdown is rapidly gaining credibility. With a comfortable blend of young talent as well as better-known veterans, the Smackdown roster may actually be the best balanced of all WWE brands at the end of 2006.

Here are the top events that made 2006 a solid year for Smackdown:

1. Kurt Angle jumps to Smackdown: Batista goes down with yet another injury, so who’s better to carry the torch in his absence—at least for a little while—than Angle? Something tells me we’ll see his name again.
2. Mark Henry—championship contender? Mercifully, this experiment ended well before we were subjected to Henry headlining a pay-per-view. The weightlifter-turned-liability injured himself for a change.
3. Booker T wins King of the Ring and Smackdown World championship: For those of us who left Booker for dead, 2006 proved there’s still a fair amount of pop in the cagey vet. Plus, that British accent was so bad it was good.
4. “Latino Heat,” take two: Anger, intrigue, and embarrassment were just a few of the emotions that were brought about by the constant exploitation of Eddie Guerrero’s memory in Smackdown angles. What more can be said about Rey Mysterio Jr., and Chavo and Vickie Guerrero, that hasn’t been said already?
5. “Brothers of Destruction” reunite: It happened late in the year, but the reunion of Kane and The Undertaker as part of the blue brand was definitely a high point of 2006. Want to secure a spot on next year’s list, fellas? How about a feud over the Smackdown World title strap in 2007?

Where Smackdown is headed in 2007:
2007 will be a very important year for Smackdown. In fact, 2007 may mean more to the blue brand than its WWE counterparts. Hitting December with momentum was nice for Smackdown. However, maintaining that buzz should be the top priority for those in charge.

Some things must change. As I’ve said in recent weeks, the cruiserweight title situation is awful right now. The fact that anyone—let alone Gregory Helms—has held the division’s title for over 10 months is beyond me. Reader Jim Schwandt echoed the same sentiment in a recent e-mail when he said, “The cruiserweight title is going nowhere.  Either pump up this division or drop the belt.” I couldn’t agree more.

Along those same lines, it may be time for Smackdown to look to its past for a brief bump in the future. Reader Rick Jackson suggests, “Undertaker will get one more reign as World champion before he finally retires.” Not a bad call at all, if you think about it. Nostalgia tends to work these days and no one else is as big as ’Taker on Smackdown—no one.

With proper angles and an increased influx of talent, Smackdown should be even better by this time next year. Sure, it may never reach the heights of Raw, but it should be a fun ride in 2007. Be sure to keep a few Friday nights open.

RAW
Booking WWE’s flagship program in 2006 must have been a lot like a novice driving a new Mercedes: Simply steer it straight, don’t take too many turns, and don’t try anything fancy.

Raw was surprisingly uneventful this year. Sure, fans were treated to a healthy dose of nostalgia (who ever thought we’d see Dusty Rhodes back in a WWE ring?), as well as obvious pandering (see Hogan, Hulk), but very little that will go down as industry-changing when the wrestling historians study 2006 in hindsight.

The brand that was once considered the bellwether of the industry sleepwalked through 2006 at points. As Smackdown and ECW looked to a youth movement to garner interest, Raw once again relied on the trusty names of yesteryear. Although some younger wrestlers were given the chance to stand out in 2006 (for example, Carlito and Kenny Dykstra), others were merely used as fodder for the veterans.

Here are the biggest events to occur on Raw in 2006:

1. Rise of Edge: 2006 was a banner year for the “Rated R Superstar” as Edge captured the Raw World title twice, sold a mess of T-shirts, and made sure Lita was busting out all over every time she was on television.
2. Return of DX: Whether you love or hate DeGeneration X, the reunion of Triple-H and Shawn Michaels guaranteed that you were going to get more than your fill of two middle-aged men chopping their crotches in 2006.
3. Angles that go nowhere: Somewhere the answers lie as to what happened to the Imposter Kane as well as the Hulk Hogan-Randy Orton feud. We’ve got our best men on it, so we’ll let you know as soon as we know.
4. Buy two hours, get the third free: Twice in 2006, Raw expanded its programming to three hours in an effort to stuff less wrestling into more time. Amazing!
5. Trish Stratus and Lita retire from WWE: Two of this generation’s top female wrestlers retired from WWE within months of each other. Only one of them got to leave with her head held high, and, taking character into consideration, I think we can all guess who that was.

Where Raw is headed in 2007:
If I had to predict now—and I do—I would say that Raw will be excellent in 2007. That’s right: not good, not solid, but excellent. The reason for such a bold assessment is simple: It has to be.

For years, Raw has been the stud of the WWE television empire. Although the company has moved into various forms of multimedia (cell phones and film, for example), television continues to be the key place for advertising and building a buzz around other projects. No program garners a larger audience for the company than Raw, which is why it is in WWE’s best interest to make the show better next year.

Plus, let’s not discount the fact that other brands (or promotions) may eventually catch up to Raw over the next 368 days (assuming you’re reading this the day it’s written). With Smackdown and TNA’s Impact gaining confidence, it’s realistic to think that by December 2007, either could be nipping at “Big Brother’s” heels.

From a wrestling and angle standpoint, Raw will likely use 2007 to build new stars off of its current crop. Reader Rick Jackson believes that both Carlito as well as the entire tag division of the brand will be some of the top draws in 2007. He also feels that both C.M. Punk and Ken Kennedy are all but guaranteed to move to Mondays. Another sentiment proposed by Jim Schwandt involves building up the women’s division and strengthening that aspect from within.

Regardless of the direction of Raw in 2007, it will no doubt end the year as the top televised wrestling program once again … at least for now.

ECW
Wow, where do I begin with this one?

It would be simple to just write off ECW as a strange and tremendously flawed attempt by WWE to revive a long dead niche brand of wrestling solely for the purpose of grabbing a few more of your precious paper-route dollars. In fact, that being the case, let’s just build off of that assumption so we’re all on the same page.

Still, as turbulent (yeah, that’s what we’ll call it) a half-year as 2006 was for the runt of the WWE litter, ECW did not fail to deliver its share of memorable—if not notorious—moments. As divisive a decision as I’ve ever seen, the rebirth of ECW came with almost as much fanfare as the current call for its execution has garnered.

Let’s soak this up now, because you may not see this section in next year’s edition of this column.

Here are the most memorable—and somewhat frustrating—turns on the ECW roller-coaster in 2006:

1. ECW debuts on the Sci-Fi Channel: Many couldn’t even find the channel on their cable box. Unfortunately, once they did, it was quickly changed to something else.
2. Kurt Angle jumps to ECW: In the movie Fight Club, Tyler Durden memorably stated that, “Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.” Along those lines, being intense does not exactly make one “hardcore.” Love Angle, just not here. If only there was somewhere else, with a robust Samoan, that would better suit his style. Hmmmm.
3. Boy, did he blow it: Look kids, Rob Van Dam finally won his first ever ECW … oh, wait … arrested, you say?
4. The Big Show wins the ECW title: Let me get this straight—a man who is reported to be in so much physical agony that he can barely lace his boots, and who has been allegedly reprimanded for his poor ring work in the past, is being relied on to carry a fledgling brand? Oooh, this couldn’t end well.
5. C.M. Punk debuts for ECW: WWE is known for heaping tremendous amounts of hype on guys who would be better suited carrying sand at Home Depot rather than performing in the ring. Finally … finally … they got one right.

Where ECW is headed in 2007:
Move over XFL, we’ve got three new letters to take your place as the silliest decision Vince McMahon may have ever made!

Okay, no, it’s not that bad, but is there anyone out there that honestly believes that ECW will survive—as it is—throughout 2007? Personally, I feel that the brand will be around this time next year and, as a result, WWE will drop Deep South Wrestling as a developmental affiliate. My guess—and it’s just that—is that WWE will continue to utilize Ohio Valley Wrestling as its top developmental territory and make ECW its lowest-level televised territory. Hence, if you’re “not ready for prime time,” but too good to slum it in Kentucky, ECW will be the place for you.

If this plays out as I see it, I can’t imagine the Sci-Fi channel will want to stick with it regardless of whatever agreements may be in place. I have to imagine that there is something of an escape clause for both the channel and WWE in their agreement, and odds are the good, Stargate-loving folks at Sci-Fi would be the ones to balk.

As a native to the greater Philadelphia area, I have to admit that I’m not terribly disappointed to see ECW struggle. I liken it to seeing one of our many disgruntled athletic superstars go to another team in hopes of getting what he couldn’t get here. Some succeed, some don’t, and, shockingly, we tend to take things personally when someone thinks they’re better off without us.

While I’d love to see ECW—as it once was—return and add to the hardcore niche market, I know that won’t happen now or anytime soon. It would be better off to blow the thing up, and finally rebuild it as a high-level developmental brand sooner rather than later in 2007.


TNA
Anyone who’s read “The Turn” over the past year knows that I love sport analogies. That being the case, and because I have yet to reach my quota in 2006, I will now grace your waiting eyes with one final analogy between wrestling and mainstream sports.

The 2006 version of TNA reminded me a lot of the Boston Red Sox, pre-World Series title in 2004. The promotion seems to be building an organization that can go head-to-head with the “Evil Empire” Yankees or, in this case, WWE. By putting together a solid lineup filled with young, capable talent, as well as solid, exciting veterans, TNA has moved quickly from a sentimental underdog to legit contender.

Still, we’re all just waiting for them to blow it in the end, aren’t we?

That’s natural. When a promotion—or team—shows promise, yet fails to deliver (often times in confusing and heartbreaking fashions), the hope of its fans wavers. Sure, you still love TNA, but when is enough enough?

Please, let me urge you—my fellow fans—to not give up on TNA in 2007. While I personally love any and all wrestling and, despite what you may think, have no favorites, I feel it is important to encourage fan acceptance of TNA. It’s good for the industry to have competition, and it’s great for WWE to think that they’re up against a wall. You’ll get no better programming than if there’s a legit battle for your dollar.

For that cause, and for the good of the industry, I say become a de facto member of the “TNA Nation” so we can all reap the rewards of an annoyed Vince Steinbrenner in 2007.

Here are the top moves made by TNA in 2006:

1. Sting returns to wrestling: Has anyone worked harder in 2006 to make himself more relevant than Sting? Money well spent, Mrs. Carter.
2. Jeff Jarrett walks away from TNA: Some may argue that Jarrett’s self-imposed hiatus didn’t come soon enough. Others may argue … aww, hell, who am I kidding. No one’s arguing against that.
3. Changes in TNA: Finally moving to a prime time slot may not be as big a move in the long run as finally moving shows outside of Universal Studios.
4. Kurt Angle jumps to TNA: This guy has appeared—literally—on every top televised wrestling program in 2006 and yet I’m still not sick of him.
5. Samoa Joe loses: Somewhere Bill Goldberg breathes a sigh of relief as his record 1,423,624-match winning streak remains intact. Having Joe seem vulnerable was a smart move, and having it happen against Angle might have been the only way to do it.

Where TNA is headed in 2007:
All signs point to TNA moving forward with the same momentum in 2007. It’s hard to imagine that the promotion can maintain the type of talent acquisition as it did in 2006, but anything is possible in Orlando. Who would have thought at this point last year we’d be witnessing a Samoa Joe-Kurt Angle feud in a six-sided ring?

While change seems inevitable in TNA (especially with names like Van Dam, Lita, and Jericho allegedly available for the right price), some readers feel that the best TNA could do is to make changes in the current product as it exists now.

Two e-mails I received from readers known only as “Warren” and “Dave B.” suggest that TNA would be better off focusing on its head-on assault of WWE via Kip and B.G. James’ Voodoo Kin Mafia, as well as removing Don West from the announce team. While neither will likely take center stage in 2007, our enigmatic friends raise an interesting point. TNA’s growth may best be served by tweaking its product internally just as much as it builds from the outside in 2007.

Next year will undoubtedly be yet another turning point for TNA. All the tools seem to be in place for a nice run at first place. However, until TNA proves that it can field Mookie Wilson’s grounder to first cleanly, we may all be left waiting for next season.

The Tiny Turn:
Briefly Skewering The Week Of: December 12-28

Smackdown (12/22)
Because it has been so entertaining over the past few months, I’m willing to give Smackdown a pass for last week’s offering. Hell, anyone that tries as hard as the blue brand has over the past six months earns the right to mail one in every now and then.

It’s not that program—highlighted by a brief appearance by the horrifically injured Joey Mercury (Google search him and make sure you’re not eating)—was terrible, it’s just that for the first time in a while, Smackdown was innocuous. Nothing really moved along any of the current angles, nor was anything new started. No harm, no foul.

Quick results:
Smackdown World champion Batista defeated Santa Claus (Sylvan Grenier) in a non-title match
U.S. champion Chris Benoit beat Chavo Guerrero by disqualification
Johnny Nitro pinned Matt Hardy
Ashley Massaro & Layla El beat Kristal Marshall & Jillian Hall
Kane & The Undertaker defeated Finlay & King Booker

Raw (12/25)
For everything WWE does that is not only questionable but flat out lame, its annual tour of and broadcast from Iraq nearly forces me to forget all its past indiscretions. This year was no different, as the Raw brand (along with an assortment of grapplers from Smackdown and ECW) displayed a veritable cavalcade of wrestling talent all in the effort of entertaining the brave men and women of the armed forces stationed in Iraq.

Sure, the program did nothing to advance any of the current angles on Raw but who cares, really? A massive thumbs up to WWE for this tradition.

Quick results:
Raw World champion John Cena defeated Edge in a non-title match
C.M. Punk beat Shelton Benjamin
The Undertaker pinned Johnny Nitro
ECW champion Bobby Lashley defeated Bob Holly in a non-title match
Umaga pinned Intercontinental champion Jeff Hardy in a non-title match
Carlito beat Randy Orton
Chris Masters’ masterlock was broken by a serviceman with assistance from John Bradshaw Layfield

ECW (12/26)
While I’m not a huge fan of “Best Of” episodes (mmm, how’s that for irony?), this was actually done quite well. The program featured Joey Styles and Tazz reminiscing the past half-year of WWE’s incarnation of ECW since One Night Stand II and its debut on the Sci-Fi Channel. Rather than show three or four of the top matches, the show was broken down into more of a storyteller-esque hour of programming.

Done as it was, ECW sounded damn interesting at points. Those of us who donate an hour of our lives each week to the brand know otherwise. No matter how well the present may be wrapped, just remember, it could always be a box of manure.

Quick results:
None to report as this was primarily a clip show that featured segments from ECW’s biggest matches of 2006

Impact (12/28)
Kurt Angle and Samoa Joe continued their vicious game of cat-and-mouse with the Olympic champion hunting down the massive former X division champion throughout the evening’s broadcast.

Sounds enthralling, no? Fine, you got me. Much like the others, last night’s episode of Impact seemed to be a little lacking in excitement (by comparison to itself). Still, I’m so enthralled with the Joe-Angle battle, I could actually enjoy watching them split a basket of boneless buffalo wings and be enamored.

Yeah, so? It says “mark” at the top of the damn page. Deal with it.

Quick results:
James Storm & Chris Sabin defeated Petey Williams & Christopher Daniels
Bobby Roode beat Lance Hoyt
Sting beat Christian Cage and Abyss in a “Nightstick On A Pole” match

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 15-21

By Frank Ingiosi

First, allow me to wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas (if that’s your cup o’ tea), a happy end of Hanukkah, or a “I kind of know what it’s about but not really” Kwanzaa.

In my humble opinion, the holiday season is the best time of year to sneak in a few hours of pure relaxation while at the same time trying to catch up on everything you wanted to do during the past year. For example: 2006 was supposed to be the year I fought a shark to the death. Didn’t happen and, given my decreasing athleticism and the increased likelihood that a shark will, in fact, kill me, there’s a good chance it never will.

So be it. You win this round, shark.

Point is, for everyone out there who wasn’t as solid a wrestling fan this year as they had hoped, you’re in luck. Next week, “The Turn” will be abbreviated in favor of looking back on the wrestling year that was 2006. We’ll examine what made this year one of the more interesting in recent history, as well as featuring your—that’s right—prognostications for 2007. I’ve received a good amount of reader feedback over the past week, so keep up with the e-mails (pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com) and your opinion may be featured right here—in the middle of this very column—in “The Turn’s” year-end, super duper spectacular.

Smackdown (12/15)
Mark it down in your diaries/blogs/journals/manifestos or what have you—I’m going to once again praise the work of Mike “The Miz” Mizanin. The former MTV personality is playing off his notoriety as a reality show glory hog and doing a fantastic job of not only making The Boogeyman—his current nemesis—look good, but also engaging a fan base that was bored with him prior to watching him wrestle a single match. Last Friday, Mizanin pulled off a Fear Factor-like gross-out eating competition.

See, I can do good in the spirit of the season.

Okay, between me and you all, I can’t exactly remember the last time I actually did praise “The Miz,” but I’m sure it happened at some point prior to now. Wait … I’m losing focus. Let’s steer this compliment caravan back toward Mizville. His angle is a clever one given his background and appeal to Smackdown’s younger audience.

In other Smackdown news:
I don’t care how loudly you scream, Michael Cole, no one this side of Belfast—hell, probably not even there—was clamoring for the John Cena-Finlay non-title main event you had so vociferously supported. No … one.

My nomination for the most consistently entertaining feud on WWE programming right now was, and remains, The Undertaker and Kane vs. Mr. Kennedy and MVP. Only these four men could turn a double-countout—leading into a pay-per-view, no less—into the show-stealing moment of the night. Again, I plead with you, hold off heading to the comic book shop tonight to pick up whatever the hell Magic: The Gathering crap you play and watch Smackdown, if only for this feud.

Does anyone else get the distinct feeling that an end to the Chavo Guerrero-Chris Benoit feud is coming sooner rather than later? Me too, and for once I think we’re going to see something truly special (or disturbing) in this angle. Yes, even more so than the Eddie exploitation. That huge.

Raw (12/18)
Sylvester Stallone appeared in a brief, pre-taped segment during Raw on Monday night in a move meant to tie promotion for his latest release—Rocky Balboa—to Sly’s interaction with WWE via Hulk Hogan’s appearance in the third installment of the Rocky series some 24 years ago. If there’s anyone—outside of the Philadelphia area—that is under the age of 20 and can tell me the significance of “Thunderlips” without looking it up online, I will change my opinion on this pointless segment.

Didn’t think so.

In other Raw news:
Did anyone else notice that “MMA superstar” Vladimir Kozlov looked an awful lot like much-heralded developmental wrestler Oleg Prudius? Whatever the name, get a good look, TNA fans. This guy’s either an expertly placed internal explosive device ready to destroy WWE from within, or actually a real deal giant that Papa Jarrett handed over to the enemy.

We finally found out former Spirit Squader Kenny’s last name on Monday night. For those of you who missed it, he is to be known from now on as Kenny Dykstra, which is strikingly similar to the controversial former outfielder for the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies. Now, being the coward I am, I’ll allow you to write the punch line: *Insert performance enhancing substance joke here.*

Kevin Federline is tired of not being taken seriously and intends to legitimize himself by defeating John Cena on Raw this New Year’s Day. I promise you this much: If K-Fed walks out of Miami with the Raw World title—I don’t care how—I quit. Mark it down in ink.

The Carlito-Chris Masters match never got off the ground Monday night after Mr. Caribbean Cool went face-first into the camera and was busted open. In a related story, WWE has already signed the camera and pushed it ahead of Masters as the inanimate object that not only knows more moves than the young Californian, but also has more charisma in its lens cap than he does in his whole body.

Let’s chalk up The World’s Greatest Tag Team’s mediocre pace to a lack of competing with each other. Hopefully, this will end soon because there’s no way they should be getting outperformed by the Hardys on Monday—as they did—only one night after “Team Extreme’s” brutal ladder match at Armageddon.

What the hell was Sgt. Slaughter doing in the 30-man battle royal to start the show? Seriously, if WWE even wants us to care about it, they should have someone like that win just one. Aside from that, don’t insult us.

Kudos go out to Edge, Randy Orton, DeGeneration X, and John Cena for putting on one hell of a night of wrestling. All five competed in the 30-man battle royal as well as a six-man tag match main event. For good measure, Edge and Cena filled the middle portion of the program with a solid Raw World title match. A night like that just shows why these guys belong on top of Monday nights.

The most underappreciated wrestler on Raw today: Victoria. Anyone who caught her manhandling (or is it womanhandling) of Mickie James on Monday night—a very good wrestler in her own right—will attest to the same.

Apparently, someone behind the scenes decided it would be funny for Cryme Tyme to attack an impersonator of some unpopular public figure each week. Monday night, they goofed on a particularly weak impersonator of President Bush. Here’s a bipartisan tip to those in charge of Raw: If you can’t fill a three-hour program, don’t have one. The life was sucked out of the arena during this amazingly stupid, and embarrassingly unfunny, segment.

ECW (12/19)
Now, the easy way out would be to question why in the blue hell Renee Dupree received an ECW title shot at Bobby Lashley on Tuesday night. One could pick from literally dozens of reasons as to why this was not only pointless, but also indicative of the declining state of ECW as it exists today, right?

Well, here at “The Turn,” we’d like to take a different approach to what was otherwise a futile and silly squash match with zero implications. No, we’re not going to bury the wrestling equivalent of tossing a stone into a pond and there being absolutely no ripple. In fact, Lashley’s successful title defense took us back to a time where WWE (then WWF) would have their champion defend against any and all comers.

Every Saturday there was Hulk Hogan defeating some random mid-carder after kicking out of their finishing move and going through the obligatory “Hulk-Up.” Who can hammer simpler times? Not I.

In other ECW news:

Is anyone else getting concerned with the general malaise directed at the wildly talented C.M. Punk lately? Is it just me, or is it as if the thousands in attendance are collectively waiting for the other shoe to fall? The faster ECW spirals out of the mainstream, the quicker Punk seems poised to make the leap to Mondays, and then what are we left with? Exactly.

I’ve ripped him many times before, but c’mon, hasn’t Shannon Moore had enough already? The guy’s become the human punching bag for nearly the entire ECW roster by this point and, what’s most disconcerting, is that he actually can wrestle. Give the guy a break.

In what may be the only chance I ever have to connect Mike Knox and Rob Van Dam, I have to admit that I’ve become sick of both at the exact same time. Let me make it clear that, generally, I’m a big fan of RVD (who won a fan poll to earn the right to get defeated by Lashley in two weeks). However, the way he’s being utilized—as a high-profile opponent to carry a lacking champion—is making me dislike him, which isn’t exactly fair. Knox’s angle, on the other hand, is just flat out unwatchable.

Impact (12/21)
It was right here that I questioned whether the Sting-Abyss feud was the right direction for TNA to go with the NWA World championship in the balance. I, like many, was unsure of Abyss’ drawing power as the top guy for a promotion still on shaky legs. Please let me take a moment to say that, after careful review and consideration my new opinion, à la Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein, is “This … might … work!”

I’ve become increasingly impressed with Abyss’ work in the ring as well as the backstory TNA is building for his troubled past. Having two greats of their respective roles—Sting as the seemingly positive force, and James Mitchell as the evil influence—as the only two men who apparently know the true roots of Abyss’ torment only makes this thing more intriguing.

This dance should continue for at least another two months.

In other TNA news:
Wrestling has officially run out of catchy, innuendo-filled names for factions with the official death knell being Raven’s (doesn’t he seem to always have a group?) newest team—Serotonin. Look it up and be angry along with me, won’t you?

Remember when Team 3D vowed to win the NWA World tag team championship “the right way” by defeating everyone who stood in front of them? Umm … guys … feel free to start whenever you like. I’m just saying—you don’t have to keep losing to prove some point.

I rarely, if ever, advocate that a tag team match be saved for a pay-per-view. However, last night’s battle between Samoa Joe and his partner A.J. Styles and the team of Kurt Angle and Rhino would absolutely fall into that category, primarily because the contest was tremendously shortchanged. Used to be nothing more than a setup for their respective feuds (à la WWE), this match should have showcased four of the top wrestlers—yes, Rhino included—in the game today. Instead, it was an infomerical. Bad, bad TNA.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 8-14

By Frank Ingiosi

Antsy, antsy, antsy. That’s the only way to describe my mood as of late with the holiday season kicking into full gear for those of us who celebrate.

My eyes are firmly fixed on the fact that I have one more week of “work” before getting some more time off to enjoy the holidays. In fact, in light of recent developments in U.S. foreign policy, I’ve decided to model my work schedule after that of our most humble President. I will not say anything about my view of the future of professional wrestling until after Christmas. See, I want to hear opinions—different, varying opinions—on the state of wrestling before giving my recommendations for the future of the sport.

Procrastinating, you say? I think nay! Still, as the end of the year approaches, I would like to hear the opinions of my fellow fans on what 2007 will hold for the sport.

Feel free to forward along your thoughts, concerns, and apprehensions to: pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com. Please put “Turn” in the subject line and you may see your thoughts here in the next two weeks as part of “The Turn’s” end-of-the-year super-duper spectacular special recapping of 2006 and look ahead to 2007. So, get those submissions in soon and on to the venom.

Smackdown (12/8)
Wow! What happened to the Smackdown tag team division? It feels like only a few months ago that the influx of championship-caliber tag teams on the blue brand made the division the best in the business. Now … ugh, now … we’re getting non-title matches between champions Brian Kendrick and Paul London and up-and-comers (of 1991) William Regal and Dave Taylor.

Seriously?! That’s the best we get?!

I really shouldn’t complain as Smackdown has improved tremendously overall, at the expense of the tag circuit. Such is life in professional wrestling, I suppose.

In other Smackdown news:
Personally, my favorite angle in all of WWE right now is undoubtedly the viciously personal feud between The Undertaker and Ken Kennedy. While it seems to be nearing its climactic conclusion, this battle seems to have elevated both men. Kennedy is destined for Raw sometime in the near future, and ’Taker appears poised for a shot at the Smackdown World title.

Is it just me, or has John Cena—who’s now battling Kevin Federline and Umaga while not appearing on a red carpet or Smackdown—overtaken James Brown as the “Hardest Working Man in Show Business”? Actually, I’d better drop that now before the 73-year-old musician is brought in for a pay-per-view angle.

Oh, Mr. Smackdown, please do us all a favor and just retire the cruiserweight title. There’s no more formulaic division in all of WWE right now—and that includes ECW. Scary, I know.

Raw (12/11)
Last week, I was critical of the John Cena-Kevin Federline angle that, despite Mr. Spears’ less-than-glowing public image, is apparently still moving forward. After watching Raw this past Monday night, I feel it necessary to amend my prior stance for a few reasons.

First, the match between “K-Fed” and Cena will be taking place on the night of January 1 and will be competing directly against college football bowl games as well as gargantuan hangovers. Any draw WWE can garner—with a silly angle like this—is just gravy.

Secondly, it allows Johnny Nitro to stay relevant as he is quickly (more so than I thought possible) losing his luster. As Federline’s trainer, Nitro is part of a top angle without really having to fight.

Still, when he kicked Cena in the head the other night and swore that was “just one of the moves” he taught Federline, was there anyone out there who doubted that the mental giant/backup dancer didn’t know how to do that already? Hell, just by accident you learn how to kick someone.

In other Raw news:
Armando Alejandro Estrada is the first manager since the heyday of charismatic corner men who actually seems to have some potential for staying power. This is actually a very good thing.

The World’s Greatest Tag Team—Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas—officially reunited Monday night. For Haas, this may be his last chance to solidify his spot with WWE. For Benjamin, it’s, well, just another chance.

The Licex Head Scratcher of the Week: The Chris Masters-Viscera vs. Jerry Lawler-Carlito battle. By my expert accounting, one crappy feud coupled with another crappy feud nullifies the entire event. This battle was so innocuous as to seem like a vacuum in time, so technically I don’t think I lost any moments of precious life. Yay for that, eh?

Kenny—who is apparently the only Spirit Squad member able to Mapquest his way back from OVW—is still trying to earn his way into the good graces of Rated RKO, who are getting their collective tails kicked on a weekly basis by DeGeneration X and, now, Ric Flair. Anyone else getting the feeling that WWE is so high on the guy because they see in him the potential and work ethic they hoped Randy Orton would show?

Why was Umaga’s match with Jeff Hardy not for the Intercontinental championship? Hasn’t the giant Samoan earned at least that while he bides his time waiting for John Cena?

ECW (12/12)
Is he or isn’t he?

That has been the question in ECW ever since the highly publicized departure of Paul Heyman last week. It was reported that Heyman was “sent home” (usually McMahonese for fired) and will not be a part of ECW for the foreseeable future.

But is there any chance that Heyman won’t return to ECW at some point (assuming there’s an ECW when he returns). His “Bush 41-esque” tearful eulogy of The Big Show’s title reign following December to Dismember, coupled with the fact that his security team is not only still on ECW television, but actually competed against—and lost to—Bobby Lashley on Tuesday night leads me to believe that we have not seen the last of Heyman, regardless of what we’re being told.

In other ECW news:
For a guy rumored to be on his way out of the company when his contract expires in mid-2007, Rob Van Dam doesn’t appear to be slacking in the ring. The man who should be lobbying “The Whole Damn Show” to re-up with Stamford: Test. There may not be anyone who can make the massive Canadian look as good in a match.

I can’t figure out which future angle seems less enticing: Matt Striker apparently taking on Mahoney, or the “Tap Out, Knock Out Connection” of Sylvester Terkay and Elijah Burke. I’ll give the edge here to Burke and Terkay only because I feel that this tandem would work better as part of one of WWE’s other brands … umm … as they did on Smackdown.

Unlike the good people of Boston—whose reaction to C.M. Punk was reported to be less than his usual rock star welcome—I’m loving the potential for a battle between him and the suddenly impressive Hardcore Holly, his opponent this past Tuesday night. Hell, it’s the least ECW could do after Punk’s ECW pay-per-view debut debacle.

Impact (12/14)
If you have only one hour of original programming per week, why go with not one, but two non-title matches? Someone needs to examine the skulls of those in charge of TNA’s television programming. NWA World champion Abyss squared off against Ron Killings, and, in other action, X champion Christopher Daniels battled Petey Williams in a friendly rumble.

As is, I really have no problem with one, or even multiple, non-title matches during a televised event. In fact, when you get only 40 minutes or so of actual programming, it’s quite difficult to progress all of your major angles with any real gusto.

I do take issue with the opponents for these matches. Killings has done very little since the demise of 3LiveKru last year, and Williams seems headed for the same fate now that Team Canada is through. While it’s nice to see them get some face time, why not have them battle each other? Both are quite talented, and it would be an interesting to watch.

In other TNA news:
Kurt Angle went berserk last night and attacked hapless blowhard Don West (among others), forcing the announcer to leave the program early. In a related story, my early nominee for 2007 Wrestler of the Year: Kurt Angle.

Robert Roode has lost his direction. He’s got a fancy robe, a sultry manager, and no real path for success. Someone needs to step in and help this kid before it’s too late. He has the potential to be very good, given the right motivation.

America’s Most Wanted officially parted ways last night after they lost to NWA World tag team champs The Latin American Exchange in a match that stipulated they had to split if unsuccessful. For those of you who missed it, James Storm turned against Chris Harris, giving LAX the easy victory. If Harris is smart, he’ll call dibs on being “Shawn Michaels” before Storm beats him to it.

Sting’s strange psychological dance with Abyss took an even weirder turn last night as the “Man Monster” briefly turned against his keeper, James Mitchell, at the legend’s urging. At first, this angle just seemed goofy. Now, I’m starting to like the direction. “Like” will turn to “love” if its direction is Sting turning toward the dark side rather than Abyss going all goody-goody on us.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 1-7

By Frank Ingiosi

Wow—it feels good to be back. Please accept my apologies for the inadvertent snub; of course, I meant no disrespect. I was on a much needed mini-vacation in the frosty, scenic, ever-so-family-friendly city of Detroit.

Hey, some guys clear their heads with a hunting trip or things of that sort. Going to Detroit is something like that, although imagine all the animals have Glock 9s, and you’ve got a wallet filled with sweet, sweet PWI dollars.

Still, my time away ended up being just what I needed to recharge the batteries and refocus on what really matters: grown men beating each other up while in their bathing suits.

Of course I’ve been following the sport during my abbreviated absence; in fact, I’ve watched more wrestling than usual. A guy’s gotta stay sharp, right? But, alas, my time off has ended and, as expected, there is ever so much to discuss. So, enough about me, let’s get down to business.

Enjoy this week’s “Turn”—now filled with vim, vigor, and all things v-related.

Smackdown (12/1)
The reign of King Book-ah came to an uneventful end right in front of my very eyes at Survivor Series. Shocking? Well, not exactly. Based on the accounts of folks I know that actually left prior to the main event, Batista leaving South Philly with the “big gold belt” in toe was as safe a bet as Greedo shooting first (for my fellow nerds out there).

What was in fact shocking was the choppy, damn near ugly manner in which Batista regained the strap. The champion looked slow and unsure of himself, yet still managed to capture the victory. This either means that “The Animal” is better than fans think and can steal victory from the jaws of defeat … or someone’s selling more T-shirts than his royal T-ness.

In other Smackdown news:
I missed M-N-M, although I still stick to my earlier conviction that the group broke up at just the right time. Now that they’re back together for the time being, the only thought that keeps cropping up in my head is when will Joey turn against the other two and exact some revenge. Odds are, sooner than you think.

There’s nothing wrong with Smackdown being the program where WWE Divas just look attractive and don’t wrestle. What is wrong is having Krystal Marshall in a match where she’s somehow the one that is the seasoned vet.

I’ve bashed him before, but now I’m actually impressed with the career resurgence Chavo Guerrero Jr. has gone through. It honestly couldn’t happen to a better guy—most of the time—and I’m glad to finally see him get his due in WWE.

The mere fact that Ken Kennedy stepped back in the ring with The Undertaker last Friday night after taking—in my humble opinion—the most brain-scrambling chairshot I’ve ever seen (and I went to a hell of a lot of drunken fraternity parties during the “Monday Night War” era) at Survivor Series. Kennedy officially gets the ASPCA Bat Crap Crazy pick of the week for even showing up at the damn arena.

Raw (12/4)
So, finally, The Spirit Squad is gone—packed off and shipped back to OVW courtesy of DeGeneration X last week and, not surprisingly, only one member of the group remains: de facto leader Kenny.

In fact, on Monday night, not only did Kenny remind everyone that he’s still around, he may have solidified a spot as part of one of the top angles on the top show, assuming Edge and Randy Orton accept Kenny as one of their own. For those of you who may have missed it, Kenny attempted to win the good graces of Rated RKO by interfering in their match with DX, although that backfired.

Still, not bad for a former male cheerleader. Next thing you know, he’ll be running corporations into the ground and winning the presidency with less votes than his opponent.

Hey, it could happen.

In other Raw news:
In a John Cena-Umaga feud—which appears to be the next big Raw World title battle—which man is considered the classically trained grappler? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, this could get real ugly, real fast.

The Highlanders defeated Trevor Murdoch and Lance Cade in a tag team match Monday night that was dedicated to their former partner and persona inspiration “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, who is battling cancer. Not only was this a classy move, but it’s a nice way to keep Piper’s name out there during this difficult time.

Victoria, who destroyed non-wrestler Maria Kanelis on Monday, is playing the crazy card in her pending feud with fellow wack-a-doo Mickie James. It was somewhat disheartening when they re-used the crazy stalker angle that made Victoria popular on James, but now it just seems lazy.

The quote of the evening no doubt came from Super Crazy, when he referred to Shelton Benjamin as—and I apologize for the awful editing—a “punk ass [other name for a female dog].” Unfortunately for Crazy, Benjamin won their match later in the evening, yet it was the former ECW tag team champion that stole the show.

How is it that a guy like C.M. Punk is on ECW and yet Viscera—whom I like otherwise—is stealing airtime on Raw? I wish there was an answer to this but, sadly, I don’t think there is.

Eugene’s turn as a rulebreaker intrigues me far more than it should. I’m waiting for the big reveal, and, assuming that happens, this could be one of the more clever angles on Raw. Yes, I’m serious.

ECW (12/5)
Bobby Lashley is the king of all things hardcore in Stamford and reports have surfaced that the former ECW champ, The Big Show, and the brand’s mastermind are either gone from the company or on their way out.

Now that’s what I consider one a hell of a stipulation. Lashley emerges from the “Extreme Elimination Chamber” at December To Dismember holding his first major (that kinda hurts me to write) WWE title, and Paul Heyman and Show are apparently unemployed.

This cannot possibly be a good thing for ECW, can it?

In other ECW news:
Here’s what I’ve learned from “my teacher” Matt Striker: You’re boring the pants off me, and I’ve been one of your biggest supporters. Do something so nuts that even Sabu winces.

I’m a hockey fan and, as such, I feel the need to warn those in charge at ECW of the dangers that come with loading up your top line. Case in point: pairing the wildly popular Rob Van Dam with the even more (it’s true) popular C.M. Punk is dangerous because the rest of the hour is bound to, well, suck. Now, feuding the two … that’s whole different story.

Personally, I wasn’t much of a Tommy Dreamer fan during the first run of ECW. However is there any original ECW-er you feel worse for at this point than him? First, he’s out there making Test look credible and, apparently, does such a good job that next on his list will be The Great Khali. The man deserves much, much better than this.

Wrestling Obituary of the Week: After breaking things off with the scantily clad—and even more scantily intelligent—Kelly Kelly, we at “The Turn” would like to send out our condolences to: Any shred of Mike Knox’s entertainment value. R.I.P. June 20, 2006-December 5, 2006.

Impact (12/7)
While trying to not come off as an amazingly naïve Kurt Angle mark, I wondered in a rather jovial yet intelligent and articulate manner just why the former Olympian’s turn against Samoa Joe was nothing less than friggin’ sweet—I drew a blank.

Angle emerged victorious last night in a six-man “No Mercy All Star War” match, outlasting all of TNA’s top guys in a vicious battle that actually saw everyone look surprisingly good. Naturally, Angle seemed to outshine the rest, and that was before his sneak-attack on Joe, which resulted in his pinfall victory.

For anyone still doubting whether the move to TNA was a good thing for Angle, go back and watch the replay of last night’s main event tomorrow night on Spike and check out the look in his eye following the contest.

In other TNA news:
Rhino’s attempt to be the Switzerland to the budding A.J. Styles-Christopher Daniels feud seems to be faltering miserably. The fact that the softer, gentler Rhino goes by “War Machine” doesn’t exactly help his chances at being taken seriously as a peace broker. Still, the pending battle—likely between all three—should be a hell of a thing.

Does anyone else realize that, technically, all parties involved in the NAFTA-CAFTA feud between Petey Williams and LAX are considered North Americans?

I may be in the distinct minority amongst those who should know better, but I really enjoyed the dichotomy of personas between Senshi and Eric Young. Both are at polar ends of the spectrum when it comes to personality—Senshi being the serious, angry warrior and Young playing the part of the goofy, wayward sidekick. This is an X division feud that could actually work if given the time to progress.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of November 17-23

By Frank Ingiosi

First and foremost, please allow me to wish a very happy, belated Thanksgiving to all of our American readers. To our Canadian and overseas friends of The Turn, this is the week we as Americans celebrate our “gentle” coaxing of our land away from the Native Americans.

Or, to put it in wrestling terms, we’re celebrating a time where the pilgrims extended their hands in a gesture of friendship to the Native Americans and they accepted after the crowd urged them to do so. But it was all a ploy that allowed the pilgrims to take a steel chair to the collective backs of the Native Americans. And yet, somehow, they ended up getting the biggest pop in the room. Mr. Cena, take note.

Oh, and we do all of this with a lovely cranberry sauce and copious amounts of pumpkin pie.

Enjoy “The Turn”—guaranteed to not make you sleepy, even after seconds.

Smackdown (11/17)
As the King Booker-Batista feud appears to be headed for its much anticipated climax this weekend right down the road at Survivor Series, I wanted to take a moment or two to laud the job done by his royal highness in a time where Smackdown was almost entirely devoid of anything watchable.

The good King admirably led the blue brand in big Dave’s absence and restored a fair amount of respectability to the big gold belt following Rey Mysterio Jr.’s controversial title reign. It was a fitting move for a very accomplished, surefire first ballot Hall of Famer.

Now, of course this pseudo-eulogy doesn’t count if Book-ah somehow walks out of South Philly with the strap, but … c’mon … what’s the chance of that?

In other Smackdown news:
Bogie and Bacall … Bert and Ernie … PB and J … now, The Miz and The Boogeyman. Rarely do two things complement each other as well as a grown man dressed as a worm-eating demon and reality TV star posing as a wrestler. All is right with my world.

Dearest Tatanka: Allow me to apologize this Thanksgiving week for the atrocities committed against Native Americans throughout the history of this country. Now, who will apologize for the atrocities committed against my eyes during your match with Chris Benoit?

William Regal received one of the loudest ovations of the evening from the U.K. crowd. My fellow fans in the U.S. would be wise to follow their lead, as you’d be hard pressed to find a tougher worker on the Friday night brand.

For all the talks of Kane being headed toward the end of his in-ring career, the massive monster is still damn impressive. The Kane-MVP feud has been rather entertaining.

What has the world come to when the top strap in all three WWE brands is competed for more frequently than the cruiserweight title? If I see Gregory Helms wrestle in one more non-title match, I may actually care enough to devote more than 48 words to it.

Raw (11/20)
Monday night, Johnny Nitro took a huge step toward credibility as a singles writer, despite being unable to reclaim the Intercontinental strap from Jeff Hardy. What I’d like to do now is offer a bit of advice to the former tag specialist, as—in my humble opinion—his next few steps may be the most important in his career.

Mr. Nitro—can I call you Johnny? Okay, Johnny, here’s the thing. You built up a lot of what President Bush calls “political capital” with your fantastic performance in a ladder match with one of the men that revolutionized that type of contest. Despite months of mediocrity and questionable moves (c’mon … Kevin Federline?), you now have the chance to actually become a respected, thrill inducing member of WWE’s top brand. I only urge you to think before you act from this point on. Weigh your options and proceed with caution. Your next step could determine whether you one day hold Raw World championship gold or are struggling for face time on Heat.

In other Raw news:
If I wasn’t so certain that Sabu is completely insane, I would think that he’s starting to take all the jerking around by WWE personally. One moment, he’s looking like the next champion of the ECW brand; the next, he’s being tossed around by Umaga not unlike a developmental talent fresh off the farm.

Carlito—once poised to be the next wisecracking attraction of the Raw brand—has revisited his feud with Randy Orton and continues to defend the honor of Trish Stratus, only this time around WWE chose to substitute Masters for Orton and Torrie Wilson for Stratus. Seriously … think about it. Is it not the exact same damn thing?

Another month, another departing Diva. Monday night, Lita confirmed the rumor that had made its way around Internet chat boards across the World Wide Web when she announced that she will be leaving WWE after Survivor Series this Sunday. Ironically, her final opponent will be Mickie James—the same woman that fought Trish Stratus in her last contest. Lucky Philly fans would be wise to savor the moment. The torch in WWE’s women’s division will officially be passed this Sunday night.

Dusty Rhodes returned to a WWE ring Monday night, taking on Nicky of The Spirit Squad in a match that showed just how far the former NWA World champion has fallen over the years. When your best move is chasing your opponent around a ring sticking your elbow out and having said opponent repel as if it were a stick with dog poo on the end of it, it may be time to permanently hang up the boots.

I love the Survivor Series, which is more than most fans can say. Let’s face it—the Series is pretty much a filler pay show between SummerSlam and The Royal Rumble. However, after watching the melee that ensued following the huge eight-man tag match/pay-per-view preview at the end of Raw this week, I remembered why I dug the event in the first place. Although, if they went back to naming the teams after the captains, I’m certain we Series fans could win back the masses in no time.

ECW (11/21)
Bobby Lashley is the latest WWE mainlander voted off the proverbial island and sent to the desolate, deserted isle that is ECW. While many of my peers will undoubtedly argue that this move is a decisive step backward in the development of the talented former amateur, I’ll play devil’s advocate and take the opposing approach. This is going to be tough, so just hear me out.

As a member of Smackdown, Lashley was very highly touted, yet had no clear path to advancing his career, nor did he have a realistic shot at the brand’s World title, as Friday nights were already well-stocked on jacked-up behemoths. Not quite ready for the big stage of Raw, the move to ECW could do wonders for Lashely, who, for once, should be able to showcase his talent as well as develop a persona.

Sure, ECW may seem like punishment to some, but, for Lashley, this could finally be the beginning of his prime.

In other ECW news:
For those of you that know me, I make no bones about my general disinterest in Matt and Jeff Hardy. I have nothing against the guys personally; in fact, they’ve done some of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in a wrestling ring. It’s just that, separately, neither one of the guys really does anything for me. However, watching the brothers reunite Tuesday night to dispatch of The F.B.I. was sheer poetry in motion. If the Hardys have any shot at ending up in the Hall of Fame someday, their best bet may be as members of Team Extreme.

Looking past a blonde, 19-year-old exhibitionist in favor of a vicious, weapon-filled chamber? Seriously? For anyone that doubts C.M. Punk’s devotion to being the best, there may be no stronger evidence of their complete misunderstanding of the man.

It’s rare that we ever see a wrestler that has Vince McMahon in the palm of his hand, but how else can Rob Van Dam’s continued pseudo-push be explained? ECW is so devoid of truly big name main event talent that RVD has to be part of the title chase. Sure, he may not walk away from the Extreme Elimination Chamber with the gold, but he’s guaranteed to get as much—if not more—face time than the eventual winner.

Impact (11/23)
With the final pounding of Earl Hebner’s hand on the mat, the pairing of Christopher Daniels and A.J. Styles came to an abrupt and confusing end. After falling from the NWA World tag title chase following their vicious feud with LAX, Daniels and Styles drifted apart, and each set their sights on their singles careers. Still, what’s most interesting about the events of last night is undoubtedly not the Daniels-Styles separation, but rather the direction of the entire X division.

Various members of the division stood on the either ramp—both rulebreakers and fan favorites—and seemed to have in effect chosen sides. Senshi, Alex Shelley, and Austin Starr stood on the side of Styles, while Jerry Lynn, Sonjay Dutt, and Jay Lethal seemed to back Daniels.

I don’t know if I’m willing to make such a lofty prediction, but things could get very interesting were we treated to an all-out X division civil war. Very interesting indeed.

In other TNA news:
The international incident that is the LAX-America’s Most Wanted feud should have more steam to it than it does at this point. Both teams are way too impressive than this feud has showed thus far.

In order to get a rematch to his first official TNA loss, Samoa Joe will have to protect Kurt Angle for the next month. Naturally, in the spirit of fair play and ratings, Angle will do the same for Joe. One word comes to mind and it begins with a B, ends with a T, and has rillian wedged right in the middle. This could be the most intriguing angle in wrestling today.

Sting and Christian Cage fought to a no-contest last night in a number-one contenders match to determine who would be first in line to get a shot at Abyss’ NWA World title. As much as I’m thrilled to finally see Abyss get his due, I’m just as happy to see Cage return to a main event spot and Sting elevate two guys who are extremely integral to the future of the promotion. All around, this is a very good angle for TNA. Now, Tyson Tomko—who made his TNA debut assisting Cage—I can probably do without.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of November 3-9

By Frank Ingiosi

So, yesterday afternoon I’m moving some furniture in my office and I come across a broken, titled console table that needs to be wheeled off and left for dead on the finest corner of sunny Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.

As I begin to push the wheeled table, the whole piece shifts forward pinching the inside of both of my thumbs between the base and the top piece, effectively tearing two surprisingly large chunks of my thumb with it. I jumped back for a second and then stopped to stare down at my bloody digits.

My first thought is that with two immobile thumbs I’m now even closer to losing that which separates me from the animals. However, my second thought—perhaps sadly—was of the nasty injury Bob Holly sustained a few weeks back on ECW when he lacerated his back pretty severely, yet finished his match with Rob Van Dam.

With that in mind, and in the spirit of all things Alabama, I grabbed the tape dispenser off of my desk, taped up my bloody stumps, and finished my work.

I love wrestling.

Enjoy “The Turn”—now typed with only six working fingers.

Smackdown (11/03)
Last week, right in the middle of this very column, I stated that the best reason to tune into Smackdown on Friday nights was the pending reunion of Kane and The Undertaker and, for those of you that may have gotten stood up by your Internet girlfriends on said night and thus caught the blue brand for once, boy, was I correct.

It’s amazing how well both of these men—who have had their fair share of injuries throughout their careers—have held up. Neither has lost a step in the ring, nor have the fans soured on them to the point where they’ve become irrelevant relics of yesteryear. The Brothers of Destruction should now be the blueprint for all younger big men who are looking to not only improve their skills, but also to enjoy a long, fruitful career in the sport. No one does it better than these two and, perhaps, no one ever will.

In other Smackdown news:
The Rey Mysterio Jr.-Chavo Guerrero feud finally came to its long overdue, welcomed end last week when the former Smackdown World champion was pummeled by his former friend after giving an emotionally charged thank you speech to the fans. Still, what’s most disturbing is that I—and I’m willing to bet 50 percent of the fans—felt nothing but anticipation for the ending of the angle, and thus Rey lost out on his grandiose exit.

How uncomfortable do both Booker T and Batista appear to be just sitting in the room together? These guys are going to be expected to work together in the ring at Survivor Series? Someone’s going to get hurt and the winner will be the blood-thirsty Philadelphia faithful.

By all accounts, Vito has taken to his new wrestling lifestyle like a pro, which makes his relegation to mixed-tag matches against “The Miz” so perplexing. Vito, a wrestler who paid his dues to become poised for a nice push on the blue brand, has now become a steppingstone for a former reality-TV star. Am I the only one that sees something amiss here?

Smackdown Stock Watch:
Up—Jimmy Wang Yang continues to look better each week. Plus, and I never thought I’d write this, his gimmick is growing on me.

Down—Bobby Lashley was supposed to be the next great, big superstar for WWE, right? Not only is he stuck in a feud with Tatanka, but a match against Jamie Noble isn’t exactly a step in the direction of a world championship.

Push—Smackdown’s tag division used to be its strongest aspect. Now, it’s little more than matches with few clean finishes and plenty of Divas. I’m not quite sure if this is good or bad just yet, but I’m certainly leaning toward writing this off as a loss.

Raw (11/06)
Love triangles—be it physical or solely ego-based—are a funny thing, mostly because someone is invariably left out in the cold when all is said and done. The way things are shaping up with Edge, Lita, and Randy Orton, it may be the one with the extra X chromosome that’s the odd-person out.

That would be Lita, my scientifically challenged friends.

With the decorated women’s champion’s WWE contract a hot topic in wrestling circles throughout the industry, and Edge’s need for the entire spotlight, a breakup seems inevitable at this point, no thanks to Orton, who’s been putting the buzz in his tag partner’s head that he’d be better off sans Lita.

Orton better be careful what he wishes for because these things never tend to end well.

In other Raw news:
I really want Johnny Nitro to succeed as part of the Raw brand. Honestly, I do. But if 10 pounds of Intercontinental gold—which he recaptured on Monday from Jeff Hardy—and a sultry valet can’t make the guy interesting, he just may not be ready for the big time.

Now, I was going to use this spot to rip on the sheer idiocy of having Kevin Federline as part of Raw, however the guy’s having a tough enough week as it is now that his gravy train seems to be pulling away without him. So, with that, let’s just say he shouldn’t be in a wrestling ring and collectively agree to ignore the fact that he makes us long for the days of David Arquette. Sure, it’s a jab, but a gentle one.

What’s wrong with this picture: “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, who seems like a lovely mentally challenged gentleman, is still a part of Raw programming, while former WCW World champion Ron Simmons (Farooq, to our younger readers) is relegated to a one-word catchphrase in dreadfully unfunny backstage segments. Don’t lose faith, fans—somewhere in the Bizzarro World, those who deserve face time are actually getting it.

I know I’ve asked the question before, but after Umaga absolutely decimated Maria Kanelis the other night by order of Eric Bischoff, I think it bears repeating. My question is: What happened to the days when the hero saved the damsel prior to her face being slammed into the villain’s ample ass? John Cena rushed to rescue Maria—and cut a promo about Kevin Federline—well after Umaga had his way with her. Doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose?

Every time I see Chris Masters relegated to some ridiculous, time-filler of a match, my heart breaks for the kid. Conversely, every time I see Jerry Lawler—Masters’ impromptu opponent on Monday night—take his shirt off, it reminds me that I wasn’t breastfed as an infant. Get it? I’m saying he’s got moobs.

DeGeneration X makes me sad. Seriously—let it go, guys. For those of you that missed it, they brought out the portly male stripper that has become a running gag on WWE television. Problem is, there’s nothing more uncomfortable than watching someone try to be funny and falling way, way short. Trust me, I’m a writer. I know this.

ECW (11/07)
Paul Heyman announced Tuesday night that the sixth spot in the “Extreme Elimination Chamber” match at ECW’s December To Dismember would not necessarily be filled by an extremist, but would now be open to anyone from any of the three WWE brands.

In all honesty, does this do anything other than make the ECW brand appear weak? There is no one wrestler not on ECW—from Triple-H to K.C. James—that could make this main event more enticing than it will be. To take the last spot and open it up to everyone seems desperate and highly unnecessary.

In other ECW news:
Sure, there was no real chance that Mike Knox was going to overcome the odds and win a spot in the “Extreme Elimination Chamber” match, but wasn’t it fun to watch C.M. Punk take his first step toward becoming a member of the WWE elite? His enthusiasm is infectious and it will only get better once he decides he dislikes us. Trust me.

The injustice of the week: Tommy Dreamer is a consummate professional and doesn’t get nearly the recognition he should. Everyone that follows the industry knows just how frustrated Dreamer is with the current direction of ECW, yet every week he’s out there shaming wrestlers 10-15 years his junior.

Wow! WCW stole Hulk Hogan away from the WWF. TNA nabbed Kurt Angle after he was let go by WWE. And, now, ECW has made history of its own by locking up—get this—Elijah Burke, Sylvester Terkay, Daivari, and The Great Khali. I just got goosebumps typing that list. Nope, wait … my bad … those were just dry heaves. Sorry.

Impact (11/09)
TNA’s Fight For The Right tournament concluded last night with Abyss—who had a bye for the middle 46 rounds of the battle—becoming the undisputed number-one contender to Sting and the NWA World title. The massive man-monster defeated A.J. Styles in the tournament finals despite outside interference from his keeper, James Mitchell, as well as Styles’ former tag team partner Christopher Daniels.

Perhaps the least surprising run-in came from “Captain Irrelevancy” Christian Cage, who has taken it upon himself to pop up in matches that have absolutely zero to do with him in order to assure the TNA fans that, yes, he is still alive and under contract.

Personally, I’m a fan of Cage’s, but this is getting sad, and I don’t exactly think it’s his fault that he’s been put in a situation where there’s no real upward mobility. He should take a lesson from Jeff Jarrett (yes, you read that right) and step away from the title for the time being and just focus on handling his business with Rhino. The strap will always be there; however, if Cage assumes the role of de facto Jarrett and chases a title he has no business pursuing, the fan support may not be as definite.

In other TNA news:
Apparently, after burying ECW time and time again, TNA is content to play off the history of Shane Douglas and Brother Ray—two ECW alum—to build a feud between The Naturals and Team 3D. To call this a step back would be a gross understatement. As far as I’m concerned, when Rhino torched the original ECW TV and World championship title belts earlier this year, the hardcore brand should have ceased to exist in TNA-land.

Petey Williams—arguably the most talented member of the now defunct Team Canada—is quickly becoming its least used alum, which is shameful. He had a nice win Thursday against Johnny Devine, so that should satisfy his fans until January or so.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 27-November 2

By Frank Ingiosi

In these days of uncertainty and confusion, the good fans of professional wrestling look for a voice to air their grievances concerning the misguided direction in which their sport of choice is headed. In their time of need, one Web-based column, buried deep in the bowels of the Internet, shines like a beacon of hope and truth in a world that, frankly, doesn’t make much sense anymore.

My name is Frank Ingiosi, and I approve this message. Enjoy “The Turn.” It’s what the founding fathers would’ve read had they not died hundreds of years ago.

Smackdown (10/27)
John Cena—a man once on the verge of being banished to Smackdown—once again saves the day as the center of attention during a special appearance last Friday night. Cena coupled with Smackdown’s Batista to take on the brand’s World champion, King Booker, and ECW champion The Big Show in a buildup to this weekend’s Cyber Sunday pay-per-view.

The rhetorical question I’ve asked numerous times regarding the drawing power of Batista bears repeating once again: Why isn’t he running the show over at Smackdown? I’m not particularly a fan of his, but something just doesn’t seem right when he’s the only person in the ring without gold around his waist. I’m going to go out on a limb here, and I could be way off, but I don’t see Batista as part of WWE in two years. Call it a hunch.

In other Smackdown news:
Breaking News: It is my sad and unfortunate duty to report that Tatanka is not only still with WWE, but has turned his back on his adoring fans and gone the route of the rulebreaker. Confusing? Yes. Pointless? Sure. But you have to admit, targeting Bobby Lashley is quite a gutsy move for the veteran.

For those of you who, like me, figured the Eddie Guerrero “Unrest In Peace Tour 2006” (keep it, WWE, you’ll just steal it anyway) was finished, it appears that standing in for the injured Rey Mysterio Jr. will be Chris Benoit. I say this with all due respect, but Chavo, Vickie, your 15 minutes ended about 30 minutes ago.

Think Smackdown isn’t watchable? I’ve got three words for ya: Kane and Undertaker. Loved it five years ago, loving it once again. For once, WWE has come up with an Attitude era reunion that works. Oh, don’t make me say it; you know what I mean.

The award for most disappointing championship feud not involving a man named Cena goes to (drum roll, please): Gregory Helms and Matt Hardy. Wow, this feud should be so much better than it is.

Where does the finicky television viewer go to find gratuitous implied nudity mixed with a tremendously overexposed reality star, and a grown man dressed in full Boogeyman regalia? The answer is Smackdown, of course. Last week we were treated to The Miz (Smackdown’s answer to K-Fed) hosting a Diva “Trick Or Treat” battle royal only to be disrupted by the returning Boogeyman. Naturally, the first thing that comes to the mind of any wrestling fan would have to be, “How in the blue hell is TNA losing to these guys?”

Raw (10/30)
Watching Raw World champion John Cena pummel Jonathan Coachman, who had “won” the fan voting for the right to receive the whooping, was not only satisfying, but actually made me think. Rare, I know.

My thoughts focused on whether the undoubtedly hectic schedule Cena’s been keeping—splitting time between competing in the ring and promoting The Marine—has caught up to the champ, forcing WWE Creative to have him focus his ire at the likes of Coachman and Kevin Federline over the past few weeks. If that’s the case, don’t be so quick to plunk down your hard-earned coin on Cena this weekend at Cyber Sunday.

While he doesn’t show any signs of wear, Cena has earned himself a well-deserved, albeit unlikely, break at some point in the near future.

In other Raw news:
The three potential guest referees—Vince McMahon, Jonathan Coachman, and Eric Bischoff—for the DX vs. Randy Orton and Edge match at Cyber Sunday plead their case in front of the viewing audience Monday night. While none of the three would make a particularly impartial official, I’d have to say the most intriguing would be Bischoff. He’s been away from the sport long enough to make him interesting once again, plus he’s not Vince McMahon. My second choice would have to be Coachman, who’s improving steadily and, also, is not Vince McMahon. My final choice, obviously, would be a hybrid, man-monster of Coachman and Bischoff. Subtle, no?

Carlito defeated Johnny Nitro (who’s stock is currently in freefall mode) and Shelton Benjamin (ditto) in a three-way match between potential competitors for Jeff Hardy at Cyber Sunday. You remember Carlito, right? Crazy hair, tons of talent, somehow behind Randy Orton despite the fact that he’s not a head case. Yeah, that guy.

Word of advice, once again, for my good friends at WWE: When someone chooses to leave the company—as in the case of Trish Stratus or, now, Lita—it’s probably best to not make it too widely known, especially when said person is heading into a title match.

Pick the event on Raw that was done so half-assedly that it blinded you with rage: a): Yet another Umaga squash of Eugene, further proving that WWE has no real plans for the undefeated “Samoan Bulldozer”; b) Dusty Rhodes—who actually was part of the NWA with Ric Flair—referring to the “Nature Boy” as the “six-time World champion”;
c) It’s a trick question, as both were pretty damn irritating.

I thought Cryme Tyme’s gimmick was that they were take-no-prisoners thugs who would take your wallet as easily as they would pat you on the back? Seems like, for now at least, they’re going with sloppy wrestling. Nice swerve!

ECW (10/31)
Announcing that ECW will be having its first pay-per-view since being brought back from wrestling purgatory, while simultaneously revealing that the brand will discontinue house shows is, as Senator Ted Kennedy once said, akin to “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

Nevertheless, ECW’s December To Dismember will feature the first ever “Extreme Elimination Chamber” match featuring the brand’s champion The Big Show defending the strap against four other competitors, one of which being former champion and current goat Rob Van Dam. The two remaining spots—Sabu defeated Kevin Thorn to nab one on Tuesday night—will be filled over the coming week.

While this is a relatively novel idea, I can’t imagine that the powers-that-be at WWE are tremendously excited about the prospects of an ECW pay show, and, if pressed to venture a guess, I’d say that the buy rate and fan response to the December event could very well determine the future of the fading brand.

In other ECW news:
As if the influx of WWE castoff talent wasn’t bad enough, the most insulting blow to the collective ego of ECW may have come Tuesday night as The Great Khali made his official debut with the brand, choke-slamming Shannon Moore, whose already been beaten by Daivari When your idea of “extreme” is a freakishly large guy who mumbles and slaps opponents in the head, you’ve officially lost touch with the fan base.

While the record book will forever state that it was Trinity who won the “Diva Costume Contest” this past Tuesday night, there truly were no real winners per se. The contest—basically a setup to push a C.M. Punk-Mike Knox feud—was more like watching the backup squad (you know, the girls that are saving up to go to “marine biology school”) at the Crazy Horse on a Wednesday night in February than the sultry, suggestive Halloween treat it was intended to be.

Impact (11/02)
For a brand that often wades into the waters of confusing angles and overly complex specialty matches, TNA’s Fight for the Right tournament is a head-scratcher of Gobbledy Gooker proportions.

The tournament began last week with a reverse battle royal, followed by an actual battle royal, topped off with a singles match to determine the order and match-ups in the tournament. Confused yet? Let’s move on.

Abyss—who had most recently been battling Raven and Brother Runt—ended up as the big winner and automatically moved to the tournament finals. Allow me—huh?

Now, the other six competitors will face off to determine who will move on to face … ah, crap … I lost my place. I have to start at the beginning. Forget it. The point is, while some of the things TNA has done could be considered quite innovative—of note, all things X-related—others are just too much of a stretch to be taken seriously (Lockdown, anyone?). The promotion needs to focus more on building the personas they have on Impact each week, as well as creating better angles. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: TNA, please get back to focusing on wrestling and establishing compelling personas. Leave the gimmicks to Stamford.

In other TNA news:
Your updated Fight for the Right standings:

•A.J. Styles not only advanced to the next stage by defeating Chris Sabin, but also captured the X division championship.
•Ron Killings advanced to the next stage by defeating Lance Hoyt.
•Robert Roode advanced to the next stage by defeating Christopher Daniels.

I believe the next stage consists of either a three-way match with the winner facing Abyss in the finals, or a reverse steel cage match where the winner must first get into the cage then force his opponent to put him in a submission move so he can tap out which then leads to a game of Russian Roulette against a trained chimp. I’m pretty sure it’s one of those two options.

One of the great, unanswered mysteries of wrestling: If a verbal shot is fired, but no one it is directed at hears it, does it make a sound? No doubt playing up to the Internet rumors that had The James Gang headed back north for a DX reunion, B.G. and Kip stormed out of the Impact Zone last night, angry at what they felt was TNA “dropping the ball” with them during their time in Orlando. For once, and write this down, I think I actually agree with the Jameses. They’re far better than their lot in TNA.

Matt Bentley and Frankie Kazarian interfered in Rhino and Christian Cage’s “Four Corner Pole” match last night, which, unfortunately, is a first incident of major TV facetime for either man in quite a while. Both men are as talented as anyone in TNA and, in a time where the X division was being relegated to an extended commercial for Jackass (of which the stars were appearing on WWE television at the time), guys with the skill of Bentley and Kazarian went weeks without so much as a sniff at televised competition. Something’s just wrong with that.

Smackdown (10/27)
John Cena—a man once on the verge of being banished to Smackdown—once again saves the day as the center of attention during a special appearance last Friday night. Cena coupled with Smackdown’s Batista to take on the brand’s World champion, King Booker, and ECW champion The Big Show in a buildup to this weekend’s Cyber Sunday pay-per-view.

 

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