PWI UPDATE ARCHIVES: 2008


THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 26, 2008-January 1, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 19-25, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 12-18, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 5-11, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of November 28-December 4, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of November 21-27, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of November 14-20, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of November 7-13, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 31-November 6, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 24-30, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 17-23, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 10-16, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 3-9, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 26-October 2, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 19-25, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 12-18, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 5-11, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of August 29-September 4, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of August 22-28, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of August 15-21, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of August 8-14, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of August 1-7, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of July 25-31, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of July 18-24, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of July 11-17, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of July 4-10, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of June 27-July 4, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of June 20-26, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of June 13-19, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of June 6-12, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 30-June 6, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 23-29, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 16-22, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 9-15, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 2-8, 2008
THE TURN SPECIAL EDITION: 2008 Hall of Fame Inductees
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of April 18-24, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of April 11-17, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of April 4-10, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 28-April 3, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 21-27, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 14-20, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 7-13, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of February 29-March 6, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of February 22-28, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of February 8-14, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of February 1-7, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 25-31, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 18-24, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 11-17, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 4-10, 2008
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 28, 2007-January 3, 2008

OLDER ARCHIVES
PWI Update Archives:July-December 2007
PWI Update Archives:January-June 2007
PWI Update Archives: November-December 2006
PWI Update Archives: September-October 2006
PWI Update Archives: August 2006
PWI Update Archives: July 2006
PWI Update Archives: June 2006
Older Archives

Newer Archives

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 26, 2008-January 1, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

Greetings and happy New Year to the six or seven of you who: A) Actually had to wake up and head to work today and, B) Are coherent enough to sit in front of your monitors and read this. You should all be celebrated and, if I were a multi-millionaire, I would pay you weekly for your loyal readership. Alas, I’m just not there yet (surprisingly, this weekly column is not recession proof) so you’re stuck with my utmost gratitude, which is not quite the same as cash, but we’ll both get past that.

So, let’s chat, eh? No fancy set-up; no blurbs for each show this week. I’ve sent the “Turn” staff home early to enjoy a long holiday weekend, recharge the batteries, and recover from the copious amounts of moonshine they consumed at yesterday’s Mummer’s Parade in Philadelphia. Look it up online if you’re not familiar; the goofiness and reputation is well warranted.

The week between the Christmas holiday and the New Year’s celebration is a weird one from a wrestling perspective. Much of what we see on television is pre-taped and, in all honesty, not of the most compelling quality. Do I blame the likes of TNA and WWE for not going all out in a time when fewer people, traditionally, will be tuning in to see their broadcasts? No, of course not. That’s like getting angry at the donut shop for not baking fresh batches right before closing time. It’s just bad business.

Still, there were a few nuggets of goodness to come out of the last week of wrestling. Shawn Michaels refused to lie down for JBL … so he allowed JBL to clothesline his righteous ass “straight to hell” before suffering the three-count. “Lying down”—technically, no—but very, very close. Of course, the fine team of “Turn” staffers called this move a few weeks back, but in all fairness, a blind man waking up from a 10-year coma could’ve seen this one coming. Still, it made for a compelling moment on a Monday night—the only night of live wrestling in the past week, mind you—generally devoid of such.

TNA decided to mail in whatever it was that they were usually going to mail in this week by going with the obligatory “Best of” show. In some ways, I actually respect this move in that there was no way on this planet, or any other, that Impact was going to compete with the plethora of college football bowl games on last night. Hell, you probably could’ve popped on the pwi-online.com Bowl, which doesn’t even exist (yet) but I’m working on it, and Impact still would’ve suffered. Some see it as admirable when the underdog fights back against all odds; I see it as silly in the world of business.

The rest of the WWE Universe (a phrase and campaign that has to go very early in 2009) shaped up as such: ECW was ECW was ECW, and Smackdown went largely unnoticed. Okay, that’s not fair and to be honest, there were a few points of interest that came from each show.

ECW showcased the surprise emergence of Jack Swagger (damn, that guy has huge teeth, eh?) as a force in the championship picture. Swagger attacked Matt Hardy during his show-opening match (yep, champ jerks the curtain) with Mark Henry and made his presence known to the current titleholder. I’m a fan of Swagger and always like to see things like this pan out, but it may be a bit too soon to think this guy is championship material. Sadly, Swagger’s interference overshadowed the ECW debut of Paul Birchall. Wow, Birchall went from goofy pirate, to OVW, to creepy sister-lover, to mid-card guy who used to be a pirate and creepy sister-lover in no time flat. Plus, making your debut during the down week of ECW is like getting traded from the Kansas City Royals to the Japanese equivalent of the Kansas City Royals, and no one notices.

Still, the disappointment of the week has to be Smackdown, which held the spot as my show of preference for the last few months but seems dangerously close to losing that title. The whole night just felt disjointed. Matches that didn’t have much bearing on the overall storylines permeated an evening that was capped off by a Jeff Hardy-Big Show non-title match that ended in a countout. If it wasn’t for Shelton Benjamin and Hurricane Helms putting on a very, very good match, I think I would’ve relegated Smackdown to number-two status.

In the end, the wrestling world earned this holiday break not because it has given us a stellar product for most of the year—because frankly, it hasn’t. No, the industry earned the break because it’s the end of the year and, despite being larger than life figures on the screen, they’re just as messed up as we are. Imagine what Christmas is like in the Kozlov house when Vladimir doesn’t pick up batteries for his 7-foot toddler’s toys; or how Awesome Kong celebrates New Years by beating the tar out of a Honey baked ham while Raisha Saeed slinks ominously around the kitchen. See—so like us.

I believe it was poet laureate and current DUI arrestee Charles Barkley who once said, “You can’t be mad at the truth.” The truth is this past week was the proverbial bye week for wrestling and I’m fine with that. I, for one, do not expect these performers to be on all the time and when they are, I think the product suffers. It’s good to have a week where little makes sense, folks go through the motions, and nothing is either lost or gained. But, of course, my tune will change this time next week. Let’s hope the industry gets back to business by that point and starts disappointing us in new and interesting ways in 2009.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 19-25

By Frank Ingiosi

I don’t care how right I am at times, there are still moments that make me really enjoy the sport. This past Monday night’s main event on Raw involving my personal all-time favorite female wrestler—Trish Stratus—was one of those moments.

It’s not that I didn’t have the sinking suspicion that she would be part of the program in some way. Hell, it was all that was discussed on the Internet in the days leading up to the program so even the most casual of fans could have deduced a Trish Stratus appearance. Even still, I think that aside from having the simple pleasure of watching Trish in action, my excitement for Monday night had a deeper meaning for the status of the sport. Specifically, I’m thinking about the overall status of the women who wrestle for WWE.

Of late, there really isn’t much intrigue or excitement coming from the women’s division on Raw and, painful as it may be to hear, there are striking similarities between said program and another promotion’s offering on Thursday nights. Both involve dominant female champions, accompanied by foreign contingencies who get involved in their matches, and neither of which have legitimate competition for their gold. For as much as the big dogs don’t want to acknowledge the others in the pack, the connections are pretty straightforward.

Seeing Trish on Monday night reminded me of a time, not too long ago, when women’s wrestling in WWE seemed to be on the rise. Trish and Mickie James were actually wowing fans with their matches, Candice Michelle was gradually becoming more serviceable in the ring, and Victoria was always waiting in the wings as a very talented option as the go-to villain. While fans weren’t tuning in to check out the latest in women’s wrestling on Raw, they certainly weren’t changing the channel when it occurred, either.

Today, in contrast, we have Beth Phoenix who I love and, sadly, very little after that. Some of the same names remain, but unfortunately none have maintained the momentum they once carried. Of course, the situation isn’t helped by the facts that WWE not only paired up the women’s champ with the goofy-ass Santino, but it also introduced a second, way more depressing title in the Divas championship. C’mon … the belt has a butterfly on it for god’s sake. A butterfly! Why not just call it the Glamour Shots Invitational title and get it over with.

Sorry … let’s steer this puppy back on to the road.

While I’m well aware that in the overall economics of WWE, women’s wrestling makes up only the slimmest of percentages, it’s still part of the weekly programming and, thus, should probably be given a bit more attention than it’s been receiving. It feels very much like WWE has fallen back to the “throw-two-incredibly-hot-women-in-the-ring, let-them-roll-around-and-the-guys-will-go-wild” days of only a few years back, which is fine if the company intends to phase out skilled women altogether. If that’s the case, I wish WWE would please let me know so I can catch up on other sports during those three minutes each Monday night.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (12/19)
No matter how far removed we are from the historic collapse of their one-time great friendship, watching Matt Hardy and Edge rehash past grudges will never—ev-er—get old. It’s rare in today’s industry to sit and watch a program live or at the arena and actually feel as if the two competitors genuinely hate each other, yet that’s what we got last Friday night on Smackdown when both Edge and Hardy assailed each other with vicious accusations and put-downs. We at “The Turn” don’t care, nor do we believe, that these guys have moved on from their sordid past. It just makes for great television.

Raw (12/22)
Aside from the aforementioned return of Trish, the Y2J vs. Punk match that immediately preceded it was a real gem. Neither man performed any breathtaking maneuvers in or around the ring, but the bout was one of those “competitive” rarities where you’re not quite sure who’s going home with the win. There were lots of convincing near falls and a ton of crowd heat. It was also curious to hear the Toronto fans cheering for their fellow Canadian, Y2J, who, by the way, was voted 2008’s Most Hated Wrestler by PWI readers. And the world says us Yanks are jingoistic.

ECW (12/23)
ECW ran its obligatory “Best of 2008” program on Tuesday night. It lasted six minutes. Okay, fine, that may have been a bit low and, in fact, there were actually a few good things to come out of Tuesday nights this past year. For those wondering, we at “The Turn” have boiled down ECW 2008 to our three favorite moments in no particular order: 1) Matt Hardy wins the ECW title, 2) Mark Henry wins the ECW title, and 3) Evan Bourne’s emergence. Hey, that’s like two more than we could have said in 2007, so maybe WWE is on to something. Maybe.

Impact (12/25)
Last night Chris Sabin advanced to the finals of the X division title tournament, which will take place on January 11 at the promotion’s Genesis pay-per-view. On the other side of the bracket—for those of you not paying particularly close attention—is the remaining semi-final match between Eric Young and Alex Shelley, who just so happens to be Sabin’s Motor City Machine Guns partner. This leads to tons of potential intrigue at Genesis. We at “The Turn” are pulling for a MCMG battle for the ages with the gold on the line, regardless of what it will do to the tandem following the bout. Our early favorite for you betting types is Sabin.

And Finally … In a “Turn” first: As we generally will not embed links to videos here, and in the spirit of the holiday season, enjoy this ferocious promo from a 1982 episode of Georgia Championship Wrestling. It’s clean, funny, and makes you wonder how wrestling ever evolved to what it is today: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8vHhWa8F1s
How the great Gordon Solie kept a straight face throughout is beyond us.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 12-18

By Frank Ingiosi

No, my face-painted, mesh-glove-wearing, demon-facing friends; you will get no mea culpa here.

Not now, not ever.

See, a few weeks back, I ripped into Jeff Hardy for his participation in an angle that seemed to bring a little too much of his personal struggles into his televised persona. Simply because the man had the match of his life last Sunday night and captured the richest prize in the top promotion in the sport does not exonerate him for being part of the “passed out in his hotel” angle. Just doesn’t. Sorry.

Regardless of whether or not that was a smart move by Hardy, the man is now WWE champion and has gone from the dustbin of the industry to the top of the proverbial mountain in only a few years time. It’s hard to argue, in that respect, that all the steps he’s taken and decisions he’s made since returning to WWE—including that angle—were bad ideas. Hell, the guy’s 10-pounds heavier for it. And, while I still do not see anything wrong with condemning the guy for being part of the angle, it does not mean I can’t celebrate his success.

Frankly, I’m thrilled for Jeff and WWE. Hardy as a bona fide top guy is good for the company and for the watchability of Friday nights. On top of that, I had a sinking feeling we were going to see a Triple-H/Edge feud that, honestly, does nothing for me at this point. So, in that regard, Jeff Hardy as WWE champion is a godsend. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that the man who has fought his way back to not only relevance but straight-up dominance is little more than a placeholder for the gold.

Earlier this year, we saw what appeared to be the ushering-in of C.M. Punk as a top guy on the Raw brand. After cashing in his “Money-In-The-Bank” title shot and shocking both Edge and the world by capturing the World title, Punk strung together a series of impressive title defenses in order to justify his holding of the strap. Yet, as abruptly as he won the title, it was taken away from him. In fact, the guy didn’t even get to lose the title in the ring; he could not compete in the “Championship Scramble” after a Randy Orton sneak job. Since then, Punk moved on to chasing both the WWE World tag team title and the Intercontinental title.

Could Hardy be in line for the same fate as Punk? On top of that, how long will Jeff have to prove that he’s not only a viable champion but worthy of being the torch-bearer for the future of the company? Punk’s audition seemed far too short and, let me tell you, that guy moves merchandise. Arguably, Hardy—another bankable player—has a better-established and rabid fanbase in WWE than Punk at this point which should bode well for his longevity. Of course, being part of the same brand as HHH doesn’t give you me confidence in a long Hardy title run.

I hope Hardy gets a fair shake in his first run as WWE champion. It’s better off for the company to have more guys with legitimate chances of being “the man” and it’s definitely worthwhile to ride the wave of popularity that is Jeff Hardy right now.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (12/12)
R-Truth—you’ve lost us. Despite pulling off the “upset” over a beyond-slumping MVP last Friday night on Smackdown, the former Mr. Killings was unimpressive and, quite honestly, annoying. The constant bellowing of “What’s up?” mid-match has all the monotony of “Stone-Cold” Steve Austin’s “What?” line and nearly none of the catchiness. Perhaps we held R-Truth up to too high a standard upon his return to WWE and, in such, we’re judging him against what we expected. Wait … nope. It was the ridiculous number of promos prior to his lackluster debut.

Raw (12/15)
The wrestler formerly known as Deuce debuted on Monday night under a new persona more in line with his family legacy. Sim Snuka, as he will now be called, seemed a lot like Deuce minus the Danny Zucco gimmick. That’s right, we went all Grease on you; deal with it. While we at “The Turn” prefer this Snuka to Deuce Snuka, we’re not entirely sure he’s Legacy material as seems to be the hint. We’d like to see it happen, though, as someone needs to take our attention away from Cody Rhodes’ mugging. Ouch.

ECW (12/16)
Are there six guys on ECW? The interns we keep locked in the basement at “Turn” headquarters have been forced to watch hours and hours of ECW over the past few months and yet each week the brand feels as if it’s showcasing the same half-dozen folks. Think, The last 15 minutes of Raw or Smackdown for an hour. No mid-carders, no mid-card, no nothing. Reigning champ Matt Hardy held on to the ECW title by defeating Chavo Guerrero Jr. … in the opening match. That’s extreme-ly pointless.

Impact (12/18)
We’re all for taunting and berating your opponent in any manner possible, but Kurt Angle may have gone a bit overboard last night when he declared that after Genesis Jeff Jarrett’s daughters would be “orphans” and that maybe he would “adopt them.” When something other than a gimmick match in TNA makes us feel uncomfortable—such as this does—then something is wrong. We’re not sure whether this makes us more intrigued to check out Genesis or just creeped out.

And Finally … Last Sunday night’s WWE championship victory by Jeff Hardy was only the third time this calendar year that the championship changed hands, which is actually the least amount of all three brands. Next in line is the ECW title, which was held by four different men in 2008. Perhaps something of a surprise, the World heavyweight title changed hands seven times between six men and was vacated on one occasion.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 5-11

By Frank Ingiosi

Shocking as it may seem, the under-used Snitsky was formally released by WWE Thursday afternoon. Perhaps even more insane is the fact that I’m devoting even more virtual ink to the man once so dedicated to getting his persona accepted, he voluntarily stained his teeth to look the part. Like him or not, Snitsky tried to be as creepy as possible. And that earns my respect every time.

The announcement was made through one of the company’s sterile press releases, if you can call them that anymore, via wwe.com. By now, even the most casual wrestling fan could probably recite the dreaded WWE firing language verbatim. You know the routine, right?

“World Wrestling Entertainment has come to terms on the release of (brand) Superstar (someone not named Triple-H) as of today, (mid-month date). WWE wishes (whomever) the best in all future endeavors.”

It’s quick, painless, and signifies the end of all you’ve ever worked for as a wrestler. With all due respect to the TNA’s of the world, there isn’t a wrestler alive who grew up imagining they’d headline Bound For Glory someday … yet. Nope, scratch that … ever. It’s never happened and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. No, kids who aspire to make it big in the sport someday envision doing so in WWE.

I bring this up not to eulogize the WWE tenure of Gene Snitsky. Overall, despite my enjoyment of his sheer creepiness, there really wasn’t a ton over which to be excited. The guy held approximately zero championships and was better known for a bizarre foot fetish and indirectly causing Lita’s miscarriage of Kane’s spawn (typing that still makes me cringe). Essentially, WWE did not lose a Hall of Famer in the move. I suppose what makes me even address the issue is the mere presence of one Mike Knox.

See, I’m of the opinion that Mike Knox out-Snitskied Snitsky. He’s cornered the market on the creepy drifter look and apparently has more wrestling lives than a cat. Seriously, Madonna could take a tip or two from this guy on how to repackage one’s image, and she used to profess being a skank before going all British school mum … and then back to skank. Knox’s brooding segments on Raw where he simply appears and stares down whatever is in front of him made Snitsky, well, irrelevant.

Apparently, there’s just not enough room in the WWE Universe for more than one lower mid-card guy with the same gimmick. Of course, the fact that there has really been nothing memorable thus far or on the horizon for Snitsky didn’t help his chances of staying employed through the holidays. But, being the conspiracy theorist I am, I choose to believe that the man simply got out-Snitskied. Remember that term because something tells me I’ll be saying it again very soon.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (12/5)
We’ve hammered him here in the past, but “The Turn” would like to formally welcome back Hurricane Helms to Smackdown and congratulate him on his victory over MVP last Friday night. Helms looked good in his return but, most importantly, he looked like a guy who appreciated the gravity of the moment and truly relished being in the ring. Far too many guys seem to take just that for granted. Welcome back, Hurricane, and stay healthy. WWE needs more guys like him.

Raw (12/8)
WWE resurrected the Slammys for Monday night’s special three-hour edition of Raw and, if we do say so ourselves, it wasn’t half bad. While we pine for the days of wrestlers in theme-styled tuxes sitting around tables—good guys with good guys and villains with other villains—the method of distributing the awards between matches and segments worked pretty well this time around. Undoubtedly, however, the moment of the night came when Kane and Kelly Kelly presented the “Couple Of The Year” award to Edge and Vickie Guerrero. Without missing a beat, the massive monster turned to his petite co-presenter and lamented, “The last time I was in a relationship, I ‘Tombstoned’ a priest.” Brilliant.

ECW (12/9)
Wow—at least when The Great Khali became expendable on Smackdown he was moved to Raw. If you think you’re having a bad week, consider Vladimir Kozlov. The guy went from being the unstoppable monster of a man with WWE’s top prize in his sites, to the odd man out of the championship picture, to challenging Matt Hardy for ECW silver. To be fair, ECW is probably where Kozlov belonged the whole time, however to go from WWE championship contender to chasing around a clearly more talented Hardy has to be viewed as a demotion.

Impact (12/11)
So much to choose from, so little space. The Main Event Mafia once again ruled the night by turning Frontline member Brother Ray into their latest beatdown victim. The 20-time World tag champ ended up in a dumpster for his efforts however, conspicuously, Sting stayed off to the side during the mayhem. Some believe he’s the “hand’s off” Don of the family, but we at “Turn” headquarters like to believe there’s something deeper keeping him away. Shifting gears, Curry Man was fired last night after opening his “Feast Or Fired” briefcase to reveal that yes, he was fired. Poor guy. In a wholly unrelated story, last year’s “Feast Or Fired” casualty, Christopher Daniels, has yet to be heard from since leaving TNA.

And Finally … With Eric Young’s X division championship winning effort last Sunday night at TNA’s Final Resolution, he upheld what’s quickly becoming a tradition at the event. Only once in the five times the promotion has held the event has the X division title remained with the man who possessed it at the beginning of the night. Samoa Joe’s victory over Christopher Daniels in 2006 is the only time the title hasn’t changed hands at the event. Unfortunately, the ruling victory was overturned due to referee interference and now we get the great pleasure of watching an X division championship tournament for the next few weeks. Lucky us.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of November 28-December 4

By Frank Ingiosi

What did I just read? My god—this can’t be for real, can it?

That’s right; despite being jaded to the point where things in my everyday life are viewed with the skeptical, “Who in this room will turn on me?” eye of a wrestling fan, every now and then I’m a sucker. There’s one of us born every minute, in case you were wondering.

Still, that was my initial reaction upon reading the news last Sunday morning that Jeff Hardy—slated to make a run at the WWE championship later that night—was found unconscious in his hotel in the wee hours of the morning. According to the blurb—released by Jeff’s employer—he was found unconscious in the stairwell of his hotel thus putting his availability for the title match that night at Survivor Series in jeopardy.

Wow—I hope the guy hasn’t blown anoth … wait … why is WWE reporting this?

Consider the source, my friends. Always consider the source. Yep. I may be a sap, but generally it only lasts a moment or two. This time around, it took only as long as my eyes needed to adjust to the font on the page. WWE was running an angle the day of a pay-per-view that would have drastic implications on the night’s events. The match of the night was arguably going to be altered beyond repair for reasons I still have yet to discover.

Now, while this is relatively old news as far as the wrestling world is concerned, I held off on discussing it here until I had time to develop my opinion, which, shockingly, isn’t favorable. Regardless of the implication the Hardy angle had on the Survivor Series, the queasy feeling that came with the mere framing of the storyline brought me back to a place I had long since forgotten. Follow my instant logic:

Big name wrestler + title contention + found unconscious + hotel = Queasy feeling

I know I was not alone in thinking this sounded way too close to the situation in which Eddie Guerrero was found nearly three years ago to the day of Survivor Series 2008. The imagery was vivid and the flood of confusion and disappointment came rushing back. No, I wasn’t feeling the same hurt that came with Eddie’s passing, but rather a wholly different disappointment. The kind that comes with watching someone you admire sellout in such a tasteless way.

The powers that be up in Stamford, Connecticut, apparently made the call on how everything would be framed and, of course, Jeff played it up. Jeff, the guy who nearly lost his entire career fighting off “demons,” was now in a storyline that gave off the appearance that maybe he had relapsed into a world he apparently left behind. Jeff, the guy who at one time epitomized all things rebellious and fun within the new generation of WWE employees, was now little more a cog in the machine.

In the end, of course, it was revealed that Hardy’s incapacitation was simply the result of a surprise attack by Edge who took advantage of the situation and captured the WWE title. So, in that respect, no harm-no foul, right? Well, for some, sure. I, on the other hand, love to hold a grudge and this time will be no different. Sadly, Jeff Hardy—a guy I’ve genuinely enjoyed watching progress—now gets linked forever with such brilliant angles as Scott Hall’s “show up drunk” angles in the waning days of WCW.

Of course I’ll concede that both the sport and overall industry are not what they used to be and, frankly, I’m not advocating that things should go back to the way they were. But, given the phenomenal amount of negative publicity WWE, specifically, has had to endure over the past three years, and the horrific circumstances under which great wrestlers have passed during that time, this angle just seems flat out stupid.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (11/28)
Despite “The Turn’s” official position that the Jeff Hardy hotel victimization angle was in poor taste, we can’t exactly hammer the blue brand for the way they handled the pending four-way battle for the strap. Quite simply—and cleverly, to boot—Vladimir Kozlov was ousted from the title picture and both Triple-H and Hardy maintained their spots by both winning matches in the exact same amount of time during last Friday’s “Beat The Clock” challenge. In essence, Kozlov was traded for Edge, his creepy-ass beard, and his painfully annoying, egomaniacal wife. Well done, Smackdown. You just got a top of the rotation pitcher for a rosin bag and sack of Big League Chew.

Raw (12/1)
We at “The Turn” headquarters hate to break down that fourth wall that exists between televised wrestling and the real world. Hell, if it were up to us we’d just comment on what we see and encourage discussion among fellow fans. But, Rey Mysterio’s absolutely atrocious “fall” from the ramp on Monday night is one instance where we feel compelled to point out a flub. The only way Rey’s calculated drop from the ramp, which led to his elbow injury, could have been cheesier would have been if he landed in a vat of Kraft Monterrey Jack. Check it out for yourself if you don’t believe us, it's around the 1:08 mark. Oh, and we would be remiss to not mention the greatness that is John Bradshaw Layfield. His pending angle with Shawn Michaels—another genius—could be legendary.

ECW (12/2)
You’re going to eventually like D.J. Gabriel. No seriously, you will. There hasn’t been a U.K. import in WWE that has as much potential and raw talent as he does in years. The gimmick, well sure, we could all do without that. The whole thing just stinks of a room full of middle-aged men so far out of touch with pop culture believing that this is a good idea. But, hey, we’ve seen far worse than a guy who’s into dancing and hip-hop, right? And, it did work for John Cena, right? And at least half of you like him. Plus, we get to see Alicia Fox on a weekly basis. So, in this instance, the positives win out over the negatives—for now.

Impact (12/4)
There’s not a lot to Rhino aside from yelling “Gore” and, well, delivering them. We know that and, more importantly, we’re not going to try to convince you of anything different. Still, everyone at “The Turn” have always been supporters of the massive man from “Motown,” so it was nice to see Rhino grab a nice non-title victory over Sting last night on Impact. Obviously, Rhino is getting more of an up-front role as a major member of the Frontline faction that is attempting to bring down the Main Event Mafia, and we’re hoping he makes the most of it. The guy’s been through so much and has bounced back so many times that he deserves this break.

And Finally Happy birthday to everyone’s favorite pest and the man who made Bruno Sammartino’s life miserable for a good portion of his career, Larry Zbyszko, who turns 55 today.

 

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of November 21-27

By Frank Ingiosi

Happy belated Thanksgiving, my fellow Americans. My apologies for this special Monday morning edition of “The Turn,” however the powerful combination of tryptophan and wine still takes an amazingly powerful toll on yours truly. Sure, I watched the wrestling and had plenty to say on what transpired over the past nine days, but lifting my hands to simply press the keys seemed far too laborious after half of a pecan pie.

So, here we are in this unfamiliar territory known as Monday morning. I’ll do my best to start the week following a long holiday weekend as entertainingly as possible. Not the most desirable position to be in but, hey, it could be worse. I could be the guy that came up with the new nickname of the TNA originals, right? More on that later.

First, as promised, a couple of reactions to our anointing of Matt Striker as the heir apparent to Bobby Heenan a few weeks back. While the overall response was generally positive, not everyone agreed with our assessment of Striker’s prowess on the mike. Jimmy Nance of Asheboro, North Carolina, wrote, “[S]triker, as an ex-teacher, is articulate and, has some in-ring experience as well. That said, Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan is, was, and will always be one of the absolute greatest commentators ever. Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon were the best ever, closely followed by Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. Striker is such a self absorbed, smarmy personality, I can't see him ever reaching Heenan’s level.”

Another reader, Mark Kausch, chimed in with a similar sentiment in that Striker, although talented, will likely never raise his game to the status of a Heenan. Mark wrote, “Striker may never reach the lofty heights of Heenan, but he is a fine color man. The man does his homework. If you can't tell by listening, ask JR. He'll testify.” While we at “The Turn” stick to our assessment, we appreciate the feedback and will always welcome differing opinions.

Finally, when we’re wrong at “Turn” headquarters, we’ll readily admit it. In the nearly three years since we began writing this very column, by hand, while imprisoned in a Spanish dungeon just outside Barcelona, this may only be the third time we’ve had to admit a mistake. Yet, kudos go out to reader Frank Deluca who pointed out that our And Finally regarding William Regal’s dual King of the Ring-Intercontinental title runs was incorrect. We asserted that Brock Lesnar was the last to complete the feat of holding a major singles title and the KOTR crown, it was actually Booker T in 2006. Our mistake. Great catch, Frank.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (11/21)
Heading into Survivor Series two Sunday’s back, the buzz coming from England—the site of last week’s Smackdown—was the unlikely victory by Jeff Hardy over then-champion Triple-H which secured him a spot in the WWE championship match at the pay-per-view. Hardy, who we have both lauded and criticized in recent months, pulled off the win with outside interference by Vladimir Kozlov and seemed poised to capture his first WWE title at Survivor Series. Whatever could have prevented Jeff from doing just that last Sunday night? The only thing that could get in Jeff’s way at this point would be Jeff or, possibly, the unlikely and convoluted return of someone who had been away from the ring for a few months, right? More to come on garbage next week.

Raw (11/24)
We’re not quite sure what made us feel queasier on Monday night: Yet another “rally the troops”/”I’m one of you” promo by a once-again returning from injury John Cena, or, Goldust. Although we’re generally not overly critical of Cena, we have to give the nod to the World champ in this battle. It’s not that the returning Goldust isn’t creepy—because, boy, he is—rather it’s more about Cena’s “rah-rah,” cheesy-ass promo that left us with that feeling of sugar shock on Monday night. We get it, John, you love the fans and were one of us at some point. Bleh.

ECW (11/25)
Either Tommy Dreamer is as great as we always have tended to believe he is or Jack Swagger is truly the real deal that we, again, always have tended to believe he is. Either way, was that not a hell of a match on Tuesday night or what? It’s always great to see a quality match on ECW, yet when it’s one of the last remaining members of the brand’s heyday having an equally paced and entertaining bout with an up-and-coming star in the making—albeit one in the typical WWE mold—you have to take notice. Swagger got the hard-fought victory and has officially cemented himself as the new “It-guy” of the sport right now.

Impact (11/27)
Sorry, Raw, but there was another program that confused us nearly as much as you did this week. Although Impact was arguably more entertaining this past week, it was not without two very frustrating moments that had everyone at “Turn” headquarters dropping their Turducken and scratching our heads. First, who the hell came up with the nickname “Front Line” for the TNA originals? Aside from striking fear in the hearts of no one, Front Line is perhaps better known as not only a popular PBS program, but also a brand of flea and tick control for pets. Secondly, the Turkey Bowl has to stop … now. It was goofy last year, goofy this year, and will be goofy next year. For anyone interested, Rhino won the $25,000 check and Alex Shelly was the unfortunate recipient of the turkey costume and a subsequent beatdown by Mick Foley.

And Finally … Survivor Series 2008 marked the second time the event was held in lovely Boston, Massachusetts. The last time Beantown held a Survivor Series was 1993. That night, there was no singles match on the live card and no titles changed hands. Perhaps more interesting, two current WWE stars competed as part of the event. Shawn Michaels—leading his team of Knights—lost to the collective Hart Family whereas The Undertaker—a member of the All-Americans—were victorious over The Foreign Fanatics.

 

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of November 14-20

By Frank Ingiosi

The beauty of a guy like the late Evel Knievel was that you never knew when he would actually stick a landing. Odds were he was going to hit the ground at an ungodly speed after abandoning an inhuman jump midway through the air. There was a perverse beauty in watching the man fail so miserably at his goal, yet entertain us so wonderfully.

I mention Mr. Knievel this week because I’m starting to get the same feeling about Jeff Hardy lately. Although he lands safely more often than not, to watch Hardy “throw caution to the wind”—whatever the hell that means—and take on the biggest and baddest the Smackdown brand has to offer is both exciting and terrifying.

All daredevils have a Humpty Dumpty-like fall sooner or later, and Hardy will be no different. Physically, the man is setting himself up to be the poster-boy for Medicare … in his 30s. Fine, maybe it’s not that bad, but who doesn’t cringe when they see Hardy go all-out on a nightly basis against guys slower and larger than he is?

That’s something most people don’t consider: It’s one thing to fall from the sky onto a waiting opponent, and it’s something completely different when the opponent is built like a tank and just as quick. Hardy’s moving at a different speed—both physically and psychologically—than anyone in the company right now. He’s two-to-three moves ahead of each opponent and driven unlike anyone I’ve seen in a very, very long time.

So, what’s the deal, Frank? Why gripe about a man who looks like he’s finally ready to take his place amongst the immortals?

Glad you asked me. Gravity, my dear self, gravity. What goes up must come down. It just does. Hardy’s phenomenal ride to the top is moving at a breakneck pace. Not only is there no way he can keep up this pace but, if he does in fact reach the promised land, it’s just as likely that his title reign would be as quick and painfully dazzling as a Knievel jump.

In the end, I’m gladly pulling for Hardy if only to see a legitimate change of pace in WWE’s championship picture. Plus, having both Hardy Boyz (the ‘z’ makes it extreme, right?) as champions of their respective brands would be pretty cool and unprecedented, if memory serves me correct.

Here’s to hoping Jeff sticks this landing.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (11/14)
We’re throwing our collective “Turn” hat in the ring as of this morning: Maria Kanellis will be ours. Call it an early New Year’s resolution, call it a pipedream, call it eventual evidence in our prosecution for stalking but we don’t care. We’ll yell it from the rooftops: We Love Maria Kanellis-Turn (of course, we’ll allow her to hyphenate the name). See, the reason for this burst of confidence is due in part to the events that transpired last Friday night. Maria—or, as we’ll call her over brunches in our breakfast nook, “Re-Re”—soothed the crazy beast that is Festus after he had a ring-bell induced conniption following her match. Naturally, being the kind-hearted saint she is, Maria showed compassion to Festus leading us to believe that given her track record of on-screen relationships we—the entire “Turn” crew—have a shot! C’mon Festus, Santino, and now “The Turn”! Think about it, Maria.

Raw (11/17)
We at “The Turn” have extolled the virtues (from a wrestling perspective) of both C.M. Punk and Randy Orton. And, as always, we stand by our assessment. Yet, the display fans were treated to on Monday night in their “Lumberjack Match” surprised even the staunchest supporters of both men. Apparently, WWE was giving the milk away for free Monday night in a broadcast that really did not provide the type of buildup you would expect to see leading into Survivor Series. And, depending on your perspective, the Orton-Punk main event may have actually destroyed any hope of this Sunday’s event being salvageable. Why would WWE allow such a great match—with such a garbage ending—to be the last image from its flagship program prior to the pay-per-view? Orton stole a victory and, naturally, all the lumberjacks fought in the ring after the match. Typical WWE finish to an a-typical weekly match.

ECW (11/18)
Please don’t take this the wrong way, but we desperately need someone to explain Ricky Ortiz to us, and quick. We enjoy his style and the bit of comedy he’ll bring to the program at times, but we’re just having a hard time finding that certain something that leads us to believe there is greatness in this guy. Oh, it could absolutely be there, we just need a little help finding it. Hence, this week we announce the “Help ‘The Turn’ Understand Ricky Ortiz” contest. Please send your explanation of Ricky Ortiz’ appeal to pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com and if your explanation is the best, we’ll let you decide the topic for the following week’s column lead-in, complete with all the credit you could want. Send them in now. The winner will be announced in two-weeks. If we get zero responses, all we can assume is that you don’t see it either.

Impact (11/20)
We’re still digging the Main Event Mafia. Call us suckers, but it’s still pretty damn cool to see those guys together. But, how funny is it that the de facto leader of the faction is not even the TNA World champion. As if seeing Sting sans face paint isn’t weird enough, seeing him as the World champ in the background as Kurt Angle takes over is just odd. No doubt, it will be the collective egos of this group that eventually tear it apart from the inside. Still, we should enjoy the ride while we’re on it. This should be the golden age of TNA. If this group were in WWE it would be considered the “Greatest In Wrestling History.” Yet, while it is the main angle of Impact, it still doesn’t feel as if the MEM has grabbed its rightful place in wrestling history just yet.

And Finally … The Survivor Series to be held at TD Banknorth Garden this weekend will feature six matches: three traditional Series bouts, two World championship bouts, and one grudge match. All totaled, 36 current members of the WWE roster will compete. Impressive? Consider this: 20 years ago at the Survivor Series in Richfield, Ohio, there were only four matches—all traditional Series matches—and 50 competitors were involved. The longest bout of the night—a 10-on-10 tag team Survivor Series match—went an astonishing 42 minutes. That’s enough time for two beer runs and a brief nap.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of November 7-13

By Frank Ingiosi

I never thought I would be forced to ask the following question, but Vickie Guerrero has become such an integral part of WWE that she has now created a history all her own. So, given that, how will history look back on Vickie Guerrero and her role as an everyday member of the Smackdown brand? My guess: unfairly.

Like it or not, the fact is that had her legendary husband not passed away as early and shockingly as he did, Vickie Guerrero would likely never have become a part of WWE. I won’t say that she “never” would have been a part of the company because as the equally legendary publisher Stu Saks always reminds me, “Never say ‘never’ in wrestling.” But, in all likelihood, Vickie would not have reached the level of prominence she has. But, does that mean that she’s not deserving of the job she has? I would argue, no, that’s not true.

My take on Vickie waivers from week to week. Sometimes, I revile her duplicitous nature and seemingly boundless power. She loves destroying all things good and will stop at nothing to see her enemies punished. Yep, there are still times I get sucked in as much as any dope. Conversely, there are times where Vickie comes off so poorly at being on screen that it pains me to watch. Deep down, I resent her and whoever it was behind the scenes that thought her current angle was good for the company. I call those times “every other week.”

Point is, Vickie’s on-screen persona is as divisive as any in the industry. Think, Jeff Jarrett with more baggage. When her time with the company is done and I think back on the Vickie Guerrero Era, I believe I will do so with tempered appreciation. She got under my skin on a weekly basis and, really, that’s all I could ask for as a fan. For me, the end will absolutely justify the strange means.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (11/7)

Not since the grand old days of high school has the accusation “you’re not even extreme anymore” worked in goading someone to do something drastically against his or her better interest. Yet, Friday night, that is exactly what the aforementioned Vickie Guerrero used to stoke the flame of competition in Jeff Hardy and push him into doing the unthinkable—cost The Undertaker a match and promise to take out the “Dead Man” the following week. In one respect, it’s pretty cool to see Hardy so driven to capture the WWE championship that he would teeter on the edge (from a wrestling perspective, of course), yet setting his sights on ’Taker may be a bit much. He’ll get his chance tonight in an “Extreme Rules” match that will either end in Hardy’s latest biggest win or his ultimate destruction. Either way, win-win for us.

Raw (11/10)

In the order of greatest inventions of the 21st century, few will ever surpass the ingenuity that was the Honk-a-Meter. That’s right … was. As of Monday night’s Raw held in Manchester, England, the Honk-a-Meter is no more thanks to hometown favorite William Regal. Seemingly on the verge of breaking through to the Intercontinental championship scene, Regal made very short work of then-champion Santino Marella to capture the title in front of a naturally partisan crowd. The win resulted in Regal’s first Intercontinental championship since 2002. It was arguably the highlight of the night. Given the very public nature of the demons Regal has overcome to get back to this point, we at “The Turn” salute one of our favorite rulebreakers on his achievement while still mourning the loss of our favorite meter.

ECW (11/11)

We at “The Turn” are unabashed stooges for the greatness that is Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. He was the voice of unreason throughout the modern day golden era of wrestling and is unquestionably one of the great personalities in the history of the sport. Now, with that being said—and hopefully you understand our seriousness here—Matt Striker could end up being the Heenan of this generation. Let’s get it out of the way now: Please send your hate e-mail to either pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com or directly to the great staff of Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Make sure to put “Have Yous Freakin’ Lost It?” in the subject line. Now, let us elaborate. Striker has had a moderately eventful career thus far: First he was an active wrestler, he followed that with stints as a cornerman, and now he’s behind the mike. And, although he’s been fine as a wrestler and manager, as the color commentator for ECW Striker has put forth his best work. Admittedly, it’s probably too soon to anoint the man with such a lofty comparison, but it’s about time to start thinking about it.

Impact (11/13)

So, what’s worse: losing a highly publicized match for a title that still makes no sense or being pummeled by so-called friends and ostensibly being written out of the company? Unfortunately for Christian Cage, he got a chance to find out last night. Cage, who is the topic of many an Internet rumor right now regarding his contract status with the company that made him a world champion, was screwed out of a victory against Booker T with the Legends title (nope, we still don’t get it, either) on the line at Turning Point and then forced to become a member of the Main Event Mafia as punishment. Adding injury to injury, the Mafia ceremoniously dismantled Cage last night, making mention of the former champ’s rumored departure for the company up north. We at “The Turn” tend to take on-screen recitations of Internet rumors as confirmation that, well, they’re a load of crap. Yet, if this is the end of Cage’s days with TNA, it would be a shame to see him go out like that, although not entirely shocking. Nothing like softening up the opposition’s acquisition, right?

And Finally … With his victory on Monday night, William Regal became the first sitting King of the Ring to hold a major WWE championship at the same time since Brock Lesnar accomplished the same feat with the WWE title in, ironically, 2002—the year Regal won his first I-C championship.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 31-November 6

By Frank Ingiosi

Celebrity … Championship … Wrestling.

No three words have ever made less sense to me as a fan, and especially now as a writer. The premise of the program is as clear as the wording of the title: “celebrities” wrestle each other for a championship. However, the rationale for unleashing this black hole of television programming on the world may never be known. Oh, wait … money. That’s right, I forgot: In an economy as unsure as ours, the most valuable commodity is always integrity and everyone’s willingness to part with it.

Yep, untrained, unschooled “actors” (trust me, the quotes are warranted) without a shred of athletic ability or unscripted charisma will go through a series of trainings and performances with those making the least progress being voted off by a panel of judges. Never more have I prayed harder for the booming “Don’t try this at home” pre-show warning we all were so accustomed to as children. And, although I couldn’t personally care any less for the physical wellbeing of the pop culture rejects participating in this program, the entire premise still makes me feel, in a word, icky.

I look to the men who are the driving forces behind the show. No, not Brian Knobbs or Brutus Beefcake; I mean, c’mon, brothers need to get paid, right? However, when it comes to Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan, my ire could not be more pointed. What a phenomenal slap in the face of the industry that made them. Not only did they knock down the fourth wall, but they are spitting on the rubble as they walk past.

Listen, we all know what we’re watching every week, but to try and sell us Screech and Tabitha Stevens as wrestlers is an insult to the fans and the sport. It’s embarrassing, it’s pathetic, and if making a public spectacle of his life didn’t hurt his credibility enough, Hogan’s certainly sealed the deal with this experiment. Hulk, “brother,” you’re the jabroni … now get off of my screen.

I waited a few weeks and actually gave myself a few episodes before addressing CCW. I could easily waste—and a waste it would be—1,000 words decrying this horrific idea that is, fittingly, executed even more horribly. But I won’t. No, there was actually enough quality wrestling programming on this week that I don’t want to take away from the efforts of actual trained wrestlers who put their lives into improving their craft.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (10/31)
Frankly, it’s nights like last Friday’s Smackdown where we truly resent WWE’s new move to become a family friendly product. When any program falls on Halloween night, we’re expecting the type of low-brow craziness that only WWE can offer. Yet, alas, Smackdown was a relatively tame event tempered by a “Casket Match” main event between The Undertaker, naturally, and Chavo Guerrero Jr. Yet, there was some pretty awesome news to come out of the blue brand this week in that we can finally refer to the “Dead Man’s” chokehold finisher by a name. Smackdown lead announcer Jim Ross (that will never sound right) confirmed in his blog this week that ‘Taker’s triangle choke move will now be called—ready for this—the “Devil’s Triangle.” That’s a pretty damn cool name for a move. Oh, and is anyone giving much thought to a Vladimir Kozlov-Triple-H feud right now? Neither are we.

Raw (11/3)
There were two things of note from Monday night’s three-hour event celebrating Raw’s one-billionth episode: Batista is as disappointing a champion as we’ve seen in years, and Randy Orton is as underrated a rulebreaker as there may have ever been in WWE. Both former Evolution members seem headed in different directions, professionally, and if you don’t own stock in Orton already then you probably should jump aboard now. Those holding out hope for the “Ultimate Animal” should probably rethink that. Nearly every time Batista holds the gold and is presented with difficulty he either gets hurt or loses, as he did to now three-time champion Chris Jericho on Monday night. Orton, on the other hand, will kick an ally in the head (Ted DiBiase Jr.) if it benefits his own goals. Brilliant.

ECW (11/4)
We’ve read reports of fans slowly becoming disenchanted with Finlay due to—get this—his cheating to secure victories. While we’re fans of the nasty Irishman and his vertically challenged son, we could rattle off plenty of legitimate reasons why you should dislike Finlay right now, but cheating would not be one of them. A fighter fights, a wrestler wrestles, and a cheater cheats. Finlay fits all three of those descriptions and has for his entire career. Would you hate a fish for swimming? Cheating to win—as he did against Mark Henry on Tuesday night—is the lifeblood of Finlay. Accept it and either move on or embrace his inner rulebreaker.

Impact (11/6)
God bless Scott Steiner. As folks who cover wrestling and, admittedly, struggle at times to find tidbits of entertainment value in some of the wrestlers, Steiner is always a Godsend when he picks up a microphone. Last night, of course, was no exception. There are some men who can deliver a promo with the greatest of ease—your Ric Flairs, Stings, and Triple-Hs of the world—and there are others who simply massacre the mike to the point that you have to appreciate it. “Big Poppa Pump” has always belonged to the latter group. We at “The Turn” headquarters imagine the slew of insults and verbal assaults in Steiner’s head to be much like mid-town Manhattan at rush hour. Millions of people going in different directions all needed to get somewhere as quickly as possible. Last night, Steiner was able to work “half-breed” and “fat ass” into a rant against Samoa Joe. Low hanging fruit, you say? Possibly. But can anyone else deliver such horrific slurs with such spastic design as Steiner. We say no, sirs.

And Finally … A very happy birthday King Kong Bundy—the WrestleMania II main eventer who made Hulk Hogan’s ribs a topic of household discussion—turns 51 today. While Bundy will always be remembered most for his time in the ring and brief feud with Hogan, we at “The Turn” would like to hail his appearances on Married … With Children in the 1990s as his most convincing performance.

 

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 24-30

By Frank Ingiosi

Happy Halloween, minions!

The last day of October is one of my favorite each and every year, not only as a fan of all things creepy but because we’re hitting that time of year where there is nothing more you’d like to do at night than lockdown the house and watch television. Generally a slow time for wrestling, I’ve always felt this was the part of the year where the true fan can really get a gauge on how the upcoming year should pan out. For an analyst like myself, there may be no greater indicator of whom I should be keeping an eye on in 2009 than how the end of 2008 shakes out.

Think about this: it’s generally not the guy that gets hot in March who is the focus of WrestleMania. Rather, it’s the guy that WWE puts time and money into over the preceding months that will be a big part of the show. For TNA, coming off Bound For Glory, this time of year showcases their top angles for the upcoming months. Right now, you’re getting the best TNA has to offer, making it a worthy watch. Overall, now is a great time to watch wrestling for completely different reasons.

Yet, in keeping with the spirit of the day, today’s “Turn” takes a look at the creepiest and scariest guys on each show and how they fared this week. Read on, send some feedback (pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com) and make sure to have someone check each piece of candy you bring home tonight before eating it.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (10/24)
The only thing the folks at Smackdown have in common with the folks at Saturday Night Live is that neither of them either know or care enough to write endings to their segments. Last Friday night, it was Smackdown’s turn to take a phenomenal event and spoil it with an ending that reminded everyone whose eyes were fixated on the program just how much politics can ruin a great match. The pay-per-view quality non-title match between The Undertaker and Triple-H more than lived-up to the hype it was given and was fully worthy of the length of time it was given. Ending it with a run-in by Big Show—while not wholly unexpected—was tremendously disappointing. Do we understand why this happened? Sure, but we absolutely don’t have to like it

Raw (10/27)
In keeping with our theme of terrifying wrestlers and their involvement this past week, we’ve discovered a second common thread as Kane took it upon himself to ruin a very entertaining match between Rey Mysterio Jr. and Evan Bourne on Raw. For fans of high-flying aerial wrestling, Mysterio and Bourne is a dream match. While we at “The Turn” prefer more of a grind-it-out, catch-as-catch-can ground game, Mysterio-Bourne had even our staff enthralled. Yet, once again, a member of the ’Taker family ruined our excitement and interjected himself into a match that he had nothing to do with aside from disliking one of the participants. Again, we get the idea. We’ve watched enough wrestling over 30 years to understand how this works. Still, it just feels lazy to have a situation like that take place … again … three days later. Oh, and shame on us for forgetting to mention that Mark Henry assisted Kane in his dismantling of a great match. Henry doesn’t exactly fit our “monster” qualification, but his wrestling ability is scary nonetheless.

ECW (10/28)
Miz and Morrison’s “Dirt Sheet” segment never really worked for us (we think they’re kinda goofing on folks like us, no?), yet something that always is a winner in our book is imitations of other wrestlers. On Tuesday night’s final segment of the evening, Miz and Morrison brought out two men dressed as Triple-H and Shawn Michaels to further the budding feud between the two teams. Naturally, the duo destroyed the DX doppelgangers and stood proudly over their fallen bodies and, while this doesn’t bother us at “The Turn” as it was intended to do, we did find something disturbing about the whole thing. Namely, why weren’t little wrestlers used in this segment? To all wrestlers out there: There are thousands of little person wrestlers out there just itching to be in your segment. Let us be a beacon of light in the darkness that is using non-little person wrestlers in a segment that so clearly would be made better by having bite-sized Trips and “HBK” taking on Miz and Morrison. For shame, WWE. For shame.

Impact (10/30)
The newly chatty Abyss took on Kurt Angle in the main event on Impact last night in a match that simply begged the Main Event Mafia to come down at some point and absolutely obliterate the masked wonder. Sporting burns from his ungodly painful trip through a flaming table at Bound For Glory, Abyss ignored the advice of those around him and chose to take on the newly psychotic (he’s single, ladies) Angle to end the program. We at “The Turn” don’t know what we’re more impressed with: Abyss’ mettle or Angle’s blatant disregard for all things decent and civil. Of course, Angle took advantage of Abyss’ condition and actually scraped away at his burns during the match. And, yes, as predicted the Main Event Mafia interfered and beat down anyone not in its ranks. We think the only reason TNA gets a pass this week for going with a messy main-event finish is that we’re still enamored with the faction. Give it a month and we won’t stand for the crap.

And Finally … On this lovely, all-is-perfect-with-the-world-Halloween 2008, it’s only natural that we look back to the only pay-per-view event to actually have the day as its theme. Halloween Havoc ’89—the first installment of the card—took place in the old Philadelphia Civic Center in sunny Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 28, 1989. The main event of the evening featured Sting and Ric Flair teaming up to defeat The Great Muta and Terry Funk in a tag team match. Scarier still: the special guest referee was Bruno Sammartino.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 17-23

By Frank Ingiosi

Yet again, TNA promised to “change the face of wrestling” or whatever grossly overstated phrase was being used to pump up the first live Impact from the road. Coming to you live from sunny Las Vegas, Nevada—home of $32 drinks and Fredo Corleone—Impact actually put on one hell of a show last night.

Seriously—it did.

I tend to be harder on TNA than anyone else because I look at the promotion like a parent does underachieving children. You know there’s so much they could do if they just applied themselves, but it’s just not happening. You could hire a tutor or send them to a test prep center, but they’d probably just knock-up the instructor and move into a mobile home down by the Tim Horton’s. Next thing you know, you’re watching their kids because they need to pick up an extra shift at Shoney’s to afford the new iPhone, and all because they didn’t want to do their algebra homework. I’ve seen it a million times.

How’s that for an overstatement?

But, let’s give credit where it’s due: TNA did it right last night. Sure, they didn’t exactly “change” anything about the way wrestling is viewed today, but they certainly made Thursday nights more interesting. With the introduction of the Main Event Mafia (see below), Mick Foley as a majority stakeholder in the company, and something called a Legends championship, TNA went a long way in changing the direction of its promotion for the foreseeable future.

Here’s to hoping that Jarrett and company allow this angle to truly flesh itself out over the next year. Let’s just hope this isn’t your child—already enrolled in a music program down at the community college—suddenly coming to you and saying he wants to go to “doctor school” because he likes to “help people.” Pick a focus, young TNA, and stick with it for the love of all things holy.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (10/17)
We at “The Turn” headquarters are getting a bit put off by Big Show’s shootfighter gimmick, although we admire the fact that the guy has stuck with an angle as long as he has, to some extent. Talk about conflicted! Still, in light of the national debacle that was Kimbo Slice, it’s interesting that professional wrestling has taken up the mantle of a giant who uses straight punches to get his message across. We still feel confident that in the end it will be The Undertaker getting the best of the big man at Cyber Sunday. Plus, we’re heavily pushing that it happens in an “I Quit” match as we’re having some trouble finding the difference between a “Last Man Standing” match and a “Knockout” match. So, for everyone out there with money to burn on text messaging (an atrocity that WWE must reverse next year), we fully endorse the “I Quit” match option. Oh, hell no, we’re not paying for the text, but we can still encourage all of you out there to do so.

Raw (10/20)
For as scattered and segment-packed as TNA’s Impact was this week, Raw was equally as fragmented yet lacked any sort of discernable theme or memorable moment. In fact, the best indicator of the confusion that came from Raw on Monday night would have to be the main-event gauntlet match in which Batista and World champion Chris Jericho were slated to square off against the same three competitors in the ultimate game of one-upsmanship. But, here’s the beauty of it all: That was all the explanation given. There was no scoring explanation nor was there any semblance of order. Everyone from the announcing team to the wrestlers themselves was lost. Shameful night for the flagship heading into a pay-per-view.

ECW (10/21)
Evan Bourne—the newest big thing in WWE—would be wise to go back and either discuss with, or simply watch footage of, C.M. Punk and his meteoric rise from indy icon to one-time WWE World champion. With a win on Tuesday night in the go-home episode of ECW, Bourne solidified himself as the attractive pick for fans voting on an opponent for brand champion Matt Hardy at Cyber Sunday. Looking impressive as always, Bourne landed his signature shooting-star press on Mark Henry of all people to secure the victory. We at “The Turn” like Bourne as much as anyone, however we urge him to proceed with caution as he makes his way up the ranks. The bigger the opportunities, the much greater the fall if it doesn’t pan out.

Impact (10/23)
Let’s give TNA the benefit of the doubt this week and assume that the reason it had not put together the Main Event Mafia prior to now was solely because it wanted to tie up the loose ends of all the members’ existing angles as well as wait for the Las Vegas episode of Impact. Might that be giving the promotion that gave us the “Fish Market Street Fight” match too much credit? Possibly. But, here, the end justifies whatever the means may have been. Pairing the likes of Kurt Angle, Sting, Booker T, and Kevin Nash in a stable together is just, in a word, awesome. Kudos to Impact this week. It was the undisputed winner of televised wrestling over the past seven days.

And Finally … Fifteen years ago, the number one wrestler in the “PWI 500” was Bret Hart of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Philadelphia Phillies lost the World Series that year to the Blue Jays of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Coincidence? This year, the Phillies make their first appearance since 1993, facing off with the Tampa Bay Rays. Our top wrestler in the “PWI 500” for 2008 was Randy Orton which has no bearing on the series. It’s not until number two—Kurt Angle of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—that we reach a wrestler with any sort of connection to either team. The next wrestler with any sort of ties to the Series is John Cena, number nine, who attended a Rays game earlier in the season just before the playoffs started and announced his fandom. Hence, the Phillies are going to win the World Series. You can’t fight logic like that!

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 10-16

By Frank Ingiosi

It’s somewhat rare in professional wrestling that a guy that is part of a top storyline in the top promotion gets bounced from his gig unceremoniously following massive investment by the company into said former employee. In professional sports, wrestling seems to rank second to only the NFL or NBA in offering second chances to its employees. Mistakes are rarely career-ending, especially if you’re talented.

If my high-falutin’ business school training has taught me anything, it’s that companies generally don’t like spending time and money on building a brand only to cut it off as its stock starts to rise, which makes the sudden release of Lance Cade by WWE all the more intriguing. The former World tag team champion was always considered a star in the making, possessing all the tools WWE values in a big man. Details are still sketchy this morning as to what exactly prompted the firing, but many didn’t let the details get in the way of a quick story.

Rumors, naturally, were rampant as news broke of the release. Everything from incurring the ire of Vince McMahon following a poor in-ring performance against the boss’ son-in-law, to more serious mentions of a possible substance issue were alleged as rationale for Cade’s firing. Regardless of what brought about such an abrupt change, the fact remains that WWE just jettisoned a budding star around which it was building a pretty nice angle.

I suppose my interest in this latest odd move by WWE is twofold. First, whatever the reason Cade was released, I hope it was with his best interest in mind. If there is a health-related reason—and, again, I don’t pretend to know that’s the case—then hopefully this will serve as a wakeup call to a very talented wrestler with a potentially huge in-ring future ahead of him.

Secondly, how will this be reflected moving forward on Raw? Cade was a rather large part of the main angle on the top brand and I can’t imagine that this will just go unaddressed, especially with the interplay between the conniving and subversive Y2J and Cade being a central point to the World champ’s character development. A rewrite is obviously in order, but to what extent and at what cost to the viability of Jericho’s title run?

As an analyst of the sport, it’s an interesting development. As a fan, I feel for the guy. Here’s to hoping everything works out for the best in the end and both Cade and WWE move forward as best as possible. Failure to do so in this case won’t benefit anyone.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (10/10)
It’s not that we at “The Turn” don’t appreciate the athletic ability and solid career of R-Truth prior to his recent return to WWE, but frankly, the rapper gimmick just isn’t cutting it for us. He’s become something of a one-trick-pony with his current act and, unfortunately, it is redirecting fans’ opinions away from Truth’s skill and more toward his persona. This guy is a villain waiting to happen. At some point, the fans are going to turn against him at which point rhyming “Funaki” with “Kawasaki”—as he did Friday night—just won’t cut it.
 
Raw (10/13)
We don’t know exactly where to start in describing the Jackass-WWE … well, let’s call it a “segment” … from Monday night, so maybe it’s worth picking things up from the end. There were worms, leprechauns, nude oily men, and Johnny Knoxville in a disturbing orgy of confusion and awkwardness. While that may be a typical weekend for many of a reader of “The Turn,” it doesn’t exactly translate to watchable television. Aside from that, the portion of the show that was intended to build-up the potential return of the Honky Tonk Man at Cyber Sunday came off as smoothly as possible.

ECW (10/14)
Live from the sin capital of Las Vegas, Nevada, ECW crowned three potential contenders to the brand’s championship. Fans everywhere of the once-hardcore-but- now-no-more brand will choose among Mark Henry, Finlay, and Evan Bourne when selecting who will face Matt Hardy for the ECW title at Cyber Sunday. Our best guess here is that Bourne will easily win this selection and get his first true taste of the big-time. Hopefully, Lady Luck will be on Bourne’s side when the results are tallied. But we can’t help but feel things will come up snakeyes for the fans, and it could be Henry. Tired of the gambling references? Aww, c’mon … one more! Okay, how’s this? Guess it will be the luck of the draw for one of these guys. Fine, that may have been too much.

Impact (10/16)
Kurt Angle celebrated yet another loss at Bound For Glory by attempting to goad Jeff Jarrett into a rematch through attacking some of TNA’s most beloved wrestlers. Big names like Curry Man, Shark Boy, and the Rock ’n’ Rave Infection all fell victim to … wait … Angle beat the dirt out of all of those folks? Wait, wouldn’t it be more effective if Angle went after wrestlers that both Jarrett and the fans cared about? We’re willing to bet that Jarrett didn’t even realize Lance Rock was still on the payroll let alone worried about his wellbeing after Angle attacked him.

And Finally ... As if capturing his second TNA World championship on Sunday night wasn’t big enough, Sting extended his winning streak at Bound For Glory—TNA’s premier pay-per-view—to three years, and has yet to lose at the event. Interestingly enough, with his loss this year, Kurt Angle has yet to win a match at the event.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 3-9

By Frank Ingiosi

Well, on the plus side you’ve pulled in the highest rating—allegedly—in the history of the network. Still, I can’t imagine the 1.9 ratings number Smackdown pulled in for its first airing on MyNetworkTV was exactly what WWE had in mind, especially given the robust marketing campaign.

To be fair, I have not heard much from “The Turn” spies throughout the U.S. regarding the advertising blitz for Smackdown’s move from the difficult-to-find CW Network here in the states to, “do-I-have-that-in-my-lineup” MyNetworkTV. However as a resident of the greater Philadelphia area, I can tell you that they’ve got this area covered.

Literally.

Spending a fair amount of time in the city as I do, I’m pretty well tuned-in to my surroundings. A bastion of different stories, faces, and smells, the City Of Brotherly Love certainly attempts to be as culturally significant a metropolis as possible given its status as the ugly stepsister to both New York and Washington D.C.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I realized that nearly every subway platform throughout the city was covered in advertisements for Smackdown’s move to MyNetworkTV. At first, once I recovered from the gaudiness of it all, I was impressed. It was good to see WWE understood the city to be a big wrestling town and worthy of such a bombardment of advertising. But, as quickly as that feeling came, it was quickly swept away by an uncomfortable sense of déjà vu. Where else had I seen these ads?

Bathrooms. Well, to be fair, men’s rooms in bars. WWE wasn’t looking to expand its market, but rather it was simply appealing to the class of viewer it always had— men with weak bladders. Okay, that’s not fair. It’s probably more than that. But still, did WWE not want to spend the premium prices to advertise to the above-ground world, or was it simply a matter of reaching the thousands of folks that ride the subway each week. Or, more likely, was it trying to say something about its demographic.

Really, I’m sure I’m looking way too far into this, but what else is there to do when you’re trying to not get whacked with a hammer in the subway. Here’s to hoping it was simply the cheaper option … I’d be alright with that.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (10/3)
Night number-one as the flagship program of MyNetworkTV at least featured a fantastic intra-WWE championship match as its main event … It’s got that going for it, right? Right? Despite the low ratings numbers, the program wasn’t bad overall. Sure the wrestling wasn’t up to par with the standard that the blue brand has set for itself, but night number-one was merely a feeling out experience for Smackdown. Seeing Triple-H—conveniently that brand’s champion—win the aforementioned highly entertaining title match was fitting. Yet, the involvement of Vladimir Kozlov—or, as we’ll call him, “Russian Khali”—following the match sort of doused the excitement. Of course, we understand that Russian Khali is apparently going to be a big part of the Smackdown main-event picture. And, yes, it makes sense to introduce him right away, especially as a part of such a big night. But, still … why? Seriously, why? The man uses a headbutt for god’s sake. We don’t get it but, hey, we’re not Freddy Prinze, Jr. Oh, and WWE airing any program from Green Bay, Wisconsin, without Ken Kennedy just feels wrong, doesn’t it?

Raw (10/6)
While the highlight of the night was World champion Chris Jericho flexing his muscle by running Raw for the evening, the true excitement came not from Y2J’s Cyber Sunday opponent Batista’s retention of the number-one contender spot, but rather from confirmation of a prediction. A few weeks back, when Intercontinental champion Santino Marella invoked the name of arguably the greatest wrestler to hold said championship—The Honky Tonk Man—we openly hoped for a return of the master of the “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” (a move so painfully silly that you can’t help but love it). Were we going out on a limb? Well, no. It’s a fair guess that when WWE builds an angle around a legend that at some point the legend will appear. So what? Sometimes we grab that low hanging fruit. Regardless, Mr. Tonk Man is one of the potential opponents for Marella at Cyber Sunday and “The Turn” encourages you to vote as often as possible for him. Do it for us.

ECW (10/7)
There was something about ECW the other night that gave us chills. Not the type of chills you get when you see your child walk for the first time or stumble across dad’s stash of nudie magazines as a teenage lad, but rather that sort of queasy feeling that comes after eating spoiled mayonnaise. We’re not quite sure whether it was Tommy Dreamer—a man we love—and his participation in an Irish jig with Hornswoggle and Finlay, or the teaser commercial for the return of The Boogeyman. Is it just us, or does ECW once again feel like the worst team in your fantasy football league filling out a roster simply to have enough players? No real strategy or plan, just a bunch of monstrous guys with “potential.”

Impact (10/9)
We at “The Turn” are always suckers for a great contract signing segment and last night’s organized melee between TNA World champ Samoa Joe and Sting did not disappoint. Naturally, what was planned to be a tension-filled yet civilized contract signing quickly turned into a mutual beatdown, much to the delight of everyone. What intrigued us most of all was not the beautifully predictable finish to the segment, but the ire fans directed toward Joe. Both men have garnered their fair share of criticism over the past few months, and deservedly so. But, in this case, it seemed like the Impact Zone crowd of tourists and TNA plants really laid the wood to the champ. We loved Joe as a villain, appreciated him as the hero, but really could get behind him as a petulant Randy Orton-like champ. This could get interesting.

And Finally … In honor of “The Turn” taking their operations to sunny Las Vegas, Nevada, for the next few days, we’re pimping ourselves out and constantly looking for new talent. If any indy promotion would like to grab some virtual ink in next week’s column shoot us an e-mail at pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com and maybe we’ll make it out to see your promotion in between cocktails, waitresses, and cocktail waitresses. Hell, if Fredo can make it there, we should be a lock!

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 26-October 2

By Frank Ingiosi

Mind you, I’m still sticking to my “not bashing” strategy of viewing Jeff Jarrett. Everyone at “The Turn,” as well as those who have sent e-mails, has been relatively positive about the man since his return to the ring after a very public two-year hiatus. And, in all honesty, it’s still nice to see Jarrett back. Anyone with the type of passion he has for his company is a welcome addition to a roster.

Of course, passion can be misdirected at times. The McMahons have passion for their product and yet they tend to foul things up from time to time. Although Jarrett has yet to reach a level where he fakes his own death, drops the set on himself, or allows Samoa Joe to sire his grandchildren, last night’s impassioned, fiery speech regarding Kurt Angle’s comments to The Sun, a U.K. tabloid, had such a feel. It’s rare that I think a set collapse would do a segment well, but it couldn’t have hurt anything last night.

Jarrett called out Angle—arguably (and with apologies to all the other WWE castoffs) his greatest acquisition—for the disparaging comments the former Olympian made about the TNA creative team, and product in general. According to Jarrett, Angle was sent there to promote TNA—which would’ve gotten roughly zero ink in the U.S.—but, instead, ended up bashing it, which … well … you’re still reading, right?

The founder of TNA came off, initially, as a parent protecting his child. He genuinely seemed hurt and fueled with the type of anger that would drive him to do physical harm to one of his own employees. It was refreshing and real and something that the product has lacked for some time.

Then came the “lost footage.”

When Jarrett broke out previously unaired footage which essentially saw Angle run down his former employer—whom he lauded in his comments to The Sun—in one non-sequitur after another, the whole segment went to, what we in the business like to call, crap. That’s a journalistic term, don’t look it up.

There was no need for the typical cheese that tends to come with professional wrestling promos. Jarrett was the founder and driving force behind TNA when it was an afterthought on the wrestling landscape. He was the guy that made things happen when no one else cared about the promotion. He’s also the guy that left the promotion for two years to put family first.

There was no doubting his passion or his intensity. The segment would’ve come off as effective as it started, or even more so, had they not gone the way of typical wrestling shtick. If TNA is still going to claim that it’s an alternative to the status quo then it needs to back that up with actions

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (9/26)
The Undertaker finally got his revenge on Vickie Guerrero last Friday night when he surprised the GM and laid her out with an ugly looking Tombstone. We at “The Turn” find it hard to classify an attack like that as “revenge” solely because the stakes behind the attack were minimal compared to what Guerrero had cost the “Dead Man” thus far. True, revenge would be stealing her files before a GM board meeting, or canceling her hotel reservations at the annual wrestling GM conference (which we don’t believe exists … yet). That feels more like revenge. He could piledrive anyone, but why not hit Vickie where it hurts, eh?

Raw (9/29)
For the first time since it debuted, the DeGeneration X theme song failed to give the staff of “The Turn” goosebumps. And, due to that highly scientific test, we at “The Turn” can officially become the last entity to say that DX is officially over. Yes, we may have been a bit behind the curve on this one, but that’s just our love for nostalgia. The Triple-H/Shawn Michaels DX reunion on Monday night did nothing for the show aside from provide fodder for a cheap pop. At this point, MTV has fewer reunion shows for its brain dead audience than DX. It’s over, folks. Let’s move on.

ECW (9/30)
ECW aired an hour earlier this week for the first time in a pilot move by the Sci-Fi Network to hopefully draw in more fans and make the product more accessible to a wider audience. Plus, the lead-in from their highly touted program Sanctuary should help the cause as well. Being the spinners of all things spun, we at “The Turn” see the move to 9 PM as allowing us to toss in an old wrestling tape and cleanse our pallets before bed after yet another night of The Miz and Mark Henry. Thanks, Sci-Fi! The greatest gift ECW has ever given us is an extra hour at night!

Impact (10/2)
Everyone’s favorite guilty pleasure, Mick Foley, made his TNA debut last night in a promo that was both lighthearted and intense. The purpose of the segment was to obviously set-up Foley’s involvement in the Kurt Angle—who interrupted—and Jeff Jarrett match at Bound For Glory. However, the segment belonged to Foley. While we can’t imagine he’ll be an everyday competitor for TNA, it wouldn’t shock us if Foley comes out of retirement to take on some of the bigger names in the organization. We at “The Turn” are pulling for a Cactus Jack-Sting return engagement.

And Finally … Sunday’s No Mercy pay-per-view will be the fourth installment of the card, with the first taking place in 2005 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. Of the participants in the first match at the first No Mercy—again, only three years ago—only two remain with the company. In a tag match that saw the new Legion of Doom consisting of Animal, Heidenreich, and Christy Hemme defeat M-N-M, only John Morrison and Melina continue to be a part of active WWE rosters. Today, Joey Mercury is rumored to possibly be in the WWE mix again, Hemme is in TNA, Animal is the biggest Ohio State football fan in the world, and Heidenreich was beamed back to whatever planet he came from.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 19-25

By Frank Ingiosi

Recently, Kurt Angle made what were perceived as disparaging comments toward TNA’s creative team and their phenomenal over-reliance on gimmick matches. What would usually just end up as barely a blip on the radar is now, apparently, being brought to the forefront by none other than Jeff Jarrett, and is slated to be addressed as part of Impact next week.

Although I fully understand this is now the way of the industry and anything that happens anywhere involving anyone is fodder for angles, fundamentally I have problems with Jarrett pulling this into TNA, and both problems literally make me chuckle aloud.

First, when told he let his normally rotund physique fall even further into disarray, a great philosopher once said, “You can’t be mad at the truth.” That nugget of brilliance was brought to you by none other than Charles Barkley, but I mention it here for a very important reason: TNA has a lot of gimmick matches. That’s just a fact. If someone doesn’t like them—like Kurt Angle—well, then that’s just an opinion. You can’t fight someone’s opinion, especially when it’s factually accurate.

Secondly and arguably my favorite point, isn’t making an on-air angle out of comments Angle gave to a rag in the U.K. about TNA’s love of gimmick matches a bit, well, gimmicky? Sure, it’s not like they’re strapping a copy of the tabloid to a cable above the ring (just yet) in an “Ultimate Newsprint Match,” but it’s a hack move nonetheless.

It’s really tough to recover from the wounds when you just keep inflicting them on yourself, no?

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (9/19)
What do you do in wrestling when you grow weary of your beloved—albeit played-out—persona? Naturally, you ditch it by turning against whatever or whoever enjoyed that persona and distancing yourself from it entirely. Now, what happens when the guy you become isn’t quite as intriguing as you’d hoped he would be? Ahh, therein lies the difficulty with making the shift from loveable, harmless good guy to laughable bad guy. With that being said, it’s great to see Gregory Helms’ apparent return to WWE as a fan favorite under the name of “Hurricane.” For anyone who has followed Helms’ road to recovery, even making a pre-taped appearance on a WWE program is a huge step, and something we at “The Turn” are thrilled to see. Here’s to hoping that Helms sticks with what works this time. Hell, who are we kidding? The guy has to just be thrilled he’s back in the fray. Good luck, Hurricane.

Raw (9/22)
We’re not wavering from our position that Evan Bourne is part of what should be a great future for WWE, and his pairing with Rey Mysterio Jr.—a guy we tend to give a hard time to here—is quite entertaining. Like it or not, Rey’s a former World champion with more knowledge of the sport than most of his peers. Bourne can’t help but pick a few things up that will go a long way toward shaping his career. But … but … how long is it before the student turns against the master? Everyone knows that’s how this works out, right? Of course, Rey could reverse the roles and eventually jettison Bourne, but that seems unlikely, as Mysterio tends to not work well as a rulebreaker (anyone remember rubber horns glued to his head?). So, although this may be premature, let’s start the Bourne turn clock running … now!

ECW (9/23)
All right, listen ECW, if something doesn’t work on Smackdown literally four nights prior, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re not going to pull it off on Sci-Fi. Due to popular demand (of who we have no clue), Maryse and Michelle McCool rekindled their rivalry for the Divas championship on ECW Tuesday night. If that sounds familiar, it should. You watched the same match when it occurred the preceding Friday night on Smackdown. We at “The Turn” are all for women’s matches in wrestling, even when a ridiculously silly belt is on the line, but this feud just isn’t doing anything to advance that cause. While we like both Maryse and McCool, ECW’s offering has all the feeling of a bunch of guys looking around and realizing they had no women at their party, so they invite last week’s hook-ups back for a return engagement.

Impact (9/25)
Perhaps the biggest match at TNA’s Bound For Glory coming up on October 12 will be Jeff Jarrett’s intensely personal fight with Kurt Angle after the former Olympian successfully baited his boss (let’s call it like it is) into a match. In an emotional and highly entertaining segment last night, Jarrett truly connected with the fans who have followed his personal struggles over the past few years. The fans in the Impact Zone really seemed to be into what Jarrett was saying and the emotion with which he was delivering his message. Of course, Jarrett referenced newly signed Mick Foley, calling the hardcore legend the “biggest acquisition in TNA history.” Wait, wasn’t that Booker T? Or Kurt Angle? Or Sting? Or Christian? What? It’s a rule in the industry that we have to take a shot at Jarrett each time we mention him. It was getting too warm and fuzzy in here.

And Finally … A belated and well-deserved happy birthday to a favorite of “The Turn,” Arn Anderson. Last Saturday, the man who made “spinebuster” a household word (assuming you live south of the Mason-Dixon Line) turned the big 5-0.

 

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 12-18

By Frank Ingiosi

It may end up with an asterisk next to it when all is said and done, but technically—technically—taped, Friday night airing Smackdown outdrew big brother and McMahon’s favorite son, Raw. Yes, it actually happened, although the ratings figures will not show it.

Well, how could that be, you may ask. Actually, the answer is pretty simple. When Smackdown drew a 2.5 rating last Friday night, it actually equates to a larger base audience because the CW Network is available to more basic cable subscribers than is the USA Network. So, in a weighted system, a 2.5 on CW reaches more viewers than a 2.6—which Raw pulled in on Monday night—on the USA Network. The 2.6 was Raw’s lowest rating of the year and that takes into consideration the weeks in which the program was competing with the Winter Olympics for viewership.

So, while fans and employees of the blue brand should be very satisfied right now with the level of intra-company competition they have reached, those Monday nighters who figured their spot was as safe as any in WWE may need to do some serious soul searching. Something is either really, really right on Friday nights (it doesn’t hurt having Triple-H, The Undertaker, and Edge as part of your show) or something is going equally as poorly on Mondays.

Either way, this is something I didn’t think I’d ever have to address here, although it’s kind of fun to do so. Let’s see if this spurs any real improvement to WWE’s Monday night product, or if this is simply another case of settling for mediocrity.

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (9/12)
In anticipation for the move to MyNetwork TV at the beginning of the month, Jesse and Festus played the role of unofficial moving men last Friday night on Smackdown. Complete with matching jumpsuits, the duo’s first order was to remove Kenny Dykstra from the arena packed as tightly and safely as your collection of Precious Moments figurines (oh, we won’t tell anyone). As anyone at “Turn” headquarters can tell you, when you plan a move you, always take care of your most precious and invaluable items first to ensure that they’re handled with the level of care it needs. So … Kenny Dykstra? Sometimes you just need to leave things behind. Maybe the next occupant of that timeslot (very likely something involving adults playing teenagers and oodles of angst) will appreciate it.

Raw (9/15)
What a strange and wonderful week for Charlie Haas. On Monday night, Haas participated in a six-man tag match, pairing with Jerry Lawler and Kofi Kingston. If that trio isn’t odd enough, toss in the fact that Haas was dressed-up as Jim Ross, ten-gallon hat and everything. We’re still torn at over this whole situation. It seems like the guy has picked up on something—finally—that works for him, to an extent. Haas could not have assumed that he would be picking up the mantle of the comedy act on Raw, yet that’s exactly the niche his impersonations are filling. We’re not a fan of gimmicks like this, but we like Haas and are willing to let this thing play its way out. Oh, and going from the strangest of strange to the highest of highs, it’s being reported that Haas and wife Jackie Gayda welcomed their second child on Wednesday. Congratulations to the couple on that. No word whether the infant was dressed as Sky Low Low.

ECW (9/16)
We would have preferred to see it happen under better circumstances or at least be a tad more competitive, the singles debut of former NWA tag team champion and member of The Naturals, Chase Stevens, was less than enthralling television. Fed up to the WWE altar of making big, lumbering guys look better than they really are, Stevens was little more than a warm-up for flavor of the minute Jack Swagger. To say he wasn’t able to develop anything in what amounted to a squash match would be an understatement, which is a shame. Undoubtedly, the plan is to make Swagger look unstoppable as he moves up in the hierarchy of the brand, but WWE could’ve been in a position to elevate two guys at the same time, or at least set the groundwork for doing so with Stevens later on.

Impact (9/18)
The building age-war that seems destined to occur any day now down in TNA just got better last night with a heartfelt promo by none other than Jeff Jarrett and the introduction of a very familiar face into the fracas. From Sting and Samoa Joe’s war of words, through the Motor City Machine Guns disrespecting Christian Cage, to Jay Lethal looking to take down Booker T, the youth movement in TNA is taking an interesting turn. At the end of the evening, it was Jarrett who actually came to the ring and put everything in perspective. Wow, who would’ve ever thought we’d write something like that. Citing the waning days of WCW (maybe not a great thing as now we’re all thinking “Millionaires Club”) and the passion he has for the promotion, Jarrett connected with the fans in a way that he hasn’t done in years, if ever. Add to that his impromptu introduction of Mick Foley to TNA (it appears Foley will square off with Kurt Angle in his first feud) and we were all treated to a very interesting night of Impact.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 5-11

By Frank Ingiosi

Whoda thunkit?

Three matches in one night with tremendously lopsided odds against any of the incumbent champions walking out of Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, with the gold they brought to the office that day. Yet, one man—a king amongst kings, if you will—defied the odds and retained his championship despite being put in the ring with four—count ’em, four—former title holders.

Surely, the government has already commissioned someone to add Triple-H’s face to Mt. Rushmore. But, before minting coins with his visage on them, let’s just look into “The Game’s” success last Sunday night.

Arguably, there was the greatest disparity of talent between incumbent and challengers in the Smackdown championship scramble. Essentially, the match was between 12-time champion Triple-H and a group of mid-card talent … Sorry, Jeff Hardy fans, but that’s the truth. Whereas the ECW scramble match was not as championship-laden as the Smackdown scramble, the talent pool was relatively even. And, for those not keeping count, the Raw scramble match featured five former World champions. By far, Smackdown’s offering seems the fishiest.

Where I will give Triple-H respect for leaving Cleveland as champion is that not only did he have to outlast four very hungry competitors relishing their shot at immortality. He also was faced with defending against styles that don’t exactly match up well with his power game. To his credit, Triple-H picked his spots and kept his title.

So, while it’s hard for me to truly appreciate Hunter’s accomplishment last Sunday night, I can’t exactly discredit the way he went about it, either. There was little to no doubt in my head prior to Sunday night’s event that if anyone retained his title it was going to be him. I suppose I just didn’t know how. Chalk this one up to equal parts strategy and McMagic.

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (9/5)
There’s nothing worse in any promotion when the organization builds someone up to the point of creating both intrigue and excitement only to then see that guy not really catch on with the paying customers. While we at “The Turn” have to admit we were interested in seeing how Ron “R-Truth” Killings fared in his second go-around with the big boys up north, it turns out that placement means everything in wrestling. Regardless of how dark and menacing WWE tried to portray Killings’ past, the fact is fans know Ron Killings. We just do. Attempting to repackage a guy by ignoring his career (even when he worked for WWE) and slotting him in mid-card squash matches with guys like Bam Neely and Kenny Dykstra doesn’t exactly set the fan base on fire.

Raw (9/8)
The groundwork for a very strange, yet intriguing, faction seems to have been laid following Unforgiven last weekend and Raw this past Monday night. The trio of Ted DiBiase, Cody Rhodes, and Manu (son of Afa the Wild Samoan) helped bring about the end of C.M. Punk’s World championship run by knocking him out of the scramble match on Sunday. Their attack on Punk left the then-champion prone to a patented head-punt by Randy Orton, which effectively ended Punk’s night. On Monday, Orton reveled in his doings, when the trio confronted him about not giving them credit for its role. Although the face off ended contentiously, it seems only natural that the group of second- and third-generation talent is destined to unite.

ECW (9/9)
After sitting through “All American” Jack Swagger’s debut with a victory over Josh Daniels, we at “The Turn” quickly compiled a very brief and in no way definitive list of wrestlers with American-themed gimmicks for Mr. Swagger to measure himself. Sort of a meter of just how apple-pie and ass-kicking Swagger is, and will eventually need to be. Right now, after week one on ECW, we’re giving Swagger “Rougeau Status.” We’ll keep track as he moves on. Here’s the list for those keeping score at home:

Hulk Hogan
Dusty Rhodes
Bob Backlund (All-American Boy)
The Patriot
Jim Duggan
Ron Simmons
America’s Most Wanted
Bryan Danielson (American Dragon)
Undertaker (“American Bad Ass” phase)
U.S. Express (Windham and Rotunda)
Chris Nowitzki
Michelle McCool
The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers (All-American Boys) *Jack Swagger (9/9/08)
The Un-Americans

Impact (9/11)
Just when you thought WWE was the king of taking a very good night of wrestling and programming and marring it with gratuitous pandering and stupidity, TNA jumped in to prove us all wrong. In a night that saw solid match after solid match and an apparent alliance between Samoa Joe and Jeff Jarrett, TNA threaded a “Beautiful People Beauty Contest” throughout the program. In a McMahonian non-sequitor, the Knockouts were put through the rigors of evening gown, bikini, and talent competitions all with hilarious results. Of course, by hilarious we at “The Turn” mean “acting as solid as Paris Hilton with all the titillation of a PG-13 Cinemax flick.” If done well, the Knockouts could be both beautiful and useful to the progression of the show. Instead, the promotion promising the world that it’s an alternative to WWE is simply pulling the worst pages from the competition’s playbook and passing them off as their own.

And Finally … Shawn Michaels exacted some level of revenge on Chris Jericho last Sunday night by defeating him in a brutal and memorable unsanctioned match that lasted an amazing 26-plus grueling minutes. Jericho probably would’ve been wise to pick up a DVD of some of Michaels’ past matches in preparation for their bout. The last unsanctioned match to take place at a WWE pay-per-view—a more-than-27 minute bloodbath—was won by the “Heartbreak Kid” over Triple-H at SummerSlam 2002.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of August 29-September 4

By Frank Ingiosi

I often point out the ludicrous and embarrassing parts of the industry. So, when I have the opportunity to use my weekly thousand words for good rather than evil, it’s a nice and unexpected change. In an industry built upon a foundation of strength and brutality, there may be no greater good than standing up for those who have sacrificed their bodies for the entertainment of the masses.

On September 14 (two Sundays from now) the Wrestler’s Rescue organization will be hosting a multi-tiered event in Piscataway, New Jersey, in an effort to raise funds and awareness for the healthcare requirements of retired professional wrestlers.

Wrestler’s Rescue is a cooperative arrangement spearheaded by former ECW vixen Dawn Marie with a primary focus on providing retired grapplers with the necessary means to obtain healthcare. While the group’s current mission is one of public outreach and assistance, the organization is also looking forward to the retired pros of tomorrow. They are hoping to begin a healthcare counseling program for active wrestlers.

The details of the event are as follows (and for the tech-savvy amongst you, the link follows):

DAY EVENT
A convention and autograph signing will take place on September 14, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel in Piscataway, New Jersey. The event will be held in the Miracle Room and the prices are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.

NIGHT EVENT
Semi-formal dinner with stars including the Iron Sheik, Captain Lou Albano, Missy Hyatt, Greg Valentine, and more on September 14, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel. This event will be held in the Grand Ballroom and there are a variety of tickets including a platinum and gold ticket. Tickets must be purchased by September 7, so get yours soon.

Or, simply check out: http://wrestlersrescue.org.

The entire day sounds like an absolute blast for a very worthwhile cause. The list of celebrities and wrestling legends listed on the website is worth the trip alone. So, if you can make it to Piscataway next weekend (there are a few local restaurants I can recommend if you go) check this out and shoot me a line here at “The Turn” describing your experience (pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com).

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (8/29)
We know you can’t have your top champion lose in a closely contested, non-title match to a guy that isn’t the number-one contender. To clarify that last sentence: Triple-H can’t lose to Shelton Benjamin on Smackdown. He can’t. Cannot, period. We get that. Everyone at “The Turn” has been watching wrestling long enough to know how this works. Along the same line, we also know that a nice, safe way to get out of this predicament would be some sort of interference that abruptly ruins the match. Again, we’re professional wrestling watchers—it’s what we do. But … but … to have Triple-H then go on to win the match—thus showing how important he is, is definitely not what we hoped to see. Benjamin and “The Game” had a very nice match that made us all remember why we had such high hopes for the South Carolinian in the first place.

Raw (9/1)
For the first time in recent memory, Raw had so many things worth noting that it’s hard for us to select just one to discuss. Whether it was Randy Orton or Candice Michelle’s return, Charlie Haas’ new Jason Sensation-esque angle, or the shocking fact that Rey Mysterio Jr. is actually not disfigured, Raw was filled with enough entertainment to keep us glued for two straight hours. Still, we’re probably going to have to go with “Turn” favorite and Raw’s resident pain in the ass, Santino Marella and his patented “Honk-A-Meter” comparing his title reign to that of arguably the greatest Intercontinental champion of all time, The Honky Tonk Man. As of today, Marella is roughly 62 weeks shy of tying the record and, given his knack for making bigger and stronger folks hate him, we can’t see the guy coming close to the mark. Although, this does give a nice avenue for a potential Honky Tonk cameo down the road … how awesome would that be?

ECW (9/2)
Remember The Mexicools? No? Good, then the meds are working. For the unfortunate rest of us who can’t shake the image of souped-up “Juan Deere” tractors rolling to the ring en masse, seeing Super Crazy wrestle on ECW Tuesday night—and win—should serve as a reminder just how good that guy can be even without a ridiculous and offensive gimmick. Once a very viable Intercontinental championship candidate, Crazy hasn’t been used much since the move to ECW earlier this summer. Crazy put Gavin Spears in his place Tuesday night with a nice victory that showcased the former ECW television champ’s aerial skills and impressive speed.

Impact (9/4)
So, wait, Sting and Jeff Jarrett are friends now? Beating up the new guys and putting others in the position to choose between good and evil is just a way of getting Jarrett’s attention? Or, is the “Stinger” simply taking it upon himself to separate the wicked from the righteous in TNA? Quite honestly, any of the above could be true and we’d still tune in to check it out. Last night, Sting shocked everyone by taking out Samoa Joe after the TNA World champion appeared to pass up that very same opportunity at the urging of mentor Kevin Nash. Hoping his actions would get Jarrett’s attention; Sting leveled Joe with his trademark baseball bat and “Scorpion Death Drop” before exiting the ring. Confused? Angry? Intrigued? Hell, so are we. There may be no better time to get back into Impact if you have abandoned it (and we can’t say we blame you) over the past few months. Definitely worth a peek … at least until Jarrett forms some sort of stable.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of August 22-28

By Frank Ingiosi

My current car is the newest and most reliable I’ve ever owned. That’s right, tooling around the greater Philadelphia area in a smooth 1996 Toyota Corolla is the best a brother can do now a days. Hey, gas is expensive, student loans are crippling, and if you think it’s cheap to keep up this image of mine, then you’re dead wrong, my friends.

If I’ve realized anything from my years of driving cars that are past their prime, it’s that when one thing goes, it’s usually a precursor of things to come. Here’s the best part: Those things don’t have to even be related. Power windows fail one day and somehow your alternator is dead next week; battery sputters out on Friday, you’ve got a flat tire on Monday. Hell, I can’t explain it. For some reason when you run even the finest machine too hard—my Toyota excluded—it will eventually break down piece by piece.

John Cena—love him or hate him—had his second major surgery in the past 12 months earlier this week. Although it doesn’t look like he’ll miss the type of time originally believed, it’s still reason for concern. Cena is arguably one of, if not the, hardest workers in WWE, maybe even the entire business. He is a physical specimen who has fought through the dings and bumps that come with the business in order to give fans what they want or, at the very least, what they want to hate. Suck it up, kiddos, Cena’s pretty tough.

But, given the fact that he’s now gone under the knife twice with two very frightening injuries (a torn pectoral muscle and herniated disk in his neck), the question needs to be raised as to whether it’s time for Cena, only 31 years old, to scale back his schedule a bit. The rub, of course, is that the man will never willingly do so, meaning that the entity who needs to pull back on the reins is the one with an interest in having his face on television each week. That’s right—WWE needs to make a call here.

As an observer and admirer of the American business landscape, I can appreciate both sides to the argument. If the worker, an adult, says he can go, you believe him, put him in the game, and reap the benefits. But, even if the worker says he’s ready to work, might it be a better business decision to take a little bit longer in order to ensure the viability of your long-term investment?

WWE has invested so much into Cena that it’s insane to think it should take any sort of neck injury lightly. Cena was backstage hours after the surgery to simply be a part of things and see friends. As much as I admire his amazing fortitude and ability to heal like Wolverine from the X-Men, part of me wishes he treated things a little more seriously. For those of us who don’t hate Cena, here’s to hoping everyone involved thinks with their heads a little bit more than their wallets.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (8/22)
Kenny Dykstra has fallen from male cheerleader commanding main event time on WWE’s flagship program to whipping boy getting his tail whooped on Friday nights. There was so much promise for Dykstra as the unofficial leader of the Spirit Squad, but that feels like years ago at this point. Calling out Triple-H sure is a great way to get yourself noticed. Wait … did we say “noticed”? Sorry, we meant “crippled and/or fired.” Calling out Triple-H sure is a great way to get yourself crippled and/or fired.

Raw (8/25)
Primo Colon made his WWE debut this week, squaring off with Charlie Haas—cleverly dressed as Primo’s brother Carlito—and pulling out a relatively easy victory. Colon looked solid and exciting in his debut and could have a very bright future with the company assuming he doesn’t let his ego get out of control nor make disparaging remarks about his employer over the Internet. But, being a thoroughbred from a renown wrestling family, that would just be asinine, right?

ECW (8/26)
It’s been a while since we at “The Turn” buried The Miz, and for good reason. The guy’s a thorn in the side of wrestlers and fans alike, and, quite frankly, that’s perfect. He’ll never be the most technically sound wrestler in the world, so why not focus on developing his persona and, generally, pissing us off. But the mere thought that he’s a part of the ECW championship scramble hurts our heads. Evan Bourne—the man he knocked off to get there—is still raw and new, but is already far more deserving of the gig.

Impact (8/28)
We’re going to regret saying this, but the teasing of the return of Jeff Jarrett to TNA actually has us intrigued. The man has been through too much and been away from the ring for too long for us to bash him at this point, so we’ll take the high road. It will be good to see “Double J” back in a TNA ring, frustrating the bejesus out of us with rambling, self-indulgent promos and a persona that makes zero sense whatsoever. Still, the man who made “Slapnutz” (notice the “z”) an acceptable reference for one’s enemies should be held with some level of reverence and respect.

And Finally … Whether you’re a donkey, an elephant, or whatever the hell Ralph Nader is, now is the time to pay attention to the state of our great nation and register to vote. WWE is once again doing a great thing by supporting both major parties at their conventions, but also pushing fans to participate in the Smackdown Your Vote! campaign. Head over to http://www.wwe.com/inside/overtheropes/wweconventions08/, educate yourselves, and participate in the process, suckas. Eighteen or older, please.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of August 15-21

By Frank Ingiosi

I’m just like any red-blooded American male. I like my women blonde, my beer from either Milwaukee or St. Louis, and my World championship matches to be the best two guys beating the stuffing out of each other for my enjoyment.

Yet, my wife’s a brunette, both Miller and Anheuser Busch are owned by foreign multi-national corporations, and now WWE is resurrecting an old tactic from the hardcore-title days: a championship scramble. That’s right, we’re being treated to five of the top guys on Raw (and, I would imagine eventually, Smackdown), one of which being World champion C.M. Punk, in a 20-minute match where the title can change hands as many times as possible with the man holding the gold at the final bell getting to take the strap home with him.

If the next step is to put the title on the line 24 hours a day, seven days a week, count me out, my friends.

All kidding aside, I’m a bit torn on whether this move to include the scramble at Unforgiven is a good thing or not. Is it something different by WWE? Well, not exactly. It’s different enough, and certainly new for the top championships, but what’s the deal with another gimmick match? Plus, it’s going to take 20 minutes for the World championship to be decided. If—and almost certainly, when—Smackdown general manager Vickie Guerrero follows suit (we can’t have another Triple-H—Great Khali debacle) that will now be 40 minutes of a pay-per-view devoted to two matches involving 10 wrestlers. Factor in ring entrances and the obligatory montage of prior events, and there’s an hour. With two additional hours to fill, and essentially Santino Marella, Kenny Dykstra, and a bag of old ring trunks left, Unforgiven has quite a potential downside.

Hopefully the scramble, or scrambles, will provide us with “Money In The Bank”-esque moments and quality wrestling. My concern, above all else, is for the great staff of Pro Wrestling Illustrated who will be on the clock to update the numerous title changes throughout the match or matches.

Enjoy “The Turn”—a championship scramble of one since 2006.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (8/15)
Edge has lost it, but we still couldn’t help but think it was a play. That was before The Undertaker sent him, literally, to hell on Sunday night, assuming you believe that hell is located directly beneath the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. Ask any football fan from Baltimore and they may attest that if hell isn’t Indianapolis, it’s certainly a sub-development, but we digress. It appears that Edge’s days as head of La Familia has come to a fiery and crushing finish at the hands of the “Dead Man,” while ’Taker’s triumphant return to, and eventual ascension of, the blue brand should give fans everywhere goosebumps. The mere thought of a Triple-H—Undertaker WWE championship feud down the road makes us want to cancel our plans to catch The Dark Knight on IMAX for the fifteenth time. Maybe.

Raw (8/18)
While it was a shame to see World champ C.M. Punk go zero-for-Chicago, his hometown, on Monday night, the real intriguing angle of the evening still belonged to his main-event counterpart, Chris Jericho. One night after clocking Rebecca Michaels in the mouth, Jericho essentially put on a clinic of Bad Guy 101. Instead of spewing the hate filled, marble-mouthed rhetoric we’re all so used to, Jericho’s sickening sense of self-righteousness and willingness to blame Michaels for his wife’s fate was, in a word, brilliant. Not that we at “The Turn” condone Jericho’s actions but, having two brain cells to rub together and thus knowing this is all entertainment, we love it. Consider us “saved.”

ECW (8/19)
Had you attempted to sell us on the idea that Mark Henry and Matt Hardy feuding over the ECW title was a good one, we would have laughed in your face, dated and broke your sister’s heart, and stole your DVD player. That’s how certain it seemed to us that “Don’t Call Me ‘Sexual Chocolate’” and the elder Hardy would not only flop but simply add yet another chapter into the increasingly painful history of the promotion formerly known as Extreme Championship Wrestling. Yet, following their match at SummerSlam, Hardy and Henry put on quite an impressive performance Tuesday night as the main event on ECW. Check it out online if you get the chance because lord knows you weren’t watching it unfold Tuesday.

Impact (8/21)
We at “The Turn” sincerely hope that your collective long-term memories are good, because if there’s any truth to the hot rumor circulating right now you may have gotten your last eyeful of Gail Kim in a TNA ring last night. Word is circulating that not only have contract talks with Kim broken down, but that the former TNA Knockouts and WWE women’s champion is actually headed back up north and will start collecting McMahon-cut paychecks soon. Kim has been a mainstay in TNA since being unceremoniously jettisoned from WWE in 2004. As part of some of the top storylines in TNA, the loss of Kim would be significant while not exactly rocking the promotion’s foundation. This is certainly something worth keeping an eye on in the coming days.

And Finally ... Monday, August 24, marks the 63rd year we have been blessed—or, to some, cursed—by the existence of one Vincent Kennedy McMahon. In honor of such a festive occasion, here is an effort to separate the man from the myth. We give you: Mr. McMahon vs. Vince McMahon. Enjoy.

Vince McMahon: On discussing why he does what he does, “The biggest thrill in the world is entertaining the public, there is no bigger thrill than that.”

Mr. McMahon: Barebacked and thrusting, "Go ahead and kiss my magnificent ass. Go ahead, damn it! You kiss my ass now!"

 

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of August 8-14

By Frank Ingiosi

Love it. Love it. Abso-freakin’-lutely love it. They could’ve taken the easy way out that everyone expected—and likely hoped to some degree—yet, WWE truly stepped things up on Monday night when the contents of Kane’s burlap sack were revealed.

Of course we all—yes, even my sage-like self—believed that Kane was referring to himself over the past month when he asked if “he” was “alive or dead.” The psychological implications of yet another maniacal rant by WWE’s resident madman seemed endless, and potentially leaning toward either a return to the masked Kane or, painfully, a re-emergence of the imposter Kane. Hell, I would’ve loved seeing that, actually. What a mess!

Alas, the typical rehash of storylines past was not to be and we’re presented with something relatively fresh and intriguing from a WWE perspective and I couldn’t be happier. Rey Mysterio Jr.—whose whereabouts and general wellbeing are unknown as of this morning—may never be the same again and it could all be due to the insanely brilliant minds behind the curtain. Awesome. Enjoy this one. I don’t care how it ends up; it’s already got me hooked.

You had me at “dead,” Kane.  You had me at “dead.”

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (8/8)
Ever wonder what an “Indian Broken Glass Arm Wrestling” match looks like? Hell, ever wonder what an “Indian Broken Glass Arm Wrestling” match even is? Well, lucky fans who tuned into Smackdown last Friday night were treated to a first on WWE television as champ of the blue brand, Triple-H, and official assassin of coherent language, The Great Khali, briefly teased going all Jean-Claude Van Damme in Kickboxer on us by competing with broken glass as part of the mix. Fortunately for no one, the arm wrestling competition—in which the loser’s hand and wrist were to be thrust into broken glass—quickly turned into a typical beatdown. Yet, our favorite point of the whole experience was Triple-H “proving” to the fans that the glass was sharp by pricking his finger with it the same way a magician shows everyone the sword he’s going to stick through his assistant is sharp by using it to cut paper.

Raw (8/11)
So, let us get this straight: A week ago, John Cena and Batista won the WWE World tag team championship in convincing fashion. However, now they’re vulnerable to two rookies with fortunate surnames? Not to take anything away from Ted DiBiase Jr. and Cody Rhodes (hey, we’re convinced they’re both going to be World champions at some point down the road) but wow. The Cena-Batista no-hype-necessary tour just got a bit stranger as now there is officially no intrigue to their match at SummerSlam. Billed incorrectly as their first-ever singles meeting, at the very least fans could have looked forward to two average, yet physically imposing, wrestlers who happen to be tag team champions together going toe-to-toe in a fiercely personal match at one of the top WWE pay-per-views. Now, subtract the gold and put greater emphasis on the level of competition and suddenly you’ve got a match with two men billed as top guys in the company very worthy of mid-card status. As we at “The Turn” heard uttered prior to the lackluster “Hell In A Cell” match between The Undertaker and Big Boss Man at WrestleMania XV, “Something truly amazing must happen for me to not hit the bathroom and grab another beer.” Our sentiments exactly.

ECW (8/12)
We at “The Turn” love Finlay, Fit or otherwise. We at “The Turn” always held high hopes for Mike Knox–seriously, we did. All of the ripping and ire directed at him has been our own form of anonymous, bitter, tough love. Now, with that being said, we can’t exactly endorse a Knox-Finlay feud at this point in both of their careers or, for that matter, ever. See, it’s not that we don’t think the two brawlers won’t put on a good show as, believe it or not, they both seem highly capable of doing. It’s more that ECW seems to have a thing of late with pairing guys in whom they see similarities together in feuds. They did it with Tommy Dreamer and Colin Delaney and now they’re moving in that direction with Knox and Finlay. Mind you, they don’t do it with all of their angles, and we’re not suggesting that. But, to have two different feuds going on with similarly situated wrestlers from a persona perspective doesn’t really help the brand break the trend of being a tired, old also-ran.

Impact (8/14)
It’s taken us a while to get to this point, so we suppose it’s a good thing in some respects, but does it feel to anyone else as if TNA does a lot of “qualifying matches” and/or tournaments to determine who will be participating in some of their higher-profile gimmick matches? Once again, TNA is pulling from the larger talent pool by announcing last night that the other competitors in the “Four Ways To Glory” match involving Samoa Joe at No Surrender next month will be decided in a series of qualifying matches. Now, this is fine every now and then, and we at “The Turn” love any sort of tournament situation. However, it just feels like every time there’s a multi-competitor match—which is seemingly every other match in TNA—there are qualifying matches. Plus, doesn’t it always feel like it’s the same people who end up in the final match? Is there anything democratic about this, or is the whole damn thing just filler?

And finally …
With SummerSlam on tap for this Sunday night, it’s only fitting we wrap up this week’s “Turn” with some SummerSlam trivia. In the event’s history, only one card didn’t end with a match in the main event. SummerSlam ’91 featured the Randy Savage-Elizabeth wedding in the main event.

 

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of August 1-7

By Frank Ingiosi

Batman had Catwoman. George Steele had Miss Elizabeth. James Bond had Ms. Moneypenny.

In every great man’s life there is an even greater woman that drives him absolutely insane while simultaneously making him better. For me, and for you lucky readers of “The Turn” there has been Editor-in-Chief Lisa Rocchi-Doyle.

For the past two-and-a-half years that I’ve written this column each week, Lisa was my primary editor. It was due to Lisa and legendary publisher/should-be hall of famer somewhere Stu Saks that this column has not only been readable but, at times, genuinely entertaining. Hell, I’ll admit it—sometimes it’s downright good. But, in the interest of fairness, it’s less about my observations as it is about the great people behind the scenes that make me want to write.

Today, you’re reading the very last “Turn” edited by Lisa, who is leaving the PWI nation as of this afternoon and heading off to her new life as “Gary,” a strong yet proper English gentleman who owns and operates a sheep farm in southern Oregon.

Okay … fine! Lisa’s not becoming a man and raising sheep. I tend to not deal very well with change and it’s evidenced by phenomenally inappropriate acts of childish petulance. For example, did you know Lisa does in fact steal money from the church collection plate in order to fund her wrestling memorabilia habit? Her favorite items: ring trunks from the 1960s. And that, my friends, is the truth.

All right, that’s not true either. I can’t help it—it’s compulsive.

In all seriousness, it’s been a great honor and privilege to work with Lisa and go head-to-head with her these last few years. If I proposed a joke or obscure pop culture reference that made her squint her eyes or ask, “Why is this funny, again?” I knew it wasn’t quite ready for print. It’s made me a better writer and “The Turn” a more entertaining read each week.

So, join me in wishing “Gary” farewell in her new life as a shepherd/wrestling trunk aficionado.

Enjoy “The Turn”—L-Doy-free for over eight minutes.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (8/1)
When the WWE champion is not present, the number-one contender should be running the show. When the number-one contender is The Great Khali, the show’s in trouble. Serious, serious trouble. Luckily for Smackdown, there are enough compelling angles right now that the missing champ (Triple-H is playing Daddy again this week—a belated congrats to the happy couple) won’t spell doom for the program. But, WWE in classic shortsighted fashion now was forced to see what life would be like … again … with Khali as the big attraction. Not very sexy, is it?

Saturday Night’s Main Event (8/2)
To be fair, the most recent installment of SNME was not atrocious from a wrestling standpoint. Sure, it wasn’t the most compelling television and, yes, it was essentially a rehash of everything that’s been going on in both the Raw and Smackdown worlds, but that’s what you get when you go primetime on a major network. And, although the cause was great, the pre-taped celebrity messages and appearance by Jenny McCarthy, who has gone from Singled Out to concerned mom, seemed to throw the show off a bit. It took on a distinctly telethon-esque feel throughout, which didn’t help move things along. All in all, the show didn’t hurt anything and very well may have done some good, so we can’t hammer it too much.

Raw (8/4)
John Cena seems to be a magnet for the WWE World tag team title when he’s paired with someone he neither likes nor trusts. Heading into WrestleMania 23, Cena held the straps with then-frienemy Shawn Michaels. History being what it is, we’re now being treated to round two. But this time it’s Batista playing the aggressor. Cena and Batista became unlikely World tag team champs on Monday night, soundly defeating super-rookies Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase Jr. in the main event on Raw. Whether this will stick until their matchup at SummerSlam later this month remains to be seen. Still, it’s somewhat interesting that gold was added to the equation. Isn’t it enough that two of the top guys in the company are meeting for the first time in singles competition at SummerSlam? Anyone get the feeling there’s a bit of panic on Monday nights?

ECW (8/5)
Are we supposed to hate Colin Delaney for turning against his good friend and one-time mentor Tommy Dreamer, or are we now supposed to admire the his Whipwreck-ian tenacity and belief in paying it forward? Delaney, whose hellish quest for an ECW contract was made much worse by the meddling of Armando Estrada, actually helped the former general manager earn working papers of his own on Tuesday night. In his last shot at earning an ECW contract, Estrada defeated—you guessed it—Tommy Dreamer after Delaney interfered. The pale one’s rationale for assisting his one-time mortal enemy: Estrada gave him the opportunity to earn his contract. While we fail to see Colin’s logic, anything that keeps Estrada part of the show is fine by us.

Impact (8/7)
All right, so we’re all on the same page that the Sonjay Dutt-So Cal Val-Jay Lethal triangle is not only the most confusingly stupid angle on TNA, but it’s also the storyline that has the distinct honor of wasting the most talent simultaneously. They’ve got that going for them … which is nice. To update, which is what we do here: It’s been revealed by Prince Justice Brotherhood (the trio of Super Eric, Curry Man, and “Stone-Cold” Shark Boy) that Dutt stole Val’s wedding ring. Suspense! Action! Love! TNA’s got it all! Oh, screw it. Even we can’t make this one sound more exciting than it is. Dutt and Lethal are both fantastic wrestlers who have apparently found their niches as a poorly planned ethnic stereotype and a Randy Savage impersonator. We’ve wavered on the show in recent weeks and have actually praised it at times, but, alas, we’re dragged back to Earth.

And finally ... It's being billed as the first time two of the biggest names in WWE have met in a one-on-one contest, but, in actuality, it comes down to just that: names. While John Cena and Dave Batista may have not met in a singles match thus far, The Prototype fought, and defeated, Leviathan while both men were part of Ohio Valley Wrestling. Cena—The Prototype—actually defeated Batista—obviously, Leviathan—for the OVW heavyweight championship six years ago when both were top prospects. So, while not technically incorrect, the promise of yet another "first-ever" event is certainly misleading. Move over “undefeated” Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III, you've got company.

 

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of July 25-31

By Frank Ingiosi

Res ipsa loquitur, my friends.

There’s almost something perverse about the glorious satisfaction I’m feeling this morning. I’ve prided myself on not being a jerk. In fact, I’ve spent most of my life trying to be a semi-decent human being. When I’m right about something, I generally let the validity of my intelligence justify my position so that all doubters can recognize my brilliance for themselves.

See, it’s far more ethical to let the situation speak for itself than for me to point out just how damn slick I am. The feeling of triumph over the darkness of ignorance is my sole reward. I’m like the Batman of truth whereas you all are The Joker of doubt. I bring justice to the world while others take the easy way of finger pointing and general conformity.

What am I talking about? Glad you asked. Two words, four syllables: Mike Adamle. Here’s a refresher from the May 15 edition of this very column:

“My theory [on Adamle’s WWE existence] is far more sinister and admittedly far-fetched. See, I don’t think Adamle is destined for the ECW announce table, and it’s not because of the verbal atrocities he subjects the six-dozen or so fans in the television audience to each week. I keep getting the feeling that the man is fated for a spot in a big angle that reveals he’s got more pull in the company—at least on television—than any of us think. Like Eric Bischoff pulling the strings behinds the NWO, Adamle is the perfect candidate to be the next man to make the unlikely jump from irrelevance to notoriety.”

Wow, just rereading my own work gives me goosebumps. While every smartass in the world sat back and tore in to Adamle for his murdering of the English language and general incompetence as a color commentator—both points being entirely valid—I looked at it as simply a business decision. Would WWE pull another Chris Masters? By that of course I mean give the spotlight, and a truckload of money, to someone with high potential who stumbled more often than he succeeded. In short, hell no.

Adamle played the bumbling fool to a point that would make even the most bumbling of fools question his motives. Now, am I implying that he was destined for this position all along? No. I can’t say, even if the storyline ends up being so, that I believed he was going to be Raw general manager since Day One. But, as time went by and his “mistakes” went from seeming like poor preparation to simply awful attempts at humor my suspicions rose.

Did I have any inside information on the Adamle-GM move? Absolutely not. Despite what you may think, not all wrestling writers have a direct line to Stamford. This was just a case of assessing the situation and making an educated guess. That’s right, it was a guess. Not a lucky one per se, but rather a very well thought-out guess. It’s at times like this that I enjoy sitting back and observing my own greatness from up-close. This must be what Michael Jordan feels like when he thinks back on his historic career or what Wayne Gretzky does when he sees a young child pick up a hockey stick for the first time. The greats among us just let our work speak for itself and never, ever, rub it in.

Hey, I said I try to be decent. Sometimes, I fail. It’s part of my charm.

Enjoy “The Turn”—we’re never wrong about anything … ever.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (7/25)
What does a doting wife get for the husband who has everything? How about a date with The Undertaker in a massive, unforgiving cell at SummerSlam? Edge and Vickie Guerrero-Copleand (she hasn’t hyphenated it … yet) had a brief reunion on Friday night after Edge’s videotaped infidelity with the wedding planner a week before. The former World champion’s hope for a reconciliation quickly turned sour when his bride announced that she had reinstated ’Taker and set up a “Hell In A Cell” match for her man and the “Dead Man” later this month.

Raw (7/28)
Chris Jericho was always in the top-10 all-time favorite modern-day wrestlers in “Turn” history, but with each passing week, he not only solidifies that selection but also creeps higher in the rankings. His rant against Shawn Michaels—another top-10er—on Monday night could have been more of the same, which is the usual way it goes on Raw. But, somehow Jericho made it feel even more personal and vicious than the week before. This is the guy we were hoping came back to WWE to save us.

ECW (7/29)
In an otherwise uneventful night of ECW, props go out to the suddenly marketable Todd Grisham who filled in as lead announcer for the broadcast thanks to the unexpected promotion of Mike Adamle to god of Monday nights. Grisham and Tazz worked well together and it was nice to finally get a night of coherent announcing for the first time in months on ECW. We don’t know if he’s in it for the long run, but we wouldn’t be opposed.

Impact (7/31)
Sometimes around 11 o’clock on Thursday nights we at “The Turn” feel very dizzy. It could be the lack of sleep or, quite possibly, the adult soda pops we had at the pub before settling in for Impact but we’ll never know. We’re not doctors for goodness’ sake. But, it could also very well be the dizzying pace with which Impact has been moving of late. Some of the angles aren’t the greatest—like ending the show with a Knockouts tag match—but some are downright intriguing. Last night, the Samoa Joe-Booker T-Sting angle took yet another turn as it’s becoming harder to discern who is attacking the champ (don’t discount Nash). Kurt Angle and A.J. Styles’ blood feud is getting better each week. We’re often critical of TNA, but there are episodes that deserve praise and last night’s certainly was one of them.

And Finally … Be sure to record, or at the very least, tune in to Saturday Night’s Main Event tomorrow night (9 ET/8CT, NBC). While the show will likely do very little to advance storylines and will probably be more PG-rated than usual, the night should be celebrity filled as Jenny McCarthy’s Generation Rescue project will be a partner for the event. The organization raises funds and awareness for autism research and is as worthwhile a cause as you’ll ever see on a wrestling program. Check it out, learn something, and make a difference.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of July 18-24

By Frank Ingiosi

In order to keep down my delicious breakfast, I’m going to keep this week’s introduction brief. This week we were subjected to two of the strangest and potentially disturbing kisses in recent memory. For those of you lucky enough to repress these memories, allow me to refresh: Beth Phoenix and Santino and/or Edge and Vickie and then Edge and the wedding planner.

To say all of it was a train wreck would be an understatement. As a huge fan of cringe moments, all of the above definitely hit the spot. If anyone missed these moments we recommend you search the Web and try to grab a video. But, be forewarned, do so only 45 minutes after eating.

Oh … crap. Here come the Lucky Charms …

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (7/18)
It’s rare that we push for a feud between two WWE Divas, let alone between women who are currently part of different brands, but at sometime in the near future the fans deserve to see a Beth Phoenix vs. Natalya match. We have to admit that at first we weren’t entirely sold on Natalya or her place on Smackdown. Fair or not, folks who get called up to one of the big shows with the type of hype that Natalya had are always viewed with some skepticism. Toss in the fact that she’s part of wrestling royalty and the odds were stacked against the 14th generation wrestler (that may be a stretch, but there are, like, 600 Harts, right?). But Natalya has lived up to the hype and, despite a bad break on Sunday, is a very worthy competitor and challenger to the new Diva’s championship. Hence, when we at “The Turn” imagine who we think she matches up best with, the clear choice is Phoenix. That would be a match, we believe, that could transcend gender lines and just flat out entertain.

Raw (7/21)
So, John Cena may have finally made that mistake that half of the fans were hoping he would and the seventh grade girls that make up his entire fan base prayed he would forever avoid. While we at “The Turn” aren’t necessarily big fans of Batista, we’re going to have to give “The Animal” the edge in the pending feud that’s building with Cena, stemming from Cena’s seemingly unintentional right cross to the noggin of the number-one contender to the World championship. In the ensuing melee, Cena certainly appeared contrite yet ready to defend himself, which is good for anyone in that position. However, the look of pure rage and unbridled anger on the face of Batista actually made us think that Cena’s minutes were numbered. Still, it was a bit odd that despite all the bloodlust, “Big Dave” never actually got to take out his frustrations on Cena. Sure, it only took two WWE officials to hold off a stampeding “Animal” and prevent him from destroying the company’s top commodity, but maybe they had big breakfasts that morning and have been hitting the gym. Or, maybe that’s just the first step in a good build-up.

ECW (7/22)
It was only a matter of time before Matt Hardy became a contender for the ECW title since being drafted to Tuesday nights earlier this month. Last night, he finally made that leap by becoming the number-one contender to the strap. Winning a “Fatal Four-Way” over John Morrison, Miz, and Finlay, Hardy became the man who will attempt to separate the gold—or, now, silver as the belt has changed—from Mark Henry, his advisor Tony Atlas, and Colin Delaney. And speaking of Delaney, where did that turn come from? Okay, fine, it wasn’t Hulk Hogan shocking the world, but still, it seemed a bit out of place on Sunday at the Great American Bash. Here’s the thing—we love the move. Fantastic character development for Delaney, albeit not much of an upward move career-wise. But, we suppose that when your career is getting your pasty tail kicked on a weekly basis any move is a good move.

Impact (7/24)
We’re getting all warm and fuzzy inside every time we think of the highly intriguing angle that’s starting to unfold on Impact, namely the Samoa Joe-Booker T-maybe Sting angle that keeps us locked in to TNA programming. While Joe and Booker’s feud has been watchable at best, the “whodunit” angle that emanated from Sting’s interference with the champ’s mauling of the five-time former titleholder at Victory Road is not only reminiscent of the man in black’s days in the rafters of WCW but it is also a welcome change of pace for TNA. The close of last night’s program saw Samoa Joe laid out in the ring after a brief period of darkness. When the lights came back up, a stunned Booker T was shown holding Sting’s trademark bat leading fans to assume it was he who took out the champ. Thing is, everyone in the ring—Booker, Sharmell, Kevin Nash and Joe himself—all had motive. Or, maybe it actually was Sting himself. See, that’s the beauty of an angle like this.

And Finally … We offer a somber remembrance of the great Gordon Solie, who passed away eight years ago on July 27. If you grew up watching tapes of the territory days or were simply a fan of WCW, the voice in your head recounting every move and high point is Solie’s. A role model for every person who’s gotten behind the mike to call a wrestling match, Solie is a member of virtually every hall of fame he could possibly be inducted into, plus he’s a former PWI Editor’s Award winner. Many have emulated but none have come close to replicating Solie’s love and appreciation for the sport.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of July 11-17

By Frank Ingiosi

It’s hard to determine which of two events from TNA this past week amused me more: Sting’s apparent turn against Samoa Joe and all things good at Victory Road, or, the promotion’s continued insistence on plugging in Don West’s microphone. I mean seriously, I’ve suggested in the past that TNA simply give Don a headset, leave it unplugged but tell him it’s on, and let him froth over the color of the ring aprons. That suggestion was ignored and, hence, here we are.

For the dozens reading at home and the millions not reading around the world, let me summarize what led to my conundrum. During the Victory Road main event, Samoa Joe appeared to snap and focus more on destroying Booker T than defeating him, which led Sting to appear and lay the wood to the champ. Booker got the fake three-count made by Sharmell and left with the gold. Questions abounded and the Stinger’s future as the torchbearer for fan favorites everywhere seemed in jeopardy.

Stemming from the very same incident, my second bout of confusion came courtesy of everyone’s favorite color commentator, the aforementioned West. In a moment that made Mike Adamle sound like Al Michaels calling the final seconds of the U.S. hockey team’s win over Soviet Union’s in 1980, West questioned whether Sharmell’s three-count meant that Booker T was now the TNA World champion. For fans of cringe humor—as I fancy myself to be—it was so deliciously awful that I had to rewind the DVR to watch Donnie-boy propose this hypothetical again and again.

To answer Don: No, Booker is not the champion and holy crap, dude. Really.

I suppose I’ll take the low road and say that West’s questioning Sharmell’s three-count amused me most at Victory Road. I’ve always assumed that at some point Sting and Joe would square off with real consequences in the balance (such as the TNA World title). I hate picking on West, but this one was worthy of inclusion in the rhetorical question Hall of Fame.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (7/11)
Okay, so not only is Triple-H now working Tuesday nights, but apparently the man is able to get in his appearances early enough in the show in order to have the rest of the night off. Fine, that’s not fair. We can admit our bias … sometimes. Still, being so high on the card and facing off with Chavo Guerrero Jr. is not quite the indoctrination to the world of Smackdown that we assumed Trips would receive. His first match as a member of the blue brand was certainly more suited to becoming an answer to an obscure trivia question down the road than a conquering World champion marking his proverbial territory.

Raw (7/14)
While we always dig a good crazy Kane angle (really, is there any other kind?) we have to admit that the current run has everyone at “The Turn” headquarters a bit confused, as intended. Despite Kane insinuating that the person or entity whose existence he questioned a week before was his own twisted persona, we’re still a bit lost as to what’s in the bag the “Big Red Machine” is now carrying around. The hot rumor circulating—and, quite frankly, the one that makes the most sense—is that Kane’s old trademark mask is in the bag and will eventually be revealed as part of “returning to his dark place” move in the angle. That’s all well and good, but we at “The Turn” never like to take the easy route, however logical it may be. So, in the interest of stirring the pot and hopefully starting a rumor that even we don’t believe is true, let’s say that in the bag Kane is carrying around is the foot of Vince McMahon and that’s whom he was inquiring about last week. Possible? No. Likely? Even a bigger no. But, if we see this, our faith in the wrestling blogisphere—nay, humanity itself—will be shaken irreparably, … which is nice.

ECW (7/15)
We’re willing to bet that a good deal of the folks sitting there reading this very column feel the same way about yet another Hardy reunion as we do: ecstatic. Okay, let’s hedge a bit and say it’s more like 65/35 in favor of semi-weekly “last-ever” Hardy reunions. The fact is, when all is said and done, there may be no better tag team in the history of WWE than The Hardys—that’s right, we said it. While we’re not entirely sold on either guy as having enough clout to headline a card as a solo act (although Jeff still has us hoping), together, the tandem is as entertaining as any we’ve seen ever. Their main event non-title match on Tuesday night against Morrison and The Miz was undoubtedly the top match in ECW this year if not its entire two-year existence.

Impact (7/17)
Our favorite TNA wrestler of the week is undoubtedly Matt Morgan who took it upon himself to completely decimate the god-awful Rock and Rave Infection in back-to-back singles matches. Morgan—who is starting to remind us a bit of Sid Vicious in a less horrific way—destroyed Jimmy Rave before accepting the challenge and subsequently defeating Lance Hoyt. The best part of the twin-killing—aside from the major league ass-whooping and a few minutes of Christy Hemme—had to have been Mike Tenay and Don West mentioning that Hoyt was now going by the name Lance “Rock” because it was a stage name and many people in show business will do that. Lance “Rock”? More like Lance “Suck” are we right? Eh? Get it? See, we’re not fond of his current gimmick although we like the guy in general so we took his name and made it … ah forget it.

Moving from our failed attempt at humor, “The Turn” formally endorses the return and dominance of Matt Morgan, but the man needs to develop some sort of character soon or else he’s going to fall back into that rut of being a huge guy with no personality, thus making him far more likely to succeed in WWE today than during his previous run.

And Finally … With the Great American Bash on tap for this Sunday, and a couple of very unlikely World title matches heading the card, we at “The Turn” wanted to return everyone’s attention to the first edition of the show that gave us an even more intriguing main event. Back when WCW held the event, Back To The Future was the top grossing U.S. film, and folks were just getting tired (roughly 11 months too late) of asking “Where’s the beef?” That’s right, the year was 1985 and the main event of WCW’s summer showcase saw Dusty Rhodes defeat Tully Blanchard for the WCW television title in a steel cage match.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of July 4-10

By Frank Ingiosi

Lost in all the excitement of C.M. Punk’s unlikely World championship reign and the lifting of a 260-pound cloud that hung over the Raw roster until the draft is the brilliantly structured and perhaps classic feud between Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels.

While watching both sure-fire WWE Hall-of-Famers spew hatred toward each other on Monday night, I couldn’t help but wonder: Just how good will this be when all is said and done? We are being treated to two of professional wrestling’s greatest showmen and talkers going head-to-head in a series of thinly veiled personal attacks on each other.

The seeds of the feud were planted months ago and, unlike most of what WWE puts on television, they were allowed to take root and grow. The result is segment after interesting segment and possibly the most highly anticipated non-title match on a pay-per-view card in years.

Many feuds in the past 15 to 20 years are remembered as being more groundbreaking or widely accepted than they really were. The nWo was a great entity for quite some time with, arguably, the Sting-Hogan feud being its centerpiece. However, people tend to speak of events such as the schism between the red and white factions as if it were the Civil War. DeGeneration X’s tormenting of Bret Hart was funny, at times, but by-and-large not so much. Yet, we often reminisce over these events as if they were the highest forms of entertainment.
What differentiates Michaels-Jericho today is that it’s a legitimate storyline playing itself out for all of us to enjoy. It’s not the typical angle we’re used to coming from WWE. So, if anything, let me encourage everyone to enjoy this one while it lasts, even if you don’t like the guys in it because if Kane’s fit at the end of Raw shows us anything, we’re headed in a direction that can’t be good.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (7/4)
Ahh, so all it takes to get out of a wedding to your boss is to have a little difficulty at work. What wonders that would have done for some of the “Turn” staff in hindsight. See, silly us thought that once you decide to get married—albeit to the most grating human being in professional wrestling—you, you know, follow through with it! Yet, we can’t help but feel that Edge’s impromptu calling-off of his pending nuptials to Vickie Guerrero is a ploy. Call us nuts, but basically anything the “Rated R Superstar” does needs to be viewed with utmost skepticism. Whatever angle he’s playing, we’re sure Edge is stacking something in his favor heading into his WWE championship match with Triple-H at the Great American Bash. Although, trying to psych-out the “Cerebral Assassin?” is probably not a great plan of attack.

Raw (7/7)
Um, who was that foxy blonde that teamed up with Mickie James on Monday night and looked vaguely like a wrestler? We couldn’t believe our eyes earlier this week when Kelly Kelly—who apparently drank from the same magic fountain as Candice Michelle—looked downright serviceable in the ring during her tag match with the aforementioned WWE women’s champion. Kelly was enthusiastic, athletic, and strung moves together like someone who had been doing it for years. Sure, during a backstage segment she didn’t realize they had “contracts” in WWE, but hey, does that matter when she looks so good in the ring? For a woman whose uncomfortable dancing skills showed as much dexterity as a diabetic in sugar shock this is quite the promising leap.

ECW (7/8)
Once again, Evan Bourne stole the show on Tuesday night. The Mark Henry-led ECW should feel fortunate to have Bourne to step in following the loss of the charismatic Kofi Kingston to Raw. In an impressive effort against Nunzio (yes, he’s still around) on Tuesday night, Bourne proved once again why the hype surrounding the guy is justified. While he’s still a good while away from competing for the ECW title, a focus on the U.S. championship in the interim may not be out of the cards for Bourne before the end of 2008. Now, the only thing Bourne needs is a ridiculous gimmick, irritating entrance music, and a painfully overused catch phrase and he would fit the bill of the modern WWE rookie perfectly.

Impact (7/10)
It’s hard to determine what was the most memorable part of Impact last night. There were oh, so many different points of the show that caught our attention: Sting’s return and foreboding comments, Taylor Wilde’s shocking upset of Awesome Kong, or Kurt Angle’s brilliantly eloquent, “Screw your boobs!” comment directed at Angelina Love. All worthy of accolades, however we’re going to go ahead and give the moment of the night to relative unknown Taylor Wilde, who pulled off what Mike Tenay bellowed was the “greatest upset in TNA history.” Sure, hyperbole of that nature is expected in a moment of excitement, but if the biggest upset in your promotion’s history comes for a title that is barely nine months old, my friend, you’ve got problems. Wilde and Kong will meet on Sunday for the former champ’s mandatory rematch and we’re guessing that the much prettier version of Santino Marella will walk away 10-pounds lighter.

And Finally … Victory Road is in Houston, which is the home turf of Booker T who is in the main event against Samoa Joe with the TNA World title on the line. As intriguing as this seeming advantage would be, only one other time in the three previous years of the card was a resident of the city in which it was held part of the main event. Transplanted Orlando resident Christian Cage failed to capture the NWA World championship at Victory Road 2006 as part of a fatal-four way at Universal Studios.  

 

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of June 27-July 4

By Frank Ingiosi

I’m a big fan of getting ahead of myself. For example, when any of my favorite sports teams has a nice week or picks up a key free agent, I’m plotting out the inevitable championship parade in my head. The first night I met her, I knew I would end up marrying my wife (assuming, of course, she could handle the whole “wrestling thing”). I’m also a man who will look up the menu of a restaurant online in advance to get an idea for what I’ll later order.

Call it “prepared” or just call it “strange.” Either way I enjoy projecting how things will go based on initial inklings. It’s not smart, nor is it scientific, and yet that does not take away from its sheer awesomeness. Hey, we all do it, so I figure I’d step up to the plate and admit it now before starting the next sentence in the hopes that it will give everyone a bit of perspective as to my position. Here goes: Raw is the greatest television program in the history of mankind and, very likely, alien-kind. Period.

Okay, fine, that’s might be grossly overstating the current status of Monday nights, but based on this past week’s offering there’s no reason to think that the flagship program of WWE isn’t headed in the right direction. We were treated to a shocking what-I-guess-we’re-now-calling the WWE World title victory by C.M. Punk, the emergence of a Rhodes/DiBiase union, and Kofi Kingston emerging as a bona fide star all in one night. Angles such as these are usually reserved for the night following a WrestleMania and here we are at the end of June watching Raw be, for all intents and purposes, rebooted.

For months those of us who follow—as best we can—the internal business strategies of WWE have read that the company was looking to shift to a less risqué product that drew in new fans as well as those who tuned out long ago. Apparently, prior to Monday, the best they could come up with was $1,000,000 payouts and less gratuitous partial nudity. Yet, with the new youth movement on Raw WWE may have finally found that balance they hoped to achieve.

The program is still a work in process and Monday night could end up being considered a fluke. When things are so crummy for so long and then you have a great week that could be considered by some to be a “fluke.” Whether or not WWE is dedicated to this paradigm shift will be evidenced in how it handles the next few weeks and months. If the focus remains on new talent in high positions with compelling storylines: awesome. The fans are very intelligent and discerning viewers who appreciate a concerted effort like that and will stick around to see how things pan out. However, if the next few months turn into—and the cynic in me says it might—Raw turns back into a “who tried to kill Mr. McMahon” ego-fest, than all could be lost and the world as we know it may cease to exist.

Oh, I’m also a sucker for the dramatics.

 

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (6/27)
We can only assume that the reason Smackdown was booked for the large Toyota Center in Houston, Texas last week was because a venue was needed to contain the gargantuan egos of both Edge and Triple-H as they made their first joint appearance together since “The Game” joined the blue brand. While their confrontation in the ring did little more than build up the pending pay-per-view (last Sunday’s Night Of Champions) and deplete the atmosphere of life-nurturing oxygen, it was still pretty cool to see then-both champions of the company’s top brands verbally sparring. Funny, only one of them still holds the gold today.

Raw (6/30)
In a night where Raw did just about everything right (see above) we at “The Turn” had to find something that didn’t sit well with us to point out. Hey, if we start giving an A+ to everyone then what good would we be, right? If anyone would be so good as to explain the purpose behind the tidbits of trivia we’re given prior to and returning from commercial breaks we would welcome the help. Not only did each “fact”—and we use that very loosely—feel like a pimp-job for WWE video games but it felt like the same blurb was repeated at least twice. We don’t mind change, but at the very least make it interesting.

ECW (7/1)
Twelve years after it was slated to begin, the Mark Henry era has finally—finally—taken foot in WWE. Sure, it took the creation of a third brand and the persisting rumors of backstage racially charged statements to bring it to the forefront but, alas, the dawning of the epoch “World’s Strongest Man” is at hand. Mark Henry T-shirts are no doubt flying off the shelves somewhere in the world. Rise up fans of “Miz-ark” and rejoice for your time is now! To put the buildup to the Henry era in context (as we at “The Turn” tend to do), the top song in 1996 was “The Macarena,” the Oscar winner for best picture was “The English Patient,” and the current WWE World champion was 17.

Impact (7/3)
Kurt Angle is quickly realizing just how hard it is to be a millionaire celebrity with a recognizable face and weekly television program. For example, poor, heartbroken Angle valiantly chose to re-enter the dating pool and, fortunately for us, bring along a camera crew while he did so. Unfortunately, the former TNA World champion did not make the love connection we were all secretly hoping he would as a series of women with issues ranging from general hygiene to the simple ability to digest food paraded through taped segments. Oh, if only Kurt could find a nice girl to settle down with, maybe have some kids, and set a bounty on her head to the highest bidder while simultaneously pushing her into the arms of one of his closest confidants. That’s magical. A fella can dream.

And Finally … With Independence Day in the U.S. just behind us, a wrestling oddity for you: Aside from Paul Roma, two of the most controversial members of the vaunted Four Horsemen faction celebrate birthdays on July 4. Even odder, they were both born on the same day. Happy birthday to Sid Vicious and Barry Windham who both turn 48 yet look older than America’s 232 years.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of June 20-26

By Frank Ingiosi

SPECIAL: WWE Draft Fallout Edition—The Winners, Losers, and Raw

WWE’s second ever tri-branded draft has come and gone with more fanfare than the company has seen in quite some time. Sandwiched between “McMahon’s Million Dollar Mania” and, well, McMahon’s million dollar set malfunction and crippling, the draft threw everyone at “The Turn” headquarters for a loop on Monday night and set up what could be a very good few months of sorting things out.

But, who has months to wait? Not us, which is why we at “The Turn” are going to sort the whole mess out for you by naming the players moved and implications of Monday’s organizational restructuring in a little piece we like to call “The Winners, Losers, and Raw.” Bon appétit, minions.

WINNER: Smackdown

Gained: Triple-H, Jim Ross, Jeff Hardy, Carlito, Shelton Benjamin, Maria Kanellis, Brian Kendrick, D.H. Smith, Big Daddy V, Trevor Murdoch, Ken Kennedy

Lost: Batista, Rey Mysterio Jr., Finlay, Chuck Palumbo, Hornswoggle, Deuce, Jamie Noble, Mark Henry, Michael Cole, Matt Hardy

Analysis: Despite the laundry list of defections from the blue brand, Smackdown actually came out ahead picking up 11 and losing 10. Yet, what’s more impressive about Smackdown’s Monday night victory is the quality of talent it received more so than it is the quantity of bodies. With a move to MyNetworkTV slated for the fall, it’s no wonder that Smackdown came away from Monday night as the victor, but what is shocking is a few of the names changing addresses.

Seriously, did anyone think there was the slightest scintilla of a chance that Triple-H was moving? Well, actually, yes we did. Moving Triple-H at this point—assuming it sticks past the time we write this line—is a good thing for WWE. Raw will always be Raw and fans will always show up on Monday nights. But, with Smackdown trying to grab a larger share of the viewing audience and benefiting, at times, from more compelling angles, a Triple-H move to the brand could be excellent. Again, this assumes that he sticks with Friday nights for some discernable timeframe and isn’t magically traded for less than value.

Arguably, Smackdown’s biggest losses are Batista and Rey Mysterio Jr., although both men should benefit greatly from a change of venue. Both are huge draws and seem tailor-made for Monday nights at this point in their respective careers. The rest of the list of Smackdown’s losses reads like a who’s-who of midcard talent and the brand shouldn’t suffer much from their departures.

Of course, the biggest addition—and yes, we’re taking Triple-H into account—is new Smackdown lead announcer and WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross who made no bones in the hours following the draft about voicing his displeasure with the move. With Ross at the helm, Smackdown broadcasts gain an immediate credibility that the brand sorely lacked despite the valiant efforts of Michael Cole. Friday nights could actually begin to feel more like Monday nights should have for the past year or so which is exactly what WWE should hope happens.

Oh, and the wildcard of the night could end up being Jeff Hardy.

LOSER: ECW

Gained: Matt Hardy, Finlay, Hornswoggle, Mark Henry

Lost: C.M. Punk, Kofi Kingston, Layla, Shelton Benjamin, Matt Striker, Big Daddy V, Kane

Analysis: Nothing at all against Matt Hardy, but when he and the U.S. title are the biggest additions to your brand, the future doesn’t look too promising. We love Hardy’s attitude and rarely will he throw a clunker of a match at you, but ECW needed to leave San Antonio with more this past Monday night, and the only way to do so was to win matches, which it did not. Besides Hardy, Mark Henry and the Finlay family make up the additions to Tuesday nights.

Although the additions likely won’t have fans rushing home to catch ECW each week, the losses the brand suffered could likely prove to be monumental and, possibly, signal the company’s move to eventually dissolve the brand. Yeah, the purging of the roster was that substantial. The ECW champion Kane and the even more popular C.M. Punk are gone, along with former top baddies Matt Striker, Big Daddy V and Shelton Benjamin. Up-and-comer Kofi Kingston and the lovely Layla also move on to greater things.

Now, for those of you keeping track, that leaves the U.S. championship as the top champion on the third brand. Plus, the brand is now three wrestlers in the hole, losing seven and picking up four. With rumors of an eventual absorption of the ECW roster into the other two brands making their way around the Internet, the seemingly “random” moves of Monday night indicate that there just may be more truth to those thoughts than even we expected.

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME: Raw

Gained: Batista, Rey Mysterio Jr., C.M. Punk, Kane, Kofi Kingston, Layla, Matt Striker, Chuck Palumbo, Deuce, Jamie Noble, Michael Cole

Lost: Triple-H, Jim Ross, Carlito, Maria Kanelis, Brian Kendrick, D.H. Smith, Trevor Murdoch, Ken Kennedy, Jeff Hardy

Analysis: As you sit there in your beanbag chair waiting for mom to finish making your PB and J on wheat with the crusts cut off, the top title on WWE’s top brand is, currently, the ECW championship. That’s right—Kane is the man on Raw right now and the sooner we all come to grips with that the better off we all will be. Where’s Paul Heyman when you need him? Okay, seriously, everyone knows that ECW’s prominence on Raw will be short-lived and somehow one of the major titles will make its way back to Monday nights soon (our bet is Batista bringing the Smackdown World title over this Sunday night at Night Of Champions), but, for the time being, it’s fun to imagine.

Despite the dearth of a major title and the loss of some of the bigger names, the fact is Raw is Raw. The brand will never lose face and the second the big wigs feel that it’s losing ground to Smackdown or anything else, you’ll see a change. It’s the most favored child of WWE and the move to bring over the likes of Batista, Mysterio, C.M. Punk, and Kofi Kingston is simply the next chapter in the long history of the star-making brand. It’s great to see Raw move in such a drastically different direction, and we expect only positive things from the moves. Hell, it can’t get much worse, right?

Still, the loss that concerns us most—aside from the obvious moves of J.R., Triple-H, and Jeff Hardy—is Ken Kennedy who had so much upside that he seemed to be a natural fit on the main brand. Something’s not right there and hopefully Kennedy regains his footing—and importance—back on Friday nights.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of June 13-19

By Frank Ingiosi

I sat in my living room last night watching, naturally, two guys best known for collecting paychecks drawn on Stamford paper—an all-too-common occurrence—wrestle on Impact. The men: current TNA World championship challenger and, in case you forgot, five-time former world champion Booker T, and a man who vaguely resembled a five-time former WWE World tag team champion and two-time former NWA World tag team champion, B.G. James.

For those of you counting, that’s 12 world championship runs in one match. Yet, of the two men, only Booker would likely be considered wrestling royalty at this point in his career. So, what gives?

I’ve never really given much thought to the downturn of B.G.—or for that matter, Kip—James since the end of his WWE run. The man had a nice go of things as a member of 3LiveKru, but even that proved to be fleeting. A brief pseudo-run as a singles wrestler quickly gave way to a re-teaming with his former New Age Outlaws partner Kip and, once again, B.G. was swept to the side.

Now, let me clarify that I’m not here to defend B.G. James or tout his ability and how he’s been overlooked as a singles wrestler. Frankly, history will dictate—and I couldn’t agree more—that the man works better in today’s industry as part of a team or faction than as a singles wrestler. He’s a great showman with enough talent to make those around him better, but that doesn’t exactly translate into merchandise sales when one ventures off on his own.

Still, it’s somewhat disheartening to see what’s become of B.G. and Kip in TNA. Their demise as a team was as inevitable and telegraphed as anything I’ve seen in quite some time at any level of wrestling. And, despite all the mutual animosity toward each other and years of built-up championship equity, neither seems poised to make a legitimate move to singles prominence. They’ve become the breadcrumb in Mom’s meatloaf: nothing more than filler. And if there’s anything fans can’t stand, it’s more loaf than meat.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (6/13)
U.S. champion Matt Hardy knocked off part-time greaser, all-time oddball Chuck Palumbo in a warm-up bout for Night of Champions later this month. Hardy’s opponent at NOC—Chavo Guerrero Jr.—sat ringside and gave his own special brand of commentary throughout the match, which, naturally, was not entirely flattering to the incumbent champion. Guerrero promised that he would become U.S. champion at the forthcoming pay-per-view, which led us at “The Turn” offices to conclude that despite being a former ECW champion, the U.S. title would be a huge leap upward for Chavo. Sad to think in those terms, but the ECW title really isn’t the springboard that WWE sold the fans on it being.

Raw (6/16)
We would be remiss to not mention that despite Jim Duggan dressing his 2 x 4 in a mini-tux, and background music that should make the ears of the copyright attorney for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? perk up, the boss’ million-dollar giveaway once again ground his flagship program to a halt. Despite a spike in the ratings (up to a 3.3 this week), we’re fairly certain that the only folks truly enjoying the segments are the select few who walk away with a life-changing amount of money. For the rest of us, it’s sad. With that out of the way, the big news from Monday night was the emergence of Lance Cade as the newest member of the top-tier society on Raw. Assisting Chris Jericho in a beatdown of Raw World champ Triple-H was Cade’s formal indoctrination into the stratosphere of main-eventers. Now, Mr. Cade, try your best, but not your very best, or else you may mysteriously lose this vaunted position.

ECW (6/17)
Regardless of the name he goes by, Evan Bourne (formerly Matt Sydal) has lived up—and surpassed—expectations. With an impressive victory over apparently-a-wrestler-again Matt Stryker on Tuesday night, Bourne became yet another excellent piece in the lower-mid-card group that includes the likes of a Kofi Kingston and Elijah Burke who should lead the company at some point down the line. In a night headlined by, yet again, a C.M. Punk-John Morrison main event, Bourne and Stryker stole the show. Make the effort to catch this guy’s matches and, if possible, pull some of his old stuff. You won’t be disappointed.

Impact (6/19)
Last night A.J. Styles—regarded as the face of TNA in the promotion’s early days—declared himself to no longer be anyone’s sidekick, but rather he was now, again, his own man. This long overdue recovery of testosterone is refreshing to see as we at “The Turn” have never—ever—been a fan of dumpy lackey A.J., yet there’s still something about the whole damn thing that bothers us. At only 30, Styles is one of the most highly decorated American wrestlers in the industry today. The man’s a three-time NWA champion and a four-time NWA tag team champion! Further, he’s held the X division strap six times and the TNA World tag team title once. With a resume like that, the guy shouldn’t be a sidekick to anyone; hell, he’s the type of guy that you build a promotion around (as TNA once did). It never made sense to us that Styles was pushed into a comic role for the past year or so and, although he acquitted himself well, it’s refreshing to see the “Phenomenal One” back where he belongs.

And Finally … A little more dap for one of the groomsmen in Black Machismo’s ill-fated nuptials with So Cal Val: PWI Rookie of the Year for 1979, Koko B. Ware, turns 51 today.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of June 6-12

By Frank Ingiosi

Well, there was a million dollars given away on Monday night in varying increments; but, a “mania” it was not.

Winners who were clearly prompted in advance combined with hokey stand-up segments by Mr. McMahon that simply made for a night more memorable for being, literally, the most expensive broadcast in Raw’s 15-year history than for breaking ground in any way. The program ground to a halt each time the boss was cued to make the “random” phone call to fans that were phenomenally complacent for winning such large sums of cash. Worst of all—and this has to hurt worse than the sizable donation to viewers—it didn’t amount to a damn thing.

Ratings numbers for this past Monday night’s offering showed that Raw drew a 3.0 for the broadcast which, if you’re keeping score at home, was actually .1 lower than the prior week. Absorb that for a second. The guy running the show went out of his way to promote the hell out of a contest where he was giving away $1,000,000 and the fans actually tuned in less.

Since Monday night, McMahon et al. have been on spin patrol, attempting to push the contest on as many mainstream media outlets as possible. A smooth businessman, McMahon never came off as an easy sell whenever I have seen him go toe-to-toe with the mainstream media. He always seems on edge, as if, at any moment, someone could call him out on his life’s work and elicit the obligatory freak-out. Man, Bob Costas, you did quite the number on this guy.

Last week I was cautiously intrigued as to how the latest viewer-grab scheme would pan out. Of course, I want to see the industry—and thus the goliath that keeps the machine going—succeed. It doesn’t benefit anyone to have WWE struggle in the way it has of late. Further, my days of getting pleasure from others’ pain have long since passed. If anything, I think we should all be a bit nervous that the “Million Dollar Mania” has flopped—so far—as badly as it has.

What seemed like a bottom-of-the-barrel, far-reaching, desperate ploy to bring in viewership to the acknowledged top brand of the acknowledged largest promotion is turning into little more than an expensive embarrassment. Word is, this gimmick will die a quick death—as in, the next time you see the giveaway on Raw will be the last. But until that happens, it doesn’t seem as if WWE has a clue.

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (6/6)
We generally enjoy the entertainment that Santino Marella provides each week. As a rulebreaker and assassin of the English language, Santino annoys us in a way only his tag team partner Carlito used to (you know, when he wasn’t angry at the world). But, what in the blue hell was the deal with Santino taking the fall against Cousin Sal? Oh, you know Cousin Sal; comedian Jimmy Kimmel’s cousin who appears he hasn’t participated in an athletic event in, well, forever. Gimmicky matches and random celebrity appearances aside, it makes zero sense for Santino to be the fall guy in such a schlocky—and head-scratching—angle. Something feels as if the whole plan originally had Carlito’s name on it with Santino stepping up to be the good soldier and keep things cool backstage.

Raw (6/9)
Pardon us if we’ve missed some nuance or some subtle background description, but why is Beth Phoenix holding a phantom belt over her head each time she comes through the curtain? It was cool when she was champ and actually had a belt to hold above her head, but now it’s just kind of strange. We at “The Turn” love Beth and hope that someday soon she regains the gold or, at the very least, something to hold above her head. In fact, now we’re concerned for her. Please, fellow fans send along your suggestions to pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com for what Beth should put in her hands after stepping through the curtain, and we will try to forward it along to her. Be creative and keep in mind that she could kill us all if you insult her.

ECW (6/10)
Armando Estrada dropped three straight matches on Tuesday night in yet another of Teddy Long’s moves to make life miserable for the former general manager of ECW. After falling to Finlay, Estrada then was quickly defeated by both the abnormally pale Colin Delaney, and finally, Hornswoggle. While this was overall an unimpressive segment, it did get us thinking as to what a feud between Delaney and Hornswoggle would look like. Delaney obviously has the height and reach advantage, but Hornswoggle is a former cruiserweight champion and wears a tiny hat that everyone seems to go bat-crap crazy over. We’re going to have to give the edge to the wee leprechaun in that battle. Whatever natural advantages Delaney may have should quickly be mitigated by Hornswoggle’s ability to live under the ring if need be or call on his perpetually angry father. If history has taught us anything it’s that the ability to move merch will triumph over effort every time.

Impact (6/12)
Love Booker T. Love Samoa Joe. Love both of them together in a feud for the TNA World championship? Hmm … we’ll say “maybe.” It’s not that the guys aren’t charismatic or talented enough to carry a program together; they are. I think what bothers us most is that once again—in what’s becoming typical TNA fashion—this feud doesn’t seem like a long-term thing with enough of a set-up to make it truly compelling. TNA has been trying to keep things up-tempo on its broadcasts by having everyone feuding with multiple people at the same time. For example, Joe may be taking on Booker in the ring, but his tenuous relationship with Kevin Nash seems prime for a battle. Booker’s chasing Joe and the strap, but at the same time he’s struggling to gain respect from management. In the end, what worries us most about Booker versus Joe is that we’ll only be getting a taste of what could be a very solid feud.

And Finally … With today being the dreaded Friday the 13th, let’s go back and take a look at a bout of bad luck that, in hindsight, kind of pales in comparison to his life today. On June 13, 1993—a Sunday for the superstitious among us—Hulk Hogan lost the WWF World championship to Yokozuna at the King Of The Ring pay-per-view after a fireball temporarily blinded the incumbent champ. Hogan wouldn’t hold the title again for nine years.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 30-June 6

By Frank Ingiosi

In a move reminiscent of the Bush administration’s highly touted economic stimulus plan, Vince McMahon is going to stir up business by giving money away. What a great country. Seriously, how awesome is it that we live in a place where money can be thrown at any problem and the next thing you know—bam!—fixed. It’s capitalism at its finest, and I love it.

So, here’s the skinny, the way it has been explained to me: sign up for the contest on WWE’s website and each week on Raw the boss will make live phone calls to the registered and award them some free cash. That’s it. The plan couldn’t be any simpler, and the buzz couldn’t be any higher. Mainstream media outlets have reported on McMahon’s plan to pay money from his own pocket to loyal fans and prize pigs alike. Stating that he’s hoping to reward loyal fans as well as bring old fans back to his product, McMahon is certainly setting the bar high, even by his standards.

Where does the chairman go from here? He’s literally paying folks to tune into his show. Think about that for a second. When the writing fails, and the storylines are weak, the boss steps in with a contest intended to appeal to one of the more basic instincts people have: greed. The show won’t get better; the players won’t become more compelling personalities. Sure, ratings may spike a bit, but this certainly isn’t a long-term fix to what currently ails WWE’s top brand.

Come to think of it, this is starting to feel less like my economic stimulus check and more like the election for fifth grade class president when that smartass popular kid won because his mom baked everyone cupcakes with “Vote For Jimmy” written in icing. Sure, he won the popularity contest, but you know in 10 years he was scouring the Internet for at-home meth recipes between shifts at the telemarketing company he works for part-time. Shortsightedness never worked for meth-head, cupcake lovin’ Jimmy, and it likely won’t save the day for WWE.

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (5/30)
Some rare “Turn” love goes out to Michelle McCool who may very well be the most overlooked female wrestler in WWE today. It was only a few short years ago that McCool left the company in a shroud of controversy after reports surfaced about problems she allegedly had backstage with some of the male wrestlers. Upon returning, McCool was a tempting, yet entirely one-dimensional, schoolteacher. Today, she’s actually become something of a serviceable wrestler worthy of the television time she’s given. Her victory over the very inexperienced Maryse, in which McCool carried what would’ve been an otherwise unwatchable match, goes to show just how much she has developed in such a short timeframe.

Raw (6/2)
We’re trying our best at “Turn” headquarters to figure out what is going on with the bizarre Raw World tag team title situation. Bob Holly is disappointed in his protégé and current co-champion Cody Rhodes and doesn’t like the influence Roddy Piper seems to have on him. Meanwhile, Ted DiBiase Jr. is promising the duo that he will soon choose a partner and take the championship from the incumbents. If this sounds disjointed, it’s probably because it is. The funny thing is that this is probably the most compelling angle on Raw at the moment. In other news, John Cena has set his sights on Triple-H and the Raw Wor … crap … sorry. Actually dozed off just writing that last part.

ECW (6/3)
Everyone’s favorite former ring crew member, referee, manager, and heart attack victim (what did ever happen to his wedding?), Theodore Long is back in the fold as the new general manager of ECW. Bounced from the same position with the Smackdown brand by the sometimes-invalid Vickie Guerrero, Long replaced Armando Alejandro Estrada Tuesday night—without the latter’s knowledge—as the top guy of the formerly hardcore brand. The mission of his first night was to put his predecessor through a series of matches and taunts as payback for the way Estrada ran the show. As much as we love Teddy, ECW seems like a strange fit; although, it’s nice to have him on television in some capacity. Plus, this could just be another part of the move to make ECW into what Smackdown used to be.

Impact (6/5)
If TNA wants Kaz to be a part of the World title chase then here’s a bit of unsolicited advice: Just put the man in the damn hunt for the championship, period. The masters of 1,000 gimmicks never fails to surprise us here at “The Turn,” and last night’s inaugural X division “King Of The Mountain” match left us scratching our heads. Like the actual “King Of The Mountain” match, the goal was to hang the prize on a hook high above the ring in order to gain the victory. Here, the prize was the large red X that has become synonymous with the division and its eight-dozen or so gimmick matches. Once the X is hung above the ring, the man responsible becomes the proud owner of a shot at … the TNA World championship currently held by Samoa Joe. Wait … huh? Win the X division match and get a World title shot? We get the premise, we just don’t understand why it’s necessary. With roughly six to eight viable World title contenders already on the roster, why go in this direction?

And Finally … Sunday’s Slammiversary pay-per-view will be the fourth in the brief history of TNA. The current card—as it exists today—consists of six matches, two of which are Knockouts contests, and a wedding between Jay Lethal and So Cal Val. By comparison, the 2005 edition of the same event consisted of nine matches, virtually no gimmick matches, and an all-time shocker as Raven walked away with the NWA World title.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 23-29

By Frank Ingiosi

I noticed a strange, yet familiar, phenomenon last night while sitting in the least comfy armchair in my palatial apartment watching Impact and mentally preparing for today’s column. I chose the least enjoyable chair because I suffer for my art just for the pleasure of all of you out there. Plus, my wife and cats took up all the couch space in the other room, exiling me to the bedroom and decorative furniture.

For anyone who didn’t catch Impact last night—a program that, of late, has so damn many plot holes it makes Lost seem coherent—there was one match that caught my attention purely because of the level of talent it brought to the proverbial table. So struck by what I was watching, I actually flicked the record button on the remote with the intention of coming back later and re-watching the match that brought about this relatively new sensation in the hopes of gaining more insight or, simply, reliving the emotion.

After the show ended, I went back and watched the brief, but impressive, match between Roxxi Laveaux and Angelina Love. That’s right: a Knockouts match that didn’t involve Awesome Kong or Gail Kim actually caught my attention. But—and here’s the rub—I was impressed with Laveaux and Love’s wrestling ability rather than hoping against hope that something reasonably homoerotic may happen.

Sorry, WWE fans. But as I’ve been chastised for in the past, I’ll take a sound wrestling match between two women who know how to have one over two models/actresses (her real passion, you know) rolling around in lingerie. Now, of course that only pertains to my chosen profession and not everyday life, in which case, the roles are completely reversed. But, when it comes to being part of a wrestling program, give me talent over catfights any day of the week.

I suppose in the end what left me so impressed was that TNA, as a whole, put a high premium on bringing in talented female wrestlers and then showcasing them in a way that works for the promotion. Every persona is built for wrestling and exaggerated to a degree that makes these women interesting. There’s something to be said for making a good wrestler into a great personality rather than the other way around and, critical as I can be of TNA, I have to say that they’re getting this thing right.

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (5/23)
Remember when Finlay was in an angle with the boss and had a very interesting storyline heading into WrestleMania 24? So do we. Unfortunately for fans of Finlay—of which the entire “Turn” kingdom should be—Finlay’s brief but memorable run with the spotlight has unfortunately ended, evidenced by his budding feud with Chuck Palumbo. Finlay always seemed built for the midcard at this point in his career; however, it was encouraging to see him get some attention, however brief. We suppose it’s simply the fact that he’s being used to inevitably make the former wrestling life partner of Billy Gunn and extra from The Outsiders look viable. Something’s just not right with that.

Raw (5/26)
You know you’re old when the son of Ted DiBiase is calling out the son of Dusty Rhodes and you can remember watching both of the old men when they were in their prime. Still, the excitement surrounding the debut of the younger DiBiase is palpable and his surprise debut is much sooner than originally anticipated. The highly touted third-generation grappler should add to an increasingly solid foundation for the company and, if he pans out as promised, may be a mainstay for quite some time. No rips here—just wishing the new guy well.

ECW (5/27)
The Big Show has emerged as the odds-on favorite to win the “Singapore Cane” match at One Night Stand and move on to Night Of Champions (formerly Vengeance) as Kane’s opponent for the ECW championship. That being said, it doesn’t seem as if anyone is asking “why?” Since returning from an early retirement, the slimmed down Show has been a part of all three brands in some form or another, yet appears to be settling down once again as a part of ECW. We love Show here at “The Turn,” but we stand by our original opinion that hardcore he is not and, on top of that, his run atop ECW certainly is not recalled with fondness. The move is questionable at best and disastrous at worst.

Impact (5/29)
It takes a lot to make us uncomfortable. A lot. But, last night’s softcore video—that took up nearly four full minutes of air time—for Ace Young’s latest pop-rock offering made us squirm just a bit in our seats. The video prominently featured Jay Lethal—in all of his “Black Machismo” glory—in various states of congress with his bride-to-be, the drastically underappreciated So Cal Val. Cringe television at its best, the video jumped from scenes of Young pseudo-rocking with his band to scattered shots of Lethal and Val getting all cozy with each other. The whole damn thing just felt weird and, suddenly, we got where Sonjay Dutt was coming from.

And Finally … What a difference a year makes. This time last year, WWE was getting ready for a Candice Michelle and Melina Cinemax-style pudding match at ECW’s One Night Stand, which was the sole female offering at the one-time hardcore event. This year, Melina will have to prepare a little more vigorously as she’ll be making the leap from tasty desserts to an “I Quit” match against the genetically terrifying Beth Phoenix. This one could be good or, at the very least, worthy of making us forget last year’s debacle.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 16-22

By Frank Ingiosi

I woke up this morning with a sick, sinking feeling in my stomach. Now, it very well could’ve been something I ate, or just the natural letdown of my body after traveling as much as I have been lately. Or, more likely, the looming uneasiness I feel could be attributed to what I saw last night on Impact.

A few weeks back, Booker T abruptly turned his back on the fans and embraced the dark side, as he has from time to time during his career. As an unabashed Booker fan, I’ve always felt the guy works better when he doesn’t want the fans to like him; he’s a classic rulebreaker who can get under your skin and make you love to hate him. But, in a way TNA has come to embrace, Booker essentially turned against us all without provocation nor warning nor much of an explanation. In short, TNA wanted Booker bad hence Booker is now bad. Deal with it, loyal fan.

In the same night, Booker revealed that he was aligning himself with guns for hire Team 3D and, over the course of the weeks that followed, both entities covered for each other and interfered in each other’s matches. Team 3D continued to tout their history as a team and their long resume of accomplishments, while Booker reminding us all yet again that he is a “five time …” (you know the routine) world champion. Inherently, there’s really nothing wrong with villains pairing together to wreak havoc on a promotion. It’s a time-tested and fan-approved strategy that is nearly as old as the sport itself.

That brings us to last night and what appears to be an expansion of the Booker/Team 3D partnership and the basis for my uneasiness. During Booker’s “King Of The Mountain” qualifying match against A.J. Styles, Tomko interfered as pretty much everyone in the viewing audience expected. The rub here was that his interference was on behalf of Booker and against Styles, his former tag team partner with which he very recently held the gold. Officially, Tomko ended his association with Styles and appeared to now be on the side of Booker and Team 3D. In case anyone has failed to pick up on the insinuation thus far, allow me to remind you that all four of these men once receive paychecks from WWE.

The icing on the proverbial crap cake came only moments after Tomko cost his former partner his match with Booker when, in a moment of either maternal or affectionate protection, Karen Angle rushed to the ring to protect Styles who was taking the obligatory post-match beating. When the task proved to be too much, Karen brought out her husband—Olympic gold medalist and former TNA and WWE champion—Kurt to save the day. Yet, when Kurt saw his bride’s concern for Styles—whom he’s long suspected of having an affair with Karen—the former champ snapped, pummeling the semi-conscious Styles.

Heading into Slammiversary—one of TNA’s anchor pay-per-views—we now have a group of former WWE wrestlers with little prior connection as part of the TNA roster suddenly running together. In a sport where so many other angles have failed miserably after so desperately trying to recapture the flair of the NWO, this current move by TNA has the stink of desperation. Assuming the group stays together and TNA pushes them as a rulebreaking team, it may be time to officially say that the promotion has truly lost its way. I’ve been as critical as anyone of the product TNA puts out each week; however, a retread like this—without any compelling lead-in—has a distinct NWO 2000 feel to it.

“But, Frank,” you say, “couldn’t it all just be a coincidence that these guys happened to work for WWE at some point in their past?” The short answer is: hell no; an even shorter answer would just be: no. Anyone who follows the industry for any amount of time knows that in today’s sport there really is no such thing as coincidence.

So, if last night was any indicator of things to come, to say that the angle has the fingerprints of TNA creative all over it would be a gross understatement. Yes, wrestling angles and strategies are always re-used, but this is one—assuming it comes to fruition—should be buried before it begins.

Be prepared for something that, very honestly, cannot end well.

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (5/16)
A bit of virtual ink for the oft-overlooked Funaki who received some facetime on Smackdown last week. Of course, the massive Vladimir Kozlov beat said face handily. The best part of an otherwise unmemorable match was the chants of “U.S.A.” that the fans used to taunt Kozlov despite the fact that his opponent was Japanese. Beautiful work, Grand Rapids.

Raw (5/19)
King General Manager Regal was fired on Monday night, but we don’t expect it to stick. Let’s say he’ll be back mispronouncing ethnic names and making lives miserable in, oh, two months or so. Here’s to hoping he gets well and uses the time away to get his life in order.

ECW (5/20)
It was announced that four former ECW champions will fight in a “Fatal Fourway” at WWE’s One Night Stand pay-per-view to determine the number-one contender to the current title held by Kane. Here’s to betting that the group isn’t Shane Douglas, Jimmy Snuka, The Sandman, and Tazz. ECW=Hardcore no more.

Impact (5/22)
Jay “Black Machismo” Lethal and So Cal Val’s pending nuptials at SummerSl … oh, sorry … Slammiversary promises to be the must-see event of the year and last night’s announcement that American Idol’s own Ace Young would perform during their wedding ceremony. For the six intelligent people out there who actually don’t watch Idol, Young finished seventh in the competition two years ago. Big score for TNA, bringing in the seventh best singer in a karaoke competition nearly two years old. What a coup! Keep striving for mediocrity!

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 9-15

By Frank Ingiosi

He’s got you all fooled. Hey, I’ll throw myself into the mix just to make it seem like we’re on the same page. But, in reality, he’s got you all fooled.

It hit me the other night much the same way it did Chazz Palmenteri at the end of The Usual Suspects, which I’m well aware I’ve cited before—right here in the middle of this very column—so bear with me. The pieces suddenly fit and everything that once seemed like some sort of disjointed amalgamation of gibberish now made sense. We were being played. Verbal Kint—the bumbling, no-way-could-that-be-the-bad-guy bad guy—just sat in front of us and spun a tale so detailed and elaborate that it had to be true. We ate up every ounce of garbage we were fed.

Listening to Mike Adamle call an episode of ECW could substitute for water-boarding should the current administration choose to further broaden its interpretation of acceptable interrogation tactics. Really, it’s that bad.

Not unlike every Linkin Park song I’ve ever heard, Adamle essentially repeats, in a different tone, the exact same thing Tazz just said. On top of that, he butchers clichés, stumbles over his own sentences, and appears to have zero idea where he is or why he’s there at any given moment.

Now, of course, I understand that the easiest way to diffuse a situation is to address it—and make light of it—yourself. Adamle was well known for not being strong with his live reads or commentary and, like clockwork, that fact made the rounds from one end of the Internet (which starts somewhere near Poland for anyone wondering) to the other. So, it’s a wise move by WWE to account for any actual missteps he has by making his angle be that he’s a bad announcer. Bravo—code cracked.

My theory is far more sinister and admittedly far-fetched. See, I don’t think Adamle is destined for the ECW announce table, and it’s not because of the verbal atrocities he subjects the six-dozen or so fans in the television audience to each week. I keep getting the feeling that the man is fated for a spot in a big angle that reveals he’s got more pull in the company—at least on television—than any of us think. Like Eric Bischoff pulling the strings behinds the NWO, Adamle is the perfect candidate to be the next man to make the unlikely jump from irrelevance to notoriety.

Of course, he could just be a really bad announcer and maybe I could be the one leading you astray.

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (5/9)
Edge once again became a top contender to the Smackdown World championship by gaining last-minute notice of medical clearance and winning the over-the-top-rope battle royal following Vickie Guerrero’s mandated “Championship Chase” pseudo-tournament. It’s funny how the more disinterested we get in the World championship situation on Smackdown, the more compelling it gets. The formula’s no different from years past, but for some reason the Edge-’Taker feud is interesting.

Raw (5/12)
We’ve been accused of being apologists for John Cena throughout his career solely because we at “The Turn” don’t believe that the same folks who made Hulk Hogan a millionaire should punish Cena for his goody-goody, save-the-day attitude. But—and haters of Cena perk up your ears—we found something so ridiculous about the man that we’re going to have to call him out and abandon our prior defenses, at least for the time being. It’s all well and good to support your country and love the way of life, but Cena really needs to tone down the bleeding of red, white, and blue. Calling out William Regal on Monday night for having the national anthem of the U.K. sung at the top of Raw under the premise of “This is America” was nauseating. John, you do realize that even though you played a marine, you’re not actually a marine, right?

ECW (5/13)
All right, we’ve avoided bringing this up until now primarily because it didn’t warrant much discussion, but also because, quite frankly, it freaked us out just a bit. What the hell is the deal with the effect that occurs when John Morrison makes his entrance to ringside? The screen blurs and slows down very likely to play up his shaman-like, pseudo-rockstar image and the natural inference of a connection to the drug culture of the 1960s. Not only is it cheesy and annoying, it doesn’t seem to be something worth promoting. We’ve gotten the same experience by using the wrong chemicals to clean the bathrooms at PWI headquarters as we do watching the trippy entrance of the Shaman of Stereotypes.

Impact (5/15)
Who would’ve thought that Kevin Nash would still be associated with any promotion, in an on-camera role, at this stage in his career? As much as we’ve bashed him in the past (and we tended to do so pretty regularly) we have to admit that Nash has found a nice niche as the elder statesman of TNA. While it seems pretty much inevitable that Nash and his sometimes friend Samoa Joe are headed for a showdown for the TNA World title—where we would give Joe a decisive advantage—it’s still nice to see the guy contribute.

And Finally … We’re going to give the slight advantage to the “Dead Man” heading into Sunday night’s title match with Edge, primarily because he’s been in this situation before. The last time a World championship was vacant heading into Judgment Day was 10 years ago when the card was an October “In Your House” pay-per-view. That night, The Undertaker fought Kane to a no-contest for the WWF World title. Special guest referee “Stone-Cold” Steve Austin declared himself the winner and new champion, and was summarily fired by Vince McMahon the following night for doing so.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 2-8

By Frank Ingiosi

After much deliberation and careful consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that I hate, hate the Raw World championship belt.

Hate.

Think about that for a second. There’s really not much in the world that I can say I legitimately “hate.” There are your basics of injustice, oppression, and the like, but everyone hates those things. But, as it stands now, I think the only tangible item that I hate is that ridiculous looking Raw World title belt.

My beef is simple and can be broken down into two distinct reasons as to why I hate that godawful strap: 1) It’s embarrassingly cartoonish and was intended, when introduced, to be counter-culture and not the norm, and, 2) It’s solely still in use to make money off of us schlubs.

Let me address the second reason first, as that’s far easier to explain. While I’m certainly not against, nor naïve to, a company’s ability to make money, in this case I have a problem. Imagine if the NHL conducted a survey amongst morons 18-22 and asked them if they believed the Stanley Cup would be more appealing if the top bowl spun, and when these dolts cried “yes” in unison, they made it so simply to pander to a group of customers. That’s how it makes me feel.

Back to reason number one, and I touched on it briefly a moment ago: The belt looks cartoonish. Think back, if you will, to when John Cena introduced the spinner belt to WWE. It was done because he felt that the current gold didn’t fit his style. So, now, we have the goofy-looking chunk of gold that you could pick up anywhere on Market Street here in Philly for $40 representing the most prestigious championship in what’s considered the most prestigious company. There’s no real history to it; there’s no connection to the past.

I think my disdain for the Raw World title belt didn’t really hit me until Triple-H won the championship at Backlash. Watching him carry around a toy and try to look badass while doing so completely takes the edge off the man. Could you imagine a Bruno Sammartino carrying that garbage belt? Bob Backlund? Hulk Hogan? Okay, fine, Hogan probably would be happy to do so. Hell, the man would wear makeup and high heels if you let him play his daughter’s album for you—but that’s something for another time.

I suppose, to sum all this up, that my biggest gripe with the Raw World title belt is that it’s just another example of WWE changing something that really never needed to be changed. Freshen up your storylines—sure, that’s great. Bring in and develop new talent—awesome. Take the biggest prize in your company and whore it out for a few bucks more—unnecessary.

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (5/2)
Why can’t they just leave the man alone, huh? If it’s not injury, it’s bitter woman in a wheelchair keeping The Undertaker from enjoying a lengthy, well-deserved title run. Vickie Guerrero—in her capacity as … huh … we’re not quite sure what the hell she’s considered anymore—stripped ’Taker of the gold last Friday night on Smackdown in the interest of fairness, and she banned his brand spanking new gogoplata chokehold. Shockingly, Edge became the new number-one contender after winning a shoddily thrown together tournament.

Raw (5/5)
It’s bad enough that we’re stuck with Mike Adamle one night a week, but to have him appear on Raw and continue his shtick of being faux-bad to mask how really bad he is just sucks. We’re sorry, but it does. Still, we’re glad to see that, at the very least, WWE is trying to do something with that fiasco. It’s like the fat kid in your 5th-grade class who tries to beat you to the punch by goofing on himself; sure, you laugh, but it’s in lieu of feeling really awful for the guy. Adamle is not, nor was he ever, fit for the gig and everyone knows that. Everyone except for WWE apparently.

ECW (5/6)
Congratulations to Colin Delaney for finally earning his ECW contract by defeating Armando Estrada on the brand’s 100th episode Tuesday night. The upside: Delaney now realizes his dream of becoming an ECW wrestler. The downside: Delaney is now an ECW wrestler. Ever get blinded so much by the pursuit of something that you fail to recognize the flaws within the prize itself? Why do we get the feeling that Delaney popped up from a sound sleep in a cold sweat early Wednesday morning and screamed “What have I done?!”

Impact (5/8)
We at “The Turn” love—love—tournaments. There’s just something about the tournament structure that really makes for some intriguing matchups and a fun experience for the viewer. Still, there’s something about TNA’s “Deuces Wild” tournament that is just too disjointed for our liking. Some teams are established, while others are unlikely yet “completely random” pairings. It just doesn’t feel right, although it could be an interesting watch. Of course, we may just be squeamish at the fact that there’s a tag team tournament as part of a pay-per-view, but what do we know?

And Finally … A belated congratulations to Frank’s doppelganger and all around tough guy Samoa Joe on winning the TNA World championship at Lockdown. If Joe’s track record is any indicator, he could hold on to this title for quite some time. Joe’s last major championship reign (ROH) lasted for an astounding 21 months and ended—perhaps even more shockingly—nearly 3½ years ago. Think he was hungry for the gold?

Thank you all for your submissions and keep the comments coming.

THE TURN SPECIAL EDITION: 2008 Hall of Fame Inductees

By Frank Ingiosi

Here it is.  After weeks of deliberation and dutiful tabulation, we have finally come to the revelation that has brought much speculation across the nation. Please pardon the Don King-ery, but we’re pretty damn stoked that THOF Announcement Day is here.

The single greatest spectacle in the history of online wrestling reporting on this website has finally come to fruition and we at “The Turn” feel confident that not only will this inaugural THOF class of 2008 spark discussion, but it should also set the tone for future selections in the years to come, assuming we’re not fired by the big bosses at PWI any time soon for stealing office supplies.

To recap, what we were looking for here was not necessarily the greatest wrestler, nor were we looking for someone who could move merch like a guy selling “real” Rolexes on Mulberry Street. Rather, we were looking for both wrestlers and builders—those who shaped televised wrestling—who provided us, the fans, with constant and memorable entertainment. These inductees evoked some sort of response from us—whether favorable or not—each and every time they popped up on our television screens. It is those folk who make televised wrestling and, thus, “The Turn” what it is today.

Today, May 2, 2008, we induct the first three members into the THOF. They will be immortalized with a plaque on the wall of “Turn” headquarters as well as our undying praise and gratitude as a THOFer—a word that bounces off the palette not unlike a piano falling down the stairs.

These three inductees were selected entirely from the scores of e-mails nominating them.  They were selected because they appeared most frequently on the nominating e-mails. You decided that these three were worthy of selection into the most hallowed halls in the history of PWI’s website. You chose to recognize what these men brought to televised wrestling for more than four decades. You will send us nasty e-mails swearing that none of them were on your list and somehow, in some way, we’re on the take from WWE. Hey, what can we say? Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Without any further ado, here is the Turn Hall of Fame inaugural class of 2008. This year, we’ve inducted one builder, one wrester, and one who liked to dabble in both:

Bobby Heenan (Builder)
It is nearly impossible to think of professional wrestling in the 1980s without recalling fondly your disdain for Bobby Heenan. If insulting wrestlers and fans alike were an art form, Heenan would be considered the Michelangelo of trash talk. After a largely forgettable in-ring career, Heenan moved to a managerial role in the 1970s. Complementing that, Heenan also proved to be tremendously adept behind the mike as the obligatory “bad guy” commentator who cheered the rulebreakers and rued the love shown to fan favorites.
 
“Turn” U.K. correspondent Andy Cain perhaps summed up Heenan’s contribution best in an e-mail stating, “As much a staple of 1980s WWF as Hogan, Warrior, Savage, The Honky Tonk Man, Andre, DiBiase and Piper, ‘The Brain’ was often the main reason to tune into wrestling in the 1980s. From his riotous commentary to his red-hot management style, Bobby was what every color commentator and wannabe manager in wrestling should aspire to be.”

After leaving the WWF and making the move to rival WCW, Heenan still showed signs of brilliance in what could only be considered a more reined-in atmosphere. While he would never reclaim the level of involvement he had in the 1980s, Heenan was still one of the most beloved and despised figures in all of televised wrestling.

Because of his contributions to televised wrestling as both a manager and commentator, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan is the first inductee into the Turn Hall of Fame, under the “Builder” category.
 
Dusty Rhodes (Wrestler/Builder)
As critical as we at “The Turn” have been of Dusty Rhodes in all of his many, many capacities over the years, the induction of the “American Dream” as part of the THOF inaugural class of 2008 has to prove—beyond the shadow of a doubt—that this list was selected by you, the great fans of wrestling.

Regardless of anyone’s opinion of the man, for good or ill, Rhodes has contributed to the advent of televised wrestling in ways that few others in the industry with as much or more longevity could ever claim. From his days as a mainstay of the NWA and then WCW to his polka-dotted contributions to the WWF and now WWE, Rhodes has been synonymous with the televised wrestling landscape as it exists today.

Without ever realizing it or, for those who fancy themselves as “insiders,” much of what you see from a storyline or angle perspective has some semblance of Rhodes’ influence. In front of the cameras, Rhodes was the proverbial “every man” who represented the people and lived a normal life. He was just like you; his victories were your victories and his defeats came only because of some nefarious plot of his enemies. His battles with The Four Horsemen are stuff of legend and, to this day, the infamous arm-breaking segment is televised wrestling gold.

Behind the scenes, Rhodes is responsible for some of the most time-tested angles the industry has ever seen. His influence is far-reaching and his tactics have morphed into much of what we see on a weekly basis.

Because of his contributions to televised wrestling as both a wrestler and a builder, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes is the first inductee into the Turn Hall of Fame, under the “Wrestler/Builder” category.

The Rock (Wrestler)
As much a beneficiary of the proliferation of televised wrestling as any man in the industry’s history, The Rock is the first inductee into the THOF as a wrestler.

While we hate to steal from the man’s vocal repertoire to describe his contribution to televised wrestling, in this case no one put The Rock’s influence on the sport better than, well, The Rock. For much of the 1990s and early-2000s, The Rock was easily “the most electrifying man in sports entertainment,” hands down. While contemporaries Triple-H and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin were also building their legendary careers, it was The Rock who was immediate television gold (well, maybe “immediate” is a bit of an exaggeration).

As charismatic as they come, The Rock commanded the attention of every set of eyes glued to the television. A multi-time champion, his popularity seemed to skyrocket with each passing week and every uber-marketable catchphrase. People were raising their eyebrows with reckless abandon and phrases like “jabroni” and “roody-poo candy ass” were suddenly commonplace. The business of televised wrestling was changing and The Rock was on the vanguard.

In the ring, The Rock was not the most technically sound wrestler, nor did the fans care if he was. Think about this: His signature move was tossing an elbow pad into the crowd before delivering an exaggerated elbowdrop and yet everyone—everyone—went nuts. The man captivated throngs of fans everywhere and played his role to perfection. If we wanted to hate him, he ate it up; when we loved him, he made us hate him. The Rock was that damn great.

Because of his contributions to televised wrestling as a wrestler, The Rock is the first inductee into the Turn Hall of Fame, under the “Wrestler” category.

There you have it—the Turn Hall of Fame inaugural class of 2008, selected by you, the fans. This time next year we’ll have a whole new crop of inductees just waiting for all the joy and accolades that come with such an honorable distinction. And, with the state of televised wrestling being what it is, we’re certain there will never be a lack of worthy nominees.

Thank you all for your submissions and keep the comments coming.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of April 18-24, 2008

By Frank Ingiosi

Monday night, I looked over at my wife staring at the flat screen with a look that could only be described as dumbfounded and I smiled. Not a wrestling fan in any way, shape, or form, her reaction to what we were watching (fine, what I was watching and what she was subjected to) made me itch to sit down and write the intro to this week’s “Turn.”

See, every once in a while, wrestling makes my life easy and, trust me, there’s nothing I like better on a warm, sunny Friday morning than knowing my column can essentially write itself thanks in part to something either WWE, TNA, or any other promotion did during the prior week. This week’s recipient of a genuine “Turn”-sponsored basket of mini-muffins is WWE’s go-to program Raw for its triumphant foray into the American political landscape.
 
For anyone who has been out of the country or in some sort of catatonic state this past week, let me bring you up to speed: Monday night’s Raw featured not only taped messages from all three viable presidential candidates—rife with five-year-old wrestling colloquialisms—but also the mandatory battle of impersonators that always goes over oh, so very, very poorly.

It was cringe-TV at it’s finest and, while my wife saw it as a further sign of the downfall of American civilization, I relished every skin crawling, cold-sweat-inducing, grotesquely out-of-touch second of it. The only thing that could have made Senator Obama’s “Do you smell what Barak is cooking?” and Senator Clinton’s “people’s elbow” references seem more ridiculous would have been if Senator McCain—who quoted Ric Flair’s “To beat the man” warning in a more grammatically correct manner—showed his age by rockin’ a Toots Mondt reference.
 
I really wish everyone had seen this but, looking at the early numbers for Raw this past Monday (reportedly only a 3.0) not many of you did. Let me implore you to find the segments somewhere on the Web and, if possible, watch them with a non-wrestling fan. That should really give you a feel for just how ridiculous it was. Still, I’m left with wondering whether Monday night’s ploy was more of a move up for the sport or a move down for politics.
 
Politicians pander to virtually everyone in this country. If you head up a group of pro-left handed midgets with red hair, they’ll hold a summit for you to make you realize that your vote counts and, naturally, they’ll fight for your cause once they unpack their bags at the White House. Maybe we, as wrestling fans, should take some satisfaction in the fact that for the first time in my memory they cared so much about soliciting our votes that they even chose to attach their names to the sport, let alone tape messages for it. Have we become a block of voters—the ’tweeners of the NASCAR and university crowd—that are now worthy of political suck-up-itude?

If so, let me be the first to welcome the black hole that, as my wife rightly guessed, will be sucking up the world any moment now.
 
The Week In Televised Wrestling
 
Smackdown (4/18)

Matt Striker may prefer to be in the ring chasing championship gold and showing off the talent that has brought him to the place he currently holds in WWE. And, from time to time, he’ll treat us to a very nice match—although last Friday night’s loss to Hornswoggle wasn’t one of them. Still, as we’ve said in the past, Striker’s best chance at a long and lasting future with the company may be as a manager/commentator. The guy has Bobby Heenan-like skills. Yeah, he’s that good when he wants to be.

Raw (4/21)
It’s somewhat ironic that on the night Raw featured the three final candidates for the U.S. presidency, the theme of the evening was a return to monarchy. WWE crowned its latest King Of The Ring on Monday night when William Regal—carnival barker for the former King Booker—ascended to his rightful place atop the company’s ceremonial throne. It just seems fitting, doesn’t it? Finally, that accent and smugness will go to some good use. All is right with Raw … well, except for the angles, storylines, and repetitive feuds. Hell, they have a British king. There’s your silver lining.

ECW (4/22)
You know what’s most frustrating about ECW? No, it’s not Mike Adamle doing choppier work than your local butcher, but rather the fact that it’s nearly impossible to determine where guys stand. Last month, Shelton Benjamin was looking as if he’d regained the form that made him a hot prospect a few years ago. Tuesday, he lost to Kofi Kingston who, despite being very impressive, doesn’t seem to have gotten any mention as of yet as a title contender. Chavo Guerrero—the disgraced former champ—is competing on Smackdown, while Smackdown’s Edge is meddling with Kane on ECW. It’s funny, but if ECW actually had some semblance of structure it may be easier to accept. Whoa … we didn’t say “enjoy,” just “accept.”

Impact (4/24)
Thank you, TNA. Thank you so very, very much. Due to his interference in the TNA World title rematch last night between Samoa Joe and Kurt Angle, Scott Steiner will now be part of a three-way dance for the gold at Sacrifice. What does this mean to TNA loyalists and lovers of the awkward? At least three weeks of Steiner’s wonderful prose and wandering promos. Listening to “Big Poppa Pump” insult people on the mike is like watching the star football player from high school tackle an algebra problem. Sure, he may get there in the end, but initially it’s going to be a damn mess of rambling theorems and sweaty brows. Love it.

 And Finally …  Have insomnia? Just get in from the bar and your favorite cable channel—for some strange reason—isn’t showing dirty movies? Do yourself a favor and flip over to ESPN Classic around 1:00 AM EDT and catch awesome old episodes of AWA wrestling. Each night for the past few weeks the channel has been featuring episodes, in their original order, that are as cheesy and tremendously entertaining as you remember them to be.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of April 11-17, 2008

By Frank Ingiosi

On May 1, 2006 Joey Styles went from being the great, constantly-amazed voice of the original—and only—ECW, to being the guy who lashed out at all things WWE on the company’s flagship program. Was it scripted? Very likely. But, as anyone who follows the industry can tell you, behind much of the stuff you hear on television—scripted or not—there’s always a nugget or two of truth. Styles’ vitriol that night may not have been entirely spontaneous but you can bet for damn sure there was a shred of honest sentiment in his rant.

Exiled to the new WWECW, Styles tried to infuse into the brand some of the spirit of the original promotion, but was seemingly met at every turn by resistance in varying forms. I don’t know, nor will I venture to guess, what life was like behind the scenes, but I can tell you that, from the start, the new WWECW just didn’t have “it.” As time progressed, the brand quickly turned into something that resembled the old product in name only. Today, Kane is the champion, and somehow “hardcore” is now a stipulation rather than a mandate.

On Tuesday night, Styles handed over the lead announce spot to Mike Adamle in order to move on to a different spot within the company. If Paul Heyman and the other ECW originals’ departures took away the heart of the first ECW, then the soul certainly departed on Tuesday night.

Styles tried to make the new brand seem like it once was, but to say he was fighting a losing battle would be a gross understatement. Victory never was part of the equation when ECW was resuscitated and brought back in its current, moribund form. It was a cash grab from the start, and will continue to be until WWE decides to pull the plug. Although Styles certainly wasn’t the reason the couple dozen loyal WWECW fans turned in each week, he certainly made the experience much more palatable.

Good luck to Styles, wherever he lands within the company (early word is with wwe.com), and best of luck to Mike Adamle, who takes over what is, perhaps, the least desirable spot in wrestling commentating. He’s going to need it.

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (4/11)
Flair and Michaels it is not, but still the showdown between Batista and HBK at Backlash later this month could end up being a half-decent match. We like the angle of a scorned devotee avenging his idol’s demise against the heavy-hearted legend that took him out; plus, we’re thankful it wasn’t Triple-H in the spot where Batista currently resides in this mini-feud. Our concern is that half of the match at Backlash will be filled with Batista, whose in-ring style doesn’t exactly lend itself to entertaining matches and certainly doesn’t appear as if it will feed off of Michaels’ repertoire very well, either. It could go either way from a fan’s standpoint, although it’s more likely that we will get the vicious, street-fight bloodletting that would favor the massive “Animal,” as Michaels seems to be able to adapt better than Batista. Regardless of how it ends, we have to admit the buildup has been better than expected.

Raw (4/14)
If you thought the “Glamazon” Beth Phoenix seemed angry when she held the title, imagine what a bundle of crazy she’s going to be now that she’s missing her most expensive accessory. A very impressive six-month title reign came to an end on Monday night when Mickie James—no stranger to crazy—pulled off a shocking upset of Phoenix on Raw. The way we see it, one of two things will happen: 1. Phoenix will become vulnerable and fall back into line with the rest of the female wrestlers in WWE, or, 2. Phoenix will destroy everyone and everything in her path to regain the title. We’re going with the latter.

ECW (4/15)
While we at “The Turn” generally don’t condone—and from time to time, actually make fun of (crazy, I know)—segments such as the “Diva Dance Off” that was on ECW the other night, we’re going to give this installment a pass. With WWE making one of its infrequent visits across the pond, we’re okay with the company breaking out some silly and treating the intensely loyal fans overseas to that which we in the States take for granted. It’s like a clown going to visit sick kids, or a stripper for your grandfather. Sure, it may make you uncomfortable, but they seem to enjoy it. So go on, England. Enjoy our strippers.

Impact (4/17)
One of our all-time favorite X division wrestlers recaptured the gold on Impact last night, when Petey Williams cashed in his guaranteed title shot and defeated a battered Jay Lethal who had just finished a successful title defense. While everyone at “Turn” headquarters are thrilled for the “Maple Leaf Muscle,” we’re still a bit perplexed and, dare we say, bummed that there’s any cashing in of anything in TNA. Clearly—clearly—this is a WWE thing and one that the big company up north does very, very well. Hopefully this will extinguish the “cashing” in of guaranteed title shots in TNA for quite some time.

And Finally ... Samoa Joe’s impressive TNA World title win at Lockdown last Sunday night has already become one for the promotion’s record books. With today being the fifth day of his reign, Joe officially becomes the longest tenured TNA World champion (since TNA’s break from NWA) to not have worked as part of the WWE, besting the only other non-WWE wrestler, Sting, by two days. Armed with this knowledge, it’s somewhat fitting that it would be Scott Steiner staring down the “Samoan Submission Machine” and his much-coveted title at this point. Could Booker T and/or Matt Morgan be next?

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of April 4-10, 2008

By Frank Ingiosi

From my perspective, the TNA weekly flirtation with the MMA universe isn’t a terrible thing and, in fact, could end up being one of the smarter moves the promotion makes in the coming months. And, quite honestly, it could be the first time TNA truly slips one past WWE, who would undoubtedly love to tap into the incredibly lucrative MMA market.

With rumors abounding that MMA icon Frank Trigg’s recent appearance as a guest commentator could lead to a more involved role with TNA, and the possibility for this Sunday’s World title match between Samoa Joe and Kurt Angle to spiral off into a shoot fight, it’s safe to say the promotion is cozying up to MMA in a way WWE has yet to truly achieve.

That’s not to say the big boys up north couldn’t snap their fingers, fill up giant, old-timey bags of money (you know, the comically large silent movie ones with the dollar sign on the outside) and grab the MMA spotlight away from TNA in a heartbeat … because, they could. But, given the oftentimes-frosty relationship between the industries, it’s somewhat intriguing that TNA has been able to pull off more of a MMA feel to their show more quickly than the competition.

Everything from Angle’s in-ring “warm-up” sessions against Tomko and A.J. Styles to the personalized faux-shoot interviews with B.G. and Kip James reflecting on their fractured partnership has the flavor of MMA. While the formula of shoot-style interviews and guys like Frank Trigg work well with MMA, the jury is still out when it comes to wrestling. In the end, TNA risks the possibility of simply making a better program for the fans it has while not really bringing in any outside fans, especially MMA supporters.

Very likely, the backlash from those MMA supporters who have sought for years to distance their sport from professional wrestling would increase drastically the more often TNA and MMA were mentioned in the same breath. Feeling the integrity of their sport is being linked to an industry that, quite frankly, hasn’t had the most stellar reputation recently, will undoubtedly drive many to rebel and disparage any future TNA-MMA relationship.

Regardless of how it plays out, TNA’s dance with MMA is making for better television and a more intriguing perspective on the state of the promotion.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (4/4)
Anyone recognize the gentleman getting his doors kicked in by Victor “Double Double E” Kozlov last Friday night? Boy, to think of the long, strange trip Matt Bentley’s gone through since his days of dipping Traci Brooks on the TNA ramp. It’s amazing the guy’s still out there putting his body on the line. Once a highly touted graduate of Shawn Michael’s wrestling academy with both ROH and ECW (the original one—you know, with the excitement and fun) experience on his resume, Bentley seemed a lock to catch on with either WWE or TNA and work his way to the top. Now, he’s getting slaughtered by a pseudo-Ruskie with questionable English. Here’s to hoping Matt can catch on and finally show the world what he’s capable of.

Raw (4/7)
What’s better than a Raw World title match between two of the brand’s top guys at Backlash? How about a mess of top guys all going for the gold in a “Fatal” four-way that you probably could have seen coming from a mile away with one eye closed and the other squinting. Champ Randy Orton—who continues to be under-appreciated despite shouldering the load while John Cena was on the shelf and Triple-H wasn’t ready to hold the strap again—will take on the aforementioned challengers as well as the eternally nasty and highly watchable JBL at Backlash. Our early pick here at “The Turn” is, once again, for Triple-H to walk away champion. Although, each time we pick Hunter to win, he doesn’t. Maybe we have a gift. A great, beautiful, wonderful gift.

ECW (4/8)
A quick mea culpa on our behalf as a few weeks back we failed to mention that Nunzio was part of the scant few ECW Originals still appearing on WWE television. To be entirely honest, we’re not even sure that Nunzio realized he was still part of the ECW roster, let alone the company. Wow, think of this—if the guy was getting direct deposit, it would’ve been as if he never had to have contact with the company except for the once or twice a month he was dusted off and allowed to wrestle. Regardless, we’re sorry for omitting one of the ECW Originals, although he probably didn’t mind the snub.

Impact (4/10)
There was a line in the Oscar-worthy 1994 cinema masterpiece Dumb & Dumber in which a seemingly angry Jeff Daniels calls out Jim Carrey by saying, “Just when I thought you couldn’t get any dumber you do something like this … and totally redeem yourself!” Well, for those of you out there who hate TNA’s Lockdown for either its cheesy gimmick set-up or the obstructed view of watching a show through a cage all night, boy do we have something for you! How’s this? Every tag team on the roster that isn’t already part of the show will be chained together and thrown into the “Six Sides Of Steel” for a “Cuffed In The Cage” match. That way, you can have 12 men, with limited mobility, in a confined space, and the almost 100 percent guarantee of someone getting seriously injured, all in one match! You’re welcome, fans!

And Finally … For all the criticism of TNA’s Lockdown pay-per-view, the show consistently provides at least a few memorable moments, and this Sunday’s offering shouldn’t be any different. Our recommendation at “The Turn” would be to pay special attention to the TNA World title match (we’ve got Joe via submission) and the previously discussed train wreck in waiting, the “Cuffed In The Cage” match. While the latter will make wrestling purists cringe, it should satiate the spot monkey in all of us who’s just begging for something over-the-top to happen.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 28-April 3, 2008

By Frank Ingiosi

When is a 3.92 considered an embarrassing Nielsen rating? How about when you’re coming off your biggest pay-per-view of the year and simultaneously saying goodbye to arguably the best wrestler of all time?

Raw pulled in a 3.92 rating on Monday night, and, by all accounts, this was not what WWE was hoping for the night following WrestleMania 24. Further, with the night obviously being a farewell broadcast for Ric Flair, numbers north of 4.0 seemed very attainable. But, alas, that did not come to fruition and the night ended up being well viewed, but not to the extent expected.

Interestingly enough, the next time someone from the industry bashes the fans for their opinions on the business, consider this: The overall rating for Raw was a 3.92; however, the final segment of the night—Flair’s farewell—drew a 3.99 and ended with a 4.7 during the overrun. Maybe it’s not that we fans don’t know what we’re talking about, but rather that we know what’s good and what’s simply regurgitated garbage.

Speaking of a tremendously well-informed and intelligent fan base, keep your nominees coming in for the “Turn” Hall of Fame. The response has been great thus far; however our crack team of geniuses and shut-ins are still considering the options and determining who will get the call to televised wrestling immortality. Send your e-mails to: pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com and feel free to suggest anyone who in your opinion has contributed to the betterment—or gradual decline—of televised wrestling. All submissions will be considered and the inductees will be revealed on Friday, May 2, 2008.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (3/28)
The final Smackdown prior to WrestleMania was filled with intrigue, excitement, and, naturally, some soft-core female “wrestling” disguised as a “Wet ’N’ Wild” water fight. That’s right fellas—we’re having a water fight between two women not involved in WrestleMania two nights before WrestleMania. Now, while we at “The Turn” would be the first to concede that both Michelle McCool and Cherry are incredibly attractive and, thus, entirely deserving of the latent ogling we call “fanhood,” their catfight felt just a bit disjointed, don’t you think? Not that there’s really a bad time for two scantily clad women to engage in a water battle, but having it two nights before ’Mania is kind of like ordering chicken wings at a five-star restaurant. It may be your favorite food, but why not give the place the chance wow you, eh?

Raw (3/31)
Remember that brief period of time we at “The Turn” affectionately named—and didn’t trademark, thank god—the “Golden Era” of Intercontinental championship competition? Well, it happened, we assure you. The problem now, as we see it, is that not only has that time passed, but the well is so dry that the man who was advertised as our World championship savior is now holding the gold and the best challenger they can find for him is the “Money In The Bank” winner. Now, don’t get us wrong—the match between Y2J and C.M. Punk on Monday night was quite enjoyable. The issue is that Jericho—god love him—is actually above the I-C title at this point in his career. You don’t see former World champs having I-C runs afterwards (with apologies to Ric Flair). And, having the guy with the guaranteed World title shot in a match that he could, and did, lose cleanly, is definitely not good. Should we really be sold that Punk is a legit title contender, now? The match itself was good, but the damage it may have caused very likely outweighs the upside of it.

ECW (4/1)
The only thing more boring than watching paint dry would have to be watching grass grow. Now, assume you were watching grass … that you just painted, dry, and then grow. Voila—you now have a Mike Knox-Stevie Richards feud! To be fair, we at “The Turn” love Stevie Richards. We were stoked when he was on a roll at the end of last year, and felt encouraged when it seemed like ECW was rewarding him with increased face time on television each week. Knox, again to be fair, never did anything for us. His greatest contribution to the company—thus far—was bringing the delightfully vapid Kelly Kelly to our attention. Aside from that, you could shave his head and beard and called him Snitsky and we couldn’t tell the difference with a damn DNA test. Point is: let Stevie be Stevie, and let Knox be Snitsky … but not against Stevie.

Impact (4/3)
Remember when the addition of competitors to a match was a big thing involving huge names like Hogan and/or Savage? Well, move over gents, we’ve got two new shockers worthy of enshrinement on the surprise member wall of fame. That’s right James Storm and Matt Morgan fan—your prayer has been answered! Last night, both men—that’s right, we said both—were added to the Team Tomko vs. Team Cage match at Lockdown later this month. So, to recap, in the past month we’ve seen: a “Fish Market” streetfight, Storm and Morgan as relevant, and Karen Angle leave her husband. While we’re at it: In prospective future news, Shawn Waltman returned to TNA last night with Johnny Fairplay and assisted Vince Russo, who triumphantly reformed S.E.X. (look it up) in capturing the TNA World title in a three way match with Jeff Jarrett and Sonny Siaki.

And Finally ... We're kind of torn over whether Dwayne “Don’t Call Me Rock” Johnson’s roast to begin the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony last weekend was a good thing or not. At times, Johnson came off as if he had never left the sport that made him famous; at other points, he seemed disingenuous and very, very Hollywood. Either way, his segment—which is rumored to have gone on for quite some time—came off well on television and, more importantly, is making people talk. We recommend you check it out and let send along your opinion—to pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 21-27, 2008

By Frank Ingiosi

Finally … ’Mania weekend is once again upon us and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. However, due to a couple of rather noteworthy happenings this week, we’re going to have to alter the set-up of your trusted “Turn” this week to properly accommodate the magnitude of both events.

So, with apologies to the diehard Smackdown and ECW fans out there, enjoy the expanded “Turn.”

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (3/21)
While their match on Sunday likely won’t be the best of the night, Edge and The Undertaker’s contest certainly has plenty of drama and implications, especially after last Friday night’s Smackdown. Edge and his minions savagely attacked ’Taker before the show went off the air which, if history is any indicator, should do little more than anger the “Dead Man.” Attacking The Undertaker prior to WrestleMania is like poking a tiger with a really short stick. Our bet: ’Taker goes 16-0 and takes back the gold.

Raw (3/24)
Our intention was not to make the expanded Raw section read like a eulogy to Ric Flair’s career; however, it’s hard to go in any other direction. With possibly the final Raw under his belt as an active competitor, Flair heads into WrestleMania 24 with only one thing on his agenda: survive, and look good doing so.

We at “The Turn” have been—by our own admission—unabashed Flair slappys since as far back as we can remember. Is he now what he once was? Absolutely not. No one can make the argument that the man whose 30-plus year in-ring career could come to an end Sunday night is the same man that led the Four Horsemen in the ’80s or rarely went without championship gold throughout the ’90s. Time and the direction of the business have ensured that we’re getting a different version of Flair today then in years past.

Still, that doesn’t mean the man’s body of work shouldn’t be revered for what it is, nor should his place in the history of the sport be looked at any less fondly. For a vast many wrestling fan, Ric Flair was, is, and forever will be their vision of what professional wrestling is.

No, he’s not the best technical wrestler of all time, but few can refute that, throughout the span of his career, the man melded wrestling acumen with showmanship in ways few ever did. A byproduct of such success is not only resentment, but also a legend that he, himself, could never possibly live up to.

We encourage everyone—even the Flair haters—to realize how special the moment will be Sunday night if it is indeed the “Nature Boy’s” last match because it will truly be a piece of history.

Of course … if Flair somehow pulls off the victory, we’ll just rerun this when he does lose.

ECW (3/25)
Ever wonder what it would look like to have a 24-man tag team match? Neither did we. But, alas, ECW gave us just that very opportunity on Tuesday night as the participants of the battle royal at WrestleMania 24 competed with Snitsky getting the win for his squad of ruffians. While we’ve gone on record as saying that if ECW 2.0 had to be part of ’Mania, the battle royal/title match was the way to go, the buildup has been less than enthralling. Still, our bet: Big Daddy V will walk away from ’Mania as a champion. Seriously.

Impact (3/27)
Last night, TNA toyed with the fans’ collective emotions by going live for its broadcast of Impact and, by all accounts, the show came off much better than expected. Regardless of how sluggish your angles or whether or not the fans are truly into the product, there is something about a live broadcast that really makes people stand up and take notice.

Perhaps it’s the mystery of what could happen now that fans aren’t drawn into reading spoilers online for the prior two weeks; maybe it’s just the thrill of those in attendance being able to tell their friends and families that they’ll be on TV tonight and not some time in April. Whatever it is, last night’s Impact came off with a renewed energy and excitement that TNA has lacked for quite some time.

The capper of an evening of surprisingly well-paced matches was Sting’s long anticipated return to the ring and partnering with Christian Cage’s squad. But, in true TNA “what the hell?” fashion, Sting was attacked after the match by none other than longtime rival … James Storm. Wait … James Storm? Where did he come from, and why does he have anything to do with Sting?

Thanks, TNA. Just when we were feeling good about you and your MMA training segments with Samoa Joe and Kurt Angle, and the highly entertaining blood feud between Booker T and Robert Roode, you throw us the proverbial curve ball that is James Storm and his apparent disdain for Sting. Kudos.

And Finally … Bet you didn’t know this WrestleMania fact: Kurt Angle holds many WWE distinctions. Among them, he is the only wrestler to lose two titles at the same WrestleMania event. At 2000’s WM16 in Anaheim, Angle lost the Intercontinental title to Chris Benoit in the first fall of a three-way match with Chris Jericho. In the second fall, Angle dropped the European strap to Benoit. Jericho defeated Benoit to win both belts in the third fall.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 14-20, 2008

By Frank Ingiosi

Ladies and gentlemen … fine, lady and gentlemen (let’s be honest, guys): Boy, do we have an announcement for you! In honor of “The Turn’s” 26-month anniversary, we at The Turn offer up the latest of literally dozens of shrines to the greatness that is professional sports.

We are opening the doors to a select few who have made televised wrestling what it is today—for better, or worse. That’s right, your absolute favorite Friday workplace time-killer is starting its very own, uber-exclusive Hall Of Fame. Yes, that’s a capital “O” in “Of.” We’re that damn important.

So, here’s the deal: You … yes, you … will help the brain trust here at “Turn” headquarters in sunny Center City Philadelphia come up with the best of the best in televised wrestling, and those few chosen souls will be inducted into, and forever enjoy, the notoriety of being a “Turn” Hall Of Famer.

Now some of you may be asking—perhaps aloud—“What the hell, dude?” and, well, let us tell you what the hell. There have been so many tremendously bad and surprisingly good performances on televised wrestling—we’re talking non-PPV here—over the past 20 years. It was high time such achievements were recognized.

Each week we devote 1,000 or so words to what was offered up to the fans on television the prior week. Hopefully, through the “Turn” Hall Of Fame—or THOF, for short—we can take back some of the responsibility that comes with being a fan and give credit, or criticism, where it’s deserved.

So, here are the criteria:

1. There are no specific categories. We’re not looking for the “best” or “worst” of all-time, but rather folks whose body of work on televised wrestling is worthy of inclusion in THOF. Look for overall contribution to either the betterment or detriment of televised wrestling.

2. Consider all televised wrestling over the past 20 or so years. Yep, that’s right—if there’s an indy promotion in your state that has been running a show with one wrestler who you feel deserves mention, nominate him (or her). Better yet, if you have a link to an online clip of to their greatness, forward that along as well. It could only help your nominee’s chances.

3. There are two possible ways to get into the THOF and that is either as a wrestler or as, what we’ll call, “builder.” Builders would be the folks that may have stepped into the ring on occasion, but are best known for the stuff within a show that helps make it more of a, well, television show.

There you have it. Nominees will be accepted up until April 25 with the first-ever class of THOF inductees being announced right here—in this very column—on May 2. The class can be as big as necessary depending on the feedback we receive. Shoot an e-mail to: pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com, and let the nominations begin.

Remember, we’re not giving out lifetime achievement awards, here. Arguably, some of the greatest wrestlers of all-time did not contribute to televised wrestling anymore than some of the worst.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (3/14)
No matter how many times we see it happen, when The Undertaker appears in the ring in a cloak of darkness, it’s still awesome. Ending what was otherwise a public execution of a match, ’Taker came out late in the four-on-two drubbing of Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels by Edge, Chavo Guerrero, Curt Hawkins, and Zach Ryder and chased his ’Mania opponent off. We’re calling it now: While the ladder match is usually impressive anyway, the Edge-’Taker battle tops our list of all-time most intriguing bouts at the springtime classic.

Raw (3/17)
Another excellent outing from the top brand. Again, giving credit where it is due, Raw certainly gets fans excited for ’Mania this time of year, and Monday was no exception. Consider this: We were treated to a show that saw 350-year-old Ric Flair come off the top rope, Chris Jericho introduce the Intercontinental title belt as a guest on his talk show, a possible split of London and Kendrick, and a cameo by ECW’s Colin “Whipwreck” Delaney (as reader Andy Cain refers to him) all in one show. Top notch, yet again.

ECW (3/18)
How does one go from wrestling on Raw the night before to teaming with Jesse and Festus in a six-man contest the following evening? Somehow, C.M. Punk pulled off the feat, although the goofy duo had far more to gain from their decent showing. Still, what is most puzzling of this whole scenario is the way the enigmatic Punk is being used.

Impact (3/20)
Hello, this is Frank Ingiosi—the real, live human being who plays Frank Ingiosi in such magazines as Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Wrestler/Inside Wrestling, and Cat Fancy—and I wanted to take a moment to break a cardinal rule imposed on everyone at “The Turn” staff. Generally, we try to not use insider wrestling terms seeing as how, well, we’re not insiders. But, last night’s “whipping” of Peyton Banks and her amazing no-sell (there’s your term) was embarrassing and indicative of why TNA’s women’s division should be about three deep. To say Banks “pretended” to feel pain would be an insult to mimes everywhere. Thanks for letting me get that out there.

And Finally … Happy Easter to those who celebrate it this weekend and, if you’re jonesing for some wrestling with your scripture, feel free to pickup a copy of WWE’s Vengeance 2003 for the APA Invitational barroom brawl in which the Easter Bunny is a participant. Nope … we’re not kidding.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 7-13, 2008

By Frank Ingiosi

Grab a cup of coffee and make yourself comfy. I’m looking to unburden for a moment or two here.

I sat down to write this week’s column about six times since Tuesday morning’s news broke that Jeff Hardy was being suspended by WWE for violating the company’s substance policy. While I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a fan of Jeff’s, I’m certainly not someone who dislikes the guy. He has a place in the company and fills a niche in the sport that most people seem to love.

Yet, while running through the gamut of feelings I had over the past four days regarding arguably the top WWE name to get pinched by the substance policy, I kept coming back to a particularly cheesy fable that was thrown around far too often in law school, but it bears repeating here.

In it, a scorpion asks a frog to allow him to ride on the frog’s back across a river. At first, the frog resists due to his suspicions that the scorpion will sting and, subsequently, kill him. The scorpion reassures the frog that it’s not in his interest to kill the frog because, were he to do so, they would both sink mid-ride and die. Apparently that’s good enough for the frog and he agrees, but he is stung halfway across the lake. As they’re about to sink to their ultimate demise, the frog admonishes the scorpion. But the gleeful scorpion responds, “I’m a scorpion. It’s my nature.”

When WWE welcomed back Jeff Hardy as if he were a conquering hero returning from war, the buzz phrase surrounding his resurrection was “he put his demons behind him.” Remember that? The demons—never confirmed, although speculated about wildly—apparently jumped ship somewhere between Jeff’s day-glow phase in TNA and his triumphant second stint with WWE. Immediately, Jeff was thrust back into wrestling relevance and, within two months of returning, he was a champion once again. It appeared that finally—finally—those demons were gone for good.

I’m not going to go into a long, drawn-out recap of everything Hardy’s achieved in the past year and a half. Anyone who’s watched WWE could attest to his meteoric rise to a legitimate top guy. In fact, I’m not even going to crucify the man for what seems to be another case of someone going all Rob Van Dam on us. Hardy’s apparently got enough issues that he doesn’t need one more schlub lambasting him for screwing up. If anything, I’m offering a sense of clemency for this recent misstep.

Now, let me explain: In no way am I justifying or overlooking anything Hardy might have done to earn his suspension. Actually, it’s quite the opposite, as I’m just as disappointed as anyone to see such a fall from grace. But here, much like the story of the scorpion and the frog, I think we’re seeing a situation in which the worst not only should’ve been expected, but—if not for desperation—it probably could have been prevented. However, and here’s were it’ll get dicey, I’m having trouble determining which party is the scorpion and which is the frog.

WWE, desperate for a new top guy they can mold into a cash cow, gives Hardy every opportunity to be showcased. Hardy, seizing this rare opportunity, goes all out by taking massive bumps and performing at his trademark daredevil style every night. Is it the nature of the business? Absolutely. Does Hardy have to torture his body each night to maintain his spot? Bet on it. Was WWE thrilled to see the fan reaction to Hardy and the inevitable windfall it brings? You’re nuts if you say otherwise. But, once again, I’m wondering who is the frog and who is the scorpion.

WWE knew what it was getting in Hardy—a death-defying high-flyer who has allegedly battled substance abuse issues in the past and who could fill that void between the edgy Triple-H and the wholesome John Cena. Conversely, Hardy knew what would be expected from him in WWE: flinging his body from the highest possible points for roughly 300 days a year, with ultimate redemption and exposure as his prize.

Maybe, in the end, some blame should be affixed to everyone involved. Similarly, maybe both deserve some semblance of sympathy. Hardy apparently still has much to deal with and, in some strange way, WWE may actually be the best possible place for him to do so. Still, it’s both tremendously disappointing to see this next chapter in the life of Jeff Hardy play out as such, and intriguing to see how WWE responds. Without humanizing or demonizing either party, I’m hoping that, for once, the well-being of the man takes precedence over the success of the business … as naïve as that may sound. It’s in everyone’s interest for Hardy to get through this.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (3/7)
We try to avoid tearing down the same person twice in a row, but those out there who caught the Kane-Chuck Palumbo match last Friday night can now count themselves as one of the few fortunate folks who have seen a sloth wrestle a puddle of molasses. Slow … we’re saying they’re both lumbering and not particularly quick. Most men or Italian women could grow a full beard in the time it felt like it took to finish that match.

Raw (3/10)
Chris Jericho promised us that he’d be wearing championship gold, but we can’t imagine he expected that to be the Intercontinental strap. A very surprising—and record—eighth Intercontinental run for Jericho should start to put him into the place WWE needs him to be. Here’s to hoping a bit of success doesn’t quell his recent nasty streak.

ECW (3/11)
We kill ECW nearly every week, but when they get something right—hell, when they get something okay—we give credit. If ECW has to be included in WrestleMania 24, the 24-man battle royal and same-night title match works for us. If anyone needed a gimmick match for ’Mania, it’s ECW.

Impact (3/13)
The Rock ’n’ Rave Infection? One of the “Turn” staffers had a bout of that in college. Ironically, picked it up from a yippy, add-nothing-to-the-conversation redhead. Funny how art imitates life sometimes, eh?

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of February 29-March 6, 2008

By Frank Ingiosi

For wrestling fans—especially WWE fans—this is honestly the best time of the entire year. In the two-plus year existence of “The Turn,” I can honestly say that this is the most fun time to cover wrestling. The worst time, you may ask: September. Not much buzz following the August pay-per-views and really no lead-up to next month’s pay-per-view. In fact, September could be considered a vast wasteland for televised wrestling. It's like turning 20 or going on your second date; just something you have to go through to get to the good stuff. Expect a “Best Of” this September, assuming I start generating some “best” material soon.

Thank god for the late-winter/early-spring chunk of the wrestling year. We’re knee-deep in WrestleMania buildup, TNA is actually starting to break up the barrage of pointless segments with wrestling again, and promotions such as Ring of Honor and CHIKARA are showcasing some of the best talent in town. This is certainly my favorite time of the wrestling year, hands down.

On top of the excitement that comes with being a writer this time of year, there’s also the undeniable fact that, across the board, televised wrestling is getting stronger. Take, for example, Raw this past Monday night. Generally, an opening segment as tragic as Big Show’s argument with either a pre-taped or poorly miked Floyd Mayweather would set the tone for the rest of the night. But, the wrestling gods of spring smiled down on us fans yet again and somehow—despite what must have been mass McMahon-induced hysteria behind the curtain—we were treated to a very good show.

The same can be said for Smackdown, ECW, and TNA. While none rose to the level of a “must see” this past week, all seemed to step their games up to the point of widespread entertainment. It’s the type of competition—mind you, to a much lesser degree—that we all fondly recall during the “Monday Night War” era. Sure, there were clunkers from time to time, but the solid programs far outnumbered the garbage, which is what made that time so intriguing.

Will we ever get back to the point where, week in and week out, all televised wrestling becomes so compelling that we once again wear out the buttons on our remote controls? In a word: no. In two words: hell no. Sad as that may be, it should prompt everyone to enjoy the times like this even more. As I’ve said in the past and will very likely say again this time next year: It’s good to be a wrestling fan.

So, ignore your friend, call out from your job at Radio Shack, and plop yourself down in front of the tube once again. Only leave to replenish snacks or catch a local indy show. It’s safe to enjoy wrestling again.

Of course, the expiration date on this is generally the second week of April

Enjoy “The Turn”: Encouraging sloth since 2006.

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (2/29)
They don’t get much virtual ink here, or anywhere else for that matter, but this week’s “Turn” Team to Watch is Smackdown’s Jesse and Festus. With a nice win over Smackdown World champs John Morrison and The Miz last Friday night, Jesse and Festus opened a few eyes and, although they couldn’t repeat the performance on ECW Tuesday night, the Deliverance duo is still worth a look.

Raw (3/3)
We thought there was potential when Chris Jericho and JBL squared off in both men’s return to active competition. At the very least—while the wrestling may have been choppy—we should’ve gotten a nice battle on the mike, right? Well, sadly, no. While that lasted all of a hot minute, we now finally appear on the cusp of what should’ve happened all along: “Y2J” going back to the dark side. And, what better way for WWE to do it than to have him directly opposed to their most fan-friendly Raw wrestler, Jeff Hardy? Still, how great would it have been with all of the “Save Us” buzz surrounding Jericho’s return if the person he was coming to rescue the fans from was, say, John Cena (who was on the shelf with an injury at the time). No one would’ve seen it coming and Jericho would have vaulted right to the top in both terms of watchability (yeah, I made that word up) and merchandise. He could’ve been a rulebreaker from the start and stolen the hearts of the angry fans longing for the anti-Cena. Swing and a miss on that one, eh?

ECW (3/4)
We assume that this is how ECW’s latest budding angle was presented at a WWE production meeting: “Okay, here’s the pitch: We take The Undertaker, revert him back to his old ‘American Badass’ gimmick and have him stalk and then possibly feud with Kane! It’s gold I tell you! Gol … oh, ’Taker’s not interested? But we have all that denim and the motorcycle. Hmm. What about Chuck Palumbo?” And, hence, we’ve got the start of a Palumbo-Kane battle that makes fans everywhere question just how much memorabilia did Kane steal off the set of See No Evil to be treated like this. Of course, the names and dates have been omitted because, well, it never actually happened. Wouldn’t want Stephanie firing us next.

Impact (3/6)
Aside from being from our beloved “Motor City” and actually possessing the body type of a Buick, we at “The Turn” didn’t think we could love Rhino any more than we did last week. Hell, we didn’t think we could love him any more than we did Wednesday night. But, after coming out last night and laying waste to the TNA drinking championship belt—which was, yes, a spinner—and cutting a brutally vicious promo on James Storm, Rhino has the undying gratitude of “The Turn” forever. We at “The Turn” love Rhino McRinoson (he needed a last name) and, tonight, we want you to love him, too. Nevermind that he got his giant ass kicked by Storm later in the night. Selective memory is best, we find.

And finally … One of “The Turn’s” all-time favorite managers is reportedly still recovering from a pretty substantive jaw surgery, so today’s final shot is a call back to the legendary Bobby Heenan. On his keen senses during a mid-match shouting session, “The Brain” let loose with this nugget: “You don’t have to yell at me! I’m not blind!” Always seeing with his ears Heenan was. Get well soon, sir.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of February 22-28, 2008

By Frank Ingiosi

It was a sad moment this week when I finally came to the realization that a few minor past indiscretions (let’s call them “sophomore year of college”) will very likely prevent me from one day reaching my lofty dream of becoming President of the United States.

Aside from a lack of any discernable public service and a general disdain of the large groups in general, I figured I was just as qualified as anyone to be President. Hell, I was a political science major in college, and I believe myself to be a relatively well plugged-in aficionado of the world governmental environment. Sure, I didn’t go to Har-vard and, fine, my campaign funding skills involve asking my wife if it’s “cool” for me to use our savings on some yard signs, but, hey, I’m a man of the people—and it’s those common folk that I was hoping would carry me all the way to Washington.

So, now that I realize I must suspend my informal consideration of one day possibly running for the highest office in the land, I’ve set my sights on a new position that is practically begging for the strong leadership qualities and basic ingenuity that a chap like me can bring to the table.

That role: Jack Tunney.

That’s right—I want to be the next Jack Tunney of WWE. For those of you whose idea of the “golden age” of wrestling was during Evolution’s run a few years ago, here’s a refresher: Jack Tunney was the most powerful man in the WWF in the 1980s when he lorded over the company as its all-seeing president. Whenever a tough decision needed to be made, it was Tunney’s monotone, Canadian voice that handed down some of the most important edicts of the day.

Since the Tunney era ended—followed briefly by a President Gorilla Monsoon administration—there really hasn’t been that pseudo-figurehead to oversee the contract signings, make the tough calls on controversial matches, and basically take up space on the payroll. That is, until now.

I feel that there would be no better person to fill the role of new-Tunney than myself. Tired of a world run by general managers? What’s a general manager, anyway? I’ll tell you what it’s not—it’s not a president. General managers have been ruining the sport for far too long. It’s time someone reined in the Vickie Guerreros and William Regals of the world. Oh, and on that topic—it’s U-maga, Regal, not U-manga. Where did the ‘n’ come from … where?!

See—forcefulness like that is what the company needs, and I’m just the man to bring it on a night-to-night basis. So, when it comes time to vote for an unofficial position with no real power or prestige, I’m your man. Remember me come November—I’m not above write-in votes.

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (2/22)
With WrestleMania 24 right around the corner, fans nowhere were clamoring for a rehash of arguably the worst match of the previous year’s event—Kane and The Great Khali. Yet, that’s exactly what we received last Friday night on Smackdown as Kane finally got retribution—some 300 days later—over Khali in a match dominated by sluggish movement, crippled English, and two behemoths with thyroids that must look like softballs. Although Kane pulled out the victory, one can only imagine that, with ’Mania coming up and nothing on the horizon for either man, this feud is far from over, and that’s a shame.

Raw (2/25)
If anyone can explain to us what in the blue hell the purpose of the “Brand Supremacy” match at WrestleMania 24 is, we will give you the greatest prize of all time—the undying respect of the staff at “The Turn.” Hey, that’s the best we can do with a budget of zero. Seriously, if there ever were a throw-in match simply to have another contest with a title affixed to it, this would be it. WWE has a lot of fleshing out to do over the next four weeks if they expect anyone to care about a brand supremacy match. If Smackdown wins, does it get to move to Monday nights with greater production value and the eternal blessing of Papa Vince? We don’t think so, either.

ECW (2/26)
We haven’t said much about Colin Delaney here in “The Turn” and for good reason. See, often times we’ll pick out an up-and-coming talent and praise his abilities and outlook for the future of their career and then—just like that—he’s gone. Remember Bobby Lashley? Yep, that was us. We’re feeling pretty good about our anointing of Kofi Kingston; however, we’ve even laid off of him for a while. So, for Colin’s sake, let’s just say “Good Luck” and leave it at that for now.

Impact (2/28)
Last night on Impact, controversy surrounded the finish to the most anticipated match in the history of the sport since Hulk Hogan took down Andre the Giant. The hotly contested ladder match—the greatest since Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels—saw the status of TNA’s drinking championship left in doubt as Rhino interfered in the finish, seemingly costing the apparently acrophobic James Storm the title he so covets. Wait … we were waiting on a ruling from the Russian judge, but … yes, it’s official! This is the worst angle in all of wrestling right now. Congratulations, TNA, you officially have the crappiest angle on television!

And finally … In honor of today being the extra day of leap year 2008, it only seems fair to recall a couple of little known facts in the career of an all-time great “leaper” in wrestling history—of course we’re talking about “Leaping” Lanny Poffo. As many fans know, Poffo—who was actually selected as number 426 of the top 500 wrestlers of the PWI years some time ago—is actually the younger brother of “Macho Man” Randy Savage. What’s more interesting, however, is that while Savage was born in Columbus, Ohio, the man who would become “The Genius” is a son of Calgary, Alberta. Yep … that’s about it. Thank God we only have to come up with something once every four years aboot this guy, eh?

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of February 8-14, 2008

By Frank Ingiosi

How does someone become part of the WWE upper-echelon without winning one of the two top prizes in the whole company or even marrying into the boss’ family? He puts together a string of impressive wins and exciting near-misses and caps them all off with a bona fide Match of the Year-worthy victory over a surefire Hall of Famer on Raw.

Count me as one of the non-believers that when Jeff Hardy returned to WWE—supposedly a little older and much wiser—he was going to somehow be anything more than the high-flying mid-carder that teen girls, and spot-monkey fans, squealed for. I figured Hardy would simply return to fill a niche in the Intercontinental title picture—which he did nicely—before flaking out once again and going AWOL within the year.

Consider this my mea culpa.

Sure, Hardy has not ditched that which has made him popular among his hardcore fan base. He’s still eccentric, complete with torn panty-hose gloves, goofy hair, and piercings. But, there’s something different about Jeff Hardy 2008. He’s not a gimmick—at least not to the extent he once was. No, this Hardy is, dare I say it, mature.

Hardy’s matches are very well paced, and for the first time in his career it seems as if he is actively stringing together his move set in anticipation of what his opponents will do. He’s not simply eyeing the quickest route to the top of the turnbuckle, as in years past. Hardy seems intent on out-wrestling opponents and not just stubbornly sticking to what he thinks he should be doing. The guy has grown into a very watchable commodity and, even better, a legitimate world title contender.

While Hardy’s time to shine may not come right away, it seems imminent at this point. It’s as safe a bet as any to assume that, by WrestleMania 25 in 2009, Hardy will have held a world title. He’s not there just yet, but with a clean victory over Shawn Michaels on Monday night and no sign of ceding his position anytime soon, Hardy is for real.

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (2/8)
They could easily be written off as just another talented tag team that is simply part of a temporary angle, but Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder are actually looking very good and may actually have some staying power post-Edgehead. The tandem was very highly touted since being brought up to the WWE main roster, and being thrust into the top angle on Smackdown certainly helped buy them some time to showcase their abilities. Working against them is the glaring fact that tag teams in today’s WWE generally don’t have much of a shelf-life, regardless of promise. Hawkins and Ryder could very well be the group to break that streak, although history shows that they’re probably just auditioning for singles spots with the company.

Raw (2/11)
Ever have a friend who was way too close with his siblings? There’s just something creepy about it, right? Everyone knows a guy that has a really attractive sister and, eerily enough, he acknowledges it like it’s nothing. For all those folks who have ever heard a guy say “Yeah, my sister’s hot, so what?” boy do we have a skin-crawling angle for you. Nothing overt has happened yet, but the strange and uncomfortable kinship between reformed buccaneer Paul Birchall and his sister Katie just doesn’t seem right for some reason. We can’t quite put our finger on it yet, but something just ain’t right.

ECW (2/12)
Fine, we at “The Turn” are willing to admit that this next part is tantamount to wrestling heresy, but The Miz and John Morrison—admittedly two of the most annoying competitors in all of wrestling—could really be a great rulebreaking team. We’re talking—and hold your hate mail—along the lines of pairing a Rick Martel and Rick Rude. Whoa—don’t freak out! We know, we know. That’s crazy talk. Martel and Rude were two of the greatest narcissists in WWE history, but that’s the angle that Miz and Morrison are taking. They both love and over-value themselves to levels unseen in years. Fans hate them to the point that if they could only develop that level of masked likeability then our analysis wouldn’t be too far off. It’ll take time and, in today’s sport, that’s not a luxury they’re afforded.

Impact (2/14)
In a move more befitting a network sitcom, A.J. Styles—who has become a favorite of “The Turn” despite his current position as TNA’s resident lacky—was accidentally married to Karen Angle last night on Impact when the minister presiding over the Angles’ wedding vow renewal lost his glasses during an in-ring fracas. Yep, hijinx ensued and Styles’ unrequited love for Karen was made known to the world. Whatever will happen now, you say? Well, obviously, they’re not married, although it pains us to actually have to explain that. The only direction in which this can now go that will keep even the most brain dead of fan interested is to now cause a rift between Angle and Styles, leading to a feud. Sadly, nothing TNA has done over the past few months leads us to believe we’ll be so lucky. Look for our man Styles to end up dressed up as something seasonal and this angle to go nowhere. Here’s to hoping we’re wrong.

And finally … It’s hard to believe that No Way Out has never hosted a Raw World championship match. The pay-per-view’s close proximity to WrestleMania is one reason (then-Raw champ John Cena was in a tag team main event in 2007), and another reason is that it was a Smackdown-only pay-per-view in the years prior to that. Usually, this close to WWE’s premier event, it is easy to figure out what the ’Mania main event will be. At No Way Out, we’re going to get the presumed WrestleMania main event—Raw World champion Randy Orton defending against John Cena—a month early. So what does that leave for WrestleMania? Who knows. That’s all the more reason to watch No Way Out on Sunday.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of February 1-7, 2008

By Frank Ingiosi

Well, it was only a matter of time before Mr. McMahon found a reason to expose his curiously hairless lower extremities on national basic cable. Apparently, having one of his children join his notorious club was reason enough.

The most desirable aspect about clubs is their exclusivity. The thing about exclusivity, however, is that people have to actually want to be a part of it. McMahon’s “Kiss My Ass Club” is innovative in that it somehow finds a way to be exclusive while also being undesirable. Hornswoggle almost joined this club on Monday night, but, in one of the most self-serving, utterly pointless moments in recent Raw memory (well, at least since the last time the boss’ posterior was exposed), the lil’est McMahon chose to bite the ass that feeds him—quite literally—and hilarity ensued.

Okay, fine … hilarity may be overstating it a bit. Come to think of it, there’s really nothing about the KMA initiation ceremony that’s funny. In fact, there may be nothing more indicative of how out of touch with the viewing audience those who come up with ideas like that are.

Something tells me that we haven’t seen the end of the club, although topping a leprechaun biting a 62-year-old man’s rump is pretty hard to beat. Such comedic genius is usually reserved for all-time greats like Carrot Top. Yet, as long as the right people behind the curtain keep laughing at it, expect to see folks kissing Mr. McMahon’s ass for as long as he has an ass to kiss.

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (2/1)
Do you think Finlay ever believed he would last in professional wrestling for over 30 years? In a sport as vicious and physically demanding as wrestling, guys who can stay healthy enough to both have a successful career and some sort of staying power are rare. Finlay, on multiple levels, has enjoyed both in-ring success and longevity. Although he wasn’t always in the spotlight and has yet to hold a major world championship in the U.S., Finlay has, by most accounts, enjoyed a great career. So, with that in mind, do you think Finlay ever believed that 30 years into his wrestling career, he’d be dancing a jig with a leprechaun alleged to be his boss’ illegitimate son? Maybe he deserves better than that, or maybe the fact that that he can do so just shows how he can take each day as its own thing. Either way, Finlay continues to impress even at this stage of his career. A world title reign is very likely not in the cards, but a harder worker you may not find in WWE.

Raw (2/4)
Raw hasn’t had a guy who’s been given more chances to succeed and, for one reason or another, wasn’t able to get over the hump this much since Chris Masters stole roughly seven to 10 minutes of our television viewing time on a weekly basis. Yet, for some reason, fans keep going back to Ken Kennedy as if he were a multi-time world champion who was in the thick of yet another chase for the gold. Just when we at “The Turn” were starting to, well, turn away from Kennedy, the man cuts a promo on Monday night against Ric Flair that made us remember just why Kennedy used to fascinate us. With perfectly placed, tremendously demeaning “Whoooos,” Kennedy convinced us that—while he very likely won’t end Flair’s career at No Way Out—he’s still worthy of our attention, gold or not.

ECW (2/5)
For the six fans of the original ECW that still follow the new version of ECW in hopes that it takes a drastic turn back toward what made the brand memorable in the 1990s, here’s a spot of good news: Stevie Richards will make his triumphant in-ring return to WWE television. That’s right: After getting a very brief push nearly several months ago, and looking very, very good in the ring at the time, Richards was out of the picture with an injury and had been forgotten about in ECW. Now, as one of only two Originals still being paid by WWE to show up for work, Richards will return to a brand where Chavo Guerrero Jr. is the champion, C.M. Punk has one foot out the ECW door, and Kelly Kelly is the female wrestler with the most advanced skill set. Welcome back, Stevie.

Impact (2/7)
He’s hot … he’s spicy … apparently, he’s delicious … and, yet there’s something about Curry Man that’s strikingly familiar. Is it his oddly mesmerizing dance? Possibly. Could it be the plate of curry that doubles as a nifty little hat? No doubt about it. Still, there’s something about his build and general in-ring ability that leads us to believe that we’ve seen him wrestle before on American soil. Heck, there’s a good chance we’ve seen him wrestle in Orlando. Call it a hunch. Wherever it is that Curry Man has fallen from, he’s already attained the status of most favored masked wrestler of “The Turn.” Sure, it’s still cool to see Tiger Mask IV in a TNA ring (and his match with A.J. Styles last night should have convinced the non-believers), but Curry Man is a perfect distraction from the running Shark Boy gag each week.

And Finally … Few can argue against the irrefutable fact that TNA has an almost abnormal affinity for gimmick matches or bouts with unusual stipulations. From the Lockdown pay-per-view’s night of cage matches to a veritable plethora of other gimmick bouts, TNA has assumed the mantle once held very famously by WCW. While this year’s version of Against All Odds on Sunday will showcase four gimmick/stipulation matches (“Barbed-Wire Massacre,” “Feast Or Fired” case match, X division streetfight, and the beer drinking championship), it does not hold the record for gimmick/stipulation matches in a single AAO card. Last year’s offering of AAO holds the dubious distinction of showcasing five—yes, five—gimmick/stipulation matches out of the nine bouts on the card, including Christy Hemme taking on Big Fat Oily Guy in a tuxedo match. Apparently, they’re not all home runs.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 25-31, 2008

By Frank Ingiosi

I try … God knows I still try. I will literally sit there for a half-hour during Impact and imagine a world without the X division and how empty and entirely devoid of all meaning TNA would have us believe it would be.

Problem is, I just don’t care anymore.

Now, let me be quick to point out that I don’t dislike the idea of the X division, nor do I have anything against the wrestlers that are a part of it. In fact, many of them rank among a small group I’d like to see go on to bigger and better things down the line. The problem is, if the X division was, at one time, the “heart and soul” of TNA, it certainly doesn’t hold such a lofty spot anymore. And, because of the decreased level of reverence with which TNA obviously holds the division I, as a fan, have followed suit.

Think about it for a second; how ridiculous has the X division become in the last year? Kurt Angle was its champion for a brief period of time, the wrestlers engaged in Jackass-style practical jokes, and now they’re constantly on the verge of being completely dismantled.

In fact, it’s that last one that bothers me the most, I think. It’s like that awful couple in high school that constantly was on the verge of breaking up. You know them—originally you liked them together; thought she was “good” for him. Eventually, after all the near misses and painfully repetitive bickering, you finally get to the point where not only do you think them breaking up is a good thing, but, quite honestly, you don’t care. You watch the pending train wreck because, well, they force it on you. Same goes for Thursday nights.

The X division used to be the most exciting part of TNA. The X division used to be the heart and soul of TNA. The X division used to be something novel that TNA had over WWE—talented cruiserweights in compelling angles who were as entertaining as any wrestler in the sport today. Today, this dog-and-pony show of an X division that we’re fed on a weekly basis has more of a WWE feel than TNA’s heavyweight division stocked with Vince’s castoffs.

Wrestling has taken a back seat to ridiculous promos and individual persona development. Instead of finding that perfect balance between angle development and great wrestling, the scales have tipped way into the show and not the sport. It’s because of this that I couldn’t not care less whether there’s an X division match following the Motor City Machine Guns’ match with Team 3D at Against All Odds. This isn’t the X division we as fans wanted or deserved.

In a related story: Sharkboy is now imitating Steve Austin. Enjoy!

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (1/25)
An open note to Eve—the 2007 Diva Search winner—who will be moving to the Smackdown brand as soon as next week: Hey, Eve, it’s lovely to meet you. We at “The Turn” just wanted to give you the same respect we’ve given each of your predecessors by letting you know what to expect as a Diva Search winner and new member of the blue brand. The best thing you can do, in our humble opinion, is put every single penny you earn into a savings account and leave it there. Live off the land and, whenever possible, beg, borrow, or steal. Plan on doing something you’re not entirely comfortable with, quite likely with either an older man or a girl right around your age. Most of all, don’t forget to write when you’re scrounging for a job at the auto show this time next year after you and WWE “amicably” part ways. Hell, the fact that you’ve even stayed around long enough to see 2008 is an accomplishment, right?

Raw (1/28)
Commissioner William Regal announced that there will be an “Elimination Chamber” match at No Way Out to determine who will be the number-one contender heading into WrestleMania after Royal Rumble winner John Cena cashes in his title shot at the same pay-per-view. The lineup reads like a lineup of the usual suspects, with Shawn Michaels, Triple-H, Chris Jericho, JBL, Umaga, and Jeff Hardy all participating. The odds-on favorite right now, as far as we see, has to be Triple-H. He’s hungry, tends to perform well when it almost counts, and hasn’t had his hands on the gold for far too long (excluding the hot minute he was champion again a few months back). If it’s not Triple-H’s time to jump back to the top of the heap at ’Mania, we don’t know when it will ever be.

ECW (1/29)
After weeks of vignettes promoting the Jamaican sensation Kofi Kingston, it’s been nice seeing him compete the past two weeks as part of the ECW brand. Kingston is a tremendously athletic and knowledgeable young wrestler who has yet to be spoiled by the WWE experience, which means he should be good for a few months of solid wrestling and development. Assuming he’s not buried beneath the rubble that is the crumbling ECW empire, Kingston could legitimately have a very bright future with WWE.

Impact (1/31)
Contract signings—they just never, ever go as planned. If we’ve said it once, we’ve said literally hundreds of times: If a pen, table, and nearly 300-pound men are involved, expect the worst. Once again, TNA decided to rebuff conventional wrestling wisdom and have Samoa Joe sign a five-year contract extension in the middle of the hexagon last night for all the world to see. Naturally, not only did Joe not sign the agreement, but Jim Cornette’s resident goon, Matt Morgan, was dropped through the table, much to no one’s surprise. Perhaps the only thing shocking about the whole series of events was that Kevin Nash—who was by Joe’s side throughout—didn’t roll Morgan over and sign the contract himself.

And Finally … Love him or hate him, WWE is just thrilled that you tune in to see him. Following John Cena’s shocking return to action at the Royal Rumble the night before, the rating for Monday’s Raw jumped up to one of its highest in nearly a year, pulling in a 3.9 for the night. The Cena-less week prior—leading into the Rumble—Raw drew a 3.5.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 18-24, 2008

By Frank Ingiosi

Welcome to the world of high definition television programming! The future is now … unless you consider that HD capability has been around for nearly a decade. In that case—if you want to be a jerk about it—the future is then!

With the popularity and proliferation of HD-ready televisions and the mainstream conversion from analog to digital programming coming sooner than most people realize, WWE made the huge financial leap (and, according to the numbers, it was huge) to an all HD format for its three brands.

Of course, if you don’t have an HD-ready television you can still watch the programs, but, as someone with a sweetass flatscreen HD TV, I can promise you that the experience is completely different. Plus, with HD, the product itself is so crystal clear and so well done that the storylines are actually different. That’s right, we privileged folk get to see a completely different program than anyone else. For example, I bet you non-HD suckers didn’t know that Shannon Moore is actually a guy and not just the topless woman he appears to be on your regular TV. Who knew?

Okay, fine. It’s not that cool. HD programming is exactly the same as non-HD with the obvious exception that you can now see much more of the Divas then once legally allowed and I’m fairly certain that the “Ric Flair” we’ve all known and loved for the past five years is actually just spray-tanned chicken skin thrown on a mannequin.

The clarity of HD programming, while awesome, is quite unforgiving, especially in a profession where the wardrobe is generally somewhere between softcore porn and figure skating: spandex, and not much of it.

In the end, WWE’s move to HD was a smart move and yet another way the company allows fans greater access—for better or worse—to their talent. The only other drawback I can see with the HD programming at this stage of the game comes with the new sets that were constructed for the move and the bevy of epileptic seizures it will induce. The glowing, bastardized version of Freemont Street does provide something of a 3D effect and seems cool the first few times; after that, it kind of makes Cloverfield seem like steady camerawork.

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (1/18)
Ric Flair and MVP’s upcoming match at the Royal Rumble may only hold as much intrigue as the “Nature Boy’s” retirement situation does. A rather innocuous match with only enough buildup to whet the fans’ collective appetite, the potential that it could be Flair’s last match—retired by a man in a bodysuit—is really the only interesting factor, which is a shame. If Flair had remained part of the Smackdown brand, post-draft, and was able to run a program such as this with MVP for a bit longer, it could have only paid off huge dividends for the “highest paid superstar in Smackdown history.” For now, we can only wonder what would have been and look forward to yet another convoluted Flair victory on Sunday.

Raw (1/21)
The rumors circulating the Internet appear to be true, assuming that the tremendous amount of thinly veiled innuendo on Raw is any indicator. There is a very high likelihood that once again, in conjunction with WrestleMania, there will be yet another WWE Diva gracing the pages of Playboy magazine and that would be the blissfully unaware Maria Kanellis. Following in the footsteps of greats such as Sable (no longer with WWE), Torrie Wilson (on the shelf with a nasty back injury), Candice Michelle (ditto, collarbone), Christy Hemme (now in TNA), and, of course, Chyna (too easy). Come to think of it, the only Diva that still cashes a regular WWE check is Ashley Massaro, and she was in hot water with the company a while back. Here’s hoping Maria fares better than her predecessors.

ECW (1/22)
You know what they say: 20th time’s a charm! Sure, it’s only been four shots at C.M. Punk over the past month, but finally—finally—Chavo Guerrero Jr. fans everywhere can rejoice, for their idol has climbed the mountain! Well, ECW’s not really a “mountain” per se. More like a small hill or knoll. Actually, ECW kind of reminds us of one of those piles of backfill you’d find near a construction area. You know, the one that you and your buddies would climb as kids and play “King Of The Mountain”? Yeah, one of those. Chavo Guerrero Jr. is king of the dirt hill, and C.M. Punk is finally liberated from those 10 pounds of fool’s gold that was weighing him down.

Impact (1/24)
Hopefully our fellow fans were cognizant enough to realize how fortunate they were last night to catch a match involving both the legendary Tiger Mask and the curiously familiar Curry Man on Impact. Both are legends of Japanese wrestling and worthy of as much face time—so to speak—as possible on any wrestling program. While their tag match with Jimmy Rave and Lance Hoyt surely did not do their collective skills justice, it still was quite a scene and worthy of being checked out if you missed it.

And Finally … This weekend’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view is one of WWE’s most time honored and enjoyable cards. Throughout the 20-year history of the event, there have been plenty of memorable moments, although one is overlooked—and for good reason. At the first Royal Rumble held at the world famous Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario, the Jumping Bomb Angels defeated The Glamour Girls to win the WWF women’s tag team championship in, get this, a two-out-of-three falls match. It signaled the only time a women’s tag team championship match was held during one of the company’s staple events. The title was retired in 1989.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 11-17, 2008

By Frank Ingiosi

It’s funny how one’s subconscious works. A person can actually forget things that they once knew and, perhaps, used regularly only to have it revived back to the forefront of their mind by something completely random.

As someone who scored a remarkable—nay, breathtaking—720 on the verbal portion of his SAT test (this was back when 800 was perfect), vocabulary words were my forte. Yet I forgot how great, let alone appropriate, the word “vitriol” was until I sat through JBL’s scathingly personal promo cut against Chris Jericho on Monday night. Quite honestly, I still get chills re-reading a recap of the pure evil Layfield that spewed across the airwaves on Monday night.

And, naturally, I loved every second of it.

It’s been said that behind every joke there’s a scintilla of truth. Taking sports entertainment for what it is, I have to imagine that deep down JBL doesn’t truly feel Chris Jericho is a coward, nor does he want the man’s children to see their father as a failure … right … right? See, that’s the beauty of what JBL can bring to WWE as an active competitor: doubt.

Believing myself to be a semi-intelligent human with basic knowledge of how this industry works, even I was convinced that Jericho would get the thrashing of a lifetime were he to show up at the Royal Rumble. Hell, I was so stimulated by JBL’s tirade against Jericho’s cowardice that I was compelled to call my own father a coward, completely disregarding that Dad had done nothing to deserve the insult.

Hate JBL if you must, but finally—finally—Raw has a rulebreaker worthy of such a lofty status as the most hated man on Monday nights.

In a related story: TNA is running a segment on the weekly injuries sustained by Sharkboy that includes his shark family.

That gap just keeps getting wider by the day, doesn’t it?

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (1/11)
It’s somewhat interesting to see the position that Batista is holding on the Smackdown brand. The former World champ of the blue brand has become something of a utility big-name on Friday nights with last week’s victory over MVP being a perfect indicator of the reliance WWE has on “The Animal” right now. The funny thing is that regardless of the manner Batista is used, he seems only a minute or two away from winning the gold again. For fans of his, this should be good news; everyone else should prepare themselves for a steady diet of spinebusters and rope shaking. Still, it’s hard to determine whether Batista is the right man to be the face of Smackdown since the brand’s grace period that came with being the only WWE product to maintain both the sports entertainment and pure wrestling talent simultaneously is quickly coming to an end.

Raw (1/14)
We at “The Turn” don’t take you up the ring ramp and behind the curtain often, but how hilarious was it on Monday night when Ken Kennedy’s promo popped up on the TitanTron with the videotape time code at the bottom? For anyone who missed it, Kennedy appeared on the big screen following Shawn Michaels’ match to talk a little smack and taunt HBK in the process. Throughout the segment—which obviously was not played up as if Kennedy were backstage during it—a time code similar to the one you see at the bottom of every family home video your Aunt Louise has taken in the past 20 years was on screen throughout, essentially confirming that little that appears up there is “live” and certainly none of it is “via satellite.” Oh, to be a fly on the wall of the McMahon family den backstage.

ECW (1/15)
If we were in the business of sending fruit baskets to professional wrestlers—which we’re not, thank you restraining order—then the winner of this week’s offering would be Edge for his interference in the third, and final, match between Chavo Guerrero and C.M. Punk. No, it’s not that we’re big fans of Chavo, who finally got the win, but more so that Edge’s chair shot to Punk essentially draws his attention to the Smackdown World champion and not the ECW brand inching him ever so much closer to not being on Tuesday nights. Here’s to hoping Punk’s in-ring aggression drives him to Friday nights sooner rather than later.

Impact (1/17)
While Impact was relatively solid last night, highlighted by Christian Cage’s ascent to the number-one contender’s spot, TNA truly showcased its talent through the show after the show. Following the regular broadcast of Impact, TNA aired TNA Global Impact, an hour-long special documenting the brand’s January 4 trip to Japan. It was an impressive feat for the brand that has been accused of relying far too much on its status as an alternative to WWE rather than just standing on its own. The special followed some of TNA’s top stars, including The Steiners, Team 3D, A.J. Styles, Christian Cage, and Kurt Angle as they prepared for the trip, all along capturing the thoughts and emotions that came with competing in front of some of the world’s most discerning and enthusiastic fans. For fans of pure wrestling this is a must watch, especially the superb match that saw Kurt Angle defeat Yuji Nagata with the anklelock to concluded the show.

And Finally … With only 10 days to go until the 2008 edition of the Royal Rumble, here is another tidibit from the card’s storied past. The last time the event was held in Madison Square Garden was 2000, with a WWF World title match between Triple-H and Cactus Jack as the main event. However, it was the Rumble match itself that made the card memorable. The Rock was named the winner despite being eliminated almost simultaneously with The Big Show. This odd finish was strikingly similar to the 1994 Rumble match in which Bret Hart and Lex Luger were declared co-winners.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 4-10, 2008

By Frank Ingiosi

It may have been the lack of sleep, or it very well could have been our undying love of all things conspiracy theory, but the 30-40 minutes or so I spent the other night reviewing the very widely publicized commercial for the upcoming Royal Rumble still feels like time well spent. For the six or seven of you who may have not seen this commercial as of yet—which seems impossible because it’s running ad nauseum of late—here’s the scenario: Half of the WWE roster gets on a subway car and, naturally, mass chaos breaks out.

The obvious nod to both unprovoked violence and the fact that the Rumble will be taking place in New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden is fine from a pay-per-view advertisement standpoint. Hell, I’ll go as far as saying that the first six-dozen or so times I saw it I thought it was clever. My issue with the commercial came only recently and, oddly enough, it was probably the most glaring misstep in the ad that was the least noticed.

With all the fervor of Kevin Costner’s Jim Garrison reviewing the Zapruder film, I sat up in bed and rewound and replayed in varying speeds the end of the meticulously produced commercial. The end, again for the half-dozen of you, shows Shawn Michaels giving a guilty shrug to the camera after delivering a superkick to Michael Buffer just as he’s launching into the catchphrase that made him a millionaire. Seems rather innocuous, right? Sure it is, but here’s the thing—Michaels’ foot is coming from a different direction.

Yes, this is petty and admittedly sad, but follow: Michaels comes up as if he just delivered the kick with his left leg; however, after careful review, the boot that leveled Buffer was none other than “HBK’s” right foot. So, this leads me to one of three conclusions: 1) This is just a case of sloppy editing by WWE and Michaels—who was not part of the subway car brawl—was added late; 2) There was a second kicker on the grassy knoll; 3) I desperately need to get out of the house.

Enjoy “The Turn”—and, yes, the government is watching you.

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (1/4)
Rey Mysterio Jr. won the “Beat The Clock” challenge last Friday night to become the number-one contender to the Smackdown World title by defeating the current champion, Edge, in what promises to be a lopsided battle. That’s right, kids, pull your Rey Mysterio Jr. T-shirts out of the closet and get ready for yet another run at the gold by your favorite underdog wrestler. Everyone else, bang your head on the hardest thing in the room because we are once again going through a run at the gold by everyone’s favorite T-shirt ploy. Listen, for the record, we like Rey Mysterio Jr. Nay, we love Rey Mysterio Jr. But—and this is probably the best way to explain it—to us at “The Turn,” Mysterio’s involvement in the title chase and his prior run as World champ makes us feel the way John Cena’s mere presence angers most. Mysterio Jr. is a great wrestler, but the whole underdog, “David vs. Goliath,” comeback kid angle still hurts our souls.

Raw (1/7)
The steel cage main event match was entertaining, sure, but let’s be honest, the money was made during the “Diva’s Pillow Fight,” right? We at “The Turn” have grown to have a much higher level of appreciation for the cringe factor that comes along with some of the worse segments on Raw. As if the “match” wasn’t bad enough, the impromptu celebration by Mickie James, Ashley, and Maria in the bed following the match seemed so contrived and out of place, yet it was somehow the best possible idea presented to end the segment. In the past, we’d urge you to change the channel, hit the bathroom, or go grab another beverage during segments like the beautifully painful pillow-fight on Monday, but no more. In fact, we’re encouraging you to pay more attention to segments like this in 2008. There is nothing good about it and, quite honestly, it’s uncomfortable to watch, even for guys. It’s like making eye-contact with a stripper—sure it seems like a good idea in theory, but all it’s going to do is make you sad.

ECW (1/8)
It’s funny—the other night during “The Turn” staff meeting/monthly “Scotch And Waffles Spectacular” we were discussing what it was that ECW was missing. Was the roster too small or not filled with higher quality talent? No—impossible. They have Big Daddy V, for goodness sake. Maybe it was the time slot and the fact that it’s still on the Sci Fi Channel? Wrong again—ECW is still the biggest draw on the whole damn Sci Fi lineup each week. After hours of wracking our collective brains, we could not figure out just what ECW was missing and thus what was preventing it from becoming the masterpiece of professional wrestling everyone knows it is. Then, Tuesday night, ECW filled that final gap for us—another Diva. Welcome, Lena. We’re sure you’ll bring tons to the table before you get your pink slip after sleeping your way out of the company like so many of your predecessors. Best of luck!

Impact (1/10)
Initially, it seemed odd that during the episode following a pay-per-view TNA would go with a Knockouts match as the main event on Impact. If WWE ever … ever … tried to do something like that, we may see a full-scale revolution of biblical proportions (see: the civil unrest during Raw’s “Divas Pillow Fight” on Monday—oof). However, it is with no hesitation that we at “The Turn” officially proclaim that the Gail Kim-Awesome Kong title match last night—which was won by Kong—was the match of the week and definitely worthy of main-event status. Maybe it was a slow week or maybe we were just unimpressed with most of what we saw, but it’s very possible that for the first time in a while, TNA got one right. We’ll give credit where it’s due. We’re not completely heartless, right?

And Finally … Time to expand your horizons, kids. Today’s nugget of information takes us across the pond off the left coast of the U.S. to wish a happy 52nd birthday to Japanese wrestling legend, and the original “Tiger Hunter,” Kuniaki Kobayshi. He held titles in both New Japan and All Japan and is widely regarded as one of Japan’s most talented legends.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 28, 2007-January 3, 2008

By Frank Ingiosi

Happy New Year from everyone here at “The Turn.” As we move together into Year Three of providing you with only the finest snarky insight into the world of wrestling—an election year no less—why don’t we throw a few campaign promises your direction. Sure, the odds are that we won’t keep even a quarter of the promises we make, but if we do, that would actually put “The Turn” well ahead of most politicians. Hence, “The Turn” is officially the most honest piece of journaltainment in the history of written word, if not spoken language.*

In 2008, “The Turn” will provide you with only the freshest and not at all redundant coverage of televised wrestling.** There is nothing better than plopping yourself down in a coffee house, laptop in tow, with every intention of writing that novel you’ve been putting off for years and, instead, hopping over to the mighty www.pwi-online (cha-ching) and absorbing our knowledge.

Furthermore, 2008 will be a year of hope for online wrestling reporting and “The Turn” pledges to make nice with every single wrestler it has besmirched over the past two-plus years.*** Without their hard work, dedication, and willingness to participate in any angle regardless of entertainment value or basic good taste, we could not pay our student loans.

And finally, we at “The Turn” promise universal healthcare for all who need it.****

Once again, we wish everyone the happiest and healthiest of new years … well, not too healthy. Seriously, don’t go thinking you should be out exercising when you should be reading. In fact, stay put and have another Pop Tart. We’ll get cracking on a bake sale for that healthcare thing.

* Our fact-checkers will get right on verifying that one.
** Unlikely. C’mon, there are other things going on, especially when the weather gets nicer.
*** And lose all our material? Not happening.
**** More likely than any of the above.

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (12/28)
Smackdown rang in the New Year in classic television fashion—a “Best Of” clip show that recapped the preceding year. While we at “The Turn” don’t particularly mind clip shows on the whole, there’s something about a wrestling clip show that just makes it feel less than enticing. So, with that being said, we offer up our most memorable clip from Smackdown in 2007. Sure, there were a handful to choose from, but in our opinion, the top clip of 2007 came only weeks ago and wins due to an abnormally high cringe factor. Our winner of the 2007 Smackdown clip of the year goes to the phenomenally uncomfortable makeout session between Edge and Vickie Guerrero that let the world know they were in cahoots. Relive that in your collective minds for a moment and soak in that truly shudder-inducing feeling.

Raw (12/31)
Every time Ric Flair steps into a ring, fans know they could be witnessing history. On Monday night, the end of Flair’s career seemed no closer than it has at any point in recent memory as the “Nature Boy” stepped into the ring with one of his protégés, Triple-H. In a match evoking memories of Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi—c’mon fellow nerds, you get the reference—“The Game” was unable to end the career of his idol thanks to interference by William Regal, giving Flair the DQ victory. Hence, the Flair farewell tour moves on, and Triple-H appears poised for another odd mini-feud (see Umaga and/or Carlito) with someone other than a world champion. Sure, it’s only a matter of time before Hunter regains some sort of gold, and maybe we shouldn’t encourage it to come any sooner than it does, but something just seems weird. It’s kind of like someone believes that just having Triple-H in the ring with mid-card talent will actually make said talent seem more important to Raw then they are. Odd, isn’t it?

ECW (1/1)
The Chavo Guerrero Jr. experiment in ECW might have ended even before many of us had realized it began. After making his presence sort of known on the hardcore brand by setting his sights on grossly misused champion C.M. Punk, Chavo was given the rare—and strange—opportunity to become number-one contender to the gold on Tuesday night. The man he had to defeat to become number one contender: C.M. Punk. While this may seem odd to the casual fan, in ECW it’s pretty much par for the course. With so few contenders and storylines so murky that they make the waters of the Jersey Shore look clean, ECW has to make the road to the gold go through the guy that holds the gold. Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic. Welcome to ECW in 2008. Hey, it only can get better, right?

Impact (1/3)
Of late—and we apologize to the six of you this offends—we’ve been a bit critical of TNA and the direction of its programming. Primarily, this was due to the fact that the entire wrestling industry—“The Turn” included—really pulled for TNA’s success and viability. Once TNA secured a second hour of original programming each week, things seemed to finally be moving forward. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case as TNA has taken on, more so than ever, a distinct WCW-like feeling. Case in point: A.J. Styles deciding whether to join the NWO Wolfpac or Hollywood. Wait … sorry, that’s the Angle Alliance or Christian’s Coalition. Unfortunately, that’s not the worst part. In fact, angles like that are very common in wrestling. It’s the ungodly cheesy manner in which Styles’ decision has been delayed and built up as if it’s going to have some sort of monumental impact on the promotion. This has all the makings of a classic letdown.

And finally … This Sunday’s Against All Odds TNA pay-per-view—the fourth in the promotion’s history—will actually replicate a feat only matched by the first year of the card. In 2005, the main event of Against All Odds featured former WWE star Jeff Jarrett—then NWA champion—defeating Monty Brown, a future (and now former) WWE star, to retain the title. This year’s main event pits two men whose careers were made in WWE when TNA World champion Kurt Angle meets up with Christian Cage.

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