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The Pro-Wrestling Torch: Issue #884

Guest EastCoastJ

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Guest EastCoastJ

This is issue #884 of The Pro-Wrestling Torch Newsletter. It's actually better than most weeks as Keller managed to get a decent amount of firstrun news for a change.


The Pro-Wrestling Torch Newsletter: Issue #884





Foley, Austin to return to ring at Taboo Tuesday

Jim Ross situation centerpiece of Raw as his return is at stake at PPV



By Wade Keller, Torch editor


At the Taboo Tuesday PPV on Nov. 1, Steve Austin and Mick Foley will be returning to the ring. It will one of Foley?s few matches since retiring officially in 2000. It will be Austin?s first official match since he retired more quietly after his match against Rock at WrestleMania XIX in 2003. In the case of each wrestler, nobody expected any of their infrequent, limited returns to the ring would be against Jonathan Coachman or Carlito Cool.


The rationale is that having them on the Taboo Tuesday card will help the buyrate for the second annual off-brand, off-schedule PPV, but because they?re wrestling essentially gimmick matches, it won?t take away from their expected eventual return to a more meaningful PPV main event match.


Eyebrows were raised within WWE when both were announced for the PPV this Monday on Raw. Although WWE doesn?t officially regard TNA as competition, it isn?t being seen as a coincidence that it comes just ten days after TNA?s biggest PPV ever, Bound for Glory.


Austin is wrestling Coach as part of the ongoing storyline involving Jim Ross.

To show how much Raw is being booked on the fly, and how the Ross storyline is being made up as they go along, the decision to call Austin to be part of Raw was made two days before Raw. Austin was offered a private jet flight to get him from Texas to Sacramento for the event. He flown home from the event in the private jet right after the show ended.


The angle on Raw saw Austin walk to the ring and express what is said to be sincere disgust with how Ross has been treated by WWE. Austin said he came to the arena because he has something important to discuss. He said he has been with WWE for ten years and he gave the place his blood, sweat, and tears. He said there have been some good times and some bad times.


"I ain?t never backed down from anybody in this sum-bitch company," he said. "I fought everybody in this company. I can honestly say through all the times I?ve been here, only one person has been my friend. That is Jim Ross. He has been like a father to me, and a brother to me. I sat there in my house and watched him get treated like a dog. It was completely unacceptable. It was complete..." He then stopped himself from saying "bullshit." He then told the fans, "You know what I?m saying." He said he has to address one man - Vince McMahon. He called him to the ring and said they had business to take care of. He said he had 48 beers so he could stay there all night long. Stephanie McMahon walked out instead.


She said, "What?s the matter? Steve. You look disappointed to see me." Austin said he doesn?t understand what?s wrong with the McMahon family. He said they seem obsessed with balls and grapefruits. He said last week she even claimed to have the biggest balls in the company. "Am I about to slam a transvestite?" he asked. He said her breath stinks. She said he won?t lay a hand on her because then it would be his fault if J.R. stays fired. Austin swigged a beer and said, "Let me understand this. You fired J.R. why?" When she began to talk, Austin interrupted and said: "You?re not making a lick of damn sense to me. He had nothing to do with what happened to you and your little family."


Austin then delivered the unanimous choice of line of the week: "Since you?re in the ring, what if I just put you over my knee, and pull your little dress up, but I have to be careful because I don?t want your balls to fall out." That got a big crowd pop, and Austin even cracked himself up. Steph even let a smile break through her facade. He asked the crowd for a "hell yeah." They gave it to him.


Coach then stood up and said, "Hell, no. Don?t you even think of attacking a defenseless woman. Don?t you get it, Steve? J.R. isn?t coming back. Nobody wants J.R. here and nobody wants you here." He told Austin to get in his truck and drive away like the scolded dog he is. Austin cleaned out both of his ears with his finger, then said, "I don?t remember talking to you, you kiss ass son of a bitch." He said after he?s done kicking Vince?s ass, he was going to kick his ass anyway, so he might as well do it now. As he was about to leave the ring, Steph asked him to wait a second. Austin mocked her tone of voice. He said he?d do whatever he wants. "I?ve got a proposition for you, but not the kind you want to hear," she said. Austin said, "I don?t think I?ve got a 20 on me." That got a pop from the crowd. She said she had a proposal to get J.R. back. Austin said he was listening.


She said if he faces Coach at Taboo Tuesday and he wins, he?d win J.R.?s job back. Austin said since she?s a McMahon, he doesn?t trust her. He wanted to get it straight, and then repeated her proposal. Steph said, "As a McMahon, and as your boss, I guarantee it." Austin said, "I can drink to that. Give me a damn beer." He then told Coach he had ass whippin? coming. As Austin celebrated, Steph said from the stage, "Oh, one more thing. If you lose to Jonathan Coachman at Taboo Tuesday, then you?re fired." Austin said, "Oh, Stephanie. I fully understand if I lose, I?m fired. It won?t be the first time I?m fired. Here?s to ya?." He gave her the finger, then called for more beers.


He got in Coach's face, messed with him a little, and promised a beating at Taboo Tuesday. He concluded, "A war machine is rolling into town named Stone Cold Steve Austin."


Earlier in the show, Carlito Cool had Mick Foley on his Cabana segment. It?s less clear why these two were booked against each other for the PPV. Foley took digs at Carlito during their interview segment, but they didn?t come to blows. Later, Carlito lost to Shawn Michaels, although Foley had nothing to do with it. Nevertheless, in the next segment, Carlito blamed Foley for his loss and challenged him to a match at Taboo Tuesday. Eric Bischoff officially announced it as a match later in the show.


Foley retired over five years ago and actually stuck to the retirement stip with just one exception, a month later, at WrestleMania, until his feud with Randy Orton in 2004 brought him back to the ring twice. Although it makes sense for Foley to interact with Carlito to help elevate him, and they have decent chemistry interacting with each other, throwing Foley into a mid-card PPV match as his first official return to the ring in over a year seems to be a lost opportunity.


When he does return to the ring for a match of higher stature, it won?t be as special because it won?t be his first match back. Vince McMahon has a way of settling scores, even if it costs him money (see Matt Hardy). Perhaps McMahon is treating Foley as less than royalty due to how close Foley came to signing with TNA and how hard McMahon had to sweet talk him into signing with WWE instead. Or perhaps it?s just a short-sighted hotshot angle meant to undercut the chances of TNA?s Bound for Glory while also elevating Carlito, a rising star within WWE.


Austin was talked into the match with Coach based on it being part of a storyline involving Ross. He also is said to have lost the desire to get wrapped up in politics or try to throw his weight around since he?s just a part-timer at this point. He was said to be genuinely upset with Ross?s treatment and meant everything he said in his promo about Ross being one of his best friends. The only person in wrestling he was closer to over the years was the late Brian Pillman. The demotion of Ross, which could still change and result in him ending up back as host of Raw, probably wouldn?t have gotten this far during Austin?s days as a full time headliner.


Neither Austin nor Foley have locked-in big-name return matches. Austin is much more open to wrestling Kurt Angle or Shawn Michaels than Hulk Hogan in a big PPV match down the line. Foley will likely face Triple H in a return match of his retirement sometime in the future.




By Wade Keller, Torch editor


1. Ross scheduled for colon surgery


Although unrelated to his removal as host of Raw, Ross might have been forced to miss his first Raw in years next week. After experiencing in tense pain for months, and after a previous misdiagnosis, Ross was hospitalized for tests last week and scheduled for colon surgery this week. Part of his colon will be removed along with a large lump. It's not believed to be cancerous. [More" WWE Newswire, pg. 2]


2. Austin returns to Raw to defend Ross


After being blamed for costing Jim Ross his job as part of WWE's on-air storyline to explain Ross's removal as host of Raw, Steve Austin returned to the show to respond. Austin ended up agreeing to wrestle Coach at the Taboo Tuesday PPV in a match where if he wins, Ross gets his job back, but Austin loses, Austin is fired. [More: See Cover Story, pg. 1]


3. New Junior Division created for SD


WWE.com reported this week that Smackdown will be added a Juniors division to the brand. The new division will consist of wrestlers five feet and under. "Midgets, dwarfs, the little people; they're all welcome," said G.M. Teddy Long. "We don't discriminate against anybody on my show, as long as they can bring it." Smackdown is also the exclusive home of the Cruiserweight Division, which is rarely featured, and its wrestlers are most often seen being squashed by larger wrestlers. [More: End Notes, pg. 12]


4. WrestleMania 22 sells out in two minutes


Although hardly newsworthy since it happens each year, WWE reports in a press release that tickets for WrestleMania 22 sold out within a few minutes. States the release: "Tickets for World Wrestling Entertainment's WrestleMania 22 went on sale today to the public and all available seats sold out in less then two minutes. More than 15,000 people from 16 countries and 41 states will be attending WrestleMania 22 on Sunday, April 2, 2006, at Rosemont's Allstate Arena in Chicago, Ill. Also to be broadcast on Pay-Per-View, WrestleMania 22 will be seen in more than 90 countries around the world. Both WrestleMania XX and WrestleMania 21 surpassed 1 million Pay-Per-View buys, making them two of the most popular Pay-Per-View events in history. "


5. WWE jobber dies of brain aneurysm


Russ Hardman, an indy wrestler who had worked WWE TV squash matches on Heat and Velocity and used the name Stevie Lee, died Oct. 13 of a brain aneurysm. He woke up with blurry vision and a headache a few days earlier. He was rushed to the hospital Oct. 12 to have surgery to remove the aneurysm, but ended up on a ventilator and was in an unresponsive coma and then died the next morning.

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Guest EastCoastJ





The Coach was complimentary, yet critical of Jim Ross on Byte This last week. "Ross is the greatest voice of all time," Coach said on WWE.com's "Byte This" show. "But the bottom line is that J.R. was miserable - he was miserable all the time. He never wanted to help me; he never wanted to help Michael Cole... He wasn't nice to anybody." Not even a full week after Ross was removed from the Raw broadcasting position, Coach delivered the "Ultimate Warrior" treatment by describing J.R. as a miserable person incapable of helping colleagues. Regarding the decision to make a change, Coach believed it was time for a change so he could have an opportunity to take over. "I'm a pretty entertaining guy," Coach said with personal conviction. "Raw didn't end when The Rock left the show. Raw didn't end when Stone Cold Steve Austin left the show." Coach said he was not thrilled with how Ross was removed from the show, but played to his cocky heel role by saying it was time for Ross to be "kicked to the curb."


Jerry Lawler described Jim Ross in a different light than Coach. "No one was more emotional than J.R. when it came to wrestling," Lawler said on the "Byte This" show. "It's sad - I didn't like the way it was handled." Lawler played to the storyline of Ross being fired following Steve Austin's stunners on the McMahon family during the Raw Homecoming show to set up a potential return by Austin. Lawler and Coach agreed they have had issues in the past, but both men have grown up and moved on. "We're not a team," Coach said about working with Lawler and Ross. "We didn't mesh." Without Ross, Lawler said there is an opportunity for he and Coach to work out the broadcast together and deliver an entertaining show despite not having a true pro wrestling play-by-play person. Lawler prodded Coach into adapting his play-by-play style from college football games to calling Raw despite Coach saying he was more suited for the entertaining color commentator.




The word on Ross's political enemies is that the list is long, but not always for the right reasons. It includes Kevin Dunn, Stephanie McMahon, and Triple H.


Dunn, the longtime director of WWE TV shows with V.P. status, is a longtime rival of Ross's for a number of reasons, including that Ross and Dunn have fought over Vince's ear over the years, with Ross often having the edge of Dunn, which Dunn resented. Dunn now has more power because he's in the trenches with Vince every week, and Ross isn't anymore since he moved to Oklahoma, which has given Dunn a chance to flex his muscles when it comes to the cosmetic aspects of on-air personalities that he thinks are more important than most.


Triple H isn't a huge backer of Ross in part due to negotiations years ago between the two over a contract renewal. Before Hunter was with Stephanie, Ross negotiated his contract renewal. He played hardball with Hunter, as he was told to by Vince. Hunter felt he deserved the same red carpet treatment as Rock and Steve Austin, but felt Ross treated him like a second tier player. When Hunter years later expressed frustration with how that went, McMahon told Hunter he should have come to him - or so the story goes - when in fact Ross was carrying out McMahon's orders.


Ross has a well-earned reputation for not being a "yes-man" to Vince McMahon. Although he is politically astute enough to know when rein in his disagreements with McMahon and the wisdom to understand when his boss has made a decision, Ross has been vocal when he's disagreed with decisions that he wasn't part of making. He has often gone against the grain of Stephanie McMahon at times, especially when it comes to the "entertainment" versus "sports" aspects of WWE's product, and which is stressed over the other. He has had trouble hiding his disdain for certain directions WWE's writing team has taken over the years.




Kurt Angle wants more than anything a chance to be given a run where he main events PPVs for one of the brands every month for a long stretch, say WWE sources. He doesn't want to be a utility heel, but rather wants Vince McMahon to show him the faith of building around him entirely. The problem is, the odds of that happening on Raw are nearly zero because he won't leapfrog son-in-law Hunter, and McMahon isn't going to let up on the other centerpiece, John Cena.


The other option is going to Smackdown, but being perceived as a secondary player because the Smackdown brand is treated as a notch or two below Raw. Angle has expressed hints of this in mainstream media interviews, talking about how Vince McMahon had lost faith in his health but he has since proven he can be reliable despite his degenerating neck condition.


"Angle has sacrificed his health and his marriage for the business," says one friend. "He's lost so much, he won't settle for less than being known as the best ever. He may not get that wish, though, and that could haunt him forever."




Matt Hardy, who was scheduled to debut on Smackdown this week as a guest on Christian's "Peep Show" interview segment, spoke out in a WWE.com interview last week.


-Regarding Edge, he said: "I think in reality I'm ready to get away from it in many ways. It's something I had to do upon returning to WWE. I came in and addressed it. From a fan's standpoint, I don't think you can argue with the drama and suspense and storyline and matches that went with it. I think they were amazing. But from a personal standpoint, it's been a tough scenario to deal with. It's just one of those weird things with Edge, Adam Copeland. I can go in the ring and have great matches with the guy. As a performer, I think he's amazing. As a human being, I think he's a piece of shit. But it's tough to do that. It's tough to go in the ring and do that night in and night out. It's something I did, and I've done everything I need to do as far as that scenario goes and I'm ready to move on past that. I'm ready to move on and get back to being me; to be Matt Hardy, the guy who goes out and entertains people and enjoys what he does every night. As far as the whole scenario goes with me and Edge, I think it's like with Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. As long as we're both in the wrestling business, as long as we're both in the world, there's going to be a built-in issue there and I don't think it will ever officially end until one of us dies. For the time being, though, I went in and did that, and it's just time to move on to bigger and better things and move on to my ultimate goal and that's to be World Heavyweight Champion... He's very good at name calling, and he's one of the best spin doctors you'll ever meet. I don't know anyone that has been close with the guy that hasn't ended up with a worse opinion of him than when they first met. Everyone who's had a close, personal relationship with him - especially now that the real Adam Copeland is out - walks away from him with a lesser opinion of him than they started. He's great at trying to twist the truth. Just ask all the women he's worked over the course of his life. But in the end they always catch him, so he'll get his in the end. I believe in karma, and I'd hate to have his karma chasing me."


-Regarding leaving Raw for Smackdown, he said: "I'm not going to lie about it. It sucks to leave RAW. It's the longest-running wrestling show out there now. It's live, and there's no atmosphere like a live atmosphere. To leave under the conditions I left isn't how I would have wanted to leave. But I'm a man about it. I'm not going to curl up and die. I will not die."


-He responded, also, to criticism in the pro wrestling media that he was buried upon returning to WWE, and therefore should have signed with TNA instead: "The Internet wrestling community is an interesting bunch. I do appreciate them because they're very passionate. But at a moment's notice they'll be the first to be hypocritical. Instead of looking at the glass half full, they'll look at it half empty. They didn't look at as me coming back to the place I always dreamed of working and that I was going to be in a high-profile situation. And when you go back and look at Street Fight and the Cage Match, those are two of the best matches in the careers of both me and Edge. You just don't get those every day. The fact is, I came back, and in an odd way I almost came back in a better position I left in... I came in, took my licks and got past that. Now I'm moving on to Smackdown and things will be bigger and better than ever."




-Everyone backstage seemed in agreement that Austin's line about Steph's balls falling out was the high point of Raw this week. The line had people gasping and laughing backstage. It wasn't scripted, so even the writers didn't see it coming. It even cracked up Stephanie in the ring, who broke character with a smile rather than throwing a fit once it sunk in to her what was said. Austin and Steph were seen backstage afterwards having a laugh together over that line in particular.


-Austin was seen socializing with Dusty Rhodes for a while before the show. Austin is a big fan of Dusty's promos. They also share in common a passion for hunting.


-At the San Bernardino, Calif. house show, after his match, Eugene left the ring and went over to the music station and played with the sound board, keying up different themes for people not on the card such as Hulk Hogan, Chris Jericho, and Honky Tonk Man. This actually confused a lot of the crowd, as most of them couldn't see what Eugene was doing and so thought maybe they were getting a surprise.


-During the main event of the October 14 house show in San Bernardino, Kurt Angle and John Cena wrestled outside of the ring and they used various weapons during the No DQ WWE Championship match to keep the match flowing.. The second match of the October 14 house show in San Bernardino pitting Shelton Benjamin against Kerwin White was described by the Torch correspondent as "far and away the match of the night."


-At the Oct. 15 house show in Hawaii, WWE drew approximately 3,500 fans with all sections full except for the upper deck... The Torch correspondent from the October 15 show in Hawaii said Tajiri vs. Masters was "the most exciting match of the night."... During the divas tag match on the October 15 show, Victoria wrestled in street clothes as her luggage arrived late following the five-hour flight from California to Hawaii...


-Arn Anderson was visible to fans watching Raw house show matches this weekend. Agents at WWE house shows can often be seen stepping out through the entrance tunnel to watch matches. They fill out report cards on house shows which are sent back to the office for Vince McMahon to read so he can keep up on what's working or not working at house shows and who's getting reactions or having strong matches.


-The Oct. 10 Raw dropped to a 4.0 rating, down from the 4.7 rating during the core two hours the week before for the WWE Homecoming show. The highest rated segment was the overrun, which drew a 4.7 for the McMahon family firing Jim Ross. There wasn't a big panic over the drop in the rating because it was still higher than they had averaged on Spike TV the last two months, and it went up against not only Monday Night Football, but the American League Playoff game.


-During the commercial break after Steve Austin drove to the ring on Raw this week, he had to stall for three minutes without losing the crowd. He kept getting time cues from someone at ringside as he filled time by drinking beers, interacting with fans at ringside, standing in his pick-up, and drinking more beers.


-The word on Jim Ross is that he has kept a sense of humor and optimistic outlook during this trying time for both his personal health and his professional career. Ross earned $800,000 last year for his work as an announcer and as a vice president. He remains a vice president. He also has stock options worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Financially, he can afford to walk away if he so desires when his contract expires next September. But friends say first things first for Ross, and his scheduled colon surgery this week is taking priority over everything else going on politically in WWE.

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Guest EastCoastJ

-When Coach brought up on the Byte This that Ross is not a pleasant person to be around, he was right to an extend. "People who don't know J.R., who haven't sat down with him after he's had a couple drinks, don't know what he's really like. He's got a passion for wrestling and a dry sense of humor that makes you just want to shut up and just listen to him tell stories," says one wrestler. While Coach accused Ross of not wanting to be helpful to he, Michael Cole, and Tazz, others disagree strongly with that characterization. "Ross has tried to help them, but there's only so many times you get rebuffed or walk into a wall before you stop trying," says one WWE source. Ross, though, does come across as gruff and grumpy backstage before and after shows, in part due to the demands of his job over the years, in part because he puts so much forth on the air that he shuts down afterward, and in part because he's not bubbly in general unless the red light is on or until he gets a couple of drinks in him.


-The WWE Homecoming edition of Raw was replayed on Friday, Oct. 7 at 10 p.m., which just happened to coincide with the start time of the live UFC PPV. It drew a 1.3 rating.


-WWE is marketing Stephanie McMahon t-shirts which say, "The B**** Is Back."


-The only rumor going around regarding how the Raw announcing situation will play out is that Michael Cole would be moved to Raw to work with Jerry Lawler again, and Josh Matthews would join Tazz as the lead announcer of Smackdown. The other variation on the rumor was that WWE is pursuing someone to replace Ross, but that replacement won't be as polished or well known as Mike Goldberg, so they'd prefer to move Cole to Raw and have the new hire replace him on Smackdown. The plan remains, despite all the attention given to Ross, to keep Ross out of the position as host of Raw even when he recovers from his health issue.


-Steve Austin has not flexed his muscles and demanded anything as it regards how Ross is treated, but he was said to have indicated he wasn't thrilled with how Ross was treated. He was assured it was "just an angle." One WWE source says, "Austin isn't in a position to be demanding Ross be kept as host of Raw, and he knows it," says one source. "That's just not his place now that he's not a full-time performer on Raw."


-At the Oct. 11 Smackdown tapings, more than a dozen wrestlers were an hour or two late to the tapings. Everyone was fined $500. There was no discriminating between the big names and the lower-card wrestlers. The wrestlers are not at all happy about being fined, or that the dress code has become an issue again. The recent NBA dress code story has reinvigorated the WWE dress code. Although wrestlers are not thrilled, few have any leverage to put up a fuss. "Everyone is scared to make eye contract with anyone in power for fear it will be misinterpreted and used against them," says one wrestler. "It's a completely different atmosphere under (John) Laurenaitis than it was a few years ago. It's not pleasant." Wrestlers are asked to make personal appearances to promote WWE events, they aren't paid, and they have no recourse since there are so many wrestlers on the outside looking in who would jumped at the chance to be a "WWE superstar."


-Matt Hardy and Ashley Massaro are openly in a relationship now. Hardy confirmed the rumors, which had been circulating for weeks, in an Internet story. As noted here last month, Hardy and Lita have become civil toward each other and have hung out a couple times to try to talk through things, but given all that's happened this year, the spark is gone between them and they're both moving on. Lita is not with Edge off-camera.


-Melina ripped on new WWE call-up from OVW, Mikki James on her website last week. "She made it a point everyday to purposely hurt me. To go out of her way to say things. To steal moves that I have and use it on OVW TV knowing that my character can't wrestle but hers can. By spreading rumors about me. By talking behind my back to people."


-The Washington Post featured an article on Kurt Angle. Regarding Brock Lesnar, he said: "As far as Brock leaving our company, I have no respect for that. Brock quit on us and I don't have any respect for Brock for doing that." He did say the Minnesota Vikings were crazy for cutting Brock last year because he felt Brock could have developed into an NFL-caliber player.




Oct. 8 Raw in Hidalgo, Tex.: Viscera beat Tyson Tomko, Rob Conway beat Eugene, Lance Cade& Trevor Murdoch beat Hurricane & Rosey, Gene Snitsky beat Tajiri, Shelton Benjamin beat Carlito, Big Show beat Edge, Trish Stratus beat Torrie Wilson, Shawn Michaels beat Chris Masters, John Cena beat Kurt Angle via DQ to retain the WQWE Title. [s. Pearce]


Oct. 10 in Corpus Christy, Tex.: Besides what aired live on Raw, in matches taped for Heat, Gene Snitsky beat Johnny Parrisi, Viscera beat Jason Bates, Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch beat Rosey & The Hurricane, Shelton Benjamin beat Kewin White.


Oct. 11 in San Antonio, Tex.: Besides what aired on Smackdown on Oct. 14, taped for Velocity: Scotty 2 Hotty beat Eddie Craven, Simon Dean beat Paul London, Kid Kash beat Funaki, and Hardcore Holly beat Sylvain. In a post-taping dark match, Batista & Eddie Guerrero beat the Ortons with Eddie pinning Bob Orton after a Frog Splash in the main event dark match.


October 14 Raw in San Bernardino, California: Kane beat Tyson Tomko, Shelton Benjamin beat Kerwin White with a t-bone suplex, Rob Conway beat Eugene, Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch beat Val Venis & Viscera to retain the World Tag Titles, Big Show beat Edge (w/Lita), Trish Stratus & Ashley beat Torrie Wilson & Victoria (w/Candice Michelle), Chris Masters beat Tajiri with the Masterlock, Ric Flair beat Carlito to retain the Intercontinental Title, John Cena beat Kurt Angle in a No DQ match to retain the WWE Championship. [Adam Crites]


October 15 Raw in Honolulu, Hawaii: Kane beat Tyson Tomko, Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch beat Val Venis & Viscera to retain the World Tag Titles, Chris Masters beat Tajiri with the Masterlock, Shelton Benjamin beat Kerwin White with the t-bone suplex, Rob Conway beat Eugene, Big Show beat Edge (w/Lita) with a chokeslam, Trish Stratus & Ashley beat Torrie Wilson & Victoria (w/Candice Michelle), Ric Flair beat Carlito with the figure four to retain the Intercontinental Title, John Cena beat Kurt Angle with the FU in a No DQ match to retain the WWE Championship. [Cody Metcalf]

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-One of the key acquisitions TNA made this year was not particularly on the wrestling side, but in the front office where Frank Dickerson became CEO of the company. Dickerson comes from a real-world business background and he has brought the competitive business mindset to a promotion previously run by the Jarretts, who only looked at building the company through the eyes of a pro wrestling family. Dixie Carter, who comes from a marketing background, helped bring a similar perspective to Dickerson's, but Dickerson has been strong in negotiations with Spike TV and the National Wrestling Alliance for stronger synergy between the two brands. Dickerson is very visible at TNA events and has made a good impression on TNA wrestlers so far. "He seems to be a straight-up guy and doesn't play mind games," says one wrestler. "You can talk to him and not worry about how he might overreact or judge you. He also is learning quickly about how (this industry) works."


-Brock Lesnar is wrestling for New Japan, which has a working relationship with the NWA, which is affiliated with TNA. That does not mean Lesnar will be appearing on TNA television anytime soon. It's expected the final settlement with WWE will restrict Lesnar from wrestling in the U.S. for much of the duration of his non-complete clause with WWE, though 2010. However, since his signing with New Japan surprised some people, there might be another surprise after the December settlement meetings should things not go WWE's way. Lesnar is expected to be on the Jan. 4, 2006 Tokyo Dome show to defend his newly won IWGP Title. Brock will not be on tours for New Japan between now and the beginning of 2006. Mark Jindrak, Charlie Haas, and Matt Morgan are expected to appear on the Dome show after strong appearances on the Oct. 8 show. Also, through the talent exchange agreement between NJPW, the NWA, and TNA, several TNA wrestlers are expected to appear on the January 4 show. Some of the names being mentioned for one of NJPW's upcoming tours during the fall season include A.J. Styles, Christopher Daniels, and Samoa Joe.


-The match line up for Bound for Glory on October 23 includes: Jeff Jarrett vs. Kevin Nash for the NWA Title, A.J. Styles vs. Christopher Daniels for the X Division Title, America's Most Wanted vs. Team 3D, Samoa Joe vs. Jushin Liger, Abyss vs. Rhino vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Sabu in a Monster's Ball match, Petey Williams vs. Matt Bentley vs. Chris Sabin in Ultimate X, Monty Brown vs. Lance Hoyt, Sonjay Dutt vs. Roderick Strong vs. Austin Aries vs. Alex Shelley, and Diamonds in the Rough vs. Sonny Siaki & Apolo & Shark Boy.




-One of ROH's early top stars, Steve Corino, returned to ROH last weekend, losing to Bryan Danielson in the Buffalo, N.Y. main event. "Steve Corino is a true star," ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky tells PWTorch. "We've had our problems in the past and I'm sure we'll have problems in the future as Steve likes things done his way and I like things done my way, but he is a true talent and credit to any company he works for. His tag match with Colt Cabana vs. Low Ki and Homicide on Friday was intense and the World Title match versus Danielson on Saturday was a classic."


-The Saturday night event in Buffalo included a relatively small crowd, which was not particularly enthusiastic about the product, but included a scuffle between a fan and ROH wrestlers. During the tag match featuring Jimmy Rave & Alex Shelley & Abyss vs. Roderick Strong & Jack Evans & Austin Aries, a fan at ringside hit Strong. That fan then got into an argument after the match with ROH trainee, Bobby Dempsey. Dempsey got Samoa Joe from the back, who stormed out to the ring and threw the fan to the ground and yelled at him. A number of other ROH wrestlers came to ringside and eventually Sapolsky and security dragged the fan out of the building.


Sapolsky doesn't agree with characterizations that the crowd in Buffalo was odd. "Nothing went wrong," he tells PWTorch. "The crowds were fine and the Buffalo fans were great. One bad apple doesn't ruin a whole crowd." Sterling Keenan, who wrestled Claudio Castagnoli early on the card, wrote on his web journal: "They were the most bizarre, silent crowd I've ever seen! It seriously was like a PGA golf crowd. They were dead silent for the majority of the night, and believe me, it wasn't for lack of good wrestling. I actually watched most of the show from the back and popped for more than the crowd itself. Weird."




-Prelim pre-show matches Oct. 14 in Buffalo were: Primo beat Smash Bradley, Bobby Dempsey beat Eric Adamson, and Derek Dempsey beat Shane Hagadorn.


-Jack Evans and Roderick Strong are scheduled to tour Dec. 20-28 with the Dragon Gate promotion.


-Regarding the Danielson vs. Aries match in Cleveland on Oct. 14, Sapolsky tells PWTorch: "It was another great match between these two and they have really had an incredible series against each other. They have had four matches against each other in ROH and each one has been something special."




Oct. 15 in Cleveland, Ohio: Claudio Castangoli beat Nigel McGuinness, RIcky Reyes beat Matt Striker, Sal Riunaro & Tony Mamluke beat B.J. Whitmer & Jimmy Jacobs, Roderick Strong beat Jimmy Yang, Colt Cabana & Steve Corino beat Homicide & Low Ki, Abyss beat Jack Evans, Samoa Joe & Jay Lethal beat Jimmy Rave & Alex Shelley, Brian Danielson beat Austin Aries to retain the ROH World Hvt. Title in a long, technical match

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Opportunity knocks, and three wrestlers answer

How Rave, Lethal, and Strong filled gaps left by departed stars


By Sean Radican, Torch Newsletter Contributor


In March of 2004, ROH found out the hard way that the future on the independent wrestling scene is anything but certain. Former ROH owner Rob Feinstein was shown on TV as the target of an underage sex sting operation, which prompted TNA to forbid several wrestlers under contract to work for ROH. ROH suddenly found themselves without the services of main event stars A.J. Styles, Christopher Daniels, and Low Ki.


Styles and Daniels were pulled from ROH by TNA and Ki left on his own accord - eventually returning to the company in July 2004. At the time, TNA wasn't happy that many ROH wrestlers had stated publicly that they preferred working in ROH to TNA, but the actions of Feinstein gave them a logical reason for pulling their contracted wrestlers out of ROH when they were asked why TNA talent couldn't work there.


ROH was forced to create new stars quickly. Austin Aries, Jack Evans, Roderick Strong, Alex Shelley, Jimmy Jacobs, and several others were brought in and featured prominently on ROH releases to fill the holes left in the ROH roster by the departed TNA wrestlers. Austin Aries rose out of the pack of undercard wrestlers quickly and became a breakout star in ROH when he ended Samoa Joe's lengthy ROH World Title reign last December. However, Aries wasn't the only member of the ROH roster to take advantage of the void left by the departures of the wrestlers under TNA contract.


ROH has always been a company where wrestlers come in and wrestle without restriction. ROH prides itself on being a place where wrestlers can perform their craft in its purest form. WWE wrestlers James Gibson, Spanky, and Matt Hardy have all wrestled standout matches in ROH this year, but their stays in ROH were short-lived and all three are now working for the WWE again.


Most recently, the no limits philosophy in ROH has also given wrestlers with less exposure in the company a chance to shine in 2005. ROH has to prepare itself for the possibility that the current class of main event wrestlers will eventually depart the company also. It's a fact of life on the independent scene that wrestlers will come and go for a variety of reasons, so it is important that ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky constantly creates new stars in the company and gives opportunities to the undercard wrestlers to shine. ROH is a company driven by DVD sales, so it is paramount that they retain and cultivate talent from within.


During 2005, Roderick Strong, Jimmy Rave, and Jay Lethal have all taken advantage of ROH's no limits philosophy, but it's evident that the seeds were planted for their success last year. Strong, Rave, and Lethal have all been featured in high-profile matches this year and have taken advantage of the opportunities provided to them by ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky, but even more interesting is the story of how their opportunities came about and how each man took advantage.


The most compelling story of the new generation of ROH stars belongs to Jimmy Rave, who has arguably experienced the most success of the new class of ROH stars this year. Rave is a longtime ROH wrestler, but during the early stages of his ROH career he could not get over with the ROH crowd as a babyface. ROH ran an angle where if Rave got pinned in a match at "World Title Classic" in June 2004, he would be fired from ROH. Rave took the pinfall loss in that match and appeared to be gone for good. At the time of Rave's departure, ROH was in a state of transition as Sapolsky began to attempt to create more traditional heels and storylines.


Rave was the beneficiary of an opportunity to come back to ROH as a surprise a month later at "ROH Reborn: Completion" as the centerpiece of the heel faction The Embassy. Rave tells PWTorch that being put in the Embassy forced him to learn how to work as a heel quickly. "The Embassy was already in place in ROH and what I was doing wasn't working for various reasons," he says. "I had just turned heel in NWA-Wildside and CZW. For over the course of my career I had never been a heel and it was time for me to try it. When I was brought back to ROH it was a total learning experience. I was really just thrown out there and had to learn fast. But it seems to have worked out well."


Rave was given the opportunity during the latter stages of 2004 to wrestle a series of singles matches to refine his role as a heel. Prior to the departure of several TNA wrestlers, newer wrestlers usually participated in multi-man matches, where they had limited time to show they deserved a larger push in ROH. Rave believes working singles matches in ROH prepared him for the success he has experienced in ROH this year. "It (working singles matches) definitely helped me as a singles wrestler," he says. "I need a chance to tell stories in my matches, and those matches helped me do that."


Rave began to show signs that he was learning and improving as a heel with each match. ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky tells PWTorch that Rave has gotten over as a heel because of his looks and mannerisms, but also credits his manager Prince Nana for his success. " Rave is a natural heel with the crowd," he says. "He just has that look where you want to slap him. Prince Nana has done a major league job as his manager and together they have great chemistry. Rave also learned and grew with every opportunity, particularly in the C.M. Punk feud."


In order to differentiate himself from other wrestlers in ROH, Rave has been successful in being more of a traditional heel. He takes shortcuts during his matches and acts like a coward at the right times, which gives people a reason to want to see him get beat. Rave believes that in order to be successful as a heel, he needs to make every person in the crowd hate him. "I've adapted my style in a way to generate heat," he says. "I walk out there with every intention to get under the skin of every single person out there. I wanna piss off people that hate me, people who cheer me, and the guy I'm wrestling. That way there's more emotion involved in what I'm doing."


Earlier this year, Rave began working a program with C.M. Punk. He was given the chance to build a feud with Punk with several cheap wins and prominent angles on ROH events. Rave began to generate genuine heel heat at ROH events during his feud with Punk, which is something that very few wrestlers have success with. Rave believes his feud with Punk was instrumental in his growth as a wrestler. "I think the stuff that Punk and I did helped me more than anything else I've done in my career," he says. "We were on the same level and wanted the same things out of what we did. A year ago nobody would have believed that Jimmy Rave would main event any ROH show... I've done it numerous times this year already."


Rave capped his feud with C.M. Punk with an excellent main event cage match at "Nowhere To Run" in May. Punk and Rave brought all the elements of their long feud into the match and told a great babyface vs. heel story in the ring. ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky believes that Rave's feud with Punk cemented him as a top heel in ROH. "That feud really put him over the top and he has been running with the ball since then with the A.J. Styles and Generation Next feuds."


Another wrestler who has taken advantage of the opportunities presented to him in ROH is Jay Lethal. Up until late 2004, Lethal spent most of his time in ROH as a member of the Special K faction. Lethal's gimmick was that he liked to party and rave with the other members of Special K, which ultimately cost him most of his matches. ROH ran a storyline in 2004 where Lethal broke away from Special K in an attempt to get serious as a wrestler. It took Lethal a while, but he finally found his niche in the ring playing the role of an underdog against former ROH Champion Low Ki at "Midnight Express Reunion." During that match, Lethal was able to garner sympathy from the crowd and get them on his side as he made several believable comebacks against Low Ki. Despite not getting a big win over Low Ki, Lethal had shown that he could deliver in the ring against a big name opponent.


After breaking away from Special K, Lethal began to visibly improve his look and in-ring style. As part of a storyline, Lethal got the rub of being Samoa Joe's prot駩 on ROH releases. Eventually Lethal garnered his biggest win in ROH when he was able to capture the ROH Pure Title from John Walters at "Trios Tournament 2005." ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky credits Lethal's success to his willingness to learn. "Jay Lethal's development is a lot like (Roderick) Strong's," he says. Lethal has made the most of every opportunity. He has listened and learned from anyone who would give him advice including Ricky Steamboat on a few occasions and he has worked hard to stay in top shape. Now all that work is paying off."


Lethal's push continued after he lost the Pure Title to Joe and transitioned into his marquee feud with Low Ki. Over the course of several ROH events, Lethal showed he belonged in the ring with Low Ki during their recent series of matches. Lethal delivered some of his best performances in semi-main event matches, including getting a visual pinfall on Low Ki at "Death Before Dishonor 3," but he came up short in gaining an elusive pinfall on Low Ki.


Lethal finally defeated Low Ki at "Glory By Honor 4" on Sept. 17. His feud with Low Ki should give him enough credibility with ROH fans to continue to work storylines with ROH's best workers. ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky believes Lethal became an established wrestler during his feud with Low Ki. "Lethal really grew up in the Low Ki feud and went from the young kid on the block to an established wrestler," he says. "He has grown with every opportunity."


Roderick Strong has seen his stock in ROH rise the old fashioned way-with the improvement of his in-ring work. Strong was primarily a tag team wrestler during most of 2004 and early 2005, but at "Back To Basics," Strong worked a match with one of ROH's founding fathers, Homicide. Strong went toe to toe with Homicide during this match and demonstrated he had what it takes to be considered for future matches with the other big names in ROH. Strong, who utilizes several variations of the backbreaker, has a certain charisma in the ring as a tough guy. His chops and strikes, combined with his high-impact maneuvers and ability to sell make you take notice when he's in the ring.


Perhaps his showing in the ring against Homicide was no coincidence, as Strong had worked singles matches in ROH's sister promotion FIP prior to his match against Homicide against a number of top independent names, including Austin Aries and Samoa Joe. Sapolsky credits Strong's hard work and willingness to learn for his improvement in the ring. "Roderick Strong has learned from everyone he has worked with, really worked hard in the gym, and made the most out of every opportunity given to him," he says. "He has a lot of confidence now and that always shows in the ring."


Strong recently revealed in his web journal that he credits most of his success in ROH to James Gibson, who acted as a mentor to him during the past several months. "James Gibson has meant so much to me the past six months I cannot thank him enough. Ever since the Apr. 2 match at 'Best of the Super Juniors,' we hit it off like crazy and he just took me under his wing and has helped me in every aspect of life. He has the biggest heart in this whole world."


Sapolsky also credits Gibson for Strong's success. "Strong is just now fulfilling his potential," he says. "I think James Gibson has helped him a great deal, too, as I've seen Gibson give Roddy a lot of valuable advice. You could always tell Strong was a natural and now we are seeing him mature into the star that he is."


Strong's confidence continued to build in ROH after his match with Homicide. He went on to have standout matches with James Gibson and A.J. Styles, but his big break came when he defeated Matt Hardy at "Punk: The Final Chapter." Since that match, Strong's ROH performances have continued to be solid and he recently earned an ROH World Title shot when he won the "Survival Of The Fittest 2005" tourney.


Recently, new faces have been slowly integrated into ROH main shows. According to Sapolsky, there are several wrestlers from a variety of backgrounds ready to step forward in ROH. "There will be lots of guys given the opportunity," he says. "We really gave Tony Mamaluke, Sal Rinauro, Matt Sydal, Claudio Castagnoli, and a veteran in Jimmy Yang the ball during the Kobashi shows. They all came through big time. Now they will all be given future opportunities so it is really up to them. We will see who is able to make themselves stars. I believe that Milano Collection AT has a ton of potential, too."


All of the new faces coming into ROH have the potential to make an impact similar to what Rave, Strong, and Lethal have done in ROH over the course of the past year. Those looking to make similar strides up the roster hierarchy in coming months can learn from what clicked for Rave, Strong, and Lethal.

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Infinite Crisis

By Bruce Mitchell, Torch columnist


It's one thing if Vince McMahon and WWE want to go to war with two or three networks, the Mixed Martial Arts industry, the marketing arm of Jarrett & Jarrett, and anyone who once worked for them. Hey, have at it (but keep an eye on the back door, why doncha).


This time, though, they've gone too far.


(Forget about good ol' J.R. getting that good bye kick in the nuts, too. He's got enough stock options and dirt stashed away he can sit on the Oklahoma fifty yard line and swap stories with Dr. Death anytime he says the word.)


This time, though, they've gone too far. This time WWE is after the lucrative wrestling journalism market.


That's right, the multi-thousand dollar wrestling journalism business, whose very apex you now hold in your hand, or view on your monitor, or listen to on an iPod (whatever that is) is in jeopardy of being gobbled up by the McMahon juggernaut, just like Ted Turner was finally beaten like a gong personally by Mr. McMahon. If you don't get what I mean, ask all those fans of The AWA Team Challenge.


Oh, that's right. You can't. Thanks to the McMahons, there hasn't been an AWA Team Challenge in years and years.


That same fate could await the world famous Wrestling Observer, now that the sleeping giant called WWE.com has awakened (awoke?). Who's going to want to read the dozens of stories on PWTorch.com every few hours or listen to Wade Keller argue both sides of some minute point on an iPod (whatever that is) when they can bop on over to the real thing website and see actual pictures of a smiling Ric Flair walk into the Raw arena seven days after taking a brutal beating from his best friend, the World's Greatest Wrestler, or actually see what goes on in the ring during the commercials, as described by the Best Wrestling Announcer Ever, or read breathlessly as Divas they never heard of get criticized by Divas they have heard of so they can be the first wrestling fan in their neighborhood to see the start of the feud that peaks as the popcorn match at Survivor Series? Who wants to listen to an endless Mitchell Audio Update when they can listen to Coach's Corner (or whatever it's called) on an iPod (whatever that is) and puzzle over which part is really Coach and which part is just Coach?


(By the way, Coach, I've never listened to a word, but I want you to know, I'm with you, pal, I'm with you...)


Then there is the simple fact that WWE can release all those breaking stories to themselves and scoop everybody on those ongoing negotiations that everyone is cheerfully yet professionally having with each other.


Hey, I get it. WWE thinks they're being exploited and they smell a buck at the same time. The problem is, amping up the shoot content on WWE.com means someone objective has to explain what the hell it is that really happened. It's the same thing that happens every time a wrestling company decides to plug the leaks to the journalists; the manipulation of the news has the opposite effect from what the company was intending. Everyone's antennae goes up and the news flows even faster.


The "new" WWE.com won't last long, at least the "news" part. Sooner or later Triple H will decide the reason so few fans are buying tickets is because the mystique is gone and the website is to blame.


And there'll never be a headline on WWE.com that reads "Revenue Down: Family Can't Book."

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McNeill Factor


Headline: The Diablo, The Angel, and The Punk

Originally published: October 22, 2005

Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter #884


Workrate of an Angel: The Ring of Honor promotion has struggled from the time it opened in March 2002. Part of that was due to the promotion?s financial plan. ROH has a hard time making money off of its live shows, due to the costs incurred from licensing fees, renting buildings, transportation expense, and paying for its extensive crew of wrestlers. What Ring of Honor counts on for its cash flow are videotape, DVD, and merchandise sales.


Earlier this month, Pro Wrestling NOAH headliner Kenta Kobashi came into ROH for a doubleshot of shows in the Northeast. There?s a strong buzz about Kobashi?s Oct. 1 match with Samoa Joe in New York. Ring of Honor is at a full sprint to try to get the Joe vs. Kobahi show out before their public, to the point where they have raced through production on the shows leading up to it. ROH is already taking pre-orders for the VHS version of the show, an unprecedented leap in its normal production schedule.


The trouble ROH has right now is the sheer volume of shows the promotion is running. ROH has five shows alone in the months of October, each with its own unique hook and its own upcoming DVD release. When you run that many shows, it gets difficult to differentiate among them.


Earlier this summer, ROH had its eggs in a different basket. Matt Hardy, who was coming off a high-profile injury, a higher-profile breakup with his girlfriend, and a subsequent release from WWE, signed to do a series of matches for ROH. Hardy was one of the few released WWE wrestlers who looked like a good fit for the workrate-based company. Unfortunately for Gabe Saplosky and Cary Silkin, Hardy had already re-signed with WWE and appeared on Raw by the time his first ROH appearance rolled around. The show, which took place July 16 in Woodbridge, Conn., was entitled "Fate of an Angel," and was built around the first in-ring meeting between Version One and TNA X Division standout Christopher Daniels.


ROH anticipated a possible backlash against Hardy based on his WWE appearance. As a result, Hardy was given an entrance that was guaranteed to get him over as a babyface. Prince Nana was abusing Jade Chung in the middle of the ring when the lights went out and Hardy appeared, interrupting the evil Embassy leader. Hardy then gave a quick anti-WWE rant to further establish his character. This was important and necessary for Hardy. Christopher Daniels had become one of the top babyfaces in ROH three weeks earlier by returning to challenge C.M. Punk for the ROH Hvt. Title. Without the right buildup, Hardy could have easily been booed out of the building.


The match itself? Well, there had been questions about whether Matt Hardy could work an ROH-style match after six years in WWE and after his injury. But it soon became obvious that Hardy had been working out and logging substantial time in his home-built ring in North Carolina. Hardy and Daniels went full-tilt for the entire contest, and the audience was definitely into the match. In fact, the match itself raised more questions about "Fallen Angel" Christopher Daniels and the booking of Sapolsky than it did about the future Angelic Diablo.


During the later portion of the match, Version One caught Daniels on the top turnbuckle and hit him with a superplex. Then Hardy hoisted Daniels up on the turnbuckle again, and hit another superplex. And another. And then, finally, a fourth superplex. Of course, this is ROH, so that wasn?t the finish. Daniels kicked out. Minutes later, Hardy hit Daniels with his signature move, the Twist of Fate. Daniels kicked out of that too. Next came a visit from Daniels? old enemy, C.M. Punk, who ran in and clocked Daniels with a chain shot. Once again, the Fallen Angel kicked out. Hardy finally did beat Daniels with a submission finisher.


Sure, Christopher Daniels is an ROH mainstay who headlined the first ROH show. Yes, Daniels needed a strong push going into his matches with Punk. Yes, Matt Hardy was going to leave, while Daniels had to keep his heat. But this was overkill. Perhaps ROH could have come up with a better way of protecting the Fallen Angel.


We?re coming up on the annual Torch Awards at the end of the year, and there?s a lot to like about Christopher Daniels. The former Prophecy leader is an incomparable athlete and in tremendous shape. Daniels has great stamina and has no fear of going thirty or even sixty minutes in a match. His timing and technical precision are outstanding. His moonsault is a thing of beauty, hence the name "Best Moonsault Ever." Plus, he is underrated as a promo guy. His interview at the end of the "Fate of An Angel" release was one of his best, helped out by Alison Danger, who did a fine job of staring adoringly at her wrestler.


The knock on Daniels from some other wrestlers is that he isn?t very good at selling. After watching this match very closely, Daniels is okay, but perhaps not as good at it as he could be. If you want a wrestler who will sell a few punches by staggering around and acting dazed for a few seconds, Daniels is your guy. Daniels is also okay when it comes to selling an injured bodypart. It?s really more of a match psychology issue. After Daniels took the four superplexes, he sold the back. That makes sense. However, a minute later, the back injury had been forgotten. Incredible recuperative powers, no? It would have been more impressive if Daniels had attempted a suplex, or even his signature Angel?s Wings, and been unable to complete the move because of his bad back. The good news, Daniels can still evolve and improve, and will undoubtedly be looking for ways to do so until he hangs up the tights.


The Coward of Cook County: At this time last year, we discussed the lack of cowardly heels in ROH. Once C.M. Punk turned babyface in the summer of 2004, ROH didn?t have anyone on the roster who really attracted the ire of its diehard fans.


ROH got the memo and really put the emphasis on heel tactics in 2005. Homicide and Low-Ki of the Rottweilers moved away from the kick-ass offense and started leaning more on outside interference from Julius Smokes and from Homicide?s gang members. Prince Nana?s Embassy went from a comedy group to a pack of real jerks, led by the revitalized Jimmy Rave. Rave and Nana used all sorts of despicable tactics against A.J. Styles and Punk, including lots of outside interference and foreign objects. Nana added a couple of female valets, Angel Williams and Jade Chung, and then slowly escalated the amount of abuse he directed at Chung. British mat technician Nigel McGuinness kept edging closer to the line until his feud with Colt Cabana turned him into a dirty trickster.


But after Death Before Dishonor III, ROH got an unexpected gift. For several weeks, WWE signee Punk stayed on as heavyweight champion. Punk reminded everyone just how he became ROH?s top heel in the first place. Punk hadn?t forgotten his old tricks. Every month for a year, Mister Straight Edge had been the lead heel for Full Impact Pro, ROH?s Florida affiliate. Punk had the opportunity to show off his Memphis-style old school tactics in FIP. In fact, some of his work in FIP is worth going out of your way to see, particularly his feuds with James Gibson and Bryan Danielson.


Punk?s a fine wrestler, but there are two reasons he stands out as a bad guy. First, there?s Punk?s promo abilities. Sapolsky trusted Punk?s mic skills. That?s why Punk became the color commentator on ROH home releases after Doug Gentry left the promotion. Second, you have Punk?s facial expressions. Punk does an outstanding job of conveying his emotions nonverbally. His repertoire ranges from arrogance to physical pain to disbelief to sheer terror.


Punk?s new heel persona was very basic. He informed fans that he was on his way out of the promotion, and planned to take the ROH belt with him. On the July 16 ROH show, Punk defended the ROH belt against another WWE signee, James Gibson. The match was set up with a simple storyline. Punk attacked and busted open the challenger early in the show. For the rest of the night, the announcers teased that Gibson would be unable to wrestle. Punk even took the mic after the Hardy match to announce that he had kept the belt by forfeit. He wished the fans a safe trip home. No such luck. Gibson made his way down the aisle with his forehead heavily bandaged. The two then turned in an excellent match, ending with Punk using his feet on the ropes to score the pinfall.


The Verdict: There are plenty of little things to nitpick when it comes to home releases. Sometimes Jimmy Bower gets a little bit carried away on play-by-play. Sometimes the backstage skits don?t come off exactly the way the company had hoped. But even an "average" ROH show like the "Fate of An Angel" DVD is better than the alternatives from the Big Two promotions. And it?s all due to performers such as Christopher Daniels, James Gibson, C.M. Punk, and, for this night at least, Matt Hardy.


On Topic with Jason Powell

Headline: What I?ve learned so far in the New Fall Season

Originally Published October 22, 2005

Torch Newsletter #884


The last few weeks have been as newsworthy as any in recent memory for WWE. Here?s a quick rundown of what I?ve learned during this time.


(10) Brand vs. Brand storylines are confusing: Are we supposed to root for the Raw brand because they have cool babyfaces like John Cena and Shawn Michaels while rooting against Smackdown?s cool babyfaces Batista and Rey Mysterio? Maybe we root against Raw because we don?t like heels like Triple H, Carlito, and Chris Masters. But does that mean we have to cheer JBL, Christian, and Ken Kennedy? Where does Matt Hardy fit in? Do we root against Raw because we don?t like Eric Bischoff? What if we don?t like that Network Guy who keeps showing up on Smackdown? I don?t know the answers to all these questions and I?m willing to wager that the creative team doesn?t, either. But I do know one thing. Vince McMahon had his chance to book a brand vs. brand storyline after he purchased WCW, and he failed miserably.


(9) Stephanie McMahon?s way of doing things isn?t working on Smackdown: Yes, I know all about the big ratings that the Raw Homecoming show scored for USA Network. But I also know uneventful television when I see it every Friday night on UPN. Smackdown is a total disaster and it appears that Stephanie and her father are too focussed on Raw to fix it. Here?s a suggestion that doesn?t have anything to do with Paul Heyman, Jim Cornette, or Gabe Sapolsky taking over as booker. Well, maybe it does, I?m not really sure. I propose that Vince McMahon create a little sibling rivalry by giving Shane McMahon total control of the Smackdown brand. Shane may not have the creative mind of his father and sister, but my bet is that he possesses the good business sense to hire the right people to book the show for him.


(8) Vince McMahon has no respect for Jim Ross. After all the years of having Ross play bad cop (costing him his relationship to a naively grudge-holding Triple H), and despite all the times that Ross bailed him out of some sticky situations with disgruntled talent (particularly Steve Austin), the old man actually considered replacing the greatest play-by-play announcer in the history of the business with a guy who doesn?t even follow pro wrestling closely? Keep in mind that yours truly was the unofficial president of the Mike Goldberg fan club when he called the action for the Minnesota Wild. I also maintain that he does a terrific job for UFC regardless of the fact that some of the sport?s diehard fans disagree with that sentiment. I guess sometimes the overzealous, passionate MMA fans don?t realize when something is perfect for the mainstream audience. Hmm, maybe that also applies to pro wrestling. Nah. Nevertheless, I was disgusted by the fact that WWE officials even entertained the idea of replacing Ross with Goldberg. Bumping Michael Cole out in favor of Goldberg? Absolutely. Grooming Goldberg for Ross?s job in the future? Sure. But using him as the immediate replacement for Ross? Preposterous. It was asinine to expect Goldberg to step in and immediately call a quality match, and equally absurd to think that fans wouldn?t backlash against him. Does WWE even think these things through?


(7) Jim Ross has no respect for Jim Ross. It?s no secret that Vince McMahon doesn?t respect Ross, but there comes a point when you have to stop feeling sorry for a guy who just keeps taking the abuse. Ross should have followed the lead of his idol John Wayne by walking off into the sunset with his head held high. Have some self-respect, Jim. You?re the best play-by-play announcer in the history of the business and you deserved better. You could have given the company your notice and flipped the bird to the boss much in the same way that your buddy Steve Austin has done so many times on television. You?re not an average Joe who?s living paycheck to paycheck. You?ve been cashing six- and seven-figure paychecks for years now and obviously you could afford to walk away instead of subjecting yourself to the humiliation. Part of me can respect the fact that you showed up to work and did your job regardless of how you were mistreated. At the same time, it?s not the first time the McMahons have shit all over you because they know damn well you?ll just keep taking it. I like playing softball, Jim, but I wouldn?t keep showing up if my teammates went out of their way to humiliate me. You literally kissed your boss?s ass, Jim, and you still kept coming back for more. I don?t care how much you enjoy the job, there comes a point when your own self-respect should mean more.


(6) Steve Austin appears to have lost his passion for the business. This week, for a few seconds, the excitement of the Stone Cold character was back. When Austin came whipping into the arena parking lot and then tore through the backstage area, it felt like old times. But then WWE cut to commercial right in the middle of this supposedly spontaneous moment and killed the mood. Worse yet, Austin had to stall in the ring during the break drinking beers before starting his promo. And then the Rattlesnake - the guy who doesn?t back down from anyone or anything - appeared to censor himself from saying "shit" on television. I?m not sure why the same guy who can flip everyone off has to censor himself there, but this entire scene made the Austin character seem overly scripted and tame.


His segment on the Homecoming episode two weeks back was a disaster. Where?s your pride, Steve? How many times will you be willing to revisit this same tired storyline between you and the McMahon family? What happened to the Steve Austin that used to sit on his back porch dreaming up storyline ideas for himself and everyone else on the roster? Yeah, I know, your segment with the McMahons drew the highest rating of the night. That?s great, but how many fans do you think came back the next week? You didn?t give them anything new. You haven?t elevated a younger wrestler since The Rock. You gave the fans the same old storyline. Hell, even Gary Coleman has enough self-respect to get bitter when people ask him to say the catch-phrase that made him famous. I?m begging you, Steve, please get offended the next time the McMahons ask you to give them Stunners.


Now, while Austin?s feud with the McMahon family is tired, his line on this week?s Raw about Stephanie McMahon?s balls potentially falling out was a gem.


(5) Austin is in no position to save Ross?s job. Sure, he pops the occasional rating, but the bottom line is that the McMahons probably overestimate Austin?s value to the company at this stage in his career. In other words, he shouldn?t do anything to make them reassess their perception of what he actually brings to the table. Steve is only good in small doses and that?s not going to change unless he gets a spark of creativity or his acting career takes off. Should Austin voice his displeasure with Vince?s decision? Certainly. Should he threaten to quit over it? No way. First of all, Ross didn?t quit, so why should Austin to make such a threat? Austin has already walked off the job once before and doing so again would likely result in a major lawsuit that he couldn?t win. If the McMahons were willing to move forward without The Rock, then surely they?d do the same if Austin barked too much.


(4) The McMahons are heartless. At least Vince and Stephanie fit that description according to numerous people who either have worked or are currently working for them. Few, if any, sources I?ve spoken to over the years have had negative things to say about Linda and Shane, so it?s not fair to lump them into the same category. Stephanie treats the creative team like dirt and isn?t as confident in her own management ability as she acts like she is in public. Vince?s arrogance, pettiness, and ruthlessness have been described ad nauseam. Okay, so I didn?t really learn that Vince and Steph can be lousy human beings over the last few weeks, but their treatment of Ross certainly reaffirmed that opinion.


(3) Vince and Steph are good television characters. The most exciting few moments of any show that Vince appears on are those few seconds when his music starts to play and the fans realize that the Chairman of the Board is about to swagger to the ring. He doesn?t always live up to expectations, but as a viewer there?s nothing better than spending those few seconds speculating what big angle or announcement is forthcoming. Stephanie?s promo on the October 10 Raw was awesome. I could have lived without the way she shoved the cameraman because it was just so Major League Baseball back in July, but the rest of her routine was terrific. If the McMahon family can show any self-restraint in terms of how much television time they give themselves (and reject any scripts that involve the words Linda and a live mic), they could make a bigger ratings impact than most people are probably willing to admit.


(2) WWE is paying plenty of attention to the Internet. The most recent (and perhaps final) Ross Report on WWE.com actually mentioned the fact that Internet rumors suggested that Jim Ross was on his way out. Then Ross, Jerry Lawler, and Jonathan Coachman took it one step further by mentioning those rumors during the live broadcast. And now WWE is planning to air a live, commercial-free broadcast of Raw via the Internet. By the way, is USA Network crazy? Why in the world would they agree to let WWE broadcast an Internet show that will be broadcast in direct competition with their new ratings/cash cow? I?m sure advertisers will be thrilled when they find out that WWE is actually running programming against their commercial spots. That being said, kudos to WWE for beating the top mainstream sports to the punch when it comes to using the Internet to their advantage.


(1) Raw is newsworthy again. The show is clearly headed in a new direction. It hasn?t been a seamless transition so far, but neither was the company?s move into the WWF Attitude Era back in the late ?90s. It?s too soon to say whether the new direction will be successful. If nothing else, it?s nice to see the company shake things up. The only thing that scares me about the new direction is that it seems to be geared around the McMahons and Triple H. The First Family and the son-in-law have already been at the forefront of past shakeups, so their involvement, regardless of the early success, sends the message that the company is moving backward rather than forward.

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The Perspective with James Caldwell


By James Caldwell, Torch columnist

Original Headline: TNA?s X Division could learn from Johnny Valentine

Originally Published: October 14, 2005

Torch Newsletter #884


Johnny Valentine was a top draw in the Mid-Atlantic territory during the ?70. He gained notoriety in the ?50s and ?60s for leaving fans bewildered as to how an opponent could walk out of the ring on their own following a match with this legitimately tough man. Valentine wrestled everywhere from Florida to Japan and finished his career wrestling in Charlotte before his career was cut short in 1975 following a plane crash - the same crippling crash that nearly ended Ric Flair?s career.


What made Valentine a top draw and feared competitor in the eyes of fans was his imposing presence and dedication to his craft. Valentine refused to settle for shortcuts in the ring because it meant compromising the integrity of the business. "In the ring, Valentine wanted everything to look legit," Ric Flair wrote in his autobiography To Be The Man. "I learned a lot watching Valentine - the way he made everything he did seem meaningful."


Making moves mean something is an issue that?s come to the forefront lately. While reviewing my notes from TNA Impact?s Spike TV debut on October 1, one note in the margin stood out. The note was taken in the midst of the X Division three-way match involving Petey Williams, Chris Sabin, and Alex Shelley. In that match, all three men put forth a solid effort, giving viewers an example of TNA?s new marketing slogan: "60 minute adrenaline rush."


However, the match epitomized the very concern I have for X Division style matches. Yes, X Division matches deliver exciting action which allows wrestlers to display pure athletic ability inside the ring. Yet, the cause for concern is that many matches rushed and filled to the brim with an endless string of highspots which, in effect, minimize each previous spot. At the end of the day, fans care more about the spots themselves than the wrestlers performing the spots because the average X Division wrestler lacks the character development necessary to stand out.


If I were to ask the average wrestling fan who actually won the October 1 match between Petey, Sabin, and Shelley, the response might resemble Jay Leno?s "Jaywalking" segment - a blank , vacuous stare. In the days of Johnny Valentine, matches meant more than just a few wrestlers trying to "get everything in" within a window of time. When a match involving the likes of Valentine concluded, fans in the arena were well aware of outcomes because the loser was the one in need of a gurney ride and a shot of alcoholic to make it to the next town.


In making each move mean something, Valentine drew the audience into his matches; by building up mid-match moves as simple as a straight punch to the face, Valentine had fans hooked even with the types of moves that have become time killers during a commercial break in today?s age.


"Johnny?s way was to get a guy in a simple hold - like a hammerlock - cinch up on it, let go, beat the s--- out of his opponent, then clamp the hold again," Ric Flair wrote. "This could go on for ten, even twenty minutes...The crowd got into it. They really believed that he was hurting the guy with that hold."


Imagine one wrestler locking in a hammerlock for twenty minutes. Imagine an audience riding on every possible release of the hold rather than heading for the concessions stands. Wrestlers like Johnny Valentine made the audience believe in each move - even the simple ones - and that sold the business as a competition and helped maintain his career over three decades and countless matches.


Valentine was also noted for being the type of wrestler you didn?t want to upset at the local watering hole after the matches. Of course, that has never prevented fans and outsiders from testing their strength and fighting skill against wrestlers. They thought the athletes who performed in the ring were not legitimately tough because they wrestle a "fake" sport.


"I saw him go to post with a couple of people who were supposed to be athletes and wrestlers, and he not only beat the hell of out a couple of them, but they also backed off of him," Lou Thesz told Slam Wrestling following Valentine?s passing in 2001. "He was not a sophisticated wrestler, but he was born a rough-neck. The guy was really good with his dukes."


Valentine was effective working at a rate of one move per light-year because of how he carried himself in and out of the ring. If fans bought his act as a legit tough man because he cared enough about the sport to refuse bouncing against the ropes for fear of killing the legitimacy of the in-ring competition or fight, Valentine could use simple moves - such as a straight right hand - and still have the effectiveness of ten moonsaults.


One of the key moves wrestlers used was a straight punch to the face - a move so simple, yet so effective that dedicating proper focus to the development of a right hand could be the difference between the main event or being left off the marqee. That right hand was not tossed around so carelessly, whereas a mid-match right hand in today?s wrestling environment might double as a throwaway move. Lacking in meaning or justification other than keeping the match going, a straight right hand - along with the Smackdown Special, a reverse chinlock - is the most abused move in wrestling while also having potential for being a truly devastating move in the context of a worked match.


Yet, even as WWE grew out of the Attitude era in the early 2000s and renewed its focus on a more methodical pace to make moves within matches mean more - mainly because too many wrestlers had Dr. James Andrews on their Christmas list - not everyone was committed to the vision. Wrestlers slowed the pace, but there was no life behind some of the very moves that could have brought the audience into the match if given the proper respect rather than being treated like wasted motion.


Certainly, TNA?s X Division has carved its own niche with amazing athletes such as Christopher Daniels, A.J. Styles, and Samoa Joe. However, for TNA to truly find success with the X Division, the emphasis needs to be on realistic matches that resemble shoot fights more than a high wire act. Everytime TNA decides that throwing Shark Boy, Sonjay Dutt, or Amazing Red together in the opening match on a PPV is a good move for the X Division, I groan at the concept being watered down.


"Many of the wrestlers on independent shows weigh 170 pounds or less and look just like the people in the audience," J.J. Dillon wrote in his autobiography Wrestlers are like Seagulls. "They also know the mechanics of crash-and-burn moves they do in the ring, but they don?t have a reason for doing those moves."


Rather than just taking a more grounded approach by cutting back on acrobatic spots, the way in which a wrestler carries himself in the ring greatly determines the believability of each move. Whether the move has an impact on the audience is determined by more than the move itself. The rest of a wrestler?s presentation affects how a move is interpreted by the fans.


To illustrate my point, I recall a conversation I had with a manager on the independent scene. The manager was asked by a wrestler, who fit the bill of an X Division style wrestler both in size and offensive repertoire, whether he should add ten pounds in order to stand out as a more believable wrestler. The manager simply answered back, "Just walk to the ring like you weigh an extra ten pounds."


In essence, an X Division wrestler who weighs 150 pounds can be a feared fighter who fans will respect for his intense fighting skills rather than his repertoire of highspots. That?s a best-case scenario for wrestlers who have been hurt by the system. With promotions failing to realize the true potential of the X Division-style - as a form of athletic competition and believable fighting action - wrestlers such as Chris Sabin and Petey Williams are unable to develop into more than just undersized wrestlers who are good for a few highspots.


So, what?s the solution? How does wrestling return to a form of a competition that can hold the interest of an audience for even a five-minute headlock such as the one Batista applied on Eddie Guerrero during the No Mercy main event two weekends ago?


"We have to get back to wrestling," Jim Ross told WWE.com in his parting shots following his on-air firing on the October 8 Raw. "We have to get back to aggressive physicality... It?s going to be built by physicality, aggression, suspense, and drama."


To find a picture of what J.R. is talking about, WWE should look no further than the flagship of their former television home. UFC has carved its niche in the pro wrestling genre - as determined by the mainstream standard for categorizing UFC style combat - through real competition that brings the crowd into the action because each possible move could be considered a finisher. In the context of a UFC fight, a single leg takedown isn?t treated flippantly as a mid-match move to transition into the babyface comeback; rather, it?s treated as the possible set up for a quick finish.


In adding a realistic consequence to each wrestling hold - imagine a sleeper hold from Rene Dupree taking on the life of Roddy Piper?s patented finisher - fans will be more entrenched in matches.


"We want to be entertained, and if we think two guys are really kicking the s--- out of each other, that?s going to entertain us," Terry Funk wrote in his 2005 autobiography More Than Just Hardcore. "That?s the only direction left. Worked wrestling has already gone to its greatest limit. What could be next? Reality is next."


Funk believes shoot fighting is the next step for the genre. Japan, a country that has portended the future of this country?s pro wrestling and other industries in recent decades, has integrated shoot fighting into pro wrestling matches. Wrestlers who participate in shoot fights return to the squared circle as credible fighters. The strong-style concept - a marketing gimmick to draw in Japanese audiences using the aura of a pro wrestling fight involving believable fighters - has turned into a money-drawing concept. "The Japanese have been very progressive," Funk wrote. "Now they have gone in a shoot direction because they saw that was the way to progress, dollar-wise, at the box office."


Funk believes Vince McMahon is the person to bring that style of shoot competition to the forefront in America. "If McMahon were to promote shoots the way he has promoted his worked matches, he might see the best ratings he?s ever had," Funk wrote.


I?m not as sold on shoot fighting gaining mainstream recognition and acceptance as Terry Funk believes. There?s something to be said for the pageantry, characters, and storylines that makes WWE a dynamic form of competitive entertainment that still draws thousands of fans to live events and brings in top-five cable ratings around 50 weeks out of the year.


For WWE, introducing shoot fights seems unnecessary as it will inevitably lead to confusion in the marketplace with WWE presenting worked fights and shoot fights to the same audience. However, certain elements of shoot fighting should be integrated into pro wrestling matches to add a sense of competitive fighting that defined the ?70s when Johnny Valentine made an entire audience believe his opponent was on the verge of losing an eyeball.


Kurt Angle, who brings that strong fighting technique to the ring, is the model for where WWE should focus. Angle is a five-tool player in that he can flat out wrestle, has natural athletic ability, adds credibility and believability to his moves, can act to promote a storyline, and sells each match as if it?s the last fight of his life. Angle is the modern day version of Johnny Valentine - someone who makes the average viewer forget that what he or she is watching is a worked match while creating a sense of fear that John Cena?s face will resemble Sylvester Stallone in Rocky by the end of a match.


Where TNA has a competitive advantage is a roster of potential Kurt Angle?s who can turn the X Division into pro wrestling?s answer to a more realistic form of wrestling. TNA management has that in Samoa Joe, who gives fans a glimipse of what Japan fans have admired for years - the "strong style" fighting. He has turned heads from California to New York because of how he carries himself - a badass with amazing athletic grace. For TNA, the pursuit of believability in matches should be the first priority. Joe can set the pace.


For WWE, adding meaning to matches and making mid-match moves resemble potential finishing moves should be the next step for a storyline-driven promotion. If pro wrestling matches can back up compelling storylines by resembling true competitive fights, WWE is set for another surge. WWE doesn?t have to make fans believe their matches are real; they just have to make their matches "feel more real." Even if fans know better, WWE would still be cashing in on that emotion that more and more of their fanbase is experiencing from the emerging MMA style.


WWE has the tools; it?s just a matter of taking the disciplined Johnny Valentine approach.

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Random Thoughts

By Wade Keller, Torch editor


I can only guess as to why WWE felt Smackdown needs a junior division, also known as a minis division in Mexico. My guess would be that even though TNA is officially not on their radar screen and of no concern to them, with the solid ratings for TNA Impact on Spike TV the first two weeks (doubling the numbers WWE drew in the same timeslot), and with Spike TV interested in expanding TNA's first-run programming as early as January, WWE is responding in a petty manner. They are going to mock the X Division - or at least attempt to - by portraying acrobatic, athletic wrestlers as being "tiny novelty acts" rather than a core part of a legitimate promotion. Look for the minis/juniors to be given the "midget treatment," lauded for their athleticism, but with an undercurrent of demeaning commentary meant to belittle their legitimate toughness. If that is the motivation of WWE - to hurt the X Division - it's so lame it won't work at all. It does seem sad that the brand that fails to capitalize on the Cruiserweight Division is taking this approach. Why not just break down and admit that there's a market for what TNA builds itself around, and then put a good-faith effort into building a full-fledged Cruiserweight Division centered around Paul London, James Noble, Brian "Spanky" Kendrick, Super Crazy, and Psicosis?


The TNA Impact skit featuring a funeral for Team 3D clicked with me. It could have flopped badly and looked like amateur comedy hour. Instead, thanks surely to Dave Sahadi, they set the mood really effectively as a psycho funeral. James Storm is going to be a hoot as a heel, and Chris Harris is good in the reluctant responsible big brother role. "Sinister Minister" Mitchell was perfect for the role and remains a hidden treasure in TNA's roster ready to be fully exploited as a TV ratings draw. There's been nothing like him in years, yet his type of character has a history of being effective in the industry. WWE recently touted itself as being a "variety show" featuring drama, suspense, athleticism, and comedy. It sounded like a response to the false impression that TNA is just a bunch of bland wrestlers exchanging meaningless highspots. TNA showed in episode three of TNA Impact on Spike TV that they can do comedy "sports entertainment" too. In fact, it was better than most any attempt at a comedy skit WWE has put together. That picture they kept showing of D-Von looked more like New Jack, probably because of the blood. The one criticism of the segment would have been to make it more clear to newer viewers that Team 3D is the former Dudleys. James.


This week's Impact went a long way to establishing Kevin Nash's badass persona again, something that didn't come through at all with his last appearance in week one and his getting choked out by Tito Ortiz in week two. The vignette they aired of Nash concluded with a great line and even better delivery, aimed at special ref Tito Ortiz: "You touch me and I'm gonna rip your arm off and shove it up your ass. You touch me, you die."


With WWE promoting its webcast of Raw as being "commercial free" and packed with exclusive interviews and news, shouldn't USA Network be upset? After all, WWE is encouraging viewers to skip commercials on USA to watch their webcast instead. WWE has nothing to lose in the short-run since they don't get any ad revenue based on increases in ratings. They get a set fee for Raw from USA. The reason USA is allowing this is because they're either not paying attention or they just don't care. I'd guess it's the later. The number of viewers USA is losing to WWE.com is inconsequential to the rings, it's unlikely viewers would switch off the TV to watch an inferior picture on their computer screen, and because of that it won't show up in the ratings as a decrease. Instead, it can be seen as a way to build brand loyalty and add a new dimension to their flagship Monday night program. At this point, it's nothing to be concerned about. In the long-run, though, as webcasting grows, it could put WWE in a better position to not be at the mercy of USA come renewal time. I'd say we're at least eight years away from webcasts reaching an audience large enough to self-sustain WWE without an established cable affiliate, but that's a wild guess. But with Apple about to introduce iPods that will download TV programs for a small fee, on demand programming continues to grow quickly.




The following are exceprts of Pro Wrestling Torch #355, cover-dated September 30, 1995.


-Cover Story Excerpt: The mega-match of Hulk Hogan vs. Lex Luger gave WCW Monday Nitro a 2.5 to 2.2 victory over the WWF's Monday Night Raw in their first head to head battle. The campaign in Atlanta has not been uncorked since.


Not only did the WWF score victories in weeks two and three, but by a decisive margin the second week. In fact, compared to the audience for the Hogan-Luger match, around 300,000 viewers decided to switch back to Raw to see British Bulldog vs. Undertaker last Monday.


The ratings for the second head to head battle on Sept. 18 saw Raw edge past Nitro with a 2.5 rating (3.4 share) versus a 2.4 rating (3.4 share), a difference of around 60,000 homes - pretty much statistically insignificant. WCW's replay scored a 1.0 rating, so their overall viewership was higher.


Even though they technically lost the battle in the match-up of first-run hours, WCW had a moral victory. WCW had only announced Johnny B. Badd vs. Paul Orndorff and The Blue Bloods vs. either The American Males or The Nasty Boys, meanwhile the WWF headlined with a pretty strong Razor Ramon vs. 1-2-3 Kid match and M.O.M. vs. Owen Hart & Yokozuna.


On the down side for WCW, the Sept. 18 Nitro came a day after their pay-per-view which should have added to viewership considering many fans would theoretically tune in to see what happened the night before on pay-per-view, or had they watched the pay-per-view, they may have tuned in to see the Ric Flair vs. Brian Pillman match announced only on the PPV.


For the most part, week two was a wash for both groups, although an overall positive sign for the industry. WCW could take comfort in the fact that they only dropped from a 2.5 to a 2.4 for a show that had no match nearly as marketable as Hogan vs. Luger the previous week. And rather than both shows splitting the 3.2ish average the WWF was drawing for Raw before Nitro, they were splitting an average rating of nearly 5.0 both weeks in a row, even without a Hogan vs. Luger match to increase the viewership.


All the excuses WCW had prepared before they did so well the first three weeks were pulled out of storage Tuesday when the ratings came in for the Sept. 25 head to head battle.


Raw drew an impressive 2.7 rating (3.8 share) with British Bulldog vs. Undertaker as a barely hyped main event while Nitro dropped to a 1.8 ratings (2.8 share) with a 0.9 rating (2.2 share) on the replay. WCW again can take some consolation in the drop. For one, they advertised Randy Savage vs. Kevin Sullivan as the main event last week, not a strong main event. They did, though, advertise a face-to-face meeting between Luger and Savage, which is currently their hottest ongoing angle along with the Ric Flair-Sting-Arn Anderson.


The four week average rating for Nitro thus far is 2.4 on the first run show and around 3.3 when adding in the replay. The three week head to head average is 2.23 for Nitro vs. 2.46 for Raw.

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Torch Talk with Jeff Hardy, pt. 4


Originally Published: October 22, 2005

Torch Newsletter #884


The following is the fourth installment of a two-and-a-half hour "Torch Talk" interview with Jeff Hardy conducted Sept. 15.


Wade Keller: From being around Samoa Joe and A.J. Styles and Christopher Daniels, have they come up to you and asked you for any advice about perhaps burning out physically given their style of wrestling? If not, have you ever thought of approaching them about that, telling them, "Hey, I?ve been through what you guys are going through. Let me tell you something, if you start slowing down really gradually now and you pick your spots, fans aren?t going to care, they?re still going to be behind you, and you?ll have a longer career"?


Jeff Hardy: No, they?ve never come to me and I?ve never gone to them. It?s hard to sense or know the amount of desire that they truly have. Well, it shows through their work naturally. I don?t think they?re worried about it at all because they?re smart and they know what they can do and what they can?t. I?ve just always been the type of person that, like, anything?s possible. I even worry about it too much going into the matches, especially now. Man, I hope I don?t get hurt. In the past, I?d have never even thought (those things). I knew it was possible, but I wouldn?t talk about it nearly as much. Now in the ring I try to be so much safer to where I think about things a lot more. That?s one of the biggest differences between the me now and the me then. Hesitation can cause problems. I was always a big believer, especially like jumping off of ladders and that kind of crazy stuff, not to hesitate and everything will be fine because all of the times I had hesitated in the past and been worried about it too much, I?d get hurt. I really am at that stage now as far as I think about it too much, but I?ve been lucky (not to get hurt as a result).


Keller: Do you think if you wrestled more often that wouldn?t be the case, or does that have to do with age and your bump card?


Hardy: It?s probably got a little bit of both. I know if I did more independent shows, I would be in much better shape as far as conditioning. I?m doing one independent show coming up because I knew that this whole Spike deal and Bound for Glory was going to be right around that same time and I figured it was a good time to do a few independents to just kind of warm up. I?m still hoping to find that desire lying around somewhere or the passion lying around somewhere.


Keller: If "10" is you?ve got all of your desire back and "0" is where you were when your WWE career ended, where are you now on that scale of a desire to be a wrestler?


Hardy: Probably I would say a six. Something like that.


Keller: You?re over the hump, but it?s not burning inside of you right now?


Hardy: Right, right. I have a feeling the Bound for Glory deal, if it?s the right match - me and Jeff or whatever the match will end up being - I think that?s going to be a good time for it to actually happen as far as everything going good. That?s the best time to do it.


Keller: When you were in WWE, did you spend most of the time in the "8, 9 10" range until maybe the last year or so, or were there ups and downs even early on?


Hardy: The majority of the time was 8, 9, and then when we split - way back when I won the Intercontinental Title and all that stuff, that was one of the coolest things. We went for a tag team to us doing our individual thing. I think more than anything that whole split and the brands split and I stayed on Raw and Matt went to Smackdown, that?s really when it kicked in. That?s when I started going backwards in numbers. If we had remained a tag team, everything may have - I don?t know what would have happened exactly. I still probably would have lost my passion and all that stuff. Right now more than anything, this is a great example, when Matt called to let me know he got released, I was so excited, man. I didn?t want to say it, I didn?t know how to come across, because I know he was bummed out about it. But God, I was happy inside. I was thinking this was going to be great, the Hardy Boyz are going to turn it out and be that final ingredient to put TNA on the same level. Then that didn?t work out. I totally miss the tag team deal.


Keller: Do you think Matt would have wanted to be in a tag team with you in TNA? He had pretty much said outright he would have teamed with you a couple of times, but he wanted to be known as an individual act. You?re saying your preference if he didn?t care either way would have been to reform the team and be a tag team full time?


Hardy: Oh yeah. Matt?s just afraid that if anything was going to relocate that passion of mine, it would have been to get in the ring as the Hardy Boyz again. I don?t know, it seems being that he?s an individual and has been on his own and has been doing great... Him being afraid to team again because it would boost my confidence again and not wanting to hear that "Jeff this, Jeff that" anymore and people saying, "Yeah, he?s the one I remember the most. He was the flashy one." This and that. He might have been a little creeped out about actually relocating my passion through the Hardy Boy reunion.


Keller: You think he was scared that you would regain enthusiasm for wrestling because of the tag team?


Hardy: Yes. However you want to look at the Hardy Boys? career as a tag team, it would have taken away from him. More of the spotlight would have been off of him a little more as to where he?s on his own doing great. He?s proved himself. He doesn?t need me. I always knew that. That could be totally way off. I do know I wanted to get back together with him a lot more than he did.


Keller: Did that hurt your feelings when you realized that his desire to team with you again wasn?t at the same level as yours?


Hardy: In a way, but I kind of knew it, too, because when it comes to wrestling, that?s his life and we?re not on the same level as far as our outlooks on that. It did. It kind of disappointed me a lot that there was a lot of hope he was going to be in TNA, but then that (didn?t happen). Once I heard he had been in contract with WWE, I thought, yeah, he?s going to be back in WWE. Just because it?s worldwide and so huge. It?s the place to be. He didn?t have much faith in TNA.


Keller: You had said somewhat recently that you think Matt Hardy strung TNA along and his heart was never into going there and they were always Plan B, the back-up plan. Do you think your comments were misconstrued? Did Matt talk to you about them? How do you feel about them now?


Hardy: Matt came across to me like he was totally wanting to go, but he was stressed out and torn between these two deals. I was like, "Man, if you really love wrestling you say you love wrestling, you could write, you could be one of the top guys in TNA, you would have it made." I think, especially the way he got released, that was probably my biggest deal. I was, "I can?t believe you?re going to go back to a place that released you like they did. That was so f---ed up. Now you?re kind of just giving in to the man or to the machine again. I?m like, God, if he had any pride, it seems like he wouldn?t have done that or even thought about it. It?s just kind of weak to me for him to go back after the way he went out.


Keller: What about your comments that he always wanted to go back there? Didn?t you go so far as to say you think he did a disservice to TNA management by even making them think he would sign with them? Did he lead them on? Do you think he would have never signed with TNA once WWE showed interest?


Hardy: I do think he did (lead them on). I didn?t hear the conversations he had with TNA, whoever he talked to in TNA. The moment he heard that WWE was interested in him again, I totally think his mind was set on WWE. I don?t know if he did it intentionally as far as leading them on, but I think he did.


Keller: Do you think he owes anybody in TNA an apology as far as using them as a bargaining chip to get a better deal with WWE?


Hardy: That?s what?s hard to say because even this past week, Dixie told me to tell him hi. I don?t know what was said in the conversation. It?s hard for me to say and know for sure. But I don?t think he owes anybody an apology. There is business and personal sides to anybody, I guess that was his business side.


Keller: It sounds as if Dixie is not upset with how Matt handled it.


Hardy: No, not at all. And she talked to him a few times and said, "Oh, he was such a nice guy." I could be totally wrong in thinking he led them on. I?m just speaking how I feel.


Keller: My impression was that he really did consider TNA. It was a really tough decision on his part because of all the things you mention - that creative freedom, stick it to the machine, don?t go back to the same place that screwed you over, be with your brother, be part of something on the upswing and make a difference to the industry. I wrote about that. I thought he had a lot more to offer from a legacy standpoint if he went to TNA because by going back to WWE, he becomes "just another wrestler." So with all of that said, do you think he absolutely made the wrong decision for him knowing what you know as his brother?


Hardy: You know, I can?t really say for sure. I don?t know weeks from now where he?ll be, but the way it looks up until now, when I first saw Summerslam, I was way disappointed. This is kind of thinking about the deep down part of Matt in that it?s kind of hard to admit he?s wrong and show his true feelings. It?s hard for him to cry in a public place. Whatever that toughness is that keeps some of his deep down thoughts inside. I know when it comes to money, one of the main reasons he didn?t come to TNA was they didn?t have a for sure Spike deal or a TV deal all around. And that?s understandable. I mean, then again, that?s one thing that?s kind of cool to go out on a limb for, especially if you love wrestling like he loves wrestling. Honestly, I do think he would have made a better decision if he would have come to TNA as far as being that final ingredient. But being that there wasn?t that concrete channel, he just went back to World Wrestling Entertainment. I can?t say it was a bad move. I would get beat and never complain. He could get beat for the next ten years and make great money, which would be great either way.


Keller: If you think Matt could redo it, do you think he would change his decision based on the way things have gone so far, or do you think he?s totally happy with the choice he made?


Hardy: All the times I?ve talked to him, he seemed really stressed out somewhat to where, how could you not expect stress going back to work with who you?re working with and all this and that and whatever takes place throughout the day of Raw and however much communication you have with him. I just don?t know how he can even be around that tension, especially work with it. A part of him - the biggest part of him, that deep down part, actually - wishes he may have made that choice to come to TNA. But then again, he?s still holding onto that hope for the fans who cheer him so loud that he will make a difference. I told him the other day, he?s in the best shape of his life. He looks great. I truly believe that. My biggest deal is I think he needs to bring a little something different to the table. The pretape he did with (Eric) Bischoff was the same old Matt I?ve seen years ago. I was like, man, I don?t know what it is, but bring a little something different.


Keller: Do you think it?s fair that management in WWE gave him that one live promo in the ring where Vince McMahon introduced him, and that took away some of the anti-authority feeling fans had for Matt because the boss is endorsing you, and they gave him just that one shot? Most people agree it wasn?t the interview people thought Matt could deliver based on all of that pent up anger and everything for the past few months. Do you think that was Matt?s one big chance and that that actually did deter his push a little bit?


Hardy: I think it possibly could have. The whole deal he did leading up to that where he was breaking into the building and leaping over the rail the first night he was back, looking at it from a realistic standpoint if a fan actually jumped and tried to get into the ring, what are the chances of that fan being able to grab a mic and have that much time. When you look at it, there are so many things you could break down. I guess all in all, it?s a good show, but I almost think it?s an insult to the fans? intelligence on a whole, kind of. It evidently isn?t because it?s not like they booed it or anything. But it?s just crazy that they think these people are going to believe he?s actually sneaking into the buildings here and actually making his way to the ring and getting this done and actually get the mic to say a little something. But after the promo, man, I didn?t know what to think, especially after he said he hoped Edge would die in a car wreck. I thought, whoa, that?s pretty strong. The next week when I saw Edge?s interview, I thought back to Matt?s interview, and I thought, man, wow, he?s got to feel a little crazy for some of the things he said because Edge just totally made sense out of all of it as far as making it sound a lot better. I couldn?t help but feel Matt wished he could have gone back and said something different.


Keller: Do you think Matt got nervous out there, or do you think he just hasn?t had enough time to do promos and it just was the best he could do that day? Or did nervousness really cut down the quality of what he could have done under other circumstances?


Hardy: The handshake - I think that was probably one thing he didn?t want to do. I think that?s one thing he was really hating. I know that handshake probably hit him a little hard. After all of this time of us versus them and the big "them" movement and how he?s going to take WWE out and make Lita and Edge?s lives miserable, but then having to shake Vince?s hand. I guess it?s awesome to be introduced by Vince, but after all that, he looked back at this guy and you think, after all the sh-- he?s been saying all this time, it?s just bullsh--.


Keller: In a sense, by Vince shaking his hand, it told the fans, "Everything Matt Hardy said about me and my company didn?t make a difference in the world." It basically erased any sense that Matt was a true anti-authority. I wouldn?t be surprised if that didn?t shake up Matt a little bit in terms of the quality promo he could deliver after that moment.


Hardy: I totally think so, too. I remember telling Matt after the show, I told him on the phone, "I liked that line in there, that was pretty damn controversial or crazy. Pretty strong." At that point I hadn?t thought that the way to go about it as far as what Edge covered the next week, saying, "I hope you?re in the best shape of your life." Because it totally came across as (Matt) being scared (of Edge).


Keller: Is there any doubt in your mind that everything the way Matt portrayed it, even though it?s his side of it, is a truthful way that things happened? Or is there any chance somewhere along the line that Matt and to some extend Amy (Lita) and Adam (Edge) began working people, so it started as real life and became a work, or even started off as a work from the beginning? Is there any doubt in your mind what this is all about?


Hardy: The biggest doubt is probably the fact that I only took the time to hear Matt?s side because he?s blood and he?s my brother. Knowing Amy so good, the day he came up here and informed me of all that had gone down, I remember calling Edge on his voicemail and saying, "Man, you f---in?" - because Matt played those messages for me. He came over to the house and I was out there painting a big ass gimmick I?ve got near the road out there. Anyway, he comes on and plays these messages and I hear Adam talking to Amy, going, "I love you. I love you." Over and over again. Whatever else, it was just sickening. I was like, oh my gosh. So Matt pretty much stood right there in front of me and had me call them. I remember him saying something like, "Call them and let them know how disappointed you are." That was for Amy. So then I called Adam. I said, "I f---in? hate you." Blah blah blah and this and that. Then I called Amy and she actually picked up. She was just getting back to her mom?s house. It didn?t sound like she was crying or anything. I talked to her casually, "Hey, what?s going on." It?s so hard for me to talk to her because I was so close to her; I wasn?t nowhere near as close to Adam. Amy had already moved in with Matt and was living there; I thought it was something that would be forever. That was really hard. I thought it was so f---ed up. Right there, when Matt was there, it?s hard not to take your brother?s side, but now I look back on it and think I need to call and say I?m sorry because so much has happened in whatever that 90 day period was when he was into "the movement begins." And the movement is actually he is back in WWE. It?s hard not to question that and wonder what?s going on here. I just wish I would have taken the time way before now to apologize for that day and calling and being so bold just because Matt was there. I never took the time to hear the other side. All the information I have is just through Matt, and it?s a little shaky.

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Guest EastCoastJ

Torch Talk with Jeff Hardy, pt. 1

Originally Published: September 24, 2005

Torch Newsletter #880


The following is the first installment of a two-and-a-half hour one-on-one "Torch Talk" interview with Jeff Hardy. Now a headliner in TNA, about to go national on Spike TV, he is known as the flashier member of the Hardy Boys, but also the more mysterious. In this "Torch Talk," Hardy talks about his decision to return to pro wrestling after leaving WWE, his one ROH experience, and his negotiations with TNA. In future installment, he speaks freely and openly about the Matt Hardy-Lita-Edge situation in depth, explaining when he doubted his brother and why, how he feels bad for how he treated Lita and Edge during the ordeal, why he sees two sides to the story, why Matt decided to return to WWE, and how he thinks Matt handled the personal issue in a public way, plus many other subjects sure to add a new perspective to the controversy. This interview was conducted Sept. 15.


Wade Keller: Now that you've had the chance to watch the Ultimate Insiders DVD (featuring him and his brother Matt), is there anything you'd like to expand on or clear up?


Jeff Hardy: Yeah, probably the biggest thing that stood out is I was mad at myself for asking (so much about dates). I can't remember everything, so a lot of times throughout the video I noticed how I would ask Matt, "Was that right? Was it so-and-so when this happened?" I thought I was asking too much. That was the thing I didn't like the most. Other than that, I thought it was pretty cool and it was a good experience. I'm glad the Hardy Boys were back together for that time, the time we spent there doing the interview.


Keller: The whole time we were there doing the DVD interview, Matt was in the room with you either on camera or off camera. We never really talked about what your relationship is like now. Do you consider yourself and Matt really close friends and really close brothers, or have you two gone to a degree separate ways while still staying in touch, but you each have your own world you live in?


Hardy: We're like night and day. I think we're described a lot like that. I don't know who is night and who is day, but we're totally opposites, man, in a lot of ways when it comes to opinions. We're very different. I think the one thing we had in common more than anything is Pearl Jam being our favorite band. That's always been a connection there. We are total opposites when it comes to opinions and living styles.


Keller: How often have you talked to Matt in the last couple of years since you guys haven't been on the road together in WWE? Do you talk to him once a month or several times a week?


Hardy: Oh, yeah, at least. The time I wasn't wrestling at all I would always watch his match and talk to him before and after just to see how it went and what was going on with everything. I bet there wasn't a day or a week that went by throughout the time I wasn't wrestling that Matt didn't stop by here and ask me, "Hey, man, you thought about calling Jeff Jarrett lately to get back into the ring?" He pushed me as far as getting back into the ring with that. He would come by every week and ask me about TNA.


Keller: So Matt was really supportive of you getting back into wrestling. He thought that would be good for you and the promotion would benefit from having you?


Hardy: Oh, yes, definitely. My whole mindset was, like, wow, that would be cool actually knowing that my fanbase - I knew I had a pretty steady fanbase - and just to see that they stuck with me through all that time away from the ring was really cool. It was cool to watch everything in Nashville grow to that last show we had whenever I was wrestling Jeff Jarrett and they turned away, like, a thousand people, man. It feels good to be a part of something and help grow and mature.


Keller: What ultimately made you decide that it was the right time and the right circumstances to get back into wrestling? You probably wavered for a little while and then decided to do it? Was it money? The right time in your life?


Hardy: To me, it was that one year I took to complete my motorcross track. Throughout all that time I was all fired up about motorcross and that's all I wanted to do. I actually even raced a couple of times and competed and did fairly well. I kind of busted my ass at one of the big AMA races pretty bad. I was, like, wow, I need to get back to the ring and do what I know I can make money doing because with racing, I was spending money and getting hurt. More than anything, wanting to give it a try again and being a part of something as it matures.


Keller: It's not too often that wrestlers get back into wrestling for safety reasons because they want to be safer.


Hardy: Oh, yes, I know. That's probably pretty rare. If you see guys on TV now on the motorcross bikes, it makes me feel like I don't stand a chance.


Keller: Was it Jeff Jarrett who did most of the negotiations with you, or did you speak to other people at TNA when you were negotiating your return?


Hardy: Pretty much just me and Jeff Jarrett, one on one. That's how it went down.


Keller: What kind of background did you have with Jeff? Did you have a friendship already or an acquaintanceship already established?


Hardy: The biggest memory I have is back when Matt and I were still wearing the tights and I think for a little while we ran a little angle with Owen (Hart) and Jeff when they were the champs and all that. I remember one day when Owen said something about (the tag titles). He looked at Jeff and said they were hot about giving the titles to somebody. They said, "Oh, why don't we put them on somebody young. Some new, fresh talent like the Hardy Boys." We thought, oh, damn, they're pretty cool to say that. That was the most memorable thing about Jeff Jarrett at that time. And then, for now, him being my boss, it's all strange, but good.


Keller: Is it strange to be talking to Jeff, not as a fellow wrestler, but as someone you had to negotiate money and dates and details on? Was it awkward to take that role with him?


Hardy: Well, yeah, it is, at first anyway. At first, though, he makes it very clear that there are two sides - a business side and a personal side. With me, that is something I've always been, like, ah, man, come on, personal is personal. I always disliked that, but I understand to a certain extent you have to be like that. He made that very clear from the very first day I showed up in TNA. There's going to be times when he's got to lay down the law and there's gonna be times when he is just a friend.


Keller: After leaving WWE, you were able to live off of your savings. Do you mind saying what your best year was money-wise?


Hardy: I think ballpark would be 700 thousand.


Keller: That's what I would have figured hearing dollar figures over those years. And you were in WWE how many years?


Hardy: Five. Almost five.


Keller: Obviously not every year was that good, but you had some money. You probably didn't burn through all of it. But did you figure at some point you'd need more money and wrestling was a way to do it, or did you get back into wrestling just because you actually had a passion for it again? Or was it kind of a combination of practical and emotional factors?


Hardy: As far as passion, no, I had hardly any passion still. But I did want to find it. I felt that it was somewhere in TNA for me to reach again. I was just totally confident in so many other things. I would sell paintings. The first three paintings I sold on eBay, they all went for over a thousand dollars. I was, like, wow! That was for just an 11-by-16 painting on a canvas. I always felt some part of my talent, whatever it may be, everything will work out okay. That's the way I've always seen it and felt it.


Keller: When you finally said yes to return to TNA, was it relief that you finally made the decision or was it apprehension that your heart may not be in it and you might not have the drive to make it work? Were you nervous about having been out so long and whether you'd still be remembered?


Hardy: I was totally nervous, probably more than anything, especially after I heard Jeff (Jarrett) had told me what he had in his mind for the show. He said, "You're coming out and working A.J." Oh my God. I'm like, "Do you think we could do something else?" I was totally underconfident wrestling A.J. and who he is and doing the things he does. It's phenomenal. That turned out great. After that match and seeing it back, I thought it wasn't too bad for being a year or so since I had wrestled.


Keller: It's amazing how it's like riding a bike to a degree other than the cardiovascular element how you remember where to be and how to execute the moves.


Hardy: The ring - that's something that drew me to TNA. When I saw that hexagon ring, I thought, whoa, that's pretty sweet. That was pretty exciting to perform in a different ring. I love it still to this day.


Keller: Did you have a chance to work out much in the six-sided ring before the match with A.J. to get used to the timing of bouncing off the ropes and how far to be from him at certain spots?


Hardy: No, I didn't even go in the ring one time before the match. I just went out there when it was time for the match and that was it.


Keller: Once you got in the ring and you were wrestling A.J., did it kind of hit you, oh man, the ropes have a different spring to them or they're further apart? Did that throw you off, or did you feel at home within a few minutes?


Hardy: The weirdest thing was not knowing which way to run. There is one way you run rope-to-rope, but it felt real weird running the ropes. That was the main thing that felt the most strange. Pretty much I had it down pat after that match and I can't imagine wrestling in a square ring now.


Keller: How much of A.J. had you watched before that match? Were you a regular watcher of tapes or ROH DVDs or the TNA PPVs?


Hardy: Yeah, I had seen a few pay-per-views. Not too many, but I had seen a few. A.J. was part of (NWA) Wildside. A long time ago I remember Matt telling me about this kid and it was A.J. he was talking about. He was out there, man, right off the bat and he did a 450. He was telling how he was a big fan of ours. I thought, whoa, the guy sounds pretty cool. That's what I think about most every time I see A.J.


Keller: When you did agree to come to TNA, was it a tough negotiation with Jeff when it came to the money? Was it tough when it came to the details of how you'd be used or maybe some promises in terms of how you'd be featured? What kind of demands did you make and what kind of concessions did you have to make?


Hardy: Well, whenever I wrestled A.J., the whole deal was I told Jeff that I just wanted to test the waters because I still didn't know if I wanted to do it for sure. I was just going to give it a try. The main thing was I didn't want any pressure that night to sign a contract. They were super-cool with that. I went in and tested the waters and it was a good vibe, a real good vibe the whole night. Then I came home and a month or so went by and finally I let him know that I would sign a contract. About a month later is when I signed. Basically they said they couldn't pay me what I was worth. I was, like, whoa, I took that as a compliment. Just what can you pay me? And that's what we settled on.


Keller: Do you think you negotiated a good bargain for yourself, but also where TNA could be happy?


Hardy: I wouldn't even call it negotiating, man. It was so easy. It worked out fine. I haven't complained since and I don't plan to.


Keller: What was your first reaction to the atmosphere behind the scenes in TNA? It was a televised event, so it had to remind you to some degree of a WWE pay-per-view or TV taping. What stood out that was different and what stood out that was better?


Hardy: Probably more than anything - this is probably the biggest thing I miss from WWE, is the crowds, man. The building in Nashville where we did shows was small compared to WWE civic centers and places they hit. Even Orlando, it's kind of like a miniature version. Everything is smaller, but it's such a good energy, man, that it's totally worth it. But I do miss the crowds with WWE more than anything.


Keller: How important is it to wrestlers, or maybe you can only speak of yourself, if you go into an arena whether it's for a TV or house show, and the crowd is 1,600 in a 15,000 seat building where its echoing, or it's half full, or it's completely full - does that really change how you look forward to wrestling and how much energy you put forth inside the ring?


Hardy: Yeah, totally, like, man, it fuels my fire for sure. Just coming out every time in the Impact Zone, it seems like it's the same people there so it's hard to fuel off of that sometimes. When you're in WWE, you're in all those different towns. One town's hot and the next isn't that hot. It varies itself. Now I'm always in the same place. It's kind of strange. But it will be super-exciting to get out wherever the next venue is we start to do shows in and experience it. I'm sure it will be off the hizzle!


Keller: When you were in the WWF and you went from town to town, did the mood of the backstage area when everyone started arriving change because of the city you were in? Were there towns that you just loved and everybody was upbeat because in some towns the crowd is always off the wall and crazy or you're in another town where the crowd is hard to please or quiet? Did you know going into a town that it would change the way you guys would feel about your work day?


Hardy: Yeah. You'd hit these towns so much. There's a few hard-ass towns, like the Baltimore area and Washington. Those are really tough crowds. Even the Meadowlands. MSG was always a place you'd want to be accepted. If they accepted you there, you were doing your job well. Once you did it so much and you hit these buildings over and over again, you start to recognize the drive and energy that is in that town or area or whatever. You totally look forward to it or dread it.


Keller: Did you have just one match between WWE and Ring of Honor?


Hardy: Yeah, and then I did one more very small one, an independent deal. Oh, and I did a Big Time Wrestling deal in California. Those were the only three matches I did.


Keller: The Ring of Honor appearance didn't go as well as you wanted in terms of how the crowd reacted. It was almost like they treated you like you had to prove yourself to them before they would accept you. Was that the feeling you had from them?


Hardy: I haven't even called it Ring of Honor since then. It's Ring of Horror. There was a big magazine that called it "Jeff Hardy's Ring of Horror" and "he got booed out of the building." Going into that, I knew they were going to be looking for the slightest little thing to get all over me. I even said I was probably going to get booed. I've never seen those people as haters. They were a huge, big-ass crowd. When I went out there, I went out to do my bow gimmick in the corner and I slipped a little, and right away they chanted, "You f---ed up! You f---ed up!" I thought, my God, these mothers are all over me. Then they went into "We want Matt! We want Matt!" So to counter that I'd go, "I f--ed up! I f---ed !" and "I want Matt! I want Matt!" I chanted with them. I felt I didn't have anything to prove to those guys. It was a good experience, man. I'm glad I took part in it.


Keller: Was there any talk of you doing more than that? And why did you agree to do that one match in the first place?


Hardy: I don't know, to be honest. Thomas Simpson was the guy who was involved in OMEGA with us back in the day. It was just him. He would call me every now and then. It was something with Kirby, the guy who was my protege is what they said, and something about giving him a shot to be seen. There was talk of me coming back and being a heel if I were to choose to come back. But I told them beforehand it was a one-time shot.


Keller: If the crowd had reacted differently, do you think you might have come back once every couple of months or something to work a match or two for them?


Hardy: No, honestly, I had no desire or plans. It was a one-time shot and I was set on that.


Keller: The crowd response had nothing to do with you only working once with them? You would have only worked once no matter what? Even if they had chanted your name and given you a standing ovation, your head wasn't in it at that point?


Hardy: Yeah, totally, either way I wouldn't have done more than the one shot. Then every time I hear that "booed out of the building," I think they're crazy. I know it's just a figure of speech and everything, but I guess the majority of the people think I was hurt or something. Even that Kirby, the guy who was my supposed protege, the first thing he said to me after the match, he said, "I can't believe those guys booing you after all of the TLC matches and stuff." I said, "You know what, I'm just gonna face the facts man. I am the sh---s. Oh my God." If those guys really feel that way, the haters, they're just the same kind of fan as the little girls who love me.


Keller: What do you mean by that?


Hardy: As far as hating and loving. I know after that show, I was signing autographs and stuff. There were several guys who would walk by and say, "Hardy, you f---in' suck!" I never said anything until I let a few of them go by. They would say it, and finally I said, "You paid to see me!" I said that really loud. That's the way I look at it. They paid to come boo me. I didn't lose sleep over it. Not a wink.

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Guest EastCoastJ

Torch Talk with Jeff Hardy, pt. 2

Originally Published: October 1, 2005

Torch Newsletter #880


The following is the second installment of a two-and-a-half hour "Torch Talk" interview with Jeff Hardy conducted Sept. 15. Now a headliner in TNA, about to go national on Spike TV, he is known as the flashier member of the Hardy Boys, but also the more mysterious. In this "Torch Talk," Hardy talks about his lack of promo time over the years, making a difference for TNA, and his trouble getting to shows on time or at all. In future installment, he speaks freely and openly about the Matt Hardy-Lita-Edge situation in depth, explaining when he doubted his brother and why, how he feels bad for how he treated Lita and Edge during the ordeal, why he sees two sides to the story, why Matt decided to return to WWE, and how he thinks Matt handled the personal issue in a public way, plus many other subjects sure to add a new perspective to the controversy.


Wade Keller: When you joined TNA, one of the opportunities you had that you did not have much of in WWE was to talk in the mic. As we talked about on the Ultimate Insiders DVD, it took a very long time for you in WWE - well into the run of you being popular - before they even considered giving you regular mic time. In TNA, they were going to push you as a singles star and you were clearly one of the top names they had ever had come through there in terms of name recognition, potential, upside, you could be a full time guy, so you knew at some point you'd have to sell matches through talking. Was that something you looked forward to or were nervous about?


Jeff Hardy: I was totally looking forward to it, but with the whole enigma thing and not talking or talking as little as possible... Dutch Mantel said after the deal we did where I signed the autograph in the ring with Dusty (Rhodes) and all that, he said something like, "He's like pro wrestling's mime" or something like that. "He don't have to talk." With the mannerisms and stuff like that, he can connect with the fans. I'm confident to get on the mic and everything now, but I'm glad with this whole enigma deal that we have held off on that (talking). I think we're getting pretty close to a time when it's going to be exciting to see me do it. I'm even looking forward to it myself because it's something I've never really done. It's always good to have something you've never done that you can showcase.


Keller: Talk a little bit more about that and what about it are you excited about and at what pace do you think it will play out on television.


Hardy: As far as promos in the ring, I think I just bring a very different approach or go at it, like, much differently than everybody else, in a way that's going to be strange and weird most likely, but I think it will be totally accepted and very entertaining. But if it's not, I'll go back to the mute enigma.


Keller: When you were in WWE, did you ever fight for mic time? Did you and Matt ever have the opportunity to ask for mic time, or did you have to do what yo were told and be quiet?


Hardy: I never did. I hardly ever pushed anything. Matt would always try to get some mic time going on and stuff because he was much better and everything at the time. He was very confident in speaking whereas I was very confident in jumping around. So I never did go out of my way to ask them for more mic time.


Keller: How many interviews do you think you did in your years in WWE? Was it five or fifty or more?


Hardy: As for pre-taped stuff, I did quite a bit of that. Probably the most was with the Undertaker deal. That was really starting to develop a feel for what I had in mind in terms of driving myself with a mic and some mic time. I remember this deal I did where Terri Runnels was interviewing me and I did something crazy where I ran off and came back with something very out of the box and it turned out pretty sweet?


Keller: And it was your idea to do that?


Hardy: Oh, yeah, totally. There have been thousands of ideas I've had, mostly match stuff, where when I'd get shut down. And I'd get shut down a lot because they thought it might not even be possible, but I wasn't afraid to throw out a strange idea.


Keller: What was the strangest idea you had that they blocked that you wish they would have let you execute?


Hardy: One is a bump I wanted to take actually when I was working with Brock Lesnar. I felt so confident in this. They looked at me like I was crazy when I asked if it was cool to attempt it. It was something like where Brock would have been down in the corner squatting and I was going to hit the Swanton on somebody who was laying there and take a spear upside down out of the air. Like, my momentum was already going that way anyway, so if anybody could tackle me out of the air, it'd be Brock Lesnar. They didn't even consider it, I don't think. Whenever I mentioned it, I thought that would be awesome. So I should have had some action figures with me to where I could actually show them what I meant and a visual of what it would look like.


Keller: So you get to TNA and you get a chance to in a sense pick up where you left off by being a singles wrestler. Did you like the way TNA handled your character at the beginning the way they presented it? Did you have the creative freedom that you wanted?


Hardy: Yeah, they've been overwhelmingly cool with anything I've wanted to do. But once again I hadn't been too pushy. I hadn't had that many ideas as far as my character other than the neon stuff and all the regular old Jeff Hardy stuff. I loved working with all of the guys there. Jeff Jarrett's been great for ideas. In a way, he's taken the place of (Matt). I still call Matt at times right before matches and stuff and ask him, "Hey, what do you think about this?" But Jeff Jarrett is really good about taking some of these wild ideas or whatever I may have and bringing them back into the realm of earth and the realistic possibility. I can throw stuff at him and he can break it down to where I don't know if making sense is right, but it works.


Keller: Is it fair to say you were reluctant to do a lot of mic work in your first months in TNA or did you feel you did enough mic work when you first got there?


Hardy: I don't remember doing any. When I first came, Dusty talked. Whenever Dutch talked about me being the mime, with the whole charismatic enigma deal, they thought the less I talked, the more mystique would be involved and go along with me and that would be a good move.


Keller: You were one of the bigger stars to sign with TNA who came in and could work full-fledged matches. You weren't past your prime. Do you think you made a difference in TNA? Was there even some weight on your shoulders even because of that pressure?


Hardy: I did feel there was a little bit of weight, but I didn't mind lifting it all. More than the passion restored or anything else for me to worry about, what was most exciting was just the thought of it one day going head-to-head with Raw. That was the ultimate goal. It seems like week by week there would be more people that came from way away from Nashville or whatever to see me. As it grew each week, I thought, man, this is cool, I really have some serious fans out here coming all this way. They remember me from WWE. It just got more and more. I would always take time after a show to hang out with the fans and hear where they were from. And that last day when we had our last show there (in Nashville) and I wrestled Jeff Jarrett, it was awesome to see that. I remember I went to Burger King; at some point I left the building and came back because I went to get some food and when I came back, there were over a thousand people that couldn't get in because they were turned away. I was, like, wow, it was almost like deja vu. I had seen it in my head and the ultimate goal has been to be on Spike and I've always envisioned it on Spike. Being that that's happened, it's kind of fallen into place.


Keller: You pretty quickly felt like you were part of the family, part of the promotion, and really had a stake in wanting to see it move to that next level and wanted to help it get there?


Hardy: Yeah, totally. All the guys were super-respectful. They understood that my will wasn't there all the way as far as to wrestle, but I was there for something. I wanted (to lend my name to TNA) for people who hadn't heard of TNA and to actually hear, "Oh, is that where the other Hardy went? Let's check it out."


Keller: You had gotten used to sleeping when you wanted, getting up when you wanted, being places when you wanted. You didn't have to answer to anybody. When you agreed to go back to TNA, suddenly there was structure again. It was not nearly the same as it was in WWE, but a lot of the stuff you didn't want a part of anymore was there again. You had to be at the airport at this time. You had to be at the arena at this time. You didn't end up having a perfect record when it came to that. What went into how hard it was for you to be on time and make it to shows? Why weren't you on time and why did you miss shows?


Hardy: When it comes to flights, I'll be sitting here always thinking if I could change this flight or I can just miss this flight, there'll be more flights throughout the day. That's just another, I guess enigma deal, it fits in. I don't know how to describe it on a human level or on a spiritual level, either, but I just sit and think, Man, is this the right time to leave or whatever. It's not that I don't want to follow orders. It's just that I'm going to be myself and I always seem to be in love with, not people worrying, but just showing up at a time that nobody knows of or expects. It's totally irresponsible of me, but as long as I get there, you know, that was the main thing and everything would be fine. So that first flight is always something I wanted to not take.


Keller: Jeff (Jarrett) sounds like a friend of yours and you get along with him well, but he's also an authority figure. He's got a show to run. He's banking on you to be there, a lot goes into these events. They're live. If one major name doesn't show up, they have to change a lot of things around. How does Jeff relay that to you without coming across like a dad or a teacher? Did you feel you put him in a tough spot and do you think he handled you wanting to be an individual when it came to that type of thing?


Hardy. I think more than anybody he probably understands that the passion hasn't been back and it's not doing it against my will, but just doing it because I had agreed to do it. He knows that it would help out a lot with this deal. He knows I would be confident not wrestling as far as making money and being all right on the financial level. But he was always glad to see me show up to the building. This was going to be very rare. The one pay-per-view I missed, that was just horrible. I didn't make my six o'clock flight that day. It's very rare that you're stuck in an airport and you can't get on a plane, either. That don't happen very often. Oh my God, I felt like an asshole. I totally felt I deserved whatever the outcome may have been. Yeah, I apologize for that and everything because I was advertised. That's why I mostly felt so bad. I was, like, damn, I f---ed up. They wanted to keep me around, but I don't do it to be an overall asshole or anything. But I totally felt like one, especially that day.


Keller: Was it after that pay-per-view they suspended you for a while? Or was that an earlier time?


Hardy: That was the pay-per-view where they suspended me. I've only missed one pay-per-view. I did miss an Impact taping. That was it.


Keller: When you missed the pay-per-view, you missed the six o'clock flight and you weren't able to get another flight. Is that how it worked out?


Hardy: I was at the airport. I bought tickets like American flights and it was in the other terminal. Anybody in the airport would know - that's one thing I hate even describing it because I have been late in the past and all that stuff and not gave explanations of why or whatever. I told somebody I missed the six o'clock flight and then I couldn't get one all throughout the day. They're like, "Oh, yeah, right. What the hell is going on?" It's like they don't believe it to a certain extent.


Keller: When you missed the show, you know you had let Jeff down. He was a friend who was counting on you and it's his business. He's part owner and all that. How do you personally address that to Jeff? You just go, "Hey, I'm sorry." Were you able to do more than that? It would seem to be a real tough position to be in if you feel you let somebody else down and the stakes are pretty big being that it was a pay-per-view, how did you approach Jeff or how did he approach you?


Hardy: Pretty much from his point of view, that wasn't cool. I know that wasn't cool. Pretty much from my point of view, I'm like, "Man, I'm sorry, I totally apologize." I think it's one of those situations where I don't want to come across cocky or anything, but me being there - I guess there's proof if you look how everything has been for the better since I have started there - I almost feel that I've been a good luck charm. It feels it wouldn't be right if I wasn't there.


Keller; So did Jeff tell you that they had to keep you off of a number of shows because they had to set an example for the rest of the locker room? Or was he just punishing you? What were the circumstances of the suspension?


Hardy: As far as the boys, coming in late, I wouldn't say hello any different to somebody if they came in at five o'clock compared to one o'clock., but that's on that personal level. It gets to the point that guys are like, "Yeah, he's coming in late." I'm also under that deal that (I'm okay) if they release me and they know that. They know it's not my last resource as far as making money and they know I'm not worried about it. If they (punished me), I would totally know I deserved it. Even after missing the pay-per-view, I don't think I needed to be released, but what they did was pretty good - making me stay home. They know I'm not afraid of that as far as being released.


Keller: In a sense you have leverage in that as much as you feel you want to see TNA succeed and you want to be part of it, you're also going to be heartbroken if it doesn't work out and they decide for whatever reason they don't want to use you again. You'll understand and move on with your life.


Hardy; Right. It would hit me in my heart a little bit, depending on the situation. Right now, I'm totally committed to being there, especially now that it's time to step it up and we have to put on our best. There's no room to f---- up.


Keller: Are you convinced that from now on when you have a scheduled flight, you're going to make it just because of the point you're at?


Hardy: Oh yeah. I told everybody there in the office, Dixie (Carter), Frank (Dickerson), and all the higher office people. The only thing that's going to stop me from getting to one of your shows is a hi-jacking or a crash. It could happen. It's very far-fetched. I don't plan to f--- up any more when it comes to that.


Keller: What did you think of the job Dusty Rhodes did early this year as booker? Was he the right guy at the right time in TNA, or was it time wasted?


Hardy: I never had a problem with it. I always thought Dusty was super-cool. It seemed like it might have been too much for him there at one time or he was trying to do too much of the writing or what was going into pretapes. He wanted to be everywhere and have the say-so over anything that took place during the show. I don't know what happened with that. Other than myself, other guys thought he had problems and wasn't doing a great job. One of the craziest things was when we had all the cage matches at that pay-per-view. I guess that was his idea. I was like, God! But in a way it was a challenge or a test and in the end turned out kind of good. That was pretty wild to have that many cage matches in one night.


Keller: Were the majority of the wrestlers against that idea or were they game for it?


Hardy: It seems like they probably would have been, but I remember what changed my outlook on it altogether was I said something to Jeff Jarrett about it and he was, like, "It'll be good. We can do it." It sounded kind of like a test. We had been putting out pay-per-views that topped one another as we went along. When Jeff said that, I thought it was a cool challenge we can totally take.


Keller: When it was all said and done, was the reaction backstage you made it work or you just made the best of a bad situation, but this should never be done again?


Hardy: Yeah, I think it worked. My biggest thing was did people like it at home? Maybe the people at the Impact Zone had trouble seeing through the cage (all night). I don't think it should or is going to be done again. I think it's good for history to just do things like that and have memorable pay-per-views like that.

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Torch Talk with Jeff Hardy, pt. 3

Originally Published: October 8, 2005

Torch Newsletter #882


The following is the third installment of a two-and-a-half hour "Torch Talk" interview with Jeff Hardy conducted Sept. 15. In future installments, he speaks freely and openly about the Matt Hardy-Lita-Edge situation, explaining when he doubted his brother and why, how he feels bad for how he treated Lita and Edge during the ordeal, why he sees two sides to the story, why Matt decided to return to WWE, and how he thinks Matt handled the personal issue in a public way.


Wade Keller: It appears you're being set up to eventually feud again with Jeff Jarrett over the NWA Hvt. Title. Are you happy with that direction and being utilized in that way? Do you feel comfortable being one of the guys who's feuding with Jarrett going into one of the biggest periods in that company's history?


Jeff Hardy Oh, yeah, I feel super-comfortable. I'm even doing one independent show. You know, I don't do independents and that's one thing I need to do more than anything as far as getting back into cardiovascular shape and not blowing up as fast. I'm doing a big independent show in Concord, N.C. on the 24th and I'm totally tickled to be involved with Jeff in any kind of match, hopefully a gimmick match of some type.


Keller: What do you do now to stay in shape? Do you do anything else, such as jogging? Do you have a gym in your house? Do you work out? How do you keep yourself somewhat in shape for the matches?


Hardy I don't hardly do any (of that). I work a lot outside and stuff, natural work like shovelling. But I've just got a few barbells and do a little bit of benching with what I've got here. I don't go to any gym or anything or go out of my way to train or see how much I can lift and get lots of reps. I just do some concentration drills here and there and some natural work outside.


Keller: At any time during your career have you taken steroids?


Hardy No. That's something I never took.


Keller: Were you ever tempted? Was there a reason you didn't take them when so many other wrestlers have?


Hardy I was tempted to do it way back in the day because I just felt small and everything. Then I was, like, the more we were doing jobs and stuff, we totally sensed that there was more welcoming for smaller guys or whatever. I was never close to even doing it. But it's hard not to think about it when you're small and you're in there with a bunch of giants. But, I totally feel comfortable being a smaller person now and how everything worked out and how I worked out through all that time in WWE.


Keller: In TNA, you're about the average size of the talent in that company.


Hardy Oh, yeah. And I think that's cool. That's one thing with TNA. It seems like everybody is... it kind of sucks when there's all these muscleheads in there and there aren't any cool looking rockers who aren't all jacked up. I think it'd be a dull show if everybody was all jacked up in great shape and had abs of steel. Different dimensions and different shapes is always good.


Keller: You mentioned earlier that you hoped you had some kind of a gimmick match if you wrestled Jeff. Do you enjoy working just a straight wrestling match? Do you take that as a challenge? Or do you always prefer to have something extracurricular going on to add spice to it?


Hardy I would much rather have some type of gimmick match with ladders or tables, especially now at this point in my career. I feel better going into that. I feel that's my style as compared to a regular match. Actually, there's a lot more going on in a regular match if you look at it in the way of just highspots. With gimmick matches I like how you can do a nice impressive spot and then actually sell it for the proper time and take your time and make everything mean something as compared to a regular match. I would much rather do a gimmick match.


Keller: Are you from the school of thought that you should before a match plot out certain key points in a match, but otherwise feel your way through and react to the crowd? Or are you the other extreme, like with Dallas Page, where everything is scripted out almost move for move?


Hardy I don't like to try to remember a match written down on paper. I just like to go out there with as (little as possible planned). Just mainly opening spots and the closing spot, then feeling the rest out. I totally hate at the last pay-per-view where there was so much that was trying to be remembered. They wanted to get so much in. I totally like feeling it out there from the crowd and not having to remember too much.


Keller: If you had a choice between only working X Division style matches for the next few years in TNA or never getting to work an X Division match and only working Heavyweight Division matches with Jeff Jarrett, Rhino, Abyss, Lance Hoyt, those types, which would you choose?


Hardy Oh, definitely the Heavyweight Division for the Heavyweight Title. The X Division, I don't feel I want to even get close to that. When I take part in the X Division, I just want to be watching it on the monitor. I'm creeped out and scared to even try to compete with those guys, man.


Keller: But you were talking just a few minutes ago about how a few years ago you wanted to be flying in the air, upside down, and have Brock Lesnar tackle you. Now you're saying you're scared of the X Division. Have you changed or is the X Division style just too much of that type of thing for you to handle?


Hardy If I still felt like I did back then, saying that, I'm sure - well, no, because just a spot like that, the flipping and the speed of those guys and the shape that they're in to do what they do and jump around and be so fast, I've always been a one spotter with big shots that you sell 'em right. They're crazy spots at times, but I probably would have said the same thing back then - that I couldn't hang with the X Division.


Keller: That's amazing because the Hardy Boyz, and you were the more spectacular of the two, were the WWF version of what WCW had with the cruiserweights. You were the ones the fans looked at for that modern athleticism that they had never seen before. Here you are as a pioneer and you're still young, yet in a sense, you're just saying that style had surpassed you in what you can or want to try to do at this point.


Hardy You know, when I used to run the curve (the security railing) in the WWF - and I'm surprised nobody still does that since I left - I'd always try to be innovative.


Keller: Are there times that you believe the X Division guys do more than they have to in order to accomplish the same thing? Could they actually do less and have it mean more if they made the big spots mean more?


Hardy Yeah. That's the main thing with the whole X Division. Fans at home, when they have the gimmick matches where there's a lot of people in the ring, they do so much. Just watching that from putting myself in the fans' position, and from what I've heard, they say "A.J. Styles and the X Division, that is awesome." The fans naturally love that. But I think they could get away with doing a lot less. But there's also part of me that says just let 'em loose and let 'em go because that's what the X Division is all about. If they can do it, let 'em do it. Honestly, I think they could get by with doing less. The fans love that stuff and I think they'd love it just as much if they didn't do as much. Then again, you just can't tell guys like that. If they feel it, if they can, they'll do it.


Keller: I had written an editorial five years ago when you were in the WWF, and the headline was something to the effect that the WWF needed to step in and stop the Hardys and Edge & Christian from killing themselves early in their careers. The types of matches you guys were having so often looked like they were going to take their toll and shorten your careers. Do you think everybody, especially you four in different ways, have adjusted your style? You took time off, Matt adjusted his style, and Edge and Christian have really changed also. They don't do those TLC matches anymore. Do you think that was out of necessity because your bodies couldn't handle it anymore or was it because you just felt that you learned and established yourself enough that you didn't have to do it anymore?


Hardy Anytime I see one of the TLC matches, I'm way proud of it. But it does seem that was the height of the bar where they had to start going in reverse or they had to go back to the basics or whatever. I always watch when I'm hanging onto the belt and I've got the big-ass ladder in my feet and I'm walking the ladder in just that one scene and I think, What in the hell was going on? That was right before I got speared or something from there. Those matches were so crazy - a good kind of crazy. But you get to that point where you can't keep going. Like that motorcross stuff today. I think they're at that point. What are you going to do? Two backflips on these dirtbikes? You get to the point where you can't continue to top what you do, so you kind of got to go back to the basics. I think those TLC matches are one of the prime examples of why WWE started trying to get back to keeping things simple.


Keller: Did management - Vince McMahon, agents, anyone - ever walk up to you four during the TLC era, and the Dudleys were part of that too, and say, "You know what, you need to cut it in half, and make that half that you still do mean more?" Or did they just say, "Go out and have at it?"


Hardy We would also discuss it, sometimes two nights before. Previously, we'd all get together and work it out. But there was never a time like that. It was pretty much they set us free after we had it worked out. The idea was there and it was seen on paper by all the TV people. Nobody ever tried to hold us back. We were able to agree on all the spots we were going to do.


Keller: We talked quite a bit in the Ultimate Insiders DVD about the TLC matches and what went into planning them, but one added question we didn't cover in the DVD is did you think during that time, "This is what we need to do in order to establish ourselves so that we get over enough that we don't need to keep doing this?" Or when you were doing it, did you think, "We're just going to keep doing this until we can't do it anymore; this is what we do?"


Hardy I just think about Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, the main event guys at that time that weren't doing all that stuff, I can't help but think how good it could have been if we were portrayed on Raw like them, if we had the mic time and everything where fans got to know us just as good as they knew them. Here we are doing that stuff in the ring with all the ladders, and I think it could have been great. But then you've got to have your main eventers. It would have been awesome if we had more mic time and the fans would have known us better. The main eventers were all on at the start of Raw with promos and mic time during pretapes. It would have been really cool. But I don't guess we could have done that because nobody could step into the territory of the main eventers.


Keller: Were you ever after a big match in WWE, collectively or individually, disappointed with how WWE followed up on it? Did you feel you did something really special and significant, and then the next day on Raw, it was almost an afterthought? It was like, "Thanks for the good show, but now back to the main event guys." Did you feel let down sometimes in that way?


Hardy Yeah. One thing I remember getting super excited about was when Team Xtreme was still together and we were doing the thing with Steve Austin and Hunter. We had a few tag matches with them. We were the main event on Raw, I think one week, and it was the first time I had ever taken the Stunner. That's one thing I always looked forward to. I had a new way to take it to make it look really good other than just jumping straight back. I was all excited about it. Then we had the match and something happened and Steve's foot got caught in my shirt. It still looked good, but it wasn't exactly like I wanted to do it. But it went nowhere. We were all excited even after the match because the fans were all into it. It was a tag team main event. "This is going to be great. We're going to be in a run with these guys." The next week it was, like, "Where'd it go? What's wrong?" They were doing something else and we were just kind of out of the picture. I don't know if it was throughout that match they thought the fans were getting into us, so decisions were made to keep us out of the picture because we'd be more over than them. I don't know if it was something like that. It makes you wonder, you know. It makes you think. There aren't answers all the time. Most of the time there's no answers. It's like trying to figure out the stars.


Keller: Were there other times after big matches that you thought you'd get more TV time and interview time and it would be all they're talking about, but then the next time at Raw, you see the script, and you find out you're in a three minute match and there's no follow-up? Was that demoralizing, or did you accept that you weren't a top level act and that's the way it works?


Hardy I would always find myself thinking like, "Once we get to that age or whatever, our time will come. We'll just sit back and wait." One thing I remember getting excited about was if we were to get mic time as the Hardy Boyz, we were going to do a thing where I'd open up with something poetic and kind of strange, but then Matt would follow up to cut a promo. We had mentioned that to people and there were hopes at times that we might get to do something like that. It wouldn't necessarily make sense, but I would just say something poetic to open up, then Matt would cut a promo saying whatever he wanted to say. But that never happened, and maybe it was for the best.


Keller: But you guys had put thought into it so if they asked you to do something one of those weeks, you'd be ready.


Hardy Exactly. We were ready.


Keller: Looking at the way the X Division Style has developed, I asked earlier if you thought they could slow down. Do you think that with the bar set at the level it now is, including what happened with the Samoa Joe vs. Christopher Daniels vs. A.J. Styles match at the last PPV, that there a way to turn back, or are fans going to demand that kind of breathtaking physical toll match every time now? Is that a problem that TNA is getting themselves into? Should they be more picky in the future about when they exert that type of physical effort?


Hardy I remember Samoa Joe being at the Ring of Horror show, I mean Ring of Honor show that I did and I didn't see him that much, and I didn't see him in a full match until the pay-per-view previous to this last one, but oh my God I was so impressed. I mean, I had no idea he moved like that. I was so impressed that I was in awe. It was just awesome, some of the things they did in the match. Somehow it seems the physical body wouldn't allow you to do that. They are really physical. Damn, I don't know. I don't know how long they can do that. It seems they have to get to a point, I don't know how old they are, but Daniels has been wrestling a long time. I met him a long time ago. He's so athletic and has, like, springs in his legs and can jump around. There has to be a point where they can't anymore.


Keller: Do you think it makes a big difference that the TNA wrestlers get to pick their schedule? A.J. Styles and Daniels work a ton of independent dates. They all have busy schedules, but it's different because they can pick weekends off and indy shows aren't always as physically enduring as the big pay-per-view matches are, so do you think they actually pace themselves better than you were able to in WWE where it was just the grind of the road every single weekend all the time?


Hardy Yeah, in a way they're their own bosses, I guess. Being able to make your own schedule and work however much you want to (helps). With my schedule, it's been the best. I've got it made as far as TNA. The more I think about that, it makes me feel horrible for the pay-per-view I did miss. It all depends on one's desire and how much they want to do whatever it is they're doing. I actually got to talk to Samoa Joe at this past pay-per-view and he knew some motorcross stuff. I guess he lives in California. He's super cool. I really think a lot of that guy. Depending on how many interests they have and how many things they enjoy other than wrestling; I know A.J.'s got a kid now and everything. That's got to be his first priority now regarding what happens at home. Laying out his schedule has to be a plus for that situation. I think as long as they enjoy doing what they're doing, then being your own boss is the best way to go.

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10/14: Ross Health Update, Raw/TNA Ratings, Brock-TNA, Coach & Lawler react

By James Caldwell, Torch columnist

Oct 14, 2005, 23:54



Weekly Picks


Match of the Week: Undertaker vs. Randy & Bob Orton. No, that is not a typo. Maybe it was my below-ground level expectations going into the No Mercy match between Undertaker and the Ortons or maybe the simple fact that all three men went to the ring and created an engrossing match and played off the Undertaker formula to create high-intensity drama. I thoroughly enjoyed the match based on how WWE built towards the finish. With the Ortons struggling to find a plan to work against Undertaker on Smackdown leading to the PPV, the match unfolded with Undertaker appearing to thwart their plans once again, playing to the usual Undertaker finishing sequences. However, the story unfolded differently with the Ortons avoiding the traps that previously befell their plans while playing off believable nearfalls to deliver a compelling performance. This may be the last time Undertaker finds a way into the "match of the week," but I was glad to see him involved in a strong match.


Performer of the Week: Shawn Michaels. It may be time to rename this the "Shawn Michaels Performer of the Week" category. Watching Michaels react to the flood of no. 1 Contender's during Carlito's Cabana on Raw was priceless entertainment. Michaels has impeccable command of his character and he doesn't mind playing the goofball because fans know he'll turn it on in the ring when it comes time. During the six-man main event match - which I wasn't too enthralled with because I perceived a lack of chemistry - Michaels was fantastic and delivered yet another strong in-ring performance under the spotlight.


Storyline Spotlight: Jim Ross's Firings. Monday night on Raw was the third time Jim Ross has been relieved of his duties as head broadcaster. Certainly none of the three were more embarrassing than taking a low blow from Linda McMahon, but Ross did have a cinder block smashed on his face by Eric Bischoff on the February 17, 2003 edition of Raw prior to J.R. "quitting" on April 7 and being "rehired" on May 5. The first time Ross was relieved of play-by-play duties was December 1998 when Michael Cole replaced him after suffering a relapse of bell's palsy following the death of his mother. Now, with Ross being removed from the broadcasting position, WWE will be without the "voice of Raw" once again.


News and Analysis


- Under the preface that everything on WWE television or inside a WWE ring is used to promote or advance a storyline, Jim Ross's firing was primarily a vehicle to establish the McMahon family as the top heels on Raw. However, the emotional promo that Jim Ross delivered once the cameras stopped rolling was still very close to his true feelings. "This sucks. I've had 33 years of the greatest time of my life in the greatest business in the world," Ross said following Raw. "You folks have become my family... I'm sorry it had to end this way." Ross was set to leave the ring, only to have Todd Grisham ask him if he was fired because of his Southern accent. After saying there's nothing wrong with having an accent and that his facial handicap following bouts with Bell's palsy are excuses for his firing, Ross moved into storyline mode. "The reason I got fired is because Vince McMahon is a no good, dirty bastard and he doesn't have the balls to fire Stone Cold Steve Austin," Jim Ross said. "Steve Austin is still one of my best friends and as far as I'm concerned, the McMahons can go straight to hell."


- The Coach was complimentary, yet critical of Jim Ross following his dismissal, on Byte This. "Ross is the greatest voice of all time," Coach said on WWE.com's "Byte This" show. "But the bottom line is that J.R. was miserable - he was miserable all the time. He never wanted to help me; he never wanted to help Michael Cole... He wasn't nice to anybody." Not even a full week after Ross was removed from the Raw broadcasting position, Coach delivered the "Ultimate Warrior" treatment by describing J.R. as a miserable person incapable of helping colleagues. Regarding the decision to make a change, Coach believed it was time for a change so he could have an opportunity to take over. "I'm a pretty entertaining guy," Coach said with personal conviction. "Raw didn't end when The Rock left the show. Raw didn't end when Stone Cold Steve Austin left the show." Coach said he was not thrilled with how Ross was removed from the show, but played to his cocky heel role by saying it was time for Ross to be "kicked to the curb."


- Jerry Lawler described Jim Ross in a different light than Coach. "No one was more emotional than J.R. when it came to wrestling," Lawler said on the "Byte This" show. "It's sad - I didn't like the way it was handled." Lawler played to the storyline of Ross being fired following Steve Austin's stunners on the McMahon family during the Raw Homecoming show to set up a potential return by Austin. Lawler and Coach agreed they have had issues in the past, but both men have grown up and moved on. "We're not a team," Coach said about working with Lawler and Ross. "We didn't mesh." Without Ross, Lawler said there is an opportunity for he and Coach to work out the broadcast together and deliver an entertaining show despite not having a true pro wrestling play-by-play person. Lawler prodded Coach into adapting his play-by-play style from college football games to calling Raw despite Coach saying he was more suited for the entertaining color commentator.


- Jim Ross had been struggling with pain in his gut in recent weeks, if not months. It was misdiagnosed at first, but recently he was scheduled to be hospitalized this Thursday to have further tests done. There was fear it could be colon cancer, but tests this week indicate it's probably not cancer. It hasn't been ruled out, though. Ross told WWE.com that doctors found "something massive" in his intestines, which will require surgery to remove.


- Jim Ross is still under a ten-year WWE contract, which expires on October 29, 2006. Ross is currently earning $300,000 per year and he receives a cut of house money from each show as part of his talent relations contract. Even if Ross's firing on television translates into actual termination from the company, Ross is entitled to a full year's salary if the firing is "without cause." Ross is also entitled to 51,250 stock options that he can exercise anytime until July 20, 2009. A reasonable scenario of receiving a 10 percent yield upon exercising the options would translate into approximately $394,000 upon exercise.


- Mike Goldberg, who is the current UFC PPV broadcaster and was a potential candidate to replace Jim Ross on the Raw broadcast team, decided to stick with UFC because of the opportunity to grow with a company that represented his family. "It became much more difficult for me to jump off the boat when the boat was finally coming to port," Goldberg told Torch editor Wade Keller in an exclusive interview available in the VIP Audio Updates section. "We had been in open waters for so long trying to figure out which direction we were going and now it looks like we might port at this beautiful dock...with the greatest product in the world in Mixed Martial Arts." Goldberg said the offer from WWE was very competitive and placed him in a "win-win situation," but passing up the opportunity to continue working with the product that allowed him to gain name recognition wasn't something he was prepared to do. Goldberg said negotiations with WWE went very well with Kevin Dunn and Vince McMahon understanding his position and working very closely to ensure financial and personal betterment for himself and his family.


- Steve Austin was not informed he would be part of a storyline on October 3 that included Jim Ross being fired the next week. Austin was also not informed of Hulk Hogan's proposed challenge until he was already done with his segment, packed, and on his way out of the arena. Considering Austin is one of J.R.'s best friends, sources say that Austin was not pleased with how J.R. was taken off the broadcast. If WWE has a legitimate plan to rectify the situation, frustrations will be eased, but the situation is still sore with people close to J.R.


- The initial buyrate estimate for WWE Unforgiven is estimated around 230,000 buys. The PPV, which featured John Cena vs. Kurt Angle, Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Masters, and Matt Hardy vs. Edge, currently has the fewest number of buys of any WWE PPV since Taboo Tuesday in October 2004. However, the initial estimate for Unforgiven is above the initial estimate for the second least ordered PPV over the last year, Great American Bash, and should surpass GAB once all the buys are accounted for. Nevertheless, not a good sign for the Raw brand or John Cena and Kurt Angle as the headline wrestlers.


- After Raw posted a 4.7 rating (4.4 overall) for the 9 to 11:05 p.m. ET block of programming on October 3 for the Homecoming show, Raw settled into a 4.0 rating for the October 10 show, peaking with a 4.8 overrun rating. Faced with stiff competition from a strong Chargers-Steelers match-up on Monday Night Football and Game 5 of the Angels-Yankees baseball playoff series involving teams from the top two television markets, Raw held its own. Next Monday, Raw will be head-to-head against Game 5 of the Astros-Cardinals playoff series and relatively strong Colts-Rams match-up on Monday Night Football. Compared to last week, WWE shouldn't lose as significant of an audience with the baseball game featuring teams in the 10th (Houston) and 21st (St. Louis) largest television markets and the football game featuring teams in the 25th (Indianapolis) and 21st (St. Louis) largest television markets. East and West Coast viewership should be stronger for Raw with both games featuring teams from the Midwest and South.


- Trish Stratus's stalker, who's going by the name Mickey James, is Alexis Laree. Alexis has been in Ohio Valley Wrestling for nearly two years without being given an opportunity to wrestle for WWE while girls like Christy Hemme and Ashley have been pushed in the ring before they're ready. Alexis was fortunate enough to receive a developmental contract by WWE to wrestle in OVW, but Beth Phoenix, another solid female wrestler, has been sitting in OVW since early 2003 without a developmental contract and without a call-up to wrestle in the women's division.


- TNA pulled in a 0.8 rating for the second edition of Impact on Spike this past Saturday. The rating actually increased over last week with approximately 125,000 more viewers tuning into the broadcast. As I pointed out in last week's Caldwell Report, TNA's success depends on its ability to retain the audience and show signs of increasing viewership. TNA certainly did not experience the second week slump customary when viewers sample a new show before missing the second episode. Certainly, there was a chance of overlap with some first week viewers not returning only to be replaced by first time viewers who may have tuned in after hearing good things online or from friends who recommended the show.


- One of the key acquisitions TNA made this year was not particularly on the wrestling side - although bringing in Samoa Joe may be considered TNA's best decision this year - but in the front office where Frank Dickerson became CEO of the company. Dickerson comes from a real-world business background and he has brought the competitive business mindset to a promotion previously run by the Jarretts, who only looked at building the company through the eyes of a pro wrestling family. Dixie Carter, who comes from a marketing background, helped bring a similar perspective to Dickerson's, but Dickerson has been strong in negotiations with Spike TV and the National Wrestling Alliance for stronger synergy between the two brands.


- Brock Lesnar's appearance at New Japan Pro Wrestling's Tokyo Dome show on October 8 was the result of Lesnar and his legal team feeling reasonably assured they could handle any legal battles against WWE. NJPW negotiated strictly with Lesnar and his legal team, leaving the decision up to the contracted parties rather than involving WWE in the negotiations. Through assuring NJPW that Lesnar could work the Dome show, Lesnar's lawyers worked out a way for Lesnar to work overseas. Whether Lesnar can work on American soil for a promotion other than WWE remains to be seen as Lesnar's legal team sorts out the possibility for a potentially groundbreaking appearance.


- Brock Lesnar is expected to be on the January 4, 2006 Tokyo Dome show to defend his newly won IWGP Title. Brock will not be on tours between now and the beginning of 2006. Mark Jindrak, Charlie Haas, and Matt Morgan are expected to appear on the Dome show after strong appearances on the October 8 show. Also, through the talent exchange agreement between NJPW, the NWA, and TNA, several TNA wrestlers are expected to appear on the January 4 show. Some of the names being mentioned for one of NJPW's upcoming tours during the fall season include A.J. Styles, Christopher Daniels, and Samoa Joe.


Pro Wrestling Weekend Preview and Notes


- Ring of Honor is returning this weekend after two weeks off with most of the ROH crew in Florida for FIP. Tonight in Cleveland, American Dragon Bryan Danielson will defend the ROH Title against Austin Aries. Aries was champion going into the summer when C.M. Punk and James Gibson won the ROH Title in their final run before heading to WWE. Also, Low Ki and Homicide are teaming together against Steve Corino and Colt Cabana. Abyss will be making his ROH debut to take on Jack Evans in a mismatch of epic proportions. Saturday night in Buffalo, Danielson will defend the ROH Title against Steve Corino if he retains tonight. In a big six-man tag match, The Embassy will face Generation Next. For even more details, check out Torch contributor Sean Radican's in-depth preview on the Torch main listing.


- Following the October 1 "After School Special" featuring mainly Southern California talent, PWG will be returning tonight with more national names including A.J. Styles challenging for the PWG Title against champion Kevin Steen and Chris Bosh in a three-way match. Also, Christopher Daniels will face Scorpio Sky, Petey Williams and Chris Sabin will challenge Super Dragon and Davey Richards for the PWG Tag Titles, and Chris Hero will face Scott Lost.


Other Thoughts


- If the plan for Jim Ross is to transition him to a live broadcast on WWE.com, I can accept his removal from the televised broadcast. Under Shane McMahon's tutelage, WWE has made a conscious effort to push concepts in the new media forum with the Jukebox, online PPV access, and the new Unlimited features. If Jim Ross hosting an alternative version of Raw is the next movement, I believe that's a step in the right direction. However, under any other circumstances, J.R.'s removal from the broadcast team is flat out wrong. Coach may think he's the most entertaining person since Bill Cosby, but he hasn't proven himself as a reliable broadcaster capable of handling an entire two-hour broadcast as the play-by-play man. What's worse is the way in which J.R. was unceremoniously removed. Sure, the storyline may develop where Shane McMahon or Steve Austin saves J.R.'s job, but Linda's turn on J.R. was unnecessary and was counterproductive to developing viable heels who have the possibility of actually drawing money in PPV matches and on house shows.


- If you haven't listened to Torch editor Wade Keller's interview with UFC announcer Mike Goldberg, I strongly recommend taking 30 minutes out of your weekend to check it out. Other than shedding light on why he resigned with UFC rather than accepting WWE's lucrative contract offer, Goldberg gives a very compelling argument for why WWE and UFC should work together rather than compete to strengthen both brands. Goldberg played his political cards close to the vest, but offered some unique insight into his negotiations with WWE and where he sees UFC in the future.


- With the new fall season bringing some changes to the Torch website, I moved my weekly audio update to Thursday nights as a complement to this Caldwell Report. I also feel the new Thursday offering will allow me to digest the top stories coming out of Sunday PPV's and Raw on Mondays to see how top stories develop after a few days. If you feel so inclined, voting is ongoing in the James Caldwell Zone in the Torch VIP Forum to rename the new audio update. Also, be sure to check out Torch columnist Pat McNeill's new Tuesday audio update; he previously did audio updates on Saturdays

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Guest TheShawshankRudotion

I'm bumping this because I really enjoyed reading it and I had some points I wanted to make but forgot em and now will have to reread it to make em.

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