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The Pro-Wrestling Torch Newsletter #889

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Guest EastCoastJ


Cena gets booed, WWE sticks with him as champ

Despite strong cheers for Angle, Cena retains belt in two titles matches



By Wade Keller, Torch editor


"There is nothing harder in this business than being a white-meat babyface." Those words were written by Shawn Michaels in his autobiography. John Cena is finding that out the hard way.


In fact, if Vince McMahon were looking for an excuse to move the WWE Title off of Cena onto Kurt Angle, fans having been giving it to him.


Cena has always drawn some scattered boos from male fans who don't like his white-bread babyface gimmick or his rap persona. The intensity of the boos has increased dramatically in recent weeks, and has become so pronounced that announcers look like they're part of a conspiracy to protect him when they don't acknowledge it. Joey Styles did acknowledge his first week on the job with WWE and was scolded for it afterward. Jerry Lawler acknowledged it this week, but didn't dwell on it.


In fact, as far as Vince McMahon is concerned, the booing is no big deal. Even though Cena continues to get booed by what may now be the majority of fans - or at least the most vocal of fans - during most of his matches these days, it's not of great concern to WWE management since Cena is showing signs of being a TV ratings draw and hot merchandise seller. In fact, male fans may be buying tickets so they can have the chance to boo Cena in person. The booing of Cena is actually causing those who are fans of Cena to become more passionateand vocal. The cheers for Cena are obviously coming mostly from the female audience. At Sunday's Survivor Series, there were loud chants of "Let's Go Cena" followed immediately by "Let's Go Angle." To this point, Cena has not acknowledged the fans boos.


Michaels faced the same situation when he was the babyface WWF Champion in 1996. In his just-released autobiography, he talks about how he reacted to being booed in a big title defense against the heel Sid, who like Angle today, had a following.


"The fans' reaction surprised me," wrote Michaels. "During the match, I played of the crowd noise and started working as a heel. I loved working heel, and it's a lot easier. But that wasn't my role, and I shouldn't have. As a professional, I shouldn't have reacted to the live crowd. I should have played to the television audience, but I hadn't grasped that yet.


Michaels still faces that situation today when he goes to Canada, but is booed due to his involvement in the Bret Hart Swerve at the 1997 Survivor Series. "When I go to Canada now as a babyface, I know I am going to get booed, but I have to work as a babyface and play to the television audience," says Michaels. '"I know our announcers will cover for me and somehow make it look like I am the good guy despite the crowd's boos." He said he wasn't happy getting booed against Sid, and it bothered him enough that he dealt with it "pretty much the same way I dealt with all my troubles during my title reign; I became angry and went out and got wasted."


All indications are Cena is taking the booing in stride and handling it professionally, in part because he's been given advice from people who have been through it before. It helps when his boss, McMahon, is assuring him that the crowd boos aren't affecting his commitment to him as the long-term champion, through at least WrestleMania.


Of course, no proper analysis of any decision in WWE can take place without taking into account how it affects Triple H. It is in Triple H's best interest for Cena to remain champion since it's expected that Cena vs. Hunter is the slated headline match for WrestleMania 22 in Chicago. If WWE were to hit the panic button and have Cena drop the belt due to a percentage of the fans booing him, it would deflate the stakes for the presumed Hunter vs. Cena match. The match means more if Cena has been a long-running champion.


At Survivor Series on Sunday, Cena retained the title against Angle despite Angle having the odds stacked in his favor. Angle, so goes the storyline, talked Eric Bischoff into letting Daivari be his hand-picked referee for all of his matches. Daivari, though, was slapped around and eventually knocked out by Cena. At one point, Daivari was going to disqualify Cena, but Angle prevented that from happening because titles don't change hands on a DQ.


Despite having the odds stacked against him, and despite Angle doing nothing to encourage fans cheering him, the adult male demographic seemed to take joy in ravenously booing Cena's every offensive move. Part of it isn't a rejection of Cena so much as an appreciation and respect for Angle, who has earned his stripes with fans for his many great matches and entertaining promos over the years. Cena is seen as a hand-picked pretty boy who isn't in Angle's league as a worker and not as good on the mic.


All of that is indisputably true, but McMahon has a history of building around white-bread babyfaces, ranging from Hulk Hogan to Bret Hart to Shawn Michaels. With the Attitude-era part of the past, Cena is seen as a way to revisit familiar territory where the promotion is built around a young, charismatic babyface who can sell enough merchandise to more than offset the embarrassment of some boos coming his way.


Cena, meanwhile, continues to be a strong representative of WWE off television. He has a rep within WWE for being great with personal appearances, staying longer than is expected of him to sign all autograph requests. Those traits endear him to McMahon and give him more slack than he might otherwise. So despite the boos, don't bank on a rash title change being booked.





By Wade Keller, Torch editor


1. Ric Flair involved in road rage incident


WCOCTV.com reported Monday that Ric Flair faces assault charges after a road rage incident on Interstate 485 in Charlotte, N.C. during the Thanksgiving weekend. Another driver says Flair was flashing his high beams at him from behind, so he pulled over. At that point, the driver says Flair got out of his car, grabbed him by his neck, and damaged his car. Police said two warrants are out for his arrest - one for simple assault and another for damage to personal property. WWE.com acknowledged the situation on Monday night. Flair did not appear on the program; rather, he was selling the injuries he suffered at the hands of Triple H the previous night at Survivor Series.


2. Cena retains WWE Title vs. Angle at PPV


In the semi-main event at the Survivor Series PPV, John Cena retained the WWE Title against Kurt Angle. Despite odds beiing stacked against him with Eric Bischoff allowing Angle to pick Daivari as the referee for the match, Cena prevailed. The storyline centered around Cena knocking Daivari out of the match, forcing Angle to deal with objective replacements. After Angle KO'd a series of replacement Raw refs, a Smackdown ref eventually counted the pin. Angle protested the next day at Raw, got a rematch (in a three-way with Chris Masters), but still failed to win the title.


3. TNA Impact ratings dips again, to 0.6


After beginning its run on Spike TV on Oct. 1 with a 0.8 rating and peaking with a 0.9, TNA Impact has sunk to 0.7 and 0.6 ratings the last two weeks. Morale is said to be shaky in TNA at this point, as wrestlers and management worry that the sinking ratings could soften Spike TV's commitment to the product, especially with UFC taking off on the network at the same time.


4. Announcers bicker during Survivor PPV


During the Survivor Series, the announcers from each brand interacted, expressing pride in their brand. The interaction, though, eventually turned into intense bickering where the legit rivalry come through. Tazz took especially strong digs at Joey Styles and Coach. Tazz and Styles weren't pals in their days in ECW, so they played into it. Vince McMahon approved of the intensity of the bickering, believing it added credibility to the sense of rivalry between the two brands.


5. WWE hires Styles for the long-run


After a several week trial run, WWE and Joey Styles are now negotiating a deal which is expected to lock him into a long-term deal as the host of Raw. Styles was hopeful of a deal, but had his full-time job to fall back on should WWE have decided not to offer him the full-time contract.







In an interview with News Oklahoma (NewsOK.com), Jim Ross talked about his role in sending Eddie Guerrero to rehab several years ago. At the urging of his good friends Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko in June 2001, Ross confronted Guerrero about his pain pill addiction. "When Eddie and I addressed this particular issue, the mood was tense and he was confrontational but I never raised my voice," Ross, an Oklahoma native, said. "I told Eddie that I loved him and did not want him to die because it would be me calling his lovely wife and telling her that (he) had passed away. Eddie and I both cried that afternoon. We hugged and got Eddie the help he needed to continue his life's journey."


Ross also talked up Guerrero's in-ring skills, while acknowledging he was his own worst critic. "Eddie's talent was immense," said Ross. "He could have a main event-level match with anyone no matter the opponent's size, style or skill level. That can only be said of a small handful of men alive today... Eddie could fall into bouts of self-imposed depression when he felt like he did not have the best match on a show, especially on the major events. That equates to having great pride in what one does."




Jim Ross submitted the following statement regarding Eddie Guerrero to WWE.com.


"Eddie Guerrero and I had a special relationship that came together over time. The catalyst was the challenges this wonderful human being faced in his daily life. I know our relationship was special because I can feel it so strongly in my heart at this very moment - and because Eddie told me so this morning in a dream.


"I managed the talent roster for WWE when Eddie was hired at WWE [in 2000]. I had known him and his famous wrestling family for years prior to Eddie becoming a WWE Superstar. But it was after Eddie came to WWE that our relationship became diverse, involved, and, luckily for me, one of the most rewarding and valued relationships I have ever developed in this business.


"I will never forget Eddie. I will never forget the face-to-face, spirited discussions we had over his demons. I will never forget the moment we finally reached common ground, with tears flowing and hugs abounding. We both knew we had turned the corner and now there was a fighting chance for this amazing wrestler to live out the balance of his life clean and sober. Eddie got the help he needed. He returned to us a better man, and he became an even bigger star. Eddie Guerrero is easily one of the 10 best in-ring talents I have seen in 33 years in this business. I was so proud of Eddie, and I told him so every single time I saw him from the day he returned to work until the last time I saw him at SummerSlam [this past August].


"Eddie seemed a little tired at SummerSlam in August when I saw him at the MCI Arena in Washington, D.C. But when our eyes locked he immediately had an ear-to-ear grin on his face and we embraced like long lost brothers. I guess in a way we were brothers ... of the wrestling business. I kidded him about stealing the show at SummerSlam and how that might not sit well with those that had to follow 'Latino Heat.' He smiled that mischievous smile of his that we all grew to love because that was exactly what Eddie had on his mind. I wished him good luck and told him how excited I was to be able to sit and watch his match just like a regular fan. We hugged for a few moments but not nearly long enough - as I realized when the news of my friend's death reached me early Sunday morning.


"Eddie, I am sorry I could not be a part of your tribute on Monday Night Raw. But you know my heart was there and you know that I will never forget you or what you have meant to me. You once told my wife that I saved your life. I don't know about that, but I do know this: You definitely made my life better by me simply knowing you. I hope the young wrestlers in this business continue to look to you for inspiration and guidance. You were a wonderful inspiration to me and to so many others - not only as a wrestler but as a husband, father, brother, and friend.


"I want to smile as I remember you now because I am weary from crying. Goodbye 'Uncle Eddie,' until we see each other again."




-Forbes reports that Dec. 1, when the next quarterly report is released by WWE, will tell a lot about the state of the promotion. States the article: "Wrestling impresario Vince McMahon made the wrong kind of headlines this month, when one of his stable of actor/athletes was found dead in a hotel room. Meanwhile his WWE is nowhere near as big a force as it was just a few years ago, when Smackdown was both a catchphrase and a hit TV show, and McMahon's franchise featured hit characters such as Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Rock. Now McMahon needs to convince investors that wrestling is coming back from one of its periodic down cycles. Meanwhile, while McMahon waits for TV ratings to improve, the company is going Hollywood, with plans to bankroll two $20 million films per year."


-Those who have been in contact with Jim Ross in recent weeks since his surgery say he is in great spirits and remains at peace with the idea that he may never host another wrestling show. "He knows he went out on top, he knows that he is respected by fans and wrestlers, and he knows that nobody believes he deserved to lose that spot. He's also financially set." The fact that he thought he might have cancer, only to have find out his tumor was benign, put the Raw gig in perspective quickly. There is one source speculating he might be put in charge of OVW by WWE, especially if Paul Heyman doesn't renew with WWE at the end of the year.


-The Rock has signed to star in a Disney movie titled "Daddy's Girl." He will play the role of a boisterous pro football player whose life changes when he discovers he has a six year old daughter.


-At this point, there are no plans for Batista to lose the World Title despite his torn lat. While Randy Orton was scheduled to beat him for the belt on the overseas tour, Batista has opted not to have surgery and instead rehab his injury. In the mean time, he's going to continue to appear as scheduled and work very limited gimmicky matches. The hope is that he'll recover enough through rehab to keep his title reign uninterrupted leading into WrestleMania. Had Guerrero not died, it was likely Guerrero would have ended up with the title and Batista would have gladly dropped it. Batista's decision to keep wrestling through the injury was prompted by his desire to help fill in for the loss of Guerrero, and perhaps a fear that Orton might catch fire as a top act and knock him out of his top spot for the long-run.


-The rumors within WWE that Coach is paid more than other announcers with more tenure such as Tazz, Michael Cole, and Jerry Lawler, has raised a few eyebrows. The usually happy-go-lucky Coach, though, wasn't thrilled with some of the comments made at the PPV, which may have been fueled by those rumors. Coach,. though, is among the happiest that it appears Styles is being signed on full time. "Coach was a nervous wreck when he had to do play-by-play," says one WWE source.?"He could have gotten over it with more experience, but he was still uncomfortable and never wanted that spot. He thought he had to constantly yell throughout commentary. It just wasn't his thing. Jim Ross's emotions were real. Coach's weren't. That can't be learned." Coach did tell people that he called Ross for advice and Ross was helpful to him when he was having to call Raw alone.


-The word on Styles's contract was that he'd be offered something relatively low for the first year, but with strong raises in the next two years as part of a three year deal. The idea is to be sure he pays some dues and works hard to fit in the first year so he can cash in during years two and three.


-Since walking away from WWE's contract renewal offer, Chris Jericho has stayed on good terms with WWE, participating in several WWE.com articles. However, he's not "on call" for special appearances on WWE TV and is definitely considering himself a "former wrestler at this point." One of his friends says, "Chris wasn't worried about burning a bridge; it's not burning a bridge if you're not worried about being able to walk back over it." Friends predict Jericho will wrestle again for WWE, but they question whether he'll ever want to go back full time after getting a taste of freedom at this stage in his life, especially since he was well known for conserving his money on the road over the years.


-Meanwhile Christian is a bit of a locker room hero among the disgruntled. Says one source: "The biggest hero of the week is Christian for quitting on his own terms. He's more of a dressing room hero than Jericho, who worked out his notice and stuck around for the Monday Night Raw the night after SummerSlam. Christian is seen as someone who was being pushed into a low downside, and walked out on his own terms." Christian, like Jericho, was tight with his money, so he didn't have an extravagant lifestyle or big debts holding him prisoner to WWE.


-WWE plans to have another Elimination Chamber match at the New Year's Revolution PPV in January featuring John Cena, Shawn Michaels, Big Show, Triple H, Kane, and Carlito.


-One old pal of Kurt Angle recently told friends that he saw Angle recently and couldn't believe how much the business seems to have taken a toll on him. "He's such a great guy, so it's sad to see what the business is doing to him," says one colleague.


-A number of wrestlers' wives expressed concern for their the health of their husbands after the death of Eddie Guerrero. One top wrestler's wife outright asked him to quit, but he said no and assured her he wasn't going to be a casualty of the business.


-In a New York Daily News article on the Bret Hart DVD, Bret says regarding his future in wrestling: "Well, I'm not going to be a commissioner or manager. I want to be remembered for my wrestling and not for anything else." He also said he decided to take part in the DVD project because a ten year old boy said he was a fan of his even though he's only seen a few of his matches. He said he wanted to be sure fans today would have access to watch him in his prime.


-Says one WWE veteran regarding the steroid testing: "That'll last as long as it works to Vince's favor in a p.r. sense. Look at the roster. How many guys would they have to suspend if they really test everyone for steroids? It's a little overambitious sounding to me. The one thing everyone has to be careful of is a kneejerk reaction and going crazy. This is not a normal business and shouldn't be approached as one." He adds, though, that the wrestler mentality doesn't make this an easy issue to tackle. "Wrestlers won't ask for time off unless they're about to die. Eddie kept working despite his problems because he wanted to be a top guy, he wanted that world title back."


-Several WWE sources suspect that Nick "Eugene" Dinsmore's situation would have been handled privately had he not passed out in a public place - a hotel lobby. The last thing WWE needed was to have a story come out that they appeared to be hiding regarding a wrestler passing out from a drug overdose and needing to be hospitalized as a result such a short time after Eddie Guerrero's death.


-The general mood in the locker room regarding the drug testing announcement is mixed, with most privately saying while it will be an inconvenience at times, it is for the better of the company. Those most nervous are those who have been hiding drug use from Vince McMahon, have a major addiction issue, or fear embarrassment at their physique shrinking over time.


-Sources say Vince McMahon let everyone know that they weren't to reference Eddie Guerrero on TV following the initial tribute, believing that it could seem exploitative or bring the mood of the show down.


-A variety of sources continue to indicate that Vince McMahon is acting differently now than he has in the past. He has spent more time alone in his make-shift offices at arenas and spends less time walking through segments than usual. He has spent more time on the phone recently, too, but it's not clear with whom he's been speaking. Says one backstage source: "People are very careful still when talking about Vince, because he seems so crazed lately. No one knows how he'll react to things." Says another: "Vince is unpredictable these days. People close to Vince, when not around Vince, are questioning some of his decisions lately."


-Linda McMahon, meanwhile, has given off signs to people lately that she'd rather simplify her life and be more of a grandmother than a CEO of a major corporation at this point in her life, especially with the stress of the job and the failures in recent years to expand beyond wrestling (movies, pro football, music label, TV series). "It seems like it might be a burden to her now," says one source. "She's a classy lady, and being married to Vince McMahon is a challenge to say the least."


-Regarding John Cena's lack of progress in the ring over the past year, one veteran wrestler says: "What Cena needs is someone to show him tapes of Japan and drill some of the subtleties of that style into him on the road. How many guys could help him but aren't because they want his spot?"


-WWE promoted Undertaker's appearance on Survivor Series ahead of time in TV ads leading up to the event. It took away the "surprise element" of his appearance at the very end of the PPV. Undertaker will return to Hell in a Cell against Randy Orton at the Armageddon PPV next month.


-UPN will be airing a one-hour live special of Smackdown this week (Nov. 29) with Rey Mysterio vs. Big Show as the top match, plus Booker T vs. Chris Benoit in the second match in their series. It's not known whether the special is a test to see how the show performs in a live Tuesday night format for a possible day-shift down the line. Because the same crew that builds the Raw set also builds the Smackdown set, it's not considered feasible to run Smackdown live on Friday nights (or in the past on Thursday nights). If Smackdown were to be moved to Tuesdays, though, the show could be live without that logistical issue getting in the way.


-TSN in Canada edited replays of Kurt Angle suplexing Maria. They have strict a policy against man-on-woman violence. The commentary was unaffected, thus it described what happened, but viewers saw a crowd shot instead.


-The latest word is that if Heyman is re-signed, he will be asked to help with an ECW book next year. A second ECW PPV is also now considered more likely than not, which surprises some people. Heyman is renting his house right now, so if WWE doesn't offer him a renewal, he could end up moving anywhere the next stage of his career takes him.


-The Nov. 18 Smackdown drew a 3.0 rating.


-The Nov. 21 edition of Raw drew a 3.5 rating, showing that the 4.5 rating for the Eddie Guerrero Tribute Show didn't lead to a lasting increase in viewership.

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Guest EastCoastJ




-Although he recently signed a contract as a wrestler with TNA, Kevin Nash may retire from in-ring action. The health scare the night before his scheduled PPV match on October, brought on by anxiety from fear of potentially suffering an injury in the ring, may cause him to rethink any future returns to the ring. He did get clearance from a cardiologist that his heart is not in bad shape and he's not at risk of a heart attack just for wrestling, but other issues are weighing on him. Nash feared that he would suffer another injury early in his match against Jeff Jarrett on live PPV, remembering what happened in his last WWE run where he tore a quad on his first step inside the ring. Although he had a strong match with Jeff Jarrett on PPV earlier this year, he prepared much more for that match than his latest scheduled PPV match against Jarrett. That lack of preparation is what led to the fear, which manifested itself as a panic attack, that he wouldn't put in a good showing and might get hurt. Friends, though, say while he tries to downplay it, he has a passion for pro wrestling, watches tapes often in his freetime, and would like to be involved on and off camera for years to come in some capacity.




-Details aren't known as of press time, but word out of TNA is that top executive Frank Dickerson has left the company. Dickerson was popular with wrestlers for his honest approach and fast learning of the business. He had clashed with Jeff Jarrett several weeks back. When TNA wrestlers were in Australia, there was some key business Dickerson wanted Jarrett to tend to, and when Jarrett didn't, Dickerson expressed frustration. That may have been enough for him to fall out of favor with Jarrett, who remains extremely powerful in TNA. In fact, sources say he is the defacto head booker at this point as Scott D'Amore basically answers to Jarrett, has to use Jarrett's ideas, and has to run his ideas for top programs by Jarrett before they become final.




-TNA Impact will be moved to Thurrsday night in prime time on Dec. 8 since that Saturday, Dec. 10, Spike TV will be airing the Video Game Awards. It is the second time TNA has been bumped from its Saturday timeslot, which so far appears to hurting the rating.




-The TNA Impact from Saturday, Nov. 19 featuring Christian Cage's debut dipped to a 0.6 overall rating - its lowest rating on Spike - after the Nov. 12 rating dipped to 0.7. The rating is certainly not encouraging to Spike TV. The network is testing TNA's draw in the market to see if a regular Thursday night special is conceivable, but the lack of encouraging signs may remove any discussion of a move to a weekday timeslot for the time being until TNA picks up the slack on Saturday nights. TNA currently has a non-special, replacement hour on Thursday, Dec. 8 from 9 to 10 p.m. EST with Spike airing a UFC special in TNA's timeslot on Saturday. That will allow TNA to sell its Dec. 11 Turning Point PPV to a potentially wider audience on Thursday, but as we saw for the two-hour special on Nov. 3, TNA wasn't able to reach a wider audience than on Saturday nights.


With the buzz surrounding TNA's debut on Spike slowly subsiding, there is concern that TNA doesn't have enough steak to go with the sizzle in order to keep viewers tuning into the show each week. TNA threw Christian Cage in a main event segment with Monty Brown in hopes of drawing curious wrestling fans, but that appeared to do nothing for the rating. Certainly, TNA has a history of throwing big names at the wall in hopes of something sticking to draw in a new audience. Instead of focusing on the development of key storylines and featuring its most marketable product - the X Division - in more than just the opening segment, TNA is almost hell-bent on delivering big names to generate a quick reaction as a band-aid for larger booking problems. Without a focus, TNA isn't delivering a product viewers can consistently point to as the reason to tune in each week.




-While the rating for the Saturday night airing of TNA Impact has been down, the rating for the Monday night replay is up - drawing a 0.5 rating last week. So the combined rating for both airings of Impact remains above 1.0.


-A.J. Pierzynski of the Chicago White Sox will appear the Impact taping on Nov. 29. Pierzynski, who is a wrestling fan, is expected to be involved in an angle with A.J. Styles, Chris Sabin, and Sonjay Dutt. Former wrestler Dale Torborg is expected to be involved in the angle as well. Pierztnski's involvement will air on the Thursday, Dec. 8 edition of Impact as part of TNA's one-hour non-special, replacement show.


-UFC has re-signed Tito Ortiz, who will be one of the coaches on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter, so any prospects of him being more involved with TNA are dissolved for the foreseeable future. Former TNA headliner Ken Shamrock has signed to be the other coach on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter, which should lead to a UFC rematch between them next year after the series concludes.


-In a TNAwrestling.com poll this week asking fans what match they were most looking forward to at the Turning Point PPV, Jeff Jarrrett vs. Rhino finished last with just 4 percent of the votes. Sabu vs. Abyss in a barbed wire match finished first at 34 percent, followed by Christian vs. Monty Brown (29 percent), and A.J. Styles vs. Samoa Joe (24 percent).






-Nov. 19 in Lake Grove, N.Y.: Dunn & Marcos beat Kid Makaze & Jason Blade, Ricky Reyes beat Eric Matlock, Jimmy Rave beat Davey Andrews, Christpher Daniels beat Matt Sydal and A.J. Styles, Homicide beat COlt Cabana, Bryan Danielson beat Azrael, Daniels beat Pelley Primeau, Milano Collection A.T. beat Claudio Castagnoli, Austin Aries & Roderick Stronog beat Samoa Joe & Jay Lethal, and Daniels beat Christopher Daniels to retain the ROH Hvt. Title.




The heralded Samoa Joe vs. Kenta Kobashi match was released on DVD by ROH last week. Torch columnist Bruce Mitchell gives it five stars and considers it the Match of the Year...





SURVIVOR SERIES ROUNDTABLE REVIEWS 11/27: Keller, Mitchell, Caldwell, Powell


Nov 28, 2005, 11:44




NOVEMBER 27, 2005



Bruce Mitchell, Torch columnist (6.0)


Q: What do I think about Vince McMahon calling John Cena ?my nigga??


A: Well, they're all his niggas, aren't they?


Ric Flair and Triple H had a better match tonight than at Taboo Tuesday, thanks mostly to Flair. It's gotten to the point after all these years that Flair is actually underarated as worker. I hated the backdrops and the dangerous spot on the tables.


Kurt Angle had a really good, heated match going with John Cena until the ring filled with refs. The Survivor Series match was one of those "throw everybody in a Raw main event, we're out of ideas but it'll kill a good thirty minutes" matches.


Chris Benoit vs. Booker T was the same three star match they've put on a hundred times. Tazz was a riot bullying Joey Styles, but I never want to hear a five-man booth again. Vince McMahon's Edge Puppet had some interesting things to say about our National Past Time.


Jason Powell, Torch columnist (8.0)


What was he thinking? Given his position in the company, he should know better than to do something foolish that could come back to haunt him. You just don't do that. Of course, I'm talking about Triple H permitting Ric Flair to fondle him in front of a worldwide television audience. I don't know about you, but a 55-year-old man groping his "younger friend" felt a little awkward.


Seriously, what was Vince McMahon thinking when he dropped the n-bomb? He's the CEO of a publicly traded company. It's just not something he should say even if it was meant to be humorous. And based on Booker T's failed attempt to seem more upset than usual when he uttered the "Tell me he just didn't say that" line, I can only assume that McMahon at least recognized his words were offensive. Is Vince losing his mind? Did he just get around to watching the "Krazy Eyez Killah" episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm"? Is he trying to get people talking about something other than Eddie Guerrero? Will he ever grow up?


Notes: Controversy aside, this was a strong show. The main event ten-man match was more entertaining than I expected it to be and I found myself caring about the finish more than I though I would. That being said, I could have done without Undertaker's predictable run-in? Just when I didn't think it could get any worse than Eric Bischoff vs. Teddy Long, out walked the Boogeyman. The guy looked menacing and unique in the backstage segments, but it doesn't carry over to the ring, where he looks cartoonish and hokey? John Cena and Kurt Angle had another strong match. The Smackdown referee angle doesn't do anything for me, but the overall match was very entertaining? It could get interesting if the mainstream media picks up on the fact that Dimitri Young was a willing participant in a skit that involved a jacked up pro wrestler ripping MLB for their steroid problem? Aside from the prolonged groping, Triple H vs. Flair was a strong match that went about five minutes too long? Here's an idea. The next time WWE opts to book a best-of-seven series, do it with two guys who haven't wrestled one another countless times on television in the weeks leading up to the series?


James Caldwell, Torch columnist (6.0)


I've changed my mind about how to market John Cena. WWE does not need to force Cena down the throats of the male audience or try to present him in an "action hero" role such as Steve Austin. By having Cena appeal to the women and children while ostracizing the male audience, Cena's matches are guaranteed to have amazing crowd involvement, heat, and passion by fans to create a big-match atmosphere. When Cena is paired off against a top heel whom males can respect - Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho being the most recent - and the deck is stacked against Cena for each title defense, both audiences are served. The males believe the deck is stacked so high that "this time is going to be it" for when Cena actually drops the title. The other set wants to see how Cena overcomes the "Detroit Tigers win a World Series" odds to continue being the heroic babyface. WWE needs to stay the course on how Cena is marketed to serve both audiences who will pay to see Cena lose or pay to see Cena win.


However, the PPV was about WWE trying to create two distinct brands with two distinct sets of wrestlers with pride to support their respective brand. How well did WWE pull that off? Well, the announcing crew receives a "thumbs up" for creating a hostile audio environment with Tazz cutting off Joey Styles at an impressive clip and each side promoting their own personal vendettas. As for the inter-brand main event match, the split wasn't so clear. When you consider that two weeks ago, both rosters came together as one unit to honor Eddie Guerrero followed by WWE immediately flipping the feud switch back on last week, the idea of seeing the wrestlers represent one distinct brand after representing one united effort for Eddie muddled the rivalry.


I hesitate to commend Ric Flair on an outstanding performance when he put his body on the line in an unhealthy manner, but he stole the show. However, Flair's excessive loss of blood was scary at times and the bumps Flair took on the outside were cringe inducing. If you can set aside any conscientious objections, you can appreciate the fine wrestling display from a 58-year-old man who can still work better than the majority of the roster. Flair and Triple H developed a perfect pace to the methodical street fight with the sole highspot of the match tying together two ends of the larger transitions in the match. That's using a highspot effectively.


I'm not in the mood for another round of Undertaker-Orton matches, but if Batista is placed on the shelf and Orton is called from the bullpen to run with the World Title, I wouldn't be surprised to see Undertaker transition into champion at Royal Rumble or, gulp, WrestleMania for one final run with the gold. Orton winning the main event set up Orton for a run with the gold. On the other hand, it simply could have been a case of Orton scoring an important victory on a dual brand PPV because the belt will remain around Batista or move to Rey Mysterio.


WWE did its best to treat Rey Mysterio as a star of the heavyweight division with Jerry Lawler presenting the criticism of Rey in one simple comment - "look at the little squirt" - before Rey pinned Big Show and Masters to prove he's more than just a smaller guy trying to fit in with the big boys. If WWE intends to capitalize on the Eddie Guerrero sentiment and give Mysterio a run with the belt, this was the best way to present Mysterio in front of an audience larger than a Smackdown PPV.


Final Note: WWE did a fine job setting the rules and stipulations of each match to enhance storyline integrity, but there was one slight oversight when Raw supposedly ran out of referees for Cena-Angle only to have Raw referee Jack Doane miraculously show up for the Bischoff-Long match that immediately followed.


Wade Keller, Torch editor (6.5)


As a live event, this was pretty solid from start to finish. The presumed weak points of the show were not detriments; the G.M. match was kept short and the women's match was intense and interesting and didn't overstay its welcome.


Benoit and Booker did not show anything new. It's like a fast food meal you're bored with, but you know what to expect and it's okay. There's not exactly magic in the ring between these two, but they know each other well enough to have a good match almost every time out. I'd rather not watch another because it just feels too familiar, but we've probably got six more coming. Shocking to see the heel get the first win.


The Vince McMahon "nigga" comment was baffling. I have no idea if McMahon was trying to present his character as cool or trying to present his character as someone trying to be cool who miserably and embarrassingly fails. I hope it's the latter, because then at least he's in on the joke and it's not on him.


Triple H and Ric Flair was not a match of the year, but it was a very good, dramatic bloodfest with a good internal logic. Not entirely unpredictable, and not particularly exciting as it never got out of second gear - although in a match like this that's not going to happen past the five minute mark with any credibility anyway - but it told a good story. Flair at his age should be better protected than this. He would probably take pride in everyone marvelling at how many bumps he took and how much he bled when in fact he feels he's not really risking much, but Flair probably isn't the best judge of what he should or shouldn't be doing at this point in his career. He defines himself as a wrestler more than anything and will not stop until he physically can't go anymore - no matter what the risk. It's up to his boss and friends to step in and keep him safe.


The Edge segment was odd. I'm not for nationally televised segments that present a heel ripping on a local sports team. There are too many viewers who will side with the heel who aren't in the market he's bashing. That said, Edge was great in his delivery. Lita could work on getting her one line out smoothly. How hard is it to say "baseball" without tripping over your tongue? There were hidden messages in there, sent by Vince McMahon. Now that he's announced steroid testing, he's already on a high horse about other sports' problems with drugs. I'd say it's a bit early to brag.


John Cena and Kurt Angle were on their way to a potential match of the night, but it was cut a bit short at under 14 minutes. The referee gimmick worked for me because it made sense that Angle would want to eliminate any ref who wasn't biased in his favor. I'm not sure why a Smackdown ref is so much worse than a Raw ref, though. Other than Daivari, none was favoring Angle.


The main event ten man tag was never boring. It's all right to have one of those on PPV each year. The announcers stole the show at times with their fierce rivalry that felt more real than some of the wrestling. Tazz stood out as the leader of the crew and almost the leader of Smackdown - more than Batista or Cole or Rey or JBL.


Good show. Not great. Worth getting the replay to see Flair vs. Hunter, the ten-man, and hear the announcers bicker, especially since nothing was really bad otherwise.

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Caldwell Library

WWE and MLB finally address steroid issue (#888)


Dec 3, 2005, 14:45



The Perspective with James Caldwell

By James Caldwell, Torch columnist

Original Headline: WWE and MLB finally address steroid issue

Subheadline: But after nearly 15 years of stalling and denial, will anything really change?

Originally Published: December 3, 2005

Torch Newsletter #888


Nineteen-nintey-four was a rough year for both WWE and Major League Baseball. For WWE, the spotlight was fixated directly on a courthouse in New York. However, the spotlight on WWE's legal issue wasn't nearly as luminous as the spotlight fixated on Major League Baseball's labor dispute that led to the cancellation of the 1994 season. In the one instance where McMahon did not want the spotlight on his organization, MLB grabbed the headlines as an impending lockout ominously approached.


On Friday, July 22, Vince McMahon and Titan Sports were found not guilty of drug and steroid charges brought forth by the federal government. Just a week later on July 28, the MLB Players Association set a strike date of August 12, bringing the attention away from WWE and directly onto the dissention between players and owners.


Although Vince McMahon was absolved of guilt through the jury's decision, WWE had been exposed in front of the public. At the same time, MLB reached an unprecedented low and tried to recover by pushing the home run chase of 1998 between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Funny that two baseball players who were questioned for their use of illegal substances may have saved baseball.


Despite taking a backseat to MLB in the public's view, WWE brought the steroid issue to the forefront of the American public in a significant way. Yet, with MLB trying to save the game and WWE trying to ignore the pink elephant in the room - holding onto the courtroom victory as confirmation that change was unwarranted - MLB was too busy arguing over dollars and cents to face the issue of steroids directly in the face.


Even with owners and baseball officials well aware of steroid abuse, no one was willing to bring the issue to the forefront. Was it merely an oversight, a lack of understanding of how steroids damages the body, or MLB blatantly looking in the other direction as baseball players enhanced their bodies to hit massive home runs and bring fans back to the game? Under any of the three options, MLB missed the issue.


"We all know there's steroid use, and it's definitely becoming more prevalent," said General Manager Randy Smith of the San Diego Padres in 1995. He also estimated that 10-20 percent of MLB players used steroids at the time.


Mark McGwire didn't mind the dramatic increase in home runs when the game returned to a normal schedule following the 1994 strike. "People are making a big deal about so many home runs being hit," McGwire told the Denver Post in 1996. "They wonder why guys you've never heard about are hitting home runs. My answer is, ?Let's accept it. It's good for the game.'"


In the eyes of McGwire, the dramatic increase in home run totals may have been good for the game because he - along with Sammy Sosa - was the beneficiary of massive public attention during the summer of 1998 as he chased Roger Maris's all-time single season home run record. Simply put, players felt undo pressure to keep up. After all, baseball's rebound was built on performance-enhancing drugs. Join in or be left behind. Way behind.


Owners and executives were happy to spend time doing "extra research" on steroids before taking action. The box office receipts were adding up as fans paid to see the big guns hitting balls out of the park at a record pace. Was it worth it, though? Did it really help baseball that players felt pressure to keep up, putting their health at risk and their integrity on hold?


The similarities between baseball's rebound from 1994 and WWE's current unwritten standards are remarkable. Large, muscular wrestlers are pushed. Smaller, average-sized wrestlers who are athletic yet don't turn heads in airports are kept down. There is the occasional exception, of course, such as Shawn Michaels, who is a "leftover" from the first stint when WWE began testing for steroids in 1991. He happened to get over during that time, and he has stayed over ever since, "despite his size."


Eddie Guerrero's death opened WWE to scrutiny over the lack of a real drug policy. Guerrero, along Chris Benoit and Rey Mysterio, represented the prototypical average-sized wrestler who had more than enough talent to draw for a major promotion, but lacked the necessary size to be considered a potential main eventer in comparison to larger-than-life wrestlers. Hence, the pressure to bulk up and "look the part" in order to receive a main event push was more than just an option; the body of work inside the ring - athletic ability, strong character, amazing technical skills - just wasn't enough. With Eddie dying apparently due to heart disease, it's now being asked whether WWE asks too much of its wrestlers.


For the answer to how WWE has allowed this unwritten policy to take precedence, looking back to 1994 reveals a few uneasy answers.


At the time, steroids became a public issue more than ever. The government was set on sending a message that steroid use and abuse was unacceptable and illegal, while also potentially dangerous to the health of athletes who used uncontrolled substances for body enhancement.


"We thought it was an important case to bring," government lead prosecutor Sean O'Shea said after the verdict was read in favor of WWE during the 1994 trial. "This case highlighted a serious problem in this country among athletes and athletic organizations, so in that sense we're happy."


O'Shea, in an attempt to cut his losses after not being able to generate a "guilty" verdict against Vince McMahon, said he was simply happy to draw attention to the issue on a larger platform, but he certainly seemed to understand the ramifications of how Vince McMahon operated.


After all, WWE implemented a drug policy in November 1991 when the federal government was hot on McMahon's trail after WWE's in-house medicine man, Dr. George Zahorian, testified against WWE. By responding to the government with the creation of an actual drug policy, WWE wanted to send a message that the company was indeed concerned about the health of its wrestlers and intended to clean up the sport. McMahon boasted about his policy while other sports failed to address the issue. Yet, once the spotlight shifted away from Zahorian and steroids, McMahon quietly dropped any mention of the policy. Mr. O'Shea was well aware of WWE's remarkable tactics to skirt the issue and keep the "vitamins" flowing.


"This corporation mixed a chemical cocktail and conspired to keep wrestlers pumped up and their cash registers going," O'Shea said during closing arguments at the trial. "It's shameful and it's illegal."


Yet, the "not guilty" verdict did nothing to change McMahon's policy of subtly telling wrestlers to enhance themselves through unhealthy and illegal means. As J.J. Dillon wrote in his book, All Wrestlers are like Seagulls: "He could have looked at it as a lesson in humility, and viewed life differently, or it could have bolstered his 'me against the world' mentality. If anything, it was the latter, as Vince became even more arrogant."


McMahon wasn't about to change. He stood up to the man and he beat the man. Why should he admit guilt by suddenly enforcing a new drug policy or reprimand wrestlers for steroid use? After all, he had a business to rebuild after the image of the company was tarnished inside a court room in New York.


Yet, McMahon's failure to respond to the issue damaged WWE and the wrestling business's image even more so than the trial. With the 1980s of WWE exposed as one grandiose steroid-riddled freak show and forever disenfranchised, McMahon could have disassociated from that era and started fresh with wrestlers who resembled great athletes rather than muscle-enhanced club bouncers. McMahon opted for the latter and continued to play to his own personal captivation with airport head-turners and bodybuilders.


WWE temporarily moved away from the steroid image during the Attitude era in the late '90s when wrestlers were pushed because of how well they could carry a match, segment, or interview skit. Whether you could bench press 450 pounds or 250 pounds wasn't so much of an issue, especially considering Mick Foley was one of the top acts in the promotion.


Yet, a quick fast-forward to the 2000s reveals a similar look to that of the '80s. As MLB faced the potential reality that at least 50 percent of its players were using steroids - according to Ken Caminiti in a Sports Illustrated interview during 2002, and up from the 10-20 percent estimated by Kevin Towers in 1995 - the tide was beginning to turn back to an '80s body type in WWE.


With Triple H regularly featured in muscle magazines, John Laurenaitis - a well-known advocate for McMahon's body ideology - hired to replace Jim Ross as VP of Talent Relations, and smaller wrestlers being placed in the Cruiserweight Division to live a lonely life in lower-card purgatory, the message was clear: Bulk up or else.


A week after Eddie Guerrero died on, McMahon announced the return of drug testing. The mainstream media hadn't yet jumped all over the issue, so this could be seen as a preemptive strike by McMahon. MSNBC's Rita Cosby lobbed softballs, either ill-equippted or not willing to go after a corporate partner (WWE airs on USA, which is owned by the same company - NBC Universal - as MSNBC). An ESPN radio host quickly referred to Eddie Guerrero's death as just another example of a wrestler dying from steroids. He may not have known what he was talking about, but he also might not be wrong.


The issue - as tempting as it is - is not whether or not Eddie was on the juice at the time or leading up to his death, but rather what can be done to fix the problems associated with steroid use. Heart disease, personal problems resulting from 'roid rage, and a deterioration of the body are just a few symptoms associated with steroids. When WWE failed to adhere to or even acknowledge a strict policy of drug prevention in recent years despite so many wrestlers dying, it's no wonder the media looked down on WWE. The promotion brought on the appearance of being a company with no concern for the well-being of its own employees. There's no one else to blame but the man in the WWE mirror.


One group of concerned individuals should be WWE stockholders. A major draw for the company is dead. Linda McMahon, who answers investor concerns, shouldn't be allowed to spin her way out of it without being asked tough questions. Sure, investors may be more concerned about WWE making up for the loss of advertising revenue in their new TV deal, but if more wrestlers continue to die, business will suffer. Pressure from media and government watchdogs will intensify. Fewer wrestlers will be available to draw for the promotion.


WWE's second implementation of a drug policy is long overdue, and just the first step in a long walk. Ideally, it will prevent the widespread use of prescription drugs and performance enhancing substances. Yet, there's more that needs to be done to take this from ideal to real.


The policy is still in the early stages and the ink hasn't even dried on the company memo to human resources, but the lack of specifics related to the policy leaves plenty of room for interpretation and questioning. Penalties? Suspensions? Firing? Loss of priority seating on flights? A percentage penalty off house show gates and merchandise sales? It's one thing to take the first step and announce a conscious effort to curb drug abuse, but it's another thing to get off the ground, take the first step, and stick with it.


Major League Baseball, which knew for years about steroid abuse by its players, finally announced a strict policy on Nov. 14. The policy includes severe penalties including a lifetime ban for the third offense. It took a series of Congressional hearings, constant arm-wringing by watchdogs, and the belief that the health of players and integrity of the game was more important than muscularly enhanced players clubbing ridiculous numbers of homeruns to drive box office sales. Baseball itself stood on its feet and took its first step in the steroid issue - eleven years after the strike of 1994 and subsequent avoidance of an issue that hung a black cloud over the game of baseball during the 2004 off-season.


Yet, the question will always remain whether turning a blind eye to the issue of steroids was good for the game of baseball. Would fans have returned even if Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were marginal power hitters who didn't take baseball by storm in 1998? Would wrestling fans still tune into pro wrestling even if the wrestlers were marginally sized wrestlers without the bodies of a Greek gods?


Did the end justify the means? Did ignoring the steroid issue as long as it did help save MLB, thanks to the home run race that took place in the interim? Did ignoring the steroid and larger drug issue do anything positive for pro wrestling's bottom line over the past five, ten, or fifteen years? Would smaller bodies have made a bigger difference than the loss of life and the stench of being seen as a steroid-riddled circus?


We may never know if baseball could have rebounded from the 1994 strike season without Mac and Sosa and simply been rebuilt by solid play from rule-adhering players. We may never know if wrestling would be a mainstream cultural icon that still generates top five ratings on cable television each week if steroid-enhanced wrestlers led by Hulk Hogan didn't carry the WWE banner during the '80s.


However, what we do know is that steroids contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle that can lead to serious problems. According an ESPN investigative report on steroids in baseball, the number of players with serious injuries that required time on the disabled list jumped 31 percent from 1989 to 1998. And the injuries weren't your standard strained elbow or tired rotator cuff injuries. "(The) injuries that were rarely problems before all the bulking up were now almost common: patellar tendinitis, strained rib cages, torn hamstrings - the kind of stuff that happen when oversize muscles ripped away from bones that could no longer support them," said ESPN.


Is taking steroids to enhance one's body, earn a job in WWE, and became potentially rich and famous worth the price being paid? For many wrestlers, the five-to-ten years on top may seem to be worth the lost years at the tail end of life. However, what happens when a wrestler loses his life to heart disease at the age of 38 while still an integral part of the business?


The loss of Eddie Guerrero alone makes it a tragic mistake. All of the record TV ratings, million dollar payoffs, and magazine covers prompted by a steroid-fueled boom in business don't add up to one life.


Action should have been taken sooner. A lot sooner. Baseball has an off-season, pro wrestling doesn't. That may be a major reason so many wrestlers have died, whereas baseball's major loss (so far) is merely the integrity of its record books and the image of its "heroes."


Talking about a drug policy is the first step for WWE, which must now work hard to change the culture that has rewarded unnatural musculature with financial rewards and greater fame. It's just too bad it took more than ten years, multiple deaths, enough Phil Muschnick columns to fill a five-inch notebook, and the further staining of an industry that already was mocked and ridiculed for being "fake."


WWE and MLB both took minor steps the past two weeks in addressing a problem. With so much money at stake, though, both entities must be watched closely in coming years. Neither can be trusted on faith that they'll do what they say.


The memory of Eddie Guerrero and the realization that his wife and children are without a husband and father should be all the incentive everyone in WWE needs to push forth with resolve to make sure testing is legitimate, relentless, and effective. They owe it to Guerrero to be sure that in exchange for not being alive to take part in his own Hall of Fame induction ceremony, they at least give him the legacy of being the wrestler who prompted change - change that ultimately may save the lives of many of his colleagues.


Time will reveal whether WWE is serious or simply trying to quiet critics until the spotlight shifts to more pressing issues. WWE needs to divulge specifics. Nearly 15 years of talking and balking led to nothing but another sudden death. It's time to act, not talk.

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McNeill Library

12-03-05: In ROH, All Good Things Must Come to an End (Honor by Glory IV)


Dec 3, 2005, 14:42




By Pat McNeill, Torch columnist


"McNeill Factor"

Headline: In ROH, All Good Things Must Come to an End

Originally published: December 3, 2005

Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter #888


All Good Things...: This year has been Ring of Honor's busiest year to date. When a promotion, even a "super indy" promotion, puts together 34 shows in a year, you're going to see peaks and valleys. The infamous ROH "Homecoming" show in July? A valley. Jason Powell discussed another "valley" last week, when he wrote about Ring of Honor's "Night of the Grudges II" on DVD, a show that looked great on paper but never quite panned out.


On the other hand, there's Ring of Honor's "Glory By Honor IV," a double-disc DVD of ROH's Sept. 17 show in Long Island which contains a few added features. This is the sort of show that Ring of Honor fans will use when talking up their favorite promotion, and deservedly so.


The main event is easily accessible to casual fans. TNA's X Division champion, A.J. Styles, squares off against his archrival, Jimmy Rave. This is the blowoff match to one of Ring of Honor's big feuds of 2005. It is a "finisher versus finisher" match. You can only win the match by hitting your finishing move, and the loser must give up that finishing move. Either Styles will have to stop using the "Styles Clash" in Ring of Honor or Rave will have to give up his copycat move, the "Rave Clash". It is a follow-up from the last Long Island show, where Rave tried to suffocate Styles with a plastic bag, the same attack Terry Funk used on Ric Flair during an NWA Clash of the Champions special in 1989.


But there's more to the story. Rave, a member of the Embassy heel stable, is seconded by his manager, Prince Nana. The Phenomenal One has a second of his own in the form of Mick Foley. Foley debuted in Ring of Honor one year previously, at Glory By Honor III. In Foley's first ROH appearance, he turned down Nana's invitation to join The Embassy. At the time, Jimmy Rave was ensconced at the bottom of the card. Over the twelve-month span, Ring of Honor elevated The Embassy. They used everyone from Foley to the Midnight Express to A.J. Styles to Austin Aries to CM Punk in order to help get Rave and Nana over. Now, with Foley on his way back to WWE, Rave and Nana would obtain a final rub by working with Foley again.


The resulting match is a pretty good example of WWE main event style. A.J. gains the advantage until a masked wrestler (presumably one of the Embassy's "Weapons of Masked Destruction" runs in and distracts Styles long enough for Rave to take over. Prince Nana interferes during the match, just enough to tilt the advantage without making Foley look impotent at ringside. Styles hits a belly-to-back suplex off the top rope through the timekeeper's table that knocks both men out. Foley does a good job of checking on both wrestlers under the guise of offering encouragement to Styles.


With Rave in trouble, Nana sends out three more masked men (presumably ROH school graduates). Foley knocks all of them out with chairshots, but the distractions enable Nana to interfere again. Rave sets up a second table in the ring and positions Styles for a superplex through to the table, but A.J. reverses it into a top-rope Styles Clash through the table for the victory. Foley DDT's the hated Prince Nana after the match.


Then it's story time. Mick Foley's farewell speech to Ring of Honor is the sort of speech only a top promo guy like Foley can get away with. Mick is trying to put over Ring of Honor, because it is the proper way to do business, especially on his way out. This is nine days before the WWE Homecoming event, so Foley is also doing his darnedest to put his home promotion over. That's tough to do in front of your typical Ring of Honor crowd. Also, Mick doesn't feel like saying anything bad about Total Nonstop Action, given how close he came to signing in Panda Energy. Plus, Foley's just finished working the corner of TNA's top babyface, and we know the Hardcore Legend hates to be rude.


The crowd loves and respects Foley, and that helps a lot. Mick proves his loyalty to the crowd by reminding them he still lives in Long Island, admitting that he was the guy who helped get Ring of Honor into Sports Plus, the site of the evening's show, and by offering to drop the big Cactus elbow on Prince Nana. Foley throws Nana outside the ring, heads through the ropes, gets a running start off the apron, and hits the diving elbowdrop onto the Embassy manager onto the carpeted floor. It was a fairy tale moment.


The illusion was shattered as Foley hit the elbow and popped up, clutching his hip while letting out a howl of pain that didn't sound too much like the Hardcore Legend. Gee, you'd think all the padding back there would have protected the big guy.


...Must Come...: Of course, that's not the only memorable moment on the DVD release. For six months, the feud between former ROH Pure Champion Jay Lethal and former ROH World Champion Low-Ki had been percolating. Lethal was unable to obtain satisfaction during previous meetings between the two wrestlers. Low-Ki would either win through interference or get disqualified through outside interference.


This sounds like basic wrestling booking, but the storyline operated on another level. When Low-Ki is in Ring of Honor, he does jobs sparingly, if at all. Rumor has it that Low-Ki's bosses in Pro Wrestling NOAH don't want him losing to non-name Ring of Honor talent. Or maybe Low-Ki doesn't like doing jobs. Plus, Low-Ki has a cultivated reputation as an extremely difficult wrestler for promoters to deal with. In any case, a number of insider fans on the ROH website message boards were openly doubting that Mr. Ki would ever suffer a pinfall or submission loss in Ring of Honor.


At the top of the show, Lethal demands Low-Ki come out for their scheduled "Fight Without Honor" match. After sixteen minutes of intense action, Low-Ki uses several chairshots and a couple of top-rope double stomps to the chest to finish off the bloody Lethal. No big surprise. It's all in a day's work.


Later in the evening, after Low-Ki has interfered in Homicide's match with Colt Cabana, a bandaged Lethal returns to ringside. Lethal, over the protests of mentor Samoa Joe, challenges Low-Ki to an immediate rematch. Cabana and Joe run off the interfering Rottweilers, Low-Ki accidentally gets crotched on the top rope, and Lethal hits his finishing move, the Dragon Suplex, off the top rope for the victory. Ring of Honor plays off the crowd's "inside" knowledge to deliver a memorable ending to an upper midcard feud.


...To An End.: But that doesn't even begin to cover the big story of the show. When all is said and done, this year's Glory By Honor will be remembered as the night Bryan Danielson finally won the ROH title. Danielson is one of the few wrestlers around from the company's launch in February 2002. His return came at a time when the promotion had been rocked by the high-profile departures of CM Punk, Spanky, and James Gibson. The match, featuring two of the very best North American workers, is about as good as it gets. In his victory speech, the normally taciturn Danielson shows some personality, describing the ROH title belt as "wrestling freedom," and promising to stay with Ring of Honor and defend the title.


It was also a big show for ROH from a production standpoint. On this release, Ring of Honor steps it up. There's a commercial, featuring Austin Aries, for the ROH wrestling school. There's a special bonus match from FIP, from the June "Payback" show, which hasn't been released yet. But the match between Jay Fury, Sal Rinauro, and Tony Mamaluke isn't on there for its own sake, but for the postmatch angle. The angle ends with Azrieal stepping through the ropes and challenging Samoa Joe. Samoa Joe accepts and... it's a cliffhanger ending designed to get you to buy the tape.


Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard have started to gel as an announcing team. They have a different style from Gabe "Jimmy Bower" Sapolsky. Gone is Gabe's excited shilling of the ROH Library. ("Who can ever forget their match at Redemption By Death Without Dishonor, Stage One, Part Two?") Prazak and Leonard instead talk about the three previous Glory By Honor shows, in an effort to get the show over as a big annual Summerslam-type event. Using the TV commercial for the next show in order to hype the DVD release is also a good move. And the video packages for Bryan Danielson, Lethal vs. Low-Ki, and Styles vs. Rave were on a level with the pre-Sahadi TNA video packages, a big step up for the company.


Even though the show marks the closing of the season for Ring of Honor, the closing promos are all about setting the table for the next round of shows. Danielson's interview and video package shows how crushed he was by the loss to Aries, setting up their match on an upcoming show. Austin Aries vows to win the Survival of the Fittest tournament that's on the way, and Colt Cabana announces the return of Steve Corino to help him fight off the Rottweilers.


If you're a Ring of Honor fan, this is obviously a must-see show. If you're a TNA fan who enjoys seeing the X Division wrestlers in longer matches, this show is also for you. If you're a Mick Foley fan, and you want to see the last time Foley was treated as a main event attraction, you will also enjoy this DVD. Highly recommended.

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Brand Loyalty

By Wade Keller, Torch editor


Did the interbrand feud really help WWE more than it hurt? Part of the point of doing the brand split in the first place was to set up dream matches in the future between top stars on each brand every now and then. In the past month, WWE has given away so many dream matches (John Cena vs. Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio vs. Shawn Michaels, JBL vs. Shawn Michaels) - and they were thrown together and not really hyped to the point that they meant anything - that they won't seem as novel in the future.


The same can be said for the brand separation and differentiation in general. Seeing so much interaction between all of the stars of both brands weakens the whole sense of there being two distinct brands. Add to it, Trish vs. Melina and this week's Smackdown UPN special featuring Rey vs. Big Show, and it feels almost as if the brand split has been abandoned.


On the plus side, though, the wrestlers and especially the announcers came through in a big way by really making it seem as if there is a fierce rivalry between the brands. There is no doubt that fans this month feel more than ever that wrestlers on each brand have a sense of loyalty to their brand. In fact, wrestlers who were feuding with each other on their respective brand put their differences aside to fight for their brand.


That's all well and good, but what does it really accomplish? Now that fans feel that Randy Orton is "loyal to Smackdown" or Big Show is "loyal to Raw," does it really translate into anything meaningful? So what? Does Vince McMahon hope viewers feel the same sense of loyalty to one brand over another? No way. He wants fans to watch both Raw and Smackdown, buy tickets to both Raw and Smackdown, and buy both Raw and Smackdown PPVs. So what's the point? If he were to step back, I bet he'd realize there is no point.


Nothing was at stake at Survivor Series other than "bragging rights." But what fun are "bragging rights" if nobody in the audience is going to take any satisfaction in one side beating the other. Pro wrestling isn't built on team loyalty like is the case in the NFL or NBA. It's based on loyalty to individuals. Sure, there were die-hard WCW fans and die-hard WWF fans over the years. But it was in the best interest of each promotion to foster that loyalty. McMahon has no financial incentive to foster loyalty to one brand over the other. So the past month or so of hype for Survivor Series seems rather pointless.


It did more damage than good because it diminished the feuds on each brand. Having wrestlers who were feuding teaming up and coexisting peacefully made a mockery of the deeply personal issues that once separated them.


Even more confusing is that Eric Bischoff, who is hated by babyface wrestlers 48 weeks out of the year, suddenly became the spokesman for all Raw wrestlers - including babyfaces - for the last four weeks. With Teddy Long as the babyface G.M., Smackdown should have been the fans' choice to win the feud at Survivor Series. But for fans to be cheering for Smackdown to win meant they had to boo Kane, Big Show, and Shawn Michaels as they wrestled Randy Orton and JBL at various times during the PPV main event. That makes no sense.


No viewer who is a fan of Rey Mysterio is going to boo him out of "brand loyalty" to Smackdown or a desire to see Teddy Long get one up on Eric Bischoff.


Does anyone in WWE ask these questions, which are hardly profound? They are obvious questions to ask, but there are no obvious answers that make any sense. It just seems as if Vince McMahon decided a few years ago to have separate brands, and along the way has winged it as far as how to differentiate them.


A better scenario would have been for Bischoff to assemble a pure heel team to face Long's army of pure babyfaces. The Raw babyfaces could have pretended to be rooting for Bischoff, but shown signs away from Bischoff that they thought he was obsessed and being a poor representative for Raw. Meanwhile, Smackdown heels could have been shown trying to undercut the babyfaces' chances, with the goal being to blame them after the fact for being poor representatives of Smackdown.


Wrestling is best when the broad strokes are simple and the complex nuances keep things novel. The broad strokes for the Survivor Series hype were anything but simple and logical.

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Guest EastCoastJ

Torch Talk Library

Sean Waltman: On breaking the code to save the life of a friend (12-03-05)


Dec 3, 2005, 14:50



Torch Talk with Sean Waltman, pt. 2

Originally Published: December 3, 2005

Torch Newsletter #889


The following is the second installment of a 90 minute Torch Talk with Sean "X-Pac" Waltman conducted Nov. 21. In this segment, Waltman talks about drugs in pro wrestling, how much testing will change the industry, and a big decision he made to break the code of honor to save a friend's life.


Wade Keller: When you got to the WWF the first time, were they already testing for drugs?.


Sean Waltman: Oh yeah.


Keller: Were you there long enough to experience the reaction when the testing slowed down and eventually stopped?


Waltman: It didn't slow down the whole time I was there. You know when it stopped? They never actually got rid of their drug policy; they've always had a drug policy in place. What they did was abolish the random testing. They always retained the right to test you, even to this day. What happened was this. When Vince's business went down after Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, myself, and several other people jumped ship, Vince was losing some money at the time. Business was down, ratings were down. It was pretty much a cost-cutting measure because that was a half a million dollar a year program minimum. I think that number is correct. Basically, that's what it was. In WCW, they were drug testing, but it was pretty much hand-picked who they tested. I think I told you in a previous interview that I was never tested in WCW. And that's the first time I ever took any kind of a steroid. I was taking a little bit of testosterone.


Keller: How much of a difference do you think it's going to make visually based on your considerable experience using steroids, being around people who take steroids, and knowing also what can be taken other than steroids, whether it's HGH or supplements, when testing starts? If the testing is sophisticated enough to catch people, how much of a change are we going to see in body types and also performance? How much will it change what wrestlers can do and their recovery time?


Waltman: Well, first of all, you're talking to the wrong person if you're wanting to talk to somebody who looks at steroids in a negative light, although anything can be overdone to where they're harmful. I truly believe all of the negative things you hear about steroids, like in the Congressional hearings, all of these things they say about them in general are based on no research whatsoever, by the way. There was a great story. I was so happy when they did this story on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel that actually talked about the fact that really and truly there are no deaths directly linked to steroids. Nobody has died and they have said it is absolutely, 100 percent because of steroid use or abuse. Done in therapeutic dosages, I think the guys should be allowed to take a little somethin' under doctor's supervision. Unfortunately - and I say unfortunately because the government will come down on doctors who even try to do something like that for their patients - you're going to have guys going to black market dealers for steroids and be getting stuff that could be contaminated or not necessarily what it says it is on the label and things like that. When you take high dosages of steroids, just like it makes your muscles a lot bigger, your heart is a muscle, Wade, and sometimes you'll see an enlarged heart on gosh, probably, half the wrestlers currently wrestling.


Keller: Why do you say you're not against steroids if it can enlarge your heart?


Waltman: Because I'm not against steroids. What I'm against, Wade, is people packing on a hundred extra pounds on their body that's not supposed to carry it.


Keller: So it's a matter of degree.


Waltman: A lot of guys in our industry, we're not reaching our peak until we're well into our thirties, and by that time, your natural level of testosterone is declining rapidly. And that's an important thing as far as your overall sense of well-being. Just like when a woman goes through menopause, she experiences a lot of mood swings and depression will set in. When your male hormone, testosterone, starts declining like that, a man does that, too. That's the whole mid-life crisis thing. All of that can be attributed to this.


Keller: Would you feel comfortable if at 18 years old, your son said, "Dad, I want to take steroids." Would you feel comfortable if he'd take your advice on how to take it, if he took steroids regularly for all of his adulthood for a job enhancement purpose?


Waltman: I think 18 years old can be old enough, but it can also be too young. It depends. I know when I was 18 years old - I was a late bloomer. I couldn't even grow a proper mustache or a beard when I was 18. I don't believe I was necessarily completely finished growing on my own. I think 18 is probably a little too young, for the most part. But if my son came to me at 21 years old and he was six-foot-somethin' - because I'm six-one - and he was obviously full grown and came to me with that, I would want him to know everything he could find out about it himself, but I wouldn't be alarmed, Wade. I wouldn't be alarmed. Somebody might be reading this going, "Oh my God! What a shitty thing to say in regards to your own son." I'm sorry. I know a ton about the subject. I can probably tell you that I know more than most medical doctors about it because most medical doctors are pretty ignorant to it.


Keller: A lot of medical doctors need to know a little bit about a lot of things.


Waltman: You'd be surprised at the average medical doctor's ignorance toward drug addiction. Of all things they should be up on.


Keller: Let me back up to this question then. How will steroid testing, based on your knowledge, change the look of WWE? Are there enough other legal supplements and other ways to work around it where there won't be a huge drop-off? Or is it really going to be a dramatic change?


Waltman: I think you're going to see a big, dramatic change. I think you're going to see a big, dramatic change in some of the guys. I think you're going to see some of the guys you assumed were probably taking a shit-load of steroids, you're going to find out they necessarily weren't because when you look at somebody, you think you can tell, okay, this guy must be doing a ton of shit and this guy must not be. I'm not going to name names, but of people I know throughout my career, the guys I know who have taken steroids, the guys you looked at that you didn't think necessarily were taking steroids were taking more than the (huge) guys. Like Lex Luger back then, when we were getting drug tested, he looked pretty damn good for a guy who was getting tested for anabolic steroids.


Keller: I've heard that from wrestlers over the years that you can't tell from looking. You can be 80 percent right by looking, but you can't be 100 percent right by looking.


Waltman: You might be able to tell for sure that somebody is taking something by looking at them. A muscle tissue looks a lot different when it's enhanced with certain steroids. There is a different look to it. But that doesn't mean you can tell whether they're abusing it or not.


Keller: You think the look will change. Will their performances change? Will this make it more difficult to handle the schedule, especially if they're unable to abuse prescription pills if the tests work.


Waltman: How are they going to tell a guy he's not able to use prescription medications?


Keller: Vince was asked that specifically, and he said they will be able to tell in the tests if a larger than prescribed amount of a drug was being used. Now maybe he's saying things that are unrealistic, but he said the tests were so sophisticated, they'd be able to tell what drugs were taken, how much, and even the time they were taken.


Waltman: Provided guys aren't trying to take counter-measures, if they're flushing their bodies with things that can act as a natural masking agent.


Keller: But they'd have to do that constantly in order to beat the tests if they're frequent and random.


Waltman: Wade, a person's drug habit is very important to them. I mean, I say that and we can chuckle about the statement - and you should. However, it's so very true. So very true. I remember when Dr. (Joel) Hacket, who was one of the doctors who showed up at the arenas and just wrote scripts left and right, got caught. One time when I broke my neck the first time and was at TV and in a tag match with Scott Hall, we were wrestling Jeff Jarrett and Bryan James. I landed wrong and I was out. I was unconscious and couldn't move. The assumption was, and it wasn't an unfair assumption, that I overdosed or something. They were ready to fire me and everything until they found out from the doctor that I was sitting there with a broken neck. In the mean time, Dave Hebner, who was an agent at the time, was instructed by J.J. Dillon, who was head of talent relations, to search my belongings and go through my briefcase and everything else. They found script bottles from Dr. Hackett in my possession. There was a big backlash because of that. I remember the first time I showed back up, I had some guys looking at me burning holes through me. They had such a pissed off glare at me. They were pissed at me because I was f--ing their drug supply up. God forbid, I damn sure wasn't going to do something like that on purpose. It's not my place to do it. It's not something I would have done, although it was a good thing he got caught because there were several guys who have died who were getting medication from this one doctor. Louie Spicolli comes to mind. I can think of several. There were a couple of doctors who would come around when I first started there. They would give out samples and things of that nature and would write prescriptions.


Keller: For profit or because they were...


Waltman: ...jock sniffers. Do you know what I mean?


Keller: I was saying the same thing as you said it.


Waltman: Did you? (laughs) They loved to be able to (be back there). I'll tell you what. During our time on the road, we were on the road so much, any free time we had on the road was very cherished. So when you got the entire click, minus Hunter Helmsley, who wasn't there at the time, going out of their way an hour and a half to a particular doctor's house for a cookout, and that cookout involved pictures and meet and greet and all of that, as much as we thought the guy was a nice guy, we went there to ensure that we were going to get our frickin' pills.


Keller: Do you think that it's a good idea what Vince is planning, or is it a matter of personal choice and people can learn from Eddie Guerrero and it's not Vince's job to do anything in response? Is this morally almost at the level of being an obligation for him to do this?


Waltman: (deep breath, pause) Wow. I think it's a kneejerk reaction, for sure. Whether it's the wrong reaction, I don't know. You're never doing something wrong when you're trying to prevent people from hurting themselves. I think it's the right thing to do, Wade. Even though no drug testing is going to be completely 100 percent fool proof, and even though Vince is saying, "Well, we can tell the levels of a certain medication" - because some medications have different half lifes and some are in and out of you a lot quicker - it can't do anything but help some people who might be there who are in big trouble right now and they're slipping underneath the radar. I always said in the past that a random drug testing program wasn't really necessary because those people who are going to have problems are going to stick out like a sore thumb anyhow. If you went back and looked, you'd probably find me saying that word for word. But, sometimes in our lives we change our minds. You know? Our opinions aren't always the same now as they were before, just like some people when they're younger, are left wing liberals, and when they start making money, all of a sudden they become Republicans. I haven't been there in a while; I think there's probably a few guys up there that need this.


Keller: What do you think of the term "death watch" (when a wrestler is considered in a rough enough physical state to be potentially near dropping dead)?


Waltman: Well, I've been on it. Shit, I've been high up on that list before. You know what I don't like is when I go on the Internet and see on some message boards where people are taking bets on who's going to die next. That type of thing where it gets so trivialized that "so and so is going to die next." But, I mean, how did it get that name? Because there are people worried about somebody dying.


Keller: What does the term mean to you?


Waltman: That means that someone is in trouble and in a place where they're probably not able get themselves out.


Keller: It means their friends and colleagues, when they look at them, any given time that they're around them, it crosses their minds that this might be the last time they see them. That's the depth that they've reached.


Waltman: If somebody's on death watch, you need to do something about it. I can tell you this much. I'm not going to tell you the particular wrestler this is concerning, but there is one in particular - one guy who to this point as far as I know has done the best job of sobering up and staying sober, and he may or may not even know that I did this. There was one instant in particular. It was kind of toward the end of the run with the whole DX thing. God, I almost want to tell you who the guy was. I can't imagine he'd mind. I was in a position where I had to decide whether I was going to break the age-old code of the gladiator of being the stooge or pretty much not doing anything while I saw somebody who was going to die without a doubt. When I say somebody was going to die, you can f---in' believe that's the point they were at because I've seen everything, Wade. I'll just say it. During William Regal's first run in WWE, he was a complete mess. I would be driving and he and Road Dogg would be in the back already passed out by the time I got into the parking lot. So Road Dogg is lying in bed totally overdosed on pills. I just listened to him go off on his wife on the phone. It was very, very disturbing because at this point I was doing well. I was smoking my weed every night, so I wasn't doing anything serious. I hadn't taken pills at that point for probably five years. I was pretty much sober, not drinking or anything. This night in particular it got to the point I was crying. I was so upset with what I saw. I decided I was going to live with it. If I was being a stooge, I'd live with being a stooge. I called Vince and said, "This guy going to die, Vince. He need helps." I don't know to this day if Regal knows it was me who alerted Vince to this. Vince should have known anyhow, when guys are passed out at TV. After that, (Regal) was upset they were making him go to rehab at the time. He didn't have a problem as far as he knew. We all are in denial at that stage. And there was one other person I said something about, too. If somebody wants to look at me know as a stooge, (go ahead) - even if Regal looks at this and gets pissed at me and is just finding out; I don't think he would be pissed. It was very hard for me do that, Wade. It was so hard for me to get on the phone and call Vince McMahon and tell him that.


Keller: I don't think a lot of people relate to that. In the cover story I wrote on Eddie Guerrero's death, I said: "It's one thing to show how much you care about a colleague by crying on the air after he dies. It's another to care enough about someone to do what it takes while he's alive to keep him from dying - even at the expense of box office receipts, storyline interruptions, and being deemed pushy, nosy, or a nark." I understand the locker room mentality, but there comes a point where the honor code is leading to guys dying.


Waltman: Yeah, where the f--- is the honor in watching your friends die because you don't want to break the code of the gladiator and don't want to be a stooge. Tattoo the word "stooge" across my forehead for all I care if it means (saving) my friend - or even if he's not a dear friend of mine, if you're in the wrestling business, even if you're the biggest asshole, you're still a brother.


Keller: Many of the people who shed tears for Eddie during the Raw Tribute show knew for a while something wasn't right about Eddie.


Waltman: Yeah, a lot of those tears may have been tears of guilt as well. Who knows? I'm not the one to say. This has been a hard one. When we talked about this before, I said the younger generation of guys haven't been showing this type of problem. Eddie was one of the last guys of a thowback era, a guy who came up through the business with all of the pills and the drugs and the drinking and all that... I just want people to remember that.

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-A number of wrestlers' wives expressed concern for their the health of their husbands after the death of Eddie Guerrero. One top wrestler's wife outright asked him to quit, but he said no and assured her he wasn't going to be a casualty of the business.



I guess we could safely assume that top guy wasn't HHH.

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