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The Pro-Wrestling Torch Newsletter #890

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TORCH #890: COVER STORY

Ric Flair humiliated in home state and on Raw

Media looks into road rage, divorce; associates distancing themselves

 

HEADLINE ANALYSIS

By Wade Keller, Torch editor

 

First he was accused of road rage (which he has since denied). Then local reporters in his home state of North Carolina began digging into his embarassing divorce papers. Then WWE put his road rage arrest mug shot on the big screen on Raw and compared it, in an unflattering way, to how he looked in his prime. Then local associates began disassociating with the one-time local hero. Meanwhile, the media didn't stop piling on.

 

The Charlotte Observer reported on Dec. 2 that Flair owed the government more than $1 million in 1997, and the IRS is now seizing more than $200,000 of his WWE salary this year to cover the owed taxes. His wife, Beth, who has filed for divorce, alleges that Flair exposed himself to friends and committed adultery. Flair counters that he was not abusive toward her and she is just trying to humiliate him.

 

Flair's lawyer contends the divorce papers "aren't news" because they were filed last February. "We're defending the case, and we're not going to talk about their domestic problems," said Bill Diehl, perhaps Charlotte's best-known lawyer. "She accused him of being a bad boy. He accused her of being a bad girl. That's where we stand."

 

The Charlotte Observer noteed that the divorce papers are nearly the size of two phone books. Flair has been ordered to pay Beth $20,000 a month until the divorce in finalized. The judge overseeing the divorce is considering freezing Flair's assets because he spent $92,000 for a ring for his new girlfriend. Flair contends that he and his wife lived well beyond their means and racked up substantial debt to the IRS and other creditors.

 

States the article: "In an affidavit asking for support payments, Elizabeth estimates that she spends $65,000 a year on clothing and $50,000 on vacations. She said she spent $50,000 on Christmas gifts in 2004. The family also owns a boat, a country club membership, and a house in the Piper Glen neighborhood with an estimated $1.2 million tax value, according to court records."

 

Flair is due to make at least $500,000 this year from WWE as his downside guarantee.

 

Flair has always been known within wrestling for living life in the proverbial fast-lane, spending money as soon as he received it, believing there'd be a bigger and better payday tomorrow. He realizes those days may be nearing an end. "I am 56 years old working in a business that demands physical fitness and is dominated by performers much younger than I," says Flair. "There is no guarantee that even next year I will be employed."

 

WWE does not offer official financial guidance or planning for its full-time "independent contractors" (who aren't independent in anything but the tax code sense of the word since they can't practice their trade for any other company other than WWE and are told when and where to be and have no choice in the matter). It also does not offer pension or formal guidance for wrestlers to set up pensions. Over the years, wrestlers have been informally encouraged by members of management to seek out proper financial guidance. Flair is not typical of wrestlers these days. Christian and Chris Jericho are two examples of wrestlers who saved well and were able to walk away from WWE's schedule in their early 30s without concern for financial solvency.

 

Vince McMahon, meanwhile, collected $11 million in stock dividends in the latest quarter for WWE Inc.

 

The Charlotte Observer ran another story on Tuesday, Dec. 6 including quotes from the judge overseeing his bitter divorce. "Obscenely high," wrote Judge Jane Harper in a letter to lawyers in the case, referencing the claim that Flair's wife spent $2,000 a month on gifts. Regarding $300 a month spent on pets, the judge wrote: "Those are some very well-cared-for pets."

 

The judge also threatened to freeze the couple's assets after learning Flair spent $92,000 on a ring for his girlfriend, whom he refuses to confirm is involved with him sexually. The judge added that she wanted to "encourage someone in this family to share a smidgen of their huge wealth on someone besides themselves."

 

The judge, who plans to retire next year at age 66, also wrote that it's tough or her to hear a case like this one when there are people "drowning and rioting in the street," but added, "I'll try my best to keep my poker face on, but I don't always succeed. It's probably none of my business, but sometimes I just can't help myself."

 

In the midst of such embarassing publicity, the Carlona Panthers yanked the public service announcement Flair starred in off the scoreboard on a recent home game. The message would have been ironic in light of the road rage charges; in the public service announcement, Flair urges fans to behave responsibly. Instead, a public address announcer read the message.

 

Also, due to the negative publicity, a source tells PWTorch that Flair has been told he will not be included in any Meinike Car Care Bowl activities for the MCCB this year. For the past three years, Flair has been the featured speaker at the Bowl Pep Rally and also took part in on-field promotions and player entertainment.

 

WWE hyped the Dec. 5 Raw by hyping Flair would respond to the road rage charges, but Flair's lawyer nixed the appearance at the last minute. Instead, Michaels Hayes took part in a segment where he made a case that someone like Flair has earned the benefit of the doubt from fans.

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TORCH #890: TOP FIVE STORIES

By Wade Keller, Torch editor

 

1. Coroner: Guerrero died of heart disease

 

The medical examiner's report, released today, states that Eddie Guerrero "died of natural causes related to arteriosclerotic heart disease," but also noted that he had an enlarged heart and other enlarged organs, which is related to a history of anabolic steroid use. "They were contributing conditions," said Berg according to the Associated Press report. "When you have larger organs, et cetera, your body works a little bit harder to maintain your normal physiologic state." Arteriosclerotic heart disease can lead to the narrowing of small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. Death can result when the restrict enough to stop the flow of blood to the heart. The process occurs over the course of many years and is the most common cause of cardiovascular disability and death. Minnesota TV news stations tonight have reported on the coroner's report; Guerrero died in Minneapolis.

 

2. Guerrero's death used in angles on SD

 

On the Tuesday Night Smackdown special on Nov. 29, WWE concluded the show by setting the late Eddie Guerrero's low-rider on fire. Randy Orton rammed the car backwards into the entrance set, and it subsequently caught on fire. Earlier in the show, Rey Mysterio dedicated his match to Guerrero. A Guerrero tribute video also aired. The show was considered controversial and exploitative of Guerrero's death and the goodwill built up from the Raw and Smackdown tributes to him.

 

3. Bischoff's firing as Raw G.M. draws 4.1

 

The Dec. 5 Raw, built around the "Trial of Eric Bischoff," resulting in his firing as G.M., drew a strong 4.1 rating. Mick Foley's role throughout the show may have helped keep viewers tuned in.

 

4. Ken Kennedy to miss six months

 

Ken Kennedy will be out of action for six months after tearing muscles in his back and shoulders. Batista suffered the same injury, only Kennedy's is more severe. The tendon separated from the bone in his back and Kennedy must wait three months before rehabbing. "It's kind of similar to what Triple H did to his quad," Kennedy told WWE.com. "I had torn it completely off the bone and the doctors said I needed surgery - that it couldn't be rehabbed." Kennedy said he felt a tear during the European tour. He had a bruise and swelling, but both went away. He wrestled Kid Kash at the Smackdown taping in Cincinnati and the swelling returned. Kennedy is hopeful he can continue contributing to Smackdown in a non-wrestling role.

 

5. Christy Hemme released from WWE

 

The 2004 WWE Diva Contest winner, Christy Hemme, was released from WWE. There are no indications yet of why she was released. She had recently been assigned to work OVW dates in addition to WWE dates to get more experience.

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TORCH #890: WWE NEWSWIRE

ANGLE ADDRESSES CONCERNS

 

Kurt Angle issued a public statement, sent to PWTorch by Dave Hawk of his management team, in response to fans sending him messages of concern regarding his heath in light of the sudden death of Eddie Guerrero.

 

States Angle: "To all my fans, I'm in perfect health. Thank you for your many kind comments, prayers and concern about me, but, again, I am healthy and in great shape. Yes, naturally I have a few minor aches and pains due to bumps and bruises but certainly nothing at all life-threatening or anything that will keep me from participating in the ring. Also, I DO NOT nor would I EVER do anything that would jeopardize my health or my life, as has been fabricated on many website chat rooms. This great outpouring of concern for me demonstrates that my fans appreciate my hard work and dedication to be best. I have the greatest respect for all my fans, my family and everyone at WWE. I will never let you guys down. God bless you and thank you for your support."

 

DRUG TESTING GETS NATIONAL PUB

 

The Associated Press ran a story on Dec. 5 about WWE's plans to begin drug testing sometime in the near future. It led to a series of stories across the country.

 

Although Rita Crosby has been doing puff pieces on MSNBC, not all hosts are friendly to their corporate partner. (MSNBC is owned by NBC Universal, which owns USA Network, the home of Raw). On MSNBC, Keith Olbermann did a small report, stating: "This coming from the business that used to demand their performers take steroids. The announcement today that an independent agency will test the wrestlers of the WWE, World Wrestling Entertainment, for roid use. This supposedly in the wake of the death of 38 year old wrestler, Eddie Guerrero, possibly from steroid related heart disease. And yes, this does sound as phony as any of wrestling's other plot lines, including its latest road trip to Afghanistan to 'supposedly' to salute the troops. Ours I'm assuming..."

 

LATEST FINANCIAL STATEMENT

 

WWE issued its Second Quarter, Fiscal 2006 earnings report last week, touting that revenue was $88.9 million, up from $83.9 million in the prior year same quarter. It also reported net income of $11.7 million, compared to $4.4 million in the prior year same quarter.

 

"In addition to excellent operating results, the quarter was marked by the successful move of Monday Night Raw to USA Network," stated Linda McMahon, CEO. "Thanks to an integrated marketing campaign, and the dedication of our loyal fans, we achieved a 4.7 average household rating for our inaugural homecoming show, which was the top rated basic cable entertainment telecast for the month of October. Also, in the quarter we successfully transitioned to Friday Night Smackdown enabling UPN to reach new key demographics on Fridays. Both of our television partners have been very pleased, as are we, with the results of these programming moves. The operating results for the quarter reflect another strong quarter for this fiscal year. Our Pay-Per-View buys in the quarter exceed last year's buys, despite having only three events this quarter as compared to four events last year. Additionally, revenues in all of our Branded Merchandise businesses are ahead of the prior year quarter, with Home Video and Licensing showing the largest percentage gains."

 

WWE later announced it was doubling its regular quarterly dividend, with its board of directors authorizing an increase to 24 cents per share on all Class A and Class B common shares. Previously the quarterly dividend was 12 cents per share. "After a thorough review of the company's strategic initiatives and capital structure, we believe this dividend increase is the best current use of our cash and beneficial to our shareholders," said Chairmain Vince McMahon, who will get over $11 million in a dividend payment on Jan. 10. "The company anticipates that future earnings growth and thoughtful capital deployment will allow WWE to pay this high level of dividend for the foreseeable future."

 

The stock price closed on Dec. 8 at $14.74 per share, just below the 52 week high of $14.90, and well above the 52 week low of $9.91.

 

The Motley Fool commented about the doubling of the dividend. While generally positive about the move, the Motley Fool warned that the WWE is paying out nearly twice in dividends as it has been earning. It said that policy cannot be substainable for long without negatively affecting the company's balance sheet.

 

LINDA MCMAHON CONFERENCE CALL

 

Linda McMahon spoke optimistically about the financial state of WWE during her quarterly conference call updating investors last week. She predicted that Web advertising revenue will, over the course of the next three years, make up the difference in what is lost with the new TV deal with USA Network. In the latest quarter, WWE earned $2.4 million in revenue from Web and online media ads, a 28 percent increase from the same quarter last year. She said WWE will be investing millions into expanding the company's online presence through digital media and wireless platforms. Over the course of a typical year, WWE recognized approximately $42 Million in television advertising revenue while on Spike TV. WWE will need to increase web advertising revenue fourfold over the next three years in order to match the target set by Linda. With only $0.5 Million growth in web media sales from year-to-year, it's an ambitious goal to set.

 

WWE had its highest grossing quarter in for branded merchandise revenue in five years with $28.9 million recorded, a 15 percent gain over same quarter last year. Home video sales of the Undertaker and Ultimate Warrior DVDs drove that category. WWE.com Shop drew 145 percent of the revenue compared to last year.

 

Linda touted an increase in Raw ratings on USA compared to Spike TV in the same quarter last year of 16 percent, which included the 4.7 rating for the anomaly that was WWE Homecoming. (The actual three hour rating was 4.4, but for comparative purposes, they included the 4.7 it drew in the usual two-hour timeslot).

 

Friday Night Smackdown ratings are down to 2.7, from 3.1 same quarter last year, blamed on 15 percent fewer households watching television on Fridays compared to Thursdays and preemptions in various markets for baseball games.

 

WWE touted an increase of live event attendance from 3,800 to 4,300, although that included more TV events and fewer low-drawing house shows. Revenues were down due to fewer high-grossing overseas events. Live event revenue was down to $13.0 million a drop from $20.1 million same quarter last year.

 

PPV revenues were $18.8 million, up slightly from $18.5 million last year. Summerslam drew 534,000 buys, up from 387,000 the previous year (thanks to Hulk Hogan vs. Shawn Michaels). Vengeance 2005 outdrew 2004 by a 427,000 to 247,000 margin. WWE also realized 312,000 extra buys from previous events that were late arriving international orders.

 

BRET HART ON CNBC

 

Donny Deutsch interviewed Bret Hart on Nov. 30. Hart talked about Eddie's passing and said he didn't know the details of his death, but did talk about how the steroid testing in the early-'90s was on the up and up and how Vince got rid of the testing shortly after Bret left.

 

Deutsch brought up the "Montreal Screwjob" next and asked if it was a storyline or not. Hart didn't directly answer that part of the question, but did tell a short version his side of what happened in Montreal. Deutsch brought up that Bret and Vince have since made their peace, and Bret said that he's never called Vince a murderer and that he doesn't hold him responsible for the death of Owen Hart, again missing the point a bit, but Deutsch moved on to questions about Owen.

 

Deutsch asked what could have been done differently to avoid what happened. Bret said he didn't feel the stunt was that smart in the first place and that Owen didn't need to come from the ceiling. Deutsch asked if it was right to continue doing the show live. Bret said that they didn't handle it right and that he's always disagreed with how it was handled, but in fairness, everyone was scrambling and you wonder what the right thing to do was. He said it was hogwash that the fans would have rioted if they stopped the show, and that the fans were shocked that the show carried on. Bret said that he was always shocked that Owen was taken out of the ring and they carried on the show, and that he would have done things differently. [Thanks to Mike Roe]

 

WWE TOURS MIDDLE EAST AGAIN

 

The WWE Raw crew, along with JBL from Smackdown, is touring in the Middle East again, visiting soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, wrestling, and taping a Raw episode. The Raw will air on Dec. 19.

 

WWE's trip is being chronicled by Rita Cosby on MSNBC. She was at Raw on Monday night, waving from the front row to the camera as they acknowledged her presence. She then joined the wrestlers on a military plane that took them to Afghanistan. She wrote online about her first days on the tour.

 

"When we arrived at this isolated locale, the young men and women were so thrilled to see their wrestling superheroes," Cosby said. "Many of the young soldiers recounted the wrestlers' regular phrases in the ring, and even some of the local Afghans told me who their favorite wrestlers are, most of them recounted guys like 'Big Show' and 'Triple H,' both enormous men who tower over the average Afghan man. More importantly, the Afghans told me how thankful they were that Americans liberated their country, and despite the rough conditions they are facing, every one of the American soldiers I spoke with said he or she was honored to serve our country and protect the freedoms we hold so dear."

 

On her MSNBC primetime show on Dec. 8, footage aired of various WWE wrestlers interacting with the troops. Carlito stayed in character, but most babyfaces and heels mingled together.

 

WWE NOTEBOOK

 

-WSOCTV reported that Ric Flair's wife, Beth, who has filed for divorce, is alleging that Ric slapped, kicked, choked, and bit her during the marriage. She also alleges both steroid and alcohol abuse. Ric has responded that Beth acted violently toward him over the years and he "feared for his physical and emotional safety." In contrast, in his autobiography "To Be The Man," published just last year, Flair wrote about Beth: "I'm lucky to be her husband. Beth has endured more than a woman should." He said he planned to spend the rest of his life with her to "prove to her that diamonds are forever."

 

-At the Dec.4 Smackdown/Velocity tapings in Columbia, S.C., they taped the following for Velocity: The Dicks beat Scotty 2 Hotty, Paul London & Brian Kendrick beat Vito & Nunzio, Simon Dean won a squash, Matt Harrdy pinned Sylvain. In a dark match, Ryan O'Riley pinned Aaron Averez.

 

-At the Columbia, S.C. Smackdown/Velocity tapings, Jeff Hardy was hanging out outside the arena, interacting with fans. PWTorch correspondent Elliot Sanchez writes: "He was walking around the arena with the fans. He looked very weird, he had some kind of gadget hooked on his back and arms making him walk real funny. We thought he was injured, but when posed for pictures with the fans he took it off and was moving along just fine doing weird poses. Then he put the gadget back on and walked to the parking lot. Also, someone who was with him was videotaping the whole thing."

 

-Besides what aired live on the Dec. 5 Raw, Heat was taped. Val Venis beat Rob Conway, Gregory Helms beat Brad Attitude Allen, and Trevor Murdoch beat Scotty Sabre. In an opening dark match, Ken Doane from OVW beat Caprice Coleman. In a short dark match after Raw, John Cena beat Chris Masters. Masters hit the ring as soon as they got Bischoff's trial set out of the ring and attacked Cena. Cena looked on the verge of breaking the Masterlock until Masters threw him down in disgust before Cena could do it. Cena won with the Five Knuckle Shuffle and an FU to close the show.

 

-WWE has issued a casting call through acting channels for a woman to portray Shelton Benjamin's mother on future episodes of WWE television. The casting call asks for the actor to be available on Mondays every week for about three to six months starting in about a month. The description of what they're seeking is: "50s, Black, large, great personality, willing to travel... This woman will travel every week to the various shows around the country and world."

 

-Matt Panasevich, a high school wrestler who recently defeated Reid Flehr, son of Ric Flair, commented on what was his 100th organized meet win: "It was pretty cool. You could see the resemblance in his face. He's a big dude, pretty strong. A nice kid, too. It was a good win."

 

-As part of WWE's NBC Universal deal, besides moving Raw to USA Network, WWE was going to get some Saturday night specials on NBC. Today WWE has announced that the first edition of Saturday Night's Main Event will be in March 2006, just in time to promote the WrestleMania pay-per-view.

 

-The International Boxing Hall of Fame sent out a newsletter with a short story on Edge visiting the center. Edge is noted to be a longtime boxing fan.

 

-A book industry source tells PWTorch that Chris Jericho has signed a deal with Warner Books to pen his memoir, tentatively titled "A Lion's Tale." It is described as being "about his formative years in the wrestling business, and how he went from the only blonde Canadian in Mexico to a wrestling star." This is not an official WWE book, as WWE's publisher is Simon & Schuster.

 

-Kane's movie, "See No Evil," will be released May 19, 2006. John Cena's "The Marine," will be released in September 2006. WWE is also looking into lower budget made-for-TV movies, but future movie projects will be held off until box office results are in for the Kane and Cena flicks.

 

-The entire WWE crew has the entire week leading up to Christmas off, but then wrestle Dec. 26-30, then get New Year's weekend off, before returning to a regular schedule. The Dec. 23 Smackdown will be a highlight show.

 

-The Nov. 28 Raw drew a 3.9 rating, which up against a strong Monday Night Football match-up, was encouraging.

 

-The Dec. 5 Raw drew a 4.1 rating, peaking with a 4.7 rating for the overrun featuring the verdict on Eric Bischoff's future as Raw G.M. WWE.com posted a list of "potential candidates" to replace Eric Bischoff as G.M. should he be fired by Vince McMahon on Monday. They are: Dusty Rhodes, Bret Hart, Jerry Jarrett, Paul Heyman, Sgt. Slaughter, and Chris Jericho. Dusty would be the front-runner of those, with Jarrett, Heyman, Bret, and Jericho as unlikely as Oprah.

 

-WWE has announced a tour of Mexico on Jan. 19-21 in Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey. Tickets go on sale Dec. 17.

 

-John Cena's "Bad Bad Man" song is being used for promotional purposes for the FX series "The Shield" The upcoming 5th season starts in January.

 

TORCH #890: TNA NEWSWIRE

TNA PRESIDENT ADDRESSES DRUGS

 

Dixie Carter says drugs are not a problem in TNA. "We keep very, very close tabs on our locker room situation," TNA President Dixie Carter told AudioWrestling.com. "We had some guys in trouble in the far past - Raven in the past. Most of the people we deal with don't drink anymore; whatever their demons were in the past they've kicked them." Dixie reasoned that because the wrestlers on TNA's roster don't fit the model of a WWE "bulked up" wrestler, a drug policy similar to WWE's isn't applicable to the company. "You can tell by looking at our roster that we're not necessarily about size," Dixie said. "You don't have to be a bulked up talent to be successful on our show. We have a different philosophy as far as the type of wrestler and style of wrestler."

 

When asked about WWE's implementation of a drug policy, Dixie said: "I applaud what they're doing. I respect what they're doing. Right now, we don't have any specific drug policy in place... We haven't really had any problems, so I don't know exactly where we're going to go." Dixie said she's talked to former WWE wrestlers who have gone through WWE's previous drug policy. "It's not a flawless system, but it's an important system," Dixie said. "There's such pressure on those guys. I can't imagine having to live with that kind of pressure having to compete where that's so important. I really feel for them."

 

When asked about building TNA and establishing a foundation for the company, Dixie said October 1 was the beginning of the company. "The first three years (were) research and development and investment money," Dixie said. "We've been very smart with our money as we continue to make more money and build a business foundation that when the money did start coming in that (losing money) would never be an issue with us."

 

TNA RATINGS REBOUND

 

TNA Impact from Saturday, Nov. 26 and Dec. 3 each drew a 0.8 rating with approximately 900,000 viewers tuned in for the one-hour show on Spike TV. The Monday night replay of Impact at midnight that falls one hour after Raw ends on USA Network has been drawing a consistent 0.5 rating over the last several weeks. The Nov. 26 rating increase from 0.6 to 0.8 can be attributed to not having to go head-to-head against a marquee college football match-up and fans taking a week to catch wind of Christian appearing in TNA. Currently, the demographics of TNA's audience is predominantly male (72%) with a median age of 35.

 

CHRISTIAN INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

 

Christian Cage says he left WWE on his own terms despite WWE offering a substantial contract to stay put. "They were very generous with me renegotiating. There was no lowball or anything like that," Christian told Between the Ropes radio last week. Christian also said he had already decided to leave WWE when his contract came due, no matter what renewal offer WWE presented. Christian decided that being on the road for eight years had placed too much of a strain on his well-being and that change was ultimately necessary.

 

Christian said the opportunity to work for TNA was a side effect of his decision to leave WWE's hectic lifestyle. Christian said he had saved up enough money working in WWE while living a conservative lifestyle in terms of money spent on lavish toys, which made his decision to leave behind the lucrative opportunity in WWE. Part of his reason for leaving WWE was to discontinue wrestling on the road each weekend, which is why Christian intends not to wrestle independent shows. The time away from the road has allowed his body to heal and recover from injuries.

 

Regarding the Torch's report from several weeks back that an upgrade in plane seating was one of the key factors in his decision to leave the company, Christian said the issue wasn't make-or-break, but it was something he heavily considered. "The plane tickets were an issue for me," Christian said. "I just felt with the amount of miles I put on my body and the amount of time that I had been in the company...I just wanted a little bit better travel. It wasn't like I was demanding first class tickets or anything like that. It's nothing like that at all."

 

MAINSTREAM PUB FROM MBL PLAYER

 

At the Nov. 29 Impact taping in Orlando, Bobby Heenan, Dale Torborg, and Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski made special appearances. Pierzynski's appearance made brief headlines in local Chicago newspapers, the White Sox website, USA Today, and on CNN broadcasts. Pierzynski will be returning to Orlando for the Dec. 11 Turning Point PPV, where he will be in the corner of Sonjay Dutt, Chris Sabin, and Dale Torborg as they take on the Diamonds in the Rough. Bobby Heenan's role was limited to pre-show involvement with Pierzynski and Torborg, but he will be a color commentator during the PPV. The entire in-ring portion of the segment expected to air on the Thursday, Dec. 8 one-hour edition of Impact.

 

"I've always thought pro wrestling was amazing, and when they approached me with this opportunity, it was hard to say no," Pierzynski told USA Today. "Being on Oprah was about as good as it gets, but this is right up there."

 

TNA NOTEBOOK

 

-TNA is teasing that the Dec. 11 PPV will feature a major surprise that will change the course of the industry. Word is, it will get a short-term buzz, but hardly change the industry in the long run.

 

TORCH #890: ETC. NEWSWIRE

-Dallas Page was in the news this week, including MTV.com's top story, for suing Jay Z, claiming he stole his "Diamond Cutter" hand gesture. Page is seeking an injunction and unspecified monetary damages. Page's lawyer said people were asking him on the street about it, and whether he had stolen Jay Z's signal.

 

-Lex Luger was not allowed into Canada for two indy shows last week at the University of Manitoba. Canadian officials did not specify why Luger was prohibited from entry, but said criminality is among potential reasons. Buff Bagwell, Scott Steiner, and April Hunter were held for 90 minutes each before being let through. Luger was sentenced to five years probation for illegal steroids found in his home when his girlfriend, Elizabeth, was found dead. He also was arrested twice for drunk driving. Luger was replaced at the last moment by Kip James (a/k/a Billy Gunn).

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TORCH #890: RAW REPORT

WWE Raw - 12/5

By Wade Keller and James Caldwell

 

THE BIG STORY

 

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Eric Bischoff was fired as Raw General Manager after enduring a trial that spanned the entire show. Following the previous week's cliffhanger moment of Vince McMahon declaring that he would "take out the trash," McMahon drove a garbage truck to the ring to begin the show. McMahon said he would fire Bischoff if he didn't prove his merit as G.M. in McMahon's court of law. The Coach was Bischoff's defense attorney while Mick Foley was the prosecutor. Throughout the show, various witnesses were called to testify in favor or against Bischoff regarding his performance while Vince McMahon played judge and listened - or didn't listen - to testimony. The show ended with in-ring closing arguments. John Cena interrupted and explained why Bischoff should be fired. Not even a previous argument from Triple H could save Eric Bischoff from being fired. McMahon tossed Bischoff inside the garbage truck and drove off to close the show.

 

MATCH RESULTS

 

(1) Big Show & Kane beat Val Venis & Viscera and Antonio & Romeo and Tyson Tomko & Snitsky to retain the World Tag Titles. Quick, easy squash match victory. Big Show and Kane played the babyface role after playing heels on Smackdown three days earlier. (n/a)

 

(2) Victoria (w/Candice Michelle and Torrie Wilson) beat Mickie James (w/Trish Stratus) with a quick roll up. The finish was supposed to be Candice striking Mickie in the forehead with her magic wand, but the head of the wand broke in mid-movement. Instead, Trish accidentally struck Mickie in the head with a side kick, which was aimed for Victoria. Afterwards, Mickie glared at Trish, who tried to play off her mistake. After a few moments, Mickie returned to her gleeful and appreciative persona as Trish's #1 fan. (n/a)

 

(3) Chavo Guerrero beat Lance Cade at 4:00 with the frog splash. Cade wrestled without Trevor Murdoch ringside and he introduced a more colorful version of his Southern tag team gimmick. The fans chanted "Eddie, Eddie" early in the match and Chavo paid tribute to Eddie with a mildly contested victory. (1/2*)

 

(4) Triple H beat Tajiri at 2:37. After Tajiri testified against Eric Bischoff and said he hopes Bischoff gets fired, Bischoff sent him back to the ring to face Triple H. Tajiri got in a surprising amount of offense before Triple H blocked a Tarantula attempt and hit the Pedigree for the win. (1/4*)

 

(5) Carlito & Kurt Angle (w/Daivari) beat Shelton Benjamin & Shawn Michaels at 11:30. Prior to the match, Shawn Michaels approached Shelton Benjamin backstage. Michaels said Benjamin has been a "zero" in WWE since achieving greatness as an amateur wrestler. Michaels's pep talk gave Benjamin a new attitude as he took control of the match in his home state. After Michaels took a hot tag later in the match, Michaels cleared the heels before setting up for sweet chin music on Carlito. Benjamin crawled to the apron from the floor and blind tagged himself into the match. Benjamin went up top and missed with a cross body attempt as Michaels stood in disbelief in the corner. Carlito quickly rolled up Benjamin for the victory. Afterwards, Michaels tried to be understanding despite showing his disappointment. Michaels extended a hand, but Benjamin ignored the handshake and walked away disgusted with Michaels. Interesting tease of a Benjamin heel turn. (**)

 

OTHER NOTES

 

Triple H and Stephanie McMahon were "introduced" to each other backstage by Vince McMahon. Triple H tried to defend Bischoff as G.M. because - as Vince put it - Triple H could manipulate Bischoff. Vince left Triple H and Stephanie alone and the real-life married couple shared an awkward moment as if they had never met before and fell in love at first sight... Edge and Lita debuted the "Cutting Edge" interview segment. Edge ran down Flair for his road rage incident before Michael Hayes and Sgt. Slaughter walked to the ringside area. Hayes told Edge the segment was over. Edge refused to listen and called out Hayes. Hayes responded with a strong promo about "kids" having easy schedules and not appreciating the previous generation. Hayes said he would give Flair the benefit of the doubt then pointed out that Edge has no title reigns and barely any main events on his resume. Edge responded that Hayes's former partner, Terry Gordy" is dead. Hayes quipped, "The only reason you've got this show is because you're banging Matt Hardy's ex-girlfriend." A brawl ensued with Edge getting the better of Hayes after using his metal briefcase. Another worked shoot on camera... MSNBC's Rita Cosby made an appearance from the front row to hype WWE's trip to Afghanistan. The show drew a 4.1 overall rating... Torch staff ratings: JP-3.0, BM-3.0, JC-4.5, PM-4.0, WK-3.0...

 

Mitchell Library

12-9-05: March 2006 (#890)

By Bruce Mitchell, Torch columnist

Dec 9, 2005, 22:46

 

 

"March 2006"

By Bruce Mitchell, Torch columnist

Originally published December 9, 2005

Pro Wrestling Torch Weekly newsletter #890

 

"The (drug testing) policy is going to be very fair. No special consideration for anyone," McMahon told the wrestlers last week.

 

- Associated Press, December 4, 2005

 

Although the consensus is that drug testing is in the company's best interest, few WWE wrestlers believe it will actually be a long-term, fully enforced policy. ?That'll last as long as it works to Vince's favor in a PR sense," one wrestler said. "Look at the roster. How many guys would they have to suspend if they really test everyone for steroids?"

 

- Pro Wrestling Torch, December 2, 2005

 

Three weeks after the death of Eddie Guerrero, just as wrestlers, their families, informed fans, and reporters have come face-to-face with harsh reality, working conditions for professional wrestlers have worsened. Appallingly, even after this high profile tragedy, WWE and TNA top management appear to be in no mood to change the environment that strongly contributed to the deaths and ruined lives of so many wrestlers over the years.

 

Before we get to the major issues in WWE, let's dispose TNA's total lack of action. TNA may have a much less rigorous schedule (wrestlers work about three nights a month for the company), but that's hardly because management cares any more about the wrestlers than WWE does. TNA can't run a regular schedule of shows because they'd take a financial bath, mostly because part-owner Jeff Jarrett insists on headlining.

 

TNA has a codicil included in all their contracts stating the company is not responsible, no matter what, for any deaths that may occur during its shows (even if they're negligent!). TNA regularly takes in the wrestlers whose chronic drug problems embarrass WWE. Two of those wrestlers, Chris Candido and Jerry "The Wall" Tuite, have died since working for TNA. The only public statement TNA owners have ever made about this issue came in the form of a "Show" rather than a "Tell," when co-owner Jeff Jarrett was caught at the Nashville airport with drug paraphernalia, the same type of pipe that was passed from one featured TNA wrestler (not Jarrett) to another after a show in a hotel this fall, nearly sending this wrestler - who had been workiing hard to stay clean - back to rehab.

 

Christian Cage decided to use TNA anyway to restore some balance in his life, because the schedule isn't changing until Jeff Jarrett leaves.

 

TNA has made no announcement of a drug testing policy, nor is any expected.

 

 

It's been over three weeks since Vince McMahon announced his company would institute an independent, random drug testing program that covered steroids and prescription pain medication. With the exception of WWE spokesman Gary Davis's assertion to the AP reporter (who called him) that "in light of the current focus on drug and steroid abuse issues in our country, we think implementing this new policy is the right thing to do for our performers, our fans, and our business" nothing at all has been publicly said. (In other words, their PR flack thought, like any true PR flack would, that drug testing was a good move because it's good PR now, what with all the stories out about drug testing in sports.)

 

The AP article lead to a wave of stories on WWE's new testing policy, effectively scotching any unsaid plans to stretch the planning stages of this new program until, say, never. So, let's imagine for a moment that WWE actually has an independent drug testing program for all performers in place that does what Vince McMahon said it will do, and it leaves the decisions about forcing rehabs, suspensions, and fines to the doctors that run it. (This assumes that, say, the top ten muscleheads in the company aren't "taken care of" by the company.) That raises a few questions:

 

-What happens when the WrestleMania main eventer flunks a drug test two weeks before the show and the doctor sends him to rehab for three months?

 

-What happens when Vince McMahon tells his independent drug expert that if Steve Austin and Kurt Angle could work Wrestlemania with broken necks and without medical clearance, then by god this main event can sober up for a night and work it too?

 

-What happens when the WrestleMania main eventer finds that currently undetectable Growth Hormone isn't doing the job without that underrated steroid component and the fans notice?

 

-What happens when a lot more wrestlers can't work in pain on only their prescribed dosages and recommended drug test levels and go home, money or no money, messing up the brand split and Stephanie McMahon's latest plan to put her own stamp on Sports Entertainment?

 

-What happens when wrestling goes old school and almost everyone drinks themselves into a coma every night because of the no pills, no drugs, no marijuana thing?

 

-What happens when some reporter reminds Vince McMahon of his pledge the last time his company had a drug testing program that he would take a drug test anytime, anywhere? What happens if that reporter has a specimen jar in his hand?

 

It takes time to build an independent drug testing program but, unlike in the aftermath of the Vince McMahon acquittal on federal drug distribution charges over a decade ago when there were virtually daily promises about the nature of the testing, there have been no public statements or even private speculation on who exactly might run this program. No one in WWE seems enthusiastic at all about taking this step.

 

McMahon's perfunctory press conference lead to speculation that, because of WWE's status as a publicly traded company and the timing of Phil Mushnick's scathing article the previous Sunday in the media capital's New York Post, strong political pressure to independently test WWE wrestlers may have come from any number of source. Perhaps former Connecticut Governor and current WWE Inc. Board of Directors member Lowell Weicker made a call. Or perhaps Arizona Senator John McCain, whose threat of federal legislation to drug test pro sports was a major consideration in Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig's decision to implement comprehensive testing; McCain, by the way, represents the state where Eddie Guerrero lived.

 

That Vince McMahon, whose need to control or punish everyone in his company has reached a destructive peak in recent months, would so quickly give up decision-making over how to handle drug testing results to a medical expert outside the company indicates he may have been forced into this decision by political pressure from people who care more about his sports entertainers than he or his family does, tearless crying and claims of "WWE family" aside.

 

Drug testing, as things stand now will make life much worse for the wrestlers who work for WWE. They will be caught between the requirements of testing and the pitiless demands of the job. WWE management has seen to it that the entire burden of dealing with the latest scandal rests with their exhausted talent crew. Wrestlers still have to deal with the absolute reality that bigger and more muscular gets the more lucrative spot, that they lose money they may never recover if they stay home to heal up injuries, and the unholy troika of constant travel, constant pounding, and the constant pressure of dealing with an increasingly incompetent and angry creative team. Now, suddenly, they have to deal with all that without steroids to maintain their physiques and endure the pain and lack of sleep with only their prescribed pills in dosages that after years of abuse are basically children's aspirn to them.

 

In the last three weeks the racheted up pressure has lead to the following:

 

-Nick Dinsmore, who considered Eddie Guerrero a close friend and mentor ever since he recommended him for a spot on the main roster, was not allowed to go to the funeral. Instead, he was forced to make the immediate, arduous trip to England, where he was expected to act out his on camera mentally impaired always happy Eugene character anytime he was seen in public. He made it less than a week, then passed out in a hotel lobby from an overdose of Soma pain pills. He was immediately suspended and sent to rehab. Because of PR considerations in the wake of Guerrero's death, Dinsmore's condition and its consequences were immediately made public in a way that had never happened before.

 

-Despite what happened to Eddie Guerrero, who was under tremendous pressure prior to his death to stay on the road and perform at a high level even after being told by his doctor to immediately retire, Dave Batista, a close friend of Eddie's, decided to neither take few months off to get the lat muscle he recently tore repaired, an injury more common to people with his muscle mass, nor take several weeks off to rest and rehab it. Batista knew if he left the road he would lose his lucrative place as Smackdown champion on the next pay-per-view, including perhaps WrestleMania, to Randy Orton, whose own chronic neck problems and erratic behavior have raised their own questions. Batista knew there was no guarantee he'd regain that spot, either. Batista, who noted his own "personal problems" while publicly mourning Guerrero's death on WWE programming, has taken on the painful challenge of traveling and working with a constantly sore back.

 

-Ric Flair reacted to the death of Guerrero, the announcing of drug testing, and the pressure of having, at 56 years old, to carry the man who he relies on for his half million dollar a year job to the best match on the show, by getting arrested for assault in his Charlotte, N.C. hometown. Flair was expected to manage this despite wrestling with a broken neck and back, despite physical problems that come along with forty years of heavy drinking compounded by doing what it took at his age to keep fans from yelling "Floppy Tits" at him. Flair allegedly kicked the victim's car and attempted to strangle him. Flair denied any wrongdoing, but it's hard to believe he would have been arrested without any physical evidence, like a car dent or scratches on the complaintant's neck, particularly in Charlotte, where he's respected as the local legend.

 

Things only got worse, both in Charlotte and nationally, for Ric Flair in the week to follow. His mug shot was circulated in the national media, complete with bruises and cuts from his Last Man Standing match, leading all who saw it to comment on how old old and beaten up he looked. Then the Charlotte media, looking for ratings just like WWE does, found Ric and Beth Flair's divorce papers. The embarrassment got worse for Flair, as local papers detailed his million dollar debt to the IRS, the dissolution of his family, and his wife's charges he beat her and exposed himself to others. Flair values his local icon status greatly and that may have been permanently damaged. As the week ended, those close to Flair worried about how he was taking all this and whether his job in WWE, a job he needed now more than ever, was in jeopardy.

 

Of course, this was all before WWE decided to humiliate Flair live on Raw in Flair Country (Charleston, South Carolina) by mocking his arrest and divorce revelations to get a rating. (Darn lawyers.) Notice how Flair stand-in Freebird Michael Hayes painted Edge as an ungrateful heel who wanted "a reduced schedule."

 

-After extensive speculation on the Internet and throughout pro wrestling that he was the person Wade Keller referenced as being on "deathwatch" (due to pain pill addiction) in his PWTorch cover story on Eddie Guerrero's death, Kurt Angle responded publicly, claiming he was "in perfect health" and that he would "NOT nor would I EVER do anything that would jeopardize my health or my life." Taken at face value, that's amazing news, since Angle has broken his neck three times, lost his own family in part due to the non-stop WWE schedule, and is obsessed with both being an All-Time Great and "regaining Vince McMahon's trust" after his chronic neck trouble so that he can have one more money-making run as the Raw champion.

 

The ramifications of having to ignore a broken neck to regain your employer's trust are obvious.

 

But if this is just another pro wrestling denial (and it would take just as much denial as it would toughness to accomplish what Kurt Angle has athletically) and something happens to an Olympic Gold Medalist on the sleazy pro wrestling promoters' watch, this statement is proof that WWE was aware of the problem. There will be no trotting relatives out to claim years of sobriety this time. The responsibility in this case would be clear.

 

There's probably nothing to all this, just like Angle says. After all, depending on Triple H's WrestleMania plans, Kurt Angle is about to take on the most stressful role, by all accounts, in the company, that of the Raw Brand champion. Even a paranoid megalomaniac wouldn't put his/her company in the path of the media shitstorm that would fly if something happened WWE clearly could have prevented.

 

(Hey, if the Ric Flair Mug Shot segment draws a rating why not dig up Kurt Angle's divorce papers. I bet there's some juicy stuff there that would make some great television and draw a big rating.)

 

-Vince McMahon's favorite new Smackdown Superstar, Ken Kennedy, suffered a lat tear more serious than the one Batista suffered. I wonder how Mr. McMahon will feel about a smaller Mr. Kennedy?

 

No word yet on whether Mr. Kennedy will stay on the road and continue to prove himself to Vince McMahon.

 

There's one other way the pressure may be increased for the wrestlers because of WWE's new comprehensive drug policy. They may very well be required to pay for this expensive program themselves. At least one WWE veteran claims privately that's what happened the last time WWE drug tested. He says payoffs went down just enough to make up the cost of the testing. That's exactly what happened because of another expense around the same time, when WWE spent five million dollars fighting the Federal government on the aforementioned drug charges. McMahon just sliced forty percent off his top management's salary to make up for it. Well, that's not quite true. He just cut forty percent off any top management that came from a pro wrestling background.

 

Extensive drug testing without extensive changes in the system that created this pain is simply more cruel to the wrestlers than what has gone before. For things to truly get better for both the company and its most valuable asset, which despite what some may think is not Vince McMahon or his family, the wrestlers' required way of life has to change as extensively as the proposed changes in drug policy.

 

The first, most obvious change is that the deadly grind of the schedule has to be reduced substantially. Everyone but WWE management recognizes this as the key component to any effective reform. The advertised house shows can certainly stand the change. WWE gave up on advertising specific matches on anything but televised events years ago and no one, even John Cena, really draws fans to house shows. Those talent crews can be easily rotated.

 

The only business reason the WWE schedule is so hard is to grind the boys down so they'll eat what they're served - creatively, financially, mentally and physically. And that hasn't worked so well lately. Witness Chris Jericho, Christian, and Eddie Guerrero's unnamed friend who told WrestlingObserver.com the following about the incompetent desecration of Eddie Guerrero's memory on the Smackdown Special :

 

"Everyone has the power to say ?No.' Booking reprisals be damned. There comes a time when you have to stand up for what you believe in. Vincent Kennedy McMahon may have a hissy fit for a few weeks, but with the talent roster as thin as it is right now, nothing bad would happen. Even if it did, it wouldn't last, because he has nobody else to carry the load. Shame on all of those guys."

 

If WWE wrestlers were given a three weeks on, two weeks off schedule (including, as Wade Keller has suggested, taping Raw and Smackdown a week or two ahead for those off-weeks, as was done 15 years ago to save money), they would have time to rest, to recuperate injuries, to train without the stress of the road, and to ease family tension. They would be less likely to endure injury, chronic or otherwise, and would put on fresher, better performances for the company.

 

To put it another way, WWE wrestlers would need less drugs.

 

That, though, would require Stephanie McMahon and John Laurenitas to concentrate their energy on writing schedules and detailed, intricate storylines that took into account periodic absences by the talent. They're demonstrably not up to the job, judging by TV shows that make less sense by the week, scheduling screw ups, and a complete lack of respect the two engender throughout the entire industry.

 

It's clear they know they deserve little respect, since they give the wrestlers so little. The two are much more interested in punishing anyone who points out their obvious mistakes. They make a habit of wasting television time, time which could be used to get over money-making wrestlers and storylines, to publicly embarrass valuable employees such as Jim Ross, Steve Austin, the late Eddie Guerrero and his family, Ric Flair, and Eric Bischoff. They spend their time obsessing over finding and punishing those who "leak" the overwhelming evidence of their obvious incompetence or finding Guerrero family members who'll say under financial pressure that they're not exploiting the deaths of wrestlers for TV ratings while refusing to help the ones left alive.

 

By the way, Eddie Guerrero did not exploit the memory of his Los Gringo Locos tag partner Art Barr or the memory of his father, Mexican wrestling legend Gory Guerrero, to draw heat and money when those ideas were pitched for him. He would not have been comfortable with what happened on Smackdown that Tuesday night, or of the exploitation of his grieving family members. Rey Mysterio, in particular. was wrong to participate in the skit. The McMahons and Laurenitas have neither the time nor the inclination to fulfill their responsibility to protect the athletes who create the revenue they make with little help.

 

As for the steroid part of the drug testing, WWE Creative can simply stop pushing both prospects and established wrestlers in whole or in part because of their size. They can use the vast power of their multi media marketing machine not to tear down people but to educate their fans to not judge wrestlers by muscle mass. They can use the power of television to match wrestlers of similar size so neither look small.

 

They should do this, in other words, so WWE wrestlers would need less drugs.

 

Anyone wondering about how serious WWE management is about helping their wrestlers avoid the enlarged hearts and damaged organs that are symptoms of steroid use can do drug testing of their own and rely on the evidence of their own eyes. Watch the pushes of Bobby Lashley and Chris Masters from here on out.

 

Better yet, watch the size of Triple H, the published bodybuilding enthusiast, and Vince McMahon, the sixty year old man who miraculously healed two blown quadriceps in record time and celebrated by mocking Randy Orton, returning from his neck injury, for his diminished size.

 

Professional wrestlers struggling with the direction of their lives and careers ought to take one last thing into consideration. It's a wrestling tradition of long standing that, unlike their peers in Major League Baseball, the NBA, and the NFL who are guaranteed by contract sixty percent or so of their sport's gross, professional wrestlers are paid a rule of thumb twenty five percent of the gate, and that's by the more honest promoters.

 

What kind of health benefit, insurance, 401K, or retirement plan could be funded for wrestlers with even part of that missing thirty five percent of the gross? What kind of traveling medical staff could be funded to watch over the health of the wrestlers? What kind of travel accommodations could be made?

 

How much more money would WWE generate with a healthier, more motivated talent pool that was augmented, instead of sabotaged, by an intelligent, competent WWE Creative and an intelligent, competent CEO?

 

How much more money would wrestlers make if some of that ninety million dollars expected to be paid in dividends to Vince McMahon and stockholders made its way into their pockets instead?

 

How many lives could be saved, families spared, and futures ensured if the McMahon family cared?

 

I suggest a good time for WWE wrestlers, past and present, to consider would be the month of March.

 

 

Edge: What about the Detroit Tigers? Didn't take enough steroids, huh? Or enough amphetamines?

 

Dmitri Young: Yeah, maybe, but then we ain't dying.

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Keller Library

What do today's wrestlers owe the industry? (#890)

By Wade Keller, Torch editor

Dec 10, 2005, 03:16

 

 

This Week with Wade Keller

By Wade Keller, Torch editor

Original Headline: What do today's wrestlers owe the industry?

Originally Published: December 10, 2005

Torch Newsletter #890

 

What do today's wrestlers owe the industry? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

 

Michael Hayes, the party animal whose now looked down on by many for never growing out of it, is the last person who should be preaching anything to today's wrestlers about what they owe the industry. On Raw this week, he walked to the ring and explained to Edge, among other things, that wrestlers today should better appreciate, if not emulate, the wrestlers of the past who paved the road they now use to earn their livelihoods.

 

Hayes, as part of his script, was speaking for Ric Flair and others of that generation. Has Hayes looked in a mirror lately? Does he really wish his current existence upon this generation when they're his age, having to kiss Vince McMahon's ass to keep a lacky job in the only industry in which they have qualifications? Does he really expect Edge, Christian, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, Paul London, Brian Kendrick, Matt Hardy, Ken Kennedy, and others of this generation in their primes to want to become him? Or become Ric Flair, for that matter?

 

Ric Flair's week isn't a crash in an otherwise pristine life. It's just the curtain being pulled aside to reveal what his life has always been. Flair is perhaps the greatest wrestler of all?time on the basis of a wide array of criteria. His on?air image is beloved. His great matches are cherished. His signature "wooo!" will live on beyond his years. He has brought smiles, laughter, joy, and excitement to many fans for several decades. For that he should be grateful.

 

There was a price for that, though. A price not every wrestler should be expected to pay, nor a price the Ric Flairs of this or the next generation should necessarily have to pay. Flair wasn't around for the raising of his first son, David, who grew up in Minnesota while Flair was jet?flying and limousine riding throughout the country. He was, according to allegations in divorce papers (that don't differ from his well?known reputation in the industry or his own confessions in his autobiography), a lousy husband and father much of his life. He made millions and, just as quickly, burned through millions.

 

Balance was not a priority for Flair. Foresight wasn't, either. Psychoanalysis may reveal an ADD personality trait that drove him. Or a need for adrenaline and excitement and public admiration. Or perhaps a feeling that he had to live up to the examples set by the previous generation of Dick the Bruisers and Harley Races who partied and drank all night, every night, for decades.

 

Whatever the motivation or cause, Flair is left a broken man in his late 50s. In this era, the late 50s for many is a time to reap the rewards of a life of hard work. It's when children have moved out, IRAs and 401Ks have matured, decades of shared sacrifice with a partner are now ready to pay off with years of well?earned self?indulgence. Thanks to advances in medicine, wellness techniques, and technology, one's late?50s is not considered the final chapter of life for most, but rather a new beginning, with decades left to enjoy (in good health) the company of family, friends, vacations, or just tranquility. Or perhaps going to college for the first or second time. Or working for little or no money at a passion one has always had, but had to put on the backburner during the primary earning years. Or volunteering for a worthy charitable cause.

 

For Michael Hayes and Ric Flair, they haven't had time for to set the stage for this chapter of their lives. The wrestling business didn't allow that. They were too busy being a slave to the honor code that wrestlers self?destructively hold themselves to, one which wrestling promoters for decades have benefited from. "Time?honored tradition" is a phrase that Vince McMahon has often repeated, reenforcing that his business has a history of expected conduct, and when everyone acts that way, the system works.

 

Does it work? Finger?pointing aside, this business has a pile of dead bodies and broken families to be held accountable for. Pro wrestling is different than other sports and other entertainment fields. For most, it begins before what might be college or apprenticeship years learning a trade. It starts in one's early?twenties (and sometimes teens), lasts throughout one's thirties, and if one is "lucky" enough to still be in demand rather than tossed aside, one's forties and even fifties. Pro football and basketball players usually go to college before becoming pros. As pros, they have union representation to protect their interests - including strict regulation of what teams can demand of them during the off?season in terms of practices and personal appearances. When they retire, they have retirement plans in place.

 

Experts on other sports might poke holes in the system and suggest improvements, but other systems are worlds better than pro wrestling's.

 

Pro wrestlers are as much actors as they are athletes these days. But unlike every actor who stars in the TV series and movies that precede and follow Raw and Smackdown, pro wrestlers don't have union representation.

 

The biggest crock is the independent contractor status. Wrestlers are contracted to WWE and they have no independence to work for anyone else. They can't barter their time against another bidder. They can't decide to take six months off to be with a sick family member without violating their contract. They can't get pregnant without fearing they'll be laid off (just ask Dawn Marie). They can't even decide what their price is before they work; unlike any other independent contractor I know of, they do the assigned task and then the beneficiary (Vince McMahon) decides what they deserve to get paid. Anyone know a plumber who works under those conditions, who waits for your check to arrive hoping you decided to pay him a decent amount (dependent, of course, on how your finances were that month)?

 

Vince McMahon likes to talk of WWE as a "family." He refers to wrestlers as family, but he doesn't treat them as any decent family member would. Instead, his stock holders and his blood relatives are treated as family. They are his top priorities. There comes a point, though, where blaming Vince McMahon for acting like a ruthless, selfish, crass, money?driven wrestling promoter (who knocks you down before building you up so you are brainwashed into believing you owe everything to him) is like blaming a scorpion for stinging the frog in the old proverb.

 

There comes a point where wrestlers need to take responsibility for themselves. Finally, a few are, such as Chris Jericho and Christian. But so far it has only been in the self?interest of each wrestler. No one has stepped up for the greater good.

 

Jesse Ventura talked about wanting to step up for the greater good at various points during and after his career. But selfish interests always stopped him from doing anything of substance for the industry on a whole. One month he was speaking out on Larry King Live that if wrestlers had union representation, Owen Hart wouldn't have had to attempt the stunt that cost him his life. A few months later, WWE dangled a reported seven?figure check in front of him to be a special guest referee at Summerslam, and Ventura immediately and unapologietically revised his criticism of WWE. Unions didn't seem so important anymore now that he could buy himself a few extra adult toys to play with his payday. Owen who?

 

The WWE system is set up with rewards that inevitably buys the silence of anyone with the power to do anything to ignite change.

 

If a wrestler earning $150,000 (minus road expenses) tries to speak up for the greater interest of the locker room, he is released and replaced with an eager indy wrestler star?struck by the big lights, TV exposure, and prospects of a high?six?figure salary in a few years. There are plenty of young wrestlers more than happy to do what is asked of him for whatever McMahon is "generous enough" to pay.

 

A wrestler earning several hundred thousand dollars a year may have more clout than the $150,000 a year wrestler, but he has more to lose. If he speaks up about collective bargaining or wanting more time off, he may find himself moved down the card to the $150,000 slot and lose any chance at ever joining the vaunted Million Dollar Club.

 

Who would selflessly risk long?term security for his family on the gamble that a union or even a less formal collective bargaining set?up would ever come to fruition? The Rock didn't. Steve Austin didn't. Hulk Hogan didn't. Ric Flair didn't. Mick Foley didn't. Kurt Angle hasn't. Triple H hasn't. JBL hasn't. They were all "taken care of" financially. McMahon makes sure those with the power to enact change have the financial incentive to preach about how well the system works as is. The argument: Opportunity for everyone exists - assuming you are one of the chosen few and, of course, you live long enough to take advantage of it.

 

That system is what McMahon banks on. It's why he can cut salaries and cry poverty while collecting tens of millions of dollars in stock dividends. He can claim that's simply how the system the works and always has. He's right. But if he's going to play within that system - which is his choice - where the primary responsibility he feels is to deliver good news to largely anonymous stock holders every three months, then he ought to stop throwing the word "family" around.

 

What father would tell a son who wanted guitar lessons that he has a greater obligation to his Men's Club members who expect a new mahogany floor installed in place of the perfectly fine oak floor that's being torn up? What brother would tell his sister that her need for a loan for day care for her twin boys isn't as important as paying for a new six?figure lobby in his law firm to dazzle high?end clients?

 

Never before has the system been so transparent, and therefore never before have wrestlers been so easily labelled cowards for accepting the system. It's obscene that Hayes, basically in exchange for keeping his job (which pays him more than anything else he could do, which McMahon knows and banks on), preaches to Edge about his generation whining about wanting time off just weeks after Eddie Guerrero died - because time off was exactly what he needed. It is also obscene that Chavo Guerrero was marched out to say "Eddie would have wanted it this way" in reference to his name and signature low?rider being used to forward Rey's babyface push and Randy Orton's feud with Undertaker - because Eddie's past actions suggest the total opposite.

 

Christian and Chris Jericho didn't have the clout individually to enact change. They did have the chance to opt out of the system, and they took it. They set one example.

 

A better example would be for someone with the security that came from saving well the last five or so years to step up, pull some colleagues aside, do some studying of collective bargaining, discuss options with someone who's been through it before (as Jim Brunzell did in the mid?'80s, as noted in a "Torch Talk" years ago), and find out if the system can be changed.

 

What Hayes and Chavo were asked to do over the past week should be all the evidence today's non?Million Dollar Club members need that McMahon won't do the right thing on his own. Flair and Hayes are not the role models wrestlers should be patterning their lives and careers after. They are the sad examples of what could happen to them, if they're "lucky enough" to be needed well into their 50s. Then there are the discards without pension, without financial security, without their health, without the education to land on their feet, whose best hope is for a weekend at a Hall of Fame ceremony to acknowledge their contributions.

 

Most of today's WWE wrestlers are sacrificing without any guarantee that they'll have the stature of Flair to earn six?figures well past their prime. Most of today's wrestlers, in fact, will be utilized by McMahon only so long as they make him money, and only so long as they don't rock the boat.

 

Million Dollar Club members JBL, Triple H, Kurt Angle, Shawn Michaels, and Big Show are performing in the Middle East this week for the troops who are risking their lives for this country. Upon returning home, they ought to think about what can be done for the wrestlers who are risking their lives quite literally - as evidenced by Eddie Guerrero, Crash Holly, Rick Rude, Curt Hennig, Chris Candido, Louie Spicolli, Brian Pillman, Owen Hart, et al - to provide the vital undercard that helps them earn their millions. Instead of just shedding tears on highly rated TV specials, they ought to consider doing something more concrete for their colleagues who are alive in honor of those who have died.

 

Maybe it's time for them to step away from their own bank statements and online stock updates, put themselves in the shoes of someone who can't walk away when they want with the financial security that they themselves already have, and figure out a way to change their system. One ripe for change. Do it for Eddie. Create a new Code of Honor.

 

Here are a few suggestions:

 

?Look into unionizing or some form of collective bargaining.

 

?Insist on employee status for all. Why does Joey Styles now get medical benefits but Kurt Angle and Undertaker don't?

 

?Insist on retirement benefits after a certain number of years (say, three) of full time service to the company.

 

?Require counselers be made available periodically on the road for confidential consultations about family or emotional problems.

 

?Require official financial guidance, whether they become employees or remain independent contractors, in group sessions and individually so wrestlers understand tax laws, how to benefit from tax write?offs, etc. (Should wrestlers do this on their own? Of course. The ones who most need it, though, are the least likely to take action on their own.)

 

?Create a retirement organization, which active wrestlers would help fund, that would create a way for tenured wrestlers to stay in touch, be available to provide guidance and advice to young wrestlers, and take part in group events years after retirement.

 

This would be a start.

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Powell Library

Guerrero Tribute, Benoit?Regal, Drug Testing (#890)

 

Dec 10, 2005, 11:21

 

 

On Topic with Jason Powell

Headline: Guerrero Tribute, Benoit?Regal, Drug Testing

Originally Published December 10, 2005

Torch Newsletter #890

 

GUERRERO TRIBUTE

 

Two years ago I wrote a column celebrating the fact that Eddie Guerrero had completed a treatment program and had reunited with his family prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. At the time, the story had a happy ending. Of course, life goes on and so much can change in two years time. As we all know, Eddie Guerrero passed away last month at the age of 38.

 

Unfortunately, there is no way to give this column such a happy ending. Nothing will bring Eddie Guerrero back to his family and friends or even to the fans who enjoyed watching him perform throughout his career. His death was truly a tragedy and I've been somewhat surprised by the effect it's had on so many wrestling fans.

 

I never doubted Guerrero's popularity, but it was truly refreshing to see fans from different backgrounds come together to mourn the passing of one of their favorites. The petty chat room bickering between fans stopped. They paid their respects through thoughtful tributes published on various websites including our own and WWE.com. And the fans who attended the Raw and Smackdown tapings at Target Center the day of his death were magnificently respectful to Guerrero and his grieving co?workers.

 

One of the many things I was reminded of when I watched the two shows produced at the tapings is what a rare breed pro wrestlers are. Two years ago, the national sports media was buzzing about how courageous Brett Favre was for playing just a matter of days after his father passed away. Not to take anything away from Favre, but he's got nothing on the performers in the WWE locker room.

 

Among those workers were Rey Mysterio and Chris Benoit, who were extremely close with Guerrero. The fact that they managed to show up for work that day let alone wrestle matches and offer emotional video tributes is a testament to their professionalism. The same can be said about Konnan, who was also close with Guerrero and managed to work the TNA pay?per?view that same night.

 

I can't even begin to express my admiration for Chavo Guerrero. It's hard enough to lose a close a friend and still show up for work, but Chavo found his uncle's body, presumably spent most of his day speaking to everyone from grieving friends to police authorities to distraught family members, and yet he still had a smile on his face when the cameras were turned for the memorable tribute to the man he considered an older brother.

 

Whether you buy into the "show must go on" mantra or felt that WWE was callous for not cancelling the tapings, I hope that you took a moment to appreciate how special the performers in this business we follow truly are. We analyze their matches, criticize their promos, rip the storylines they are involved in, and even scrutinize what takes place out of the ring. It's all part of being a fan and it's nothing that anyone should feel guilty about. That being said, another part of being a fan is taking a step back and appreciating the efforts of the sport/business you choose to follow.

 

These performers are on the road and away from their families over 200 days each year. They don't have an offseason. They don't receive medical coverage from the company they generate millions of dollars for. In some cases, they put their lives on the line or at least in the hands of their co?workers when they enter the ring and perform breathtaking stunts while doing everything they can just to entertain us. Despite all of the bickering I've done over the years, I haven't forgotten the sacrifices these performers make and just how difficult their line of work is. As a fan, I hope you haven't either.

 

BENOIT VS. REGAL

 

On the December 1 edition of Smackdown, Chris Benoit wrestled William Regal in a match that frustrated me. For starters, no one bothered to explain why Benoit was working the match in the middle of his best?of?seven series with Booker T. In order for fans to buy into the best?of?seven as a special event, the wrestlers involved in the series should be focussing all of their attention on those particular matches.

 

Just imagine if the Chicago White Sox had used their one of their off days during the World Series to scrimmage against a team of minor league all?stars. The media would have been buzzing about the risk of injuries and fatigue. In WWE, Benoit's match was treated as any other Smackdown match.

 

One simple storyline that could have been incorporated into the match is that Booker T had somehow managed to clear his schedule during the best?of?seven series. Contrarily, Benoit could have looked like a hero for keeping his usual schedule or even sympathetic for being forced to honor his commitments.

 

What's even more frustrating is that Regal fired off a beautiful looking kick to Benoit's head, which was against the ringpost at the time of impact. It was the most convincing move on the entire edition of Smackdown. Years ago, such a move would have been saved for a major injury angle. On Smackdown, it drew a few oohs and aahs from the fans, but was treated as just another move. Benoit sold the kick as if he'd been shot, yet he still came back to win the match a short time later.

 

Had anyone been thinking ahead, another possible storyline for this match could have had Booker T offering Regal a bounty of some sort to soften up Benoit. Had Benoit been allowed to sell the kick for at least a week or two, Booker and Regal would have earned massive heel heat, while Benoit would have earned sympathy from the fans. The same vicious kick that most fans forgot about five minutes after the match ended could have been a major focal point in the series. If Benoit went on to win the series, he would have overcome incredible odds by not only defeating Booker, but by shaking off a serious head injury. For that matter, the kick could have been used to explain Booker winning the series.

 

Granted, the creative team may not have even been aware that Regal was going to perform this kick during the match. However, that doesn't excuse the fact that they failed to use the Benoit vs. Regal match to enhance the best?of?seven series.

 

DRUG TESTING POLICY

 

On the surface, WWE's new drug testing policy is a step in the right direction. As James Caldwell pointed out two weeks ago, there are still a number of questions that need to be answered before we'll know how serious Vince McMahon is this time around.

 

Unfortunately, it won't take much for WWE to top the other major sports' testing policies. The drug testing that takes place in the major professional sports is a joke, particularly in the National Football League. Each year, players are tested once for recreational drug use.

 

According to an article written by former NFL player Chris Collinsworth, players are tested for recreational drug use once per year. However, the players are "given a specified date and plenty of advanced warning" before they are forced to take their test. "If a player fails a test for recreational drugs, he must have a serious addiction problem," Collinsworth writes. No kidding.

 

In other words, the league doesn't really frown on players who use marijuana during the season. Case in point, Oakland Raiders wide receiver Randy Moss admitted earlier this year in an interview broadcast on HBO that he has smoked pot in the past and hinted that he still does during the season. The league's response? A fine? A suspension? Nope. Nothing. In other words, the league doesn't really care if players are using certain substances.

 

Don't get me wrong, I don't think players or wrestlers should be tested for something as harmless as smoking a joint. I'm just saying that if the NFL can pick and choose which substances it can go after, it gives WWE precedent to do the same. Personally, I couldn't care less if a wrestler takes a few tokes back in his hotel room following a long match. What does concern me is that WWE could just as easily pick and choose which muscle?enhancing drugs it won't test for.

 

If they do choose to look the other way when it comes to certain enhancers, WWE apparently won't be alone. The NFL launched it's steroid testing policy in the late 1980s. Yet just this past summer, several current and former members of the Carolina Panthers were identified as patients of Dr. James Shortt, who was illegally providing them with steroids. The NFL tests its players randomly and repeatedly throughout the season, yet there was no record of any player identified in the investigation ever testing positive.

 

This tells me that the NFL's testing policy, which had been praised as the most stringent in all of sports, isn't all it's cracked up to be. So one of the many questions I have regarding WWE's policy is whether company officials follow suit by adopting a policy that will allow them to toot their own horn to the media even while knowing that nothing has truly changed, or if they will actually make a wholehearted attempt to clean up the locker room. If Vince McMahon ever touts the fact that his testing policy is just as stringent as the one used by the NFL, then we'll know very little has changed.

 

McNeill Library

12-10-05: Note to WWE: More Wrestlers, Not Fewer

By Pat McNeill, Torch columnist

Dec 10, 2005, 11:22

 

 

"McNeill Factor"

Headline: Note to WWE: More Wrestlers, Not Fewer

Originally published: December 10, 2005

Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter #890

 

Two Promotions In One: When the World Wrestling Federation bought out the remnants of World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling in 2001, Vince and Linda McMahon saw a golden opportunity ahead of them.

 

Pay?per?view wrestling events are a big gravy train of profit for WWE. Thanks to the death of their competition, WWE was the only major wrestling company running pay?per?views. WWE could expand to the point where they'd own two different wrestling promotions, then have each promotion run their own set of pay?per?views. WWE's original plan was to steadily increase the number of major shows each year until they were running twenty pay?per?views annually by 2006. But that hasn't materialized. It now looks as if WWE will never reach that goal.

 

Why hasn't WWE been able to follow through on this plan? Well, there are a number of reasons. WWE completely mismanaged the wrestling invasion storyline of 2001, due to their lack of knowledge of World Championship Wrestling and what WCW fans would want to see.

 

However, the biggest thing that killed WWE's expansion was the company's own greed. WWE wanted the increased revenue that comes with running two successful wrestling promotions. But WWE wasn't interested in spending the amount of money that it would take to operate those two promotions. The company did not have the proper infrastructure to proceed. The WWE wrestlers, the people who were needed to help get the new company over, didn't have any financial incentive to do so.

 

As a result, the whole project fizzled in less than nine months, and WWE had to launch a watered?down brand extension the next year. WWE currently runs fifteen pay?per?views per year. The three additional pay?per?views, New Year's Revolution, ECW One Night Stand, and Taboo Tuesday, all revolve around gimmicks that don't require a brand extension.

 

The Missing Headliners: Flash forward to the end of 2005, where WWE's brand extension is in critical condition. One of the big headline matches for this month's Smackdown pay?per?view features Smackdown's two top babyfaces, Dave Batista and Rey Mysterio, taking on the Raw tag team champions, Kane and Big Show. Of course, there's no storyline explanation for the move.

 

The real explanation is that WWE is woefully shorthanded on top, with a number of top wrestlers on the shelf. Here's a partial breakdown of the... um... breakdown...

 

Dave Batista: Smackdown heavyweight champion. Working through a very painful torn latissimus dorsi muscle. An already limited worker now hampered by injury.

 

Ken Kennedy: The odds?on favorite to be Smackdown's next top heel. He suffered a worse muscle tear than Batista, and is out an estimated six months.

 

Chris Jericho: Former WWE champion and WrestleMania headliner. Jericho is "on sabbatical" until the next time he's strapped for cash. That may be never.

 

Steve Austin: Austin is still working for WWE Films and was more than willing to come out of retirement until he fell out with Vince McMahon over the Jim Ross firing and how he was being used to promote the demeaning storyline.

 

Mick Foley: After a lackluster performance at Taboo Tuesday, Foley was sent home, presumably to get himself back in working condition. Meanwhile, the Hardcore Legend is collecting top dollar from WWE for, well, not working for TNA.

 

Hulk Hogan: The grand old man of professional wrestling works a limited schedule, and probably won't be popping up again until we get closer to WrestleMania.

 

Eugene Dinsmore: After passing out in a hotel lobby during WWE's last UK swing, Mr. Dinsmore is recuperating. No word as to whether he'll ever regain the popularity which got him a match against Triple H at SummerSlam last year.

 

Rob Van Dam: Dude! Knee injuries are a bummer.

 

Edge: The bad news is that Mister Money in the Bank is down for the foreseeable future with a torn pectoral muscle. The good news is that while Adam Copeland is out, WWE doesn't have to explain why Edge isn't being used in main events. He's now filling the gap left by the departures of Jericho and Christian by hosting a talk show.

 

Roddy Piper: The Hot Scot was supposed to be in a major match with Bob Orton at Survivor Series, but that was scrapped due to him breaking his hand.

 

None of that includes two brand name wrestlers who have sparked controversy in recent months. Kurt Angle is reportedly wrestling through constant pain, according to an interview he did with his hometown newspaper. Ric Flair is fifty?six years old, is going through a messy divorce, and was part of a high?profile road rage incident that made headlines last week. Flair and Angle should be taken off of a full schedule until their issues are resolved. But with the shortage of other major names, and Batista "setting an example" of wrestling through his injury, the odds of that seem slim.

 

Short Handed: According to WWE.com, the company currently averages about 80 wrestlers on its roster, 40 on Raw and 40 on Smackdown. That seems like an awful lot until you take into account that the 40 on Raw include part?timers like Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin (actually listed on the Raw website). The number includes managers such as Shawn Daivari and Lita, plus injured and otherwise incapacitated performers such as Rob Van Dam and Eugene. WWE ends up with just enough wrestlers to get by for its weekly six hours of first?run television and house shows.

 

Plus, even with 80 wrestlers to choose from, sometimes it isn't enough. WWE still uses non?contracted performers as enhancement talent on its television shows. They are also not above pressing their developmental talent into house show duty. This past weekend alone, house show fans got to see Mike "The Miz" Mizanin, Matt Cappotelli, and Ken Doane. They're all promising wrestlers, but they're not officially part of the Raw and Smackdown rosters.

 

How many wrestlers should Raw and Smackdown have under contract? A little research reveals that ten years ago, during the start of the Monday Night Wars, World Championship Wrestling had 54 wrestlers under contract. Even if that seems high, let's say that WWE goes with 50 wrestlers on Raw and 50 on Smackdown, for a total of 20 extra wrestlers. That should be more than enough to cover for wrestler injuries, positive drug tests, and other unforeseen circumstances.

 

Plus, even with the drug testing, WWE has another major problem to address. The grind of the company's touring schedules has been a major factor for those wrestlers who have chosen to practice their trade outside WWE. Twenty more wrestlers means a lighter road schedule for everyone and a chance for WWE performers to rest their battered bodies. It would also help cover WWE's increased schedule of overseas tours.

 

Instead, the current rumor has WWE moving in a different direction. There's talk of WWE releasing another eight to ten contracted wrestlers before the holidays in order to offset the revenue drop from WWE's sagging television revenue and cover the tens of millions of dollars being spent on dividends for stockholders, such as Vince McMahon and his family, each quarter. Maybe the promotions will replace the casualties with lower?priced newcomers, or maybe they'll expect their remaining performers to pick up the slack. Either way, it's a short?sighted solution to what isn't a major issue.

 

Why wouldn't WWE want the security of additional performers under contract? Well, 20 WWE wrestlers working for an average of $100,000 per year means WWE is shelling out an extra $2 million dollars a year, or $500,000 per quarter. Think of what that would do to WWE's shareholder profits. Instead of the $11 million Vince McMahon cleared last quarter, he'd have ended up making $10.5 million.

 

The Benefits: But the benefits of the additional talent could easily outweigh the costs. If the promotion had more wrestlers, it would be easier for WWE to present fresh matches on its television shows and pay?per?views. If Raw and Smackdown had more fresh matchups to present, WWE wouldn't have to have its wrestlers cross brands as often. This would make the brand extension more meaningful, and that might, in turn, make WWE's single?brand pay?per?views more meaningful.

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Caldwell Library

DVD REVIEW: The Bret Hart Story is history - Bret's version of history, that is (#890)

 

Dec 10, 2005, 11:24

 

 

The Perspective with James Caldwell

By James Caldwell, Torch columnist

Original Headline: DVD REVIEW: Tears, ego, and Montreal

Subheadline: The Bret Hart Story is history - Bret's version of history, that is

Originally Published: December 10, 2005

Torch Newsletter #890

 

Tears were choked back. Egos were massaged. Stories were recounted from Bret's sole perspective. Brief accounts of historically significant events were presented in the equivalent of 30?second sound bytes. In two hours, the Bret Hart DVD chronicles Bret's beginnings in Canada, rise to prominence in WWE, and career?ending moments in WCW. Along the way, Bret leaves questions unanswered, issues unresolved, and controversies oversimplified.

 

Bret's strategy is clear throughout. Divulge his side of the story in an appeal to his fan base. Never introduce new information to dispute what historians have already covered. It's a fan?friendly story told through the eyes of someone who still has a chip on his shoulder and whose need for acceptance drove him to defy pro wrestling's unwritten standards. Yet, through Bret's view on the events that involved him, there's truth in his words. It's just hard to pick out the truth when so much of the story is filtered to flatter Bret.

 

They say the winners of war get to write the history books. Since March 2001 when WWE bought WCW, Vince McMahon has been doing just that through its official DVDs and books. Whether it's the one?sided Monday Night Wars DVD or "us vs. him" perspective on the Ultimate Warrior, WWE has internalized its presentation of history and clearly laid out the options. Collaborate or be exploited for profit. History isn't forgiving to those who choose the latter.

 

But why did Bret choose to collaborate with WWE? After all, before shaking hands with Vince McMahon on the DVD project, Bret stated he didn't want to work with Vince McMahon, whom he lost respect for in Montreal at Survivor Series 1997. He chose to work with McMahon because he knew his career wouldn't be presented favorably on a DVD authorized by WWE otherwise. Shawn Michaels would have the last say on Montreal. Vince McMahon would detail his side of contract negotiations. Bret Hart's role would have been likened to Ultimate Warrior - ridicule and half?truths. Bret understood who controls the forum. He wanted to be part of it.

 

"I'd like to thank Bret for being big enough to put personal and professional differences aside as we present to you, arguably, the story of one of the greatest technicians and storytellers of all time," Vince McMahon magnanimously states at the beginning of the DVD. "This is a joint production of Bret Hart and WWE."

 

In working the biography trail discussing the DVD project, Bret says the DVD is meant to be a positive reflection on his career. He didn't want WWE to own the story. The desire for history to reflect his point of view superseded his desire to maintain self?imposed principles and shun WWE. Bret felt he needed to present the story. He wants to make it clear he was never accepted and constantly had to fight for what he believed in, both in the ring and behind the curtain. On the DVD, the spotlight is fixated directly on Bret, telling his story his way.

 

On the DVD, each stage of Bret's career begins with a conflict. Some conflicts are resolved nicely. Some conflicts still linger in 2005. One thing's for sure, though. Bret's involvement in pro wrestling was never a matter of if, but rather when.

 

Growing up in the Hart wrestling family where his father, Stu Hart, ran Stampede pro wrestling, there was an expectation that Bret would become a wrestler. It wasn't overtly pushed on him by Stu; it was more an assumed career choice. Like a doctor giving his young son a stethoscope and medical books, Stu made sure the suggestion was there. As Bret said, he couldn't say no to Stu.

 

"He always saw a lot of himself in me," Bret says. It pleased Stu to see Bret pursue amateur wrestling, but Bret was left unfilled. Instead, Bret became a professional wrestler.

 

Subconsciously or just hidden within the message, Bret has a chip on his shoulder. Without saying it, Bret sets up his family to shoulder the burden of his later trials in the wrestling business: If only I wasn't born into this family... If only I didn't grow up in wrestling... If only wrestling wasn't forced on me... I wouldn't have all this loss and heartache.

 

As the story continues from a discussion of his family life in Canada to his career in wrestling, the chip becomes more burdensome to bear. Because of his youthful looks and small stature compared to the giants of the ring he stood next to, Bret wasn't taken seriously when he began wrestling for WWE in 1984. He wasn't receiving notoriety and he grew tired of losing every night. Bret, though, knew he was capable of becoming a great wrestler.

 

George Scott, who wrestled for Stu Hart in Stampede Wrestling and was a member of WWE management during the early '80s, approached Bret after his debut match in Toronto. Bret laughs at the suggestion he become "Cowboy" Bret Hart, before saying he quickly turned it down. As with the suggestion that Ric Flair become a Roman gladiator, it was a bad fit. Bret was from Calgary, home of the Stampeders, but he was hardly a cowboy.

 

"I didn't want to be a cowboy," Bret Hart says. "I wasn't a real cowboy."

 

The message was clear to Bret that he wasn't taken seriously as a wrestler. People had their own suggestion or opinion for how Bret could be more marketable. Bret already had a plan, but people didn't seem to buy into Bret's ideas.

 

After declining Scott's suggestion, Bret blew up after being taken off WWE TV tapings. Scott took the message and Bret returned to WWE as a heel with his buddy, Jim Neidhart. If the notion of being "Cowboy" Bret Hart wasn't ridiculous enough, the idea that the low?key Bret could draw heel heat with his babyface look and nice smile seemed asinine. Yet, Bret managed to work with Neidhart to become one of the most hated tag teams in WWE - when tag divisions actually meant something. The other thing about the Hart Foundation was that they could, thanks mainly to Bret, have good matches. And they knew it.

 

"Andre and Hogan weren't having the best matches of the night," Bret says. "We were the best team and deserved to be champs."

 

Bret comes across bitter describing his lack of push while main eventers - "old farts," as he put it - were coasting rather than working hard in the ring. Anyone who watched WWE during the '80s, other than blindly faithful fans of Hogan, Warrior, and Andre, would agree that Bret has a point.

 

As Bret recounts the story of wrestling for WWE and being overlooked, it's obvious where his frustrations with the wrestling business come from. No matter how many good matches he was having on the grueling WWE circuit, it wasn't good enough. He was still too small. He couldn't talk. He had to wear sunglasses to hide the fear in his eyes on the mic. In Bret's eyes, he didn't need fancy looks. He just needed a ring and an opponent.

 

"I knew I was better than a lot of guys who were getting their breaks," Bret says. Truthful, yet needlessly bitter, Bret's message loses meaning through his self?congratulatory attitude.

 

Driving himself to live up to his own billing, Bret earned management's confidence in the early '90s. The reward was a WWE Intercontinental Title reign and an opportunity to headline Summerslam 1992 against Davey Boy Smith in London, England. But, it took some convincing. Vince McMahon wasn't sold on the idea of Bret and Smith main eventing a major PPV. Once again, Bret's meritorious performance for the company wasn't good enough. Bret still had to convince the doubters.

 

As Bret describes the Summerslam 1992 match, Bret's ego gets the best of him. The tone of Bret's storytelling shifts from a career introspective to how each subsequent piece of the timeline benefited him. The video clips and Bret's narration of Summerslam '92 paint a picture of Bret's career advancing after the match rather than Smith. Winning the Intercontinental Title in his home country, in front of a huge crowd, and in a PPV main event match, this moment was Smith's career high?point, but Bret doesn't acknowledge that. It was all about him. Bret may have carried the match, but he gives Bulldog no credit for his role.

 

"I knew that it was going to be a defining moment for me," Bret says. "I took some pretty hard falls in that match. I really took a beating. Bulldog thought it was his crowning moment. It wasn't. It was my crowning moment."

 

Perhaps Bret feels a sense of entitlement to bragging rights because he took a beating to make Smith look good, almost blew out his knee due to Smith not protecting him on a dive over the top rope, and put over Smith in front of his home country. Bulldog isn't around to tell his side, which makes Bret's account seem all the more self?absorbed.

 

The IC Title match in England gave Vince McMahon justification to push Bret to the top. In 1992, McMahon was still looking for the next Hulk Hogan - someone who was larger?than?life, with the body McMahon equated to being a top WWF Superstar, and had the charisma of Ultimate Warrior to bring kids to the arena. McMahon wasn't sure Bret could fulfill those traits. Yet, McMahon decided that?in the face of a brewing steroid trial and in the midst of unprecedented mainstream media scrutiy, going with a clean?cut, fan?friendly, average?sized wrestler such as Bret was his best option. McMahon also wanted to show Hogan he could run a successful wrestling company with a completely different approach. Bret just happened to be there at the right time.

 

When Bret won the WWE Championship from Ric Flair on Oct. 12, 1992, it was the start of something new. It was a new era for wrestling - a new era of steak over sizzle. Or so Bret thought.

 

"I wanted to prove I'm the best and find out if Hitman's a flash in the pan," Bret says after describing his first title victory. Bret's self?imposed task was to redefine the business as people rejected the rockin' wrestling era of the '80s. The goal was to "set a new standard for wrestling."

 

Before Bret's opportunity could materialize, there was a knock on the door and Vince McMahon answered it. It was Hogan, who was back again. Hogan knew how to exploit McMahon's longing for Hogan's star power. And who was caught in the middle? Bret Hart, whose promise of stardom was put on hold as McMahon shiffted back into his comfort zone.

 

At WrestleMania 9, Bret Hart lost the championship to Yokozuna, who turned around and lost it to Hogan faster than you can say Jim Ross in a toga. To Bret, it was another mistake. McMahon showed a blatant lack of confidence in Bret as champion.

 

"I made wrestling the focal point of what this business is about," Bret says, reflecting on his thoughts in 1993. "That's a grave injustice and that guy doesn't deserve to have my belt."

 

A brief pause.

 

"He didn't last," says Bret.

 

Hogan didn't last. He dropped the belt to Yokozuna in controversial fashion two months later at King of the Ring 1993. Nevertheless, Bret's frustrations are evident. He strongly believed his way of reinventing pro wrestling would work, but Vince McMahon still lacked confidence in Bret. What Bret says may be truth, but the way he says it - with an arrogant sense of self?entitlement - makes him a less sympathetic figure.

 

"This is my belt," Bret says, reflecting back on 1994 when he won the WWE Title at WrestleMania 10 after WWE pushed the Lex Express instead of Bret. "I didn't have to take a back seat to anyone in the wrestling business again."

 

Even as Bret became a hit internationally, using the Summerslam match against Smith as a springboard, there was McMahon with one eye on Bret, telling him he was behind him as champion, and the other eye searching for the next champion. Never settle. Never enjoy the run of the current champion. After McMahon's eye wandered up and down the roster, McMahon settled on Shawn Michaels.

 

"They were determined as they ever were to make Shawn the next guy," Bret says. It became clear to the viewers that Bret was a transitional champion and it bothered him that people were given any reason to think that. Protect the image. Never admit that Michaels may have been a better option on top. It's Bret Hart 101.

 

Building towards the Iron Man match between Bret and Michaels at WrestleMania 12 in March 1996, WWE's focus was clearly set on Michaels. Despite selling out arenas, drawing kids to the arena, selling Bret merchandise, and successfully portraying the "hero" role Vince McMahon wanted out of his top act, McMahon wanted a more flamboyant and charismatic champion.

 

Reflecting on the set of video packages that built towards the match, Bret argues that he - the champion - was cut down compared to Michaels - the challenger. He talks about the pre?match build up painting Michaels as a young, athletic machine doing upside down crunches and other physical feats, while Bret was shown jogging through ice and snow as if he was an old man listening to AM talk radio on headsets. However, the viewer could have just as easily seen Bret as the nimble veteran who was careful in his training while picturing Michaels as the out?of?control speedster who could be out?crafted by Bret. Bret felt games were being played at his expense. Protect the image. Play the blame game.

 

In the match, Bret looked slow. Michaels looked fast. Bret looked like he was struggling to keep up. Michaels looked like he was struggling to carry Bret. The way the match went, Michaels look like a better choice as champion. Perhaps he was. Bret, though, thinks it was designed to make him look bad.

 

"The match itself wasn't beneficial to me," Bret says. Bitter and upset that McMahon gave up on him in favor of Michaels, Bret points out the twelve straight years he spent on the road. "No wrestler alive worked the schedule I did." It didn't help Bret's feelings when Michaels visibly told him, "Get the f??? out of my ring" after Bret dropped the title. Michaels can be faulted for letting his first title reign get the best of him. Bret can be faulted for not seeing the other side of the coin and letting his hatred for Michaels turn him bitter.

 

Bret's commitment to the company just wasn't enough, as McMahon wasn't satisfied with him as champion. He wasn't excited about building the company around Bret. Yet, Michaels "lost his smile" and dropped the championship, and in Bret's eyes, that proved him right. Even when facts are on Bret's side, his bitter tone again erases much of the sympathy he'd otherwise have coming his way.

 

To his credit, Bret rebounded in 1996 and found his own place in the feud that arguably propelled WWE back to life. From November 1996 to March 1997, Bret Hart shined in his feud with Steve Austin, someone he respects to this day. Their feud delivered a series of classic wrestling matches, culminating with the famed double switch at WrestleMania 13. Austin's badass image won over fans as he turned babyface. Bret was viewed as a whiner; his increasingly negative attitude carried over into a successful heel run. Wrestling had changed and Bret, of course, sees himself as a primary catalyst: Austin didn't instigate the Stone Cold/Attitude era; Bret allowed it to happen.

 

"It was a natural transition with the business; (it) reinvents itself and goes in a different direction," Bret says. "You can move along with it or get lost in the shuffle."

 

Bret understood the changing dynamic of the business. He didn't see Hulk Hogan's cartoonish act connecting with an audience that didn't bite on the same ol' wrestling tricks. It wasn't until Hogan reinvented himself by turning heel in WCW that Hogan began connecting with audiences all over again.

 

Bret also reinvented himself as a heel in America and a babyface in Canada. His anti?American shtick led to another WWE Title reign when he defeated Undertaker in August 1997. With the constant changes at the top of the company and WCW catching fire while WWE was struggling to keep up, Bret Hart saw greener grass in Atlanta. It didn't help that McMahon had abandoned him several times before.

 

"I had so much respect for this company," Bret says. "I was greedy for respect."

 

Bret believed the frequent title changes indicated McMahon didn't respect or believe in him as a top act. This affected Bret's contract negotiations with WWE in the fall of 1995. An on?air sweepstakes acknowledged Bret was considering a jump to WCW. McMahon claimed that WWE had money problems.

 

McMahon wanted to cut Bret's $30,000?a?week salary in half, but then pay him substantially more years later when he believed the company would be in better shape. Meanwhile, Eric Bischoff was revving up the Brinks truck to lure Bret to WCW with bigger paydays up front. Bret was torn. Should he stay loyal to the company that nurtured his rise to main events or jump to the company with more financial stability? Bret eventually chose to re?sign with WWE.

 

About a year later, McMahon renegged on the contract and told Bret he couldn't afford him. He told him to go to Bischoff and see if the big money offer still stood. Stunned, Bret somewhat reluctantly agreed to opt out of his contract. This was glossed over in the DVD. Neither Bret nor Vince apparently wanted that part of the story to be included in the "official history of Bret and WWE." It sounded better to blame Ted Turner.

 

"The only thing that could come between us was Ted Turner's money," Vince McMahon says on the DVD. McMahon always believed promises of big paydays for the wrestlers he lured from various regional outfits in the 1980s and 1990s was fair game, whereas the big contracts offered by WCW ("Ted Turner") weren't. He's never publicly addressed this double?standard.

 

"Both he and I orchestrated his ability to go to WCW," Vince McMahon says. "We did that together."

 

However, as WWE Champion, Bret had one final item to take care of before heading to WCW. Dropping the WWE Title. It should have been simple. Timing, egos, and paranoia made it anything but.

 

Next week: Part two of Caldwell's DVD review with Bret Hart's version of the events on that infamous evening in November 1997.

 

 

Torch Talk Library

Sean Waltman: Would mandatory time off for wrestlers save families and lives (12-10-05)

 

Dec 10, 2005, 11:16

 

 

Torch Talk with Sean Waltman, pt. 3

Originally Published: December 10, 2005

Torch Newsletter #890

 

The following is the third and final installment of a 90 minute Torch Talk with Sean Waltman conducted Nov. 21. In this segment, Waltman says whether he believes mandatory time off for WWE wrestlers would help alleviate some of the problems that lead to family problems, drug abuse, and often death. He also talks about his latest battle with drug addiction. This entire interview is also available in audio format exclusively for Torch subscribers at PWTorch.com/members in the VIP Audio Updates section.

 

Wade Keller: I don't know if you've heard this, but WWE.com published that Nick "Eugene" Dinsmore was suspended and sent to treatment for overdosing on Somas. He's not part of the older generation.

 

Sean Waltman: There are always going to be exceptions.

 

Keller: You were around during an era when there were a lot of guys who were being helped up to their hotel room because they were pilled up. There was a lot of stuff going on in WCW and a whole generation for whom it was a lifestyle. Ten or twenty years earlier it was booze; excessive drinking and driving going from one town to another. But this generation, the 30 and under generation, doesn't quite have the same problems the previous generations did. Not that it's perfect, but I think they've learned from the past.

 

Waltman: Yes, that's true. One last thing regarding whether you'll see a difference in wrestlers on TV. Will you see the incredible shrinking wrestler? There are clinics, like anti?aging clinics - there's an age (minimum) where you can go to these clinics and they'll put you on a therapeutic dosage of steroids and growth hormone that will help them. I'm sure that's probably an option for some of the guys. There shouldn't be a problem with that.

 

Keller: Would it be enough to make a difference in bodytype if they had a testosterone patch or a shot once a month?

 

Waltman: The patch isn't a very good option. But going to your doctor every couple of weeks and getting 200 milligrams - basically a CC of testosterone injection - is probably the best way to do it. Testosterone is a natural substance in your body. There's testosterone and there's epitestosterone, which is a mirror image. If you're taking testosterone injections, taking too much, your testosterone will go up, but your epitestosterone will stay the same. So there's a ratio they test for. So there's a way of doing it. There's a way the guys can still get some of the benefits of these drugs, and do it safely and do it legally and ethically.

 

Keller: How are you doing at this point? The last people saw of you was a disappearing act leading up to the TNA PPV and an unofficial suspension of TNA. Where do you really stand? What happened or what do you care to talk about?

 

Waltman: I'll tell you this. Without going into exact detail. I was doing great, obviously. People were talking about how I was making a great comeback in my career. I had good matches. People were going, "Waltman still has it." Yeah, he still does, but guess what? He still has the disease of drug addiction, too. No matter how you're doing, as soon as you let your guard down, something will be there. I fell. It took one time, Wade. One time. It caused me to miss a show. And the truth of the matter is, I'm almost glad I did not show up in the condition I was in. I'm working hard, Wade, on this. It's never, ever going to go away. That's what a lot of people don't realize about addiction. It's a f???ing life?long addiction. Once you cross that line, there's no going back.

 

Keller: Describe what it is? How can someone not addicted to drugs relate to what it's like to be a drug addict who is attempting to remain in the recovery stage, the clean stage?

 

Waltman: It's considered a disease. It's more of a mental illness. It's like manic?depression. There is a physical, genetic part to it. There's a physical addiction. It doesn't take long to get rid of the physical part. It's the psychological part. If you want to compare it to something else, it's like somebody getting cancer - an aggressive form of cancer, but they get to remission. If they're not careful, it will relapse. The cancer will come back. And when it comes back, it comes back full force and it does not take very long for it come back. You can be as bad off in a week as it took you years to get to. It's just such a complicated thing to talk about. It's hard for me to really sit here and break it down in a limited amount of time.

 

Keller: But what is it at that moment when you make a personal choice to take a drug as a drug addict when you've been away from it for a while, what is the mental state?

 

Waltman: Do you want to know what it is? Your mind will trick you. In rehab circles and AA and the 12 step circles, they call the disease cunning, baffling, and powerful. It will override your rational thought, Wade. You've got to keep yourself out of situations that you know are dangerous.

 

Keller: Do you think it would help anyone at any stage of their career - whether they're non?users, just starting to use, or addicted to pills - if Vince McMahon mandated systematically that every wrestler took three months off per year either three or four week periods several times a year or a three month stretch at once? It could be rotated where at any given time five or six guys are at home?

 

Waltman: I think for the overall physical health and state of mind and health of a guy's home life trying to keep a family together, it's a very prudent thing to do. In the long run, it will save Vince a lot of money. It will save Vince a lot of money from a selfish standpoint. As for guys who are currently using, who have a habit but may not be addicts, I'll tell you that I'd use as much when I was off as I did when I was on the road.

 

Keller: Are there guys who use pills because they need a release from the pressure on the road. It becomes an escape. You know as a wrestler, the only end in sight is getting fired. And the only way to avoid getting fired is to stay on, get up when you're supposed to and get to sleep when you're supposed to.

 

Waltman: Or getting hurt. Seriously injured.

 

Keller: Sometimes you get hurt and then you get fired. And if you knew coming around the bend that there was light at the end of the tunnel, and it wasn't 18 years from now or six years from now of grueling non?stop life on the road, but for the rest of your WWE career you were going to get two or three months off in big chunks throughout the year where you can be with your family, go away on vacation, skip going to the gym for a few weeks before having to get ready to get back on TV - would that be a major factor in guys mentally going, "I don't need this artificial substance to make it through the next week because I have time off coming up soon"? That's one of the biggest things that can be done, and I've written about it for more than decade.

 

Waltman: I'm in total agreement with you on that. I'm not going to go so far as to say it will make this humongous difference in the whole drug issue. But it will make a difference in the guys that are kind of teetering on feeling like they need to take this, but they're not guys who would otherwise be a drug addict. In that case, they could only benefit, Wade.

 

Keller: Vince McMahon throws the word "family" around a lot, especially when wrestlers die. I don't think how Vince treats his family is a good example because he had a family of workaholics - but when you talk about people as family, with it comes a certain responsibility. I think that means giving wrestlers more than two?and?a?half day sustained time off the road to be with their families unless they're injured. And when wrestlers are injured, they're stressed out and worried; it's not the same thing as a systematic vacation and break from your job.

 

Waltman: I do know this about Vince. If you go to him and say, "I'm really burned out and I need to take a break," he's not going to say to you, "Sorry, you're drawing me too much money." In all fairness to Vince McMahon, it's a thing that guys have in their heads where their afraid to ask for it.

 

Keller: That's why I say it should be mandatory. Because wrestlers are going to say, "No way, I don't want this. It cuts into my pay. I'm going to lose my spot." But if everyone had to do it, and everybody's pay went down equally...

 

Waltman: And then it would give them a chance to adjust storylines accordingly.

 

Keller: If it was Steve Austin at his hottest, when he had the title, yeah, there would be an exception for say only the World Champion. But then they'd get an extended period of time off after the title reign ends and rematches take place.

 

Waltman: Look at Undertaker. Do you know why he has longevity? Because he takes these breaks. He's on one right now. And he's all the better for it, too. I remember ten years ago when he was thinking he wouldn't last another two years. That was ten years ago.

 

To kind of finish out what you were asking about myself personally, when I missed that show, I just had this feeling of not only did I let myself down, I disappointed everybody in my life. My children. I felt like what I worked so hard for in the prior months in getting the faith back from people in the industry, I flushed it down the toilet basically. I had to start from scratch again. I accept that, Wade. I can't expect anybody to be able to rely on me. It's a tough thing to have to live with. If I keep on, hopefully I can. I still have a lot to offer. I'm a long way from being f???in' washed up physically. I can still go out there and do the same stuff. Not if I'm going to be a f??? up. I pretty much have f???ed up some of the best opportunities anyone has been given in this wrestling industry. That's me. That was me. God willing, I'm not going out like this, Wade. I refuse!

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Regarding the Torch's report from several weeks back that an upgrade in plane seating was one of the key factors in his decision to leave the company, Christian said the issue wasn't make-or-break, but it was something he heavily considered. "The plane tickets were an issue for me," Christian said. "I just felt with the amount of miles I put on my body and the amount of time that I had been in the company...I just wanted a little bit better travel. It wasn't like I was demanding first class tickets or anything like that. It's nothing like that at all."

That's embellishing what Christian said, to say the least.

 

Also nice to see that they're criticizing Hayes for things he says in WRESTLING PROMOS, as if he's shooting.

 

And the needless Bret Hart hatchet job is in full swing.

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TNA regularly takes in the wrestlers whose chronic drug problems embarrass WWE. Two of those wrestlers, Chris Candido and Jerry "The Wall" Tuite, have died since working for TNA.

This is such a stupid and needless swipe at TNA. You'd think Candido had ODed on something the way he's talking here.

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Yeah, that's a complete low blow considering Candido's death wasn't even drug related.

 

I kinda get his comments about Hayes, since he was clearly a sockpuppet for Vince in that promo in terms of trying to get people to forget Flair's troubles.

 

In all it's just more reason why birds should be offended if their owners line their cages with the Torch.

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Guest Crucifixio Jones

It's simply amazing to me, after reading all of that, how sad the wrestling business has become in and outside of the ring. There are few things in this world that I'm actually ashamed to say I was a fan of or associated with but wrestling has FINALLY reached that point. I can't find one redeeming thing to say about it anymore. I knew one day their self-serving and childish antics would grate on me more than usual, but I figured, at least the shows would be entertaining, at least my favorites would still be motivated and ALIVE to put on great matches. Those days are long gone. I wish I never got "smartened" up. The only thing it EVER did for me, since day one and I see that now, was absolutely ruin my enjoyment of wrestling. I'm officially done.

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Also nice to see that they're criticizing Hayes for things he says in WRESTLING PROMOS, as if he's shooting.

Wade was silly to criticise Hayes himself for what he said, but Vince McMahon is known to send messages in his scripts to his talent and at a time when wrestlers have been complaining to Dave Meltzer among others about their schedules I doubt it's a coincidence that a member of management called today's wrestlers spoilt for wanting reduced schedules in an angle on Raw. Vince deserved criticising for that in my opinion, just like when Vince told Orton on Raw he looked anorexic after being unable to train due to being injured.

 

This is such a stupid and needless swipe at TNA. You'd think Candido had ODed on something the way he's talking here.

Bruce Mitchell believes that Chris Candido's death may have been drug related (probably through his past abuse) because his autopsy was sealed at the request of his family, so we don't really know why Candido died. Anyway TNA deserved that swipe because they turned a blind eye to Curt Hennig's and Crash Holly's drug abuse before their deaths and employed Jeff Hardy who WWE fired after his drug problems and still employed him even after missing show after show after show.

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Guest EastCoastJ

When did Keller become such a hateful little troll of a man?

He's always been a hatefull little troll of a man, it just really shined through this week.

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Guest Some Guy

The judge also threatened to freeze the couple's assets after learning Flair spent $92,000 on a ring for his girlfriend, whom he refuses to confirm is involved with him sexually. The judge added that she wanted to "encourage someone in this family to share a smidgen of their huge wealth on someone besides themselves."

 

The judge, who plans to retire next year at age 66, also wrote that it's tough or her to hear a case like this one when there are people "drowning and rioting in the street," but added, "I'll try my best to keep my poker face on, but I don't always succeed. It's probably none of my business, but sometimes I just can't help myself."

What the fuck is this shit? Why should Flair or his wife be encouraged to share their wealth with anyone else? He and his wife are free to spend his money however they see fit. Besides, I'd say giving some woman a 92,000 ring is sharing one's wealth.

What does people rioting have to do with Ric Flair's divorce? Not a God damn thing. This judge should retire now is she can't be proffesional and leave her personal opinions outside the courtroom.

 

On the Ric and Beth thing: both are to blame for this. Flair for being an immatture, womanizing asshole and Beth for putting up with it so she can spend his money. I don't doubt that she loved him, but there comes a point, way before 20 years or however long they've been married where love doesn't outweigh being ignored and mistreated.

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Nope, TNA hired Candido because Dusty Rhodes wanted to reward him for cleaning up.

Like Eddie Guerrero was cleaned up? Just like Eddie had to take painkillers to continue wrestling with his broken down body, Chris Candido had to take painkillers in order to be able to work as a manager the day after his injury.

 

I'm not saying that caused his death, but I think it's naive to believe that it wasn't at all possible that his heart and the rest of his body was so weakened and badly damaged by his years of steroid and painkiller abuse that it made it more likely that he would suffer a deadly blood clot after he broke his leg.

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That's almost Mushnick-ian to tie every wrestling death to drugs. What if he would have got hit by a bus? Would Keller hint that he could have dodged it but his reaction time was slowed by his past drug use?

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Nope, TNA hired Candido because Dusty Rhodes wanted to reward him for cleaning up.

Like Eddie Guerrero was cleaned up? Just like Eddie had to take painkillers to continue wrestling with his broken down body, Chris Candido had to take painkillers in order to be able to work as a manager the day after his injury.

 

I'm not saying that caused his death, but I think it's naive to believe that it wasn't at all possible that his heart and the rest of his body was so weakened and badly damaged by his years of steroid and painkiller abuse that it made it more likely that he would suffer a deadly blood clot after he broke his leg.

You're looking way too much into Candido's death. Of course people are on pain medication when they break their leg as badly as he did. It doesn't mean that it had anything to do with a blood clot forming in his leg and then breaking loose. People who've never touched a drug in their life die constantly from surgical complications similiar to those.

 

Trying to blame TNA for that is equally as stupid. They brought a guy in because they saw that he had cleaned his life up. It's also pointless to bash TNA over this compared to the WWF. TNA sees their talent 3 or 4 days out of the month, they aren't going to necessarily know what those people are doing the rest of the month. The WWF on the other hand has their talent 4 days a week usually and they damn well know when their guys have problems. Plus TNA at least provides health care packages to their workers.

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Since Candido's autopsy results are sealed, it's hard to debate wrestling's role since we don't actually know wrestling's role.

Loss brings the wise words again. :)

 

It's also pointless to bash TNA over this compared to the WWF. TNA sees their talent 3 or 4 days out of the month, they aren't going to necessarily know what those people are doing the rest of the month. The WWF on the other hand has their talent 4 days a week usually and they damn well know when their guys have problems. Plus TNA at least provides health care packages to their workers.

Of course TNA doesn't necessarily know what their talent does the rest of the month, but Jeff Jarrett damn sure knows what his talent does the 3 or 4 days they are in Orlando working for TNA. He'll know why the TNA locker-room has a rep for being a partying locker-room and he'll also happily employ known drug users who won't clean up their acts like Scott Hall and Jeff Hardy until they flake out on him, so TNA deserves some criticism for the drug problem within the industry as well.

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