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Wrestling Observer Rewind ★ Jun. 17, 2002
Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at f4wonline and checking out the full archives. PREVIOUSLY:
PROGRAMMING NOTE:Some of you may have missed last week's post because I didn't do it on Wednesday. Ended up posting it Thursday instead, so it's there in the archives below if you missed it. I know this 2002 series of Rewinds doesn't really have the momentum or appeal that it had back when I was posting them 3 times a week for years on end. Sorry about that, like I said before, I just decided to post these on a whim when the virus started and didn't really prepare for it so it's all kinda haphazard. But just didn't want anyone to miss the one from last week if it flew under the radar.
Steve Austin walked out of WWE this week and threw everything into upheaval. As a result, Raw featured Vince McMahon challenging Ric Flair to a match for ownership of the entire company. It was the ultimate final blow-off to a huge long-term angle, and they did it with only 2 hours of build-up. With Vince now in charge of both shows, questions are swirling about whether this spells the end of the brand split, only a few months in. The reason this all happened is because, only 6 hours before Raw went on the air, Steve Austin showed up to the arena and found out he was scheduled to wrestle (and Dave thinks put over, though he hasn't confirmed that yet) Brock Lesner. Dave immediately points out the obvious, that an Austin vs. Lesnar match is something you should build up ahead of time, not throw it on free TV with no build up at all. Plus, he's still so new, he's incredibly green, and he's spent the last few months selling way too much for people like the Hardyz and Bubba Ray Dudley. Hell, before he debuted in WWE, he wasn't even the most over guy in OVW. He's nowhere near the level you'd expect for him to be winning matches with Steve Austin un-hyped on free TV. In fact, Lesnar should probably go through just about everyone else on the roster before putting him against Austin. That's a potential Wrestlemania-level match and Dave seems befuddled that they would just book it for Raw like this.
Apparently Austin felt the same way because he and his wife Debra left the building and flew home before Vince McMahon even arrived to the arena, the second time since Wrestlemania that he has walked out on the company. A source who was there when McMahon learned of the news said that, for the first time anyone could remember, Vince seemed to drop his "game face" and there seemed to be genuine panic about what to do. Rock has one foot out the door to Hollywood. Undertaker and Triple H are banged up and won't be around forever (bet). Business is already collapsing. And now the biggest star the company's ever had just walked out the door. Last time Austin walked out after Wrestlemania, he was only away for 2 weeks. This time, there's a feeling it could be much longer. Those close to Austin say he's been unhappy for months and this decision wasn't anything specifically to do with the Lesnar match. That just happened to be the final straw. Austin made news last week when he went on the WWE's Byte This show and voiced his frustrations with the company's creative direction. Plans had been put into motion over the last couple weeks for Austin to feud with Eddie Guerrero and then Chris Benoit, which he was happy about (he was enjoying his recent house show matches with Eddie and Benoit is one of Austin's favorite opponents) but that's out the window now. Austin and Vince McMahon reportedly haven't been on good terms for several months now and word is the night before Raw, the two of them had a very heated conversation over the phone that left Austin pissed off and frustrated even before this went down.
And that's the deal on Austin. He has more money than he'll ever be able to spend and doesn't have any financial need to wrestle. He only does so because he enjoys it. And if he doesn't enjoy it anymore, then by all means, it's his right to leave and he doesn't owe the business anything if he wants to hang up the boots. But Dave does feel like Austin owes WWE at least a few weeks to write him out of storylines since he's such an important piece of the company. Walking out from a live TV taping is unprofessional and it leaves guys like Guerrero and Benoit left hanging, thus screwing up their future plans and money-making potential too (yeah, that's something that doesn't get talked about much. Austin walking out fucked Guerrero over pretty hard here. It would take him another 2 years to get back into that main event scene that he would have been involved in here). That being said, pretty much everyone in the locker room sympathizes with Austin and agrees with his complaints about the creative direction of the company, but not many of them were defending the way he walked out. And given that this is the second time he's done it, the feeling is he shouldn't be allowed back without facing some actual punishment this time.
So anyway, the day of Raw, they went into panic mode and had to re-write the entire show. And with the feeling Austin won't be coming back anytime soon, Vince felt they needed to do something big. So they went with blowing off the dual-owners angle in a match that was designed to turn Flair babyface again and establish Vince as the heel owner of everything. There was also discussion of turning Undertaker babyface again, since he's been getting more cheers than RVD when they work together at house shows lately but they decided against that for now (they end up doing it in a couple weeks). So now Flair has been abruptly turned back, after only turning heel a few weeks prior. The brand split may or may not be dead. And there we stand.
In what would have been a major story during any other week, DDP has officially retired from wrestling at age 46. Unfortunately, Austin's walk-out overshadowed everything. The decision on DDP's retirement was actually made by Vince McMahon and Jim Ross, who pretty much made the choice for him after they got his medical reports. DDP has been advised by multiple doctors that his spine is shot and he needs to retire. For the company's own liability, WWE decided to listen to the doctors and DDP agreed. There has been talk of finding ways for DDP to work the remainder of his contract for the company in a non-wrestling capacity. (He obviously ends up wrestling a handful of matches in the years since, but for the most part, this really was the end of DDP's in-ring career as a full-time wrestler).
There were a couple of moments on Raw this week where Shawn Michaels was cutting a promo and made a comment about Austin "losing his top spot" and another comment later about Rock "stealing Triple H's spot." A lot of people in the company backstage were upset, feeling like this was the same ol' Shawn, going into business for himself and trashing on Austin and Rock and yada yada. Not the case. Those comments were actually scripted for Shawn to say because they want to get over the idea that Shawn on the mic is a loose cannon and you never know when he might start "shooting" and say something he's not supposed to. It's all very dumb, you see. Almost like Vince Russo is coming back any day now or something.
Dave gives a big preview and rundown of the Jarrett family's new NWA-TNA promotion, which has its debut show next week on PPV. Not all cable systems are carrying it, however. Cablevision and Dish Network both declined to carry it, but DirecTV is. This cuts down on the number of available homes for the show and probably cuts 20-30% off their potential revenue. The main PPV provider in Canada, Viewer's Choice, has also declined to carry it. Steep mountain to climb here. Dave expects them to do decent numbers for their first show but predicts an XFL-like collapse after that. By week 3, Dave is scared for their chances. From here, Dave gives the whole history of other promotions who've tried to make it on PPV in the U.S., with varying degrees of success and failure. UWFI, UFC, ECW, WCW, PRIDE, etc, WWF has even toyed with similar ideas. In 1991, they did the one-off Tuesday In Texas PPV as a test to see if they could run PPVs back-to-back (Survivor Series was only the week prior) and it was a flop. The original concept for Shotgun Saturday Night was for it to be a weekly Saturday night PPV with a similar >$10 price point, but that idea got scrapped before it got off the ground and it became just another TV show. Dave doesn't think TNA is going to make it without a TV deal. This PPV exclusive plan just has too much working against it. The Jarretts have talked about the millions of disenfranchised fans that stopped watching after WCW died, and it's true. Those people are out there. But those millions of fans all checked out between 1999-2001, and TNA isn't going to win them back by using the same people and the same concepts that ran those viewers away from WCW. All your wacky booking ideas, your Vince Russos, your Jeff Jarretts as champion, bringing in guys that even WWE won't touch (Scott Hall), etc. Those are all the same things that ran away those WCW viewers. Dave just doesn't see how this experiment can work in its current form.
Vince McMahon himself was the latest guest on WWE's Byte This show and needless to say, it was interesting. Vince denied the idea that the wrestling business is "cyclical" and said it's more like a series of peaks and valleys that have slowly been trending upwards over the years. Vince also admitted WWE doesn't always make the best decisions but says their batting average is good overall. Vince also said he's proud to have the word "wrestling" in their company name, which is a pretty big about-face from all the years he's tried to publicly claim they were "sports entertainment, not wrestling." He admitted things are rough right now but said there are huge changes coming soon that will change the entire industry but wouldn't elaborate on what he had planned (I think time has proven that the answer to this was nothing whatsoever. They had no idea what they were doing during this time and were just making shit up as they went along). Vince acknowledged that Austin has been frustrated lately and said Austin is the most demanding of all the wrestlers in WWE. Vince also said he pays no attention to the internet because everyone thinks they're a booker. He also complained that it's hard to live up to people's expectations because fans all think they know everything now. Acknowledged ratings being down and played it off like, yes, WWE is sick. But it's only a cold, not pneumonia or anything, so don't panic.
More notes from Vince on Byte This because huge unbroken paragraphs suck: he hinted at producing movies starring WWE talent. Dave thinks that's a bad idea. "No Holds Barred," anyone? Criticized backyard wrestling, which Dave actually agrees with him 100% on. Was asked about bringing Vince Russo back and said he hasn't given it any thought but he has an open door policy (see you next week, Russo! Jeez, it almost makes you wonder if Vince got the idea from this interview or something). When asked about the recent Jim Cornette/Ed Ferrara incident, Vince basically seemed disinterested but said he admires Cornette's passion for wrestling but felt spitting in Ferrara's face was unprofessional. When asked about NWA-TNA, Vince said he didn't understand how they could do it without television. Trying to get people to pay $9.95 a week for a 2 hour show (a minor league product at that, because anything other than WWE is basically minor leagues at this point), when they already get Raw and Smackdown on free television. Otherwise, he said he has no opinions on it because he hasn't seen it, but Vince seems to share Dave's opinion. He doesn't see this PPV model as sustainable and doesn't seem particularly threatened by it.
NJPW's latest Best of the Super Juniors tournament is in the books and was a disappointment, just like everything else in NJPW lately. Koji Kanemoto won a pretty boring tournament. There was only one new name involved, which was Michinoku Pro wrestler Curry Man (Christopher Daniels under a mask). He's talented and charismatic but he's not even that big a star in Michinoku Pro, much less to the NJPW audience. Otherwise, it was more of the same, with no real notable matches.
Zero-1 in Japan is hoping to put together a working relationship with NWA-TNA. Specifically, they're hoping they can do a Shinya Hashimoto vs. Ken Shamrock feud, perhaps over the NWA title.
While training for his comeback, Kenta Kobashi messed up his shoulder doing bench presses, because of course he did. Doctors have told him not to return too soon but he still plans to be back in the ring by next month. Because of course he does.
NJPW's latest show at Budokan Hall was a disaster. From photos Dave saw, he figures there couldn't have been more than 3,500 fans in the building. Even at its weakest after the NOAH exodus, AJPW never fell below 7,000 at Budokan and this show looked to be half that. It's likely the smallest crowd NJPW has ever drawn to that arena. The whole show was said to be terrible because of the depressing atmosphere of a building that was 2/3 empty.
This week's World Cup game between Japan and Russia did a 66.1 TV rating, making it the #2 highest rated sports broadcast in the history of Japan. This is notable because by doing so, it surpassed the Rikidozan vs. Destroyer match from 1963, which did a 64.0 rating, knocking it down to #3 (for what it's worth, it's believed that a Rikidozan vs. Lou Thesz match in 1957 was actually watched by even more people, but official ratings weren't kept as detailed back then, so it can't be counted for sure).
Dave has read some excerpts from the new Shaun Assael book on Vince McMahon called "Sex, Lies, and Headlocks." From what he's read, Dave says it's a very good and accurate portrayal of how the WWE has grown to what it is today. Vince's former close friend and VP of Titan Sports during the expansion era Jim Troy and Jim Barnett were both interviewed for it, among others. If you're a hardcore fan who's been following the Observer for years, there's nothing new here that you probably don't already know from a major story standpoint, but there's some interesting details at least that were new to Dave. But to the average fan, this should be pretty eye-opening. Dave expects to have a full review soon.
CZW held its second annual Best of the Best tournament at the old ECW Arena and the show got rave reviews. Particularly British wrestlers Jodie Fleisch and Jonny Storm, who tore the house down in their match. Trent Acid defeated Fleisch to win the tournament.
The Coen brothers, producers of the movie "Fargo", have had talks with Bobby Heenan about doing a movie based on his life (this pretty obviously went nowhere).
New Jack is no longer working with XPW and has jumped ship to work with a rival local promoter in Southern California. Perhaps not coincidentally, the last check New Jack received from XPW promoter Rob Black for $800 ended up bouncing. Dave says New Jack probably isn't the guy you want to write bad checks to.
NWA-TNA has changed its taping plans and no longer plans to tour, and they will now be live every week. The first two shows will be taped this week in Huntsville and after that, all future shows will be live from Nashville at the 9,000-seat Municipal Auditorium. Apparently the rent for that building is really cheap because a newer, more modern arena was just built nearby, so TNA can afford it. That being said, with as much trouble as they're having selling tickets for the debut show in Huntsville, Dave thinks it's pretty optimistic to start trying to run live tapings in the same 9,000-seat building every week. He thinks they would be much better off running a small 800-seat building every week, with a smaller, more intimate atmosphere that would come across a lot better on TV than a big cavernous arena that, inevitably, is going to be mostly empty (to this day, 18 years later, TNA/Impact has never once drawn a crowd of 9,000 fans. Never even really close actually).
Various other TNA notes: Dave runs down the list of confirmed names for TNA's first taping. Rick Steiner, K-Krush (formerly K-Kwik in WWF), Konnan, Steve Corino, The Harris Brothers, Psicosis, and a bunch of others. Don Frye has talked to Jeff Jarrett about coming in to work a match with Ken Shamrock. Jackie Fargo is going to be there doing something. They made an offer to Shane Douglas but he only agreed to come in if they didn't hire Francine (some kind of falling out between them). TNA decided they'd rather have Francine. They're expected to be doing some kind of old school vs. new school angle so....yay. More latter-years WCW shit. Mike & Todd Shane are coming in as a tag team called Dick & Rod Johnson and will have costumes that apparently look like penises, just in case you were still on the fence about whether Vince Russo is involved. The top stars are basically making around $3,500 per week which is a pretty decent salary for one day's work every week. The guys without name value, on the other hand, are getting $300 per show and are covering their own transportation. Just in case you were still on the fence about whether Jerry Jarrett is involved.
Ken Shamrock did an interview and acknowledged that he hasn't done pro-wrestling in a few years and knows he's going to be rusty. He also said he's worried because with only 1 show per week, he won't really be able to get enough matches under his belt to get good again. He also said he's signed a 3 fight deal with UFC and will be fighting Tito Ortiz in September, which turns out to be a pretty huge damn deal.
Dave saw the K-1 match with former WCW developmental wrestler Bob Sapp vs. some dude. Doesn't matter. What matters is Bob Sapp is enormous ("makes Brock Lesnar look like Jerry Lynn"). And he mauled this poor guy. In fact, it looked like Sapp was trying to get DQ'd, as he started kicking and kneeing the guy while he was down and just treating it like a street fight, violating lots of rules in the process. He was DQ'd but then K-1 booked Sapp and this other dude for a rematch in July. That leads Dave to think this was planned as an effort to get Sapp over as a lunatic, but if it was a work, somebody should have told the other guy because Sapp fucked him right on up. "This was like everyone feared Mike Tyson would behave, but 1,000 times worse and from a man far more scary." Furthermore, Sapp came out in a full Ric Flair robe and to Ric Flair' ring music, and the arena went insane. Sapp has massive superstar appeal in Japan right now and promoting him as a violent psychopath who has no regards for the rules in a shoot fight appears to be getting over huge.
Edge will not need surgery for his torn labrum injury, so he'll only miss a few weeks of action instead of a few months. Edge is in the midst of the biggest push of his career and this is his chance to finally break through to the next level so needless to say, good news.
Notes from Raw: show opened with Vince walking out, which was unexpected since this is Flair's show. He said Austin wasn't there and made a point of saying Austin was too much of a coward to be there. Pretty well buried Austin and buried Raw as a bad show (blaming Flair in kayfabe for all the show's real life problems. Sorta like last year when they actually turned the bad ratings into a storyline by trying to blame it on Corbin. Some things never change). They're doing a storyline with Trish making fun of Molly Holly for allegedly having a fat ass because, again, some things never change. Former Tough Enough contestant Chris Nowinski debuted doing the Harvard grad gimmick like the heel jock in every teen movie. "The heel jock." Never change Dave. Shawn Michaels made his big return, cut his promo joining the NWO and turning heel on the fans before superkicking Booker T out of the group. So theoretically, this should mean Booker T should have to work his way through the entire NWO one by one before getting to Shawn at the end, in what should be Shawn's first match back. "I'm not holding my breath," Dave says. And of course, Vince beat Flair to take control of both shows. Horrible match but considering it was a last minute panic move, understandable under the circumstances. Lesnar ran in and helped Vince win the match.
Notes from Smackdown: during a big pull-apart brawl, several agents ran in to break it up. Among them were Dean Malenko and Fit Finlay, appearing on TV for the first time in their new backstage roles, and John Lauranitis who was also shown on TV last week. More gay jokes with Billy and Chuck and Rico, which Dave calls Russo-esque. Not quite yet. Jamie Noble was introduced with Nidia from Tough Enough season 1 as his valet, in a feud with Hurricane. There was a big effort to make Bob Holly a star this week, starting a feud with he and Kurt Angle and they really pushed Holly hard as a star and Angle busted his ass to try and get him over. And they did a show-long angle with Maven in the hospital (he's legit injured) and Torrie Wilson shows up, it's implied that she gives him a blowjob, and then Dr. Tajiri shows up, mists Torrie and beats up Maven. Dave is at least happy that they're trying to make an angle out of Maven's injury so he has a storyline to come back to, which is more effort than they put into most stuff these days.
Various WWE notes: referee Tim White suffered a torn rotator cuff in the Backlash Hell in a Cell match and will need surgery that will keep him out of the ring for months. Rey Mysterio is scheduled to debut on WWE house shows this week and, as of now, is expected to be wearing his mask again. Terry Taylor has been reaching out to get hired, but the company won't return his calls (they eventually re-hire him in September).
There's been a lot of praise for the new Spiderman comic "Tangled Web" which was written by Raven (I had to research this, but yeah. "Tangled Web" was a Spiderman anthology series that lasted about 2 years and had 22 issues. Each issue was written by different authors. Issue 14 was called "The Last Shoot" and sure enough, it was co-written by Raven alongside Brian Azzarello, who is the mind behind one of my favorite comic series of all time, 100 Bullets. And I had no idea. Wild).
The long-discussed plan of having Arn Anderson as Chris Benoit's manager seems to be off the table now. The thought is Anderson has been devalued so much in recent months (they pretty much wheel him out every time they need someone to take a beating for heat in a Flair feud) that he wouldn't be effective as a manager for a strong, serious heel.
Tough Enough II winner Linda Miles made her in-ring debut on Velocity, against Ivory. She was accompanied by fellow winner Jackie Gayda, who turned heel on her and cost Linda the match. Dave thinks it's waaaaaay too early to put these 2 women in a feud against each other considering how green they both still are.
The Rock, Vince McMahon, Undertaker, Jerry Lawler, Jm Ross, Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, and Shane McMahon were all in Memphis at the Mike Tyson/Lennox Lewis fight last week. Rock could be seen on camera a few rows deep throughout the fight, while Vince was shown on camera as a celebrity in attendance before the fight. The others were never shown on-camera, but they were all there. The PPV is estimated to have done 1.8 million buys and grossed a record $103 million, which are numbers that WWE can only dream of. Prior to the PPV, Rock co-hosted a pre-show party with guests such as Halle Berry and Britney Spears.
NEXT WEDNESDAY:Steve Austin accused of abusing Debra, much more on that situation and Austin's walkout, Jesse Ventura not running for re-election, Rock wrestles in Hawaii, and more...
Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at f4wonline and checking out the full archives. PREVIOUSLY:
We start with more on the death of Davey Boy Smith, including a full-length super long obituary, because apparently 2002 is nothing but people dying. I feel like I've done nothing but recap obituaries since starting back with 2002. Anyway. in the wake of Smith's death, the reaction has sadly not been one of surprise. Anyone who saw Smith in the last 4-5 years pretty much saw it coming. The cause of death, pending toxicology results, was ruled a heart attack caused from prolonged steroid use. But until the toxicology results are back, the belief among his friends and family is that there was probably more to it. Dave talks about the staggering number of wrestlers who have died under age 40 in recent years, with upwards of 20 of them being due to drug issues.
Smith died while on vacation with his girlfriend Andrea Hart, estranged wife of Bruce Hart. Despite that, Smith was actually on good terms with most of the Hart family, although Andrea is not. The Hart family believes Andrea knows more than she's letting on about the circumstances of his death, but she's not talking to anybody. Andrea's children (that she had with Bruce) were also there and they each apparently have different accounts of how he died (he was sleeping! he was in the pool! he was eating!) but they all pretty much agree he collapsed doing whatever he was doing. Andrea told the press that she believed Smith had overdosed, but Smith's dad did his own interviews and denied it, saying his son had stopped using drugs and was clean when he died. Needless to say, most people aren't buying that given his track record. Smith's father decided against having the body cremated and instead ordered it sent back to England for examination to make sure he wasn't murdered. "I cannot believe his death was natural," he said. "If they find drugs in his body, then he didn't put them there. Davey was clean." (Eeeeeeehhhhh....) Shit got even messier when Andrea and Smith's ex-wife Diana Hart each tried to claim the body. Despite her book (in which she accused Smith of drugging, abusing, and raping her), Diana played grieving widow in the media even though they're divorced. It may not have been an act though. Some in the family believe Smith and Diana were trying to reconcile, and they were on good terms at the time of his death. Andrea claimed to be his common-law wife, even though she's still legally married to Bruce. She later claimed Smith had proposed to her 2 weeks before his death and said they were engaged, which was the first anyone had heard about that. Smith's father claims in their last conversation, Davey Boy had told him he was planning to break up with Andrea after their vacation. So who knows. Anyway, both Diana and Andrea planned their own separate memorial services, while Smith's dad is planning his own 3rd service. Smith's body wasn't at either of the Hart family memorial services because, as mentioned, it was sent back to England where authorities are launching an investigation at the behest of Smith's father.
Andrea's service was said to be small and simple, just a few dozen people, and she seemed sincere in her sorrow. Diana's service was larger and more public, with hundreds of attendees and press, along with several WWE names. Vince McMahon, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart (who attended both services), Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Jim Ross, and others all attended and several of them spoke. Diana's eulogy featured a professionally produced video featuring Davey Boy footage from WWE that had never aired on television before. She thanked Vince for trying to help Davey with his addiction issues. She never acknowledged everything she wrote about him in her book last year. Smith's children as well as Stampede wrestler TJ Wilson gave speeches as well. 16-year-old Harry Smith was composed and gave a great speech about teaming with his father in his last matches. And then Ellie Hart got up there and....it went about how you'd expect. She started ranting about Andrea and blaming her for not giving the family the answers they wanted and it started to turn into some drama, but the minister gently interrupted her and got things back on track. And finally, Bret Hart gave a speech, directly addressing Smith's children and saying that Davey Boy and Owen would want the children of all these Hart family members to get along with each other better than the adults have. From here, Dave gets into the actual meat of the obituary, recapping Smith's life and career. As always, an excellent read but very long to recap.
WWE Confidential, the new show the company is producing, aired its debut episode this week, focusing on the Montreal Screwjob. Dave once again talks about how Vince McMahon tried to downplay the incident recently, giving an interview just a couple of months ago calling the Screwjob a minor incident that almost no one cares about. Vince went so far as to say he could count on one hand the number of people who even still care about that old news. Turns out one of those must be Vince because this week, they dedicated the premiere of this new show to the story and highlighted it as the most controversial night in the history of wrestling. The hook of the show was Shawn Michaels revealing publicly, for the first time, that yes, he was in on the screwjob and knew about it in advance. Dave says this isn't really a secret. Shawn denied having any knowledge of it that night but as soon as the day after Survivor Series 97, he was bragging to friends about it. Vince McMahon also later confided in Undertaker that Shawn knew ahead of time. So it was kind of an open "secret" that Shawn knew but this is the first time he's admitted it publicly. Triple H still denies knowing about it ahead of time, but Dave is pretty skeptical there too (and indeed, it's later revealed that yes indeed, Triple H also knew). Dave thinks lots of people had to know. Even the guy who cued the music had to know, because Shawn's music was queued up and ready to play the second Vince ordered the bell to be rung. Pat Patterson always claimed not to know and Bret has said he wants to believe it, because he likes Pat, but the way Pat interrupted the match-planning conversation and specifically suggested the sharpshooter spot to them makes Bret question it (I think Patterson still denies it to this day, but I have my doubts there too). Anyway, the show recapped the history of the Screwjob and if you know Dave, you know he's about to poke a whole bunch of holes in WWE's revisionist bullshit. Here we go...
The story of the episode was WWF was close to going out of business due to the WCW war and couldn't afford Bret anymore, so Vince nobly allowed Hart out of his contract so he could negotiate a better deal with WCW. Actually, Dave says, Vince first talked to Bret about deferring some of his contract to later on but that was a couple months earlier. At the time, WWF really was having some financial struggles, but it's an exaggeration to say they were almost driven out of business. They were never even close. But regardless, that's irrelevant because in Sept. 97, they raised the price of PPVs by $10. That added revenue, which was nearly $1 million per month in pure profit, was easily enough to get them out of financial trouble. By the time Survivor Series 97 rolled around, WWF was doing just fine, money-wise, and were only a couple months away from catching fire and getting nuclear hot. So no, they did not need to get rid of Bret's contract. And in fact, in October, a couple weeks before Survivor Series, Vince changed his mind and asked Bret to stay, saying that the financial situation had turned around. But by this point, Hart's negotiations with WCW were full speed ahead and Vince allowed Hart to continue negotiating. But after talking to both sides, it was clear Vince had no real plan for Bret and he didn't really seem like he wanted to keep him, so Bret took the WCW deal and the rest is history. But of course, none of that is mentioned in this show. The episode also claimed Hart refused to drop the title to anyone (again, not true. Only Shawn. Bret even offered to lose it to Brooklyn Brawler if they wanted. In fact, Dave breaks down all the different scenarios that were presented here, and Bret was willing to lose the title to anyone other than Shawn, anywhere other than that show in Montreal, at any date before or after the PPV. They had actually presented Bret with dozens of different scenarios, all of which he agreed to, only for Vince to keep coming back around to Shawn at Survivor Series, which was the one and only thing Bret wouldn't budge on). They also tried to paint the picture that Bret could have taken the title to WCW the night after Survivor Series. In fact, Bret's WWF contract didn't end until Dec. 1st, and he was booked on more than a dozen house shows after Survivor Series and had even agreed to work the early December PPV because Bischoff had given his blessing. There was zero chance Bret was going to show up with the belt on Nitro. There was concern that Bischoff would go on Nitro the next day and announce he had signed Bret, and Dave says it's true that Bischoff certainly was planning to do that. But Bret had also asked Bischoff to hold off on the announcement and Bischoff had agreed. Vince knew about that too, but in recorded conversations with Bret (from the Wrestling With Shadows documentary), Vince didn't seem concerned since the word was already out and everyone knew Bret was leaving already. This just goes on and on. We all know the story already. Anyway, TL;DR - interesting show, but WWE's version of the story is bullshit. But we all knew that.
At the latest NJPW show, Antonio Inoki came out and cut a promo. He talked about being in attendance recently at the World Cup and said wrestling needs something like that. Inoki claimed he had put together a deal with WWE for a joint NJPW/WWE show to take place later in the year. Dave doesn't know if there's any truth to that story, but this is the first he's heard of it and he doesn't think it makes any sense for WWE so he's skeptical.
Usually in Japan, TV-Asahi airs the finals of NJPW's G1 Climax tournament live. But this year that may not happen, as they're looking at airing one of Inoki's MMA shows instead. This is a direct result of the terrible rating the recent Tokyo Dome show drew when it aired live. This company is struggling mightily lately.
Random news and notes: Inoki recently recruited a 23-year old Brazillian MMA fighter named Lyoto Machida to come to NJPW (he never really does anything in NJPW other than train at the dojo, but he had a long career in UFC and still fights for Bellator to this day). Dusty Rhodes is the new co-host of Turner South's Atlanta Braves pre-game show called "Hey The Braves Are Next!" Scott Hall will be working Insane Clown Posse's upcoming Gathering of the Juggalos event. Former WCW wrestler Evan Karagis recently filmed a role on the soap opera "Passions."
In the main event of FOX's Celebrity Boxing show, Chyna lost by decision to Joey Buttafuoco. Chyna's mystique of being a woman who only wants to compete with men got pretty much obliterated here, as the larger Buttafuoco manhandled her with ease for much of the match, which probably makes all those big tough wrestlers who sold for her feel kinda silly. But Buttafuoco came in as a hated heel to the audience and despite how she got pummeled, many people felt Buttafuoco was fighting dirty and cheating, so Chyna wasn't too hurt by it. She talked about wanting a rematch and Dave says if PRIDE really wants to break into the U.S. market, they could throw it onto one of their cards. Hey, this show did a really strong TV rating, maybe a rematch would be just the kind of freak-show attraction needed for PRIDE to get attention in the U.S. Nothing else they've tried has worked. Dave also suggests NWA-TNA could book it, but a worked wrestling match between the two probably wouldn't get as much media attention.
Big Dick Dudley's ex-wife, former ECW valet Elektra, did an interview talking about his death. She said he'd had stomach pains all week and couldn't urinate. But didn't go to the doctor because he didn't think it was a big deal. Then at one point he got up to go to the bathroom but collapsed on the floor and died there on the spot. Jeez. At the time of his death, he had lost over 100 pounds from his peak weight of 320 in ECW several years ago.
Vince Russo is going to be writing a book about his time in WWF. Due to legal reasons and the ongoing lawsuit, it won't include much about his WCW tenure (I think he's written a book or two, but I've never read them, so if anyone has any insight, feel free to share).
Shaun Assael's book "Sex, Lies, & Headlocks: The Real Story of Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation" will be published next month and is getting strong early reviews. Dave has talked to several of the people who spoke with Assael for the book and some of them expect it to be good while others feel that Assael fell victim to the cons and charms of wrestlers who were working him. We shall see, says Dave.
The debut NWA-TNA PPV will feature some sort of tournament to crown a new NWA champion. Dan Severn is no longer the champion after not agreeing to work the show (he already had a prior MMA booking for that date in New Mexico). As a result, the NWA (which is now working with TNA) just stripped him of the belt, which is convenient because they didn't really want to use Severn anyway, so now they can do whatever they originally planned to do with the belt without having to book an excuse to get it off him. The Jarretts and this new promotion now have full control over both the NWA world and tag team titles.
Mike Tenay has been named the lead announcer for the new NWA-TNA promotion. They're also trying to get Lex Luger to appear for the debut show, but Dave thinks its unlikely since Luger is financially set for life and has shown no interest in doing any wrestling since WCW folded.
Jeff Jarrett had talks with Bret Hart about coming in to do a Team Canada gimmick. Latest Dave heard is that Hart isn't interested, but they may bring in some of the new generation of Harts for it. There's been talk of bringing in TJ Wilson, Harry Smith, and Teddy Hart as a new version of the group. Smith is still only 16 and it's way too early to put him on the national stage yet and in a lot of states, he wouldn't even legally be allowed to perform. Wilson is also a teenager, from a bad home who pretty much grew up as an honorary Hart member in the Hart household. And Teddy Hart is a natural in-ring performer who would already be in WWE if not for the fact that during his two training camp tryouts, he had behavioral incidents both times. But they're all talented and will likely be big stars in the future. Last time WWE was in Calgary, Vince McMahon personally requested to meet with all 3 of them for a private tryout, but it didn't amount to anything.
Little bit of a change in the WWF writing teams. Brian Gewertz is now the official head writer for Raw, while Paul Heyman is the lead writer for Smackdown. Stephanie McMahon will continue to oversee creative for both shows and, of course, Vince still has final say on everything. Dave expects this to result in Raw being a more comedic show while Smackdown will be the more serious in-ring product (pretty much, yeah. And thus, we have the official beginning of Heyman-era Smackdown and soon we'll see the birth of the Smackdown Six).
Notes from Raw: show opened with Chris Benoit making his unannounced return to a huge pop. Dave still expects Benoit to eventually be managed by Arn Anderson, which has been the plan for months (and never happens). That was actually the original plan before the NWO was brought in. If Benoit was healthy in time (which, turned out he wasn't so it didn't matter anyway), the original idea was Benoit vs. Austin at Wrestlemania 18 with Anderson managing Benoit. But that obviously all changed. Anyway, what else? Dave once again mentions that Jeff Hardy looks physically awful. He seems to know about Hardy's drug issues and seems to be hinting about it without saying it. Tommy Dreamer continued his gross gimmick by drinking Undertaker's tobacco spit. Lesnar beat Bubba Ray Dudley but had to sell a ton in the match and Dave doesn't get it. For a guy that they so clearly want to turn into a Goldberg-like star, selling for midcarders every week isn't how Goldberg got over. Jim Ross went on and on about how Lesnar has never been pinned, which Dave says is an insult to all the fans who have seen Lesnar do jobs at house shows. RVD beat Eddie Guerrero in a 20+ minute ladder match and Dave says it's the longest match on Raw in at least a year. Dave gives it 4 stars and considering how messy and sloppy it was, that shows you how good it was. Lots of dangerous spots, some botched moves, and most notably a moment when a fan ran into the ring and knocked over the ladder while Eddie was climbing up. Eddie and Earl Hebner started stomping the fan until security dragged him out. Still an awesome match though. And finally, Benoit returned at the end of the show and turned heel on Austin. Dave says Benoit actually isn't ready yet and isn't supposed to be back in the ring until July, but the company is so desperate for anything to give them a shot in the arm that they may have pulled the trigger on this angle early.
Notes from Smackdown: the only thing Dave talks about is the Hulk Hogan retirement angle they did and he's got mixed feelings on it. First the positive: he gives Hogan credit for being an absolutely incredible performer when the heat is on. And Hogan gave a tremendous performance in this and Dave doesn't let it go unrecognized. But then the negative: in the promo, Hogan talked at length about when his dad was dying, he was basically expressionless except for Monday and Thursday nights when he'd watch WWF and his face would light up. So Hogan said his dad's last words were he wanted to see his son return to the WWF. So that's all sweet and nice, right? Weeeeeell....Hogan has told a different version of this story in the past. In previous interviews, Hogan said his dad was disgusted by what wrestling had become and he wanted Hogan to "clean it up." The idea that he was laying in the hospital and only coming to life when his beloved WWF was on doesn't exactly jibe with what Hogan has said before. And no matter what the truth is, Dave is uncomfortable Hogan using his dead dad as a way to get this storyline over, but hey, he ain't the first and won't be the last.
WWE's first show in Hawaii in probably 15 years is scheduled for later this month. Rock is scheduled to work the show and tickets sold out 2 hours after they went on sale. While we're at it, the Australia show in August also sold out the 47,000-seat Colonial Stadium in Melbourne in only 4 days. Once they scale the stadium for production, they plan to open up more seats.
It's "basically a sure thing" that Hogan vs. Vince McMahon will be one of the top matches at Summerslam. How they get there seems to change weekly. There's been talks of having Hogan take time off after King of the Ring and return for the Vince match at Summerslam. There's also been talk of him sticking around through the entire summer. So who knows? (Ended up being a mixture of both: Hogan stuck around the entire summer, but then he did an angle to get written off TV right before Summerslam. And he didn't come back until early 2003. And, of course, we got the Hogan/Vince match at Wrestlemania)
More info on the incident from a couple weeks ago where Kevin Nash and X-Pac reportedly threw a fit and got the script changed. They were told by writer Ed Koskey what the plans were for them on the show. Nash and X-Pac didn't like it, especially X-Pac since it involved him doing 2 jobs during the same show. X-Pac said he was quitting and told Nash he'd meet him in the car. Nash told Shane McMahon he'd go calm X-Pac down and straighten everything out. Nash and X-Pac came back, had meetings with Shane and Jim Ross, and then later with Koskey and Brian Gewertz (who wrote the show). They managed to convince the writers to change it more to their liking. Nash was also upset about how Ric Flair went on TV and said he'd fired Scott Hall. Nash didn't like the idea of Flair on TV being able to hire and fire people from their NWO, because that kinda takes away from the idea of the NWO as an autonomous, outsider group that doesn't play by WWE's rules. So that's why Nash was able to go out on TV on this night and cut the promo about how Flair doesn't control the NWO. Of course, Hall is still gone, so I guess he still does. Anyway, both Nash and X-Pac were pissed over all this and caused a scene, especially X-Pac, to the point others in the locker room wondered why they weren't disciplined instead of being given their way. But if you wonder that, you clearly ain't been paying attention to Nash over the years. Anyway, X-Pac still did the job in the Hardyz match, but not in the second match.
Random news: house shows in Alexandria and Baton Rouge, LA were both canceled this weekend due to low ticket sales. Shit's selling out in record time in Australia and Hawaii, but they can't give tickets away in Louisiana apparently. Undertakers hips were both banged up after the Hogan match at the PPV but he continued working, although he was limited (and years later, he'd have to get major surgery on both those hips). At Raw in Edmonton, Ric Flair was getting huge pops and "woo!" chants for him before the show started, so they filmed a backstage segment where he told Arn Anderson how much he hates Edmonton so they would boo him when he came out live. Lance Cade won the HWA title from Johnny the Bull down in developmental. WWF was pushing the city of Edmonton to present Benoit with the key to the city on Raw, but Edmonton wasn't so keen on the idea. And finally, during a bikini contest at the house show in Winnipeg, Ivory's top got pulled down, exposing her boob, much to the delight of many in the crowd.
Remember how MTV's The Osbournes was the only show routinely beating Raw in the cable ratings? That's changing. The Osbournes is over for the season, but this week, Raw fell to #4 behind the Lakers/Spurs NBA playoff game and 2 different episodes of SpongeBob. Patrick's a draw, brother.
Raven has been doing commentary on Sunday Night Heat, but he recently asked to be removed from it because he feels like it hurts his wrestling character. Dave thinks this is pretty risky. Raven as a wrestler is probably nearing the end of his shelf-life and lord knows WWE hasn't shown any desire to push him. And he was actually pretty fantastic at commentary. So giving up a safe job that he was excelling at for one that WWE doesn't really seem to see any value in him for seems like a good way to find yourself on the chopping block next time they decide to get rid of some people (yup, he'll be gone from the company in another 7 months or so). For what it's worth though, this isn't the first time Raven has been in this situation. Back in the 90s, he was a manager and commentator in WWF then too, under the name Johnny Polo. But when they weren't interested in using him as a wrestler, he quit the company and reinvented himself in ECW as Raven. Sometimes you gotta bet on yourself.
Jim Ross has a weekly WWE.com article where he usually just shares all the latest injuries everyone has. This leads Dave on a bit of a tangent when Ross wrote about how Triple H has a fractured patella. The injury was diagnosed by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham and Andrews told Triple H to be careful with it, but he could continue wrestling as long as he can take the pain. Basically one of the world's top sports doctors saying, "Yeah you've got a broken knee, but throw some dirt on it, you'll be fine." It's no wonder so many of these guys end up on pain pills rather than getting the medical treatment they need.
Also in his article, Jim Ross admitted that the WWE is not doing a good job lately of providing a product the fans want to see. Dave thinks that's just about as strong a statement he's heard on the current state of WWE from someone so high up within the company. Ross admitted they need to create new rivalries, elevate new young talent, and effectively introduce new stars. However, Ross also blamed the economy and the abnormally high number of injuries everyone is dealing with right now for part of the problems too. Dave says the economy may play a small role in the declining live event and PPV numbers, but usually when the economy is in the toilet, TV ratings go up because people are staying home more. Not the case here. Injuries, yes that's a problem for sure. But the core of all WWE's problems right now comes down to the simple fact that the show pretty much sucks. And at least someone high up in the office seems to finally be publicly admitting it.
Tough Enough 2 is down to the final four. Dave talks about how Jackie Gayda is now the sentimental favorite because she tore her ACL during the show but has still refused to quit, which opened a lot of eyes on her. Speaking of Tough Enough, in a WCW-like comedy of errors, they aired a promo for next week's episode before the current episode was finished, thus spoiling who the final 4 were going to be, before it was revealed on the show people were watching.
The WWF Forceable Entry album has sold around 364,000 copies total since its release. But it's actually considered a pretty huge failure because WWF had to pay so much money in fees and up front advances to the various artists on the album, and they're nowhere close to recouping that cost. (The album eventually sells over 500,000 and goes gold but still a flop).
NEXT WEDNESDAY:A look at the dismal state of WWE in 2002, Tough Enough II finale, Riki Choshu's departure from NJPW, Dave reviews several new wrestling books, and more...
Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at f4wonline and checking out the full archives. PREVIOUSLY:
NOTE:Sorry about no post on Friday. Real life shit got in the way.
WWF finally took the plunge and went through with the long-rumored brand split this week, all while Steve Austin was sitting at home. Austin walked out after Wrestlemania and didn't appear on TV this week for the draft. He was expected to be the #1 pick fro Raw, so they changed the angle and explained that he couldn't be drafted due to a contract situation. Austin still has a year left on his WWF deal, so he can't go anywhere, but he isn't hurting for money so he can sit at home and be just fine. Austin's issues date back a couple of months and he was vocally unhappy about working with Scott Hall and the NWO in general. Morale in the company has sank since those guys came in, got main event spots, and started getting everything they wanted creatively and professionally. Some in the locker room see Austin's walkout as him protesting the state of the company, with an unhappy locker room that no longer has any leverage since all the other companies are dead, and Austin is the one guy with enough "fuck you" clout that he can stand up to Vince. Most of the wrestlers are said to be on his side, though the NWO guys and Triple H and co. obviously don't feel the same. But it goes back further than that. Austin was telling people 6 months ago that he would go home if the job stopped being fun.
Anyway, Dave breaks down the rosters of each show. Triple H and Jazz (men and women's champs) will float between both shows and work about half the house shows for each brand. Raw gets the IC, Euro, and Hardcore champions. Smackdown gets tag titles and cruiserweights. Several notable names were undrafted. Rhyno, Mike Awesome, Steve Blackman, and Chris Kanyon are all injured and weren't placed anywhere. Developmental names like Randy Orton and Ron Waterman are expected to be called up soon, among others. If Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio are brought in, they'll likely be on SD with the cruiserweight division (Dave says Guerrero canceled his NJPW bookings for April which is a pretty solid sign that he'll be returning soon). Many of the lower-card wrestlers had no idea where they were going to end up and had to log on to wwf.com later that night to legitimately find out their futures. Tag teams like the Dudleyz and the APA were split up in the draft. Dave can't see the logic in splitting the Dudleyz and hopes it's the beginning of an angle that eventually reunites them. As for the APA, that's fine. Faarooq's career is winding down anyway and they've been talking about pushing Bradshaw as a single's star for over a year.
Raw is missing its top draw (Austin) and is pretty weak overall. Lumbering giants like Undertaker, Kevin Nash, and Big Show all ended up on Raw so don't expect a lot of great matches coming out of that brand. Plus they drafted Brock Lesnar to that brand, so his impressive size isn't going to stand out as much among those guys. With the cruiserweight division, plus guys like Jericho, Benoit, and Angle, you can bet Smackdown is going to have the better matches. Plus they have The Rock and Hogan for star power. But much like Raw, Smackdown might be in danger of not having its top draw either. Rock is expected to be gone for much of the summer to film another movie and he's continuing to get more and more movie offers, which means more time away from wrestling. And Hogan can't be a long-term weekly top draw anymore, no matter how much nostalgia popularity he has right now. Which means it's vital that they finally commit to pushing Angle, Jericho, and Benoit as real top stars.
Dave reviews the latest UFC show, with Josh Barnett winning the heavyweight title from Randy Couture in an upset. Long detailed recap full of the usual news and stuff, but it's MMA sooooo...
And the next story is about Cael Sanderson of Iowa State becoming, record-wise, the single greatest collegiate wrestler in U.S. history by winning his 4th NCAA championship and ending his college record at 159-0. So MMA and college wrestling. On to the next...
AJPW notes: after long negotiations, AJPW failed to secure a new TV deal. The normal TV season in Japan is starting next week and they were hoping to have a deal signed by now, but no luck. Also, they're interested in bringing in Super Crazy for their junior heavyweight division but it'll likely depend on whether he gets an offer from WWF instead (neither happens right now. He spends the next 2 years bouncing around NJPW, CMLL, and Zero-1 before he finally ends up in WWE in 2005).
Already halfway through the issue and past the major stories. This seems like a slow issue wrestling-wise, but the UFC and Cael Sanderson stories were both big chunks so....sorry this one kinda blows.
NOAH junior champion Naomichi Marufuji dislocated his knee when landing wrong on a moonsault and had to be stretchered out at a recent show. No word on how long he'll be out of action for (must have been a pretty bad injury. Looks like he comes back 2 weeks later, wrestles a match to drop the title, and then is out of action for the next 10 months).
Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Masahiro Chono won the vacant tag team titles at the latest NJPW show, beating Nagata and Manabu Nakanishi in a tournament final match. The titles were, of course, vacated when Keiji Muto jumped ship to AJPW, leaving his partner Taiyo Kea and the belts behind. Nagata ate the pin here. And in fact, Nagata also recently did several submission jobs to Tadao Yasuda at some shows and Dave jokes that Nagata is getting the Chris Jericho push. You know, beat him to death for months on end until the fans see him as a midcarder, then put the title on him with almost no build-up, and then wonder why he's not over and blame him when business is down (indeed, Nagata wins the IWGP title just a week or two after this and even though he holds it for 13 months, business goes in the toilet. And it's through no fault of Nagata's).
Antonio Inoki announced that he is bringing in Chyna to the NJPW 30th anniversary show at the Tokyo Dome in May. Remember a week or so ago when Inoki talked about how successful WWF's recent show in Japan was and admitted that maybe he has some stuff to learn from it? This is it. Inoki realized the huge popularity WWF has in Japan right now and reached out to one of their biggest stars of the last few years to bring in as a celebrity guest. The idea they teased in the press is that she would come in and work a match and probably defeat one of NJPW's lower card guys, which Dave thinks would be a horrible idea (yeah, that would suck. Better idea: how about she goes over Yuji Nagata and Jushin Liger in her first match, how's that sound Dave? Because that's exactly what we get. Fuckin' Inoki, man...)
NJPW's latest show in Tokyo did a disappointing attendance number and Dave says that's what happens when you make Tadao Yasuda your world champion. No matter how much publicity he got off his upset MMA victory a few months ago, and no matter how nice his underdog comeback story is, he flat out sucks as a pro wrestler and the crowd sees it and don't buy him as champion. Even worse, they had him go over Tenzan by submission. With NJPW's depleted roster, Tenzan is one of the only cool, not-washed-up wrestlers they have left. Anyway, this sets up a Yasuda match with Nagata at the next show in Tokyo and if NJPW has any smarts at all, they'll get that belt off him and onto Nagata ASAP (they do, thankfully).
Bobby Heenan is currently recovering from surgery to remove his lymph nodes. following his recent cancer diagnosis and is said to be in good spirits.
Various notes: Goldberg filmed an episode of the HBO show Arli$$ recently. Ken Patera did an interview and said the strongest men in wrestling from his era were Andre The Giant, Bruno Sammartino, Ivan Putski, Billy Graham, and Tony Atlas, in that order, and praised Bruno for being extra impressive because he never used steroids. Shane Douglas' Time Warner contract is expiring in a few weeks and it's rumored he'll be working with XPW as a wrestlebooker.
Jerry Jarrett's new promotion is expected to start in June and there continue to be rumors that Vince Russo will be ghost-writing the show. Dave says the differences between a Russo show and a Jarrett show should be pretty glaringly obvious within the first few minutes of the first show, so we'll just have to wait and see (I don't know if he was involved in the very first shows or not, but he joins the company within the first month).
Remember the WCW KISS Demon? Well his real name is Dale Torborg and he now works as a coach for the Florida Marlins baseball team (his father Jeff is the manager of the team). Anyway, Torborg recently got into a confrontation with relief pitcher Antonio Alfonseca that is rumored to have gotten physical and resulted in Alfonseca locking himself in a trainer's office to get away. Everyone on the team is being hush-hush about the incident. Alfonseca apparently has a bit of a reputation of being hard to deal with, but since the incident, he's allegedly been on his best behavior because apparently the KISS Demon put the fear of god in him (here's a news article from it at the time. Alfonseca ends up being traded to a new team a few days later, although the Marlins denied this incident had anything to do with it).
Ring of Honor has announced some new rules for its promotion. For starters, they're bringing back tag ropes (yeah, during this era, that was a small thing that sorta just got ignored by everyone for years). They're also not doing any count-outs. ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky said that outside-the-ring counts always go really slow and referees have to stall or find excuses to break the count and no one likes count-out finishes anyway, so why even have them? So now, you can fight on the floor all you want. Dave says AJPW pretty much did the same thing in the 90s. ROH also wants to have very little outside interference or ref bumps and clean finishes.
Apparently, Jake Roberts is being investigated in England by the RSPCA for animal cruelty. After a recent show there, someone complained that he was being cruel to his snake at the show. The next night, the RSPCA sent an agent to another show Jake was working to watch and they weren't happy with what they saw either, so they've opened an investigation (yeah, as a kid, this was of course the coolest thing ever. But as an adult, I hate watching the way animals have been used in wrestling over the years. Jake used to just throw that snake around like it was nothing, fling it across the ring, people would fall on it, land on it, step on it, whatever. Remember the scene where Jake locked Ultimate Warrior in a room full of snakes? Go back and watch it now, Warrior is just kicking the shit out of these poor little snakes. Or another example, I remember watching a British Bulldogs match a few months ago and they had Matilda the bulldog jump off the ring apron to the mat below. That's a 3-4 foot jump. As someone who has owned bulldogs, that is terrible for their spines. As a kid, all this stuff was whatever. But as an animal-loving adult, watching all that old footage now makes me real uncomfortable).
An indie promotion in Pittsburg called IWC had a tournament called the Super Indy Tournament featuring Chris Hero, Christopher Daniels, Low-Ki, Colt Cabana, and some kid named CM Punk.
Early estimates for the WWA PPV in Las Vegas are around 31,000 PPV buys. Keep in mind, early estimates are always about 10-25% higher than what the final number ends up being. WWA needed 35,000 just to break-even on this show so even with the inflated number, they didn't do it. So the show is undoubtedly a money-loser, but no idea just how badly yet (spoiler: pretty badly).
Notes from Raw: it was the WWF Draft show! Dave calls it "the latest Russo-like reset of the promotion." Rock was drafted #1 for Smackdown while Undertaker was drafted #1 for Raw. It was announced that Austin wasn't eligible for being drafted and will be a free agent, so they'll figure that out later. Dave says, if you follow the storylines, it makes no sense why Ric Flair would pick Undertaker as his #1 pick (this being the guy he just had a bloodbath with at Wrestlemania and they didn't even bother to explain why Flair picked him). With his next pick, Flair selected the NWO. Once again, just a few weeks ago, Flair was ready to sign over his share of the company and leave the WWF entirely to keep Vince from bringing in the NWO. And now, with no explanation, he's drafted them to Raw. Billy & Chuck and the NWO got drafted together as a team, but the Dudleyz got split apart. Why?! None of this makes sense and Dave is so frustrated with how little thought they put into this after having a year to plan it. (Rewinderman short rant: everybody talks about all the reasons WWE has declined in popularity over the last 20 years and there's always different theories. Bad booking, not creating new stars, not pushing the right people, etc. etc. But I have my own theory that I never hear anyone say: I think it's the lack of attention to detail. Ever since WCW went out of business, Vince has been painting in broad, dumbed down brush strokes, over-explaining dumb, simple storylines, with none of the attention to detail that makes people get invested in a story. Anyway, enough of my opinions). Brock Lesnar came out and beat up a bunch of people again, which he's been doing on every show since his debut. In this case, he threw Rikishi around like a rag doll and Dave says that's one strong fella. They did an angle where Stephanie lost a match and was forced to "leave the WWF" and she was dragged out by security while the crowd sang the goodbye song to her. But Dave says they did this exact same thing with Stephanie in November and that lasted all of 5 weeks before she was back so don't get too excited (sure enough, she'll be back 3 months after this).
Notes from Smackdown: Rico Constantino debuted as the stylist for Billy & Chuck and Dave says that's a dead-end gimmick if there ever was one. He also got a haircut and looks like a totally different person from his OVW days. Rico is a fantastic wrestler and everyone from OVW to front office guys like Jim Ross have gone to bat for him and said he's ready to be a star. But he's small and he's on the older side, so this is clearly where Vince sees him (yeah, even Bruce Prichard later said that pretty much everyone in the company saw star-potential in Rico.....except Vince). Edge vs. Booker T had a rematch that was much better than their Wrestlemania match. And X-Pac debuted (with "a new physique", wink wink) and joined the NWO and they beat down Hogan and got major heat because Hogan is so over right now.
Kevin Nash and Scott Hall showed up several hours late to the Smackdown tapings in Ottawa and the first thing Nash did upon arrival was complain loudly to anyone who would listen about Rock calling him "Big Daddy Bitch" the night before on Raw, saying Rock double-crossed him and Nash hadn't approved that line. Considering all the times Nash went against the script in WCW, needless to say, there were lots of rolled eyes at that. Especially after showing up late also. To make it up to him, during the tag match on Smackdown, they had a spot where Nash yelled "Who's the bitch now?" at him and Michael Cole made sure to bring attention to it on commentary so nobody missed it, so now they're even and now everything is okay I guess. Dave says Nash and Rock smoothed things over between them later because Nash is smart enough to know that making an enemy of The Rock isn't in his best interest. But he was extremely pissed about the line.
Variety reported the new movie Rock is going to be filming later this year will be called Helldorado. It's an action-adventure movie and Rock plays a bounty hunter who heads to the Amazon jungle to capture someone and ends up joining the guy to trying to retrieve something from a local mine (close enough. The movie ends up being renamed The Rundown).
Paul Heyman has dropped significant weight since he was last on TV back in November. Even if they're not a wrestler, Vince wants everyone on television to be "cosmetically presentable."
Assorted WWF notes: Lita is filming an episode of the FOX show "Dark Angel" soon (spoiler: this turns out very poorly for Lita). Steve Blackman is still out with a neck injury and now he gets crippling migraine headaches when he tries to work out or take bumps and Dave says it's possibly career-threatening (indeed, it forces him to retire). Chris Jericho's band Fozzy will be performing at WWF New York next week. The Rock is about to be featured on every TV show and on the cover of every magazine in existence over the next few weeks as part of the Scorpion King promotion.
Dave talks about the current second season of Tough Enough and how interest is way down from the first season. He also kinda gives it a brief review and just says it's boring and nothing really entertaining happens. In the first season, Tazz was the hard ass tough guy trainer to Al Snow's nice guy routine. When Tazz did it, it felt like he was doing it to teach the students respect and was trying to do it in a positive way. This season, Bob Holly is the "bad cop" and he comes across like a complete asshole who is bullying people without any intention of doing it in a way that makes them work harder or become better wrestlers (yeah, you think it's bad now, just wait until season 3 when he starts beating the shit out of Matt Cappotelli).
WWF is going to be working with the Ozzfest concert tour this summer. WWF wrestlers will sign autographs and introduce bands at many of the tour stops and several of the bands will perform on Raw later this year. "That's what happens when there's no Nitro," Dave deadpans.
Regarding the multiple hardcore title changes at Wrestlemania 18, there was discussions about having some of them happen at the CN Tower in Toronto. With the idea that they would brawl into the elevator and end up fighting out onto the outdoor observation deck (like, 100 floors up). But a few weeks before the show, for whatever reason, WWF changed their mind and decided not to pursue it.
Bret Hart recently agreed to work Jacques Rougeau's next indie event at the Molson Center. If you recall, just a few months ago, Rougeau drew a crowd of more than 10,000 to one of his indie shows there. When Vince McMahon found out Hart was going to work the show, he tried to pull a power move and get the Molson Center to give him an exclusivity deal, which would block Rougeau (and anyone else) from being able to run the building. Didn't work and Rougeau's show will go forward as planned as of now (Vince used to do that shit all the time in the 80s to Jim Crockett).
Rey Mysterio hasn't signed with WWF yet but it's considered just a formality. They gave him a low-ball contract offer, far less than he would make just working indies. Of course, it's just his downside guarantee. When you factor in gate money, merch money, video game money, etc. then he stands to make far more than he would on the indies. But if he gets hurt, he'll be sitting at home making very little money. On the other hand, if he gets hurt on the indies, he'll be making no money so better than nothing. Anyway, sounds like Rey shot down the first low-ball offer but they're expected to agree on a deal soon.
Dave has seen more of the TSN Off The Record interviews they did with several WWF stars last week. Ric Flair talked about how much of a disaster WCW was and put over Vince. Dave says that this isn't just Flair publicly kissing the boss's ass. Privately for years, Flair has only said good things about Vince McMahon, dating back to his first run in the early 90s. Even all the years he was in WCW, Flair only had good things to say about him. During the interview, Flair was asked to name someone who could have been an all-time great but didn't have the work ethic. Flair said he couldn't think of anyone off the top of his head, leading Dave to write, "I was screaming Barry Windham but nobody heard me." Jim Ross was next and blamed the environment in WCW for the backstage problems Hall and Nash caused. Dave points out that Hall and Nash caused all those same problems in WWF before they left in 1996 so that doesn't exactly check out. Undertaker's interview was interesting for the rare experience of seeing him out of character, just being Mark Calaway. When asked about something he hates about how the business has changed, Undertaker talked about the internet spoiling things and how it hurts the product when fans know about things in advance. Dave, of course, disputes this and gives an example using the show Friends. Before this season of the show started, TV Guide reported that Ross was going to wind up being the father of Rachel's baby and it was common knowledge. But the ratings were still through the roof for the "reveal." He also jokes that they could have swerved everybody and made it Gunther instead. Then he says if Russo was writing the show, he would have made himself a character called The Scriptwriter and made himself the father of Rachel's baby. (I've never watched Friends, these references are lost on me)
Latest on WWF pay cuts: aside from the very top guys, the company is trying to get most of the roster down to $125,000-or-less per year downside guarantees. Those who work full schedules will still make a lot more than that with PPV/ticket/merch percentages, plus they're doing more house shows this year and with the split rosters, more guys should be working more dates. Plus they raised the price of PPVs so the PPV pay-offs will be bigger. So these pay cuts won't really hurt the full-time stars. But of course, if you get hurt and you're sitting at home only collecting your downside, that's gonna be a lot less money now. So that sucks. On the flip side, WCW used to do the opposite, where guys were hurt and they still collected their full salary, which led to a lot of guys milking "injuries" so they could stay home and cash big ol' checks. So then WCW decided to start cutting people's pay in half when they were out for too long, and that led to people who were legitimately injured coming back too soon because they had bills to pay. So there's a delicate balance that you have to strike there. Also, as part of the new contracts they're trying to get everyone to sign, they're attempting to lock everyone into 3-to-5 year deals because Vince wants to make sure nobody can jump ship and help one of these new start-up promotions like XWF or WWA or the new Jarrett company get off the ground.
Ric Flair is still working on his autobiography that Mark Madden was helping to ghost-write for him. WWF is now attempting to buy the rights for that book away from the original publisher so they can publish it on their own. No word if Mark Madden will still be included or if they'll re-do it (WWF did eventually get it and released it. It has another author listed but still says "edited by" Mark Madden so who knows how much of his contributions made it into the final product).
After Naoya Ogawa took pictures with several WWF names at Wrestlemania, he went back to Japan and I guess got the media stirred up about possibly working with them. Some media outlets have talked about WWF running a Tokyo Dome event headlined by Ogawa vs. The Rock. Dave says this is pure bullshit.
WEDNESDAY:AJPW Triple Crown champion Toshiaki Kawada injured, more on WWF pay cuts, business analysis, the history of wrestling/shoot fighting, more on Steve Austin walking out, and more...
Hello! I hope you all are doing well, and are healthy and happy :) QUICK ANNOUNCEMENT There will be no prediction this weekend! That is, Deiveison v Benavidez 2. The reason behind this is simply because i'm exhausted and I don't think I can do a third card without being absolutely drained. I sincerely apologise if you guys were looking forward to that, I hate letting you guys down and i hate myself for having to make this decision, but considering how much the first 3 event a week thing took out of me, I can't do that again. I'm sorry. We have a fairly action packed card ahead of us, so lets get down to the nitty and gritty. (c) - Champ (D) - Debut FLS - Fight Lose Streak FWS - Fight Win Streak NS - No Streak (#x) - Rank in Division Prelims Light Heavyweight Jorge Gonzalez (D) (#1 HW Mexico) (16-4-0, NS) v Kenneth Bergh (D) (8-0-0, 8 FWS) - Normally I don’t like double debuts because there isn’t really a whole lot to talk about, but this is Light Heavyweight and you just know that’s already a selling point. Gonzalez is apparently the number 1 heavyweight in mexico, with a 100% finish rate, all of those finishes being in the first round. He seems to have very heavy hands and really goes hard in the first round, otherwise he wouldn’t have gotten those finishes. Really exciting debutant. Bergh is a slightly taller submission artist who is coming in undefeated. I don’t know if he has a black belt in BJJ or anything like that, but I can only assume he will utilize his grappling during this fight. I don’t even know if Gonzalez has good defensive wrestling a lot so all of this really is just speculation, but I’m leaning on Bergh just to be safe. Bergh via Sub R1 Bantamweight Jack Shore (12-0-0, 12 FWS) v Aaron Phillips (12-3-0, 5 FWS) - Shore is one of the most interesting, undefeated prospects coming out of a very successful career in the Cage Warriors promotion, being an undefeated champ at a young age is always one excellent way to start your higher end career. Shore is a very well rounded fighter who is exceptionally fast on the ground. His debut just highlighted his skill set and it told us that no matter where the fight goes, he’s going to beat you to the punch. He’s got a very good cardio and somewhat most importantly, he’s young. At the age of 25, he’s still got about 7 years of top level fights ahead of him, and even if he does lose, his youth will no doubt help him adjust and learn new things. Shore is one hell of a prospect and I look forward to seeing him in the octagon once again. Phillips is returning after a rough initial journey in the UFC, losing both of his fights in 2014, it looked like he wasn’t really good at defending takedowns back then, that could have very well changed, but if it hasn’t, that’s a huge issue because Shore is going to be all over him, punches, takedowns, passing the guard, anything and everything. Phillips has since gotten a streak going, and is hopefully coming in with overall improvements. I obviously have Shore on this one, i’m feeling very confident about this. Shore via Sub R2 Women’s Flyweight Liana Jojua (7-3-0, NS) v Diana Belbita (13-5-0, NS) - I don’t have a whole lot to say about this fight. Jojua had a very difficult fight against Sarah Moras, being outstruck more than twice, eventually leading to a TKO loss, it didn’t look good for Jojua and I feel like since then, she’s probably got a new striking coach, because I feel like her wrestling and grappling were decent enough, the fundamentals were there but ultimately it’s not a great look on the feet. Belbita went to absolute war and actually held her own against McCann, who in her own right is a damn savage. Belbita showed us that she’s willing to brawl when the need arises, we haven’t really seen her wrestle a whole lot so I don’t know how her defensive wrestling is, but considering she’s a bigger and probably stronger fighter, it’ll be easy to just shake Jojua off and continue to work on the feet. I have Belbita on this, she has the experience and her last performance, whilst she lost, was impressive. Belbita via UD Lightweight Jared Gordon (15-4-0, NS) v Chris Fishgold (18-3-1, NS) - This is an excellent match up for both fighters. Gordon isn’t facing a Brazilian this time, so that’s good news for him, but he is facing a very tough and durable fighter in Fishgold. Gordon is a very well rounded fighter who keeps a very good pace and never really gives his opponent a chance to breath and reset. He’s always in your face and his fast hands and kicks will sway much of Fishgolds advancements in the octagon, but unfortunately Gordon is at a slight disadvantage, and that’s his corner, his team tested positive for the virus and unfortunately that makes it difficult to prepare for Fishgold. He has a forward pressure fighting style which essentially means he can sometimes risk getting hit in order to push his opponent back and deal a bunch of damage in bursts. Gordon is a fighter in every sense of the word, his history with drug abuse and addiction has been told time and time again and it’s what made me admire him as a fighter. The UFC did him dirty with that Oliveira fight though, holy hell what a horrible match up. Fishgold only has a couple of fights in the UFC, and with only one win against Teymur via submission, there really isn’t a lot to say about him other than he’s strong on the feet and very dominant on the ground. He’s a very good wrestler and with a black belt in BJJ it’s gonna be tough for Gordon to be able to outgrapple Fishgold. Gordon is going to need to pressure Fishgold and make this fight all in his control, he needs to keep a heavy pace going, and not only out-cardio, but out-box him and go hard, and considering his corner isn’t going to be there, he is probably best going hard very early on in order to get a finish as soon as possible. I got Gordon on this one, it’ll tell one hell of a story if he wins. Gordon via UD Light Heavyweight Modestas Bukauskas (D) (10-2-0, 6 FWS) v Andreas Michailidis (D) (12-3-0, 3 FWS) - A double debut! Bukauskas is coming in off a very dominant streak in Cage Warriors. He is the former champ and I can only assume he’s popular because of that. If that is the case then we’re going to see a very exciting fight. Bukauskas is a very aggressive striker who has very effective hands, he doesn’t do anything too risky, and the standard jab cross combo seems to be his main weapon coming into this, he’s always in his opponents face and the volume and power of his strikes is pretty good. It will be interesting to see how he handles UFC calibre fighters though. Michailidis has been on the back burner and no doubt would have been in the UFC eventually if he kept up the performances he’s had. He’s a big, imposing, powerful striker who starts off very strong, with powerful spinning kicks and hammers for hands. Unfortunately that’s all I know about Michailidis, and with that said, I need to go with a safer bet and that is Bukauskas, his experience in Cage Warriors will no doubt pay off in the UFC and I can’t wait to see these two talented fighters in the octagon. Bukauskas via KO R2 Featherweight Ricardo Ramos (14-2-0, 2 FWS) v Lerone Murphy (8-0-1, NS) - A fairly decent bout. Ramos has been through some very tough fights in the UFC and over time it’s been clear to us that he’s a very strong submission artist, especially in his last fight against Garagorri, whom he ended in the first round via Rear Naked Choke, almost effortlessly dominating him on the ground. Ramos is still a very young fighter and with that comes a great chance to develop his skills further and adjust what is needed, but from what I can see he only needs to work on his striking a bit more, as his ground game is absolutely beautiful at the moment. Murphy got absolutely mauled in his debut against Zubaira Tukhugov, he didn’t really have a chance to show off his skills so I can’t really talk that much about his octagon experience in a positive note, but prior to that, he was undefeated and looked like a great prospect from England. I feel like this fight might be similar to Murphy’s debut, Ramos will be looking for takedowns, but the question is, has Murphy worked on his wrestling since his debut? That’s the big question here, if he hasn’t, then Ramos is just going to effortlessly defeat him. I got Ramos on this one. Ramos via Sub R2 Middleweight John Phillips (22-9-0, NS) v Khazmat Chimaev (D) (6-0-0, 6 FWS) - What an exciting debutant! Phillips has 20 knockouts on his record, that’s incredibly impressive and just goes to show that his mindset coming into fights is to never leave it to the judges. We have yet to see him finish an opponent in the third round. Despite his rough 3 Fight Lose Streak prior to his win, he is still a very dangerous boxer and if he lands some shots, it’s going to be bad news for his opponent. Chimaev is a very interesting fighter, and a favourite on the betting odds, it makes me wonder what makes this fighter so attractive to the betters. It is because he’s undefeated? Because he’s a finisher? Whatever the case, I wouldn’t jump on that hype train so quick, yes, it’s fair to say that Phillips isn’t excellent on the ground, and with Chimaev being a strong grappler, it lays in Chimaevs favour, but what if Phillip lands some clean shots? This is an interesting bout and really anything could happen. Its a tough prediction to make, I guess if Chimaev is indeed a hype fighter coming into this, I guess this is a better time than any to see him perform, but for now, I’ll stick with Phillips. Phillips via KO R1 Main Card Welterweight Abdul Razzak Alhassan (10-1-0, 3 FWS) v Mounir Lazzez (D) (9-1-0, 2 FWS) - What. A. Banger! Razzak Alhassan has been in the news for some horrible stuff, and I absolutely feel sorry for the guy, I won’t speak of his unfortunate situation because it is not my place to, but what I will say is that since joining the UFC, time after time he has impressed me, he is the first round king, who carries power, speed, and explosiveness in everything he does. His hand speed is incredible, and it will carry him for a long time. Lazzez is coming in as a hot prospect, coming off two very significant KO’s in smaller promotions, He is the only local fighter on this card, which is great because talent is found everywhere and it just means the sport has expanded from the mainstream areas. I haven’t seen a lot of Lazzez however but really, the spotlight here is on Razzak Alhassan and I for one can’t wait to see the next highlight! Very confident with this prediction. Razzak Alhassan is simply going to beat Lazzez to the punch, literally. Razzak Alhassan via KO R1 Women’s Flyweight Molly McCann (10-2-0, 3 FWS) v Taila Santos (15-1-0, NS) - I was never really a fan of either of these fighters, up until McCann fought Priscilia Cachoeira, and holy shit did she dominate, she showed us a whole new side of her and its ferocious. She’s not a finisher, but the volume of strikes she throws is large, and she’s always moving forward, landing more than 100 strikes in her last three fights each. That’s huge and has no doubt increased her stock as a fighter. She’s probably not known to casuals, but learn her name now because she’s going to be a problem later on in her career. Santos has one thing going for her, and that was her streak prior to her recent loss, she was a dominant force and a dangerous one at that, 10 of her 15 wins were via knockout which is fairly impressive, and that just makes me think that this fight is going to be an absolute war. I for one welcome both of these two warriors leaving it all in the octagon. I got McCann on this one, she’s on quite the momentum. McCann via UD Featherweight Jimmie Rivera (22-4-0, 2 FLS) v Cody Stamann (19-2-1, NS) - I’m not sure if this is actually a featherweight bout or if Tapology is trolling me, but regardless, it’s a great match up. Rivera is an excellent striker, with a background in karate, he isn’t afraid to trade punches with you and keep at a very close range, his head movement is excellent and plays hand in hand with his striking style, which involves a lot of counters and a lot of evasive movement. Rivera is no doubt a tough fight for anyone and actually outstruck the now Bantamweight Champ Petr Yan. It is unfortunate that he is on a losing streak, but I have no doubt in my mind that he’s gonna fight his ass off in this fight, having much cleaner striking and more technique than Stamann. Speaking of which, Stamann is coming off quite an emotional win over Brian Kelleher, absolutely dominating the fight with excellent takedowns and very effective striking, Stamann was fighting with a heavy burden, and I feel like him losing his brother has only motivated him on many levels to improve and fight the best fight he can. That new motivation could be huge in this fight, but I feel like Rivera has the weaponry and technique to handle Stamann on the feet, on the ground however, that’s a different story, Stamann could easily control him with his strong wrestling. It’s a tough fight to predict but i’m gonna be leaning on Rivera. Please don’t bet based on this prediction. Rivera via UD Co-Main Event Flyweight Tim Elliott (15-11-1, 3 FLS) v Ryan Benoit (10-6-0, NS) - This is an interesting fight and perhaps the only fight Elliott has in his career, if he loses, he’s probably cut from the UFC, if not, then maybe he can be pushed for a few more fights, either way, Elliott loves a good scrap! He may not be incredibly good on the feet, but he’s a very high action wrestler who always looks for the takedown, and once he’s got the takedown, he does excellent work passing the guard, or just goes for a submission, either way, the ground is where Elliott excels and that’s most likely where he’ll take Benoit. Benoit is a very odd fighter, I can’t really get a solid read on him, he seems incredibly inactive, fighting only once in a while, i’m not sure if that’s because of contract issues or just conflict with matchmakers, but either way, I don’t think he has what it takes to defeat Elliott. Elliott has been in too many competitive fights and no doubt has the experience and tools to defeat Benoit. Elliott via Sub R2 Main Event Featherweight Calvin Kattar (#6) (21-4-0, NS) v Dan Ige (#9) (14-2-0, 6 FWS) - Want the world to hear these guys land punches? Because that’s how you get everyone to hear leather hit skin. Kattar is a fucking monster in the octagon, the way he destroyed Stephens with that step in elbow, followed by that disgusting ground and pound, it was the strongest finish i’ve seen in quite a while, absolute picture perfect timing. Kattar has shown his sniper-like punches in almost all of his bouts, his finishes have been incredibly dominant, and since he’s facing a shorter opponent in Ige, I feel like he’s going to focus on counters here, he’s going to wait for Ige to rush in and throw bombs, avoid those bombs and lay down the thunder. Ige has one advantage that Kattar doesn’t, and that’s the wrestling. Despite his nickname “Dynamite”, Ige doesn’t only have his ferocious, wild punches to rely on, he has his high level wrestling, unfortunately though, that’s all he has in terms of advantages, and if Kattar continues to avoid those takedowns and starts teeing off on Ige, Ige will noticeably slow down. This is all just speculation of course, it’s an excellent fight and it will no doubt be explosive. I don’t know what else to say other than I look forward to enjoying this, and I’m sure you all will too! Kattar via KO R3 And that's it! I'm sorry if this isn't a highly technical breakdown of the fights, with this week having 3 events, my time to research has been divided. I hope you guys enjoy the event though, at the end of the day, that's all that matters :) If you would like to follow me on twitter, you can find me @Slayer_Tip or if you want, add me on discord and we can have a super friendly chat about all things MMA: Slayertip#7013 that's all I have to say :) Much love to you all, take care, stay safe and enjoy the event!
The most fun I've had in my relatively new MMA fandom, besides my first live event, was watching Robert Whittaker's rise in middleweight. It was inspiring watching a guy who was struggling for a bit in welterweight move up, and go on a tear: beating down and knocking out killers as the betting underdog. Are there any other exciting streaks that led to a title victory/title shot that I should know of and bigne through? I have fight pass so i can watch any of the UFC ones, but I'm game for anything.
Last Event, UFC FN: Poirer VS Hooker, 4W - 2L, +2.7 units. Total 2020 Record, 22W - 14L, + 23.255 units. Had a decent performance last weekend, definitely went too large on Sean Woodson which set me back on the night but we still came out positive! This week has a lot of great fights that I’m looking forward to with some juicy lines to boot! Jorge Masvidal 2.5 units @ 3.25 odds Reason: Jorge is going to baptize Marty lol but seriously, Masvidal has great takedown defence, is the better standup striker and is capable of ending the fight at any moment. If Mas can keep the fight standing, Marty is in serious trouble and for the big + money odds I’ll take the underdog Mas for the upset victory. Alexander Volkanovski 2 units @ 1.5 odds Reason: Volkanovski has done it once, he’ll do it again. Max got outstruck in their last fight, mainly via leg kicks, but I Would also say that Volkanovski landed the harder, cleaner shots to the head between the two in their last fight. Volk is also a weird gorilla type of human, height is 5’6 with a 71” reach VS Holloway’s height of 5’11 and reach of 69”. While Holloway may be the taller fighter, he has the shorter reach which forces him to enter Volkanovski’s range in order to initiate striking. I expect a similar result to the first fight with Volk getting the better of Holloway and getting the judges nod via scorecards. Jose Aldo 2 units @ 3.1 odds Reason: Y’all gotta put some respect on Aldo… This is wild too see him be such a large underdog in this fight. Yan has looked impressive but he hasn’t fought the caliber of fighters that Aldo has faced in his career, nor does he have the championship experience that Aldo has. Expecting a striking battle between these two that has Aldo start to get the better of the exchanges into the championship rounds. It may be too much too fast for Yan in this moment and Aldo is able to capitalize on his experience against the up and coming Yan. Jessica Andrade 5 units @ 2.85 odds Reason: This seems like a gift from the bookies… Kind of strange to see the winner of the previous bout be such a big underdog in the rematch???? The 2.85 odds represents an implied win% of 35%. Oddly enough in the first matchup Andrade closed as the favorite, so what has changed? Rose hasn’t fought since there last match but Andrade has and was beaten badly by the new champ Weili Zhang via TKO in the 1st round. That was close to a year ago since Andrade was TKO’d so she has fully recovered at this point. Statistically, Andrade has the edge on Rose pretty much everywhere from striking output, to takedowns. Rose will have the reach and height advantage though so Andrade will have to work her way inside in order to implement her game plan. Looking to see Andrade pressure Rose to the cage and go for those explosive takedowns again. OF NOTE, I’m breaking my own betting rules here by betting on women’s MMA, however, I think given the big +odds, the result last time they fought, and the edge in striking output and takedowns, I’d be a fool to pass on this bet. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, 2 units @ 2.25 Reason: This seems like a striking matchup with Dos Santos having an edge in striking output. He also has a reach advantage of 73” VS 70”.. Betting that Dos Santos out strikes/lands the heavier handed Salikhov and earns the UD victory on points. Danny Henry 2 units @ 2.8 odds Reason: Odds seem stretched here… Amirkhani is a one trick pony, always looking to get the fight to the ground. Henry has some decent takedown defence and a high striking output to boot. Henry did lose his last matchupto Dan Ige via rear-naked choke but Ige has proven himself to be a top contender in the division. If Henry can keep the fight standing he has a good chance of winning this fight and we get good odds if he does. Taking a small shot here on Henry.
Prizefighter Preschool: UFC 251: Usman vs Masvidal
Prizefighter Preschool is a preview for UFC events aimed at casual fans interested in learning more about the sport, or hardcore fans looking for even more input and perspective. With the UFC headed to Fight Island, myself and OpenFlameRecon will happily be your tour guides. Event | UFC 251 Location | Yas Island, UAE (AKA Fight Island) Expected Attendance | 0 Fight Pass Early Prelims Start Time | 6:00pm EST ESPN Prelims Start Time | 8:00pm EST ESPN+ PPV Main Card Start Time | 10:00pm EST Prelims to Watch: Welterweight (170lbs): Elizeu “Capoeira” Zaleski Dos Santos vs Muslim “The King of Kung Fu” Salikhov Estimated Start Time: 9pm EST
Buynaksk, Dagestan, Russia
Analysis: D: Expect an interesting bout here as elements of rarer martial arts play into what should be a striking heavy matchup. EZDS’ capoeira background manifests itself in flashy spinning kicks when he’s not throwing relentless combinations. Despite the “King of Kung Fu” nickname, Salikhov doesn’t show much Kung Fu in the cage. This is because it’s Kung Fu, and thus entirely ineffective in modern combat sports. However, his kickboxing is extremely crisp, and he is more than willing to throw vicious spinning kicks like his opponent. Salikhov has more potent 1-punch KO power, but he’ll need to overcome flurries from EZDS to show that off. C: While Salikhov is an extremely violent fighter, his style often involves throwing single big strikes at a lower pace than his opponents, in conjunction with absurd kicks that keep opponents at a distance while punishing their bodies. Meanwhile, although EZDS has looked somewhat slower in recent fights against Jingliang and Kunchenko, his volume is somewhat higher, and he has a higher tendency to throw strikes that don’t necessarily have the intention of ending the fight. As a result, it seems more likely that EZDS will be able to win with higher output and chance to do damage. Picks: D/C: EZDS/DEC Light Heavyweight (205lbs): (#7) Volkan “No Time” Oezdemir vs Jiri “Denisa” Prochazka Estimated Start Time: 9:30pm EST
Analysis: D/C: Volkan Oezdemir is an interesting case; his UFC debut saw a controversial split decision win. After that, he flatlined his next two opponents early on, making good on his “No Time” nickname. When he challenged for the Light Heavyweight title, Daniel Cormier dominated him, and he followed that loss with two more losses. A big KO win over Ilir Latifi turned that around, and a split decision over rising contender Aleksander Rakic kept that momentum going. But now he faces a debuting Jiri Prochazka, the former champion of Japanese promotion Rizin. Prochazka enters the UFC on a 7 fight KO streak, having never lost his Rizin title, rather vacating in order to switch promotions. This fight has the possibility of ending at any moment due to the explosive power of both competitors. It’s a quintessential matchup of a mid-tier contender seeking to hold their ground against a newcomer with serious hype. Oezdemir’s style has changed over the past year or so, but the fundamental basis of it involves an extremely physical clinch, backed by hard low kicks. While Jiri’s powerful striking led him to a lot of success in Rizin, it may not work out in his UFC debut, against an incredibly durable hitter like Oezdemir. Personally, I think No Time has run out of time with this matchup. Picks: D: Prochazka/2/KO C: OezdemiDEC Main Card Women’s Flyweight (125lbs): (#14-SW) Amanda Ribas vs “12 Gauge” Paige VanZant Estimated Start Time: 10:10pm (EST)
Minas Gerais, Brazil
Analysis: D: To me, this fight is placed far too highly on the card, because both women are “marketable”. Not that these two aren’t good, as they are (especially Ribas), however this bout is just in a place more important than it should be. Usually fighting at Strawweight, Ribas and VanZant are fighting 10 pounds heavier at Flyweight for this bout. This will be VanZant’s first bout since January of 2019, with a surgery for a broken arm and a re-breaking of said arm in-between then and now. While VanZant’s striking is fairly good, Ribas will look to take this fight to the ground and control the grappling. While 12 Gauge Paige has some decent grappling and even a few submission wins, expect Ribas to take this one should it head to the canvas. C: I think a lot of people are underrating PVZ in this fight. Ribas is a violent and exciting prospect and PVZ has been out with injury after injury, sure, but Paige is still a decent grappler with flashy striking. While I, and a lot of others, are expecting that Ribas will be able to put in work on the ground vs. PVZ, it would not shock me to see her get outstruck on the feet. Picks: D: Ribas/1/Sub C: Ribas/2/SUB Women’s Strawweight (115lbs): (#2) “Thug” Rose Namajunas vs (#1) Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade
Analysis: D: This bout, to me, is the exact opposite of the last bout; a highly skilled matchup between top contenders and former champions. This is a rematch of a world championship bout last year in which Rose Namajunas was dominating until holding on to a kimura too long, allowing Andrade to lift her opponent and send her skull-first into the canvas with a brutal slam KO. Andrade would go on to lose her first title defense to current champ Weili Zhang, setting up this fantastic rematch. The “story” of this fight is that of an attempted comeback for two women coming off of championship losses (Rose has not fought since the last Andrade fight). However, the more interesting aspect of this bout to me is determining how much of a fluke Andrade’s win was last time around. A lot of the MMA community believes that Rose simply lost due to the single mistake of hanging on long enough to get lifted and slammed. I fall in line with that point of view. Barring another crazy circumstance, Rose should be able to strike at a distance and avoid the absurd power of Brazil’s sledgehammer. C: I think a lot of people have the wrong mindset when looking at Namajunas/Andrade 1 and are too salty about Rose losing to fairly assess the fight. Rose had an absolutely incredible first round, consistently countering Andrade every time she stepped in, and even dropping her at one point. Her footwork is extremely light, and she has excellent in-and-out movement to compliment heavy hands and lethal grappling. Andrade, meanwhile, is like a female John Lineker, and a 5’1 Wanderlei Silva. Hooks, hooks, hooks. If Andrade ever threw a straight punch, I’d be concerned about which universe I’m living in. Her height lets her excel at throwing to the body and getting into a clinch, while her unreal strength lets her throw opponents around with minimal effort. However, Andrade seriously struggles with an opponent who can move around her with ease, and an opponent who can comfortably counter her on the way in (demonstrated recently by Zhang and Namajunas). Some people look at the first fight, see the success in the first round, and say Namajunas was winning the entire fight, and the slam was a lucky fluke. Here’s the thing for me: do I see a second slam happening? Not necessarily, but I think the option is there. The bigger thing for me is that Namajunas was beginning to slow down in the second round, and Andrade’s leg kicks were adding up. While she was not winning the round before the slam, she was very liable to pick up the next three or so rounds with consistent heavy leg kicks and pressure. In a five round fight, I’d probably pick Andrade here, but the 3 round bout leads me to think Namajunas can at least somewhat replicate her prior performance. Picks: D/C: Namajunas/DEC UFC Bantamweight Championship (135lbs)(vacant):(#3) Petr “No Mercy” Yan vs (#6) Jose Aldo “Junior”
Analysis: D: The most hyped up fight on this card, and the main event, did not exist as it does now just a few days ago. The original main event for this card was Usman defending his 170lb title against his teammate, Gilbert Burns. Because of this situation, Usman switched gyms temporarily. This switch proved to be a great decision as his original opponent and a few teammates caught COVID19. With Burns (the most deserving contender) out, the UFC decided to pay Jorge Masvidal the big bucks he thought he was worth and have him fight for the belt on short notice. Masvidal has been a consistent figure in the UFC for years, but was never more than a mid-card fighter. A stint on a survivor-like reality show had Masvidal claiming he’d come back “baptizing” people. While Jesus may not be a fan of CTE[a], Street Jesus certainly is, and Masvidal came back to flatline heavy favorite Darren Till in Till’s home country of England. Next, Masvidal was paired with undefeated wrestler Ben Askren. Knowing Askren’s striking to be terrible, Masvidal anticipated that Askren’s first move would be to dive in for a takedown. One flying knee later and Akren’s undefeated record was gone, in its place was Masvidal’s fastest knockout in UFC history record at just 5 seconds. All this talk about baptizing people and being a “bad motherfucker” caught the eye of Nate Diaz, who called for a fight with Masvidal to see if the east coast or west coast gangsters were more, well, gangster. The UFC, seeing a huge money fight, but not wanting to allow a single PPV event without a title belt on the line, instituted the “BMF” belt. While the BMF belt was nothing more than a vanity plate for the winner of a fun fight, Masvidal taking said belt via doctor stoppage was enough to start serious talk of him being a title contender. Cue months of money disputes, and one unfortunate case of COVID later and Masvidal is getting his shot at the real belt. While Masvidal was baptizing fools, Usman was welterweight champion, having dominated Tyron Woodley in shocking fashion to take the belt. The Nigerian Nightmare then took out noted loudmouth tool Colby Covington in his first defense. The two fighters known for their excellent wrestling decided that their hatred of one another was more important, leading to neither man attempting a takedown and both men trying to take each other’s heads off with punches. Usman cathartically broke the jaw of Covington to end the night. One interesting note here is Usman’s switch of gyms. Temporarily working under Trevor Wittman, I think Usman’s striking may greatly improve. If it does, Masvidal might be in serious trouble. While Masvidal has serious KO power and good grappling, he stands to get outwrestled for 5 rounds if he can’t close the show early. Usman’s chin and possible improvements to his striking game lead me to think that Gamebred won’t get such an opportunity. C: Usman is an extremely talented wrestler with endless cardio and a slowly developing striking game. Having shown himself capable of outstriking and outgrappling wrestlers like Covington and Woodley, while dominating strikers like RDA, the champion has put together a skillset and resume that leave some questioning who will be able to take the belt off of him. Between his solid clinch entries and consistent bodywork, Usman has few weaknesses to be exploited. However, some notable deficiencies in his game are present in his comfort standing (while his offensive striking is improving, his defense and capacity for getting out of the way of punches leaves something to be desired). Masvidal, meanwhile, is well suited to take advantage of some of these deficiencies. Having been around for nearly two decades in the fight game, his skill set is extremely well rounded. From showing incredible kick-catching against the likes of Ellenberger and Cerrone, to stuffing takedowns from Bendo and surviving on the mat against Maia (who went on to describe Masvidal as having some of the best defensive BJJ he’d ever faced), Masvidal has brought his game to a new level by demonstrating an urgency to finish fights that was lacking in his previous title runs. Given the extreme short notice nature of the bout, it’s kind of hard to pick against Usman here. Maybe the short notice will benefit Masvidal through a combination of not overtraining/a new stylistic matchup/willingness to take risks, but betting on x-factors like that against a champion as consistent as Kamaru Usman doesn’t make sense to me here. The more likely scenario, to me, is that a combination of Usman’s superior grappling and Masvidal’s short notice preparation will result in a successful defense of the title. Picks: D/C: Usman/DEC [a]jesus loves knockouts
[Editorial] Decoding the "clogged" HW title picture: Or, a primer on MMA politics
I find politics and gamesmanship fascinating. I love seeing how strategy can lead people into actions they otherwise wouldn't do. I don't necessarily agree with the morality of manipulation, but I can respect people who are good at it. Dana White and DC are both great it. I love Stipe, as a fighter and a person, but Stipe is terrible at politics. He doesn't understand how to play the game, or even that there is a game being played, or how it's affecting. So this is me explaining the politics at play in the HW division, and offering advice to my boi Stipe.
The UFC Heavyweight belt is supposedly held up at the moment. Dana White said that he may have to strip the champion, Stipe Miocic, for inactivity. Stipe has gone 1-1 against his most recent opponent, Daniel Cormier, who is clamoring for another fight, and soon. And Francis Ngannou has murdered yet another opponent in under a minute. Thing is, all this talk of a clogged division is bullshit. This is all gamesmanship on the part of Dana White and DC to make Miocic-Cormier III happen. And Stipe's inability to play politics in return, or even understand what's going on, is putting him on a course for MC-III to happen before he would like. If, however, he understood the angles and tactics of the other two, he could have secured his belt and put DC in a very uncomfortable position. In order to understand where the current situation and how each person plays the game, we have to rewind. Stipe is the undisputed HW champion. He has the record for most consecutive UFC HW title defenses. He defended the belt against Ngannou in January 2018. (One of three fighters to go the distance with Ngannou EVER.) Stipe lost to DC seven months after beating Ngannou, but then won it back in August 2019. Given Stipe's impressive resume, he is already in the discussion as the heavyweight GOAT. But he's terrible at the political side of MMA. Know who is incredible with politics? Daniel Cormier. DC took the belt from Stipe in July 2018. After the fight, Brock Lesnar, Hall of Fame pro wrestler and former UFC HW champ, entered the octagon, trashed Stipe, trashed DC and punched the microphone into the camera. Brock was thinking of coming back for one more UFC fight, and given his draw power, was going to be given an immediate shot at the title, despite having fought only once since December 2011. DC was thrilled. He was happy enough to win the title, but he was grinning ear-to-ear during Brock's promo. He would love to have Brock as his next opponent. DC has been an elite athlete for a long time. He's been fighting MMA since 2009. Before that he had been competing in international wrestling since 2003. Before that, he was a collegiate wrestler. That is a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and pain. He's had an incredibly long, successful career and he's ready to wrap it up. Before the first Stipe fight he said he was looking to have one more fight and then retire. Brock would have been the perfect opponent for DC's victory lap. Brock wasn't going to get a title shot if he returned because of his skillset or resume, he would've gotten it because he's an insane draw for the UFC. Brock headlined 4 UFC PPV's that sold over a million buys. DC has hit 800k twice (vs. Jones I and II), otherwise his highest is 400k. Stipe has only broken 400k three times. (Two of those were against DC.) Brock would come back to headline a PPV in a title fight, and the UFC would make millions. And DC was all for it. (The UFC has bills to pay, and all of us would sell a little of our soul for a lot of money, so I understand everyone's support for it.) As one half of the main event, DC would be entitled to a percentage of the PPV sales. And against Brock, those sales would be astronomical. It's hard to estimate how much more he make for that fight compared to his average, but it's probably multiple times more. Plus, Brock would be rusty. He would still be dangerous, but still easier than most title contenders. So DC could make beaucoup bucks for a fight he would probably win in the first two rounds, then retire as a two-division champ. That's a sweet fucking deal. But it wasn't guaranteed that Brock would come back. Brock was still under contract with the WWE, and Vince McMahon wouldn't let the fight happen without taking a big slice of the money. (See: Dana White, Mayweather-McGregor.) Then there's the issue of whether Brock really wanted to spend several months training MMA, then take all the potential risks of an heavyweight MMA fight. The return of Brock was big news for a few months, but ultimately fell apart. According to Dana White, Brock decided not to fight and said he was done with MMA. But maybe the business side of the deal broke down, we don't know. All during Brock's "will he, won't he", Stipe was demanding a rematch. Stipe, on paper, was already the UFC's greatest heavyweight champ. Was he not entitled to a rematch? Well, Dana White wasn't booking it. And DC publicly said the Stipe fight didn't make sense, that he was going to fight Brock. Stipe took DC's comments very personally. In the lead-up the eventual rematch, Stipe talked about feeling betrayed and disrespected by DC. But really, Stipe shouldn't have been mad, let alone surprised by DC's comments. If Stipe was more aware of the politics, marketing and business side of MMA, he wouldn't have taken DC's comments at face value. By fighting Stipe, DC gets average money for a very dangerous fight. But by fighting Brock, DC gets way more money, and for a way easier fight. Of course DC is going to want the Brock fight. DC saying "The Stipe fight doesn't make sense" was just DC playing the game, angling for the Brock fight, quieting the noise around the Stipe fight. Stipe was also very insulted by what Brock said during the in-octagon promo. But again, Brock was shooting a promo; Brock didn't mean everything he said, he was hyping a fight to sell more tickets. - I love Stipe, but it drives me crazy that he doesn't understand this. Which brings us to the current situation, and where Stipe fucked up. It's now May 2020. Stipe finished DC in the fourth round of their August 2019 rematch, and has not fought since. He has needed time off to recover from eye surgery, which was likely necessitated by DC eyepokeing him in both of their fights. DC has also not fought since their rematch. DC has been angling for a trilogy fight for the title, after which he will almost certainly retire. Francis Ngannou lost by decision in his first fight after losing to Stipe. Since then, he has flatlined four top-ranked opponents in a combined 2 minutes and 42 seconds. He is the scariest man alive, and the most deserving of a title shot of anyone on the UFC roster. (Maybe of any fighter, ever.) Everyone on the planet who saw Francis flatline Jairzinho Rozenstruik on May 9 asked themselves "Why isn't this guy fighting for the title?" At the broadcast, DC said he would fight Francis for the title. But if I was a gambling man, I'd bet Francis won't be in the next UFC HW title fight. As for why, we can look at the major player's recent statements. Dana White publicly said that he may have to strip Stipe for inactivity if he doesn't fight soon. DC seconded that opinion. Stipe responded by saying he wanted to fight again but his gym was closed and he was too busy with his dayjob as a firefighter. And that's where he fucked up. He took Dana and DC's comments at face value, and whiffed against both of them. Stipe should have responded by saying "Sure, Dana can take the belt from. If he wants to strip a first responder during a global pandemic, he should do that." Because there's no fucking way Dana would follow through after Stipe said that. Dana knows he can't strip a fighter for inactivity, during COVID, while that fighter is a first responder, because it would cause a huge shitstorm. It'd be all over ESPN, it'd even get play on mainstream media outlets that never cover MMA. There's no way he could strip Stipe if Stipe had framed it that way. (I know Stipe said something to that effect, but it wasn't explicit enough.) Even without it, I doubt Dana would risk doing it. Dana is using it as a negotiating tactic to get Stipe back in the ring, but Stipe is treating it like a real threat. Nor did Stipe see through DC's game, or call his bluff. I can't read DC's mind, but there's no fucking way he wants to fight Francis Ngannou right now. There's almost no heavyweight on the planet who would fight Francis unless it was for the undisputed HW championship. True, DC fought Rumble Johnson when Rumble was the most terrifying man on the planet, but that was 2015, and DC was in a different situation. He was younger and hadn't yet won the LHW belt; now he's older, worn down, and doesn't have nearly as much to prove. The reality is, DC wants to fight Stipe for the title, and he wants to do it ASAP. Training MMA is brutal and the sooner DC has his next fight, the sooner he can move on. If Stipe had known this, and had some more Machiavelli in him, he could've hit DC with a killer line. Our scheming Stipe could have said "DC deserves a title shot, and so does Francis, but I can't fight right now. If DC wants to fight for the title, he should fight Francis for the interim belt, and I'll fight the winner when I can come back." This would have killed DC. DC almost surely does not want to take the huge risk of fighting Francis for the smaller reward of an interim belt. But, if the champ isn't under any pressure to return, DC's been called out, he only has two weak options: fight Ngannou for an interim belt, or retire. All of the pressure would be taken off Stipe and put onto DC. Francis would gladly take an interim title fight now and a guaranteed title fight later. I think DC would waffle, delay and hold out for Stipe before eventually retiring. But alas, this is almost surely not going to happen. DC is going to get the next title shot, even though Ngannou is far more deserving, because DC is one of Dana's boys, and that affects matchmaking. Dana, as a favor to DC, will keep pushing to get Stipe back ASAP for Miocic-Cormier III, even though Miocic-Ngannou would sell about the same. DC will retire after the trilogy fight, win or lose. Stipe will come out of that fight as the champ or the #1 contender for a vacant belt; either way he'll probably take time off to recover. And so Francis will have to wait. His next fight will probably be for the title or the interim title, but probably not against Stipe, unless he's willing to sit out another year. I hope this long write-up helps you understand the gamesmanship around MMA, helps you understand why someone said what they did, and what they're really saying. I love Stipe but I find his cluelessness frustrating. I respect Uncle Dana for how he's able to play the game, and I know he profits at other people's expense, but if you're in business you shouldn't be surprised, you should know that you're dealing with a shark, not a person. And DC, don't even get me started on DC. I could do a whole 'nother write-up on the things he's done. I mean, when Disney forced Dana to cancel the upcoming events, DC masterfully put his name in the conversation as Dana's successor without being direct/obvious enough to make a scene. It was incredible. But that's it for now, the cheeto dust on my fingers is getting too thick for me to type. Thanks for reading you fucking momo's. Tl;DR - Dana White knows how to play the game and uses it to his advantage. DC knows how to play the game and uses it to his advantage. Stipe doesn't know how to play the game and it's causing problems for him.
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Fighter Betting Trends: UFC on ESPN 13 (Kattar vs Ige ...
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