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Mysterio Injured, No Way Out Analysis,
SD! Cancelled (kind of), and Lots More! 
February 14, 2008

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Ah sweet merciful christ, the writers' strike is over! Halleluiah! 

I say that not only because I was getting sick and tired of half-assed editions of three of my favorite late night shows (although, to their credit, when they decided to half-ass it together as part of an elaborate cross-show feud, the results were glorious!)... but also because now I don't have to live with the secret shame that I have a damned communist brother

who actually believes in organized labor and was out there picketing religiously when, to be perfectly honest, there's no reason he couldn't have stayed at home and not been an embarrassment to All Things American.

Then again, I guess if he hadn't been out there picketing, he'd never have gotten propositioned by Mr. Sulu while loitering around in front of Paramount Studios. And honestly, no matter how flamboyantly striaght you are, you gotta admit that having Mr. Sulu openly hitting on you would be sorta cool.

But enough chit-chat about my Hollywood Brother's gay adventures. Tonight is the night of candles and chocolates and heart-shaped pizzas and all that other crap. Or maybe not: as I've long said, when you are, by nature, a damned charming son of a bitch 365 days a year, having one special, heavily-commercialized day per year dedicated to acting that way is genuinely confusing.

So I'll just sticks with whats I knows. Wrestling:

  • This weekend is WWE's No Way Out PPV, an event which has slightly greater significance than in recent years thanks to the curveball that is John Cena, and the uncertainty it interjected into the WrestleMania main event picture.
    Thing is, as of this Thursday afternoon writing, there's even MORE uncertainty about the PPV. And not the good kind.
    Rey Mysterio suffered an arm injury during a tag match yesterday in Chile. He was visibly impaired for the final few moments of the match, and after the show was immediately flown to visit with Dr. James Andrews (a meeting that will probably have taken place by the time you read this).
    At this point, details are scarce, though I will mention that: (1) it is thought to be a biceps tear of some kind, and (2) WWE does not make emergency visits to Dr. Andrews if they don't have pretty solid reason to believe an injury is severe.
    Rey was scheduled to face Edge in a World Title match at No Way Out. Though the outcome of the match is not even remotely in question, the fact is that Edge and Rey still mesh together well and could have a great, fast-paced, action-packed match. Now, a best case scenario would be a severely-limited Mysterio struggling through a "make-good" match. 
    And given early indications and the fact that WWE has backed off on asking guys to "work hurt" in the past year, a worst case scenario of the match being cancelled is seemingly more likely.
    WWE will surely know the diagnosis for Rey by Thursday evening, but I doubt if they'd use the opportunity to edit/alter tomorrow night's SmackDown! to address the situation. More likely, we'll just have to wait till Sunday to find out what they'll do about things.
    Off the top of my head: the best idea I've got is sort of a tweaked version of a mini-fantasy-booking notion I talked about last column: do a three-way match at the PPV taking advantage of CM Punk's recent crossover successes. Have Edge interject himself into the scheduled Chavo/Punk match, using Vickie Guerrero and "The Familia" as the storyline device. The three could have a sweet 20-plus minute match, with tons of bells and whistles to go with the in-ring work. In the end, do a finish where Punk pins Chavo, and can claim a tacit win over Edge, too, as a result. More crossover goodness can continue, more elevating Punk's status can happen, and more raising ECW's profile is a dandy by-product, as well.
    Of course, you do that, and you're still looking at having to add 1 or 2 additional matches, and with 12 of the bigger stars tied up in the Chamber matches, the E may be forced to (GASP!) utilize the tag divisions. Well, that or the divas. I mean, who among us can't wait until Titties McSuperbowl is back???!!??
    I guess we can still hold out hope that things aren't as bad as they've sounded in various second-hand reports, and Rey can go on Sunday, but.... well, we've gotta be reasonable, too. If Rey's out (and thus, out for WM24), it'll really suck for the guy; he's only been back in the saddle for 6 months after a lengthy knee-related lay-off. Now, it could be another 4-6 months in a worst case scenario.
    We'll see how it goes, and I'm sure we'll talk about this next week when we've got better information to work with...
  • I guess while we're on the topic, this is as good a time as any to quickly run down the No Way Out PPV card. 
    As noted above, there's actually a bit more oomph here than I remember in the last 2-3 years. Maybe even since the year Eddie won the title at the NWO PPV. WrestleMania 24's top matches really AREN'T etched in stone, and will be solidified only by the Sunday's results. 
    Well, that's true more on the RAW side than the SD! side (now especially so after Rey's injury), but still... it's a layer of intrigue WWE hasn't had in a while. Given that WWE has lost the ability to set up a genuinely blow-away, year-in-the-making sort of WM main event like they had in the past, this notion of keeping things in a state of flux for as long as possible before serving up a WM main event that is either blah-worthy or that we've seen before is a good one.
    I mean: Cena vs. HHH for the umpteenth time? Anything involving Randy Orton? Better to keep the ambiguity going than to give us fans months to ponder just how much of a shit we don't give.
    Here's a quick rundown of the six matches that WWE's announced for the show:
    So Cena makes a surprise return and wins the Royal Rumble to earn the WM Main Event Title Shot. The next night on RAW, he talks about how the only thing that drove him during his rehab was the thought that he'd miss headlining WrestleMania. So, genius that he is, he IMMEDIATELY changes gears and says he doesn't give a crap about WrestleMania, he wants his title shot PRONTO. [Note: in the same promo, he also called Randy Orton "the smartest man in wrestling," so good christ was he ever hopped up on LSD or something that night.] Orton pulled a "Samoa Joe," and refused to fight unless the fans paid to see it, so the compromise was that Cena got NEITHER his WM Headliner Spot NOR his Immediate Title Match. They agreed to fight at No Way Out. If your brain hurts, don't worry: so does mine. But this is what passes for logic and continuity in WWE these days.
    With Orton being responsible (in storylines) for Cena's injured pectoral, the rest has largely written itself: Orton hired Mark F. Henry to re-injure Cena, but Cena has been superman and has proven he's "100%." In fact, it got to the point this week where he's SOOOOO "100%" that you begin to wonder if they aren't setting us up for something. Afterall, Cena does have a movie to shoot... then again, large portions of "The Marine" were shot while Cena remained an active TV performer (flying in on Monday afternoons and flying back to set on Tuesday morning), so who knows? I just know that there are two possibilities here: (1) Cena remains Superman and takes the title in anvilicious fashion or (2) Orton manages to re-injure Cena and gets credit for putting him on the shelf with the thought being this will somehow be the thing that makes people care about him. Both of these options make me very, very, very sad. But hey, for WWE these days, having 2 completely viable and plausible ways to make me sad at the end of a match is a step in the right direction. Usually, they just have the one stultifyingly obvious and unsatisfying "out" at the end of the day. Yippee?
    If I were forced to predict? Orton.
    RAW ELIMINATION CHAMBER FOR #1 CONTENDERSHIP (Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Jeff Hardy, Chris Jericho, JBL, Umaga)
    Here's where I get TONS more excited about the amount and type of ambiguity WWE's bringing to the table. Without using a whole lot of imagination, you can easily convince yourself there are five viable winners here. And four of them (sorry, JBL) would be quite satisfactory as WM headliners. The one odd man out: nobody believe Umaga can win. But hey, inside the Chamber setting, he's still a guy who can do things none of the other five can, and who will play a vital role in the match.
    Think about it: Cena has *rich* history with HHH and JBL (and has main evented WM against each of them already), and has had a slightly less intense rivalry (but also another WM main event) against Shawn Michaels. Additionally, Cena is the one who "retired" Jericho back in 2005, a feud that could be reheated very easily. Orton? Huge history between him and HHH, and just slightly less with Shawn Michaels; more recently, both Hardy and Jericho have been thorns in Orton's side and he hasn't exactly smited them convincingly yet. That means each of the possible champs has four different compelling challengers (three of whom overlap) in this match.
    The Chamber gimmick itself is good for some intrigue and crowd heat, but these six ought to be able to go way beyond that. To me, that means you put the SD! Chamber on first, and let them just skate by on the strength of the gimmick, then put this on later in the show to take the fans to the next level. In fact, I'd be perfectly fine with putting this match on last; I mean, if it's between this and Cena/Orton, we all know which one can rule and which one will struggle to be mediocre.
    Forced prediction? Eh, I say "five possible winners," but let's do the safe thing and say Triple H. He's been away from the title for so very, very long...
    SD! ELIMINATION CHAMBER FOR THE #1 CONTENDERSHIP (Undertaker, Batista, Khali, Viscera, MVP, Finlay)
    So yeah.... those are the six. Last year at Mania, Taker beat Batista for the World Title, then immediately got injured. Eventually, Batista ended up back with the title just in time for Taker to return. But before the two could adequately settle their score, Edge swooped in and took the title, leaving them to decide which will step up and face him for the strap at this year's WM.
    There you've got a decent little two-man story, but there be six bodies here. Why? I dunno. Khali and Viscera both suck balls and on top of that, nobody believes they can win; I mean, I recognize the value of "prop" wrestlers in matches like this, but at least RAW's "prop" wrestler is a big fat monster who can do things that nobody else in the match can do; Khali and Viscera are just big oafs who were probably thrown in here so that power wrestlers like Taker and Batista can do one or two allegedly "amazing" feats of strength with them. Meh. MVP? Just latched on as a believable US Champ, and now they shove him into this match? No sale. Finlay? Also not anywhere near this level, but let's just say they're rewarding him for 2 utterly surprising years of being one of the most entertianing guys on SD!, and not think too hard about it. Plus, if his midget makes an appearance inside the chamber, hilarity might ensue. Or possibly carnage. Which, in its own way, could be hilarious.
    Prediction? Taker. Obviously.
    EDGE vs. REY MYSTERIO (World Title)
    As outlined above, this match may or may not happen, and even if it does, well, it's not like the outcome is in any doubt.
    Prediction? Duh.
    SD! General Manager Vickie Guerrero finagled an ECW Title shot for her nephew Chavo last month, and thanks to an assist from Vickie's boy-toy, Edge, Chavo took advantage and beat Punk for the belt. Since then, Punk's crossover antics (splitting his time between Chavo and Edge over on SD!) has been one of WWE's more entertaining deals. But on this night, his attention is focused back on the ECW Title... given how well he and Chavo meshed in a lengthy "Gulf of Mexico Street Fight" (improving upon their first title match), I suspect this could be the rarest of rarities: an ECW Title match that engages the fans and stands up well on a multi-brand PPV.
    Prediction? I could really go either way on this one. On one hand, I love the idea of Punk getting back on top and then dealing with a challenge from the retooled Shelton Benjamin at WM24. On the other hand, there's tons of cool things you could do with Edge and Chavo (and Vickie) both holding titles and heading up the crossbrand "Familia" Faction. Hmmmmm.... so many choices. But let's say Chavo, and maybe enhance Punk's misery so that his eventual victory is that much sweeter.
    RIC FLAIR vs. KEN KENNEDY (Career Threatening Match)
    Two months ago, Vince McMahon decided Flair only had value to WWE if he was a believable competitor who is still at the top of his game. To that end, Vince decreed that the next time Flair loses a match, Flair will have to retire. Since, a few men have stepped up to try to be the one who puts down the Nature Boy, and all have failed. So will Ken Kennedy. To be honest, their promo Monday was white-hot and the chemistry undeniable... but for all the upside Kennedy has, there ain't nobody out there who believes Ric Flair is going bye-bye on an off-month PPV as a result of a match that only has 2 weeks of build-up. Doesn't mean it can't be entertaining and crowd pleasing, though; so far, Flair seems to be hitting the perfect notes in these "career" matches, keeping it short, generating just enough sympathy, and then resorting to the usual bag o' dirty tricks to eek it out.
    Prediction? Double duh.
    That's it, as far as what WWE has officially announced. Obviously, even if Rey/Edge is on, there's probably room for another match or two; I'd say you can plunder the tag divisions for some filler, but honestly, who among us wants to pay for the honor of seeing Bob Holly on PPV? The Noble/Palumbo/McCool thing may have the sizzle to play on PPV, though,.. and there's always the divas. 
    However WWE serves it up on Sunday night, OO will be right here with full results and coverage for you. So look for that either late on Sunday or early on Monday.
  • We've got a story that falls under the category of "Pretty Major, But Not Quite as Big a Deal as it Seems Once You Look Closer."
    To wit: the CW Network has informed WWE that they will not be renewing the contract for SmackDown! when it expires this fall. WWE was none-too-pleased with this, as they liked the little ego-boost of being able to say they were on broadcast TV, and also because they went over budget rushing their HD delivery exclusively because of pressure from the CW (who now will only get 7 months of HD before ditching WWE).
    That's pretty major because it does mean a broadcast TV network has kicked WWE to the curb, leaving SD! homeless. But it's not so big a deal because there's no way in hell that SD! remains homeless for long. For us pundits, it's certainly something juicy to talk about, but for Joe Averagefan at home, as long as he can operate a remote control and has basic listening comprehension skills, SD! won't miss a step.
    Although we talk a lot about RAW's fluctuating ratings (in the past year, that fluctuation has been in the significant downward direction), the fact is that SD!'s ratings are the very model of consistency, and have been almost since the move to Friday nights. Ratings tend to come within a very narrow band, and are currently at a level that's really only about 10% off the very highest ratings SD! was capable of delivering in the Friday timeslot.
    So it's safe to say that general ratings aren't really the motivating factor here for the CW. Instead, it's what the CW was capable (or rather, INcapable) of doing with those ratings.
    SD! had two strikes against it in this regard. One, WWE programming has, historically and by nature, a very self-contained audience. A "nontransferable" audience. Networks put a lot of effort into creating complimentary programming in the hopes of getting viewers of one show to tune into something else on the network, and rarely (if ever) has any network been able to use WWE's huge audience to generate ratings for a different show. WWE fans show up, watch, then flip the channel. That makes it very hard for a network to incorporate WWE into the big picture. CW's trying to mold a network image/brand, and wants to create cross-platform opportunities for advertisers; their Friday night block being an island unto itself made that impossible. There's no doubt SD! was a reliable performer for the network, but it just no longer fit, and CW thinks it'll end up being better off without it. You know, kinda like how the Giants won the Super Bowl, but only after All Pro Drama Queen Jeremy Shockey wasn't on the squad any more.
    The other problem is that, for about three years now, WWE's demographics have been shifting ever-so-slightly away from the highly desired young adult males (aged 18-34) and towards teens (12-17). Now, if WWE were ADDING this demo, that wouldn't be a problem; but they are actually losing some young adult eyeballs and REPLACING them with teens. Not so good. Furthermore, the apparent trend is that WWE doesn't HOLD that teen audience long enough for them to grow into young adult viewers (this was the hidden silver lining of the Attitude Era; not only did the product appeal to young adults, but punk teens also loved and KEPT loving it through the early 2000s as they became Good Little Consumers who no longer lived with their parents; WWE re-loaded the fanbase back then; today, all they've got are transient high school dabblers whose viewing habits may be more a product of peer pressure than of genuine fondness for the product).
    End result: CW can't sell advertising to car companies if car companies can't sell cars to SD!'s audience. So buh-bye to SD!.
    But again: that's not to say that SD! will be homeless for long. Devolving demographics or no, there's ALWAYS a place for a show that'll deliver around 3 million households per week on a steady basis.
    For some reason, a lot of people are talking about "MyNetworkTV" as an option for SD!... I don't know where that started, but I wish it would stop. MNTV is, to put it bluntly, a joke. It was a stopgap measure taken to help keep orphaned UPN/WB affiliates' heads above water when the CW merger happened. Their programming schedule is anemic, and many is the day when Nielsen data is released with the line "There was insufficient data to calculate MNTV's audience." Although MNTV is, technically, categorized as an over-the-air broadcast network because of a handful of markets in which it is distributed that way, the truth is, MNTV gets up to their claimed market penetration only because they piggyback as a digital sub-channel on most cable systems. [For instance, for me, MNTV is one of the sub-channels for my FOX affiliate, and I have to go up into the 700s to find it, which is a place I never go.] Let's just say there's no way WWE is desperate enough that they'd even answer MNTV's phone calls, much less make a deal with them.
    Where SD! lands is probably largely up to WWE, but not in the sense that they can just pick and choose any cable outlet they want. What I mean is that SD!'s future home will be determined by what negotiating strategy WWE employs. WWE retained ECW's time slot on Sci-Fi only by caving in and selling the show on the mega-cheap. If they're willing to do so again with SD!, a two-hour slot elsewhere in the NBC/Universal empire may well open up. Just please: no Bravo Network. I get nightmares just thinking about that.
    If WWE is willing to forego revenue in exchange for exposure on a premium cable network, they might find matches with either TBS or MTV. TBS is trying to rebrand itself a bit by adding major sporting events to their current slate of guy-friendly/young-adult-centric comedy (a new deal with Major League Baseball is kicking in for them). And if SD! is skewing "teen," then that's right up MTV's alley; although MTV ditched out on "Heat" lo those many years ago, they did dabble in "wrestling" last year, and quickly undabbled when they decided 0.6 ratings were insufficient. But 3.0s might change their minds.
    Speaking of "rebranding," there's another channel that might be a fit if WWE decides to play contractual hardball and extract a high fee for SD! at the cost of appearing on a top tier network. A channel formerly known as "Outdoor Life Network" has become "Versus." And they've gone from programming consisting of "shit I'd never watch like the Tour de France" to an all-new line-up of "TONS OF SHIT I'd never watch, like NHL hockey, nonstop rodeo events, and still the Tour de France." Also, they are home to one of the UFC knock-off shows. They're clearly a network trying to build an image as home to young-adult-friendly competition-based programming, and WWE would give them a huge anchor that probably doubles or triples their average prime time rating. Thus, they might be willing to pay handsomely for the rights to SD!, and it's up to WWE to decide on the trade-off between that guaranteed fee payment and the fact that a network like Versus is available in about 10-15% fewer homes than your USAs and TNTs. Revenue vs. Exposure.
    I mentioned UFC, and that reminds me of a fun little brainstorming session I had earlier this week with an associate... by the end of it, we had ourselves convinced that the only logical outcome of this mess is SD! ending up on SpikeTV. I mean: UFC and WWE teamed up to help promote Lesnar. Spike has tried to get synergy between UFC and TNA, with debatable results. WWE has triple the audience that TNA does. Why wouldn't Spike just ditch on TNA and re-install SD! on Thursday nights if the opportunity presented itself? Well, there actually are a few reasons why not, but it didn't stop me from thinking this was a pretty cute idea for a way Vince could claim another rousing victory over a foe, while also getting SD! back onto Thursdays and out of the Friday deathslot.
    Enough ill-informed speculation. Truth is, there's no way of knowing where SD! will land at this point. According to WWE's press release (where they tried mightily to make it sound like a GOOD thing that they got ditched by the CW), Viacom had an exclusive negotiation window to renew SD! that just expired this week, so it's doubtful WWE has had any conversations with any suitors, much less substantive ones. Regardless, SD! will have a home this fall, or else I'll eat a bug.
  • From our consistent Friday night ratings performer, we move onto the always-interesting ratings schizophrenic that is RAW.
    Just two weeks after scoring a huge rating for John Cena's return, this weeks RAW dropped back down to pre-Jericho levels (when October was the worst ratings month for RAW in nearly a decade). Monday's show did a 3.4. If you're looking for a silver lining? At least the show didn't lose viewers over the course of two hours (as it did in the previous two weeks); fans who showed up to start watched were entertained enough to KEEP watching. 
    And that's good, because you take out any segment involving the increasingly-pitiable Vince McMahon, and what we got on Monday was a surprisingly strong program. WWE taped it a week previous, and apparently, their solution to having to tape two weeks of TV in one night was to just give up and let us have a few 15-plus minute WRESTLING MATCHES instead of ham-handed Writer Monkey Tripe. That's always a pleasant change of pace.
    In fact, the Hardy/Michaels main event may be the best match WWE has presented so far in 2008, and man alive is it ever looking like WWE needs to pull the trigger on pushing Jeff to the next level, or else risk missing a HUGE opportunity. It may not be a long-term thing, but the crowd responses to him this past month would seem (to me) to justify putting Hardy in a category with your Foleys and Eddies: guys who are undeniable over, but may not be your traditional "signature" star in the Vince/WWE sense, so you have to be crafty and time things perfectly so you can catch lightning in a bottle.
    I'm not sure what you can do with Jeff at this point, other than to shunt him off to the Money in the Bank match at Mania (which he could win, and then people, I'm telling you that going to SD! to cash it in against Edge would be GOLD; TLC, baby!), but something needs to happen. I'm still miffed that WWE has this inexplicable hard-on for Mr. Barely-Adequate Randall Orton, and didn't pull the trigger LAST month with Jeff, which could have led to a pretty killer Hardy/HHH storyline and WM match. But you've read my ranting on that matter already (or you should have, anyway, and if you haven't, that's what the archives are for), so I'll zip it.
    The main thesis of this bullet point was just to pass along RAW's rating for this week. And it wasn't a good one. Clearly, whatever's ailing WWE, John Cena really wasn't the cure.
  • Bad news about SD!'s distribution. Bad news about RAW's ratings. Won't somebody please provide WWE with some GOOD news?
    Actually, the E did have some good news this week as part of their quarterly financial report, covering the final three months of 2007. For the first time in recent memory, WWE actually saw significant growth in an ACTUAL CORE BUSINESS SEGMENT.
    For those unfamiliar with my stance on WWE's financials, I basically break them down into two parts: segments that matter to us as fans of the current week-to-week product, and Everything Else (t-shirts, videogames, mobile alerts on your cellphone, WWE films, etc.). Basically, I believe that if WWE isn't healthy in terms of what they are presenting inside the ring, then none of that other shit matters. And for a few years, now, WWE's core business of TV, PPVs, and house shows has been stagnant or contracting, leaving WWE to tell all kinds of happy stories (fiscally) in their other business segments. Which is probably fine for investors, but for us as fans? Not so much, since we'd rather get excited each and every Monday night than have to sit around and wait for WWE to put out DVDs of stuff from back when wrestling was good. To WWE, it seemingly doesn't matter if they get your $40 on DVD purchases or on a PPV purchase; it's all just revenue to them.
    Of course, that does raise the issue of what happens in 20 years, when WWE has exhausted all footage and home video presentations of "when wrestling was good," and they're left trying to sell Randy Orton DVDs. WWE's been masterful in managing their video library so far, but counting on future revenues from today's additions to the video library is pretty much contingent on today's additions not sucking. So again: it goes back to WWE needing to be focused on the core business more than the peripherals, or else trouble looms.
    I'm getting off track... the point was, one (and only one) of WWE's core segments showed significant growth in the last quarter of 2007: house shows. Even if you normalize for the absence of ECW-only house show in 2007 (they were dragging averages down in 2006), the gains in the live event segment are remarkable. While raising ticket prices by a healthy amount (average domestic tickets went up $6 to $41, and average overseas tickets went up $13 to $87), WWE also drew almost 2000 more fans per show in this quarter versus the same quarter in 2006 (an average of 7100 paying fans).
    Put it all together, and total house show revenue was $7 million greater in 2007's final quarter than the year previous. Considering that revenues for WWE as a whole only grew $25 million, that means that almost 30% of WWE's revenue growth came from house shows. From AN ACTUAL CORE BUSINESS SEGMENT. I honestly can't remember the last time that happened.
    Other core businesses: TV ratings are down, but revenues from TV are steady because of pre-negotiated rights fees that have nothing to do with ratings. And PPV buys are down, though PPV revenue is steady because of a greater percentage of domestic buys (of which WWE gets a larger cut). Counting only the four PPVs that took place in both 2006 and 2007, three of them had fewer viewers in '07 (Survivor Series and Cyber Sunday both had 40,000 fewer buys, and Armageddon did 5,000 fewer), while No Mercy actually did better in '07 (possibly as a result of interest in what WWE would do with the vacant WWE Title following Cena's injury?).
    Non-core movers and shakers: home video continues to be a cash cow for WWE. On the strength of HBK and Cena DVDs, the home video segment had revenues $6 million greater in '07 than in '06. And though it causes me to die a bit inside to report this, $3 million gains were also posted by both WWE Films and WWE Magazine. WWE MAGAZINE?!!!???! REALLY?!!!???! That revamped piece of shit should not be taken internally by anyone over the age of 11, and it's GAINING readers? Wow.
    No other really big gains or losses to talk about, so I'll quit boring you with the financial gabbery. I've long since learned that when it comes to presenting WWE's financials, you people like it in a nutshell.
  • WWE has officially dissolved its working relationship with Ohio Valley Wrestling. The only thing surprising about this is that it took this long to happen.
    Going back to last summer, I remember making the joke "I bet Al Snow loses his job before Johnny Ace, and he does, you'll have all the proof you need of how fucked up WWE's priorities are." Well, yay for me? Al's fired, apparently single-handedly responsible for WWE's inability to create new stars, and yet, Johnny Ace lives to be utterly incompetent another day. Stunning.
    It's basically a deal where (a) WWE was looking to freshen its developmental system (this seems to happen every five years or so, with a new territory taking over primacy from an old one, be it HWA taking over for Memphis or OVW taking over for HWA), and (b) WWE looking for a scapegoat or fall guy to blame for the developmental program drying up the past few years since Heyman left. Well, in Florida Championship Wrestling, they found a new territory that will be more firmly under their thumb than OVW was, and in Al Snow, they found their patsy.
    Oh well, c'est la vie, circle of life, and all that crap. Still: a company that carts Jonathan Coachman out for 2 hours of color commentary every week has no business outright firing Al Snow. His ability to speak in an entertaining and compelling fashion are completely unrelated to what you think of his training methods, dum dums.
    Anyway, all WWE-contracted developmental wrestlers have been relocated to Tampa (a handful did have their contracts terminated as part of the developmental shuffle, but the majority of guys and girls left in Louisville were transfered), though OVW is saying they'll continue to run shows with their own local talent. We'll see how that works out for them...
  • Somebody, somewhere is apparently floating the rumor that Samoa Joe is working without a contract for TNA. Don't believe it. I suspect this might even be purposeful disinformation, attempting to cloud your minds as TNA does the TV storyline of Joe negotiating a contract and being a pain in TNA's ass.
    Only two "homegrown" stars have ever gotten the multi-year contract treatment from TNA, and Joe's one of 'em. He's locked up at least into 2009, if memory serves. And better still: he might finally be in line for the TNA Title run that many fans have been jonsing for for years. TNA feels they may have run as far as they can with Angle, and the leading candidate to freshen up the title picture is Joe. Given his tweener status, current association with mentor and politician Kevin Nash, and the swirling and ever-changing allegiances of Angle, Styles, Christian, and Tomko, giving the title to Joe and having him at the epicenter of all that jockeying would work really well heading into the annual "King of the Mountain" deal.
  • TNA has also announced that they'll be reprising the "International X Cup" gimmick they did a few years ago (which directly spawned the long-running Team Canada gimmick).
    Though it'll no doubt be fun seeing a few luchadors and Japanese stars imported for a series of matches vying to score points and establish Global Superiority, I'm guessing that ultimately, this has to be something TNA is doing to raise the profile of CurryMan, who isn't nearly as Japanese as Mike Tenay keeps claiming, which could lead to international intrigue. 
  • WWE has officially confirmed what has been rumored for several weeks: Stephanie McMahon is pregnant. She's due to give birth to her and Triple H's second child in July.
    Which means that a fourth-generation McMahon (second-generation "Helmsley") and a fourth-generation Orton will be born within about a month of each other later this year. [If you missed it: yes, Randall was allowed to procreate.]
    Here's hoping each of them get girls. Otherwise, you're looking at the main event for WrestleMania 55, and I have to switch gears to hoping that I'm dead long before then.
  • I'm not much of a believer in the paranormal, but for some reason have always been fascinated by it, even if just for the mental exercise of debunking the silliest of claims.
    To that end, I feel compelled to pass along a link sent to me by a couple of Alert Readers. Apparently, employees at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, MO, believe the building is haunted by the ghost of Owen Hart (and the ghost sightings have been of Owen in his full Blue Blazer attire from the night he died).
    You can read all about it right here.
  • Even as Lance Cade and Paul London ease back into active competition on RAW, WWE's lost another tag wrestler to injury... one of the Highlanders underwent surgery to repair a torn pectoral this week, and will be out 6-8 months. Unless he gets a blood transfusion from Superman Cena, in which case it'll only take 4.
  • That's about all I got for today. I'll see you on the other side of No Way Out, when we're firmly entrenched on the Road to WrestleMania. Happy Weekend, everybody!