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Huge Shake-Ups: Draft and NoC PPV...
Plus: Injuries, Ratings, and Lots More! 
June 26, 2008

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OOWrestling.com


I'm gonna be almost afraid to do any of my usual pre-bedtime news-reading this weekend, I think. Two weekends ago, I checked the headlines before sleepytime and found out Tim Russert was dead. Last weekend, it was George Carlin. Don't these things come in threes?

Hopefully not. Because I think Jon Stewart summed it up well when he said something along the lines of "The people who actually help make the world a better place need to stop dying."

But I guess the past few weeks of paying homage to these guys did do something kind of unexpected: it reaffirmed that America can, despite consuming mass quantities of crap, still recognize and celebrate greatness when forced.

And in this case, I'm lumping myself in with the guilty. I mean, Russert did his best

work at 10am on Sundays, which is a time and place with which I am not very friendly. Carlin did his funniest and most influential work before I was born. I couldn't have had more respect or appreciation for either, but it also seemed like I never quite made the effort to get the best of them while I could. 

With Carlin, the grade-school revelation that was "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" introduced me to the guy, and caused my parents to decide to bust out some old vinyl albums of Carlin's work to prove he might even be funnier than a couple of time-traveling stoners if I gave him a chance. They were right [and shockingly, the same phenomenon also happened with old records of Bill Cosby, who -- to my amazement -- was once HIGH-LARIOUS, in direct opposition of what we saw on "The Cosby Show"]. But I still never prioritized Carlin's later HBO specials (I still haven't even seen the last one he did in March), always just waiting to catch them when it was convenient for me, rather than looking forward to them with the anticipation of getting to see a rare master at work.

With Russert, you had the same sort of rare genius: he did the heavy lifting of making sense of American politics, but between a combination of bad timeslotting and (admittedly) my own non-election-year-laziness, I only got to hear/read about it second hand, via the trickledown theory of journalism. He was clearly about as smart and prepared a person as there was in the industry, and unlike most, he wanted to SHARE what he knew, rather than SHOW what he knew. That's the difference between an analyst capable of productive discourse and a blowhard. And even though I knew that, I never prioritized Tim Russert in my News Consumption Cycle, always just assuming that in an election year, he'd start showing up more frequently on my TV to explain to me what the hell was going on. 

My own damned fault for not taking advantage, I guess...

I guess what I'm saying is that we live in a world where Geraldo Rivera is a "TV newsman" with a nightly show, and Carlos Mencia is a "comedian" with his own TV series, and somehow both have audiences and paychecks that don't bounce. Which is enough to convince one that America has lost all sense of judgment and discrimination. In my roundabout way, what I'm getting at is that if celebrating Russert and Carlin in the past few weeks proves anything, it's that maybe we HAVEN'T totally lost sense of perspective... both men were certainly well remembered in the media, and will always be more than well remembered by me.

To put it in wrestling terms: think about it as how Hulk Hogan sold all those tickets in the 80s, and still gets cheap pops for goofy nostalgia appearances where he goes through the old motions. And then think about how there will never be a day when Hulk Hogan inspires the same kind of emotion that Ric Flair did during his farewell weekend his spring.

I think it comes down to the difference between being good at being famous and being good at BEING GOOD. One is an outward-directed enterprise to influence people's feelings about you. The other an inward-directed focus on your own performance and satisfaction. It is possible to temporarily blind people with the former, but it seems that, in the end, they'll still know enough to truly value the latter. And that, my friends, is always a good thing to know.

Enough philosophy! Onto this week's shake-up in WWE, and how this weekend's PPV might re-shake things up (or solidify the existing shake-ups), followed by a bonus set of newsbites...

MAJOR OVERHAUL: Draft 2008 and the Night of Champions PPV

In my last column, I made the comment that WWE hadn't even had a draft in 3 years. This, of course, is technically false, as many of you were kind enough to write in and tell me about. But pragmatically, it is essentially true that WWE hasn't had a Draft that MATTERS in 3 years. So neener neener neener.

Last year, WWE made only minor changes, and the higher profile roster moves were -- shall we say -- short-lived. Chris Benoit to ECW was supposed to be a boon to that brand, but, well, we all know that lasted about a week before coming to an unfortunate end. And Booker T coming to RAW seemed like a great idea until Booker essentially played HHH's job boy and then left the company 2 months later. The 2007 Draft was an exercise in forgettability.

Two years ago, they didn't even have a real draft. Just a few lesser stars being re-assigned from RAW or SD! to the then-new ECW.

Three years ago, however, was a time when WWE made the draft count. Top champions swapped brands, they wowed us with some surprising moves, and they essentially remade the rosters into what they would be (and would remain) for the foreseeable future.

Much to my own surprise, WWE ditched two years of uneventfulness and brought that now-stale "foreseeable future" to an end on Monday, completely reshuffling their rosters and perhaps setting us up for an enjoyable run of fresh and unique feuds and storylines that would have been previously untenable.

In case you've missed all the comings and goings, here's a handy dandy chart for you, with all the performers who've changed brands as a result of Monday's big Draft:

Rey Mysterio
CM Punk
Jamie Noble
Kofi Kingston
Matt Striker
Chuck Palumbo


Michael Cole

Triple H
Jeff Hardy
Ken Kennedy
Shelton Benjamin
Brian Kendrick
DH Smith
Trevor Murdoch


Jim Ross

Matt Hardy
Super Crazy
Mark Henry

I've taken the liberty of re-ordering each list of draftees in terms of my own sense of their value to the new brand... and what one notices is that if you do a point-by-point comparison between RAW and SD!'s new stars, SD! actually wins each individual battle. HHH > Batista? You bet. Kennedy > Punk? Probably. Umaga > Kane? At this point, yep. Even Jim Ross > Michael Cole. The lone possible "win" for RAW is that they got Rey Mysterio (though depending on how serious Jeff Hardy takes his work, he could easily be just as valuable on SD!). [Even at lower levels, Carlito, Shelton, and Kendrick are all highly watchable, and DH Smith has huge value just because he's now on the same brand as his cousin, Nattie Neidhart, which could get people talking. Not to belittle RAW's lower strata of draftees, where Kofi Kingston is a star in the making, and "Deuce" may finally be acknowledged as the son of Jimmy Snuka, which could elevate his career.]

This is in strict opposition to past drafts, where the Standard Operating Procedure has been to rape SmackDown! for the benefit of RAW. This year, if all holds form, SD! looks to be the easy winner. My guess is that WWE is beginning to realize just how precarious SD!'s mainstream exposure is going to be this fall following the move to MyNetworkTV. As we've discussed in past columns, MNTV is, technically, available in the vast majority of the country's TV markets, but in many cases, it's a situation where viewers will need special equipment or need to make a special effort to find MNTV (due to it being a digital sub-channel, or due to its programming airing in late night or weekend "secondary affiliate" timeslots).

Rather than maintain the status quo with the current SD! product (which is largely an enjoyable and inoffensive way to spend two hours, albeit also a fairly unspectacular one), WWE seems to have made the moves necessary so that fans will WANT to "find" MNTV this fall, rather than just letting another group of stars fall from the Cliffs of Relevance (as most fans have decided to do with ECW, whose ratings are down to one-third of where they started just two years ago).

The key will be keeping all these changes we've made intact through Sunday's Night of Champions PPV.... I say that, because right now we've got a real mess on our hands: SD! has two world champs and RAW has the ECW champ. Now, with all the cross-brand matches in place, the right set of winners can re-deposit the necessary belts back to the necessary brands.... but a very cynical part of me can't help but still worry that WWE will bait and switch with these draft moves. Why? Two reasons:

(1) Triple H was drafted to SD! in the very first draft in 2002. He stayed all of one week, because the guy what's banging the boss' daughter doesn't work the b-show.

(2) Vince McMahon suffered a major blow to the head on Monday. And if a healthy Vince is known for making crazy random booking decisions, imagine what they might do with a Vince McMahon sporting head trauma. I'm hoping it's all just an excuse to end the horrifyingly awful million dollar giveaway, and then write Vince off TV for a while.... but if not, a truly demented and delirious Vince could mean Wacky Trades And Crossovers Ahoy! Nobody would be safe on their current brands....

But let's assume these moves are gonna stick. We can always reprise this topic next week if WWE un-does anything. For now, we head into the Night of Champions PPV with some really intriguing match-ups... not so much because they'll be blow-away actionfests, but just because this'll be one of those all-too-rare times in the fake sport of pro wrestling where you just really don't know who's going to win. Another dose of Cena/HHH? *snore* But the umpteenth dose of Cena/HHH with it being the last time, for a while, they'll both be on the same brand, and with a title's brand affiliation in the balance? *hmmmmm*

Let's look at some of the matches and the implications they'll have on title distribution among the brands....

Triple H (WWE Champ and SD! Star) vs. John Cena (RAW)
Edge (World Champ and SD! Star) vs. Batista (RAW)

It's highly unlikely that both the WWE Champ and World Champ will be on the same brand at the end of the night. These are the PPVs top two matches, and it seems a mortal lock that one of the big belts will change hands to a RAW star.

But which one?

Well, there are some very thoughtful, incisive, creative ideas I could throw out there. But I'm not going to bother, because this is WWE we're talking about, and I know how they think. The silly-looking WWE "Bling" Belt is, for all intents and purposes, in existence because of Cena. Cena's staying on RAW. It'd be stupid to have the spinner belt trying to be taken seriously on SD! while Cena's over on the Monday night show. So short of title belt makeovers (which would then probably involve desecrating the legendary "big gold belt" for Cena's benefit), the WWE Title ends up back on RAW at night's end.

Edge, then, retains the World Title for SD!, which instantly sets the stage for one of the few "money matches" I don't think we've really seen yet: Edge vs. Triple H. I mean, yes, we've seen the match before, but it was either years ago, or more recently within the context of DX vs. Rated RKO. The possibility of both men, at the height of their powers, doing a huge singles program is kinda tantalizing. Kinda REALLY tantalizing. It's almost got the stink of WrestleMania-worthy on it, if HHH is willing to "chase" for that long.

Certainly, SD!'s roster has been stacked enough that they could slow-build to such a huge match; in the interim, imagine how good shorter feuds for Edge against Ken Kennedy or Jeff Hardy could be. HHH could be frozen out of the title picture till the fall or winter, and then really start his push for WM... and the best part is, with Jeff along for the ride, I can STILL advocate for my idea of HHH's path to the belt having to go through Hardy, and having it be a subtle tale pitting HHH's good-natured respect for Jeff versus his vicious single-minded lust for the gold.

And none of this even gets into the possibilities that abound when the Undertaker comes back and sticks his nose into things.

Back on RAW, the WWE Title picture doesn't have anything remotely as sexy with Cena once again holding the belt. While Chris Jericho will enjoy another month or two as RAW's de facto top heel, I dread the day that Randy Orton returns from injury and probably gets re-installed as RAW's top bad guy, and instantly bores me to death. Cena vs. Orton (again) is a recipe for disaster, but what else is there, really? Hopefully Jericho will be given a fair shot... because beyond that, we're looking at REALLY needing Batista to finally make that heel turn. And even then: that would freshen up Batista's character, but I'm not sold on how excited I'd be to sit through the actual Cena vs. Batista matches. I'm not sure those two click together.

[A Batista heel turn would also open the door for the Batista vs. Rey program that they never pulled the trigger on on SD!... I always thought those two would have good in-ring chemistry. And speaking of Rey making his first-ever trip over to Mondays: if you aren't already Fully Aroused at the mere thought of Heel Jericho vs. Rey Mysterio for the first time since the last time, you just aren't trying hard enough. Because that is going to rock some socks.]

You want a really crazy outside-the-box idea for the WWE Title picture? In the final match of the night on Sunday's PPV, Triple H retains the WWE Title in a brutal match against Cena, and everybody is crapping their pants that SD! will have both World Titles.... and then: Enter CM Punk. Mr. Money in the Bank. And he's cashing in.

And he doesn't just cash in, he really goes over the top, taking advantage of HHH's injuries/fatigue, and using every dirty trick in the book to not just steal the win and the title from Triple H, but also turn heel in the process. I always thought Punk's "charisma" was most effective when playing the preachy/self-important dickweed, anyway, and this could be a chance to finally let WWE audiences see that. In theory, the "turn" will come as a result of abusing HHH, but in practice, Punk will have to sustain that by feuding with Cena on RAW; I'm sure the result would be strong mixed reactions to both men along the predictable age/gender lines, but I also think the dynamic could be tremendously fresh and interesting. Humorless straight edge poser vs. fun-loving wigger clownboy; on top of that, I even think the matches the two would have would be pretty good, and much along the lines of what Edge and Cena did two years ago.

I figure you'd do it up so that Punk holds the belt for just a month or two (maybe till SummerSlam), at which point, the Jericho/Michaels situation will have reached its climax, and Jericho could step in as the new heel challenger for Cena. See how that works? It completely removes the need for Randy Orton from the equation! Genius!

That's precisely why it'll never happen. Oh well. The main point here is that I expect the WWE Title back on RAW, and at the very least, SD! will have a truly outstanding main event scene heading into the summer (and even well beyond).

Kane (ECW Champ and RAW Star) vs. Big Show (ECW) vs. Mark Henry (ECW)

It's no doubt politically incorrect to say, but it seems like Mark Henry's making the most of Michael Hayes' racism: from SD! footnote to probably ECW Champ all as a result of one man's reprehensible behavior.

Kane won't win this match because he's not in ECW anymore. And between Show and Henry, fans are way more likely to cheer Big Show. And in most cases, titles are best used when chased by fan favorites. Thus: my notion that Henry wins. Even if he doesn't, Henry vs. Big Show is still ECW's primary feud for the short term, and that's not exactly good news, either.

For as much as other brands seem to have lots of promise heading forward, ECW's losses of Punk, Shelton, and the exceptionally promising Kingston (not to mention cheap heat magnet Matt Striker) seem to have left them without a whole lot going for them.


John Morrison/The Miz (SD! Tag Champs, but ECW Stars) vs. Finlay/Hornswoggle (ECW)

Perhaps the SD! brand tag titles will actually be re-assigned to ECW, and tag team wrestling can become something of a specialty for the Tuesday night brand. It'll be interesting to see how they play this one, because the tag titles have allowed Miz/Morrison to become the most prolific of brand-hoppers during the ECW/SD! talent exchange... it's entirely possible that they're actually considered SD! stars, for all I know, at this point. 

We'll have to see, but I kind of like the idea of ECW being a place that takes tag teaming seriously. Partly because RAW totally doesn't... but mostly because if ECW is there to help develop young stars, then pairing young guys up into tag teams is a great way to get them experience until they're actually ready to handle things out on their own. Or, in the case of Morrison: if a guy's just lacking a certain "it" factor, and should probably be satisfied with being a really, really talented tag team partner to whoever happens to need one at the time. Even if, at the present time, it's Miz.

Matt Hardy (US Champ, but ECW Star) vs. Chavo Guerrero

I've heard theories where the ECW Title becomes the revived "Hardcore Title" on RAW, and Matt Hardy is installed as the new "ECW Champ" because of his US Title.... but there's no reason to mess with things that much (you're basically torpedoing the title lineage of three belts).

Chavo has the backing of "La Familia," which means plenty of options for Cheating 2 Win. These are options that become even more viable given the fact that GM Vickie Guerrero might view Hardy as a "traitor" trying to take "her" title to another brand, and the fact that she's also been applying pressure on certain referees in order to benefit La Familia. Hardy could lose the US Title without losing a drop of credibility.

Plus, Chavo and Edge holding SD!'s top two titles sets the stage for La Familia's dominance over the brand in the face of newcomers like HHH and Kennedy and Jeff Hardy. And it could also set the stage for La Familia's eventual, inevitable implosion (which I guess could start as soon as next month, what with the Edge/Vickie wedding looming).

Those five matches will go a long way to tying up loose ends introduced by the Draft earlier this week... but they're also not the only matches on Sunday. So to quickly give equal time to the contests that don't really have any cross-brand/draft-shake-up significance, I'll quickly mention that:

(1) The RAW tag titles are on the line, with Cody Rhodes/Bob Holly defending against Ted DiBiase Jr. and his Mystery Partner. I'm liking the gimmick for Young Teddy, and he seems like kind of a bastard love child of Kennedy and AJ Styles in terms of the vibe he gives off. The only problem is that for all that promise, he'll tank right into the ground if they do the expected and have Cody turn on Holly to be the Mystery Partner...

(2) The Women's Title is on the line, with Mickie James defending against Katie Lea Burchill. Katie's on the right side of the fence when it comes to the Diva Divide, and I could imagine worse things than her wearing the gold as she and Paul continue to get over with the audience.

And most intriguing:

(3) IC Champ Chris Jericho will apparently be facing a Mystery Opponent. Jericho turned on Shawn Michaels 2 weeks ago, putting his head through the screen of the JeriTron 6000. "Glass in the eye" was the injury suffered by HBK, an injury seeming exacerbating on Monday when Michaels tried to attack Jericho. So the tease is out there: maybe Michaels is faking another injury so as to be Jericho's Mystery Opponent? Or maybe we take the injury at face value, and look elsewhere. My Dream Scenario for the Jericho/Michaels feud has already been laid out in the OO Forums, but just to short-version it for you: Michaels buddies up with Flair over the course of the summer, thinking he'll eventually get the better of Jericho. But no: Jericho and Flair have been in league all along, plotting against the man who selfishly retired Flair at WM24. Michaels would have to channel his Inner Sting so as to be duped by all this, and the thing could play out for 2 more months, at least, leading to Flair managing Jericho and others (they've already got the Barry Windham-like Lance Cade) as RAW's top heel stable.

They introduced the concept of Cade as Michaels' protege in an excellent segment on Monday, and I think they could build on that again on Sunday. The draft broke up the London/Kendrick duo, so I say have Michaels come out on Sunday, and tell Jericho he's going to face ANOTHER of HBK's students: the suddenly-single Paul London, a graduate of Michaels' wrestling school. Except: in the end, and after a surprisingly clean and scientific display of fast-paced friendly wrestling, London will end up turning on Michaels, too. This adds to Jericho's stable, and foreshadows the sheer gullibility that Michaels will display en route to getting turned-upon by Flair. Oh, it'd be beautiful.

But again: that's precisely why I shouldn't have mentioned it, since it'll never happen that way, and all I've done is unfairly raise your hopes. Oh well.

Still: Sunday night's show is an interesting one. The shake-ups that started with Monday's draft won't be totally over until Night of Champions is concluded. It's the first true major reconstruction WWE's seen in a while, and I'd be lying if I said my curiosity wasn't piqued.

I'm anxious to see how all these loose threads get tied together, and I hope you'll come on back Sunday night or Monday morning for full PPV results, and then, if necessary, a total re-do of all my thoughts on the roster shake-uips later in the week. Let's call the above 5000 words "State of the Union, Pt. 1" for now, until we're sure there isn't another shoe left to drop...

NEWSBITES: Injuries, Ratings, Comings, Goings, Etc...

  • A little bit more fall-out from Monday's Draft...
    First, the rating for the three hour RAW was a 3.4, which is up nominally from the past 2 month's averages. If you just count the normal two-hour time slot, Monday's show did a 3.7, which would be the highest rating since April (but still below 2008's trio of best ratings, 3.9's attained for the 3 nights after the Royal Rumble (Cena), No Way Out (Mayweather), and WrestleMania (Flair), respectively).
    So I guess that's good news, in the sense that it's a step in the right direction... but it's still not where WWE would like the numbers to be. Needless to say, the three weeks of the million dollar giveaway had no significant impact on ratings, and the injury/murder-attempt on Vince McMahon will be used to explain why that particular facet of the show is going bye-bye.
    Also of note: almost all the talents who changed brands were as surprised as viewers when their names were called. I know that Triple H was aware of his move, but other than that, it's unclear if WWE pre-warned anybody else.
    This was especially apparent in the case of Jim Ross' shift over to SmackDown!... the guy looked like he'd just been shivved on Monday, and in a blog entry later that night, he openly pondered retiring rather than accepting the SD! job. Of course, cooler heads prevailed, and JR later apologized and welcomed the new challenge. Which is good. Because for as much as I know Lawler is JR's friend and he enjoyed working with the guy, I see nothing but tons of promise in a JR/Mick Foley announce tandem.
    It sucks that Vince McMahon has once again worked his asshatted magic to remove JR from the top announce spot, but this could actually benefit both brands. Cole is kind of at his best when he's being abused by a heelish partner, which is something Mick Foley can't do (because his persona is a babyface, and he's just too for-real nice a guy); Cole on RAW will work with Lawler, who could also take advantage of this to re-discover some of his own focus and wit, rather than relying on his tried and true bag of watered down tricks like he did with JR. And as mentioned previously: Foley almost instantly became WWE's best color man when he debuted last month, while JR remains WWE's best play by play man, so what are we supposed to complain about if we're now going to be putting them together? I see this as a huge opportunity to kick some commentary ass, not as something to be lamented.
  • Also from Monday: yes, Melina did suffer a legit injury in her match, and it's apparently an ankle/foot injury. However, the severity is still unknown at this point. It was bad enough to require a improvised finish to the match, but I suspect if it were bad enough to require surgery or anything seriously traumatic, we'd have heard about that by now...
  • Another injury injury of note, this time at the last set of TNA TV tapings... Kurt Angle hurt his knee, and was practically immobile afterwards. He worked the next night's TV taping with a huge brace on his knee, and his condition heading forward is unknown.
    Let's just say this isn't good news. Nobody is even close to convinced that Angle was in any condition to be wrestling before the knee injury (after aggravating his neck last month), and there was more than a bit of drama at the Slammiversary PPV over Kurt's wellness. Now, throw a mysterious knee ailment into the mix, along with Angle's tendency to play things close to the vest (not to mention his tendency to self-medicate), and who the hell knows what's going on?
    I like being able to suspend disbelief while watching wrestling... but watching Angle lately has ceased being enjoyable, because there isn't any disbelief to suspend. After a couple years of thinking the reduced TNA schedule had done it's job, I'm back to my 2006 fears of thinking every Angle match I see could be the last.
    Here's hoping both Angle and TNA are able to confront this situation and handle it responsibly. They've got him shunted off into this not-quite-entertaining backstage/non-physical thing, now (Bubba's Blind Dates? Really?), so in a way, I guess that's a start...
  • With Angle's status up in the air, TNA at least knows -- with certainty -- where they stand with Scott Steiner. Steiner just underwent knee surgery, and probably won't be of any in-ring use to the company for at least six months.
  • Randy Orton is telling people that he expects to be back in action before SummerSlam... if so, he'll be beating Actual Medical Estimates by at least a month.
    Hey Randy: isn't your wife very pregnant? Why not enjoy the time with the family, and quit trying to do us fans any favors, OK? Let that collarbone heal up the right way, and don't trust the voodoo or acupuncture or whatever it is that has you convinced you can get better faster, OK? We CARE about you Randy! Don't risk it!
  • Big Show's injures at One Night Stand were eventually diagnosed as a collapsed sinus cavity. Between this and managing to get his nose broken by Mayweather, I'm thinking maybe Show needs to stop giving his opponents permission to swing as hard as they can at his noggin....
    He will work this weekend's PPV, but this is the sort of thing where he's still not quite 100% (especially in terms of respiration and whatnot), which is probably yet another reason for the inclusion of Mark Henry into the match.
  • The Ultimate Warrior's return to the ring was a victorious one. On Wednesday, he beat Orlando Jordan in Spain to win the NWE Title. He then promptly thanked the fans for coming out and forfeit the title on the grounds that he wouldn't be sticking around Spain to defend it.
    Classic Warrior.
  • In my last column, I mentioned Ric Flair being given permission to make a number of independent appearances -- mostly in the south and/or NWA related -- to put a final stamp of authenticity on his retirement.
    Well, within days of me writing that, WWE had Flair pull out of all those appearances. Don't really know what the machinations behind that decision were, but I do know that originally, Flair wasn't expected back on WWE TV till the fall, and now, he's been back on RAW both of the past two weeks. It's possible that they've just come up with something that requires Flair's presence, and they didn't want an active on-screen performer making non-WWE appearances.
  • Ratings haven't been much to talk about lately, what with them being pretty predictable... RAW's one week bump this week is an exception.
    We can also report that last week, TNA scored a nominal "victory" over ECW to become the #3 Wrestling Brand. Neither show deviated substantially from their usual averages, and TNA's victory was by less than one-tenth of a ratings point (which is statistically insignificant once you consider Nielsen's margin of error), but what the hell? TNA > ECW. Nee haw.
  • There remains a ton of drama and uncertainty in WankerLand, following an appearance by Ring of Honor Champion Bryan Danielson at WWE TV tapings earlier this month.
    Danielson is a god among men in workrate-loving circles and ROH fans, but was widely suspected to be a jobber among superstars as far as WWE would ever be concerned (Danielson is severely undersized by WWE standards; not more than 2 inches taller than Mysterio, really). Yet, at TV tapings in California, Danielson not only wrestled a dark match, but HE WON.
    This set off a ton of speculation, with ROH being suspiciously tight-lipped about their champion appearing on a WWE show (only saying that they were aware of the booking ahead of time). ROH began airing taped PPV shows exactly one year ago, and was thought to have locked many talents into one-year contracts at that time. Which could mean its renegotiation time for Danielson.
    But adding further fuel to the fire: Danielson is another graduate of Shawn Michaels' wrestling school (the "Big Four" Alumni are Cade, London, Kendrick, and Danielson), and in his WWE try-out, he faced fellow alum Cade. Now with Cade getting a huge push, and with the introduction of the "HBK Protege" concept, we're talking about another of the students possibly having a place on WWE's roster. Maybe. Curiouser and curiouser....
  • Latest WWE Wellness Suspension: Jimmy Yang was suspended for 30 days (first offense) earlier this month. Per WWE practices, they announced the suspension, but not the specific violation. I've long since stopped being surprised at some of the non-physical specimens tied to performance enhancing drugs, but c'mon... Jimmy Wayne Yang? Really? 
  • Since my last column, the RAW brand did a tour of Central America, and in the process, Carlito was front and center doing some publicity and interviews. And wouldn't you know it, he managed to catch all kinds of the wrong attention by saying some things about his displeasure with the company and his spot in it.
    It's not the first time, and in fact, the result was the third time in the past 18 months when there were rumblings that Carlito might be on his way out of WWE (and that this time, nobody would be stepping in to stop him if that's what he really wanted). 
    Not the case. No matter how much of a self-confident prick Carlito may be, he's also way to gifted to just hand over to TNA... so what we've got is WWE sending Carlito to SD! in the draft, where most people expect he will be given a fresh start, what with SD!'s stronger Latino/minority audience.
    I guess that works.... it's just too bad that this is the end of the Carlito/Santino duo, who I thought had legs as a tag team.
  • As touched on last column, WWE has been working on some major business dealings in Asia, and in the last two weeks has finalized a new TV contract in India that is very beneficial to the company.
    So if you're wondering why the Great Khali is back even though I put his chances of returning to WWE TV at 50/50? Well, there you go; the guy is hugely popular in his home country, and WWE's doing what they can to capitalize on markets that are actually growing and emerging, rather than doing what's right for fully mature markets like us boring ol' Americans who are capable of noticing that Khali freaking sucks.
  • In addition to last month's revelation that WrestleMania 24 fell a few hundred thousand PPV buys short of expectations, there are now indications that WWE gave away roughly 12,000 tickets to the live event in Orlando.
    WWE sold out more than 40,000 tickets in the first weekend of availability, and then released more tickets over time, as they established the lay-out of the venue. They had expected a huge bump in sales following the revelation of Floyd Mayweather's involvement in the show; that never materialized, leaving WWE to give away substantially more tickets than they'd anticipated in order to get a full stadium.
    But don't cry for WWE, Argentina... there were still about 62,000 paying customers in the building, and plenty of money was made.
  • Other trouble in Florida for WWE: after putting all their developmental eggs in one basket last year, the Florida Championship Wrestling territory seems destined to be every bit the chaotic mess that Deep South Wrestling was.
    Not only have there been repeated problems with institutional irresponsibility (a third incident of FCW-affiliated performers being arrested for DUI came earlier this month), but facilities remain inadequate and faith in management (namely Steve Keirn) is waning.
    Last year, WWE had great visions for FCW becoming a strong regional promotion as well as a training facility. Right now, it's neither, and it's the only WWE developmental territory going (FCW replaced DSW last year, and then WWE concurrently terminated its relationship with Ohio Valley). That's not a good combination.
    I wonder if anybody's wishing they hadn't drastically undervalued Al Snow's work in OVW, and kept him around? And if they are, I'm wondering if it isn't too late (Snow, who lives in the Dayton Metro Area, made a surprise appearance at a TNA house show down in Cincinnati last week)...
  • And lastly for today, some truly excellent news: D'Lo Brown has agreed to terms to return to WWE. WWE announced it on their website two weeks ago.
    D'Lo was last seen by WWE fans over five years ago, but has been MORE than keeping sharp, first in TNA, and then during overseas tours. He was also among the younger stars of the "Attitude" Era, and thus still has plenty of good years in him.
    No word on precisely how D'Lo will return to TV, but WWE.com specified that he'd signed a "superstar" contract (to wrestle). However, it should be noted that late last year, D'Lo also spent some time as a road agent/producer for TNA, and his creative input may be sought by WWE, as well. If nothing else, he'll join Val Venis as a criminally under-appreciated veteran capable of mentoring younger stars (especially if the developmental program remains a mess).
    I was a huge fan of D'Lo, who frankly has a mix of in-ring skill and personality that makes most of today's cookie-cutter WWE products look silly... I'll be disappointed if they don't at least TRY D'Lo back at the IC/US Title level before giving up on his second coming. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at least a bit concerned that this (along with the word of Ron Killings impending WWE return, and Mark Henry's push) isn't some kind of organizational Public Relations move to repopulate the roster with African Americans, just in case the walking trainwreck that is Michael Hayes explodes again.
    There are some in the know who think that's exactly what's happening, anyway...
  • That's all for me, kids. Remember: Night of Champions this Sunday, and we'll have coverage here at OO not too long after the show. I'll see you then.

SMACKDOWN RECAP: Bonding Exercises
RAW RECAP: The New Guy Blows It
PPV RECAP: WWE Night of Champions 2012
RAW RECAP: The Show Must Go On
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Boot Gets the Boot
RAW RECAP: Heyman Lands an Expansion Franchise
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Losing is the new Winning
RAW RECAP: Say My Name
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Deja Vu All Over Again
RAW RECAP: Dignity Before Gold?
PPV RECAP: SummerSlam 2012
RAW RECAP: Bigger IS Better
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Hitting with Two Strikes
RAW RECAP: Heel, or Tweener?
RAW RECAP: CM Punk is Not a Fan of Dwayne
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Returnening
RAW RECAP: Countdown to 1000
PPV RECAP: WWE Money in the Bank 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Friday Night ZackDown
RAW RECAP: Closure's a Bitch
RAW RECAP: Crazy Gets What Crazy Wants
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Five Surprising MitB Deposits
RAW RECAP: Weeeellll, It's a Big MitB
RAW RECAP: Johnny B. Gone
PPV RECAP: WWE No Way Out 2012
RAW RECAP: Crazy Go Nuts
RAW RECAP: Be a Star, My Ass
RAW RECAP: You Can't See Him
RAW RECAP: Big Johnny Still in Charge
PPV RECAP: WWE Over the Limit 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: One Gullible Fella
RAW RECAP: Anvil, or Red Herring?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Everybody Hates Berto
RAW RECAP: Look Who's Back
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Care to go Best of Five?
RAW RECAP: An Ace Up His Sleeve
PPV RECAP: WWE Extreme Rules 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Sh-Sh-Sheamus and the nOObs
RAW RECAP: Edge, the Motivational Speaker?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: AJ is Angry, Jilted
RAW RECAP: Maybe Cena DOES Suck?
RAW RECAP: Brock's a Jerk
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28



Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.



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