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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
Flair/Foley Leaving, WWE Fires 15 Others,
Ratings/TV News, TNA, Injuries, Lots More 
August 15, 2008

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OOWrestling.com

 

We are truly living in amazing and historic times... and no, I'm not talking about the Russians trying to reclaim some Cold War Glory. I'm not talking about the discovery of life-supporting soil on Mars. I'm not even talking about Michael Phelps.

I'm talking about something altogether more astonishing and unprecedented.
 

I am, of course, talking about Starbucks' jaw dropping announcement that they had lost millions upon millions of dollars last fiscal quarter, that they were closing hundreds of stores, and that they were laying off thousands of employees.

I want you to stop and ponder that for just a few seconds.

 
The company that convinced customers to pay $6 for a cup of coffee IS FRICKING LOSING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS!!!!!!! 

How is this possible????? The greatest scam in the history of consumerism, and this company is somehow LOSING money. Is the pool of dipshits simply shrinking as people realize that as long as they're bitching about $4 gas, they have ZERO fricking business paying $48 for every gallon of their caffeinated beverage of choice? Or is Starbucks HQ really just this monumentally incompetent?

Convincing people to pay $6 for 75 cents worth of materials and labor is an absolutely amazing feat, worthy of our awe and respect. Convincing people to pay $6 for a cup of coffee AND GOING BROKE DOING IT, however, is pretty much akin to being the doctor who cures cancer and then dying of a papercut because you never bothered to learn about band-aids. It takes a special type of retarded to pull off this trick.

So: kudos to you, Starbucks. Or possibly: kudos to your dipshit customers for finally getting wise to you. I dunno which.

I *do* know, however, that we've got the proverbial buttload of wrestling news to talk about, so let's hop to it:

  • Back in the good ol' days (of the early 2000s), WWE's roster trimming usually took place right after WrestleMania, and we could call it "spring cleaning." This year, it appears WWE has waited until late summer to thin the herd, apparently waiting for everything to get settled in after the recent Draft.
     
    Over a dozen stars have been cut from the company since last we spoke, and we'll get to each one of them in turn... but the truth is, none of them are the real story of the past week or two. Instead, the stories of two legends apparently walking away from WWE of the own accord are dominating headlines.
     
    WWE has already officially announced a parting of the ways with Ric Flair. It's done. Fin.
     
    And though half-assed efforts will be made to smooth things over, it's looking more and more like Mick Foley's show-stealing Promo of the Year with Edge from the August 1 SmackDown! will be his last hurrah with the company for now.
     
    The deal with Flair is pretty cut-and-dry, and shouldn't have any significant impact on the wrestling landscape.
     
    Flair had one set of expectations for his post-"retirement" career, while WWE had another. As you'll recall, we'd talked about Flair being booked for various non-WWE appearances (especially in the south and at NWA-affiliated events) earlier this summer, only to have those bookings cancelled by WWE. Flair had hoped to have more freedom to pursue outside gigs, as his work as a "WWE Ambassador" left him plenty of time to do so without any conflicts of interest.
     
    WWE saw it otherwise, and decided they'd rather not have one of their contracted stars making glorified indie appearances for the financial gain of erstwhile competitors. At one point, a compromise was reached, and Flair agreed to a situation where he figured to be returning to TV (more appearances mean more money) in a limited, non-wrestling capacity... this would likely have tied into the Jericho/Michaels storyline, and furthermore, would have allowed Flair and WWE to heavily promote the most recent 3-disc DVD set covering Flair's career (again: more money in Flair's pocket if the thing sells well). Instead: Flair showed up for one promo with Jericho, and his DVD was only sparsely hyped.
     
    So it ended up feeling like the worst of both worlds to Flair, who was essentially being paid a minimal retainer to do limited personal appearances which generated little to no professional gratification (and equally limited compensation, which is a problem when one has creditors like Flair has). He approached Vince about being released from his contract, and got his wish done in a matter of days.
     
    A few things can be known certainly and a few others can be reasonably inferred about this deal. Namely: WWE wouldn't have been so quick to grant Flair's release if they thought doing so would hurt them, and Flair's own attachment to his professional legacy (which is 100% owned by WWE) and his many personal relationships (especially to Triple H) make it doubtful that Flair has any designs on "sticking it to" WWE now that he's ostensibly a Free Agent. Not to mention the fact that his son Reid is a WWE developmental worker and Ric won't do anything to hamstring his possible career.
     
    There's also the pesky matter of Flair's retirement at WrestleMania 24; with all the pomp and circumstance that went into that, and with all the (genuine) emotion that Flair squeezed out of us fans that weekend, it would be a REALLY questionable move for Naitch to step back into a wrestling ring for anything short of a very special occasion. In the end, you can't really hold Flair to standards of "retirement" that are any different from any man who came before him in this business, but I think you CAN ask that he not flush all that goodwill from WM24 weekend down the toilet by coming back too soon or coming back in a setting that diminishes (rather than enhances) his legacy. The right storyline on a WWE stage might work; a sell-out tour of Japan might be fair game; but I'm not so sure working high school gyms and 3000 seat venues for TNA befits a guy of Flair's stature.
     
    And from the sounds of things, we won't have to worry about that, anyway: Flair has done an interview or two since getting his release and sounds like he'll be loading up on very lucrative corporate speaking engagements, something new that wasn't even on the radar as long as he was under WWE's thumb. There will, of course, be guest shots (in a non-wrestling capacity) on some bigger indie shows, too, but nothing that would get stuck in WWE's craw. Maybe a "dream" scenario as far as you dyed-in-the-wool wankers go would be for Flair to do a few guest shots for ROH, putting his stamp of approval on the one, viable domestic wrestling company that really emphasizes the OMG WORKRATE~!
     
    Through it all, it sounds like Flair pretty much remains on WWE's speed-dial, too... he may not be at their disposal each and every week, but he's burned no bridges, could be called in for a special one-shot if circumstances demand it, and will certainly remain a part of the extended cast of characters who get called in for DVD retrospectives and whatnot.
     
    Seems like the right move for all parties involved: Flair gets a taste of freedom, WWE stays on his good side by letting him have it, but at the end of the day, everybody's still pals.
     
    Only thing that upsets me is that this means that Flair WON'T be a part of the Michaels/Jericho storyline going forward, which is too bad. I had visions of awesomeness, there, mostly related to HBK (beaten and battered as he is) turning to Flair as a last ditch effort to smite Jericho... except that all Michaels would really be doing is channeling his Inner Sting: you remember, Sting, the most gullible man ever in wrestling? Fell for Flair's overtures of friendship, what?, eleventy billion times, but got screwed over in the end EVERY TIME? Yeah, that guy... and Michaels would play the sap for Flair one more time, thinking they were buddies, but forgetting that he (Michaels) is the one who caused Flair to become retired. Something that might have seemed OK at the time, but which has festered. Oh, it would have been glorious to see Flair turn on Michaels and then become the inspirational leader of Jericho's new heel stable.
     
    But I guess that's not to be, now. D'oh.
     
  • The situation with Mick Foley is altogether messier (and stupider).
     
    By any sane standard, Mick has been outstanding on color commentary since replacing Jonathan Coachman this past spring. Since being paired up with Jim Ross in June, a case could easily be made that Mick had become one-half of the best announce duo in the industry.
     
    Except: Vince McMahon doesn't see it that way. And if there's one element of the on-screen product that Vince actually thinks he does better than anybody else, it's announcing, since afterall, he was doing it 30 years ago for his dad, which is longer than any of his other microphone jockeys.
     
    And because it's the one thing that Vince feels comfortable pretending to be expert at, he'll let you hear it if you displease him. This is the basic dynamic behind Jim Ross' many firings, re-hirings, and demotions (Vince gets fed up with JR for reasons only he comprehends, figures he can get somebody better, gets fed up with new guy for reasons only he comprehends, and JR's back, and we lather, rinse, repeat). The newest target for Vince's venom is apparently Michael Cole, who has gone from competent to ignoramus in the move to Monday nights (although only Vince can detect this; all other level-headed people can only detect that same old tolerable Johnny Whitebread that Cole has been for years).
     
    Then there's Mick Foley, who apparently disappointed Vince from the start with his casual, conversational style, and who has proven to be far less receptive to Vince's criticism than the other hired commentary goons. The rest of the announce corps is pretty used to Vince being an irrational arbiter of "good announcing" and try their best to take his suggestions in stride (afterall, most of them probably are fairly disposable). But Mick's a former wrestler, still with that mentality and self-confidence, and not too keen on putting up with Vince's random outbursts or nonsensical "advice."
     
    [It cannot be stressed enough that Vince really does believe himself to be the worldwide leading expert on good commentary, desiring to mold all his announcers into the same basic type of shill that he was 20 years ago. This is why we fans can go happily along, enjoying Perfectly Good Commentary from Jim Ross or Joey Styles and even Mick Foley, all while Vince is disgusted by them, because there's a "good way" to do things and a "WWE Way" to do them. And Vince only cares about the "WWE Way." You really are playing to an audience of one if you dare to done a WWE headset; audience enjoyment and awards from critics matter not if Vince doesn't like you. 
     
    Complicating matters is the fact that even when attempting to dispense advice about doing things the "WWE Way," Vince is frequently vague or self-contradictory... we've talked about it before, but it's kind of another one of those "Culture of Mediocrity" Coping Mechanisms, where somebody tries to mystify a job to make it seem more complicated than it really is, all so that they can claim to possess special knowledge about it, thus making themselves indispensable rather than second-fiddle behind somebody who came along and figured out how to do the job better.] 
     
    Anyway, Mick's contract is up at the end of this month, and it's looking more and more like he won't bend over backwards to extend it, while WWE may not be willing to offer the sort of deal that would make it worth Mick's while to put up with the aggravation. The absolutely awesome angle between Mick and Edge two weeks ago (honest to god, it was the best segment of TV WWE has done all year; everything that makes it fun to still be a wrestling fan wrapped up in a perfect 12 minute package; it's also all over YouTube, if you happened to miss it) was designed to "write Mick out" for a week or three while negotiations took place.
     
    Instead, WWE shuffled the commentary rosters (Striker to ECW, Tazz to SD!) without even a suggestion that the moves were temporary, while Mick told a UK tabloid that he no longer feels like a creative "fit" with WWE and expects his contract to expire without an extension.
     
    Nothing's final, obviously, but both sides' posturing seems to indicate they're either playing some serious hardball on terms of negotiations or are genuinely fine with moving forward without each other. And unlike Flair's case, it's entirely possible that Foley would move forward within the world of pro wrestling.
     
    In fact, the whole reason Mick's been a sporadic fixture around WWE for the past three years is because of how close he came to accepting a TNA contract as that company prepared to launch their show on SpikeTV in 2005. What started as a Courtesy Call to tell Vince McMahon he was joining "the competition" turned into Mick being wooed back into the WWE fold by a superior offer... in fact, that lone factor has severely complicated the relationship between Vince and Mick, as Vince either felt wounded that Mick would work for the other guy or misinterpreted things in 2005 as Mick using TNA and "holding up" WWE for a bigger contract than he might have deserved. Regardless, all that, combined with the more recent factors, seem to make it unlikely that there will be a superior WWE offer forthcoming here in 2008.
     
    Which means Mick is free and clear to follow through on those plans of three years ago and join TNA, if he so chooses. The same UK tabloid that quoted Mick himself about his WWE future quotes an unnamed "friend" of Mick's in saying that Foley's actually already very excited about a fresh start in TNA. Dunno about that (in the world of tabloid journalism, the line between unnamed sources and wild uninformed fanboy speculation is quite blurry), but if Mick still has an itch for the wrestling business and is annoyed with WWE, then TNA makes perfect sense at this point: they're growing (ever so slowly), what was a late night TV show 3 years ago is now a prime time staple, they're actually making money for the first time ever (which would make them capable of offering a fair market-rate contract to Mick), and their still-limited schedule would suit Mick perfectly should he be motivated to compete more actively inside the ring (instead of being a mostly non-wrestling character).
     
    I'm torn as far as my feelings about Mick heading to TNA. There are some things he could do there that I think would be genuinely cool and worth our while; there are some others that I doubt TNA could restrain themselves from doing that I think would be mistakes. In the end, it comes down to the simple trade-off between getting to see more Foley on TV, and possibly having to see him misused, marginalized, or otherwise wasted.
     
    I mean, think about it: on the upside, you could very quickly and easily boot Don West and insert Mick as color commentator and Impact would instantly become 357% more watchable; that's how awful West is. Or even better: in this day and age of "dream matches" being at a premium because all the top stars work for the same company and have probably crossed paths before, there's still one pairing that I don't think we've EVER seen and which could be awesome.... Foley vs. Angle. Foley was "retired" less than 4 months after Kurt's WWF debut. There are myriad ways you could bring them together. Think of the promos: comedic to intense and back again. And the matches? Christ does TNA ever have a problem with miscasting AJ Styles (they had it right earlier this year, but now all of a sudden, the cute vapid southern moron is a suave and seasoned Mr. Bad Ass? Nuh uh; he's still got all the gravitas of Festus, just a Festus who probably gets laid since he's so gosh-darned precious), but everything they're doing now with Kurt bad-mouthing violent brawling would actually resonate if his opposition was somebody like Mick Foley, instead.
     
    Then, there's the downside, where you know with near mathematical certainty that TNA wouldn't be able to stop themselves from doing something between Foley and Abyss (their own Mankind knock-off). And worse: you know it would suck donkey balls. Because Abyss is Kane on HGH when it comes to retarded storylines and almost everything with Abyss ends up sucking donkey balls. Up until they finally get to a match and somebody lands on thumbtacks. Whee? It's the exact kind of thing Mick wouldn't say "no" to, either. I'm convinced that Mick and I are more than a little bit similar in terms of taste and temperament, except for one thing: he's WAAAYYYY nicer and more patient than I am. I can look at something and say "That sucks, get it off my TV" but Mick's been told *he* sucks often enough in his career that he insists on looking at it and saying "That's not very good now, but it could get better, and really, who am I to judge?"... he's actually written or spoken about it a few times, and it's the reason why he never wants any part of the creative/production side of wrestling, because he never wants to have to be the one to tell somebody they don't have what it takes. Not even if they are Chris Masters or Candice Michelle and it's plainly obvious to the rest of the world.
     
    This character trait is no doubt the root source of so many of Mick's Selfless Acts over the years (he "made" the Rock and Triple H and Edge; and tried his damnedest to "make" Randy Orton, though Orton and WWE pissed that away by turning Orton babyface immediately afterwards), and it's why I'd kind of fear for him getting into sticky situations in TNA... he's already running the risk of being perceived as "slumming it" in TNA, and that risk doubles for him simply because he'll want so badly to do the right thing that he might get roped into doing it for the wrong guy or with the wrong storyline.
     
    Mick jumping to TNA would also annoy me for another reason: it'd mean it'll be years before he gets proper treatment in a WWE DVD release. I'm talking 3 discs at a minimum, and at least as comprehensive as last year's mammoth HBK one. Which is something I kind of hoped would be forthcoming sooner, rather than later. Oh well.
     
    Like I said, though, nothing's fer-shur yet. But at the very least, it sounds like Mick and Vince needs some time apart to apply soothing balms and ointments to their respective sandy vaginas. And at the most, Mick may well become the next huge WWE star who just so happens to pop up in TNA just in time for the annual Bound For Glory PPV. Time will tell.
     
  • OK, and now that we've covered the two top shelf superstars who are walking away from WWE, we need to address the slew of semi-stars who were more or less invited to leave.  A few left in dribs and drabs in July, and then just in the past 7 days, about a dozen stars were let go all at the same time....
     
    Trevor Murdoch got the ball rolling, as he was cut loose just weeks after the draft lottery. He and Lance Cade had already broken up as a tag team, and then I think Murdoch had been drafted to SmackDown!... "orphaned" tag wrestlers tend to fare poorly in situations like that. It's too bad, too; though Cade has a great look and almost limitless upside potential,  Murdoch had an undeniable appeal all his own. He doesn't look like Vince's idea of a wrestler and nobody would ever suggest he'd be a world champion, but he actually has just the right goofy charm to actually connect with and entertain an audience; there should ALWAYS be room for a guy like that on the roster. [In this case, his singing redneck gimmick seemed like it'd be a PERFECT fit for some kind of beauty-and-the-beast, Britney-meets-Johnny-Cash deal with him and Jillian Hall.]
     
    Sadly, the WWE mindset varies from mine greatly, and they loathe paying a guy who is a career midcarder: if you have no upside, if you don't project as a possible main eventer, then you run the risk of getting fired no matter how entertaining you are as a midcard diversion. I call it "The Goldust Factor," and it's the reason why a guy like Chris Masters (who looks just like all those manly men in Vince's bodybuilding magazines and thus is CLEARLY capable of headlining WrestleMania) got to stick around long after he's proven his incompetence, while Murdoch joins Goldust and Eugene and Tajiri and countless others in getting to stepping even though they were ALWAYS bankable for 5 minutes of entertainment value every single week even if only in throwaway bits. 
     
    In baseball, they are your #4 and #5 starter pitchers, and go by the label "innings eaters." You HAVE to have them to compliment your top-line starters, otherwise you will be lucky to win 70 games. In WWE, this sort of reliability is marginalized and only the "mega-star" is celebrated (worse, WWE thinks it has an eye for "talent" and celebrates the POSSIBLE mega-star, even when said "stardom" is only evidenced by a willingness to body-wax and ass-inject). WWE is, to put it simply, addicted to playing scratch-off lottery tickets, but has never once ever paused to contemplate learning the rules of poker so as to make better use of the odds and the chance to grind out good money slowly rather than pissing it all away at once. They are, in a word, suckers. 
     
    But I digress. Moving on...
     
    Diva Search Ashley was next to go, claiming on HerSpace that she asked for her release in order to focus on a family situation. Then again: a lot of people say a lot of things on MySpace, and you should pretty much take it all with a shaker of salt. There are also indications from the WWE side that there were other backstage factors to Ashley's release, that only her status as a personal favorite of Kevin Dunn's kept her around as long as she was, and that the release wasn't quite as mutual as Ashley might have indicated. Also not helping matters: Ashley's name was never exonerated in that whole escort-service/prostitution-ring controversy back in April, and many alert readers have mailed in to inform me that she's not helping her case by already booking multiple dates at various NY/NJ strip clubs. Unless, of course, *that* is a different Ashley Massaro, too. Ahem.
     
    The slew of talents released in the last week is "headlined" by the last remaining vestiges of the real ECW. Both Stevie Richards and Little Guido were cut loose. In Stevie's case, he's become a liability, injury-wise, in recent years; WWE kept him on through his latest round of throat surgeries and subsequent rehab, but at this point, regardless of Richards' undeniable mutli-faceted talents, it was deemed wise to let him go. In Guido's case, he profiles as either a tag wrestler or a cruiserweight; without a Full Blooded Italian partner and with the CW division defunct, that left him spinning his wheels and the creative team with no ideas for him. Either or both could no doubt have been kept around as "enhancement talent," but going back to the "Goldust Factor," there is a corollary that dictates WWE can probably find jobbers for a lot less than what it costs to keep seasoned veterans on the roster. [I don't know if I agree with that one, either: I remember as a kid, Tito Santana used to be an IC Champ, then was a tag wrestler when I started really watching, and then became jobber... but when he jobbed to somebody, I still knew it "meant more" than when Iron Mike Sharpe jobbed to somebody. Jobbers with shreds of credibility shouldn't be undervalued.]
     
    The Highlanders were also dismissed. Not exactly a surprise: they showed up on this past Monday's RAW, proved that WWE "did the right thing" by keeping them around until whichever one of them recovered from a knee injury, and then they got the axe, no doubt due to the petty bad blood stemming from the "Orlando Incident" back during WrestleMania Weekend. Though my own feeling is that WWE could do worse than keeping their few tag teams around and on the roster, I suppose this was inevitable. Already, some fans are saying TNA should "do the right thing," too, and give the Highlanders a job, since they are probably to blame for them getting fired (by putting one of them on TV when he was spotted in the crowd at Impact). I dunno about all that, but I do figure the Highlanders have SOME value, especially if you play them as babyfaces (they'd be Bushwhacker-esque, probably) rather than as the nebulous and boring heels WWE tried to turn them into.
     
    Shannon Moore is gone. Seemed like they might have found him a niche as a tag wrestler (with Jimmy Wang Yang), but I guess not... again: a cruiserweight without a cruiserweight division is not a good thing to be, I guess.
     
    At the opposite end of the weight spectrum, Viscera (Big Daddy V) got fired. WWE had finally started to grow concerned about the guy's size and some accompanying new health issues. Back in the springtime, they gave him time off to start addressing those. From the sounds of things, WWE was not pleased with his progress, so: buh-bye. Then again, if the guy DOES succeed in dropping the pounds, what the hell happens then? If your lone "hook" is being a big fat guy, and you're not fat anymore, how big a push do you think you're gonna get? I think the only "fat guy" wrestler to ever slim down substantially and stay over was the Big Bossman, and that was just because his athleticism shone through just as fine at 280 lbs. as it did at 380 lbs....
     
    Domino was released. Again, the "orphaned tag wrestler" thing (Deuce was drafted to RAW, and is expected to get a push there once fans are told who his daddy is). Of all these releases, this is the one that smart-ass fans "called" almost immediately after the draft; much to their amazement, Domino lasted 6 extra weeks and 2-3 extra TV matches after the draft, but he still got the axe. Sounds like he tried to save his job by producing a few vignettes on his own, but his tweaked character was deemed too edgy (more on WWE's internal focus on family-friendly programming later)... Domino has since leaked that footage on YouTube, probably in hopes of catching the attention of TNA or other indies for after his no-compete with WWE expires.
     
    Colin Delaney: gone. Yeah, I know: shocking. Actually, it is, kinda. The guy was on a week-to-week for so freaking long as the whole storyline with Tommy Dreamer played out, and he finally (for real) got his contract just before he (for fake) got his contract in the storyline, and then BAM, two months later, they fire him. Odd. But certainly no great loss.
     
    Cherry: gone. A case could be made that she was "orphaned" in the break-up of Deuce and Domino, too. But on the other hand, a case could be made that she's actually a reasonably talented (and I thought pretty hot, despite her unflattering gimmick-heavy 60's style outfits that involved altogether too many capri pants ensembles) female and you can never have enough of those hanging around. Especially with SD! now having its own "Diva Title." But I guess with Maria coming over from RAW, she'll fill SD!'s "spunky naive babyface" role and do all the jobs for the heel women, all while Michelle McCool sits back and waits for the right spot to come on in and mop up. No room for Cherry, apparently. Boo on that.
     
    Chris "Braden Walker" Harris: gone. Formerly half of TNA's America's Most Wanted with James Storm, he got his shot in WWE (well, ECW), promptly proved why he was so obviously the Marty Jannetty of AMW (no matter how many TNA wankers might have disagreed with that heartless assessment), and got fired less than a month after his TV debut. There was said to be a lot of schadenfreude at TNA tapings this week, as Harris apparently wasn't shy about talking up his WWE opportunity as a huge step up, and now his quick dismissal "proves" the grass isn't always greener on the other side.
     
    James Curtis is our final wrestler released.  If you remember him (and you don't, you liars), it's from his stint on SD! as "KC James" in a tag team managed by Michelle McCool. That went nowhere fast, and Curtis had recently resurfaced as a jobber on ECW.
     
    Jonathan Coachman's WWE contract expired quietly last month. As expected, he has since started showing up on ESPN in various in-studio capacities. As yet, he doesn't seem to have a defined role with ESPN, though several readers have written in after spotting him behind an anchor desk at odd times of the day. Given Coach's past experience, he'll also be a candidate to fill commentary slots for ESPN's college sports coverage; I only ever heard him do college hoops (he was tolerable, but pretty "produced" and cliche-driven, rather than aware and analytical), but he's gotten good marks for covering football and other sports (including amateur wrestling).
     
    Referee Nick Patrick was let go; he, too, had started to become an injury liability, and though he's certainly quite good at his job, there comes a time when you can't justify paying a veteran ref when there are countless others younger, healthier, and cheaper available to do the work. Another ref, Wes Adams, as also let go as part of this purge.
     
    Apparently, this should be just about it for WWE's "summer cleaning." There is just one other name that has come up pretty frequently in my discussions the past few weeks, and that's Bob Holly... that miserable asshole has apparently finally rubbed enough people the wrong way (with general bullying and a misplaced sense of his own importance that extends to openly mocking the wellness program and how it doesn't apply to him and crap like that), and hasn't been seen on TV since Cody Rhodes turned o him. Conventional wisdom was that Holly would stick around to complete a program against the young punks, but instead, he's been sent home and WWE plugged Jim Duggan into the slot as the elderly target of DiBiase and Rhodes' ire. Holly has survived past incidents of his own dipshittery by counting on others in the "fraternity" of old timey guys (Taker, JBL) going to bat for him; apparently that won't happen this time, though Holly may get by without getting "fired," and be allowed to sit home quietly until his contract expires as a show of "respect." Whatever. As long as he's not on my TV, that's one less segment I'll have to FF every week.
     
    So, what's that, 15 in total? That's a substantial bit of house cleaning. And for the most part, a harmless one, I guess. I'd probably have voted for keeping Murdoch and Cherry, and finding a non-wrestling gig for Stevie Richards if they didn't want to risk him in the ring any longer, but what do I know?
     
  • Briefly going back to the "guys walking away, rather than getting fired," Carlito is AGAIN the subject of much speculation... this time, it's only 2 months after the last time we heard he was getting antsy and might quit WWE.
     
    Supposedly, he was lured back that time by promises from management that he'd get a fresh start on SmackDown! (which sounded good, as SD! *does* have a more heavily latino viewership), but has since been off TV for 6 weeks. Apparently, writers had written something pretty major for him the first week after the draft, but Carlito ended up missing that first SD taping because WWE asked him to "make good" on one last RAW house show tour of Central and South America (where Carlito had been heavily promoted). 
     
    Since then, Carlito has been working on tweaking his look in anticipation of that "fresh start" (the 'fro and island pastels are gone in favor of a more laid back look and dreadlocks), but hasn't been given anything to do on TV. So: it's temper tantrum time again.
     
    As you should all know if you've been following along, I'm on Carlito's side on this: it's absolutely unfathomable that WWE presents the insomnia-curing demonstrably-unskilled horseshit that they do, while trying to "break" the naturally-gifted Carlito and get him to be a placid little soldier who'll do what he's told. But at some point, this cycle of WWE being dumbasses, Carlito pitching a fit, and WWE doing just enough to placate him has GOT to end. One way or the other. WWE should be chomping at the bit to push Carlito as an upper-mid-card superstar based on his innate ability and connection with the audience being greater than the similar abilities of 90% of their roster. TNA should be chomping at the bit to do the same if WWE's dumb enough to let him go (Carlito even gets to keep his name, since it's -- you know -- his real name). But this cycle of stupidity means NOBODY gets what they want, least of all the fans.
     
  • While WWE has been trimming, they've also added a couple of guys to the roster. See if you can spot the trend!
     
    First, they introduced Tony Atlas as Mark Henry's new manager/advisor on ECW. Huh: Henry sucks and all, but if you're gonna give him a mouthpiece, shouldn't it be somebody who is -- you know -- better at using his mouth than Henry? An odd choice, if you ask me, but I guess it could just be a short term thing to try to lend credibility to Henry for however long they insist on him being the ECW Champ.
     
    Next, D'Lo Brown returned to RAW this month, getting a minor ovation from fans who remember how much he ruled back in the day. WWE could do far worse than putting D'Lo on my TV every week, though they seem to have already gotten away from that. Two weeks involved with Santino/Beth Phoenix, and D'Lo's evaporated. Dammit.
     
    And thirdly, WWE has hired Ron Killings and started vignettes for him on SmackDown!... playing off his nickname while he was in TNA, he'll now be billed as "R-Truth." Huh. From K-Kwik to R-Truth: what a long strange trip it's been. Killings has always been a bit of an enigma with me: undeniable talent, but so often he's been booked poorly that it overshadows that and lands him among the ultra-annoying. Part of the reason he left TNA is because he recognized that and wanted to get away from it, but you never know when you'll jump out of the frying pan and into the fire....
     
    So, what do all three have in common? That's right! All three probably got to have a very nice, very cordial, very alcohol-free dinner with Michael Hayes, where Hayes did all the talking and apologized both in advance and retroactively for being an utter ass in perpetuity. You know what I'm talking about! [BTW, yes, Hayes was re-instated as SD!'s head writer, but he's also been stripped of most of his other power and job titles; he's "just a writer."]
     
    I know it's not PC to point out, but one could even make the case that among EXISTING WWE employees, certain trends are showing up, presumably just in case Hayes blows up again and ends up getting the company on the wrong end of a lawsuit. Kofi Kingston as IC Champ; Shelton as US Champ; and probably the most intriguing developmental call-up in a while, "My Man Zeke" (Brian Kendrick's new bodyguard, Ezekial, who is really just one of Vince/Johnny Ace's bodybuilding finds with almost zero skill; but with a KILLER look and a great opportunity to ride the Kendrick coattails to a Diesel-like existence or a Batista/Tomko-esque in-ring learning curve; or, who knows?, with his limited skill set he might just flop and be the next Ahmed Johnson, I guess; either way, I've really been digging the new Kendrick more with each passing week and each passing upgrade in Kendrick's comfort level on the mic, and you just know Zeke's gonna start being key to Kendrick's success as he moves up past beating on jobbers). That can't be coincidence, can it?
     
  • Injury time....
     
    Ken Kennedy just can't catch a break. Sent to SD! in order to spread his wings as a possible main event babyface, he's currently on the shelf with a shoulder injury. The injury happened 2 weeks ago on a house show, and so far, the prognosis is foggy. Due to swelling, they couldn't really tell for sure how severe the damage is, but there appears to be a partial tear of the labrum and fraying of the rotator cuff. A further analysis at the hands of Dr. James Andrews is scheduled for next week.
     
    If surgery isn't required, and Kennedy wants to make do with rehab and physical therapy, he could be back in the ring by mid-September (but he'll also run the risk of quicker re-injury and may be limited by both pain and range of motion issues). If surgery is deemed necessary, you'd be looking at somewhere between the Rumble and WrestleMania next year before he'd be back. Sucks. For him and for us. Of the past 5 years of developmental call-ups, Kennedy is in a league of his own in terms of actually possessing a unique "it" factor that distinguishes him from an increasingly "cookie-cutter" style of young stars. [I keep waiting for young DiBiase and young Rhodes to show me something now that they are getting mega-pushed as heels, but instead, both seem content to do their best Randy Orton impersonations: talk slow, move slow, preen like metrosexual fratboy douchebags most of us wouldn't pause to piss on if they were on fire, and call it a "personality."]
     
    Speaking of Orton: he was already out with a shoulder injury suffered at One Night Stand, and now, WWE.com is reporting that he'll be out even longer (till at least November) following a motorcycle accident. Conspiracy theorists have already latched onto anomalies in WWE.com's "reporting" (starting with them reporting Orton was thrown 30 feet off his bike, but in later editions of the story, upping that to the rather fantastical 300 feet), thinking WWE is just throwing us off the scent since Orton was scheduled to return later this month and we all "knew" it. Or something. I dunno exactly what their theory really is, other than I've gotten more than a few e-mails saying the whole thing sounds hinky to them. All I can say to that is: if WWE thinks anybody cares that much one way or the other about Randy fricking Orton to go planting "worked shoot" stories about him, then they're REALLY wasting their time. Making his injury sound more serious isn't going to make me any more pleasantly surprised when he shows up on TV and talking about him being in a wreck isn't going to make me suddenly sympathetic towards him. Just please: let it be true that he's off TV for 3 more months, and then we can all go back to not even missing him.
     
    Either that, or make light of the severity of the injury by bringing back the cheesy "RNN" news updates, which were (by my calculations) the last time Orton was even remotely entertaining.
     
    Somebody who *is* missed by at least one OO Staffer: Melina. In a tag match on RAW, she landed badly, and contrary to a report in my last OO, she DID end up requiring surgery on her ankle. You're looking at January before she'll wrestle again, but given that Melina brings, uhhhh, other assets to the table, you might expect them to bring her (and her, mheh heh heh, "assets") back in a valet role before then.
     
    Candice Michelle's recovery from a collarbone injury is going slower than expected, and is complicated by the fact that it's a "re-injury." Nobody wants to rush her back again and have this whole process repeat. As such, standard prognoses and estimates are out the window, and there's no way to even guess at a timetable for getting cleared.
     
    Where's Rey Mysterio? I mean, besides in Kane's Pain Cave, apparently? As hinted at in the last OO, Rey rushed back way ahead of schedule, and it turns out he was not 100%, nor did WWE intend to use him as if he were. Instead, they took the calculated risk of showcasing Rey on RAW for 2-3 weeks after the draft, but then sent him back home to continue rehab on his biceps. SummerSlam was always viewed as his more realistic return date, and now it seems like he's right on target: if Monday's bit with Kane showing off Rey's mask is any indication, the guy'll be back on TV in a matter of weeks. [Though, if it's another one of Kane's cheeseball clunker storylines, maybe we'll wish he weren't.]
     
    Shawn Michaels, despite the fine job WWE has done presenting it on TV, isn't half-blind, nor is his career in substantially more jeopardy than it was 3 months ago. Though he's far from a 100% healthy and pain-free man, what we're seeing right now is just the once-annual "Undertaker Style" vacation to let him rest up a bit so -- when he IS on TV -- he can go full speed. Age may hath its pains in the asses, but for guys like Taker and HBK, rank hath its privileges, like the opportunity to ask for and receive 2 or 3 months off here and there to get well. I'm not sure exactly how they'll play it in terms of the storyline and Michaels' announcement this weekend at SummerSlam, but I did here tell that, internally, Michaels isn't expected to be back on a semi-full-time TV schedule until the Unforgiven PPV. [There are also mild rumblings that I can't really vouch for that suggest HHH is pulling for Michaels to come to SD! as soon as the Jericho thing is over, because he wants a buddy to hang out with and because Michaels has been RAW-exclusive since his comeback in '02.]
     
    Lastly, Lance Cade has a broken nose, and probably won't be at full speed for a few weeks, but it's nothing major. He can skate by as Jericho's lackey and in tag matches in the short term, if need be.
     
  • WWE's TV philosophy is getting a bit of a make-over as we speak. The over-arching plan is to make all of WWE's cable and network programming "TV-PG," and in fact, RAW made the switch-over from "TV-14" in July. So if you're wondering why "JBL is Poopy" was John Cena's choice of limo graffiti even though it made him look like a 10-year-old, well, there you go.
     
    ECW either has or soon will make the changeover (PG-rated ECW? Can WWE's new ECW do anything else to become any more laughably awful?), and accompanying that will be a change in timeslot: it'll soon be airing one hour earlier on Sci-Fi (9pm,eastern, on Tuesdays).
     
    SD! is unchanged, since they've always played by slightly more stringent rules (due to airing an hour earlier at 8pm since its inception), and nothing will change this October when they make the move to a half-a-network that is MNTV.
     
    PPVs will remain branded as "TV-14," I believe, even if only so they can still have blood in matches without having to switch the picture to black and white.
     
    This new TV philosophy comes on the heels of the introduction of a new "WWE Kidz" magazine, and piecing together shreds of information from diverse sources, there is no doubt that this is indicative of a sea change in WWE corporate philosophy. The company wants to "re-load" the teen and pre-teen fanbase, and is aggressively targeting them in hopes that they become the highly-desired 18-34 year old fans of tomorrow (the internal logic is that fans of the Hogan Golden Era were the ones who came back and fueled the initial interest in the nWo/Hogan's heel turn and then in the Attitude Era). I guess this is what we -- the 18-34 year olds of TODAY and RIGHT NOW -- get for abandoning the product? WWE decides to say "fuck you, we'll gear our show towards kiddies"? I don't even know how to feel about that. Forgotten and lonely? Over the hill? Pissed off?
     
    Yeah, maybe pissed off'll do.
     
    By no means am I so emotionally stunted as to suggest that only offensively violent and edgy programming can ever be good. That's not how it is, and I know that. Afterall, I'm a man who rates both "Fight Club" and "The Princess Bride" among his top ten favorite movies. Clearly: I am open to being entertained in many different ways. 
     
    But at some level, wrestling is predicated on the notion of competition and personal animosity (which tends to render the competition a bit more violent than your standard game of Olympic Badminton). I'm not so sure that purposely going out of the way to eliminate the freedom to tell those stories and have those matches without constraints is a good idea.
     
    And plus: a "responsible programmer" doesn't just water down an inherently-violent genre in order to achieve a lower rating and target kids; if you get right down to it, there's no "right" way to expose a 7-year-old to a universe where all problems are (by law) solved by punching, no matter how tepid you make the language and physicality. A responsible programmer realizes the genre one is in, and targets it to an appropriate audience and then focuses on entertaining that audience via whatever means are necessary. If WWE thinks it's doing something noble here, they are wrong: they're just making a few edits that serve only to hamstring the quality of their product while making it accessible to an audience that probably shouldn't really have access to it, anyway. 
     
    It's kind of like Cinemax taking porn, chopping out the good parts, calling it "rated R" and then putting it on TV when all the 14-year-old hornballs can sneak a peek after mom and dad go to bed. Skinemax serves no purpose to adults because there is nothing hot about badly edited slo-mo montages of a girl grinding up against some dude's upper abdomen (clearly, that's where *I* keep my sexual organs), and it's also doing nothing to advance the cause of chaste, well-mannered teenagers. It's being true to neither its own nature nor to its responsibilities.
     
    Put it this way: every shred of wrestling I saw before I was 10 or 11, I had to sneak around and disobey my parents. Hulk Hogan may have been bigger than Jesus, but I wasn't allowed to watch (WrestleMania 3 was my first "big show" after I was permitted to view). Parents today can make that exact same decision with their kids, if they don't think that grown men settling their difference by fighting is the message they want to send to the young 'uns. And honestly: I'm not advocating weekly bloodshed or newly invented swearwords or regular nipslips or anything... again, I abhor the idea that the mere presence of offensive content "makes things better" (and would vote for sterilizing anybody who DOES believe that). But the ABSENCE of a certain type of content in a genre that is predicated on certain grown-up levels of friction and violence won't go unnoticed, either. Be true to thine own self, goddammit: if you're the NFL this means not changing over to a Flag Football format, if you're "South Park" this means not wastiing everybody's time with editing shows that could air before 11pm in syndication, if you're The Rick this means using appropriate levels of vulgarity to paint word pictures. And if you're pro wrestling, it means you should probably stay away from the under-10 demo and worry more about entertaining those of us capable of handling the vast tracts of moral gray area inherent to your product.
     
    "TV-14" is already (by definition, even among the holier-than-though watchdog groups) perfectly acceptable for teenagers, which means that in reality, it's probably tame by middle-school playground standards, and honestly, does pro wrestling need to be marketed to anybody much younger than that?
     
    You can still re-load the younger demographic, and you can do it without running the risk of alienating the adults who still want to be fans. You just can't do it if sticking to "TV-PG" means John Cena will ever again make us EXISTING young adult fans feel stupid/embarrassed/insulted by using the word "poopy."
     
    [Speaking of Cena: he recently did an interview with IGN that was interesting from the perspective that he very clearly recognizes this paradox. He, in fact, puts himself at the center of the paradox, since he acknowledges all the boos he gets the more cartoonish he acts, but also says that it's very hard for him to contemplate changing this or turning heel, because the cheers he gets are all from kids, and you really don't want to break their hearts. For now, he figures there are still more than enough cheers for him to keep on keeping on, and he's gonna do so. For the kids. And if he can throw an easter egg or two out there so that we -- the former foundation of the wrestling audience now shoved aside for the sub-18 audience -- can have fun booing him? Well, we'll keep doing that too and hope that everybody's having a good time with it. Tough position for JonJon, I guess, and the way he addresses it makes him sound like a thoughtful and smart guy. Well, except for the part later in the interview where he compares Ted DiBiase Jr to Randy Orton. As if it were a *good* thing. Ewwwww.]
     
    I'm not sure how (or if) we may reverse trends on this "youth movement," but given the random and irrational mood swings exhibited by Vince McMahon in the past few years (spending six months trying a UFC-style PPV promotional approach of one big match and then filler, then realizing that didn't work and going for fully-formed cards, then realizing that didn't work and throwing out the brand-split PPVs entirely, and so forth), I wouldn't necessarily bank on this sticking. If the "kids" (who don't have any money of their own) can't somehow convince the grown ups to buy enough PPVs, toys, and other crap to keep the coffers full in the short term, you can bet WWE will change course and go back to trying to figure out how to bilk money from us boring old 18-34s. [Hint: it involves a compelling on screen product and plenty of well-produced DVD sets from back when wrestling was good!]
     
  • I touched on it above, but might as well underscore a few tidibts that have come to light in recent weeks: SmackDown!'s move to MNTV is already being heavily promoted on MNTV, as this is (by far) the highest profile property they'll have on the network. MNTV benefits from this far more than WWE does. [And in an interesting twist, the CW has even caught some unexpected recent flack from affiliates and advertisers for letting SD! go; it was their second-highest rated show, and with network TV ratings in the crapper, some are second guessing the CW's decision to put "brand identity" ahead of ratings.]
     
    With ads beginning to air, it's also emerged that WWE has known since April (when the first promotional materials for MNTV were produced) that Triple H was going to be heading to Friday nights, and the company kept it successfully secret to create a "wow" moment when he was drafted over. Because of this revelation, some aspersions have also been cast upon Jim Ross' side of the story where he claims he didn't know HE was going to SD! until it happened on live TV. I dunno about that: for every one thing I hear about the Draft and subsequent TV being a bit more carefully planned than they let on, I hear others (especially about CM Punk's title win and Mike Adamle) that sound like they really are making this up as they go along and keeping things pretty secretive.
     
    Along with the promotional push starting, there are also indications that WWE is exploring the possibility of taking SD! live every week, instead of taping it on Tuesdays. They'll probably do it that way for a week or two at the start, at the very least (there will be a brief "black-out" between the end of SD!'s contract with the CW and the start of the run on MNTV, so they'll want to come out with a bang), but beyond that, it really will become a simple matter of dollars and cents. If it can be made financially feasible to keep a production staff on the road for 4 days a week instead of for 2, they'll do it, otherwise, they'll just go back to taping TV on back-to-back nights. [A possible compromise: live SD!'s once per month on PPV weeks, where the production crew is already needed on the road for Sunday, so you do a Friday-Tuesday 5 day week, with 4 days of TV. Sound good to you?]
     
  • Another TV production issue: the rumored switch of ECW being paired up with RAW, instead of with SD!, is not happening... it had gotten far beyond the discussion stages, and house shows were even being re-branded to represent the change, but WWE first delayed and then called off the move. 
     
    The reasoning is simple: the RAW roster is deeper, so ECW talents stand a better chance of getting exposure (both on TV and on house shows) if they continue the talent exchange with SD!. Also: the idea of getting one extra day of post-production for ECW was well and good, but became less necessary as soon as WWE decided to pull Adamle (and his all-encompassing poorness) from the ECW announcer job.
     
    We might also infer that WWE is leaning away from full time live Friday Night SD! tapings, as taping Tuesday's ECW on Fridays (with a live RAW in the middle) would either run the risk of making continuity a nightmare, or would require the further marginalization of ECW to the point that nothing that happens on that show is relevant to the other WWE brands. It's already close enough to being Webcast Heat as it is....
     
  • A touch of ratings info...
     
    Since the draft, RAW has rebounded pretty solidly. Seven weeks of the "CM Punk Era" have so far yielded an average rating of 3.4 (that includes a few 3.5s, as well as a 3.6, which ties for RAW's "non-stunt-casting" year-to-date best; also included in that is this past Monday's 3.1, an anomalously low number probably impacted by NBC's highly successful Olympics coverage). The seven weeks immediately prior to that (a month of Orton and 3 weeks of Triple H as champ) averaged a 3.2, so things are trending upwards.
     
    Then again, they'd almost have to: Orton's seven month reign was the lowest rated since 1997, and HHH's transitionary reign did nothing to improve upon Randall's awfulness. The upturn for Punk's win and the largely entertaining shows since then are pretty well deserved, though. [I qualify that, however, by saying that RAW has already started regressing; the "no-GM, anything goes, Draft Craziness" runaway train feel is gone, and this week's show was back to the creative team's apparent connect-the-dots format, where things are paced slower and more predictably, with the return of more pointless fluff/filler/hype packages/self-congratulatory video bits, instead of the slam-bang 100% wall-to-wall content we seemed to be getting there for a while. All good things must end, huh? All that seems to remain of those handful of fun shows is one seamless transition per week, in the opening hour, and apparently always featuring Kofi Kingston.]
     
    Other shows:
     
    ECW got a post-draft bump, and started pulling numbers in the mid-1's again (for the first time since the winter). They've seen most of that gain slowly bleed away, and this week, were back to a 1.1 (in other words: in danger of being beaten by TNA in a given week). Maybe they'll bounce back a bit after the Olympics, or maybe whatever interest they piqued has already gone bye-bye.
     
    Nothing of substance to report for Impact or SD!. TNA's ratings don't fluctuate to any statistically significant degree, while SD! performs steadily, and any major swings they see seem to be related to an increased number of preemptions (mostly for baseball).
     
  • Triple H and Stephanie McMahon had a baby two weeks ago. Well, Stephanie had the baby. HHH was probably just loitering in the vicinity. But you get the idea.
     
    It's another girl for the couple, this one named Murphy. 
     
    In an odd bit of trivia, Murphy was born in the same calendar week as her lone sister (two days and two years apart, I think). Synthesis: Steph and HHH obviously only have sex on or around their wedding anniversary, and the existence of only two girls born in the same week in late July indicates HHH is only 50% potent; he's shooting 2-for-4 from the field. As Ron Burgundy said: it's science, people.
      
    Also a shocking bit of trivia: I guess this is roughly the same week as HHH's birthday. Dude turned 40 this year. Christ, what a geezer... al those guys who seemed so young and fresh (and yet, still just worldly enough to have the comfort level and "it" factor that today's cookie-cutter high-school-graduate dumdum developmental workers lack) as 30 year old break out stars are now officially ancient. Well: not ancient, but they're now in the same place as your Hogans and Pipers were 10-12 years ago, and that's on the wrong side of the age divide. Trips is 40; weird.
     
    But again: I digress. Back to something relevant:
     
    If you're wondering how the creative team is going to get by in Steph's absence, well....
     
    Wait for it.....
     
    Wait for it.....
     
    Wait for it.....
     
    They hired Freddie Prinze Jr.
     
    I am not making this up. Fred from Scooby Doo, whose sole notable accomplishment in life is somehow convincing Sarah Michelle Gellar to have sex with him, is now a WWE Writer Monkey. One with direct ties to Hollywood, no less. 
     
    Prinze is, at least, a huge wrestling fan, so that's something. He doesn't come into the job cold, although pretty much everyone I talked to agreed that if he wasn't Freddie Prinze Jr., it's unlikely that he'd have gotten the opportunity (he's just not the sharpest knife in the drawer). But he's enthusiastic, he's a different voice, and something else everybody agrees on is that if he manages to get his girlfriend (wife? I forget) to do something (ANYthing) on TV for WWE, then the whole experiment will be considered worthwhile and that's pretty much what Vince is secretly hoping for.
     
    Till then: just try not to think about it. You'll only make your brain hurt. Trust me, I've tried, and it's no fun. It's even worse if you think about Freddie Prinze Jr. as a writer, and then immediately follow that up with images of Mike Adamle as a general manager. Maybe WWE is off its rocker.... or maybe this is all just stupid enough to work. We shall see.
     
  • How's about changing gears for the last few bullet points, so we can do some TNA Newsbite Round-Up? We'll start with the only real noteworthy occurrence from this past weekend's Hard Justice PPV.... 
     
    After about a month's worth of teasing Sting's return to various degrees (sometimes Sting appeared, sometimes just his black bat), TNA has upped the ante by teasing Jeff Jarrett's return. Samoa Joe used Jeff Jarrett's guitar to secure a win over Booker T and retain the TNA Title at the PPV; then last night on Impact, Kurt Angle thought he'd scored big when he got his hands on Sting's bat, but AJ Styles countered by producing Jarrett's guitar.
     
    Generally speaking, it seems like Sting's "assistance" is helping out heels, while Jarrett's, so far, is aiding babyfaces. Of course, this is all complicated by the fact that there's no real direct connection between the "assistance" and the men involved. Many times, Sting's bat simple appears after the lights flick out briefly; same with Jarrett's guitar (Jarrett, unlike Sting, hasn't even been seen on TV yet).
     
    There are indications that Vince Russo very badly wants to turn Sting heel for real (though most fans expect it's just a lame tease), but that his idea for doing so has been very poorly received. And Sting's in a position where if he wants to veto something, he can and will. The sudden introduction of Jarrett into storylines leads me to suspect that Russo has been shot down, and they'll instead go with some kind of double-swerve where Sting will stay a babyface, and Jarrett will end up heel after a bit of jockeying and role reversal.
     
    And that is probably as it should be. Jarrett has never drawn one dime as a babyface outside of the state of Tennessee. He's just not very good at it. We're all past feeling sorry for him over his wife's death and all that, and I suspect the TNA WankerZone is good and ready to start booing the crap out of him again.
     
  • Another vote of "no confidence" in Russo: Kevin Nash walked out on TV tapings two weeks ago after being presented with that night's plans (Nash was to be eliminated early in a weapons battle royale; and objected to both the unnecessary overuse of weapons and to his marginal role in the match). Like Sting, Nash doesn't have to do anything he doesn't want to. And as with Sting, most sided with Nash and felt he was right all around.
     
    So if you're wondering why last week's Impact promised a 10-man main event, but only delivered an 8-man... there you go: rewritten on the fly when Nash went home.
     
    In any case, this turned out not to be a big deal. Nash was back for the PPV and this week's TV tapings, and is more than happy with his role in the company.... he'll call "bullshit" when he sees a bad idea, but that's his prerogative at this point. As long as he and his criticisms are generally in the right and aren't viewed as purely self-serving, there won't be long standing tension from these little flare-ups. Unless you count Russo's wounded pride. Which you shouldn't, since if that dude hasn't built up massive calluses on his pride by this point, he'd probably have jumped off a tall building long ago.
     
  • Somebody who walked out of TV tapings two weeks ago and ISN'T coming back: Tyson Tomko. 
     
    And the ease with which TNA let him get away has raised more than a few eyebrows in the direction of TNA management/creative. Tomko is probably one of the most improved all-around performers of the past two years (he showed few sparks of it in WWE, but in TNA, when paired up with Christian and Angle and AJ Styles, he broke out in a very Batista-like fashion as the quiet, likeable muscle of a group of blustery windbags).
     
    Tomko's annoyance with TNA started a few months ago, when he took a lucrative booking in Japan and had to miss an obligatory (non-paying) fanfest thingie for TNA. As a result, Tomko's treatment on TV went from top-shelf to scatterbrained. Tomko had had a ton of momentum coming out of the aforementioned work with Christian/Angle/AJ as a breakout babyface, but was just sort of shunted back into a generic heel role, instead. When he'd ask management/creative about his future, they were non-committal, and so Tomko decided to leave at this first contractual opportunity.
     
    Already, Tomko was at this week's WWE TV tapings, pressing the flesh, and the dialogue has begun. 
     
    Tomko has "done his time" toiling in Japan and the indies, and WWE has certainly taken notice. If you ask me, nobody would be more perfect for a role in Jericho's little stable than Tomko: you can't just insta-push him as a singles star and expect it to work, but given that he did it with such ease once, you CAN put him in a stable/tag team setting (Cade/Tomko would probably mesh well together) and let him slowly evolve and break out over time in an completely organic way.
     
  • The guy TNA is counting on to fill the "monster babyface" void left by Tomko is Matt Morgan... he's got all the tools and I'm still unclear on how WWE let him get away: I don't deny any of that. But so far, there's been nothing really exciting or genuine about Morgan's push. It's very forced (although, to TNA's credit, they haven't over-played the "American Gladiators" aspect when Morgan finally debuted as "The Beast" for the final three weeks of AG's season), and with fans as sensitive as TNA's, that can backfire really fast.
     
  • A cryptic "Who is Suicide?" freezeframe was snuck into last night's Impact a few times, kind of reminiscent of the "SaveUs.222" of last year... I'll save you the trouble of caring: it's probably gonna end up being the new gimmick used by Frankie Kazarian after he "quit" TNA last week.
     
    Christ: TNA won't rest until at least 50% of their roster is comprised of guys who we all know who they are wrestling under masks. Chris Daniels is already Curryman. Eric Young/Super Eric. Kaz/Suicide. And let's not forget Cheerleader Saed on the women's side....
     
  • TNA has also unnecessarily gone and given Daivari a new identity: Sheik Abdul Dr. Bashir, or something. I dunno. I don't care, either.
     
    What's important is that I like Daivari's chances of making a go of it in TNA, since he's basically taken the old Muhammad Hassan character and claimed it for himself. I always thought Hassan started out so promisingly as a hot button gimmick that pissed people off simply because he was SO FREAKING RIGHT about things (and then WWE went and did the absurdly lazy and actually turned him into a terrorist afterall). As long as Daivari keeps hitting those right notes of exposing American shortcomings while professing his own victories as a repressed minority in a racist culture, he could really catch on.
     
  • If you're like me, and you're more annoyed with the over-the-top psycho-to-the-point-of-ridiculousness Kurt Angle than you are entertained by him, rest assured there's supposed a method to the madness... Angle's trying to really "sell" his character as a shitty husband and obsessed wrestler to the nth degree in hopes of parlaying it into a reality show. Some footage shot for a proposed pilot has even been leaked to the intarwebs, if you really care (note: you shouldn't, you'll only encourage him).
     
    No word on how Angle's DUI arrest and upcoming court date (it's in 3 weeks, I think) play into his desire to create a seamless "character" for the public. Ahem.
     
  • Last thing for today...
     
    The Dudleys' contracts with TNA expire next month, and there have been mixed signals as to what'll happen at that point. The Duds have both had their ups and downs with TNA in terms of happiness with the direction of the company, leading to public comments such as D-Von stating he'd be more than happy to jump back to WWE and Bubba talking about his desire to be a WWE road agent after he retires.
     
    However, there is no doubt that the Duds are currently in one of their "ups" with TNA, and are pretty happy with their newfound niche as bullies and gimmick brawlers who are tending to steal the show with their cheappopery. Plus: any return to WWE would be contingent upon WWE being interested in bringing them back (which is not a given, especially since Tardboy Johnny Ace is still in charge). 
     
    It all adds up to a general belief that "the Dudleys" will remain a thing of the past, while "Team 3-D" continues to be a going concern in TNA.
     
  • That's all folks. Sunday is SummerSlam, with it's oddball card where the two world title matches are clearly secondary (even tertiary) to other featured attractions. SD!'s big match -- Edge vs. Taker Hell in the Cell -- ought to be the focal point of the show (and is really the only really good reason to buy the PPV), while RAW's Batista/Cena contest is being (artificially) hyped as something special. Hell, even Shawn Michaels' Special Appearance might rate above the world title matches.
     
    Poor CM Punk and Triple H: both handed craptastic heel challengers, where the matches probably won't be all that good (they might even be downright awful if the chemistry isn't just right), and where the outcomes really shouldn't be in question, and even when they win, they'll probably lose for being put in such unappealing positions. Viva la being a champion???
     
    Regardless, you can count on OO for full coverage. We'll be back at you on Late Sunday or Early Monday with the full SummerSlam results and fall-out. Till then, hope you enjoyed the huge news update, and remember to patronize your local Starbucks. They need your money, dammit!


  
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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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