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April:  A Stone Cold Day in Hell...
January 16, 2002

by Rick Scaia


It didn't seem feasible... but in April, the WWF decided to try the impossible: turning Steve Austin into a despised heel.

With the Rock leaving the Federation for several months to film a movie (a starring role in "The Scorpion King"), it was a foregone conclusion that Austin would leave WrestleMania as WWF Champion. But no one figured he'd turn heel that very night, and in front of a packed AstroDome crowd in his own homestate. If anything, the Rock taking time off to do a movie might have made him a more viable choice to go heel later in the year (a returning Rock turns into a Hollywood snob? would've worked, if you ask me)...

But instead, Austin got help from Vince McMahon and a steel chair to finally beat the Rock. After first saying the fans deserve no explanation for his actions, Austin relented, and revealed that the WWF Title was so meaningful to him that he'd do ANYTHING to attain it, even joining forces with Vince. But the heel turn didn't REALLY start to stick until later in the month, when Austin really started to play into the "apprentice heel" role underneath Triple H.

Only after ditching the beer-swilling bad-ass shtick did crowds start turning on Stone Cold. It was once he was playing second fiddle to HHH and running away from fights that they came around. However, another problem loomed around the corner: with Austin and HHH on top as heels and with the Rock gone to film a movie, who would fill the roles of the Fed's top babyfaces?

The WWF's almost-immediate response was to return Undertaker and Kane to main event status; they won the tag team titles and started a feud with Austin and HHH that resulted in a PPV main event later in April. But the Fed knew that wouldn't last... a "Jeff Hardy Project" took place in April, as he briefly won the IC Title, beating Triple H. Also, Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho started pairing up with good results, especially as Benoit was elevated by a continuing feud against proven main eventer, Kurt Angle.

While questions about the WWF's babyface roster would linger well past the end of the month, some questions finally seemed to get answered in April. No one had really been certain of ECW's status... until they finally filed for bankruptcy in April. Though officially labeled a "Chapter 11 Re-Organization" (not a total shut-down of the company), it would, in hindsight, pretty much mark the official end of hopes that ECW would be ressurected as a national promotion.

With liabilities of about $9 million against assets of about $1.5 million, ECW simply had no hopes of meeting the $7 million shortfall... especially considering some of those assets were in the form of accounts receivable, and not liquid assets. Revelations in the bankruptcy papers included a $500,000 debt to the WWF that confirmed once and for all the relationship that had existed between Vince and Paul even before Heyman came to the WWF. Debts to top/loyal talents were also revealed. On the short list of those owed roughly $50,000 or more were Rob Van Dam (owed $150,000, actually), Rhyno, Tommy Dreamer, Joey Styles, and Shane Douglas...

Even as some held out hope for a "re-organization" instead of a shut-down, Paul Heyman did seem to pound the final nail in ECW's coffin with a note posted to ECW's website. In it, he essentially thanked the fans and said goodbye. He quoted Teddy Roosevelt in the process (something along the lines of "it's better to have had the balls to attempt great deeds and failed than to have been a pussy and not tried at all," but much more eloquent and much, much less crude).

Other News

WWF retains 24 (mostly young, cheap) workers from WCW, scraps plans for May 6 Big Bang PPV, and is going to take at least 6 weeks to re-organize WCW for a full relaunch...

A TV taping on May 9 in Trenton, NJ, is set up for WCW, with the plan to air the show in late night on Sat. May 12... those plans were scrapped within a week, as the Fed decided they needed more time, and made the call to delay the late night show to June 9 (with a live-to-tape taping held that same night)... eventually, the June date was scrapped, too, and the re-debut of WCW was pushed back indefinitely...

With that decision, the WWF decided to allow its 24 contracted WCW workers to start accepting indie bookings to keep themselves sharp...

The post-WM RAW did the WWF's second-best ever rating on TNN, a 5.7...

Word gets out that the vast majority of top WCW stars are going to sit out their Time Warner contracts rather than accept buy-out at $0.50 on the dollar to have the right to negotiate new contracts with the WWF; only Ric Flair, Booker T, and Dallas Page were rumored to be thinking about jumping to the WWF (and all three did appear by year's end)...

After the success of WMX7, the WWF immediately started looking at domes to house WMX8, with Florida's Tropicana Field jumping out as an early favorite...

The Rock's incredible IronMan streak of working matches on 42 consecutive PPV events, the best ever in history, ended due to his Hollywood hiatus; that left Triple H and Edge (both in the mid-20's) with the next-best active streaks, though both would also be broken within the next month or so...

Saturday morning wrestling on Memphis's WMC-5 had been a tradition for decades, but was cancelled in April...

With the RTC very near death, the Godfather brought back his old ho-pimpin' gimmick for a few houseshows before completely fading off the WWF's major league roster...

Tony Schiavone stumped briefly for a spot in the new WWF-owned WCW, but eventually had to settle for surfacing as a radio host for Atlanta Braves' baseball...

By the end of the month, RAW's ratings settled back to where they'd been back when Nitro was still on the air, indicating the lack of direct wrestling competition had no ultimate effect on the WWF's performance...

Shawn Michaels was dismissed from TV tapings, puportedly for inappropriate conduct, and plans to bring him back to the active roster were apparently totally scrapped; an April RAW Magazine feature made it sound like HBK's return should have taken place shortly after WM, but was obviously printed before the cooling of the relationship between Michaels and the WWF...

Some mid-level WCW stars, such as Kanyon and Billy Kidman were rumored to be very close to ending relationships with Time Warner as their contracts "roled over" and expired; the WWF was said to be interested in both...

Eric Bischoff surfaced again, this time working with the Calgary-based MatRats wrestling company, which featured teenage talents and was geared to a younger audience; the project, of course, never got much past the pilot stage...

Rob Van Dam, invisible for months after the demise of ECW, was finally rumored to be talking with the WWF about a job there...

Johnny Valentine, legendary performer in his own right and father of Greg "the Hammer" Valentine, passed away at the age of 72...

Stu Hart was hospitalized in April due both to illness and an irregular heartbeat...

Triple H joined the fairly exclusive "Grand Slam" club by adding the tag team titles to his resume with his and Austin's main event win at Backlash...

Quotable OO

"Commissioner Regal is still (ahem) pissed at Y2J" -- OO on the continuation of a Jericho/Regal feud that was spawned by the old urine-in-the-teapot gag, 04/02/01

"The first, best kind of heel heat is what I call the 'Honkeytonk Man Heat' after the man who first exhibited it in my experience; this is the kind of heat a villian has if the fans really dislike him and everything he stands for and are tuning in or paying for tickets just in the hopes of seeing him lose (or be otherwise humiliated). The second kind of heel heat is what I call 'Ernest Miller Heat'; this is what happens when fans respond to a heel by deciding they'd rather flip the channel instead of sitting around for a particular heel's shtick. This third type of heel heat may be the by-product of today's smarter fans, though. This kind of heat allows us to initially pop for a guy ('Hey, it's HHH. He's cool!') before realizing we're part of the show, too, and we've gotta pull our weight ('Alright, time to start booing, now...')." -- OO, commenting on different types of heat (including a new third kind that we hoped would apply to Steve Austin), inadvertantly spawns hate mail from Ernest Miller fans who think "Big Bossman Heat" or "X-Pac Heat" would be more appropriate names, 04/04/01

"I don't think Jericho's smart-ass, cocky promos are the type of thing that will put him into a top level fan favorite slot. I think he'd be better served getting pushed to the top as a heel." -- OO only has to wait 7 more months before this particular prophecy comes true, 04/06/01

"I love getting the feedback, and am more than happy to admit when I've been shown up, but on this issue, I really think some of you are going to have to get ready to eat crow. Every single argument I can come up with can be succintly summed up in just two words: Bret Hart." -- OO to readers who disagreed with OO's previously-published assessment that Chris Benoit could be a main event player in the WWF, 04/09/01

"I did get one suggestion from an OO Reader, who felt that a diplomatic way to refer to that sort of heel heat would be 'Fast Forward Heat.' Conveys the right idea, and nobody's feelings get hurt... Scott Keith also dropped a note to let me know that before *I* started calling it 'Ernest Miller Heat,' it had been isolated and labeled a few months prior by my arch-nemesis, Herb Kunze. Herb called it 'bad heat.' Right after that, Dave Meltzer dubbed it 'negative heat.' Real creative, there, guys... I thank Scott for the instructive note, but I like living in my insular little universe with my own (more descriptive) pet names for everything. Screw those unimaginitive, stopwatch-and-notepad-wielding weenies, anyway!" -- OO placates Ernest Miller, X-Pac, and Bossman fans with regard to Heat Type #2, while also taking potshots at a few stodgy ol' "wrestling journalist" types, 04/09/01

"Unlike The Rick, Scott apparently is compelled to keep learning, rather than resting on a rusty old repository of wrestling knowledge! That's why he's writing the books, and I'm left taking some small amount of personal satisfaction from squeezing crafty alliteration (like 'rather,' 'resting,' 'rusty,' 'repository,' and 'wrestling') into my little internet column." -- OO admits failure after being corrected by Scott Keith about the URBAN LEGEND (i.e. UNTRUE STORY)of Hector Guerrero's dark match win over Goldberg, 04/09/01

"Back in 1995, ECW was a kind of forbidden fruit, and thanks to a couple of hearty road warriors, I was able to make the 8 hour trek to Philly to witness ECW live on a few different wintry occassions that February and March. Those shows -- which featured Sabu, Chris Benoit, Shane Douglas, Raven, Al Snow, and many more -- are forever etched in my mind as MY ECW. Something special that few others knew about and which I had to make a special effort to enjoy. Let's not get all sappy, though... ECW's death has been so long and drawn out that it's never seemed quite the appropriate time to eulogize it. But even if there never is a moment in time where ECW finally dies for good, then at least I've gotten a few kind words in before the bell." -- OO struggles to find the right time -- and right words -- to bit a fond farewell to ECW, 04/11/01

"There's even gonna be a live post-RAW chat next Monday, where Russo promises to reveal the secret of Stacey's baby. [Though it seems to me if we CARED about that secret, Nitro's ratings wouldn't have tanked last fall!]" -- OO on a live web-chat to be hosted by Vince Russo, 04/11/01

"Unless 'Saturday Nitro' wins, it seems the star of the new show will have to be the old Val Venis... The alternate names included 'Hard On Saturday Night,' 'Hot Box,' and others that would make your Inner Beavis snicker uncontrollably." -- OO on the juvenile alternate names included in a "Name the New WCW TV Show" poll on WWF.com, 04/13/01

"I've finally put my finger on it: Raven talks like a character in a Kevin Smith movie (you know, lots of big words that don't sound at all natural or conversational, but which somehow still come across as interesting and/or funny)." -- OO isolates Raven's unique verbal stylings, 04/18/01

"I got a lot of e-mail arguing that the Steve Austin heel turn is pathetic because it's ruining his bad-ass character (what with all his running away from fights like a coward). So you're upset with Austin? Uh, hello.... that's what heels are supposed to do! And Austin's character is currently a heel! You do the math!" -- OO's response to fans who -- GASP! -- started to not like Steve Austin as much in April, 04/25/01

"A lot of movie/comic sites are reporting that Chyna may be the next WWF superstar to cross-over to the silver screen.... as the titular character in the movie adaptation of 'Wonder Woman.' And no 'titular' probably doesn't mean what you think it does in that context, you filthy bastards!" -- OO includes this quote just because his Inner Beavis has been recently stimulated and insisted on typing the word "titular" again, 04/25/01


WWF WrestleMania X-7 (04/01/01) -- Steve Austin got help from Vince McMahon to defeat the Rock and take the WWF Title. Also on the show, the Undertaker maintained his undefeated record at WM by topping Triple H in a memorable brawl. Other match results: Chris Jericho beat William Regal to hold on to the IC Title... the Acolytes and Tazz defeated the Right to Censor... Kane defeated Raven and Big Show to take Raven's Hardcore Title... Eddie Guerrero upset Test to win the European Title... Kurt Angle used a handful of tights to beat Chris Benoit... Chyna squashed Ivory to win the Women's Title... Shane McMahon beat Vince McMahon in a streetfight after an amazing Van Terminator... Edge and Christian overcame the Hardy Boyz and the Dudley Boyz in a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs Match to win the Tag Team Titles (held by the Dudleys)... and the Iron Sheik won a "Gimmick Battle Royal" that featured 20 of the WWF's more outrageous old characters.

WWF Backlash (04/30/01) -- Steve Austin and Triple H teamed up to take the Tag Team Titles away from Undertaker and Kane in the PPV's main event; in doing so, they consolodated all the WWF's top gold, as Austin was already WWF champ and HHH was already IC Champ. Other match results: Jerry Lynn debuted and beat Crash Holly to win the WWF Light Heavyweight Title (on Heat)... X-Factor beat the Dudley Boyz in six-man action... Rhyno retained the Hardcore Title with a win over Raven... William Regal used the twisted (and improvised) rules of the Dutchess of Queensbury match to defeat Chris Jericho... Chris Benoit beat Kurt Angle by a tally of four submissions to three in overtime of their Ultimate Submissions Match... Shane McMahon beat the Big Show in a Last Man Standing match... Matt Hardy beat Christain and Eddie Guerrero in a three-way match to hold on to his Euro Title.

Title Changes

Steve Austin beat the Rock to win the WWF Title (04/01)... Edge and Christian won the WWF Tag Team Titles previously held by the Dudleys Boyz in a TLC Match also featuring the Hardy Boyz (04/01)... Eddie Guerrero beat Test to win the WWF European Title (04/01)... Chyna beat Ivory to win the WWF Women's Title (04/01)... Triple H beat Chris Jericho to win the WWF IC Title (04/03)... Jeff Hardy beat Triple H to win the WWF IC Title (04/10)... Triple H regained the IC Title from Jeff Hardy (04/16)... Undertaker and Kane beat Edge and Christian to win the WWF Tag Team Titles (04/17)... Matt Hardy beat Eddie Guerrero to win the WWF Euro Title (04/24)... Triple H and Steve Austin beat Undertaker and Kane to win the WWF Tag Team Titles (04/29)... Jerry Lynn beat Crash Holly to win the WWF Light Heavyweight Title (04/29)...


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RAW RECAP: Brock's a Jerk
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28




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