PWI UPDATE ARCHIVES: June 2006

THE TUESDAY MORNING TURN (June 27, 2006)
DX RETURNS WITH A VENGEANCE (Charlotte Bobcats Arena, Charlotte, NC, June 25, 2006)
IMPACT IMPLICATIONS (June 23, 2006)
MAYHEM MADE SIMPLE (June 21, 2006)
THE TUESDAY MORNING TURN (June 20, 2006)
NWA TITLE VACANT AFTER SLAMMIVERSARY? (Universal Studios, Orlando, FL, June 18, 2006)
IMPACT IMPLICATIONS (June 16, 2006)
HARDCORE 101 (June 14, 2006)
THE TUESDAY MORNING TURN (June 13, 2006)
FOR ONE NIGHT, RVD STANDS ABOVE ALL OTHERS (Hammerstein Ballroom, New York, NY, June 11, 2006)
IMPACT IMPLICATIONS (June 9, 2006)
THURSDAY MORNING TURN: SPECIAL WWE vs. ECW EDITION (June 8, 2006)
THE TUESDAY MORNING TURN (June 6, 2006)
IMPACT IMPLICATIONS (June 2, 2006)


PWI Update Archives: Recent
PWI Update Archives: January-June 2007
PWI Update Archives: November-December 2006
PWI Update Archives: September-October 2006
PWI Update Archives: August 2006
PWI Update Archives: July 2006
Older Archives

THE TUESDAY MORNING TURN (June 27, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

The Raw brand is still without a champion, and yet, when I flipped over to the USA Network between innings of the Tigers-Astros game last night, I was greeted with a peculiar synopsis of last night’s program. The blurb—as per the good people at Comcast—read, verbatim, as follows:

Feeling neglected by their myopic hubbies, three sexually frustrated housewives decide …

Wait … crap. Wrong channel. Ahh k … heregoes:

Mr. McMahon reacts to the return of DeGeneration X.

Now, it’s not the synopsis itself that bothered me, but more so the fact that this angle was deemed so important that it apparently had to be the focus of Raw and not that the Raw World championship—unofficially the top title in WWE—would be on the line later in the evening. Despite the fact that WWE has desecrated its top title more times than I care to count (remember, at one point Vince himself held the strap), it’s still a world title match. Yet, once again, the focus was on a meaningless, entirely self-indulgent tag team match.

Yes, this is the state of WWE as it exists today. The McMahons are Monday night mainstays, ECW is a joke, and Smackdown will officially be renamed Thunder when it moves to the CW Network, subsequently cancelled, somehow re-bought by Vince McMahon, and needlessly rubbed in the face of a visibly confused Ted Turner.

Sorry—nasty East Coast weather and massive egotism make me cranky. Enjoy “The Turn,” rainy Tuesday edition.

* * *

Not An Intriguing Foursome
The Mickie James-credibility experiment continued to gain momentum as the women’s champion gained a solid, clean victory over the returning Trish Stratus, who was making her return to action on Raw following a shoulder injury.

To add insult to injury, Trish was harassed following her loss by new Intercontinental champion Johnny Nitro and valet Melina, who is now apparently going to be a girl wrassler, as it’s her only way to become the “top Diva in WWE.”

Quite predictably, a melee ensues with Carlito rushing to Trish’s aid, setting up a mixed-gender tag match that makes zero sense seeing as how there’s not much competition for the women’s strap as is with Beth Phoenix on the shelf, Victoria conspicuously absent, and every other Raw female on being a botched spot away from paralysis.

Oh well … so much for progress.

Still, Raw’s opening match allowed me to make three assessments on the state of the Divas that I hadn’t really thought of before. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Melina shouldn’t talk … ever.
2. I looked it up and Mickie James’ birthday is in late-August. Will someone please buy the girl some spandex shorts or something. C’mon lady … have some pride … you’re practically giving it away at this point.
3. What do these wrestlers have in common: Chris Jericho … Test … Albert … Christian … The Dudley Boyz. Answer: All have been associated with Trish—or, as I like to call her, the “Black Widow Of The Mid-card”—and, yet, none is currently on Raw. Be careful, Carlito.

* * *

Umaga vs. Kamala should never … ever, ever … ever, ehhh-ver … be on television in 2006.

Also, poor “Kim Chee”—or rather the intern that was stuffed into the mask and matching khaki outfit who doesn’t really follow wrestling but needed a high-profile gig for the summer that was close to home and didn’t really require him to know the product—was unnecessarily decimated as well.

* * *

Who Was That Masked Man?
Kane, winner of four awards at the Cannes film festival* and rumored leading man in the next Renee Zellweger romantic comedy**, continued his downward spiral last night, losing cleanly to Randy Orton due in part to the distraction caused by his newest nemesis—Fake Kane.

In a particularly strange series of events, Real Kane pummeled Fake Kane following the match, yet didn’t remove the impostor’s mask until he had him in the backstage area near an exit.

See, if it was me—I would’ve done it sooner. I know when I was attacked by a doppelganger Frank, I unmasked him as soon as possible. Turned out it was a kid dressed like Samoa Joe for Halloween … and the poor bastard wasn’t wearing a mask.

*This didn’t happen
** Neither did this

* * *

The Raw Diva Search is back, which is awesome because this means that I’m guaranteed at least 15 minutes each week during Raw to do something else relatively productive … like bang my head against a wall. Although, I admit, I will have to tune in for the mandatory obstacle course edition of the contest. That’s a future Youtube.com moment just waiting to happen.

Oh, and Miz … the way I see it, you actually owe Andy Warhol’s corpse about three hours of fame at this point.

* * *

Anatomy Of A Joke
So, here’s the setup—DX comes out last night with an opportunity to cut what had the potential to be one of its all-time greatest promos. Triple-H, dressed and sounding like Vince McMahon, comes to the ring and rips on his boss-in-law on everything to his overacting to the XFL. This is only made better by an overly exuberant Shane (Shawn Michaels) dancing his way to the ring and bouncing around like a moron. Top it all off with some blatant homosexual innuendo and a few references to “the guy that knocked Stephanie up,” and you have a very promising segment.

And the punchline: Dump fake poo on Vince, Shane, and The Spirit Squad. Oh, and make sure the segment goes on way too long, almost to the point that the drunk guys in the upper level actually get tired of crotch-chopping.

That, my friends, was a shame.

* * *

And The Dance Continues
John Cena and champion of everything Rob Van Dam had what was looking to be a fantastic, pay-per-view quality match last night on Raw. Both men were intense and appeared to be at the top of their respective games.

Naturally, the match ended with outside interference by Edge, who vowed to be on ECW later on to meet up with RVD.

And the slow, agonizing death of ECW continues. While last night—hell, even at Vengeance on Sunday night—seemed like a logical break-off point for WWE and ECW. Yet, someone in their infinite wisdom feels that it’s necessary to have Raw’s top guys show up on ECW now for the first three weeks of its re-launch.

Funny … I don’t see the poor, forgotten souls of Smackdown being invited to invade ECW, and they tape in the same arena only hours beforehand.

* * *

Raw: By The Numbers
Just a few figures from last night’s program worth noting:

Three: The amount of times John Cena—who stars in WWE Pictures’ The Marine opening October 13—saluted the camera. Conveniently, 82nd Airborne was at ringside, which is WWE’s version of product placement.

Fifty Days: This was the length of time Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch held the Raw World tag team titles at the end of 2005. Yet, gauging Jim Ross’ and Jerry Lawler’s lackluster assessment of the duo, you would imagine they were two local jobbers just pulled out of the crowd.

Two minutes: The length of time of a peek at the new Brooke Hogan music video … at the end of the nine o’clock hour … on a wrestling program. Seriously? Good Lord—did she really just say “all up in my grill”?

Two: Human fecal references. Once during The Highlanders promo where the duo masters of the art of urinals, and another was a 61-year-old billionaire being covered in fake poo.

DX RETURNS WITH A VENGEANCE (Charlotte Bobcats Arena, Charlotte, NC, June 25, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

From an outside perspective, WWE entered Charlotte last night completely in shambles. DeGeneration X was spreading its own form of middle-aged mischief, ECW has become something of a fixture on WWE programming (which does not bode well for the “renegade” brand), and Raw still did not have a world champion of its own.

Now sure, this is all part of the chairman’s great design, and, usually, the intrigue brought on by uncertainty in the Raw ranks would provide some very watchable wrestling. But, in this case, the angles lack that compelling hook that should draw fans in. Rather, they seem to be setting up something in the future that can’t quite come soon enough.

The current state of Raw feels very transitional. There seems to be no clear vision for angles such as those listed above. Fans are smarter than WWE takes us for, and the lack of enthusiasm at any angle (aside from a DX reunion) shows that the paying customers are becoming less enamored with the storylines and more disenchanted by the day. Vengeance could have gone a long way toward clearing up some of the confusion; instead, it just made the waters murkier.

* * *

Time To Amicably Part Ways
ECW’s very own “Wrestling Machine” (coming soon to a T-shirt near you) Kurt Angle finally dropped a relatively clean decision to Randy Orton, who had been pursing the Olympic champion for the better portion of a decade at this point. “The Legend Killer” landed a solid “RKO” on Angle after the ECW “Extremist” (yes, that’s what they’re being called now) went chest-first into an exposed turnbuckle.

Despite Angle’s tenacity and ECW-esque intensity, this feud has likely come to an end—and not soon enough. Both men have taken all they could out of this feud, and now, with no title or promotional standings on the line, it seems like a logical ending point. In the end, the winner—despite his record in the war—may end up being “The Legend Killer.” Orton, still reeling from his suspension and subsequent promotion to the Monday night brand, is quickly establishing himself as a top Raw rulebreaker, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

* * *

Vince McMahon pushed around a kid in a wheelchair last night, fearing that the paraplegic lad was a plant by DX. Hilarity most definitely did not ensue.

That runs the total to:

Disenfranchised: 0
Vincent K. McMahon: 34, 302

* * *

Nostalgia: Time of Death 8:32 p.m.
Speaking of disenfranchised, the loveable, yet damnation-worthy character Eugene was placed in a no-win situation in his match with Umaga. Basically, were Eugene able to pull off a victory last night, it would make WWE’s prized token islander seem like a joke. Unfortunately for Eugene, the greater likelihood was that he would be decimated and thus officially become the worst wrestler on either brand (and yes, I’m including Sylvan).

Not surprisingly, Umaga made short work of Eugene, who, I’m willing to bet, cries himself to sleep each night regretting the day he agreed to don the satin jacket and suck his fingers. And, while Eugene’s loss was not a surprise by any stretch of the imagination, his posse at ringside was shocking to say the least.

Accompanied by his good friend—and one-time Canadian turncoat—Jim Duggan, Eugene also welcomed back Doink the Clown and Kamala to the WWE fold. Now, fans everywhere can dust off those old Kamala and Doink T-shirts and once again wear them with pride.

If one good thing could come from this, it may be that a Kamala/Doink sighting signals that WWE has finally run the course on the nostalgia trend, seeing as how they’re now scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel for old-school talent. It’s either that or the company is even more out of touch with what the fans want than I originally thought.

* * *

I love Ric Flair. I love Mick Foley. But, Mick Foley and Ric Flair should never be in the same ring together ever again unless someone is retiring and they are out there for cake.

Sadly—and I knew the day would come where I’d have to make this assessment—Mick held up his end of the bargain last night as he wrestled the only way he knew how—poorly. However, the technically sound half of the equation was severely lacking, as Flair dusted off about eight moves to counter Foley.

The party seems to be over for the “Nature Boy”—but far be it from me to tell him that.

* * *

I-C Dead Angles
Johnny Nitro and WWE’s most flexible Diva, Melina, walked away 10 pounds heavier last night, as the former M-N-Mer effectively stole the Intercontinental championship from Shelton Benjamin in a well-contested three-way match for the strap. I say “stole” because it was the champion and Carlito Caribbean Cool that dominated the match from a wrestling standpoint. Carlito appeared poised to capture the title, landing his patented backcracker on the champ and covering him, only to be pulled from the ring by the opportunistic Nitro, who would get the pinfall.

With the strap now around Nitro’s waist, the Intercontinental title picture officially becomes more intriguing than the Raw World championship debacle. There are three legitimate contenders for the I-C strap, who are all very entertaining, athletic wrestlers. The sole issue that I have with Nitro—a noted rulebreaker—holding the title is that it takes away from the edge that Benjamin was creating for himself. Benjamin is a Boy Scout compared to Nitro, and with Carlito playing the role of fan favorite in this feud, Benjamin could be left as the odd man out … yet again.

* * *

Edge failed to bring the Raw World championship back to the Monday night brand, falling to Rob Van Dam in an entertaining match that left me asking myself only one question: Why in the blue hell was the World title match not the main event of a pay-per-view?

If this isn’t the biggest slap in the face to Edge and Van Dam—who, and I say this as a very disgruntled fan, would not have ever sniffed WWE world championship gold had the McMahons not had a third brand to launch—then I don’t know what is.

* * *

It’s Only Going To Get Worse
John Cena defeated Sabu in an “Extreme Rules” lumberjack match that saw the ECW star take the majority of insane bumps, while at the same time making Cena appear far more credible than he is.

Now, I’m not one to bash Cena—in fact I’ve called for a mass moratorium on slamming the former champ on numerous occasions—but I’m getting the sinking feeling that all of the buildup around Cena being a relentless, strong willed underdog is simply the start of a mass-marketing campaign that is meant to kick-off his feature film debut in The Marine, set to be released in October.

While some of you are undoubtedly arguing with you computer screen right now over the fact that this is just a wrestling angle and that I’ve finally lost it, I’ll concede, you may be right. Still, take notice of how many times Cena salutes the crowd over the coming months, and how every storyline he’s involved in will center on his valor and courage. Hell, RVD offered him a title shot for later tonight on Raw because of his gutsy appearance at ECW.

Prepare yourselves—if the God-awful marketing blitz behind See No Evil was any indicator, this could be a brutal four months.

* * *

Kane beat himself last night.

Feel free to insert filthy joke here and e-mail it along to: pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com. The best of the worst jokes will receive absolutely nothing but my undying loyalty and internal praise.

* * *

DeGeneration X beat all five members of The Spirit Squad, and then forced poor Mitch to kiss Triple-H’s curiously hairless posterior.

Upside: The members of The Spirit Squad can now tell people forever that they headlined a PPV with two of the greatest wrestlers of this generation.

Downside: The Spirit Squad headlined a WWE PPV.

IMPACT IMPLICATIONS (June 23, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

Much like WrestleMania is to WWE, Slammiversary could be considered the unofficial end of the previous year’s worth of storylines and angles, and the beginning of a new day for TNA.

The operative phrase there was could be. Naturally, with the way Slammiversary ended, many questions would have to be answered over the coming weeks (for those of you who don’t know, go back and check out the recap, “NWA Ttitle Vacant After Slammiversary?” by yours truly). Unfortunately, what makes this feel less like a new beginning and more like an awful continuation is the fact that the primary angle on Impact involves Jeff Jarrett getting the NWA World title back.

Now, I’m not going to take the high-road and just hammer Jarrett for misunderstanding his position (on television) with TNA, but rather suggest that maybe it’s time for a new rulebreaker to step up to the forefront of the title chase. Consider this: TNA is overloaded with viable fan favorites who could contend for the NWA World title—Christian Cage, Sting, Raven, Ron Killings, even Rhino—and yet Jarrett remains the sole rulebreaker that seems to have a shot at taking home the gold.

For a fan base that is beyond frustrated with Jarrett, it seems somewhat foolish to not elevate another rulebreaker (Scott Steiner, for example) into the NWA World title picture. All Jarrett’s presence does is hurt TNA. He is not—and I say this with all due respect—not someone fans could ever rally behind. The heat is legit, and the ratings will eventually show it.

* * *

A Great Move
It’s only been a week and I’m already loving the addition of Jim Cornette to Impact. Ignoring the credibility and connection to wrestling’s past that Cornette’s presence brings, what’s more impressive may be the tremendous versatility of the man. As soon as the “Louisville Lip” began to speak during the opening segment of Impact, I immediately took notice of the fans. Of those who were actually paying attention and not just in the Impact Zone to get out of the Florida heat, there was a distinctly mixed reaction.

Oh, no one was booing Cornette, but not many were trusting him either. People—both acquainted with Cornette as well those who were not—cheered when he said something positive, and paused when he was angry. It appears that right now he will be on the side of good, rather than evil, and target Jarrett’s controversial title win at Slammiversary. Still, no one knew what to make of him, and that is the best thing he can bring to TNA right now.

* * *

Word of advice to new NWA World tag team champs A.J. Styles and Christopher Daniels:

Having a female valet that interferes on your behalf during a match = good.

Having a female valet of relatively average height that towers over you = not so good.

* * *

Overstating It A Bit?
Monty Brown is slowly working himself back into the mainstream on Impact by taking on all comers and dutifully destroying them. And by “all comers” I literally mean pretty much anyone in mid-Florida that happens to have a pair of tights on them at the time.

Last night Brown made quick work of the devastating technical wrestler Chasyn Rance. Remember that name, my fellow fans … because I sure as hell could not this morning as I sat down to write.

Still, Brown looked good as his comeback tour continued. He was strong and quick and played to the fans better than most wrestlers in the business. As the match was drawing to a close, and the end seemed near for Mr. Rance, the TNA announce team of Mike Tenay and Don West began to put the bug in the fans’ collective ear about Brown’s finisher, “The Pounce.” They extolled the “devastating,” high-impact nature of the move and how it’s unique in wrestling.

Umm … has anyone else realized it’s just a shoulderblock? Seriously, it’s barely even a full shoulderblock. He sort of bounces off the ropes and runs into a guy. That’s it. Nothing sexy, and far from “devastating.”

I’m thinking this year the Tenay and West families should look into picking up a couple of thesauruses for Uncle Mike and cousin Don.

* * *

Eric Young is the most overlooked wrestler on the TNA roster—and that’s a tough title to hold when you have 1,300 cruiserweights to fit into an hour-long show.

* * *

Your Concept’s So Old …
Last night, TNA got edgy when it allowed Team 3D and The James Gang to engage in an impromptu battle of mama jokes in the backstage area, which, oddly enough, looks like a back alley.

Naturally, what started out as good-natured ribbing amongst guys (who beat the crap out of each other for a living) ended up as a melee between the Jameses and Tem 3D after Brother Ray insulted 930-year-old “Bullet” Bob Armstrong. B.G. took exception and a fight ensued that saw the nomadic Brother Runt make an appearance, which set up a six-man tag match for Victory Road, coming this July on pay-per-view.

Now, I must admit, I chuckled at a few of the barbs, despite having heard them literally hundreds of times in my life. Still—mama jokes? Does anyone still do that? Although that does seem to be the type of comedic edge that TNA allows.

But, hey, don’t use me as a gauge for what’s funny—I still snicker when I hear the word “poop” uttered by anyone over the age of 30.

* * *

A Loss Is A Loss Is A Loss
The undefeated “Samoan Submission Machine” lost again last night in a manner similar to his previous defeat at the Destination X pay-per-view. Following interference by Scott Steiner, Senshi was able to get the pinfall on Sonjay Dutt and win the three-way match, and the X title, without actually covering Joe or making him submit.

Please … please … to those at TNA that think it’s a good idea to push the “undefeated” angle with Joe, just stop insulting the fans’ intelligence. A man who walks into a match with a title and leaves without it did not win the match. I don’t care if the stipulation was that a member of the audience could be pinned by another member of the audience and that would cost the man the title—it’s still a loss.

Joe’s great, and will make an impressive NWA World champ when he decides to take over that title, but for now he’s a guy that lost the X title twice in matches with odd stipulations.

MAYHEM MADE SIMPLE (June 21, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

06-21-06

How is this possible? I mean, it’s never happened before to the best of my knowledge, and I’d say that my assessment of the topic is pretty damn accurate. So, again, I ask—how is this possible? When in the blue hell did I become the voice of reason?

Following last week’s premiere episode of ECW I urged fans everywhere to give it some time. Sure, it reeked of WWE from start to finish, but it was only “week one.” With time, ECW should be able to more fully separate itself from WWE and start to get back to what made it so great—and pined for—in the first place.

Seems rational, no?

Still, as I scoured fan Web sites across the Internet, the sentiment of the majority was far different than my own. The acid-tongued (or here, acid-typed) rhetoric was not only abundant, but also surprisingly accurate. Now, I’m not conceding that I was wrong at all last week—perhaps too soft on ECW. Yet, I’m willing to stick by my original assessment and just allow things to progress as they will and hope ECW catches on to the fans ire before we reach total rejection mode.

I’ll give tonight, and next week, before I officially become one of the millions of disappointed—and just flat out pissed off—fans.

Not A Great Start

This match taught me two things: first, in ECW the fellas are called “Rebels” (not kidding—check their website) and the gals are “Vixens” which, in a word, sucks. In an era of “Superstars” and “Divas” it is sad to see ECW fall into that moronic trap. Did Joey Style’s words as he left Raw fall on deaf ears?

The second thing I learned is that the ECW talent pool is amazingly shallow at this point. Tony Mamaluke was overmatched from bell to bell. Sabu won easy with the camel clutch, and cemented his spot as the number two wrestler in ECW behind Rob Van Dam.

All Right … We Get It

Following up the tremendous success—or crushing lack thereof—that was “The Zombie” from last week, a man known simply as “Macho Libre”—a cross between Randy Savage and Jack Black’s character in the film Nacho Libre—rolled through his best “Macho Man” routine before The Sandman dutifully made his way through the crowd, and crippled him with a kendo stick.

Stupid—sure. Yet another veiled shot at “sports entertainment”—obviously. But, you know what really made me sick? The inset box on the screen where Sandman cut a classic, 1980s-style WWE promo to “tell us what he was all about.”

Friendly word of advice—if you don’t know who The Sandman is, then ECW probably isn’t something you’re going to like. Also, ECW can’t do worse in the credibility department than going with idiotic promos like that. Sure, you want to increase your fanbase, but what was wrong with the old-fashioned ECW way? I’m starting to feel the reins slip a bit.

That’s Gonna Leave A Huge Handprint

When Tommy Dreamer got in the face of a much more menacing-looking Big Show, my first instinct was that he had no chance. Then, as I heard the passion in Dreamer’s voice, my thoughts changed drastically. I mean, Dreamer is the “Innovator Of Violence” and a former ECW World champion. Maybe there’s enough guts and hardcore expertise to get past the 7’2”, 485-pound Show. Yeah, I’m a believer! Sign me up!

Ahh, no.

In something vaguely resembling a match—although I don’t think it was—Show beat Dreamer’s ass all around the ringside area without hesitation. Apparently, Dreamer is quite adept at talking a big game and being pummeled. Interestingly, Dreamer was smiling after the beatdown, as if he feels he’s either in Show’s head, or proud of him. This could get interesting in the next couple weeks.

Kelly’s Exposé

This week, everyone’s favorite stripper-turned-stripper, Kelly, promised—yet again—that she would get through her seductive dance after experiencing a slight “wardrobe malfunction” during last week’s performance. Naturally, this time she gets her top off only to be covered up by an anonymous wrestler.

Oh well, because tonight was really the night I figured basic cable would cross that line into partial-frontal nudity.

This is dumb—please stop it.

WWE Invades Hardcore WWE

Again, I understand that they’re trying to force down our collective throat that ECW is independent of WWE. Got it—still not buying it. They really must knock off the “interpromotional” crap, especially when it pertains to a match featuring RVD, Kurt Angle, Randy Orton, and Edge. Wasn’t it only, like, three weeks ago that they were all proud WWEers? Hell, right now the latter two are only barely ECW.

The match itself wasn’t terrible, although it was relatively long and drawn out. Whereas the same match would have been given the last five minutes on Raw, here it went nearly 15 and showcased relatively no new ECW talent, which—and I may be wrong here—kind of defeats the purpose of having a third brand—no?

… And The Not So Extreme

John Cena made his obligatory appearance backstage at ECW last night. As he approached a mob of ECW wrestlers, Paul Heyman held back Sabu while Cena delivered his diatribe on “ass kickings” and “going out like a man.” Same crap … Tuesday night.

What really threw me off though, was the fact that Paul Heyman was able to hold back a visibly angry Sabu (not very homicidal if you ask me).

What was wrong with the old ECW theme song? Didn’t WWE use the current, overplayed theme song for something before—like SummerSlam, circa 2001 or so? Nothing quite like sloppy seconds to open the show.

Warning to residents of Albany, NY: There are vampires wandering around up there. One was spotted outside of the Pepsi Arena hissing at the arena marquee. Stock up on garlic, holy water, and whatever is used to kill off bad gimmicks.

There was a promo for the triumphant return of Andrew “Test” Martin, who will apparently be another WWE castoff/addition to ECW. Funny—didn’t Paul Heyman just appear on the KiddChris radio show in Philadelphia and bash TNA for using WWE castoffs who complained that they didn’t get their due in WWE?

What Did We Learn?
06-21-06

Unlike leftovers, ECW did not get much better the second time around. Last night’s show, for me at least, was more disappointing than the first. Again, I can’t stress enough that I fully understand that it’s very early and ECW shouldn’t be dismissed based on two weeks of programming.

Still … I’m starting to get antsy.

My frustration is based largely on the fact that this is, quite obviously, a WWE program. Fine—I can accept that; but it’s becoming too WWE, and at the expense of what made ECW great during its first go-round. Those in charge at WWE seem to be making more creative decisions on this brand than they do for Smackdown. Plus, the amazing overexposure of WWE guys just shows me just how little faith “Big Brother” has in the new ECW.

So, in the spirit of cross promotion, I’ll end this week’s installment of MMS (new name, same anger) by paraphrasing the immortal words of WWE’s DeGeneration X: ECW—I got two words for ya: strike two.

THE TUESDAY MORNING TURN (June 20, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

DeGeneration X is wreaking havoc … Mr. McMahon is a “character” on television and not at all like Vince McMahon … Rob Van Dam is one of the hottest names in professional wrestling … and a rogue promotion named ECW is attempting to spit in the collective face of the industry.

Assuming you haven’t been frozen in carbonite—and in perfect hibernation—for the past decade or so, allow me to assure you that it is 2006, and not 1998. What made for groundbreaking storylines in the late-1990s has the potential to be quaint, at best, by today’s standards.

DX will be fun for a while … Mr. McMahon will be a fixture in WWE … RVD is more “seasoned veteran” than angry rebel … and, frankly, the jury’s still out on new ECW.

What’s even more disturbing, though, is that the nostalgia trend relied on by WWE is running out of history to regurgitate. Think about it—first it was bringing back Hogan and the NWO; that was followed by the random, legend appearances on WWE television; and now, we’re mired in the late-1990s. WWE is actually catching up to itself. Pretty soon, “nostalgia” will be lovingly rehashing crappy storylines from the week before. This will go on until time overlaps itself and we’re all swallowed into a vortex or black hole or something … and that, my friends, would suck.

Enjoy “The Turn”—while you still can!

* * *

The Tao Of Bra And Panties Matches
I’m finally getting to the point—probably much later than many—where Jerry Lawler is now actually creeping me the hell out, to the point where I’m feeling uncomfortable at home. It’s like when your father points out an attractive woman and you kind of want to pretend you’re buddies, but you know it’s your dad. Yeah, that kind of weird.

For those of you keeping score at home, Mickie James and Candice Michelle defeated Torrie Wilson and Maria Kanelis in a vicious, pseudo-lesbian display that would’ve have made even the filthiest of fraternity man blush.

Following the action, James paraded around the ring, stopping to pull the shirt off a girl in the front row, which, if my legal training taught me anything, is generally considered assault, but, in WWE, it’s just getting a newbie’s face on TV. In fact, try that at your work—go shake the hand of the new guy downstairs in Accounting, and then level him with a clothesline. That’ll teach him who’s boss as well give you instant heat with the folks that run the donut club … or land you in jail.

* * *

Charlie Haas vs. Viscera may not be the worst angle on Raw, but it’s certainly the least compelling. Does Heat not exist anymore? Still, this would be boring even for an Internet program.

Although turning Haas into a sleazy, pseudo-rulebreaker isn’t a bad idea, the only problem is that no one likes Viscera, or particularly cares about Lilian Garcia from a storyline standpoint. And, of course, nothing is worse in professional wrestling—from a fan standpoint—than complacency … and we pretty much hit that last week.

Thankfully, The Spirit Squad inexplicably came down to destroy both men and end the match, and I have never been so happy to see grown men dressed as cheerleaders. Correction, I’ve never been so happy to see grown, male cheerleaders tackle other men. Wait—scratch that. I’ve never been so happy to see male cheerleaders tackle a large man in silk pajamas and a Texan in a bandana. Ah, crap … forget it.

* * *

Take notice: Only one of The Highlanders actually sounds Scottish; the other is doing his best Scrooge McDuck, whose last name is actually Irish. Once again—wrap your mind around that one.

* * *

Mandatory ECW Plug, Take II
For all of you fans out there that have been clamoring for a John Cena-Mahoney slugfest, last night you got your wish … at least for a little while. Two-time Raw World champion/current punching bag John Cena looked to have his match with the former “Chair Swinging Freak” all but locked up when he cinched his patented STFU on his opponent. Naturally, as each segment/match prior to a pay-per-view must promote some part of said show, Sabu—Cena’s opponent at Vengeance on Sunday—made his way to the ring and absolutely decimated the former champ, leaving him swollen and bloody.

The segment was quick and relatively painless, to anyone not named Cena. The worst part of it—Lawler’s attempt to build it up as a “cross-promotional” match … now that takes Mahoneys.

* * *

Mick Foley promised last night that his match against Ric Flair will not only be the most technically un-sound of his career, but it will be so in order to completely embarrass the “Nature Boy” in front of his hometown crowd at Vengeance.

Anyone else getting the feeling that Foley’s hedging his bets due to the very real possibility that he will get completely shown up by a senior citizen?

* * *

DeGeneration For The New Generation
In what was overall a completely awful week of Raw, the DeGeneration X reunion was not only the most entertaining part of the evening, but it appears to be the only angle that could potentially work on a weekly basis. Not bad for a gimmick that’s just shy of a decade in existence.

As the duo officially announced their summer tour, I began to wonder to myself whether there are any two wrestlers that feed off of each other better than Shawn Michaels and Triple-H. My conclusion—if two such men do exist, I’ve never seen them.

It was as if the brutal beatings and double-crosses these men had inflicted on each other for the past four years had never happened. DX simply picked up right where it left off—you know, prior to the X-Pac era. Their path of juvenile mayhem reminded me immediately of why the late-1990s will forever be considered the “Golden Age” of sports entertainment. Last night’s laundry list read as such:

• The Spirit Squad—DX’s opponents at Vengeance—was slimed with green goo à la You Can’t Do That On Television … and yes, this is probably the first of roughly a half-a-million columns that will make that connection today, so get used to repetition.

• The duo destroyed Vince McMahon’s office, put Coach’s head through a wall, pulled down his pants (revealing a g-string), and spray painted his posterior.

• They sent a fake alert to Shane and Vince regarding Stephanie being in labor, in order to get the father and son out of the building. Further, they pondered who got Steph pregnant, with Hunter assuming it was an awfully well-endowed “stud.”

• And finally—the DX coup de grâce—midgets, midgets, and more midgets.

* * *

Other Thoughts …
Back by popular demand, and basically because it helps to organize the best of the rest of last night, here’s what WWE attempted to pass off as actually compelling angles, although there was very little “sports” and even less “entertainment.”

Kane Fears Kane:
Kane admits to knowing the guy behind the mask, and gives off the impression that not only is he demented by Kane’s standards, but also the “Big Red Machine” is afraid of him. We found this out as Kane responded to pre-recorded questions lobbed at him by J.R. and Lawler. One hundred percent concentrated awful.

Bull-Dozing Off:
Umaga destroyed John McChesney … yes—the John McChesney. Next week I’m guessing he will either destroy “The Brooklyn Brawler,” Barry Horowitz, or possibly Gillberg. At Vengeance, it will be Umaga against Eugene in the Tidy Bowl Bathroom Break of the night.

Orton Still Being Punished:
Randy Orton beat Gene Snitsky. Seriously. No—I’m not kidding. It was Snitsky and Orton, one-on-one. No joke there … just thought all you fans of ending brand extension could use some ammo.

Nitro Looks Unstoppable:
Since making the move to Raw, Johnny Nitro has proven himself to be one of the most talented and entertaining wrestlers in WWE. Last night’s pinfall victory over Carlito Caribbean Cool—and subsequent turn against tag partner Shelton Benjamin—has Nitro in the proverbial driver seat heading into his three-way I-C title match at Vengeance.

Vince Must Have Really Left:
As poor Eugene attempted to update us on the health of Jim Duggan following last week’s vicious attack on the legend by Umaga, Rob Conway rudely interrupted him.

Wow. Umm … yeah. Rob Conway.

It’s as if there’s a jobber e-mail chain that lets everyone know when the inmates are running the asylum, thus allowing completely random guys like Conway grab some face time.

NWA TITLE VACANT AFTER SLAMMIVERSARY? (Universal Studios, Orlando, FL, June 18, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

TNA celebrated year four of its existence by putting on one of the most entertaining—and confusing—pay-per-views in the promotion’s brief life.

Titles changed hands—well, sort of—and new faces emerged as top contenders. Basically, everything a PPV is intended to do was done to near perfection last night. If TNA does eventually become a viable national presence in the world of professional wrestling, it could look back to last night’s Slammiversary as a real turning point in the promotion’s history.

* * *

Just Let This Angle Die
TNA’s resident hardcore specialists—Team 3D—won what is hopefully the final hardcore-style match the promotion will put on for quite some time. In a match that saw nearly every possible, conventional (which just seems odd to say here) hardcore weapon used, the former Dudleys defeated the former New Age Outlaws by driving Kip James through a table with their patented 3D finishing move.

While this was a great hardcore match for TNA, it’s time to allow this angle to go by the wayside. Naturally, this match was preceded by Team 3D cutting a promo against the Jameses, making references to the newly reformed ECW (in fact, the match itself was called a “Bingo Hall Brawl”). Well, this may be a newsflash for TNA, but we’re getting to the point where they’re putting far too much emphasis on this and giving ECW more of a nod than a competing promotion should want to provide.

The match is over, and the feud should be as well. At one point last night, both teams became embroiled in a scrap with the permanently angry LAX, which would be a nice addition to an angle with either team.

* * *

Just how far has Rhino fallen from grace in TNA? The former NWA World champion (albeit for two days) was once considered a top competitor to regain the title, yet this year he was not even in the “King Of The Mountain” match. Sure, his handicap match victory over Bobby Roode—who is going to be huge sooner than you think—and the best manager in the business right now, Scott D’Amore, was amusing, but, for a man who seemingly declared his allegiance to TNA rather than wait for his contract to expire and gore his way to ECW, this seems like a disappointing move.

* * *

The Mac Is Mightier …
Apparently, whoever is making the decisions at TNA is not only a huge fan of “Impact Implications” (appearing on pwi-online.com every Friday morning following Impact), but also feels that I—a humble wrestling writer—have figured out what to do with the mess that is everyone not named Samoa Joe in the X division. Or, maybe they just had the idea before I did—I suppose anything’s possible.

Last night’s X division rankings match was undoubtedly the match of the night and a serious contender for Match of the Year. Yes … it was that damn good. The contest featured the best the X division had to offer, pitting Senshi, Sharkboy, Petey Williams, Jay Lethal, Alex Shelley, and Sonjay Dutt in a six-man elimination match where the last man standing was crowned the number-one contender to Joe’s coveted X division title.

The contest ended up being a pretty amazing match, with each man able to showcase their talents, which is not usually the case in bouts such as this. At times, each man appeared poised to take over the flow of the contest, with Shelley standing out more than the others. However, it was not to be for the enigmatic paparazzo, as, in the end, Senshi pinned Dutt to become the number-one contender to the X title.

This match accomplished two things: First, it cleared up an increasingly murky X division title landscape, and, secondly, it further validated the most entertaining aspect of TNA.

* * *

My Bad
I’m not afraid to step up and admit when I’m wrong. In fact, one who analyzes professional wrestling will often be incorrect more times than not. It’s just a hazard of attempting to forecast where each promotion will head and who will get pushed to the top of said organization’s heap.

That being the case, I was way off when examining how the Chris Sabin-Kevin Nash angle would play out. Thanks to copious outside assistance by Shelley, Nash defeated Sabin—the hope of the X division—thus asserting his dominance over the group by crushing its de facto leader.

This is particularly disappointing if only because a mere few moments before, TNA had a fantastic six-man X division match to determine a number-one contender. Not only did this match nearly wipe away the prior X greatness, it also left Sabin as a man without a division. A win would’ve catapulted him into a different stratosphere; yet a loss could be crippling to his progression (remember, he wasn’t in the number-one contender match).

In one evening, Sabin went from the X division’s savior to its forgotten son. He’ll rebound, but at what cost?

* * *

Fighting Fire With Giants
Just when it looked like the pairing of Christopher Daniels and A.J. Styles was more akin to the Los Angeles Lakers all-star team of 2004—basically, plenty of individual talent that couldn’t put it together to win it all—the duo shocks the world by separating America’s Most Wanted from the NWA World tag title in a match highlighted by spectacular wrestling, dirty tactics, and one jacked-up stranger.

The champs dictated most of the flow until they would inevitably take each other out. Come to think of it, AMW hit each other an inordinate amount of times. I mean once—maybe twice—I can understand. But it seemed like every sequence ended with them either leveling each other or doing something latently homosexual.

Still, the night belonged to Styles and Daniels, who at one point received outside assistance from what can politely be described as a massive woman who prevented Gail Kim from getting involved in the action. In essence, Styles and Daniels defeated the champs at their own game. They anticipated everything AMW would throw at them, basically making the last month of losing tag matches seem like research. Nice touch, fellas.

It should be interesting to see how far Styles and Daniels go with the straps before they become bored sharing the spotlight with someone else. For now, it’s a nice victory that shakes up a tag division that was growing stagnant with every dated Brokeback Mountain reference.

* * *

Everybody Wins
The battle of TNA’s resident behemoths was not nearly as bad as it could have been. Let’s face facts: Scott Steiner is physically impressive, but not much of a consistent worker at this stage in his career. Joe, on the other hand, is widely touted as the most agile big man in wrestling today. And, while Steiner wasn’t bad, this was Joe’s match from start to finish.

The X division champion nearly exhausted his repertoire of moves in an effort to take down “The Genetic Freak” (his words, not mine). Admirably, Steiner only relied on his not-so-devastating belly-to-belly suplexes twice, which has to be some kind of record.

Despite Joe taking the victory, this match did more for Steiner’s credibility in TNA than previously anticipated by people like me. Sure, Joe carried most of the match, and Steiner is far from the wrestling machine he once was, but the massive former WCWer looked to be as good as he has been in years. Plus, losing a closely contested match doesn’t necessarily bury Steiner in the way a quick choke-out at the hands of Joe would have done. This was, essentially, the biggest “win-win” situation on the card all evening.

* * *

Let’s Play “‘Screw Job,’ Conspiracy, or Botched Finish”!
In what could amount to a classic head-scratcher finish, the NWA World title was apparently held up following the much-anticipated third installment of the “King Of The Mountain” match last night.

The action was well-paced and entertaining. Not only did every man seem to have a relatively legitimate shot (at least on paper) at winning TNA’s top prize, but the contest actually furthered storylines in ways other matches could only dream to do, as a Christian Cage-Sting feud now seems inevitable following a square-off between the two.

Despite the entertaining battle, the actual match was secondary to the series of confusing events that concluded it. In short, Larry Zbyszko attacked Cage, preventing him from retaining the title, and Earl Hebner pushed the ladder atop which the champion and Sting battled, knocking both men to the floor. This final act of interference allowed part-owner and all-around fan favorite Jeff Jarrett to sneak in and hang the title above the ring, apparently becoming NWA World champion for the sixth time.

Naturally, the fans that had gotten into the Impact Zone for free, felt as if they hadn’t gotten their money’s worth, and responded by showering the ring with garbage and whatever else they could find. In fact, the vacationers may have actually stormed the ring were it not for TNA’s new face of management, Jim Cornette, taking the title from Jarrett and holding it up as if to announce it was vacated.

This was, without a doubt, the absolute best way to end the evening. It appears that Jarrett was in cahoots with Zbyszko and Hebner all along and that the NWA World title picture is just as confusing as ever—which is great! With all due respect to Christian Cage, his shelf life as champion was quickly coming to an end. He was losing ground as a true fan favorite, and this may be just the event that could allow TNA to really do something intriguing with the NWA World title.

To answer the headline, this match was none of the above. It was a well-calculated, intelligent finish to one era, and the start of something that could prove to be monumental for the promotion in the weeks to come.

IMPACT IMPLICATIONS (June 16, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

What basically amounted to the get-away show prior to the Slammiversary pay-per-view this weekend was a slow and relatively clever move for TNA. No doubt the promotion knew Impact was airing at midnight EST last night following a special extended edition of UFC programming, and hence the promotion was not reluctant to put on what was—for all intents and purposes—an hour-long preview for Slammiversary.

For the first time in recent memory, Impact was done in typical WWE form. Not quite sure what that is? Here’s a quick formula for any and all WWE programming:

Roughly four to five promos + a match here and there + gratuitous female skin – storyline advancement = WWE programming

Now, I’m not bashing WWE—basically, it’s what they do, and I’m all right with that. But, it didn’t feel right coming from TNA.

You know what? Let’s just chalk this one up as a clunker. TNA’s been fairly consistent (in a good way) with its programming since debuting on Spike TV back in October 2005. They’re allowed a dud of a show here and there—and boy, did they cash in their chips last night. Ugh.

* * *

King Of The Promo
When the folks at TNA glanced at Christian Cage’s resume, they likely saw the section where it mentions that as part of his time with WWE he had become particularly adept at the longwinded, tremendously repetitive promo that is par for the course up north.

That’s the only explanation for starting off Impact with an unusually long (for TNA at least) promo for this weekend’s “King Of The Mountain” match at Slammiversary. It’s either that, or the fact that there are about 30 competitors in the match. Seriously, is anyone looking forward to this match?

More importantly, can anyone clearly explain all of the rules of the match? Anyone? There’s a penalty box, you win by putting the belt on a rope, and I think someone has to fight a puma or something. I’m actually looking at the rules of the match right now, as I write this, and no amount of legal training can make these stipulations seem intriguing.

Let’s hope that something big happens during this match on Sunday, because it would be a shame to follow up Sacrifice with a largely lackluster pay event.

* * *

On my way in to work this morning, I started thinking about the state of TNA wrestling, as well as some of the more bothersome angles in the promotion. I was able to narrow it down to three things that are getting major exposure, yet really not making a ton of sense to me. What’s most confusing?

Jeff Jarrett carrying a guitar around, although not having a gimmick that warrants it.

Kevin Nash feigning exhaustion after beating a midget in a mask—and not being sure whether he’s goofing or actually winded.

Scott Steiner saying anything at all.

* * *

The Good Just Got Better
The lone bright spot of last night’s Impact was the full-time return of Shane Douglas into the TNA fold as manager of The Naturals. For the less-than-loyal Impact viewers out there, The Naturals are actually former NWA World tag champs who have fallen on hard times as of late; for WWE viewers out there: “tag champs” refers to tag team wrestling, which is a two-on-two match. Now that everyone’s caught up, we can move on.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: TNA needs a healthy and focused Shane Douglas as part of its program. Aside from knowing the business, Douglas is a recognizable face that can be used in many ways. With his wrestling days behind him (hopefully), Douglas should make a fine manager/mentor for young wrestlers such as The Naturals. He could also be effective—at some point in the future—in an on-screen TNA management position. Plus, he can do all of this as either a fan favorite or rulebreaker—he’s that versatile.

It’s good for Shane—and TNA—to see him reinvigorated and excited about the business once again.

* * *

Sure, it was an eight-man match, but Christopher Daniels and A.J. Styles were once again on the losing end. How these guys are still considered number-one contenders to the NWA World tag titles, I have no clue.

Maybe the face of TNA management will look past his 1980s spectacles, adjust his polyester sports jacket, grab his best tennis racket and make some changes this weekend.

HARDCORE 101 (June 14, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

06-13-06

Feeling inspired by tonight’s night’s debut of WWE’s third brand, I wanted to try something a bit different with this column. Seeing as how ECW has been hailed—by some—as the start of a “new era in professional wrestling,” I thusly consider this column the start of a “new era in journaltainment.”

Now, I know you’re asking yourself, Frank … why would you toy with such utter perfection as “The Turn” or any of the other 600 or so columns you write? Whoa, easy there, little fella—I’m not completely revamping things. In fact, this format may not even make it past Week One, but I figure let’s give it a shot.

Basically, the format will be as such: Bring you—my beloved fellow fans—back up to speed, as well as preview what the evening’s events should look like and wrap it all up neatly with match assessment and a look into next week.

In fact, I’ll do you one better—I’ll continue to write my intro piece each week prior to the show, so as not to cheat and match it up with my conclusions, ergo coming off like a typical, smart ass wrestling writer who wants you to believe he’s plugged into the system more than he is. If I’m wrong, I’ll admit it at the end—you have my word, which, really, is the best you’re going to get. Deal?

With tonight (Tuesday) being the debut, I’ll spare you my guess on what we’ll see and instead impart three irrefutable truths of ECW: 1) Paul Heyman is a genius, 2) Someone will bleed, and 3) Someone else will bleed.

Who’s Kidding Whom?
The murky ECW-WWE title picture seems to have been settled, and it looks like Rob Van Dam will be defending both for the time being—until he drops the WWE strap to Edge at Vengeance. With both John Cena and Edge showing up last night, the possibility exists (although highly unlikely) for a three-way match for the title, and whoever comes out of that is anyone’s guess, although it would be best for ECW if it wasn’t RVD.

There is such a WWE feel to ECW right now that it doesn’t behoove the brand to be attached to “Big Brother” any more than necessary. The production value, the visual presentation, and even the general malaise of the fans (which will change when ECW moves to smaller venues) all have the feel of WWE. Of course, Paul Heyman vowing to invade Raw next Monday didn’t help things.

Now, sure, this is just the beginning, and I urge fans to be patient with ECW before rushing to judgment. The WWE cross-promotion will die down at some point, and fans will have plenty of pseudo-criminal behavior to look forward to in the future.

That’s Gonna Piss Off A Nerd Or Two
Naturally, the first match of ECW’s re-launch was going to be a vicious, brutal bloodletting of—well—ECW-like proportions; one that made women and small children shudder in horror, and diehard fans giddy.

Right?

Well, not exactly. As The Sandman—who is far more terrifying than anything on the Sci-Fi Network—pummelled a man known only as “The Zombie” senseless with the cane, it struck me that this was likely a non-too-veiled shot at “Big Brother.”

My reasoning for assuming this, well, think back for a moment: What was the first thing the dusty, blond-haired zombie did when he hit the ring? Take a second to really think. All right, screw it—he immediately grabbed a mike and cut a promo that amounted to little more than monotone grunts.

Was this a shot at how the parent company starts every show off with the same, repetitive, mindless promo segment? It’s quite possible, and, in hindsight, not a bad way to kick things off. Or, and dear God I hope I’m wrong, it could be a new gimmick, in which case—ECW: 0, Sci-Fi: 1.

At Least It’s Blatant
It’s always a good move, when you’re fighting for acceptance, to win your audience with small tokens of appreciation such as freshly baked pastries, personalized greeting cards, or nudity. Yep, can’t go wrong with a tasty knish and a stripper. Naturally, the scantily clad “Kelly” stopped her seductive dance just before ECW tiptoed past the Sci-Fi Network and right into Cinemax-land.

Was this a yet another veiled shot at gratuitous and often times mindless partial nudity used by WWE to sell its product? Again, it’s possible, although it’s more likely just an excuse to showcase a partially nude blonde who is not as adept at removing her garments as one would hope.

Hey, at least there wasn’t a creepy 61-year-old man groping her in the process.

He Wants His MTV
Although Kurt Angle can do no wrong in my eyes, he’s not now, nor will he ever truly be “ECW.” I love Angle and I love ECW, but it’s like watching Bruno Sammartino in a backyard wrestling match. Case in point: Angle squashed his first, true ECW opponent last night, who just so happens to be a former ECW World champion, and a huge name in the history of the promotion.

The beating was probably not a great premonition for the ECW future of Justin Credible (who left MTV’s fledgling wrestling promotion to return). He was made to look tremendously incompetent in the ring by Angle. Of course, Angle’s in a league of his own, and a much better pure wrestler than Credible, but didn’t we know that already? Was it entirely necessary to bury Credible on the first show?

Oh, and Angle cutting a promo on Randy Orton following the match—hell, even having a match with Orton, again—still, not very “ECW.”

One And Done
The “10-Man Extreme Rules” battle royal was actually a great idea, and well-placed for a promotion looking to build a new fan base. A match like this would get everyone’s face on TV—thus introducing them to new fans—without any really cheesy four-on-four matches, or overly exaggerated promo segments that annoy even the staunchest supporter (hint, hint, TNA). It was a fine way to end the debut program.

Now, don’t let it happen again for quite some time. Or—better yet—ever again.

What I affectionately refer to as “the best bad match in wrestling,” battle royals are gimmicky, crap matches that showcase nothing outside of theme music and the winning wrestler’s signature move. Think about it—you know I’m right on this one.

Sabu won the match, eliminating the surprisingly entertaining Big Show (who knew there was more to him than raising his hand and grunting?). The prize for being victorious: a shot at the recently dethroned champ, John Cena (assuming he’s not added to the main event) at WWE’s Vengeance. If anyone can explain to me why that’s a good thing, I’ll gladly listen.

What Have We Learned?

06.14.06

This is quite obviously a WWE pet project for the time being, and I’m all right with that. There was nothing to the debut show—save a few recognizable names and faces—that truly made it feel like old-school ECW.

But, again, I—a paragon of patience and understanding—am willing to give ECW the benefit of the doubt because I have the advantage of knowing how it once was. Sure, it may never get back to the days of flaming chairs, but it will be better. My expectations for Week One of ECW weren’t high, but they are for the future.

So what if they briefly teased a vampire wrestler? And, fine, almost every commercial break had some sort of WWE advertisement during it (although, why they would promote a DVD called the Rise And Fall Of ECW during the rebirth of that very brand is beyond me). Basically, last night was the crash-course introduction of ECW to a new generation of fans. If the old-heads like myself can stomach the training-wheels portion of the rebirth, I think we’ll all be in for something special, once again. Sure, no one bled … but there was nearly nudity, and that counts for something, right?

THE TUESDAY MORNING TURN (June 13, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

No, it wasn’t a strange, disturbing dream; you saw it as it happened, and, according to some pre-recorded footage, Rob Van Dam’s title victory over embattled former champion John Cena looks like it’s going to stick, leading fans everywhere to wonder—now what?

To some, RVD’s victory trumped Rey Misterio Jr.’s ridiculous title reign as the “feel good” moment of 2006—but was it the best thing for WWE? As Jim Ross pointed out at the beginning of Raw last night, this is the first time since 1963 that the WWE title was not in WWE. How could this possibly be a good thing?

Was it necessary to put Raw’s highest title on a man from ECW in order to give the third brand credibility? Probably not. ECW will draw because it’s ECW, not because it took Raw’s strap. Can Cena—arguably the biggest goat of a world champion in the company’s history—recover from this? Of course, there’s just too much invested in him for this to be a career-killer.

So what gives? Was there a point behind all of this? I’m willing to give WWE the benefit of the doubt on this one and see where this goes from here. I’m hoping this takes the Cena/Edge angle in a new direction, and gives ECW a nice little bump in interest (as if that’s necessary).

I’ll give it one week, and I suggest you all do the same. In the meantime, enjoy “The Turn”—a beacon of patience and understanding for the entire world to enjoy. For now.

* * *

Now, Who’s Being Punished?
Randy Orton’s 361-day suspension (oh, getting shipped to Smackdown technically counts as punishment) ended last night as “The Legend Killer” made his official return to the Raw brand, competing against Kane in a match that went to a double-countout.

Kane, for the most part, manhandled Orton, who is still working out the kinks from his extended vacation. Suddenly—as if from nowhere—fake Kane comes out and attacks real Kane, knocking the real McCoy off of the entrance ramp and onto the floor below. Wow that’s … something, eh?

The further this goes the more I immediately regret being interested at first. Ever get the feeling WWE has no clue where it’s going with an angle? If not, check this one out—it will frustrate the hell out of you, while simultaneously making you feel good. Thanks, Creative, the further we get from May 19, the less sense this gimmick makes. I smell one of those situations that ends with zero explanation.

* * *

Who Saw That Coming?!
It started with an innocent crotch chop and a grin, and ended with the reunion of one of the greatest factions in the history of WWE. Vince McMahon, in his infinite wisdom, pissed off both Triple-H and Shawn Michaels at the same time, giving both men a reason to relive their past.

The worst-kept secret in wrestling finally came to fruition when, during a gauntlet match between Triple-H and The Spirit Squad, HBK emerged to save his running buddy from further annihilation at the hands of the angry male cheerleaders.

Not that it was tremendously prophetic of me, but I actually wrote how it would go down prior to the match. It’s all right; you can stare in amazement at the wonder and power that is me. I don’t mind. Finished? Don’t let me rush you. Feel free to bask in my glow as long as necessary.

Sure, in the long run this most recent step back into WWE nostalgia is probably not the best thing for the forward motion of the industry. Still, I’ll enjoy it while it happens, and I encourage all of you to do the same. It could be worse—I’m sure most of The Oddities are looking for gigs right now.

* * *

All Right, We’ll Bite … Once
Under the watchful eyes of ECW’s finest mid-carders, John Cena enacted two minutes of revenge on the man that he believed cost him the WWE title—Edge. The match had barely started before it ended via disqualification when Lita interfered. Cena chased Edge to the outside only to be briefly accosted by Stevie Richards, Justin Credible, and Mahoney at ringside.

After shrugging off the half-hearted attack, the former champ grabbed a mike and announced that he would show up on the premiere episode of ECW on the Sci-Fi Channel. I know what you’re thinking—this is an awful idea. But, this may not be as bad as first thought, as long as—and read this clearly, Stamford—this is a one-time thing.

I have no problems with there being a WWE-ECW connection for the time being in order to draw attention to ECW programming. That’s fine by me. Yet, if in six months—hell, if in six weeks—we’re still seeing WWE Superstars invade ECW programming I’m going to get angry … and you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

* * *

Ric Flair returned to Raw last night to challenge Mick Foley to a match, and, in the process, the two cut what could only be described as a Promo of the Year candidate—were that an actual award.

It’s well-documented that there is more respect flowing from Foley to Flair than vice versa. Each man let loose on the other with a barrage of thinly veiled “scripted” assaults. Foley accused Flair of resenting his acceptance with the fans, whereas Flair broke out his “glorified stuntman” accusation that he has lobbed at the hardcore legend for years.

The two will meet in a two-out-of-three falls match at Vengeance in, conveniently, Charlotte, North Carolina—the unofficial capital of Flair Country. Each man intends to out-wrestle the other.

Now, mind you by “out-wrestle” I mean the “Nature Boy” will drop extra elbows and poke Foley in the eye at least five times, whereas Foley will utilize two, double-arm
DDTs and stick his hand into Flair’s mouth at least once.

* * *

Better The Second Time?
It was announced that at Vengeance there would be a triple threat match for the Intercontinental title. I’ve said it before and it still holds true, in my humble opinion—the Intercontinental division is the best group of pure wrestlers on Raw.

Johnny Nitro and Carlito Caribbean Cool will attempt to separate Shelton Benjamin from the strap in what promises to be a great contest showcasing tremendous athleticism, and could end up being the best wrestling match at the pay-per-view.

Yet, last night’s match between Nitro and Carlito gave me a nasty case of déjà vu. Nitro was able to steal a win over Carlito, who defeated Benjamin last week in a non-title match.

The buildup for this match seems strikingly similar to that of the Triple-H, Edge, and Cena Raw World title match at Backlash. It’s as if the names were erased and three new, Intercontinental contenders were just penciled in in their place. In that case, keep an eye out, Mr. Nitro—I’m thinking the champ may have your number next week.

* * *

Self-Plagiarism
I’ll give you a second to get your minds out of the gutter. Done? Good.

Those of you who follow my inane quips as if they are wrestling scripture may recognize this next section from, most recently, yesterday’s recap of ECW One Night Stand. While this won’t become a habit, I enjoyed it so much last night that I had to bring it back one more time. Also, thanks to an abundance of awful segments last night on Raw, I felt it was particularly useful.

The rest of Raw, in order of least annoying to most:

4. Torrie beats Candice in a “Wet And Wild” water-fight match.
This intricate battle of two, highly trained professional athletes, both in their prime, involved skimpy white outfits and plenty of water, yet required a pinfall or submission to secure victory. Bravo, WWE … allow me a moment to wipe the tear from my eye. Nothing annoying about this one—just good, clean, family entertainment.

3. Umaga destroys Jim Duggan … again.
Hacksaw Duggan and his protégé, Eugene, are what you might call, “all heart.” Umaga broke a 2x4 over his own head during the match … that was kinda cool. But, really, kill the angle now and let Duggan and Eugene ride the short bus off into the sunset.

2. Viscera defends Lilian’s honor.
This played up the incident where Lilian Garcia sprained her wrist last week, by having Viscera pummel the repentant Charlie Haas. Haas is great, but they obviously have nothing for him if they have to make this into an angle. Let’s see, WWE fired a newlywed Haas before, now the guy’s got a kid on the way. This doesn’t bode well.

1. State Of WWE Address addresses nothing.
Rather than take the time to actually address all of the interesting changes and upcoming major events in WWE, this was just another promo by Vince McMahon about Vince McMahon and his involvement in storylines. Awful, awful waste of time.

 

FOR ONE NIGHT, RVD STANDS ABOVE ALL OTHERS
(Hammerstein Ballroom, New York, NY, June 11, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

As recently as this past Thursday morning—following the WWE vs. ECW special—I, a Philadelphia-area native and ECW fan—sent out an ill-conceived call-to-action to ECW fans everywhere to reject the “new” ECW. It was my feeling that the “new” ECW was, for all intents and purposes, just a way for WWE to milk something that meant so much to so many in order to make a quick buck.

And, well, yes. That’s probably still true.

It’s likely that, as soon as ECW becomes an economic liability to WWE, it will be cut, yet again. But, after spending just one evening in the ECW Arena in South Philadelphia (for a TNA house show, no less), I can safely say—who cares?

That’s right. Over the span of one weekend, I have seen the proverbial hardcore light. It was at some point between a visibly inebriated fan falling from a balcony after being urged by fans and Brother Runt having his face rubbed in a pile of thumbtacks, that I realized it’s not about who owns ECW, it’s simply that the promotion exists at all. The longtime fans of ECW simply want to enjoy the ride, regardless of who’s footing the bill.

I’m ashamed to admit how misguided my initial assessment of the new ECW was. Perhaps the years of cynically criticizing the moves of the McMahon family have finally clouded my judgment to the point of confusion.

Or, perhaps all it took was one sultry, profanity filled Friday night in a crowded bingo hall to remind me just what it means to be “hardcore.”

* * *

Maybe This Will Work
Initially, Kurt Angle’s selection by Paul Heyman as his draft pick from the Raw brand seemed, well, odd. Sure, Angle is a tough competitor and an amazing mat wrestler, yet he’s not exactly known for being “hardcore”—at least not in a traditional ECW sense.

Well, WWE’s “go-to” guy just proved—yet again—why he’s arguably the greatest professional wrestler of this generation. The man can adapt his ring style to any situation or match and come out on top time and time again.

Throughout the course of his match against Randy Orton, it was clear that Orton was not comfortable and hadn’t fully recovered from his broken suspension … damn, I always do that … I mean “ankle.” Angle dictated the flow, and, with every well-placed attack, it appeared more likely that his rabid, intense style would fit in well with the “new” ECW.

In the end, it was Angle—who was tremendously over with the ECW faithful—finding a way to slap on the anklelock, to which Orton quickly tapped out. For good measure—and in case he forgot that he just lost or was unaware of his apparent lack of male genitalia—the fans vociferously reminded Orton of both points as he was helped to the back. How very helpful of them.

* * *

BREAKING NEWS: WWE Owns ECW
It’s somewhat telling that the first match between the actual alumni of ECW did not get the same pop as many of the other inter-brand matches on the card.

Still, Super Crazy and Tajiri vs. The F.B.I. was a solid tag match between four men who have all graced WWE programming at some point in their careers, yet were relegated to enhancement talent—or comedic—status. There were plenty of excellent, high-flying maneuvers as well as team cooperation … basically, something unheard of in WWE on Monday nights. This was hardcore tag team wrestling at its finest.

The match progressed nicely, with F.B.I. taking the victory following a double fisherman driver on a stunned Tajiri. Unfortunately for these teams—who had just put on a hell of a contest—The Big Show made his way to the ring and destroyed The F.B.I. for good measure.

Whew, thank (full-time deity and part time wrassler) God—I nearly forgot that there were WWE guys in ECW.

* * *

He Wasn’t Kidding
When Mick Foley sat in the ring the other night on Raw and promised that he would take his hardcore past to a new level at One Night Stand, he truly was not kidding. What seemed like a contrived, ridiculous promo was actually a warning to Tommy Dreamer and Terry Funk—Foley and Edge’s opponents at ONS—that the hardcore legend would stop at nothing to destroy while also silencing his critics.

The match did not get off to the rousing, hardcore start one would expect with the addition of Beulah and Lita to the fracas, making it a six-person inter-gender tag match. Yet, the women added where they could to the fight (mostly in an interference role) and did not detract from the real story, which was Foley’s bloodlust.

The hardcore moments were plentiful and more dangerous with each passing minute. Dreamer’s ear was stuck to a barbed wire covered board—which Edge and Foley promptly fell face-first into; Foley apparently dug out Funk’s eye with a barbed wire-covered fist; for the coup de grâce, Foley was hit with a flaming 2x4 and sent through a table.

It doesn’t get much more “hardcore” than that. Now, I could sit here and question why someone would do something like that to their body—or get even higher and/or mightier and gripe about how stuff like that hurts the industry—but I won’t. No, hardcore wrestling isn’t for everyone, so I’ll let each individual decide how they feel about the bloodbath that was this match.

Oh, as a side note, Edge and Foley won the match.

* * *

One Out Of Two Ain’t Bad, Right?
With both WWE branded world titles on the line last night, something huge was bound to happen. Raw’s John Cena and Smackdown’s Rey Misterio Jr. have both been hearing their fair share of boos as of late, and, with a decidedly pro-ECW crowd, it was all but certain that someone would be walking out of the Hammerstein Ballroom about 10-pounds lighter.

Sabu and Misterio go to a no-contest.
Something was going to happen. Before the bell had sounded—hell, before each man was introduced—this match had the feeling that something insane—and potentially inhuman—would happen.

Chairs were involved; high-flying moves were commonplace; but then, just when it seemed like it was not possible to take the match to greater heights, “it” happened. Sabu readjusted his body—in air—to level Misterio with a flying DDT through the table the champion was standing on outside of the ring. In a career of death-defying aerial maneuvers, this undoubtedly ranks very high on Sabu’s resume of destruction.

Both men were rendered incapable of continuing the match, which was then declared a no-contest due to injury. Misterio retained the belt, and the fans were treated to an amazing display by two of the greatest high-flyers in the sport. That’s what we in the business call a “win-win” situation.

RVD beats Cena to capture his first world gold.
Conversely, there would be no “win-win” situation in this matchup. If RVD were to fail once again in his quest to capture a world title, the fans would have likely stormed the ring and quite literally torn John Cena into tiny, thugged-out pieces. Had Cena lost the title, he would go down as one of those rare champions who took their promotion’s strap onto another company’s show and lost it, which wouldn’t help his situation with WWE fans who have turned against Cena in droves. Something had to give … or did it?

The match itself was very good all around, as Cena was able to work through the viciousness of the masses and match RVD move for move. Additionally, the challenger was at his hardcore finest and wrestled with a type of calculated desperation that is necessary for a man in his position.

Unfortunately (for both men) the match ended following interference by Edge and a three-count made by Paul Heyman. Naturally, both events will be questioned on Raw later this evening, which, in some ways, makes life worse on both Cena and RVD.

Cena’s credibility is absolutely shot with the fans; he lost the title and could (remember Dusty Rhodes is part of Creative) gain it back tonight under less-than-favorable circumstances. RVD—who has fought his entire career to get to this point—will either be stripped of the strap he so greatly covets, or retain it under a shroud of controversy. Either way, not too sexy. And not a great move from a storyline development point for either man.

* * *

No Taste, More Filling
Not every contest at ONS had long-lasting, career shortening implications. Some segments were just—how do I put this appropriately—crap. Sure, ECW will work out the kinks as things move along (and it distances itself from Big Brother) but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be critical of these stinkers.

Here’s last night’s least valuable moments in order of least to most irritating. How about this—they’re in order from “another bra-and-panties match” to “Oh, goody … a 20-minute long Stephanie McMahon promo.” Yeah, that painful.

4. Tazz makes Lawler tap in three seconds.
No one was really expecting much from this match and—mercifully—that’s pretty much how it turned out. After antagonizing Joey Styles on his way to the ring, Lawler was attacked by the announcer once he stepped through the ropes, giving Tazz enough time to slap on the “Tazzmission.” Three flops of the arm later, this feud was dead.

3. Mahoney levels Tanaka with a chair.
Mahoney defeated the former ECW World champion and tag team partner with a massive chairshot that no doubt will leave the talented Japanese grappler seeing stars for days. This was likely a fill-in match for the recently AWOL Axl Rotten—and an awful waste of Tanaka to boot.

2. JBL makes an appearance.
JBL shows up in the balcony to rip on the crowd, the product, and those who left WWE to go to ECW. He then tells the world that he will be the new voice of the “A brand”—Smackdown—and that Tazz was smart to quit or else he would’ve been fired anyway. Pointless, seeing as how The Blue Meanie—whom JBL viciously pummeled at the end of last year’s event—was not a part of last night’s event.

1. Sandman canes Eugene.
I’m willing to give Heyman the benefit of the doubt. Hopefully, this was a symbolic beating by an ECW icon on all things wrong with WWE. Eugene—the “best” WWE Creative can come up with—is destroyed by Sandman and his trusty kendo stick to show that ECW will not bow down to WWE, thus declaring the promotion’s independence.

Or, it could’ve just been an intoxicated maniac pummeling a mentally challenged man with a stick. I’m hoping it’s more toward my first inclination, but fearing it’s likely the second.

IMPACT IMPLICATIONS (June 9, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

TNA makes its house show debut in lovely South Philadelphia later this evening, and yours truly, along with other members of the PWI staff, will be getting our first live looks at the heir apparent to WCW circa 1998. It’s no accident that tonight’s show will be held at the New Alhambra Arena—better known as the home base of ECW.

This is a bold move by TNA, and not necessarily because it’s an obvious shot at WWE and, specifically, ECW. No, what makes this move impressive is that it is premeditated. This weekend last year, WWE had its first One Night Stand pay-per-view at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York—the same venue it will broadcast from this Sunday night.

TNA made a very conscious and risky decision to book the ECW Arena, and make its Philly debut during the very weekend WWE was most likely to repeat an ECW pay-per-view. Consider everything else TNA has said about WWE as secondary—this is its first warning shot. Sure, it may be similar to throwing a rock at a tank, but TNA is making strides and expanding at its own pace, and you can’t really fault it for doing so.

TNA in Philly … ECW’s return … this should be a great weekend to be a fan.

* * *

A Field Of Thoroughbreds
With Sting’s DQ win over Scott Steiner last night, he became the final entrant in the “King Of The Mountain” match at Slammiversary later this month. The legend joins Ron Killings, Rhino, Jeff Jarrett, Abyss, and NWA World champion Christian Cage in the unique and exciting championship match.

Okay—enough with the free publicity. To say last night’s match left a lot to be desired would be an understatement, but allow me a moment to focus on something that I found particularly puzzling. Why would Jeff Jarrett feel the need to interfere in the match at all? Did he want to make sure that we knew he didn’t like Sting? Apparently being part of the top storyline for the past seven months wasn’t enough, and a run-in during Impact should dispel all doubt.

Actually, my theory is that Jarrett’s move wasn’t only not directed at Sting, but probably one of the smartest things he could have done. See, Sting is a formidable opponent and a legend of the squared circle … but Steiner, well, he’s the biggest question mark of all. Jarrett realized that he can’t control—let alone survive—an attack by Steiner, who would no doubt sacrifice any “friendship” between the two were he part of the “KOTM” match. Sting is the enemy Jarrett knows, whereas Steiner could go off at any second.

Nice move, Mr. Jarrett. Yeah—I can give credit where it’s due.

* * *

Fun And Games
Let’s play everyone’s favorite, non-existent game show, Spend TNA’s Money. Yes, it’s time we suggest who the next wrestler is that TNA should open its fat wallet to sign.
Here’s my suggestion this week:

Any legitimate female wrestler, because a perfectly good Gail Kim is a terrible thing to waste.

Next week, we’ll take a page out of WWE’s book and examine which minority/disability/mythical being would be best suited for TNA programming. The early leader: a dyslexic bearded woman. Watch out, Smackdown!

* * *

An angry Konnan joined Mike Tenay and Don West at the announce table to espouse his political beliefs and anger at the way professional wrestling suppresses Latino talent. Next week, K-Dogg will give a dissertation on the flimsy state of carpentry as it pertains to Spanish announce tables.

* * *

KleeneX Division
The X division is one of my favorite aspects of TNA. The matches are fast-paced and exciting, and many of the top spots on Impact will come from—surprise—an X division match.

I give that disclaimer because, sorry TNA, but I’m starting to get bored … to tears. Yes, if I see one more random X division match solely for the sake of showing another random X division match, I may openly weep like a toddler with a skinned knee.

Oh … oh, I’m sorry, TNA. Please … I know you don’t like having your beloved X division criticized, but please get a hold of yourself. Better? Okay, let’s keep going.

Here’s my suggestion: Provide some structure to the X division—now! I’m not calling for weight restrictions or anything silly like that. No, I would just like to see some semblance of a ratings system—at the very least, I’d like to know who the number-one contender is. For a promotion chock-full of X division talent, it’s somewhat understandable that X matches would be random week-to-week in the interest of showcasing as much talent as possible.

Now wait—let’s not do anything rash. I only bring this up so that I could offer a friendly suggestion … all right? Are you okay, TNA? There’s no need for you to cry; everything’s going to be fine.

But Sonjay Dutt and Jerelle Clark? Both are very nice X competitors, and they had a really solid match, but can TNA really afford a space-filler match with no real implications during its one weekly hour of original programming? Me thinks not.

* * *

Worth Noting
• X division champion and world-renowned Frank Ingiosi look-alike Samoa Joe will take on “Big Poppa Pump” Scott Steiner at Slammiversary, marking one of the first times the “Samoan Submission Machine” will enter the ring against a man more physically imposing than him.

• The “Chris Sabin Push Tour 2006” continued as he and The James Gang defeated A1, Bobby Roode, and Eric Young of Team Canada. Sabin was the standout of this match, gaining the pinfall victory for his team following a top rope legdrop on A1. Sabin is looking very good going into his Slammiversary match with Kevin Nash, and, depending on how he fairs on June 18, the Detroiter may be poised for serious X division title contention.

• The new face of TNA management should be making his (or her … although I think we all know it’s “his”) first appearance prior to Slammiversary. It should be interesting to see where this leaves Larry Zbyszko … assuming he avoids Raven long enough to make it to Slammiversary.

THURSDAY MORNING TURN: SPECIAL WWE vs. ECW EDITION (June 8, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

As I left the palatial offices of Pro Wrestling Illustrated and made my way through the dreary evening toward my sweet 1996 Toyota Corolla in the executive parking lot, I realized that my workday had not ended. In fact, in some ways, it had just begun.

With last night’s WWE vs. ECW: Head To Head special airing live on the USA Network, I realized that my night would be filled with analysis, writing, and cringing—not necessarily at the brutality that typifies an ECW event, but at the fact that we, the fans, had officially fallen into the depths of the nostalgia age of wrestling—a faux Renaissance, if you will.

If last was any indicator, the new ECW will be forced, contrived, and completely milked for all it’s worth. There is no spirit to it—nothing that makes it special. And why? Because WWE is using the same marketing technique for new ECW as it did about 10 years ago with an angry, bald Texan who spurned authority and prided himself on being outside of the mainstream. Angry yet? You should be.

See, the real anger should be with us—the fans. Something we loved is being exploited, and all at our expense. Fast-forward a year … two years … three years from now—still see ECW the same way? Think WWE will? Once we get past the initial bump and excitement, will ECW be allowed to whither and die? Or—worse—will it just become a developmental territory? Ironically, some of the appeal of ECW was that it ended when it did. It never was given the chance to fade away and embarrass itself. Are we assured of that this time? Or will I be treated to a Eugene-Chris Masters table match in ECW, circa 2008? The minute the third brand stops making money it will begin the long walk down the proverbial Green Mile.

Call it what you will—but today’s ECW just ain’t ECW.

Ahh—enough with the bitterness. Enjoy “The Turn”—hardcore edition.

* * *

Half And Half
Hate to break it to you, but despite making his bones in ECW, Rob Van Dam is pure WWE today, plain and simple. I know, it hurts to write it almost as much as it must pain you to read it, but, in your heart of hearts, you know it’s true. Don’t buy it? Try this on:

RVD was in ECW from 1996 to 2001, and WWE from 2001 to 2006. That’s right: RVD has been part of WWE as long as he was a part of ECW. And seeing as how it will be WWE cutting RVD’s checks for, most likely, the rest of his career, I’d say he’s pretty much a WWE Superstar. Scary thought, eh?

Labels aside, both he and Rey Misterio Jr. put up an amazing amount of fight and determination in what could easily be called the match of the night. The funny thing is, there was very little hardcore about it aside from the addition of a chair, which RVD used with the precision of a really vicious surgeon. “Mr. Monday Night” extended his hot streak in this non-title match by finishing off the Smackdown World champion with a five-star frogsplash and a pin.

Two of the sport’s most athletic men in wrestling’s modern era (let’s say 1985–present day) set the bar tremendously high for the rest of the night, which wouldn’t bode well for the highly anticipated Mickie James-Jazz matchup later in the evening—that’s hardcore! Not really … just play along.

* * *

Was it just me, or did having all four announcers—Raw’s J.R. and Lawler, and ECW’s Styles and Tazz—get really old really quick? Naturally, the only one worth listening to—J.R.—was talked over the entire damn night.

* * *

That’ll Show ’Em
I wish I could have sat in on the creative team meeting where they decided that adding a synthesizer to Kurt Angle’s theme music would make him more ominous.

Casio keyboards? Now that’s hardcore! No … still not so much.

What’s more disturbing than seeing Angle swallow his pride and profess his allegiance to ECW? How about Randy Orton—fresh off of an early return from a devastating ankle suspension … crap … I meant “injury”—being moved from Smackdown to Raw. Now, I’m not a parent. I’ve had pets, if that counts. But, in my limited experience, it’s not a great idea to praise and reward a pet after they poop in your shoe.

So, in lieu of your usual, mindless Matt Striker promo, here’s the lesson for the night: “unprofessional conduct” + forced suspension = promotion

Should be interesting to see how quickly it takes for Orton to “poop in the shoe” yet again. Maybe they’ll make him champion and hook him up with the boss’ daughter.

* * *

Is WWE is so hellbent on idiotic backstage segments that it was necessary to subject us to a copious amount of locker-room, pump-up segments that would make even the giddiest of Spirit Squad members squirm?

* * *

Eye Candy?
Former WWE Diva Jazz is a very solid female wrestler, which is what likely led to her being fired from WWE, seeing as how actual wrestling ability doesn’t qualify one to be a Diva.

Women’s champion Mickie James was at her crazy-ass finest, picking up the win following a huge swinging DDT. Fortunately, this was the shortest match on the card; unfortunately, it was on the card. It’s unfortunate because, as of last night, there were no other women announced as part of ECW other than Jazz, and one woman does not a division make. Hence, why put a women’s match on the card at all?

Wait … wasn’t Lita in ECW for a while? How come no mention of a possible Lita defection? Oh … sorry … just got an e-mail from Stamford. That part of history has gone the way of Andre the Giant’s “undefeated streak” prior to ’Mania III.

* * *

Royal With Plenty Of Cheese
With all 20 men battling in the ring at the same time, it occurred to me the battle royal is my favorite of all the bad, gimmicky matches, slightly edging out the old gravy matches of yesteryear. Well, maybe not. Still, they’re usually fun nonetheless.

There wasn’t anything sexy about this particular contest—mostly just punching and kicking with the occasional toss over the top rope. This was a team battle royal. What made the match special was that it featured the first big name defection to ECW in the form of The Big Show, who—in classic fashion—tore away his Raw T-shirt to reveal one from the ECW brand.

Show—known more for his punchline delivery than his ring prowess as of late—is an interesting choice for the new ECW. Really, from a career perspective, Show can’t do much worse as part of ECW than he has in WWE over the past few years. Look at it this way: It was either jump ship or … hmm … what has Show been doing since dropping the tag straps and splitting from Kane? This may actually not be a bad move for the big guy. Nice work, Show.

* * *

Not Ready For Prime Time
The Edge-Tommy Dreamer hardcore match had it all: violence, canes, and so many botched spots that, for a second there, I actually thought this was ECW.

There wasn’t much spectacular about this match at all, with the glaring exception of Edge—Raw’s most bankable rulebreaker—nearly being paralyzed on an ugly drop from the top turnbuckle. Apparently the “Rated R Superstar” was meant to fall from his perch atop the turnbuckle through a conveniently placed table set up by Dreamer. Well, Edge fell headfirst about a foot or two shy of the table.

The hardcore match became less about organized mayhem and more about finishing with everything intact at that point. Dreamer picked up Edge and gingerly escorted him through the table. Edge returned the favor by finishing off Dreamer with the softest spear in the history of wrestling.

Yet, the worst was still to come as, following the match, Mick Foley sat in the ring with the lights dimmed and a spotlight shining solely on him to cut a promo that made him come off less demented and more O.J. Simpson. He loved ECW so much at one time, hence he hates it now. Sure, it was stretch, but at least it … well … actually, it didn’t really do anything outside of build up the PPV where, in my opinion, Foley will have to turn into a dragon to outdo his past, which he promises will happen.

Ugly end to an ugly match.

* * *

I figured I could write out a semi-witty, yet longwinded analysis of the main event, but it really didn’t warrant one. So, here were my thoughts on the main event as it happened. These are my notes that—in my humble opinion—sum up the match better than any analysis I could manufacture. Enjoy:

John Cena vs. Sabu
• Sabu is kicking Cena’s ass six-ways-to Sunday with the champion mustering virtually no offense outside of possibly wearing his opponent down by allowing the challenger to beat him to exhaustion.

• Sabu still terrifies and amazes me. The man can do more with a folding chair than Lita after a couple of Pabst tall boys and a little good-natured coaxing. I’ll be here all week … be sure to tip your waitress.

• Surprise! The match ended in a run-in with everyone filling the ring after Cena hit both of his moves (FU/STFU). Who’s the first ECW star to hit the ring—the newly defected Big Show.

Final Thoughts
The Grateful Dead, as it exists today, just ain’t “The Dead.” Sure, some of the names are the same, and many the mind-expanding chemicals remain, but the spirit that made the band a cultural phenomenon died with Jerry Garcia.

I think even Dead-Heads would understand the analogy.

THE TUESDAY MORNING TURN (June 6, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

By this time next week, ECW will be reborn and in full swing. Yes, the once dead and buried hardcore promotion/modern day “cash cow” will officially be the third brand of WWE and airing weekly on a hard-to-find cable network near you.

I bring up the obvious for the sole purpose of posing a question to everyone out there in “pretending to do work” land: Are you excited? Honestly, are you?

Initially, I hoped I would be thrilled to see my beloved ECW resurrected. As a guy that who grew up in the suburbs of Southwest Philadelphia during the heyday of the hardcore brand, my initial thought was, Oh, please don’t let them do this. Now, as I consider the inevitable even further, my thoughts have now turned to, Oh, sweet Jesus, they are going to do this.

In my heart of hearts, I pray that this experiment works for everyone involved; unfortunately, my brain tells me this is bound to get ugly at some point. In my experience as a sports fan, I’ve found that the one thing that cannot be resurrected is spirit. WWE can return to the New Alhambra or the Hammerstein Ballroom, and it can bring back every man/woman/or Sabu (which, of course, is his own type of being) that stepped into an ECW ring, but recapturing that spirit of what made ECW what it was is as close to impossible as something can get.

Oh, I’ll still watch it … but they can’t make me like it. All right, maybe I’ll end up liking it, but I won’t pay for it. Fine, I’ll probably pay for it, but I won’t … ah screw it. Enjoy “The Turn”—urging you to take your laptop to the bathroom with you since December 2005.

* * *

These Never Go Well
Not surprisingly, John Cena was decimated by a contingent of ECW wrestlers following his contract signing with Rob Van Dam last night in the opening moments of Raw. Generally, the contract signings in the past have been held at the 10:00 hour or, more commonly, following the main event of the evening. One can only assume that last night was different to allow for the ECW guys to make an early appearance and then permeate the show (which they did not). Plus, what would a “main event”—used very loosely—be without Vince McMahon’s pasty ass being the center of attention (just writing that makes me nauseous on so many levels).

Despite the unsavory time slot, the segment came off well, regardless of the fact that everyone who has ever watched a minute of wrestling knew Cena was in for a beatdown. Still, the champ was at his T-shirt sloganny best, rambling off such winning catchphrases as “Fear nothing and regret less,” “Still got the nuts to stare the devil in the face,” and the uber-patriotic, “This soldier is locked on, dialed in, and ready to strike.” Van Dam was no slouch himself, although he allowed Paul E. to do the majority of the speaking.

While WWECW’s One Night Stand is shaping up to be an interesting show, I’m still pretty skeptical. There’s still far too much of a WWE feel to the whole thing, and now, following last night’s attack on Cena, don’t be shocked if there’s a WWE contingent at the show once again this time around. Probably not the best start to the “rogue” brand.

* * *

Why was Carlito’s match against Shelton Benjamin not for the Intercontinental title? Are we going to pretend that challengers have to earn shots once again?

Still, watching these two is a treat. If last night’s contest leads to anything down the line, it could become the most watchable feud on the Monday brand. Both are very athletic and fun to watch and have quickly become, hands down, some of the best talent in the company.

Not too far behind: Charlie Haas and Johnny Nitro, who had a technically sound—or, to most fans, boring—match.

* * *

Hallucination Or Storyline?
I hate spiders, and last night we had a doozy of an arachnid scurrying about the apartment. Hell, it could have been a squirrel or something—it was that big.

Anywho—as I sat frozen in the throws of fear (and laziness), my lovely girlfriend took it upon herself to essentially suffocate the bug with a Raid-like bargain brand bug killer, of which I—due to my vantage point—inhaled copious amounts. Still, I’m pretty sure that I saw this:

The “childlike” Eugene defeated Matt Striker following a clothesline ala “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, who happened to be ringside acting as a tutor to the youngster. No worries, because Umaga would soon come out to destroy Duggan and Eugene.

I hope I’m wrong, but history tells me I’m probably right, which would make me cry, had my tear ducts not been paralyzed from the poison.

* * *

Beth Phoenix is looking better and better in the ring with each passing week. She is no doubt the future of the women’s division and, at her age, can look forward to years fighting spokesmodels and other assorted silicone-enhanced, non-wrestlers before eventually becoming a manager.

What a waste.

* * *

RKO RSVP
I’ve come to the conclusion that Kurt Angle is to professional wrestling what Mick Foley is to bleeding.

Foley met Angle, in front of his hometown fans of Pittsburgh, and the two traded barbs worthy of … well … the now defunct Smackdown. Wait … really? … still on … okay. Disregard that last part.

Naturally, it was only a matter of time before Foley’s itchier, more whorish shadows—better known as Edge and Lita—joined the hardcore legend in taunting the Olympic champion, who would easily dispatch the trio in due time. Yet, the most interesting part of the encounter would have to be the surprise return of Randy Orton, coming off a WWE-mandated 60-day “injury.” “The Legend Killer”—whose greatest assassination will likely be his own career—landed the “RKO” before accepting Angle’s open invitation for a match at One Night Stand.

Now, this leads me to two questions:

1. Good idea to have two WWE guys—with a combined zero ECW competition days between them—wrestle at the ECW pay-per-view?

2. Is it just me, or is the self-acknowledged “uncomfortable” Lita looking more and more comfy with her position as Monday night’s resident skank?

The answer to only one of those is “yes.”

* * *

Quick, somebody put out an APB on Chris Masters—shiny things distract him.

* * *

Quite An Ass
Your main event: a man feigning being drugged, beating up his thong clad, 61-year-old father-in-law. Even I’m not clever enough to come up with something like that.

When Triple-H wasn’t able to capitalize on his way out by defeating The Big Show—thanks to less-than-fortuitous interference by The Spirit Squad—it seemed all but certain that he would be puckering up to a McMahon ass before night’s end; and save a clever move by Trips to switch tainted water bottles with Superstar-in-law Shane McMahon, we would’ve been treated to a scene that amounts to incest in 49 out of 50 states (sorry, Nebraska).

Now—for once—I’m going to take the scenic route that is the proverbial “high road” and avoid the obligatory “Hasn’t he always kissed McMahon’s ass?” and jabs of that ilk. And I’m not even going to touch Trips’ relationship to the rest of the family, as that’s just a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Yes, I’d like to think that I’m somewhat better than that. No, you’ll never see me write that for years it’s been difficult to discern where Trips’ lips began and Vince’s ass ended. That’s just not my style anymore. It’s just too damn easy to point out that Vinnie Mac’s posterior sees more airtime than highly touted acquisitions such as Shannon Moore (remember when WWE stealing him from TNA was a big deal?).

No, I’d like to take this time to lament for poor Trips—a blueblood gone horribly wrong. First it’s sex with a corpse (thank you, Katie Vick), then dressing like a quasi-gay Conan the Barbarian at ’Mania, now he’s nose deep in Sugar Daddy’s rump.

This guy must be in line for something like a yearlong title run in the not-too-distant future. As I say, write that down—in ink.

* * *

Four out of five psychopaths preferred “old” Kane to “new” Kane in a blind taste test, the logistics of which I won’t go into. Once again, the spandex-clad demon from hell defeated his bald, movie star alter ego. Really, that about sums it up.

And, on a personal note, that may be the first time I’ve ever written—or thought of—the
phrase “spandex clad demon from hell.” Seriously, what other job could I have that would allow me—nay require me—to write that? Thank you, PWI.

IMPACT IMPLICATIONS (June 2, 2006)

By Frank Ingiosi

For those of you tuning in for the first time, let’s recap:

Things are beginning to heat up on Impact as TNA inches closer to June 18, and the promotion’s Slammiversary pay-per-view. Feuds are beginning to take shape, and title pictures are murkier than ever. The five-man “King Of The Mountain” match will determine the course of the NWA World title, and three legitimate tag teams have emerged as viable contenders to the NWA World tag team title. Additionally, Kevin Nash has declared a one-man war on the entire X division—with the curious exception of Alex Shelley.

Everyone on board? Good.

Now that we’re all caught up, let’s look into what’s really going on in the best little wrestling promotion in Nashville.

* * *

A Real Shocker
After making a scene with his partner in crime Scott Steiner, Jeff Jarrett demanded to know who his opponent would be in the “King Of The Mountain” qualifier match later in the evening. Unfortunately for the former champ, he would get his answer in the form of the enigmatic Raven, who is looking more and more like a really creepy woman with each passing day.

In short, their match was fantastic. Raven, who attempted one huge spot after another, was excellent. However, what really surprised me was Jarrett. The former NWA World champ and current “most boring man to ever watch on television” put on a hell of a fight. This could actually be the start of something new with Jarrett—and trust me, it pains me as much to write that as it must for you to read it. But what if Jarrett finally is acknowledging the boos, and realizing that there’s more to wrestling than just ramming the same, beyond-stale gimmick down the fans throats?

Ask me again after Slammiversary. The best thing Jarrett can do for the promotion is to walk out of the Impact Zone on June 18 with a naked waist.

Steiner, on the other hand, slapped around Don West, making him an instant fan favorite. Actually, the “Genetic Freak” will be taking on Sting next week to determine the final participant in the match at Slammiversary. The Stinger should expect long, rambling promos coupled with 12 varieties of belly-to-belly suplexes, as Steiner has become less ring technician in his latter years, and more sideshow.

* * *

PROOF THAT “TWO IS BETTER THAN ONE”
With all the attention the X division gets, I personally believe that there is a group of wrestlers that are getting shafted in TNA—that’s the amazingly talented tag team division.

TNA boasts the most impressive tag division in the industry today. The matches are crisp and entertaining, the personalities rarely go stale (although I’m keeping my eye on you, AMW), and the storylines are fairly well-written.

Still, tag team wrestling in today’s business seems like the relic that’s kept around for old heads like me who remember how great it was at one time. Very rarely—if ever—does tag team wrestling put tails in the seats, which is, sadly, the state of any sport today.

Even with that in mind, TNA seems to be capitalizing nicely off of the popularity of its tag teams. AMW is the classic rulebreaking champions, being chased by the cagey veterans of Team 3D and the James Gang (when they’re not busy destroying each other). The Naturals appear poised to undergo a major attitude adjustment under the tutelage of Shane Douglas. And what more could be said about A.J. Styles and Christopher Daniels?

So, next time when you’re ignoring your girlfriend and watching TNA, don’t choose the tag team match for your bathroom break, or to call her and apologize for ditching her to watch oily, half-nekkid men fight. You owe it to yourself as a wrestling fan to check out this great division.

* * *

BREAKING NEWS:
Just in to the PWI news desk: LAX has annexed the Spanish announcer’s table. U.S. representative Jeremy Borash attempted to speak with Konnan—the identified leader of the rebellion—but was rebuffed and refused access to that portion of the room. More on this as it becomes available.

Hey … someone’s got to sexy-up this car wreck of an angle. I do it because I care.

* * *

CUTTING OFF THE NOSE
For a one-hour show—that’s basically broken up in to thirds—the X division saw, perhaps, its least glorified coverage in recent weeks—and the coverage it did get was somewhat skewed.

Recovering from a knee injury, X champion Samoa Joe’s sole appearance last night was as part of a taped promo stating his position on why he left Sting to fend for himself after the two partnered together at Sacrifice. That’s it, seriously. I wish there was more, but no.

Fortunately for TNA, the X division is so deep that waiting in the wings to carry the night were notable names such as Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin, Jay Lethal, and Kevin Nash.

Okay, rub your eyes for a second … take another look … back? … good. Let’s move on.

Yes, I said Kevin Nash, a man for whom I’ve made no bones about my disdain in past editions of this column. Now, allow me a moment of clarity—Nash still should not be wrestling anyone at this point in his career, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be entertaining.

My sole fear with this current angle is that Nash—in his ego of egos—truly does believe that his mere presence is legitimizing a division that needed no further legitimacy. See, there was once a time where solid wrestling and great talent legitimized a division; the X division is a throwback to those long-forgotten times. It does not need a name wrestler to come in and legitimize it by what? Destroying all of its wrestlers until one steps up?

Even if Sabin defeats Nash at Slammiversary (assuming the big man accepts the challenge), that would mean that only one wrestler from the entire X division would gain from this angle—and at the expense of all of his X division brethren. Don’t know if that’s the right way to take this, although I’m going to love seeing Sabin get the attention he deserves.

Oh, and just a word of advice to my fellow Michigander Alex Shelley: How long do you think it’s going to take before the big man runs out of prey and turns against the closest “vanilla midget” to his person? Better double that life insurance, cameraman.

Nash Injury Update: Week 3
Nothing on the physical side to report. However, the look in “Big Sexy’s” eyes last night when Chris Sabin called him out at Slammiversary showed the aching of a man who realized he’s past his prime and has very little to show for it.

Or, it may have just been gas.

© Kappa Publishing Group, Inc. “Pro Wrestling Illustrated,” “PWI,” “The Wrestler,” and “Inside Wrestling” are registered trademarks of Kappa Publishing Group, Inc. Privacy policy and terms of use.