PWI UPDATE ARCHIVES: Sept.-Oct. 2006

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 13-19
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 6-13
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 29-October 6
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 22-28
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 15-21
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 8-14
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 1-8


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THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 13-19

By Frank Ingiosi

If no one else is going to say anything, I suppose I’ll take the podium to stick up for Scott Steiner.

TNA’s Bound For Glory heads into Detroit this weekend with promises of change and excitement. What may be lost in the shuffle is the fact that native Michigander Scott Steiner—who is going through a surprisingly public contract dispute with the promotion—is no where to be found as TNA’s maiden off-site pay show rolls into his home state.

Mind you, I’ve watched enough wrestling during the course of my life to know that this doesn’t necessarily exclude a “Big Poppa Pump” appearance from happening at BFG, nor would his inclusion in angles leading up to the show drastically increase the buyrate. Still, if this guy is meant to be an integral part of the promotion—as we were all lead to believe—the very least TNA could have done is made him a bigger part (hell, any part) of the show.

Then again, they did somehow hide Kurt Angle from us, so I suppose anything is possible.

Enjoy The Turn, and go Tigers!

Smackdown (10/13)
Mea culpa #1: Fine, I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong. I’ve done it before—right here in the middle of this very column—and, alas, I must do it again.

See, for the longest time, I’ve promoted the impressive nature, and endless potential, of one Ken Kennedy. I strongly felt that of all the current wrestlers exiled off to the vast wasteland that is Smackdown, Kennedy was most deserving of a leap to the big time. Of course, by that, I mean Raw.

Last week was nothing different. I quipped that Kennedy was the biggest fish in WWE’s smallest pond. Naturally, given my keen ability to analyze and prognosticate on the world of wrestling, Kennedy lived up to my hype and squashed Chris Benoit on Smackdown last week, right?

Wrong.

Now, it is possible that the title loss leaves Kennedy without tether to the Friday night brand, clearing the way for a move to Raw. Still, it doesn’t take away from the fact that I feel like a jackass. Nevertheless, congrats to Benoit who is already back where he belongs—among the sport’s elite.

In other Smackdown news:
Vito defeated William Regal in the match to decide which of these talented wrestlers is the most underappreciated—and misused—worker on the blue brand. Unfortunately, and this will seem weird to read, there’s probably no better place in WWE for both than Smackdown. If only Smackdown would realize that and not dismiss them as gimmicky mid-carders. A writer can dream, I suppose.

Six months ago, Rey Mysterio Jr. won the Smackdown World title at WrestleMania 22. Last Friday, he squared off against Jamie Noble. Once more, that’s Jamie Noble. Remember when Hulk Hogan would drop a struggle, only to defeat Barry Horowitz six months later? Neither do I.

After falling to Umaga on Raw earlier in the week, Kane made his debut with Smackdown by emerging from the shadows to challenge Montel Vontavious Porter, who had a hissy fit about being too good for the brand. Before this feud begins, WWE would be wise to realize how dangerous this could be to both men. If Kane falls to Flash Funk-lite, Kane has zero chance of leading the blue brand; if MVP is obliterated, then it’s bye-bye to any credibility he may have left after the electric blue unitard is through with him. Tread lightly, gentlemen.

Mea culpa #2: Remember a few months ago when I stated that Smackdown had an excellent tag division, which was possibly the best in all of wrestling? My bad.

And, finally, there’s big, bad, Dave Batista, who took out both Finlay and Bobby Lashley in a three-way match for the number-one contendership to the Smackdown World title. WWE was said to be down on “The Animal” since his return, which is why it seemed as if he wasn’t getting much of a shot at the strap. Still, Big Dave persevered and made the biggest change to his game in years, and it paid off. That change—stubble. Yep, that’s all. Oh, he still has four moves, but now he does it with a five o’clock shadow. That, my friends, is both bad and ass.

Raw (10/16)
I know you’re expecting me to have nothing short of a psychotic tantrum brought on by the ridiculousness that was a “star-studded night” (J.R.’s words, not mine) on Raw.

But I won’t. Sorry, chief.

Thing is, yes, I was really disappointed to see yet another obvious, big tobacco-esque “we’re for adults … now welcome the guys from Jackass” attempt to lure in a younger demographic—for example, those who actually know and give a crap about Nick and Aaron Carter—but I have to actually commend WWE for coming up with a way to use controversial pop culture stars to their advantage.

John Cena still getting heat from the fans? Johnny Nitro a bore? Throw in someone everyone can direct legitimate hatred toward—Kevin Federline. All of a sudden, Nitro is the worst and Cena, well, as far as pseudo-rappers go, he’s not that bad.

In other Raw news:
After trying to out-degenerate DX, the newly found tandem of Randy Orton and Edge attempted—emphasis on attempted—to revive the age-old tactic of gaining psychological advantage through a skit insulting your opponent. In a related story, St. Shawn of Michaels, who once donned full leather entrance attire complete with chauffer’s cap, chains, and stubble, was calling into question Orton’s sexuality.

The Spirit Squad—yes, they’re still together—appears headed for a meltdown after a loss to the debuting Cryme Tyme on Monday night and, guess what, there’s almost literally nowhere for these guys to go at this point. Not only have they fizzled out since their meteoric rise earlier this year, but they’ve become a bore. My new odds for how many Squad members will be with a WWE brand at this point next year: One, and his name rhymes with Den Koane.

Just last week I was doting on the Intercontinental title division and how it now features, arguably, the best crop of competition it has ever had. My opinion must mean a lot to those making the decisions in Stamford because not only was the I-C title match buried near the end of Raw, but the match was surprisingly lackluster. Ooops.

Follow this logic for a second: News is always swirling—and acknowledged by the man himself—about Randy Orton’s bad temperament and lax approach to professionalism. Carlito is believed to be an up-and-coming future leader of the company. They feud, Carlito gets the better of Orton, and it’s the “Legend Killer” that’s feuding with DX while the frizzy-haired catchphrase machine is battling Rob Conway. That’s not cool.

The thrilling women’s title tournament has finally wound down to its final four competitors after weeks of anticipation and solid wres … ah, crap. I can’t do it. Mickie James is going to win, right? Just give her the strap. They’ve already teased her and Lita feuding in the future and, seeing as how James is young with a future ahead of her and Lita is Lita, is there much more that needs to be said about this?

ECW (10/17)
Here’s an odd way to start off the ECW report—the brand has added a new Vixen/Diva/whatever the hell we’re calling them now. Seriously, please keep reading.

Rebecca is the new backstage interview Vixen for ECW, which is nothing odd in an industry where attractive, scantily clad women are the norm when a hard-hitting report is needed. What is odd about her—and this isn’t unusual in WWE either—is that she’s a former (read “loser of”) Diva Search contestant.

I only bring this up is because every time I see one of the women who lost said contest show up on WWE programming in any way, it further demeans the sanctity of the competition. They are the designated hitters of hot women, the overtime shootout of cleavage, the Astroturf of … well, you see where this is going.

Plus, couldn’t they just have hired her without subjecting the fans to the idiocy that was the contest?

In other ECW news:
I’m sorry, I must just be a little off this week, but, again, I ask for someone to clarify this to me. Rob Van Dam was very publicly punished in response to his arrest in late-summer. Yet now he’s looking like the most legit contender to take the ECW title from The Big Show. Sabu—arrested as well but not really punished—held down the fort in the early days of ECW when the world was against the brand, and is now battling Shannon Moore and not within a sniff of the strap. Ahh … huh?

The most watchable feud on ECW right now is undeniably The Sandman and Matt Striker. Now, the biggest question is whether it’s the best feud because of the people involved or because it’s the only damn one that goes from week to week. I’m leaning toward the latter.

My open note to Test: Andy—can I call you Andy? Listen Andy, you gained respect by having a hell of a hardcore match against Rob Van Dam a few weeks back, not, and I repeat not, for your promo skills. Please, and this goes out to every WWE-bred wrestler now in ECW, knock off the “I’m so extreme” crap and woo us with your skill. I promise that we’ll take each and every one far more seriously as hardcore wrestlers if you shut the hell up and wrestle. Thanks.

P.S. One last thing, how is it that C.M. Punk doesn’t get more mike time? Sure you want to TNA the hell out of things when you only have an hour, hence promo time is rare, but if there’s anyone who should be talking—as I said last week—it’s Punk. Oh, and not about Renee Dupree. Get Punk a real feud, soon.

Impact (10/19)
Much has been made—by dopes such as myself—about nostalgia in wrestling. My personal feeling, as a writer, is that it’s easy. Think about it—something worked before so why not revisit it years later and survive for a few weeks more on the creativity of years past. Nostalgia is to wrestling as clichés are to writing, or at least that’s what was drilled into my brain during my time in the swivel chair at PWI.

WWE is the usual culprit when nostalgia is mentioned; however, our good friends at TNA, not to be outshone, hopped aboard the ’80s train last night by bringing in former Intercontinental runner-up and PETA’s favorite wrestler, Jake Roberts, into the Abyss-Brother Runt-Raven “Monster’s Ball” storyline.

Second chances aren’t something new in wrestling—or any sport for that matter—but what makes Roberts’ appearance so odd is that his history is with WWE (well, WWF). There is no rich, Jake Roberts-TNA history to play off of; he’s just an old guy that made his name elsewhere popping up into a storyline that is finite in nature. Because of that fact, this may work out. If Roberts doesn’t overstay his welcome in Orlando, TNA may have figured out how to use legends that have little connection to their company outside of passing one time through Florida.

In other TNA news:
Norman Smiley seems like a really nice guy with a fair amount of athleticism. But, and this is just for the wrestling historians that obviously work at TNA, his gimmick didn’t work in the heyday or the end days of WCW, and it will not work now. It makes the promotion look even more like WCW, and, as anyone with WWE 24/7 can tell you, the memories of the old WCW are far better than the product itself.

A Jay Lethal-Senshi X division title match should, on paper, be a fantastic battle between two athletic and intelligent competitors—right? Unfortunately, TNA didn’t see it that way as the assault on the credibility of the division continued last night with a goofy lead-in to said match with all of the X division fan favorites donning skull caps and playing Mortal Combat, a jab at Senshi’s martial arts background. Shame, TNA. It used to be about the wrestling.

In all honesty, I’m beginning to despise these gimmicky, multi-man face time matches, regardless of the competitors. Case in point: the eight-man tag team match last night that ended quickly and did virtually nothing to promote any of the current angles. TNA may as well look into just making them all battle royals at this point. Stop, stop, stop! For the love of Buddy Rogers, just stop!

Still, after what seemed like a very lackluster, unimpressive performance leading into Bound For Glory this weekend in the “Motor City,” Impact ended without a match, but rather a segment involving management, Mike Tenay, and “legal” documents. Sounds awful, no? Let me throw five words at you that, assuming you have a pulse, should send shivers (of the good kind) down your spine: Samoa Joe and Kurt Angle.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 6-13

By Frank Ingiosi

Superstitions are a funny thing. On my train ride into work, I was treated to a fascinating discussion between two paranoid and amazingly loud high school students (their matching uniforms gave them away) centering on the topic of Friday the 13th and superstitions. Fortunately, I was able to pull myself away from the riveting torrent of “likes” and “umms” long enough to focus on my newspaper. However, I hate to admit it, they made me think.

My thoughts drifted from ridiculous sports superstitions to simply avoiding cracks on my walk to the office so as to not severely injure my mother’s back, which is apparently what will happen. When it quickly occurred to me that I hadn’t finished my column (sorry, Stu), I realized that I don’t know many superstitions when it comes to wrestling. There should be plenty, considering that your body is on the line. But, for the life of me, I couldn’t recall any of them.

It’s interesting: For the rest of us whose daily lives consist of nothing more dangerous than paper cuts, superstition is everywhere. For those in the ring every night, it’s more about relying on one’s self and not otherworldly forces.

Still, I’m sure wrestling superstitions exist. So, if anyone out there knows of any, feel free to pass them along to me at: pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com. I will happily credit you with such in next week’s column.

Smackdown (10/06)
If it weren’t for a huge, gold belt, I wouldn’t have the slightest clue as to who was the champion over in Smackdown-land. All right … that’s not entirely true, but it’s damn close.

For example, take the events leading up to No Mercy last Sunday in which King Booker—the Smackdown World champion—retained the title. Initially, since his triumphant return from whatever injury he had (it was triceps for you medical types out there), Batista was thought to be the definitive number-one contender. But he’s not. Then, Finlay—yes, that Finlay—had a shot at becoming the top contender. Unfortunately, WWE realized they were pushing Finlay and wised up before it was too late, so he’s out. Finally, the future of the brand, Bobby Lashley, was given a shot at finally ascending to top-guy status. Uh-uh, kiddo, not yet.

So, in the best example of using quantity to overcome a lack of quality, WWE used Smackdown last Friday to build up a four-way match at No Mercy in which, amazingly, each contender was able to prove Creative correct by showing why he shouldn’t be at the top of a major promotion.

Pick a feud, my blue-brand friends, and go with it! Still, booking for Smackdown must be the most unenviable task in all of wrestling.

In other Smackdown news:
Big Fish: Ken Kennedy
Little Pond: Anywhere but Raw

Rey Mysterio Jr. has taken to using his 619 on two opponents simultaneously. Naturally, as you may guess, this is called the 1238 (619 x 2 = kicking two men in the face). For those who don’t know, the move was named 619 after the telephone area code of San Diego, which Rey calls home. Interestingly enough, there is no 238 zip code in the U.S. (they only come in three number sequences). Dial a number with 238 and you get Cape Verde Island out in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Senegal. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Elijah Burke didn’t need Sylvester Terkay’s help to defeat Tatanka last Friday night. In fact, Burke would be wise to send the massive Terkay packing soon. Burke’s too good to be someone’s sidekick.

The Best Feud You Probably Don’t Know About: Jimmy Wang Yang vs. Sylvan, “that guy from Quebec.” Seriously … I wouldn’t make something like that up. This is my job, people!

MVP is like Flash Funk without all the staying power and intrigue. Look it up and then feel bad.

Raw (10/09)
The huge, massive, gigantic Raw “Family Reunion” was marked by such historic events as the brief reunion of Money Inc., a Diva lumberjack match, and an absolutely pointless 20-second appearance by Mae Young and The Fabulous Moolah. Yep … quite a memorable night.

Okay, so that may a tad harsh, but, on the whole, the “Reunion” wasn’t much more than a night filled with WWE stars from other brands mixed in with a few storyline-starting battles. Oddly enough, the night was stolen by three men that were nowhere near the ring.

The three acting general managers of the WWE brands—Paul Heyman, Teddy Long, and Jonathan Coachman—were featured in backstage segments throughout the night and were used to set up future angles as well as posture over who ran the best brand.

Don’t think so? Consider this: By the end of the night I, one of the most cynical of fans, was excited about the future of not one, not two, but all three WWE brands. Add to that the fact that there will be a champion vs. champion vs. champion match at Cyber Sunday on November 5 and it’s actually quite a good time to be a WWE fan.

In other Raw news:
Umaga, with the help of Armando Alejandro Estrada, defeated Kane on Monday night to send the “Big Red Machine” into a fate worse than reliving his hellish path or entering an early retirement as rumors have the former world champion on his way to Smackdown. Still, a Kane-’Taker rehash could be a very big boost to the blue brand.

Welcome back to WWE, Mr. Hardy. We’re so happy to see you that we’re willing to hand you this fine, oblong 10-pound gold belt for your trouble. All settled in, are you? Good. Now, we’re going to throw you out there to get utterly decimated by The Big Show on the most watched night of Raw this year. Enjoy!

Quick—name the two wrestlers DeGeneration X has been feuding with since the McMahons have left Raw. Can’t, can you? Not a great sign for the drawing power of the degenerates, is it?

From a “sports entertainment” standpoint, watching Chris Benoit return to take on equally technically sound Shelton Benjamin is like watching paint dry on another coat of paint.

The “Now Let’s Play Some Stuff Off Our New Album” bathroom break of the night: Bobby Lashley, Batista, and Rey Mysterio Jr. defeated Chavo Guerrero Jr., Finlay, and William Regal in a ………af;sjklllllllllllllllll;fs … whoa, sorry. I actually dozed off writing that. Oops.

Melina defeated Torrie Wilson in a Diva’s “Lumberjill” match to move on to the second round of the WWE women’s championship tournament. A “Lumberjill” match is similar to a lumberjack match except with much more pseudo-lesbian behavior and even less of a storyline.

Booker beat Rob Van Dam in a non-title match to keep the trend going of brand champions winning easily in non-title matches. In fact, the only champion not to walk away victorious would be John Cena later in the night when his match with The Undertaker ended in a no-contest. Hmmm. My money’s now on Cena at Cyber Sunday. Either that or WWE thinks very, very little of RVD and Jeff Hardy—and that couldn’t possibly be the case, right?

Was there any point to Ric Flair bringing out Money Inc., Roddy Piper, and Arn Anderson during his match against Mitch when there was probably a perfectly good Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko backstage?

And finally, a little $25,000 Pyramid action for you:
Edge & Randy Orton
Terrell Owens
Communism
What are: Ideas that are good in theory but bad in practice

ECW (10/10)
I actually thought I would be angrier at the pure idiocy that was Diva extreme strip poker, but, surprisingly, it didn’t bother me as much as others. Sure, it was dumb … very, very dumb; and, yes, no one expected the Sci-Fi Channel to break the television industry taboo and showcase blatant nudity on basic cable. But, taken for what it was—and where it aired—it was fine.

There was nothing about it that was overtly offensive to me and, as anyone at PWI can tell you, I hate everyone and everything I find stupid. Vince McMahon insists WWE is in the entertainment business, and ECW is the epitome of it.

Now, if this ever happens again, we’ll have issues. But, for now, thanks for the gratuitous partial nudity, Mr. Heyman.

In other ECW news:
I’m still very high on C.M. Punk, but if ECW is planning on moving him into a program with Mike Knox, they’d better do so very soon. His matches are very good but nearly identical from week to week, which is great for his credibility, but doesn’t translate well to television. It’s time to let Punk’s personality get as much TV time as his matches get.

Tommy Dreamer ended Kevin Thorn’s winning streak with the once-devastating DDT. Not much to report about this match. But it makes me sad every time I realize that the most feared and destructive finishing moves of my childhood are now flat-out shocking when they can end a match. God, I’m old.

If the six-man tag team match between the “ECW originals”—Sabu, Rob Van Dam, and The Sandman—and the future of ECW—The Big Show, Matt Striker, and Test—was a “passing-the-torch” moment, then I really need to rethink my positive outlook on the brand. Yes, I’ve gone on record, at times, saying that all three of the “future” team have their good points, but not one of them—not a one—can be the centerpiece of a promotion. Oh, Show may have the gold, but he’s not the top guy, and no one can convince me otherwise.

Impact (10/12)
Time Jeff Jarrett was on Impact last night: 30 seconds
Level of sheer awesomeness of the program: 4 on a scale of 5 suplexes

Again, I’m not looking to bash Jarrett—the guy takes too much crap from guys like me as it is—but last night’s Impact was, in a word, pretty freakin’ sweet. With Samoa Joe finally taking his place among the top guys in the promotion and battling Christian Cage in a “ladder fight,” and a surprisingly good X division match, it almost didn’t matter that we finally got to hear from TNA’s newest savior (that makes three, I think), Kurt Angle.

Very, very nice way to rebound, TNA. Good work.

In other TNA news:
LAX fought NWA World tag team champions Christopher Daniels and A.J. Styles over the course of the night, randomly appearing during various matches and backstage segments. What does it say about the rest of the wrestlers when an unplanned beatdown orchestrated by the champs is more graceful than any single match on the program?

Was it just me or was Kurt Angle’s “one thing to say” to his former employer a classic case of “yeah, I’m mad now, but don’t lose my number in case this Universal Studios gig doesn’t pan out.”

Just when I was ready to officially write off the X division as being in a lull, those guys came back with a hell of a contest and thoroughly uplift my downtrodden spirits. Of course, they followed up the match with a pre-taped message by Kevin Nash, who is apparently continuing his assault on the division. Weeping can begin … now.

It looks like the end is coming for the Diamonds in the Rough as the bickering among Elix Skipper, David Young, and Simon Diamond boiled over after yet another loss, this time to Lance Hoyt and Ron Killings. It’s a shame, too. To see a group as prolific as DITR part ways after doing absolutely nothing other than bury Skipper’s talent and keep Diamond relevant, just breaks my heart. Seriously—this is about two years too late.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 29-October 6

By Frank Ingiosi

I’m feeling unusually witty this morning. Maybe it’s the crisp autumn air that brings with it postseason baseball, or more specifically, the fact that my beloved Detroit Tigers are actually in the playoffs for the first time in 19 years.

Sure, they’re playing the Yankees in the American League Divisional Series; and yes, they’re distinct underdogs as I sit here typing, but how can I complain? They’re guaranteed to finish no worse than eighth overall in Major League Baseball. This is a team that lost 119 games just three years ago and now they’re facing off with the most storied franchise in all of baseball in the house a man named Ruth built.

But, enough about sporting events with pre-determined endings. On to some wrasslin!

Smackdown (09/29)
I know that I’m probably going to take crap for this stance, but I really think it was somewhat condescending to have John Cena show up on Smackdown last Friday night after he had just fought a match where the stipulation was were he to lose he would be exiled to exactly that brand.

No, I’m not so naïve to not realize that this was simply a ratings move to help make Smackdown’s move to the new CW Network go more smoothly. Got it—fine. However, Smackdown should probably focus on building superstars from within rather than relying on a guest appearance from a guy that doesn’t really want to be there. Leave that to ECW.

In other Smackdown news:
The “Teacher’s Pets”—Idol Stevens and K.C. James—defeated The Pitbulls—Jamie Noble and Kid Kash—in yet another excellent tag match on Smackdown. This feud could get very good assuming that … oh, crap … fired again, you say? Best of luck to Kid Kash, who was released by WWE, thus making Noble the lone Pitbull of Smackdown.

Matt Hardy kicked off an odd week for the Hardys by losing to Chavo Guerrero after Vickie Guerrero interfered. First, big brother drops yet another match on WWE’s blue brand and then Jeff—well, actually, he’ll make out just fine.

Bill Mizberg Watch 2006:
Mike Mizanin—the most impressive wrestling/reality television specimen to ever enter a ring—is now 132-0 with his most recent victory over Tatanka last Friday night. Next up: Hulk Hogan and a shot at the WCW World title. Wow—I really need to cancel WWE 24/7.

Jimmy Wang Yang could be so good in the future that one day we will all look back at his ridiculous cowboy gimmick and actually laugh … but not one second before then.

Rey Mysterio Jr. is reportedly heading into a well-deserved break following No Mercy this weekend and I just wanted to take a second to wish him well in his recovery and thank him for a hell of a year.

Raw (10/02)
Returning to WWE didn’t pan out for guys like Shannon Moore, Kid Kash, and—to some extent—Matt Hardy. But, for Jeff Hardy, a return trip to Stamford seems to have done just the trick in restoring credibility to his wrestling career.

Winning the Intercontinental championship on Monday night did plenty to show that Hardy will be an integral part of Raw, but it likely did more for the young wrestler’s psyche than anything else. With the knowledge that this stint with the company is more than just a ratings ploy, Hardy could parlay his early success into a long and lasting career, which works out perfectly for all parties involved.

In other Raw news:
As a Philadelphia-area native, naturally I flipped over to the NFL game the other night between my beloved Eagles and the Green Bay Packers intermittently during Raw. During one of my flips, I must have somehow warped back in time to early-July. See, that’s the only explanation that works when—in the span of four months—WWE re-runs a DeGeneration X angle that sees them take over the show (in July, it was the production truck; Monday night, they just threw Jonathan Coachman out). That’s not only boring, it’s flat out lazy.

This week’s winner of the Raw Misused Wrestler of the Week is …
Well, we have a tie between adversaries Carlito and Randy Orton. While both have shown glimpses of greatness and have charisma to spare, neither seems to be headed for a major run anytime soon, which is confusing to say the least.

You know what’s scary? If the amazingly socially inappropriate team known as Cryme Time can wrestle nearly as much as they can promote awful stereotypes, they could have a damn impressive run on Raw.

Couldn’t WWE just haze the members of The Spirit Squad like any other professional sport does? You know—shave their heads, tape them to the ringposts, and have them buy the brand’s veterans’ dinner on the road. Something … anything? I mean, making Nicky wrestle Sgt. Slaughter?! That’s just cruel.

Women’s championship tournament update:
Matches thus far: Two
Advanced to second round: Lita and Mickie James
Matches I’ve watched straight through: It begins with Z, ends with O, and has “not a damn one of them” in the middle.

I try to be as unbiased as possible here, but allow me a moment to step outside of my objectivity. John Cena is a good—if not very good—champion. He has the potential—assuming he doesn’t go all Dwayne Johnson on us—to be a great champion. I did not say great wrestler, but rather a great champion. There’s a distinct difference.

ECW (10/03)
Were there a PWI award for the biggest screw-up of 2006—and there should be, Mr. Saks—my thought is that the runaway winner would be one Rob Van Dam. His ascent to the top of the mountain in 2006 is only shadowed by his amazing fall from grace.

With that being said, I can confidently state that despite his personal and professional collapse, RVD may be showing us some of the best wrestling of his storied career. Take, for example, his match Tuesday night against Test. It’s important to remember that last part—Test.

Okay, go back in your memory to three nights ago and recall, if you will, just how damn good that main event was. Go ahead. It was good, wasn’t it? Now, wrack your brain to find the last truly superb Test match. Can’t think of anything, can you?

My point: If this guy can make Test look good, he’s doing something really, really well. And, once his punishment ends, he should be the first in line for a legitimate title shot at The Big Show.

In other ECW news:
Now, I’ve always been a supporter of his potential, but it appears that ECW has finally realized that there is much more to Matt Striker than sweater-vests and self-righteousness. Although I feel that every week—right here in the middle of this very column—I tout Striker more than some care to read, when I see someone worthy of the ink, I give it. Plus, there aren’t many bright spots on ECW right now, so I’ll cling to whatever I can.

I’m still not sure which works harder: Tommy Dreamer or Ariel’s bustier. Both are fun to watch, easy to root for, and seemingly moments away from doing something amazing. Let’s chalk this one up as a draw.

When Mike Knox ran to the ring to confront C.M. Punk over Kelly Kelly’s obsession with the straight-edge grappler, I actually passed out from boredom. Seriously, what else does ECW have to do to make this guy interesting? They pair him with a cute blonde who’s hellbent on getting nude on television, and then they have him build a feud with the hottest wrestler this side of wherever Punk was 10 minutes ago, yet I still get comatose when he stomps around the ring.

Impact (10/05)
When you challenge someone to a match in order to gain revenge for losing to said opponent in his specialty match why not choose your specialty match to even things up? What the hell, right?

Following that logic, it’s somewhat difficult to figure out why LAX would challenge current NWA World tag champs A.J. Styles and Christopher Daniels to a “Six Sides Of Steel” cage match at the Bound For Glory pay-per-view later this month. “Why is that?” you may ask. Well, the two competing members of LAX—Homicide and Hernandez—have very little (or, no) experience in that type of match whereas Styles and Daniels have done it numerous times.

Somewhat counter intuitive, no?

In other TNA news:
Team 3D is a rarity in today’s professional wrestling and not because of their storied past that’s littered with mangled bodies and broken tables. No, what makes the duo impressive is that they intend to win the NWA World tag title by—and get this—actually defeating teams in front of them on their way to the top. From the looks of it, they will be starting with The Naturals, who are just as hungry but nowhere near as talented as the wrestlers formerly known as Dudley.

When Eric Young dropped his “Loser Leaves TNA” match to Shark Boy, thanks to interference by Larry Zbyszko, a little piece of me died. What exactly that piece was remains to be seen.

I like Abyss … I really do. However, I have to object to his random inclusion in the Samoa Joe-Jeff Jarrett feud over the NWA World championship belt. Having Joe steal the belt from Jarrett was fine; maybe a little confusing, but fine. Having Abyss show up as Jarrett’s nefarious courier only to turn against the champ, well that’s just irritating. Abyss is worth so much more to TNA than his position evidences, and Joe doesn’t need the help maintaining the spotlight.

Odd booking of the night: Christian Cage and Jarrett (fine, I can accept that) faced off against Christopher Daniels (why?) and Ron Killings (he still works there?). What makes this match particularly odd is that no two of these four competitors are currently involved in an angle together. Add to that the fact that the battle ended with everyone—sans Killings—advancing their own respective angles and you’ve got one confusing-as-hell finish to an odd night of TNA wrestling. Kurt … wherefore art thou … Kurt?!

 

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 22-28

By Frank Ingiosi

Is there any bigger news in the world of wrestling this week than TNA finally pulling a WWE on WWE when it announced that it had agreed to terms with Kurt Angle? The short answer is no, but life must go on and there was actual wrestling that occurred this week. Some of it was actually worth your time … I’m looking in your direction, Mr. Holly.

Smackdown (09/22)
Smackdown World champion King Booker was set to take on the ambiguously overachieving Vito last Friday night, but instead faced the ageless Undertaker after petitioning General Manager Teddy Long to drop the initial match. No problems there. A Booker-’Taker match is always a good thing.

At ringside, ’Taker’s opponent at No Mercy—Ken Kennedy—sat and added his own brand of color commentary to the television broadcast, all in an effort to build up the October pay-per-view. Again: No problem there.

Umm … where’s Vito? No mention of the original guy who—for injury or other reason—was scratched from the highest profile match of his WWE career. And why? Your guess is as good as mine.

They must really believe that fans have ridiculously short attention spans or … ooh, they’re selling pretzels in the hallway. Later.

In other Smackdown news:
Usually, two wrestlers will face off in a match when one passes the torch to the younger, hotter ticket item. Still, did anyone else get the impression that WWE was trying to tell Batista something by pairing him with Bobby Lashley? Maybe the torch wasn’t being passed, but it certainly seemed as if one was being placed with the other to feed off of his popularity.

Is it just me, or are they not even trying anymore to legitimize female wrestling on Smackdown. For those of you who missed it: Kristal and Layla rolled around for a minute only to be interrupted by Jillian Hall, who took their shirts off. Ta-da! That’s some Diva-tastic wrestling.

Matt Hardy’s feud with cruiserweight champion Gregory Helms could become very interesting if the Cameron, North Carolina, native isn’t afraid to bend the rules every now and then, as he did last Friday night.

The Mysterio-Guerreros battle seems headed for an epic culmination at Smackdown’s No Mercy pay-per-view, which, assuming this mess will finally all end, makes it the most satisfying show of the year.

Just when Smackdown’s tag division was looking great, WWE announced it had parted ways with Kid Kash, who seems to abruptly torch every bridge he crosses in the business. It will be interesting to see where the talented cruiserweight ends up next because—and call it a hunch—I don’t exactly see TNA rushing to the speed dial.

As Montreal welcomed Smackdown to the Bell Centre, Sylvan Grenier was the man of the night, and rightfully so. For a talented wrestler, he’s oftentimes saddled with the worst gimmick. He’d have a better chance of selling the world on the majesty of the sandy beaches of Afghanistan than the wonder that is Quebec.

Raw (09/25)
Perhaps in response to TNA’s major announcement on Sunday night of its acquisition of Kurt Angle, WWE rammed the magnitude of the first 10 minutes of Raw down the collective throats of the fans over last weekend.

And then, the lights went out in Oklahoma.

Apparently brought on by the heat from the pyrotechnics, the first 10 minutes of the program aired in an eerily dark arena as the lights went out as part of the fire alarm system. Naturally, whatever WWE had planned for those monumental 10 minutes did not happen.

Unless, of course, it was meant to be the ridiculous Lita-Candice Michelle women’s title tournament match, followed by a long, aimless promo between John Cena and Edge. In that case: ouch. Likely, the event that was being teased was Eric Bischoff’s promo held later in the night pimping his “tell-all” book, which, as expected, completely missed the mark … by about eight years.

Regardless, this round goes to TNA.

In other Raw news:
Kane missed out on a shot at the Intercontinental title when his match with Johnny Nitro was interrupted by Umaga, who was “banned” from ringside. Apparently, in WWE-talk, “banned” means “briefly delayed.” Still, my early inkling on how this feud pans out: not very well for the “Big Red Machine.”

It’s funny: Almost every account of Shawn Michaels’ thoughts on the new DX is that he’s uncomfortable with the sexually charged innuendo and graphic nature of their promos. Yet, he’s still right there every week playing along, and this week was no different as he and Triple-H explained the “two words” to Maria Kanellis prior to running through a tag gauntlet match.

My friendly piece of advice this week goes to both Shelton Benjamin and Jeff Hardy. Shelton: Your race has not been the reason you haven’t done more on Raw. If I had to take a stab, I’d say it was the monumental amount of losing that’s doing it. And Jeff, poor Jeff, leave the pseudo-thug, hip-hop speak to those proficient in it—like John Cena.

Think the figure-four leglock is a boring move? Ric Flair beat Mikey of The Spirit Squad by punching him in the face. Seriously. It’s like he’s not even trying anymore.

Now, I tend to hammer TNA pretty hard when it comes to squeezing every wrestler into a program via pointless, tag matches. In the interest of fair play, it’s your turn, Raw. Was there a point to the Carlito and Super Crazy versus Chris Masters and Randy Orton match on Monday night? I didn’t think so, but I’ll let it pass this time. Everybody gets one.

What to watch for next week: Edge and Cena (who beat Lita on Monday night with one arm tied behind his back) will go head-to-head in a steel cage for the Raw World title in what could actually be the end of their feud. This one could be very—very—good.

ECW (09/26)
For all of his alleged flaws outside of the ring, Bob Holly sure won over a new class of fans on Tuesday night while at the same time finally earning the nickname “Hardcore.”

During his “Extreme Rules” match with Rob Van Dam, Holly not only held his own with the ECW legend, he did one better by stealing the “whole damn show.” What transpired following what should have been the biggest move of the match—a Holly superplex of RVD from the apron through a table on the arena floor—is something that will quickly become a thing of ECW lore.

Holly suffered a rather severe laceration to his back when he landed on the metal stripping that surrounds the top of the table and, instead of seeking immediate treatment, he finished the match, which included approximately a half-a-dozen additional huge bumps.

Kudos to Holly for a gutsy—nay, completely badass—effort on Tuesday night. And, what’s even crazier, I’ll bet anything that what bothers him the most is not the 24 stitches it took to close the wound, but that RVD walked away with the victory.

In other ECW news:
Keeping with WWE’s theme of unexplained inconsistencies for this past week, Jim Ross was apparently the invited guest of ECW on Tuesday night. I say “apparently” because when he thanked Tazz and Joey Styles for inviting him, both seemed confused as neither took claim to inviting him. So—why was Ross there? Was this the part of some nefarious plot by Paul Heyman to get Ross in the arena? Did Matt Striker, who interrupted Ross’ promo, set it up? Well, this was never actually explained away or, if it was, I completely missed it. One of us is in the wrong and, seeing as how this is my column, I’ll say it was them.

C.M. Punk appears headed for a battle with Mike Knox in the coming weeks over the affections of Kelly Kelly, who will be competing in ECW’s “Extreme Strip Poker” battle in two weeks. I don’t know what intrigues me more: the prospect of finding out what in the hell an “Extreme Strip Poker” competition looks like, or watching smoke come out of Kelly’s ears while she tries to figure out the intricacies of a staged poker game. Expect plenty of “two pair” jokes as this, my friends, will be winning television at its finest!

Following up on the above mentioned thought: If the “Extreme Strip Poker” is anything like the “Extreme Cat Fight” fans were treated to Tuesday night between Francine (where was she hiding?) and Ariel, then run. Run away now. Run far … run fast … and don’t look back for anything.

In an ECW championship match between The Big Show and The Sandman, which of the two is the liability in the ring? You know something, I watched this main event the other night and still have no clue.

Impact (09/28)
The Jeff Jarrett Show continued again last night in spite of TNA’s huge announcement at the No Surrender pay-per-view Sunday night that it had indeed added Kurt Angle to its roster. How would Jarrett react to such a huge and monumental shift of focus? Naturally, he’d handle it the only way he knew how—by holding the fans hostage for 42 minutes and shutting out nearly the rest of the TNA roster.

Of course I don’t mean this literally, but how else do you explain the NWA World champion’s complete and utter dominance of airtime last night?

Just look at the facts:
1. The opening match of the night was Lance Hoyt defeating Jarrett via disqualification when the champ nearly choked out the huge Texan with a strap. This was followed up by a bitter promo directed at the fans regarding Jarrett’s loss to Samoa Joe at No Surrender where the challenger left with the championship belt, despite not winning the title itself.

2. At the end of the show, Jarrett once again dominated the airwaves by confronting Jim Cornette during his segment before fighting off Lex Luger and Buff Bagwell, who were both there helping Sting prepare for his NWA World title match at Bound For Glory. Naturally, Samoa Joe came out once again and pummeled the champ before walking off with the strap to end the show.

Uh … TNA … you just signed Kurt Angle. Sure he’s not debuting until Bound For Glory, but wouldn’t your weekly hour be better spent building the hell out of that? Just a thought. Hang on to that ball a little tighter next time, gents.

In other TNA news:
How natural does Samoa Joe look with that NWA World title belt?

I’m really beginning to enjoy the Raven, Abyss, and Brother Runt three-way hardcore dance that’s shaping up. No doubt this battle will really take shape before Bound For Glory in October, where this feud will likely reach its climax. As someone that calls the greater Detroit area his second hometown, it’s somewhat fitting that these three competitors—or, conversely, psychos—will disembowel each other in the “Motor City” in October because, frankly, there’s just not enough senseless violence for my liking in that neck of the woods.

Team 3D made their official return to TNA last night after a brief, self-imposed exile and have made their intentions clear that anything less than an NWA World tag team title is unacceptable. By all estimates, Devon and Ray should be the odds-on favorites to dethrone A.J. Styles and Christopher Daniels, but, based on the fact that they hadn’t held the straps in TNA during their original stint with the promotion, nothing is a given, and there is something so very, very wrong with that.

For those of you who doubt the influence of this column, take this in to consideration. Last night, the fans finally revolted against the X division’s shameless promotion of the second Jackass flick by chanting “No more jackass!” during a—surprise—six-man tag match. Do you think these people would’ve been so angry had it not been for a voice as influential as mine urging a revolution? Of course not! Fine—that may not be entirely accurate.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 15-21

By Frank Ingiosi

It’s a rarity in today’s industry, but every so often the fans are treated to what can only be considered an exceptional week of televised wrestling. This past week was one of those times as in between WWE’s Unforgiven pay-per-view last Sunday, and TNA’s No Surrender this weekend, both promotions put forth a perfect storm of excellent programming, with WWE coming out ahead this time around.

Smackdown (9/15)
The return of “The Animal” can only be classified as an unmitigated flop thus far, and who is reaping the benefits of that? You guessed it—Bobby Lashely. Lashley, whom just about everyone that follows Smackdown (hell, wrestling in general) believes to be the future of the sport, defeated Finlay to officially become the number-one contender to the blue brand’s World title.

Despite ascending to his current status due to Batista’s injury, Lashley is finally reaching the level that fans everywhere hoped he would attain. My only concern is whether Lashley is ready for the big time.

In the past I have advocated that the talented youngster be pushed to the top of Smackdown in order to keep him relevant, but, now that it’s here, I have my doubts. Lashley’s mike skills are still developing and, due to his straight power game, he runs the risk of being written off as yet another big guy with a limited move set. Hopefully, WWE proceeds with caution for this one.

In other Smackdown news:
As if former Smackdown World champion Rey Mysterio Jr. hasn’t fallen far enough since dropping the title, now his son Dominick is being brought back into an angle involving the Guerreros. Look for—and I wish I didn’t have to write this—Dominick turning against his pop at some point, thus forcing Rey into exile. All together now … ugh.

Jimmy Wang Yang is apparently a self-loathing Asian man who truly believes he’s a cowboy. I’m confused and, yet, strangely intrigued at the same time … but still, mostly confused.

“The Miz” is now a resounding 3-0 on Smackdown and looking better each week. All right, not so much “better” as “competent.” Fine! Not really “competent” but rather not “Great Khali-ish.”

Smackdown is truly one more talented tag team away from having an exciting, legitimate division. Until then, fans will be treated to an array of three-way dances involving The Pitbulls, Idol Stevens and K.C. James, and the champs, London and Kendrick. Sure, that’s not exactly terrible, but too much of this good thing could stunt interest in the tag ranks before it really gets going, and that would be a shame.

I think I’m tired of MVP, and he hasn’t even stepped between the ropes for a match yet. Probably not a great idea to burn the interest in a guy prior to him doing it to himself with shoddy wrestling.

The Terrell Owens Team Player of the Week Award goes to: Vito. Months of wearing a dress—in public, as well as the ring—have finally paid off as the cross dressing I-talian gets a high-profile (albeit non-title) match against King Booker next week. Congrats, paisan.

Raw (9/18)
Well, Edge’s second run as Raw World champion came to an end this past Sunday night at the hands of John Cena in an excellently contested “TLC” match in the “Rated R Superstar’s” hometown of Toronto, Ontario.

While the result was shocking (Edge had never lost a “TLC” match), what’s more disconcerting to me as a fan is that, every time the talented Canadian begins to gain momentum as a champion, the title changes hands. Edge was truly a great rulebreaking champion in every aspect of the role.

And, while I’m not in the business of bashing Cena, it’s hard to make the argument that he deserves the strap over Edge right now.

In other Raw news:
How good is the WWE Intercontinental title division? During the six-man impromptu match for the gold between Johnny Nitro, Chris Masters, Jeff Hardy, Super Crazy, Randy Orton, and Carlito, I actually had no clue who was walking away with the belt. Yeah—it’s that damn good.

Last week, I pined for the return of Shelton Benjamin. This week, after seeing the former Intercontinental champion debut his bitter, racially charged gimmick (à la the Nation of Domination circa 1997), I’m willing to reconsider my position.

Umaga and Kane’s nasty feud can be viewed by WWE detractors as a microcosm of what is wrong with the promotion—namely that it features two big, lumbering guys smacking each other around with very little wrestling occurring. Me, I just think it’s fun to watch.

Does anyone even hear what Maria Kanellis is saying?

The Cryme Tyme promos make me uncomfortable … primarily because they’re just not funny, but also because the members of the tandem are actually going along with it. Unless they become exposed at some point as being faux-thugs this is not going to be a pleasant run.

John Cena + DeGeneration X + crotch chops = Kill this damn angle right now. There was once a time where a wrestler had to earn their way into a faction. Allowing someone to do your trademark celebration is so Hulk Hogan.

I beg whomever it is that makes these types of decisions up in Stamford to please break up The Spirit Squad as soon as possible. These are good kids worthy of some individual attention—let’s get them out of the matching gear and into some angles of their own. Having Johnny (Jeter) wrestle—and lose—to Ric Flair is a start. Not a great start, but a start nonetheless.

ECW (9/19)
The best feud going on ECW right now does not involve a high profile original of the hardcore brand, but rather an oft overlooked “Chair Swinging Freak” and a vampire and his busty strumpet. No … I didn’t make that up.

The Mahoney-Kevin Thorn battle is shaping up to be the best angle in ECW right now primarily because it seems to be one of the only battles that is continuing week in and week out. ECW is trying a lot of different things right now, maybe too much as no one angle (aside from the aimless Knox/Test versus Sandman/Dreamer angle) really has been fleshed out—or entertaining—as much as this one.

Plus, looking at Ariel isn’t exactly a bad thing.

In other ECW news:
In the program’s opening match—a six-way tag team match involving The Sandman, Tommy Dreamer, and Sabu facing off with Mike Knox, Test, and Matt Striker—two men distanced themselves from their peers. Those two: The Sandman who stepped up and showed why he is beloved by ECW fans everywhere, and Striker who quickly separated himself from the rest of the pack as a charismatic villain worth watching.

Mark this moment down: Friday, September 22, 2006. At this moment I will give the highest complement I have ever given to “The Reject” Shannon Moore. Ready? Here goes: Shannon, you weren’t completely awful as you got your ass whooped by C.M. Punk yet again. Whew—that was tougher than I thought.

Rene Dupree is such a ridiculously out of place part of ECW that he could end up being good for the brand, but don’t hold me to that.

This week’s ECW special guest star: Smackdown World champion King Booker. Yes, as ECW firmly cements its place as WWE purgatory, Tuesday night was Booker’s chance to dominate a show desperately in need of true star power else it would fail miserably. Just wondering—how did Smackdown do in the ratings this past week?

Impact (9/21)
Jeff Jarrett can finally be mentioned in the same breath as Vince McMahon. Both are tremendous egomaniacs that are willing to steal face time away from promising young talent all in order to grace millions of television screens with long, drawn-out promos that have absolutely no intrinsic entertainment value.

If I could offer a piece of friendly advice to Mr. Jarrett for a moment (see, here I’m the one with the spotlight): Jeff, buddy, pal … if you’d like to truly compete with WWE and help bring down the Stamford empire, here’s a tip: sign with WWE and bring your special brand of pointless drivel up north. I promise you that by your third rambling promo about whatever idiotic angle you push on the company, the McMahons will have burned down Titan Towers.

In other TNA news:
Chris Sabin and Sonjay Dutt aided Jay Lethal in his victory over Petey Williams by rolling a bowling ball into Williams’ crotch in honor of the critically acclaimed cinematic gem, Jackass: Number Two. Here’s a crazy stunt that TNA may want to look into after the Jackass phase ends: trying to restore the credibility of the X division. Good luck!

The Christian Cage-Rhino battle at No Surrender this Sunday will be the best of the show. Pay special attention to Rhino who has far more to lose if he doesn’t fare well in this match.

During their fiesta celebrating all things not American, the Latin American Xchange insulted the U.S. by focusing their ire at the symbol of all things apple pie and baseball—that’s right, they hate Uncle Sam. Disrespect such as this can only be met with a resounding “huh?” Seriously, Uncle Sam? I mean, even as A.J. Styles and Christopher Daniels took the bait and came out to defend America, they seemed confused. That’s like beating up one of the Mario Brothers because you dislike Italy.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 8-14

By Frank Ingiosi

I love—love—the week before a pay-per-view, regardless of the promotion. Yes, I’ve been a bit critical of these weeks in the past, but, as of late, both WWE and, to a lesser extent, TNA have generally strung together some quality programming in the week leading up to a pay show.

This past week wasn’t much different with Raw’s Unforgiven airing this Sunday. Hell, it nearly makes up for the fact that Smackdown is starting a program between Batista and Finlay. Seriously.

Enjoy “The Turn”—always better the second time you read it.

Smackdown (9/8)
It is vitally important to the development and marketability of Bobby Lashley to finally send him where everyone expects him to end up eventually—Raw. The budding superstar has more than run his course as part of the Smackdown brand and is essentially being wasted in meaningless mini-feuds (such as his on-again, off-again battles with Finlay and William Regal).

It’s time for Lashley to make that next, logical step in his career and become part of WWE’s primary brand. In fact, he’d make a nice replacement for a departing John Cena if “The Marine” fails to defeat Edge at Vengeance and is “forced” to head to Friday nights.

Another Smackdowner ready for a change of scenery—but for completely different reasons—is Rey Mysterio Jr. His historic reign as Smackdown World champion took a tremendous toll on his body; his demoralizing feud with the Guerrero family has destroyed him mentally. The little man needs a vacation … and soon.

In other Smackdown news:
Smackdown World tag team champs Paul London and Brian Kendrick teamed up with Ashley to defeat K.C. James and Idol Stevens with Michelle McCool, who not only should never be in a ring as a competitor, but also does a lousy Miss Hancock impression.

Is Chavo Guerrero’s battle with Tatanka a step up for Tatanka or a step down for Guerrero? Wrap your mind around that one, sucka!

I have personally seen Batista recover from a chair shot that echoed throughout the arena, yet Finlay clocks “The Animal” with his shillelagh and that’s enough for his liege King Booker to get the pinfall? We get it—“Big Dave” is mortal, but c’mon already. It’s just a tiny stick.

Watch out, Umaga! “The Miz” is now 2-0 as part of the active Smackdown roster. In a related story, returning hero Matt Hardy is being phased out quicker than the legitimacy of WWE’s Wellness Policy.

Ken Kennedy is ready to make the move, according to … well … himself. His move, even more so than Lashley’s (were he to), would prove to me at least that WWE is finally acknowledging that Smackdown is the developmental brand.

Raw (9/11)
Throughout the night, Vince McMahon—in his classic, over-the-top style—constantly reminded the fans just how important his legacy was when it came to the success of Madison Square Garden. Now, acknowledging the fact that this was just part of the nauseatingly common self-gratifying style that is Vinnie Mac, it’s not entirely untrue.

For years, the McMahon empire was professional wrestling in the northeastern U.S. While it would be a gross overstatement to say that the WWWF/WWF/WWE made MSG, the opposite wouldn’t be that much of a stretch.

In other Raw news:
Kudos to WWE for its tasteful and compassionate observance of the five-year anniversary of the September 11 tragedy. Monday night was about celebrating New York City’s resilience rather than a somber, pseudo-political message. Nice work, Vinnie Mac.

Where have you gone, Shelton Benjamin? The nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Taking into account the state of the industry, as well as the knowledge of the fans, is there anyone in the world that thought Ric Flair had any shot at ending Umaga’s winning streak? Best bet: Kane will make Umaga look vulnerable, before falling to him this Sunday at Unforgiven.

Super Crazy is looking good during his layover at Raw on his way to ECW.

John Cena is the most divisive champion since The Rock and Bret Hart—and that’s still a great thing for business.

WWE is airing vignettes for a new tag team known as Cryme Time, which consists of two young African American males who are criminals. Yep, that’s WWE: striking a blow for equality and racial harmony worldwide … unless of course that doesn’t help the bottom line.

Roddy Piper, even at the ripe old age of 320, is still the gold standard for the snarky rulebreaker. At this point, he’s more valuable to WWE than Hulk Hogan. Yeah … I’ll say it.

Trish Stratus is the best thing to come out of Canada since hockey. Every heterosexual man in the world owes her a debt of gratitude for broadening our horizons and allowing us to appreciate the import power of the “Great White North.” She will be missed.

ECW (9/12)
Renee Dupree finally made his long-awaited debut as part of the ECW brand on Tuesday night, defeating Mahoney after Kevin Thorn and Ariel interfered. Unfortunately, Dupree’s “most extreme wrestler” gimmick seems to be faltering even before it begins, as the fans quickly moved from booing the former member of La Resistance to simply not caring.

While Dupree is a relatively talented competitor, his inclusion in ECW gives off the impression—to me at least—that the Tuesday night brand will be little more than a WWE purgatory where lost souls of the past get yet another chance to make a comeback.

In other ECW news:
Rob Van Dam beat Bob Holly when Test, Mike Knox, and Stevie Richards interfered. The former Raw World champion was aided by The Sandman and Tommy Dreamer. By my count, that makes seven wrestlers. Everyone who will continue to be part of this feud as of next week, take one step forward … not so fast Mr. Holly.

Of all the wrestlers making their Madison Square Garden debut Tuesday night, no one looked more awestruck—and at home—than C.M. Punk.

I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to unfairly trashing The Big Show, so allow me to take a second to apologize to the big fella, who no doubt is sitting at his giant kitchen table reading this right now. His game has improved tremendously since the burden of carrying ECW fell into his lap. Nice work, sir.

Impact (9/14)
TNA is taking the bait and who benefits from that but us, the fans. It has become obvious that TNA has chosen ECW as its primary competition. Realizing that it can’t yet compete with WWE’s original two brands, TNA seems to have gone full bore at ECW in the hopes of not losing any more ground to its rival up north.

Case in point: Last night’s “Hangman’s Horror” match. This vicious battle—that could only end when one competitor was fitted with a dog collar and hung by his neck until he lost consciousness—out-hardcored ECW by leaps and bounds, and, while TNA is still slightly winning this battle, the brand would be wise to not get too caught up chasing a decoy.

In other Impact news:
When you’re A.J. Styles and Christopher Daniels, you don’t need a warmup match against Matt Bentley and Kazarian. When you’re Bentley and Kazarian, you crave the spotlight that comes with getting smoked by Daniels and Styles.

I’m having some trouble determining which gratuitous infomercial I dislike more: WWE pushing the holy hell out of John Cena’s The Marine, or TNA hitching its wagon to the newest installment of the Jackass movies. One thing I do know for sure is that the longer TNA associates the X division with dumb stunts, the more damage it will do to the reputation of the group, which is rare because it is extremely difficult to find something that can sully the reputation of anything to do with professional wrestling. Kudos, Jackass.

Samoa Joe appears to finally care what the folks like you and I think, as he promised everyone that he will make Jeff Jarrett pay for his crimes against “TNA and the fans” during their match at No Surrender. Joe as a good guy = brilliant move that’s long overdue; Joe as NWA World champion = inevitable.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 1-8

By Frank Ingiosi

In any other sport, when an oft-injured competitor returns and destroys other people or teams that he’s expected to beat, that competitor is not immediately anointed as the best in the game. Batista has yet to be tested, and it’s not because he’s so much better than the competition at Smackdown, but more so because the powers that be at the Friday night brand clearly have no clue where to take “The Animal” but up.

On a more encouraging note: Ken Kennedy captured his first major title in WWE by defeating Finlay and Bobby Lashley in a three-way match to become the United States champion. Whether you love him or really—really—hate him, Mr. Kennedy is on his way to being a legit top guy with the company, and I, for one, am thrilled with that prospect.

In other Smackdown news:
Rey Guerrero Jr. was officially booted from the rest of his adopted family by Chavo and Vickie Guerrero. The former Smackdown World champion was left crying in the ring as he realized that this angle now must continue.

Matt Hardy is now competing in non-title matches against cruiserweight champion Gregory Helms on Smackdown. Over on Impact, former WWE mid-carder Christian Cage has an NWA World title run under his belt and is constantly mentioned with the top guys in the promotion. It’s called dignity, Matt. Look it up.

Making his much-anticipated debut, The Miz won his … ah, crap, even I won’t pretend this Real World retread is an actual wrestler. I won’t do it, and you can’t make me!

Why I Should Have Gotten Into Entertainment Law: Jimmy Wang Yang—who’s Asian cowboy vignettes have been airing on Smackdown the past few weeks—is clearly a ripoff from the made-for-TV classic Revenge Of The Nerds III: The Next Generation in which there was a character named Steve Toyota, who was, shockingly, an Asian cowboy. Bottom of the barrel, thy name is Wang.

Raw (9/4)
Finally, Raw has gone back to the age-old tradition of ending a wrestling program with an actual wrestling match—and a pretty damn good one, to boot.

Fans were treated to a six-person mixed tag match involving Edge, Lita, and Randy Orton squaring off with John Cena, Trish Stratus, and Carlito. And, despite the rulebreakers getting the best of the fan favorites, the match was undoubtedly one of the most entertaining Raw has offered in months, and for good reason.

With the subtractions of Trish (retirement) and Lita (rumored retirement), the other four competitors are the cornerstone of WWE for the next decade. Together, they make a very impressive and formidable group that could conceivably carry the company were TNA ever to pose a threat—and that’s pretty cool.

In other Raw news:
Anyone else sick of the Jeff Hardy “I’m so creepy that I’m intriguing, kind of like that guy who played the boyfriend in American Beauty except with paint” gimmick? Yeah, me too.

Have I used the phrase “Masterpiece of crap” yet to describe the new “leaner and meaner” Chris Masters? Well, then, consider it done.

I finally figured it out: DeGeneration X is getting hammered by critics simply by their association with the McMahon angle. Vince and Shane are damn near unwatchable at this point, regardless of what sinister plot they try to unfold (there goes my 24/7 comp). DX likely would have run its natural course of interest soon enough, but, by getting stuck in an ugly, stagnant, predicable angle with the McMahons, there’s virtually no hope of the reunion going much further than the Survivor Series. Oh, and a Triple-H vs. Vince McMahon main event next week … not really helping things.

The Highlanders defeated Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch as well as Charlie Haas and Viscera to earn the right to face The Spirit Squad for the Raw World tag team title at Vengeance, and, given the disarray the champs are currently in, have to be considered slight favorites. Look for a Squad-wide implosion if the Scottish cousins walk away with the gold.

Is it just me, or is Kane putting forth some of the best wrestling of his storied career right now. He is truly one competitor that only gets better with age, and could be the man to end Umaga’s winning streak.

ECW (9/5):
You know what made the old ECW great? Sure, they took risks, had scantily clad women, and swore like sailors on shore leave, but it was more than that. Each hardcore contest had wrestlers who knew how to wrestle that type of match. They played off each other and knew how to entertain the fans.

It is for that reason that, while I don’t think Rob Van Dam and Sabu have looked all that crisp, they’re made to look flat out sloppy when put in a ring with Test and Mike Knox—two men who clearly do not belong in an ECW ring, let alone any of the company’s televised brands.

If that’s not enough, for anyone who hadn’t realized by now, I feel confident saying that the days of ECW past are officially dead, and it’s time for us all to accept that as a fact. From the moment the first few bars of DeGeneration X’s theme music resonated throughout the arena this past Tuesday night, it might as well have been Chopin’s “Funeral March” officially signaling the end of the extreme era.

Despite what some may believe, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Everyone expected this reincarnation of ECW to be simply a third WWE brand, and now that the boss’ son-in-law is headlining that program, all doubt should be erased. Watch it or don’t—the choice is finally yours.

In other ECW news:
Friendly advice to the good folks at ECW: Using an “x” in lieu of “cks” at the end of a word—as The Sandman did to Matt Striker’s black board—is nearly as lame as the classic “z” for an “s” substitute. It’s not extreme. It’s not badass. It’s just lame.

Mike Striker is in the ring. Brains will always win over brawn. Striker takes a shot at the Little League World Champs. Claims we will never see him swimming with stingrays. Striker goes on and on. The Sandman’s music hits. Striker stands on top of his desk and taunts Sandman to come into the ring. Sandman slides into the ring and Striker runs like hell. Sandman writes sux under Striker’s name on the chalkboard and trashes the set.

Kevin Thorn appears headed for a feud with Mahoney as he and his vixen Ariel cost the former “Chair Swinging Freak” a victory in his match with Stevie Richards. Good news for Mahoney, who was rumored to be on his way out of the new ECW. Bad news for the fans, who are already sick of the Vampire and Sexy Vampire gimmick.

Just when I thought I couldn’t be a bigger mark for C.M. Punk—oh, and I am—he goes and slaps Shannon Moore in the mouth and calls him a “poser.” Life is good.

Impact (9/7):
Now, I hate coming off as ultra-negative, so I feel compelled in this situation to remind everyone that there have been times where I have actually defended Jeff Jarrett and his place in TNA. Crazy, but it has happened.

With that disclaimer out of the way, allow me a moment to urge everyone who launches one hate-filled diatribe after another at Mr. Stephanie McMahon to take a look at a brief synopsis of Jarrett’s involvement on Impact the other night:

Jarrett uses up roughly 30 minutes of the program taking a polygraph test to find out what his involvement was in the “King Of The Mountain” debacle at Slammiversary. Turns out that the only person in cahoots with Jarrett was Larry Zbyszko, but that only becomes known during the segment that takes up the spot where a main event match would go.

Kinda makes a DX reunion seem kind of, well, not that awful, eh?

In other TNA news:
TNA is teaming with the production company that is releasing the second big screen installment of the Jackass films. Some other successful movie combos from days past: WCW and Ready To Rumble, and WWE and anything with Rob Schneider. Think this through next time, TNA.

Pride can be a dangerous thing. Just look at LAX; it doesn’t look good for the NWA World tag team champs heading into their “Ultimate X” title match against Christopher Daniels and A.J. Styles. It’s going to take a miracle if the angry but talented champs walk away with the gold.

Will America’s Most Wanted finally just beat the crap out of each other and get over it? It’s only a buildup when people are interested in the end result.

Christian Cage will step back from his grudge against Sting and pursuit of the NWA World title to fend off former best friend Rhino in a nasty grudge match that will—even if the “Stinger” walks away with the gold—steal the show at No Surrender. Write it down, in ink.

 

By Frank Ingiosi

Every so often the wrestling world—at least WWE and TNA who, for all intents and purposes, are the wrestling world right now—pitches a gem. The planets align, all is right with the world, and professional wrestling gets it right for one week of solid, entertaining programming.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t that week. While it wasn’t awful by any stretch of the imagination, this past week of wrestling was unremarkable at best. Luckily for me, I was stuck in the late-1980s for most of the week thanks to WWE 24/7, now available through most cable service providers (here’s to hoping Shane O comps my subscription after he reads my blatant plug).

Smackdown (9/1)
What exactly did Batista do to become worthy of a Smackdown World championship match with King Booker? No, I’m serious. Think about it for a moment, won’t you? The big man returned from yet another injury, mowed down Ken Kennedy (more on him later), and suddenly was the top guy again. All together now: huh?

In any other sport, when an oft-injured competitor returns and destroys other people or teams that he’s expected to beat, that competitor is not immediately anointed as the best in the game. Batista has yet to be tested, and it’s not because he’s so much better than the competition at Smackdown, but more so because the powers that be at the Friday night brand clearly have no clue where to take “The Animal” but up.

On a more encouraging note: Ken Kennedy captured his first major title in WWE by defeating Finlay and Bobby Lashley in a three-way match to become the United States champion. Whether you love him or really—really—hate him, Mr. Kennedy is on his way to being a legit top guy with the company, and I, for one, am thrilled with that prospect.

In other Smackdown news:
Rey Guerrero Jr. was officially booted from the rest of his adopted family by Chavo and Vickie Guerrero. The former Smackdown World champion was left crying in the ring as he realized that this angle now must continue.

Matt Hardy is now competing in non-title matches against cruiserweight champion Gregory Helms on Smackdown. Over on Impact, former WWE mid-carder Christian Cage has an NWA World title run under his belt and is constantly mentioned with the top guys in the promotion. It’s called dignity, Matt. Look it up.

Making his much-anticipated debut, The Miz won his … ah, crap, even I won’t pretend this Real World retread is an actual wrestler. I won’t do it, and you can’t make me!

Why I Should Have Gotten Into Entertainment Law: Jimmy Wang Yang—who’s Asian cowboy vignettes have been airing on Smackdown the past few weeks—is clearly a ripoff from the made-for-TV classic Revenge Of The Nerds III: The Next Generation in which there was a character named Steve Toyota, who was, shockingly, an Asian cowboy. Bottom of the barrel, thy name is Wang.

Raw (9/4)
Finally, Raw has gone back to the age-old tradition of ending a wrestling program with an actual wrestling match—and a pretty damn good one, to boot.

Fans were treated to a six-person mixed tag match involving Edge, Lita, and Randy Orton squaring off with John Cena, Trish Stratus, and Carlito. And, despite the rulebreakers getting the best of the fan favorites, the match was undoubtedly one of the most entertaining Raw has offered in months, and for good reason.

With the subtractions of Trish (retirement) and Lita (rumored retirement), the other four competitors are the cornerstone of WWE for the next decade. Together, they make a very impressive and formidable group that could conceivably carry the company were TNA ever to pose a threat—and that’s pretty cool.

In other Raw news:
Anyone else sick of the Jeff Hardy “I’m so creepy that I’m intriguing, kind of like that guy who played the boyfriend in American Beauty except with paint” gimmick? Yeah, me too.

Have I used the phrase “Masterpiece of crap” yet to describe the new “leaner and meaner” Chris Masters? Well, then, consider it done.

I finally figured it out: DeGeneration X is getting hammered by critics simply by their association with the McMahon angle. Vince and Shane are damn near unwatchable at this point, regardless of what sinister plot they try to unfold (there goes my 24/7 comp). DX likely would have run its natural course of interest soon enough, but, by getting stuck in an ugly, stagnant, predicable angle with the McMahons, there’s virtually no hope of the reunion going much further than the Survivor Series. Oh, and a Triple-H vs. Vince McMahon main event next week … not really helping things.

The Highlanders defeated Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch as well as Charlie Haas and Viscera to earn the right to face The Spirit Squad for the Raw World tag team title at Vengeance, and, given the disarray the champs are currently in, have to be considered slight favorites. Look for a Squad-wide implosion if the Scottish cousins walk away with the gold.

Is it just me, or is Kane putting forth some of the best wrestling of his storied career right now. He is truly one competitor that only gets better with age, and could be the man to end Umaga’s winning streak.

ECW (9/5):
You know what made the old ECW great? Sure, they took risks, had scantily clad women, and swore like sailors on shore leave, but it was more than that. Each hardcore contest had wrestlers who knew how to wrestle that type of match. They played off each other and knew how to entertain the fans.

It is for that reason that, while I don’t think Rob Van Dam and Sabu have looked all that crisp, they’re made to look flat out sloppy when put in a ring with Test and Mike Knox—two men who clearly do not belong in an ECW ring, let alone any of the company’s televised brands.

If that’s not enough, for anyone who hadn’t realized by now, I feel confident saying that the days of ECW past are officially dead, and it’s time for us all to accept that as a fact. From the moment the first few bars of DeGeneration X’s theme music resonated throughout the arena this past Tuesday night, it might as well have been Chopin’s “Funeral March” officially signaling the end of the extreme era.

Despite what some may believe, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Everyone expected this reincarnation of ECW to be simply a third WWE brand, and now that the boss’ son-in-law is headlining that program, all doubt should be erased. Watch it or don’t—the choice is finally yours.

In other ECW news:
Friendly advice to the good folks at ECW: Using an “x” in lieu of “cks” at the end of a word—as The Sandman did to Matt Striker’s black board—is nearly as lame as the classic “z” for an “s” substitute. It’s not extreme. It’s not badass. It’s just lame.

Mike Striker is in the ring. Brains will always win over brawn. Striker takes a shot at the Little League World Champs. Claims we will never see him swimming with stingrays. Striker goes on and on. The Sandman’s music hits. Striker stands on top of his desk and taunts Sandman to come into the ring. Sandman slides into the ring and Striker runs like hell. Sandman writes sux under Striker’s name on the chalkboard and trashes the set.

Kevin Thorn appears headed for a feud with Mahoney as he and his vixen Ariel cost the former “Chair Swinging Freak” a victory in his match with Stevie Richards. Good news for Mahoney, who was rumored to be on his way out of the new ECW. Bad news for the fans, who are already sick of the Vampire and Sexy Vampire gimmick.

Just when I thought I couldn’t be a bigger mark for C.M. Punk—oh, and I am—he goes and slaps Shannon Moore in the mouth and calls him a “poser.” Life is good.

Impact (9/7):
Now, I hate coming off as ultra-negative, so I feel compelled in this situation to remind everyone that there have been times where I have actually defended Jeff Jarrett and his place in TNA. Crazy, but it has happened.

With that disclaimer out of the way, allow me a moment to urge everyone who launches one hate-filled diatribe after another at Mr. Stephanie McMahon to take a look at a brief synopsis of Jarrett’s involvement on Impact the other night:

Jarrett uses up roughly 30 minutes of the program taking a polygraph test to find out what his involvement was in the “King Of The Mountain” debacle at Slammiversary. Turns out that the only person in cahoots with Jarrett was Larry Zbyszko, but that only becomes known during the segment that takes up the spot where a main event match would go.

Kinda makes a DX reunion seem kind of, well, not that awful, eh?

In other TNA news:
TNA is teaming with the production company that is releasing the second big screen installment of the Jackass films. Some other successful movie combos from days past: WCW and Ready To Rumble, and WWE and anything with Rob Schneider. Think this through next time, TNA.

Pride can be a dangerous thing. Just look at LAX; it doesn’t look good for the NWA World tag team champs heading into their “Ultimate X” title match against Christopher Daniels and A.J. Styles. It’s going to take a miracle if the angry but talented champs walk away with the gold.

Will America’s Most Wanted finally just beat the crap out of each other and get over it? It’s only a buildup when people are interested in the end result.

Christian Cage will step back from his grudge against Sting and pursuit of the NWA World title to fend off former best friend Rhino in a nasty grudge match that will—even if the “Stinger” walks away with the gold—steal the show at No Surrender. Write it down, in ink.

 

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